Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I get my Kebab on...yum

"I'm running up the shop to get something for lunch. Any special requests?"

Dad was over this weekend, painting the house to get it ready to rent out. We were running short on sandwich meats and a trip to Coles was needed.

"A kebab love. With everything." At that, Maddy and Husbands eyes lit up, and suddenly the requests were pouring in for kebabs.

Are you kidding? They clearly have no idea how much kebabs cost. 4 kebabs would not be leaving much/any change out of $40, and I would get stuck sharing mine with Lorelei unless I bought her one of her own, bringing the purchase closer to $50. But I didn't want to look like too much of a tightarse to Dad, seeing as how I'm getting a free paint job (+paint) out of him a kebab doesn't seem like too much to ask for.

So my way around it?

1. Ask the kebab shop dude for a box of kebab meat and let him go away and work out how much to charge you. Mine charged me $15. Deal.

2. Lebanese bread from the local fruit shop - $1.

3. Fillings - tomato's, lettuce, cheese, onion. I already had everything in the house, but maybe $5-6.
4. Make them up, wrap in some foil and pop on the sandwich press to crisp up.

They were a hit, and I managed to get 7.5 kebabs out of the meat, so Husband and I had them for lunch the next day too. I resent paying big bucks for takeaway, but have to admit that I still have the cravings for it. So this seemed like a good compromise, and it didn't taste any different. In fact, I enjoyed every greasy mouthful. As did the kids.
Lolly loved her kebab and
got to have her own
Maddy always loves kebabs


So 7 (and a half for Lorelei!) kebabs for under $25. Bargain. We'll be doing this again.

Do you have any cheap & creative ways to get your grease on that you can share with me?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Declutter my life

Since we made the big decision to rent out our home and relocate closer to my daughters high school, I have been busy packing and getting ready to go.
We don't have a set moving date, because we will just be moving over to my in-laws 2 bedroom granny flat for a few weeks before moving to a new house closer to school. And I'm not going to compress our lives into that little granny flat until the absolute last minute, so for now we are waiting for a tenant. We've had x2 open houses with a few people at each one, but so far no applications for the house. It's only been a week since the first open house, and the last one was Friday at 4pm, so I know I shouldn't be too anxious, but because this house is my pride and joy it actually almost feels like a rejection that no-one has put an application in yet!
I had no idea how much crap we own. We are moving in a few layers. Stuff that can go into storage for the year or two we expect to rent so that we can rent something a little smaller than we are in now, and stuff that we will want at the rental, but can make do without at the granny flat which is a good size, but nowhere near big enough to accommodate all the random junk that comes with a FIVE person family.
In forcing myself to look at everything with a view to packing it long term or medium term, I'm realising how much stuff we own that maybe we don't need. I have gotten rid of so much stuff, because as I make the decision to put it in long term storage because I won't need it for the next year or two, it makes me realise half the time that maybe I don't need it all.
So I am selling on eBay, and Facebook garage sale pages frantically in an effort to make some cash on this random junk, with mixed success. A few hundred dollars later and some donations to the salvo's, I have alot less junk and some money to contribute towards the costs of fixing up the house.
I have my fingers cross we will find ourselves a tenant this week, and will maybe move out next weekend. Now that we have made the decision to go, I just want it to happen. The house is half painted white, which is so depressing, I have always had such a colourful house. My Dad is a painter by trade and will finish painting over the new few days, so my tenants will be getting themselves a nice fresh paint job. Just lucky for me that we can save a few thousand dollars on a professional painter because husband and I have about as much talent in the painting department as we do in the gardening department. Which is to say none.
Even though its so far down the track, my mind is already planning the next house we will buy or build, and all the features I want it to have. I'm so impatient to get into this dream house already, but I need to lay the foundation of saving some money towards it first. I really don't want to take on a bigger mortgage even though I want the bigger house, so we need to get saving. So 2013 and 2014 will see me becoming an even bigger tightarse than I already am!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Personal-Planner: A Review & A Giveaway

Are you an organisation freak? I am. I like to plan every aspect of my days, to make sure that everything gets done when its supposed to. For me this even means scheduling time to do nothing. Otherwise I never get any time to do nothing much less everything else I have to do.

So I was intrigued when the lovely people at Personal-Planner approached me. They've just launched in the Australian market, and they want to give one of my readers one of their fabulous products!

After having a little play with their planner creator, I am hooked. The level of detail available for customisation is awesome. No matter what planner I've bought before, there are always things I don't use, and features I want that I kind of work around. 

With this planner creator, you can factor in x4 different features that you want included each week. My sister who will be starting her first full time teachers role this year loved that she could customise this to use for her classes, although she would have liked to have fit more than 4 on the week to allow for all her classes. The gym junkie next door liked that she could include her workout schedule.

Me personally, I like that I can include a graph, as well as the more standard To Do and List features, because I would use it at work to track my daily results.


Every aspect of the picture above was customisable. The header colour, the lining and colour of the week, the features down the bottom, EVEN the colour of the ruler! This will end up being a completely personal planner, suited to my tastes and needs. Love it.

My favourite feature over all is that I could insert colouring pages or sheet music at the end of the planner. I never use the addresses book feature in my planners - that's what phones are for. But with this planner I can add some colouring in pages to keep Lolly busy if we are out and about. Brilliant!

Want to know what's even better? It doesn't have to start January 2013. And since we are already part way through the month, you could start your planner for February 2013, or even just set up a 2014 planner. So no wastage.

So who wants to win their very own planner? Personal-Planner will be giving one lucky reader a voucher for $45, which will get you the BIGGEST planner with postage included!

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Let's be 100% clear. I will receive a planner along with my reader for hosting this giveaway. My opinions are my own, and I wouldn't bother to waste blog space on it if I didn't think it was a cool product. 
Aussie Giveaway Linky
Hosted by Three Lil Princesses

Saturday, January 19, 2013

OMIGOD You Guys! Maddy and I go Legally Blonde

I saw my first stage play when I was 12. The local fire brigade organised discount tickets for all the kids in our area and took us into the city to see a production of Phantom of the Opera. From that day, I was hooked.

I've been to many different plays since then, with many different people. When I can't find someone who wants to go, Husband is always willing to come along. But since he visibly glazes over and can barely restrain himself from falling asleep he's not my companion of choice.

So I was thrilled when Maddy showed an interest in going to plays with me. Since her first time, (Chicago) we've been to Mary Poppins ( on Broadway in New York!), Wicked, and now Legally Blonde. 

Selfies in the bathroom
This week, as a birthday surprise, she and I went and saw Legally Blonde at The Star. We made good time into the city, and had dinner first at the buffet. Although expensive ($36.90 for an adult, $16.90 for a child) the buffet had a good variety that suited both of us. Although frankly, the desert bar was so good that I didn't enforce eating a good meal and both of us went a little nuts sampling eclairs, cakes, mousses, and the chocolate fountain/lolly bar. Meh, it's her birthday treat, what do I care if she scoffs an extra eclair instead of a potato.

The play itself though was FABULOUS! (OMIGOD You guys!) Lucy Durack is a perfect choice for the role of Elle Woods, although I have to wonder if she will be able to move away from the flippant blonde character to play something else since she plays these so well. Just in case you didn't see it, Lucy was also Glinda in the stage play Wicked, which is a pretty similar character. The music was catchy, the stage looked incredible, and I was hooked from the opening number.

Maddy doesn't sit with her mouth open the way I did at her age. She has a huge grin, she sings along with the chorus, and throws her head back with laughter at the best lines. She's the best person to go to a show with, money well spent. I love that she is old enough to enjoy these shows with me, and that we have this in common. 

Afterwards we raced around to the stage door, the first time I have ever done that. I've always wanted to, but never really thought it would be as easy as it was! As luck would have it, we made it round before any of the cast started to emerge, and we were lucky enough to meet and chat briefly with all of the lead cast. Maddy had them all sign her program as well, and I have to say just how sweet they all were. There was no impatience at being delayed going home, Cameron Daddo propped his bike and helmet against the wall and spent easily 30 minutes working his way through all the fans as did Lucy and Rob and all the rest. Most of the minor characters hurried past without stopping to chat, but I wonder if that was more a belief that people weren't interested in them, than a lack of interest. WRONG, my kid would have loved to say hello to everyone.

We had the best time - if you haven't seen it, I can highly recommend it, I think the show closes in Sydney shortly and heads off interstate so there is still time no matter where you are. Definitely a show to take your daughter to.

Photos with Rob Mills, Mike Snell, and Lucy Durack


My tip though - wear pink! As soon as we got there Maddy and I realised we were wearing the wrong colours. I would have loved to have gotten into the spirit of things a little more.

Do you love theatre too? Who do you go with?

Monday, January 14, 2013

A penny saved....

I've seen lots of action round the blogosphere this week of people committing to new financial goals for the new year. A really popular one is the 52 week plan, where you start by saving $1 the first week, $2 the 2nd week, and so on till you reach $52 the 52 week. I've seen this one floating around both my personal and blog facebook pages.
www.facebook.com/suncoastschoolsfcu

The only thing that worries me about this one, is that it starts out easy at the beginning of the year when you are most motivated to save, and usually have least expenses, and ends up toughest at the end of the year when you are trying to pull together money for Christmas, holidays, and everything else you have going on.

I'd suggest doing this in reverse - saving the bigger amounts now, and reducing till Christmas. It will work out better that way for interest as well, as the balance will be higher faster. You'll also increase your chances for success if you do the hard work while you are most motivated - you'll probably find yourselves saving extra at the end of the year as it gets easier just because it's too easy.

Instead of giving this a whirl, I am doing a balance and change skimming activity instead to build up an account for Christmas. At the end of each week, I will be reducing the balance of my day to day bank account down to the nearest zero number - for example, if the balance is $562.15, I will transfer $2.15 to my savings account. Some weeks this will be a small amount, some weeks it will be closer to $10. If I'm feeling flush maybe I'll round down to the next zero instead. I'll also empty my wallet of all change into a jar every Friday, something that has worked well in the past but that I haven't done for a while. This one always does brilliantly, but only if the jar stays my secret and I hide it away. Husband is too prone to raiding it otherwise, and I suspect the tween will probably also help herself now that she is older and has more petty costs.

Although I can't do an accurate forecast or prediction on the balance at the end of the year, between the 2 activities I expect to end up with around $1,000. A decent amount to spend on Christmas presents and foods. I have so much scrimping and saving to do this year just for normal living - the year of maternity leave - that I like the idea of a nest egg to keep Christmas as festive as ever.

Have set any savings goals this year? Maybe you want to give the 52 week Challenge a whirl? Accumulating money for anything special?


Friday, January 11, 2013

Moving House for the first time in 9 years



When we built our house 9 years ago, we told ourselves we would only be living here for a maximum of 5 years. I never wanted to move back to this area that I grew up in, but it was all we could afford and we were desperate to get into the housing market.
Love my home, hate my area
I had deep issues with renting, and I believed then (and kind of do now) that my self worth was tied up in being a property owner. Rationally I know this is not true, and it certainly isn't a standard I hold anyone else to, but renting and it's sometimes nomadic tendancies is deeply tied to alot of childhood issues for me.

I also always wanted a certain amount of permanency for my kids. I don't want them changing schools and homes every year, I want them to be able to put posters on their walls and have the paint and curtains reflect their personality. 

So with other priorities preventing us from making real inroads in a new home savings plan (oversea's holidays, maternity leave etc), we have found ourselves living in this home for 9 years, and slowly but surely growing out of it. When we sent Maddy to an out of area school, we told ourselves we would be moving to that area soon, so short term hassles with getting her to school could be managed. Well, she is about to start high school, and we still find ourselves sending her to an out of area school and managing travel issues. Who knows how much money we are wasting each year on the extra travel to and from school and dancing.

With husband off for two weeks over Christmas and New Year, we were energised to start doing odd jobs around the house. I also found that as I was more relaxed having hubby home, I got stuck into our finances again, and again the issue of where we live came up.

Finally I have pulled my finger out, and we organised for a couple of real estate agents to come to our home. Our original intention was to sell, invest the available funds after paying off a term deposit, and rent closer to my daughters school for a short time while we looked for another property and added to to the savings. 
But the agents were all giving me some astonishing numbers. Our property is worth far more to us as an investment property than it is to sell. I was so surprised by the rental return we can achieve, that I am convinced now the best thing to do is to hang onto this house.

So our house is on the market for rent, and I am looking for a home for us down the road from my daughters school. We intend to stay in a small 3 bedder, I suspect that if we make the move to a 4 bedder I won't have the incentive to buckle down and save for our own place again. I'm happy for the babies to be sharing a room for now, it makes life easier since they share so much - toys, change table, bibs, etc.
I'm nervous about the timing of it all - naturally I don't want our house vacant for long, not even a few days if I can help it, but if I don't find us a place we run the risk of getting a tenant before we have anywhere to go! Catch 22!
There have been so many things to think about in turning our home into an investment property, things that didn't occur to me when we initially made the decision:

1. Changing our home/contents insurance to landlords insurance
Very girly, not so good for
tenants with boys!
2. Making our home tenantable - smoke detectors need checking, a plumber needs to certify us if we want to charge our tenant for water usage, we need to put curtains on more windows (some have roller shutters so  we never bothered). We also need to neutralise the colours a bit, my kids bedrooms are distinctly girly. 
3. Restructuring the mortgage and bank accounts so that personal finances are not tangled up with a tax deductible loan
4. Understanding the tax implications! I think I might need to use an accountant this year instead of doing it myself
5. Coordinating open houses, having the house kid free, clutter free, and tidy.
6. Affordability - how does this affect our finances, especially while I am on maternity leave and we need to be reducing costs.

So much to do! So little time. We want to try and make the move by the first week of February. We have visitors coming for a week the last week of January, so coordinating it will be tricky but we think its doable. We will gain so much by living closer to school and dancing, my petrol and car running costs will go right down. Not to mention all the time we will get back each day. So I feel like it is right, but only time will tell.

Life changing decisions. For the good. Have you made any recently?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Never send a man to do the shopping

We have $30 left till payday on Thursday. Correction. We HAD $30 left until payday on Thursday. Pathetic right? This always happens this pay cycle at this time of year because I spend big in the sales. It didn't help that Husbands pay came through 5 days early this fortnight because the payroll girls were going on holidays. It was gooooone, before it was even due in the account.

But it's not that big a deal. We have cupboards and a freezer full of food, tanks full of petrol, and plenty of free/prepaid holiday entertainment up our sleeves.

I sent Husband up to the shops to buy a tomato, bread and milk. A TOMATO, BREAD AND MILK. $4.50, $5 tops. He came home with a set of Nemo cutlery, plate and bowl, air freshener, chips, bread, milk, but forgot the damn tomato. $18! So now we have $12 left until payday. AND I can't have tomato on my sandwich today.
Because we needed this so badly

When quizzed on the Nemo dinner set? I had commented recently that we needed more toddler forks, Lorelei likes fish and they were a bargain at only $2.80 per piece. Well yes, Lorelei is quite taken with her new fishy dinner set and I was going to shop for more toddler cutlery. But it could have waited till payday damnit! As could the chips and air freshener. But Husband looks at me quizzically as though he has no idea why I am ranting.

Fingers crossed we don't find ourselves with any surprise costs this week. Or nothing that costs more than $12 anyway.

I think I'll buy the bread myself tonight.

Friday, January 4, 2013

It's not stalking if its your own child right?

Madeleine made plans with her friends yesterday. To meet up and see a movie at the local Westfield. Without me.

She starts high school in a few weeks, and suddenly she wants to go to the movies without me. I handed over the prepaid vouchers we had set aside for Hoyts, and talked her through how to make the purchase. I'm only just realising I've never really let her buy anything on her own, I've always been there to orchestrate the purchase. I was a little surprised to notice the other kids she was meeting up with stroll into the cinema's without their parents, and quickly evaporated so I wouldn't embarrass her.

But I stood behind a pole out in the Westfields where I could see her to make sure she had no problems buying a ticket and entering the theatre. I checked the other poles for more lurking parents but apparently I was the only one with separation anxiety. Turns out she doesn't need me to buy the ticket for her.

90 minutes later I hadn't been able to bring myself to leave the Westfields, but I at least managed to not stake out the Hoyts exit the entire time. I parked myself back at my designated pickup point to wait and saw my big girl emerge laughing with her friends. No problems. The other kids all wandered out to the street texting parents to pick them up. I was terrified Maddy would slip past me into the Westfields and get lost but these kids wander around out the public street and wait for their parents.

I'm going to have to find some comfort zone for these playdates or I suspect I will be stuck lurking in shopping centres for alot of these school holidays going by the rate of text messages rolling into Maddy's phone this afternoon.

Oh. And apparently I'm not allowed to call it a playdate anymore. She's just hanging out.

Anybody else's kids growing up way too fast? 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Starting High School on a Budget

Madeleine starts high school in a few weeks. Holy crap on a cracker. I am beyond shocked that a. She is  no longer my cute little cabbage patch doll of a baby, and b. that I am old enough to have a daughter starting high school. When did I lose that time? I did notice that the Simpsons stopped being funny somewhere along the way.

Getting her started is EXPENSIVE. There is so much to buy in this first year of high school and alot of it is unavoidable. In order to kit Maddy out with a basic full uniform (schoolbag, x2 skirts and blouses, and x1 of everything else) it should have cost me over $800 but instead has cost me $380. And that's with a few new pieces included. Fingers crossed she doesn't grow for a few years because she will be squeeing into that blazer even if she does.
Praise the lord my daughters Catholic High School insists
on skirts being below the knee.

Frustratingly enough, I have had to buy the school resource pack, as there are regulation items (bible, combination lock, tech items) that I wouldn't be able to replicate. The majority of the stationary is cheap and nasty, and I wouldn't use it myself much less expect Maddy to use it at school. Thank goodness Year 7 is the only year I will have to do that, because the pack was a big fat waste of money.

These are my tips for starting school - they apply just as well to Kinder/Prep as they do to high school.

DON'T BE EMBARRASSED TO BUY SECOND HAND


Everything can be cleaned up, name labels can be changed, textbooks as well as uniforms. In Kinder/Prep and Year 7, most people buy new which means the second hand pickings are actually really good quality.

Our school doesn't have an onsite second hand clothing pool, although many schools do. Ours runs an online blog instead, which doesn't seem to be well used. I have been searching Gumtree, Ebay, Facebook garage sale sites, as well as local newspapers for uniforms and was lucky enough to find someone selling an almost full uniform at less than half price on Gumtree because her daughter tried the school but didn't like it for the last 3 weeks of last year. Don't restrict yourself to just your schools second hand pool because you never know when someone is advertising elsewhere.

Gumtree has also been a great source for used textbooks and I've paid less than half the cost of the RRP. Once I've cleaned the covers with turps, stuck a name label over the top of a previous owners name, and covered the book with contact, it looks pretty good. Just make sure you are buying the right edition of a textbook, as they are frequently updated and it's one thing to have a used book, another thing to have the wrong book.

DON'T LEAVE LOOKING FOR USED GOODS TILL THE LAST MINUTE

Check any sources of used textbooks or uniforms in your area regularly. Why let someone else snap up the bargain? 

You already know your child is going to grow, and you probably have a good idea about the pattern of their growth spurts. If you can snap up a blazer in the next size at a bargain price today, it's worth it for tomorrows budget. I started looking for our year 7 uniforms last year.

IF ALL ELSE FAILS SHOP AROUND

Don't use the school textbook or resource pack provider. There is no discount to be had there, regardless of what the school says. Instead check out local educational book providers, who will at the MINIMUM match the price and often beat it and will often have a complimentary book covering service. And 100% of your stationary can best be purchased in the back to school sales after doing a price comparison of all the stores.

LET LOVED ONES SHARE THE EXCITEMENT IF THEY ARE WILLING

Maddy's grandparents are really proud of their grandkids and like to share the milestones. They bought her her schoolbag for Kinder, and again for High School. 

KEEP UNIFORMS AND TEXTBOOKS IN GOOD CONDITION
Maddy is getting her first locker.....She's not the most
organised kid on the block

Just as I'm willing to buy second hand, I also sell off the goods afterwards. My daughter understands that she is expected to not doodle in her textbooks and care for her uniforms. Don't procrastinate in selling items either. Textbook editions change, and uniform pools only get bigger. Get them listed as soon as your child no longer needs them so that the money from their sale can fund the new years requirements.

Are you sending a cherub to start school this year? Or maybe you just can't believe your baby is ready to start high school? It's scary isn't it? xx