Monday, January 30, 2012

Baby You're A Firework

As I drove home from dropping my squishy, snugly baby at daycare for the first time, my theme song was blaring in an effort to hold back the tears (that's right, I give myself a theme song. Think Ally McBeal. All the cool kids do it.)
It didn't work.
Its a little sad when her backpack is as big as she is.
Before I was even out of the street my lip started to wobble and within seconds I was blubbering. Wiping away snot and tears I at least managed to not turn around to rescue her.
Disappointingly, when I rang at 10am to find out the worst, the teachers reassured me that she hadn't cried at all, and was currently playing happily with the toddlers.
While rationally I want her to settle in and be happy at daycare, the snotty, blubbering, co dependant part of me was hoping that my baby needed me as much as I needed her.
My day brightened though. Husband, who has been away in Germany then Bangkok for work reasons rang at 10:30, he was at the local train station waiting to be picked up. Did I give him bright, shiny happy wife thrilled to be back in her husbands arms? Nope. Sorry. I'm too emotional today to express my happiness that way, he got tears as well.
Since today was her first day and she hasn't seen her father in 2 weeks, the whole family trotted out to day care at 12:30 to collect Lolly. Her worker carried her from the cot room where she was cheerfully not sleeping but seemed perfectly content. That is, until she saw me. Then her whole face brightened and she laughed and reached out for me.
My world is right again.
At least for the 30 seconds it took for her to notice her father. Then I was yesterdays news as she squealed and wriggled till she was in his arms, patting at his face and covering it in those wide, wet kisses.
We are a family of happy little Vegemite's again this afternoon. Maddy is thrilled with all the little souvenirs her father bought home, Lolly can't take her eyes off her father, and I am just happy to have everyone under my roof again. At least till tomorrow.
I've been a soggy firework today. Kinder, daycare, high school, the first day is awful isn't it?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A semi kind of normal

We've been home from QLD since wednesday afternoon after driving the worst trip I have ever driven. We left just in time to avoid the worst of the bad weather and flooding thank goodness, I know families who left a day later than us who said the theme parks closed the weather got so extreme.
Husband is still off having fun (working) in Germany so its just me and the girls. Despite the massive January we had with trips to melbourne and the gold coast, already the girls have slipped back into a kind of normal. I can't settle in though because I am on edge, counting down everything.
Normal as they know it is about to change. Lolly is starting daycare, Maddy returns to school and I return to work full time. I'm so anxious about what the juggle will look like but I'm determined to find a better balance than I had before I went on mat leave.
Although it may not matter since I found out while on holiday that I have to reapply for my job. Along with everyone else in my role, and everyone in the role above me since their entire job level was made redundant. Just in time for me to start back!
So who knows, maybe I will get a redundancy payout that will keep me at home with Lolly a little longer. Or maybe I will be a chosen one who gets to keep my job.
For now I just need to work with a semi kind of normal.
Have you been through this before? Any tips?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Budons Stationary: a review and giveaway **Closed**

For my first giveaway it seemed only appropriate that I choose stationary, an item that we bow down and worship in this household.

And given the tight leash I had on our back to school budget this year Maddy did not get any new and exciting products to flash at school.
So you can imagine the rejoicing that could be heard when we got home from QLD yesterday and a parcel from Budons stationary was waiting.

I hadn't even heard of Budons before I made contact for the review, but as far as fun, innovative stationary goes they are definitely giving Smiggle a run for their money.
Maddy is in love with her new scratch and sniff books and name tags. That's right. Think those coveted little apple scratch and sniff stickers that you would get on your spelling list when you got 100% way back in the 80's. Only cooler. The whole book is covered in scratchy motifs - between the bubblegum on one and the mint on the other Maddy is torn to pick a favourite. The books are lined so will be perfect for class use. I suspect the bubblegum girl will become our homework book and the smaller minty alien book will be her dance diary.

When I first took on the review I thought they were an Internet based company but lo and behold when I was wandering through Target I spied a huge stand covered in Budons so these little goodies will be easier to get my hands in than I thought.

Stationary is my goto present for birthday parties at the moment. It's a safe bet for any pre-teen girl. Some 11 year olds have moved past toys and are interested in pop stars, makeup and boys already. Others are still playing with the toy of the moment (littlest pet shops, zhu zhu pets) so it can be hard to buy the right gift. Bright and colourful stationary however is always a winner no matter the kid. Given how hooked Maddy is on her bubblegum scented notebooks I suspect that Budons will be our 2012 goto gift.

And finally, the very lovely folks at Immerse Agency and Budons have given me a 2nd pack to giveaway to one of my readers. To equip your kidlets with something unique and special (and since its coming from me its FREE!) for school you just have to follow these 2 easy peasy steps:

1. Follow my blog in whatever way suits you most - Facebook, twitter, google friend connect, networked blogs, email, however tickles your fancy AND
2. Leave me a comment telling me how you follow and what your favourite stationary item is.

I'm only a wee baby blog looking for new friends so feel free to say howdy on any of my other posts. I get far more excited about comments than I should.

Terms and conditions: winner will be chosen by random.org 31/01/12 and contacted by email. Winner will have 3 days to respond or prize will be redrawn. Prize will be mailed by the promoter. Australian residents only.

In the interests of full disclosure I was not paid for this post but I was sent a Budons stationary pack to review which is not exactly a hardship in this household. The opinions expressed are mine and my 11 year old daughters

Sunday, January 22, 2012

QLD on a budget: Part 2

We're getting to the tail end of this holiday, and I won't be sorry to go home, although I am dreading the drive on my own. Husband left me to go home back on Tuesday, and yesterday he flew off to Germany for the dream work trip - lucky bugga.
One of the thing we have done to keep our costs down on this trip is prepare most of our meals at the resort. We made sure we are staying in a self contained unit so meals are easy. Our dinner menu this week has consisted of things like:
-sausage sandwiches by the pool
-homemade burgers (also by the pool!)
-spaghetti bolognaise
-tacos
It's been a simple matter to make lunches and take bottles of water to the theme parks or eistedfods, and although I give in to the begging for a churro or ice cream occassionally, $4-6 for a treat is so much cheaper than lunch.
Miss M started out being disappointed that we weren't going out to all the exciting restaurants that her friends were, which quickly changed to excitement as we started hosting hordes of kids for sausage sangers by the pool which they all scoff down and go back to swimming. Snags and bread are a cheap enough way to entertain!
We have our final performances tomorrow. The kids are all pretty smug since they have 2 1st's and 2 places to show for the 5 dances they have done so far. With 3 more to go I hope they finish on a high but even if they don't place again it's safe to say they've had a great time.
Home soon, where I can catch up with my blog reading. The 3G here is so weak and the hotel wifi broken so mostly I'm reading ebooks right now, but twitter is tantalizing me with snippets from blogs!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A little break from my holiday

We've been in QLD since Saturday and so far we've had nothing but poor weather. Mornings are usually not too bad but by lunchtime it's drizzling with bursts of showers.
Poor Lolly is having the worst holiday so far. Because of the rain she spends all day trapped in her stroller, peering out at the world through her wet weather cover.
She hates this and alternates between shrieks of rage and choking sobs. She's never had to be in her stroller for much more than a shopping trip before so whole days (after spending whole days in her car seat driving here) is not going down well. So I've sent Miss M off with some of the other mums that are on this dancing tour today, and Lolly and I are enjoying a normal day at the hotel where she can roll and crawl to her hearts content.
I'm hoping she'll wake up from her morning nap early enough for a swim before the rain starts since she and I haven't managed to get in the water yet at all!
For all of my sooking above, it's still nice to be here with so many friends (there are 10 other dancing families here with us) and Miss M is having a ball.
Tomorrows weather is supposed to be fine so looking forward to a brighter day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl

My brown eyed, curly haired baby turns 11 today. Happy Birthday my gorgeous, sensitive little girl.

Monday, January 16, 2012

QLD on a Budget: Part 1

Today's weather looks much nicer today, although the forecast is not my friend as it is still predicting rain.
Regardless we are heading to Dreamworld anyway! We did Movieworld in ponchos yesterday, and we'll do it again today if necessary.
Theme parks are expensive, and many of the people we are traveling with bought their tickets online or at the gate directly from the theme park.
(Insert obnoxious buzzing noise) Wrong choice! Tickets can be bought much cheaper from so many other sources!
Work social clubs, NRMA, other reward groups like Flybuys, they all sell tickets at a discounted price. Usually at least 10% cheaper than buying direct.
Also, often your hotel will have a travel organiser selling tickets to theme parks and other local attractions again at a discount. By watching all of the various cashback and reward clubs for a little while beforehand, I was able to get our Dreamworld tickets 15% off at the Nescafe cup of rewards club so the discounts are there is you hunt them down!
I've been writing this post on and off all morning and am almost at the front of line for the Thunder River Rapids so will wrap up with that.
Hope your day is less wet than mine will be!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

We're here QLD!

We have arrived in sunny QLD - or not so sunny.
After we settled in to our self contained unit I whipped up some hamburger mix and we trooped out to the pool to BBQ dinner and take a quick dip. Noice.
The best, and simultaneously most awkward part of the trip is that we are sharing our unit with Miss M's best friend and her mother. We are here on a dancing trip, the girls wills be performing 8 dances at a national eistedfod and since Husband can only be here 3 days of the 10 and we are on a tight budget it makes sense to share and cut all our costs down.
It's the best part because Miss M gets to share the theme parks and fun with her bestie. This is especially important since there will be alot of things I can't do with her because I need to be with Lolly.
I also happen to get along like chocolate and chicken chips with her mum so we should all have fun together.
The awkward part: 2 women in one household. Very very different women. My family is admittedly quite relaxed about tidiness whereas my friend keeps a pristine magazine beautiful household.
We are on a thin budget which means as many meals as possible need to be prepared by moi to keep eating out costs to a minimum. My friend isnt in the same situation so I'm worried that I am forcing our circumstances on them.
I know we will sort through all that and have a great time though.
Today, despite the rubbish weather we are going to brave Movie World.

My money saving tip today? Don't spend $5-10 buying rain ponchos at the theme parks or events if you are unprepared for the weather (like us!) Coles sells clear plastic rain ponchos for $1.76 - right near the eskis.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saving up for your first home? Want to help your kids get there faster?

Someone recently reminded me about First Home Saver Accounts (FHSA) on Twitter, and it got me thinking about the many many irate customers I have had at work. I have been cursed, sworn at, and generally crossed off the Christmas card list of many, many customers because of these accounts.

They are a FANTASTIC place to accumulate your money while saving for your home. I am a huge fan, and when Miss M is 18, I plan to encourage her to open one. Depending on hers and our circumstances we may even contribute/co-contribute to help her get her first home.

But you need to go into this account with your eyes open. Here is a quick run broken into the positives and negatives (as I see them).

Pro's
These accounts tend to have a very competitive variable interest rate
The federal government will contribute $0.17 for every dollar you deposit up to a maximum deposit of $5,500 (although you can contribute more if you want, it is likely that you will recieve a higher interest rate on an online savings account for the additional deposits over $5,500). This usually means a return of over 20% including the banks interest on the first $5,500.
If you buy a house with another first home buyer, each of you can use your own FHSA accounts towards the purchase.
Interest earnings on the FHSA are only taxed at the low rate of 15%. Government contributions and eventual withdrawals are not taxed at all
Money is locked away where it can't be spent on those impulse buys!

Cons
MUST make a minimum of $1,000 deposits EVERY year for FOUR financial years. They do not have to be in a row. If you miss a year, you can do it the next year, it will just take longer to get to the 4 complete year mark. You can pay $1,000 on the 30th June, and then another $1,000 on the 1st of July and that will count as 2 separate years. You don't have to pay $1,000 at once, it can be accumulative over the financial year (1/07-30/06).
For first home buyers only
Account can only be in one name
Max age for holding the account is 65
If you change your mind or find you need the money you have saved it can only be rolled into your Super. Unless you are aged over 60 in which case the money can be withdrawn. There is no-one to appeal to regardless of how desperate your circumstances are!
If you are ready to buy a house BEFORE you have saved the required $1,000 each financial years (x4) you can only:
a/Roll them money into super
b/Continue to meet the requirements and the money can be put towards your mortgage once you save the $1,000 each financial year (x4)
c/Use the money for the purchase if you are buying with another FHSA account holder who has met the requirements

The most heartbreaking scenario is the one with the customer who desperately needs the money - funeral, medical, etc - but cannot access it. The ombudsman can't help. The bank can't help. The federal government wón't help. Threats, complaints, persistancy, nothing will get your hands on that money. So go into a FHSA with very clear idea's about how you will manage your money to meet lifes expenses.
There's also a very clever little loophole scenario there for older people who have never owned a home before. If you open these accounts you can take advantage of the government contributions and take your money back as a lumpsum when you are over 60 (max age 65). Given the low tax rate on returns and the additional contributions this can be a way to make the most of your money.

For more information, Canstar has some good facts, also the governments Moneysmart website. You should also seek professional advise when making decisions about your finances - I am not a professional and am not qualified to give advise.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making the most of your Salary

One of the interesting little perks I get through my work is the ability to purchase gifts vouchers at a discount. Coles, Woolworths, Big W, 5% off. Smiggle, Diva, Toys R Us, 10% off. With no postage costs, I've found it very cost effective each fortnight to order enough vouchers for my groceries & nappies from Coles and Big W.

Interestingly enough though, no-one else that I've spoken to at work takes advantage of this particular perk.

This is not something new to me. There is both a lack of awareness, and a lack of interest, in taking up these offers. One person I spoke to admitted she was just too lazy to bother ordering vouchers every fortnight.

So how well do you know your (or your partners) employee benefits? These days, unemployment rates are so low that employers are doing everything they can to make themselves more attractive to potential candidates.
Some of the benefits I've come across before are:

-Corporate health insurance. Often much cheaper than anything you can arrange for yourself with higher benefits
-Discount Gym memberships
-Discounted parking
-Annual train fares that can be paid off over the course of the year
-Discounted electricals
-Car leasing
-Dollar matching on additional superannuation contributions

Many companies have arrangement that allow you to salary sacrifice the payments towards these items. This reduces your overall taxable income so the impact to your take home pay ends up being less than the cost of the goods, which were often cheaper to start with! Keeping in mind though that fringe benefits tax will still need to be paid and the fringe benefits declared, although in my case my company organises that via my normal salary each fortnight and its all detailed in a little statement that comes with my group certificate.

In addition to the benefits of discounted goods and services, there is also the unexpected side benefit that reducing your overall income has on centrelink family tax benefit payments. While I wouldn't encourage anyone to increase their salary sacrifices purely to influence a centrelink payment, it can sometimes result in a higher family payment if your salary after sacrifices and fringe benefits tax ends up coming down. Definitely look at your own personal circumstances and speak to a professional to understand how you can make the most of your income.

Do you have an interesting employee perk? I'd love to know what else is out there in the market.

Uh oh

Wordless Wednesday

Santa may have left behind a few kilo's

Linking up with

My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Whats a little boobie leakage between friends? Or, My day at work

I went into work yesterday in preparation for returning from maternity leave. And ignoring the 6000+ emails I had to deal with, it actually felt like I never left.

I am in limbo at the moment, not knowing what team I will be given when I return. (I'm a team leader in a financial institution). Best money says that I am getting my old team back though as my replacement has just resigned.

I used the day as a little mini test run on how life will look when I am working full time. It all started out pretty good, I had both girls packed for their day the night before, Miss M for a full day at dancing in preparation for our upcoming QLD dance eisteddfod, and Lolly for a trip to her grandmothers. It was all going perfectly.
Give up and go home or keep going? Meh, whats
a little boobie leakage between old friends?
Until Lolly picked the very last second to throw up on me and my nice new satiny top. She hasn't vomited in more than a month so I thought we were past that stage! Too late to go home, I had to make do with sponging myself off and hoping that the marks didn't show. Mostly it worked. Except for the nice round patch on my boobie. So I went to work looking like I was leaking. If I were actually breastfeeding, I would wear that leakage stain like a badge of honour. But my kid is bottle fed FFS!

Boobie leakage aside, the day went pretty well. I got my main logins and passwords sorted, cleared about 5500 emails (the easy ones!) and managed to duck out to a focus group for 2 hours discussing an upcoming Dettol shower gel release. 2 birds, one parking spot (parking is really expensive in Parramatta, but because I went into work I was able to justify pleading for a company spot for the day).

I don't feel quite as stressed about going back next month. I feel like I can slide back into a team that I know like the back of my hand, and please, how hard is it to change my top AFTER I drop Lolly at day care each day?

Anybody else done the back to work thing yet? I will miss my little Lollypop, but my brain is itching to start reading the 500 emails I have left in my inbox.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Countdown to D-day.

I feel like i'm in perpetual motion now, with nothing but deadlines ahead of me.

4 days till we leave for QLD as a family.

8 days till Husband leaves for an oversea's work trip and I become a single parent whilst on holiday!

16 days till I try to do an interstate drive home with a baby and 10 11 year old on my own

22 days till my baby starts daycare and has to become a big girl coping without Mummy. Or is that 23 days till I have to become a big girl coping without my baby?

Also 22 days till my Husband comes back to me. This will be our longest time apart since we married.

25 days till Miss M starts year 6. And thats a day I never thought would come. Being a big sister has accelerated her growing up, she has stopped being my little girl.

29 days till I return to working Full Time (capital F, T) in the office.

I feel like the next 29 days are all I have left - I used to love my job so I don't understand where this feeling of dread is coming from. I will be going in today to shmooz a little and try to kick start some of my access's but I really don't feel like it. I even dread being given back my company laptop with all of the responsibility that goes with it. Hopefully once I am around the people I used to care about as much as my family I will remember what it is I love about my job. But for now all I can think about it what I am losing when I go back.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

7 Lessons To Go Back To School On A Budget

This is a time of year I have learnt to do well. This year, I will be sending Madeleine back to year 6 for a grand total of $15. She needs her first calculator and since it will be getting 7 years of use $15 is a bargain.

Kindergarten (Prep) I easily spent $250 starting her off at school. Not counting uniforms. Year 1 it was around $160. I still hadn't learnt my lessons. But since then, I have spent less and less each year till I get to a record low of $15 this year. And at an expensive private school who always sends home a huge book and stationary list this is an achievement.

Lesson #1. Regulation school bags are the bomb. I paid $70 in Kindergarten for Madeleine's bag and was stunned at the price, thinking about the new bag I used to get for myself EVERY YEAR in the not so distant high school past. But I haven't had to buy one since. When they have a Roxy or Kmart bag by the end of the year it looks grotty so you end up buying them a new one for the next year. When you have the regulation school uniformed bag, they all look the same and no one but the kinders have new ones anyway! So $70 went a long way there. Madeleine won't be getting a new bag till high school.

Its all ready to go and I havent spent a cent
Lesson #2. Don't believe the school when they say they have organised discount prices for anyone who orders the school book packs through them. The stationary/book companies have done a killer sell job on somebody, because in year 1 when I still thought Miss M needed everything new I bought EVERYTHING on her book/stationary list myself in exactly the quantities and brands specified in the back to school sales and saved myself about $25. Just think what I could have saved by thinking ahead and buying in bulk. Which is what my school has supposedly organised.

Box of goodies - everything from scrapbooks,
folders, pencils, pens, its all there.
Lesson #3. Buy in bulk and put away anything they don't need. And by put away, I mean in a crate out in the garage where you can't get at it too easily. Because one of the magical elements of stationary is how easy it is for it to absorb itself into the household. It will become the go to box when you can't find a pen for a message and before you know it the pens you bought in bulk for economy need to be rebought next year. So stash it far, far, away out of everyday use.



Last years pencil case filled with rejects and pencil
 shavings as I go through and clean up the keepers
Lesson #4. DO reuse last years stationary. Just make it clean and nice again. Sharpen all pencils, test out all texta's and pens, clean up old rubbers by running them on carpet (works a treat!). Even empty out folders for reuse. Kids love fresh pencils because they are SHARP, that's the only reason. Put together sets and just top up what is missing. If it means buying a new set (ie pencils because there are no more reds), top up the old set with what is missing and put away anything else. Chances are good that next year you will need another colour altogether but won't need to buy a full set this time.

Lesson #5. Do some research before buying anything. Back to school sales are big business and the discounts are awesome but vary from store to store. I tend to work out who is cheapest for most items, then take the catalogues with me to negotiate the lower prices for everything else. Most places will price match if you are ballsy enough to ask, and I really can't be bothered doing my shop in more than 1 place if it can be helped. Lasoo is your best friend for doing comparisons before you leave the house.

I use an old Huggies Wipes container for all the
pencils not currently being used at school. Perfect
for home use.
Lesson #6. Do label your stationary. Every last pencil, rubber, sharpener and glue stick. Its great, it all comes home every year without fail. As well as some other kids stuff who's parents DIDN'T label it. Make sure you sign up to all the label company newsletters to get the discount codes!

Lesson #7. Last but not least, don't stinge on your stationary. Cheap and nasty pens will have scratchy ink that runs out quickly. Not conducive to learning. Cheap pencils will break inside making them impossible to use as the tips fall out as soon as they are sharpened. Its false economy.

This year we have so much stuff stashed away from previous years that I actually don't need to buy anything except the calculator. And thanks to Target selling it for $15, I am saving $14.95 off my schools negotiated discount price. And although Lolly will probably get the standard school book pack in Kinder (to make sure she gets the regulation bible) from Year 1 onwards I am set to hook her up.
Madeleine also needs a new pencil case since the old one is ripped, but she is keen to buy it herself from Smiggle using a voucher she got for Christmas. No arguments here kiddo!

Are you ready for back to school? Do you have anymore hints for me?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ooooh drool, Crust pizza is so good. Especially when free

My prize arrived in a kids
pizza box! So cute
If the amount of blogs giving away Crust pizza packages are any indication, myself and half the blogosphere have been lucky enough to try out these pizza's. Speaking for myself, when I ducked up to the post office on Tuesday to collect our mail (after being in Melbourne for over a week) I was thrilled to find my Crust Pizza prize from Daisyrooandtwo waiting for me. Champion - this meant I could delay the trip to the supermarket yet ANOTHER day. I was waiting for a bunch of Coles vouchers which hadn't arrived yet, and my thin post-Christmas budget means I needed to hold out for them if possible.
So I sent Husband off to our nearest Crust (yay, only about 20 minutes away) to collect our prize and I have to say, this was such a generous prize. In no-ones definition was this dinner for 2 adults and 2 children. 6 adults and 2 children maybe. We definitely had leftovers for dinner the next night. Yay, supermarket visit delayed AGAIN.
Disappointingly though, Crust sent Husband home with a ham and pineapple kids pizza instead of a chicken and pineapple kids pizza. Simple mistake to make right? Except we are a partially Muslim household, and one of the things we observe is no pig products so this was a biggie for us. They also didn't give him the apple juices that come with the kids packs, and since I did most of the menu hunting myself, he didn't know to ask for them. The pizza's were free though, and at the end of the day I was actually only feeding 1 kid, not 2, so its not like someone went without as I was going to put the spare in the fridge for dinner the next night. But in terms of doing a fair review if I was paying for the pizza's, I would have been back at the pizza store irritated more by the extended time investment needed at dinner time than anything else.
2 adults to eat these monsters? Really? These pizzas are
HUGE. Ahem, I MAY have started eating mine before the photo
Although the prize was for 2 of their upper crust pizza's, Crust was nice enough to let us substitute one for a large chicken pizza, worth slightly less in value. While the upper crust range looks nice, the Peri Peri Chicken pizza was calling out to me. And I can say, it is the yummiest thing I have ever put in my mouth. EVER. Oh my goodness. I can't stress that enough. So seriously delicious.
Husband was more inclined towards the Moroccan lamb, which was yummy too (but can't take the place of Peri Peri chicken for me).
The best thing was that Miss M could have her own pizza. We are so used to having to order cheese or simple chicken  pizza's for her that we have forgotten what it is like to eat ingredient packed pizza's. Yummy deserts, interesting (not my cup of tea but Husband loved it) salad along with a DVD and Uno pack courtesy of Crust and our dinner was complete.
While a leetle more pricey than ordering at some of the mainstream chains, Husband and I could get away with 1 large pizza between the 2 of us (with leftovers) and a kids pack for Miss M so it wouldn't have to cost that much. Very filling and very yummy too. Completely worth it.
Thumbs up to Crust for taste and range, thumbs down for accuracy unfortunately. But if you check your order before leaving the store this does not have to be a problem.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How well do you know your mortgage?

Speaking as only an insider can, I am always horrified by just how many mortgages have incorrect specifications against them. By specifications I mean interest rate details, margin discounts, dates for changes etc. And so many of my customers have no idea exactly what is wrong. The ones who are paying attention pick up that something is wrong, and generally they just pin it on the interest rate, but usually the problem runs deeper. And by the way - do not be one of those people who is adamant that the interest calculations are wrong. That's about the only thing that NEVER goes wrong. If the rate is right, the calculation is right.
See, alot of the parameters of your mortgage is loaded completely manually by an entry level worker behind the scenes. Interest calculations are about the only automatic part of the shebang. Limited time discounts, tiered lending/saving (rates that get higher or lower depending on the balance), honeymoon rates, even interest only periods rolling over to principal and interest eventually - depending on the company you have your finances with, and good their systems are, some/alot of this could be set up manually. And although it would be easy to blame it on human error, alot of the time the systems being used are so complex, and have changed so many times over the years of use, that sometimes the issue isn't apparent until later on down the track. Sometimes it wasn't even human error, a system upgrade 2 years ago created functionality that caused your loan conditions to act in a different way.

A discount that should have expired never does - and you get stuck paying back interest saved you were not entitled too when the bank finally notices.
An interest only period that should have run for 5 years somehow only runs for 2, or even worse runs indefinitely - meaning you never end up paying off the loan.
A discount that should apply to a variable loan once the fixed rate period expires never got loaded in the first place, or is loaded incorrectly so you never end up with the discount you were entitled to.

These are only some of the potential things that go wrong. And whats so frustrating is that the loan you thought you had nailed when the broker/bank consultant helped you set it up years/months ago, might actually no longer be correct even though no-one has touched it since.

My tip to you? Do a bi-annual health check of your loans. Check the current rate against the advertised rates on the banks website, and check them again against your loan contract for special agreements/conditions that were relevant at the time you signed - especially since a special offer that you qualified for then will not be reflected on the website. Every time your loan goes through a cycle - ie interest only to principal and interest, fixed to variable, or vice versa - check it again. People don't mean to make mistakes but they happen. Pay extra attention to any discounts you were entitled to, as these are often off the advertised standard variable rate.
Speaking from my own employers perspective, once an issue is brought to our attention, the issue is fixed for the customer that raised it, and reports are run to locate other impacted customers so that they can be fixed as well. Even if the issue is found other ways other than the customer raising it, it is still corrected promptly. I'm sure most of the banks do the same. It is still worth your while to keep an eye on what is happening. Ditto for your savings accounts.

**Have you found an issue with your mortgage before? Did the bank fix it promptly?**

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick wrap up of my Melbourne Visit - Wordless Wednesday

Road trip - Seriously, Miss M slept that way

I love how decorative the roads to Melbourne are


A church in Melbourne that rivals Town Hall Sydney

Iceskating across the road from Costco

Costco - a highlight for moi


The bane of my existence - malevolent that cat is

Abbotsford convent markets

Happy New Years!

I play wordless Wednesday with:
My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Melbourne wanderings - Abbotsford Convent Twilight Market

We are back in Sydney now, but this is the first chance I have had to share one of my Melbourne field trips. While staying with my sister last week, Husband and I left Miss M for an evening playing Skylanders with her cousins, and went off to visit the Abbotsford Convent twilight market.

It was a huge stretch to call this event a market - there was only a smattering of stalls selling soaps, licorice, herbs and pure wool creations. But outside of the stalls there was food (glorious food!) being sold everywhere. As soon as we parked I regretted eating dinner before we left the house. The smells were fabulous, gozleme, woodfire pizza, breads, a little restaurant type with plated meals, another little stand of nondesript foods....mmm it was all yummy.
What hit me straight away though was the amount of people considering the lack of actual market. There were people everywhere, sprawled on the grass all over the grounds, drinking wine, chatting with friends, laying down, listening to music, using their ipads on the free wifi (at a convent!) and just generally hanging out.

After dragging Husband all over the grounds which are just BEAUTIFUL, I was determined to get in on the cool people parade and flop on the grass with something to eat and drink. Hubby wouldn't let me buy a pizza since we had already eaten so I shrugged and ordered one of the yummiest lattes and a pot of gelato instead from the convent bakery. I was intrigued by the coffee's from different countries on display, but the place was frantic, everyone else knew the languange and was dressed cooler than me (jeans and a shirt when everyone else is in flowwy dresses or spunky tops) so I didn't want to show my ignorance and just stuck to a safe latte. Someone else try the Ethiopian or Mexican coffee if you are ever there and write a review for me!

Theres also a bar that you can buy basic alcoholic drinks from too, so for an evening of cheap eat and drinks, along with good music and a fun atmosphere, its definately worth the trip. Street parking was available for free, but we chose to park in the lot across the road for $4 for unlimited parking rather than stalk people for a spot.

Despite expecting to see Maria Von Trapp floating around the countryside there was no sign of a nun anywhere. When I checked out the website in hindsight it turns out they are a secular site these days, so that explains the lack of nuns.

Hanging on the green
Let me say it before you do - my husband looks a complete tourist. (Or bogan, depends on your point of view). Doofus put all his shirts in the wash at my sisters and didn't get around to hanging them out, so when I told him we were heading to the convent he was stuck with the I heart NY shirt that he sleeps in. I thought it was a garden variety market though so I didn't care.
My suggested dress code? Dress for a casual dinner date. There were kids there dressed better than us for crying out loud.
We might wander back again next time we are in Melbourne, it was a great little pit stop and next time we will show up with empty bellies to take better advantage.
Lolly tries out gelato
We didn't end up making it to Adventure Park Geelong while I was there - jealous though, there seem to be a bunch of bloggers that were there on a sponsored trip and you make it look so much fun. I'll have to convince my sister that the kids need to check it out next time. It was the price that put us off this time.
Any other seriously awesome markets (real markets please!) that Melbournites can point me at for my next visit? Preferably East/South East of Melbourne within an hours drive.