Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Secret to Having the Best Lawn...

2 years ago we moved from a suburb where mowing the lawn was a special occasion activity. If the neighbours were out mowing, then sure enough there would be a party to come in the following days. Either that or Christmas.

I'd like to say we were better, but the truth is that Husband avoids the lawn mower like it's carrying an infectious disease. He has all kinds of wimpy allergies, and uses them as the basis for venturing outside as little as possible. Typically I had to have lost a child in the jungle out there to kick him out to mow.

We've since moved to an area where every lawn is mowed regularly. Just about every Sunday morning sees half the street with someone outside mowing and tending to the garden, and the other half are looking after theirs during the week. I'm determined to have a home that I can be proud to pull in the driveway of, so I get out there myself now every fortnight to mow. I can't start the damn mower without help, but I can push that thing around in a neat grid and that's usually enough to guilt the husband into doing the edges more often than not.

I'm definitely holding my own in this street, but no matter how often I mow, my lawn never looks as neat and trim as my neighbour to the left. A lovely retired couple, the gentleman is outside no less than twice a week, mowing his lawn. I've counted three times before as well, which suspiciously seems to coincide with me mowing our lawn.

My neighbours lawn is flat, perfect, and never, EVER, looks like it needs mowing. Even when my lawn is mowed it doesn't look as perfect. And he makes a point of edging a perfect straight line where his lawn meets ours, all the better to emphasise our scruffy yard and his perfection.

Look at that line. It perfectly defines the point at which his perfection stops and my scruffiness starts.

On the flip side, my neighbour to the right is just ever so slightly worse than we are. He never gets too long, but he seems to mow just that little bit less often than we do, and with the same casual approach to just getting it over with. And as a result we tend to look not too bad if I face his direction and ignore the perfection behind me.

And therein lies the secret to having the best lawn in the street. The trick is in looking better than your neighbour. As long as you put in just slightly more effect than the neighbours, you can come out ahead.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Financial Irritants

It's been a weekend of financial irritations. Just little things, but they are all adding up. Husband and I are grumpy with each other because of the various financial constraints I have us under, and so we bicker constantly over all these little irritants and everything else.

As I type, he is in the bedroom, sourly sewing a button on his work pants, determined to not watch whatever I might have on TV. And in response, I have a Gilmore Girls episode on, knowing that 20 times later, he likes the show no more than the first time I made him watch it marathon style.

Money is thin. Knowing we have school and dancing fee's coming up along with some insurance premiums I have cracked down on the budget. But we still need to make progress on some house improvements, and bedroom fans are super high on our list. So I've been a busy bee, selling random crap that I should have offloaded years ago, books, DVDs, old kids clothes, you name it, it's gone up for sale, mostly on local Facebook sale sites and Gumtree. Every time someone picks something up, that ten or twenty dollar note gets thrown in a jar with the intention that as soon as we get enough we will buy another fan for the house. We need four, we have one. We want to pay an electrician to do all of them at once, but that means buying them all first. At $160 for each fan, it's not a quick process.

As you can imagine, I was pretty happy when I had collected $220 by Saturday night. That's a fan and a bit. But no, it's not meant to be. A routine rotation of my car tires has produced 2 almost completely bald tires. I'm thankful I haven't had an accident, but spewing that my fan money is now going on 2 new tires.

Adding to it all, I sent hubby to the shops with a $30 gift voucher, to top us up with a few things we just can't make it to payday without. Some fruit, sandwich meat, milk, bread, you get the gist. He knows money is tight right now, but he still came back with various unnecessary items that weren't on the list, and slightly indignant that the gift voucher had bounced.

Instead of putting a few things back, he instructed the cashier to put the voucher through for $20, and put the last $10.74 on our ATM card. Which went through. But barely, because we only had $11 left. Except now we have $0.24 cents left, and I'm stuck with $10 credit on the gift voucher that can't be used for anything else in an emergency except groceries. We've had a fight about the stupidity of not putting back items if you think you only have $20, and not looking at the card to realise he was only $0.74 cents over the limit, and so now we aren't talking.

We aren't speaking over $10 worth of groceries. Isn't that ludicrous? I forgot how much strain money problems can put on a marriage. I know it doesn't help that I can be quite rigid about money, but it's just the way I am. We'll get over this, we always do but it doesn't make it all less annoying in the short term.

Money problems pissing you off right now? Do share,

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year, A New Budget

Every year at this time I pull out all our bills and do an annualised budget/financial calendar for our family. I plot out how much money needs to be put aside each pay in order to meet the big bills as they arrive throughout the year.

I factor savings into this budget, and consider all of the bills and expenses that can be expected throughout the year. I also allow for day to day living expenses, and usually the amount left over gives me an idea how much I should be saving each pay.

I have a negative number this year. Each fortnight, after I put money aside for all my expenses, I have -$36. I am so shocked, it's the first time in years I haven't had a surplus, even if it's small.

We don't have heaps of area's that we can cut back, our grocery budget is slim, our entertainment budget is non-existent as we have been lucky to have lots of tickets and opportunities through the blog lately that have become our "fun", so that leaves the kids extra curriculars. Much as I hate to do it, this is one of the main luxuries that we spend our disposable income on, so we are having to scale back.

This frustrates me enormously, because by cutting back in this area we are impacting a couple of small business owners as well as the kids. Our budget stresses flow through to the wonderful people who make their living nurturing our children's talents. Having become close to some of these people over the years, I know how much small business owners can struggle to make ends meet themselves. But the flip side is that I've seen families who have not made the decision to scale back when they should, and have ended up with, and walking away from, a debt from their kids activities. This is horrible for everyone, so I am pulling us back to a level we can honestly afford.

This is not a boo hoo post. We are not in hardship - we can afford to feed our kids, we can afford to cloth them, and each kid still gets to do a class of something they love. We are super fortunate still and we know it.

Many bills have crept up, our insurances seem to have skyrocketed in the last year or two, and Maddy's braces are a big chunk of cash each pay. If you haven't reviewed your finances this year, make it part of your New Years Resolutions. It's always better to know what you are dealing with, than keep paying everything blindly and hope it all adds up.

Have you been stung by rising costs this year? Do you review your budget on a regular basis?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Commitment To Her Art

As if she wasn't already so much like her teenage sister, 3 year old Lorelei seems to have inherited her flair for dramatics as well.

This afternoon, out of nowhere, Lorelei let out a shriek at the back of the house. We ran to her, sure that she was pinned beneath her brother being tortured, but instead found her clutching at her leg and moaning.

There was no apparent injury, but my little one was cringing and flinching as we flexed and straightened her leg, trying to get to the bottom of it. With no accident or trauma to pin it on, we are assuming that she has pulled a muscle, and settled her on the couch with a heat pack to look after it and Frozen to keep her happy and still for a few minutes.

A few minutes later though......"MUUUUUUUUUMMMMMY!" Batting her little eyelids, she sweetly informed me she needed to be moved to the beanbag - and then that she needed something to prop up her leg.

Every ten minutes for the rest of the afternoon, she called me for one thing or the other, always sweet, and always grateful, but constantly assuring me that her leg was sore.

After an hour or this treatment I became sceptical and stood her up and encouraged her to walk to me - stretching out the muscle is the best thing for her right? She limped and winced and dragged it slightly behind her, stopping after only a few steps to put her arms up and beg to be carried. 

My poor little love, I spent the rest of the day massaging her, stretching and flexing, and holding a heat pack in place. She refused point blank to walk again, and I felt so guilty at making her. 

Tonight we went for dinner to her grandmothers though, and as expected I carried my little invalid into the house. After I settled her on the couch I teasingly suggested she ask her Teta to heat up her pack again to help fix her sore leg. Excited by the idea of showing off her sore leg, she leapt up and ran into the kitchen with her heat pack. 

No sign of a limp. Am I surprised?

She's definitely inherited Madeleine's dramatics. 

I'll be watching this sore leg, because I'm sure there was something in it, but it's hilarious to see Miss Lorelei will milk it for all it's worth.