The Most Beautiful Places To Add To Your Bucket List

If you’re trying to come up with a bucket list of beautiful places to see, you’ve come to the right place. Some people create a bucket list with no intention of actually crossing things off their list. Don’t be one of those people! You only live once, so make sure you make the most of your time here and discover the world. Here are some of the most beautiful places to add to your list to inspire you!

The Philippines

The Philippines is such an underrated place to visit. There’s the amazing varied food, supremely friendly people calling you ‘sir’ and ‘ma'am’ wherever you go, and amazing things to see. The best thing about this place is that it’s pretty much unspoilt by tourists, so you better get there quick before they all catch on. Places like Manila, Cebu, and Bohol are amazing. You can try your hand at diving, stay in fancy resorts for an affordable price, relax on gorgeous beaches, enjoy the nightlife and so much more.

Scotland

Scotland should be on everybody’s list. The accent might be a little difficult to understand at first, but you’ll be fluent by the time you leave. In Scotland, you can enjoy history, golf, fishing, castles, canals, and more. It is so diverse! The most popular places to visit are Edinburgh, Glasgow, Skye, and Dundee - but you don’t have to stick with popular. Who knows what you could discover off the beaten path?

Australia

Aussie’s are known for their laid-back lifestyle, the many surf schools, pretty beaches, luxury architecture, and more. Not only will you meet some great people down under, you’ll see some unforgettable things. 

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Thailand

Thailand is popular amongst tourists with good reason. There’s amazing food, the people are very friendly,  you can enjoy floating markets, get up close with monkeys, and even see the island from the film ‘The Beach’. Volunteer in Thailand and you could make a massive difference to the community. A great way to make the most of your time in such a wonderful place!  

Hawaii

This place is a very popular honeymoon destination. It has many national parks and canyons to see, but you can just relax on incredible beaches and watch the sunset if you like. Oahu and Maui are two gorgeous places to consider. 

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Iceland

Iceland has some gems. The blue lagoon is one of the most popular places to see as it’s so magical. There’s also Gullfoss, a canyon waterfall. You’ll never run out of magical things to see here.  

Italy

Italy is one of the most romantic countries around, with many beautiful little places to see. You could visit Venice and ride on a gondola, see the incredible buildings in Rome, and sip homemade wine in Florence. There are beaches, canals, art, huge pizza pies and delicious ice cream galore!

Greece

You’ve probably heard of Santorini, as it seems to be one of the most popular places in the world right now due to its beauty. In Greece, you’ll find temples, amazing ruins, ancient Greek art, and archaeology museums to learn a thing or two.  

 

 

Travel in Luxury without breaking into your savings: how to travel and save

 

The other week the dreaded happened, I became of an age where I no longer fell into that category of choice and I now have to opt for the 26-35 checkbox on forms. How did that happen?! I’m TWENTY SIX so I guess that means I need to stop for a second and reevaluate my life, I’m at that age where I have certain milestones society says I should be achieving; getting married, having children, saving and paying mortgages and also getting serious about a career, I’ve been serious about business since I can remember so at least I’ve nailed one!

With post-Brexit worries about finances, the long-term impact (hang on, stay with me guys) of not only our finances, trade deals and currency but the effect this will have on our cost of living, the way we save and how much we actually save is imperative. The FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) are on hand to take some of the worries away: they are the people who protect your money in your savings and current account and the service they provide is totally free. They have some pretty cool money hacks on their website too!

I once heard a motivational speaker giving advice that he had learned a long time ago, you should live off 50% of your income, save 30% and invest 20% of it and that’s how he taught many people to grow their wealth. It’s logical really but easier said than done, especially if you’re like me and love to travel.

With 2017 upon us and New Year’s Resolutions already being thrown about I know that tightening up my saving is on the agenda with goals already set for the upcoming year I’m also thinking of how I can still live the life I love and in particular, travel. Next year’s travel bucket list is Giraffe Cafe in Kenya, a Skiing holiday and of course Black Friday in America. I’ve already trips to Tenerife and Ibiza to look forward to too.

I need some help so luckily the FSCS have teamed up with travel journalist Helen Ochyra to showcase the travel trends of 2017.

Feeling prepared? Here are my 10 top tips to help you travel in style without dipping into your savings

1. 6 weeks before you plan to travel, on a Tuesday that’s when your ticket will be at the cheapest price. Use comparison sites to check deals and scour the internet for coupons that could help make extra savings. Keep your eye out for sales too, it’s worth following the airlines or rail companies on Facebook & Twitter too and signing up to their mailing lists. Virgin and BA have amazing sales!

2. Make yourself flexible, travelling out of peak times works out much more reasonable, this includes school holidays, summer time and festive periods. Try different dates for travel too. There’s also an influx of people travelling on a weekend, with demand increasing the travel companies can hike the prices to whatever they choose. Tuesday and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest days to travel. Also, check your destination and dates that there’s not big festivals or events on. On a couple of occasions we’ve stayed in Vegas when the Rodeo has been in town and it has had an impact on prices.

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3. When it comes to trains standard class is not always the brightest way to travel. If there’s only a couple of pound difference between standard and first class opt for first class, it includes more often than not unlimited drinks, a meal and of course that all-important free wi-fi, by the time you take into account the cost of the food you’ll have bought on the train or in the station this will add up to far more than the ticket price where the wine is flowing and the meals are hot.  Similarly sometimes (not very often) you find that the ticket prices are cheaper to travel by first class than standard class - the other week I took a train from Birmingham to London and the ticket fare was £10 first class, £13 standard class. No brainer really!

4. Set menus and fixed priced deals are the way to go. Usually, these are an exceptional value and if you’re travelling the cost of eating soon adds up. Instead of going all out every night on the a la carte menu usually 3 courses from their fixed price menu costs less than a single main course from their a la carte. Embrace the local delicacies and try something different. When we were last in Greece there was a little restaurant which did 3 courses for €8. You can’t argue with that! If you can stay all inclusive, even better this will help save you lots of money as all your food and drinks will be included for not much more than a standard price. We’ve stayed in a few amazing hotels with great all inclusive menus including Tunisia and Mexico, they had multiple restaurants and the drinks were all well-known brands.

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5. Check currency rates well in advance. We’ve had a few unstable months since Brexit was announced but if you’re heading to another country make sure you’ve got your eyes on the prices of the currency, this will save you money and give you more to spend - try and research the best prices a month before you go and buy currency in multiples of £500 offers you a better rate.

6. Use local transport - this is one of my favourite tips. When we were in Cancun we took a trip to the Isla Mujeres one day, instead of booking the tourist boat over to the island which cost around £50 each we took the locals boat, sat next to a woman with a box of live chickens on her knee and only paid £1 each return. Same goes in Vegas, the deuce is great value at a couple of dollars for a 24-hour ticket, whereas looking at a taxi or even a limo you’re talking a minimum of $25.

7. If you stay less centrally and in less tourist-dense hotels you’ll expect to pay much less. In April (out of season) my Mum and I booked a cheap deal to Alanya, Turkey we ended up paying £240 each for flights, transfers, hotel and all inclusive. I think we spent £50 the whole time we were there - as we stayed somewhere off the beaten track and out of season the price was too good to not go. Had we stayed in Marmaris at exactly the same time in a lower rated hotel we’d have been looking at around £400+ each. The hotel had absolutely everything and lots of facilities and was a 10-minute drive from the main town, a 2-hour drive from the airport. The scenery was gorgeous and there weren't tourists everywhere. It was perfect.

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8. If you’re not fussy about where you’re heading to use Skyscanner’s ‘everywhere’ button to see where the cheapest flights from your local airport are too. There’s a lot of other sites now that offer this option to show only the starting destination. This allows you to weigh up the prices and where you can go from your starting destination.

9. Hotel haggling. Hotel prices are blurry, I watched a TV programme once where they phoned 30 hotels and haggled with them over their online price, out of the 30, 28 of them either offered a bigger discount than the one stated on the website or they offered them an upgrade for the same price. We have a saying in Newcastle “shy bairns get nowt” if you’re sat there thinking what’s this foreign language that I’ve just read simply ‘shy kids get nothing’ - what’s the worst they can do say no?

10. If you’re booking tours and excursions book through the concierge, fewer people are involved in the commission so it’s much more reasonable - we’ve done this a couple of times when heading to the Grand Canyon, when we’ve seen the prices of the street sellers compared to what we’ve paid it’s an astronomical saving.

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Be smart, be savvy, keep saving and check out FSCS Money Means!

Planning A Hen Party? Nail Your Theme With These Three Great Ideas

Planning any kind of social event can be a little daunting. Often, a lot of organising is involved, which can all but take over your life. Then you have the added pressure of expectation from friends, family and even yourself, in order to pull it off. The event in question can vary, but one big night out that you may find yourself organising at some point in your life is a hen party. Often regarded as a girl's 'last night of freedom', a hen party is traditionally organised by the bride's maid of honour. So, with that in mind, you will probably be running the hen party for your best friend, or perhaps for your sister. They are notorious for being cheeky and risque, but really, you can throw whatever kind of bash you (and the bride) would like. Take a look below and find some inspiration that will enable you to throw a hen party to remember. 

The classic hen party

As the saying goes, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'! A stereotypical hen party might not be to everyone's taste, but if the bride and the hens are up for a good laugh, it might be the best route to go down. Usually, the night will start out with some food, so book the bride's favourite restaurant. Just remember that alcohol will probably be involved later in the evening, so don't stock up too well just at the meal! You may also choose to do some kind of evening-suitable activity, such as a cocktail class. Make sure whatever you choose, the activity is light-hearted and suitable for group participation. Then, you may decide to move on to a bar or a club for some drinks and dancing - or perhaps some entertainment of a different nature...! But one thing is for sure, you're guaranteed to all have a laugh. 

The stylish hen party

If risque entertainment and questionably shaped straws isn't really your bride's vibe, you might want to consider a slightly more classy affair. Getting married can be quite luxurious after all, so why should the hen party be any different? Just remember to tell your fellow hens in advance that it might be quite a pricey affair, so they have a chance to put money aside for it. For a more classy kind of hen party, you could eat at a restaurant slightly fancier than the one you would normally pick, or go and see a West End show. Plus, there'll be no going home by bus on this occasion - make use of a private chauffeur service instead to be the cherry on top of a blissful evening. 

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The adrenaline-fuelled hen party

If you can't picture your married-friend-to-be in either of those situations for her hen party, you might want to turn things up a notch. Ditch the fancy restaurants and glamour and spend a day getting your sweat on instead. Choose something that you don't experience every day for you and the bridal party. This could be monster truck driving, zip lining or paintballing - anything that gets the heart racing, basically! Tailor the hen party to the bride as best you can and you are sure to have a successful day and night on your hands.

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Visiting The Big Smoke: Fun Things To Do in London

There's no doubt that London is a great place to visit if you want to experience some fabulous days out. Whether you live in England or are visiting from abroad, there is a huge range of attractions and things to do in the city that will suit all tastes and budgets. With Christmas around the corner it’s a busy and exciting time of year, here are some of the things you can do this December and beyond to 2017.

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Guided Tours

There are a whole range of different guided tours around London, so whatever you’re interested in you are bound to find something to satisfy your curiosity here. From tours about The Beetles to classic London history to ghost tours. If murder, mystery Victorian history is your kind of thing, then you could experience a Jack The Ripper tour. This infamous serial killer from the eighteen hundreds was never caught, and even to this day historians aren’t decided on who he really was. Guided tours allow you to discover more, and see London in a whole new light. 

Harry Potter World

Harry Potter is one of the world’s most celebrated books and films, visiting Harry Potter World allows you to get closer to the magic than ever before. See some of the sets and props, drink butterbeer and find out more about the characters and cast. It’s something that you can enjoy and appreciate whether you’re old or young, and is a fun day out that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry!

London Dungeon

London Dungeon offers a bold, scary yet funny take on London's often murky past. It's a journey of thrills, special effects, scares, characters, storytelling, and humour. It takes you through the history and legends of the great city of London. As one of the UK's major attractions, the London Dungeon offers a fascinating range of experiences as you walk through and see show after show, guided by professional actors. 

Natural History Museum

What would a trip to London be without a visit to the natural history museum? It’s completely free to enter (although you might want to book tickets for guaranteed entry to it’s exhibits and events) and offers an incredible, fascinating view into our natural past. Discover everything from giant dinosaurs to tiny insects. Up until the 8th of January, they have an ice skating rink too, a perfect winter wonderland activity you can do to get in the festive spirit.

London Eye

For epic photo opportunities and the most amazing sights, you have to take a trip up the London Eye! They have champagne experiences if you’re on a romantic break with your loved one, or you can simply get on board with all the family and enjoy for taking in the unforgettable views. With everything lit up for Christmas, there’s no better time to do it.

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What are your favourite things to do in London? Have you ever visited in December?

His and Hers: Xmas presents that will make them love you more!

Only few days away from Christmas and I'm sure you've already made your list with who was bad and who wasn't in order to shop ( I bet those who were "bad" this year are getting better presents!).

To make your life a bit easier here is a list with great present ideas that don't cost a fortune and will make your loved ones oh so happy! 

Whether it's your other half, your grandma or your BFF you can't go wrong with these! 

His 

Watch

 Starting with the boys I'm gonna show you what I've ordered for my other half : Skagen has amazing stuff both classic and elegant. My boyfriend loves watches and he is an electronic engineer so tech is part of his life too. My present is a combo of both: A smartwatch! 

Cashmere scarf

Nothing says "I love you" more than a luxurious gift! Buying a cashmere sweater might be a bit expensive for your budget so the next best thing is a gorgeous scarf. Easy to wear,practical and of course all time classic! Great gift for your dad or your hubby! 

Sound piece

If you have a tech-freak and you don't know what he would like I definitely recommend one of the Sound Pieces you can find in Happy Plugs. I think it's a great gift for both men and women and it is also stylish! For making him love you like crazy match the sound piece with a pair of headphones too! 

Hers 

Makeup

What is the no 1 thing girls love? Makeup of course! Who could resist to a new Too Faced palette? I know I wouldn't! So for my BFF this is THE present that I know she's gonna love and use all year long!

Bags

Moving on to no 2 of a girl's dream present list and it is obviously the handbag! If you haven't heard of Matt & Nat it is time to check this brand. I love their simple and elegant design,the colors and the plain and slick lines. This is a type of bag that will last for years and can be a key piece to a girl's closet. This is definitely the present I want this Xmas!! 

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Now if you are looking for a great way to surprise your girlfriend then look no further: A romantic trip to Paris for New Years Eve is the absolute present!!"

 

 

 

Blogger Problems: What should I charge for sponsored posts

It’s a taboo subject. It’s something people try and avoid (I don’t know why?!), however, it’s one thing I feel that we must address. Regardless if you blog full time or as a hobby you need to understand and appreciate that time is your most valuable and limited resource. 

It’s exciting the first time you are approached for a sponsored post, a paid opportunity. I totally understand the excitement that is teamed with frustrations as there are very limited resources on the internet as a rough guide as to what to charge for this kind of opportunity. There are lots of questions that race through your head when the emails drop into your inbox. Do you base it on your word count, how long it takes you to write, do you charge per following or readership? What do people with similar readership charge? Are you charging too much? Are you charging too little? When you ask people they’re usually quite privy to disclosing such information. So here we go.

Recently I conducted a study when researching sponsored opportunities for our new ELLEfluence platform as to specifics into the fees people charge, the types of readership and following they have and other interesting facts.

With over 55% of participants stating their blog was their largest platform with Twitter coming in second with 28% of the votes. With that in mind, we’re going to specifically look at how much you should charge for a sponsored post on your blog.

Firstly you need to question is the topic a good fit with your blog, in our study 78% of participants claimed that the fit of the post was the most important factor when writing a sponsored post. If the topic in question isn’t fitting for your post and is slightly disjointed it won’t flow within your blog.

Usually, when I’m asked to provide sponsored content I offer two options less than 500 words or a 500-1000 word option this gives businesses with different budgets a choice, it also allows me to charge appropriately for a post which takes double my time than just giving a standard rate. But remember, keep it simple. Don't offer too many options as it scares people when they have to make lots of choices.

Perhaps though price dependant upon length is worth looking into as if you’re writing lengthy posts that take you a long time to write then your time should be considered appropriately. 

From our study, the average price charged for a post which is up to 500 words in length was shown to be £113.93 with the lowest price being £20 and the highest valuation being £450. You’re probably sat there thinking £450 I could NEVER charge that. Remember as an influencer you have the authority, the power and the skills that businesses are looking for, so yes if your content is right and your readership is there, yes you can charge that!

If you’re just getting into sponsored posts I probably would say that usually businesses would offer around £75 per post up to this length.

DO NOT UNDERVALUE YOURSELF. EVER.

I once won a competition which the prize was 8 1/4 pages ads in a local newspaper over four weeks and the sum of this…£50,000. FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS it would have cost my business to place eight small ads. Can you imagine what it costs to place a full page ad in a publication like The Times or The Mirror? Perhaps even in Cosmopolitan. If the business is advertising in these places, I can guarantee you they have a substantial budget that you can have a slice of. Don’t undervalue yourself.

TOP TIP: If you are approached asking your rate, why not flip it on its head and ask them what their budget is for the post. I frequently do this and sometimes they state two, three and even four times the amount that I would charge. Result. 

Back to pricing. For posts 501-1000 words in length our participants disclosed that the average of their fees for this length post is £177.50 with the smallest amount being £40 and the highest price being £600.

You must also take into consideration your costs. How much is your time worth, the time to write, edit, take photographs? The effort in promoting your posts, the research you must do to write. The costs including your internet, website hosting, the domain you’ve purchased. Once you’ve accounted for all this you’ll see that if you divided those 9 tasks equally and are charging £20 per post it works out at £2.23 per item. Is it really worth £2.23 for the hour it’s taken you to write, £2.23 for the hour it’s taken you to edit and £1.22 per hour for the two hours it took you to get the perfect shot? I think not!

Like above if you’re just getting into sponsored posts I probably would say that usually businesses would offer around £110 per post up to this length.

Most surprisingly from the study, many people stated that they wouldn’t charge to publish across their social media channels. These are channels that also have a huge influence and they have taken you time and effort to grow. You should also be rewarded for this effort. Here’s a question for if you’re in employment and not self-employed. If your boss asked you to do 3 tasks which you had to stay after work for and you would not get paid for would you do it? Of course, you wouldn’t so why do things for businesses who are making money from your time and effort and posts without you getting rewarded too. Most of these businesses have multi-million-pound turnovers. 

Be brave. I always state that I will share the post on my Twitter as a complimentary service (mainly because this is pushed through Bloglovin’ and shared through the plugin on my site) - businesses like that but I also offer a Social Media Add-On where I promote across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for a set amount. I’m happy to disclose this as a payment of £150 onto of the sponsored post, this includes 2 Tweets, a Facebook post and an Instagram image . 

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The classic upsell technique - McDonald's make billions of additional revenue each year for asking one simple question 'would you like fries with that?' - if you ask 'would you like the social media add on with that?' how much additional would you generate annually?

Always give the brand a little more value for their money but not so you’re out of pocket like a couple of Tweets promoting them and your link. This will help build a long-term partnership. Similarly to this, it’s important not just with sponsored posts but with events and gifted posts that you ensure you have a quick turnaround time. Businesses will appreciate this, they’ll think you are a conscientious worker and when they have new campaigns or host more events you’ll be first on their list. Remember to always send them an email with the URL once published too. Sometimes they don’t see your tweets with the link to the post and more often than not the Social Media department is totally different to their PR department.

If you’re looking for a little more advice I’m more than happy for you to drop me an email here or why not sign up for ELLEfluence here for when we launch in the New Year where we’ll be offering sponsored opportunities too. 

Alternatively, you can visit Webfluential by clicking here, this is a service in which I use to get an average of my stats including engagement and page views on my site to see what others similar to me charge which is very useful for not pricing myself too low. 

#WeKnowWhatMatters this Christmas with Holiday Inn Express

Christmas is massive in our family, it always has been and always will be. It’ll be 26 Christmases this year that I’ll have spent at my Grandma & Grandad’s home in the Lake District, that’s every single Christmas from being just four weeks old surrounded by the people who matter the most to me. We have some great traditions and they have just been carried on as our family has grown with the addition of my two cousins who now that I’m older keep the Christmas spirit alive, it’s also a time for us to remember the traditions set by those who sadly are no longer with us too.

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That’s all that matters to us at Christmas, not the gifts under the tree (although we do go pretty all out!) but it’s the time spent as a family. That’s the meaning of Christmas in our house. With Christmas beginning on Christmas Eve with a trip to the local cinema, followed by an early night with all eight of us and the smallest dog of the family heading up the stairs singing ‘Jingle Bells’ to my youngest cousin as my Grandma frantically shakes some jingle bells we head to the bathroom to look out to see if we can see Santa and his Reindeer in the night sky. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I actually discovered that the ‘Santa’ we see in the sky from the bathroom window in my Grandparent’s house is actually the tailing of the last of the Christmas Eve traffic on the M6 in the distance. With empty roads and a few cars and lorries making their journeys home for Christmas, it’s a perfect illusion of Santa across the night sky.

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For the family of 8 (and two dogs) who sit nestled in front of the fire, ontop of the hill in a sleepy Lake District town, exchanging laughter, playing board games and of course laughing about the sweets left in the bottom of the tub that nobody likes, it’s a time for celebration for us. For some families, it’s not always possible to spend the festive times altogether. For service men and women, for those in the NHS and the fire and rescue and the police services there’s no rest around the holidays, even Santa doesn’t get to spend the best day of the year with his family so we often reflect on just how lucky we are as a family to year in and out, spend Christmas together.

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This holiday season Holiday Inn Express wanted to change three lucky people’s Christmases, so they set out on social media to find families who are separate at this time of year due to working or living overseas with their ‘What Matters Most’ campaign. They reunited three sets of families at the Holiday Inn Express in Ealing as an early Christmas gift. Check out their video and make sure you’ve lots of tissues at hand because if you’re anything like I am around this time of year you’re going to be wiping away those tears with this moving video.

Feeling a little tender after that? Holiday Inn Express are having a party on Twitter from 10am and you’re all invited, check out the hashtag #WeKnowWhatMatters! So what are you waiting for? Head over there now get yourself a virtual seat and enjoy what they’ve got in store for you (you have to supply your own mince pies!)

Fancy A Career Change? Here Are 5 Ideas

It’s not always easy to know what kind of career you want, or if you’ve made the right decision when you were at school. The good news is, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re doing something about it now.

If you’re starting to take steps in the right direction, you’re still on the right track. Whether you’re bored of your current career or you want to try something new, take the leap. If you need a challenge or to find something flexible, one of these five ideas might just be the new passion you’re destined to find.

Designer

Are you a creative person? Do you love visuals? If so, a design career might just be what you’ve been looking for without evening knowing it. If you have a passion for design, details and aesthetics, working as a graphic designer or even interior designer could be your next steps. To gain the qualifications you need to be recognised as a professional, you may need to do some further training and gain some experience. But if it’s the path you’re meant to be on, you’ll enjoy that part of the journey too.

Accountant

Maybe you’re good with numbers? It could be something you’ve always know, but you just didn’t know how best to utilise your skills until now. If you want a challenge and to join a stable career path with good progression, a career in accounting could be for you. You will be required to be accredited and become savvy on taxation, but for a number whizz like you, that’ll be all apart of the fun.

Nurse

If you’ve got a kind and caring nature, with the patience of a saint, a career as a Staffnurse could be what you’re looking for. You may already work within a caring field, but feel like it’s time to take a step up into the world of registered nurses. If so, it’s time to start your training. There is a broad range of specialisms to choose from as a nurse, so get your brain in gear and plan your career path.

Virtual Assistant

Priding yourself on your organisational skills is never a bad thing. But if you love being efficient and organised more than anything else in your current career, have you thought about becoming a virtual assistant? VAs work from home or remotely and can carry out a range of tasks from email administration to booking appointments. You’ll be an assistant to whoever hires you. One minute you could find yourself working for a hairdresser and the next, a budding entrepreneur.

Child Minder

Perhaps you have young children and your priorities are with them, or you love to work with kids but want more flexibility in your job. If that sounds like you, then a career as a childminder could be just what you need. If you’re a stay at home Mum, you get to stay with your children and commit to a career that works for you. Not only will you enjoy being your own boss, but the rewards of working with children are incomparable.

 

 

UK Blog Awards: WE NEED YOU!

It really is the most wonderful time of the year - there's lots going on and we’ve just discovered that the UK Blog Awards we were nominated for we’ve made it through to the next round. How amazing.

Notice how I’m saying we? This is for everybody who has had to put up with my obsession of taking photos, writing posts, making them wait to eat until I’ve got an Instagram-worthy snap. It’s for everybody who’s been part of my journey since day one of opening my first business five years ago, to the revolution of today. I thank you all. I simply couldn’t have done any of this alone.

Most notably, my Mum, she’s my rock, she’s my motivation and she’s me all time best friend. Without her I am nothing. Goodness, this sounds like and acceptance speech and I’ve not even begged you for your vote yet!

Anyways as you’ll be well aware I’m launching my new brand ELLEfluence in the New Year, which I can’t wait for. It’s all about bringing brands and influencers together through fair and exciting collaborations, creating content worthy events, bringing together the influencer community for good and more! So I really really want us to do well. The further we make it in the award running means the more recognition we get as a brand and you know what that means bloggers and influencers? We’ll be able to bring you bigger and better opportunities based on our stature. If people know about us they’ll want to work with all of our influencers. Win, win. So if you’re not nominated or if you’re nominated in a different category we’d absolutely adore your vote.

The further we make it the more we can bring to ELLEfluence. So this is where we ask you kindly. Click the image below and make your vote count! It’s as simple as that. You can only vote once but please make sure you share and tell your friends to vote for us too!

Vallum Farm: A Festive Friday Victory Dinner

A few weeks ago I was invited to the tasting menu sample of Vallum’s Festive Friday’s Christmas Menu and it was absolute heaven. I strongly suggest you read that post here before you go any further.

As I had been away for my birthday last week my Mum and I had decided to book a 7pm table and head up the windy roads for a delicious meal. Joking about hoping there being Christmas crackers on our table we hopped into the car on a dreary, wet, windy and extremely foggy evening and headed up to the outskirts of Newcastle to Vallum Farm.

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Arriving we were once again greeted by Nick who showed us to our seats in the restaurant where other diners were enjoying their Festive Fridays too. We immediately ordered a drink, I, a Blackberry Bramble and my Mum, a traditional snowball. It was really beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

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As we perused the menu discussing each starter in detail from our previous visit Mum and I both decided upon the celeriac soup as the shot we previously sampled was delicious. Vallum believes in a from farm to fork mantra and their vegetables are all grown and handpicked from their sustainably sourced garden. They are particularly proud of their abundance of kale and perfect carrots.

Alongside our starter of celeriac soup, we had both decided we were going to fully enjoy the Christmas dinner; turkey, ham, kale, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, stuffing and pigs in blankets were on the menu for this Festive Friday.

Minutes after ordering our food, our drinks arrived and I must admit their snowball is the best snowball I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend one to put you in the festive spirit. Listening to Christmas classics in the background setting the atmosphere and watching the twinkling lights around the glass windows of the upstairs restaurant we were feeling extremely merry and bright so we decided to pull our crackers, yes, there were Christmas crackers, just like we had hoped.

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Now I don’t know about you but it’s not Christmas until you get a fortune teller fish right?

Oh and a rubbish cracker joke…..so here it goes. 
Who delivered Christmas presents to sharks? Santa Jaws.

Laughing at the awful cracker jokes, placing our paper crowns upon our head our starter arrived. I was super excited for a full bowl of this soup and it really didn’t disappoint. Thick and creamy and packed full of flavour the soup was even better than I had remembered. Served with a side of bread and a wedge of butter it required no seasoning and I seriously didn’t want it to end - I’m a huge soup fan!

Having finished our starters the lovely staff cleared our table and within about five to ten minutes our main courses were served. Vallum, you certainly don’t disappoint, with a plate full of meat and veg we both set to work. With the moist juicy turkey and melt in the mouth ham, we knew we had made the right choice with the dinner. The kale, just as flavoursome as I remembered. The carrots, just as mmmmmm worthy as they were the other week. The parsnips, well they’re my favourite root vegetable and the rest of the trimmings they were a solid ten out of ten.

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Thoroughly enjoying our dinners, we were extremely full, however, we weren’t admitting defeat and we both finished our plates. The restaurant had filled up substantially by this point and the private party in the Chef’s room was in full swing, the atmosphere was really relaxing and it was clear that everybody was enjoying themselves, including the staff who are so polite and all seem to be happy in their work which makes Vallum even more enjoyable.

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Festive Friday’s are running for the next three Fridays in December from 6-9pm so make sure you book yourself a table and see what we’re raving about! 

Back to the food, though, we were that full from our celeriac soup and Christmas dinner that we couldn’t manage a pudding, we totally felt that it would be sheer gluttony to have a pudding so we left our third course this time, that’s not to say pudding won’t be on the agenda next time…

I really feel like we've found a new favourite place to really enjoy great quality food in an amazing setting. 

Merry Christmas to Vicky & Peter and the whole team at Vallum we hope you eventually get a well deserved few days off over the festive period!

Great North Snowdogs: A Final Farewell, Gateshead

This morning before a spot of Christmas shopping I headed to Gateshead International Stadium, not for a sporting event, but to bid farewell to the Great North Snowdogs.

In their final days together before they get auctioned and shipped off to their forever homes St Oswald's Hospice put on a spectacular show to gave us one final chance to see those intricately designed dogs that have been scattered with precision across the North East.

From Northumberland to Sunderland the trail has seen thousands of revellers chasing the 60 strong pack to find them on the specifically designed app packed full of information and of course the all important trail.

With local businesses including Ringtons, Fenwick and Barbour sponsoring dogs and local artists commissioned to bring these once plain white sculptures to life, giving them personality the whole of the North East has been involved in this memorable and well deserving charity fundraiser.

With the Snowdogs having being removed after their few months stint it left an emptiness inside of me. The joy they brought to us all, bringing out the inner child in us all when we stumbled across another dog. 

Having not completed the trail we headed to Gateshead Stadium this morning to check out the ones we hadn't yet seen. A perfectly executed event, we arrived for the opening at 9am and bought tickets on the door. At £3 per ticket, we thought this was a great price. 

Heading into the stadium the outdoor dogs including The Dogfather, The DFDs sponsored dog, Skipper greeted us before we were led into the largest marquee where the rest of the dogs were taking shelter from the cold, frosty Saturday morning.

With twinkling lights and white Christmas trees creating a festive atmosphere we wandered around spotting the dogs we'd previously seen and admiring the complexity of others and the simplicity of the rest. 

Smiling as we got to the NUFC and SAFC dogs, paired together, feeling it was the first time there was harmony and silence between the magpies and the black cats, although the SAFC looked like he was feigning a smile stood next to the top dog of the North East.

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Of course, the twinkling Disco Dog which was one of the focal points of the marquee was one of my favourites, as too was Snowberry. The way in which the dog was painted made it look so realistic and almost 3D.

The detail in some of the dogs was absolutely astounding and the thought that's gone into the dogs is amazing. With the infamous scene of runners across the Tyne Bridge during the Great North Run on The Dog on the Tyne, created by Jane Headford and even spotting my home on Guide Dog, sponsored by Metro and created by Mike Clay. These local landmarks painted onto these huge sculptures really made me proud to be from the North East....again.

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There's a chance to buy Snowdog merchandise, view and purchase more artwork from the artists behind some of the dogs as well as if you're feeling peckish perhaps a hot dog?

The final farewell is on until Sunday from 9am until 4pm - you can book a time slot online or head along to Gateshead Stadium to buy tickets on the door. There's free parking too so no excuse not to see them one final time before they're auctioned off next Tuesday with some of the Snowdogs listed from as little as £2,000, you know you're supporting a great cause.

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Why blogging isn't a competition! The Rant Collection

For as long as I can remember, since the day I opened my first business, a bricks and mortar store I knew that business has run through my veins. 

I'm the first person to stop and help somebody if I can. I like to share all of my years of business knowledge, the information I've picked up from my university degree and from my extensive life experience. I like to add value and above all I like to try and help people avoid mistakes I've made.

This is where this stops being about me and becomes all about the blogging community.

Over the last few weeks and months there's been swipes, digs and awful comments made not just about me but about other people within the blogging community. Why? Why do these grown women feel the need to try and break each other down? Is it insecurity? Is it fear of not being the 'top dog'? Is it because their parents didn't bring them up with the most important trait of all? A kind heart.

Women should build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Fact. 

I'm the biggest believer in this and in the fierce and unnecessarily catty world of blogging the competition and the bullying needs to stop.

There's no such thing as competition. Yes, you may be pitching for the same opportunity now and again or running for the same award but does it warrant trying to destroy people as humans, belittle them? Does it make it alright to hurt people with your cruel words?

I can go to an event, the same one as Deb from My Boys Club, the same one as Pixie from Fashion Voyeur, the same one as Mandy Charlton from her self-titled blog, the same one as June from Travel Jems and you know what? We can all get along, we can all laugh and joke and enjoy the bounty of delicious food served, but you know what? We weren't and have never been in competition, we all write for different age groups, different demographics and above all we write with a different viewpoint. So seriously check out how different our Vallum posts are to see what I mean.

Have you ever stopped and thought, the stronger we make the blogging industry and community by all building each other up the more opportunities we'll have as an industry whole, the more we will all grow as people and in terms of careers and finances. Surely that's the best outcome for everybody? 

Just because somebody is successful in something it doesn't mean you're not going to be successful in others. Take Natalie from Oh My Glow for example, her product is being stocked in Boots stores all over the country, she's worked relentlessly to create her brand. I felt myself cheering her on as I read her latest email minutes ago but I know somewhere there's going to be somebody sitting there reading the same thing, bubbling away with anger, hate and jealousy because she's winning, when in reality they could be winning too with something else.

It makes me so sad to see these people who often have never even met one another tearing each other down because of hearsay or because they become so opinionated about their content or successes that this turns into an unhealthy obsession of hatred.

Wouldn't it be nice if everybody could just clap for each other when they're winning because when it's your time to win guess what? Your round of applause will be even louder...

#Lashgangbday: Nouveau Lashes #lashgang 1st Birthday, London

Yesterday was a super special day, it was my 26th Birthday and it was also the first birthday of the legendary #lashgang. If you’ve never heard of #lashgang where have you been? A brain child of the best lash brand around, Nouveau Lashes, #lashgang is a group of fierce females with a passion for the boldest makeup looks around. Every month the gorgeous Beth and Em set the gang challenges to show off their lashes or their amazing treatments including LVL and SVS lash extensions, their newly launched treatment.

As I was in London and you guys know I love an event or two, I headed to their Academy in Purley for a first birthday party celebration. The fabulous #lashgang had an exciting day in store. We headed inside to be greeted by the Photo Booth, which after a few epic fails with both Ania and I we eventually managed to take some fabulous photos.

We played pass the parcel and took turns at hitting the Pinnate, eventually, the unicorn ended up decapitated and the sweet and lash treats spilt out everywhere. There was about 20 of the every growing #lashgang there and it was so lovely to eventually meet the ladies who’s posts, YouTube videos and Instagram posts I frequently see flying around.

As we headed downstairs to have Birthday tea the gorgeous vintage crockery was all laid out with sandwich fingers, cakes, chocolate strawberries, lemon posset, scones and of course birthday cakes galore.

We all chatted and laughed as we enjoyed our afternoon tea, YouTube tutorials were playing on the screen overhead and it was amazing to see the smiles of fellow #lashgang members as their face lit up as their videos were shown, videos from the talented Nishi V and Unico MUA were the staple features of the day, and rightly so. If you haven’t checked these ladies out and you have a penchant for beauty then you really ought to!

After we had had a bite to eat it was time to sing Happy Birthday so with a cupcake and candle in hand, then headed upstairs for a glass of fizz to celebrate the #lashgang first annual awards for the best MUA goals, best unicorn (all rounder), flat lays for days alongside other fabulously wacky awards.

The girls and I all chatted about our sites, Instagram tricks and tips whilst we got those all important crucial Instagram snaps to give everybody serious event envy

Happy Birthday #lashgang, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for us all! 

T'was the month before Christmas @ The Homesense Party, Birmingham

T’was the month before Christmas when all through the house,
Not a decoration was hanging, not even an ounce.
Their festive decor wasn’t hung anywhere,
A letter to St Nicholas, please beware.

The children all begged for the house to be red,
While their parents looked online and quickly said.
To Homesense we go, for decorations and gift wrap
Before the store shuts went Mother and Pap.

Arriving at the store, this reindeer looked fatter,
The kids will just love him, it doesn’t even matter.
Into the basket it went in like a flash
Supermarket sweep they were in and out with a dash.

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Homesense, is the best place, don’t you know
For affordable decorations, Christmas here we go.
Searching the aisles what should appear,
A cocktail shaker, a welcome change from a beer.

For the Christmas day tableware they need their fixing
A candelabra, a bauble, anything, they like mixing.
From tall silver trees perfect for the hall, 
Homesense has something, for one and for all.

After the holidays are over the kids will start to cry,
When the decorations are packed up, packed somewhere dry.
They returned home with a festive bounty or two,
This home were ready for Christmas now, are you?

Mother in the kitchen, Pap on the roof,
Decorating the home, the kids hidden from the truth.
They thought that St Nick wrapped tinsel around
And around, from the heights of the ceiling down to the ground.

From the top of the home right to the foot
The house was all ready, now for the man in the suit
The cocktail glasses were hung on the rack,
They love a drink, shake it red, green or black.

Mamma and Pap clinked cheers, they were getting merry,
Homesense sorted the decor out, the icing on the cherry.
The home was all cosy, presents ready to go.
One thing could complete it, let’s shout for the snow.

The wind whistled and blew, shaking the door wreath,
Stood proud at the front door, a Santa statue, the new chief.
They smiled and joked as they sat watching the telly
The Homesense advert made Pap laugh, it shook his belly.

Heading up to bed Mother and Pap each took them self,
For in the morning the kids would discover the elf on the shelf.
While the Christmas magic had only just begun,
For a month it would last, they’d have lots of fun.

Homesense had them all covered, now let’s all spread the word,
Their decorations are the best, in all of the land, so we heard.
A massive round of applause for the buyers, they’re serious pros,
A big Christmas bonus for them I propose?

Fast forward a month, to the Christmas Eve Bustle
To the big man in red preparing for his annual hustle,
Leaving footprints on the roof, a roof covered in icy white
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night”


Massive thank you to The Lost & Found in Birmingham for hosting the Homesense Christmas Party last night

Black Friday: Why I've ALWAYS Been A Big Fan!

For several years now I have taken holidays in America towards the end of November mainly to celebrate my birthday which falls on the 26th but more recently because the USA is the most wonderful place to be on the last Thursday of November when Thanksgiving is being celebrated. For me being a complete shopaholic what is even better is staying awake all night and hitting the infamous Black Friday sales which all start as soon as it hits midnight!

Over the years I have picked up some fantastic 'door buster' bargains from my £400 Ralph Lauren jacket at $20 totally awesome, to my Kate Spade handbags & Michael Kors shades all at an absolute steal. Some of the savings I have made would have paid for my trip they have been that great. I have Black Friday shopped in New York, Boston, Miami, Las Vegas but some of my best buys have been in the Orlando Malls. 

Victoria Secrets have a sensational underwear sale and I have drawers full of drawers...... Although I have outgrown Juicy Couture the t-shirts are a great buy and superb quality. Coach handbags are a really popular choice in America and the queues to get in the stores always wrap around the block although it's not my bag of choice the savings are amazing. I absolutely love, love, love anything Kate Spade and have bought everything from lipsticks. Purses, Handbags, iPad cases and key rings for gifts for myself and family. Because Kate is not as readily accessible in the U.K. these items are a little bit more unique and certainly quirky. Again they are really great quality and all at bargain basement prices. I have wardrobes full of Ralph Lauren tailored shirts and while the outlets here offer these in a £30 - £50 price range on Black Friday you can usually pick up 3 shirts for that price. Another personal favourite of mine (and my Granda) is Tommy Hilfiger you can pick up some terrific shirts, jeans and sweaters all usually with 70% off. Trainers, Uggs & Timberland are also fantastic purchases. 

After an exhaustive day shopping, I like to get back to my hotel with my multitude of shopping bags and switch on the TV to get a glimpse of some of the crazier side to Black Friday usually in a Walmart and usually involving some form of taser! 

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As Black Friday fever has swept across the pond to the UK it's a wonderful time to get your Christmas shopping underway. Most of the retailers have discovered that offering sales before Christmas gets the tills ringing earlier and longer and as a shopper, there are some great discounts around. The department stores have thrown themselves into this with great gusto and have started offering American-style door busters to get the shoppers through the door with an eye-catching knockdown bargains. My mum is always a sucker for a door buster especially if it's a flashy pair of boots. 

Outlet shopping caters well for Black Friday and having discovered the great shopping at Cheshire Oaks I would thoroughly recommend a trip as they have all the top brand outlet stores offering discounts on their discounts. You can even get a Black Friday lunch in most restaurants, not quite the same as being on holiday in the states eating Thanksgiving Turkey & pumpkin pie but still very much in the spirit of this now extremely popular annual event.

Wanting gadgets or electronics then cyber Monday is perfect to shop online from home and avoid the crowds. Personally, I love the thrill of the hustle and bustle in the shops and lumbering home with my shopping haul of goodies.

Happy Holidays Y'All

ELLEfluence Blogger Event: Benefit, Debenhams, Newcastle

Last night was event two of the two-day bonanza we were hosting this week as part of our ELLEfluence brand, a platform connecting bloggers and influencers to brands through digital marketing.

We hosted our second event of the week at Benefit located in Debenhams Newcastle for the Eyebrows on FLEEK event. With our eager ELLEfluencers braving not only the weather but some of them their awful Rub inflicted hangovers we began the night with a glass of prosecco and some amazing pizzas from Manny’s Pizza Deli located on Ridley Place.

Armed with fizz and pizza and heading for their Benefit photo whilst chatting between them the girls were about to be introduced to the full range of services in which Benefit offer.

With Rachael the counter manager introducing the gorgeous team we all posed for a sELLEfie before downloading the Benefit WOW Brows app. An app designed to reward you for your custom and for referring a friend. An amazing concept with some fabulous free treats from a free brow tint to a free full-size product up for grabs if you’re a Benefit Queen or just arching those brows to the brand then you need this app in your life.

Splitting the group of eager make up fans into 5 groups they headed off with one of the fabulous Benebabes to a station. First up the fabulous Mandy Charlton from her self-titled blog and gorgeous Gemma from Gemma’s Little World received the full beauty package with their brow, lip and chin wax followed by a complimentary cover up service to hide any redness. Perfect for if you’re wanting to pop in on your lunch break.

On the other side of the largest Benefit counter in a department store that I’ve seen were the other three groups who were being shown Kim Kardashians favourite highlighter and the Christmas gift sets that Benefit is offering this festive period, with Macara from Macara Space , and Humera from Rocking Bhootni being made super glam with the fabulous skills of the Benebabes. 

The Christmas gift sets are an amazing value and contain:

In the 'Kissy Missy' set:

  • Lollitint mini
  • Benetint mini
  • They’re real! double the lip in revved-up red; pink thrills

The Girl-a-Rama set contains

  • Roller lash mini
  • The POREfessional mini
  • Powder brush
  • Benetint mini
  • They’re real! duo shadow blender in brazen bronze
  • Custom ShadowBlender
  • Coralista / rockateur in split pan

The groups then swapped over so Farzana from Aspiring Londoner and Ruth from Pretty Little Gym Addict were then treated to a full beauty waxing package. Beth, the brow expert of the team was explaining how a lip and chin wax remove all the fine hairs which in turn help your make up lie on your face a little better. 

Mandy seemed to get the full works and volunteered herself to have her make up done too, I did question if she was heading out on a hot date…her answer perhaps you’ll find it across on her site? Amy from Anchored Teapot had her brows pencilled in and they were seriously on FLEEK.

Whilst the Benebabes suggested their recommendations in terms of essential products for our lovely ELLEfluencers which added such a personal touch and was extremely interactive the ladies did a little bit of shopping taking advantage of 10% off on the night and the special offers in which Benefit had on the night for the girls.

A relaxing an enjoyable evening, with all of the ladies discovering more about the Benefit brand including their complimentary brow mapping service they were all full of excitement. I feel that Santa will be getting a few make up filled Christmas lists from our fabulous ELLEfluence family this December after both this Benefit event and our Urban Decay event at the beginning of the month.

If you’re a blogger or influencer and wish to sign up to the ELLEfluencer family, attend our events, be gifted products for review or take part in sponsored opportunities click here.

Brands are you looking for assistance promoting your business with an edgy twist? Find out how our creative approach to digital marketing through the use of our network of influencers and bloggers can enable you to reach millions of potential customers from your target specific demographic. All brands on board are assigned a dedicated account manager, receive a full post-campaign report and follow up campaigns as standard. We offer an unrivalled service unlike no other. Drop us an email at hello@elleblonde.com to find out how we can help you.

Make Exercise A Priority. Motivation That Will Work Wonders

We would like to be a little bit fitter. In truth, it’s easier said than done. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and exercise is one of those things that often gets knocked off the to-do list. If you’re determined to fit exercise into your routine, you’ve come to the right place! Personal fitness isn’t something we can sacrifice! The good news is, there are ways to motivate ourselves into exercise. You may not think you have the time, but you know what they say - we make time for the things we care about. And let’s be honest, your personal health is something you should care about! Here are some top motivation methods to get you into the swing of the exercise game.

GYM MEMBERSHIP

A gym membership can be a great place to start on your exercise journey. Find the nearest gym and fitness center and sign up. You’re much more likely to care about something if you’ve invested money into it. Every time you feel like giving the gym a miss, think of the money you’ve already spent on it. Money isn’t always a good motivator, though, so it might be necessary to go one step further. Most gyms offer exercise sessions for a little added cost. Sign up for some of these to ensure that you don’t run out of enthusiasm when it comes time to head out. These classes can be a lot of fun, and are a great excuse to get social while you work out!

FITNESS APPS

In this modern world, there’s an app for everything. That includes fitness! Installing some simple fitness apps on your phone is a good way to keep track of your progress. Having that tracker can be a real motivation. These apps will also be staring at you every time you look at your phone, so there’s no excuse! You can’t forget about these. Open your app when you’re feeling unmotivated. Remind yourself of achievements you’ve already reached. A lack of inspiration can often come from a feeling of failure. Don’t get down, and remind yourself how far you’ve come and how much further you can go!

ARRANGE AN EXERCISE GROUP

If exercise groups at the gym aren’t for you, why not arrange your own group? Ask around your group of friends. It’ll surprise you how many of them are looking for exercise motivation as well. A jogging group can be a fun way of getting everyone together and working out at the same time. Try to invite friends who are at the same exercise stage as yourself. Being in a group with a pro will leave the rest of you pushing yourselves. Pushing too hard could put you off exercise altogether. A group at the same level will be able to keep things at a comfortable pace for all of you. Plus, you can build your speed together! You’ll find exercise a lot harder to avoid when you have a group of people depending on you.