Friday, 31 October 2014

A Creative Christmas from Minted

Square Up by Up Up Creative

Finding the perfect present for Christmas can be nigh on impossible for some people, but what I have discovered over the years is that you cannot go wrong with a personalised gift - it shows care, it shows thought, it shows that you have put effort into creating something that your friend or loved one will really love and appreciate.

I have recently been introduced to the wonder that is, and I am in love. Stationery, photo art, home decor, keepsakes, photo cards - if you are a lover of great design and pretty things, then this site is for you. You can take your photographs, your memories, and turn them into art to adorn your walls and preserve them for a lifetime.

Just Fill in the Blanks! by Dana Beckwith

Minted is a design marketplace, sourcing creative content from independent artists, producing and selling the best content in the form of art, home decor, and stationery directly to consumers, with designers earning commission on each sale. Minted's community of independent artists and designers are located in 48 states and 43 countries - they are illustrators and textile designers, painters and packaging designers, marketers and stay-at-home parents. Some have design degrees, and others are participating in Minted competitions to learn design for the first time.

I have been perusing their beautiful array of stylish and unique holiday greetings cards, personalising various designs to see which is my favourite. I would say that the most difficult thing about the personalisation process on Minted is choosing which design you like the best - you can even try the "find it fast" option which adds your photo to all of the designs on screen, allowing you to see them all at a glance with your own image in place.

I've got a list a mile long now added to my Christmas wish list, and so many ideas for the perfect gifts for family members. Take a look at for yourself and be inspired, give your Christmas that personal touch.

This is a collaborative post.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

E's Swimming Success #LoudnProud

On Monday, E completed her stage one award at swimming and as of next week has a brand new orange swimming hat, and will move on up to a new class with a new instructor, and on a different day too. So it's all change!

The teacher she has had since she started lessons in September 2013 is sad to see her move on, but delighted to have brought her so far and watched her progress through pre-school and stage one. E only started stage one at the end of July, so she has made amazing progress in just three short months, and has grown so much in confidence & ability especially considering she is only 4 years old. We are so proud of all of her hard work, and I'm looking forward to encouraging her through stage two and beyond. Well done, E!

Linking up with 3 Children & It for this week's #LoudnProud

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Light. #theGallery

We have just returned from a wonderful long weekend in Cornwall, and while we were there we visited the utterly breathtaking National Trust site, Kynance Cove. We all clambered down the rocky path to the beach and revelled in its natural unspoilt beauty. Even the children were in awe. It was a grey day, but the light over the water was really something to behold.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Tips for a thrifty Christmas

Christmas can be an expensive time of year, particularly as children get older the items on their wish lists seem to get more and more pricey - the latest gadgets and tech don't come cheap. Before I get into ways of saving money and how I find the best deals, I want to point out that Christmas is as expensive as you make it. Remember that your time and presence is more important and worth more than anything you can buy in the shops. Family traditions and making memories together will always trump even the most expensive present. When they get older, they won't remember the gifts that they received, but they will remember the time spent with them.

As a family of seven, with a large extended family, I have had to find ways to save money and manage my budget. Years ago I was terrible with money and always started the new year with Christmas debt, but now I have turned it around & we never start the new year paying off Christmas, it is all paid for in advance and I also manage to collect a box of gifts through the year, too.

I have previously shared some simple ideas for household money-saving in regards to making every day changes & savings including meal planning, and using sites like topcashback and paidshop, but these are more Christmas-focused & hopefully will help make a difference to your pocket. If you have any tips to add, please do share them in the comments section.

I know it sounds simple and sometimes it doesn't quite work out - you borrow £10 here, £5 there and soon it's all gone. If that is you, a Christmas savings scheme like Park could be worth looking in to, and if you get family or friends to join you can earn commission on their orders, too. The Post Office also run a Christmas savings club, as do ASDA and Tesco.

Alternatively, you could save all of your £2 coins throughout the year in a jar that you can't open without smashing/using a tin opener to discourage you from dipping in, or giving your savings to a trusted relative or friend who will keep it safe but not allow you to borrow from it during the year, removing the temptation. If you know that you can manage to save without dipping in (well done, it can be difficult at times!), shop around for a great savings account to keep it in. Don't forget that Toys R Us have started their own layaway scheme, too, to help spread the cost.

I start shopping in the post-Christmas sales, not just for gifts but for items like cards and gift wrap too. I have a box in the cupboard that I keep things in, and buy throughout the year in sales when I spot a good deal or a bargain. This goes for food too, I've started buying non-perishables to put away for Christmas, adding one or two things to my groceries each week - turkey gravy, jars of mincemeat and cranberry sauce, freezer items and the like.

Price check online for things on your shopping lists, compare prices and try and find the best deals, don't just buy the first thing you come across. Places like Argos often offer voucher deals around Christmas time such as £5 for a £50 spend & £10 for £100 spend - if you're going to spend £200, break it up into 2 transactions at £100 each where you can & get £20 back instead of £10. Look out for promo codes online, visit MSE, and sign up to emails from your favourite retailers for extra discount codes & offers. Check before check-out!

Work out what you can afford to save throughout the year, then work out how you will distribute it between each person you have to buy for (don't forget to work food shopping into your budget), and STICK TO IT. Don't be tempted to pick up a little extra this or that, or if you do - write it down! Make lists and plan, and stick to your budget. If you buy little things in the sales through the year, don't forget to deduct them from your total. Don't overspend, you don't need to. Christmas is not a competition.

Keep track of what you have bought and for who using spreadsheets, or just on a notepad somewhere safe. I like to buy using a list of categories including book, game, DVD, pyjamas, etc so I know everyone has one item of each and how much I have spent per item to help me track my progress & spending.

Stores like Boots and Toys R Us often have multi-buy and BOGOF offers running, or offer free gifts when you spend over a certain amount on a brand. If you're put off because you already have the free gift that's offered, perhaps it would make a great gift for someone else! Take advantage of click & collect services offered by stores like TRU & Argos, too, as then you can just walk in & pick up your order without being tempted in to spending more.

Supermarkets have great loyalty card offers, Tesco offer Clubcard boost on points throughout the year which can double your money in certain departments, & Sainsbury's have some great deals with their Nectar card. You can use your points towards gifts, clothing, or festive food shopping.

In November & December on the run up to Christmas, try and use up everything that is in your freezer and cupboards and make meals out of things that you already have. It'll slash your grocery bills, reduce food waste, and free up space for all of those Christmas yummies (as well as making room for any dinner leftovers ready to be made into bubble & squeak or turkey sarnies!).

Plan your Christmas meals and only buy what you need, just because it's Christmas it doesn't mean we all need to go mad buying things that will languish uneaten before being thrown out. I'm not saying don't treat yourself, by all means do, but by saving money on food you don't really need and probably won't eat, you'll have extra money to spend elsewhere.

Homemade gifts really are that bit more special, and I know that I for one love to receive things that people have clearly put thought, time, and energy into. If you have any particular skills - sewing, crochet, knitting, baking, jewellery making - why not use those and make some Christmas gifts? It will save you money, and you can give a gift that has been handmade with love and care - better than anything off a shelf.

If you have a large family or group to buy for, you can create your own Christmas hamper - cheaper than buying individual gifts, and much more personal. A favourite of mine is a "Christmas Eve hamper" containing popcorn, little bags of sweets, hot chocolate, marshmallows, a bottle of wine (for the grown ups!), biscuits, candy canes, and a Christmas movie. You can of course add in whatever you like, and if you buy one or two items in with your usual grocery shopping you can spread the cost over a few weeks.

As well as the links above, here are some of my favourite online shops for deals and bargains - The Works  The Book People  Yellow Moon

Sometimes we're all too quick to count down the days,
that we forget to make the days count.
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