#GIRLBOSS

I really didn’t want to like #GIRLBOSS. I wanted to find it full of clichés (which it is) and blah tales of bad girl done good due to luck and .com bubbles. Actually, I ended up liking Sophia Amoruso and her book – though the title’s naff, I am sticking with that one.

Sophia founded e-commerce success story Nasty Gal via a pool house and eBay. Nasty Gal is the quirkier, cooler American sister of ASOS. It’s slick, it’s off beat and it’s stylish. Sophia built this go to fashion e-business from scratch and pretty much blind, going with her instinct, talking to her customers and using her own particular brand of common sense mixed with social media. Pretty impressive.

If you are looking for a business how to book, #GIRLBOSS is not for you. There are no business plans, charts or sales force insights for you to copy. However if, like me, you are a little nosy and find it fascinating to learn about other people’s lives and why/how they end up where they do, buy it.

Yes, maybe Sophia was on eBay at the right time, and she was selling products that were a little niche and just coming into mainstream fashion but you have to give it to the girl, she worked her backside off. This is a story of finding your passion and sticking with it. She’s really doesn’t seem to be in it for the money – that’s just a happy by product of a love of vintage clothes and styling. Yes, it could have all gone horribly wrong and she’s still be living in that pool house, surrounded by moth eaten vintage gear and there would be no book. But it didn’t, and that’s why her story fascinates, because everyone loves a real life fairy tale.

Buy #GIRLBOSS and get inspired.

The Wardrobe Equation

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Some people collect stamps or perfume bottles, or memories – whatever that means. I collect Elle magazines. I have a pile going back nearly 10 years. It’s kinda big. This collection has been lugged to the new house but new houses bring changes and different storage and I’m afraid the magazines have got to go.

It’s been a fun task schlepping through each copy. Some of them are tatty and well loved, others are pristine and in nearly all of them I’ve starred things I like. Flicking through, I realised – I have a look. I do. I think I don’t, and I definitely don’t wear it now but I know what I like and most of it would suit me. So I started peeling pictures out, ripping pages, collating a new me.

Halfway through I came up with a sort of formula:

Like-ability+Suitability/Affordability = Buy it + Wear it

You can do it yourself. Pick up that magazine and look at the image you are first drawn to on the page. Do you like it? Would you wear it? Does it suit your body shape? If it’s a yes to all 3, rip it out.

I think it works. Now, to save those pennies and get shopping…. I might have found what I should be wearing but how to afford them damn stuff?

I trot out the ‘I can’t afford it’ excuse a lot to myself and to others. To be fair, saving for a house I probably couldn’t but now I’m in a situation where I want to save AND spend. Hmmmm.

The 50:30:20 budgeting rule has been around for ages but I’ve only just come across it. Basically, 50% of your incoming wage should be spent on essentials, the things you really need like rent/mortgage, food, household bills, insurance, credit card repayments, travel for work etc.

30% should be spent on wants – things like your phone bill, clothes, makeup, meals/nights out. I’ve set up a savings account for this section so I can save for the clothes I want with the remainder of my 30% – hello Amazon wishlist.

20% should be saved – tucked away in a savings account (as high interest as you can get) and forgotten about until it’s an actual emergency or you are going to purchase the thing you are saving for. Soz but holidays apparently don’t count under this heading (they’re a want).

You may need to tweak the figures for you a little bit. My mortgage payment is over 50% of my income so that doesn’t work for a start but I’ve kept the figures as close as I could. Fingers crossed, I’ll have a little pot to purchase from soon.

How do you decide what you are going to buy and how to afford it? Do you splash out, or buy little and often?

Life After Life

What if you don’t get just one shot at life? What if you repeat your life over and over until you get it right? What if dying just means you get to start again?

Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite writers and Life After Life has to be one of her best stories.

At first, you’re not quite sure what’s going on but as you follow the main character Ursula, and her family through both World Wars, the book begins to grip you. It’s does get a little bit exhausting – and must be for Ursula, being born over and over again but there you go – but you always want to read on, to find out what happens next.

Kate Atkinson combines supernatural, spiritual and sometimes, just plain weird concepts and humanises them. She makes them real and believable with warmth and the depths of human character. We all have choices to make and -Sliding Doors style- these affect our paths, our character and ultimately, where we end up.

It’s a brilliant book, which I couldn’t put down – and an interesting concept. Buy yours here: Life After Life

Beauty: Hydraluron Serum

Hydra ser

I blooming loved Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly (read my review here) and in my quest for better skin in winter, decided to give their Moisture Boosting Serum a go too. Anything that gets moisture in my face and encourages it to stay there is going to be alright with me.

The serum comes in a tube rather than the pushdown cylinder tub that the jelly comes in, and a little really does go along way. It smells of not much really but feels soothing and lovely when you smooth it on.

I even took just the serum on a weekend away and used in place of a moisturiser as I was packing light. I wouldn’t recommend doing this normally, but for a day or so, my skin survived! Generally, I do need a moisturiser on top too.

So, another goodie in my winter skin survival kit – what serums are you using?

Twitter: Stop the sales talk, it’s info we want.

Image via forbes.com

                    Image via forbes.com

If you’re anything like me, you’ll follow a fair few brands on Twitter and your feed will be clogged with sales tweets. I love Twitter, and I love brands on Twitter. Heck, I tweet for a company or two on Twitter and it’s a brilliant tool for connecting but we need to stop all the sales talk. It’s all got a bit blah.

Now, I am coming at this from 2 angles: as a creator of digital content for companies who want tweets/posts/vids etc to turn into sales, and as a regular user/consumer who doesn’t want to be sold something every last second of the day. It’s a hard balance to strike to keep everyone happy.

A lovely social media expert once told me to think of Twitter as a house party. You don’t ever want to be THAT guy standing in the kitchen shouting random things. ‘Boats! Buy boats now!’ or whatever. Think about it, he’s stood there and you’re all sidling away, pressing unfollow. How likely are you to buy something off that guy?How likely are you to even talk to him? Exactly.

We (and by we, I mean brands) need to stop thinking of social media as a sales channel. Yes, communication may result in sales eventually, but by refusing to think of social media in any other way will result in the exact opposite. Instead, it’s a brand builder – a way of creating a community around your company. What do your customers want to know? Tell them.

Sharing information that is relevant and valuable to your buyers increases brand loyalty making people more likely to buy from you. I know I like to have a relationship with the brands I buy from, even if it is one sided. Don’t forget, most platforms are inspirational – the I-want-what-they-have mentality? Use it!

Adapt and share/build a community/interact and engage/be useful. That’s what I will be thinking going forward, not just as a content creator for brands but as a user too.

Beauty: REN AHA Resurfacing Serum

AHA

Winter causes my skin to fall off my face. You know this – you’ve read about it here, here and here. Since double cleansing and really working out what my skin type is (dehydrated slight combi FYI) this winter is a HUGE improvement on any before and yet, it’s not quite there yet.

I read Caroline Hirons‘ cheat sheets like a woman possessed. She knows THINGS, and she shares them. Acids seem to be what’s missing for me. Now, acids make me think of painful things. That Sex and the City episode where Samantha’s acid facial peel turns her into a red raw burn victim? That. My skin is sore now and peeling, why would I slap something on it to make it more sore and more peeling? Turns out. A little acid removes the peeling, and stops the sore – after the initial sting (I say sting, it’s more of a tingly buzz…) on the first couple of days. ,

As I’ve always got on ok with REN products, I decided to add their Resurfacing AHA Concentrate into my evening routine, just to see. Basically, the combo of Glycolic, Lactic, Tartaric and Citric acids in a few drops from the pipette every night exfoliates your face helping skin turnover (less peeling) and helps improve water retention (a good thing in your skin! Less sore) which in turn makes the rest of the products you use more effective, as they can actually get down to your skin and work, rather than sitting with the dead skin on top. Yum.

As I’ve become a little geekish about what’s in the products I stick on my face (and everywhere really), here’s what’s in it:

‘Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Water, Alcohol Denat, Glycerin, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Passiflora Quadrangularis Fruit Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Rhizobian Gum, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Sodium Bisulfite, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Ethylhexylglycerin, Linalool, Limonene, Parfum* (Fragrance), Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil *100% Natural Fragrance – Parfum 100% Naturel’

For those of you bothered about natural ingredients, REN products have these in spades however, natural doesn’t mean less reactive, especially where acids are concerned and if you have very sensitive skin you may want to give this product a miss. Mine can be sensitive, but is reacting well to this serum so far.

It is best to use this at night as acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, and it goes without saying that you need to stick some SPF on during the day to protect the new skin you are revealing.

What acid serums/toners/products do you use, and have you seen an improvement in your skin?

Holy crap, we’ve bought a house – and you can too.

In case you’ve been wondering what the deuce has happened to my blog over the last 3 months, it may just have something to do with this:

 

house

Look, our own traffic cone too…

 

(That and the lack of inspiration. I go to ground over winter, and the run up to Christmas and Christmas and, worst of all, New Year (groan) leaves me exhausted and frustrated in the creative/inspo department. Every time.)

So yes, we bought a house. 19 weeks from start to finish, which isn’t the best but isn’t too bad either.

Maybe you’re thinking of buying. Maybe you are embroiled in a sale at the moment. Maybe, you’ve been put off completely by the media, house prices and all the legal hoohah. Either way, here are my tips and little things I’ve learnt during the process which may just make it a little easier for you.

Work out your budget.

Buying a house is expensive. First time buyers need a seemingly impossible whack of deposit to get on the ladder, plus don’t forget your solicitor fees, mortgage fees, survey cost, possibly stamp duty… and you might need something left over to give the house a lick of paint when you get moved in. Even if your family can help you out it is likely you will need to save something. So think: Do you really need that coffee on the way to work/handbag/night out? If your shoes have holes by all means get a new pair, but stop and think if you really need it, or if it could buy you a roof tile or bath tap instead. Don’t cripple yourself though, it makes life unbearable if you are saving too much and can’t afford to pay your bills/buy food.

Go and see a mortgage adviser – most high street banks offer this for free especially if you bank with them – and be honest! You might earn diddly-squat and have a mountain of credit card debt, but not declaring this when they are working out what the lender will let you borrow is not helpful. If anything, it will make things worse.

Stick to your budget.

You will undoubtedly have saved like a person possessed for a good long while to make sure you can afford to get on the ladder. You’ve been to see a mortgage adviser and know what you can borrow so you know what your budget is. Do not start looking at houses you cannot afford! This is a waste of time. Look within your budget, and less – you never know what might take your fancy.

It’s all about compromise.

What can you and can’t you live with? Great house but a slightly dodgy area – can you deal with that? Two bedrooms, not three? No garden? If it’s a no, that house is off the list. If you absolutely hate everything in your budget, you need to save more money. However you need to….

Be realistic.

Everyone has their dream house but chances are your first house is not going to be that pinnacle of homeyness. It’s all about balancing your heart and your head. Be sensible, but you have to love it too. You will have to live there for a little while!

Have a look round.

You need to go and look at the houses you like. Estate agent photos do not always show you the whole picture. Are the rooms teeny tiny? What’s next door like? Is it near a power station? At the risk of sounding all new age hippie, houses have a feel to them. You know if you feel at home or not in a house. When we walked into the house we’ve bought, it felt friendly and well, like home.

Get a solicitor that emails.

This may sound daft but emails take a lot less time to compose and send than a letter does. If your solicitor likes to email it will cut down your house buying time and cause you a lot less anxiety. Emails are quick, therefore the answers to your questions will be quick too. Post is not quick. Post is slooow. If you can email your estate agent and mortgage provider too – all the better.

Make sure you understand.

Don’t feel stupid asking questions. It’s your money and your house, you need to know what’s going on. Things like loan to value amounts can be complicated and there is a tonne of jargon involved in borrowing money and house surveys. Ask them to explain exactly what they mean, and what that means for you. They can draw you a picture if they have to.

Stick to your guns.

Buying and selling houses is a funny thing. Sellers generally want more than the house is worth because they’ve lived in it and spent money on it, buyers want to pay less and estate agents sit in the middle playing one off against the other. There are some brilliant estate agents out there who will be honest and straight with you (I’m friends with some of them). They will do their best to get the most for the seller AND the buyer. There are others who are awful, who seem to spend the whole time making the process as protracted and painful as possible, until its all second guessing and mind games. It’s the luck of the draw which you get. There generally is a lot of negotiation when you buy a house but if you feel you’re being pressured for the wrong reasons, stick to your guns. Again, it’s your money and if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to. You might lose a house or two, but that’s better than paying more than you want for a property that you’re not convinced about.

 

Hope this helps! Don’t forget, you don’t have to buy the conventional way either. Friends of mine picked an area they liked and flyered the houses they fancied asking if anyone was wanting to sell. They used a financial adviser provided by one of their employers to sort out the mortgage, and used a solicitor for the bare minimum of stuff…

There is lots of advice out there if you need it, MoneySavingExpert is a brilliant place to find things out. If you’ve got any of your own tips/hacks/experience to add, please do below…