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Parental Pressures {GP}

Children are expensive. Food, toys, clothing and more expensive bills soon tot up, and before you know it the £20 you had at the end of last month has gone halfway through this one.

For a parent who may only be working part-time or not at all, the temptation to grab some quick cash from a payday loan company can sometimes be too much to bear, especially through the internet – where you don’t even need to reveal your problems to others face-to-face.
But complacency, or forgetfulness, or new unwelcome costs, or pure avoidance of the truth, can soon push payment further backwards.
A simple loan of a few hundred pounds becomes a thousand, a thousand becomes several thousands, and the net becomes inescapable.
A new report by The Children’s Society and Stepchange Debt Charity stated that almost 1.4 million families in the UK with children have ‘problem debt’, with 2.5 million children living in families behind with their bills.
A quick internet search will reveal horror stories of mums and dads forced into desperate measures, begging for help as realisation dawns that the amount cannot be paid. And there are varying accounts of the level of sympathy of the lenders.
Had the borrowers sought that help before taking the loan the solution may be much clearer.
That’s where the Money Advice Service can help, with its comprehensive list of alternative solutions to the possible perils of utilising a payday lender.
It can help point you towards other options and advice, financial help, or a less destructive loan for your wallet and self-esteem.

An infographic brought to you by Money Advice Service

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Popular Financial Resolutions for the New Year ~ gp

Now that the New Year has arrived, it could be a good time to think about whether you want to work towards any resolutions. This is the time where many people consider everything from losing weight to giving up smoking, but could you pick something with a financial angle instead? For some reason, many of us tend to avoid the topic as we don’t want to face up to reality – whether it is how much debt we are in, or how much we end up spending on new clothes each month. Either way, it could be the ideal time for you to get a grip on your finances, whatever your end goal is.

If you need a push in the right direction to get started, have a read of these popular financial resolutions to see whether any of them might apply to you…

Pay off debts
There are many people who have taken out multiple lines of credit but now want to take control of their finances – are you one of them? When the temptation of credit cards is there, it can be hard to stop yourself spending; this often leaves you with large monthly payments that only grow when interest is applied. There are a number of possible solutions for paying off debts; one is to make larger monthly payments so the debt is paid off more quickly, or you could think about debt consolidation. Providers like Zopa offer a loan that could be helpful for debt consolidation; the idea is that you could achieve a lower interest rate, as well as only needing to pay one creditor as opposed to all of the ones you pay currently – you can read more about this online.

Save money
Then again it might be the case that you are more interested in saving up money instead. There are many reasons why people choose this as a resolution, but some of the more common ones include wanting to buy a house, getting a new car, doing home renovations, or even just saving up for a rainy day. There is no ‘one way’ that people save; it is simply about putting by what you can afford to, and depositing it in a safe place. You can get more information about saving from the Money Advice Service, or by speaking to an impartial financial adviser.

Receive money
In some cases, it might even be possible that you are owed money from people or organisations. Sometimes the New Year is the time that people decide they are going to seek the funds that they have been due, whether for a couple of weeks or even years previously. When all added together, debts owed to you can come to a fair amount, which is why some people think that the effort put in is worth it. However this could also act as an opportunity for you to reconsider whether you would lend money to a friend or family member in the future if you are unsure about getting any cash back off them.

Whatever way you do it, focus on taking control of your finances this year.

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Great Ways to Brighten Up Your Home in 2014 ~ gp

In January and February, many people get the urge to rip out their existing décor and start all over again. Perhaps it’s something to do with that post-Christmas feeling, where everything looks a bit faded, or perhaps it’s because nothing really compares to the glamour and glitter of the festive season.

Whatever the reason, you can guarantee that hundreds of thousands of homemakers will be heading to the shops to buy the newest edition of various glossy Interior Design magazines, seeking inspiration.

If you are one of the many who need some fresh ideas, then read on for some styling tips that can turn your home from shabby to chic in a few simple steps!

Have a Tidy Up
This tip costs approximately nothing but will make a huge difference. Set aside a morning where you know you won’t be disturbed, and blitz the house from top to bottom. Old ornaments, tired photo frames, odd bits and pieces you have collected over the years, they can all either go to their final resting place, or be placed in a box for safekeeping. Ah, space!

Move It!
Again, moving stuff around is completely free, which is a blessing after Christmas. Rearranging the sofas, the dining room furniture, or the children’s bedrooms instantly makes the room feel fresher and more appealing. Just don’t do your back in.

Add a Splash of Colour
This year, interior design trends feature lots of bright colours, set against a neutral backdrop. So why not jazz up your living room by adding in some vibrant cushions, throws or prints? You can always take them out again if you’re not convinced. Alternatively, if you’re feeling really brave, you could paint a feature wall!

Invest in Vintage
It’s time to drag the other half and the kiddies down to the antiques centre, because 2014 is the year of vintage and one-off items of furniture. Entice guests into the house with a 1930s rosewood dresser, or fascinate family and friends with a restored Victorian sideboard. You will be the ‘hostess with the mostest’!

That’s right, it seems that floral patterns were not content to remain confined to the catwalk and are now making their way into your house. Don’t worry; we don’t mean that you should change your lounge into a 1930s sitting room. Instead, choose big, bold patterns that will make your room look highly eclectic and sophisticated. Get wallpapering!

Glamour, Darling
It’s all about Hollywood glamour this year – we’re talking reds, golds, silver and black all over the house. So throw on a floor length gown, drape your bedroom in red velvet and even do something extraordinary like shop online to buy a hot tub and all its necessary parts to while away the winter evenings. You will feel chilled out in no time!

Hopefully, these ideas have given you some inspiration for how you can give your home a makeover this winter. In no time at all your house will feel all shiny and new, ready for whatever the year may bring!

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Cruise Holidays: Not Just for Adults ~ GP

The UK may be in the grips of a cold and wet winter, but the arrival of the New Year has made me think about the summer, and what we can do as a family this year. One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot is trying Mediterranean cruises for the very first time, and while they may have a reputation for being just for older people and couples, there are many, many cruises out there that are suitable for children, and most importantly, their parents!


When I first mentioned to close friends that I was thinking about taking the kids on a cruise this year, I was met with a dumbfounded silence and stares. Eventually, one of them piped up: “But, but cruises are for old people. You’re not old!” Until a few weeks ago, I was inclined to agree. However, after some research, I realised that the family cruises market is booming, and it’s not hard to see why.
Cruises give families with young children the chance to explore in a comfortable and very safe environment. Instead of having to queue for hours and face delays at the airport, all holidaymakers on a cruise have to do is turn up, check in, dump their bags in their cabin and then sign up for activities that they want to do during the cruise. Many cruise liners also offer Kids Clubs, where kids can go and play and take part in fun and monitored activities with other children on the boat. This is not only helps them make new friends, but also gives mum and dad a much-needed breather and gives them the chance to unwind, relax and plan their activities when they dock.


I love the Mediterranean, it’s hot, beautiful and the food is simply to die for! So, I’m really keen on going on something like a 12 night Mediterranean cruise with the kids and the Man later this year. I’ve been looking at cruises that take in the key destinations of the region, including Venice, Corfu, Athens and Istanbul, as I think these would be wonderful destinations for the children to explore on port days.
With cruises now more child friendly than ever before, with kids clubs and kids menus available at every meal, I’m really impressed with how many cruise companies have made what was once seen as inaccessible and unwelcome to families completely inclusive. I’m really glad I did my research, as now me, the kids and the man can book our Mediterranean cruises without having to worry about not fitting in!

Images by Gail Frederick and Miles Goodhew under a creative commons licence

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On the road with the family again… ~ GP

As a child I always remembered the morning of; the last minute checks, the harried voice as my mother implored me to brush my teeth and the cry of, “where did you put your shoes?” echoing through the house. Some of my fondest memories as a child revolve around these road trips. There’s just something about being in a car for hours at a time, watching the landscape slowly change, playing 20 questions to pass the time.

Of course, as much as I romanticize about my childhood, now that I’m an adult with responsibilities and a limited budget, I have to think more about the practical side of the equation: namely the cost. With the economics of going cross country with the family in mind, there’s one thing that I found to keep costs down more than anything else: getting a rental car.

The benefits are numerous; it keeps the miles low on your personal car, can save on petrol, you can pick up and drop off at either end of your trip. The trick is how to get the rental car that suits your needs, at the lowest price possible. To do that you need to look at a few different factors.


Know what you want
Different rental companies offer different services, the main things to consider being price, locations, service fees, and car types available. Are you going on a cross country trip which might whack the cost of petrol up? Then you might have to sacrifice luxury for fuel economy. Going through the Highlands? Then fuel economy may be sacrificed for 4 wheel drive. Certain companies also offer services that are unique to them. For instance, Enterprise is famous for picking you up before and dropping you off after your rental.

Comparison shop
Just like airlines, the further you book in advance the more money you save. Also, just like airlines, travel comparison sites negotiate with car rental companies to offer the most competitive rates. If you are flexible on travel dates you’re liable to save money as well, as you may be able to take advantage of late offers and there are always last minute car rental deals out there to be found by a clever shopper.

Sign up for their rewards program
A quick sign up to a car rentals reward program can lead to lots of saved money. Perks include free days and upgrades on your rental car. Many of these agencies offer deals to their rewards customer as well, deals that may not be available through other channels.

All this said, my favourite part about road trips with the family was always exactly that: family. The time spent together in our car was treasured. We would always learn something new about each other on those long drives, that’s why I loved them. I may have to concern myself more with budget and getting the right rental car than what’s happening outside the window these days, but I’ll continue that holiday tradition with my family as much as I can.

Image by Stevekeiretsu, used under Creative Comms license

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Hair and beauty tips for your wedding day ~ GP

Every bride wants to look beautiful on her wedding day. It might be down to choosing the perfect dress (visit a Berketex Bride if you’re still in need of inspiration), or it might be about your hair and make-up looking perfect on the day.

Here are some hair and beauty tips to help you look your best.

Hire a professional
You might not want to worry about sorting out your own hair while trying to enjoy your wedding day. Hiring a professional means you can sit back and collect your thoughts while someone else pampers you.

The same goes for make-up. It might be that you can do your make-up flawlessly every day but to ensure it’s perfect for your wedding day, hire a make-up artist. Most offer an initial consultation and test run as part of their wedding package so you can find someone to get your look perfect.

Get the best brushes
If you aren’t hiring a professional make-up artist then you should invest in some great make-up brushes, like those that can be found at Boots. These are often overlooked but they can transform the way you put on your make-up and the time it takes.

A great eye shadow brush will help you to blend colours effortlessly, a contouring brush can help to accentuate your bone structure and a lip brush will help to keep lipstick in place.

Go for a consultation
A lot of beauty counters will give you a free makeover in store, so you can get an idea of what colours suit you. Visit your favourite brand and get talking to the beauty consultant. After the makeover they’ll be able to recommend products and will be able to tell you what colours work with your skin tone, hair and eye colour.

This is a great place to start if you want to create your own wedding look.

Coconut oil
This is one of those things that is super-versatile. You can cook with it, make it into a face scrub or use it on your hair.

In the run up to your wedding melt some coconut oil and apply to the mid-end lengths of your hair. The result will be glossy locks and no split ends. If you have naturally greasy hair, keep the oil right to the ends just to soften the tips.

Avoid breakouts
A lot of brides make the mistake of detoxing a week before their wedding. When you detox, your body pushes out all the impurities and toxins, which can lead to spot breakouts.

The same goes with a facial, the process helps to detox your skin and this can also cause breakouts.

Your detox should start three weeks before your wedding. Drink plenty of water (2.5 litres or more per day), eat clean – this means no processed foods – and try to up your intake of vegetables.

If you’re going for a facial ahead of the wedding, speak to your beauty therapist about when is the best time to visit to avoid breakouts. Generally two weeks before is best.

Finally, if you are going to be doing your own hair and make up on the day, practice! Make an evening of it with your bridesmaids or perhaps just take some time to your self to play around with hairgrips, curlers, lipstick and eye-liner.

Debbie Fletcher is an enthusiastic, experienced writer who has written for a range of difference magazines and news publications. Follow her here: @Debbie_Fletch18

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