Want to maximise your finances this year and keep hold of as much cash as possible? I do too. You probably know that I’m a rather thrifty lady and that I’d make any changes to my lifestyle in order to live better for less. But thankfully, this option doesn’t require any big changes, no hardship and not going without. It just allows you to hold on to more of your hard-earned pay packet at the end of the month. Read on to find out how I made some easy changes that could save me up to £200 this year…Let me set the scene: 2016 is the year of saving for me. Okay, I try to save as much as I can every year – and I don’t just mean saving money in my ISA. I also mean minimising the amount I spend on all the little things that add up throughout the year. Just shopping around online, buying secondhand and picking up the end-of-line items in the supermarket can all add up to a rather large stash of cash by the end of the year. Even though I’ve been frugal all of my life (being a student for 7 years, I had to be careful!) this year counts more than ever because I’m saving with purpose. I’m buying a house this year!At least, that’s the plan. I expect that you’ll see me blogging about my new front door before the year is out (as long as I can find somewhere lovely that I want to live, that is!). But I need a big deposit and I need to keep putting the pennies into my piggy bank to save for that. Actually, it’s not so much that I need a big deposit, but more like I want to have a big deposit so that 1) I can afford a house that might be out of budget otherwise, or so that 2) the loan-to-value will be lower and my mortgage rate will be better, or so that 3) I own more of the house to begin with and am paying less each month on the mortgage. Continue reading “Stash your cash in 2016 by maximising your finances with Ofgem” »
Yesterday I read a newly launched article (and challenge!) about getting and staying close to the one you love; 27 Expert tips to be closer to you spouse. The article taps into the knowledge of experts from the fields of psychology, relationships, counselling and health care, asking each professional to share advice on maintaining a long and happy relationship. With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, I was intrigued and decided to read on to find out what the pros had to say!The article shares lots of sound advice for good communication, building trust and managing arguments, all of which would prove very useful within a relationship. The experts are sharing tips on social media each day throughout February and have challenged readers to try out a tip each day to ensure a loved-up month. I like the idea of joining in with a month of challenges, especially when we’re all thinking about love this Valentine’s Day – wouldn’t it be lovely to take the romance with us into the year ahead? The article not only focuses on the psychological aspect of relationships, it also shares some fun ideas for activities and romantic things to do together too.Aside from the focus on couples, the tips were actually applicable for all kinds of communication, such as with friends, family and children. I was actually more interested in the tips that could be applied to different areas of life and they really made me think about the way I interact with others. Continue reading “Relationship tips for Valentine’s Day & beyond” »
Today I wanted to share my blog post on making the switch from WordPress.com to .org which was first published on The Fairy Blogmother blog, where you can find jargon-free advice, user-friendly tutorials and support with any aspect of WordPress.
Earlier this year, I became a self-hosted blog. I’d been a lifelong WordPress.com user and had run a number of websites and blogs through the platform but a couple of issues a few months ago led me to consider taking the plunge and moving over to a self-hosted WordPress.org installation.
I did a lot of research into the differences between the two versions and it seemed like moving to WordPress.org was the best way for me to make progress in my blogging career. I wanted to share my experiences with you in case you too are considering making the switch because I learnt a lot during the process and there may be things affected that you haven’t yet considered – I certainly got a few surprises along the way!
What did I start off with?
Well, I’d been using WordPress.com for just under 3 years, as a blogging tool to promote my own fancy dress shop business. I liked how user-friendly the dashboard was compared to other sites I’d used in the past and I felt like a complete internet-whizz using this software because I could do a lot of my own editing, formatting and site-building without needing outside help. I saw my blog grow in readership over the years and when I finished my Masters degree I had more time to dedicate to writing, so I started blogging every day. This quickly increased my readership and Cassiefairy.com became a very busy place indeed.
I soon discovered that blogs could be monetized through affiliate links, banner ads and hosted content but at the time using WordPress for any kind of advertising was completely prohibited. When I purchased my own Cassiefairy.com domain through WordPress.com this allowed me to start earning from WordAds. These are already on every WordPress.com blog (unless you’ve paid for a no-ads upgrade) so I thought I might as well use the adverts to earn a little money for myself but I found that I only made a few pounds per month through using WordAds and still couldn’t become an affiliate and earn commission that way like other bloggers did. I lived in fear that my blog might be taken away from me at any time if I put a link (I’m talking about just a straightforward unpaid natural link) into my posts in case WordPress.com ‘thought’ I was making a profit from it.
I was turning stuff down…
I found that I was turning down offers from media agencies and brands because of the restrictions in the WordPress.com terms and conditions and I knew I needed to make a change so that I could keep the blog running as my full-time job. Interestingly enough, it was a link on my blog that forced me to make the switch earlier this year. I posted a link within one of my blog posts and through a friend I found out that once my blog post has been published the link had become an affiliate link for the benefit for WordPress.com. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t making any money as an affiliate but WordPress.com had been redirecting my links so that they could earn from my audience! The only way to avoid this was by buying a no-ads upgrade. I later found out that the T&Cs had changed since I first signed up over 3 years ago and affiliate links were now permitted, but I was so incensed that WordPress.com had been skimming my links for their own gain that I decided it was finally time to move.
I decided to transfer over
I was a little grumpy that I needed to pay WordPress.com in order to move through a ‘Guided Transfer’, but that was simply because I am so un-techy that I knew I wouldn’t be able install WordPress.org at my chosen self-hosting server and I was terrified that I would lose 3 years-worth of content, all my settings and blog design. So I paid for the Guided Transfer service and it was quite straightforward – they told me when the transfer would start so that I didn’t use my blog while it was being moved, and they emailed me again once the transfer had been completed. The Guided Transfer team were available for me to email with any questions over the coming 2 weeks, but each time I asked for assistance or why something unusual had happened, they did get back to me but without a real answer nor did they provide any further technical help. Their replies were along the lines of ‘this is probably what it is…’, ‘here’s is a link to a help page…’, ‘it looks okay from my end…’, ‘you’ll need to do that yourself…’, ‘see how you get on…’, ‘refer that question to your host…’ etc. So I felt both supported by them being available to ask my questions to, but completely on my own in terms of fixing problems myself at the same time.
Once I started using WordPress.org I was really happy that I’d made the move. Everything was the same in terms of blogging and using the dashboard, and I found that installing Plugins wasn’t as difficult or scary as I’d imagined. The only worrying thing is that WordPress.org doesn’t back up your posts so it’s a good idea to do so yourself and I’ve been very vigilant with keeping copies of my work. Touch wood, nothing has gone wrong with my self-hosted installation so far and I’ve found out there are many benefits of being self-hosted (along with a few cons!) so here’s what’s been good and bad about the move in my experience:
- Why I chose DreamHost I chose DreamHost due to their promise of 100% uptime yet I’ve already had a total of about 6 minutes downtime this year, but it always seems to be in the middle of the night and I really can’t complain about the service the rest of the time. They have a very helpful support team who always answer any of my questions within hours.
- What’s happened to my readers I was told by WordPress.com that I wouldn’t lose my readership as a result of the transfer but I later discovered that around a third of my readers were finding my blog through tags in the WordPress.com ‘Reader’, and now that I’m self-hosted my tags are no longer included in the Reader app so I can’t be found by new readers through a keyword search. My blog is still listed on the Reader for my existing followers to read, but they can’t comment through the Reader app anymore so I’ve found that the number of comments I’m getting has gone down too.
- I can host competitions I can now use Rafflecopter for my blog competitions whereas the widget couldn’t be implemented on WordPress.com. This makes it much easier for me to run giveaways and keep track of entries. I can now work with brands who want to offer prizes to my audience and I’ve found that running giveaways brings in more readers. My follower stats have greatly increased thanks to including more entry options through Rafflecopter such as ‘Follow @Cassiefairy on Twitter’ or ‘Like Cassiefairy’s Facebook page’ for competitions.
- I can use adverts I can put any number of banners or adverts in my sidebars or blog posts. This was prohibited through WordPress.com but now I am free to advertise in this way if I want to. At the moment, I’m resisting adding a lot of banner adverts and only have a couple of sponsors with whom I have a long-standing relationship, but it’s good to have the freedom to be able to do this.
- My domain is free I don’t need to pay WordPress.com for my domain name and mapping every year because it is now hosted for free at DreamHost for the lifetime of my hosting plan, so as long as I keep paying for hosting, it will be free forever.
- Freedom with other domains I can also point other domains that I own towards my blog, such as tuesdayshoesday.co.uk and piedayfriday.co.uk to tie in with my regular blog features.
- Much more server storage I don’t have any storage limits for files, photos, videos etc. With WordPress.com I was approaching the maximum storage limit and would have needed to buy the extra storage upgrade. In the past I’d been limiting my photo uploads to two images per post in order to save space but now I can post as many photos or videos as I like without worrying about storage space.
- Plenty of support When I need to make my own technical changes, there are plenty of support forums and DIY tutorials for WordPress.org and I can get extra help through DreamHost. Even so, I am still worried that one little change would bring my whole website down and I wouldn’t be able to get it back again!
- Affiliates are welcome I am free to add affiliate links and work with any brands or marketing agencies, but at the moment I’m still only sharing links to products I actually like, things that I have bought myself and products that I am mentioning in my blog posts anyway rather than creating articles with the intention of ‘selling’ products through affiliate links.
- Personalised emails I can have any number of personalised email addresses – mine is now email@example.com – through DreamHost.
- Installing plugins I’ve been able to add an Instagram plugin so that I can add a widget on my sidebar for my photos, which looks great. I could never get an Instagram widget on my WordPress.com site.
- Additional revenue I can install content feeds such as ContentClick and make a few pence per click referral – this can only be used through WordPress.org and not Wordpress.com. This was working well but I found that it interfered with ‘something’ on my blog and occasionally the site wouldn’t load at all due to an error with ContentClick so I have removed it until I have the time to investigate it properly and so far nothing has gone wrong since I uninstalled the plugin.
All in all, it’s been a positive move for me. I am pleased with the freedom that comes with being self-hosted now that I don’t need to adhere to WordPress.com’s strict terms and conditions but I still worry occasionally that I will ‘break’ my website and not know how to fix it! My apprehension is getting better over time, as each change I successfully make surprises me and is always easier than I’d imagined. I hope it will continue to be a good solution for my future blogging and that I’ll continue to find more and more reasons to be self-hosted.
I still can’t believe that Cassiefairy.com has made it onto the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014 shortlist for Best Lifestyle Blog! It would mean the world to me if you would vote for my blog before voting closes on 29th August – thank you SO much!
Okay, I can’t fight it anymore. After almost a week of unbroken sunshine and with the bank holiday weekend and half-term fast approaching I can’t deny that barbecue season has well and truly arrived. We all knew it was only a matter of time before we started tidying up the patio and the shops knew it too: everywhere you look there are offers on charcoal at the garden centre, deals on melamine plates in department stores and 3 for 2 on sausages and burgers in the supermarkets. We will all be having a BBQ this weekend and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Actually, I don’t have a barbecue. So I’ve got two options: cook my meat in the oven and eat it outside or invest in a BBQ (hubby’s preferred plan). I’m thinking that any purchase of a BBQ at this time of year would be a sensible idea, because it would have a whole season’s use ahead of it, but the thrift-meister in me is telling me to wait until the end of the summer and buy a barbecue in the seasonal sales ready for next year. In fact, I think that’s exactly what happened last year – I just forgot to do the buying bit by the time the end of summer sales arrived. So I guess that means I’m going BBQ hunting this weekend then?? We have friends coming to stay over the bank holiday so it would be lovely to sit in the garden, enjoy a nice meal and soak up the sun (wearing high SPF, of course – read my blog post all about it here!).
Here are a few of my favourite BBQ recipes from the blog so please check them out if you’re having a barbecue this bank holiday weekend:
Never one to be underprepared, did my research yesterday into the type of barbecue I should buy and found an excellent buying guide on the John Lewis website which I’m going to share with you all. It basically helped me get a good idea of what I want to buy versus what I actually need to buy and therefore I think that using the guide has saved me money and stopped me (and hubby) from buying the biggest BBQ we’ve seen – which was practically an outdoor kitchen – because in reality, we won’t need it! So here are the top tips for buying a barbecue this summer:
If you’re cooking for up to 4 people you’ll need a smaller cooking area, and can comfortably cook on a grill of around 1800cm². Also, if you’re going for gas, you might only need one or two burners on the barbecue, which will save on the amount of gas used per meal, compared to some of the 6-burner models. Cooking for larger crowds of more than 8 people is when you’ll need one of the largest gas barbecues (the sort that hubby loves) but for our family we’ll probably only need a BBQ grill of between 2000cm² to 2500cm² which is plenty big enough to cook for 6 people at once. Of course, you can cater for more people during larger parties if you have features such as griddles and warming racks on the barbecue because you can store and keep warm the first batch of food, while cooking up more meaty meals.
In terms of gas v coal, gas barbecues can be cooked with after about 10 minutes, but a charcoal barbecue will take up to 30-45 minutes to become white-hot and reach a good temperature for cooking. It’s easy to regulate the temperate on a gas barbecue in the same way that you can turn gas hob burners up or down, but on a charcoal BBQ it will be a case of raising or lowering the grilling surface to control the temperature. Charcoal or briquettes might be a cheaper fuel option than gas but will require more cleaning after cooking as you not only have to clean the cooking surfaces, but also clear out the ash. And finally, charcoal barbecues tend to be cheaper than gas, so it depends on your budget and what kind of fuel you’d prefer to spend your money on throughout the season.
I’m really pleased that I came across this buying guide and I hope it has helped you too. The good news is that there are plenty more advice guides on the John Lewis website for summer, including tips for the barbecue chef, a video on cooking with gas barbecues, recipes and a good grilling guide. My final favourite piece of advice is that when your barbecue arrives, it’s a good idea to position it on a level surface away from combustibles such as plants and fencing, and in a sheltered position if windy. This will mean that accidents and the possibility of setting fire to the hedge will be less likely and, as with everything, it’s all about safety first! Have a lovely bank holiday 🙂
I’ve recently come across a bit of advice that I found both cheeky and inspiring! Working for yourself is a massive challenge and quite often we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we do, and the effort involved in working alone and motivating yourself.
Have a read and bolster yourself up a bit – you work hard, you deserve it!
You run a growing company. You have courage. You have strength. You have faith, and hope, and optimism.
- You act, even when it’s scary as hell. You make impossible decisions. You stick your neck out.
- You help people. You make their lives better. You teach them, or lead them, or make them laugh, or bring them joy.
- Even when the odds are stacked against you, you keep a positive spirit. People don’t take your calls, don’t answer your emails, don’t follow you back on Twitter and you keep going. You screw up your launch and you keep going. People send you nasty emails and you keep going.
- Everybody wants something from you. Nobody wants anything from you.
- You haven’t got a peaceful night’s sleep in years.
- You don’t remember the last time you felt confident.
- You’ve forgotten what it feels like to feel secure. Safe?
- Your wife says she supports you but you know she thinks you’re a screwup.
- Your husband says he supports you but still expects you to be around at 3 for the school run
- Your mother says she supports you but sends you Help Wanted ads for retail jobs.
And still, you keep going.
THAT is something to be proud of!
(Oh, and one more thing? You know who else works out of his home office? THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.)
See more here: http://ittybiz.com/why-your-loved-ones-want-you-to-fail/