Sunday, 13 August 2017

Keeping Travel Costs Down - Alcohol/Drinks

I did a post a little while ago about how to save money on the most requested topic when you’re abroad; and that was food. However, there was a close second, and that was today’s topic - alcohol (or drinks in general). It stands to reason that this is probably big on the itinerary when you go travelling, and so a lot of your budget can easily be eaten up by drinking if you don’t make sure that you’re keeping tabs on it. Though a lot of people worry about this biting right through the centre of the budget, it seems to me as though this is one of the easiest things to keep your money low on when you know how - so here’s a sober girl’s guide (don’t worry, my girlfriend drinks alcohol, I didn’t just pull these out of thin air) on how to make sure you aren’t spending too much on alcohol (and other drinks) when abroad.

I’m going to start with a practical one, but one that not everyone is going to like - and that’s opt for wine, especially when in Europe. When out for meals wine is typically cheaper purely because you share the cost of a bottle, but if you’re in and around Europe, most regions, countries, cities or even villages have their own bodegas, and therefore their own wines. These will be cheap, strong and easy to share over a good meal (or even a bad one) - so, I know it’s not a great tip for all of you travelling around that don’t like wine, it’s definitely a good way to keep alcohol costs down. Plus, it’s an acquired taste - if you drink enough of it, you’ll be a connoisseur by the time that you jump on the plane to come home.

Not about to opt for a drink that you don’t like just in order to keep your costs down? Well, that’s fair enough - and there’s definitely other ways around it. Try to drink whatever is native to the country that you’re in - something you’ll know, because you’ll find it absolutely everywhere; Super Bock and Somersby Cider in Porto, Black Balsam in Riga and pretty much any type of vodka in Poland - anything that doesn’t have to be imported is going to run much cheaper than anything that does. Pints of Strongbow might be so much you’ll feel like you’re about to faint when they hand you the bill, but there’ll almost definitely be some sort of alternative that they don’t have to use a huge carbon footprint to get in, and that’ll have a much lower price tag. 

It’s not just alcohol that’s going to burn a hole in your pocket, but any kind of drink - whether you’re in a hot country on the beach, or a city break walking right around the town, you’re going to need some sort of hydration; and bottle after bottle of water is definitely going to build up cost wise. Take and empty water bottle through in your hand luggage and have any Costa, Starbucks or even McDonalds fill this up as you travel around to keep costs low - if you can’t stand water, just buy squash and keep a small amount of it in your bag. Coming prepared is a huge part of not spending more than you’d budgeted, and this simple trick can definitely help you keep on top of that cash trying to escape from your pockets (though I’d like to point out, a vodka and coke or a Starbucks iced tea here and there probably isn’t going to nip away too much of the money you’ve brought along).

As a general rule though - drink at home as much as possible. Whether it’s a night in, a round of pre-drinks or a drink after a meal so you don’t have to shell out for alcohol at restaurant prices - the same as it is in England, alcohol bought from a supermarket or off license is always going to run considerably cheaper. Share a bottle of wine before you go out, buy some plastic shot glasses and start the rounds before your feet ever hit the floor in a bar and you’ll be much better off by the time that you make it home (of course an alternative is to only take the money that you can afford to spend on a night out, then when you run out you really have no alternative but to stop spending).

Furthermore, and most importantly when it comes to drinks, whether you’re in a hot or cold country, walking around or just having a relaxed holiday - make sure to stay hydrated, and make sure to keep drinking in between that alcohol to keep as healthy and hydrated as possible. Such a sad mum thing to say, I know, but very important (and water is typically free!). If you have any tips for keeping drinks costs down, or any places you struggle to save money when abroad, let us know down below.

Sammy xo

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Kat Von D Rock Candy Studded Kiss Lipstick Set

If there's one thing that Katy and I don't really need, it's lipstick. Conversely, if there's one thing Katy and I will always weirdly store though we use the same 6 colours between us, it's also lipsticks. So, when Kat Von D sent me a set of goodies that included the Rock Candy Studded Kiss Lipstick Set, I was more than happy to see a new set of colours to add to our ever-growing collection. I'm pretty familiar with Kat Von D makeup, though I've only used their liquid lipstick in the past, and so it was good to get my hands on these and try them out to see if they matched up the the high standards I'd normally expect from Kat Von D.

These range in colour from bright pinks to a soft lilac grey, and each one is in a pretty plastic packaging that looks like squared based studs. As pretty as these are, they aren't very sturdy - the lids come off with little to no pressure and I quite often find them lying around with no lid to be seen, but if you can get past that, they're definitely a nice little set to have in your collection. That’s not to say though that they’re particularly out there colours - though the lilac grey and the dark purple are something a little different - that will be severely lacking in you make up bag.

These do have a good formula though, I have to be honest - they're pigmented, smooth and opaque in just one go - but they just don't really catch my imagination like I hoped they would. Though the lilac grey has me thinking of new looks that I could wear alongside it at V Fest in a few weeks, the other colours just don't inspire me as much as I'd hoped when I initially saw the packaging - and some of the colours actually just look really similar, to the point where I feel like I just don't need them in my collection; something I don't usually feel this soon into my ownership (buyers remorse usually kicks in three weeks or so in, in those last painful days before payday. We've all been there.).

 (Bottom To Top: Ziggy, Babe, Crush)
(Bottom To Top: Ozzy, Roxy, Zero)

All in all - these are definitely pretty, and the formula definitely doesn't disappoint - but I just want more from them. Perhaps it's just that I'm spoilt by a huge lipstick collection and so these just seem to blend in too much for me to really consider them some sort of special addition, but I only wish that the lipsticks themselves stood out as much as the packaging does. I would say these are definitely good to try out a few options of Kat Von D lipsticks, or if you're starting out and your lipstick collection isn't very big or very varied (especially for only £34 for the 6 smaller sizes), but if you've got a collection as big as ours? Probably save your money (to spend on some other make up product that you have less of, of course).

Though the set itself didn't impress me, the formula really did - and so I'll definitely be looking into more Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipsticks, I just wouldn't be rushing out to buy this set again (or really in the first place), any time soon.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies - however all opinions are my own. Please view my disclaimer for more information.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Keeping Travel Costs Down - Food

A lot of people ask us about how we afford travelling so much and we truly do try and answer this as broadly as possible, but sometimes I know it's like clicking on a link for a blog post about how to get soft hair, only to find that it's specifically targeted at blondes and you're a redhead. As in, there's definitely some tips there that you can take away with you, but mostly it's tips that you sort of already knew, or aren't really helping you out that much. So, I took to twitter to ask you guys what it was that you really struggled saving money on when you went abroad, and though I'll do a mini series targeting as much as possible that was mentioned, the main one was definitely food.

Eating abroad definitely can be a tough one - especially as most of the time you don't have that helpful, genuine word of mouth that you would have at home; at most, you have a hotel that may get a cut from sending you to the restaurant they've chosen, or menus that you can try and decipher when you walk past. The internet can definitely help you - and if you've got the time to scour through pages and pages of tripadvisor, this can definitely be one of the best ways to find little haunts; but don't just blindly trust their pound sign rating system, as we've been to £££££ restaurants that have cost less than £££ ones. If you want to use tripadvisor, definitely take the time to check through the reviews and try and compare them with online menus - if the site doesn't have a menu, make sure to check tripadvisor photos or do a quick google of the name of the restaurant followed by the word 'menu' and there'll likely be at lease one tourist that's helpfully taken a picture and popped it up on a random review website.

There is an old saying that can often be more fruitful however, that tells you to follow the locals; and it stands to reason that this one would work. Locals aren’t going to pick bad places to eat, nor are they going to pay excessive amounts for foods readily available in their area (and these are usually the foods that you want to get your hands on) and so this can be a good choice - though likely will lead you down tiny winding roads in the centre of town somewhere, so make sure that you have your google maps ready to find your way back out. When you find your way to one of these restaurants, bear in mind that cheaper restaurants serving authentic foods don’t typically have English menus, so if you don’t speak the language you may have to pick randomly, rely on google translate or get over to the waiter that you’ll have what they suggest (if you’re not a fussy eater and have no food preferences or allergies, this can be a great way to try some fantastic dishes).

However food doesn’t have to be restaurants and bars - pound the streets to find food. You’re, realistically, never going to eat three meals per day in restaurants, bars and cafes and still hit your trip’s budget quota - but that doesn’t mean you have to cut down on food. Bakeries, fast food joint and even street food booths are all fair game that’ll barely break into the note in your pocket. Bakeries, in particular, are a goldmine. In many countries, baked goods are done by weight rather than number, and so one bread roll, one pizza slice or one sausage roll will weigh nothing, and therefore cost next to nothing - it’ll be fresh, hot and, more importantly, in budget. Similarly, if you need food and you’re low on cash? Don’t be afraid of opting for fast food. Probably don’t eat it every single day for every single meal, definitely do see what’s out there on offer - but a McDonalds for breakfast one day, or a late dinner one evening, will definitely help to keep you full, whilst keeping though finances in check.

One last tip, but this is only for if you’re staying in somewhere with a kitchen - but, use the supermarket. This might sound obvious, but you can save money by dishing out your own pasta and having food in before you head out for the night - there’s no shame buying vital bits from the supermarket and using these to keep costs low - after all, the less you spend on food, the more you have for other bits and pieces.

These are just some of the tips I could think of for keeping costs low on food, and I’ll be talking about some more bits and pieces about ways to save money on specific things, so keep in touch. If you have any places you struggle to save money on holiday, or any tips - definitely leave them below!

Sammy xo

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Hotel Chocolat Little Dippers

I love chocolate year round, but there’s very little that I get as excited for as I do for Hotel Chocolat new season releases. Normally, I have to say, it’s Christmas that makes my heart skip a beat and the butterflies in my stomach flutter - but this year, there’s one particular Summer release that has truly won over my heart; the Little Dippers. I was lucky enough to get a package from Hotel Chocolat that had both the Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream and the Choc Ice Little Dippers in, and I have to say that they’re something pretty special.

Not only are these tiny bites of chocolatey goodness, but they come with a special superpower; these ice creams themed treats can be put in the fridge to chill them down and make them seem even more authentic - you have to admit, that’s pretty cool. These don’t come in cheap at £6.50 a bag, but in the smaller bag you can get Strawberry Ripple and Choc Ice flavours, and there’s a bigger £10 bag of Scoops To Chill Big Dippers including flavour as wide as blood orange and melon amongst others. They’re gimmicky (and we all know I love a gimmick) and expensive, but are they worth parting with your hard earned cash?

Well, in short, some are. Namely, I would say that the Choc Ice variation are - they're crisp, milk chocolate on the outside, with a soft, creamy vanilla filling; and when warm these taste like choc ices (though that taste does edge close to what a vanilla liqueur tastes like, if that's something that you don't like) - but when cooled down, these really do mimic the taste of the ice cream that they're named ever; with the centres firming up slightly and generally the whole thing changing texture just ever so slightly, to the extent it genuinely feels as though you're eating a tiny choc ice.

The ones I'm less fussed on, though Katy loved them, were the Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream variation. These are white chocolate on the outside, with a very strong strawberry filling in the centre - and I have to admit that, though these do taste like ice cream, I find them to be a very strong taste. To me, the strawberry in these is overpowering, and the whole thing is just a little too sickly for me to be on board with - but Katy really liked these; so if you have a big sweet tooth, and a love for white chocolate and strawberry, you just might be on board with these.

All in all - I think these might be gimmicky (okay, so they definitely are), but they are something cool and inventive, and something a little different to treat yourself to over the Summer months. Get some in the fridge, get the BBQ going, and get ready to get into the true spirit of Summer with Hotel Chocolat.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies - however all opinions are my own. Please view my disclaimer for more information.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

(TW:SH) The Reality Of Self Harm - A Year On

It goes without saying that there's a Trigger Warning for Self Harm attached to this post and so please don't read if you think it'll negatively affect you in any way, always take care of yourself.

It’s been a year since I wrote about the reality of self harm and it wasn’t pretty, and this post won’t be either - reflecting on the whole thing more than a year on. The year and a half since kicking my self harm habit has seemed so much longer than the twelve years that I was in it - I have done a lot of growing, a lot of learning about myself, learning to be independent and getting to grips with the person that I am now. Maybe it’s been that so much has happened since I kicked the habit that it feels like it couldn’t possibly be less than eighteen months ago - all of these things couldn’t have fit into that pocket of time, I couldn’t be this different a person in that little time.

The reality is - some days it’s easy to forget how easy a liar the habit made you, it’s easy to forget that it used to take over your life at every moment, it’s easy to forget that I would lie in bed at 4am willing that Katy wouldn’t wake up before I could get to the bathroom for the next indulgence, the next hit, the next mess to clean up. It’s easy to forget that these scars that are starting to blend in with my skin were once something I would trace and cry over and purposely make more of, and it’s easy to forget all of the time I sat in therapist sessions, and doctors surgeries, and my bed, and I cried because I couldn’t get this monkey off my back, and I was tired of carrying it around. It’s not just easy to forget, but impossible to remember, how it started when I was eleven, or how that snowballed to how it was when I was 22.

The reality is - sometimes I want to go back there and it kills me. It itches under my skin and I feel like I can’t possibly survive without hurting myself; I remember how easy it was to lie and I know how easy it would be now to fall back into old habits. It’s easy to forget how it destroyed the people around me; it’s easy to get selfish about the whole thing and get back in that hurting-nobody-but-myself mindset. It’s so scarily easy for the ‘this-will-make-you-feel-better’ part of my brain to take over the, ‘you-are-strong-enough-to-get-over-this’ one, and it’s so overwhelming to have days where you can’t truly tell which side of your brain that you want to win.

But mostly, the reality is that life is so much brighter now - it’s so much nicer to live and sleep and snuggle with Katy without worrying about ruining our bedsheets, and it’s nice to learn to talk about how I’m feeling - and it’s a relief, to be in recovery, and to cope without taking it out on myself. The reality of self harm is that when you’re in it, you can’t find a way out - and sometimes when you’re out of it, you still sort of can’t find a total way out; but it’s doable. Recovery is genuinely possible, and for now - and I hope for a long time in the future - I am a genuine story of how true this is. It’s been ugly, upsetting, traumatic, happy, and make me angry, frustrated, stronger and bolder - but more than anything; it’s been worth it.

If you’re struggling with self harm please do reach out to your doctor, or find help through The Samaritans, but please also know that there is a way out, and you are strong enough to find it.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

How To Travel On An (Incredibly Tight) Budget

Katy and I are always broke, and yet we always go on holiday, and a lot of people mention this to us, in fact so often that it’s become a running joke that whenever we book a holiday we always mention about who we think will be the first person to ask about just how we’re affording it. I wrote a little about How We Travel So Much back in March, as did Katy, but I felt like now it was time for an updated version to tell you just how we manage to travel on such a tight budget (and still manage to bring some make up bits back).

Be Flexible
This is always ideal when it comes to location, but even if you have a particular location in mind; be flexible. With your flight times, dates, months and days of the week - the more flexible that you can be, the better. Generally speaking, you obviously want to head on holiday outside of school holidays, and generally Sunday-Thursday or Monday-Friday are the best times to be looking for. Cheap flights tend to be cheap for a reason, but if you can be flexible enough to make them work, they’ll definitely bring the cost of your holiday right down.

Sit Apart On The Plane
Okay so there’s more to it than this, but don’t pay for extras. Don’t pay for a 20kg case if you’re only going for three days (and actually note that with most companies you have a choice of a bigger or smaller bag if you absolutely can’t live without a bag), and don’t pay extortionate prices to get seats together. Katy and I usually opt to sit together if we can get seats for £3 or less, but otherwise you’re adding unnecessary costs. If you’re doing a cheap holiday chances are, it’s short haul - and so use this to your advantage and sit apart knowing you’ll be back with each other in around 3 hours time maximum anyway.

Where You Can’t Eat Local, Eat Chain
Often the cheapest way to eat when you’re abroad is, of course, to try local restaurants. Not only does this make things more affordable, but you certainly get a chance to try food that you likely wouldn’t otherwise - however this isn’t always practical. If you’re out and about and don’t have the time or inclination to find somewhere local to eat, it can be just as cheap to eat chain for that one meal. Head to McDonalds, Pizza Hut or Subway - you’ll find one in most European cities, their prices are pretty standard and you can usually take out so you don’t have to stop sightseeing. Not ideal, but definitely an affordable option.

Don’t Automatically Choose The Cheapest Accommodation
It’s tempting to look for the cheapest accommodation and book it straight way, but don’t fall into the trap. Air BnBs are often cheaper than hostels, but may be considerably further away - there is absolutely no point in opting for a cheaper option if it’s going to cost you nearly double when you peg on your travel costs. Make sure you weigh up travel options and their general cost and make sure you make an informed decision to make the most of your money (after all; more money means more treats for you when your budget is this tight)

Know Your Budget
Now, this one should be obvious, but this is where Katy and I have fallen down on more than one occasion. To stick to your budget, you need to know what that budget is, and what it equates to per day; then make sure you’ve accounted for anything big that may not automatically fit in with the day’s planned budget. If you need to take money out, take less than you need and try to make it work instead of taking a huge amount out and then feeling like you have to blow it. A small tip, but one that’s surprisingly effective.

So there are my tips for travelling when you’re on a tight budget, but leave below anything on holiday you struggle to save money with and we’ll certainly share any tips we might have come across!

Sammy xo.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet

I’m really not one for gadgetry other than sticking to expensive apple products because that’s what I know best - and so when Amazon offered to send me their new Fire 7 Tablet to try, I jumped at the chance. I’m always looking for things to make my life easier, and something like a Fire can go a long way to making day to day life run that bit smoother. Whether it means not having to carry heavy books on holiday when we only have hand luggage, or having an extra screen to play around on and browse the internet with when my phone has died unexpectedly at 16% - I was all for giving the Amazon Fire 7 a real run for it’s money to see just what it’s made of.

I have to admit that I was really dubious about this thing, especially when I saw the price tag. Call me an electronics snob (is that a thing?) but a tablet with claims that range as far and wide as the  Fire coming in at under £50 (for 8gb of storage, a 7” display and compatibility with Alexa) definitely seemed to be too good to be true - and so I’ve been testing this for around two and a half months to check the longevity, durability and general wear and tear that this thing could last through. I wasn’t going to be tossing this around and sitting on it, of course, but chances are this would have to last through being chucked into my bag and dragged around university at some point, and so it only seemed fair to give it more than a few days of light testing.

 The one thing I will note about this in comparison to the Apple products that I’m used to is definitely the battery life, something that really has it’s pros and cons. Though the battery on here dies much slower, in my experiences, that it does on it’s Apple counterparts, the very frustrating thing I found personally was that it took so long charging it up that I began to really dread doing it. Though it’s probably not too much longer than my laptop or phone, it felt like it was almost cartoonishly slow, and this was one of the major niggles for me. Though it did last longer on one charge than I’d expected, it just didn’t seem to be long enough for me to justify the incredulously slow charging speed.

Having said that - the device itself is fantastic. Less customisable than I’m used to on most modern devices, though plenty of apps to make it perfect for you anyway, but I found that I liked this - I found I liked the easy to use setup, the idea that this was for business and pleasure but without the bells and whistles that you don’t really need and so, therefore, without the giant price tag. These are user friendly, hard wearing and generally just a pleasure to use - they’re not made to be customised and shown off, but rather they’re made to do a job - and it’s certainly a job that they’re doing well, whether I’m playing Papa’s Pizzeria or getting some blog work done sitting in bed.

It isn’t perfect; save the charging issue I mentioned before, I noticed that it’s easy to scratch, it can be slow at times and it can be a little too child-friendly looking in it’s primary coloured options, but is it worth the £49.99? Undoubtedly. If I get a year’s worth out of this and it breaks on me, it still would have been worth the money, though the way that it’s looking - it’s going to last a fair bit longer than that.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies - however all opinions are my own. Please view my disclaimer for more information.