Why I'm loving the small house movement

In the past 40 years living space per person has doubled and 1000sq ft bigger in the USA. When it comes to houses the notion of 'bigger the better' is considered by society to be true. Many people have several spare bedrooms in their house and homes far beyond a size they need for their family size. 

It is this context that makes the tiny house movement so intriguing. Typical tiny houses are between 100-400sq foot (whilst the average USA house is 2500 SqFt). What is amazing about these tiny houses is how they manage to compact all the necessities into a small space without the cramped feeling. 


Though not everyone will want to take downsizing the this extreme, there is a lot that can be learned from living in a smaller home. As a college student I spend the last two years living in a very small space (a small single room + communal kitchen) and now C and I have a very small 1 bed flat. It made my living space simple and minimalistic as there was not space for clutter. 




                           Peachtree City Architects & Building Designers Our Town Plans



Here are some of the benefits of living in a smaller house:


- You learn to discern between needs and wants. Due to the lack of space for furniture you learn to furnish primarily with essentials. By having mostly essentials your house will look clean and uncluttered and I find having an uncluttered home is a real de-stressed. When I moved into the flat I realised how much of the things I had amounted at my parents house I had not used at all whilst being at college. It made me reflect on how much I had been hoarding over the years. 


- Bills are much cheaper. The less space you have to heat, the fewer appliances you have, the fewer numbers of bathrooms the less your household consumption will be and consequently you bills will be much less. 

-More ecofreindly. This goes along with bills being cheaper with less use of utilities your houses carbon footprint will be much less. In addition, it is easier to use green methods to heath your home. Plus a small garden means less spent on watering it. 

Entertaining is funner (in my opinion). You make not have enough space to sit 10 people round a table for a meal but that doesn't mean you cannot entertain and have fun. We love having raclette and poker nights with our friends. We put the raclette grill on the table and we sit on the floor to eat and play cards. 

-Easier to decorate. Upkeep and decoration of a smaller house is inherently easier and less expensive. There are fewer rooms to think about co-orindating the wall colour to the cushions. 

- You spend a lot less time cleaning. Less rooms and sq ft means less rooms to clean, plus fewer pieces of furniture and less clutter means you can spend more of your time doing what you want.

- Less debt.  A smaller house means smaller monthly mortgage payments, freeing up money in your monthly budget. A smaller mortgage means there is less risk so the is less stress and worry about money in your life.

- Housing mobility. A less expensive house means more people will be able to afford to purchase your home, compared to a more expensive home which will become more niche in the market. This means you can get more value for money when you sell and may be able to move easier.   

- Change your mentality You start to think differently about your possessions. Stop over purchasing, pick smaller appliances, look for items with dual purpose and things that can easily be store. Bigger is not better when it comes to a small home. You become less tempted to accumulate items. 



Have you ever considered downsizing?


Establish an emergency fund or pay off debt?

Your snowed down with debt, got no savings and overtime you make progress paying off your debt. Now some advocate having a 3-6 month emergency fund before tackling debt whilst others such as Dave Ramsey reconvened a set amount such as $1000. Emergency funds are important and have the potential to give us financial peace of mind. 


It is unlikely you will find a savings account that gives as high an interest rate as paying your debts saves. So it would technically mean that you will save money on interest by paying the debt off first. 


However, this principle fails to take into account one key point. Emergency expenses occur in life, things that we cannot foresee. Without an emergency fund, you will find you self taking one step forward and two back (so you end up paying the interest on the debt anyway). The whole aim is to avoid acquiring new debt whilst paying off existing debt. Having an emergency fund gives you peace of mind and means that you are able to avoid a crisis. Also when an incident occurs, you money can still go towards you debts and you are able to pay off at the same pace and momentum.


I advocate building up a small emergency fund, that doesn't take too long to build and then once you have that in place start paying of the debt. But make sure you are making all your minimum payments. I think that a 6 month + emergency fund whilst paying off debt is overkill, even though there is more employment uncertainty in this economic climate. There is no set amount that works for all, you need to asses the likely risk of an emergency. If you have little assets such as living in college halls, no car etc then you would need a much smaller emergency fund than someone has a home, cars, children etc. I would say that a £1000/$1000 is a good starting point and adjust this amount up and down depending on your level of assets. 


This amount should also be guided by your amount of debt, if you have a smaller amount of debt and it is going to take less time to pay it off, then statistically speaking there is less time in which for an emergency to arise (and less time to have multiple emergencies). Conversely, the more debt, the longer it will take to pay off the more chance of emergencies occurring. Its all about that debt to income ratio. 


However, one of the problems of building a emergency fund whilst getting out of debt is that you may not have the right mindset yet. Be sure that you can avoid the temptation to spend that money unless it is an absolutely emergency.


By using a hybrid approach you are achieving both necessary goals of building an emergency fund and paying of debt. 

Ultimately the approach has to be your own as only you know the nature of your debt. 
Disease Called Debt

Money conversations to have with your partner

We a couple choses to spend their life together they also choose to accept financial responsibility for each other. It it therefore, really important to talk about your finances. Having financial conversations from the beginning of the relationship and continuing them throughout are important to the stability of your relationship. This is especially important as money troubles as the leading reason for divorce in the USA. 
These conversations don't need to be super formal and try to avoid making them inquisitorial. What is important is that you both feel comfortable to share honestly. We know it can be super awkward but it will truly bring you together. 
When you first start talking about money early on in the relationship keep it simple are not overly personal. Perhaps just ask about opinions on investing, when do you want to retire etc. As you begin to be more open it is then it better to talk about more specifics and even progress to doing a regular meeting that can involve a monthly budget. Try to not be critical towards each other but help each other grow and develop financial sensibility. 
C and I advocate the value of having shared finances, through combining finances it helps to remove the individualistic attitudes associated with money and makes you think of your partner and your goals as a couple when making money decisions. Shared finances does not automatically mean that you have all shared account but it can be very useful to have at least the main current account (where the bills are paid) is shared. 
Below are some of the topics we recommend talking about:

1. Financial liabilities. Discuss what debts do you have, credit cards, student loans, car loan etc. Also talk about how much you have and who your creditors are. Its also a good idea to talk about how much monthly payments are and how your progress is with paying off the debt including the method you are using (debt snowball or avalanche). It is also good to talk about what debt you've had in the past as these experiences shape how we deal with our finances.


2. Financial assets. Got an emergency fund, savings, a home?. Discuss what assets you have and remember these will become joint upon marriage. Let your partner know where you keep these accounts (i.e with which bank) and the types of accounts you hold along with the balances. We choose to use a savings spreadsheet to manage our net-worth and allows us to keep track of our various accounts. 


3. Financial goals. It is important to create short and long term goals as a couple. This is needed so that you can shift from an individualistic approach towards money. It is important that you are both on the same page with your goals as this will guide your spending and investment. Talk about your attitudes, do you prefer to spend a high proportion of your income or are you keen on making savings a priority. This will help you to determine what 'finical success' means for you. When making financial goals it helps to discuss the lifestyle you want to live, for example do you expect to take regular holidays, send children to private school etc. It can also be useful talk about your parents attitudes to money as these have a huge impact on how you deal with money and set finical goals. It will also help you to understand each other's perspectives towards money. 


4. How are you going to spend. It is important to talk about how you are going to spend you money. Do you want to use cash primarily, debit card or credit card. The all have their pros and cons but it is important that you are comfortable with the method you use. It is also important to discuss how money will be budgeted and assigned. Will one person carry the cash for food if they always do the food shop. Who is going to keep an eye on the balance, the bill payments. Often one person will have a tendency to take a lead with the finances but its important that is a unanimous decision as to prevent the other partner feeling resentful. 


5. Learning from each other. Neither one of you are perfect, nor will you know everything about money. You will both have your strengths and weaknesses in you knowledge, so share what you know and ask for help in areas you don't know. Remember that you have both had different experiences and these shape how people manage money. 


6. Agree on risk. When you decide to invest your money discuss the level of risk and whether you both agree on this being an acceptable level of risk. It is not uncommon to have one person more willing to take risk than the other, so be prepared to make a compromise. The level of risk you are willing to take will be heavily influenced by your lifestyles.


7. Retirement Discuss your plans for retirement, what pension schemes are you paying into. Are you making the most of employer matching? How much do you collectively want to save and when do you plan on retiring. Let these answers guide how you prepare for retirement now. 




How do you and your partner discuss finances?
Disease Called Debt

Guide to Peer to Peer lending

What is peer to peer lending?

Peer to peer (P2P) is where you lend money to companies, property developers etc and they pay you back the loan with interest. It takes away a bank from being a middle man and makes you the bank. It is often agreed through an intermediary know as a P2P platform. 

What is the risk?
P2P is higher risk than a normal savings account and is not covered by the FCSC scheme (which protects up to £75,000 per person/per financial institution). Though there is regulation through the FCA who appear to be particularly stringent with their accreditation. As of 2017 accredited firms will need to have at least £50,000 of reserve capital (larger amounts for bigger companies). The loans agreement is technically between you (the lender ) and the borrower, so if the P2P company goes bust you could pursue the borrower for the money owed. However, to date there have been no horror stories to guide what to do in those circumstances. 

What are the pros?

The considerably higher interest rates may make this a suitable investment option for you. It is the potential for return that has meant that the P2P market has exploded following the post 2008 interest stagnation. Though it is important to remember that you money may not be loaned immediately and as such won't necessarily be earning interest straight away. 
Another benefit of P2P is that it can now be tax efficient. Some providers recently got the go ahead to provide an ISA service (similar in style to a cash ISA). 


Top P2P Platforms



1. Wellesley

This platform lends your money out to property investors and therefore your money is secured against real estate lowering the risk. Their Auto-matching tool means your money is kept well diversified and their provision fund is there to protect you in the case of any loses. They offer an ISA  with up to 5.55% interest. There normal savings accounts provide interest rates ranging from 3.55% to 6.32%. For easier access there is a 30-day access fund which offers the lowest interest rate available. 

2. Zopa

Zopa is the longest running P2P platform having lend out over £1bn to individuals. The rate averages are 3.8% for 3 years and 5% for five years. However, you will be charged a 1% fee. Your money is spread across a number of borrowers with a variety of risks. Where the borrower is in 4 or more months arrears this is usually covered by their safeguard fund. Money can be withdrawn in 3-5 days. 

3. Funding circle

Offers some of the highest P2P returns but also high risk. Involves loaning to businesses. INterest rate averages at a MASSIVE 7.1% (though there is a 1% fee and 0.25% if you sell loan on). Using auto bid helps to simplify the process and ensure diversification with your investment. 

Have you tried investing in P2P? How have you experiences been?

100 birthday freebies (UK and USA) : The BIG List

Birthdays are great and they are even better when its an excuse for freebies. Check out our mega list of freebies available all for just getting a year older !!


This list is split up into 50 UK and 50 USA freebies so everyone has the chance to get their birthday treats. Most of these offers mentioned are given by big chain companies but plenty of smaller independent companies also offer birthday freebies but just don't advertise it, so never be call up and ask if they offer birthday freebies.


Most of these freebies required to sign up to a newsletter or loyalty program, and a small number of them require a minimum spend to receive the freebie. 


Companies give out these freebies as a clever marketing strategy. They know that you are likely to go out with friends and family for your birthday and draw you into going to them by giving you a birthday freebie in return for bringing in paying customers. 


For the UK restaurant freebies why not save even more money and pay for money with a discounted gift card allowing you to save up to 10% on the food you do pay for. 


UK Freebies
  1. Krispy Kreme- Free donought 
  2. Pizza express- Free prosecco
  3. Las Igaunas- free main course
  4. Shepheard Neane- free main course - sign up here 
  5. Harvester- Free sundae
  6. Beefeater Grill- Free main course
  7. Frankie and Bennies- Free main course
  8. Hungry Horse- Free drink
  9. TGI Fridays- Various freebies
  10. Fayre and Square- Free bottle of wine
  11. Marston's - Free drink
  12. Ed's Easy Diner- Free milkshake
  13. Brother's cider- Free cider
  14. Barburrito- Free main dish
  15. Subway- Free cookie
  16. Moshi Moshi- complimentary Kyoto course menu
  17. Jimmy's World Bar and Grill- Free meal and cocktail
  18. Hello Fresh- £20 discount
  19. Damons hotel and restaurants- free main and birthday cake
  20. TableTable- Free main
  21. Drake and Morgan- Free brownie dessert
  22. Grosvenor Casino- Free main meal and £10 bet
  23. Cafe Rouge- free bottle of bubbly
  24. Hummus Bros Club- Free birthday meal
  25. Boost Juice bars- Free boost juice
  26. La Tasca- Free Cava- Need to book in advance in birthday person's name (meal for 2 weeks either side of birthday)
  27. Chimichanga- Free bottle of house wine 
  28. Loch Fyne- Free Joeseph Perrier Champagne
  29. Pitcher and Piano- Free cocktail or beer
  30. Jamies Italian - Free gift
  31. Bingtang Birthday Club- £10 voucher and 1/2 for birthday boy/girl
  32. Jongleurs- Free ticket on birthday 
  33. Strada- Free bottle of proseco
  34. Etsy- Free birthday discount
  35. Paperchase - free £10 discount
  36. Bobbi Brown- Free birthday kit
  37. Debenhams- Free Benefit Brow Wax
  38. Boots- Free advantage points
  39. Nectar- Free Nectar car points
  40. Pixifoto- baby photo on childs 1st birthday 
  41. Lego club- Free birthday card and treat
  42. Playmobil- Birthday card and badge
  43. Toys r us- Geoffrey's birthday club- Free £5 voucher
  44. Mothercare- 20% off toys on child's birthday
  45. Spur steak and grill - Kids eat free
  46. Ebuyer- Free next day delivery (worth £9.99)
  47. Dove- various freebies
  48. Joy the store- 10% Joy Club members on their birthday
  49. Liverpool Philharmonic kids club- Free tickets
  50. N.dulge members- birthday treat
USA Freebies
  1. Denny's - Free grand slam - present valid ID
  2. Krispy Kreme- free doughnut
  3. IHOP- Free meal on birthday- join Pancakerevolution
  4. Baskin Robbins- Free ice cream 
  5. Ben and Jerry's- Free Scoop of ice cream
  6. Starbuck- Free coffee 
  7. Black angus steakhouse- Free Steak meal (with purchase of a second entree)
  8. Applebees- Free dessert
  9. A&W- Free Float
  10. Pizza Hut- Birthday Surprise
  11. Old Chicago- Free pizza
  12. Olive garden- Free birthday surprise
  13. Tucanos Brazilian Grill - Free birthday meal 
  14. Sticky Fingers Club- Free entrée 
  15. Pappa Murphy's - Free cookie dough
  16. La Madeline French Cafe- Free pastry
  17. Jersey Mike- Free sub and drink 
  18. Fuddrukers- Free burger
  19. Dunkin Donuts- Free coffee
  20. Culver's - Free sundae
  21. Cinabon- Free mochalatta chill
  22. Jack in the box- free dessert 
  23. AMF bowling- Free bowling
  24. Aveda- Free gift up to $24 in value
  25. Wendy's- $1 of any premium combo
  26. Red Robin- free gourmet burger (with loyalty card)
  27. La Madline- Free pastry
  28. Maggie Moos' - Free ice cream cone
  29. Glory days grill- Free dessert
  30. Del Taco- Free premium milkshake
  31. Black angus steakhouse- BOGOF steak dinner
  32. Au bon pain- a free sandwich or salad
  33. Carrows- free dessert
  34. Fox and hound- BOGOF entree 
  35. Anthropologie- 15% off
  36. Benefit- free birthday brow arch
  37. Chuck E Cheese- kids vouchers
  38. DSW shoes club- $5 voucher
  39. Firehouse sub- free sub
  40. HuHot mongolian grill- free meal
  41. Jersey Mike's- free sub and drink
  42. Maggino's- free $10 vouchers
  43. Menchie's frozen yoghurt- birthday surprise 
  44. Orange julius- free drink
  45. Pretzel Maker- Birthday surprise
  46. Sephora- Birthday surprise
  47. Smashburger- Birthday surprise
  48. Yoghurt mountain- free yoghurt
  49. Weinerschnitzel- free hotdog
  50. Zaxby's- free kids meal

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    5 ways to stick to your wedding budget

    While C and I are planning our wedding it is important for us to use our budget wisely. At first we had no real idea of how much things cost for a wedding, but it quickly became clear to us that things can be very expensive (if you allow them to be). We sought to find ways to get the most out of our money and to prioritise it to the areas that mean the most to us. Today we will  be sharing our top five tips to save money and help you stick to your wedding budget. 

    1. Be prepared to negotiate
    Don't assume the price you are quotes is the price you have to go for. Especially if you are in a position to pay in full ask for the opportunity to bring down the price. For our reception we altered the package to remove alcohol (as we are LDS) and canapés and a few elements that were not that important to us. These changes reduced the price by over a 1/3 and meant the venue of our dreams was within our budget. Ask is an off-season or military discounts is applicable, you won't know unless you ask.  

    2. Build your 'foundation'. 

    Start by planning and paying for the things that are absolutely essential for the day (i.e wedding license, ceremony location, attire for bride and groom, photography), from here expand to things that are of high importance (reception location, food, flowers, attire for bridal party). Your essentials are those that should take paramount importance in your budget. We avoided buying 'bits and bobs' and decorative accessorise until the essentials were paid for, that way we know that it is within our budget to buy these things, also it helps prevent impulse buys if you have to go and check if you have all your essentials covered. A good way to do this is to create a list of priorities having three categories (essentials(needs), high importance wants, low importance wants) and assign items to those lists. When looking to purchase something assess what category it falls under and if you are ready to make purchases for that category yet.

    3. Simplify stationary

    Firstly consider what is actually necessary, do you need to send out engagement announcements if you will soon be sending out save the dates? Does every individual attending need a ceremony program? Consider only sending save the dates to out of town guests. We kept our stationary budget low by taking advantage of the many great free printable sites out there (we used this site). By using the designs on the site we were able to create beautiful pocket fold invitations, save the dates and order of service for the fraction of the price we would pay to have it professionally made. I will be uploading a post in the coming weeks on how you too can make beautiful wedding invites on a budget. 

    4. Work your contacts

    Know a budding photographer, a wonderful baker or a musician? Take advantage of your friends and families talents and ask for their help at the wedding. Friends and family discounts are great and sometimes you'll get stuff for free as a wedding gift. We have been fortunate to have a friend offer to play the organ for us at the ceremony and the reception. Whilst another friend is making cakes for us and we just have to cover the cost of the ingredients. Whilst my parents are using their car to drive the bridesmaids around. 

    5. Don't be afraid to use second-hand

    At the end of the day most of what you will use on your wedding day will be used for a matter of hours. We are borrowing some second hand chair covers from a friend. Plus a lot of the decorations we have bough we got second-hand on ebay. Lots of people have barely used wedding items in their home that they are looking to get rid of. In fact I even got my dress second hand on eBay. The dress had been worn once (as to be expected) and was in beautiful condition. I ended up spending £150 on the dress plus £75 for alterations which is a fraction of the $1200 retail price 

    What ways did you manage to save money and help stick to your wedding budget?

    Disease Called Debt