The Weirdest Place I Have Lost Weight Is...

Today I had the weirdest realisation... I've lost weight ON MY FEET!

Now, I didn't think that my feet had changed shape all that much recently however my favourite pair of shoes that I wear for work (flat, black, patent, slip-on - but oh, so comfy) have felt a bit loose.  So, loose, in fact, that they flop around on my foot. It's ever so weird. 

I know my body shape has changed over the past twelve months and, even though my weight loss has slowed down considerably, I have been losing "inches".  But my foot was the last place I would have considered measuring!  

I do actually need to kick myself up the arse to be a bit stricter with drinking eating habits and get back on track however I have summer running training coming up and the longer miles always help me to make better decisions with my food plus there's less time in the evenings to pour that glass of wine or gin. I'm also going to be part of an exciting new project which will help lots of people hopefully become more active during Spring.  I'll be able to tell you more about that soon. 

So, in the meantime you can amuse me by sharing what part of your body did you lose weight from that you hadn't thought about before?

The Weirdest Place I Have Lost Weight Is... |  Typecast | I know my body shape has changed over the past twelve months and, even though my weight loss has slowed down considerably, I have been losing "inches" but my foot was the last place I would have considered measuring!



Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash (edited by me)
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Money Saving Ideas


Typecast : Money Saving Ideas : Bargains at the charity shop and using money-off vouchers to save money.


The green jacket I'm wearing in this photo remains one of my best ever bargains! I found it in a charity shop not far from work and it cost the grand sum of £1.50. I wore it to a conference I was speaking at and it's perfect for the summer and it's a colour that I know really suits me. 

Typecast : Money Saving Ideas : Bargains at the charity shop and using money-off vouchers to save money.

It's not often I treat myself at the moment though. Belts are being tightened more and more and I know that friends have occasionally considered a short term loan.  Research is key though and I would only recommend a reputable company such as Cashlady.com.

The most recommended site in my previous Money Saving Tips post was Quidco (a cash-back website) but I've also started checking voucher code websites (some even have a browser extension that does the job for you).  It doesn't matter where I am shopping online, I do a quick search to find active codes or deals and away I go. Free delivery for online supermarket shopping is a favourite of mine.

But one of the perks of being a blogger is being asked for your opinion about products that your family use.  I get sent cake and tea (more of that, please, if anyone is looking in...) and I've built up relationships with companies so that I can review items that are relevant to us as a family.  

Most recently though, I have received number of actual vouchers so that I can try out food (I know... it's a tough job, but someone has to do it).  I had saved a few up and my time at the checkout did feel a bit like I was being filmed for Extreme Couponing.  (As an aside, I'm seriously addicted to that programme - I can't believe how much money people save through "clipping coupons", their size of their stockpiles and how much they donate to charities such as homeless shelters.  We need to do more of that over here.) Anyway, since then, I've been scouring the newspapers and magazines for coupons to clip but there doesn't seem to be many about.  Am I missing something? How do I find them?  The newspapers and magazines used to be full of "housewives choice" type coupons but there's nothing now.  We've turned into a BOGOF nation which just encourages you to spend more to buy more stuff that you don't actually need.  


What has been your best bargain this year?



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Why more millennials should invest in property

Why more millennials should invest in property
Photo by Tom Thain on Unsplash


Millennials have made a big impact on the business world. They’ve made social media a huge aspect of any business, and they’re helping companies embrace more flexible working hours, but there’s one area that’s still foreign to a lot of millennials — investing.

Property investment is one of the most popular and successful ways to grow your income and help generate better financial freedom. The number of young people interested in property investment is beginning to grow, with a year on year rise in applications for buy to let mortgages from people aged between 20 to 39 since 2015. While young people are showing more of an interest in property investment, however, more millennials should still be educating themselves on the power of buy to let.

One of the main reasons to start thinking about investing while you’re younger is time. Time plays a big part in property investment, with properties often rising in value as more time goes on. Of course, this tends to depend on the area you invest in. Some UK cities like Liverpool and Manchester have a proven track record for positive house price growth, with the north-west region displaying the fastest rates of growth. This north-west’s house price growth is also predicted to continue over the next five years, making now the perfect time to buy a property in the region. Not only is capital appreciation thriving in this region, but Liverpool and Manchester also have some of the highest rental yields in the UK. Those investing in properties such as those from RW Invest can benefit from this combination of rising house prices and attractive rental yields. The sooner you invest in property, the higher the chances that the property will have grown in value by the time you choose to resell.

Millennials have a lot of skills and qualities that help them thrive in the world of business. One of the things that makes this generation stand out is their knowledge on everything tech related, which is a quality that can also help when it comes to property ventures. Thanks to the help of smartphones and social media, millennials could be at a disadvantage when promoting their buy to let property to potential tenants. This could mean the ability to take clear and presentable photographs of their property without the need to hire the help of a professional photographer.

All investments come with some amount of risk, but when you’re younger, this risk becomes less of an issue. Young people can often afford to make mistakes early on in their career as this will have less of an impact than when they’re older and have other commitments like a family to support or lots of weighty expenses. If things do go wrong with an investment, younger people also have more time to recover from any setbacks before trying again.

For those keen to build an extensive property portfolio, investing while you’re at a young age also means that by the time you’re in your fifties or sixties, you’ll have a good understanding of the property market and be an expert in your field. You will have also accumulated a larger amount of wealth by the time you reach an older age, which leaves the door open to invest in bigger and riskier ventures.
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What ratings should you pay attention to when booking a hotel

Photo by Yuya Hata on Unsplash


Many of us like to scour around online before committing to booking a hotel for our trips away. According to TripAdvisor’s Path to Purchase report in 2017:

  • 33% of people around the world visit travel sites 
  • 74% of hotel purchasers check TripAdvisor

With so many of us reading and checking online reviews, the question must be asked: just how important are star ratings in the modern world of hospitality? Do people still value them, or are they deemed less important than the words of a (purportedly) real guest experience?

In this article, we’ll explore the star standard for the hotel industry to find out if guests can still glean worthwhile information from it.
A history of stars

It used to be that a hotel’s star rating was the go-to check for travellers looking to book a room. The star system used to be quite simple and, without the digital word of mouth, really the only information guests had to go on.

Now, the star system is as varied and unsettled as they come, with hotels claiming everything from five to ten stars instead of the traditional rating. Plus, many have noted that a four-star hotel in Madrid might not feel the same as a four-star hotel in Cardiff.

This is down to the fact that there is no global star rating system.

The star-rating system for the UK was introduced in 1912 by the AA as a means of classifying hotel standards. Back then, the maximum number of stars was three. It wasn’t until 2006 that the AA developed the Common Quality Standards with the help of a number of UK tourist boards, which increased the maximum rating to five stars. Plus, in 1956, the AA introduced an additional Rosette Award scheme to ‘assess the quality of food served in restaurants and hotels’.
The AA’s UK hotel star rating system
The basics

The AA’s star system has a basic level of entry requirements that must be fulfilled regardless of star level. These include:


  • Public liability insurance
  • Fire risk assessment
  • Food safety/hygiene compliance
  • Health and safety compliance
  • Planning compliance
  • Licensing compliance
  • Hotel Proprietors Act compliance
  • Data Protection Act/GDPR compliance
  • The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 compliance
  • Equality Act 2010 compliance
  • Safety and security minimum requirements
  • This includes staff to be on site and on call 24-hours a day, printed instructions for emergencies in the night and for evacuation procedures in every bedroom.
  • Symbols, diagrams, and multilingual emergency notices in every bedroom. 
  • Registered guests should have access to the hotel at all times, with the hotel entrance illuminated in the dark and identifiable. Lighting in all public areas, stairways, and landings.
  • Telephone access 24-hours a day.A key or card for guests to lock bedroom doors inside and out, and security fittings on windows.

In addition to the above, hotels looking to enter the AA star system need to abide by a minimum level of maintenance, such as fixtures, electrical and gas equipment in the building being clean and fit for purpose. There’s also a minimum requirement for cleanliness, with the AA stating that there must be ‘a high standard of cleanliness maintained throughout the property’ regardless of star level — cleanliness is not expected to vary between star level.
The differences between levels

From here, the differences between star levels becomes more apparent in the AA’s Common Quality Standards. For example, where a one-star hotel is required to offer an iron and ironing board, a five-star hotel is expected to offer 24-hour return laundry service. A one-star hotel can verbally explain the breakfast menu, where a two-star hotel must have a clean, well-presented menu provided for breakfast items. But then for dinner provisions, both one and two-star hotels (as well as three and four) all need to serve dinner at a specific time advertised, communicate if no dinner is provided, and can provide a self-service buffet. The only difference in dinner requirements is for five-star hotels, which need to provide all courses, served to guests at their table. 

Photo by Dylan Fout on Unsplash

 
There’s a huge level of detail for the requirements of each level outlined in the full document, which can be accessed here. But just how relevant is it in this digital age? 

The problem with stars


The problem keeps coming back to the fact there’s no global star standard. Other countries run their own systems, with some having multiple different boards with their own star systems. Some hotels might even give themselves their own ‘unofficial’ star rating. Then, there’s the matter of tour operators running their own star rating system, which can make four-star hotels look like five-star hotels to unsuspecting bookers.

Even within the UK, a hotel may have an AA two-star rating, but a tour operator may advertise it as three-stars based on their own rating system. 

The rise in trusting reviews


It’s hardly surprising then that more and more people are turning to review websites before booking a room. Plus, it seems there is an increasing level of trust in those online review and ratings.

Back in 2009, C. Cox et al noted that while 95% of internet users at the time relied on online research as part of their travel information search process, few were actively trusting them as a primary means of gauging a hotel’s quality. This was deemed to be because ‘[it] is not always easy to identify and access the profile of people who post information on blogs and other social networking sites, [so] the reader cannot easily gauge the credibility of the information provided’ (pg. 749).

Fast-forward nine years, and we’ve become very trusting of what we see online, with a reported 84% of people placing online reviews on the same level of trust as a recommendation from a friend. As mentioned at the start of this article, one of the main ways potential guests scout out hotels is to look on TripAdvisor, meaning they are placing a lot of value in the ratings there compared to the star-rating of a hotel. 

The risk of ratings and reviews


But even that isn’t wholly without flaws. It is as relevant now as it was in 2009; we simply do not know much about the person who rates or reviews a hotel on TripAdvisor and the like. In fact, there’s even a ‘fake review’ market present in the digital world that is said to be able to get around the detection processes in place. So much so that one man managed to get a restaurant that doesn’t exist rated as the top restaurant in London

Which holds more value?


So long as you know to look out specifically for AA stars, the star rating system is useful for knowing the minimum you will receive from a hotel. By checking the minimum requirements set out by the AA, you can see the standards the hotel had to achieve to be granted not only entry to the star system at all, but the star level they have achieved. For example, the AA has rated The Majestic Hotel as a four-star hotel. You can take this and check their Common Quality Standard to find out that this means the hotel must provide such things as televisions with a screen larger than 24 inches, and a high degree of spaciousness within the rooms.

This forms a good foundation for what to expect of a hotel. From there, a look at guest reviews can help to cement an idea of the experience, but with caution for the above-mentioned flaws for the online review process.

All in all, it seems a certain degree of balance is required when considering ratings, reviews, and stars. Approached the right way, they can provide a keen insight into your potential booking. Just remember to check which stars are being shown!

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How Do You Know If a Brand Cares About You?

It can be hard in this age of social media and the ability to talk directly to brands to know whether they truly value your custom or not. To some, it doesn’t matter. As long as their goods or services are suitable, that’s fine. But to others – increasingly so as we move into a more ethical frame of mind – it’s important to feel our hard-earned money is being valued by the company. But how do you know if a brand values you as a loyal customer?


It’s important to feel our hard-earned money is being valued by the company. But how do you know if a brand values you as a loyal customer?
Source: Pixabay

The Brand Gives Back


One clear way that a brand might be treating business as a way to help others as well as make money is the amount of philanthropy they do. Altruistic causes, or partnering with organisations such as Fairtrade or the Forest Stewardship Council shows a basic commitment to ensuring that business can be done in an ethical way.

For instance, shoe brand Toms promises a pair of shoes for those who can’t afford any with every pair of espadrilles purchased. H&M offer vouchers for money-off if you donate old clothes for scrap, while beauty company Causebox gives back with every purchase of their beauty boxes, which are also responsibly sourced. Corporate social responsibility has become a buzzword in marketing circles, but it does show that brands care what you think about them and that by doing good, they can show that they care.

It’s important to feel our hard-earned money is being valued by the company. But how do you know if a brand values you as a loyal customer?
Source: Pixabay

The Brand Gives Back to You


As Oddschecker shows with their list of free sports bets, many companies are competing to offer customers a special offer if they continue being a loyal customer. Loyalty schemes are a great way that brands use to show that they care about you as a customer and the money you spend with them. McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Starbucks and even Hallmark have a version of a loyalty stamp card. Nando’s offers free food for meals bought and Subway offer a free food and drink voucher on your birthday. All of these methods cumulate in brands attempting to show that they care about your custom and value you as an individual customer, no matter how much you spend with them.

If you’re interested to know whether a brand cares about the people involved in their business look out for the two key signals. Do they attempt to give back to the wider world in some way or spread a positive message with their position, or do they act on charity starting at home and look for ways to reward loyal customers.
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