Saturday, November 21, 2015

Life experiences with kids - how to live your bucket list as a parent #ShareAnExperience

Earlier this year I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn't get to do much travel or tick much off my bucket list. My kids don't have passports (long and complicated reason why not) so I can't take them with me on some of the amazing adventures we have been offered like Spain and Japan and as a result, I opted not to go.

I was a little sad about it, but knew we would do other amazing things and I can push for passports later when my health is better. Australia has so much to offer anyway!

Last weekend we got to experience some of the amazing things on offer in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsular thanks to Adrenalin and their Share An Experience campaign, where if you register here you can possibly win and experience for you and a friend.

As a parent, you can't just go somewhere on a whim, or so many think. If you prep your kids well beforehand and have that desire to travel and experience things and instil it in them, it's surprising what you can do.

How to get kids on board with travel and life experiences
1.) Let them choose some of it
We have conversations about things we want to do such as travel to America, swim with dolphins, ride a hot air balloon etc. When they see things on TV shows they would like to do we talk about it and how we would like to do it. My daughters have their own bucket lists as well. They like being able to set goals and have some say in the things they do in their life.

2.) Get them involved in the planning
My daughters are involved in the process of deciding how we will get somewhere, our budget, what we will do and see, where we go and so on. Being involved makes them feel part of the trip, they understand what goes into the amazing experiences we have and it means when we say no to something, they are a lot more understanding because they know why.

It really is that simple to get kids excited, involved and willing to participate in whatever it is you want to do.

How to travel and do these experiences with kids
Travelling with kids can be trickier, it takes longer, there are unexpected delays (toilet stops, food, motion sickness and fighting to name a few...). It is not the same as being single or part of a couple where you can throw a few things in a bag and go. Travelling and things with kids requires a lot more planning, but it is still doable.

1.) Have a travel bag
My kids each have a small suitcase they can carry themselves. They have learnt to roll and pack enough clothing for a few days, toiletries, a mini pillow and their favourite blanket into these suitcases. Having a bag specifically for travel means whenever we are going, they don't have to empty their school bag or rummage around trying to find something. It also means they are used to packing the same bag, know what fits, how to make things fit and how to pack it effectively.

2.) Lists
We work off lists. Lists of things we want to do and achieve (aka bucket list), lists for what to pack depending on where we are going and for how long. Lists of what needs to be done before we can go eg arranging someone to feed our chickens, taking the trash out, clean house etc.

My kids write their own list, I check it then we work from it.

3.) Make it fun!
We drove to Melbourne from Canberra. That is nearly 7 hours from our house to the city centre where we were staying, potentially a long and boring drive. We focussed on what we were doing once in Melbourne, I made it clear the drive is longer than a whole day spent at school, we stopped at places along the way including "The Dog on the Tucker Box" which they had learnt about at school

And the submarine at Holbrook where they got to explore the museum, look through a periscope and climb all over the submarine.

We talked, sang, they drew pictures and did some school work on their iPads. Travel is what you make it, if you expect it to be long and boring, it will be.

4.) Let them record it through their own eyes
My kids get to take pictures, record themselves doing things, have mini interviews and learn all about the digital ways to record it plus they pick up brochures everywhere and create their own travel journal. Unfortunately, there were some technical glitches so I don't have the video of them I wanted to share.

5.) Go with the flow
Things do not go as planned. Learn to adapt quickly, always be confident in front of your kids. When they suspect you don't know what is happening or you are stressed, it makes them stressed and they act out. For a calmer trip, you need to keep your cool. Kids make messes, flights get delayed, people get sick, weather impacts on activities. Don't let it put a damper on what you are planning on doing, instead, think outside the box and try something else.

On the weekend we swam with dolphins in the morning (our experience was booked with Adrenalin here), which was high on my 6yr olds bucket list. She delighted seeing them jump in the waves the boat made and getting to be so close to them. She did not expect the water to be so cold though and didn't stay in for long. Anyway, between that and the horse riding in the afternoon (another activity they delight in, which we will definitely do more of. Our exact experience was this one), we had a few hours to fill and were considering hanging out on the beach more until we saw a poster advertising a school fete that day, so we went to it.

It was not in our 'plans' but we had so much fun! Going with the flow, changing things when the opportunity comes up can enrich your experience if you let it.

Kids can do more than you think they can
We had a full on few days. Driving Canberra to Melbourne then in the following days we had this hot air balloon ride, which we got up at 4:30am for, followed by a helicopter ride

then we finished the day with a spa watching the sunset over Melbourne.

The next morning we were up early again to get to the Mornington Peninsular in time for our swim with dolphins, followed by the school fete and the horse riding

You can do anything you want to do and having kids shouldn't stop you from getting out there and marking things of your bucket list, sharing experiences with friends and family, travelling and do all that you want to do in your life! Make sure you check out Adrenalin and their Share An Experience campaign for discounts and your chance to win an experience!

What are your tips for travelling or doing life experiences with kids?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why you should shop around for a bank #Sponsored

Shopping around is something most people do for a lot of different things. Whether you’re looking for a new apartment to move into, a new car to drive away in, a new outfit to show off, or a new smartphone to use, it’s only natural that you compare the prices of various sellers before making the final purchase. But when it comes to opening an account or getting a loan from a bank, perhaps we don’t shop around as much as we should.
Have you always just stayed with the same bank because it’s familiar? Or does the research involved in making a smart switch seem like more effort than it’s worth? It’s time to think again. Here are three great reasons to consider other options when looking for a financial institution.

Different Banks Have Different Strengths

Very few banks excel at everything. While one company may have the ideal savings account for you, the credit cards they offer might not match your needs as well as another bank’s. Whenever you are on the market for a new type of financial product, it’s important to look beyond your current go-to organisation and investigate whether others specialise in the item you require.

For example, some banks like Queensland’s Heritage Bank have become known for offering lower rates on home loans, personal loans, and other items in this area. Do some research online to discover the front-runners in the financial field you’re looking at. Comparison websites can help!

Find The Best Rates

Shopping around for a bank is a great way to ensure your current provider doesn’t get complacent and cease to offer you the best deals. When you come across competitors’ alternatives that are tempting to you, approach your bank with them and challenge them to meet or beat the other organisation’s offer. If they refuse, it could be worth going through with your bluff and switching over. Either way, shopping around can help you secure a better deal for yourself.

Explore the Alternatives

When you shop around for a bank, you quickly discover that your options extend far beyond the big banks. And this discovery can reveal alternatives that better suit your needs and finances. During the course of your research, you might come across independent lenders, building societies and mutual banks. These institutions are usually run to benefit their customers, not profit-driven shareholders, and this can mean lower rates and fees.

Even if the best solution to your situation does end up coming from a traditional bank, shopping around before making the final decision will give you the peace of mind of knowing you really are getting the best deal available.

Yes, researching and comparing banks will take you time and effort. For some people, this alone is a good enough reason to just stick with the same provider – even if they could be missing out on better alternatives. But a little bit of legwork can lead to a whole lot of savings when it comes to shopping around for a bank. Share your greatest tips for doing this in the comments below.

This post was provided by Heritage Bank, but we agree with the sentiment. Definitely shop around as you can save a lot of money!
Have you shopped around with your bank? What tips do you have?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Use Your Look to Increase Your Expertise

The harsh reality of today's society is that more often than not our credibility is judged on how we look. Presenting yourself in such a way that it is clear you look after yourself and are confident in your skin will help project to others that you are a capable, confident and knowledgeable person. People love to look at and talk about others so give them something wonderful to say about you by looking the part of an expert.

Thankfully creating a professionally appropriate look is not going to cost you an arm and leg as many would have you believe. There are a few tricks you can use to keep the cost low and the style high.

1: Stick to a neutral colour mix

The point here is to have majority of your clothes in a colour range that can easily mix and match with other. Neutral colours are better for this as they can be brightened up with bold coloured accessories, or glammed up with metallic accessories or darkened with muted or sombre toned accessories.
Neutral tones include browns, black, white, creams, tans, navy, even maroon and olive green.
Depending on what field you are in, too much bright colour or bold prints can be perceived as tacky, so it's best to keep them to your accessories to avoid any dramas. For myself, I go a statement necklace to keep my personality alive in my look but still keeping my outfit respectful to my workplace environment.

Emerge Cowl Fitted Dress found via Fashion Lane
Emerge Cowl Fitted Dress found via Fashion Lane

Heine Dress found via Fashion Lane
Heine Dress found via Fashion Lane

2: Research from the comfort of your own home

Get comfy and do your research online. There is an abundance of websites that sell great basics at a fraction of in store prices. There is an even greater range of sites that have basics with a twist, like a different print, colour, a slightly different cut or style.
By looking online you are giving yourself the opportunity to compare pieces and find a cheaper price in your own time, not restricted by opening hours, and it is much more comfortable.
Check out Fashion Lane where sales from over 100 stores like Asos, Shopbop and The Iconic are all in the one place.

Lydia Double Layer Maxi Dress found via Fashion Lane
Lydia Double Layer Maxi Dress found via Fashion Lane
Panelled Bodycon Dress found via Fashion Lane
Panelled Bodycon Dress found via Fashion Lane

3: Know your body shape

This one is the most important. If you are purchasing clothes that are not the right style for your  body shape you can look frumpy, "fat", and unattractive. You'll feel much more negative about yourself in clothes that don't fit or suit your body. It's a bit like square peg, round hole. Personal Stylists can help determine your body shape and how to dress it to maximise your beautiful body and individual style.
Knowing your body shape and what cuts and styles suit your shape will help narrow down appropriate options for you. It will also help you discard anything that won't suit you, so you won't have clothes (essentially your money) sitting in your cupboard doing nothing. Your wardrobe will be full of items that will look good on you, help you feel better about yourself and you will also impress others by always looking the part.
Midi Pencil Dress in Rib found via Fashion Lane
Midi Pencil Dress in Rib found via Fashion Lane

Praslin Plus Body Con Dress found via Fashion Lane
Praslin Plus Body Con Dress found via Fashion Lane

What tips do you have to look the part on a budget?


 *Sponsored Guest Post by Jac Lambert of - Thoughts and opinions are her own

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How far are you willing to go to get out of debt? 10 steps to pay off debt

First world countries seem to love debt. Statistically we have a lot of it from the governments to businesses right down to teens with credit cards! I avoid debt although currently I do have a little and it does my head in.

With most cases I see or am asked for advice on, it is consumer debt that has gone crazy. We buy something to make ourselves feel better, we buy stuff as a celebration, we spend up all the time and without much effort I know many couples who owe $20,000 to $100,000 with nothing to show except 'stuff' collecting dust in their homes.

If you had excessive debt, how far are you willing to go to pay it off?
Me, I hate any debt so am willing to do pretty much anything (within reason!) to clear it. When I say within reason, I won't do anything that goes against my morals. What would you be willing to sacrifice or sell, what extra work would you take on to pay off your debt?

Since I do have some and I hate it, here are the steps I am taking to pay off my debt

Step 1 - Get real with the debt
Add up all debt, where it comes from, what it was for, what the interest rate is, repayments on it and how long you are locked in for. List everything - credit cards, personal loans, car loans, loans from friends or family.

Step 2 - Work out which to pay off first
I don't have loads of debts, so this is easy for me. Which one you pay off first is up to you. Some find the method of paying off the smallest debt first works best for them, others work on the one with the highest interest rate. 
As each debt is paid off roll the payments you were making on that debt into your next one plus any extra payments you were making to help you clear the next debt. This is called debt snowballing. 

Step 3 - Work out your budget
If you don't already have a budget, you should. How are you spending you money? What income is coming in? Where can you cut back? Be realistic about what you are currently spending and account for all your income. 

Step 4 - Set a time frame
Knowing your budget and repayments you can now see how long it will take you to repay your debt. Set a timeframe for each a little shorter than anticipated. For example, if with your current payments and budget it would take you 12 months to pay off one debt, set your goal at 10 months, then find ways to reduce expenses and increase your income to bring it down to 10 months. 

Step 5 - Look at ways to cut back
Go over your budget with a fine tooth comb and start implementing ways you can cut back. For example, can you forage for food, barter, do meal swaps or start growing some food from scraps such as herbs and spring onions. 

With this part, I tend to do a pantry clean out and work out a stack of meals I can make based on what we have so I needn't do groceries for a while. Then I get really strict on meal planning and shopping. I look at ways to stretch meals further, find free food etc.

After food, I look at our transport, electricity, compare insurances, look at what I can DIY again if I have stopped doing some of that. Every area of my budget gets scrutinised.

Step 6 - Realise it isn't forever
Think about what you can give up for the period of time it'll take to repay the debt at least. The aim is to never be in this debt again, so you don't want to go back to the way you were before starting to pay off your debt, because it is those habits that got you into this mess in the first place. However, sometimes thinking you are giving up something permanently can be difficult and make it harder to pay down the debt or give things up. This way, you have a timeframe and if at the end of paying off the debt you really want to incorporate somethings back into your lifestyle, you can work out an affordable way to do that.

Step 7 - Make more money
Getting a raise isn't always realistic (but it often isn't unreasonable to ask, provided you pick you timing well), so what other ways can you bring in money?

Take on another job? Pizza delivery, cleaning, gardening, packing shelves at night, working the check out, petrol stations, any job that has out of usual business hours will help you pay down debt. 
Do a side hustle like babysitting, cleaning, ironing, selling books, make things to sell, catalogue run or paper route.
Look at one off options such as market research, donating hair, selling things you own etc.
Look at irregular options such as modelling and voiceovers
Start a side business yourself such as blogging, running workshops, importing something to sell. 

Step 8 - Get an emergency fund
One thing we often find when trying to pay down debt is that we pay a little off, then something happens like all our tyres blow or there is a health issue and we end up spending on the credit card again.

Try to save $1,000 - $2,000 in an emergency fund fast. As soon as you have that, redirect all your extra funds to paying off the debt. 

Step 9 - Throw all extra money at debt
Any money you save or extra money you make pay off the debt, even if it is only $1.05 saved at groceries, throw it on your debt to get it down. All those small amounts add up. 

Step 10 - Change your mindset
Don’t view yourself as poor or broke or sacrificing your lifestyle. Change your mindset to that of someone who wants to be financially free and is taking the steps to do so. A broke mindset is depressing and often makes repaying debt harder. Having a positive mindset of one where you are taking control of your finances to give yourself a financially free lifestyle is empowering and more likely to help you succeed.

What tips do you have for paying off debt?

Not Spending on Things That Don't Matter

Not spending on things that don't matter means you're able to spend money on the things that do.  Everyday, we come up against spending decisions.  Some of them are big, and some of them may seem too small to matter.  Those small things really add up, though.  If we can instead throw those small amount of money into savings, we'll be all the closer to our goals.

Here are five things that I've chosen not to spend money on:

1. Curtain Rod Hardware

We used to have slat blinds in our apartment.  They weren't surviving our children well, and I had noticed some of our neighbors had curtains.  When my mother's neighbor offered up some of her old ones, I happily took them, along with the curtain rod.  After asking our landlord if he was okay with the switch, we got to installing.

There was only one problem:  we had no hardware to hang the rod from.  I know that my interior design doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things, so I flipped the hardware for the blinds, cut off the end of a hanger, and secured them together thoroughly.  It might be rigged, but it's hardware we didn't have to spend a cent on.

2. Haircuts

For a few years, I cut my own hair.  I'm no professional, so eventually I inevitably botched a job.  It was traumatic, and I decided never to cut my own hair again.  In subsequent years, I visited the dresser about once a year.  I was able to get away with it with my long style, and wasn't overly concerned with having a trendy cut.  After a few years of this, I decided to try a cheaper, walk-in salon.  The hair dressers knew what they were doing there, too.  I've stuck with them.  Now I'm able to get cuts more frequently, and they only run me $15/cut as opposed to the $30-$60 I was paying before.  I have found no difference in quality despite the disparity in price.

I do like to look presentable, but if I can do so without going to the salon every month, I can allocate that money to more important goals.

3.  Furniture

I have young kids, so furniture is not high on my priority list.  Any furniture I have will surely be destroyed in a few years thanks to spilled sippy cups, unauthorized jumping, and art projects gone awry.  Instead of going out to buy matching pieces, I accept every hand-me-down that comes my way.  I've avoided spending thousands, and still provided my family with couches, a table where we all eat together, and all the other trappings a typical home has.

4.  Gift Bags

I hate spending money on overpriced wrapping paper. I do, about twice a year, but mostly I use gift bags my own children have received at birthdays and Christmases past.  I also save the tissue paper.  They get a lot of wear, and I don't have to go out and buy every time someone gets invited to a birthday party.

5.  Family Time

Hear me out on this one.  Family time does matter to me.  Very much.  But I've realized over the years that it doesn't matter so much what we're doing, as long as we're doing it together.  Instead of spending a ton of money every time we go out, we seek out free events, discounted or free days at our local attractions, and utilize the parks and numerous green spaces in our city.  By doing things together that are low-cost, we're able to splurge on the occasional kids' concert, and do whatever we want when we go on vacation.  We save that money every time we go out so that we'll be able to enjoy a few extravagant things together.  Another part of the savings allows us to propel ourselves to our family goals, like home ownership, at a faster clip.

What things don't matter to you?  Do you spend money on them anyways?  Or find ways to save?