Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Living together vs Marriage - Which is better?


·                     1the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife:
2a combination or mixture of elements:her music is a marriage of funk, jazz, and hip hop

As one of my “30 before 30” goals is to “Buy a house” and to do this with the BF this can often lead to a question being asked. (Mainly by the over 50’s).
“So, are you two getting married?”

Had I been talking to someone my own age (20-something) then I doubt the question would even be asked! Whether it’s an age thing, a cultural thing or just a personal thing there still seems to be 2 camps; those that believe in cohabiting and those that don’t.

Take the comment from one of the guests on a UK daytime TV show this morning when the Olympic flame torch runner proposed to his heavily pregnant girlfriend.. "They can't not be married yet, she's already pregnant?" Errr Hello? It's 2012!

Coming from a mixed race and fairly religious background my family have almost all got married before living with their partners. In almost every case this has resulted in divorce somewhere down the line. Both sets of Grandparents passed away still married to their first love and whilst I find this wildly romantic is it just that for their generation it wasn’t an option to separate?
verb (cohabitscohabitingcohabited)
[no object]
·                     1live together and have a sexual relationship without being married:an increasing number of couples are cohabiting E.g Mary is now cohabiting with Paul

Unlike me who has only lived away from home whilst at uni (living with 2 boys and a girl) many of my friends have lived with their partners and cohabited. Despite the relationships ending and them going their separate ways would anything have been different had they been married? Would they have felt obliged to make it work or felt bound to stay unhappy?

Before we think about the legal bit or the many, many statistics on the topic we should consider the emotional commitment. As the Oxford dictionary says, a marriage is a legal joining of two people but also a joining or coming together of two elements. A legal document can only go so far when someone is said to be your father or mother but it’s the emotional relationship that tends to be the strongest bond. Can this be applied to sexual relationships? If you love someone, you want to make a home with them and the feeling is mutual then does that need to be validated by a marriage certificate?

"Researchers found that all couples had a honeymoon period right after they got married or moved in together—they were happier and less depressed than those who stayed single. The study also found that couples who just lived together had bigger leaps in happiness and more self-esteem than they did when they were living alone. Married couples also were happier than before, but didn’t get the same big boost."  Read more: Pass This On To Your Pushy Mother - Cohabitation Happiness Study - Cosmopolitan 

The "try before you buy" theory suggests people may want a get out clause should there be trouble in paradise or is it just a way to ensure you make the most of the fun stage before settling down and getting serious?
For some, is a public declaration of love a true test of someone's feelings and a way to document that you want the same things? Coming from a traditional(ish) family I have seen how marriage can be both fabulous and destructive; sacred and irrelevant.

Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears are the queens of publicity stunt marriages with theirs lasting little more than a yoghurt would in the fridge but are the regular folk capable of the false gesture only to have to admit our mistake or change our minds?

In the Uk it’s recorded that there are approx. “ four million couples living together in England and Wales in cohabitation”

Considering this and the current Uk divorce rate which has been growing again since the recession, couples may wonder if more and more people are trying to secure their relationship by not getting hitched?

Love and Sex

It’s not a new idea that marriage changes a relationship and film and TV have dramatised and inflated the issues as seen in “Barefoot in the park”, “Love and Sex” and the light hearted but somewhat realistic ending in “Bride wars” where only one couple ties the knot and the other breaks up. Had that couple not been faced with an ultimatum of declaring their love in front of friends and family would they have continued in cohabiting bliss?

As we grow up must I give up on the idea that "one day my prince will come" and present me with a diamond as proof of their undying love? 

Research into this topic brings up more results about the legal reasons for and against marriage then any of the emotional ties. In Norway the rights for a cohabiting couple are very similar to their married neighbors but in the Uk it is not the case.

Many people think that, after living with their partner for a few years, they become 'common law husband and wife' with the same rights as married couples. This is not the case. In fact, couples who live together have hardly any of the same rights as married couples or civil partners. There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’.

As the divorce rate increases again the danger is that should a couple part ways you could end up losing your home if your partner legally owns it outright; regardless of how long you have lived together. Whilst this is something to consider, should it ever be as important as whether that person is the one you want to spend forever with or has naive romanticism died a rather unromantic death?

Would you go with your heart, your head or your wallet? 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Watch the Top 50 movies of all time - Named by IMDB

So, next on the list and probably the cheapest and laziest of them all: 

Watch the Top 50 movies of all time.


 I have a Brother and best friend who are movie buffs (read geeks) and constantly highlight my peasant knowledge of classic films and directors but, no more! I shall be conquering the Top 50 films and dropping into conversation things like, "Coppola certainly did start on the path of success in her role in the Godfather - oh you didn't know that? No, not many people do"... and other haughty lines.

I'm pretty pleased with my score so far (I've seen the ones in purple); so only the westerns and a few "dodgy" films left and I'll have seen them all!

How did you do? And is there a better list than IMDB I should be looking at? Click below for the link to the live IMDB list.

Top 250 movies as voted by our users (IMDB)

For this top 250, only votes from regular voters are considered.

1.9.2The Shawshank Redemption (1994)773,460
2.9.2The Godfather (1972)574,581
3.9.0The Godfather: Part II (1974)364,037
4.8.9Pulp Fiction (1994)608,483
5.8.9The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)240,243
6.8.912 Angry Men (1957)190,326
7.8.9Schindler's List (1993)406,053
8.8.8The Dark Knight (2008)713,015
9.8.8The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King(2003)546,691
10.8.8One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)327,840
11.8.8Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back(1980)393,318
12.8.8Fight Club (1999)589,189
13.8.8Seven Samurai (1954)130,112
14.8.8Inception (2010)565,904
15.8.8The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)569,333
16.8.7Goodfellas (1990)344,367
17.8.7Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)442,116
18.8.7City of God (2002)256,098
19.8.7Casablanca (1942)222,201
20.8.7The Matrix (1999)566,328
21.8.7Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)109,976
22.8.7Rear Window (1954)165,473
23.8.7The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)489,852
24.8.7The Silence of the Lambs (1991)376,094
25.8.6Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)339,216
26.8.6Forrest Gump (1994)494,603
27.8.6The Usual Suspects (1995)372,504
28.8.6Se7en (1995)446,323
29.8.6Psycho (1960)203,653
30.8.6It's a Wonderful Life (1946)141,203
31.8.6Leon (1994)325,069
32.8.6Sunset Boulevard (1950)75,623
33.8.6Memento (2000)411,187
34.8.5Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)202,382
35.8.5Apocalypse Now (1979)238,928
36.8.5American History X (1998)355,154
37.8.5Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)357,999
38.8.5North by Northwest (1959)123,339
39.8.5Saving Private Ryan (1998)402,866
40.8.5Citizen Kane (1941)177,805
41.8.5Alien (1979)264,417
42.8.5Avengers Assemble (2012)244,563
43.8.5City Lights (1931)45,228
44.8.5Spirited Away (2001)168,780
45.8.5American Beauty (1999)420,686
46.8.5Toy Story 3 (2010)216,738
47.8.5Taxi Driver (1976)239,631
48.8.5The Shining (1980)273,076
49.8.5M (1931)54,826
50.8.5Vertigo (1958)124,753

Spirited Away
I think that there are some more foreign films missing but that because I'm a sucker for the French and I think Amelie should be at #1! Saving Private Ryan is far too high up (in my humble opinion) and Spirited Away is not high enough. 
I am sure GeekandSpell will have plenty to say on this matter so I will await the expert opinion Or you could visit the site where they know much more about films and have reviews galore! 

Monday, 18 June 2012

First time UK buyers – Advice, saving, planning and a few giggles!

After my previous rant about the negatives of living at home I felt that a sensible, informative but still a little fun post was required for those planning to fly the nest (and how to do it without getting stung by the tax/insurance/financial or legal “man”). It's currently IMPOSSIBLE to get an 100% mortgage and the interest rate for 95% is a joke so it's vital that us 20-somethings have at least a 10-20% deposit if we stand any chance of buying. (Feeling the "double-dip" blues yet?)

If you’ve got to the point of finding your “roomie de maison”, your “other half”, the cream to your sugar, the cheese to your toast, the Ben to your Jerry – well you get the idea- then CONGRATULATIONS, you’re at least a tenth of the way there! We've gone back to the 50's where a woman needs a man to give her a home and a baby.. don't worry feminists, it'll all blow over fingers crossed!

Buying as a couple (platonic mate or fairy-tale romance) means you have double the capital and double the borrowing power. As the BF and I have discovered, in the age of reduced lending, soaring interest rates and a stagnant housing market it takes planning, patience, lots of tea, even more beer, phone calls, visits to the bank, delusions of grandeur and an open mind to get closer to the dream of owning your own home.

The following info is what WE have learned SO FAR on our journey to buying our first home in the UK in 2012. Those of a financially nervous disposition look away now; it ain't pretty…

·         Your initial calculations – For those cheeky monkeys that up until now have inflated the truth or laughed off the price of how much your new Zara blazer really cost then it’s time to come clean.

Pour yourselves some nice wine, order a takeaway and get out all your bank statements, pay slips, mobile phone/gym/LoveFilm/sport subscription bills and tally up how much you are currently earning and spending. The key to this, it seems, is to BE HONEST and look in every nook and cranny (I have no idea what a "Cranny" is).

Anything you do forget may come back to bite you in the bottom later! Try a budget planner like this one on "" or create your own in MS Excel.

·         Savings – Work out how much you both have in savings and decide how much you can REALISTICALLY save each month. Don’t leave yourselves completely poor, you still need a life! As my friends and I are discovering, saving is depressing and long and you just want to go out with everyone else on a Friday night so do yourselves a favour and allow a little "fun money".

Invest in an ISA, put into a monthly savings account and try premium bonds (interest rates are so low the bonds may beat the best market interest). Set up standing orders to transfer to your savings account and decide how long you can realistically to save for – the more you save the better! Money Saving Expert has a great review of the best savings accounts here!

·         Credit scoreEEEK it's the scary bit! Check out BOTH your credit scores using a free online site like Experian. Use their advice to cancel any old payments, register on the electoral roll and ensure you resolve/avoid any missed payments or unnecessary credit checks (they stay on your file and reduce your score!) Again, there is no point in being secretive; if you’re the naughty one then own up to it! I did and I feel all the better for it!

·         Financial advice - Contact a Financial/mortgage adviser (You can find a qualified one here!) and find out how much you can borrow (pending a “decision in principal”). It will be a good way to work out your budget, how much you will need as a decent deposit and where/what houses you can afford. They will also summarise the fees, how much you’re likely to pay in your chosen area and keep in touch as your savings increase. THEN you can start the FUN BIT! Woo hooo!

·         Houses, houses, houses! - Websites like Right Move, Zoopla and Prime Location are a great starting point to get a view of the market in the areas you like. They show you info, photos, energy certificates (boring yet important for your bills!), the tax band and if you track properties weekly (or daily as most eager house hunters do) you can see when a property has had the price reduced! Zoopla is a great way to track how much properties in the same road, area or the same size sold for so you know if you’re getting a good deal or not. Handy when you are restricted to the penny!

·         Estate Agents -  Try to be patient, try to be nice, try to not give ALL your contact details (trust me on this one) and above all REMEMBER – they want to make a sale! Obvious I know but when you hear the spiel, look at the pretty photos and get bombarded by calls, emails and even SNAIL MAIL on a daily basis it can make you a little blindsided.

·         House Viewings – There are some things to think about when going to a house viewing. Lots and lots actually but for time and blog space I’ve made a quick and dirty list below:
·         Book the viewing at rush hour so you see the worst of the traffic
·         Get there early so you can take a walk around the property (have a nose at the locals!)
·         Once there look at parking, bus train routes, neighbours, road works etc
·          Take note of the weather, temp, sunlight, direction of the garden – is it a cold house? Does it let in a lot of light? Do they have the heating on but the windows open? (yes, we’ve seen this in winter so the house seems to be warmer than it is!)
·         As you go from room to room think about how YOU would live there? Is it big enough? Could you entertain, study, eat dinner, have children, have guests?
·         Look for changes, extensions, repairs, obvious problems, opportunity to extend and how you might work the property to suit your lifestyle.
·         Ask about the heating, boiler, are they on a water meter, plumbing, what Council Tax band they are, do they pay a residents fee, do they have broadband already?
·         Ask how long they’ve been there, what changes they’ve made, why they are moving (most will tell you), where are they in their chain?
·         Confirm what is staying and what they are taking with them. For first time buyers you’d do well to already have an oven, fridge, dishwasher etc.
·         Try not to talk about YOUR budget. The most they need to know is you’re not in a chain so are in the best possible position for THEM!
·         Ask about the neighbours, schools, public transport, pubs, clubs, parks and nurseries. Whilst you might be a 2 now you may be 3 soon and you want to make sure everything is close by!
·         Seriously check out the garden. Whilst you may not be green-fingered yet once you have children the garden will be much more important.
·         If you’re unsure or want to know more then JUST ASK! Either ask on the day or call the estate agent if you have any questions. They will be eager to make the sale so it’s likely they’ll find out for you.
·         If you are going for a 2nd viewing then take a parent, friend or someone “in the know” E.g an estate agent friend, a builder or a surveyor. Another opinion will be invaluable!
Once you think you’ve found “the one” then the real work begins to ensure you get it. I’ll go through this in my next post but for now…. HAPPY HOUSE HUNTING!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

First time buyer-itus - The tale of two grownups still living with their parents

Apparently loads of us are doing it and it's "Ok". They say it's nothing to be ashamed of and if anything we should be praised for our clever forward planning. We shouldn't feel like we HAVE to be like everyone else and if anything it's US that are setting the trend for future generations.

If that's true then why am I sitting here watching another awful episode of "Outnumbered", my mother and her "new friend" are passing round the tinned shortbread and I'm feeling like I'm 15 again and grounded for smoking and drinking the "good port"?!

I am currently stuck at my Mum's house looking like this:

When I could be in my OWN house doing THIS....

There are some very basic issues with buying your first home. Unless you're very lucky you'll probably need to save some serious money. If you're buying with another your saving is always harder (there's always a better saver; in case you're wondering, that's me! Woo!) That means for most people (us and everyone we know) you have to move back home which is in as few words as possible... AWFUL!

Once you've tasted the freedom of moving out it's a bitter pill to swallow having to move back with your parents. You instantly revert back to a sullen teenager where every answer you give is ambiguous and you surround yourself in mystery just to feel like you're winning the bigger battle.

Saving money when you just start to earn a serious amount is rubbish too. You're dressing like a student even though you're earning a grown up woman's salary.

Last but not least and because it's such a crucial one it needs to be in bold... Your sex life will be RUINED. Think back to when you were a teen; both silently dry humping your way to chaffed euphoria whilst listening for any movement downstairs (unintended pun). Yes, that.

I may start a help group for those who are still living at home waiting for the next stamp duty freeze and we'll meet occasionally for a moan and a beer. Only it won't be at the pub because we can't afford it...