Property buying tips you need to know | My story

*Disclaimer: this is not one of those annoying click baits, “Saver who never pays full price bought a house at 24”.

We all enjoy a casual news scroll until they declare, “I received £XXXk from daddy” — believe me, I want to chuck those articles in the bin as much as you do. 

the Wong blog how to buy property kitchen designs Monica Wong

My fave spots for furniture: John Lewis | Made | Dunelm Outfit: Top | Jeans

I started The Wong Blog when I quit my job to travel the world. It has created opportunities I ever imagined (including contribution to my home), and I’m eternally grateful. If you’ve been checking in on my Instagram, I took a year-long break. And this broke my heart. I never meant to abandon the blog that I spent years developing.

A lot has happened, but I’ll stick to the most pressing matter, I bought my dream property! 

I’m going to make every effort to ensure that this post is honest and relatable. For any privilege that has come into my life, I will talk about it. I want to be fully transparent with you.

Okay, so I know you want me to hurry with the good stuff! Let’s go:

Live below your means.

Despite how it looks on the gram’, I didn’t use any old money trust fund. My parents would just laugh in my face if I tried. It’s great when families work hard to support their children, but let’s be honest, no one is on an equal playing field. Those who have built their success from graft genuinely know and value what it is to buy a home, start a business, etc., from the ground up.

Everyone’s level of ‘living below means’ will be different. It’s all about short term sacrifices for long term gains. 

When I graduated, I worked full-time in my office job; then at the weekend, working at Hollister during the day & Mahiki at night. I also lived in the tiniest box room, which cracks me up every time I think about it. Everyone thought I was nuts! I became much fortunate later in life with my career but no regrets; you learn and grow a lot more from the challenging parts of life than the easy ones, I promise you.

Be prepared. Get organised. 

I chatted to you about my year break because buying property is genuinely a whirlwind. My house buying experiences were stressful. I encountered numerous barriers, from building delays and legal issues — of course, buying during a worldwide pandemic didn’t help.

Be mentally prepared; try to avoid buying during a difficult time in your life. Brace yourself for the prospect of offers falling through or sellers deciding to pull out at the last minute. Get support from those who have bought in the same position as you.

Get your documents in order: grab a cuppa, put your feet up and dedicate an hour to this mission. Create a new folder and start putting together your proof of income (job offer letter, contracts), address (tenancy, utility bills), identity (passport, drivers license), bank statements, etc. This will make everything a lot easier when you start the process. You’ll thank me later.

Up that credit rating

Have a nosey at your current credit rating here. Once you’ve got your score, here is my housekeeping advice: 

Check for mistakes on your file – time to get that magnifying glass out! Data inputs like marginal address errors will affect your score. Check all of the deets, please.

Clear any debt – an obvious one, but pay it off. You may have forgotten that Klarna ASOS retail order you buzzed at checkout. The bank checks through your mobile contract, car finance, bills etc., to check you haven’t missed any payments. 

Show that you’re a responsible lender – try to keep your credit utilisation at 25% or lower & always pay back IN FULL (direct debit is the best invention since sliced bread). 

You need to manage a good blend of credit. If you’re a hey’ big spender (please, always only take out credit if you are confident with money), always get cashback on your purchases. My AMEX helped boost my credit score; get £20 free cashback if you start with this; the restaurant and retail offers are so damn delicious.

Register on the electoral roll if you haven’t already! This is for identity reasons; It confirms that you are who you say you are. 

Bringin’ home the bacon (deposit)

  • Channel your inner Excel whizz skills and start a budget spreadsheet. Enter your current monthly spending and forecast your post-property outgoings.
  • Open a LISA – if you’re not planning on buying soon. A LISA will incentivise you to deposit every month. If you decide to buy a property up to a specific value, you will receive interest + government bonus at completion. If you don’t end up buying, you can use it as a retirement fund + benefits instead, so either way — win-win! Don’t confuse yourself with the Help to Buy ISA as it’s not open to new applicants, so don’t worry about this (if you already have one, well done & keep saving)!
  • Research current government schemes – if you’re buying new build, look into the Help to Buy. You put down a 5% deposit, and the government will give you an equity loan of 20% (40% in London) of your mortgage, which you don’t have to pay back for the first five years; it’s around 1.75% interest + inflation from year six onwards. 
  • On payday, transfer an achievable amount from your current account into your savings, always trick your brain into thinking that you have less money to spend than you have. 
  • Shop smart, only buy things you will use and always work out the cost per use/wear. 
  • Start selling anything you don’t need; moving house is stressful enough, you don’t need to shift the stuff you don’t want to your new place!

An oldie but a goldie, here’s my article with further tips on how to save.

the Wong blog how to buy property kitchen designs Monica Wong

Top | Shorts | Sandals

Choosing the right mortgage 

I highly recommend having a natter with a mortgage advisor to get an idea of what you can afford. Talk to a few, so you get an idea of how they work and soak up as much knowledge as you can from them. It’s in their interest to hunt for the best deal, so they should be happy to help. They will provide a mortgage in principle, which will make you shinier to all parties.

I went directly to a bank because my circumstances are different (if you’re a limited company director or self-employed, you will need three years of accounts from your accountant). The general rule of thumb is that you can borrow 3-5 times your annual salary.  

Location Location.

First, you have to decide which location is right for you—the areas that work around your job, hobbies and local amenities. Start digging into local crime rates, commute and traffic. My best advice: research what the council will invest in that area in years to come. Are they building a new train station nearby? (HS2 is a great example). In future, will a tower block your view? Are they upscaling the high street? Are they creating an extravagant film studio? These are factors that will ensure you are investing in an area that will increase in value.

I invested in my borough on purpose; it’s close to the capital’s most prominent financial district and easily accessible routes to all the film studios. Pop into Google, the name of your local council, and have a nosey in the news section. 

The House Buying Process

usually goes like this:

House viewing > offer > offer accept > mortgage application > solicitor draft contract > mortgage accepted > searches > exchange of contracts > completion. 

Please ask your mates for a cracking solicitor; conveyancers are cheaper but less qualified so ask for recommendations. You will be chasing the solicitor All. The. Time, so make sure it’s a proactive one.

The conveyancing stage is the most mindboggling so bear with me. ‘Searches’ are enquiries from the authorities that hold information about your property. I dug into all of them because I’m nosey. Primary searches will be Local Authority, Drainage, Environmental and Chancel. There’s also indemnity insurance, title register, deeds and plan. Please don’t worry! Set up a call with your solicitor to talk you through these. The surveyor will look for these but make sure your home is fireproof, no Japanese knotweeds, mould, leaks, excellent roof etc. Please go through your solicitor documents with a toothcomb; there will be no hiccups on my watch!

Your mortgage advisor may remind you but don’t forget to get contents & building insurance.

Bed sold out but I love this | Mattress | Duvet | Duvet Cover |

It will work out, eventually.

It’s a lot to take in, so I hope you found it helpful. I tried to make sure this post is comprehensive as it is digestible.

Please be careful of any scams and do your research. You need a real estate license to trade in the US, but in Europe, any T, D & H can set up an estate agent. If it has less than five employees, check their credentials carefully. For the love of God, please never transfer any money to anyone without a solicitor! 

Don’t feel pressured to buy; there’s no ‘right time’. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you have FOMO, I’m telling you, houses are like buses; they all come at once. 

They say that you ‘know’ when it’s your house; I had nine viewings before deciding, so don’t feel that you’re too picky. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason and comes full circle. My parents got married in a beautiful park nearby where I now live. I can’t even explain it; I just always said I would go back there. So if you want a sign to go for something that you’ve dreamed of, that would be it. 

But most importantly, have fun! The best part is seeing your world unpacked into your new home — your entire life: photos, books and trinkets. Make it yours, and everything will fall into place. 

Ps. If I’ve missed anything and you have a little nugget of wisdom to share, please leave it in the comment section below. I know it will mean a lot to a lot of people.

Have a wonderful time & spam me with your furniture snaps; I love seeing other people’s interior design choices. 

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How to make money from blogging

Once upon a time, blogging was nothing more than a digital diary. Today, it has empowered a generation of #DigitalBosses. I’m so proud of the Blogosphere community, but there is still a lot of scepticism and speculation when it comes to the topic of monetisation.

The most common question I get is ‘how do you make money from blogging?’. Last summer, I wrote a 101 guide on how to start a blog, I solemnly swore that I would save the money-making side for a full-length post because I knew it would be a detailed cracker.

I have the best of both worlds; I worked in Digital Marketing (Affiliate) for years before I became a #LifestyleBlogger, Model & Digital Consultant full-time, so I have an inkling of what advertisers and influencers want.

If you’re a blogger, you probably know how a lot of this works, but for ease, I’m going to explain how it works to a complete beginner so that everyone can understand it.

To make this easy to digest, I’m going to split up the sections: Brand Partnerships, Affiliate Marketing, Display Advertising and Public Relations (PR).

Brand Partnerships (Fixed Fee)

Brand Partnerships is primarily ‘Sponsored Content’; this is when a brand pays you a fixed fee to write, YouTube and/or Instagram about a product or service.

The way it works is that a brand would contact you with an introduction of a product, and if agreed, a contract is drawn up with objectives of the campaign. A brief usually has all of the deliverables required, and this includes information about the product, which key messages should be said, hashtags to use and social media handles to tag.

This form of payment has the most scope of flexibility because the brand marketing department usually has the highest budget (some companies assign this budget from the same pot of TV and radio advertising).

Affiliate Marketing (Variable Fee)

Affiliate Marketing is my expertise, so I’m hoping, I can explain this simplistically for newbies. It’s when a brand (e.g. ASOS, Amazon, Groupon etc.) pays out a commission to a publisher (blogger, or any website that promotes products) for every sale generated.

E.g., when someone clicks on my blog and then spends £100, I earn X% of total basket value (excluding delivery & VAT).

Commission (X) range averages 5-15%, and it’s not paid out if the buyer returns the item. If you want to know how the technical side works, it’s all tracked by through the URL which drops a cookie and captures the data. The data goes to a network so they can calculate how much each everyone earns, but you don’t need to know any of this unless you work in the affiliate industry. You just need to know that there is no additional fee for the buyer who is purchasing the products.

There are lots of Affiliate Networks, and I started my career working at one of them, but I currently use RewardStyle who power my shop widgets, I find them very easy to use. Do let me know if you would like me to refer you and I’ll hook you up!

Display Advertising (Variable Fee)

This is when a brand (or media agency working on behalf of a brand) pays you per 1000 impressions or views (CPM cost per mill) or clicks (CPC cost per clicks) generated from your website or YouTube.

I currently don’t work with any display partners because I personally find ad’s on a website super annoying, I also don’t have YouTube, but an example would be:

E.g., when someone clicks on a banner advertisement on my website or YouTube video, I’ll earn £XX per 1000 interactions (impressions) or clicks.

CPM’s used to be fixed, but YouTube has created an algorithm, and each YouTuber’s rate is dependent on content, time of year, how many videos you make etc.

Public Relations – PR (Fixed Fee)

You can build great relationships with PR agents; they tend to be the most friendly! Once you’re on their mailing list, they will send products, gift cards or services for you to trial. There is usually no obligation to promote products unless you sign a contract.

PR’s will choose their influencers based on their audiences being the right fit for the product, for example, McDonalds PR isn’t going to contact a fitness influencer (unless it was some ironic promotion) because that wouldn’t be a right fit for the campaign.

On the topic of audiences, this video explains how to build them.

Remember that Influencers do also have to declare if there are paid, this is seen in hashtags using #ad or #gifted or #presstrip. I’m being paid to write this article by promoting the links in the post.

Like any other job, Bloggers do have to pay taxes (this company is making tax digital) so it’s useful to monitor regulations changes. Videos like this are helpful.

And that’s that! I hope the above advice helped explain the monetisation side of blogging and that you’re all clear as a consumer.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.

Primrose Bakery, London

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Photography by my favourite Parisan friend: Constance Doyle

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The career advice I wish I was given

When I was a little girl, I was the daydreamer in the classroom: head in the clouds, chin nestled into the palms of my hands. I’d imagine myself as this big shot, high-flying businesswoman.

Like a triumphant movie moment, she’s independent-organised-but-has-time-to-look-smoking-hot. She glides into the building in power heels, head held high. Her hair smells of some L’Oreal advert. Her flustered employees crowd around her as she answers their queries in her quick-witted state. Oh, she knows she’s worth it.

Sometime later, I shuffle into the lift in pumps that I keep forgetting to throw out, eyes half open, while trying to unknot my tangled I-just-out-of-bed-so-please-f**k-off hair. I land into the office, screaming every obscurity to myself. ‘Oh F, I haven’t done this! Oh b*llocks, I forgot this!’.

I would love to tell you that my early career was just like my fantasied movie. I wasn’t quite prepared for reality when I graduated. Here’s my ultimate guide on building a happier career.

Be confident in your abilities

Remember, you went through studies, research, tedious application process and interview/pitch to get where you are. The most important thing I would have told myself was to know my worth. Know what you want and have faith that you deserve it. Be kind to yourself; you deserve this role. On day one into my graduate job, I received my first set of emails, and I overanalysed Every. Word. It felt like no matter what the email said, I felt like everyone in the business didn’t like me. Today, I don’t overanalyse in the unnecessary; I’m there to work to the best of my ability, make a positive contribution and get paid. You’re not going to get on with everyone, that’s just business. Own it through your work.

Learn how to manage upwards

Learn how to manage your manager/client. And not in an I’m-a-smartass-I’m-trying-take-your-job kind of way (that will result in the opposite effect). Regardless of whether you plan to stay or leave in some time, learn how your manager works. Some will want you to get the job done, and others will appreciate social interaction more than others. Some will request pieces of work ad-hoc and others will set deadlines. Managers are humans too, they’ll have good days and bad days, but knowing how to adapt to their organisational and communication style will make a heck of a difference.

Work smart, not hard

Society has taught us that the number of hours you input is directly proportional to the amount of productive output that you produce. Well, F that. Working smart is about having the self-awareness about your work style, as opposed to increasing your (ineffective and inefficient) hours. I wrote about this in detail here.

Surround yourself with supportive people

One of my biggest failings in life is thinking that I can do everything on my own. To grow in your job, you need to surround yourself with people who will help you do that. The workplaces I’ve enjoyed are the ones who had the most cohesive teams. Alongside your day-to-day role, support your colleagues; you are all working towards a common goal. A good working relationship is a two-way street: a good manager will be supportive, listen to what you have to say, and take action. A bad manager will not trust you, be controlling, have no interest in what you have to say or your development. If you don’t get along with your manager, then there will be someone else in the company who you can source as a mentor. I look for people who ignite my creativity, encourage me to work harder and challenge me.

Speak up

Whether you have spotted a few things that could be improved, or have some great ideas, you should feel comfortable to speak up (if you feel like you can’t, then I’ve learnt the hard way that you’re probably in a weak environment). The saying, ‘there’s no such thing as a stupid question’, is true in this case. Asking questions will enable you to be better at your job and if said in front of the right people, can benefit you in terms of career progression. I’ve said plenty of silly things, but I rather receive the correct answer than for the issues not to be resolved.

Avoid gossip

Gossip, politics and red tape lurks in every organisation, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s straightforward to become close friends with someone in your company, but unless you fully trust them, avoid saying anything that you wouldn’t want your boss to hear. The same applies to clients.

When it comes to your career, there’s a lot of pressure to do well. My parents had high expectations, and I watched them work hard to provide for us. But, if there’s one piece of advice I could give, remember that no amount of money is worth more than your health, so look after yourself. Your career will only work if you put you, first.

I would love to hear your career experiences so far and your most important words of advice! If I’ve missed a key tip, feel free to leave me a comment. I always reply when I can.

Location: Les colonnes de Buren, Paris

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The ultimate Wonga guide to saving money

“Hello? Bank of mum or dad… hello?” *other line hangs up*.

The subject of money is touchy. Most of us, associate a lot of our self-worth to how much we earn so I‘m going to tread carefully with this post. Growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by peers who discussed bank accounts, interest rates and tax with me so I’m excited to share my money-saving tips with you. Whether you’re saving up for a house, dream holiday, or you’re just trying to keep up with your Boujee lifestyle, let’s make it rain, together!

Transfer on payday

I can’t recommend this enough. I swear by it. You need to trick your brain into thinking you have less money than you do. Weird, but it works. Open a completely separate bank account (savings account if you’re genuinely committed) and transfer a realistic amount, every month. You will not spend what you think you have unless you have to.

Write it down

Awareness is powerful. Get organised: log into your online banking or grab your bank statements. Find your favourite notebook (my favourite is from Paperchase). Work out your monthly spend: rent/mortgage, utilities, transport, food, shopping & leisure. Calculate income minus outgoings to find out how much you can set aside per month. Why not open a spreadsheet and be super savvy by calculating the percentage of say, your food spending. Surprise yourself; I was horrified by how much I spent on eating out!

Set up bank accounts to get maximum interest rates

Okay this is complicated, but I learnt this by research, hear me out; I’ve been doing this for years. Open a current account that pays you 5% interest in transferring £X amount (refer to the bank) every month. While you’re at it, make sure it rewards you with cash back – like this one. Then, open a savings account that also pays you 3% interest on monthly transfers – this one is popular. Set up direct debits so that you move the amounts required from your paycheck to your current account and savings account so that you get the maximum interest.

Shop smart

If you have friends who send you pictures with the caption ‘should I buy this?’, I have a neat tip for you. Ask your mate to calculate their cost per wear/use of that item.

E.g. if a coat costs £100 and they plan on wearing it three times, that’s £33.33 per use which isn’t worth it, but, if they’re planning to wear it 30 times, that’s £3.33 per use.

Apply this formula to everything you buy, and you will only buy things you need. Shop using a discount just if you were going to buy it anyway – look out for my yearly Black Friday roundups for the latest.

Generate secondary income

If you want that house, car, dream holiday, as Britney says, you better werk b*tch. Here are my recommendations:

1. eBay – I learnt to eBay when I was young, it’s my second most profitable online secondary income (after blogging). Grab all the items that you no longer use or wear. Put some tunes on, take your phone / fancy camera out and prepare a mega snapping session. Get your selling cap on as you’ll need to write enticing descriptions for your products when you upload the pics.

2. Bar & Waitressing / Nightclub – if you like going to festivals, football matches or racing events, there are lots of temp agencies in hospitality which give you the option to work when you’re available, and you get to go to the events for free! Or, if you much prefer being a night owl, why not try a local club? I worked in a nightclub as a hostess for a while – I was super knackered because I already had a fulltime job, but I was super determined to reach a certain level of savings. It was a big sacrifice, but it paid off.

3. Cashback – I wish I knew about this sooner, it’s a doddle! Sign up here, and click on the links to the brands you’re about to shop. Cashback works in that the advertiser wants to pay you to buy with them over their competitors. It’s that simple.

4. Mystery Shopper / Dining – soo, being a lady of mystery (ha) I’m not going to say whether I have this role or not ;). If you like food or shopping, then this is for you. The way it works is that you shop or eat like a typical regular customer, but you report back on the customer service, atmosphere, cleanliness and quality of food/product. The mystery shopping company uses your data to create better customer service.

5. Focus groups / Surveys – earn by telling research companies what you think, valuedopinions pays from 50p for taking part in a text poll and up to £5 for taking part in an online survey. Rewards are credited to your online account within 28 days and paid when your account balance reaches £10. Yougov.com pays you £1 when you register and then tops up your account intermittently. When you hit £50, you will receive a cheque in the post (source The Telegraph). 

There are also other things you look into like Bitcoin, Match Betting and Index Investments funds, as this is finance, I have to be careful with what advice I give so do your research!

Discover the art of minimalism

Having a clear room = organised mind. I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying‘. You know when you’re cleaning your room and you find stuff that you lost ages ago, and you go ‘ooh I didn’t realise I had this!’. The Japanese concept of minimalism suggests that we should only have material things that are in our ‘present’ focus. I love this philosophy because it’s eco-friendly.

Join me in my passionate plea

I want to use my platform to raise awareness that we have awful lack of financial education in schools. If we can teach children algebra, then we can show them how to use money in the real world. We have a severe debt issue, in the UK, according to the BBC 8.3 million people in the UK are unable to pay off debts or household bills. This post contains money saving tips for the everyday saver, but if you’re in serious debt, please get help here.

I discovered how to become frugal at three critical stages of my life:

Adulting sucks, but budgeting is for your future. A year from now, you’ll wish you started today. Make my tips a habit, and it’ll be easy.

Itching to share your best saving tip? I would love to hear it! Please leave it in the comment section below. I know it will mean a lot to anyone that is looking to save up.

Location: God’s Own Junkyard, London

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