Best gifts for autumn

Best gifts to get for the autumn season

With summer firmly disappeared behind the horizon, it’s fair to say that buying season gifts for anyone celebrating a birthday or special occasion between now and Christmas can be a somewhat tricky task. With the weather prone to swinging one way and another, the spectrum of possible gifts is wider during autumn than any other season.

This might make picking something more difficult, but at least you have the luxury of choices and options when the time comes! To help you get started with a few early tips, here are some solid suggestions for the best gifts to get for the autumn season. With the innovation of services like ParcelBroker, it is now easier than ever to send a parcel to get your gift there on time.

Ultra-Strong Umbrella

You can never be sure what the weather is going to do at any given minute during the autumn, so a great gift idea is an ultra-strong umbrella that will stand the test of both a light breeze and a heavy gale. Something like this, which is sleek and stylish but certainly sturdy enough to withstand a gust-filled walk to or from the office, is perfect for a smart business professional who wants to make sure that they look the part.

 

Coffee Carry Mug

The autumn months are the ones that start to add a chill to the early mornings, and this is the perfect atmosphere for a hot mug of coffee on your commute. This high-quality carry mug is perfect for doing just that; able to keep the beverage of your choice hot and steaming for hours so you never have to worry about having to finish off a cold cup of coffee or tea before entering the office.

 

Stylish Briefcase

Most will probably be transitioning into a different, colder weather work wardrobe for the autumn, so why not consider a new briefcase to go with the new look? As something that gets used almost every day, briefcases stand to take a lot of travel and wear damage over time, and we think a perfect way to start a new season at work is with a fresh carry case for all of your important documents and accessories.

 

Fun Ties

As the days start to get more miserable outside and the light starts to fade much earlier, a nice way to keep the positivity and good vibes going in a business environment can be to inject some of that lost colour into your workwear. Whilst there might be some regulations about the kinds of suits that are appropriate, one area where businessmen are usually allowed to indulge in is their choice of ties. A high quality, quirkily designed or patterned tie can make for a great autumnal business gift.

 

Wallet

If business is going well, then a great idea for an autumn gift is a new wallet. It can be a symbol of celebration for the year’s successes so far, as well as being a fun joke about the recipient perhaps needing a new one to hold all of their increased wealth!

 

Gifts appropriate for the autumn should see you transitioning from summer but that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful and stylish.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

couple time as parents

Making time to be a couple and not just parents

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again.  Having a baby changes everything.  It really does.  Some of those changes you can kind of prepare for and others take you completely by surprise.

One of the biggest things to be affected by the addition of a baby is your relationship with your partner.

When you go from it just being the two of you to suddenly having a third person around, who needs you constantly, it can be a real shock.  Throw in the extreme tiredness that comes with a baby and it can be really hard to stay connected.

Once you’re out of the really early days that are basically just about survival, it’s so important to make time for your partner.  To reconnect.  To enjoy each other’s company.  To remember who you both are away from your roles as parents.

 

If you’re struggling with finding time to be together away from your children, or looking for ideas for things you can do together to have fun and reconnect then look no further.

Here are a few ideas for ways to find the time for each other and things to do when you manage a date night together.

 

Really short on time? Try micro dating

If your children are still really young and you’re really struggling to find a few hours to get away together then give micro dating a go.

This is basically taking 5 minutes when you can just stop and ‘be’ with your partner.

If your baby is happy in their cot for a few minutes in the morning, then cuddle up together for a bit before crawling out of bed.  Enjoy a little treat together in the kitchen while your baby is happy playing in the jumperoo.  Take 10 minutes to just sit down and talk about your day in that precious window of time after the baby goes down for the night.

It’s all about finding those little pockets of time to just focus on each other and make sure you’re staying connected.

 

Team up and play an escape room together

When you get to a point that you can leave your child with a relative, friend or babysitter for a few hours then think about avoiding the usual meal, cinema combo (not ideal choices when you’re sleep deprived) and do something different. Escape rooms for instance are a great way to bond and boost your brain cells, which lets be honest could probably do with a workout. 

Experiencing something new together can also help you rebuild your connection as you need to get thinking and working together.  

What is an escape room?

If you’ve ever watched The Crystal Maze you will get the gist, basically it’s a themed room with a series of puzzles and clues you need to solve to escape the room. There’s so many great rooms popping up across the UK with anything from Crystal Maze itself in London to Harry Potter themes and science labs. For bonus anti-adulting vibes you could go to Poppa Plock’s Wonky workshop (pictured), an eEscape room in North London that is perfect for any Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fans, with twisted toys and melted dolls. There’s even a robotic ventriloquist dummy called Oki to guide you along your way. Lady Chastity’s Reserve is also a good shout and available at a range of pubs across London and Brighton. And for anyone in my old neck of the woods in Kent, you can check out this list of top escape rooms in Kent.  

If you’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from each other then this type of challenge is a great way to get back on the same page.

 

Try date day instead of date night

If you find it hard to get out in the evenings, then try taking a few hours during the day to go on a date together.

You could make an arrangement with friends who also have little ones, where you watch their child for a few hours one week and they take care of yours the next.  Then you can head out for lunch with your partner, wander round a museum, enjoy a film at the cinema or chat over a coffee at the local cafe.

Get cosy and just stay in

You don’t have to go out to have a date night.

Put the baby to bed then make an effort to make things a bit special at home.  Turn off your phones so you can be more present with each other.  Cook a nice meal, or order something from your favourite restaurant.  Find a film you both want to watch on Netflix and cwtch up together to watch it.

If you know your baby is likely to wake up before too long, then make your plans around that.  Watch an episode of something rather than a whole film.  Just make a point of being together for that window of time.

 

Go for an adrenaline rush

When you get the chance to go out for date night, try doing something that’ll get your hearts pumping.

The early stages of a relationship are often filled with adrenaline.  Our hearts beat faster and we get those butterflies in our tummies when we’re around each other.  So doing something together that gets the adrenaline pumping again is a great way to reignite those feelings for each other.

You can really go for it and sign up for a bungee jump together, or keep it simple and head to the cinema to watch a particularly scary film.  Or you could find a middle ground with something like surfing lessons or indoor rock climbing.

 

Every little moment counts…

The thing to remember is that the stage of life you’re in at the moment is just that, a stage.

Things won’t be like this forever.  You baby will get older and won’t need you as unrelentingly as they do right now.  And more time will pass and they’ll grow up and get started on their own lives.  And then it’ll just be you and your partner again.

So make the time now to do what you can to keep connected to each other.  To remind yourselves how much you love each other.  To keep in touch with the people you were before your baby arrived and everything changed.

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

psychology spending and saving money

The psychology of spending and saving money

When it comes to money, are you a spender or a saver?

Do you think that money is to be enjoyed and spent now, or do you tend to focus more on the future, putting money aside for a rainy day?

We might not be quite at one extreme or the other, but most of us do have a general pattern when it comes to how we handle our money.  Quite a few studies have been carried out to look into the psychology behind this, to try and work out why some people get such a rush from spending money, while others love the security of stashing it away.

 

If you’re not quite sure what your approach to money is, the people over at PayPlan have come up with a quick little quiz to help you diagnose your spending habits, and to then offer some advice on changes you can make to save a bit more and make the most of your money.

I took the quiz, which only took a couple of minutes, and was pleased to find that I’m apparently pretty good with my money.

The advice for me was to keep planning for the future, and there are links to a couple of guides with useful information to help with that.

 

This idea of thinking ahead to the future is an interesting one when it comes to they psychology of spending/saving money.

It all comes down to delayed gratification.  Which is our ability to wait a while, to get more of something that we want.

There is a famous experiment that was carried out in Stanford in the 60s that looked at this idea of delayed gratification.

They put a big tray of treats down in front of a group of nursery school children and told them they could pick one thing from the tray.  Then they were told they could eat it now, but then they wouldn’t be able to have any more.  Or they could wait a few minutes to eat what they’d chosen, and then they would be able to have another one.

So if they could delay their gratification for a few minutes, they would have twice as much of the treat they wanted.

Some of the children chose to eat their one treat straight away, while others waited to get extra.

What’s interesting is that the researchers followed the children as they grew up and found that those who could delay their gratification generally went on to achieve more success in life than those who chose instant gratification.

When you relate this to money, you can see that people who spend more frivolously are generally the type of people who can’t delay gratification.

They want what they want, and they want it now.  Even if they could have more of it if they just waited a bit.

If this sounds familiar to you then you can try to build you muscles in delaying gratification by telling yourself you’ll wait just a bit before indulging in something.  Then build up to agreeing to wait a week before making a big purchase.

Chances are at the end of the week that urge to buy it will be nowhere near as strong.

 

If you want to try spending less and saving more then these ideas are a great place to start:

  • Always compare prices.  Before you buy anything spend a bit of time looking around to make sure you get the best possible price.  It’s worth doing this with all your household bills once a year too to make sure you’re on the best tariff for you and your needs.

 

  • Get cashback.  If you do a lot of your shopping online then sign up for a few cashback websites like Quidco.  Then when you want to buy something, do it through their website and you’ll get a piece of your money back a month or two later.

 

  • Start menu planning.  For a lot of families the weekly food shop is where a lot of money gets spent.  But if you take a bit of time before you go to work out a meal plan for the week you can save yourself a lot of money from impulse buys and top up shops.

 

  • Treat yourself.  If you find that you splash out on new things for yourself when you’re feeling a bit down or stressed, then find other, free ways to treat yourself instead.  Have a bath.  Curl up with a good book or a few episodes of your favourite tv show.  Talk to a friend or go for a walk.

 

  • Cheat on the big brands.  Next time you go shopping, try buying the shop’s own-brand version of the things you normally buy.  They’re generally a fair bit cheaper, and just as good.  This goes for food, cleaning products, laundry products and even things like painkillers.  If you can let go of the ‘need’ to have the name-brand products you can save a fair chunk of money.

 

Hopefully these tips have given you a few ideas of how you can start saving a bit more money.

And if you’re not sure what your relationship with money is really like then pop over and take that quiz to find out!

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

 

 

Must haves for your next family car

The must-have features for your next family car

Choosing your next family car can be difficult, and with so many options out there, you want something that you can afford but is also practical for family life. This will depend on your budget, how many children you have, and how much you want to spend on insurance.

Here we look at some of the must-have features for your next family car. 

 

Safety

With family cars, safety is a must! Luckily, Carbuyer have picked out a list of the safest cars that you can purchase in 2019. Before you choose a car, do plenty of research around the make and model and the testing it goes through. Whilst all cars sold in the UK must be safe and tested to standard laws, there are still some manufacturers that put more attention into safety features than others.  

 

Cleaning

Let’s face it, no matter what car you end up with, it’s going to get messy! With children, accidents happen all the time. Choose a car with ease of cleaning, not one with lots of nooks and crannies. Family cars with easy to wipe accessories and leather seats make cleaning up messes a much easier job. 

 

Capacity

When choosing your car, you must consider your future. Whilst you may only have two children now, is one about to hit school age? If they are, it may be that you end up sharing the school run with your friend or next-door neighbour, or you may even be considering trying for another child. A family car can last you a long time if you look after it, so consider capacity not just for now, but for the future too. 

 

Insurance Costs

When choosing a car, you must understand not just your budget now, but your budget for the year for necessities such as road tax and car insurance. Different cars may rack up your insurance bill or bring it down depending on factors such as engine size. When looking for cheap car insurance in the UK, use a comparison site like Quotezone.co.uk. It enables you to compare the cheapest car insurance deals from over 100 different providers, and you can compare insurance prices even before you decide on which family car to buy.

 

Reliability

Some car manufacturers are more reliable than others, and the last thing you want is for your family car to be constantly in the garage. For busy parents who need the car for work, school runs and family trips out, an unreliable car is a deal-breaker. Do your research on any car before purchasing it, or ask your family and friends for advice. It may be that they have a great running family car that has lasted them for years. The internet is also your best friend when it comes to understanding the reliability of cars. 

 

Added Features

A family car probably needs a few added features such as a built-in sat nav (for those trips away around the country as a family) as well as charging ports. If you go on lots of day trips, features such as these are a must, as we all know how difficult it can be to keep the children occupied on a long car trip. Only you know what features are important to you and your family, so keep these in mind when looking for a car – it can seriously help you to bring the choice down. 

When choosing a family car, you should consider everything from safety to how easy the car is to clean, not just what it looks like. You should always check out how much car insurance will cost too, as this could be a deal-breaker.

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

guide to number plates

The ultimate guide to UK number plates

Before 2001, working out the age of a vehicle was a difficult task, as a vehicle’s age was determined by a letter at the beginning of the plate. Therefore, you would have to know exactly which letter represented each year. 

However, as of 2001, a new system has been in place that makes it far easier to identify a vehicle’s age.

There are two numbers that will clearly state which year the vehicle was manufactured. However, number plate dates now change twice a year, every March and September. This is to stop a large fluctuation of car sales each summer when people would stop buying vehicles in-order to wait for the new launch of the annual number plate every August. 

 

There are several components to the number plate that reveal a lot about the vehicle it is placed on. Along with this, the DVLA have created several legislations to ensure that the number plate industry is regulated to appropriate standards. 

 

Registration plate regulations 

Since 1904, it has been a legal requirement to have a number plate placed on your vehicle, but since then there have been several other rules added to the list to make sure that they are clear and readable: 

  • The number plate must use the ‘Charles Wright 2001’ font
  • The front plate must be white, with the rear yellow 
  • The font must be black 
  • There must be no obstructions covering the characters 
  • No symbols are allowed except for national and the EU flag 

 

The current number plate system 

When you look at a current number plate, you will see that it is a mixture of letters and numbers, split into two groups. The first two letters on the plate indicate the region that the vehicle was originally registered. For example, ‘LA’ would indicate that the plate was registered in London with the ‘L’, and more specifically Wimbledon with the second letter ‘A’. 

From here, the two letters are followed by two numbers which state the year the car was manufactured. The first plate to follow this system was created in September 2001 which had the numbers ‘51’, the first digit represents the part of the year that the car was registered in (March or September) followed by the ‘1’ which represents the year. If your vehicle is registered between March 1st and August 31st, the first digit reveals the decade of the vehicle, i.e. cars registered in 2018 have the numbers ‘18’. 

To confuse things, plates made between September and February follow a slightly different pattern. The first decade that this system was created, the first number was ‘5’, from 2010 onwards it has changed to ‘6’. Leading on from this, in September 2020, the digit will change to ‘7’, and so on. 

The last three letters of a number plate are completely random and give the plate it’s unique identity so no two are the same. 

 

What about private number plates? 

The private number plate business is making big money at the moment, with more and more people wanting to customise their vehicles. Since it has become so big, the DVLA have begun issuing plates that resemble words and names that add value to them. The most popular plates can fetch hundreds of thousands of pounds, fortunately for most of us, the majority are only a few hundred. 

More often than not, the closer a number plate is to resembling a word, or the fewer characters it has, the more expensive it will be. There are certain restrictions when it comes to private plates; you cannot try to make your vehicle appear to be younger than it is, and vulgar words are also not used. 

Finally, like with a normal number plate, you have to stick to a specific font and make sure the plate is easy to read. 

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post

Hobbies to make you smarter

5 hobbies to make you smarter

There’s something about the new school year that makes a lot of us want to make a fresh start.

To try something new.

If you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby, then here are 5 ideas for things you can try that will let you learn something new, and help make you smarter too.

1. Learn a new language

If your children are learning another language at school this year, then think about having a go at learning it too.

You can go to classes, find a conversation group to join or study online.

Learning a new language is a great way to boost your brain health.   A study carried out by Dr Thomas Bak, from the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh found that people who spoke two or more languages showed significantly higher levels of cognitive abilities than they would expect from their baseline tests.

And the age at which you learn a second language doesn’t seem to matter, the benefits are the same.

 

2. Read more

Make a decision to switch off Netflix an hour before bedtime and read something instead.

Reading is a great way to reduce stress, and is the perfect way to wind down at the end of the day, away from the blue light of screens.

If you read a mix of different types of books, from fiction to biographies to poetry to non-fiction you’ll learn so much about different subjects that you might never otherwise come across.  You’ll pick up a much more varied vocabulary and open up your world to different views and opinions.

 

3. Take up a sport

There are so many benefits of regular exercise, including lower stress and better sleep.  But taking up a sport can also help boost your brain power.

Playing sports regularly helps to improve our coordination, confidence and responsiveness.  It also makes our brains more flexible and boosts our overall brain health.

And if you’re really not up for playing sports yourself, you can still get some benefits from watching it from the sidelines.  Watching sports has been shown to engage different parts of our brains, as we learn new sport-related vocabulary and game rules.  All of which leads to increased brain function.

 

4. Pick up a musical instrument

If you’ve not played a musical instrument since you learnt 3 blind mice on the recorder at school, then it might be time to give the whole thing another go.

Whether you decide to go with the guitar, the piano or the drums, you can either find a local teacher to have lessons with or teach yourself with the help of YouTube tutorials.

Studies have found that playing musical instruments increases our memory capacity, teaches us perseverance and improves our concentration.

 

5. Join a quiz team

Or get your friends together and start a new one, and head along to your local pub quiz night.

Testing your brain with quizzes is a great way to keep you sharp and boost your mental abilities.

If quiz nights aren’t really your thing then you can get the same benefits from doing things like crosswords, word searches, sudoku, and word puzzles at home.  These kind of activities help our brains to form new pathways, test our memories and improve our problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

 

Which of these hobbies do you think you might take up this year?

Do you find that the new school year makes you want to branch out and learn something new?

Small changes to boost health

Small changes to improve your health

Summer is on its way out, and for many people this means getting back into the swing of a healthier lifestyle. Being healthy isn’t just about what you eat, there are other aspects that can make a big difference to improving the quality of your lifestyle.

I know how difficult it can be to make big changes, so why not start with little things that will improve your lifestyle without you having to think too much about it? I’ve teamed up with Greensleeves to put together a blog post for some small changes you can make to improve your health.

Keep reading for some of the ways you can change your lifestyle!

Gardening

Gardening can help you lead a healthier lifestyle in many ways. It can act as a great form of working out without having to force yourself to exercise! Depending on what exactly you’re doing and how long you do it for, a simple hour long gardening session could see you burning around 300 calories. Whether you don’t want to go to the gym, or you’re looking for something to go alongside your usual workouts, gardening can be great for your health. 

Gardening is good for your health in more ways than one. If you choose to grow fruits and vegetables in your garden you can improve the way you eat while also burning calories from the physical activity, so it’s a win win! There is also research that suggests gardening is good for your mental health, making it great for an all round healthier lifestyle.

Walk more

Do you find yourself taking public transport or driving your car distances that you could be walking instead? Walking is great for your health, burning calories, increasing muscle strength and improving your cardiovascular fitness levels. It is a pretty moderate activity, so you’ll easily be able to do it as a commute and arrive at your location looking and feeling great. Try and walk for about 30 minutes a day to help live a healthier lifestyle. You’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint, which is a great added benefit. 

Delicious fruity snacks

Snacking can be one of the hardest things to change when you are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. There’s no need to cut out your snacking completely as it is important to eat the right amount of food to support your body, but instead replace unhealthy food with something a bit more fruity. This can just be some fresh fruit, but if you are looking to try something a bit more exciting then you can create some yummy fruit snacks. One idea I love is to get some yoghurt, mix it with the fruit of my choice, pop it in an ice lolly mould and stick them in the freezer. This creates a delicious, refreshing fruity snacks for you to enjoy!

Drink more water

Drinking water is very important when it comes to improving your health. There are so many health benefits that come from drinking water, as well as it being essential for our survival. The human body is made up of around 60% water, and when your input doesn’t match up with your output you can become dehydrated and unwell. Many people would say they don’t drink enough water, which is really easy to change!

Set yourself a goal for how many glasses of water you want to drink a day and stick to it, the change will be easier than you think.

 

So there are just a few things you can change to live a healthier lifestyle. What small changes will you be making to improve your health? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Disclaimer: this is a collaborative post