Recently we were invited to Blackpool to stay at the fabulous Cliffs Hotel for the weekend.  As a child I spent many a fabulous summer in Blackpool staying with my Aunt, and I was keen to share some of the things I used to love with my own children.

We headed straight for Blackpool Tower, I figured the best way for the kids to ‘see’ Blackpool was from the highest point and they were so excited about climbing the huge metal structure that dominates the seaside skyline.

The Tower has had a bit of a face lift since my last visit, some twenty years past….

It is a true oasis of fun, discovery and sightseeing.

Starting at the bottom you can treat the children to a soft play session in the enormous Jungle Jims, it was closed on the day we visited, so we headed straight on to the world of strictly come dancing.

The Tower Ballroom is magnificent, filled with intricate detail, stunning artwork and decoration and still very much in use.  As we stood and marvelled on the sidelines, dancing couples took to the floor and whirled and waltzed around the enormous dance floor.  They made the quick step look effortless, and enchanted BB so much that she dragged me onto the shining floor to join them.

I now know the quick step is not easy – certainly with a three year old in tow; but hey, we gave it a good shot!

Leaving the ballroom, our journey continued upwards, heading towards the steel girders, preparing to ride the lift to the top of the Tower.

But first we enjoyed a 4D experience of the history of the Tower, (do you know it takes 7 years to paint it!)  The kids laughed, clapped, and wiped away water as they learnt the history of Blackpool Tower before they got to ride up it.

Then off we went…

Climbing into a small box of a lift, that didn’t seem to have changed in twenty years; we took off at a pace.  Passing workmen who are still giving the Tower some tender loving care, and onwards to the top, until we finally arrived, some sixty seconds later.

Even on a stormy day we could see the sea spreading out towards the angry sky, the bright lights of numerous arcades glittered below us, and sea gulls surfed around us.

The kids were mesmerised and leapt onto the final staircase which took us even higher.  They didn’t even show an ounce of fear as they walked on the thick glass that gives a view straight down and they skipped excitedly around the sides of the Tower, choosing from a height what they wanted to do next.

It was a great start to the holiday, and we were loathe to leave the Tower, but very excited to go and check out our Hotel on the promenade.

We were invited to Blackpool for the purpose of reviewing The Cliffs Hotel, to find out more about that experience please follow this link.

Living with kids can be really expensive.  Even if you pop out to the local shop with them to pick up some milk, it is likely that they will see a barrage of magazines, chocolates and sweets that they want to have…

And don’t even get me started on after school activities and how much they can eat!

But should fun come with a price tag?  Is it possible to have fun with kids for less than a fiver?

Let’s find out…

Wilson Field have issued a challenge to a group of bloggers – can we have fun for less than a fiver…

Family time is really important to us, and we often find ourselves looking for things to do outside of the family home without paying attention to what fun we can have without even leaving the house.

1. Cooking up a treat.

We grabbed our chef’s hats and our wooden spoons and launched into an afternoon of baking.  We made biscuits, some tasty, some not.  Eccles cakes, and an inedible pie.

We had a ball (although the clean up was extensive).  The kids loved making food they could actually eat and most importantly we did it together.


Total financial cost: £4.32 (ingredients)
Time spent as a family: 2 hours
Time mum spent cleaning up: 12-16. (Flour goes everywhere)

2. Going on a monster hunt.
Adventure can be found in every aspect of life when you have kids, so harness their imagination and take them out hunting for monsters.

We tramped to the fields near out home, sourced large sticks and started pursuing monsters in the undergrowth.

We found monster pooh (terribly exciting when only small), evidence of a Bigfoot fire, and we scared ourselves witless telling tales of how the monsters would gobble us up if he found us.
We finished the afternoon with a cuddle and The Gruffalo story and everyone was smiling.

Total financial cost: £0

Time spent as a family: 4 hours

3. Movie magic

I know TV is supposedly bad for you, but movie nights at our house are great fun.

We make our own popcorn, pull the duvets from the beds, seal the curtains and settle down with five of us on a three seater sofa.  We will all quite happily watched something recorded from the TV so we don’t have to spend pennies on the picture.

Watching TV may not be great, but the cuddles I get certainly are!

Financial cost: £1.94
Time spent as a family: 3 hours (longer if we watch Titanic)

So yes, in my opinion, you can have loads of fun for little or no money at all!  Usually all kids want is for you to step away from the housework and give them your time. Not your money!

Other ideas for quick, thrifty fun activities include…

As soon as the sun shines, grab a picnic and hit the park.  Join in on the swings and slides and have a ball.

Make a den: get all spare bed linen and towels and make additional spaces to sleep under cover.

Get on your bikes – literally

Play a board game (c’mon we all have hundreds).

Read stories together.

Make your own treasure hunt in the house.

Star in your own movie, use a video camera to film your daily antics and learn how to edit online.

Play tag (be warned it is exhausting).

Create a novel together.

Have an indoor disco, turn down the lights and go wild.

Go out for a run.

Play school.

Play Mums and Dads (this is my daughters favourite).

Play football

Look up stupid facts on the internet – who can find the daftest?

Make paper airplanes and see whose flies the furthest.

Advertorial

It can be really refreshing to find out about some things that could make a difference to your life, especially when it comes to finance – but a lot of the time the publicity sits around ways to reduce gas and electric bills and which suppliers offer the best value. Yet what does not get talked about too frequently is ways to reduce already existing debt. This may strike you as a bit strange, as most people have some form of credit agreement whether it is a credit card or a store card.

That is why you might want to learn a bit more about debt consolidation – a term you might have heard of before but not fully understood. This blog post will introduce a few key points on debt consolidation which you might find helpful either now or in the future.

What is debt consolidation?

First it is best to understand the concept itself. Debt consolidation is a way of paying back the money you owe, but by making payments to one creditor instead of a whole host of them. Many people have a number of debts such as those from credit cards or store cards; these could be paid off via a low rate loan which could cost less than continuing to make payments each month, especially when there is a high level of interest.

How long has it been around?

Debt consolidation is not a brand new idea, but as credit cards become more common and personal debt accumulates, debt consolidation loans have become more popular in the last few years.. It is worth having a look online to find out who is currently offering a form of debt consolidation loan. This is because the options available might change over time.

Who is a debt consolidation loan suitable for?

You may or may not be suitable for one of these loans, so it is always sensible to speak to a financial adviser if you are unsure. However in general, a debt consolidation loan is an option considered by people with a number of credit agreements who want to reduce the total amount paid overall. This is also true of those who pay over 16 percent in credit card interest and want to lower payments through a lower rate loan.

How can you apply for a loan?

In order to apply for a loan of this type, you can either look online at websites such as Zopa who deal with debt consolidation, or you can speak to a high street bank or building society. However it first makes sense to work out the average interest rate and total monthly payment costs of your current debt. You will then be able to compare this to the payment amounts for a new loan.

Where can you find out more about it?

If you would like to find out more about debt consolidation, you can speak to someone at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Alternatively you could look at the Money Advice Service, or book an appointment with an independent financial adviser.

Collaborative post on how to maximize your income…

There are many reasons why people choose to leave the relatively secure world of full-time employment and move into a career as a contractor. For some it may be about time. Working as a contractor can free up time that can be spent with their family or concentrating on another, entirely unrelated, project or business. For others it can be that they enjoy the fresh challenge that each contract brings as opposed to the monotony of a full-time job.

However, the main reason for most people to start working as a contractor is the money. The prospect of a greater income is an attractive lure, especially in today’s job market, but there are one or two hurdles to overcome once you do decide to go it alone. The most important consideration is the way that you intend to operate as a contractor. Let’s have a look at the four main ways of doing so:

  • PAYE – While it may be difficult to find a recruiter that is willing to run a payroll system it is worth a mention just in case you run into one that does. PAYE is what you would pay as a full-time employee so you will be liable to full tax and employee’s national insurance. You will not be able to claim back any business expenses on PAYE.

  • Self-employment – As the name suggests, self-employment is when you are in business completely on your own account and not working through a limited company. For this reason it is unlikely to be the right solution for most contractors as recruitment agencies are not deemed applicable by HMRC.

  • Limited Company – Over the years the vast majority of contractors have created their own Limited Companies to work through. The reason for doing so is mainly because the advantages, when it comes to taxation, were usually much better than above methods. With the introduction of IR35 in 2000 contracts falling within IR35 have been affected. IR35 roughly states that if without your company you would have been deemed an employee of the organisation issuing the contract you will be treated as such for reason of taxation. However, if your contracts are likely to genuinely be outside of IR35 you will still be better off with a Limited Company.

  • Umbrella Company –Umbrella services can offer the same structure legally as a Limited Company, but without the hassle of the admin. The umbrella company will issue all invoices, with the contractor being made an employee of the umbrella company. This is by far the best option for contractors whose work will fall within IR35, or just those who are after an easy life that is free from most of the paperwork associated with running a business.

In summary it all really depends on if you fall within IR35 or not. If you do then an umbrella company will most likely be your best option. If you don’t then a limited company should still be your first choice for maximising your income.