Friday, December 29, 2017

Starting off 2018 with finance

With only one day away from 2018 I thought I would do a post of internet links that may help with organizing your finances in 2018.

Here's a picture of our view of Mt Barney from the Camper Trailer which is on site that we hired for 2 nights last week.

First of all if you do not own "The Barefoot Investor" book I highly recommend you purchase it immediately.  I wrote a bit about it in this post.   This is the book you need to purchase for anyone in your family whether they are a teenager or someone with a mortgage and a job.  It is easy to read and easy to implement and understand.  It's about managing money, setting up systems and being in control of your money.  When I went to put a hold on this book at the library there were 598 holds so my advice is just to buy it.  I purchase all my books from The Book Depository which has great prices and free postage.  I have been buying books from them for the past 8 or so years.

Another great way of incidental saving is to never spend a $5 note.  Every time you get one put it away in an envelope for your holidays or Christmas presents and extra Christmas food.  This is really simple and you won't notice when you remove $5 from your wallet.  I've started doing this on the odd occasion with the new $10 note so I can be ready for next Christmas.

Have you heard of the 52 Week Money Challenge.  I think this in theory sounds good however towards the end of the year the weekly $ is quite high so I haven't done this one myself past about Week 20.  The image is a bit hard to read however the basis behind this is each week you add the amount of money to your jar/tin.  ie Week 1 is $1, Week 20 is $20, Week 28 is $28 etc.  If you google it you might be able to find a better copy to print out.

Food is another area that is costly and can be improved in terms of spending.  There's the $21 a week grocery challenge that you can do once or twice a year.  We all know that cans of food and meat in the freezer sometimes adds up and when meal planning we buy new things.  Some people do a $30 week challenge however even $50 a week would be a big saving in what is your normal grocery bill.  Meal plan using items in your pantry and freezer to use everything up.  These days of cheaper pricing at places like Aldi etc and going to the supermarket once or twice a week there's no real need to stockpile as things come on sale every few weeks.  With your limited budget say $21, $30 or even $50 you can buy milk, bread, fresh fruits to get you through the week.  With your normal $100 or $150 that you saved put it on your mortgage or credit card or in your Christmas savings account.  Doing this 4 times a year you could save $400 to $600 per year with little effort.

Electricity - the thing that is a household expense however at the same time it's a luxury these days.  Managing not using the air conditioner, turning off lights etc. the bills just get higher and higher.  In July there was a 30% increase and in January I believe there is going to be another increase of 10% or 18% I can't remember but it's ridiculous.  I rang around all the suppliers on the 30th June 2017 to get the ex gst per kw amount so I could compare apples with apples with all suppliers regardless of their discounts.  You have to know the base amount and then apply the discount it's not just about the discount.  I was with Click Energy for the past 4 years and when I rang around I ended up staying with them however in September I rang around again and Alinta Energy was the best deal offering 25% discount and their base rate "ex gst per kw" was far cheaper so I switched immediately.  They do it all for you and about 30 mins on the phone.  You will get a final bill from your original supplier and then the next quarter get a new bill.  My first bill in the July/Aug/Sept quarter was up by $100 just from the increase even though our usage hadn't really changed. Our bill was almost the same amount every quarter for the past couple of years so I was shocked by the increase.

This week got the new bill and the bill was $200 cheaper with the better rates and 25% discount applied to the bill.  Click Energy discounts weren't on every bill it was after you had paid on time for a certain period and then the next bill they applied the discount.  Alinta Energy is in Queensland so you would have to check what companies supply in your State.  I allowed 30 mins with a notepad and rang each one and wrote down their daily rate ex gst, their per kw ex gst rate for peak and off peak and then their discount. These days there are no lock in contracts even though when they read the terms and conditions to you over the phone they say this is for 24 months do you agree it' still no lock in contracts.  It's just that that rate will be for 24 months (unless of course they put it up etc).  Just check but I'm thrilled with Alinta Energy.

Budgeting - I wrote a post in January 2016 on how I do this and have followed this system for over 20 years.  When you are in control and know your income and expenses for the year in advance you can work out your goals.

The Australian Government has a Money Smart website with budget tips.  It also has a "Net Worth" sheet for you to see your current financial position.

A great thrifty website is The Thrifty Issue with lots of great ideas on saving money.

My Abundant Life was featured on A Current Affair a few years ago.  Their household income was $40,000 and they paid off their modest home, went on an annual holiday and grew some veggies.

Cath Armstrong from Debt Free Cashed up and Laughing blog has loads of helpful information on being frugal.

Frugal Woods is a young couple with a toddler and one on the way who have retired early in their 40's to Vermont and live in their dream home on acreage. 

Root of all Good retired in 2013 at age 33 and their living expenses for the year are $40,000 and this year travelled with their kids to Europe for 9 weeks.  Heaps of good information here too.

It's worth getting a cup of coffee and reading through some of these blogs as they are very inspiring.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Christmas Lights

One of my favourite things to do at Christmas time is to see the Christmas lights.  A couple of our regulars we used to go to every year have sadly stopped doing the lights so we have to find some new ones.  We went to one in our local area and the elderly fellow said he has been doing his house lights since 1999 so he was up for a chat with anyone that admired his lights.

We also went into the Roma Street Parklands to see The Enchanted Garden however so did thousands of other people and the queue was so long and a minimum of 1.5 hours to get in and more likely 2 hours so we ditched that idea and just walked around the gardens.  Last year was the first year they did this and it was a huge hit so they did it again this year and put over 20,000 lights in the Enchanted Garden.  To the left hand side of the entrance you could see an overview of the lights so we took some photos and selfies from there and then headed home.  Here's a few pics of some pretty Christmas lights this year.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Home Made Christmas Ornaments

A few years ago (in fact it was actually 4 years) ago Emma from She Sows Seeds posted a blog post on how to make Hand Made Dough Ornaments.  At the time I thought they were lovely and went about purchasing the little plastic letters on ebay so we could put writing on the ornaments.  I never got around to making them 4 years ago however Sienna had her friend over today so I planned this Christmas Activity for them.  It's so simple and just requires 3 ingredients a saucepan and a hotplate.



1 Cup Bi-carb Soda
1/2 cup of cornflour
3/4 cup of warm water

I doubled the recipe so we had enough dough for both girls to make their own ornaments.  

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a saucepan and then add the warm water and stir.
  2. Turn hotplate on to medium heat and just start mixing until the liquid evaporates and forms into a soft dough.  This took about 5-8 minutes of stirring.
  3. Leave dough to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Then ready to roll out and make your ornaments.
I purchased a small set of Christmas Cookie Cutters for $3.50 from the Reject Shop and we used these.  

Remember to make a hole in the ornament with the end of a thin paint brush so you can hang them up.  We discovered it was best if we left the metal cookie cutter on the dough and put the hole in it while it was still in the shape.  We used a toothpick and moved it around the hole to get rid of any tiny little bit of dough in the hole.  

Once the hole was done we carefully removed the cookie cutter and then pressed some words into the dough.

We rolled the dough straight onto our kitchen bench and then used a thin piece of cardboard to slide the ornament off the bench (a postcard would work perfectly) and then put it onto baking paper (parchment paper).  Once they were cut out they were ready for the oven.

I heated the oven up to 100 degrees and baked them for a little over an hour and turned them over half way. 

You can leave the dough to dry for 24 hrs however I wanted Sienna's friend to take them home with her for her Christmas Tree so I baked them.  They are so easy and it was a great little activity for the girls.

If you didn't have the letters you could even use the end of a pen to hand write something or even a sharpie pen would work too.  Years ago I made some gift tags for Christmas however I used clay but this would also work.  Here's some photos.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Around Here

Last week of school to get Graduation and two all day fun school excursions and I think we are done for 2017.  Where does the time go.  The last month of school is so busy fitting things in but just one more week and then both kids will be in High School next year.  Managing events for two different schools sometimes requires a degree...OMG you have to be organized that's for sure.  We are still enjoying our Christmas Tree which we put up a couple of weeks ago and playing Christmas music from time to time.  Here's some pics from the last few weeks.

Receiving a special "Music Award" for the year which she had no idea she was getting.

So proud of her.

This one turned 14 and grew a few more cm's.

Mum has lots of little wind up toys and we bought her a little wind up cat to add to her collection.

These are fun to play with no matter what age you are.

Home made sausage rolls were a big hit on Friday night.

Hand made Birthday Card for her friend's Birthday.

My on-line order of Beeswax arrived after reading this post.

Quick toasties before an evening meeting.

Receiving Certificates of Distinction at the Awards Ceremony.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Around Here

Around here we are getting into the Christmas spirit.  Each year we put up the Christmas tree on the last weekend in November however as it's James birthday it always seems so rushed and I'm usually having the family over for a BBQ so there's cleaning the house making a cake and enjoying the birthday so this year I decided to put it up mid November and I'm really pleased I did.  It's nice to have the twinkle lights and house in the festive spirit so this will be our new tradition.  Here's a few pics of what's been going on around here.

I love our aqua silver and blue Christmas decorations.

Putting all the hooks on the decorations.

The tree is now complete so time for a family photo.  They both insisted they keep their socks on!!

Washing on the line on a beautiful sunny day.

Dinner sweet potato mash with beans and chicken.

They keep getting taller month by month....

About to cook some bacon and eggs for breakfast.

His down time.

Her down time.

She jumps on the trampoline every afternoon doing back flips.

Last Music Concert for the year and last one for primary school as Music proud of her.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sunday Outing

Today the kids and I went into the city to the Museum of Brisbane to see two exhibitions.  The first one was called "Tastes like Sunshine" which started on the 12th August and finished today.  The 2nd one is called 100% Brisbane - Everybody has a story to tell.  I'm not sure when this one finishes.  I've been meaning to get into the Museum for the last couple of months and since today was the last day for one exhibition we went this morning.  Everyone must have gone into the city today because King George Square car park was full at 10.00 am and as one car left the ticket machine would let one car in.  It took us 13 mins of waiting to get in however it's $5 and the Museum is right upstairs so we just waited in the queue.  Here's some pictures of our MOB visit which is free and they always have great things there.

The Museum of Brisbane is located in the city hall.

Entrance to Museum.

Exhibition - Tastes like Sunshine.

Beautiful photos of backyard market gardens.

Story about one house at West End.

Details about the above photo.

All the fruit and veggie boxes.

Believe it or not this art is made up of toasted marshmallow skins.

This was fun smelling the different scents.  Frangipani, Sunshine, Mangroves and Thunderstorms.

James with the Marshmallow art.

Checking out a radio booth.

The 100% Brisbane Exhibition.

Brisbane in the hey day.

The old Brisbane City Skyline...the middle building at the back. is the T&G Building where I had my first job.

Beautiful arch window in the City Hall Building.

Sienna did some clay art work with legumes.

Touch screen information wall which was really fun.

Family selfie in the lift on the way down.