Making Big Savings with Small Changes

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Recently, my paid maternity leave came to an end and I have started my unpaid leave from work meaning that we are now working from one salary. As such myself and himself had a look at our finances to see where we are. With the realisation that even when I go back to work we will still pretty much be on one salary as childcare takes the majority of one salary, it turns out that where we were was in a worse place than we thought. So out came my accountant hat (a very fetching fedora if you must know!) and after numerous cups of tea, and a very colourful spreadsheet later, I had set out some saving plans. Here are my tips and tricks.

The first thing I have done is look at the structure of our bank account and our payment methods. After looking at this, I have made the following observations and adjustments.

1. Set up regular payments.

Where we could, we have changed the payment date for bills and other regular expenses (rent/mortgage, savings etc) to be paid out of our bank account a couple of days after our salary gets lodged. Not only is there often a cost saving for paying bills by direct debit but this also eliminates the need to hold money in our account for a bill that would be paid at a later stage. Doing this avoids stressful situations where we have very little money left after paying the bill or avoids necessary overdraft fees if we had used this facility to make the payment. Getting all the bills paid at the beginning means we know exactly how much money we have for the month for all our other personal expenses.

2. Planning for set expenses.

There’s nothing worse than receiving a letter in the post for a big expense with only a month notice to pay, or less. This will put anyone on the back foot because there is no other option but to pay it and make sacrifices elsewhere. To avoid this strain, as best as is possible, we have counted up all our set expenses for the year. I’m not talking about rent/mortgage, electricity or gas expenses but instead I’m referring to those expenses that are often only paid once in a year. These are usually easily forgotten….. car insurance, health insurance, car tax, tv licence fee and even christmas gifts and holidays. We counted up the cost of all these and set up a monthly payment from our main account to another secondary account to cover these. We will then use this second account for a source of funds for these expenses. Yes we may have fees to pay on the second account but these will be much less than any overdraft fees or loan interest.

Ok so now that I have structured our regular bills as best I could, the next step was to look at our monthly expenses. So I took the following steps…

  1. Use debit card for 1 month.

Often we take out €50 from an ATM but can you say for sure exactly what that was spent on? It’s very difficult to do for most of us, so by by using our debit card for a specified period we got an accurate record of our expenses. At the end of the period, we got our bank statement and categorised all items into expense types. Once we did we were easily able to see our spending trends and surprised ourselves on a couple of these. I would never have thought I spent much more than €15 a week on coffee but when we looked back at statements it was much more than this. We went through the expenses and decided which ones we could live with cutting down on, or even better cutting out completely. For example I now make my own coffee and treat myself to a cup from my favourite barista twice a week.

2. Get organised.

We also have started to plan meals better during the week and at weekends to avoid the go to take away when we haven’t anything in the house to cook. This is surprisingly easy to do once we found some dinners that we liked to cook and are really tasty rather than the old bland meals we used to cook. This bit will take a bit of trial and error to get these recipes but once you do you’ll love your home-cooking. Also, bringing lunch with us is another great saver and frankly is much better value against the sandwiches we used to pay for, and again much tastier.

3. Avoid wastage

Groceries make up a significant amount of our monthly household expenses. As a result we have switched to a low cost supermarket for as much of our grocery shop as we can. I honestly can’t fault these retailers for the majority of items and have significantly cut down on our spend in the last few months. However, I would advise everyone to be aware of the products you are purchasing at these retailers. In the first few weeks we noticed that a large amount of the fruit, vegetable and milk products had a much, much lower spoilage time than other mainstream products. As a result we were throwing out a lot of products before we even had a chance to use them. This was such a waste of food, and of money, so we changed back to mainstream products for a few things and for others we only buy what we need in the next one to two days. I know this is annoying as we now need to do a top up shop mid week for fruit and vegetables but when it saves money and reduces food wastage I think you’ll see its worth it.

My Ultimate Guide to Your Hospital Bag – everything you need for your baby delivery

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A mama-to-be friend of mine is getting very close to her due date and is heading for squeaking bum time. She has started to organise her bag for the hospital visit and asked me for my list of essentials. Rather than hand over the 3 lists I got from other friends and the one final accumulated list which would rival Santa Claus’ list of toys (mine, however, wasn’t filled with toys), I prepared a new one for her. This list had everything that I had actually used and needed during the time in hospital. I also added in my tips and bits of information that I thought might be handy for the stay (always looking out for those nuggets I can bring you!). Baring in mind for this that I had a caesarean section and knew this going in to the hospital so I didn’t pack anything for the labour ward.

Clothing and footwear:

  • Nightie x2 – string ones best for breastfeeding and also for the heat in the hospital
  • Pyjamas pants and string top – change into these during day time
  • Slippers – slide on ones
  • Dressing gown
  • Flip flops for in shower
  • Knickers – biggest ones you can get particularly get high-waisted ones, you’ll thank me afterwards
  • Maternity bra – comfy ones
  • Big towel – make sure its a dark colour
  • Hair turban towel can use normal towel but the turban is handy

Toiletries

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Shower puff or some sort of body scrubber
  • Body moisturiser, bring anything you used for stretch marks
  • Deodorant
  • Cleanser, toner, moisturiser
  • Hairdryer
  • Hair brush
  • Shower Cap
  • Hair bobble
  • Hair clips
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream (can use moisturiser)
  • Lansinoh nipple cream – to prevent cracked/sore nipples from feeding or pumping
  • Breast pads – used for leaking….I didn’t need this and I’m not sure anyone would have a big enough supply just after having a baby to leak but I could be very wrong on that.

Babies

  • Baby grows x6
  • Vests x6
  • Cardigan x4
  • Hats x2
  • Wipes
  • Nappies

Other things –

  • Phone Charger
  • Bag for bringing things to shower
  • Magazines
  • Note pad & pen to remember any info or to write questions
  • Deodorant for Hubby – for the long days in the hospital.
  • Spare T-Shirt for Hubby – same as above
  • A few protein bars for Hubby as he could be hanging around a bit.

Tips:

Bring a few additional bags with you for Hubby to bring things home just some small plastic ones that you can easily ball up.

Pack your toiletries etc in a clear bags to make it easier for Hubby to find items in them. If he’s anything like mine this will go a long way to avoid everything being pulled out onto whatever surface is closest and shoved back in without any order.

Bring miniatures where you can……hotel sizes are handy to have!

If you have favourite products for anything, bring these…..bring anything that will feel like a treat. After everything you’ve been through you deserve the bit of luxury!

Use sandwich bags for the baby stuff so that you have one baby grow, vest, nappy etc in each. Handy so that you’re not rooting around trying to find one of each. Can also use sandwich bags for the toiletries.

Get your other half to investigate the parking rules around the hospital. I was going to city centre Hospital and there was only public paid parking in the area. My husband set up the relevant Parking Tag App to pay for the parking around there so he was able to just update from his phone.

Pack up the things you won’t need until day 2 in a separate bag for your partner to bring with him when he comes back in. For example, spare knickers, spare nightgown etc won’t be needed straight away.

I feel like a total Irish Mammy for this one but have some meals at home for your partner that are quick to cook as he’ll be home quite late every night. We did this but then put them in freezer which totally negates what we were trying to do. A couple of microwave meals would do the trick.

I’ve heard of someone bringing in a scarf to tie to the bed to help pull themselves up after section which sounds like a good idea.

Hope you find this of help and have gotten some good information from it. If there is anything else you think is a must to have let me know in the commens below.

Dealing with pregnancy breakouts

During my pregnancy, like many, many other women, my skin got really bad and was prone to breakouts. To use the phrase favoured by Jennifer Rock, aka The Skin Nerd, it went ‘bananas’. These weren’t your usual teenage breakouts either, at least those have a start, middle and end – you can see them coming, treat them and then they go away. No, these things popped up without any warning and seemed to settle under the skin so there was no getting rid of them, no matter how hard I tried. Yes, I’m a squeezer…..the shame! Now we all know that hormonal changes will affect the skin and will affect particularly your chinny chin chin but these little pups decided to settle down around my neck instead. So I went about trying new products to deal with them. Actually, I’m still using them because, unfortunately ladies, your skin doesn’t immediately bounce back to its former glory after the 9 months, sigh.
The best range that I used was FAB: First Aid Beauty and these are my favourite products so have a browse and let me know if you have any favourites.

The cleanser is a whipped texture and goes on quite thick but once water is added turns to a lovely foam cream. It’s great at getting rid of makeup and skin feels properly cleaned without drying out.

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The Facial Radiance Pads became an all time favourite very quickly. They are promoted as brightening, toning and exfoliating the skin and it definitely ticks all those boxes for me. It is this product that I found really helped calmed down my irritated skin and felt it completely lifted my skin. It’s one product that definitely going to be a staple in my shelf from now on.

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Finally, the moisturiser is a rich lotion but soaks into the skin without any heavy residue. Designed to provide exceptional hydration, this is perfect for me as I tend to have quite dry skin particularly in winter.

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I also bought cleanser and moisturiser from Elemis pro-collagen range but with price tag of 100+ these are definitely luxury items. However, only a small amount of these fabulous products goes a long way and after almost a year I have only barely broken the surface of the cleanser. I use it as a mask rather than a daily product for bit of indulgence. The products smell amazing and really feel like a gorgeous treat. I actually brought these to the hospital with me and I would recommend to everyone to have a few luxury items with you. After all you’ve gone through nobody deserves a bit of self-indulgence more.

As always, please check with your GP before trying any new products.

I bought all products online via Cloud 10 Beauty. Products can be purchased using the link below.

Cloud10Beauty/FirstAidBeauty

Review: ClevaMama ClevaScoop

Throughout my pregnancy I was adamant that I would try to breastfeed the twins. I stress that word ‘try’ – I knew it would be extremely difficult and would take a lot of work but I was focused on giving it my best shot. In saying that, my ultimate focus was that the girls got what they needed to grow quickly, particularly since they were going to be quite small due to being premature.

For lots of different reasons that I’m not going to go into, I moved to solely formula after a couple of weeks. I feel this is a very individual decision and nobody should be judged for doing what they think is best for them and their baby; a fed baby is a happy baby at the end of the day. On making this decision I picked up all the necessary bits and bobs and amongst these was the ClevaMama ClevaScoop.

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The selling point of this smart little creation is that it adds the correct amount of formula to a bottle in just one scoop rather than many. You can change the measurement to whatever number of scoops you need. Baring in mind that I had minimum of 12 bottles to prepare every day, I thought this was a fantastic idea and was excited to try it.

The product comes in 4 pieces – the funnel, the handle and 2 cups. The cup fits into the handle and this is used to measure the formula. The funnel sits on the top of the baby bottle to avoid spillage when adding the formula powder. There are 2 cups to choose from depending on how many scoops you need to add to the bottle.

Initially I was thrilled with my purchase and went on to buy some for my mummy to be friends. The ClevaScoop removed any risk of misjudging the number of scoops put into each bottle, a benefit that I definitely noticed during those nightly feeds when I was never really properly awake. You know, the times when you walk to the kitchen, bouncing against the walls on the way like a game of Pong and waking up hours later panicked as you think you’ve slept through a feed only to see the empty bottles on the floor.

However, after using the ClevaScoop for only a couple of weeks, the numbers indicating the amount of scoops have faded almost completely from the white handle. This makes it very difficult to match the cup to the scoops needed and is a disappointing, basic flaw in the design.

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Overall I think this product has the potential to be fantastic and a must for any formula fed baby. However, for this to happen it needs some simple design updates to last longer term. Until then, it remains a good product but with one limitation – only one but an important one.

http://www.clevamama.com/feeding/clevascoop.html

What we are doing to make our first family Christmas extra special 

Ok, I know it is pretty obvious that the first Christmas with your first-born is pretty darn special in its own right. I also know that the twins won’t remember anything but we will and I don’t know about you but I’m in the mood to celebrate it! Maybe it’s something to do with the tough pregnancy but I can’t help splurge out on a few things to make the Christmas season that bit extra special so here’s my guide to what we are doing. These would be great for children of any age really, not just newborns, so read on and get some ideas to help make your holidays extra special this year.

  1. Clothes – occasion wear and festive

Yes they are going to only get a month at best out of these but with all the visitors calling around to coo over the little ones, not to mention the hundreds of cute photo opportunities, why not take the chance to put your little one into some gorgeous outfits. We’ve gone for the traditional option for day time and novelty for nighttime but whatever your preference is there are loads of options in the shops.

2. Personalised decorations

Over the past few years I have noticed more and more places selling ceramic decorations that you can personalise with names or special messages. I have always wanted to get one for my mum with all the grandchildren on it but as the family is always expanding it was difficult. This year however I have my own family (yay!!) so I picked up this cute one. I thought it was just right for the twins and they have other penguins for any other additions in years to come….and by that I mean years and years to come!!!

3. Visiting Santa.

A controversial one between the husband and I, but I love the idea of starting this tradition now so that we can have a complete set of photos. You know, to go in the cupboard with all the other boxes of photos! Joking aside, a happy wife is a happy life so off to Santa’s kingdom we go. Luckily I have just the thing to put them in for the photo…..

4. Keep the important traditions

When were first married we had the usual decision about where we would spend our first Christmas. Both of us obviously wanted to stay with our own family and, with the most important meal of the year at stake, our argument for and against literally came down to which house could do the best roast potatoes. Sad but true! In the end neither of us compromised on it and instead we now have 2 Christmas meals.

This year though we need to come together on what we want the girls to grow up knowing. Now this is harder to do when you remember that we spend the holidays between our parents houses as we don’t live in that city anymore. I feel like its going to be a bit of hit and miss on this for a few years as we get into the groove of things but for the moment, like the christmas meal, we are doing everything. Yikes!

5. New traditions

I’m not sure why but one day I got thinking about what kind of things I wish for the girls in their life that I may not necessarily have now. this doesn’t mean something my parents didn’t do with me or something that they couldn’t give me, because in all honesty there isn’t much of those two things anyway, but the one thing was that i wish i remembered a lot more. So I thought about it and I came up with the idea that every year we will write down all the best bits of the year and keep them together (probably in the cupboard next to the box of photos!). The girls are obviously too young to do this at the moment but at least we’ll have it cemented by the time they can join in.

So take this opportunity to start your own traditions. It’s never too late to do this, just be committed to whatever it is.

6. Take time

As we transition from the party going holiday season to the family friendly, double buggy accommodating holiday season, I feel like it could be very easy for us to fall into the curse of trying to do too much in a small space of time. It’s important to take time out for just the 4 of us so I made plans for us to reign in the New Year together, just us. whether you choose this day or not, it doesn’t really but make sure to take time to gather everyone together and do something nice that is just for you all.