Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Money Saving Tips for Birthday Parties - Joanne McGowan, Act One Parties

Nowadays it is common to invite the whole class to your child's birthday party and this means entertaining, feeding and watering and party bagging up to 25-30+ children.  This can lead many parents to feel that costs are spiralling out of control.  It doesn't have to be this way and I hope the following tips will help you to create a fantastic party for your child that doesn't break the bank.

Tip No. 1 – Join Forces
One of the best ways to half or even third or quarter the cost of your child's birthday party is to join forces with another family in your child's class who has a birthday around the same time.  Joint parties are becoming increasingly popular (I entertain regularly at parties where there are 2 or 3 or sometimes even 4 birthday children).  If they are all in the same class at school they are likely to have the same friends so it can be a win win situation.

As well as significantly reducing the cost of the party it can also reduce the workload as you can split the organisation and jobs between the different families involved.

However, a note of caution, ensure that if you do join forces with another family that they have the same outlook as yourself on costs, type of party required and be clear about who is responsible for what in the lead up to the party.

Tip No. 2 – Shop around for venues
In my hometown of Guildford I know the price of venues can vary significantly for very little difference in facilities.  I will be writing about things to look for in a venue in a later blog but generally the closer to a town centre the more expensive a venue will become where as those on the outskirts can be considerably cheaper with similar facilities and generally more parking.  Schools sometimes offer a discount if your child is a pupil there but sometimes can charge a caretaker fee so don't assume this will be the cheapest option.  Some village halls will offer a cheaper rate if you live in the village and it is often worth seeking out halls that charge for the morning or afternoon rather than the hour as this can work out better value for a party.

Children generally don't care what a venue looks like, it is us parents that are bothered by things like that, so as long as it warm and dry and safe most venues can look good with a few decorations.

Tip No. 3 – The internet is your friend
For two reasons – if you choose to do a lot of DIY preparation for the party ie decorations, invites etc, there are many sites that will provide you with the inspiration and templates to do this.  The internet can also be a good place to find special offers for party bags, decorations and tableware.  Many companies will have a newsletter or a facebook page you can sign up to where special offers will be advertised – even getting free postage can be a good saving.

Tip No. 4 – The Early Bird Catches the Worm
By planning your party early not only will you get the pick of
party entertainers and venues but you will have time to research the best deals on party ware, party bags, decorations etc.  It will also give you more time to do some aspects yourself like maybe make some decorations with your child for the party.

Tip No. 5 – Feeding the 5,000
The thing that most goes to waste at a children's party is always the food.  Children generally eat less than you think and always have eyes bigger than tummies so controlling quantities is key.  Putting food in food boxes is a good way to guage portions effectively and means that children are given appropriate sized quantities and a balance of naughty and nice.  And whilst we may opt for locally sourced, organic produce at other times, when catering for a children's birthday tea all the supermarkets do great value ranges on party tea favourites.

For more information on Joanne and Act One Parties, visit:

Twitter:  @actoneparties

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Budgeting in Pregnancy…and beyond - Elise Mendelle, Bundle-O-Joy

It is easy to get caught up in the maternity industry and find yourself spending loads of money BEFORE your baby is even born.  First of all, it is an exciting time and you get caught up in the whole allure of being pregnant.  What are you going to wear?  Where are you going to shop?  However, it is a good idea to stop yourself before you go rushing out to the shops to spend a fortune for what will be a relatively short lived period.
You will only be pregnant for nine months.  You probably won’t even properly show for the first three, which leaves six.  The last month or two, most women are usually big and uncomfortable and don’t really fit into anything they initially bought anyway.  So that leaves a short 4 or 5 months, which in the grand scheme of things really isn’t that long.  I am definitely not suggesting ignoring how you look during your pregnancy.  I am just suggesting you plan your wardrobe and budget wisely.

A few key pieces will take you very far.  I would suggest:
1)  Great pair of jeans e.g. if you usually wear skinny jeans, you may get away with them during pregnancy.  Many women find boot cut jeans more flattering with a bump.
2)  1 or 2 vests – great for wearing under tops.
3)  Dress
4)  Basic top – I would suggest something black with ruching at the sides, or a wrap  top trousers / white top – the perfect outfit for work or looking smart.  Can be dressed up or worn casually.
In addition to these items, you can then buy a few more exciting, personalised pieces to mix and match with your staples. 
Finally, it is time to ACCESSORIZE, a great way to add glamour and style to your pregnancy. 
See Bundle-O-Joy’s blog post GET THE LOOK to give ideas of how to use pregnancy essentials to create different, inspiring outfits.
Other great ideas for saving money during pregnancy:
1)  Try ebay for great deals.
2)  Borrow clothes from friends.
3)  Visit NCT nearly new sales or charity shops.
4)  Some reasonably priced maternity labels – ASOS, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Gap.
Remember, the more you save during your pregnancy, the more you will have to spend on your baby!


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Starfish Accounting - Georgi Rollings

My name is Georgina Rollings, and I am proud mum to 15 month old twin girls.  I am also a business owner having set up a small accounting firm in March of this year. 

Setting up my company was surprisingly easy.  The difficult part for me was deciding to do it. 

I’ve always liked the idea of working for myself, but I was waiting for an idea to come to me, and one never did.  It took the complete shift in focus caused by the birth of my babies to give me the inspiration I needed. 

By creating my own accounting firm I have been able to use the skills and experience I have spent years acquiring to help other people and their businesses.  I am able to look after our girls myself instead of paying somebody else to do it.  At the same time I have started a new business adventure which is giving me more job satisfaction that I have had for years.

Starfish Accounting specialises in proving accounting services to small businesses and start up companies.  As a mumpreneur myself, I run a mumpreneur friendly company, offering practical accounting and business advice without the jargon.

It’s been tough starting up a business and running it with twins and very little childcare.  Luckily my parents look after the girls for an afternoon a week which lets me visit clients and have business meetings – and means that the girls get to be properly spoiled.  I’m also very fortunate to have a supportive husband who is also an excellent cook.  But I don’t get to have very many evenings off, and I usually end up working pretty late which is not good for my beauty sleep!

The pay off for me at the moment, other than my beautiful babies, is that I am my own boss, and I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of knowing I am helping my clients to run their businesses more effectively.  I’ll be able to ramp up the amount of time I spend working during normal working hours as the girls start going to nursery in a year’s time.  I’m really excited at the response I have had to my business, and the potential it has to grow.

If you run a small company, or are just starting out, and want an accountant who understands your business and your need to fit in around your children, then try giving me a call.  I offer a free hour long consultation, so you can even get some free advice!

If you are interested, then you can find out more at

Or find us on Facebook at 

I also blog about accounting and tax tips and advice at

Friday, 7 October 2011

One time, at Blog Camp....

Yesterday I travelled to Bristol for my first ever blogging event.  Being quite new to the world of blogs I didn't have a clue what to expect but what a fantastic time I had!

The event was held at M Shed in Princes Wharf in Bristol - a fantastic museum and venue.  I somehow managed to get there in plenty of time and along with some fellow early birds managed to fit it a cuppa from the lovely Martin at Morning Rush on Prince Street Bridge before the doors opened.

The day saw 4 different speakers offering their stories, tips and technical advice on all things blogging! 

Chris Mosler of Thinly Spread covered the ethics of blogging and gave our consciences something to think about.

Elisabeth Winkler of Real Food Lover and Writing on the Web gave us some great practical tips about building an audience for your blog and finding an "angle".

Phil Szomszor who works for PR agency Citigate Dewe Rogerson and has his own blog about social media and technoloday - The Red Rocket gave us an interesting inside account on how the PR world view us Bloggers.  He also had some great tips on how the 2 can work effectively together.

Lee Smallwood (find him on Twitter @leesmallwood) lead a fantastic discussion on how people can find your blog (or good old SEO!).  He provided some great tips, ideas and useful websites.

Lacing all of this together was our hostess for the day/IT whiz/Twitter feed writer, Sally Whittle, of Tots100.  A big thank you to her and assistant Kat for all their hard work in putting the event together!

I met some great people, learnt a lot (yet more things to add to the "to do list" but hey ho!) and got a day out of "the office" to boot!   Now, how do I add a contact page to this thing...

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Our Green Room - Lois Griffin

This week I spoke to Lois Griffin who runs "Our Green Room" - an online and shop based interiors business in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire.

Can you describe your business and what you do?
Me and My partner run an online interiors business (OurGreenRoom) selling modern wall art, cushions and curtains. We run from the office and workroom in our home and also have a small retail space in Bradford on Avon (No.5 Weavers Walk), open on a Saturday. All the items are made by hand, here in Bradford on Avon.

How did you got started and what is the inspiration/idea behind what you do?
I have always been creative and been able to sew, I have also always had quite a strong entrepreneurial spirit and the two just came together naturally. We started the business from scratch, all starting from when I was decorating my bedroom and really wanted to find some wall art to match these beautiful, bright lime green cushions I had bought. The design on the cushion was fantastic, so bold and bright, but I couldn’t find any art to match it, or live up to it, anywhere. Shops seemed to be filled with the same old canvas prints, photos of buildings, swirly lines, close ups of flowers etc. I had seen it all before and I really wanted something a bit different, something that had the wow factor – nothing seemed to live up to these cushions!

In the end I decided to make my own wall art! The result really pulled the whole room together, and the fabric art looked fantastic alongside the cushions. Friends constantly commented on the art and cushions, saying ‘wow, where did you get those from?’ People started to ask me if I could make similar pieces for their homes too. So I started making things for friends and eventually began listing online. To say that demand outstripped resource, was then, and still is now a massive understatement! Everyone who sees our stuff, loves how refreshing and colourful it all is. We even have people considering redecorating a whole room just to tie in a few of our jazzy cushions! I spend quite a lot of my time now keeping up to date with fabric trends and we only use the most exciting and innovative designs available!

How many hours you work and how do you fit these around your family?
We have only just sorted out a regular childcare routine for our three children (yes we are mad). It was difficult because the eldest is 9 and the youngest is only 8 months, so they are all at different stages needing different things. We seem to constantly be doing appointments, clubs, school runs, parent meetings. I’m sure everyone with three kids knows how it is – a million things to remember and a very busy schedule!

The children are in childcare and school now 9-5 Monday to Thursday and we always have a Friday off to clean the house (grandma day). We try to be strict and turn our PC’s off between the hours of 4.30 and 9pm (eldest’s bedtime) but they tend to go straight back on again till the early hours! Me and Rob try to find two evenings a week to relax, go out or just watch some telly over a bottle of wine...although sometimes this ends up being a business meeting.

It is hard running a business with a small family, especially if there is a problem; I really feel the urge to sort it out and it plays on my mind, sometimes this isn’t great when you are supposed to be spending quality time with your family and I can get quite stressed.

Having said that, it’s great that I can take my child to the doctors, pick them up from school or a club, watch a play and not have to ask anyone. I have set my own hours at 9-5 but I could easily finish at – If I wanted to! Although generally, I don’t do that because my to-do list is endless!

What do you love most about your business and are there any negative aspects?
The negative aspects are the financial mayhem, far from rich we seem to be always juggling bills both personal and business and making a profit is extremely difficult these days. The flexibility however and the way that I get more time with my kids than when I was working full time, is worth the sacrifice.

What would be your top tip for someone looking to start their own business?
Network, meet some like-minded business people in your area, join forums, get involved. There are thousands of business owners out there who have plenty of experience and advice to give, and the value of that can sometimes be underestimated. I have worked for myself for 6 years, and believe me I have made  lot of mistakes along the way – but I have learnt from it and it would be good to pass that on.

Find out more about Our Green Room:

Twitter: @ourgreenroom