Lace Handkerchief - Something Borrowed

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

In the final part of my mini wedding series, I want to talk about my "something borrowed". After deciding on my something old, something new, and something blue, my borrowed became a little more difficult. I was thinking of borrowing a piece of jewellery, but the neckline of my dress was already fairly high, and I don't really know anyone who wears a lot of bracelets.
Photo by Maria Carrington Photography

In the end my in-laws helped me, without me even mentioning it to them. My mother-in-law carried a special piece of her new husband's family history down the aisle, and they decided to pass it on to me. This beautiful lace handkerchief was a gift to my father-in-law's mother. She married her husband in the 1940s, at the height of World War 2. As a sailor my father-in-law's father was shipped off to various parts of the world during the course of the war, and at one point he was sent to Belgium, leaving behind his now-pregnant wife.

When news came that his wife had given birth to a son, my father-in-law, the young husband decided to buy his wife a beautiful Belgian lace handkerchief from Bruges. I have no idea how he managed to keep it from getting mucky or damaged in the following weeks, but at some point he was allowed home to visit his wife and new baby son, and give her his beautiful present.

It became a treasured family heirloom, and when my mother-in-law married in to the family it was given to her to use as her "something borrowed". It's been carefully stored away ever since, taken on every house move in the following years, until our wedding led to my mother-in-law retrieving it from it's safe place. I was very touched when they asked me to carry it as my something borrowed, and had it tucked away safely in my dress when I walked down the aisle to my new husband. Although that happy couple from the 1940s weren't able to be there on our special day, a little piece of their family history was. One day I hope it'll be passed down to another bride coming in to the family.

Engagement Ring - Something Old

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Following on from my recent wedding posts on my Something Blue and Something New, today I've written about my Something Old! I've mentioned before that the old rhyme "Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue" took a while to return to my head. This led to a small amount of panic on my part when I realised I'd forgotten it, but in the end my something old was the easiest choice, as I went for my beautiful engagement ring. 
Big hand, little hand, engagement ring!

Me and my now-husband had quite a time finding it. He was living in Leigh-on-Sea at the time, so during one of my weekend visits to see him we decided to book out a Saturday morning to go ring shopping. There’s two very nice jewellers in Leigh itself, and if they failed then we could get the train to Southend and continue our search there. My OH had originally considered getting a ring custom made and had researched stones for it, but in the end he was so worried about getting the “wrong” ring that he insisted he needed my help.

The shops we visited in Leigh had some very nice rings, but nothing that really jumped out at me. So we went on to Southend, and spent a good few hours wandering around. We visited the big chain shops, we popped in to little pawn shops and independent jewellers. There were plenty of nice rings, but none that I could really see as being my engagement ring.

I think we were at the point of giving up and trying again somewhere else at some other weekend when we went down a side road and found another shop. As we stood looking in the window one particular ring jumped out at me. It was labelled as an “antique”, and looked so pretty in the window that I had to go in and try it on. My main fear was that it would be too small, as I’d read online that it’s quite difficult to increase ring size, but happily it fit fine (slightly too big, as I’d later find out, but I’d rather have the size reduced than increased!)

I’ve since worked out that the ring probably dates from the 1920s as I’ve found similar ones on Etsy marked as such. When I eventually took it to a jeweller in Cambridge they asked me if it was a family heirloom as they thought it was an old ring (it also turned out that some of the stones were damaged, so I have to be careful with it!), and although I don’t know the history of it, it was lovely to have a genuinely old ring as my “something old” to wear down the aisle!

Wedding Dress- Something New

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Isn't the wedding dress the main thing that people focus on when talking about weddings with the prospective bride? I'm pretty sure the two main questions I was asked in the run-up to mine were "Have you picked a date? Have you bought your dress?" in that specific order. For me I figured that my dress would be the easiest "something new" that I'd be able to think of, so it held a little extra symbolism for me as I walked down the aisle.

Photo by Maria Carrington Photography
If you've planned your wedding over the course of two years and saved up enough money for it, then spend when you want on your dress! For me though it was a case of necessity, I needed to find a dress for under £300. I didn't even bother trying to make appointments in any of the bridal shops around Cambridge and Essex, because I knew that a budget of £300 would raise eyebrows and a "Nope, can't be done" comment. Instead I looked to the high street, where some well-known names cater to those of us who have a more modest budget requirement for their bridal gown.

Sadly BHS went bankrupt while I was doing my search, I had actually identified a dress on their website that I was mentally placing as "second option" since I liked it, but wasn't sure it would suit me. At only £150 it would have been well under my planned budget and I could have put the money to something else, but it wasn't to be. (Incidentally, has anyone pointed out to M&S that they've now got a potential market to move in to, I bet they'd do some lovely simple dresses that were quite affordable!)
Photo by Maria Carrington Photography

I had a look at Debenhams, who have a whole wedding section that covers brides, grooms and bridesmaids clothing! But although there were some very nice dresses on their site, including modern styles and vintage styles, there just wasn't anything in particular that jumped out at me.

Last but not least there was Monsoon! When it comes to regular clothing they are a bit on the pricey side, but I'd been told that they did nice wedding dresses that wouldn't break the budget, so I decided to give them a look.

It ended up being quite a difficult choice as there were several that I liked! In the end I bought the gorgeous "Carlotta" bridal dress, and managed to find a 10% discount code online that meant I saved a little bit as it only just fell within the £300 budget. Because I'd bought it from a shop it looked a bit difficult to get it adjusted as I needed, in the end my mother-in-law had to rush to the rescue with needle and thread to stop me tripping over it! But I absolutely loved the dress, I got a lot of lovely compliments about it, and I really wish I had an excuse to wear it all over again!

Wedding Shoes - Something Blue

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue! With only a few weeks to go until my wedding these words finally popped in to my head, and I realised that I was might struggle to fill all the requirements!

In the end my something old and something new were relatively easy, and will be covered in future blog posts. But it was something borrowed and something blue that were the real problems. My future in-laws solved "something borrowed" for me, I carried a little piece of my fiance's family history down the aisle with me on my wedding day, before returning it to my mother-in-law.

Photo by Maria Carrington Photography
So that just left something blue. I'd been planning on buying blue converse for some time and using
those as my something blue. But the problem with being a woman of average height (I'm slightly over 5 foot 5) is that my wedding dress was a bit too long, and I couldn't get it altered as I didn't buy it from a proper wedding shop. That meant I had to bite the bullet, give up on my idea of being a Converse bride, and get some shoes to make me a little taller, and hopefully lift up the hem of my dress a bit.

The only problem was actually finding them. I'm not the best shopper, especially when it comes to shoes. I wear hiking boots most of the time, with my dark red converse when the boots aren't feasible, or smart black flats when I'm taking part in an event at work. I didn't really know where to look, and with time starting to run out I took to Facebook in a call for help! A friend on there pointed me towards Irregular Choice, who do some really amazing shoes, but sadly a lot of them were out of my budget, and also looked a little impossible for me to actually walk in.

A Google browse introduced me to Ruby Shoo, and after a long browse I finally thought I'd found the ones I wanted. But when I went to buy them they only had them in one rather large size, they were last season's shoes and were no longer being sold!

eBay then came to the rescue! Not only did I manage to find the ones I wanted in my size, but I got them a bit cheaper than others listed because the seller had spelled the company as "Ruby Shoes", they weren't coming up on an eBay search but were showing via Google shopping!
I'm not one for heels and these are definitely higher than I'm used to at the best of times! My work colleagues thought it was great fun to see me tottering around the office in them as I learned to walk (slowly and carefully) in high heels, and learned how to hold myself standing up so my feet would hurt less. I even wore them in the kitchen while I did the cooking.

But after a week and a half of practising I knew I wouldn't be able to manage the whole wedding in them, I just wasn't used to it, and eleven days wasn't enough for me to get used to them.

I got my blue converse too, and had two something blues on my wedding day! What was your something blue?

Why we're overpaying our mortgage

Sunday, 14 May 2017

You may have noticed from some of my posts that since buying our first home back in December, me and my husband have been overpaying our mortgage. We deliberately built a £30 monthly overpayment in to our budget when we were originally planning a mortgage, and this is then topped up by cashback from Quidco, counting up money from penny jars, setting aside my expenses from work, or selling stuff we don’t use or need on eBay. My aim is to be able to double that £30 every month, and so far I’ve managed to hit that target consistently!

Telling people we’re overpaying generally leads to them going “Oh that’s a good idea!” followed by a pause and then “…but why when interest rates are so low?” It’s a good question, I certainly don’t know anyone offline that’s doing this as regularly, but it’s something we were both keen on doing for a variety of reasons.

1. We both hate debt

I still have a student loan, because like many students who graduated in 2008 I found it very difficult to get a well-paid job straight off the bat. Instead I found myself as the proud owner of two degrees and a job as a cashier in a supermarket, followed by various part-time contracts and an attempt at self-employment until I landed my first full-time role at the age of 24. But I don’t like being in debt, and neither does my husband. Having a debt of £160,000 is quite scary when you think about it, and given the uncertainty in the economy (especially with Brexit) we’d like to pay off extra while we can, before interest rates start going up!

2. Reducing the LTV

We found it difficult to get a mortgage in the first place because my current role is a contract. Admittedly at two years and with guaranteed full-time work it’s better than a zero-hours role, but it’s technically temporary nonetheless. We had a decent deposit saved up by my OH, which gave us an LTV of 85% (LTV is Loan to Value ratio, so how much you’re borrowing compared to the value of the house. We had a 15% deposit, so our LTV was 85%). This really helped us get a good mortgage rate despite my contract situation, and taught us a valuable lesson about how important a decent deposit can be. We have a 5 year fixed rate, by the time we’re due to re-mortgage I’ll probably have a stint of maternity leave which will have affected my earning potential, and given the risks to the economy we suspect that rules about mortgages will be significantly tighter. So reducing our LTV will hopefully help us in the long run, and might also make it easier to move up a step on the ladder when the time comes for us to find a bigger house.

3. It’s seriously addictive

I have a spread sheet that tracks, among other things, the daily amount of interest earned, the total amount we’ve paid per month, and the amount we owe to the bank. It’s set up for the next 5 years with our standard monthly payment, and then I can type in how much we’ve overpaid in a particular month and it will recalculate everything. I’m not going to lie, it’s really addictive. As soon as I send my expenses form in to work I make a note of the total, then when I go home I type it in to the spread sheet to see the effect. Same with filling up a bag of change, or getting a notification from Quidco that we can cashout.

The effect so far has only encouraged me to keep going. When we first got our mortgage we were earning £12.01 a day in interest. We would have hit £155,000 owed in May 2018, and would have dropped under £150,000 in September 2019. You'd think that we would need to be overpaying hundreds of pounds every month to make a difference.

So far (it’s only May after all, and we made our first overpayment in January) we’ve overpaid by £490.88. We’re now due to fall under the £155k mark in February 2018 (although my aim is to hit it by December), and will be below £150k in July 2018. Our daily interest rate is currently £11.88 (still a huge amount per day I know!), and will fall below £11.50 a day in October 2018.

It just goes to show that you don’t need thousands in the bank to pay off your mortgage, just small regular payments can make a big difference!

Mortgage Overpayment - April 2017

Friday, 5 May 2017

Yes, it's true, despite spending April getting married and then going on honeymoon, we managed to make a mortgage overpayment at the end of the month! 
Who lives in a house like this? XD

Actually we managed to hit a new record in April as we overpaid £206.26!! Quite a bit more than I was anticipating, I thought we'd be lucky to hit £100 this month as all our energy and attention was going on the wedding. I was even eyeing up my change jars early in the month as I was sure I'd need to have a count up just to be able to send off a reasonable amount.

However Quidco once again stepped in to save my metaphorical bacon. I received a payout of just over £21 for buying our buildings insurance through them back in November. You need to have buildings insurance when you exchange contracts on your house purchase, this payment had been pending for a while and it was nice to finally get it.

Then out of nowhere I received confirmation that my cashback for signing up with our broadband provider had arrived, a whole £100! I'd nearly forgotten to go through Quidco in the first place. If I'd missed out on this then I would have been quite annoyed. Normally it takes months for cashback to be paid, so getting this in around 6 weeks is extremely quick and was a very pleasant surprise!

I also had a healthy expenses payment of just over £43 from work, I had to buy some special envelopes for some bits we were posting out so that helped bump that up too.

I don't have any big payments left pending in Quidco, just smaller amounts from Argos and Currys from buying bits and pieces for the house, which are mostly due in May and June. I think my next expenses payment will be smaller too as I've been off work for a week. But my penny jar is looking very full, so May might be a good time to count it up and pay it in!