Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How to plan for an early retirement

Have you thought about what age you want to retire, how much you will need and the possibility of retiring younger?

It is something I think about regularly. I live my life in such a way that I plan to be financially free soon, allowing me to work if I want but also have diverse investments enabling me to retire if I so choose.

That freedom and flexibility is important to me and while many view early retirement as an unachievable dream, if you set a goal for it, work towards it and live accordingly, it is doable.

1.) How much do you need?
What are your annual expenses? How can you reduce them and what amount do you really feel you'd need to live a lifestyle you want in retirement?

If you own your home outright, that significantly reduces your annual expenses. Not going into work reduces clothing, wear and tear on the car as well as petrol bills, coffee/cafe visits etc.

Write down the expenses you have now and the expenses you would expect in retirement.

Next, what age do you want to retire? What income will you have in retirement - superannuation, shares, property, a business? How much you need per year, how long you expect to live after your retirement age and what investments you have will all impact when you retire and the lifestyle you have.

I have read the average advised superannuation is between $500,000 and $750,000 for a couple with a 7% return on their investments. Personally, I plan a little differently.

2.) How do you get enough to retire?
If you work, you have superannuation which depending on when you start paying into super, what your wage is, if you add more than your employer contributes, how your super is invested etc will determine how much superannuation you have.

I believe in planning for retirement in other ways, not just superannuation. Invest in shares, invest in property, create passive income streams and look at businesses you could have that don't require you.

For example, in my area, I can buy an apartment for under $250,000 and rent it out for $25,000+ per year. This unit is positively geared from the beginning if rented out continuously. If you choose to invest in property, I recommend looking for positively geared properties (not as common as negatively geared) and working to build a portfolio. Do extensive research, buy in areas that are tipped to increase in value, pay a deposit when you purchase and keep track of everything. Have a plan in mind of how long you want to hold properties for, how many properties and what sort of income you want and do not go into more debt than you can service.

For shares, I am a conservative investor. Again, do your research, only invest if you feel comfortable and realise that no investment is a sure thing.

Choose an investment option you are comfortable with, then focus on putting as much money into it as you can, while reducing your living expenses, paying off your mortgage and working towards an overall financial plan.

3.) How can I reduce my living expenses and invest for retirement?
Go over every area of your budget and look for ways to cut back. For example, refinance your mortgage to a better deal, compare all insurance and other services providers to make sure you get the best prices for all of them, get rid of services you don't need, start tracking where you spend your money to see where the leaks are in your budget.

As you reduce your expenses and start saving more, split the savings between paying off your mortgage and investing in your future. How you do that is your own choice. The sooner you pay off your mortgage (or any debt) the sooner you have more money to invest, however, the more you invest, the more compound interest works in your favour, so hedge your bets.

4.) Increase your income
If you are serious about retiring earlier, you need to look at increasing your income. This can be done through:
- Asking for a pay rise (if you deserve it).
- Looking for higher paid work.
- Creating some side hustles such as freelancing, domestic chores like cleaning/ironing/lawn mowing on weekends.
- Increase your training/qualifications or skills to increase your job options and income.

What age do you plan to retire and how? 

Monday, March 6, 2017

How to makeover your home office for under $500 with Officeworks #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post from Officeworks. A $500 gift card was provided for me to select specific items for my home office. Opinions are my own.

What to do when your desk is overrun with photography gear, notes, books and more? Get an office makeover. We are fairly practical people, we know what we want and don’t need extras to pretty it all up. We want a workspace that does everything we need.

My partner is a photographer, videographer and one of the top marketers in the country. He was pretty happy with his setup until I said, we should go to Officeworks and ‘get a few things’. We were given a $500 gift card to go shopping with and easily came in under budget.  
When we first moved into our tiny unit Officeworks was our first stop for our printer, two bookshelves, stationery needs and other basic business items. They had the lowest prices, the team were the friendliest and easiest to deal with.  
Our needs for our businesses are very similar and while we have made do with sharing some things since we live in such a small space, it was time to set up our workspaces properly. His was mostly storage and organisation, mine was more involved, which you can see here.

To get him sorted we got:
1.) Keji 32L Storage tub
He had some random travel gear, papers and things he needed but only occasionally. We took some of this from his workspace and put it in a storage tub in the wardrobe.  
2.) Bathurst Racer Chair - $148
You can see in his before picture he had a chair already. It was kind of old, didn’t support his back fully anymore and was a bit clunky. Funny thing about this is my partner grew up in Bathurst, so to now have something named after where he spent his teen years was amusing. It is super comfy though and I love that we have matching chairs. He liked it because it is black and white like his football team (Collingwood), it is comfortable, the arms are adjustable so can be moved up completely if desired and the back is a good height.  
3.) Wynston Sit Stand Small Desk - $129
We have both heard the benefits of this for some time, but neither of us had researched too much into it. The Wynston is adjustable, small enough to not take up the whole desk but large enough to fit his large laptop, a notebook and pen as needed. It folds down so small that it easily fits between our desks when he needs his whole desk for editing or camera gear.  
4.) Toshiba 3TB Portable Hard Drive - $138
He has wanted another hard drive for ages and when we saw this one, he literally went “Oh, yeah, I could go one of those!”
I asked him specifically what he loves about the Toshiba 3TB Portable Hard Drive and he said:  
“It was a bargain, fast, light portable hard drive with big storage which is perfect for photo and video backup. Being so small and light with big storage I can have multiple in my bag and at home/office etc to make sure if one ever dies I'm covered.”  
5.) 24 Pack Electro Pop Sharpies - $19.98
My sharpies are mine and no one else is allowed to touch them, ever. As such, he had to buy his own. For some reason, the kids got hold of his last ones and I have no doubt they will get a glimpse of these and want them too.  
Labelling anything and everything for when we travel is a must. My partner has such expensive gear that having a Sharpie on hand to mark everything as soon as we buy it is important. We also have a bit of a thing for colour coding certain things so having an array of colours, both light and dark makes this so much easier.  
6.) J. Burrows A4 2 ring binder - $1.49
Flyers on travel, brochures, things he wants to buy, all these papers usually end up all over his desk. With this simple binder he can section it into travel he wants to do, work opportunities and a final section for things he wants to buy. As papers come in, they can be filed and are easy to find when needed.  
7.) Emtec 16GB USB Drive, 3 pack - $29.98
With photos and videos from shoots, presentations to deliver at work or conferences and articles he writes, USB drives are essential. While everything is backed up to the cloud, having USB drives we can use with clients makes life easier.   
Other things on our list:
  • Bluetooth headphones. He has a set but the earpieces haven’t always been the best. We decided on Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth Headset for $138 (outside the $500 budget and not solely for the office).
  • Acer KA240H 24” monitor. This is something we both considered. He has one extra monitor, but has previously worked with three and prefers it.  
  • Lenovo Tablet. My kids got new tablets for school and now I want one. The Lenovo 7” one is a good size, plus very affordable.
  • Basics. We get our batteries, post it notes, notebooks, pens and other essentials at Officeworks. We live close to one so often pop in and pick up what we need when on the way home. It’s quick, convenient and the team are super helpful.

My four top tips for creating an office on a budget
1.) Know what you need
We knew we needed stand up desks, office chairs and storage options for my partner’s photos. Plan it out before you go shopping so you don’t end up buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need. I tend to shop online, add things to the cart, see how much it all is and work out where it will go then head in store to see my favourite items in person, sit on chairs and find what works best for me.
2.) Have a budget
As you can see, $500 is a great budget which will get you everything you need. You can get desks and chairs at Officeworks for less than we spent , but I was really specific about what I wanted.  
3.) Create space
You need space to work. Declutter your desk, get rid of old papers, work out what you need your space to do so you can work effectively and set it up that way.  
4.) Compare prices
Officeworks has a Lowest Price Guarantee, so you can compare prices and know you are going to get the best price. Shop around, find what you want and set your office up within your budget.

What are your home office essentials and what would you spend $500 on at Officeworks?

Friday, February 17, 2017

My favourite online survey sites

When I started out making money from home, one of the first things I checked out was online survey sites. Most I found were American, but here are some Aussie ones I have found to be good. They are all free to join and you choose which surveys you do. Most people I know do surveys while they wait in line at the grocery store, in the waiting room at the doctors or waiting to pick up kids. Instead of that time being wasted, they make a little cash.

The following are the ones I have used with most success and yes, some are affiliate links. I use the affiliate money in giveaways and things on to say thanks to my amazing community.

Octopus Group
This one is fairly new, it is easy to join though and even when I had a small glitch once, they sorted it and my payment went through fine. Payment for surveys have been higher than the average for other sites and you get $1 per friend you refer plus get paid when they do surveys so you can make money a few ways with Octopus Group.

One of my favourites and it's not just a survey site. You can get paid to search using it instead of Google, get points for shopping and more. You accrue points then cash out for gift cards, products or cash. The cash is paid in USD, which as an Aussie, means for the last $50 I cashed out it was around $65 I got!

Pureprofile is fairly easy to get money with. You get paid even if you don't fit a survey, but they are strict on how much you can cash out and how often so it isn't a site you can get unlimited earnings on.

Survey Junkie
Survey Junkie is a site with loads of online survey sites you can join. I haven not tried all the sites they list, but it is worth a look, see how you go and I would love to hear how you do.

What Do You Think is a great one I have been earning $20 here and there from for years. You also get paid to update your profile every few months which is a nice bonus.

Which survey sites do you use? 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wine and Travel - how to get both at a discount #Sponsored

Two things in our life we love are travel and wine, both of which can get expensive if you let them. We enjoy relaxing, having a glass of wine every now and then, travel we try to implement in our lives at least once a month for weekends away, with a few week long trips throughout the year.

How to save money on wine
My parents didn't drink alcohol and it wasn't until my late 20s when I had left the church I grew up in that I started to drink. I am not a heavy drinker by any stretch of the imagination. My partner, he quite enjoys red wine.

Earlier this year we sat down and worked out how much money we were spending on alcohol. As this was not something that had been part of my budget before, I was horrified to discover how much of our grocery budget was going to wine, mainly because we weren't organised. As soon as I discovered this I did a search for wine and Groupon Coupons came up with which gave me a heap of coupons and discount options for ordering my wine online. This has saved us hundreds this year alone.

How to save money on travel
Travel hacking has a huge following and so many people share different ways to save money with travelling. As travel is such an important part of my life I have learnt a few tips and tricks along the way. For the most part, I get paid to travel now. However, when I don't, a few simple things that can save money are:

1.) Search for discounts
Groupon Coupons has discounts for One Travel which is a great place to search for discounted travel promo codes. I have used Groupon Coupons a lot for everything from travel to lingerie, wine to cleaning products! They are definitely worth checking out.

2.) Research
Check out where you want to travel to, find out the best times to go there, when the best discounts can be had then see what deals you can score.

3.) Sign up for discounts
Subscribe to the mailing lists of airlines, travel companies and anywhere that gives discounts you can use for your travels (including Groupon Coupons!) This way the best deals are emailed directly to you and you can take advantage of them quickly.

Do you like wine and travel?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How to Improve the Value of Your Home Without Breaking the Bank

Do you currently own a home? Have you ever thought about making improvements to it, both to heighten the overall appeal as well as increase the value of the property? We all would love for our homes to look amazing, but in order to do this we need to spend tens of thousands of dollars, right? Wrong. There are plenty of projects that can be done for quite cheap, can increase the overall appeal of your house, and increase its value as well.

Take a Look at Your Landscaping

If you are looking to improve the value of your house, take a look at your front yard. So often we ignore the appeal of our yard, but this is really the most important part of the house because this is what everyone sees! If the outside of your house looks like garbage, people will assume that the inside must be run down as well.

So what can you do about it? Isn’t landscaping expensive? Sure, it can be, but if you get creative it can actually be fairly cheap. I have friends that own quite a few acres of land and there are shrubs and flowers everywhere. One of them discovered that just by clipping a part of one of the bushes, they can be planted and regrown in another location. The same was true for their hostas as well! To complete the landscape, you can purchase a few perennials (the bulbs) for incredibly cheap online.

Update the Kitchen

Now this certainly sounds expensive, but again, it doesn’t have to be. With the kitchen being one of the most important areas in the house (if you are looking to sell anyway), you should be quite interested in learning how to make it more appealing to both yourself and to others.

If you have outdated cupboards, ugly walls, and appliances, don’t fret, you can still update the entire kitchen for a rather reasonable price. First of all, painting the kitchen can really give it a major facelift. If you have ugly old light switch covers, replace them – they only cost about $0.10 per cover. If your cupboards are an ugly old wood color, feel free to paint them as well. White is quite popular these days and can really brighten up the kitchen area.

Now, what about those appliances? Yes, these can be a bit pricey, but there are deals out there everywhere. All you have to do is save up the cash, glue your eyes to Craigslist, the clearance retail centers, and keep your ears open everywhere you go. If you are patient, it is not unheard of to get nearly brand new appliances for half the price of retail.

Finish the Basement

Many newer homes these days are sold with an unfinished basement. If you really want to improve the value of your house, start looking into what it would take to finish it off! Since it is most likely studded and wired already, all you have to do is put up some drywall, mud the seams, and paint. I understand that not everyone has the expertise to finish an entire basement on their own, but with the help of a friend or two, we should all be capable enough to hang drywall and paint. You may want to contract someone to do the mudding, but by doing all of the other work yourself, you can really save some money.

Are you ready to increase the value of your house without breaking the bank?