Monday, October 31, 2011

Not Happy Jan!

After my post on Saturday complaining that my life just did not have that much blog worthy happenings, the fates decided I needed a healthy dose of interesting.
I've snagged myself one days work for Tabcor tomorrow, manning one of their mobile betting sites for Melbourne Day (I've never even placed a bet before, so god help the people that I'm going to be assisting tomorrow!). And I need to wear black pants and shoes along with a Tabcor shirt. Pants are no problem, please, I live in black. But although I have plenty of black shoes, I don't have any that I could see myself wearing for a 10 hour shift on my feet. So off to Shoe Shed I went, tickled to have a legitimate and guilt free excuse to shop.
25 minutes later with a nice pair of closed toe, low, wedged heeled black court shoes to show for my efforts, I came back to my car to find dozens of white splotches oozing down my windscreen.
I kid you not. I literally stopped on the side walk and looked both ways waiting for someone to jump out and yell "Trick or Treat!". For sure this had to be a joke and it was just peel off stickers or something.
No. A colony of birds with the dire rear had honed in on my car as their release point. There was nothing on the road around my car, nothing on the cars in front or behind me, but my car is completely covered in bird crap. I wasn't even parked under a tree!
Lesson learnt - I officially believe my life is plenty interesting thanks, I am more than happy to go back to normal now!
Have you ever wished for a more interesting life, only to eat your words within 48 hours?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is your life that much more interesting than mine?

I seem to find reams of blogtastic stuff on the net. Hilariously funny children, amusingly dumb husbands, incredibly special incidences that happen in the lives of the blogging women in this world.
And yet. Miss M doesn't do any of that incredibly touching or cute stuff. Mostly she just gives me attitude or sarcasm. Oooh doody, has she mastered sarcasm.
And Lolly is just adorable, but somehow her gummy smiles don't seem to spin themselves into a blog post.
Husband though. I think there might be potential there. If I put my thinking cap on, I should be able to produce something worthwhile. He can be as dumb as the next one.
I'm sure my life must be more interesting than I thought, I will be paying more attention this week.
Is your life as interesting as the blogs you read? Really, really?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brownies are my favourite fruit...

I'm really not a fan of cooking. Eating yes. Cooking no. But one of the things I like to do to economise on the school and work lunchboxes is bake up cakes and slices and send small wedges in as a treat. For the most part, each wedge ends up being cheaper than a bag of chips, or tiny teddies, and Miss M is always thrilled to find a little piece of cake or slice tucked next to her fruit and yoghurt. My biggest problem is making sure I don't eat all of my favourite goodies before they make it into a lunchbox, I'm a sucker for brownies, they are definitely my favourite fruit.
Sometimes I bake from scratch, sometimes from a packet mix, depends on how lazy I'm feeling and whether or not there was some super markdown on the boxed mixes recently. Its very common for me to buy the $0.67 packets of vanilla cake mix from Coles to make mini cupcakes, since it makes about 35 - bargain!
I always bake a few things at a time, means the oven doesn't get used as much and has a lower impact on the electricity bill - You'd be surprised how much impact pre-heating has.
Today's effort was a lemon cake & banana cake - both from packets - and a pan of brownies from scratch. Donna Hay I am not, but they all taste yummy. Because we won't eat these that quickly (DH takes one daily, but Miss M is not allowed to have them that often) I cut them all into wedges and freeze them in zip lock baggies. I was sceptical the first few times I did this, but they freeze nicely, and by the time recess comes along are defrosted and taste as fresh as they did when frozen.
I have a handful of slice recipes that I'm happier to send Miss M with than cakes, but really not that many that she will eat. Nothing with fruit in it anyway. I'm always on the lookout for new slice recipes to try out.
How do you economise on the lunches? Feel free to offer up any tips!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Big baby explosion....the dust has settled

There is just no getting 4 babies to smile -
I settled for not crying.
Thats my Lolly on the right.
2011 has seen the babies in my family DOUBLE! Every single one of my SIL's has had a baby this year - and so have I. The only person who hasn't, is my big sis whose kids are all around Miss M's age. The last niece was born yesterday afternoon, and she is such a cutie.
3 new nieces, 1 nephew, and my own little Lollypop. Is it any wonder that my MIL is cheering? She doubled her own grandkid count this year - 4 to 8 - and got her first grandson in the bargain.
I'm happy, I think family gatherings are best punctuated by kids, Miss M always had the benefit of a handful of cousins her own age to play with, and now Lolly will have the same.
In fact, one of my nieces holds a special place in my heart, and I know she and Lolly will be besties. See, little Squeek was born on the same day as Lolly, in the same hospital, and we even shared a room for 5 days! So as one of my older nieces coined the phrase - Lolly and Squeek are twin cousins!
SIL and I had so much fun in our double room, we shared visitors, night time feeds, nappy explosions, and have stories that we get to share forever.
Now that the dust has settled, I think we will need to book all the grandkids in for a photoshoot - one for my husbands side with the 8 kids, and one for my side with the 6 kids. Something special we can give the Grandparents.
Do you have any unique photo idea's to share with me? Or have you had your own baby explosion?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Move over Paypal, here comes Kaching

Are you as excited about the upcoming CBA Kaching App for IPhone 3GS/4/4s as I am? Have you even heard of it? I can't wait for it to be released to have a good play with it, I suspect this will be the future of banking. Like many others, I took to Internet banking like a kid to jellybeans. But this looks to be something new again, maybe even a solid competitor for Paypal.
When its released, it will allow you to make payments to your friends via email address's, Facebook contacts, & mobile numbers. I can see the possibilities already. No more will THAT friend casually offer to collect everyones cash and put the lunch on her credit card because she has no cash on her, very conveniently subsiding her lunch with our change. No more getting caught without cash right at a critical moment - think petrol station, front of line in a busy supermarket. This app will let you pay just by tapping your mobile to their device. If this takes off it will mean serious competition for Paypal who has managed a monopoly on online payments via strangers - if eBay incorporates it, which I doubt. But if they don't, enter some good scope for other selling platforms to take advantage of this.
I can already see I would need to beef up the security on my phone, but oh, the potential!
I'm signed up for alerts, and will be downloading this goodie the minute it appears.

Monday, October 24, 2011

People will PAY me for my junk, I love Australia

As part of my campaign to completely fund our upcoming trip to QLD by selling off the excess goodies in my house, I held a garage sale in conjunction with my sister in law on Saturday.
Neither of us really has a home suitable for a garage sale - each of us is on a battle axe, so we don't have street front homes that would get much exposure. But MIL does, so we both packed up our junk and headed over there.
As it turns out, I didn't have a whole lot of junk left. I mean, I do, but I've been selling very consistently on eBay since Lolly was born so I mainly had the lower ticket items left. So I didn't make nearly the amount of money at this sale that I did 10 years back when we had a huge moving sale, because $1,000+ has already gone on eBay.
Long story short, I made $259, SIL made $91, and MIL made $78. But if I deduct the sale of 2 MASSIVE rear projection TVs that were a total profit spinner (bought on eBay 1 month ago for $65 all up, sold for $150 hah!), it was only $94 for me too. Still, the day cost nothing (since I forgot to put the ad in the paper) and all my junk is gone.
Determined to get the most of the day, I did some Internet research beforehand. Some sites that I found useful:

Kylie Ofiu -Garage Sale Success
Savings Guide - Garage Sale Tips and Tricks

And lastly, my own personal hint to you all, that one of my repeat customers gave me (he, or his fiance, or his child, visited my sale 6 times!). When the day is done, put everything left on one of the facebook garage sale groups. There are HEAPS of them, there are no fee's, and there are so many people interested in them. I was sceptical at first - SIL and I had made a pact that everything was going to the Salvo's, it was not coming back into our homes - but I thought I would give it a try. Not wanting to touch anything in the car in case I got lost, or worse still tried to reclaim some of it, I just took a photo of the lot and offered it as a group lot on facebook. Well 24 hours later I had a sale from a local buyer! $30, and I have now sold everything and I don't have to figure out how to get everything to the local salvo's depot while they are still open.

Do you have any hot garage sale tips that you can share? Or have you had a garage sale that went not so well? I'd love to hear about them :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Financial habits start early - as young as 1

Financial responsibility and logic should start early. Even as a wee toddler, Miss M loved to collect her money, and would choose to hoard it in her money box rather than spend it - the few times she did spend it on lollies or a little toy she would be so depressed that there was nothing left in the box. A good experience to remind her of next time she was tempted to spend away on something of no consequence.
Miss M has funded her spending money for major trips with her dancing troupe, as well as some bigger toys that she has wanted. At 10, she is now hoarding her money to go halves with her father and I for a car for her 17th birthday, and wants to make sure she saves enough to also have spending money for any future dancing trips we take.
Now that Lolly has come along, I will be taking some of the trick I learnt with Miss M, and applying them to her. My hints:
  • give them a money box early, and keep it in a public space (lounge room etc). Many visitors will enjoy the novelty of your cherub banking their silver, which will reinforce the novelty.
  • routinely give your toddler a little bit of change from your wallet to bank in their moneybox, 20 cents every Saturday after we finish putting away our toys is a good start. Do the moneybox activity together
  • let them play with the money in their moneybox. Playing teaches unit counting, denomination addition (when they are older), sorting, building, etc. It also develops a gleeful hoarding habit as they like to have more to play with and are less likely to spend.
  • do NOT keep them cashed up for unnecessary items. Your school age child does not need money for lunch if you are making it for them. Giving them lunch money just cheapens the value of money for them.
  • let them buy lunch, or donate to school mufti days, or sponsor the school sponsor child from their pocket money. It really underscores what their pocket money is worth.
  • restrict canteen days at school to one particular day per week. This stops child from frittering birthday money or other windfalls while they are still developing good habits
  • help them set medium term goals for their money early. Buying a big toy, or having lots of spending money for a trip gives them incentive to accumulate, and it also reduces the nag factor on you to spend money on these things. I barely pulled out my wallet in America because Miss M weighed up every souvenir to make sure she really loved it before buying it herself
  • start pocket money off when they start "big"school. Keep it basic though. I suggest x2 50 cent pieces only. 1 for the long term money box, 1 for spending or accumulating for short term purchases. You supply their every need already. They do NOT need huge amounts of disposable income.
  • increase pocket money each year by 50 cents only while they are in infants, then 1 dollar per year till the end of primary school. Assess their spending needs in high school and allow accordingly (they should pay for public transport themselves, but you can allow for it in their pocket money). If they have to make the money last to cover everything, they learn more than if the whole amount is just disposable income.
  • introduce "real" banking around age 7 for the long term savings. The understanding of maths is better, and there will be a little more trust that the money really exists if it is out of their possession in a bank. Let them have a folder to keep their statements in, and read them with them each time they arrive. Have a big conversation about interest. Those cents that they earn will feel like a big deal.
  • if you like to bank a regular amount for their future, or have moneys that you don't want your child to be able to direct spending on, keep it in a separate account so that they can really get into banking without confusing restrictions
  • It goes without saying that pocket money's best friend is responsibility. For some households this is chores, for others it is routine completion of homework, music practice, school achievement. Think about what works best for the smooth running of your household and the values you want your child to have

I suggest Commonwealth Bank for those of you looking for a kid friendly account. Although many of the online accounts earn better interest, (and so might be better for the money you are saving on their behalf), they will learn banking better with the CBA who have the system for kids down pat. The kids will be part of the dollarmite club (c'mon 80's kids, you remember it yourself right?) which send out friendly but educational newsletters as well as having a kiddie website. Being able to go into a branch whenever they want to bank their 50 cents is also a stronger lesson than just transferring the money by Internet banking for the little ones. You can introduce Internet transfers when they are a little older.

Do you have any fabulous financial habits for kids you can share with me? I'm always looking for new idea's, and I have yet to find out how my lessons will hold out when Miss M is a teenager.

**Although I work in a bank, it is not the Commonwealth Bank. I have products with my employer as well as other institutions and will share my experiences only if I think others might benefit***

Friday, October 21, 2011

$60 Lamaze Gym for only $15 at Woolies - Its Tummy Time!

I had to share today's serious bargain find. Lolly just loves the Lamaze Spin and Explore Gym that they have at Gymbaroo - as soon as I put her down each week she's kicking and the hands are wandering over the textiles.
So when our Gymbaroo teacher gave me the insider tip that she had spotted them at a Woolworth's for only $15 (!) I rushed straight out to buy one for Lolly and a spare for an upcoming present.
See, these bad boys were at Toys R Us for around the $80 mark when I first starting looking. Even second hand on eBay looked like I would be dropping anywhere from $25-40, as well as postage.
Dealsdirect has them for $49.95, which is their discounted price, and Toyconnect is offering them for $59.95. At those prices, I bench marked the toy as being something we should look forward to each week at Gymbaroo.
I don't know where Woolies is getting the $15 price tag from - according to them it's half price, since that's a $30 starting price, I have a feeling there has either been an overstock issue, or possibly even a mistake. No matter how you look at it, its a bargain.
So Lolly jumped on her very own Spin and Explore Garden tonight and had herself a good time. And at 5 months, she's trying very hard to crawl, so Daddy was very impressed to see her little feet pushing her around on the turntable.
Do you have a little rugrat at home who might benefit from one of these? Or maybe you know someone with a bump who has yet to find out the joys of a desperate to be mobile baby. Let me know!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My fledgeling foray into share investing

Have I mentioned that I work in a bank in the real world? I get to wake up each day and go to work in a job where I count money, add it up, transfer it, spend it, balance it, calculate it, and hug it tightly to my chest (well not really the last one, it's a direct bank). What more could a money obsessed person like me ask for?
So while I'm on maternity leave, twiddling my thumbs each day waiting for Lolly to wake up and play with me, or Miss M to come home and dish on all the school gossip, I have been trolling the net looking for things to do. And I am so bored, I took to checking the share price of my employee shares. Daily. Hourly even. But all this checking on my employee shares exposed me to other shares, and I started to wonder just how difficult it would be to invest in general.
Lots of reading and Internet searching later, and I discovered Bell Direct. Turns out, I don't need lots of money to invest. I don't even need to go find me a financial planner or a stockbroker. I just need $515 and a Bell Direct account. Huh. Go figure. I always kind of thought share trading was for smartly dressed men at some Australian version of Wall St.
So I opened me an account and transferred the minimum. Bell Direct charge $15 each time I do some kind of trade, and $500 is the minimum that you can transact on the ASX at a time, so I upped it a little to $530 to be on the safe side.
Without going into the nitty gritty of which share I picked, I will say it turned out well. I've directed the original funds + gains to a different share now so we'll see how I go. I know I have to look at this as a gamble - its always possible I'll lose the lot.
For ease of use, Bell Direct worked well for me if this is something you have been interested in trying, but like me were a little intimidated by the idea of approaching a professional with my paltry amounts of money and assets. The website has a ton a user guides, forums, and is pretty follow your nose. I'm finding share trading absolutely fascinating now and watch certain shares with an eagle eye to see how they perform each day.
Have you tried out share trading? What was your experiance? Or is it something you were interested in but didn't think you had the funds for?
**Just because I work in a bank does not make me any kind of trained professional qualified to advise you on your personal situation. The above is just a reflection of my experiences with a company providing a service. I really suggest you do your own research and contact trained advisers before making any decisions.**

Savings plan over Chrisco - can I do it?

Every year in December I get a mass delivery of food from Chrisco. Boxes and boxes of necessities, goodies, and generally enough food items to keep my normal grocery shop down to $40 per week till at least Easter. Even now in October, we are still going through the tea, coffee, sugar & sauces from last years hamper. It's definitely a huge help to find my grocery bill slashed in the silly season, and quite frankly, my family loves the excessive food in the house at that time of year.
But with Hubby being out of work for 8 months last year, all our savings depleted by a major holiday just before, and now me off on maternity leave this year, I am now the penny pinching queen of the grocery shop. Our weekly grocery budget is less than half what it was 2 years ago (not counting baby nappies right now, eck.)
Suddenly the Chrisco hampers are not looking like they meet my value standards anymore. But the concept still does.
So I've picked out the hampers I would have ordered this year - at just under $40 per fortnight, it still seems reasonable. But by my calculations, I could buy all that food myself for somewhere between $6-700. That's going to leave at LEAST a $300 difference. Honestly, with the major retailers competing so heavily, Chrisco needs to pick up their act if they want to create the illusion of value with their hampers. That's almost a weeks mortgage payment for me. Or a weeks accommodation in a QLD caravan park with the kids. Both things I would prefer to use the money for.
So like the good little penny pinching mummy that I am, I have cancelled the Chrisco order for 2012. BUT, I've opened another online savings account and set up the automatic deduction already. In December, my family is still going to have the excess of goodies that fills the house and freezer for months to come, but I will do it my way and put the leftover money to good use. Hopefully I will have the discipline to leave the money alone.
This is exactly why I love money so much - there is never an end to what I can do differently to make my money work harder for me.
How do you feel about the value and concept of Chrisco hampers?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Join the club....Literally

Are you a member of the Huggies Club? Besides the treasure trove of information on their site to support you with your pregnancy and baby/toddler needs, they have a constant stream of fabulous freebies and promotions.
I recieved an email from them last week inviting me to their Huggies Lounge, which would be coming to my local Westfields.
Armed with a reciept for a recent Huggies purchase, and my SIL and our kids, we headed up to the shopping centre today to see what it was all about.
Well, wham bam, thank you maám. Just for showing up with my reciept I was given this fabulous quilt cover - free!
And since I was out for the day, we both headed into Target to collect our 3rd Bounty Bag (would you believe we had babies on the same day?) Never heard of Bounty Bags? Well they are another piece of freebie goodness that any mother can collect - if not from your hospital, then from a huge selection of local chemists. The 3rd one is probably the least exciting of them, but with a $10 target voucher, crawler size nappies, and various books, magazines and pamphets its still worthwhile grabbing.
Right when I thought we were finished for the day, we found out they opened a brand new Gymboree store - right in my local Westfields. With only a few minutes to spare, we ducked in so I could initiate SIL to the scrumptioness that is Gymboree - can you tell i'm a fan of their gorgeous bright colours, tough fabric but reasonable prices? As soon as we stepped in the door, a perky shop assistant bounced her way over and gave each girl a little ball to keep - instant fan, what looked ordinary at first is actually brilliant, chubby little fingers can hang onto the ball so much easier.
And seeing how the only thing we spent money on was lunch together, which was a really nice change of pace, all in all this felt like a very profitable day!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A nice surprise

Part of loving money so much is getting a toe to eyebrow thrill out of freebies. Expecially unexpected ones.
Freebies mean I don't have to buy something quite as quickly, or even at all, which makes the dollar go that much further. Sometimes I wouldn't have bought the freebie fullstop. But that doesn't mean we aren't going to hug it and squeeze it and love it to death.
So imagine my delight when the very lovely people over at Lasoo.com.au just randomly (and I mean randomly, I did nothing to qualify, ask, seek it out) asked for my address as they wanted to send me a gift! I was just trolling facebook, and put my 2 cents in a colouring competition photo album that my daughtered had entered at an expo. Just like many other parents.
And just lookee lookee what arrived in the mail the other day as a result of that email exchange!
Now Miss M did not win that colouring comp, (as it turns out the prize was a Fisher price camera, so at 10 she was definitely too old to really enjoy the prize but her 5 month old sister would have liked it), but she still likes to play with her My Little Ponies so this was even better than winning!
And there was also an Aussie Bum gift pack: the  towel, hat, lip gloss and swimming cap will not go astray, they will find their uses.
It looks like I am not the only person on their FB page to benefit from this unexpected generosity. A little bit of loyalty and community participation generated this freebie (not to mention I genuinely like the site). Have you scored any awesome but unexpected freebies recently?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hello

I've been home on maternity leave for 5 months. I've learnt to do housework. I have not learnt to love it. I've even learnt to hang my clothes on the line - which previously had never. Been. Used.
I adore playing with my cuddly 5 month old, and I love being able to be a bigger part of my 10 year olds out of school hours life.
BUT! (You knew there was a but right?) I'm bored. Very, very bored. There is alot of time left each day after the housework is done and Lolly is snoozing sweetly. Lots and lots of time.
And as I turn to the internet to fill the void I find a whole new world opening up to me. Its more than facebook, and ebay, and Amazon. The internet is about BLOGS! And my favourite blogs seem to be by mums. Mums who clean, who taxi, who juggle, who are WAHM (work at home mums for those of us as uniniated as me 5 months ago), or even full or part time working mums in the office. So I am joining the ranks of these women who give me so much entertainment and launching my own blog.
I don't really have a niche. Everyone has a niche. If I have to pick one thing about my life that is my favourite chatter topic, it would be money. Saving money, spending money, making my money work.
I like to live a full life. I don't like it to cost much. So maybe along the way you will learn some of my tightarse tips.