House Buying in 2016: Defying the Impossible Dream

House Buying in 2016: Defying the Impossible Dream

“What’s that? You want to buy a house in 2016? Well dream on because you’ll never be able to afford it at your age, on your pay, in the city you live in.”

If there is one message being flung at millennials currently, it’s that their dreams of owning their own home are silly at best, ludicrous at worst. Brexit and the aftermath of the recession may have sent interest rates tumbling so we are seeing some of the most attractive mortgage rates in a long time at the moment, but wages are low, rent and bills are high and job security is not a certainty.

Me and my partner first started thinking about buying a house late last year. We decided on this a couple of months after he had moved into my mum’s house with me. Us living with my mum was meant to be a short term measure to save a bit of money before making the plunge. Things most definitely did not go to plan but there are definitely some positives to come from that.

Firstly, in October last year, my boyfriend found out that he was to be made redundant in the coming months after his work had been taken over by another company. This was the first in a series of hits to set us back especially when it took four agonising months for a job offer to come along for him.

When February came along with a new job for him and myself entering my third month in my job we thought we were back on track. Give it a couple of months and by late Spring we could start looking for our house. Then come the end of February, I got made redundant.

It was yet another setback in what had already been a difficult 8-9 months for both of us personally and it caused some tense months which tested both of us and to a point, it tested our relationship too.

The best thing to come out of the four months between me losing my job and starting a new role was the strength we somehow found, we came out of that year up to June 2016 stronger and more determined than ever.

It’s not all been sunshine and roses since I started my new job (which I absolutely love by the way!) for either of us but if one thing is certain, it is that we both know how to deal with difficult situations and take them in our stride. After months upon months of bad news, spoiling any little glimmer of hope we got, we finally got to the point we’d been aiming for at the end of September.

Around mid-September we decided we couldn’t live in a tiny room in my mum’s house any longer and we booked that first appointment with a mortgage advisor. To our surprise, we were accepted for a loan and a very good one at that. So with a mortgage approval in our hands, we quickly became much more positive about our outlook for the future.

The hard work and bad times were paying off, the sacrifices we had made in our personal lives to save every penny may actually have been worth it. We had the approval and we were going to find our very first home that we would own together. Yes, naysayers, we were going to do it!

The very next weekend, we booked in six viewings(!), we saw two awful houses, two ok houses, one lovely house and one house so beautiful I wanted it so much even though I knew it wasn’t quite right for us. The next weekend we were on holiday and that break cemented a few things in place and gave us the opportunity to rest, reflect and make the changes that needed making.

My boyfriend decided to leave his job, after nine months in the role he knew he had to leave the role that had zapped all his enthusiasm and confidence. The day before he planned to resign, he had an interview with a wonderful charity in Sheffield and was offered the job later that day. His decision to resign was now a decision to leave because he was moving on to something better.

I can’t tell you how happy and relieved we both were that day, it was another piece in the puzzle of what we had been waiting so long for. Four days after getting his new job and handing in his notice, we were back out there house hunting. I had a good feeling about the six viewings we had planned that weekend, I wasn’t sure why but I thought we may find a real gem.

Our third viewing on Saturday, at 2pm, saw us entering the house that we are currently so close to calling our own. The lovely owner and her gorgeous little boy showed us around a house, that although it had been emptied out, gave us that warming, family home vibe. At one point, we both looked at each other and we both knew that this was the one.

When people tell you that you will know the minute you walk into a home you will end up living in and they tell you about that feeling, you’ll never believe them but it truly exists! It’s like butterflies, nerves, excitement and falling in love all rolled into one, it’s weird and wonderful and leaves you thinking about a house for days afterwards.

After viewing the most beautiful house on the most perfect and quiet street, we booked in another viewing for the day after. We were still in love after inspecting every inch of the house for anything at fault. Monday morning came and we put in that offer which was expected a few hours later.

It was the most amazing moment! I’ve never been as happy and elated about a house before, the fact that in a couple of months the house (all being well) will be mine is utterly mind blowing and wonderful!

There is still so much to do and in a way this is only the beginning but for now, I’m just relishing this moment! The moment of having a house that is so near to being ours, managing to fulfil our dream and show that it can be possible to succeed in 2016 as a person in your mid-twenties with dreams, ambitions and aspirations.

The Positive Attitude of the Millennial’s Misfortune

Millennials are angry at the injustices of modern day society

As a millennial, trying to find the positive in the world at the moment seems like a thankless and frankly difficult task. But as you can imagine, it is not only a necessity but something we can be surprisingly good at.

As a generation, we were promised everything we could ever want and more. A great education, a good job, our own home, a great world for our future children, plenty of money and any possessions we would ever require. Fast forward to the current day and we are still, after 8 years, bearing the brunt of the worldwide recession we were never a part of creating. Life for the millennial is now hugely different to what we were promised and what we expected.

It’s not that we feel like we should be entitled to a free pass but the huge inequalities we see daily between rich and poor, our generation and the one before, men and women, North and South, all lead us to get angry at a world that is less fair and equal than it should be in 2016.

I guess it would be easy, when you take all that into consideration, to be hugely pessimistic about the world and our future but as I mentioned previously, us millennials can be quite a positive bunch. To me, I think it all stems from us having learnt to live within our means and be happy with what we have, appreciating the small things rather than striving for wealth, power or something bigger.

All we ask for is a fair society that treats everyone of whatever gender, race, sexual orientation or disability as equals. It’s a simple thing to ask and in the grand scheme of things, much more important than having a big bank balance or spending our weekends sipping champagne on yachts.

Saving and appreciating the NHS, supporting the poor, disabled and vulnerable, looking after our planet and making sure big corporations pay their fair share in taxes are important to us because we want a society free of injustice and betrayal from those in power.

All this brings me to focus on my own life and how important I know find it to focus on the positives wherever I find them. After a couple of trying years with a lot of bad news and terrible luck, I now spend more time than I ever have done focussing on the small things and appreciating what I already am lucky to have. From random little presents from my boyfriend just because, a cheaper than expected meal which is utterly delicious, a walk in the park on a nice day, the beautiful countryside on my doorstep; all these things I am thankful for and I appreciate while only wishing for the very necessities to survive.

It’s no surprise that adult colouring books, yoga and mindfulness have become so popular among people of my generation. We are stressed, suffering from depression and anxiety at astounding rates but we choose to, and recognise the importance of, focussing on improving our mental health. Whether it is little moments of calm, the focus of 5 minutes just for us, letting our minds wander or giving ourselves some creative freedom from the day-to-day struggles and worries that surround us.

There are many barriers for myself and my generation, whether personal or societal, but regardless maintaining a positive attitude is key to succeeding and creating a better life for ourselves and others. However much the odds are stacked against us, acting on our anger from injustices in society in a positive way through campaigning and getting involved in politics to appreciating the little things we are lucky to have, will be the defining characteristics and overall story of the millennial.

Why Corbyn’s Victory is Good for Me

Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of the Labour party

As a mid-twenties Northern woman in the UK right now, things have been pretty tough for years. I was at university when the Tories came into power, it was at a time when the country was in turmoil and debt. I started university the year after the financial crisis, spending what should be my best and most free years under the shadow of debt, austerity, cuts and protests, all of which has led to years of struggles and disillusionment.

At the last election, only a mere few months ago, I was fed up with politics. I’ve always been very interested in it but now, at the time when I should have been most fired up and most interested, I just switched off. Don’t get me wrong I watched all the leader’s debates, I read parts of manifestos but ultimately when a politician of whatever colour opened their mouth, my brain switched off.

Whether it was one party or another, every word was the same spoken through well-rehearsed, media ready politicians. They were polished, ready and nothing was off the cuff or full of passion and honesty and I got bored of it like many other people did when you look at the election results.

As the alternative to Tory cuts, the Labour party should have soared. Winning constituencies up and down the country as the poor, the vulnerable, the disabled, the ill and the working class the country over looked for something better. What they wanted was less cuts, more money for the services they rely on, security and help, compassion and equality but that never happened as many were not confident in the outcome of what a Labour win would be like. Through the campaign, they sounded too much like the Tories, too much like Lib Dems and they daren’t even talk about immigration because of UKIP’s rule over that subject.

But now four months on, after a long campaign trail from 4 very different candidates, the new leader of the Labour party has been crowned. Jeremy Corbyn, the 60-something outsider, won the votes of 59.5% of those eligible to vote and he won the hearts and minds of many, Labour voters or not.

He may have been the outsider but Corbyn’s rousing speeches have fired up many people while his opinions and politics are things he truly believes in and stands by, something rarely found in a politician these days.

His stance on war, on the NHS, on public services, on the media, on big business are all things that I agree with in full or in some way. His emphasis on compassion and a more equal society is something we can all get behind as many people have been hit so hard by the Tory cuts and austerity measures over the past few years, measures that are only set to get worse and more extreme.

Public services and the NHS are the lifeblood of this society and vitality important to me and my family and to lose them, the quality of service they provide and that access we all have would be catastrophic.

As a carer, I have found the past few years hard. The NHS has been picked apart piece by piece, benefits have been cut or squeezed while prices everywhere are going up and having support for myself in my role is pretty much nonexistent, I know something needs to change.

As a young person hugely interested in politics, I find it refreshing that he recognises me and my needs as a person starting out in the world. Over the years, I’ve seen my hopes of owning my own home and having a high paying job scarpered by rich and privileged Conservatives. I’m from a working class background but that doesn’t mean I don’t have aspirations to succeed, to better myself, to own something tangible and to provide a good life for any future children I may have.

As all hope had gone, Corbyn came along and understood what I want, need and should have as a member of a civilised society. The struggle is still there but now there is hope that a leader I believe in, whose politics I agree with could change things for the better for me and my peers.

Every generation should leave behind a better world for the next generation but over the past 7 years that has not been the case as the young, the vulnerable and the poor have had everything stripped from them that they hold dear. In Corbyn and this new era for Labour, I can see a better world, more equality, hope that I can achieve and have everything I need and would like in my life and that I can bring a child into this world without the fear that everything will be as bad or worse for them as what myself and my generation are coping with now.

Some may not agree with him, some may find it laughable that he is leader of the opposition and that his far-left ideas will make the party too extreme but for me he is the right leader and the right man for the job. His ideals may seem extreme but now Labour are finally different from the Tories again, providing an alternative to the same old rubbish we hear day in, day out.
His appointment, his leadership and the things he will work towards in opposition and would implement if he was in power gives me hope as it would help me as a carer, as a young person, as a woman, as a jobseeker, as a future homeowner and the future of this country.

Sexism & The Media

Jennifer Aniston is one of many celebrity women’s private lives on constant display in the media

Jennifer Aniston, the perfect example of how the media focuses way too much on female celebrities private lives rather than their careers.

Though she is a successful actress, the majority of news stories about her are still to do with her looks, her love life and her lack of children. Recently, Jennifer got married to Justin Theroux, and after a few congratulatory stories, the attention passed onto her lack of children.

Even though she is clearly happy to be married and happy in her life right now, the focus has to shift to the one thing she has not “achieved” so far. Why does it matter whether she has children or not? What business is it of ours or the media’s? Maybe Aniston wants children, maybe she doesn’t, but the only person who should care about that is her and now, her new husband.

The media rarely pick up on unmarried, childless 40-50 something male actors but their female counterparts have a plethora of articles out there about them, usually slating them for their choices and lack of accomplishment or patronising and feeling sorry for them.

Why in 2015 is this still happening? Actually why is this happening at all? It shouldn’t matter about celebrity relationships and whether someone has kids at 20, 40 or never, it is none of my business.

When I look up to a female celebrity like Emma Watson, like Caitlin Moran, like Lauren Laverne, I am more interested in their work, what they have to say about the world and their powerful speeches and words. I don’t care about their private lives because it isn’t important, it doesn’t matter to me who Emma Watson is dating currently, I care about what she has to say on female equality and sexism.

It seems to me that the media feels a woman in the public eye needs to have a child to validate themselves as a woman. That a child means they are loving and caring, human and not some sort of self-obsessed machine. It’s a weird thought process but one that seems rife in the UK, the US and further afield, as celebrity culture becomes even more warped and obsessed with knowing as much about a person as possible due to the rise of social media and instantly having access to celebrities 24/7.

As I said before, Aniston is an example of a woman with a great career, an actress on one of the most popular TV shows of all time going on to have a relatively good career in film too. However, articles have always persistently focussed on her private life rather than her career success.

If she was to go on to have children, Aniston, like all the actresses who happen to be mothers before her, will be asked how she manages motherhood and a film career? How on earth did she manage to lose all her baby weight that fast? And look how tired and awful she looks today due to juggling motherhood and career success.

I can’t remember ever reading an article with a male celebrity that asked him how he manages fatherhood with his career, how he must find it tough being away from his children or whether he’s thought about taking time out to focus on his children/relationship. Of course, men are asked about becoming a father or their love life occasionally but they are throw away questions. We don’t care about the answer because the main focus of the interview is their achievements and work, something not deemed as important when it comes to their female counterparts.

Not all media outlets are like this of course. Indie magazines/websites tend to treat women and men the same, spending the interview going in-depth on their career, rarely mentioning their personal life and only doing so if it somehow relates to their work.

I don’t know when this trend of focussing on a female celebrity’s private life started and when it became more important than their work, dominating the pages of magazines, newspapers and the internet. We need some equality here, either we treat men in the same way questioning them about their personal life, write articles pertaining to know how they feel and slate them for their personal choices or we treat women differently, giving them the respect they deserve, leaving their private life alone and asking about the things that matter, their work whether professional or charitable.

If we focus more on the inspiring things women are doing and less on their looks, their relationships and their private lives, I really think we can inspire the next generation and generations to come that women are and can be just as brilliant, powerful and successful as men, with the same respect as their male counterparts and rightly so.

Why The Election Campaigns Have Been Deemed Unsuccessful for the Major Parties

If you’ve somehow missed the fact that there is a general election taking place next week then well done you. But in what has been dubbed the most difficult to call election in decades, this is one of the most important times for our country with the power truly in yours, the voters, hands.

Because of that the campaigning has been furious this time round with politicians on your TV screens, in your newspapers and on your social media feeds every day and every hour. With election debates on TV, manifesto launches, bust ups on current affairs shows [Ed and Boris I’m looking at you] and as much spin as possible without making us all feel a little sick, it has been an intense ride so far.

But even though those politicians are in your faces 24/7, there is still a) not a clear winner to be deciphered from the polls and b) a truly successful campaign strategy from the 3 main parties. Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems have not seemed to gain the overwhelming support that you thought one of them would have by now but why exactly is that?

I think it’s a mix of things from disillusionment with modern-day politics and politicians, a turn away from the political elite, people being fed up of hearing politicians blaming each other for everything and no real fire in any of their campaigns. Each main parties campaign has focussed on statistics that no one really understands, talking about the bad points of the other parties manifestos/promises and talking about their own policies but giving us no clear idea or information on how it will work and how it is going to be financed.

The reason the smaller parties, especially the SNP, are thriving at the moment is because their campaigns have real fire, when you watch Nicola Sturgeon in those debates you feel as if she actually cares about the future of the country something not seen so much with other leaders.

UKIP and the Greens are two other parties that have been snapping up more voters, whether people agree with their policies or are using them as a rebel vote to stop the main parties. People see the SNP, the Greens, UKIP and Plaid Cymru as more honest with their policies and their leaders in the election debates stood up to the political elite calling them out on their policies and lies.

As the election campaigning rolls to a close it is difficult to see if any of the major parties will pull a decent lead and I think now we have to except that there will be a coalition of some kind come next week. But one thing that it would be nice to see over the next few weeks is more positivity, less focus on other parties pledges with more on their own instead and fewer statistics in exchange for more fire and enthusiasm.

It’s starting to happen in the Labour camp with a great new campaign video where Ed Miliband talks about his past, his reasons that he is in politics, his want to become Prime Minister and his passion for the job. It is a great start but I feel like this could be too little too late especially when no major parties have even started campaigning in my area of Sheffield yet bar a few leaflets through doors.

Are leaflets and campaign videos enough? Where are the politicians on a local level? Are statistics what we want to hear? What would persuade us once and for all to vote for a specific party? And how are those undecided, floating voters actually going to vote on May 7th?

I’m not sure what the answers to those questions are but if one thing’s for sure, make sure you use your vote next week. Now more than ever it is extremely important to have your voice heard whether it is for a big party or small. Pick the party that speaks to you to the most and vote, vote, vote!

 

Originally published on Yuppee – 30th April 2015

The Disappearance of Youth Subcultures

Just where have all the sub-cultures gone? Think back to when you were a teenager and more than likely you were a part of some music-related subculture, you’ll be able to easily identify it and its traits. This is the type of group that at the time you probably saw as your ‘cult’, your life and full of your people.

Ever since the 1950’s, teenagers and young people have had a subculture or trend to be a part of and sometimes with multiple ones happening at once. From their emergence with Mods and Rockers in the 50’s to 60’s Flower Power, 70’s Disco, the New Romantics & Goth culture of the 80’s, Grunge & Britpop in the 90’s and the last real subculture, Emo.

The ‘subcultures’ of today are not subcultures in the real sense at all. First of all, they are aimed and pointed at those in their 20’s instead of those in their teens and secondly there is no obvious trait(s) that makes them truly different and recognisable.

Hipsters and Normcore are the main two trends of these times but what qualifies as a hipster? It could be someone with a passion for music, good fashion sense, usually found working in a coffee shop on their laptop or as undefining as a 20-something man with beard. And aren’t most of those things; a) the majority of 20-something’s these days and b) the majority of adults anyway. And lets not even start on normcore which is basically people my age wearing the clothes their parents are wearing in a ‘non-ironic’ way.

These aren’t subcultures like we know them to be, they are just silly labels that are an attempt to hold onto the good times of the past. But as music becomes more bland and undistinctive, especially in terms of chart fodder and the playlists of stations like Radio 1 which is aimed at teenagers, is there any wonder why there is no way for today’s young people to make a statement. When everything being played on mainstream radio sounds the same, how can you celebrate the differences?

The same is also happening with fashion, it is becoming bland and repetitive as questionable trends from the 90’s and 00’s are already being repeated and tagged as the high street version of vintage. I was born in the 90’s and I’d like to think they are not classed as vintage just yet, I certainly don’t label myself and my era as vintage anyway.

As music has always been so influential on fashion, particularly in the 80’s with punk, goth, new romantics and the like, it is no wonder that right now fashion has stalled when so has the music in the charts. But in a world of fast fashion where what is fashionable today isn’t tomorrow and a music industry where if your first two singles flop you get dropped, it is clear to see that the creative world is stifling it’s own reinventions. Therefore the subcultures that come along with that have all but disappeared.

Even in today’s alternative music world, things are not as statement-esque as they once were. The music is not the same and neither is the fashion. It is like a watered down version of the emo scene I was a part of in the mid-00’s. The bands from back then that are still around now have changed, progressed and grown up and the new bands coming through are, in the main, trying to emulate that old sound but to no avail. The fashion is there in premise with skinny jeans, band tees, Converse/Vans, eyeliner and side fringes still being the uniform of choice but it is a more PG version with less experimentation and less shock value, becoming a fashion choice of not just the alt scene but of the many.

These subcultures are not just a fashion trend or music scene though, they are a place for teenagers to belong, they are the people you connect with and understand. Being a teenager is difficult and it is your time to find yourself an identity through music and expressing yourself through fashion and the clothes you choose to wear. That is what I did with the emo bands I listened to, the clothes I wore and the people I spoke to, in person or online, in my teenage years. But when all music sounds the same and all the clothes in store and online are rehashed versions of old trends, how can a teenager in 2015 truly express themselves to find themselves and the people they belong to?

I’m glad I grew up when I did and had that emo subculture to belong to because, though emo may be mocked slightly today, it is the place that helped me develop and become the person I am now and I’m sure you feel the same about the subculture you belonged to. When we look back at the past and watch those great music and fashion documentaries, there is always a subculture to learn about and there will always be one that you weren’t around for that you have an affinity for, like Mods, Punk and Goth for me.

But when we look back on the late 00’s and early 10’s, what are we going to see? A lack of expression, a time where everyone looked the same and everything on the radio sounded the same. We need that shock factor back, we need to let bands who may not sound like everyone else grow, we need to let them influence fashion and influence the young people who will discover them. We need to let a new subculture grow because in the end it is the things you love passionately in your teenage years that make you who you are as an adult. They are the times you will look back on fondly in your later years and they are the times and moments that will be revisited by future generations looking back on the heyday of their parents and grandparents.

Surely the kids of today want to leave something good for their kids to revisit and learn about because I sure as hell would want to.

 

Originally published on Yuppee – 17th April 2015

The Key To Election Success: Differentiation

As we enter the beginning of 2015 and a general election year in the UK, we have the chance throughout the next five months to decide how to make a difference to our lives and this great nation. Over those five months, we’ll all be hearing plenty of promises, information and arguments from all sides on why we should vote for X party and why we shouldn’t vote for Y party.

It’s an exciting time especially if you are as much as a politics geek as I am but I am aware that I am in the minority a lot of the time. But if the past 5 years have taught me and hopefully the rest of us anything it is that this election is very important for the UK and we really need to make sure we use our vote come polling time.

Hardly anyone voted in 2010, leaving us with a coalition which quite frankly no-one in their right mind would have voted for. Since then many from the poor to the most needy in society have felt the effects of this coalition and not in a good way, it is something that is starting to sway more and more people to vote this coming May.

But what exactly are the parties doing and what should they be doing to gain those crucial votes and get those disillusioned to cast a vote for once? The key to success is all about differentiation. Making sure that we know which party is which and exactly where they stand not this middle ground message we have been fed from the 3 main parties over the last few years, that is most certainly not going to work anymore.

What made politics so exciting back in the 80’s was that there was a huge difference between Conservative and Labour and whoever came into power could genuinely affect your life massively. But over the last 10 years politics has become boring, stagnant and full of the same message from every side.

Politicians never fully commit to anything from opinions to policies to apologies, something which is so commonplace in today’s politics where politicians apologise for absolutely everything. That is exactly why UKIP are so popular because they say what they believe in, what they would do if they were in power and for the most part they stick to their guns.

That is also why, self titled political reformer, Russell Brand is also so popular too. His Question Time slot opposite Nigel Farage proved so popular and finally started a much-needed debate about the state of today’s society and politics. Whether you agree with their opinions or not, conversations and differentiation is what is needed right now.

If Labour really want to win this upcoming election, that they should win hands down, then they need different strategies, new ideas and they need to go back to their own left field, for the everyday person, politics.

These are things that are happening at the lower levels with MP’s and candidates making proposals for real change in their areas throughout the country. A local example for me personally would be Labour candidate Oliver Coppard who is running for Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat.

He has spent the past few years tirelessly campaigning against the Tory/Lib Dem cuts that have affected so many areas of Sheffield for the worse. He campaigned for the Forge Masters loan which would have brought so much through jobs and growth to our city, it was unfortunately rejected and one of those against it was Nick Clegg. And also he is very visible presence on Twitter, becoming a spokesperson on there as well as around Sheffield. It is something more politicians should and need to be doing to reach all areas of society and especially to try to get younger people who less likely to vote to become engaged in politics.

The fact that the lower level MP’s are spending so much time working around their communities and making their opinions known is something that needs to be echoed at the higher ranks of all the parties. They are starting to try to make some stances but as the election date rolls ever closer is it too little too late? Let’s just hope each party has something great up their sleeves for the coming months.

 

Originally published on Yuppee – 5th January 2015