Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eid 2014

As a Muslim/Christian household, each year we participate in the end of Ramadan celebration called Eid. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during sun up, only breaking their fast when the sun goes down. During this period, we eat many more meals with my In-Laws, as this is a time that families tend to come together.

The first day of non-fasting is Eid which we celebrated today. Some councils or area's that have a high population of Muslims in the area will have festivals or activities on or around the day that Eid falls on. While we have never been to one of these festivals, some years we will go to a more local picnic that is run by a community group that many of our family are members of.

Each year for Eid I buy the kids new clothes to wear as we go visiting Husbands relatives. Every home we visit there are sweet biscuits and treats that have been specially baked for all the people that will come calling, and even though many visits will be no more than 15 minutes long, we will always have a cup of coffee and a biscuit. My kids love the visiting, Sebastian particularly will eat one date filled biscuit after another, getting crumbs all over his nice outfit.

He knows there are yummy things to eat at each house, and will prowl around asking for treats until someone understands his demands and gives him something.

The kids also love the chance to play together with all their extended cousins, there are so many of them and we often only get to see them at celebrations, weddings, birthdays, but also Eid.

I mostly like the chance to get together with the ladies of the family, a chance to gossip a little, relax, it's always nice to spend time together.

Another part of Eid is gifting the children in the family money. My own children do not fast, but in other families the gift of money can sometimes be an encouragement or reward for fasting. Fasting for children is always done in an age appropriate way. Depending on the age of the child, and the time of year which influences the time that the fast starts and breaks (winter is a much shorter day), a child may go without afternoon tea till dinner, or if they are older may stop eating from lunchtime till dinner.

When we get together as a family group, I gift my own kids and all my nieces and nephews small amounts of money from the littlest 1 year old right up to 13 year old Madeleine. So do most of their Aunties and Uncles, particularly the ones with kids themselves, so my kids come home with full purses as a result!

Lolly and Seb are too young to understand yet, so they come running to me clutching five dollar notes in their hands for me to tuck in the little purse I bring for that purpose. They like packing them away, and would actually be more acquisitive if people were giving them coins because coins are way more fun to put in the money box. For the most part I deposit the toddlers Eid money into their bank accounts, but I usually will buy them something little with their money. This year we dropped by Kmart and picked up a drink bottle for each of them. We want to reduce the amount of cups being used each day (and the spillage!) and I am hoping that if we use the drink bottle system like preschool it will do the trick. Both kids love their preschool bottles I bought them, but they were $25 each personalised. These cute bottles were only $5 each, so each toddler still has plenty for their savings accounts.

Maddy gets a little more free reign with her Eid money, but each time she gets a windfall of cash (Christmas, birthdays, Eid) we encourage her to bank at least 40% into her savings towards a car. We want to teach her to not just splurge when she gets small windfalls in life, so that she has good habits by the time she starts getting work bonus's, tax returns etc. She also has to use a little of the money to pay something towards her iPad loan. We lent her money a few months ago to fund an iPad with more storage than her old one to use for school as well as recreation. She was finding the original iPad didn't leave much room for fun.

We don't change our routines too much for Eid, but most people in our family will close their businesses for the day, or take a day off, even the kids get a day off school. Because it's only Husbands side we go visiting to, (my side are Christians so we see them for Christmas) late afternoon and evening is enough time to visit plenty of relatives and we will probably catch up with more this weekend.

To all my Muslim readers, Eid Mubarek, and I hope you have a wonderful year. To all my non-Muslim readers, I hope you enjoy this peek into our cross-cultural world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saving Money on Takeaway with Menulog: Review and Giveaway

We don't do takeaway in our home very often. It's a big treat for us, and when we do, our takeaway of choice is Chinese. It's a winner for the whole family and very easy to supplement at home with boiled rice and spring rolls.

As you can imagine, Chinese takeaway and delivery for my family of 5 is not cheap. I am a comparer of prices, a user of vouchers, a picker upper, anything to bring the price down a little.

I've recently been introduced to Menulog and was happy to find that plenty of my local resteraunts are included on their site. Menulog acts as a kind of aggregator for local eateries, and facilitates the order between customer and store. 

The process was definitely smooth and easy, but the question arises, why would you order from Menulog instead of going straight to the store?

After giving it a trial run for our Monday date night with Maddy, I've got a few really good reasons!

Easy Price Comparisons. There was a $7.80 price difference between two of my locals just for our standard order.

Transparent delivery costs. The food delivery cost is factored into the calculation immediately. I've been caught out before ordering from the restaurant I thought was cheapest only to find out they have a high delivery fee.

First Order discounts. I've never seen any of the local pamphlets be delivered with an offer like but many of the Menulog restaurant subscribers offered a discount.

Loyalty Credits. Don't want to shop around each time for a new First Order discount? It's possible your favourite takeaway provider offers loyalty credits to be accumulated against future purchases.

It would never have occurred to me that I could get a cheaper price on my takeaway without resorting to coupons, so I love the different incentives Menulog offers.

Shopping at Menulog was a simple and quick process, not only can you order online on your laptop or desktop, you can also order using the iPhone or Android app.

Ordering from Menulog is as simple as:

1. Enter your suburb or postcode.
2. Browse the available choices, using the left sidebar to narrow down your options
3. Choose between takeaway or home delivery before starting your order
4. Select Menu choices
5. Easy payment using Credit Card, Paypal, Cash or Vouchers.
6. Sit back and wait for your food to arrive or be ready for pickup!

I was a bit nervous about whether or not the order would be received smoothly via a third party ordering system, but I received a confirmation email AND text for the order which set my mind at ease.

If you'd like a chance to try out Menulogs easy ordering system for yourself and take a night off from cooking Menulog have very kindly given Mummy Hearts Money a $30 voucher to giveaway!

Entry is super easy. Tell me a yummy Chinese dish (NOT one of the ones that I ordered from Menulog) that you think my husband would like to try. I will let him pick which one we should try out next time we order Chinese.

*Hint* My husband is Muslim, so he doesn't eat any pig related products (Pork, Ham, Bacon). Other than that there are no other foods he would rule out - he loves to try new dishes!

Terms and Conditions.
1. Entries will close Midnight 11/08/2014
2. Giveaway is open to Australia Residents only
3. Prize is for one (1) $30 Menulog voucher
4. Entries not answering the question will not be considered.
5. Winner will be announced on Facebook and will be emailed if address is provided
6. If winner does not make contact within 48 hours, a new winner will be selected.
7. This is a game of skill and winner is not subject to chance.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why Facebook Sucks

I'm on the fence about Facebook these days. It wouldn't take much for a new or improved social media site to edge them out of top spot for keeping up with friends, family, and businesses for me.

If you are a regular blog reader, or even a social media manager for a business, you are probably aware that most pages are being edged out of your newsreader and that it's bloody hard work getting in front of your fans now.

As a blogger this irritates me a little, but as a reader this irritates me alot.

My Facebook news feed seems to be made up of the same 20 or so people with a tiny handful of businesses or pages. Since I have 275 friends, and like in excess of 1100 pages, this is about as annoying as stepping in banana.

My cousin is having her first baby, and it took a phone call from someone for me to find out. Someone else got married, 6 months ago, and somehow I missed the announcement, the wedding and honeymoon photo's, and all the lovey dovey posts since. You're slipping Mr Zuckerberg. Facebook was meant to be my way of staying connected with the relatives and friends that don't fit into day to day life, but that I don't want to lose (and don't want to have to make an effort for). What good is it if the only people that appear in my news feed are the select few I was already making an effort for? The ones I didn't want to hear from I filtered out of my news feed myself, so I'm not real impressed that the rest of the content is being censored. And half of what is delivered is no longer relevant because a new comment on an ancient photo somehow counts as "current"?

Also newsflash: I followed those businesses for a reason Facebook. I didn't want to have to subscribe to a thousand newsletters in order to keep up with sales or promotions. Facebook was once my bookmark manager, my way of watching businesses with potential. I can't count how many times recently I have vaguely remembered some toy or outfit that I mentally bookmarked as a gift for a niece or nephew, and have had to scroll through one thousand pages to find the relevant page because I can't remember the name. The only ones I can remember are the dozen that make it into my news feed on a regular basis.

I now obsessively like posts and photo's, no matter how inane or irrelevant just so I can keep people and pages in my feed. When I drop by someones page after having to search for them and see a screenful of updates I've not laid eyes on, I end up liking everything in the hopes that you will make it back into my feed. And then it occurs to me what I stalker I am being, because when I get a series of random, dated likes, I want to block the person.

Facebook is not about big business Mr Zuckerberg. It's about me making connections. Or so your own propaganda keeps telling me. Feel free to pop advertising on the side bar, that's absolutely fair game. Even the occasional sponsored post from someone I don't like already appearing in my news feed.

Just stop censoring what I can see. OK?

PS. If Mummy Hearts Money is no longer appearing in your news feed regularly, make sure you stalk me a little and like or comment on everything you can. That way you and I can remain friends.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Let's Talk About Age Appropriate Advertising Shall We?

A month or so ago I was browsing the Hoyts website looking at session times. I was intrigued to find that on a Sunday morning they run Hoyts Junior sessions that feature movies such as Dora the Explorer and Thomas the Tank Engine. It seemed like a great opportunity to let Maddy and the Husband see an older movie together while I took the littlies to a junior movie and use up a series of expiring vouchers.

Can you imagine my surprise to find this advertisement on the Dora the Explorer page? Miss 3 year old Lorelei was sitting on my lap watching the Dora preview at the time that I noticed it and 13 year old Madeleine was passing in and out of the room as we planned our sessions.

I'm no prude. I've spotted this product before on the Groupon site a few times and found it intriguing that there is a market via the group buy sites for products of this nature. In my Groupon browsing I think I've even clicked on it either directly on the site or through from the newsletter. As adult advertisements go it is reasonably tame.

But I was not impressed to find that the idle browsing I had performed on Groupon would somehow be following me by appearing on future Internet sessions. We all know this happens, I can't count how often a company whose page I have just visited suddenly appears as a sponsored post in my Facebook feed, or as an advertisement on another page entirely. I don't care about advertising or adult products one way or the other as a general rule, but adult product marketing needs to be contained to sites where you would expect a solely adult audience. End of story.

I made a point of lodging a complaint with the Australian Standards Bureau, because I would like to think that I can both browse websites as tame as Groupon and Hoyts without worrying about unfriendly content, but also allow my 13 year old to use the same computer as me. The computer that I do not make a habit of using to browse for pornography or adult content.

This was my complaint.

This advertisement was positioned to appear on the same page (any many others) as a Dora the Explorer movie blurb and video. Dora the Explorer is rated G, and is targeted towards younger children. I have no issue with the product advertised, but expect advertisements for products of a sexual nature to not be in the same location as marketing for a child. My young child was sitting on my lap watching the video when I noticed the advertisement, and my 13 year was also looking over my shoulder as we chose movie sessions and times together. This was not appropriate content for either of them and not something I expected to come across on the Hoyts website when looking at a child’s movie. I do have a screenshot available of the advertisement; as I note it does not seem to consistently appear.

This is the response from Groupon to the ABS.

Generally speaking, Groupon does not purchase advertising space on websites, and certainly the advertisement which is the subject of the complaint was not placed on the Hoyts website in the traditional sense of media buying. The advertisement was generated dynamically. This means that the advertisement was generated based on the complainant’s web browsing history and would not have appeared to generic visitors to the Hoyts website.
It is most likely that the complainant had previously visited the Groupon website and viewed a listing on that site for the product in question; consequently cookies used by Groupon result in the complainant being specifically targeted with pop up advertisements for products previously viewed by her as she continues browsing the Internet, in the same or subsequent browsing sessions.
In regard to Section 2 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Code of Ethics, we are of the opinion that the advertisement is not explicit, exploitative or degrading to any individual or group of people, nor does it refer to sex or nudity in an insensitive way. Furthermore, we do not believe the advertisement should be considered as a Marketing
Communication to Children according to the definition contained in the AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing to Children; as explained above, the advertisement was not directed at such an audience in any way.
Notwithstanding the above, we do wish to ensure advertisements for such products are targeted in the most appropriate way and on becoming aware of the complaint we took the step of blocking all adult products from re-targeting so as to ensure advertisements are not directed to an age-inappropriate audience or in close proximity to content which appeals to such a demographic.

I can appreciate their position. They didn't directly purchase the advertising space on Hoyts, and did not take into account the possible placement of their advertising as a result of tracking my browser cookies. Fair enough, and I appreciate that they have removed the re-targeting of adult products as a result of my feedback.

This was the response from the ABS though, which is the bit that has me irritated.

The Advertising Standards Board (“Board”) considered whether this advertisement breaches Section 2 of the Advertiser Code of Ethics (the “Code”).
The Board noted the complainant’s concerns that the advertisement features explicit sexual material which is not appropriate for children to see.
The Board viewed the advertisement and noted the advertiser’s response.
The Board considered whether the advertisement was in breach of Section 2.4 of the Code. Section 2.4 of the Code states: “Advertising or Marketing Communications shall treat sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience”.
The Board noted the advertisement is for a female sex toy and includes the name of the product and a picture of a woman lying on a bed.
The Board noted it had recently dismissed a similar online advertisement for an adult product in case 0190/14 where:
“The Board noted that the advertisement does contain sexual material which many members of the community could find to be offensive and/or inappropriate but considered that in order to view the material you would have to choose to do so. The Board noted that the additional
information is presented in a manner which is informative and considered that the diagrams used are clinical rather than sexualised. The Board considered that in the context of an advertisement which is provided to subscribers only and that is able to be seen once the subscribers chooses to get more information about the product the advertisement does treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.”
In the current advertisement the Board noted the advertiser’s response that the advertisement was generated on the Hoyts page due to the complainant’s browsing history as the advertiser does not purchase advertising space on websites. The Board noted that the advertiser had taken steps to ensure that the re-targeting of these types of advertisements on websites such as Hoyts could not happen in the future.
The Board noted that the relevant audience for Hoyts is either a parent searching for information about a movie for themselves or a child. The Board considered that a child that likes Dora would not understand the advertisement for a vibrator.
The Board noted that notwithstanding how the advertisement came to be displayed on the Hoyts website, in the Board’s view the image of the woman is relatively mild: her private areas are all covered and she is not posed in a sexualised or inappropriate manner. The Board noted the wording of the advertisement features the product name and price and considered that overall the advertisement does treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
The Board determined that the advertisement did not breach Section 2.4 of the Code. Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on other grounds, the Board dismissed the complaint.

In case you didn't want to read all that, the complaint was dismissed. It is considered acceptable to market adult goods alongside Dora the Explorer because the owner of the computer has previously browsed the product and a child interested in Dora the Explorer would not be old enough to understand the advertisement.

I'm just going to call bullshit on this decision. I appreciate Groupon's actions resolve my complaint, however I'm stunned that Australian standards consider this to be acceptable. In other words, it would be OK for Groupon, or any other company, to continue to place advertising for adult products on pages that offer content for my young children.


Your thoughts?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bootcamp for Dummies

I've joined a free bootcamp series being run by the council closest to my work. It's a good opportunity to get out in my lunch break and work off some of those office Freddo's and the terrible eating choices I have available to me now that my Crohns has eliminated so many good eating options. It's been two weeks, and some of the more fitness minded people in my office have started to join me. They completely put me to shame, as this bootcamp is just a supplement for them to their normal workout activities. As a general rule I consider the gentle stroll down down to the river to be my workout, whereas they go for a jog and stretch the minute we arrive following our walk.

To give you an idea of my fitness levels, this is kind of how a series of exercises works out for me:

Activity One: Jump over the low hurdle side to side twice, then sit and do two sit ups.

I trip over the hurdle after the first jump and figure it will be less mortifying to stay down and do my sit ups. In future I actually jump side to side behind the hurdle instead of over it. 

Activity Two: Swing a bell weight between my legs as high as possible keeping my back straight.

After getting into the swing of this activity I hit myself in the shoulder with the bell weight. It's easier just to swing it gently between my legs and hope the trainer doesn't notice. He does. "Someones improvising!" he sings out.

Activity Three: Kick a padded shield (being held by someone) up high using my shin.

My partner is a 6 foot something guy from the office. Even making an effort to hold it low is too high for me and I find myself contorting in my efforts to hit the shield and not the shield holder. Unsuccessfully.

Activity Four: Push ups. Lots of them.

After a handful of these with aching arms I take a little rest with my face ground into the grass because I have no energy left to move it to the sides. I time myself to ensure that the trainer is harassing someone else but pretty quickly I hear "Some one's improvising!" yet again.

Activity Five: Skipping Rope. Arms tights, letting the wrists do the work, no wild jumping.

Jump. Trip. Stop. Jump. Jump. Trip. Stop. Repeat. 

And so on, and so on.

It's laughable how uncoordinated and unfit I am, but I guess that's the whole point of joining a bootcamp. I need to get more active again, and I'm hoping that the Mayor will sponsor another series so that I can keep going after this 8 week bootcamp finishes. 

I've made a point of following the Facebook pages of all the councils located close to home and work so that I can keep an eye out for other activities that I can join for free or for a nominal charge, hopefully I can find some more!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Mummy Hearts Money Makeover

You may (or may not) have noticed that Mummy Hearts Money has gotten a delicious makeover. I've been a busy bee in 2014, doing all kinds of sponsored posts and squirrelling money away for the all new Mummy Hearts Money.

My new logo's are by Phinici Design, and I'm in love with the bright new colours, and most especially my cute little social media buttons to the top right of my blog. The new logo feels very me, with the bright colours I love all mixed together in one abundant money tree. Since I'm all about growing the good things in life and enjoying the fruits of hard work, I snapped up this design the minute Carlea put it to me!

My new grab button in the right side bar is also new. If you have been dying to give Mummy Hearts Money free advertising on your blog or business page, please feel free to grab the code and use it! Otherwise it is mostly just so much pretty page bling for me.

Coming up soon on the blog will be a transition to my very own domain, which will be easily located at my .com and .com.au. I will be transitioning over to Wordpress as well, which I hope will give me more options and features on the blog.

If you are only keeping track of Mummy Hearts Money via Google Friend Connect, I strongly encourage you to connect with me in other ways, as you will lose me in your feed once I make the transition. Networked Blogs, Bloglovn, Facebook, or Twitter will help you to keep getting my posts. Click away at all my cute social media buttons in the right side bar to join up with me as many ways as you can!

I hope to bring you more giveaways in the second half of 2014, and lots more of our financial journey in buying a new home and turning it into our dream home - all on a budget of course! If you have any feedback, I love to receive your emails and read your comments, so please feel free to let me know anything you would like to see more of.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Treasure Hunt with Peppa

Husband and I took a day off work together yesterday to take our little ones to a live show. It's a rare occurrence that we take a day off at the same time, as we tend to try and spread our annual leave days out so that the kids have more parent time, so today was a bit spesh.

We were a bit nervous about taking 1 year old Sebastian to a live performance. Lolly has been to a Disney on Ice as well as a live performance of Lah Lah's big band, but Seb doesn't like to sit still long enough to let the TV be a babysitter, so we had a feeling we might be chasing him all over the venue.

We shouldn't have worried. We waited till the very last second to take the kids in so that they wouldn't have too much sitting idle time to get bored and it paid off. Almost as soon as they were settled in chairs with a tub of sultana's to snack on, the lights went down and Peppa Pig's friends appeared on stage playing Hide and Seek. Seb stared with an open mouth at the stage for the entire first half. Apparently seeing the characters in person is alot more fun than seeing them on TV. The second half he came into his own though, dancing and grooving in the aisles.

As predicted, Lolly was incredibly into the performance, singing, calling out to the actors in line with the show, and cheering when Daddy Pig drove his red car on stage. She loved it, but was a little tired towards the end. Our tickets were for nap time, and even though Lolly often skips her nap these days, she was clearly buggered.

I was dubious about how good a show with puppets would be. Surely life size character suits would be a better choice? No, the performers that carried the puppets only added to the show with their facial expressions, and it was fun hearing Peppa's voice come out of the young woman prancing her puppet round the stage.

The highlight for us would have been George's squirting streams of tears that flowed out from his puppet when he wailed, looking exactly as they do in the cartoons!

There was a strict no filming policy, (although non-flash photo's were allowed) and I would have loved to have filmed a song to post because they were catchy and fun to watch. I did find this video on the official website though, so it will have to serve as a taster for you. Most of the performers were different, but the Peppa Pig was the same, and I loved how close her voice was!

There was merchandise on site, and although I originally had thought I might buy both kids something little as a momento of the show, there wasn't heaps to choose from and seemed more expensive than can be found in the mainstream stores. We actually took our Peppa and George plush toys with us, and they ended up being bigger than the plush toys available for sale so we rested with those and didn't buy anything new. Lolly also has a few Peppa Pig dresses already, and even though there were t-shirts for sale, they were $25 each so we gave them a miss as well. 

We were gifted tickets to the Peppa Pig Live Treasure Hunt for the purpose of this review and for facilitating a reader giveaway earlier in the year. No other monetary compensation was offered or requested. All opinions remain my own. If you are interested in attending a performance, Peppa is touring the country and more details can be found here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Walking Away

We walked away from another house this week. And it's just about the hardest thing we've ever done, and caused all kinds of tension between Husband and I to make the decision.

After putting a deposit down on a house that ticks all the boxes, our valuation came back with a surprise.

See those wires up in the air behind the house? Turns out that banks don't like High Tension Power lines too close to the homes they are using as collateral for a mortgage. There are some pretty strict (and inflexible) guidelines on the distance those power lines need to be from the boundary line. In this case it was 50m.

Unfortunately while our valuer was happy to comment (approx 50m) she wasn't happy to lock the distance in so we had to make a choice on whether to get a surveyor out to the property in order to satisfy our bank. We really were in love with this house, we were buying directly off the builder who has owned it as an investment for 10 years, so we paid a surveyor to head out and give us some exact measurements. While we couldn't find an exact map anywhere, it did look like it was going to be pretty close, so we put a little trust in the council and grid development teams that it was in every ones best interests to keep those lines at a reasonable distance from the home and ordered a surveyors report.

Once the surveyor was ordered it was a waiting game that carried us over the weekend. With that much time on our hands and the opportunity to share our experience with friends and family, it was only a matter of time before someone made a passing comment about High Tension Power lines and a possible link to cancer.

Husband and I had never heard of any such links, so as you can imagine we did some pretty frantic research. I'm not going to pretend to be at all educated on this subject, and lord knows the Internet produced all kinds of theories, some crazy, some paranoid, some just erring on the side of caution. A general consensus of the studies I read though, was that while there is no definitive link between these power lines and cancer, there was certainly a high amount of children that had developed cancer who had been exposed to power lines. Not enough research had been done to identify if this was a coincidence or something more.

The general consensus was that most people would keep developing children away from power lines. We didn't know what to think. There was definitely some weird theories - If you let your child sleep on an electric blanket they will be more likely to get cancer than living near power lines - but we didn't want to just ignore what we had read. Since we already had a deposit down, had paid for the builders report, and had a surveyor on the way, it was hard to know what to do.

In the end I rang the surveyor, hoping to find out that he hadn't put any work in yet, with the intention of cancelling his report and maybe salvaging some money. Unfortunately it was too late, his report was almost typed up and would be hitting my inbox shortly. Even more unfortunately for us, the power lines were only 45m away from the rear boundary, meaning that even if we could reach a place that we were comfortable with the power lines, they bank wouldn't let to us for this particular property anyway.

I had a vague idea that if the report came back at 50 metres or more, I would see our family GP before withdrawing from the property. Not that it matters now anyway, so we've withdrawn from the property. This was not a cheap undertaking, with the various reports and lost deposit, we are out of pocket approximately $3,000 which has hit us both hard. We've bickered, because we are processing this in different ways. I'm holed up in my study crunching numbers to see just how much we have been set back and notifying our various agents that we are back in the market for a house, and Husband has been frantically researching trying to find some way to salvage some of our deposit or even turn this around somehow.

We are both in the same place now, but it's been a few tense days in our house. It's back to the weekend open house trawling for us I guess, something I think we were both overjoyed to think we had left behind us.

I'm trying to see this as a blessing. The right house is still out there, and this house might have brought us alot of pain down the track. But right now it's hard to focus on anything other than the $3,000 I just threw into the wind.

So it's back to searching for us.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

All Class for This Westie Mum

I've always wanted to try High Tea. Ever since a friend of mine (who has more class in her little finger than I have in my entire home) mentioned her High Tea at the Versace Hotel it has struck me as one of those things that has to go on the bucket list.

What could make High Tea even more perfect for me? Bloggers. A whole table of them. Every few months Bloggers from all different niches come together for an unsponsored get together to just hang out and talk business. I get weird looks when I mention I am heading for a catch up with Bloggers, especially since I haven't met most of them before, but the thing is, there is no such thing as a stranger in a room of Bloggers. I'm still waiting for someone to coin a phrase to describe us in large groups. Gaggle maybe? Bevy? We were a Bevy of Bloggers with plenty to say.

So the company was perfect, but the question remained, was the High Tea everything I had been anticipating?

Two words sums it up. Gold. Leaf.

I actually ate a mouthful of chocolaty goodness that was garnished with gold leaf. Of yeah, you better believe I am coming up in the world.

I'm not a tea drinker unfortunately, so my High Tea was accompanied by a delicious shot of caffeine via Latte, but the tiered plates of delicacies more than made up for not being able to sip my beverage from the china. Scones, meringues, sandwiches with cucumber! It was all yummy.

I can't wait to take 13 year old Madeleine to experience this with me. It strikes me as the perfect Mother/Daughter day out, and something that we definitely have to do together.

If you are looking for beautiful and affordable venue to try High Tea in Sydney, we visited the Gatehouse Team Rooms in Parramatta. High tea was $39 pp and included a drink of choice, along with all our teeny treats.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Searching for Our New Home

Our first family home. Sadly we've outgrown it.

We have been searching for our new home for months. Every weekend Husband and I set out on a manic house hunt with our spreadsheet and research. Most weekends we visit anywhere between 5-10 houses in our search for the perfect family home.

Saturday's in particular are especially frustrating. Trying to fit in weekend sports as well as the frantic rush from one open house to the other has been a challenge. We have made numerous offers, and had so many houses barely slip from our grasp. 4 bedroom homes in our area are in hot demand with so many buyers paying a premium to pull the right property off the market.

We simply cannot afford to pay a premium. Our finance and cash reserves are tight, and I'm not willing to end up with a too high lend, or worse, lose another deposit because we offered too much and the house under valued. At the end of the day, the banks base their lend on what the house is valued at, not how much we offer.

We had been wondering for some time how to tap into the owner/seller market. In seems logical that people who are saving a significant amount of money on Real Estate fee's would be more willing to negotiate and come to a good price. Under the right circumstances, the buyer gets a great price and the seller is still receiving more in the pocket than if they had engaged a Real Estate to sell their home.

After speaking briefly with a buyers agent, who is able to locate and negotiate prices on homes under these circumstances, we quickly realised we didn't have the $10,000 fee they were suggesting. Not even close. I'm sure they offer a valuable service, but we don't have money like that to spend.

 With all this in mind, I was very intrigued to find that my favourite go to sites for buying and selling used goods has a section for Real Estate. After a quick browse on Gumtree, I did find the expected rooms for rent or board, but better still I found a gold mine of Owner/Seller properties. This is where you go to sell your property yourself! It never occurred to me search here before, despite visiting at least 2-3 times per week for various reasons.

I saw many properties that hadn't appeared on the mainstream Real Estate sites, homes that I would never have had a chance to consider. Best of all it's a direct conversation, a chance to negotiate the price with the person who owns it, and probably is invested emotionally in making sure it ends up in good hands.

More terrific still is that it is free to list your home for sale on Gumtree. I actually expected to find there was a flat fee, so that was a nice surprise! I went through the process, wondering if it was more time heavy than the usual listing process, and found it to be almost identical but with a few extra fields to allow for improved searching criteria. Still not a lengthy experience, and the usual 10 photo's were included with the free listing. Of course, there were opportunities to boost or promote your ad, and those opportunities do come with a fee but were completely optional. I also noticed along the way that more and more Real Estate Agents are starting to use Gumtree, particularly good I would think as a way to get in front of buyers who are actively and passively considering a new house.

Some tips for Buyers and Sellers looking to deal through direct Owner/Seller channels:

  • Use caution when visiting a home or allowing a potential buyer to visit your home. You don't know each other and it is important to always use common sense as you would in any other buying/selling situation.
  • Don't stinge on the Conveyancers when completing a purchase. If you have dealt direct it is always possible that a buyer or seller in all innocence may not correctly complete a necessary process. A good Conveyancer will keep you both on track.
  • Buyers should try to look past photo's that have not been taken with an Agents clever eye. Poor lighting or angles may just show the honesty of the home you are considering, and flag the potential.
  • With that in mind sellers should try to take photo's that show a home at it's best. Photo's of homes with little clutter and mess, taken with as much natural light as possible and from an angle that shows the whole room will appeal more to buyers!
  • Always remember you are dealing with a person with feelings! Buying or selling there are some emotions attached to this transaction that do not have an agents gentle buffer to manage. Criticisms may not be taken well, and dishonesty in how you communicate will also go down poorly.
Have you had experiance in buying or selling direct? I would love to hear from you and how you found the process! We are still new to this and hope it will help us flush out that perfect home that will see our kids into adulthood.

This post was brought to you in partnership with Gumtree, helping home buyers everywhere find their dream home!