Happy Bank Holiday Monday!


No new post today, but be sure to enter to win a Naked Smoky Eye Palette! Have a fun and restful Bank Holiday Monday with your friends, family (and animals!).


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The Cost of Living in the UK: 2015


Many people who come onto this blog are expats or people perhaps interested in living, working or studying in the UK. I am going to try to do a breakdown of how much it typically costs to live and work in the UK. Please keep in mind that things vary tremendously based on where in the country you live, but I will put prices for the three places I've lived. This budget is based on 1 student and/or a couple, meaning anything I mention is suitable for you if you're a student looking to move to the UK. This is all my personal experience, however, so you may be able to spend more or less depending on your spending habits.

I have covered half of this in my video on my channel here. 

In villages and even further north, things can be even cheaper, whereas bigger cities (like Bath, Bristol and Brighton) can be much more expensive.

1. Housing- Room Share
The first place I lived in the UK was in a shared house in Leicester's city centre. I paid £350 ($542 USD) per month, all bills included, for a bedroom of my own and sharing bathroom and kitchen.

I then moved to Milton Keynes where I live with my boyfriend in a shared house. We pay £500 ($774 USD) between us for one bedroom with a shared bathroom and kitchen, again all bills included. However, £500 for a room is pretty standard as you get closer to London.

If you live in London in an outer borough, you can expect to pay £500 ($774 USD) up to £1000 ($1550 USD) (in central London or a fancy borough)

2. Housing- Entire Apartment
We have yet to have an entire apartment to ourselves, however these are the going rates in the same areas for a 1 bedroom:

Leicester (city centre)- £400 ($619) to £800 ($1239)--May or may not include bills
Milton Keynes area- £625 ($968) to £1450 ($2,226)--May or may not include bills
London (this can vary tremendously--but I will give you a minimum):
Outer borough but still close enough to ride the tube into the city relatively quickly: £1000 ($1550) to £1800 ($2789)
Central London (Zones 1 & 2)- £1100 ($1704) to as expensive as you can imagine!

3. Utilities
It really depends on what you use. Utilities are more in the winter. Because all bills are included in our rent, we really don't see how much is spent on cable and Internet. However, we know that it costs usually about £20-£25 per month for heat and gas for a 5 bedroom house in the summer months and can be up to £150-£200 in the winter months.

4. Food
Food can vary tremendously based on where you shop, but not typically by location. I would say personally, I spend about £150 ($232) a month on food but if you're better at planning than I am, you're probably more likely to spend less. You can also get items like fruits and vegetables that are about to go off at a big discount and these usually go on sale late at night/right before the store closes.

As far as eating out, fast food prices remain quite cheap. If I go to McDonald's, I can usually get a meal for under £2.50 ($4) (medium fries, burger and Diet Coke), but I don't have a huge appetite.

In general, eating out is far more expensive than in the US. If you're someone like me who doesn't have a huge appetite, you can still expect to spend around £15-£20 on a meal out ($23-$32) at a popular chain/casual non fast food restaurant. If you have a bigger appetite or want something a little more fancy, you'll be spending more.

5. Phone Bill
This seems to be similar regardless. I pay £50 ($77) for an unlimited phone and data plan for my iPhone 5c, but I paid no money down for the phone initially.

6. Transportation
This also varies depending on location. In Leicester, there is no real need to use buses or other transport on a daily basis. You may find yourself using something here and there, but not very often.

Milton Keynes is an exceptional city in that it is built for cars. Most people here have a car to get around and rarely do people take buses.

London a monthly tube ticket (for 9-5 workers) for zones 1-5 (most of the zones on the tube) will run you about £225 ($348) per month. A single tube ticket can cost from £2.30 ($3.50) to £6.90 ($11) depending on how far you are going. This is one way.

Train fares into London or into other cities vary depending on the time of day.

From Milton Keynes, I pay £28 ($43) with a 30% off rail card (so the price is 30% for people ineligible for this card) to get a round trip ticket to central London and access to Zones 1-6 on the tube during work hours. If you go after 9:30AM, your ticket is reduced to £13.55 ($21).

From Leicester, you will pay £103 ($160) per roundtrip ticket with a travelcard and railcard discount during the workday, £44  ($68) without a travelcard on an advanced specific train without access to the tube. Going during off-peak times (or after 9:30AM) are £38 ($60) with a discount railcard and without access to the tube (you will have to pay your tube fare separately).

Going any other place in the UK requires planning ahead and carefully. If you plan ahead, you can get on specific trains for very cheap (such as tickets from Leicester to London for £8). However, if you leave it until the day of, unless it is a set price (such as from MK to London or peak ticket times from Leicester ton London), you're going to be paying up to several times more.

8. Misc and Entertainment

Movie tickets in London-regular 2D - Adult- £14.50 during "peak" times, ($25) or £10.55 for a student during "peak" times ($16.25).

Movie tickets outside of London in 2D- Adult- £7.25 ($11.25), £5.25 for students ($8.20)

Price of clothing- Depends on where you shop. You can go here to view H&M's range in the UK. There are, however, stores like Primark which offer extremely cheap and trendy clothing and you can often buy entire outfits for £15-£20 ($23-$40).

Cars- Cars are surprisingly cheap here in the UK. You can get a running used car for as little as £500 ($774), but it may have a lot of miles on it and/or other problems. A good used car will run you about £2000 ($3100) and a new car, around £8000 ($13,000). Each year, cars in the UK are required to be serviced with what is known as an MOT to ensure it is driveable. The cost for this is minimal, but it may mean you have extra repairs you'll have to pay for to make your car suitable for driving.

You will also have to pay insurance, which depends on your age, gender and driving history. As a foreign female, I would be expected to pay around £750 per year ($1162). Citizens of the UK/EU and New Zealand/Australia who are my age will typically pay a lot less. Young male drivers can be expected to pay even more.

Health Insurance- FREE! (Well, not totally.) As an EU/UK national, the NHS (National Health Service) is free. Recently, they have introduced a bill requiring foreigners on visas to pay extra for the NHS. This fee is £150 ($232) per year for students and £200 ($309) per year for non-students. This is payable when you renew your visa. You will pay this every year until you can become a national, which is living here 5 years as a non-student (spouse, worker visa, partner, etc.).

Medicine is £8.25 ($12.17) per script across the board, unless you are in the hospital, then it is usually given for free. You can also buy a prepaid card for £100 ($154) that will cover all of your prescriptions for a year. This is useful if you're on a lot of medicine, like me, and will save you quite a bit. Any medication comes under this.

If you want private health insurance, you pay anywhere from £30 ($46)-£150 ($240) a month (I pay £50--or $77). Private health insurance can come with your job as well depending, and you won't have to pay for that. If you pay out of pocket for private insurance, prior conditions are not covered, but they are if you go through your job or your spouse's job. What is included depends on how comprehensive your plan is. You may ask why people choose private health insurance and there are lots of reasons--many feel they get better care, the facilities are often cleaner, you will almost always get a single room in a hospital with television and Internet and appointments to specialists do not require much, if any, waiting.

Sometimes, when the NHS is having trouble dealing with its flow of patients, NHS patients will be treated for free at a private clinic. You can also mix and match your services between the NHS and private clinics and hospitals.

9. Pets

I have one shih tzu, so I thought this would be a useful little section for other pet parents.

I buy Eugene pretty high quality food that costs around £30 a month ($46). He also has health insurance for accidents at the cost of £14 per month ($22).

His flea and tick prevention is £25 every three months ($39) and he gets groomed about once every 4 months to the tune of £35 a visit ($54). When his skin gets particularly bad, he'll go on a trip to the vet for about £50 and come back with all of his medication ($75-$80).

If your pet has an emergency, most practices will treat them regardless of your ability to pay.

Do you have any other questions about the cost of living in the UK? I will try to answer them!






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20 Free Fonts for Your Blog


If you're into using ornate fonts, they can add up really quickly. While I'm not against paying here and there for fonts, most of them are not cheap--some font kits can even run upwards of £50 or £100. Unless you're a graphic designer, it's hardly worth it to pay a huge sum of money for fonts that aren't used all that often. Luckily, I've got you covered with a slew of free fonts  that don't cost a penny!

Fonts

Script/handwritten fonts are pretty big right now in the blogging world, so here are 20 I thought you might enjoy!

1. Lilly Belle by Sweet Type









2. Sweet Pea by Sweet Type







3. Gardenia by Sweet Type








4. Surfing Capital by The Branded Quotes









5. Luna by Amanda Leeson








6. Olivier by Letters and Numbers









7. Laser Metal by Denise Betulan








8. Ballerina Script by Sweet Type








9. Expedition by Cloutier Fonts









10. KG Two is Better than One by Kimberly Geswein









11. DJB Lemon Head Blocked








12. J'amie Bien le Dimanche! by Maelle. K









13. Soft Script by Font Panda









14. The Dreamer by Billy Argel









15. Atomico by Daniel Maciel








16. Sketch Script by Letters and Numbers








17. Indie Hype by Xerographer Fonts








18. CF Life is Beautiful by Cloutier Fonts









19. Beautiful Ruins by Des Gomez









20. Austie Bost Hooked on a Feeling by Austie Bost








Enjoy and I hope you find something you like!




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The Cost of Living in London and the UK Video


Ever wondered about the cost of living in London and the UK in general? This video has you covered (Part I anyway!).






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My First Job


TheLadders.com recently reached out to me to talk about my first job and share a little bit with you guys about it on my blog. A fantastic writing prompt, I decided to go with it. :)

Sometimes, it is pretty easy to sit around and mope about how far you haven't come compared to the fantasy you expected yourself to be at your age. I'm not sure what exactly I expected at my age, but I'm pretty sure as a young child, it involved being a child actor, winning copious awards and then going on to author several prize-winning and bestselling novels.

While none of those things happened, looking back at my first place of employment is a great indicator at how far I have come in my life.

My very first place of employment, like many pre-teens of the late '90s, was good old fashioned under-the-table babysitting for neighborhood kids. Like many others of my era, inspired by the books of Ann M. Martin, starting a babysitter's club via a multi-colored ConAir phone seemed like a great idea.

Of course, looking back, I am kind of amazed that parents willingly left their children with alone with a 13-year-old babysitter. Like, with how overprotective people are these days, is anyone going to do that?! But, I guess with my parents being just across the street, it wasn't too much of a risk. All of my former charges are alive and relatively unharmed, so that's a plus!

My first real job, one where I was getting taxed and everything, was working at The Gap. Growing up in a very affluent town, we catered to the wealthy clientele who were coming in for a quick browse. At only 18 and very inexperienced, I was probably not the best employee. Probably? Definitely. And I learned very quickly that retail was not for me.

Although I liked clothes (and the discounts, though it took me a long time to be able to set foot back into a Gap store), I hated having to do "go-backs" (or bringing the clothes back), pulling all night re-stocking/re-decorating of the store shifts (that is a thing in retail stores, in case you thought that storefronts were magically changed by little elves in the night during the change of season). I think the worst part for me was just standing there, when you're just there to wait until someone needs your help. I totally understand the importance of it, but just standing and waiting is the most boring part of the job. At least I got to wear a fancy little headset!

It's not that they treated me badly in any way, I just learned rather quickly that I am NOT a retail kind of gal. I admire anyone who can do it for longer than a couple of months at a time. I guess I could work retail again if I absolutely had to for some reason, but unless that day comes, I am going to try to avoid it in the future.

But now it's been a 10+ years, I am finally able to go inside a Gap with confidence...probably because they have gotten rid of their Dream scent which brought back too many memories of standing, standing and more standing.

What was your first job?






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How Not to Compare Yourself to Other Bloggers


Although blogging is meant to be enjoyable (and it mostly is--for me anyway!), there are times when it can become pretty easy to compare yourself to other bloggers. Meeting other bloggers at events is fabulous, not the least because you're not the only weirdo with a recording device glued to your hand. However, meeting other bloggers often means you have a way to now judge your success based on theirs. When you find out how long they've been blogging, you quickly find yourself calculating in your head how many followers they have, if you'll ever be able to catch up by the time you've been blogging for that long and a whole mess of other questions involving self-doubt and self-pity.

Instead of engaging in negative self-talk and negative comparison, here are some ways you can be inspired by other bloggers you meet and encounter.

1. Use their success not as a gauge for your own, but as an inspiration. Work out a plan of what you can do to achieve their success at a certain stage in your blogging career.

2. Network. This means not just handing people your card and getting on with it, but actually engaging with other bloggers you've met. Now that you have a personal connection, it doesn't hurt to ask your new blogging buddies how they've achieved what they have and if they have any dos or don'ts for you. This doesn't mean ask them for a shoutout or to pick apart your blog for free, but general tips are always helpful!

3. Figure out your own barometer of success. Do you want to raise your traffic? Get more followers? Take better photos? Set an achievable goal for yourself. You may want to ask other bloggers' input if they have been successful in that arena for tips and tricks.

4. Don't get downhearted. Everyone's blogging and YouTube journey is different. Although it sounds trite, it is true. There are a number of factors that make some blogs take off and others stay stagnant for a while before they have their day. Remember, most bloggers and YouTubers don't become overnight sensations. Sure it is easy to focus on those who have, but remember they are in the minority. Like anything else, achieving your long and short-term goals takes old-fashioned diligence, hard work and passion.

How do you cope when you find yourself comparing your blog to others?



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The Body Shop Spa Around the World Products




Recently, The Body Shop was kind enough to send me some full sized products from their new Spa Around the World Range...and I am so excited to share them with you.




I got received this beautiful box in the post and opened it to find the following products:



1. Japanese Camellia Cream £23


This indulgent cream has been used by Japanese women for centuries and provides amazing moisturizer for the skin. I have been using it and I'm already impressed. With the huge packaging, this stuff is going to last for absolutely ages.


2. Dead Sea Salt Scrub £20


This Dead Sea Salt Scrub contains sea salt directly from the famed (and Biblical) Dead Sea. As you know, I'm always on the look out for a good body scrub. This one may be the answer to all of my salt scrub needs!

3. Polynesian Monoi Radiance Oil £16


Having just run out of Argan oil, I am desperately excited to try this Polynesian radiance oil, which is quite similar. However, this oil is a blend of coconut and tiare flowers and evidently has been used by women in the Pacific Islands for over 2000 years. Now, that's an enduring beauty tip!

4. Egyptian Milk and Honey Bath- £14



Lastly, the milk and honey bath with milk from Egypt. Apparently, Cleopatra used to indulge in one of these treats...and it may be why Egypt was known as the Land of Milk and Honey. I haven't tried it yet, but I am pretty excited to get in a luxurious bath.



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My Reaction to #BloggerBlackmail


Another post was going to go up today, but that has since been rescheduled in favor of my take on #BloggerBlackmail.

I may be slow on the uptake, but I didn't want to jump aboard the bandwagon before I could fully formulate my thoughts. In this fast moving world, by today the hype may have already died down and is totally yesterday's news, but I think it brings up some pretty important issues within the blogging community at large.

So, if you're not a UK blogger or you've been living under a rock, I'll recap the details. Basically, a little local London patisserie (which sells amazing looking cakes, btw) called Anges de Sucre had a blogger approach them for a review. They invited said blogger along and there seemed to be a dispute over what the blogger expected to be given and what was given to her in exchange for her review. Anges de Sucre explains that they gave her a gift box in addition to some hot drinks, whilst the blogger states that they were only giving her two teas and expected her to buy any other treats. What ensued was the blogger taking to Instagram to slate the business and their products and then the business, in turn, naming and shaming the blogger.

You can read Anges de Sucre's take on the issue here and the blogger's here.  

But who was really in the wrong? Should bloggers expect freebies as compensation for their time when they so often are not paid for their work? Should business expect bloggers to pay for their services to review to in turn bring in more business? The blogosphere seemed split, however it is pretty clear from networking (and my own personal policy) that most bloggers don't work with brands for free. And any brand that asks you to put out your own money to give them extra publicity typically earns their email a prize spot in the bin.

The issue to me seems pretty plain: miscommunication and childish behavior on both of their ends. If the blogger expected a certain compensation, she should have stated it from the outright. However, if the bakery did, indeed, not offer any compensation other than hot drinks, that is a bit ridiculous. You cannot expect someone to come to a party you have invited them to and then be requested to purchase items. I understand that a lot of people feel as though bloggers are greedy, but I don't feel that is the case. As bloggers, we are often invited to a variety of places during the week. Those of us who hold other jobs or do other things with our time do need to be compensated in some way for attending. It's not that attending parties is a chore, but when you're invited to several at once, it simply isn't possible to pay out of pocket for every little thing.

The thing is, as bloggers, no matter how small or "insignificant" we are (Ange de Sucres was pretty charming in calling anyone with a smaller following "irrelevant") can be a huge asset to brands, particularly the ones we love and have an ongoing relationship with. Although I've never invited myself to an event, I don't think Ange de Sucres should have accepted had they not been willing to compensate. But I also don't think the blogger should have complained about it in such a public manner.

TheDrum.com put it nicely with, "Bloggers can be huge brand assets. When you get the right blogger paired with the right brand it is a beautiful thing. It shouldn’t just be about one-off reviews, but an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship where that blogger becomes a brand ambassador. Someone who promotes the brand organically not because they are continually being compensated in some way, but because they truly love the brand."

 In the end, they were both trying to take each other's business down and for what? £100 and a childish vendetta? Please!

 In the end, bloggers shouldn't work for free, but shouldn't be demanding freebies either. And I'm afraid both came out of the situation losers (despite the fact that those macarons look really effing good) and extremely unprofessional....not to mention difficult to work with to boot.

What are your thoughts?


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Reading Mean Comments Video



Reading Mean Comments! Haha




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The Perfect Bedroom Wishlist


Are you looking for a Pinterest perfect bedroom, or are you ready to give your home an update this autumn? George Home Furniture absolutely has you covered for some gorgeous pieces to make your bedroom Pinterest perfect.






 If I could makeover my entire bedroom (and had an insanely large room), here are the items I would include:


This gorgeous bed frame, which is totally old world with a modern edge.


This black bedside table, which can be distressed to look a bit older to go with the bedframe. I might even replace the knobs with a gold or copper color.

This gorgeous chest of drawers would also be distressed and have the knobs replaced, but it is absolutely gorgeous and sleek looking.

These knobs would make the perfect choice!
And, of course, this guy to lighten the room and give us a comfy place to read and study.

Going with the updated old world theme, you can't not have a phrenology chart....


Add this with some lovely flowers to go with the copper handles I'd add to the dresser and bed side table.



This clock to add to the updated old world theme.



And what's a bedroom without one of these?!


And you have to have this bust, of course. It adds a bit of a Greco-Roman style to the whole room.

What would you pick from the George range?


This post has been kindly sponsored by ASDA for their #TransfAutumn campaign.



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