Have You Missed Me?

It’s been a while, baby. I’m sorry. I really am. But I’ve just had other priorities. I’ve been…

Settling into my new job * enjoying a spur of the moment weekend in London * Celebrating the marriage of my Sister-in-law (to my new Brother-in-law) * Setting up another blog * Taking up Yoga * Supporting Mr Love of my Life as he starts a new job too * Seeing friends * Swooning at some very handsome men at Socceraid * Discovering the delights of Gin and Tonic * Rediscovering the delights of Martini and Lemonade * Sleeping in hotel rooms with four-poster beds and mezzanine bathrooms * And just generally enjoying life!

I’m back again now though. I might not be here as much as I would have been. I might not give you everything you want. But I’m back baby. Bring on the budgeting!

Spend it Saturday: How to get a Bargain – the Coast Dress

Sale

On Wednesday of this week, I purchased this dress from the Coast website. I paid £79 for it (plus £2.99 post and packaging). But this wasn’t an indulgent spur of the moment splurge. Oh no. This was bargainista shopping at its best, a carefully choreographed purchase of a dress, which I’m going to wear to a couple of weddings later in the year. Here’s how you can get that dress (or any other item for that matter) for less…

1.) Keep your eyes peeled
As I’m on a budget I tend to go shopping with a particular objective in mind and am sometimes blinkered to other items around me. However, it’s worth taking note of your surroundings and even wandering over to investigate some of the lust-worthy but unaffordable items. I was looking for accessories to go with another wedding outfit when I spotted this dress in Selfridge’s and fell for it.

2.) Try it on
To make this work, once you’ve spotted something which you love, but can’t afford right now, you’ll need to try it on. I warn you if it’s as lovely as you hoped it would be, the temptation to bung it on the credit card then and there is immense. But if you can resist, it’s so worth it when you pick it up at a discount price later. Make sure you like the item and determine which size fits you best.

3.) Decide how much you’re willing to pay
OK, perhaps the ticket price is too hefty for this to be an impulse purchase. At what price would you consider buying the item at? Decided. Right. Now tell the Sales Assistant at the Fitting Rooms that you’ll think about it and give her the item back to put into stock.

4.) Sign up for special offers
When you’re home sign up for special offers through the retailer’s website and also trawl other voucher code sites for discounts. Keep checking your inbox and wait for that email with an announcement of a special offer, or sale, which makes your item affordable. Also pop into the store occasionally to check out their offers. When you see an offer decide if it’s the right time to buy. This is going to be a head Vs heart decision of how much you want the item Vs how cheaply you want it.

5.) Decided it’s the deal?
My dress was reduced from £135 to £79, which was enough for me to dust off the credit card. Now see if you can get any points or cashback on your purchase to really get maximum cost-effectiveness. I got £3.29 cashback from Quidco and also paid for it on my cashback credit card. Not to mention the Nectar points I picked up by doing my searches using their toolbar.

6.) When it’s right – BUY!
I love this way of sale shopping as it prevents you from purchasing things simply because ‘they’re a bargain’. Instead it means you’re actually getting a bargain on things you really want, and, well, everyone loves the cheap thrill of getting a bargain…don’t they?

I must say though if it’s an absolute must have. Then get it then and there. There’s no guarantees that something is going to be reduced, or that if it is, that they’ll have stock in the right size and colour for you. Also if you’re adopting this philosophy go for classic, not high fashion items, which might date by the time you get your mitts on them. Enjoy!

Do you hold out for a bargain? What are your tips for getting a great deal?

What the budget means for me… and possibly you

Mug of hot chocolate
First of all it’s important to understand that, for this piece, I am going to make a gross generalisation. I am going to assume that most of my readers are female in their 20s or 30s and like to consume the odd glass of wine, tall skinny latte and meal out. Oh and also that shopping rates highly on their list of hobbies too. Basically I am going to assume that most of my reader’s are like me!

Please accept my apologies if you don’t happen to fall into this particular demographic. But also, please bear with me. You see I want to talk about the budget, and well, the budget means different things to different people. The UK’s pensioners appear to have drawn the short straw this year and whilst I feel empathy for them, in a very Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ style curiosity. I want to know how the budget will affect me and my contemporaries.

Work
Whether you work to live, or live to work, chances are you’re still on countdown to each payday like the rest of us. Yesterday the Government pledged to increase the Personal Allowance by £1000 from April 2013. Apparently 24 million people who earn below £100,000 (most of us then) will benefit from what is being touted as ‘the largest ever increase in the Personal Allowance’. Put simply, less tax means more take home, which means more spending money. Oops, I mean money to save. Hurrah!

And, if you’re struggling to find a new job, the Government are looking to invest in businesses, which should hopefully create new jobs and help to keep businesses afloat. Admittedly working within the offshore centre for trading Chinese currency, or taking up a job on the new oil field – might not be your career option of choice.  But the suits are also looking to link Public Sector pay to local situations, cut Corporation Tax, provide Tax Credits for businesses and pass low-interest rates onto small businesses through the National Loan Scheme. To quote a well-known supermarket: “every little helps”!

One thing’s for sure. If future budgets go the same way as this one, it looks as though the only way we’re going to be retiring early (or possibly even at today’s retirement age) is by saving our hard-earned cash now.

Shopping bags

Shopping
If the Government manages to realise its aim of ensuring the ‘fastest broadband’ for 90% of the UK population, those Net-a-porter/ASOS splurges are going to be a helluva lot easier. What’s not to love? Mr O has also retained VAT exemptions on food, children’s clothes, books and newspapers. I’d prefer VAT-free handbags, but if I can’t get that then I’ll take ‘no tax on books’ as a close second. Then there’s the extended Sunday trading hours during the Olympics to look forward to. Wonder if there’s a gold medal for retail therapy?!

Babies
Woah! Now hold on a moment. I know I got hitched last year, but I’ve been too scared by others birth stories (and retelling of stories from One Born Every Minute, which I refuse to watch) to sprog up just yet. Child Benefit will be withdrawn from families where one parent earns more than £60,000. Seems fair enough to me to be honest. Although concerns me as to whether they’ll get rid of this altogether in the future?

Car Interior

Girl Racer
OK, so the Government haven’t really added any extra tax to fuel. But the 3p rise is going ahead in August as planned. Car Tax will increase in line with  inflation (with the exception of hauliers). On the plus side there’s talk about more investment in transport in London (erm, hello Politicians I know this is difficult to believe, but there is a world outside of London?!). The people in power will also be looking to invest in roads (not sure that people will be able to drive on them mind), railways (hurrah) and clean energy (yay).

Cocktails

Girls Night Out
There’s been no extra duty added to alcohol at this stage (Yay! Crack open the rose etc…), but the government will shortly be publishing its strategy on alcohol pricing. So make the most of those affordable glasses of vino whilst you can! The rate of duty on tobacco has increased by 37p. I’m a non-smoker, so I’m quite happy about this, best not to get me started on that topic….

All in all, this budget has worked out very favourably for me and Mr Love of my Life. Although I can’t help but wonder that whilst we’re the winners at present, how long is it before the tables are turned and we become the scapegoats as pensioners have been in this year’s budget?

What are your views on this year’s budget? Will it leave you better or worse off?

Babe’s View on the Budget 2012

Ah, the budget. The day the Chancellor gets to dust off his (frankly dilapidated) briefcase and become the star attraction of the government for once.

Mention it in any office and your comment will, no doubt, be met with a negative response.

“Tsk! What are the robbing b*stards taking from us now?”

“What are they doing with fuel duty?”

“The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”

Thing is. Is that actually the case? I used this calculator on the BBC website to find out whether myself and Mr Love of my Life would be better or worse off. And I’m pleased to report that for the second year in row Mr Osbourne has deemed to help us out to the tune of just over £300 per year. Add this to the £400 he saved us last year and I might just invite him over for supper.

And whilst this is great for us (every little helps and all that jazz), one does have to wonder if this saving comes at a cost? OK, so the rich-er are losing out on Child Benefit and having to face an increase in income tax. I can’t say I feel overly sorry for them, although I would probably feel very differently if I were earning more. But what does my gain cost our local services? Our NHS and the people who really run our country? What about our pensioners?

Also, whilst I don’t disagree with raising taxes on alcohol, tobacco and driving. I do think the money which the government makes back from these taxes should be ploughed back into suitable projects. Providing suitable public transport to offer a viable alternative to owning a car (After selling mine 18 months ago I’m considering buying a new one, despite the hikes in fuel duty and car tax) and ploughing the money from booze and fags back into the health service to try to offset the expense of people who require treatment because of their choice to live unhealthily.

You can take a look at what measures have been introduced on the Beeb news website and also on Sky. I don’t have time to do an in-depth account of the effects of the budget right now (I’ll try to catch up with my blogging over the weekend), but what I will say is whether you’re better, or worse off as a result of this budget… rather than the government deciding how we should spend our money, perhaps we should be telling them how to spend, er, our money.

What’s your take on the budget this year?

Making Money Monday: Dealing With Agencies – Part Two

Rainbow

Apparently there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow...it's just getting there that's the trouble.

We’ve seen the frankly unavoidable pitfalls of dealing with employment agencies. So, how do you work with these beasts and ensure you’re getting the most from them? Simples.

1.) Remember you pay their wages!
Most agencies get commission on placing a candidate (usually a percentage of your final salary) so they’re working for you as much as they’re working for the recruiter. That doesn’t mean you should adopt diva-esque tendencies, but remembering this when they’re trying to bully you into something which simply isn’t suitable should give you the guts to say no.

2.) Pester them.
In defence of the agencies, the recruitment industry has suffered redundancies as much as any other, which often means the agents have impossible workloads. Be prepared to keep on top them, call them – have they got anything new, any feedback for you? Can’t get through to them on the phone? Email them. Chase, chase, chase – so you’re front of mind when that perfect role comes through.

3.) Give them a clear brief of what you do and don’t want.
This should enable them to match the right job to you. But be realistic. It’s still a tough market out there, so don’t give them an impossible task. Separate your requirements into ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’.

4.) Do call them when you come out of interview.
It seems cheesy, but the feedback you give to them allows them to ‘sell you into the client’ if it’s a job you want.

5.) Stand up for yourself.
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if the role isn’t right. Remember recruitment is sales in disguise and sometimes you feel pressurised into going for something which really isn’t suitable.  Don’t let anyone tell you what you want to do – you tell them!

What experiences have you had with recruitment agencies? What advice would you give to someone trying to deal with them?

Sunday Digest: Another year older…

Happy Birthday

This week I have been…

Pondering how best to deal with employment agencies * Enjoying yummy packed lunches at work * Celebrating Mother’s Day on a budget * Working hard in the new ‘day job’…but making an effort to be less tardy with my blogging * Enjoying my new ‘commute’ home (a twenty-minute walk along the canal towpath don’t cha know!) * Thinking about how to set the date for a wedding * Celebrating my birthday * Feeling that my shoe collection is totally inadequate after reading this post on lifestyle/flash * Staring in amazement at this baby shower on Liberty London Girl *

Spend it Saturday: It’s my Birthday and I’ll Spend If I Want to…

I turn 32 today. I can tell I’m getting older as I have to pause before I tell people my age and ensure I’m actually getting it right. I assume it’s going to be that way until I get to about 80, when I will once again, be broadcasting my age, like a proud five-year-old. Keep your peepers peeled for some photos of how I chose to spend my big day…

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When I was younger this would be the time I stumbled home after my birthday celebrations. Now it’s the time I’m waking up. How things change…

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Breakfast in bed… Yum!

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Pressie time!

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My first birthday as a wife!

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Fabulous birthday card from my bestie!

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Essential driving supplies.

I switched to my bridge camera for a bit whilst we were mooching around Gloucester, I’ll post those pix when I get home, but here’s some others…

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A birthday isn’t a birthday without Starbucks.

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Lunch!

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Cuteness at the Beatrix Potter museum.

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