Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Keeping On Top of The Plumbing

This post brought to you in partnership with Sydney Emergency Plumbing. The topic and platform to write are my own, and so I bring you my thoughts on how effective plumbing supports us with our rental property.

My beautiful colourful bathroom, I miss my bright yellows!
One of the things that drives me crazy in this current rental property we are in is the plumbing. The kids bathroom smells weird sometimes, and there is a leak some where in the toilet that can't be attributed to Lorelei's toilet training. While they resolved the kitchen tap leak quickly enough, the landlords just don't seem to be interested in my weird smell or puddle. And I can forget getting hot water connected in the laundry, it simply isn't going to happen.

These little irritants are bizarre to me. As a landlord myself, one of the first things I did when putting my home on the market was to organise a plumber. While it was important to me to have the home certified so I could charge my tenant for water usage, I also wanted the house to be in top condition for handover. There's nothing worse than feeling like you are living in a temporary house, I want my tenants to feel like it's their home.

Decent water pressure and temperatures, water saving solutions to help them keep their water bills down, functioning quality tap ware and pipes that don't irritate with noises, stiffness, or lack of function, these things are important to me in the home I live in, so it's important to me in the home I provide someone else.

Looking around at the disarray that we see in so many aspects of the home we rent, I also see the importance of ongoing maintenance for my own rental. Each time our agent does a house inspection, we ask them to keep an eye on the little things that might need some servicing, gutters, plumbing, light fixtures, hinges, things that our tenant might feel like they are imposing to ask for, but things we feel responsible for and want to keep on top of. I don't want to end up in a place where a house that I own becomes run down due to lack of care, especially since I'm not there to keep an eye on it myself anymore. I'd be devastated if there was a major pipe burst and the house that I raised my oldest daughter in suffered significant damage.

Annoyingly enough, we seem to have given more thought and care in how we look after the home, for someone else. I can't imagine how much money we might have saved ourselves over the years if we had only had the plumber in earlier to take care of leaks and install water saving devices. Taking a look around the Sydney Emergency Plumbing blog for some tips and idea's, I noticed they suggest a savings of 10% on average per bill after dealing with a leak! With my usual eye on finances, I'm not sure why I never did it except it was one of those things that didn't occur to me till I had to get the house ready to hand over to someone else!

Do you take care of leaks straight away or is something that gets away from you?

If you are looking for a new plumber, my favourite feature over at Sydney Emergency Plumbing is their "On time or you get a discount" guarantee! I've taken too much time off work in 2014 dealing with delayed air con technicians not to value that kind of commitment.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Canberra Diary: Day 2

5:15am are you kidding it's not morning yet? At the first sound of Seb blinking I leap out of bed and warm up the bottle I prepared the night before. Success, I get it into his mouth before he's even really awake and the girls keep sleeping. I snuggle him close in the hopes he will drink and fall asleep.

5:45am Seb is nibbling on my ear and prompting me to say "ow" getting harder and harder until I comply. I'm awake. Husband is snoring next to me so I direct Sebs attention to his ear. Now we're both awake.

7:00am Girls are making noise about waking up so I sneak outside to the 3 degree's temps and hide eggs all over the place. I must be nuts. I hear another parent telling their kid that the Easter Bunny didn't know where to come. I throw the kid a chocolate so I don't have to feel guilty as they witness our hunt. Seb finds his first chocolate and spends the rest of the hunt with it fully wrapped in his mouth, brown dribble running down his chin.

10:00am Canberra National Zoo day! The parking lot is small, and I wonder just how many animals can possibly be inside when the expected crowds seem to be 50 families tops. Entry eats most of $100, with some silver change. I let the family know they better be entertained for hours because we are not leaving till they close. I am getting my monies worth.

10:25am Already pleasantly surprised! The animals are lively and easy to see from many vantage points. No jostling for space at the enclosures, and the staff are chatty.

10:30am Fending off Madeleine's plea's for an animal encounter. I've checked out the website and there is no way I am dropping $80 plus on one kid for this trip.

10:31am Lost that argument when the keeper announces that she can feed a Lion and get a professional photo for $15. I can live with $15.

11:15 Seb decides he's hungry and helps himself to another families grapes. He's eaten 2 before I thank them and hustle him away.

12:00 lunch time. I realise I've left the spread sandwiches at home so we'll have to buy lunch. Again. Hallelujah there's a sausage sizzle so we get off reasonably lightly for once.

12:30 Lorelei exclaims she needs to use the toilet so we leap into action. Too late, husband returns with her shaking his head and she promptly lifts her dress to show me (and everyone else) that she has no knickers on.

1:30pm Lorelei announces to a keeper supervising some craft that she saw the boobies. The keeper looks scandalised, even after I tell her Lolly meant she saw the picture of a Bilby in the enclosure earlier. We move on quickly.

2:30pm Curiously a staff member tells me they are packed today, it's their busiest weekend of the year. As I glance around at the handful of other visitors I compare it to Taronga, or even Dubbo. Favourably. I love those zoo's, but Canberra is terrific in terms of not having to bump elbows to see an animal, and having plenty of opportunity to see and be part of the scheduled animal interactions.

2:45pm We leave, having had a brilliant day with lots of animals. With time up our sleeves we head to the Australian Mint (free entry). There's a special on coins to commemorate Prince Georges first Australian visit - Two coins for the price of one! I enquire - it's $80. I personally and lovingly press a $1 for each of the kids instead. Most expensive $1 coin I ever saw at $3 EACH. Why did I press it myself? Because 2 out of 3 kids are in the car sleeping along with their father, and the other one chose to stay in the car and play Minecraft.

4:30pm Kids are napping in the hotel and I scour their website for evidence that the wifi was meant to be free. Having found it have a polite but firm conversation that eventually results in unlimited wifi for the rest of our stay. All 24 hours of it.

6:30pm Final nights dinner and we take the kids to King O'Malleys Irish pub. Foods awesome if a little long arriving. Loving that my toddlers can still split a kids meal. Makes up for the fact that Madeleine is choosing from the adults menu these days.

Part one of our Canberra Long Weekend

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Canberra Diary: Day 1

5:50am Seb is stirring so I leap into action to warm a bottle in a sink of hot water. Too late, he saw me and is less than impressed to see the bottle going in the wrong direction. Whole room and possibly whole hotel is awake now

6:30am Head into restaurant for the complimentary continental breakfast. Mortified by the mess and noise my kids make amongst this room full of quiet couples. Surreptitiously tuck some muffins away to enjoy later

7:30am check wifi it's still $12 an hour. Stupid wifi

9:00am husband is wheezing pit stop via a pharmacy for an asthma puffer on the way to Questacon. Damn pharmacy doesn't open till 9:30. Ooooh Nespresso store! Free coffee! Damn, they're closed too.

9:50am finally arrive at Questacon. I resent that it costs almost the same to pay for 2 adults + 1 child as it does for parents + 3 kids. Almost wish the toddlers were older so it would be better value.

10:30 Husband takes toilet training Lolly to the toilet because I am tied up. She comes out with a red faced Husband enthusing "that was amazing!". Apparently she was quite impressed when she saw how Husband went to the toilet. He took her into a cubicle in the men's and had to listen to chuckles from outside as Lolly admired his efforts.

11:15 family is starving thanks to our early wake up call. Time to suss out lunch. I should go a wrap and save some $$ while also feeling smug about the healthy option. Screw that! The cheeseburger and chips is cheaper than the salad wrap. The gods have spoken.

1:00pm Finally our time for Tiny-Q entry. So, so, worth the wait. Babies had the best time.

2:00pm. 4 hours more than enough for Questacon. Noticed tents all over the lawn outside Parliament House. What a great way to score free accommodation. Parliament House has free entry for a few days so am dragging the family around to look.

3:00om No accidents so far from Lolly on this trip but better safe than sorry. Drag her into a ladies bathroom specially converted for Australia's female politicians. "That was a great wee mum!" She compliments me before following my example. As long as it's me she's complimenting and not the lady in the next cubicle I can live with it.

3:30pm Found the Lego room at Parliament House and my kids try to build various Canberra landmarks. Husband and I restrain them from making a city and walking out with it in line with the "Make it, Take it, or Leave it Here" signage. Tempting though.

6:00pm Time for dinner and we head out to Gold Creek for dinner at the George Harcourt Inn because I saw they had advertised $12 schnitzels. Doomed to be disappointed, the $12 deal was for Tuesday but the service, atmosphere, speed and meal was great.

8:10pm Wifi is still $12 an hour. I start to suspect I am stuck with 3G this weekend. How primitive.

This weekends posts will be photo free and brought to you by my iPhone. I'll share photos in a few days when I return to the world of Wifi.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Palmolive Divine Blends Review and Giveaway: Washing Dishes Never Smelled SO Good!

The Mummy Hearts Money household was sent a big bottle of the Palmolive Divine Blends to trial this month. Thanks to a small accident, my first experience with the Palmolive Divine Blends involved a broken bottle and a counter top covered in detergent. My kitchen has never smelt so pretty before, and I couldn't wait to get some of this stuff into a sink full of dishes.

How Did It Perform?

I'm not a fan of a sink full of bubbles, so I put my detergent in after the water and swish it around. Palmolive detergents are nice and thick, so only the smallest dob is needed in a full sink to clean dishes. We washed a pretty disgusting and greasy pan that had been used for sausages in the sink, and had no issue with residue afterwards.

While there was no soap scum on any glassware that we washed, we find we need to use this detergent sparingly if we don't want it to need excess rinsing after wash. Which is actually a good thing as the less detergent that needs to be used per wash, the longer it lasts! I'm fairly picky with the clarity of the water when I am washing up as well, if it starts to look cloudy at all I tend to start a new sink pretty quickly, and I did find that I only refreshed my water once per full counter of dishes instead of 3-4 times which is the norm for me when using cheaper detergents.

This would probably be the most aromatic detergent I've ever used, with my my sink, my dishes, and my whole kitchen wafting the fragrance of Vanilla and Berries for some time after each wash, especially when the water is hot.

How Much and Where?

The large 700ml bottle of Palmolive Divine Blends Vanilla and Berries variety that we tried retails for $4.99 at leading retailers. I've spotted it on sale already in the last month at Woolworth's for 20% off, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another in the near future. The 375ml Violet and Apple Blossoms variety retails for $3.49.

Whats In For You?

You know I always try to wrangle a product for my readers as well! This month is no exception with not one but THREE bottles of the delicious smelling Palmolive Vanilla and Berries Divine Blends up for grabs. There are three EASY ways to enter, and you can enter all three ways as long as you use a unique photo each time.

Share a photo of the dishes that you would love to wash with Palmolive Divine Blends.

1. On Facebook, tagging Mummy Hearts Money and using #MHMPalmoliveGiveaway
2. On Twitter, tagging @MummyHearts and using #MHMPalmoliveGiveaway
3. On Instagram, tagging @MummyHearts and using #MHMPalmoliveGiveaway

You can share the photo on your own Facebook page or mine, I don't care! I've shown you mine, now I just want to see your dirty dishes!

Terms and Conditions

1. Prize will only be shipped to an Australian address
2. There will only be one (1) winner
3. The prize is three (3) bottles of Palmolive Vanilla and Berries Divine Blends
4. Prize will be mailed out by the promoter, and Mummy Hearts Money bears no responsibility for prizes lost or damaged in transport
5. Winner will be contacted/tagged by the social media channel of the winning photo and will need to reply within 7 days or a new winner will be drawn.
6. Winner will also be announced on Facebook
7. Entries will be collated and winner will be chosen by random draw.
8. This promotion is in no way endorsed by Facebook
9. All entries must be received by 5th of May
10. Winner will be drawn within 48 hours
11. Mummy Hearts Money reserves the right to repost or promote picture entered into the competition in any way that supports the promotion (with credit).

I have received complimentary products to facilitate this review. However Digital Parents Collective covered the administration fee to host the giveaway. As always, all opinions expressed are purely my own.

Easter Show on a Budget

Excluding tickets, the total cost of the above was $1.50
Our family loves the Easter Show. The food, the rides, the show bags, animals, wood chopping, grand parade...there isn't much to not love. The days are long gone when I could allow $800-$1000 to spend though. Three children + a mortgage later our budget is much lower.

Keeping it Real: How much did the day cost?

Tickets: $78 (x2 adults, + 1 child with toddlers free all purchased at a discount through my social club)
Food: $3
Showbags: $65
Teenager: $20
Rides: $20
Misc: $7.50
Total: $193.50

Just think, if I'd won tickets the day would have been even cheaper! Definitely motivation to keep entering those comps each year.

We packed food and drinks for the day, taking in some soft drinks, water, and snacks. I don't even make a pretence at healthy eating when we go to something like the Show, with all that delicious food everywhere you turn, a salad sandwich is not going to rock my kids worlds. Instead it was fairy bread cut into star shapes, which they think is terrific because it's our treat food.
Meeting a farmer, these guys are lovely and so friendly!
I love to talk to the growers, admire their beautiful stands and I always buy something. This year was no exception, and I gave Lorelei $1 to buy 3 banana's to share with her brother and cousin. Bargain afternoon tea and we enjoyed a chat with the growers about their displays and produce.

The other $2 in food was spent buying crumpets smothered in Nutella and honey. Yeah yeah, I could buy a whole pack for $1.50 on sale, but it's the show, they smell delicious, and as expenses go they are a pretty cheap treat.

There is so much to do at the Show, even if I wanted to run out of free entertainment I couldn't. Some of the highlights for me this year were:

Silent disco. I realise we looked like complete dorks grooving to our own beat with our headphones on and no apparent sound to anyone else, but when Gangnam Style comes on you don't ask questions, you get on that pony and ride.
Getting my kids fingerprinted and tattooed at the police stand. The irony.
Kicking back in the inflatable dome to watch a surround vision movie from the comfort of a beanbag. Yes, there was a couple at the back sleeping peacefully. No, it was not Husband and I, although we took a moment to consider the possibilities.
Baby animal nursery. Thanks to the rain and the later time (6:30pm) this was almost deserted and we walked straight into enjoy all the animals to ourselves. Seb was more than a little intimidated by some of the animals and hid in the corner till the goats stopped chasing him, but he loved the puppies.

We barely walked 3 or 4 stands in the pavilions without bumping into something fun for kids. It made it so easy to wander and browse because the toddlers in our group didn't get time to be bored. Colouring in/sucking communal crayons at the Crayola stand, playing with blocks at BUPA, pumpkins to kiss or food to sample.

Have you been or are you going? What's your favourite part of the show this year? I give you the mission of keeping it under $200 for the visit :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

9 Tips for Managing Health Insurance Premium Pain

We came to our health insurance later in life than we should have. Husband was 36, so we are stuck with an extra 10% age loading on our premium till 2022.

I didn't see the point of health insurance if you didn't earn over the amount where the additional Medicare Levi applies (currently $160,000+ for families). We were so far off that amount (still are) that it seemed like an unnecessary expense in a country where you can see a doctor and have basic medical needs met at no or little cost. 

It wasn't until I found out during my 2012 pregnancy that my child might have medical problems (he doesn't) that I took out insurance. If Seb was going to need extra help I wanted to make sure he would be covered from birth and as it turns out he was fine. But I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease only a few months after his birth, and with all my hospitalisations in the last 18 months suddenly I am seeing the point of private health insurance! I shudder to think of the waiting lists and expense I would have incurred for all my expensive medicines, specialists, and hospital stays without my insurance.

In the short time frame we have had our policy we have had increase letter after increase letter hit our inbox. Yet another one arrive just the other day! My premium will be going up from $208.98 per month to $231.54, or almost 11%. My original premium, back mid 2012 was $192.68. In the space of less than 2 years my premium has increased by 20%. That's enormous! 

What can we do to make our Health insurance work as hard as the premiums?

  • Check for policy discounts. Ask your employers, superannuation, and other insurances for Health Insurance offers. You might qualify for a discount or at the very least an upgrade. Check also with family as their corporate cover might extend to family members.
  • Shop around regularly for those joining offers, there may be discounts or freebies for changing. Just make sure premiums and limits are in your favour.
  • Think differently. Husband has the slightest possible prescription and doesn't need glasses for general wear so we use his optical budget for sunglasses each year.
  • Use them up. If your script doesn't change and your glasses are in good condition consider on selling your new frames once it becomes apparent you don't need them. I've sold spare frames for $60 each.
  • Manage Exclusions. Check your policy for possible exclusions that could save you money. Think hard about them though, you never know when a medical tragedy can hit and you may wish you had hip replacement after all!
  • Review your excess. Consider adjusting your hospital excess if there are any benefits. We took advantage of a promotion to decrease our excess slightly that includes 2 free hospital admissions per year per person. Definately worth it when I consider that I seem to be admitted 2-3 times per year.
  • Preventative Health Options. It's possible that weight loss, cigarette quitting, gym memberships and other preventative life quality options might be included in your policy. Talk to your doctor to see if there is anything you may be able to adopt to improve your health.
  • Be creative with your payment options for expensive medical services. Madeleine's orthodontic work was meant to be paid for over 20 months but we were able to negotiate for slightly smaller payments over 20 months with a small lump sum 3 months later in January. The timing of our payments mean that I will be able to make a claim for the last of Maddy's orthodontic cover in a 3rd calendar year and get more back for her braces.
  • Use them or lose them! Make sure you are taking kids of all ages to the dentist and optomestrist regularly for checkups. Many benefits do not roll over from year to year so if you do not make the time for a visit this year the opportunity is lost.
Do you have any other hot tips to make the most of health insurance?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I NEED an iPhone Mum

I NEED an iPhone. This is something I hear all the time from Madeleine. Along with:

My phone is crap. I can't use it, it doesn't do anything, I can't believe you expect me to use a phone like this.


ALL my friends have an iPhone.

This is not a debate on when a child is old enough to have a phone. I don't believe there is a precise age, it depends on your circumstances and the situations your child finds themselves in. Madeleine is often with other adults, and often at dancing without a parent for many hours of the day or evening.

She got her first phone when she was 8, long before I expected to give her one. I received a call at work one day from a random stanger who had found her crying in the lobby of her Grandmothers secure unit building. Her father had dropped her off and watched her walk in the main secure door (who on earth let her in?), but her Grandmother forgot she was coming and didn't wake up or hear the door. Forget how angry I was at the circumstances that led to it (why, WHY did my husband not walk her to her Grandmothers door, why, WHY, did her Grandmother not wake up when she was expecting her), my main stress was that Maddy had to trust a stranger and enter their home in the middle of her distress. She was able to tell them where I worked, and they called the main call centre and tracked me down. Oh. My. God. So yes. If she was old enough to be put in that situation, then she was old enough for a phone to give her (and me) some reassurance that she could aways gets hold of a parent.

Back to the iPhone and 5 years later.

Maddy has a cheap Nokia that we purchased for $20 with a prepaid Optus Sim. Due to her low call volumes we find that the $30 long expiry plan is best for us, as she doesn't even use up the $30 credit in the 6 month expiry window. It works out to be $5 per month which is fine by me. I am also with Optus, so our calls to one another are free which helps with the credit.

Every now and then, after months of being nagged, begged, slightly abused, she starts to wear me down. We have a spare iPhone, relatives have scores of spare iPhones (just because we care for them well and get upgrades every couple of years), and it would make her so happy. Right when I am on the brink of giving in, despite knowing better, something will happen to remind why I am not giving my 13 year old this expensive technology.

2 months ago she broke her iPad screen. Completely shattered. She is still paying off the consequences. Last week a girlfriends daughter shattered the new iPhone 5 she had been given (holy moly, I was only considering giving Maddy an iPhone 3, or at best a 4 if a relo wants to donate one to the cause), another friend reports x3 months of $300+ bills in a row.

Oh that's right. Those are the reasons why she is not getting this unnecessary tech. To her it is a toy. The reason she rarely uses her current phone is because she actually doesn't want to make phone calls. She wants to play games, use social media, take photo's, edit photo's, and flash it around as a status symbol. All things she can do with her school iPad on the connected wifi. (when I haven't deleted all her non-school apps, but that is another story). It isn't just the iPhone she is desperately wanting, it is the 3G technology, something I won't be getting for only $5 per month.

So I am writing this post as a reminder to myself. She is 13. It is natural that she will make every promise and commitment under the sun to get her hands on that iPhone. It is equally natural that she will make expensive mistakes at my expense once she has it. It is natural that I want to give her something that will make her happy. But my wallet can't afford it, and she is a very normal teenager who will run up huge bills and then resent the consequences.

This is a lesson that can wait till she has her first part time job and has to consider the size of her bill against the size of her income. And if she chooses to not use her current phone to demonstrate her contempt that is it just a phone and nothing more, deep down, I will cheer. $5 a month is awesome. Keep the faith, Elise, keep the faith.