Moving into a New Apartment in Saigon

The first evening after Matty and I moved into our new apartment in Saigon I saw a dead rat and ate fried pigs skin. That may not quite conjure up the romantic image of a city laced in the faded grandeur of French colonialism, but then again on our first day in Nottingham we had a bike stolen – and trust me, it was not Robin Hood.

And so here we are. After almost seven months on the road, I now have a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and wait for it – a plastic tub to keep my make up in.

After unpacking our few belongings, which took no longer than 20 minutes, we threw our backpacks up into one (of the many empty cupboards) we have above our wardrobe in a triumphant ceremonial manner and stepped out onto our balcony to have a Bia Saigon.

Our new humble home is in “District Three” of this huge, bustling and to be quite frank, mental, city. We had two criteria when house hunting: firstly, to find somewhere close to downtown and not in an expat area so we could experience real Saigon life and secondly, somewhere that would not cost an arm and a leg. Because no one could do without them – especially when there are so many motorbikes to dodge in the streets here.

We viewed about four shoeboxes before finding what was to become our little pad on Nguyen Phuc Nguyen street – and no – I still can’t say it and make myself understood to taxi drivers. So I just carry it around on a little piece of paper like an evacuee hoping to get back there… at some point.

It has the finishing touches of a “bachelor’s pad” and we have our first ever TV in seven years. Matty loves it.


Matty doing his black-leather-couch-pose


I’ve never failed to fill a wardrobe before…


The token kitchen – with street food at our doorstep for about 75p a plate, this is not going to see much action

But my favourite place in the apartment might just be the balcony. When the dodging of hundreds of motorbikes at any one junction all becomes too much, this is the place to hang out and admire the work of southeast asia’s finest electricians and smog artists.


Stainless steel tables and plastic chairs are making a comeback. Fact.



# A room with a view

Unlike the British high streets, the streets in ‘nam tend to sell just one ware. Take a left out of the door and you’ll find yourself on motorbike helmet and crockery street, take a right and you’ll find yourself on shirt street where there are racks of shirts to be bought for a few dollars. But take a right and left – or a left and right – and you’ll find dozens of street food stalls that from hereon shall be described as “restaurants”, clusters of small plastic tables and chairs that will be described as “bars” from now on, and a strangely high proportion of women walking the streets selling quails eggs.

And so it was that I stepped over a dead rat as we chose the “restaurant” that would serve us fried pigs skin.

“At least it’s dead,” said Matty, ever the optimist.

Yes – I think we will be happy here. Street food tales to follow x

 Travel Tips

If you’re looking to rent an apartment in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City) on a short-term basis the best advice I can give you is get there and contact everyone you can find. Through the power of Google and Craigslist we emailed dozens of agents with our criteria and had viewings lined up for the next day – the situation changes every day and most of their websites are not uptodate. We said we were only interested in a three month contract so we can establish the area and what we want long term. Many agents were ok with that – but expect to pay a little bit more as a result. Within six days of making inquiries we had moved in. Here’s to hoping we find some work that quickly… 🙂


An Ode to My Friends: I Miss You Already

It’s finally happened. After weeks of meticulous planning, months of hard saving and years of dreaming we would be on the road again, the time Is here. Yesterday we bid farewell to our little home in Nottingham, with its freshly painted walls and sparkling clean surfaces, carrying only our rucksacks on our backs. (And, if I’m honest, quite a lot of Asda carrier bags containing all those precious bits and bobs that we had forgotten about – to give to my mum at St Pancras.) So we kind of looked like overloaded turtles/bag ladies as we waddled out the house for the last time. (Matty was especially working the bag lady look).

Make no mistake, our backpacks are ram packed. I have a year’s supply of asthma inhalers, contact lenses, trekking gear and a minute amount of clothes. But sadly, the one thing I wanted to take most of all – the one thing I that’s been hardest to leaving behind – does not fit in my bag.

My friends and family. The people that have made the last six years the truly fabulous years they have been. Painting over the graffiti wall on our landing (pictured above), which was full of messages from our loved ones, was definitely the hardest part of getting the house ready to let. So before I fill this blog with the world… in words, I want to just say thank you to the people who have made my world what it is today.

Here’s a few snaps from our very lovely leaving dos:












As my mother recently wrote on a friend’s Facebook post: “She will miss her friends so much.” And I will… More than even my hardest goodbye hugs could convey.

Keep in touch, much love xx

Dear Journalism: We’re not breaking up, I’m just taking a break

I feel a little bit like I’ve just broken up with somebody I still love.

We had some good times over the past five years, some bloody great times. You took me to places I would never have otherwise seen, you made me laugh, made me mad… And made me swear like a trooper. You were my life, my world, my everything. You were demanding, challenging and impossible at times, I hated it when you kept me up in the middle of the night.

I think I’ve done the right thing, I think it will work out for the best – for both of us. I just need some time on my own, to explore new lands, be selfish for a while. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, it was you a little bit, but let’s not get into a fight. Not now.

I can’t remember my first day as a reporter. I think I probably arrived early, with freshly washed hair (that was a bit too flat on my head according to my security pass), dressed in a clean, pressed shirt, pushing my glasses up my nose with enthusiastic keenness.

In fact my only vivid memory from my first week was when, after spending about 20 minutes trying to work out how to submit a small piece of news that I had laboriously typed up, I timidly turned to the girl next to me with short, dark hair for some advice. She was laughing with another reporter, while typing furiously and I decided I wanted to be her friend.

‘No worries,’ she said, as she helpfully started pressing buttons on my keyboard. We both watched in silence as she accidentally hit “delete” and sent it to story heaven, where it spent the rest of its days alongside legally questionable investigations and adjective-heavy crime stories. She was mortified, I was desperate to assure her it was fine. She bought me a Crunchie, and I made my first friend.


This is us a few years on. Her hair got longer and mine developed some volume.

I wanted to be a journalist ever since I was about seven years old when I thought it simply involved being paid to make up stories (note to Nottingham City Council – this is NOT what we do). Back then I was rewarded for spinning a yarn at story-time with a carton of milk on the carpet. That was good, being paid would be better, I thought.

Fast-forward some 15 years and I was walking into the news room for the first time (with flat hair), clutching my shorthand guide.

I remember my first ‘big story’. The atmosphere in the newsroom shifted from chattering banter to passionate and enthusiastic obscenities. Word had reached us that Harworth Colliery in north Notts was reopening.

With hundreds of ex-miners still unemployed in the county this was big news. ‘Fu*kin’ big news,’ declared one of the editors, as he told me to get up there as soon as possible for the detail. A correspondent was handling it from the office I was assured, who would be putting the spread together and look into the history of the site. I just had to get the detail on the ground.

‘No probs,’ I agreed, desperately trying to recall some knowledge about coal mining. As I sped up the M1 I played conversations with my Welsh nana over in my mind, she had told me so much about mining, but I couldn’t remember a thing.

I soon arrived at the site and was greeted by barren, brown land, scattered with a few industrial buildings. As I walked away from the car, unsure where to head, someone yelled, ‘Press?’ and I was swiftly escorted upstairs, into a board room of VIP coal people. There sat the chief executive of UK Coal, trade union leaders, Colliery leaders, I lost track… Job titles blurred into names and names into companies.

I introduced myself and shook hands with a lot of faces in suits.

‘So what exactly are you planning to do here?’ I asked, with confidence that I didn’t have inside. They started telling me and as I listened, enthralled by plans that seemed to fly in the face of history, the questions unravelled and soon I found asking about things I hadn’t even known had existed just minutes before. I left with enough material to write a small book on Harworth. And that is probably the best way I can explain journalism to you.


For the next five years I remained at the same regional daily newspaper. Until yesterday that is, when I packed up my shoe collection from under my desk and walked out the doors for the last time. And what a roller-coaster it’s been. Few jobs take you into the heart of Nairobi slums in Kenya, take you face to face with Gordon Brown, or give you the chance to talk to plane crash survivors who have never before spoken of their ordeal.

As a journalist it is your job to step into somebody else’s life and tell their tale. It can be both a terrifying responsibility and immense privilege, and one that often leaves you flying by the seat of your pants.


Quite literally sometimes… me with Ron Haslam doing about 120 mph at Donington Park. All in the name of a story.

But if there’s one thing journalism has also taught me it’s that life is short and you’ve got to grab it while it’s here… (the stabbings, shootings and suicides may also have made me a morbid cynic but let’s not go into that). So it feels quite appropriate that one of the last stories to be printed in my name will be that of Miles Hilton Barber, a blind adventurer who has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains, crossed the entire Qatar Desert in 78 hours without sleeping and even flown himself from London to Sydney. It is also apt that my other final story is about Justin Bieber. Like I said, it is a roller coaster.


This is Miles, guiding a man in a wheelchair along the bottom of the seabed. His motto in life is: “The only limits in our lives are those we accept ourselves.”

So, journalism, it’s not that we’re breaking up as such. We’re just taking a break. It is time for me to push those limits, and take on new challenges. Perhaps then we will work even better together.


Movember: When Matty met Barry

There seems to come a time in every man’s life when he must hold his head high, flex his Adam’s apple, beat his chest… and be safe in the knowledge that he can grow a big, bushy moustache. And unfortunately for me, Matty’s time came last month.

I went away for two days. That is all it took. Two days. And I came home to this….

And it is not the pose that I’m worried about. Just look at that hairy growth sitting oh, so happily on the top lip. It was Sunday, November 5th.

For any of you that managed to get through the last month without noticing an alarming rise in the number of furry lips among friends, family and colleagues, we have just come to the end of Movember. The month where men grow moustaches, the universal icon of raw and rugged manhood, and – just to silence disgusted girlfriends and wives across the globe – they do it for charity.

So for the last month we’ve had a third party in our relationship. I christened him Barry and with every passing day, as he marked his territory on Matty’s upper lip, he got a little bit stronger and more prickly. Barry didn’t take long to develop at all. I thought it was only right you all got to meet him.

Monday, November 12th. Barry and I weren’t getting on all that well.

By Day 14 Barry was ‘holding water’, Matty noted as he stepped out the shower. He could also ‘hold’ food and drink, which he would store between his bristles for later in the day.

Sunday, November 18th. Barry was changing Matty… This was the hobo stage.

But merely days later Barry had entered the ‘Old Man’ stage. By Day 22, Barry had Matty coming out with all sorts of ‘dad jokes’, which I’m not sure I can repeat on here, while he mused about pipes and cigars.

Saturday, November 24th. Matty Barry had never looked quite so at home in his Rover 25.

By that evening, Barry and Matty were one. I could no longer distinguish between them. It was just one messy three-way relationship.

To me, to you: Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Barry Chuckle.


By November 30th this was what I was contending with. I have never been so glad that November does not have 31 days. It was like Matty had grown a nest on his top lip. Things could have lived in it… Maybe they were.

While I was convinced that Matty had definitely morphed into Barry Chuckle, he was adamant he was more World War fighter pilot style, Biggles if you will. After all it is a hero’s tash…. Ahem.


So here we are on December 1st… 30 long days later. Now of course by this point you are no doubt all screaming: ‘Delia this is for charity – you are a terrible person, just ridiculing poor Matty on your blog.’

Now, I’ve never professed to be anything other than a terrible person, but today I did finally sponsor him… Withholding the cash until I saw him clean shaven was the only weapon left in my armoury you see. There were threats that Barry might stay for Christmas so I was forced to play the I’ll-sponsor-you-to-shave card.

But all jokes aside, Movember is a fab cause. Today 1,000 miles of tash was shaved off in the UK alone… just think of how many millions of pounds that translates into for men’s health programmes, namely prostate cancer charities. So if this post has amused you, or you’ve felt a pang of sympathy for me at all, take a look at Matty’s Movember site and sponsor him a few pennies.

This morning Barry died and I have Matty back. RIP Barry.


Disclaimer: The real Barry Chuckle lives on.

Giving up Alcohol: The Diary of a Gin Lover

So after two rigorous days of flipping tyres, swinging off ropes and generally grunting a lot, I am back from boot camp. On the last night our lovely trainer Kyle offered to buy us a glass of wine. It was the third night of abstinence (boot camp rules) and we all looked at each other unsure of whether we were ready to slip back into our boozy ways.

‘Nope, I’m going all the way,’ cried Lucy, one of my co-boot campers, which prompted some sniggers from the boys. But I knew what she meant, we had been healthy for two days now and surely it would be easy to just carry on, the hard bit was done, the camel’s back was well and truly broken, or whatever the phrase is.

‘Me too,’ I cried, inspired by Lucy’s passion. ‘I’m giving up alcohol!’

Well this got a few looks.

‘For how long?’ asked Simon, another lovely co-boot camper, from Sheffield.

‘Until my mother’s birthday and I go to Bali,’ I declared boldly. ‘Next Saturday,’ I added.

People started laughing and shaking their heads. I was confused, that included one and a half weekends, I had never gone without booze for so long. Turns out a week and a half isn’t very long according to a lot of people. But this was my Everest and here’s how I got on…


I won a bottle of wine at work. How’s that for a bit of irony. And to make matters worse it was a bottle of Tempranillo, my favourite. Or at least one of. I looked at it a lot today, wondering if because it was free, and in fact a prize, perhaps it didn’t count. I left it at work.


I’ve had a long day, 12 hours in the office, tackling a challenging story. I could murder a G&T… We have a beautiful gin in our cupboard. So beautiful you could, and should, drink it without tonic. Although it also goes beautifully with a Fever-Tree tonic water and a slice of cucumber. I touched it, just so I could take a photo you see.


Matty was cooking a delicious daal when I got home, with a beetroot and yoghurt raita and everything. He casually broke the news, while chopping coriander, that he has been given a promotion. Currently working as a district nurse he has been promoted to matron for the Hucknall area. ‘Oooooh, Matron,’ I cried, ‘We must drink some champagne!’

It was an empty offer. I poured us a glass of sparkling water each. (He’s working tomorrow and says he doesn’t mind, I feel guilty.)


It helps that I am skint this weekend. I can’t really afford to go out. Instead my good friend Gemma blagged me a day pass to her Virgin Active gym in Nottingham (much posher than mine – it has air conditioning, lanes in the swimming pool, conditioner in the showers and get this, make up remover in the changing rooms, not to mention the plastic bags they give away for wet swimming costumes). I am impressed. If I was rich I would join this gym. Or if I gave up drinking forever I could probably join this gym and have personal trainer sessions. I thought about this while I swam in the gym’s beautiful pool, which I think must have been the main lobby of the former Great Northern Railway Station, with it’s impressive architecture and high ceiling. I pretended I was an Olympian athlete for a while and attempted a length of butterfly. A lot of the water left the pool and I didn’t quite finish the length. I am better at drinking gin.

Afterwards, Gemma suggested a drink at our favourite bar, the Jam Cafe in Nottingham(that’s my review for the Nottingham Post). I am worried, they have the wonderful Kwak Belguim beer (8%) you see, a heart warming brew that’s deliciously strong. Gemma even offers to buy me an alcoholic beverage. I watched her drink her Sauvignon Blanc, while I sipped my sparkling water. I was not bitter.

I was however, appeased by a delicious board of warm, crunchy bread served with a beautifully nutty homemade pesto and a hummus that had a wonderfully sweet flavour. We also munched on a reassuringly large bowl of olives. If you have never made it to the Jam Cafe you must go, I don’t care where you live.


Check out Gemma with those olives.

We moved on and had a drink in the beer garden of The Lion in Basford. I upped my game, had a diet coke and a water. Crazy times.

Tonight is actually fine. I am writing this, organising photos, doing ‘stuff’. Matty is working and it’s just me and the kettle. I’ve had about five cups of tea so far, but hey, who’s counting?


I won’t lie, I feel smug. The rest of the world woke with banging heads this morning but I woke feeling refreshed and did something I have never done on a Sunday before… and may never do again. I went to the gym. I barely recognised myself walking in and I’m sure even the staff even raised their eyebrows. As the receptionist swiped my membership card she gave me the why-aren’t-you-in-bed-with-a-raging-hangover look. I felt the need to tell her I wasn’t drinking. Must get over this desire to tell everybody who crosses my path.

So I went and pumped some iron, or something like that. Went to a ‘super circuit’ class, and if I’m honest now it hurts to pick up a full pint of water. A wine glass would be much lighter…


Mondays have never been a drinking day for me. The day of rest and recovery, it’s how the Big Man planned it. However this Monday was a bit different. Firstly, I was definitely perkier at work (was chatting to colleagues before even 10am) and secondly, I started craving beer and cheese at about noon. That’s strange, even by my standards and I can’t really explain it.

I went to see Michael McIntyre tonight, a funny man who is funnier live because he swears and is slightly less ‘prime time’. The interval was a strange affair, without a belly full of beer the was no need to queue for the loo, and with my water bottle only half empty there was no need to go to the bar. Intervals are a boring affair for tee-totalers.


Tonight as I cycled home from work I was greeted with perhaps one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in Nottingham yet. Like a child I threw my bike down at the Forest Recreation Ground and excitedly took some photos. Every few minutes the colour of the entire sky shifted, it was as if buckets of paint had been poured down on the clouds, and they were slowly mixing the colours together as they glided across the sky. I do love an urban sunset.

And this was just taken on the manual setting with no Photoshopping…. beautiful.


So I’ve skipped a few days. I was worried it might turn into a ‘Dear Diary, today I drank water. It was sparkling’ kind of journal if I wasn’t careful.

To summarise, Wednesday was tricky. Have you ever gone to a Chinese BYO and not drunk? I wasn’t even sure if that meant you also had to bring your own soft drinks. I fought the peer pressure. Thursday, I don’t even remember Thursday.

And then suddenly it was Friday, aka the-day-before-the-night-I-could-drink. I bounced home from work, I was extremely excitable, not just because it was the-day-before-the-night-I-could-drink. No, I was excitable because this weekend we go to Bali for our long awaited three week holiday.

I wanted to celebrate. I wanted toast the backpack, I wanted to toast my flip flops, my bikini, my passport. I wanted to toast the sun, which has not been out to play all that much in the UK this year. I wanted to toast my list of things to pack. You get the idea, I very much fancied a cheeky tipple, I was in holiday mood.

Matty did tell me that he wouldn’t tell anyone if I shared his can of Boddingtons. I’m not sure if it was my morals or my distaste for Boddingtons but instead I treated myself to some sparkling elderflower juice instead. And wow, I was a productive packer. No trying on random stuff that I always believe I will look nice in after a few drinks, no temptation to pack that thong bikini from Tenerife circa 2000 and no spilling wine on my clean holiday clothes. I was efficient.

And finally, at about 5pm today, after one week and six days of not drinking a single drop of alcohol, the time had arrived. It was time to break my sobriety. It’s my mother’s birthday so I had already decided that bubbles would be appropriate. A nice cold flute of Prosecco. For her you see, not for me. She couldn’t start her 63rd year any other way, I insisted. We held our glasses up and toasted to her good health and as I lifted the flute to my mouth I could feel the bubbles breaking against my nose.


It was perfect, the sun was setting and all the family was there. A chilled wind ran over us and I shivered.

‘We’ll be alright,’ said my brother’s girlfriend Becky.

‘We’ll just get our champagne jackets on.’

I nodded happily. My favourite jacket.

Diet Tips from a Boot Camp Virgin

For the very first time in years, about 10 years if I’m honest, I have eaten out without consuming any wine. That is right, there was not even a Holy-Communion-sized thimble of wine. I enjoyed a three course meal in a restaurant and there was no wine.

I, Delia Jane Monk, drank water. My body is a temple. I am at fat camp boot camp.

This is not me, it is the lovely Lucy who is also on boot camp and just so happens to be behind my water

Some of you who don’t know me very well might think that this is an exaggeration, but I can assure you it is not. I live in a city where I do not need to drive a car, and I have never been pregnant, why would I have ever forgone wine with dinner?

However, I am currently residing at Clumber Park Hotel and Spa near Worksop in Notts where I am trialling a new boot camp session they are planning to launch next year. My meals have been planned by a nutritionist (get me!) and only water will pass these lips. In for a penny, in for a pound.

I know my love for wine and food makes me an odd guinea pig choice for a boot camp trial but it comes with my job you see. I shall be reviewing the boot camp for the Nottingham Post, and for that reason I shall stay fairly tight-lipped about the muddy, sweaty details of what I am enduring. However, I thought it was wrong not to share with you a few healthy diet tips I’ve picked up.

1) Beer has ’empty calories’. Best fact of the day. This means that after a squiffy night on the ales you just need to work out the next day, apparently beer calories burn off very, very easily and don’t take much trouble to shift if you do it in the next couple of days. Told you this one was good eh?!

2) White wine has less calories than red wine. A small glass of white has about 125 calories compared to about 180 in a cheeky little red glass.

3) When you drink ice cold water, the water sticks to your fat. It’s always better to drink water at room temperature so your body doesn’t waste time trying to deal with all that cold water. Don’t forget the other little things – always take the stairs instead of the lift, walk or cycle to work if you can.

4) Waking up in the morning and just doing five minutes of exercise will speed up your metabolism for the day. Just a minute of squats, sit-ups, press ups, star jumps or whatever takes your fancy could make all the difference if you do it every day. Also have a glass of water first thing… Apparently this is another metabolism booster..

5) If your fitness is not improving then you need to mix it up. Instead of that same old four mile run, try running up a hill and walking down it four times. Allow your body to recover, then do it again five more times.

6) Eat dinner between 6pm and 8.30pm, try to eat your carb intake at lunch time instead of at your evening meal. Apparently your meat should never be bigger than the size of your palm, and it is better to eat five small meals a day than three large ones.

7) It is true that eating celery burns of more calories than you put on eating it. That’s why supermodels are skinny.

8) Eating hot food is good for your metabolism but…

9) You should not eat takeaway curry once a week. Worst fact ever. Kyle, our wonderful trainer, has even informed me (curry fans log off now) that if you are really committed to a hard workout then, and only then, is it ok to have curry once a month. Once a month?! I guess I’ll just have to make them hotter…

Disclaimer: If any of these facts are found to be incorrect it is because I a) am slightly hard of hearing and was sitting at the end of the dinner table and b) because I now have too much blood in my alcohol system.

I Love The Petebox. Fact.

I have to admit I was a little bit confused when walking into the Contemporary for Petebox’s ‘gig’ last week. Expecting to see groups of people huddled together, clutching their beers in anticipation of the long-awaited show, I was surprised to find the room had been transformed into an auditorium with raised seating facing a large cinema screen.

Somewhat baffled we took our seats. For those of you who don’t know PeteBox, he’s a local lad who makes incredible sounds with his mouth. He can bop, he can beat, in fact he can make his voice sound like almost any instrument imaginable. Then he records each sound as he goes, looping them on top of each other to get the full effect. And last Friday it was the launch of his first album. Having released each song on YouTube, it was finally time to launch Future Loops – and I was a little bit excited about it. But nevertheless, confused as to why I was in a cinema.
PeteBox, who’s real name is Peter Sampson, stood in the aisle, greeting people as they walked in, clearly glad to see some familiar faces at the sell-out event. And as the lights dimmed, he stepped into a spotlight, dressed in a turquoise silk jacket, and explained he had prepared an audio visual show for us that night because that is, after all, what he is all about.
He moved to the side and the screen came to life – kicking off with his excellent rendition of Kids by MGMT. His face filled the screen as he threw the baseline into the microphone, followed by another couple of levels and a melody that sounded more like a trumpet than something a voice box could produce. Already sounding more like a four-piece band than a one man act, he started to sing. And this is where the PeteBox offers something really quite special, on top of all of this raw and unique talent he also has a wonderful voice that would hold you captive even without the beats. Oh, and did I mention he also plays the guitar?
He then proceeded to take us through the journey of his first album; each artfully shot, highlighting his talent, creativity and passion. From the garden setting for a take of Nirvana’s Lithium to the home-studio-style setting he chose for Crimewave, an original track.
The audience broke into applause at the end of each shot, with Pete in the sidelines it was almost felt like a live performance. As impressive as it was I was desperate to see him live and had everything crossed that he would perform. PeteBox did not disappoint. As the last film drew to an end, the screen disappeared and he was back in the spotlight, this time with a microphone and his loop recording kit. Huge black curtains were tied back on each side, with the large theatre-style drapes both framing and dwarfing his body.
It was the moment we had waited for, and I almost felt nervous. Having seen such an impressive collection on screen, I just hoped he’d be able to pull it off live. And he did. He performed Wave and Where is my Mind with breathtaking perfection that rivalled the pre-recorded collection. We watched in fascination as each sound and beat was looped, once again transforming him into that fictitious band.

As the evening drew to a close I felt privileged to have been part of such a momentous event. I might not have done my research, leaving me unaware that it was more of a screening than a gig, but on reflection I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Instead I walked out in awe of both his live lyrical and digital visual talents. And this is just the beginning.

14 Top Tips on How to Save for Travelling

So you’ve got a car, you’ve got a house, you’ve got friends (that like drinking and going out for dinner), and you know what, you don’t really fancy putting your life on hold. But you want to travel… and somehow you need to find those extra pennies. I’m no Money Saving Martin (I think that’s his name, some bloke my mum regularly quotes, “Well in Martin’s latest email…”) but nevertheless I am getting quite good at making my less-than-the-national-average-salary get me where I want to be.

Here’s how…

  1. Work out your budget. Dull, dull, dull – but sadly necessary. By all means pur yourself a glass of wine to help you through it (I’ll come to alcohol savings later!) Look at your bank statements from the last three months, get a blank piece of paper and draw up three columns with the titles: “Direct debits/outgoings”, “Things I don’t want to give up” and “Naughty”. The first column is fairly obvious – include all bills and regualr payments, column two for me had things like haircuts, dinners out, drinks, magazine subscriptions etc, while my column three featured naughty names like H&M, Zara and Topshop. Next, add up column one – plus your weekly food bill and look at that against your salary. It made me realise how much I was actually spending on things I didn’t want to give up/naughty purchases. This is the key stage – work out what you want to save against how much your willing to sacrifice. Then set up a direct debit so your savings are transferred the day after you are paid into another account you can’t touch. I find it helpful to then withdraw my weekly spending money every Monday so I can see it disappearing in my purse, plastic is deceiving but when your notes disappear you get a little bit more tight!
  2. What else can you give up? Be reasonable about this – remember if it’s a long-term savings plan you still need to enjoy life. I cancelled my contact lense direct debit as I had a surplus of lenses and my partner quit his gym membership and bought some weights, which he combines with running. I’d like to say we stopped drinking but we didn’t… each to their own.
  3. Can you get rid of your car? I did – got a bike instead – and now I travel everywhere for free!
  4. Use TopCashBack whenever you buy anything online – it’s a website that will transfer you to the page you want to go to (almost like a search engine) but it pays you a small percentage of whatever you buy in commission. While I only make about £50 a year, I know someone who books a lot of hotels through work and made over £1,000. Quidco is another popular site but they charge £5 a year.
  5. Everytime you’re about to buy something online go to – there is almost always a discount code you can use. For example, when we hired a car recently we went on this website and found an 11% discount, then we paid for it via TopCashBack and got 8 per cent cash back – we saved about £10.
  6. Get a second job. Sounds rubbish but doing one night’s work a week could make the difference between you staying on budget rather than going into your overdraft by £100 every month. I couldn’t get a bar job or restaurant work due to the nature of my day job, so found work copy-writing online a few hours a week. There will be something that suits your life… find it.
  7. Check your energy bills – are you in credit with your gas and electricity provider? If so call them and ask for the money – why should they make interest on it? It’s yours! Put it straight into that ISA…
  8. What do you do with your “free council tax” months? Every Feb and March you are council tax free! But you’ve budgeted for it so transfer it into that tax-free ISA you’ve set up before you are tempted to spend it…
  9. Put a pound in a pot every day. This one is priceless, I promise. Buy a pot you cannot get into (we once had a metal tin with a big tacky £50 note image wrapped around it and we currently have one of those posh pottery numbers that you have to smash on a ceremonial occasion) and put £1 in every day. The last time it provided all our spending money for a weekend in Sovenia and by the time we break into the next one we should have about £600 for our forthcoming Bali trip.
  10. When it comes to food shopping – set a budget and stick to it. Ours is £50 a week – it makes cooking imaginative and we don’t eat any worse for it at all.
  11. Don’t stop doing things – just do them cheaper. Living in Nottingham, I visit my friends in London about once a month and rarely spend more than £15 on a return ticket – book in advance with Megabus (which is actually a train) and National Express buses are often £5.
  12. eBay. Enough said. Everything you don’t want, or don’t need – stick on eBay (make sure pics are super, descriptions are enticing) and everything you do need – buy it on eBay!! I unashamedly love clothes but cannot justify fashion as an outgoing at the moment so I recycle clothes on eBay. For example, I bought a beautiful French Connection dress (retails at £130 bought on eBay for £30), whcih I intend to wear to a glitzy London hen do, then I will re-sell it to buy a beautiful dress for a wedding a month later. I will then re-sell that for the next wedding – and so it goes on. Make sure you buy labels because you are guaranteed to sell them on at the same sort of price – I normally make a profit actually. I think eBay tips might be worthy of their very own blog space soon. Watch this space!
  13. If you own your own house can you have a lodger? We had a great lodger for a while that stayed with us during the week and went back home at weekends, giving us the space and privacy we were used to on the most important days of the week! There are websites for these kind of arrangements, one of which is – but there’s loads more.
  14. Want a weekend away? Do it! Camp or find a dirt cheap B&B… take homemade sandwiches for the road and work out where you want to splash your cash – one night posh dinner, cheap grub the rest of the time? Trust me, it can be done!

I’m sure there are more – I might have to come back to this topic, but if you have any more tips leave them below – I’m always on the lookout for more ways of saving cash. My motto is Live it Like you Love it…. but sadly that often comes at a price (flights to Bali were not cheap) so the cash has to be found!

Happy savings! x