Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The flip side

More than one person that I know "in real life" has commented recently to me recently that they could see themselves making a similar move to a granny flat/share accommodation/downsized home after reading about our experiences.
For the most part, I am loving granny flat living, and can see us doing this for a while longer. The fact that my bank account is getting fatter and fatter every pay as we accumulate the money we would have been spending on rent/mortgage payments plus assorted bills is the icing on the cake.
But it's not all giggles and fun. There's plenty of drawbacks to granny flat living, and since I try to write about making the most of our money, it's probably only fair that I show the flip side of this little adventure.

Cons to granny flat living:

It's hot and stuffy. Unbelievably. This is essentially just a big sardine can, and by 11am each day I am sweating. It just can't compete with an insulated home for holding a reasonable temperature. We're combating the heat with an air cooler borrowed from Husbands work, and I guess if we were living here longer we could install an air conditioner. Lolly has her own ways for beating the heat, and has really taken a fancy to the new air cooler too. She likes to lie on the tiles in front of it and feel the cool air on her body.

You could be forgiven for thinking I
never dress the kid since she is always
in a nappy in photos these days

Visitors. I'm an antisocial soul, partly because I'm a shocking housekeeper, and partly because I just like quiet me time. In my own home we've kind of discouraged spontaneous visitors over the years, we are definitely a call first kind of family which allows for plenty of time to rush around and tidy up before a visit. Living in the granny flat out back of the in-laws house kind of means I am onsite for the many visitors they have. And coming from a simply enormous family made up of hundreds of "close" relatives" there seems to be a pretty steady trickle of visitors. I feel churlish not saying hello since most people are genuinely interested in the babies, my health etc. It's not even like it takes that long to say hello. I'm just an antisocial cow. I'm happy to own that one.

Togetherness. Speaking of quiet me time, when we are all home, there is no getting away from one another in this 3 roomed dwelling. If one or more of us is having a tanty, we are stuck within eyeline and hearing distance. This does not help resolve conflict! Miss 12 and I are clashing big time at the moment, and if Lolly is chucking one of her mother of all tantrums, it's almost a sure thing that she will wake up Sebastian now that we have no quiet zones.

Bathrooms. Maddy (12) has never really known what it is to share a bathroom! We've always had an ensuite, and a separete toilet/bathroom arranagement, meaning that there's never really a line up for a toilet or shower. It's funny watching her jiggle and dance outside the bathroom now waiting for a toilet, and even funnier to see her reaction when her sister decides to join her in the shower. Yeah, 1st world problem I know, and not one that bothers me so much.

Limited space. 3/4 of our stuff is in storage. So far we haven't noticed too much stuff that we wish we had that we don't, but every now and then.....like yesterday I was thinking it would be great to make waffles...but the waffle maker like all the other random appliances are in storage. We really are living only with the essentials here in the granny flat.

But honestly? It's still a good experiance living here. Mostly I LIKE living in close contact with everyone. I enjoy having family so close, and I LOVE saving so much money. I also think it's good for Maddy to understand what it is to live in different circumstances. We've always lived in our own home with plenty of living area's and separate rooms and bathrooms for everyone. So this should help her to understand just how lucky we are in what we have.

Have I convinced you? Would you pack the kids into a smaller space to save some money, or its just not worth it?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Elmo's World Tour - An awesome birthday present and a GIVEAWAY!

 I don't usually buy my kids toys for their birthdays. For Christmas yes, birthdays no. Lots of other people will give them toys, so I try to find something different for them. Sometimes it's a special piece of jewelry, sometimes it's something for their rooms, and sometimes I might buy tickets to some event or experiance that I know they will love.

Lorelei is turning 2 in May, and right as I started thinking about what I might want to do for her birthday I saw the promo information for Elmo's World Tour. 

Well knock my socks off. She loves Elmo, and the show will be on not too long after her birthday. It's the perfect present. I whipped together a group of sister in law's, nieces and nephews and bought the tickets.

I am so excited to be taking Lolly to see her first show. I know how much Maddy loved her first show when she was a toddler, and I can just imagine that Lolly will be jumping on the edge of her seat when she sees Elmo LIVE along with Abby Cadabby and all her other Sesame Street favourites! These things are usually full of fun flashing lights, hyperactive kids, and completely high energy. She's going to flip when she sees all her favourite characters singing and dancing LIVE!

Want to know more?

"In SESAME STREET PRESENTS ELMO’S WORLD TOUR, the Sesame Street gang  – Abby Cadabby, Big Bird, Grover, Zoe, Cookie Monster and Elmo use the letters of the alphabet to navigate a voyage through imagination that sees them visiting China, Zambia, France, India and Australia! Elmo and 
his friends have fun learning how people sing, dance and say hello all over the world. However, 
things don’t go to plan when Cookie Monster eats the letter “C”. Can Abby Cadabby find the right
magic spell to help? 
Along the way, audiences will hear a sensational tale from The Count, help some travelling rubberduckies find a place to stay with Bert and Ernie, and see the Sesame Street gang make a new
friend; the gorgeous, gregarious, globe-trotter from the Gold Coast  – Lady Baa Baa – proving  its 
more fun to be mutton than lamb. 
Featuring a bunch of classic songs alongside catchy new tunes, SESAME STREET PRESENTS ELMO’S 
WORLD TOUR has delighted Sesame Street fans of all ages."

Mmm! C is for Cookie!

I can’t WAIT!

Elmo’s World Tour is showing for a strictly limited season from 21st June to 20th July. You can find more information about dates and venues at www.SesameStreetPresents.com.au.

Tickets went on sale 21st February. And I can tell you, some sessions already have limited seating thanks to ticket pre-sales. This should be a great show. 

But it's not just me that gets to enjoy this show! I'm so excited to be going, I made contact with the lovely peeps representing Elmo's World Tour and they are letting me give away not one, but FOUR family passes (family of 4) to see Elmo's World Tour.

I have for my readers:

  • 1 Family Pass for the Gold Coast show 24th June 10am
  • 1 Family Pass for the Sydney show (Theatre Royal in the city) 28th June 10am
  • 1 Family Pass for the Preston show (Melbourne - Inner Northern suburbs) 9th July 10am
  • 1 Family Pass for the Noarlunga show (Adelaide - Outer Southern suburbs) 15th July 10am
Can you believe it! Four of you are going to have some very happy little Elmo lovers in a few months time.

Prizes are strictly non-transferable. Winners will need to pick up their prize at the box office on the day of the show and will need to show photo ID along with the prize details that I provide.

To enter the competition, use the rafflecopter widget below. And because this is quite possibly the most awesome giveaway on the planet (if you happen to be the parent of a toddler) I have added bonus entries for sharing in the widget, because I know you are going to want to tell the world about this one.

**Not a sponsored post. I did not get paid to write this, and I did not receive any items in return for my opinion. I was just lucky enough to score some goodies for YOU and couldn't wait to share the love**

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Letting Down the Budget

I disappointed myself this week. Normally I am a good budgetter. Super even. Every cent from every pay is accounted for, with a portion committed to savings. And every pay, the amount that is put into savings is different because my approach to saving money is not to have a set amount, but to put everything left over into savings. I save more this way. I used to find that when I allowed $50 per pay for long term savings, then the only amount I saved was $50. By allocating everything that is not accounted for in my fortnightly budget to savings, I end up saving much much more every pay. Hundreds sometimes.
My savings account practically has a padlock on it. I won't touch it unless it's for the purpose it was meant for. Same as I won't use the credit card that we have for emergencies and holidays (long story short, when travelling overseas the fee's are charges are better on our credit card than our transactional account.)

My only exceptions to my rule is medical or educational expenses. I won't have my family lack for the most critical necessities for the sake of a tightarse rule.

This week we cut it pretty tight. We get paid on a Thursday, and by Monday we were down to our last $6. That's fine, because we had a fridge and freezer full of food, tanks full of petrol, and no reason to buy anything other than milk with that money.

But then I ran across my Achilles heel. I'm so ashamed. Months and months of a perfect spending record, even through the Christmas period, shattered. I've walked away from coffee's while shopping, adorable outfits for my babies that they definitely DON'T need, a cheap iPad at Cash Converters.....so many temptations and I've turned my back on all of them.

I walked away from all of them. But I couldn't walk away from these.

$7.50 each at Uncle Bills (a local $2 shop). I normally can't find them anywhere except in the American Goodies stores, and they are so expensive. I've seen them for $15+ a box. And I didn't even stop to think. When I saw them on the shelves I just snapped them up. Boxes and boxes. I had easily 8 boxes in various flavours in my cart at one point before I managed to stop myself. I make myself count to 10 when shopping before I line up at the cash register. It forces me to rationalise. The eyerolling action of actually stopping and counting usually is enough to get me to walk away from a purchase. But this time it was only enough to get me to put back most of the boxes. There was no way the chocolate chip and chocolate fudge boxes were going back. I just couldn't do it. And so the credit card came out of my wallet, I carefully wiped away the cobwebs, and swiped through my $15 worth of poptarts.

I'm saving them for Sunday morning breakfast. We always have "special" breakfasts on Sunday, and normally I cook up something yummy. But Madeleine is as big a poptart fan as I am, so I know she will flip it when she sees them.

Am I suffering from buyers remorse? Little bit. Would I buy them again given the opportunity? Yup.

What makes you break the budget?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

6 months old!

Sebastian is 6 months old already. I can't believe it, It has absolutely flown. When I think what a miserable, scrawny little man he was when he arrived 7 weeks early, and I look at my fat, roly poly little bubba now I feel so lucky.

Being a premmie, he has lots of appointments all the time. Cardiologists, ears, eyes, Paediatrician, regular GP checkups, it never ends. For the most part he is smashing through his appointments. He has a little heart murmur that we will need to wait another year now to see if it clears up & a slight failure in his right ear that also may clear up given time. Nothing life threatening.

To celebrate turning 6 months old we had our first bowl of Farex! He was so cute, definitely the most enthusiastic of my 3 kids about his first solids. He licked away at the spoon, looking for more almost straight away. He ate more in his first sittings than either of his sisters did, so it looks like he will be a boy to like his tucker!

Lolly was interested in the process, so I gave her a mouthful too, and just managed to snap a photo of her reaction. The whole mouthful came out pretty quick, apparently Farex doesn't taste as good as it looks when her little brother is eating it!

Seb seems to develop roughly at the pace of a child 7-8 weeks younger than him. Whenever he hits a milestone, I write it up in his baby book, and sneak a peek at his sisters. It's almost always 6-8 weeks behind them. This seems pretty reasonable to me, that he would need the extra time but the clinic nurse was kind of implying this week that he should have caught up to other babies his own age by now. I'm not sure how I feel about that, it goes against my instincts. We have Sebs 6 month appointment with his GP next week so I will chat to him about it. I don't want to start stressing over delayed development if it isn't necessary  but I also don't want to ignore it if early intervention can help.

In the meantime he is a happy, placid baby who adores his big sisters. I think he looks more and more like his Daddy every day which is what I was not so secretly hoping for.

For those of you that were wondering, the current medical recommendation is to start babies on solid food when they turn 6 months old. We had already checked with his GP and the clinic nurse on whether we should wait till he was 6 months adjusted age, or 6 months actual age, and both recommended starting at 6 months actual age. Since it may differ from baby to baby, if you find yourself in the same situation I suggest checking with your doctor before starting solids if you have a premmie and you aren't sure.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

We got a tenant! Now we need a house of our own...

We got a tenant into the house this week on Tuesday, and got our very first deposit from the real estate into the bank account on the 15th which was UNBELIEVABLY exciting! There's nothing I like more than credits in the bank.

I am an investment property owner. Go me.

Our first home. Now our first investment property
Admittedly I am also a renter and no longer have my own home, but I am sticking with the pride that comes with being a rental property owner instead.

Mind you, it won't be for long. After doing lots of reading up on the tax situation associated with the mortgage, I've realised we really aren't in the right position. The mortgage on the house is relatively low, because I have been plugging away at it consistently for the last 10 years. So low in fact that the rent we are receiving is higher than the interest on the mortgage, so we are positively geared. For the time being the mortgage is also still Principal and Interest (which I know is supposed to be a big investment no-no), so the rent payments are helping to pay off the house nicely so that we can continue to build equity for our future home.

Once I return to work and we are ready to buy a new owner occupied home, we need to sell the investment property. Otherwise we are going to end up in the ridiculous position of having a high mortgage on the house we are living in, and a low mortgage on the tax deductible debt that is attached to an investment property. A mortgage so low it attracts a tax payment no less.

For now, the plan is that we will live in this granny flat for a few weeks to get up a bond and 4 weeks rent in advance (because I'm too tight to dip into the savings when there is any other option), and move to a rental home within walking distance of school. I plan to rent for more or less the same amount we are receiving for our own property, so that we end up in a bit of a break even position. A positive position even since all of a sudden we will quality for rent assistance from Centrelink (go figure) as well as all the petrol I will save not driving 30 minutes each way twice a day getting Maddy to and from school.

If everything goes to plan I will return to full time work in February 2014, and we will start looking at buying a new home to live in after that. In the meantime, I want to enjoy my time off with the babies, and I want it to be as long as possible, and keeping our costs down is a huge part of that. This move to a rental property is the right one not only for Maddy, but for our budget. And the babies and I will recover 2 hours in our day every day in not driving Maddy to school. That's incredible.

I can think of plenty of things to do with 2 hours every day. Sleep in for starters.

Do you think these two will let me sleep in with the extra time?
Would you be willing to downsize your home in order to save money? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cool as a Cucumber

One of the drawbacks about granny flat living is that there is no air conditioning. So far we haven't had a really hot day, but the normally warm days heat up this sardine can pretty well.
I crank the fans up to high, and open all the windows in the hopes of catching some cool breezes, and for the most part we all put up with the sweat dripping down our necks.

Not Lolly.

Nope, Lolly has come up with her own way of beating the heat. First she started out by stripping off her clothes. Although I hate the bogan look of a baby running around in a nappy, I completely sympathise. If I could get away with it I'd be running around in nothing but my knickers at the moment too. I've got a hard enough time keeping my 12 year old in clothes, because she doesn't fully understand we don't have the same privacy here that we had in our own house and frankly she might not be noticing her new figure all that much but everyone else sure is. The more clothes I keep on her the better.

Next Lolly discovered the freezer when I was packing away groceries. After the obligatory lick to see what the door feels like on her tongue (while I waited to see if the urban myths are true and if she would get stuck) she promptly sat down with her back to the drawers. Bliss.

There's no dragging her away from it. It takes bribery in the form of a Zooper Dooper to get that door shut again, and even that doesn't last long. Anytime she is feeling a little hot, Lolly is right back there in the kitchen on her little perch soaking up the chill. And she doesn't share. If anyone comes near her for any other purpose than to toss a Zooper Dooper her way she takes a swipe at them with the exclamation "mine!" and wriggles her little butt into a more comfortable position.

I think it might be worthwhile investing in a portable air conditioner somehow.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Doooownsizing....with a capital D

Saturday before last, in a smash decision to just get moving, we packed up all our belongings and made the move to my in-laws granny flat. This is just an interim for a few weeks until we have built up some money to cover a bond for ourselves. We have some money in savings for a bond, but I resent dipping into it.

So we have have moved our 3 bedroom, 4 living room, 2 bathroom + laundry 5 person family (see all those numbers?) into a 2 bedroom, 1 living room, 1 bathroom granny flat. It's awesome. No really.
Our new living space. All of it. I'm standing on the couch
to take the pic. Yes I know my baby is getting square eyes *sigh*

I put almost everything into storage. If I hadn't used it in the month of January (with the exception of school stuff of course) it went into storage. We actually fit quite comfortably. Seb was already sharing our room with us (my babies sleep in the same room as me till they are 1, and he is only 6 months). But now Maddy (12) and Lolly (21 months) are sharing. Bahaha. It's hysterical. Lolly thinks it's awesome having her sister only a metre away at nighttime, and pesters her all night with plea's of "Peeez Ma'aline, up. Up, peeeez. Peeeeeeeeeez!"

Madeleine can't handle it, she gives her sister just about anything she asks for, and even I have to admit that when Lolly pulls out the "peeeez" she's pretty adorable. It's killing Maddy to have to roll over and ignore her, and Husband and I sit in the living room giggling because she sounds so cute.

The cleaning is brilliant. This place is so small, and we have so much less "stuff" that it takes hardly any time to clean. You would think that means my house is spotless now right? Wrong. It just means I only have to put in half as much effort to get the old half-assed result. More time for me. 

We have willing and desperate baby-sitters only 3 metres away. No more coordinating drop offs and pickups, I can just push them in the door of the main house on my way out. 3/4 of the time one baby or more is already there anyway since a grandparent will wander past the granny flat at any given time and steal one away.

I think I will enjoy this for the month or so we are here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Parent FAIL

Parent FAIL, or, The First Time My Daughter Crossed the Road by Herself.

Madeleine started year 7 last week. We were organised, and her first morning went really well. We got to school in plenty of time, and although I didn't go in with her (she asked me not to, but I think she regretted it) I sat and watched as my big girl strolled into her new big school.

If it wasn't for the fact that I still have my 2 babies in the back to cuddle still I think I would have cried buckets. As it was I sniffed away a few tears.

Pickup time was a different matter altogether. The morning was calm and organised and we got to school 15 minutes early. Nice timing. The afternoon was CRAZY. Cars everywhere going in every direction thanks to the 3 schools on the same road all finishing around the same time. Our school in particular has hardly anywhere to pull over to get your kids, so rather than continue to fight traffic I turned into a side street directly opposite the school and crossing and called Maddy to tell her where I was. After a few minutes she came running down the street and launched herself into the car full of bubbles and enthusiasm about her first day.

Finally she finished the download about her new friends, teachers, and classes. From there she came out with:

"I was a little nervous coming to the car Mum. It's my first time crossing the road by myself."

What the??? Are you serious? But after racking my brains I realised she was right.

How did I let my child get to be 12 years old, and in high school before crossing the road by herself? And how could I let her first time happen in such a cavalier manner? If I'd put any thought into it I would have supervised her first time, instructing her carefully in checking for traffic first. And it would have happened long before high school for heavens sake. But instead I sat calmly in my car and didn't even watch her.

Parent of the year award nominee here. NOT.