Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't talk to me about excercise

Exercise and I are not friends. We had a big dramatic breakup sometime around when I was 21 and started earning my office butt.
But my SIL Sal has been putting me to shame with her 30 day walking challenge - I think I'm hard done by keeping up Nospendver month. Well, to ease the boredom caused by locking myself in the home to avoid spending money (and not having visitors because quite frankly I don't have so much as a coke to offer) I decided to head out to our local lake to join Sal on her daily powerwalk.
See that lake? Its a huge lake.
Pffffft. 3440 steps in (or 4 laps of the lake) I called it a day and happily waved to Sal as she continued on another 2 laps. I was surprised by how many people were out and about doing their own happy laps. Dogs, old people, young people, lots of people lapping this lake over and over. By the end of one lap I would have been happy to sit in the shade and talk to the ducks - I even would have gone home with a happy feeling that I did some exercise today, but no, Sal dragged my butt 3 more times around that lake. It didn't help that I didn't take a water bottle. It also didn't help that I am trying to retrain Lolly's sleep times at the moment (she's only sleeping 7 hours at night where before she was up to 11 hours) so I was trying to keep her awake and she was less than impressed about it. There was no enjoying the scenery for her - she protested loudly and often that she wanted her dummy and security blanket.
Maybe. Just maybe. I MIGHT join Sal again before she finishes her 30 day challenge. Or maybe I'll incorporate a more gentle stroll around a smaller lake closer to home so I can pretend I am doing exercise without actually breaking up a drip down my back sweat like the one I had this morning.
Have you broken up with exercise too or are you another make me sick person who enjoys it?

**Edit, upon spell checking this post it turns out I spelled exercise wrong every time. I seem to be repressing.**

Monday, November 28, 2011

12 for 2012

Update 30/03/2014. I have been contacted by Life Insurance Finder who appear to regret asking sites to link to them for this competition. Their email was along the lines of "Thanks, but no Thanks, " and does not really acknowledge that they specifically requested that I paste the above paragraph and links in order to enter their competition. Apparently when Google slaps a penalty for link scamming practices, manners go out the window. All links have been removed as requested.

This is a post that I was not planning on writing until closer to the New Year. But me being me, my 2012 budget and goals are already in place, and this fantastical little competition over at Givemebackmyfivebucks has definitely encouraged me to get it written early.
I like to set myself short and long term financial goals. It helps me keep my focus, and it quantifies for me why we are a 2 working parent household. I've shared before a little about our priorities, so I won't revisit that. Instead, I will share my Financial Bucket list goals.

12 for 2012

Get a blockout shutter for Lolly's bedroom window. Besides her room getting all of the afternoon summer sun making it unbearably hot, it is also bright, and I am plain old paranoid about my kids windows being exposed. All other bedrooms have shutters on them but her room was the library before she was born. Until we get a shutter, she is sleeping in our room.
Save $3,000 towards next major holiday. We loved our big fat America Dream Holiday, and now we are looking at Europe when Lolly is old enough to remember it too. Maybe something a little closer to home in the meantime like Fiji or Thailand.
Pay $5,000 extra off the home loan. A little equity can only help with the bigger plan to get an investment property in a few years time.
Contribute $50 extra per fortnight to Husbands superannuation. Although Super is not my only plan for a retirement income, theres no mistaking the fact that I have nearly 3 times as much in my account.
Reassess Superannuation providers for Husband. I know I can get some kind of family deal through my own super which is with my work. I need to finally get my head down and do some comparisons on performance and fee's.
Replace carpet in all living area's with floorboards. It was never good quality to begin with, and 8 years on its looking pretty nasty. And Lolly has turned out to be hugely refluxy, which is not helping.
Create SuperWardrobe. Yes, that's one word, because that's how I hear it in my head.
Makeover Miss M's bedroom. She is more than a little jealous of her sisters bedroom, and I guess she is starting to grow out of her colours and themes that I set up 8 years ago now.
Take 3 away from home holidays with the kids.
Get health insurance finally. Yes. I am 30, Husband is 36 and we do not have insurance. Smack me around and call me stupid but I will rectify this situation as soon as I get back to work in February since I can salary sacrifice it.
Get a new bedroom suite. We bought a spanky new mattress late last year because my pregnancy back could not handle our 10 year old $99 queen mattress anymore. While I still have sleeping problems, I had no idea how much of it was from the mattress as I am getting at least 2 more hours sleep at night than I used to.
It seems like only yesterday I sent
her off to school in an oversized
dress. Now I will soon be sending
her again again in an  oversized
 dress lol.
Save $1000 towards Miss M's 2013 High School costs. *Sniff* My sweet baby will start high school in 2013, and along with that will come all new complete uniform costs, stationary and book packs, bags, we like to buy her a small laptop for next Christmas to help with Homework in the library after school etc etc.

All of this is a little ambitious so far for my 2012 budget. But since I haven't factored in payrises, bonus's or tax returns, I feel good about these goals. I will be posting a link to them on my top menu bar so that I can update them regularly and keep myself in check.
I find that if I do not set clear goals each year, it is easy for the year to slip by and to not feel like I have accomplished what I would like to with my family. I really encourage everyone to set their goals and keep your eye on the prize. And with the "$500 Give Me Back My Five Bucks competition, sponsored by Life Insurance Finder, the life insurance experts" running, now is a good time for YOU to be thinking about these things too.

Whats your big goal for 2012? Travel? Time with the kids? Major debt surgery? Do share, I'd love to know.

Update 30/03/2014. I have been contacted by Life Insurance Finder who appear to regret asking sites to link to them for this competition. Their email was along the lines of "Thanks, but no Thanks, " and does not really acknowledge that they specifically requested that I paste the above paragraph and links in order to enter their competition. Apparently when Google slaps a penalty for link scamming practices, manners go out the window. All links have been removed as requested.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dealing with debt collectors

I mentioned in my last post that at one time I had a few nasty debt collection issues due to uninsured car accidents. 3 to be exact. 2 for husband, and 1 for me, and thanks to us not having insurance and being unable to pay the insurance companies chasing us to pay for the accident, the debts were sold onto external collectors. I have some hints for working with these bad boys. I don't mean financial institution collections departments either. Those ones you definitely want to prioritise or risk getting a default on your credit file which will show up for 7 years. And believe me when I say that the banks with the best or even ordinary rates will not be interested that you paid off that debt 6 years ago. If you have a nasty loan default, you will not be getting finance from anyone reasonable until its dropped off your file again.
I'm talking about the external kind. The ones that buy debts for a fraction of the original debt. Many business's use them, insurance companies, etc and they usually present themselves as working with the company that you originally owed the money too. Fair enough, they own the debt now.
Of course the best policy is to pay your bills in the first place. Definitely. But I, and many people like me have fallen into a trap where a debt collector is chasing you for money.
My steps for handling this situation:
1. Set up a payment arrangement AND STICK TO IT. Make it minimal though. Realistically, you are probably trying to juggle numerous bills right now, and most of the others have a bigger impact. Electricity will be turned off with a penalty, interest and fee's will be charged on finance, not paying rent will lose the roof over your head. A debt collector is really only chasing the original debt making them the lowest priority. Demonstrate to them that you are on a thin budget and negotiate a $5 or $10 per fortnight payment. Even if this means it will take 5 years to pay off.
2. When you get spare cash, put it aside and accumulate it for the purpose of paying off this debt, BUT DON'T ACTUALLY PAY IT.
3. Once you have accumulated 40% of the remaining debt amount, contact the debt collector to negotiate an early payment arrangement. Often, they will initiate it themselves periodically especially if you are committed to a tediously slow payment arrangement because they can't take any court action against you as long as you keep paying. Because they bought the debt at a fraction of the amount, they will often accept these negotiations as it is still a profit and they will save in admin costs maintaining your debt. If they ask for more than you have, turn it down and keep saving. You will find the middle ground eventually and they will be more likely to play ball next time you ring.
4. If they do not accept it, continue to pay them the base amount unless you have repaid all other interest or penalty bearing debts. Then do everything you can to eliminate this debt from your life as well by paying extra when you can. Do not commit to a higher regular payment though. If the collector contacts you, indicate that you have spare cash as an isolated circumstance and cannot commit to a high repayment. This way you avoid a commitment that is not sustainable long term. If you were to miss a payment, the collector would be able to resume legal activity against you.

Lets be clear. I am not encouraging you to avoid your financial responsibilities. Paying your bills in the first place is the best way to go. This is for when you are in that really bad situation and you are looking for tactics to make it right again. Most people do not end up in these situations because they are bad people. Sometimes they are stupid people (me), or have had bad luck, but usually they didn't set out to not meet their financial responsibilities. This information will help you to minimise the impact of a bad debt in your life and potentially fix up your situation faster.
If you are struggling with bad debt right now, I hope this helps. I'm not happy about some of my life experiences, but I'm happy to share the lessons I learnt. 1st lesson, get insurance. 2nd lesson, stop having accidents. 3rd lesson, as above.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Creating my own button.....

Love Mummy Hearts Money and want to flash my logo all over your blog/website? I can't say I blame you.

Grab my button below and load the code into a widget on your site. My lovely logo will flash away for all to see.

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

History repeats itself

By living on a shoestring budget and staying far far away from the shops, I have managed to pay down my credit card from $800+ to $322 so far this month. I gave myself a deadline of December 1st to completely pay it, and with 7 days to go I'm feeling pretty confident. And not so sorry for myself anymore. This was a good timely lesson, that I would rather have now when money is tight, than when I go back to work in February and money is a bit free-er. Who knows how much longer it would have taken me to get my act together if I wasn't feeling the impact. What I know about myself is that I am one of life's natural spenders. I love to spend money.
11 years ago as a pregnant teenager I found myself keeping house with my then boyfriend for the first time, getting ready for the bundle of joy that was soon to arrive. Financially, we had more disposable income than was really good for us, because like many teens and young adults we promptly committed to debt and lifestyle choices that maxed out our money without having anything of significant value to show for it.
Its funny for me to look back and remember how every Friday I was up at the Westfields, spending all of our money on things. Not even very sensible things. Way too many clothes for starters. Makeup, Cd's, food. Easily $200 every week at the Supermarket and yet we ate out most nights. Not enough furniture, given that we only had a crate for our big TV, and a matress on the floor in the lounge room (with no couches or a bed frame what was the point of sleeping in the bedroom?).
Because I couldn't conceive of accumulating money for any given time or shopping for second hand, we took out finance to furnish the house from fantastic furniture. Our baby had hand me downs that had been through 6 or 7 other kids because cots and change tables cost more than I could produce in 1 pay. We got into a bunch of trouble with insurance debt collectors due to uninsured accidents, because of course insurance was a waste of money.
We even got a credit card, to pay off the 3 stores cards I had acquired when the weekly pay ran out. Thanks St George, at 19, I really think I was equipped to deal with a $20,000 credit card. Especially when my store card problem was only $2,000. But of course I didn't say no. I didn't try to reduce the limit. That would have been smart. I maxed it out in 6 months, but I had nothing to show for it.
It's crazy, but I even felt a little hard done by. Poor me, I couldn't have enough nice things. I couldn't have a nice car, I couldn't afford my own washing machine, and I had to have a bar fridge instead of a real fridge. It was a while before it occurred to me that the reason I couldn't have these things was because I was making stupid decisions with our money, and boyfriend was no better.
By the time my daughter was 9 months old, I had my head together. My life sucked big time, and it was all because I was paying money towards stupid things. Money to debt collectors, money on fines, money on a maxed out credit card that had nothing to show for it.
Boyfriend and I married, in a simple basic outdoor ceremony. We each committed to a 2nd job for a while. We flattened our budget, and focused on one financial problem at a time. We didn't worry about the biggest (St George!) or the highest rate (fantastic furniture finance!), we started with the most manageable - a $500 insurance company collection debt. It got all our spare cash until it was paid off. Then we turned our attention to another debt. One by one we chipped them all away till there were none left. By the time my daughter was 2, we had managed to pay them all off. We dropped the 2nd jobs in order to spend more time together.
Our spare cash was probably still not well spent, it was frittered away on restaurant dining, clothes and toys that barely got used, and experiences that could have been a lot cheaper. But we did it on our own dollar. It took a mortgage to teach me the real value of money, although even then we went about it the wrong way. We had saved only $10,000 when someone offered us 100% finance to build a house. Fortunately for us I was able to refinance as soon as the house was built into a more reasonable loan thanks to a 20% increase in property values. Right place, right time. Even so life was tight for the first few years of the mortgage.
I learnt a hard lesson about money at 19, but it was the right lesson. Apparently I needed a reminder now, since I forgot how incompatible credit cards and I are. Lesson learnt, I have nice things now not because I borrow for them, but because I save for them. Because I'm willing to work hard for them. And because I'm willing to sacrifice for them.
Hopefully I won't need another reminder in 10 years time. Were you ever there? Am I the only one with an extremely stupid financial start in life?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Redundant or not redundant, thats the question

I'm still reeling from the shock of it. No, not me, I'm not redundant. But my skip level boss is. Suddenly I do not feel like this is a good time to be on maternity leave. In fact, half of me would give my babies first steps to be back in the office where I could feel more in control of the situation, but the other half is a little relieved to not be involved in the office politics of it all. Been there, done that, and its a challenging time to be a people leader.
My very large national company bought another very large national company earlier this year. And it was stated from the very beginning that wherever there was duplication, jobs would be going.
But I smugly assumed that safe in the banking sector where there is no duplication in our new acquisition that I was immune from the effects.
I shouldn't have assumed anything.
At the end of the day, I am not a call centre employee. I am not a processor. I am a people leader, and I can lead any team, anywhere, regardless of their, or my, speciality (banking). And so can my colleagues. This means that my role is fair game to any people leader with talent, which puts me just as much in the firing line as anyone else.
My skip level manager is one of the most brilliant and capable women that I know. My time working for her directly and indirectly has been a huge growth period for me, and I am devastated to know that she is going. But the punch in the face is, if someone as successful and good at her role as she was can be made redundant, than so can I.
The decisions about my level will be announced in March 2012. There is still one more layer to go before me. I don't know what my level will look like, or if redundancies are on the cards. But I hate that I am due back at work in February, right at a time when no-one will know what to do with me.
I feel scared that being on maternity leave will make me less valuable to my company. I feel scared that I am not forming relationships with the new management at this time. Most of all, I feel scared that personal change might be forced on me.
Have you been here before? Do you have any advice for me?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dieting is hard.....Not spending is harder

Damn, not spending money is HARD. I mean, diet hard. Normally, I can go shopping and not spend a cent. Or if I do spend, I am 100% delighted with the purchase. Its rare that I get buyers remorse once I'm home - I like my money to work hard, so every purchase gets weighed up carefully.
So why is it, that every email seems to contain bargains that I MUST have, and every trip to the shops is fraught with the perils of attractive and special items? I blame my Nospendver mission.
I had time to kill yesterday. Way too much time. I dropped Miss M off at dancing, and while I would usually go home and come back later, yesterday I had a few errands to run that meant it was no longer worth the time it took to go home since we live 30 minutes from dancing. So I escaped to the air conditioned blessing that is our homemaker centre to kill an hour and a half.
And it was the most torturing half hour of my life. So many things I cannot believe I walked away from.
Like this gorgeous peacock feather pattern Christmas decoration I found in Domayne. I love special and detailed Christmas ornaments, especially ones that represent things I like without taking away the Christmas detail so this ornament ticked all the right boxes for me. It was 25% off too. Sigh.

Or how about these gorgeous little white ceramic mice with rhinestone studded ears? I have been planning to add a little white shelf to Lolly's bedroom right above her change table with some kind of white animals to stand guard over her. These just look too perfect. Also from Domayne, and also (sniff) 25% off.

 And last but not least, this clear plastic umbrella with thick coloured banding round the bottom. Just like the ones that Miss M has admired in a few movies recently. When I saw this for $12.99 down from $19.99 at Lincraft, I had a very hard time convincing myself to leave. Miss M has a perfectly good ladybug umbrella. While she is 10 and maybe just a wee bit old for it, a new umbrella does not fit into Nospendver's rule of necessities only.

I learnt my lesson. I don't care how hot it is, or how much time I have on my hands, I will be staying far, far, away from the shops till the credit card is paid off. Only then can Christmas presents at least fit back into the necessity category - its getting close so I figure they can count, right?
I tried to convince myself that taking these photo's was purely for the purpose of blogging my finds, but Husband persists in thinking that I intend to go back for these items once Nospendver is over. Never. I have more will power than that. I think. Hopefully once the self imposed spending diet is over my sanity and ability to rationally think through a purchase will return.
Have you found any perfect must have items recently? Feel free to share, the worst that can happen is I will go to the website and salivate over my keyboard while ticking off my Nospendver days.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A penny saved....is another penny off the credit card

Bah, I hate shopping at Aldi's, I really do. But I like the receipt at the end, theres no arguing that they are cheap and are great at what they do. But give me the ease of shopping at my nice quiet Coles with its new and roomy baby trolley's any time.
$51 later I came home with a massive trolley full. I didn't buy my meat there as the butcher next door is much cheaper and I can buy the quantities I want instead of conforming my meals to the prepared quantities in Aldi.
$42 at the butcher, $12 at the fruit and veg shop for what I couldn't get/didn't like at Aldi, and $40 at the pharmacy for formula.
So far this fortnight has cost $145, from a normal budget of $300. I still need another $20 for incidentals over the fortnight. Topping up milk, getting fresh fruit and sandwich meat next week etc etc.
I would have liked to have cut the grocery bill down even further, but there is just nothing left in the house. No meat, no basics. I let Husband do the shop last fortnight because I was busy with the concert, and I still can't figure out what he spent $300 on. That's part of why there was so much takeaway.
It looks like I should be able to throw at least another $130 ish towards the credit card, on top of what else I have scrimped. I'll have to figure out where its up to when all the payments I have made have cleared.
One good thing to come of it is a nice, planned out meal plan. I always do plan my meals, but because its not in writing on the fridge door, we often forget to defrost meat, or make the wrong meal and use up ingredients meant for other meals, or even just defrost the wrong meat (like a roast on a night without much time) so it goes to waste. So I locked it in writing because there is no room for wastage this fortnight.
Daughter is loving having the dinner roster where she can see it, and I am liking the efficiency of it. I think I will keep this up.
Week 1Crispy Chicken TacosEat at Teta & JidorsSpaghetti BolognaiseNachosBurgers
Garden Salad
BBQ Sausages
Potato Bake
Garden Salad
Lamb Chops
Potato Bake
Week 2Garlic and Herb Chicken on riceEat at Teta & JidorsSpaghetti BolognaiseBurgers
Garden Salad
Sausage Casserole on Mashed PotatoBBQ Steak Sandwiches
Potato Bake
Pick Up Dinner

Kind of repetitive, but I was able to take advantage of 2 kilo's of meat being cheaper than one kilo if you know what I mean.'And I'll make some things in bulk and be lazy week 2 by just reheating.
So whats on the menu for you this week?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mummyhearts and the no good very bad day

Its not even 10:00 yet and this day sucks big time. It started when I woke up and was captive in front of Channel 7's sunrise while feeding Lolly with the remote out of reach. I love Sunrise normally, its a little grownup pleasure that I've learnt to appreciate since I went on maternity leave and found time for it.
But today I sat and cried buckets watching the footage of the Quakers Hill nursing home fire. Any fire is bad enough, but this was hideous. I can't comprehend the fear and disorientation those poor grandma's must have felt. Waking to find yourself in a smoke filled room, a body that has betrayed you long ago into being bedridden, and then being dragged out into the cold morning air and left abandoned on a lawn to shiver while others are rescued. Normally I would switch off news like that and read about it in the paper where it doesn't hit me quite as hard. I can't help it, I still cry when Artax dies in Neverending Story.
Miss M followed this up by a pre-teen performance worthy of an Oscar. What happened to my well-behaved baby that I smugly used to compare with the children of others? She's normally respectful, rational, and so full of personality. This morning she was full of personality alright. 7 of them, and all of them needed to be sent back to bed.
And some work news, that I can't even share yet due to releasing date restrictions, has me so bummed.
There is still so much day left for bad things to happen, so I am tempted to go back to bed and hide from it.
I need hugs and puppies right now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The answer to my prayers

So in my credit card balance induced woes, I buried myself yesterday in chocolate and blog soul food. And found exactly the inspiration I needed. I will be doing Nospendver, (No Spend November) to pull together the cash I need to keep my holiday intact but still pay off the credit card.
I have 100% poached the idea from one of my must read blogs - Kylie Ofiu - who appears to have gotten it from one of her must reads - Jangles.
I will spend the next 30 days spending NOTHING that is not a necessity. Some things cannot be scrimped on. Like formula. Lolly must be fed and her options aren't huge. But tinned food is not a must, especially since I have ingredients in the house to make baby food from scratch, I've just been too lazy to get onto it. This commitment is about redefining what necessity actually means.
Supermarket lunchbox snacks are out the window. I will be whipping together some muesli and oat bars that I know Miss M loves, and bagging up some corn chips and popcorn. I have the makings for cheese and crackers already in the house, so lunch snacks are set.
Fruit, sandwich meat & milk, these things are still on the buy list. Fair enough, I don't have a cow in the backyard that I can sacrifice for the cause. But I do have a bread maker and most ingredients.
To be fair, my Chrisco hampers will arrive 4th December. But I am pledging not to touch the food until 14th December so that I can see this through and feel good about getting back on the money merry go round. (See this post about my 2012 Chrisco Hamper pledge).
I'll share over the next few days how I make this happen, and hopefully the end result will be a much healthier credit card balance.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mistakes are not tragedies...

"Mistakes are not tragedies. Please higher power, let me learn from them". I am feeling sick. I have known this fortnight that I was pulling out the credit card more often than was reasonable. Especially since we have a strict household rule that the credit card is just for emergencies. REAL emergencies, like, haven't built up enough savings but someone needs critical pain relieving dental work. Not, oh my, theres no good food in the house and we have no money till pay day.
Usually I am so good. I don't do debt! It's my cardinal rule for myself. But with the concert just over yesterday, I kept pulling out the credit card to pay for little things that seemed so necessary. At least $100 on takeaway in the last fortnight (takeaway is another thing I don't "do"). New pair of shimmer stocking for Miss M because I left her old ones at home and we live too far to be ducking home to get them ($25) Oh, and a pair for someone else who also forgot (another $25). Munchies and a crate of water for backstage ($14). Fabric to whip up a couple of troll doll wigs ($50). $34 on fabric for our photo of the month (more on that later) because I didn't pay attention to the price and the lady had cut it already before I realised and I was too embarrassed to say. $311 on dreamworld tickets because I had a 15% off voucher and we are going anyway in January. Some of that is for another family.
There is so much more. I am so disgusted with myself, especially since so many of these costs were 100% avoidable if I planned better, which I normally do. Takeaway? Forgotten stockings? What is wrong with me? I am on maternity leave, and while I realise that my gorgeous little Lolly does take up alot of time and attention, being home during the day, I should have my act together better than this. Usually I am juggling the Christmas rush at work when the concert comes around.
The end result is: $853.11. I know alot of people who would roll their eyes at that amount. It wouldn't seem like much to them. But it feels like a tragedy to me, because I don't have the means to easily repay it. There is no room in my budget for a monthly credit card payment.
So, game plan time. No point continuing to smack myself around.
1. Calculate how much money other people will be repaying me for credit card purchases on their behalf
2. Take the cost of our dreamworld tickets from the eBay holiday fund. That one at least feels like a decent expense since I have raised the money and planned for it anyway.
3. Check which of our bills are paid far enough ahead that they could not be paid for at least a month (I transfer payments weekly and often end up months ahead).
4. Completely empty the week-by-week account to make a small payment to the CC. We have full petrol tanks, and there is food in the house. We.will.manage.
5. Remove credit card from my wallet. Even a real emergency should leave me time to get the credit card from home to deal with. Day to day pretend emergencies I will just have to deal with the proper way. Do.Without.
All that brings me down to $359.61. Better. But still not OK. I have given myself a deadline of 1/12/2011 to find a way to pay it, or it comes out of the holiday fund, which was only skimpy in the first place so it will leave us very tight for the holiday. Hopefully I can skim the weekly grocery bill a little this month by planning well.

I'm not happy with myself today, but the shock of logging onto the credit card site and seeing that disgusting balance will teach me a lesson. My family will do without fun things/food/activities this month as a result of my spending recklessly. Back to the business of being myself.
Have ever squandered your money as badly as me? Can you make me feel better? In case you were wondering, the opening phrase is a line from an AA scene in a Ringer episode I was watching last night. Not sure if they use it in real AA meetings or not, but I liked the line.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

21 hours and counting

With only 21 hours to go, I am up to my teeth in costumes, wigs, and glue guns. Every year its the same old, and yet its part of the adrenalin that makes the annual dance concert satisfying.
I am a closet dance mum. I like to pretend I am not competitive, but there's a little lioness in me that roars if I think my daughters talents are not being appreciated, and purrs when she is given a little spotlight. Fortunately the sane side of me keeps the insane dance mum in check.
We're lucky enough to go to a dance studio with a great group of kids. So far (fingers crossed) we don't have any little diva's and no mums are worse than they should be. We've travelled with these kids a number of times so I feel like they are extension of my family and I know we can trust the other mums to keep an eye on our little ballerina.
In 12 hours time I will be sitting in the almost empty audience watching a run through, frantically styling Troll Doll wigs with hair spray while I watch and note which sides of the stage I need to be on and when. In 18 hours time I will be applying makeup and settling jangled nerves. Miss M loves the limelight, but like most little girls she gets last minute butterfly's.
She will have a loooong day tomorrow, and yet she will go home so hyped and excited whereas I will be almost asleep.
I can't wait.
Do you have a little performer at home? Do you enjoy the big day as much as they do?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kids and reading

I am a HUGE reader. Insatiable. Everything and anything. Husband had only read one book in his life when I met him - the untouchables, and only because he had to for school.
I come from a family of huge readers, husband does not. Different priorities, different backgrounds, different experiences.
But husband makes me fall in love with him over, and over, and over again. He didn't just read occasionally to our first daughter as a baby, he made a nightly ritual of it. And he'll tell anyone who will listen about the benefits of reading to your kids. I know our second daughter will enjoy that special Daddy/daughter time just as much when she is old enough to have routine bedtimes. For now, reading is part of our household playtime, and will progress to bedtimes as well later.
Miss M loves to read as much as me, and can found with her nose in a book as often as possible.
My tips for encouraging a love of  literacy in your kids?
-Let them see you reading for pleasure. They are such monkeys, they imitate everything, and if you read for pleasure it will be the norm
-Read from an early age. I read to my daughters in the womb! Its great bonding for you both
-Re-read fun books over and over. As they get familiar, they will be able to imitate reading very early by memorising the book.
-Once you have a routine bedtime in place, have some reading time together every night before bed
-Keep sharing reading time, even once they are old enough to read themselves. They love to read aloud to you, and its years before they stop enjoying being read to and prefer the privacy of their own minds.
-Spend regular time at the library just for the hell of it. We don't even go to borrow (I'm hopeless at returning). We go just to chill out and have quiet dedicated us/reading time. Sometimes Lolly is awake and shares it with us, other times its just me and Miss M sitting on the cushions reading together while Lolly snoozes. And since the library is free, there are worse things to do with my time.
-Early literacy is helped by showing your baby an item (ie ball), then a flash card with the word ball, then the flipside with a picture of a ball. Talk about the item, it helps them to connect funny squiggles with a real life meaning.
-Choose from the timeless books as well as the newer contemporary ones. Theres a reason they are still on the shelf. Our favourites that will last your kidlet from baby through to early primary school years?
I hope Lolly loves reading as much as Miss M does. For now, I'll leave you with a video of Miss M reading "Theres a monster at the end of this book" when she was 3. Just because its cute.

Do you have any seriously awesome book recommendations for me? I will read anything.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    I heart me some samples

    Its taken me a while to do a write up on these, but finally I have finished wading through the volumes of free nappies that I received at last months Baby Expo.
    My biggest issue with free samples is that usually you only receive 1 nappy, or one little squeezy sachet of creams. I'm not greedy, but for me to really make a decision about a product, I like to see how it fares under all circumstances. For a nappy, I want to see it through a Number 1, 2, & 3, as well as nighttimes. Anything less than that leaves me undecided about the quality and less likely to make the change.
    I was tickled when the very lovely lady at the Little Takas stand handed me 4 packets of x2 nappies. So generous right? And I just had to laugh when husband returned from his trip to the baby change room with another 4 packets - he didn't realise I had already wandered in that direction on my own.
    Little Takas got an awesome workout in my home, I had high hopes of them. See,  I had always had a vague feeling that I am letting down the side by using disposable nappies. So many of the stay at home mama's I know are using those super funky reusable nappies now, but I'll be honest and admit that I will throw out those funky nappies once they have a #2 in them rather than deal with it - so much for reusable.
    Little Takas gets the tick of approval from me on all fronts
    -Survived everything my daughter put it through
    -Lovely and soft, I really liked the fabric feel of the nappy
    -90% decomposed in only 6 months (a normal nappy takes 100 years+ to decompose!)
    -Australian Made
    -The complimentary wipes are also lovely and thick
    The only drawback for me is that at $0.71 per crawler nappy they're definitely moving into the luxury price range for us right now on one income. But the site has lots of specials so I've joined the mother club to see if I can make these nappies more affordable.
    Do you know of any other Australian products I can roadtest? I love to support local business when I can and am always looking out for new products to try - I don't expect samples or freebies, (although they rock!) just suggestions of something worth trying.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Babyproofing Mission

    Oh wow does my home need baby proofing. And I don't mean kid proof locks on the bathroom or kitchen cabinets, and protective plugs on all available powerpoints. That's the easy stuff.
    When Miss M was born 10 years ago, we had only just managed to get ourselves into a rental property in time for her to be born. We didn't own much back then, and in fact filled the house with a fantastic furniture package because a beanbag and milk crate didn't seem to quite fill the house.
    It only took Lolly a few seconds to
    roll from her playmat to the corner
    10 years later, I'm only just realising how far we've come. There are dust catchers everywhere. So much stuff that lives on the ground or on low shelves that is just going to have to find a new home.
    I knew this day was coming, and yet somehow I feel as surprised as I was when Miss M suddenly became mobile.
    Lolly has only been able to roll from her back to her tummy up till now. Suddenly this weekend she's off. She can roll from tummy to back now too, and now I can't leave the room for fear of what she will get into. My sewing kit in the corner, the box of tissues next to the couch, or the My Little Pony accessories tucked into the castle in the playroom.
    So today's big job is to start making over the house. Finding new appropriate homes for everything and keeping track of Lolly in the meantime since she thinks its great fun to go rolling down the hallway looking for adventure.
    Heaven help us when she starts to crawl! I can see already that she is drawn to Miss M's room like a magnet.
    Any baby proofing tips for me? I want my home to still be functional and welcoming and not banish Miss M to her room for her toys, but I need to make it safe for Lolly too.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Do you Lasooo-oo-oo?

    Yes, in my head my title sounds like the old Yahoo ad that was on TV years ago. I completely acknowledge that I am cheesy and have no concerns ripping off other brands catch phrases.
    Have you found Lasoo yet? We stumbled over them at the recent Baby and Toddler expo in Sydney last month. I'll admit I really only paid attention because they were hosting a giveaway, but since haunting their website watching for the giveaway outcomes I have become hooked.
    Being a catalogue junkie, there is nothing I like more than to settle down with the days catalogues and a cuppa once Lolly is down for her morning nap. But at this time of year when I am watching out for certain present items to hit my acceptable price range I find it hard to keep my catalogues organised.
    Enter Lasoo - I'm looking for a Photo and Negative scanner. Lasoo not only has the one or two that I had already spotted, but several more from various sources.
    Its a brilliant concept and I seem to be over there daily checking it out and looking for items to check off my Christmas list. And with a combination of catalogues from online and "real" stores, I'm getting the best of both worlds.
    I definitely recommend giving them the once over if you are trying to find the best price.
    Feel free to hook me up with your tricks for finding the best prices this Christmas.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    To infinity and beyond....I'd settle for bed

    Every year around this time I question my sanity. When I'm sewing piggie tails on at 3am, or hotgluing satin to cardboard boxes to make giant birthday presents I always swear that it will be different next year.
    No, its not mardi gras.
    Its the annual dance concert for Miss M. And every year we have the frantic rush to get the little details on costumes right. I have zippo skills when it comes to sewing, and yet year 9 home skills class comes rushing back. Somehow I find what I need to attach sequins, beads, elastic, you name it.
    Today was the big concert rehearsal for next Sundays Toy Story extravaganza. You know what they say about a bad rehearsal right? We are going to have an awesome show if today's shocking rehearsal is anything to go by.
    Half nekkid dancers missing costume bits, tails falling off, hats covering eyes, and some forgotten dance moves. It always comes good in the end.
    My latest challenge is to pull together some kind of rocket that a teenager sized Buzz Lightyear can wear on his back.
    Feel free to offer any suggestions, because with 6 days and counting I am at a loss.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Preparing for maternity leave

    Brace yourself, this is a biggie. This is one of my favourite bandwagons. Lets face it, you can't 100% prepare for new bundles of smiles, cuddles, sleepless nights, and vomit to join your life. But I am a huge control freak, so I certainly put some good effort into making sure my home and financial circumstances were ready for my bundle of joy.You will have 7-8 months to prepare for this baby. More if you were planning for it in the first place because you can get started while trying (I know some people say this is bad luck, but I feel lucky when I am in control). I know women who have waited till they are in their third trimester who have seemed so much more stressed than I was about what was to come.

    Baby Specific
    This is only the tip of the iceburg. That cupboard was
    crammed full by the time Lolly was born

    1. Make a purchase list of everything physical baby will need for the first 3 months, minimum. I actually planned for the whole length of my maternity leave (10 months) for some things, like nappies. Toiletries, cot, bouncer, blankets, singlets, when I say everything, I mean everything. Whether you have it already or not. You can cross it off the list if you have it, but make the list in the first place.
    2. Plan baby's space. Do they have their own room? Where will their belongings go?
    Lolly's nursery, ready to go at about 71/2
    months pregnant
    3. Make a To Do list separate to your purchase list. Do you need to paint, make curtains, get the carpet cleaned in preparation for baby? In our case, we needed to add a whole extra room to our house to accommodate the 8 bookshelves that had to vacate Lolly's bedroom.
    4. Set up a baby registry early. We suggest an online registry as it can be shared with everyone no matter where they live. www.mygiftlist.com is good as it lets you list generic items.

    By listing everything well in advance, you can start watching catalogues and sales. My original list included the price I had found for everything, or what I thought it should cost, so then I had a benchmark for what I thought was a good price. Highchair, carseat, bouncer, most of these things (and more) I was able to buy for at least 50% off, sometimes more, by keeping an eye on the sales and buying carefully. When you leave everything to the last minute you are stuck paying retail, or accepting whatever poxy 25% sale is available.

    5. Set a monthly budget for buying/doing things off the lists. If nothing was on sale or available this month, sit on the money till next month.
    6. Stick the receipt for everything you buy to the item.  By having my receipts sticky taped to the items, I was able to return or exchange when I changed my mind (um, lots) or got given duplicates.

    Don't wait for a baby shower to get started. As I mentioned, you can return things if you double up.

    Non Baby Specific

    1. Make a list of non-perishable items. Toilet paper, tissues, toiletries, tinned foodstuffs. I bought between 3-12 months supplies of these items.
    2. Prepay your bills in advance. Mobile phone bills, electricity, water, gas, school fee's etc. Even my council rates. By chunking down my guesstimate of what these items would cost over the period, I started BPAY-ing extra to each of these bills early in my pregnancy to get them at least 3 months ahead.
    3. Make a to do list for work too. The idea of handing over my team to someone else was killing me (I'm a team leader of a bank team) but with 8 months up my sleeves I was able to have staff files very organised for handover to another person and had prepared every employee for future success with another person as best I could. I know your job probably looks different to mine, but customers, widgets, people, we all want to do the best we can and lots of forethought can mean your last days at work are as stress free as possible, which is a good thing for that bundle of joy you are cooking.
    Miss M and Husband eating some spaghetti I
    precooked while visiting me in hospital
    4. Precook a number of reheatable meals a few weeks out of your due date. Besides being very handy for those first nights at home (after MIL stopped cooking for us which she did for a few days, bless her) they were great for making life easier for Husband while I was in hospital for 5 days. He is perfectly capable and happy to cook, but spending as much time as possible with me and Lolly, as well as being full time carer for Miss M was enough of a challenge.
    5. Think out Christmas presents well in advance. Besides the fact that I will be giving out a fair few handmade gifts this year, (watch out for homemade brownies coming your way teachers!) I prepurchased presents before LAST Christmas for some easy to buy items, like Dad who always likes new shirts. I even have stuff for Lolly from the September/October Target Toy sale from 2010.

    As a result of this kind of preparation I haven't had to buy many nappies (just 2 boxes of jumbo crawler size because I underestimated how many I would need), toiletries for anyone, and have only just started paying some bills in the last few weeks and Lolly is 5 months old. My weekly grocery bill is about $80 right now. Besides making life easier, its keeping my household expenses down at a time when we are on a limited income. So I feel pretty cruisy right now despite the fact that we have no real spare cash to talk about.

    Do you have any baby prep tricks to share with me? I'm toying with the idea of a third bubba, (and NOT 10 years apart this time), so more idea's would be awesome.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Wealthy? Moi? Nuh-uh

    I've read through some of my earlier posts, and realised that I make us sound semi-wealthy. Let me be absolutely clear, we are not even close to being wealthy. But we are nowhere near the poverty line either. maybe somewhere in the middle. We have been in some pretty tough spots at times though, particularly last year when husband lost his job straight after we returned from our dream holiday in America, which had cleaned out our bank account.
    We could probably be better off financially than we are if we made different decisions with our money, but our priority list does not allow for that to happen. And I'm OK with that. Money was made for spending. I just believe my money should work as hard as I do.
    I'll share our priority list to give you an idea of where Husband and I  channel our funds, but I want to be clear that its the opportunities we have that influence our priority list. For example, if I were a single mum coping on one income and one set of hands, this list would need to look different. We all do the best we can for our kids in our own ways and our priorities are influenced by our own life experiences.
    1. Our children's education
    2. Being able to have our own home, instead of renting
    3. Being part of our children's day to day lives
    4. Giving our kids opportunities and activities such as dancing, swimming, Gymbaroo
    5. Enjoying quality holiday time with our kids and family, as often each year as we can
    6. Owning our own home in full
    7. Having a comfortable retirement, not too late in life.
    See how owning my own home outright is right down there? It doesn't mean its not important, its just that other things are more important to me. Husband and I are both in reasonably paying jobs. Mine is good enough that we could live on just my income and so provide a stay at home parent - husband -  but only if we didn't send our daughter to private school and didn't let her do as much dancing as she does (14 classes a week!). There also wouldn't be any money for away from home holidays either, which we love. Staycations are fun too, but we love touring Australia with our girls, and our trip to America last year was a dream for all of us (cept poor Lolly who will look at the photo's of Disneyworld in a few years and be very, very, jealous).
    Paying off our home is not as important to us as giving the girls the education we want for them. And unfortunately the school we fell in love with, will pay for our house twice over by the time both girls have had 13 years of education there. But the public schools in our area are not ones I'd be happy to send my daughters to, and although there are good ones out of area, we love the school we chose. The community is wonderful, the education principals and methods really work well for Miss M, and I really value that she will be able to go all the way to year 12 there. I should also mention all the opportunities she will get there that she would not get elsewhere (she will be going to China in yr 7, and to an underprivileged country in yr 10 to do aid work for example).
    So its a fine balance for us all the time. Working enough to fund the life we want with our kids, (modest home and cars, great school, and frequent local holidays), not working so much that we miss their lives (first steps, school concerts, being a backstage dance mum, teaching them to ride bikes). We'll retire one day. We bought our home when I was 21, and husband 26. We haven't touched the mortgage since and don't intend to, so worst case scenario we will own it outright at 51 and 56. The girls will be grownup, although hopefully Lolly will still be at home then and Miss M will be thinking about giving me grandkids.
    And in the meantime, I do still make sure money gets saved - short term goals like holidays and home improvements gets alot of it, but educational scholarships, shares, superannuation, and extra payments on the mortgage gets some too. My main trick for living the life I want is to keep out of debt. The mortgage is it, so our money each week can be channeled to other things.
    I know some people criticise me for working full time when I don't have to, but we feel like we make the right decisions for our kids. We have other priorities in life as well, that aren't related so much to working or not working, like the values and morals we want our kids to have, but this was just to give you an idea of how we decide what to do with our money.
    Do you have a priority list? I 100% recommend making one, it really puts the reason you work, or don't work, into perspective.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    Paperbag princess, thats me

    I've spent the last hour with my head in a paper bag taking deep breathes. Someone actually linked to me on their blog. Something I wrote made enough of an impact on someone else, that they actually linked to me!!!
    Everything is Edible is part of my weekly blog trail - it's the right blend of life, kids, technology and giveaways to be right up my alley. So you can imagine how tickled I was when I spotted all the traffic coming my way from her site.
    But. Epiphany moment. I'm realising I like my validation way too much. I admit it. When I get my hair done, I revel in people commenting on it. Pregnant? Absolutely rub my bump, I was pretty proud of it actually. Coming to visit me? I'll spend hours, sometimes even a whole weekend (or week!)scrubbing, polishing, vacuuming, arranging, only to say, "Sorry the house is such a mess"when you arrive. Link to my blog and I nearly hyperventilate. Just cos I love the validation.
    But while I'm sure I return the favour to other people, I'm not sure I go out of my way to consciously try to make them feel good about themselves. Notch up a life lesson. If I like validation, I bet alot of other people do too. I will be trying extra hard now to notice the little things that make people feel good - online and off.
    Am I alone in this? Are you a super strong women who doesn't need validation?