May 12, 2017

How to Throw a Children’s Birthday Party on a Budget


Children’s birthday parties can be super expensive. When you add up the cost of an entertainer, a venue, food, a birthday cake and party bags, you’ll soon be forking out hundreds of pounds. The days of simple birthday parties seem to be gone. These days, parents seem to be trying to outdo each other, throwing a better party than the last one they went to. It doesn’t have to be that way though. It is possible to throw a party for your little one and not break the bank. It’s just a case of reeling things in and keeping the whole bash simple.

Think About Your Child

Remember this party isn’t for you, it’s for your child. Children can usually entertain themselves quite easily. They don't need lavish parties thrown for them. When children are very young, they don't need parties at all. Have a family meal together and skip a birthday party altogether. As they get a little older, you can invite friends, but that doesn't mean you need to go crazy. Ask your child what they want to do. You might find that their wants are pretty simple compared to the extravagant party that you have in mind.

Hold a Children's Party at Home

The best way to cut costs is to have the party in your own home. You don't need to have a huge guest list. Don't feel obliged to invite your child's entire class from school. Don't waste money on paper invitations. Emails or any other kind of electronic invitations are fine. If the weather's fine and you have a garden, make the most of that. Kids are perfectly happy running around outside. If space is an issue, check out a church hall or village hall. If your child has a friend with a birthday close by, you can cut costs by sharing a venue and having a joint party.

Play Simple Games

Entertainment needn't cost an arm and a leg. There are lots of expensive options available, of course. These days there are all kinds of children's entertainers available for parties. For younger children, you can organise traditional party games: pass the parcel, musical statues, musical chairs, simon says. With older children, you could easily keep them happy with a DVD and a pizza. Maybe even a sleepover, depending on numbers.

Keep Food Simple

The best time to have your children's party on the cheap is between 2pm and 4pm. It's after lunch and before dinner so nobody is expecting a big meal. You can just have a few snacks for the little ones to munch in between the party fun. If you do prepare a lunch, you don't have to do anything fancy. Children just need some fuel to get them going, but aren't expecting posh nosh.

Buy Party Bag Goodies Online

The cost of party bags can soon add up if you have a lot of guests. You could keep it simple and just fill a cellophone bag with sweets. If you do want to fill the bags with a few little toys, it pays to keep an eye out for bargains well in advance. If you've got your eyes peeled a few months before hand, you'll have time to compare prices. Shopping online usually helps you keep the price down. There's a good selection of reasonably priced stuff at Hawkins Bazaar.

Picture: Luci Correia via Flickr, CC-BY-SA 2.0

January 20, 2017

What Do I Need In a Family First Aid Kit?

It's always a good idea to have a first aid kit in your home just in case somebody has an accident. You could start out with a pre-packed kit and then add to it as necessary.

Things You Need In Your Family First Aid Kit

  • Baby Thermometer. An accurate thermometer is an essential first-aid tool for parents. 
  • Pain Relief. You will need some children's and babies' liquid pain reliever with paracetamol or ibuprofen. You will need a measuring spoon or no-needle dosing syringe. Always follow the dosage instructions on the label.
  • Other Medicines. Have something for upset stomach, allergies or anything else family members are prone to suffering from. Creams. Get some calamine lotion for sunburn and rashes. Antiseptic cream can be applied to cuts, grazes or minor burns after cleaning to help prevent infection. Antihistamine cream can be help soothe insect bites and stings.
  • Tweezers. These can be used to remove splinters and thorns. Don't try to remove larger objects. You should let a healthcare professional do that.
  • Saline solution and an eye bath. This is useful for washing specks of dirt out of sore eyes. It can also help with redness caused by allergies.
  • Antiseptic wipes. These are a handy way to clean cuts and grazes. To clean a wound, gently work away from the centre to remove dirt and germs.
  • Bandages and plasters. You should get an assortment of bandages, including a triangular bandage, plus a 2.5cm and 5cm strip for holding dressings and compresses in place, and a finger bandage. Get some sticky plasters in various sizes and shapes. Also include adhesive tape and a sterile gauze.
  • A pair of sharp scissors. These are for cutting plasters and tape to size. You can also use them to remove pieces of clothing from around a wound.
  • Disposable sterile gloves. A couple of pairs of these are necessary to prevent germs and infections from spreading. It is a good idea to get non-latex gloves.just in case anyone has an allergy to latex.
  • Ice or gel packs. These should be kept in the fridge. They can be used on burns or swellings.

Get a Book on First Aid

DK publish a First Aid Manual which is endorsed by St John Ambulance, St Andrew's First Aid and the British Red Cross. It covers all aspects of first aid, from emergency first aid and first aid for babies and children, to the latest guidelines on resuscitation, helping a drowning casualty, and snake bites. It's a very informative reference book with plenty of helpful colour photos.

Remember to Update Your Kit

Make sure supplies are updated when necessary. Medical supplies have expiration dates so be sure that things get replaced when they need to be. Updating your first aid kit should be a regular thing that you do at a certain time each year.

Emergency Contact Details

It makes sense to have important contact information ready and available near your first aid kit. You'll need the numbers for your family doctor, your local hospital. It's also a good idea to have a number for a friend or neighbour who can look after your children or take you to hospital in an emergency.
Picture: DLG Images via Flickr, CC-BY-SA 2.0

January 06, 2017

Get Fit Without a Gym Membership


It's that time of year again. You ate and drank too much over the Christmas holidays and now you're set on getting fit. New year resolutions like that often lead to expensive gym memberships which often end up being a waste of money. It's easy to sign the gym direct debit form, but is it easy to actually make yourself get down to some fat-busting exercise.

I won't be signing up for a gym membership anytime soon, but I will be trying to make the little changes in my lifestyle that will help me avoid prematurely popping my clogs.

Do Some Aerobic Exercise

You can spare 30 minutes for three times a week. You don't have to fork out the cost of a gym membership to get your body into shape. There are plenty of cheaper (often free) alternatives. You can go for a bike ride, run around the park, get down to your local swimming pool or even just dance around your living room. People claim that they don't have the time, but you can make time. And even if you can't manage 30 minutes of getting yourself into a sweat, you can surely manage to set aside some time every work for a bit of a workout.

Get Active in Daily Life

There are plenty of everyday activities and leisure pursuits that can help you become more active. Particularly if you have a sedentary job, sitting at a desk all day, it pays to take every little opportunity you can to move yourself a little more. Always take the stairs. Take up gardening, volunteer to clean a park, do something.

Buy Some Dumb Bells

You don't need a complete home gym to build those muscles, but there are few things you can get for your home that will help you shape up. And you needn't break the bank stocking up on kit. Start out with some dumb bells, perhaps a stability ball and maybe some resistance bands.

Watch What You Eat

You don't need a fad diet to get in shape. Losing weight and staying in shape just takes a little common sense. It's obvious really. Don't eat too much and eat the right things, like fruit and veg, and avoid the bad things like sugar and too much salt.

Have the Occasional Treat

The reason why most people give up on diets is that they are just too unrealistic. You might start out with the best intentions and eat nothing but light salads at the start of your new health regime. But that's unlikely to last. You're going to break. For many, when they crack after a couple of days and eat something bad, they give up on the health kick completely. When they've given in to temptation and eaten a bag of chips or a donut, they think they've failed and end their healthy living plan right there and then. A much better approach is to just allow yourself the little treats every once in a while, just so long as you know that after that you are going to go back to healthy living.

Picture: Fit Approach via Flickr, CC-BY-SA 2.0o

October 14, 2016

Save Money on Train Travel


Train travel in the UK is super expensive and the prices seem to keep on going up and up. If you want to bring the cost of your family rail travel down, you need to plan your trip well in advance.

Buy a Railcard. Getting a Family & Friends Railcard is a good investment if you know you are going to be travelling a lot by train. The card can be used by up to four adults when travelling with up to four children aged 5-15. You get a third of adult tickets and 60% off for kids on most rail fares. A Family & Friends railcard costs £30 for a year.

Book your Trip in Advance. If you know that you are going to be travelling some time in the future, it pays to get your tickets well in advance. Cheap tickets become available around 12-weeks before the date of travel. If you don't know you'll be travelling that far in advance, you can still get your ticket a little cheaper if you book even one week earlier than your travel date.

Split Tickets. If you're travelling a long distance, it is often cheaper to split up your journey.  Say you are travelling from London to Manchester, instead of getting one ticket for the journey, it might work out cheaper to buy a ticket from London to Birmingham, then another from Birmingham to Manchester. You could even stay on the same train, but end up saving money because you've split your journey into two parts.

Do Your Research Online. You can use National Rail's website to find the lowest possible fare for all UK train operators on all routes. When you book your train tickets online or buy a railcard, make sure you do it via a cashback website such as TopCashBack.

Picture: Matt Buck via Flickr, CC-BY-SA 2.0