Florence started school in Reception yesterday and, as you can imagine, I was a tad emotional. I wasn’t worried about her actually going to school, I knew she’d take it all in her stride, and she absolutely did. I think the worry for me is her future. Starting school is a massive, massive step in our lives and it’s at this point I feel our lives really begin to take shape. The friends she makes, the subjects she enjoys and the teachers she has will all lead her on to, hopefully, bigger and better things. I feel slightly out of control now.

But, I have been doing some research into ways I can help Florence reach her potential.  I don’t want to be a pushy parent, far from it, I want her to discover her own likes and dislikes but I want to give her the tools to do that and guide her.

Throughout her preschool years I bought all those educational type books where you match up shapes, trace letters and learn to count but it never really held her interest for longer then 15 minutes. I recently discovered Education Quizzes; a website full of quizzes designed by teachers to help children be successful at school.  I know what you’re thinking…..sounds dull right? Wrong!

education quizzes, school, education

Florence came home from her first day at school and raved about the school having loads of computers and it dawned on me that this is how she will learn.  She will use the internet to research whereas I went to the library or asked my parents.  She will create work on the computer using various programs whereas I wrote an essay in my jotter pad.

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 11.01.00

The quizzes are split into key stages, KS1-GCSE, and then by topic. They are fun, interactive and suitable for all children – there’s even an ‘English as a Second Language’ section. It is suggested you spend around 30 minutes a day in a one to one situation with your child working through the various topics. I’ve had a look through the KS1 Education Quizzes with Florence and, despite being in Reception, she was actually able to make a good guess at the answer. It kept her engaged for some time as we discussed the options and I also let her use the computer to navigate the site. She became familiar with the colour coding on the site quickly and remember which topic was associated with which colour.

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 11.01.18

The quizzes are available on a monthly subscription basis at a cost of £9.95 and can be cancelled at any time.

Follow:

pic1

It might sound like the impossible but it is possible to save money when you move house.  Bare with me.

If you follow me on Instagram you may have cottoned on to the fact that we have sold our house and are on the brink of purchasing a new one.  It’s the first time we have bought and sold properties simultaneously as we were previously first time buyers.  The process of putting the house on the market started in March and on the 28th August we collect the keys to our brand spanking new home – which I am beyond excited about and will post about nearer the time **kitchen spam warning**.

The point of this post is to share some tips or ideas, I guess, on where and how we saved a few pennies to ensure we still had some money left in the pot at the end of it all. As expected, we made a few rookie mistakes, which probably cost us unnecessarily, so I’ve listed them as tips here to stop you falling into the same trap.

1. Negotiate the estate agents fee.  In our naivety we didn’t know this was the ‘done thing’ until my Dad informed me.  So, what started as a 1% fee concluded as 0.75%.  This saved us around £800 – a win in my book! BUT….remember to check the VAT situation too.  I stupidly assumed that the fee would include the VAT – turns out it doesn’t.

2. Agree solicitors costs upfront.  When we agreed to reserve our plot, the sales team gave us the details of two solicitors they work with regularly and have good relationships with.  We approached them both for a quote and they both provided a set cost and itemised schedule for the work that was needed for both the sale and purchase.  Knowing the cost up front is crucial to keeping an eye on the money.  Don’t let your solicitor just set up a tab, you’ll end up with a bill far bigger than you were expecting.

3. Do the donkey work.  If you can, do! Our old house was a detached four bedroom property and so there was plenty to move and we did discuss hiring a removal company. However, when we looked into the cost we just couldn’t bring ourselves to pay it knowing that money could pay for a new dining table or some decent curtains and blinds.  Matt got straight on to WhatsApp and rounded up the troops – it’s definitely a case of who you know, not what you know in cases like this.  It took ‘the boys’ a morning of lugging and loading and the job was done.  We rounded it off with a couple of beers and a carvery for everyone.

4. Storage. This may not be applicable to your situation but if you have to move the contents of your property into storage make sure you look at all the options and their associated costs.  We live pretty close to a few storage facilities but we had used a particular one in the past and wanted to use them again.  We had our minds set on wanting to book a couple of rooms in the main building but when we started talking to the chap that runs the facility he told us about the containers he has outside – literally like the sort of container you see on a ship.  The containers had wide openings, 24hr access and about half the price of storage in the main building. The only time I could see this wouldn’t be ideal is in the winter as the containers would probably get a little moisture inside them.

5. Ask for a discount. If you don’t ask, generally, you don’t get.  Right from the first time we visited the housing development we asked about what money we could get taken off, or incentives as they’re known in the business. The sales team were pretty helpful and after a bit of discussion we ended up with over £11,000 worth of incentives. Not bad in my books.  Don’t feel embarrassed, they expect it and there is always room for a deal.

I hope these ideas have been helpful if you’re thinking of moving or are in the process of doing so. They could mean the difference between spending the first month sitting on the floor or on a lovely new sofa you bought with all the money you saved! Selling a property can be a long and difficult road, luckily we had our first viewing after only being on the market a few weeks and this viewing produced the offer which enabled us to buy our new home.

Please let me know if you liked this post or if you want to spam you all with pictures of the new house as we make it into our home.

 

Follow:

A layman’s guide to setting up a blog.

A quick disclaimer before we get going, I am no I.T. guru nor am I any kind of social media wizard.  I’m just a mum who set-up a blog.

Since I set up a blog I have been asked on numerous occasions about how I did it by friends who would like to do the same.  I’m going to discuss the simple mechanics of getting a blog out there on the web, not about content and writing as that is something a bit more personal and needs to come from you.

1. Domain Name – to own or not to own?
The very first thing on my ‘to do’ list so to speak was get my ‘domain name’ registered.  I knew I wanted a specific domain name and so I thought best to buy the rights to that domain. For those that don’t know, a domain name (domain) is an identity/address for your website – my domain is Mrs Magovern (https://mrsmagovern.com) and cost about £8.99 for a year.  I purchased my domain along with a hosting package, which ‘hosts’ my website, from TSO Host.  I’ll take about this a little bit more further down.

Of course you don’t need to buy a domain to start a blog.  Websites such as Blogger and WordPress offer free blog domains and hosting and your website address would look something like www.mrsmagovern.blogspot.co.uk.  The functionality of the services provided may be limited but is probably sufficient if you want a simple blog and do not intend to earn money from your blog.  PR companies and other companies looking to work with bloggers for promotional reasons will often ask that you have your own domain.

1

Searching for a domain name

2. Hosting
So you might have your domain, but you need somewhere to put it.  You’ve essentially bought a web address with nothing attached to it.  This is where your hosting comes in.  You will need a web host company to provide you with a space on their server which will make your web page available on the world wide web.  As mentioned previously I use TSO Host and would recommend them.  They provide me with a subscription package which not only hosts my site but also provides mailboxes where I can have a ‘mydomainname’ email address, support, applications to help build my site and more.  I have a standard type package which seems to be plenty more then what I need and only costs a couple of pounds a month – just as much as a coffee from Starbucks would set me back.  I think of blogging as a hobby so if I only spend a few pounds on my hobby each month then that’s pretty good in my eyes.

When you sign up for a hosting package TSO Host immediately send details to you of how to log into your account and get everything up and running.  Their support is fantastic (and no I haven’t been paid to say that), they always answer emails or tweets within minutes.  You will have a control panel for your website so you can set up your emails and the like.

The control panel provided by my web host

The control panel provided by my web host

3. WordPress
As I said, you don’t have to use WordPress, or even Blogger but WordPress is what I have chosen to create my blog with.  I have used on websites in the past and it’s what I am familiar with.  I have noticed many of the blogs I read are actually created in Blogger.  I find WordPress user friendly and reliable.  So the first job once signed into your account is to choose a theme.  So the basic appearance of your blog/website.  There a hundreds out there and they all have different features.  For example, you might want a theme with a large image on the front page, a navigation bar down the side and a very minimal colour scheme.  Use the search bar to find words which might bring up this type of theme i.e. simple, minimalist, monochrome.  Keep looking until you find what you want.

You will have the option to preview each theme to see if you like the style, fonts etc.  If you do, choose install and the activate and the theme will be there ready for you to populate with content.

Choose a theme to suit your style or the functionality you wish your blog to have

Choose a theme to suit your style or the functionality you wish your blog to have

4. Plugins
A plugin is techy speak for a piece of software you can install onto your site.  There are many plugins available and many which do the same thing.  They are generally free but some are better then others.  There are many articles around the web detailing good plugins for blogs.  The ones I would recommend you install/activate are Yoast, Jet Pack and Askimet, these are the more ‘serious’ plugins which help your site run efficiently and improve the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  You can also add plugins to allow readers to share your content or display related posts from you at the end of each new post.  The possibilities are endless really and the same goes for…..

Do your research before installing plugins

Do your research before installing plugins

5. Widgets
Widgets, in my mind, are basically mini plugins.  Short pieces of code which tell your website what piece of information to display.  They generally make the website/blog more fun and user friendly.  You would need to add a widget to display your twitter feed or add a picture to your sidebar.  Have a look at my site, the right bar is pretty much wholly made up of widgets.  But don’t worry – you don’t need to know the code or find it out.  WordPress has all these widgets available to you – all you would have to do is enter your twitter username.  If you install Jetpack you will get a load of great widgets made available to you through that.

Add widgets to make your site more fun and interesting for your readers

Add widgets to make your site more fun and interesting for your readers

I could go one but here ends this first little tutorial, perhaps next time I’ll talk about social media.  I’d love to know what you thought about this short guide.

Follow: