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Becoming a Zero-Waste Household

I’ve always been interested in recycling and have recently shifted towards a less environmentally damaging way of living. These are the ways I previously lived and have continued to live:

  • I’m vegetarian and have been now for nearly 15 years.
  • I get public transport, walk, cycle, or use an electric car to travel within the UK.
  • I grow my own food on my allotment.
  • I use energy saving lightbulbs and bulk-cook meals.
  • I recycle my empty containers and compost my food waste.

What now?

Earlier this year, I switched all my bath products to Lush’s naked (without packaging) range and have enjoyed face washes, soaps, shower scrubs and even deodorant in bar form, rather than in plastic containers.

But lately, I have been seeing that, even so, I am still generating a LOT of recycling with regards to supermarket shopping. So, I decided to set myself a challenge of converting to shopping for food in a zero waste supermarket, when possible, such as my local farmer’s market or The Refill Room.

What are you doing to help the environment? I’d love to hear from you!

romantic dates on a budget

Romantic Dates for Lovers on a Budget

Dating can be difficult at the best of times, but when you are on a budget because you are struggling financially, it can make dating even more awkward and unromantic. The media teaches us that being rich, generous and glamourous makes us attractive and more likeable. So, dating when you are a student, in a low-paid job, unemployed or just generally struggling to make ends meet can be quite intimidating. However, there are many nice dates you can arrange to impress either your current partner or a new partner. Give these a try…

 

  1. Romantic Cinematic Dates

Film festivals and outdoor cinema events are frequently around in major cities and have a nice vibe. But even if there are not any film festival currently happening, or you live in a small town, you can select from a number of romantic films on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or on DVD / Blu-Ray. If you can’t decide, watch some of the trailers and see which two you like best. Then let your partner decide! You can often get special midweek cinema deals too, if you wanted to go out for your film date.

 

 

  1. Outdoor Adventures

On days with nice weather, you could take advantage of the assets that your local outdoors provides. Walking and hiking are popular activities that allow lots of time to talk. So, these are great activities if you are at the stage in the dating process where you want to get to know your partner better. If you have been on a few dates with him/her already and want to do something very romantic, take him/her camping overnight: watch the sunset together, spend time star-gazing with your partner and give him/her massages.

If you are fairly confident with your body and the temperature is very warm, swimming is a great option, particularly if you are far more confident about your body than the contents of your wallet! Lots of parks having boats you can hire at a reasonable cost.

In colder weather, you could go ice skating or visit a winter market to buy and drink warm soup or wine, huddled together to keep warm. There are lots of options, so be creative!

 

  1. Local Cultural Scene and Community Events

There are often local community events for free or with very cheap entry prices, such as local folk festivals, concerts, gigs, outdoor cinema nights, beer festivals, wine tasting events, book launches, poetry readings, open mic nights, theatre plays, roller derby and pride parades. Your local community centre, town hall, library or the web will undoubtedly have more information on what is going on over the next month or so. The good part about these events is you don’t have to travel very far. If you are in a long-distance relationship if your date is travelling to you, you can seem very clued up and excited about your local area and its culture.

 

  1. Intellectual Pursuits

It is not said enough, but most people are impressed by intelligence. If you think your date is going to fall into this category, take him/ her to some local art galleries, museums or botanical gardens. If your partner does seem intellectual, they are sure to be very impressed by your art or history knowledge and cultured attitude. One thing I have heard is that there is nothing more romantic than having a partner whisper something very intellectual in your ear in a museum, whilst putting their arms around you – first to point at an artefact, then to embrace you. This is perfect for that second or third date, when you want to show your partner a different side to yourself. Keep it genuine though, as there is no point taking him/her to a gallery if you hate art!

 

  1. ‘Foodie’ Indulgences

Going out for a coffee is a perfect cheap date, especially if it is a first date and you are not sure whether or not you will get on well. If you are a ‘foodie’, however, you could ask your dating partner if he/she would like to go on a picnic, or do a portable BBQ somewhere romantic. You can usually buy portable BBQs (both reusable or disposable) quite cheaply from your local supermarket or garden store. A nice walk along the beach combined with a tasty BBQ could be a great combination. Otherwise, a picnic at the beach or in your local park, woods, or botanical garden could also be a hit. You could carefully select the foods you bring on a theme, if you know your date is really into a particular cuisine or has a particular interest.

 

  1. Play games

If you are happy to have your date come to your place, then board games, chess, video games, or (if you are feeling more adventurous) poker can all make for a really nice evening. If you are too shy to show her your place, too lazy to tidy up, or are in the middle of renovating your home, there are many games that you can take to venues outside your home. Card games or easily portable board games would be fine to play in a pub or café. You could combine games with other dates I have suggested, such as hide and seek in a library, museum or park, or make up dramatic stories about what you think has happened to strangers you see to make them be in the location and situation they are in now!

 

  1. Treasure Hunts and Escape Rooms

With the rise of Geocaching, the app that makes treasure hunts easy (as you do not need to set them up yourself), treasure hunting has become very popular. You could download the app and tell your date to wear sensible shoes and that the date is mystery. Alternatively, if you want to go all-out, for an anniversary date or to really impress someone, you could create your own treasure hunt, with a prize at the end of the hunt – pick something your date really likes, or create a suggestive but witty ‘I owe you…..’ coupon!

Escape Rooms generally cost £15-20 to do, but they are an excellent one-off way to see how you and your partner work together. You might learn something interesting about each other!

 

Remember…

Whatever you choose, remember that dates are meant to be enjoyable and not break the bank. You don’t have to impress your partner with lots of cash – a thoughtfully planned date with romantic elements can often mean a lot more.

 

Why Your Business Needs A VA!

As a business coach, I have helped numerous people set up small businesses. At the start, you have the exciting thrill of setting up your project. But as time goes on, the workload can become overwhelming and it is harder to get a desirable work-life balance.

One solution can be hiring someone to do your admin, but employing staff can be extremely expensive. So, more and more businesses are contracting VAs to do their admin work for them, because, as VAs are self-employed, they pay for their own taxes, insurance, equipment and CPD themselves.

VAs can manage your invoicing, taxes, email inbox and blogs for you, but they can do so much more than that! Everything from arranging your business trip, to creating twitter posts, and from formatting documents, to scheduling meetings with clients, they are the jack of all admin trades and the master of many!

Passing on admin to a VA can give you a better work-life balance. Business coach Bex Harper explains how hiring a VA can help your work-life balance. Passing on admin to a VA can give you a better work-life balance. Image: photo of two women, relaxing on a wooden deck, instead of working.

Benefits of having a VA

The many benefits that outsourcing your work to an VA include:

  1. creating more time for yourself (to spend relaxing) and your business (to invest in increasing your turnover)!
  2. efficiency by outsourcing work to someone who is an expert in administration and organisational systems.
  3. giving yourself the mental space concentrate on tasks that attract the greatest revenue for your business.
  4. know that someone is on-hand and having someone to psychologically be present to support you. This can combat the feeling of being alone if you are a sole trader.
  5. having peace of mind that someone is dedicating themselves to the tasks you find time-consuming, boring, or just aren’t so good at!
  6. to decrease the amount of tasks you are juggling and having to remember: the more you have to remember, the more likely you are to be stressed!
  7. knowing that you can earn more money in the time you would be up to your neck in paperwork, as a VA can often do admin tasks far faster than us non-admin types!

When you outsource a task to someone, it is important to make sure you are comfortable handing the work over to someone and that you are happy to leave your business in the hands of someone who is trustworthy. It is also important to make sure you contract around what you want and what your expectations are for your VA. As, every business has different needs and if you are investing in getting a VA, it is important to make sure your VA is able to handle your needs.

My Recommendation

Lots of people ask me who handles my business admin and, for other small UK-based businesses, I’m very proud to recommend HMR VA Services. They provide a professional and friendly service, and have excellent contracting and clear communication. To find out how they can help, drop them a line today, on 07375119311, or email: hmr@hmrvaservices.com.

31 Free or Cheap Activities You Can Do This Summer For Fun

There are often times in our lives when we have to watch the pennies and feel the pinch in our wallets. Here are 31 free or cheap activities you can do this summer for fun:

 

  1. Do a Youtube meditation, or take an online kick-boxing, dance or yoga class
  2. Read a book (or several) – borrow one from a friend or a library
  3. Take a walk somewhere new – we often fail to take the time to explore places in or near our own neighbourhoods
  4. Check out free museums or galleries in your local area – most places in the UK have free or very cheap galleries or museums.
  5. Host a potluck boardgames evening – get guests to each bring a dish and a boardgame.
  6. Hula hoop or play ball games in the park
  7. Have a movie night – find a friend who will let you use their Netflix account or pick up a DVD from a charity shop and get some popping corn for around £1 to make your own popcorn in a pan on the stove.
  8. Learn a language on Duolingo – impress your friends with your skills!
  9. Invite a friend round for a catch up – you just need some refreshments to keep them well-fed and watered.
  10. Listen to an audio book or some upbeat music whilst you clean your house – kill two birds with one stone!
  11. Do a Parkrun and meet new people.
  12. Make a movie or music video with friends – dress up and wear silly outfits and put on ridiculous accents.
  13. Host a potluck murder mystery night – you can get a free murder mystery set and get guests to each bring a dish.
  14. Take a bubble bath – listen to some music whilst you relax those cares away!
  15. Try Geocaching – go on a treasure hunt and explore the wonders of Geocaching
  16. Have a picnic or a BBQ – raid your cupboards and see what you can make and take with what you already have!
  17. Write a song – if you are musical and think you don’t mind the silliness.
  18. Go for a swim (local public pools can be relatively cheap)
  19. Draw or paint a picture (if you already have art equipment) or make home-made greetings cards.
  20. Play an online computer game.
  21. Play at an open mic night – if you have talent!
  22. Write letters to friends you haven’t see for a while (as you’d only have to pay for the postage stamps!)
  23. Make a coffee at home, put it in a travel cup and go sit somewhere beautiful to enjoy the outdoors whilst sipping your drink.
  24. Go for a bike ride – feel the rush of the breeze against your face.
  25. Go to a Pride parade – even if you aren’t LGBTQ, these are still fun.
  26. Write a bucket list of 50 things you want to experience in your lifetime or a “Be, Do, Have list”– then close your eyes, daydream about what it would be like, and then set to work working out which 3 you’d want to do first! Then make a plan of how you can do them!
  27. Go to a free open house day at your local gym or have a free ‘trial gym day’.
  28. Go to a a free talk, poetry reading, book launch or any other free literary events – Eventbrite often have some advertised.
  29. Go stargazing – take your blanket and lie down somewhere where you can easily look at the stars.
  30. Call or Skype that person you are always meaning to ring but never find the time – show them you care.
  31. Bake bread, cakes, pancakes or muffins and have a lazy jazz breakfast.

How to make a capsule wardrobe!

I recently created a capsule wardrobe. “What is a capsule wardrobe?”, I hear you cry! Well, simply put, it is a wardrobe of relatively few items that all (or mostly) go well together. You should have lots of neutral colours like black, grey, white and creams. Then you need to work out a few colours that will be your accent colours. Pick colours that suit you. (If you aren’t sure, Colour Me Beautiful is a good place to start.) I discovered that my colours are bright red, purple, peacock blue and turquoise-green. These became the accent colours for my capsule wardrobe.

What are the pros and cons of creating a capsule wardrobe?

Well, the pros are that you are meant to reduce your wardrobe to a much smaller, more manageable size (say 30-50 pieces, not including underwear, PJs and socks) which can be very hard for some people. However the benefits are three-fold: firstly, you do not need as much space to hang your clothes so it is great for students and travellers. Secondly, having less clothes means taking less time to decide what to wear in the morning, which means you get more time in bed. Thirdly, because nearly all the outfit pieces go with each other, you have many more combinations than you would expect from so few items!

How long does it take to create? How do I do it?

Anything from three days to three years. You can start the process by dividing your entire load of clothes into three piles: keep, donate, recycle. Keep only those that you absolutely wear and that fit you well. You will want to donate those items that no longer fit, that you never have a chance to wear or that don’t make your heart sing. Then you will want to recycle those items that have been a little too well-loved and are worn out. Try to get your wardrobe down to under 50 items. This could take you a day or a week to do. Only you will know!

Once you have done this, sort through and put away the items that are neutral colours:  black, grey, white and creams. Then you will be left with the colours that are your current accent colours. See if you still like these and try to get these colours down to just two to five colours.

The last step is to create a list of what is missing. You might have given away your only pair of shorts. Or you might not have enough underwear. Whatever it is, write it down on a list and then go shopping. Only buy what is on the list!!! (This is important!)

 

Changing habits

The most important part of creating a capsule wardrobe is that you are becoming a minimalist. This means you should aim to not just buy whatever, whenever you seen it. Once you have your capsule wardrobe, enforce the ‘one in, one out’ rule. If you buy something already have in mind what you will donate from your wardrobe in exchange. This helps to keep things under wraps and also helps make sure you aren’t breaking your closet every time you try to take out your outfits!