30 Jan 2013

Budget P2 - Adding it all up

This post is a continuation of Budget P1 - How to start. I suggest reading this post to get an understanding to assist in completing this next steps in completing your budget.

Once you've identified all your costs its time to determine what is the total monthly cost of your expenses and lifestyle. 

So for each item in your category calculate the monthly cost. If item cost is weekly times by 4, if fortnightly times by 2, yearly divide by 12 etc. You will need to do the same exercise with your sources of income, if they're not received monthly. 

By doing this you can start to see how much everything is costing you on a monthly basis versus how much you are earning a month. Straight away you can see whether you're living expenses is more than you earn. Once you've established whether you're spending more than you can afford it's time to review your budget and see where you can cut costs.

Again review each item and see whether that cost could either be minimised or eliminated somehow. 

Do you really need to buy your lunch at work everyday? Is there a cheaper internet / cable tv / mobile phone plan you can move onto that meets your family's usage? When was the last time you shopped around for an electricity provider? There are more competitive prices available you just need to do some homework. Do you have too many credit cards, you could roll them all onto a new one that have a lower interest rate then your current credit cards therefore only paying one credit card bill and one annual fee. How many times do you really go to the gym, would a casual rate suit your usage and budget better? When was the last time you refinanced your home loan? Interest rates are at historically low rates, you could save hundreds just by moving to another bank or asking your current provider to review your loan. The government has demolished exit fees now making it more flexible for home owners to move their loans. Could you cut down on going out or online shopping?

Cutting costs will require some hard work, sacrifices and time, success never comes easy.

Once you've established which items you could minimise or cut then proceed with actioning these changes. Start bringing lunch to work a few days a week, cancel that gym membership you barely use, shop around and look into changing insurance providers or resist the urge to shop for a month. Once you've made these changes don't forget to update the information on your budget as well.

You may notice because you have too many expenses you're unable to pay yourself a lot. Over time as you minimising your expenses you will be able to pay yourself more.
Once you've established how much everything costs you its time to start documenting that information together. You may as well use the same categories as you did when you started brain storming your expenses. 

This is the basis of your budget. It's a snap shot of your finances at a point in time and a blue print of how your money will be spent. Completing this task does not mean the task of budgeting is over. A budget is only useful as the information you maintain in it, so you need to maintain it regularly. In my household we look at our budget every week, Sunday nights to be exact. We look at what we spent last week and what expenses we owe this week. We review what we've been spending too much on and discuss any upcoming expenses that we did not include in our budget.

My next budget post will be how to track to your budget. 

22 Jan 2013

The Sights of Florence

Piazza del Duomo & Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori

  • This open space is very populated by tourist all year round. There are lots of walking tour groups throughout the whole day that pass through this area, so expect queues to enter the church.
  • You must wear appropriate clothing to enter the church. For women this means shoulders and knees covered. A lesson I discovered when I entered wearing my shorts. They do sell disposable wraps at the entry of the church so if you aren't appropriately dressed they will make you cover up. 
  • You can enter the church, climb to the top of either the dome or the tower bell or go under ground to see artifacts discovered underneath the church - all options have an entry fee. 
  • We opted to climbed the dome which is a hectic climb to the top. To enter the dome it costs 8E. I don't recommended it for those with weak knees or young children. There are many steps, very narrow and spirals in a circle that seem to go on forever. They don't seem to monitor crowd control going inside the dome so it does get congested, which may play on your claustrophobia fears. Once you reached the first landing you can see up close the master piece painted on the ceiling. The whole painting image itself up close is very scary, although I am a scarey cat! It portrays heaven and hell and shows images of what happens to people who go to hell. There's two massive demon creatures and they are literally eating these doomed bodies in their mouth ... gorse! scary! No wonder the church had such power over people back in the day. From this first landing you have the option to walk even further up to the landing above the painting and then go even further up onto the tower and see panoramic views of Florence.        
  • Around the plaza there are cafes, restaurants and local retailers if you wish to eat grab something to bite or buy some local products.
  • I also think the church exterior is amazing, especially when it's illuminating at night. 

Galleria dell'Accademia (Gallery of the Academy)

  • This gallery hosts the famous Statue of David along with other famous and not so famous artist paintings, sculptures and artifacts. 
  • It costs 11E to enter the gallery and you can book tickets in advance to avoid the queues.
  • I never realised how massive the famous statue was until I saw it with my own eyes. Unfortunately you can not take any photos in the gallery. There are plain clothed staff walking around who will yell at you to stop taking photos if you do.     
  • It costs 15E per person to enter gallery.
  • Expect massive queues for this gallery unless you arrive when it first opens. Our first attempt to see this gallery we arrived at 9:30am (it opens at 9am) and the queue was already an hour wait to get in. There is also a queue for the tour group and another queue for pre-paid tickets. Both queues are given priority to general admission. 
  • While we were in the line there are tour hosts who do try and convince you to join a tour group which starts every 15-30 minutes. But what we learnt from another tour hosts was you could pre-book your tickets in advance for another day therefore be able to join the pre-paid ticket priority queue. Near the entrance there is a ticket office and you can book and pay for tickets in advance. You must specify roughly what time you plan to arrive on the day you which to visit the gallery as ticket is only valid for that day and time. They do gives you a 15 minute window from the time you specified to arrive. We opted for this option and decided to do the gallery another day. 
  • Inside the gallery hosts many art pieces, sculptures and artifacts mostly of Italian artists but more famously it contains The Birth of Venus painting. You can't take any photos inside the gallery but we managed to take a sneaky shot. 

Piazzale Michelangelo

  • This is a look out spot for those wanting to see panoramic views of Florence city.
  • Area can become very touristy as bus loads of tour groups arrive all day. 
  • There are vendors and a cafe around the area so you can purchase local goods, souvenirs or sit enjoy the view and grab something to eat. 
  • We caught a taxi to the look out spot but walked back down afterwards. The walk wasn't that far from the city, about 10 minutes walk. Getting back isn't hard to figure out when you're above looking into town.  

21 Jan 2013

First Week as a SAHM

You'd think I'd have so much more time to blog since I'm no longer working, (this seems to be a recurring statement / excuse) but surprisingly being a stay at home mum you're not left with a lot of free time to yourself.

I saw an article one of my friends on facebook posted called 'Why don't parents with kids have time'. The article is a response from the author in regards to the question stated in the title. I'm sure most parents will relate to some or all parts of the article as I could relate to wanting to be alone with my thoughts the first 10 minutes I get to myself. That time I usually put my feet up, unwind to some adult television program and give ABC4Kids a break.

Anyways this first week alone with Eli was valuable and a discovery about my son and staying at home life. This week I've also started to put him into a routine, something we couldn't commit to while working and living with family. I've got him eating three meals a day which I knew he wasn't doing before. At home I've tested the boundaries of his allergies and yep he's still allergic to most of the items he's not aloud to eat. Being at home I've been able to monitor his skin and keep it considerably clear and healthy. He's so much more responsive and more and more of his personality is starting to show. He copies behaviors he notices I do and does it back to me. He's a little chatter box he's always up for a conversation and he does get frustrated when you don't understand what he's trying to say. 

He's at that stage where he does "naughty" things and it's up to me to help him understand good from bad. He's expanding his vocabulary and can ask for things and I'm trying to teach him 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry'. His learning and creativity is totally up to me and how much time and effort I put into his nurturing as I've come to realise for now I am his teacher.

Being at home I feel I must keep a well maintained home which when I was working I did the best I could with the limited time, but being at home there's no excuse ... right? or is it just me and my high expectations? I find myself doing some form of cleaning everyday, running errands and cooking a home meal every night, something I don't mind and was one of my goals this year.

As I friend who is unemployed said 'even though you are at home you do find something to keep you busy all day'.
This week is Ian and I's 4 years anniversary and another long weekend trip away with friends so it's another busy week of pre planning and celebrations.
Hope you all have a great week.   

14 Jan 2013

Family Holiday's - What People Don't Ever Admit

I wrote this post whilst I was on holidays two weeks ago. I knew if I summarized our first family holiday after I returned it would probably be about what we did, what we saw, the good, the fun but forgotten about the ugly.

The truth is family holiday's - well traveling with an infant is exhausting and to be honest, at times not a holiday at all. Both parents need to be prepared to be stretched to their wits end agreeing to go away with such a tiny unpredictable human being. Let me explain how ....

Packing: in my previous life packing for a holiday could be left at the last minute, required minimal thought and in most cases not much actually packed. My luggage usually contained summer dresses and sexy lingerie. That carefree behavior is out the window when packing for a family holiday. Every potential scenario must be thought of and an appropriate outfit (and back up outfit) must be packed for.      

Getting to your destination and back: prior to children the travel time was usually saved for reading a good book, catching up on sleep (because you packed last minute the previous night) or making googly eyes with your partner in anticipation of your destination or post holiday "fun". Now traveling with a family, the long haul is a survival game. You can't sit back and enjoy the ride, you are on constant "alert" mode. Alert to make sure they're comfortable and have enough battery life in whatever electrical device you're using to keep them per-occupied. Alert to ensure they're not bored or else they'll let you and everyone else around you know through whinging and tears. Alert to make sure they're not hungry and if they are you've packed a fridge full of food to cater to all their taste bud needs.

Enjoying the sights: or potentially lack of it. Before having children visiting a foreign place we would squeeze as much sight seeing as we possibly could. We would wait in queues, commute from one side of town to the other and walk our feet off. On family holidays you assess which sites you will attempt to visit. You strategically investigate which sites are children (and pram) friendly, which days have the least crowds and which aren't too far away from your accommodation. Taking all of this into consideration with their sleep and eating schedule.

Eating out: A holiday isn't a holiday without experiencing some of the local and traditional grub available. Previously Ian and I usually aim to experience both sides of the eating spectrum when we're away. We love cheap good eats and also experiencing something a little more special or unique. When eating out with a young family expect to to enjoy an early dinner to avoid the peak time crowds or revert to takeaway so you can refrain eating out in public. If you're brave enough to head into a restaurant with young children be prepared. You are constantly tag teaming between you and your partner throughout the whole meal. You're tag teaming on who's feeding the child, who's keeping the child entertain or worst case scenario who's going to interrupt their meal and clean the dirty nappy, knowing you will no longer feel the urge to eat any longer upon return.

Alone time: a couple's holiday was a completely alone with each other time. You could lock yourselves in your accommodation if you wanted to and you control how accessible you could be while away. In a family holiday situation there's no such thing as alone time. You are literally never ever alone and at times you wish you could be. If you're working or send your children to child care that separation time is now non existent. Don't get me wrong I rather be at home with my child then work but if you think about it, that work time is some space away from the craziness and unpredictability of looking after a child. On holiday's they are with you 24/7, there's no break or completely alone time. 

So why go on a family holiday? 

All the whining aside, no amount of complaints or uncomfortableness could out weigh the long life memories you've made together. Think about it, you remember those holiday trips your family went on when you were little with fond and detailed memories. They are memories that will sticks with you forever. Memories you wish to create with your own family - no matter how uncomfortable or stressful it may actually be.

Have you noticed any other differences between non-family and family holiday's?

11 Jan 2013

Budget P1 - How to start

It's a brand new year. I personally tend to look at new years as a fresh new outlook, a new beginning, a starting point, an opportunity, make resolutions ... you get my drift.

The new year is also the time of year I update our home budget .... *yawn*. I know doing a budget, let along reading about one is as interesting as watching paint dry. But I challenge you to stay with me, continue reading and maybe you might find the motivation to do one properly or gain some tips to improve how you currently do your budgeting.

What is a budget? 
It's a document used to project future income and expenses.

Why put one together? 
So you can see where your money is coming from and know where it' all going.

How do you put a budget together?
Before you get overwhelmed by numbers, spreadsheets, document formats or the amount of detail it needs to have ... stop, take a step back and breath. The challenge of putting a detailed budget can be very daunting, depressing and hard but before you start here are my tips on how to ease the initial process:
  • Get everyone who works and contributes to the cost of running the home together in a room and explain to them you want to put a detail budget together. Understanding the family budget is everyone's business, not just mum or dad. My parents had a friend whose husband died at a young age of fifty. He was healthy, full of life but unfortunately suffered a heart attack whist running on a treadmill. One of the biggest challenges she faced after his death was understanding who they owed money to and why. Her husband always looked after the finances, she never participated or tried to understand how he ran the family budget. Getting everyone involved is good money practice, makes everyone in the home accountable and by having everyone present whilst putting your budget together allows you to identify everything that needs to be included.
  • Pre planning: before you start writing down figures, identify groups of spend and income. What I mean by this us start brain storming categories for your expenses. Some suggestions are: loans, credit cards, utilities, home expenses, car expenses, insurance, transport, entertainment, technology costs, memberships, education etc.  
Creating a Budget 
1) Identify all incomes. Obviously this would be salaries, wages, rental income from investment properties (or kids), repayments from personal loans to family members etc. Write these amounts down and the frequency you receive these amounts.

Tip: For salaries only consider your post tax money this will assist in ensuring budget figures are correct. Your pay slip should indicate this amount, if you're not sure how to determine that from your pay slip it's the amount your employer deposits into your bank account at every pay day.

2) Once you've completed the identifying categories, its time to list items for each of the categories you've identified. Again, don't worry about the figures just yet, just brain storm all costs associated to each categories. Example:

Some categories may not have sub-items and that's okay too.

Tip: Really think hard about all the costs associated to each category before moving on to next category. The amount of expenses you identify will assist in ensuring the accuracy of your budget.

4) Once you've listed all known or obvious items associated to your categories start thinking about you and your family's life style and what you spend your time doing. Identify those day to day activities and start thinking about whether there are any costs involved. List all associated expenses involved in that activity onto your budget. Do you eat out a lot? Do you buy coffee or lunch everyday? Do your kids have extra curriculum activities? Do you have a hobby you regularly buy supplies for? An example would be gifts purchased for birthday events, its an expense we all fork out for but not a lot of people include it in their budget.

5) Once you have identified all items associated for each category, its time to start writing down the actual cost for each item. This process might take you a while, don't just guess the amount really source out the actual costs for these items. Find receipts, locate last year's budget or go to your online banking and find the transaction, given you used an electronic form of payment ie credit card, bpay or transfer. Again allocate the frequency of these expenses. For items that have a different amount each time and unknown frequency ignore for now and come back to it later on.

6) After you have written down the cost for the items you definitely know the cost of, go back to the items you are unsure of and make a calculated guess. What I mean by calculated is go back to previous transactions and review how much item usually cost you and frequency. For example putting a full tank of petrol for our car usually costs us $70 and we fill up an average of once a month so petrol I would allocate $70/monthly for this expense.

7) Include (if you haven't already) a "savings" item in your budget. You should treat your savings as an item in your budget, don't forget to pay your self! You work hard for your money you should invest in yourself. The amount you specify under this item is the amount of money you would like to save or currently saving every month.

Tip: You might want to make this a category in itself so you can have multiple saving items. For example you may want an item for holidays, children's education fund, emergencies, deposit for a home etc.

Next post I will provide info on how to collate all the information to allow you to see how much you're spending versus how much money coming in.

9 Jan 2013

Reasons why I haven't been blogging

I know, I know ... I've been pretty poor with the lack of posts lately. You would think someone who isn't working would have all the time in the world to be able to post regularly ... wrong!

One of the main reasons I haven't posted is hubby is still on leave and I rather not waste his precious holiday time blogging, I can do that when he's at work. That said I've also been utilising his time off to get some help around the house. Not just with Eli but general house keeping and home improvements. We're still unpacking and rearranging our home since our move in October.

One reason why I haven't been able to blog is Eli has been very needy and is my constant shadow lately. I think he's reached that point, the point where a child only prefers one parent in particular and only wants to be with that one parent. Ian has to physically peel him off me when he tries to take Eli away from me. My ever move he wants to be close restricting me to do much at all, hence why Ian's presence has been very usefully lately.

Another reason why he wants extra cuddles is the poor guy hurt himself really bad on Monday. One minute he was eating his potato gems watching tv, next he turned 180 degrees, loss his balance and landed face first on the tiles. There was a big cut on his chin and blood coming everywhere in his mouth. At first I thought he had bitten through the skin of chin. While we tried to cease the blood Ian thought maybe he lost some of his teeth but he soon realised the solid bits he could feel were the potato gems.

Straight away Ian wanted to take him to the doctors. My first instinct was to clean him up and assess the injury but seeing the amount of blood still flowing I agreed to go to the doctors. I suggested to go to his local doctors at The Practice, but he insisted to go to the local hospital.

Later on as I recalled that events of that day, it was interesting how we processed the same situation. I wanted to wait and see how bad it was, believing it wasn't that bad and he was at the other side of the scale, straight to the hospital. Growing up no one in our family ever went to the hospital for any reason. Yes that is a good thing and knock on wood it continues ... but we just didn't jump to those measures. We normally just dealt with whatever pain or sickness we had with a sense of ... strength, will power, apathy. Those were the kind of values that were instilled in me and makes me the person I am today but is it the kind of values I want to teach Eli or my children?

I believe how we react to all situations is fundamentally the same. How we react is based on our personality, characteristics and values. It's hard to act one way towards a situation and act differently in another situation. My attitude towards physical pain is a reflection on how I deal with emotional pain ... strength, will power, apathy. Yes there is no harm in containing these values, but the values I wasn't taught but (still) learning to exhibit are attributes to balance out the bleak characteristics.

I was taught to be tough in all situations, to show no emotions, no weakness. It's this attitude which has helped and failed me throughout my life. I won't talk of the good it has done because those who know me personally know how I am and how my personality has helped me in certain situations. The repercussion of my characteristics has hindered me from asking for help when I needed it, speaking up when I've had enough or hurting others because I wouldn't waive my behavior. Those are the kinds of lessons learnt I actually want to teach my children. It's not all about being strong minded but being able balance the right characteristics between defiant and humbleness.

Well this post was a surprise. Here I was just planning to write a short update on reasons why I have been MIA, update (and potential post) other draft posts I have written about other topics i.e. holidays, managing money, allergies but ended up writing what was going through my mind at this point in time. So I'll post it, complete with all grammatical and spelling errors, enjoy. Exhaustion has suddenly hit me now, goodnight.        

4 Jan 2013


We're back from our Christmas / New Year family holiday.

I can't speak for everyone else who was there but overall I had a relaxing time doing pretty nothing but enjoying the beach and spending time with my family.

Christmas Day our family spent it feasting, reminiscing, laughing and more feasting. Eli fell asleep early so we all waited for him to wake up so we can all finally open presents. Once again he was very spoilt not just by family but by friends who generously also gave him gifts.

New Year's eve we had dinner at home then walked to the local beach as they were throwing a free concert and fireworks.    

the little raver man and his glow sticks

We really didn't do anything exciting or ventured far from where we were based. We didn't take the little one to any of the theme parks, he would be too young to enjoy it plus the crowds at that time of the year would make the experience painfully not worth it.

The first 5 nights we stayed in a service apartment cause my uncle's investment property is very old and lacked certain creature comforts and feared Eli might not adjust easily.
View from our balcony

My favorite shot ... Ian looks more scared than Eli

The following 5 nights we stayed in my uncle's property. Both were walking distance from a beach, which I loved ... cause I love the beach.

The daily literary involved wake up around 6ish, going for a run, breakfast, off to the beach, return home around mid afternoon, unwind, prepare for dinner, dinner, tv or conversation, sleep, repeat.

Ian Dipple Lagoon, prefect swimming spot for families. Area also had many tables and children play areas.

I really liked Paradise Point, where my uncle's investment property is located. The area is quiet, mostly retirees (so I noticed), beaches are flat and family friendly, public areas are well maintained and lots of small independent grocers and coffee shops. There isn't a lot of mansions (yet) so it feel like you're in the suburbs but you take a right at the end of the street and you're at the beach or you drive 10 minutes down the main road and you're in the heart of Surfers Paradise. It's so relaxing when you're there in that area ... I can now see why my parents are considering living there. 

I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year. 

1 Jan 2013

2013 New Year's Resolutions

I don't know about you but I like to write down New Year's Resolutions. I like to make them for a number of reasons:

  • I like giving myself new challenges or goals to achieve. 
  • Making them at the beginning of the year sets the boundaries or time frame of when I will aim to achieve my resolutions.  
  • Physically writing down my goals is a reminder to myself. By putting it out there for me to visually see regularly, I'm making myself accountable. Subconsciously motivating me to achieve these goals. 
So what were my resolutions 12 months ago and if I did a PIR (post implementation review .. project terminology and process conducted after IT projects have been completed) on these goals what would be my assessment?

[X] Be Fitter Than I was 14 Months Ago
Somewhat achieved. The first 10 months of 2012 I was pretty dedicated to exercising. I was more religious and disciplined than I thought I could be. I was actually a lot more stronger and felt my reflexes had improved. You hear personal trainers talk about how exercise (and diet) is a life style change .... I got that, as in I understood what that finally meant. I didn't find exercising a chore or something I should do but I felt it was a daily task that was part of my life. I didn't second guess doing it anymore, I just did it. I was doing P90X / P90X2 every morning then either running at lunch or playing ball in the evenings. Then in October we moved and the change in environment impacted my routine. I was tired more resulting in being lazier about exercising and even more lazier about dieting. After a long day I'm too exhausted and hungry to cook something healthy. Most week nights I was up later catching up on home chores making me still tired to get up early in the mornings to work out.

But this year I want to revert back to my work out routine and incorporate a eating plan. The reasons why I failed to achieve better results was due to my diet. I didn't plan what I ate and sugar is my kryptonite.

[X] Be Available to Family More
Having Eli definitely has bought us closer to our families. He brings us all a lot of joy and sharing more experiences together. I love having a growing extended family. 

[X] Find a Home for My Family

[X] Clarity in my Career Path
Achieved. I know when I'm ready to start working again what I want to do next and what I've out grown. Next step would be doing some training to make it happen.

[X] Go on an Overseas Family Holiday
Does my current vaccay to QLD count? I'd still consider this resolution achieved because I did go on my dream European holiday this year although not as a family. I was able to visit London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Crete and Santorini. I'm still to complete the detailed posts for the last few cities we visited. 

[X] Blog as Much as Possible
Achieved. I've even publicly started sharing it with people.

[ ] Learn Something New
How did I miss this one? I don't think I've learnt anything new. Does blindly navigating through motherhood and learning what does or doesn't work count? 

[ ] Pursue My Own Business
Still figuring this out.

[X] Give Back to Australian Charities
I've put my hand up and volunteered for a few charities this year and a registered blood donor. Admittedly I'm not regularly contributing to a charity. I'm yet to find one I'm passionate and completely interested about. If anything I've been reading a lot about the unspoken violence against women in India.

So what are my 2013 New Year's Resolutions? This year I want to challenge the following areas in my life:
  • Change my eating habits. Eat healthier and minimise sugar intake. Minimise eating pre-packaged/pre-made foods and learn to cook basic stuff from scratch
  • Tone my temple
  • Study appropriate course for my next career move
  • Take up a new hobby that I will continue to do post learning how to do it
  • To not be not afraid to take more chances
  • Seriously document and speak to someone about my patent idea
  • Really understand Eli's allergies and get him eating more 
  • Plan for Baby #2
  • Stop over analysing and just be me

I think that's plenty for 2013 and will be a challenge to achieve some of those goals.

Do you make new year's resolutions? Care to share?
Are you good at sticking to them?
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