28 September 2018

Learning To Drive: 7 Ways To Keep Costs Down

Defensive Driving Starts Before You Learn To Drive
Following are a number of tips to help you drive in the most effectively defensive way possible. Defensive driving will reduce your vehicular defenses substantially, but it’s just one of many strategies you can employ to achieve this result. Several more worth considering include:
1. Driver’s Education
Driver’s Ed can reduce your insurance expenses while additionally teaching you effective defensive driving techniques that are essential in an increasingly urban driving environment with an expanding population. Attending driving courses can help you pass your test more quickly, and once passed, ensure you pay the minimum necessary amount in vehicular insurance.
2. Always Insure Your Vehicle
Insurance isn’t fun, it’s costly, and let’s be honest: to a certain degree it’s a racket. You’re going to have one claim every 19 years, but you’re going to pay around $1k annually depending on the level of coverage you get. However, that’s the rules of the game, so you’ve got to play by them.
If you lapse in coverage, resuming will cost you more. Your best bet is to buy insurance initially, and retain it perpetually. If and when you switch companies, don’t let coverage lapse in the process. Also, ensure you know your legal recourse in the event of a denied insurance claim.

3. Exercise Proper Maintenance Strategy
A vehicle that is properly maintained will be less likely to break down unexpectedly in a place which is inconvenient, and costs you hundreds of dollars. Read your driver’s manual and replace components at strategic intervals. There are certain things you can take your time on by monitoring them.
Its pretty obvious when serpentine belts start to go; you can run them until they get a “look” to them which requires replacement. Sometimes it will be under the projections of your user manual, sometimes over. The more defensively and carefully you drive, the less wear-and-tear you put on a vehicle, allowing components to last longer. A good rule of thumb: drive like your grandmother.

4. Learn The Patterns Of Traffic
High traffic produces higher likelihood of collision. Avoiding traffic as best you can will reduce your likelihood of being wrecked into, costing you money directly and collaterally. You can’t avoid all traffic, but you can pay attention to patterns, and figure out secondary routes that may be longer, but take less time because they avoid traffic. Time is money, and so are repairs. Avoid wasting time and paying out the nose in repairs by reducing their need through traffic avoidance strategy.

5. Plan Your Trips Out Ahead Of Time
This point dovetails from the previous one: figure out where you’re going, and what conditions will be like when you arrive; and as far in advance as possible. Internet maps can make this a lot more simple than it used to be. Additionally, know the time of year. Avoid holiday travel during high-traffic times if possible; or at the very least, leave in the dead of night when traffic is statistically low.
6. Start With A Beater
If you’re new to driving, don’t be so foolish that you buy a new car valued at around $30k and pay it off every month. That’s just setting money on fire and dancing around it like a savage. A better strategy is to buy a cheap old beater at around $1,000. If you get a year’s worth out of it, it will have paid for itself. Also, you won’t feel so bad when you make mistakes and tear the thing up.
When it breaks down, you can either get another one, or consider investing in a finer vehicle. Unless you can drop $30k on a car directly, and not be impacted financially, it’s not a wise move to have your first car be new.
7. Buy Used
Generally, buying used is a wise tactic. The cost you’re shooting for is about $5k, and you want to pay it all off at once if you can. If you’re fastidious about maintenance, and strategic about how you drive, you’ll get the same kind of use out of a used vehicle that most people get from a new one, but you’ll save tens of thousands of dollars.

Saving Time And Money
If you’re strategic to ensure you plan your driving ahead of time, start with a beater, buy used, take classes to learn more effectively how to drive while reducing insurance premiums, learn traffic patterns, and keep your insurance up to date at all time, you’re going to reduce necessary costs of vehicle ownership.

Even so, you should expect to pay around $2k to $3k a year in terms of gas, insurance, repairs, and maintenance. Budget for that, and keep an eye on expenses. That way you’ll be able to see how well you’re saving.

26 September 2018

5 Top Tips For Pre Planning Christmas Gifts

I don't want to scare you away; but I am going to use a word that can put dread and panic into your heart.  Christmas.

Christmas you say?  It is months away, why are you talking about it now?

Quietly whispers to you, it's only 3 months....  

Well, my suddenly terrified reader, because I want you to be prepared this Christmas and not run around like a headless chicken, credit card in hand; buying presents the week before the big day.  I have been there.  I swore never again.

So here are my top tips for pre planning your gift buying for Christmas without making a mess of your finances with panic purchases.  If you plan ahead, Christmas doesn't have to be that stressful.  I promise.

Lists Are Your Friend

So you have had a (hopefully) lovely Christmas with friends and family.  A few too many festive wines, waaaay too much chocolate and the last thing you want to think of is next year's Christmas planning.  My first tip.  Have a break first, leave your planning till February.

Next, make a list of the usual family and friends that you will be buying a present for.  Add in a miscellaneous gift to the list.  For the person who invariably turns up with an unexpected gift that you want to reciprocate.

Alongside the name of each person, write an amount that you are happy to spend on them and will stick to.  Now you have a budget that you can save for each month.  Add another £50 to it marked Christmas.  Trust me.

Take Advantage of Post Christmas Sale Items

OK now I know I told you to wait a couple of months to think about Christmas, but buying some dirt cheap wrapping paper on sale and maybe a few cards isn't going to kill you in January, right?  I much prefer my money to go on the contents, not in its wrapping.

What Do Women (Men & Children) Want?

It's June.  You made your list a couple of months ago, you've started saving.  You are ahead of the game.  Now is the time to start thinking about things that you want to buy.  Write them on your list.  Check out the latest deals, find out when the sales are.  That watch you want to buy for your boyfriend for example sounds a lot better at £50 in a sale than £100 two days before Christmas doesn't it?

Live By The List, Don't Die By The List

It's September.  Hopefully by now your Christmas saving budget is going well.  You have bought a few presents.  You are on track.  But are you?  Sometimes you can plan all you want and then you might have a couple of rough months financially and your saving isn't quite where it should be.  Don't panic.  You have time.

People appreciate the thought of a present and the time spent coming up with a great gift more than the amount it cost.  If you need to make changes, reduce your budget or maybe have that conversation with a friend about maybe not swapping gifts this year, it is okThe world will not end.

Time To Wrap It Up

It's the end of November.  Finish your shopping, wrap your presents.  You are set.  

The next few weeks will be distributing gifts, office parties and impromptu "hey lets go for a drink, it's Christmas" invitations.   Things that you haven't accounted for in your Christmas saving budget.  That is what you will spend your extra £50 on.  You will, without a doubt, end up spending more, but at least you have a little buffer for some fun.

So that's it!  My pre planning for Christmas tips!  Let me know what your tips for Christmas planning are.

*Collaborative piece

20 September 2018

Letting The Words Out

I've had my blog for eight years now.  It started as a diary of sorts and over the years it has worn a variety of hats on different subjects.  It helped to fuel my body positive journey, it forced me out of black clothes into colour; it let loose my imagination and freed the words that were always in my head, but never came out.  It fueled me to write my opinion pieces and later, for the past couple of years, it has given me an out of hours income aside of my full time job.

The problem is that when you start to write commercially, when you focus your spare time on writing for someone other than yourself; the words that always flowed so freely before are forced into a particular mindset and your thoughts are pushed to one side.

Although I will still have my commercial side, although to a smaller aspect now, I want to really write again.  I want to rant again.  I want to share the thoughts that somehow come out so freely on my blog, especially when I wouldn't say them out loud.  I want to talk about current affairs, the silly things that enter my mind and talk about the parts of my soul that only come out when I write, unedited.

Right now, I am barely blogging.  I have fallen out of the habit of opening up my laptop every night.  Blog ideas that I used to jot down during the day don't appear.  I used to be able to come up with a subject and practically have the post drafted in my head by the time I got home.  Not now.

The thing is, I remember how much I love writing here, as soon as I start to type.  As I write this post now, the smile appears on my face and parts of my brain wake up again. 

There certainly isn't a shortage of things to talk about in current climes! I recently did a post about non platforming which got my brain juices flowing again. 

I think the answer to my non writing period is that I need to get back into the saddle properly.  I need to write, every day, about something.  Not necessarily a full blog post piece, sometimes just a paragraph.  About anything.

I need to be excited about writing again because I can't put aside something that I love to do just because life gets in the way.  So hopefully, there will be many more posts to come.

Moving Home? Declutter First!

Has the time come to up sticks and move to somewhere new? Whether you are moving just down the road or across the country, you are most probably feeling rather overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the work that needs to be done. The fact is that moving house is an extremely stressful experience, it’s not something that is quick and easy - there’s a lot that goes into moving to somewhere new, and it’s important to understand that.

One of the most stressful parts of moving to somewhere new is the packing process because there is just so much that needs to be packed. The key to success with packing for a house move is ensuring that before you start packing, you declutter your entire home and get rid of anything that you don’t need. After all, there’s no point taking items that you don’t need to your new house, is there?

Bearing that in mind, below are some useful tips for making your pre-move decluttering quicker, easier and far less stressful. For everything that you need to know, have a read of the tips below.

Focus on one area at a time

One of the most important tips for decluttering before moving house is to focus on one area at a time. If you try to do too much at once, you will end up feeling overwhelmed, which is why it’s so important that you only focus on one space at a time. It’s best to start at the top of the house and slowly work your way down. That way you can systematically go through the entire house, making the clearing out process simpler and less stressful.

Hire a team to collect your junk

While you could opt to do multiple trips to your local dump, it makes far more sense to hire a waste collection team who can deal with this for you. It’s a good idea to look deeper into what your waste collection options are before making a decision - to do that, click here and have a browse of the options available to you. By choosing to go down this route of waste collection, you can make the entire clearing out process far less stressful and much faster and more efficient too.

Pack and clean as you go

It makes sense that while you clear out one room, instead of putting everything back again that you pack it up. That way you can ensure that you aren’t wasting any time and that you are making the most of all of the time that you have available to you. Don’t just clear out junk and pack what you want into boxes, consider cleaning as you go as well, to help take some of the pressure off in terms of the move.

There you have it, everything that you need to know about the ins and outs of decluttering your home prior to a house move. There is a lot that you need to do when it comes to moving house, so anyway that you can make the process easier and less stressful, take advantage of.

17 September 2018

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is something that we have all had experience of; whether being diagnosed ourselves or having had a family member or loved one suffer.  Since 1960, an unbelievable 1 in 2 of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime.

If you are a family who has a child that has been diagnosed with cancer, the news is shattering.  The thought that your child is suffering this disease must be completely unbearable, devastating beyond belief.  

Just getting through each day, supporting and uplifting your child through the illness and the treatment that goes alongside takes superhuman strength.  But parents, every single day, find that strength to take care of their children, visiting them daily in hospital, spending hours, days and months and sometimes years by their bedside; providing a constant, positive and supportive outlook; no matter how bad it gets.

One thing that we forget is how much this all costs the family.  Not just the emotional cost of the heartache, not just the time spent away from work while you spend infinite hours at hospital with your child; not just the worry and maintaining that positive facade; but the practical, physical cost that can be crippling for families.

Children with cancer cannot simply go to their local hospital.  Studies show that on average, children and their families have to travel at least 60 miles to hospital and back for treatment.  Research carried out by Clic Sargent revealed that families are spending around £180 and more per month on their commute.

Children with cancer and their families get very little in way of support in relation to travel costs and this needs to change.  When you are using every ounce of your strength to support your child through their treatment, the very last thing you want to worry about is whether you have the money to visit them.  Families are often plunged into debt just for visiting their sick child.  This is wrong and has to change.

During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Clic Sargent have launched a petition asking the Government to create a Young Cancer Patient Travel Fund so that families no longer need to worry about the costs of travel whilst visiting their child.

I ask today to sign the petition above which will be delivered to the Department of Health on the 26th September.  You can also download a petition sheet that can be signed by your work colleagues and friends which can add to the numbers (see the link on the petition page as linked above).  Every signature counts.

Please sign this petition for something so worthwhile which would help families with children suffering this terrible disease; taking some of the financial worry away from them at a time when all of their strength is focused on their child.  They are dealing with enough.

16 September 2018

Why I Am Turning Against No Platforming

LONG READ    *Disclaimer - I'm not sure I should give one.  People may have an issue with my thoughts here, but the internet is a place for discourse, so if you don't like them, comment and disagree.  Debate should be what progresses conversations and thoughts.

I have been thinking a lot about non platforming recently and my views have changed.  Do we have the right to be offended by someone's words?  Absolutely.  Do we have the right to vehemently disagree with someone's thoughts and how they express them?  Of course.

But, do we have the right, and should we have the right to stop them speaking?  No.  I don't think we should.  Free speech, provided that it is not inciting and encouraging violence, is something that, in the Western world at least, we are all afforded and should be celebrated.

As the internet has grown over the years, people's voices have grown louder.  Whether you are left, right, centrist; man, woman or child; feminist, anti feminist, MRA or just your garden variety troll; we have all gained a platform to speak.  Whether it be spouting a mini rant on Facebook, 140 characters of your thoughts on Twitter, a lengthy blog post or an hour longYoutube video; there has never been a time in history such as now where we can air our thoughts to the world to such a degree.

My question is, what right do we have to censor speech?  From the point of view I have come to believe, no we don't.  Inciting violence or encouraging violence against others always needs to be dealt with appropriately, but should we stop people from talking about things we don't agree with?

Censorship, non platforming, banning people from social media and places where people can talk openly about their views, only drives those views underground.  The supporters grow in numbers, incensed by the censorship.  Their words grow stronger, get more validation (from those who believe their words) and their voices are amplified, not muted.

There are many people that I disagree with in terms of their views.  But my thoughts lately are that those voices need to be heard.  Not because we agree with them or advocate what they say; but because we need to realise that these people exist, they have followers who believe unequivocally what they say and we NEED to be aware of it.  Those views exist whether we agree with them or not and banning them, I believe, only escalates and elevates those views.

We cannot bubble wrap ourselves against words and thoughts that we do not disagree with.   We need to hear them, sometimes in order to protect ourselves.  

Non platforming for me needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis and viewed in terms of, is this inciting violence or do we just disagree with them.  

For me for example, Alex Jones, crossed the line between free speech that we completely disagree with and find despicable (his views on Sandy Hook) and his recent speech telling his supporters to get their battle rifles ready against Antifa and the mainstream media.  

I, of course, am completely against his views on Sandy Hook.  But thoughts on a something, however unbelievable and abhorrent we think of them, versus an active "call to arms" is different.  That is actively inciting violence.  He deserved to be banned, in my opinion, for his call to arms.  His views and conspiracy theories on Sandy Hook, don't cross the line on free speech; but what it does highlight and publicise what an utter asshole he is, as it does for those who believe in what he said.

What started my thinking about free speech and non platforming is something that someone said to me recently.  At the moment, we live, in the Western world, in a fairly left thinking world.  We non platform hate speech.  But the far right, as we are seeing more and more, is picking up speed in a frightening fast pace.  

Think about it.  The wannabe neo Nazis.  The people who support the man who killed Jo Cox or the guy who drove into a crowd of Muslims who were leaving a mosque with the defence of "revenge".  Revenge for what?  Do we blame every Catholic for the thousands of boys raped by priests?  For the thousands of women imprisoned for decades in the Magadelene laundries?  I digress.  

The people who think like Katie Hopkins that refugees are cockroaches.  The people who think that rights to a woman's body should be legislated by a man.  Those who believe that white people are better than others.  Those who think that The Handmaid's Tale isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The incels who want to kill women who won't sleep with them.  The list goes on and on and on and they all exist.

Now imagine, and it isn't hard to do given the current climes, that people like this got into power.  Suddenly the people talking about left wing views, pro immigration, pro choice etc are the ones getting banned, non platformed and their voices shut down.  Their justification?  You did it to us.  That is all that they would need.

For me, ultimately, on my last, very long point here, is that we need to hear all opinions, all thoughts (unless as I said before, they actively are inciting violence), in order to formulate our own thoughts, disagree with them, actively speak against them and sometimes, laugh at them for what they think because their thoughts are so far from our own that their views become laughable.

If we lose our right to free speech, we lose everything.