Baking For the Lazy (Or Busy)

Baking. I’m sure all of us have dabbled into the world of baking at least once right ? Whether it’s something you do whenever you have some free time, or you just use the ready made mixes once in a while (ahem, moi), it’s always fun & satisfying to enjoy something you’ve made. I have always wanted to invest more time into baking so I can get REALLY good at it, but sometimes time is just not on your side (boo). With working full time, and spending every weekend doing the things I can’t during the week, I barely have spare time to put aside for hobbies like baking – meaning I usually delve into the shop made stuff (which we all know is never as yummy right?).

Now, there is something about the colder months that just makes you want more sweet, homemade things right? I think it’s the idea of having everything with a huge hot chocolate that gets me every time. Guys, is there anything better than a homemade cake with a marshmallow topped hot chocolate after you’ve been outside in the cold all day? Definitely not. This is why I was so chuffed when Dr Oetker contacted me about some new products they had launched (and yes, I was shaking with excitement when I received the email!).

So – Dr Oetker itself is always the brand I know everyone can trust when it comes to baking. My sister (an avid baker) is always picking up their products when she has something special to make, so I knew I was in for a treat. I received their ‘Bake in the Box’ loaf cake mixes, which sounded like they’d be perfect for me.

 
So, on Saturday morning I got set on baking them. I received 3 flavours, Double Chocolate, Banana & Choc Chip & Lemon & Poppy Seed, and decided to bake 2 of them, and save one for later. I went for the chocolate (obviously) and lemon. So, all the instructions called for was to preheat the oven, remove the lid from the box, pour in some milk, whisk it up, and bake. That’s all. No mess, no mixing bowls, no awkward measuring, no greasing – it literally took me 5 minutes. I then popped it in the oven and went about doing some laundry, and then came back around 25 minutes later to TWO FRESHLY BAKED LOAF CAKES. I then let them cool, removed them from their baking boxes and served. Safe so say they didn’t last long.

 
My thoughts on the Double Chocolate

 
The recipe used a little bit more milk than the other & required some more baking time (only around 5 minutes), but I think that was due to it having chocolate chips/a more fudgy texture. This one was DEFINITELY my favourite. I have always been a fan of chocolate cake, and this was no exception. It is not too sickly, and I loved the fact that it had chocolate chips in too.

My thoughts on the Lemon & Poppy Seed

 
There is nothing better than a little bit of lemon cake every now and again. I am a massive fan of lemon drizzle, and knew I’d love this lemon loaf cake too. It was SO yummy, and had a lovely, subtle citrus flavour with the right amount of poppy seeds. Nom.

I am definitely a massive fan of this bake in the box range and how quick and easy it is. Especially on those evenings when you want something homemade but don’t have the energy to fully bake something. I think they would also work a treat if you have some last minute guests coming round and want something sweet to have with a cuppa. I also loved that I could make both a chocolate & a lemon cake in literally no time at all (as my mum is not a fan of chocolate). In fact, I still have the banana and chocolate chip one left – which after writing this post up am going to bake as I am now CRAVING cake. How people cope when posting a lot of baking blog posts I do not know! Make sure to have a quick peek on Dr Oetker’s website here to see what they have on offer too

 
Quick life update before I go – I am working on a post after this one as to where I’ve been and why my blogging schedule has recently gone down the toilet. I am sure you’ll all understand! I am also looking into updating my blog (which I looked into a while ago but just never got round to), so will of course keep you up to speed on all of that too! I don’t think my lack of inspiration is also helped by the fact that I’ve not done anything exciting with my blog since starting (!!). Watch this space ey?

Love, Saira xx

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How To Motivate Yourself To Blog

Do you ever get those days where you want to sit down and write down all the blog posts you have in mind – but it just does not happen. No matter how much you want to, the words just don’t come. Your motivation is non existent, and everything else just seems so distracting. You spend hours scrolling through the internet, watching cat videos & conspiracy theories (ahem, not me), but you know you should be typing up that review of your new makeup brushes…

Now – in the (almost) 2 years I’ve been blogging (wow has it been that long?!), I have found that certain things really help me get in the right blogging mind, not just the inspiration side but also writing. Of course – whenever I find certain things that help me blogwise -it’s always a good idea to share them. I know that most bloggers go through the same thing (we rant about it on Twitter all the time right guys) – so ya gal here as got some things that can help you feel inspired & motivated when you are in a bit of a slump.

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Have a blog set up

For some people, they can find the inspiration to write anywhere – whether that is on the bus/train, on their lunch break or on the sofa whilst watching TV. For me – I need a proper set up. I’m talking cosy pillows & blankets, a cuppa & plenty of candles & fairy lights. Even in the summer, I love having candles & a warm drink. I find just being in this sort of chilled environment helps me stay motivated and want to write. It also inspires me to come up with ideas too. If I’m ever feeling a little lost for ideas, I just get in my cosy environment & think about the things that have effected me recently & what I’ve been loving – and some ideas always spring into my head !

Pinterest is your SAVIOUR

Pinterest has so many ideas & inspiration – if I’m ever stuck for ideas I always have a trawl through Pinterest. Whether it is inspo for some post ideas or blog/Instagram shots – Pinterest always has something to help. Plus – making season themed boards is SO much fun – have you SEEN the Autumn ones?!

Sometimes your thoughts/feelings are the best posts

For a while, I’d only feel motivated to blog if I had new beauty products/an interesting, hot topic to post about – simply because I felt like that was what brought in the most views. This eventually made me stress out when I didn’t have anything ‘exciting’ to post about. Then one day – I just literally sat down & wrote a whole blog post about everything that was on my mind. It was almost like a diary entry – and I posted it – and not only did it get a good response, but I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders too. I actually LOVE reading personal, diary-like blog posts too – I think they help you really connect with the blogger too. So, don’t feel disheartened if you don’t have any new products to talk about – your thoughts are enough loves.

Read other blogs & gain inspiration 

Now – I’m not saying go and copy another bloggers post idea – they probably worked their ass off to not only come up with the idea, but to put the whole thing together. But – getting inspiration from other blog posts is definitely a way to motivate yourself and get some ideas. I always feel so out of the loop when I don’t read other blogs, so I always make sure I set aside some time every few days to have a scroll through my fave blogs. Funnily enough – I always find I miss writing blog posts when I read others – so that always helps me get motivated!

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Lastly – blog for YOURSELF & because you LOVE it

Sometimes – no matter what you do – the words/motivation just don’t come to you. If this happens to me, I find taking a few days out really helps. This usually leads me to find inspiration and realise how much I miss blogging. Also – blog because you LOVE to, not because you’re trying to get the next PR package or some extra followers. Blogging is so much fun & it should be something that you do to relax & unwind – but if it is becoming something that stresses you, it’s time to take a few days out. Trust me – you will come back feeling more motivated than ever!

There we have it – a few little pointers that I always find help motivate and inspire me to write when I am having one of those rubbish, slump moments with my blog. If you have other tips you use – make sure to let me know !

Guys – I can’t even tell you how excited I am for the next few months – it is almost AUTUMN – I am already planning my “reasons to be excited for Autumn” post – as well as some other content. I have a few Summer themed posts coming up – then it is ALL about Autumn (how many times did I say Autumn then!?).

Take care m’loves – and I will see you all in my next post!

Love, Saira x

Where the HELL have I been?!

Hi. It’s me *waves awkwardly*. Bloody hell has it been a while since I’ve been here. I thought it’d only make sense to post a little something explaining where I’ve been before getting back into it! Right now I’m cosied up in my bedroom with all my fairy lights on. Literally perfect blogging set up too right ?

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So – where on earth have I been? In all honesty, I’ve not gone anywhere. I’ve been right here. But oh my goodness have I been busy. These past few weeks have literally flashed right before my eyes. Firstly – Ramadan finished which meant a few days of Eid celebrations. Then, we had a few very warm weekends where I spent the time with my family enjoying the rare sunshine we get. I’d have been daft not too right? Then, my birthday started to come around – and of course for that I planned a huge garden party, which was a massive success (wooo!). Full blog post on this to follow guys! Again – the planning and prep of that kept me quite busy too. I have also joined the gym so spend a few of my evenings after work there! Speaking of work – that has literally been manic too which in turn has left me feeling exhausted when I get home. All I literally have the energy for is getting some dinner & watching Love Island – which to be fair is another thing that has distracted me away from blogging. Ha. It’s almost over too which I am thinking is going to be bitter sweet for me (boo!).

I basically just had a lot going on these past few weeks and lost my routine. But I’m getting back on track. I spent the whole of yesterday organising my room and putting away all my shopping from the past few weeks & my birthday gifts from last week! I have the biggest pile of ironing to tackle and a million blog photos to take – as well as so many post ideas to write ! My Instagram has also not been touched in a while – so I need to take a whole load of pictures for that! I’m getting there – slowly but surely!

I’m sure it happens to everyone once in a while ey? Life just gets on top of you and unfortunately that means my blog has had to take a back seat for the past few weeks. But I am back and determined to get myself back into the whole blogging lifestyle again. I’ve had a lot of scrolls through Twitter recently and seeing all the posts you guys are coming up with is just motivating  me to get some bangin’ content created (soz for the Love Island lingo).

Anyways – I hope that explains a little bit of where I’ve been. I’m gonna leave it there and get back into writing some new content for y’all. Keep your eyes peeled for some exciting stuff!

Lots of love,

Saira

Xxx

Travel Tips & What To Do – Amsterdam

Hey hey

Well .. thanks for coming back. If you’re reading this it’s probably because a) You are considering going to the beaut place that is Amsterdam, b) You have just come back and are having serious Dam withdrawal symptoms (ahem.. moi) or c) You love my blog and want to read every post I put up (LOL, I’m kidding.. but if so I love you lots & you da best). Recently, Amsterdam has become THE place to visit for a short city break, and it is definitely not hard to see why. There is SO much to do (seriously), it can be hard to cram everything in if you are only visiting for a few days. Now… I did plenty of research before I went and picked out the places I really wanted to see. Of course … I had a list as long as my arm of the things I wanted to do.. but because I was only there for 3 days, had to cut down. BUT… I thought it would be a fab (and very helpful) idea if I shared some of these things too. Also – to give a few general tips that could help some of you who are going there. So .. grab yourself a cuppa and let’s talk all about Amsterdam !

 
Things to do

Museums

There are SO many museums to visit in Amsterdam, if you wanted you could spend your entire trip wandering through all the museums. There is one for everyone .. if you fancy a giggle, try the Sex Museum (I never went in there myself but every single person who has been in recommends it highly!). It only costs around 5 euros to get in and is a good way to pass some time! It’s right next to the train station too so very easy to reach. Whilst I was there, I went to the Body Works Museum.. which is definitely not for the faint hearted. It has actual bodies that people have donated to that museum for their exhibitions and is FASCINATING to see .. especially if you love creepy things (me hahaha). It cost us 16 euros each to get in but it’s a pretty decent size and has so much to see! Next .. if you really want to get a feel of Amsterdam, you have to visit the Amsterdam Museum .. it has all the history of the city and so many things to see. If you want to learn all about the two things that Amsterdam is notoriously known for (ahem.. weed & prostituion), there are specific museums for that too, both of which cost a couple of euros to get in. There are also museums for the art/culture lovers, such as the Van Gogh Museum & the Rijksmuseum (find proper spelling), which are both a tram ride away from the city centre. All in all.. there is a museum for every single person in Amsterdam, so you’re sure to find something you’re interested in.

Anne Frank House

I thought I would talk about this separately as unlike the regular museums, you will most likely have to queue for a few hours if you want to visit on the day without booking, and even then you can only go in after 3pm. SO – best thing to do if you want to go? Book in advance. Literally like 2 months in advance – as tickets go live online for 2 months ahead and they DO fill up. It costs exactly the same to book online (9 euros), and you have to select a time slot of when you are visiting. When I visit Amsterdam again, I will definitely book the trip & the Anne Frank House at the same time. I suggest you do the same, as even though I booked my trip a month before, there were still some slots available (which I stupidly didn’t book at the time, gahhh).

 

Food

I could honestly babble on about the food for SO LONG because honestly whatever type of food you want, there is something for you. They have restaurants, takeaways, street food, breakfast places, a whole China Town, and SO many dessert places too. It really depends on what you want, but I am going to tell you about my favourite places we visited.

Pancakes!

Amsterdam is so well known for its pancakes, and if you love them you have visit Pancakes. Prepare to queue, but you shouldn’t be waiting that long! It is definitely worth the wait – I had probably the best pancakes EVER from here. They have every option too, crepe, Dutch, American.. and all the toppings you could want. Also – try their homemade lemonade, it’s DELICIOUS. The staff were amazing, the food was fab and I highly reccomend planning a visit there. It is pretty reasonably priced too, which is always a plus. You get a little clog keyring when you pay which made me happy – it’s the little things ey.

 
Omelegg

If you are a lover of omelettes (let’s be real, who isn’t), then a trip to Omelegg is definitely on the cards. Again, probably the best omelettes I had and there is literally every single type of omelette you could ever want. It’s reasonably priced too, and again the staff are just amazing.

 

Amsterdam Fries

You HAVE to try fries from Amsterdam, and trust me you will see these little street food shops everywhere in central, and there WILL be queues, but it’s fast food so you won’t be waiting long. Basically you get some fries in paper with literally any sauce imaginable, and they will be the nicest fries you will have EVER. I’m thinking about them now wishing I could have them *cries*.

 
For dinner, we had no issues finding halal/vegatarian friendly food too which was a massive plus. It really depends of what type of thing you want for dinner, as I mentioned you can find ANY type of food there, so it’s always good to have a wander during the day to see where you want to dine in the evening!

Sights to see

Vondelpark

I had to include this as it really is one of the most beautiful parks ever. Think of it has a Hyde Park or Central Park of Amsterdam. It’s absolutely HUGE, was FULL of cherry blossom when I went (blogger goals), and if you want, you can rent a bike and just spend a whole afternoon cycling around. Also – it is pretty close to LOTS of restaurants/pancake places so you can make a day trip out of it!

Begijnhof

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This is basically a courtyard in the middle of Amsterdam where you can visit if you want some peace for an hour or so. It is about 15 minutes on tram from central and is definitely worth seeing. You honestly feel like you have stepped into a whole new city when you go inside. It is also pretty close to the Amsterdam museum so you could fit in both of these in one afternoon.

Red Light District


Honestly? It’s not as notorious as you might think – it’s a pretty interesting sight to see. We went there during the day and night, and it’s amazing to see the difference! During the day, it’s just like any other of the canals, but by night it literally comes alive. If you really want, you can book a tour where you can have entry to one of the museums I mentioned earlier, or you can just take a stroll at your own pace. Also – do NOT take pictures of the ladies – there was a specific place at the top of the discrict near a bridge where people seemed to gather to take some pictures …. but you should avoid taking them anywhere else.

Keukenhof

If you visit Amsterdam during the months of late March – May, you should definitely plan a visit to Keukenhof. This is where the famous tulip gardens are and its around 45 minutes outside of Amsterdam. You can easily get a train out or there are tours that you can book. If I had an extra day, I would have definitely gone because it really is a breath taking, beautiful site to see!

Canal cruises

If you want a pretty chilled tour of Amsterdam, canal cruises are the way to go. We didn’t get a chance to go on one as the weather wasn’t the nicest, and we just had so many other things planned! You can get tours where you have dinner, romantic tours during the sunset, or just standard tours … whatever you are after you’ll find something. They do get quite busy though, but as there are so many to choose from you shouldn’t be waiting too long.

 
Right – I think that will be all for the ‘things to do’ bit – I could honestly go on for ages but I think I’ll save that for another time right?

So – now some general tips for Amsterdam .. things that I found helpful and that could help you too!

Get a Travel Ticket

 
These are so handy and something that you can pick up from the airport. It basically allows you to get on any train, tram, bus & ferry in central Amsterdam (including ferries to North Amsterdam which we used it for) and it cost us 26 euros for 3 days. You can also get one for 1 or 2 days (obviously cheaper depending on the days you need). It is so much easier and cheaper having one ticket for your whole trip rather than purchasing a new one each day.

Beware of cyclists

As Amsterdam use the opposite side of the road to the UK, looking to one side of the road can usually mean you miss a cyclist on the opposite side (or is that just me LOL). Basically look left, right then left again. Amsterdam locals are so so lovely, but they can get pretty annoyed if you rush into a bike lane (anybody would to be honest), so just watch where you walk. Also – only rent out a bike in the city if you are a confident cyclist. I personally would not because I wouldn’t be quick enough to cycle on roads – save the bike hire for Vondelpark.

 
Make sure to try takeaway stroopwafels/crepes/churros

Trust me… you will not forgive yourself if you leave Amsterdam without trying one of the above. They just taste SO GOOD.. and I had so many whilst I was out there. Calories don’t count on holidays guys.

Visit the SIX FLOOR PRIMARK

Yes you read right – 6 floor Primark. It’s amazing and I wish wish we had a Primark that big. Every single thing you’ve seen in a Primark is there… and if I had some extra space in my luggage I would have stocked up on some goodies!

Be prepared for the smell of weed everywhere

Although smoking weed is preferred in coffee shops, it’s not illegal to smoke it in public places, so you will continuously smell it whilst wandering round Amsterdam. Just be prepared. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Try the cheese

There are SO many cheese shops in central and more or less all of them offer testers of their cheese. It is SO worth trying because it was probably some of the best cheese I’d tried. If you have some space in your suitcase, bring some back. You won’t regret it.

You don’t have to stay in Central

I know so many people say you should find a hotel in Central as you are closer to all the attractions .. but this doesn’t have to be the case. We stayed at the Mercure Sloterdijk Station Hotel, and it was SO handy as the train station was a 2 minute walk away. Trains from there to Central were every 5 minutes. I would highly recommend the hotel too as it was really quiet, affordable and had great connections to the city.

 
Phew … I think that’s everything on my list!? I loved Amsterdam so so much and definitely HIGHLY RECOMMEND going as I know you will love it too! It’s a pretty affordable place to visit and you will find so much to do!

If you have ANY questions, just let me know and I will be happy to help!

Hope you found this post helpful! Have a fab week guys – I love you lots!

Saira

Xx

Travel Diary – Amsterdam

Hi GUYS

How ya’ll doing? Hope you have had the best week EVER. Been up to much ? If you follow me on practically any social media – you will know that I recently went to the ever so popular, BEAUT city of Amsterdam. Oh yes. One of the most popular places to visit ATM – especially amongst my fellow blogging gals. In fact – booking a city break and travelling to Amsterdam was actually on my Spring bucket list (ahem – post here if you fancy a gander) – and I was SO chuffed to tick it off!

So – as I was saying, unless you’ve been avoiding me on Twitter (hope not) you will know that I went to Amsterdam over the May Day bank holiday – and as the typical blogger would do – am writing up my travel diary for you (WOOP). Now – I have decided to incorporate a travel series on my blog – so will be doing a few posts on my trip, so keep your eyes peeled for those.

For now though – a quick run through of what I got up to, with plenty of shots of one of the most picturesque places I’ve EVER visited.

Day 1

Armed with our bags, we scuttled off to Leeds Bradford Airport and boarded our flight to Amsterdam, which only took 50 minutes (I couldn’t even fit an episode of 13 Reasons Why on it). We arrived at Schipol Airport around 4pm & got the train to Sloterdijk Station. We stayed at the Mercure Hotel just opposite there, so getting the train to central was an absolute doddle (literally took around 8 minutes).

After settling in to our hotel, we freshened up and headed out to central Amsterdam to explore. It honestly is one of the most beautiful places. It sounds odd but I found it one of the most lively, yet calm places ever. There was so much going on, but I never once felt stressed walking around. We were absolutely starving so found a cute Turkish restaurant to have dinner (you will be spoilt for choice -there is SO much to eat!), and then explored the centre a little bit more. We also found ourselves walking down the Red Light District too (don’t judge – hear me out guys), and I found it so fascinating to walk around. It didn’t have that ‘seedy’ feel to it that I thought it would, and honestly it was more of a tourist attraction than anything else. Prepare for a lot of ‘live show’ adverts & naughty shops though. Lol. After that – we scoped out where we’d be having breakfast the next morning, then headed back to our hotel.

Also – when booking the hotel I only selected a ‘room’ option – as there were SO many breakfast places that I wanted to try rather than just having what the hotel would serve (quick tip there for you).

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Day 2

We had a little bit of a lie in then headed out on the train to central again for breakfast. I’d planned on having breakfast at the famous Pancakes – which there was actually a queue OUTSIDE for. But luckily we only waited around 15 minutes until we were seated. The pancakes were INSANE though and pretty reasonably priced too which was fab! After – we hopped on a ferry to North Amsterdam (which we could get with the travel ticket – more on that in my tips post!) and found a cute little cafe where we hung out for a while & for some lunch. Then, we got the ferry back to central & went to the Body Worlds museum – which was FANTASTIC. It is literally a museum with real human bodies that people have ‘donated’ and they have been preserved so you can see every single bit! It sounds creepy but it’s amazing and such an interesting place to see. We then got some fries (which Amsterdam is popular for and DAMN were they good) and then went back to the hotel for a quick rest, before heading back out to central for some dinner and another wander round! And yes as you can probably tell, we ate A LOT. I actually went past the Anne Frank museum – which unfortunately I couldn’t get into as it was SO busy, but it was just nice to see it in person. I love Anne Frank and her story and am definitely looking at going again so I can actually visit the museum next time.

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Day 3

Our last day (boo!). We visited a place called Omelegg for breakfast which is again a very popular place – and I can honestly say it was one of the nicest breakfasts I’ve ever had! As you can probably tell by the name, they serve up omelettes (literally any one that you can imagine), and it was SO GOOD. The interior was also so adorable, but again this was quite busy too. We did have to queue to get a seat but we were seated pretty quickly, and it was worth the wait! After – we headed to a place called Beginhof, which is a courtyard in the middle of central Amsterdam where nun’s actually live, but it is open to the public to visit. This was a highly recommended place as it is so peaceful & beautiful, despite being in the centre of the city. I would highly suggest checking it out if you want to get away from the hustle & bustle for a while. We then walked around the gardens of Amsterdam museum for a while, before getting on a tram to Vondelpark. Ahh guys … the park. I feel as though this is Amsterdam’s version of Central Park in NYC (despite me never visiting New York LOL), it is definitely a beautiful place and if we’d had enough time, we would have rented some bikes out to ride around (as it was a BEAUT day). Unfortunately, time was ticking so we headed back to central, where we got some souvenirs and churros (which were SO good), and then made our way to the airport.

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So – that was my short but very eventful trip to Amsterdam. I regretted not going for a canal boat ride, but we just did not have the time *cries*. Amsterdam is definitely a city where you are never short of things to do – and I am hoping to take another trip soon to visit other places such as the Anne Frank House & the outer regions (where the popular windmills & cheese farms are!) OH- we also managed to taste a lot of cheese whilst we were there in one of the many cheese shops (yum).

Right guys – I hope you enjoyed this travel diary of my trip! As I’ve said I will do another post with tips where I’ll go into detail about getting around Amsterdam, things you have to do and just some general helpful things! If you are thinking of visiting, I would 100% reccomend as there is SO much to see and do, whether you fancy a chilled out break or one spending your time in the coffee shops (hehe), or exploring all the history & museums!

Let me know if you liked this post – and also if you’ve been to Amsterdam! I’d love to know and see your posts if you have done any!

I’ll see you all in my next one – have an amazing weekend!

Lots of LOVE

Saira xxxxx

How To Up Your Blog Photo Game

Well hey.

How you all doing? Survived Storm Doris? Seriously though .. DORIS.  The amount of times I’ve seen this name on SM is insane ha. Anyhoo… blog post time, woop. And it’s a good one. Ya know why? Cos a crap load of you have requested it… CHECK ME OUT GETTING REQUESTS FOR POSTS. 

So… I’m finally writing a blog post all about my photography & upping my game. I did a blog post on photos when I first started blogging .. but recently I’ve really been trying hard with my photos, both on the blog & my Instagram (totes should follow me on there if you don’t already .. shameless plug.. I’m at @throughtheglitterglass). And you know what I love? So many people have noticed too. I thought I’d talk you through some of the things I’ve done to up my game, and also just some general tips too.. and I hope it helps some of you out!

Camera

Now.. I recently invested in the EVER so popular Olympus Pen because I knew I really wanted to focus on creating high quality images and this one is so highly raved about in the blogging world. And oh my goodness I can see why.. not only is it the most instagrammable camera EVER.. the photos it can produce are AMAZING. So many of you have complimented my pictures since getting this camera, and it definitely was the first step for me in upping my game. If you also want to do the same .. I highly recommend investing in a good camera.. as the difference is crazy. In fact .. I’m also going to be picking up the 30mm lens too because I want those beautiful, blurred background photos! Another thing I LOVE about this camera is the Wifi feature… it means I can easily send myself photos and post these directly onto my Instagram! If you’re not really feeling the whole spending £400 on a camera, fear not, because my babe Holly over at TheKittyLuxe uses her iPhone for her photos and my GOD her imagery is stunning. She did a whole post on it too.. so make sure you check it out.

   

(Taken on iPhone)

Play around with manual mode

Not gonna lie.. manual mode on my camera scared me at first. All it seemed to do was make my photos blurry and dark.. not a good look. BUT..  a little bit of research really helped and now I refuse to use the auto settings on my camera! A few tips I’ve picked up:

  • Lowering the ‘F’ feature when you want a close up for that gorgeous blurry background. This reduces your focal point, meaning your camera will focus on a small part of your image, and slightly blur out the rest. This is amazing if you want to do a close up of something (i.e. lipstick/bathbomb). I also find it helps when I’m filming YT videos.. as the camera will focus on me and blur out the background. Yay!
  • Increasing/decreasing aperture based on how much natural light you have – this helps so much if you are taking photos on a cloudy day. This allows more light into the lens (if it’s dark) or less if you have a lot of sun.
  • Increasing ISO – Again.. this helps if you do not have a lot of light coming through (this is more about the sensitivity of light). Be careful with this one though.. as a higher ISO means grainier photos.

These are basically the only settings I’ve got to grips with .. there is so much more but I’m learning! If you need more in depth info, Lydia Millen did a fab snap story on the Olympus settings (I think you can find this on YT), as well as an amazing post by Robyn.. who has fab tips on getting to grips with manual mode, and her photos are absolutely STUNNING.

Natural Light

I’ve definitely had my fair share of having to photograph with artificial light and natural light .. and to be honest, natural light wins by FAR. Of course, with it being Winter, we get like 5 hours of light and even then for most of the time it horrible & cloudy… so we don’t really have a choice but to pull out the soft boxes. Where possible though.. I always photograph by a window… and even on cloudy days I can faff around with my camera settings and make it work. The best times for me are between the hours of 9am-11am, and 3pm-4pm. And the best tips for soft boxes? Use 2 and extend them quite high to get as much light as possible (rather then up close & using just one).. I find this helps so much with getting rid of shadows and too much brightness. Instead, you get a nice glow. Perfect.

Have a good backdrop

Since I’ve developed a ‘white theme’ for my Instagram… I needed a good sized backdrop. My solution? A double sized duvet/white sheet. I use this as my base, and add blankets/scarves as needed. This means I have a huge drop to work with and can get really creative with my photography without worrying about anything getting in the way/having to crop anything out.

Get yourself some props

Props. Are. Everything. Literally the most important thing ever if you want to up your photography game. One thing I love to do is match up my props with the type of photo I’m taking/what season it is etc. A few of my favourite props are:

  • Blankets
  • Fake flowers (essential)
  • Small trays
  • Cute bowls/mugs/plates
  • Bows
  • Candles
  • Perfume bottles
  • Fairy lights
  • Plants/cacti
  • Cute notebooks

Literally ANYTHING can be used as a prop… and you don’t even need to buy anything extra if you don’t want to – you probably have plenty of stuff that you can use! The key is to experiment! I’m still learning on how to get my perfect flatlay.. but once I’ve worked it out.. I will definitely do a post on it!

(Taken on iPhone)

Get your editing right

Editing really doesn’t have to take you hours..I honestly think it takes me about 10-15 minutes to edit all my photos for a post/weeks worth of Instagram shots. And you know why? Because I do more or less the same thing for all my pictures:

  • Increase Brightness – but not too much where you can’t see certain things (i.e. images/writing). Just enough to highlight your picture and not make it so dull
  • Increase Contrast – just enough to make the darker things in your photo be slightly more prominent
  • Increase Highlight – this gives your pictures a little but of a “glow” – again increase slightly, not too much otherwise your image becomes too bright
  • Increase Sharpness – to make small details stand out nicely
  • Decrease Temperature – this is a personal thing for me because I like my pictures to have a slightly cool tone to them
  • Whiten Whites – this is where my fave app FaceTune comes in. It is especially helpful in making my backgrounds whiter and giving them that lovely crisp look. It has been my saviour since developing my white themed Instagram too!

That is literally the quickest way to tell you how I edit my pictures – let me know if you want anything in more detail though gals!

 
OK -I think I have covered everything? These are basically the things I have been doing to really up my photo game – and it has helped too because I receive so many compliments on my pictures recently (you guys are DA BEST). If you have ANY more questions about my pictures, make sure to let me know in the comments and I will help you out 🙂 For now – hope this post helped you!

I’m off sofa hunting with my parents & hubby – so hope you all enjoy your weekend!

LOTS OF LOVE,

Saira

xo

Twitter // Instagram // Blog Lovin //YouTube ♥♥

Spectrum Brushes – Worth the hype?

First things first guys… HEYA! I am literally having the perfect evening right now.. my PJ’s are on, fairy lights are lit, I have a Brown Sugar Allspice candle burning (HELLO… autumn in a candle guys)… I literally am ALL SET TO BLOG!

I honestly feel like I have my mojo back… I felt like I lost it for a while but I think there is something about the cozy evenings that just makes me want to curl up in a blanket and WRITE! I think most of you will agree with this ey?

So… having a quick peek of the title again.. it is probably something that most of you are familiar with. You have seen them popping up ALL over social media and they have become quite popular with beauty bloggers recently! Now… I am talking about the beauties that are SPECTRUM BRUSHES*. I will be honest with you all.. I actually sent a cheeky email to their PR inbox.. NOT expecting a response at all.. but they literally got back to me within a few hours saying they loved my blog and would love to send me some of their products to try! Safe to say I was GOBSMACKED… yet so excited at the same time!

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Now… you have seen all the beautiful pictures of them.. BUT… are they really worth the hype? Well ladies & gents.. I tested them out for a few weeks to ensure I could give you all an in depth review…SO let’s see how I got on!

Firstly… some details!

  • Spectrum are vegan and cruelty free.. this ALWAYS makes me love a product/range more
  • You can either buy individual brushes or sets
  • They are only available online (I am 99% sure of this!.. Let me know if you know otherwise!)

What I Got:

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So…I received the 10 piece essential set (retailing at £39.99) which contains face and eye brushes. You are literally covered for tools for your base, blush/bronzer, eyeshadow, brows and eyeliner. They also come in a cute little pink, see-through case (ahem.. which I didn’t actually take a photo of).

First Impressions

Now… let’s admit it guys.. these brushes are FRICKIN’ beautiful. Whether you love them or not,  you have to be insane to not think they are beautiful. They are literally the most stunning brushes I have owned… I almost cried a little when I used them for the first time.

Guess what? They feel damn good quality too.. they feel quite heavy compared to other brushes I have tried, and they also are so much more sturdier and good quality. I know you are probably sick to DEATH of bloggers describing brushes like this.. but they are honestly SO soft. I literally could not wait to use them on my face, ha.

They also make amazing blog props too (when they are freshly washed may I add)… I SO badly want to get my hands on the Marble range JUST so that I can take those stunning Instagram shots with them!

Face Brushes

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Powder Brush: I LOVE this for applying  bronzer all over… it is literally the perfect size and.. as already mentioned (hehe).. it is SO SOFT.

Angled Brush: This little baby is perfect for applying blush… I did try for highlighter but I think it is a little too big (It left me looking like an OVER THE TOP glazed doughnut). It applies JUST the right amount of blush on the apples of your cheeks.. and it is also so easy to blend in product with this!

Flat Top: I decided to use this for my foundation instead of my RT miracle sponge (gasp!)… yes if you all know me, you will know how obsessed I am with my sponge.. so the fact that I have been using this buffing brush for the past month says A LOT about it. Guys.. my foundation has never applied so quickly and seamlessly. I did not have high expectations because I have never been a massive fan of brushes for my foundation.. but this brush has become my new fave for application! It also feels so soft on my skin and doesn’t drag or leave any sort of streaks, which is a massive WIN for me.

Small Flat Top: Now…  I never thought I would find a brush that would apply concealer as perfectly as my makeup sponge..  but I started to use this little baby.. and I have become OBSESSED with it. For those of you who use the Collection Lasting Perfection concealer (let’s face it.. this is more or less everyone) , you will know it can be a LITTLE tough to blend. BUT.. this brush has made the blending process so much easier… and works so well for blending in awkward places (under eyes, around your nose etc!).

Eye Brushes

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I never have been much of an eyeshadow girl.. but I am always up for trying new looks out.. so my beautiful Spectrum brushes were the perfect thing to experiment with!

I love the fact that every type of brush needed was included, a dome brush to apply eyeshadow, a fluffy brush to blend, a tiny brush for inner corner highlight, an angled brush for sharper lines, and an eyeliner brush (which FYI.. is FAB with gel liner!). Each brush is so gentle on your eyes and blends eyeshadow perfectly and SO quickly too.

My Final Thoughts

Honestly… are Spectrum brushes worth the hype? DEFINITELY YES.. I never thought I could love a makeup brush range as much as I love this one. I feel as though they really have made these brushes with beauty bloggers in mind (they know how much we love unicorns and instagrammable things). Not only do they look gorgeous, they also are amazingly quality. I had no issues with the brushes shedding, and even washed the face brushes and had no problems with the brushes losing shape or hair. Seriously guys if you are considering them.. just take the plunge and buy them.. I am so sure you will love them just as much as me. Makeup brushes can make such a difference to how good your skin looks overall, and using the right tools can really shorten the amount of time it takes to do your makeup!

ALSO… who wouldn’t want brushes that are unicorn themed?

Right guys.. I am going to love you and leave you.. REALLY hoped you enjoyed this review of the ever so STUNNING Spectrum brushes.. make sure to check them out if you are after a new set… I am so sure you will love them!

See you all in my next one!

Lots of Love,

Saira

xo

Twitter // Instagram // Blog Lovin //YouTube ♥♥

*Products have been sent for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own

My Beauty/Lifestyle hacks you HAVE to try!

Hiya girlies

It’s been a while. Sorry. You know when life just gets in the way? Yep that happened. Work has just been busy, I have been SO tired everyday.. and to be honest it was nice to have a few days away from everything blogging-wise. Sometimes it is just needed, right?

ANYWAY.. I am back and all set to blog properly again (I am aware I have said this for the past few weeks… this time I mean it, hehe). I think now that Autumn is peeking it’s little head through.. I am more motivated to post. If you didn’t already know (lets be real.. you all probably do because I haven’t stopped talking about it since the beginning of August, HAHA!), I bloody LOVE Autumn. I even posted about the reasons why I cannot wait for it (shameless plug right here guys).

Now.. onto this post. I am such a huge fan of beauty/lifestyle “hacks”.. tricks that people use to make their lives easier. There are SO many out there.. it can be easy to drown in them and not be sure which ones to use. SO… I thought it would be fun to talk you through MY “hacks” that I use. I have SO many.. but to be honest, I’d be here ALL DAY if I spoke about them all!

My GO-TO Beauty & Lifestyle Hacks!

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Coconut oil really CAN be used for everything.

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You know when people used to say you can do anything with coconut oil.. I was like .. meh sure. BUT .. I thought I would actually try and see how many things I could use it for. And you know what? You are right.. it can literally be used for EVERYTHING… and I thought I would make a good ol’ list of my fave ways to use it, so you can also incorporate coconut oil into your life. Thank me later guys.

Teeth Whitening

You know that age old trick of oil pulling? Yep it works. I know the idea of swishing oil around in your mouth for 15 minutes would be enough to make some of you vom, but it really is worth trying. I’ll be honest, the first time you try it.. it is weird. A trick to make it easier? Instead of putting a spoon of solid coconut oil in your mouth, try melting it first… it will still feel strange, but not THAT strange :). It is something that takes some time to show results, but it is easy enough to add into your routine (just don’t let anyone make you laugh whilst you are swishing away).

Removing Make-up

I discovered how good coconut oil was at removing makeup once when I was lazing around downstairs and noticed a jar of coconut oil on the fireplace (I don’t know what it was doing there either). I literally just scooped some out on my hand and massaged it over my face. I pretty soon had panda eyes and melted foundation on my skin (exactly what happens when I use my cleansing balms). It did an AMAZING job of removing every ounce of makeup.. although it did leave my face feeling a little on the greasier side. I washed my face as normal.. and noticed the difference in how soft my skin felt.

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Overnight Foot Treatment

I have never been one to invest a lot of money into overnight foot treatments… mainly because people rave about the old trick of vaseline and fuzzy socks.WELL… I am not the biggest fan of vaseline (the smell, feel, taste… OK I am joking about the taste, HA).. so I thought I would give coconut oil a go. Guys… it does an AMAZING job at making your feet feel so soft and hydrated. All I do is put LOADS of this stuff over my feet, put socks on over the top and sleep with them. Seriously, try it.

I wanted to list SO many more uses of coconut oil… but I would be here for days. These are just my favourite things to do.. beauty wise. Let me know if you want another post/video specifically on this!

Showering after work/school/uni

I was always one to either shower in the morning (and end up rushing, getting stressed/sweaty, and thinking WHAT WAS THE POINT), or leave showering right before bed (and then usually end up being too tired, thinking LEAVE it, and showering in the morning.. read above). I am sure so many of you can relate.. especially those who work full time. So.. how have I got myself out of this circle? Shower as soon as I get in from work. This might be what a lot of you already do.. but I always wanted to catch up on social media after work, then have my dinner, then catch up on soaps.. and the time would just keep ticking. Now.. I force myself to shower as soon as I get home.. and it helps SO much. I feel so much more awake after work so feel like I can be more productive.. AND I can get my makeup off straight away (and usually do some sort of face mask too).

My go to makeup for getting up late?

We all know the feeling… seeing that you have slept in and literally have 15 minutes to get ready. S***. Showering the evening before comes in handy now doesn’t it? Now.. unfortunately I am not lucky enough to be able to leave the house without looking poorly.. so I have mastered doing my makeup in 5 minutes with my essential items!

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  • Foundation – I have the most pale, dull skin .. so foundation is a MUST
  • Concealer – Dark circles.. biggest problem ever. Concealer = My bestie
  • Mascara – I look dead without mascara
  • Cream Blush – I find it so much quicker and easier.. and it looks so much more natural
  • Highlighter – Makes such a difference to how awake you look – an ESSENTIAL
  • Brows – I didn’t realize how much of a difference these made – now no matter how much I am rushing.. I ALWAYS do my brows.
  • Dark/Bright Lips – unless it is a work day.. then I will stick to lip balm.

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It might sound crazy.. but I suggest testing yourself to see if you can do your makeup in a rush… it can be fun and will prepare you for those rushed mornings 🙂

Concealer application – the RIGHT way

For SO long.. I would apply concealer by just following the shape of my eye.. BUT .. there is a better way to apply it. It is called the triangle trick.. and yep you guessed it.. just apply your concealer in the shape of a triangle under your eyes (the point facing your cheek), and blend as normal. Why is this better? It helps brighten your face, as well as still concealing your dark circles.

The BEST thing for spots/breakouts

I have mentioned this before but I cannot emphasize ENOUGH how good this trick actually works. Savlon or Germolene (an antiseptic cream usually used for cuts/grazes or bites) is what I have been using on my spots for YEARS.. and it has been a lifesaver. As soon as I see a spot coming along.. I apply a thin layer of this, and it reduces any redness/swelling SO quickly. I swear by it.. and even keep some in my handbag for any  emergencies!

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The yummiest face mask EVER

If you know me, you will know how much I LOVE  a good face mask! I also dabble in some DIY projects here and there, so it is no surprise that I am a huge lover of DIY face masks! I have a go-to face mask that is literally good enough to eat (ahem.. I know from personal experience). It is a worth a try guys.. I am so sure you will love it!

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1/2 cup cocoa powder (dark is BEST .. as it has lots of anti-oxidants!)

1/4 cup honey

4 tbsp cream (both double and single are fine)

3 tbsp oats

Mix it all together.. apply onto clean skin, leave on for around 20 minutes and wash off!

SO.. they are my top beauty/lifestyle hacks.. I hope this can help some of you! I LOVED this post so so much.. let me know if you want me to do a fashion one too?

Thank you SO MUCH for reading loves… let me know your thoughts!

LOTS OF LOVE,

Saira

xo

Twitter // Instagram // Blog Lovin //YouTube ♥♥

 

7 reasons I can’t wait for Autumn

Hiya!

Now.. I don’t know about you.. but I am the biggest fan of “list type” blog posts.. and there has been one particular thing that I have been listing in my head. Something that I am literally SO EXCITED for… and I know SO many of you are too!

*cough cough.. Autumn*

I get that some of you may be thinking WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU PLAYING AT.. it is still too early to be thinking about the change of seasons. But guys.. I am just SO ready for Autumn… I honestly could not resist sitting down and chatting about it. You know when you are just so excited about something? Yep… that is me right now. You want to know something else? I am sat wrapped up in a blanket, with a cuppa, burning a candle & listening to Fairytale of New York (fyi.. THE BEST Christmas song). I DON’T EVEN CARE, MUAHA!

OK… maybe I am getting a little bit ahead of myself…

Seriously though… Autumn.. here are 7 reasons why I cannot WAIT for it

*BTW.. like my little friend? He is PERFECT for Halloween*

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You are allowed to drink hot chocolate every single evening. Yes you  read that .. EVERY EVENING. And I am not talking cocoa powder and milk stirred up and shoved in the microwave.. NO NO! I am talking Nutella melted with milk in a saucepan, topped with whipped cream, sprinkles, chocolate wafers… the list goes on. The more sugar/chocolate, (basically unhealthy shit crap), the better.

Dark lips become the norm again. Time to start rocking those gorgeous, berry lips again girls (and not have people give you funny looks/thinking you are a goth).

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Over-sized cardigans. That feeling of being able to chuck on a cardigan that is 3 sizes too big and rock that look like you are the sassiest chic around. You know what? I don’t think I have ever bought a cardigan that is my size. And I love it.. I always feel like I am carrying a blanket around my shoulders during the colder months, HA! Also.. I am not the biggest fan of summer clothes.. there is just something about being able to snuggle up in your clothes and layering up with scarves/gloves (eeeeeek I am SO excited!)

HALLOWEEN. I LOVE Halloween SO SO SO much… if you know me… you will know how much I LOVE scary movies.. and just creepy things in general. So.. it is pretty obvious that I am a huge fan of Halloween. Another thing that I can’t wait for? Carving pumpkins, decorating my desk at work & room (if the hubs doesn’t mind ha!), and posting Halloween themed blogposts/videos (hopefully!!).

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Darker evenings. Cozy evenings in are my favourite! Now.. I know that the clocks don’t actually go back until the end of October (when we get that EXTRA HOUR IN BED), but the evenings do start to get darker when September hits. Don’t get me wrong.. Summer evenings are AMAZING (for the few we have in UK)… but I much prefer cuddling up on the sofa with a hot drink and surrounded by candles, hehe. That’s got to beat all those sweaty, humid nights right?

Autumn walks and CONKER HUNTING. There is just something so nostalgic about searching for conkers… It is such a nice way to spend an afternoon! Also.. going for a walk when all the leaves have started to change colour .. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE OUTFIT PHOTOS!

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I can wear fuzzy socks and PJ’s without getting sweaty legs/feet. I am sure if you have read my blog/followed my social media for a while.. you will know the massive obsession I have with PJ bottoms. I always stock up on a few (erm.. OK.. LOTS) of pairs when Autumn hits. And of course.. I get the warmest, fuzziest, most random printed ones.. as you do.

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SO… If you weren’t already.. I hope my post has you very excited for Autumn (like me!).

Are you excited for Autumn? If so.. let me know what you favourite thing about it is!

Thank you SO much for reading – and make sure to leave me a comment to let me know what you thought! See you all in my next one.

Lots of Love,

Saira

xo

Twitter // Instagram // Blog Lovin //YouTube ♥♥

Money Money: Budgeting & Saving

Hey hey!

WELCOME BACK GUYS! I hope you have all had an amazing weekend… and are feeling ready to take on this week! I had a lovely weekend doing some shopping, having a BBQ (we had GORGEOUS weather on Saturday) and sorting some blog stuff out!

Now… lets get on a more serious note guys. You are probably thinking WHAT? Saira, being all serious on her blog, really? Well.. yep.. my blog has always been a fun, chilled out place where I babble on about my favourite fashion items and what Lush things I love.. BUT I have never discussed a topic which can sometimes be seen as controversial… and that is.. money money money.

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OK… so money is a very private topic.. it is not something that we like to discuss openly with anyone… because we feel like someone will instantly judge you if they know how much money you have (it’s normal guys.. it happens). It is important to know that everybody’s money situation is different and personal to them, and nobody should be judged based on how they spend their money.

So… me, and probably every single 20-something year old has something they are saving towards.. whether that is a house, car, holiday.. even a handbag they are waiting to splurge on. At the moment.. me and Saj are putting the majority of our money towards a deposit for our first house together… so that, and a few other things really inspired me to write up this post. So… if you want to have read about how I budget and save my money.. grab a cuppa and keep reading!

ALSO… quick disclaimer.. I am NO expert in managing money.. I have just picked up things along the way and I know what works for me. I wanted to share my tips with you all so it could maybe help some of you that need it!

FIRST THINGS FIRST GUYS…..

Have a Budget – And STICK TO IT

Seriously.. I cannot even TELL you how much a budget helps. I know the feeling.. come payday, you have a HUGE wishlist on ASOS of things you have been LUSTING over the past month. The feeling you get when the postman brings your package… it is the best feeling in the world! But.. that’s all your money gone.. and you end up skint for the rest of the month feeling poopy. Now.. I am not saying put all your money away… just set some aside for treating yourself ..  you deserve it. Whether that is £50, £100.. whatever you are able to afford… put that in your spending account and put the rest into savings. Trust me guys.. it is not as hard as you might think to have a monthly budget. All you need is the right mindset.. think of the bigger picture. That money spent on clothes could be put aside to help buy you your new car or put towards money for your new home.

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Know your Outgoings

We all have it.. money that HAS to go out every month.. you have no other choice. Becoming an adult means you have rent/car insurance/council tax/mobile phone bills to pay.. so make sure you always separate this money aside from your spending money. Work out how much each will cost each month.. and see this money as  “untouchable”.

Stop Unnecessary Spending

We all do it.. you didn’t make your lunch so you fork out a fiver for it everyday.. those morning coffee runs… takeaways because you forgot to prep dinner. GUYS… this can all be sorted by a little bit of organisation! Prepare your lunch the night before, make your own coffee at home and buy a thermos so you can have it on the go (Primark have the most adorable ones). Dinner can be also be prepped the night before, all ready for when you come home from work. Seriously guys… tally up how much these “unnecessary” things cost.. and you will notice that you save yourself £100’s, heck even £1000’s every year. It all adds up in the long run.

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Have A Separate Account for Savings

It might seem a little bit of a headache to have 3-4 different accounts.. but it can really help you keep control of your spendings and savings. I personally have one for my regular spendings (the account that I transfer my monthly budget into), one for savings (this does NOT get touched… only in emergencies), and also a Help To Buy ISA (more on this next). Having separate accounts means you can keep track of how much money you have to spend, and also helps to see how much you have saved.

Consider a Help To Buy ISA

Now.. if you are in the process of saving some money for a deposit on your first house, having a HTB IA can really help you. Basically.. it is an account that you can put a certain amount of money in, you are unable to withdraw this money as you can choose to not get a card, and once you have enough and are ready for a mortgage, the government will give you some money back (the more you have in, the more they give you), and this can help towards purchasing your new home. If you are married/have a partner you can both have one, and the government will give you money back on BOTH ISA’s.. meaning you get twice the money back. It really is worth checking out.. I am with Santander, but I know a lot of other banks offer this service too.

Have a Goal in Mind

Having a goal can really help motivate you to save as much money as possible. You know your income loves, so you can set realistic goals that you can work with. Like I mentioned.. we are saving for a house and this is always in my head when I am feeling a bit crappy that I cannot spend my money on makeup/clothes…because I know how satisfying it will be to reach that goal sooner rather than later.

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So guys… they are my tips that I go by for budgeting and saving money. It can seem quite scary and daunting at first..but all it takes is a little bit of planning and patience. Everybody is capable of saving at some point..but remember if you find yourself in some trouble, there are always professional people that can help you.. it is always best to talk to someone and not suffer in silence.

I hope this was helpful to some of you.. it is a little bit more serious than my usual posts but it is such an important topic to discuss.. and I know a lot of my fellow bloggers are in similar situations!

I will see you all in my next post guys.. sending you lots of love!!

Saira

xo

Twitter // Instagram // Blog Lovin //YouTube ♥♥