How to cope with the rising cost of living

How to cope with the rising cost of living

2022 has come as a shock to many people with the ever-rising cost of living. Everything we need to pay for has seemed to go up. Petrol prices are out of control. Our weekly grocery shop has risen astronomically from what it was last year. Interest rates have risen meaning our mortgage repayments have gone up.

Energy bills are soaring as and electricity rates hit record levels. Add to this the rental shortage crisis and subsequent rent increases mean that many are feeling the pinch and stress around keeping a roof over their head.

There are many factors for this rise in the cost of living. Climate change is causing more natural disasters like droughts, bushfires and floods. This has a flow-on effect with the availability and quality of fresh produce. The war in Ukraine is affecting our accessibility to oil and gas. Petrol is at an all time high. The Covid pandemic has seen a shortage of workers, delays in transportation, a reduction in spending and an increase in inflation.

RELATED : Not all bad news: one story of saving money during the pandemic

These are uncertain and stressful times and seemingly no-one is immune. It feels like every area of our life is affected by the rising cost of living yet our wages haven’t gone up enough to bridge the gap. It is particularly worrisome for those who are unemployed or underemployed, on the minimum wage, on one income, going through a divorce or desperation, battling a chronic health condition or illness, or on a pension. Spending on the most basic of necessities feels out of control. For those trying to make ends meet, this is feeling less achievable.

The big question is, what can we be doing to cope with these rising costs of living? How can we keep from drowning under this pressure? How can we move from treading water to feeling back in control, swimming our own race again?

There are a number of things we can do to reduce the impact and keep our head afloat. There is no quick fix, no easy solution, particularly for those really feeling the pinch right now. I do however, have some suggestions about how we can make a few changes to our lifestyle to make a difference moving forward.

Start with the biggest expenses such as housing, food and utilities and see how you can save money there before moving on to the smaller ones.

Mortgage

How to cope with the rising cost of living

For those with a mortgage and struggling with the cost of living, make sure you shop around for the best deal. Consider getting a mortgage broker who can help you negotiate and find the right lender for you. The lowest interest rate doesn’t always mean it is the best deal, and keep in mind that fixing your rate will restrict how much extra you can pay off. If you are not wanting to refinance, sometimes simply ringing up your bank and asking them if you are on the best deal can reduce it there on the spot.

RELATED : 9 ways to teach your children about contentment in a consumer-driven world

They prefer to keep customers where they can so if you play hardball, they may lower your rate to keep you. If not, don’t continue being loyal. Find a better deal elsewhere and switch. If possible, pay a little more than your minimum mortgage repayments. If you have an offset account, consider paying extra so it acts as emergency fund against your mortgage to reduce the interest payable. Provided you can redrew if necessary (with no fees), this can be a good way to have money aside in case you need it.

Groceries

How to cope with the rising cost of living

There is no denying that food prices have gone up, even over the space of a few weeks and months. Experts are prediction that iceberg lettuce is going to go up to $10 each. That’s insane! Although we can’t avoid paying more at the checkout, we can do a few things to reduce the impact on our budget. Meal plan from what you have left in your fridge, freezer and pantry and buy some top up ingredients to make dinners.

Use up what you have in your fridge already and clean it out regularly so items don’t go to waste. Have top up weeks where you aim to buy milk, bread, fresh fruit and veggies, and any other staples you need. Check out the $21 challenge that can save you lots and inspire you to use what you have. Shop with a list and buy fresh produce that is in season. For items out of stock or too expensive, look in the freezer section to see if it is more economical to buy that way (for example, broccoli, beans and spinach are handy in the freezer).

Plan more meat free meals, and for the days that you do consume meat, bulk it up with blitzed veggies. Pasta sauce is a great way to have vegetables inside and can be a way to get fussy toddlers to eat their greens. Lower your standards. Your lunches and dinners don’t need to be gourmet. Keep it simple, healthy and delicious, and don’t be afraid to repeat your favourite dishes in your menu plan.

RELATED : 30 Side hustle ideas to make an extra $1000/ month in 2022

If you are able to, do a bulk prep and cook of your meals so you don’t have to be in the kitchen all of the time. Last night I cooked zucchini slice, zucchini chicken, sweet potato chips, potato bake and pumpkin scones. I had the oven on for two hours and used bacon, zucchini and onion across different dishes. Growing a herbs on your windowsill and basic vegetables in your garden means you always have a few fresh ingredients on hand without having to run to the shops.

Utilities

How to cope with the rising cost of living

When the price of everything keeps going up, it is important where possible to consume less energy. When you’re at home in winter, try to keep warm using good old fashioned methods before turning on the heater. Think about putting on a jumper, wearing ugg boots, putting a blanket over your legs and consuming a hot drink.

We often go to bed after dinner and cozy up under our quilt with a wheat bag – it saves putting on the heater and it’s the warmest place to be. Another idea is to use an exercise bike or Chromecast a YouTube workout to get you fit, moving and warm. Cooking with the oven on warms the house, and it makes sense to cook a few things at once so you won’t need to use your oven everyday.

Consider doing an energy audit. We’ve just borrowed a kit from our local library and could figure out which appliances were using the most money, and how much a year they are costing. Turn off PowerPoints at the wall to stop items using energy on standby, and seal up any gaps to prevent the warmth from escaping.

Close the air conditioner vents in winter, and better still, cut wood blocks to size to put in their place for extra warmth. Lower the thermostat by a few degrees if it is adjustable. Ring your provider to get a better deal and compare it with their competitors to check you are on a fair price. Take shorter showers.

In summer, putting the air conditioner on early in the day means it doesn’t have to work so hard in the heat of the day to bring the temperature down. Get the unit serviced every year or two to ensure it is running effectively. Wear light clothing, exercise in the cooler parts of the day and close the blinds to keep the heat out.

RELATED : 7 tips to successfully winning competitions and prizes

Have a cool shower or bath, get the kids into a splash pool or under the sprinkler, or dip your feet in a little pool after work with a cold beverage. Have meals that don’t require using the oven where possible so the house can stay cool. Consider installing solar panels if you can afford them, as these can reduce your energy bills dramatically.

Insurance

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Despite the cost of living rising, insurance is still important to have. Shop around for the best deal on your house and contents, car, health and pet insurance. Don’t pay the lazy tax by not reviewing your rates annually. It can be a pain to do but a few simple phone calls can save you hundreds. If you get security system or cameras installed on your property, it can reduce premiums. Make sure that you are properly covered in the unlikely event that you’ll need it.

Less extracurricular

Consider putting some limits around what extracurricular activities you sign your children up to. This can help to reduce your driving, saving on petrol, not to mention saves on registration fees and uniforms. If you’re in South Australia, make the most of the School Sports vouchers that save $100 per child per year on fees, and similar programs exist in other states and countries to encourage more participation.

This doesn’t have to mean forever, but at least until you have your head above water. Who knows, you might enjoy a slightly slower pace of life when you say no more often.

Swimming lessons

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Living in a hot country surrounded by water, I think it’s very important that children learn to swim. Swimming lessons too expensive right now? If you have an infant, consider buying a block of casual passes and taking them for swims yourself. Watch what they do in baby lessons and try to replicate it yourself, by using songs to move them through the water and helping to familiarise them.

RELATED : Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

Consider VACSWIM for children aged 4 and up. $50 for a full week in my area, plus we get free casual swimming at the centre. My kids get 15 hours of swimming with 5 of those hours lessons, for $50 every summer. You can add a beach week in too if you want them to learn extra skills. If you know someone with a pool, see if you can visit sometimes for extra practice.

Rethink getting a pet

How to cope with the rising cost of living

This may be controversial but I’m going to say it anyway. If you are struggling with the rising cost of living and putting food on the table, now is not the time to get a pet. Unless you are living alone and need the company, if at all possible avoid buying a new pet. I am not saying you should give up any current animals you own. However, pets like dogs and cats can be incredibly expensive.

Think purchase cost, accessories, bedding, food, veterinary bills, medication and holiday boarding. They can reduce your chances of getting a rental, especially in such a competitive market. If you are willing to sacrifice in other areas and have a sinking fund for your pet that you regularly add to, it might be fine, but please don’t forgo your own ability to provide for yourself because you take in a pet.

Know where your money goes

It is important to know where you money is going so it doesn’t trickle through your fingers. You can track your spending on a spreadsheet or via an app. WeMoney is one that I personally use (we both get $5 if you sign up and they plant a tree!). I write more about the features of WeMoney (such as credit scores, net worth, community posting, podcast and blog) here if you’re interested to find out more. Another way to do it is to simply set up direct debits so on payday, money is diverted into different accounts. For us, we have the mortgage deducted, then money goes into sinking fund accounts for spending, car repairs and upgrades, furniture and appliance upgrades, renovations, school and sporting fees, holidays and investing. I like this method because you make sure you put money away before you’re tempted to spend it and we can afford expenses when they come up. You can set up sinking funds for anything including Christmas, wedding, birthdays, pets, health etc. Getting your finances set up well helps you to cope with the cost of living and feel prepared for whatever is around the corner.

Side hustles

There is only so much you can cut out. Frugality is a wonderful way to be more mindful of how you spend money but it can be quite a restrictive way of living. Consider starting a side hustle so you have a little more spare cash. This could be delivering pizza or Uber Eats, tutoring or babysitting, starting up a YouTube channel or podcast, or writing a blog. You can take up a second job or start your own business. Side hustles can be a fun way to make extra money and get paid to do something you love. Canna Campbell has some great ideas in her bestseller, The $1000 Project.

Sell unwanted items

Needing extra cash to cope with rising costs of living? Suffocating in stuff? By going through and decluttering your things, you could find items of value to sell on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree. When you take the time to sell things, it can make it easier to part with them if you are getting some money in return. I’ve sold some of my competition winnings, like a rocking chair, to fund a massage chair instead. We’ve been surprised with how much stuff we actually had and sold well over $10,000 worth over the last few years. Your house will feel lighter and your wallet heavier.

Flipping

If you have a hack for spotting a bargain or seeing potential, flipping might be for you. Spot a chest of drawers in hard waste? You could take it home and upcycle it, pocketing a profit when you sell. Find an old book collection in the op shop? List it on eBay and watch the bids come in. Discover an item on clearance in a store that is sold out everywhere else? Sell it for a higher price online, especially if it is rare or in demand. Teaching Brave found a Louis Vuitton scarf in an op shop for $3 and sold it for over $400!

Cashback

A clever way to be savvy with the money you have is to utilise cashback apps. My favourite two are Cash Rewards and ShopBack. They both run promotions where you can get extra cashback from certain stores. It often takes weeks or even months to receive the cashback but then you can transfer it straight into your account. Both give you money upon signing up (please note that I receive a sign up fee) and then any friends or family you refer, you get a bonus too! This can add up, especially if you know lots of people who don’t have these apps yet.

Gifts

Talk with your family around their expectations for gifts. Suggest limiting how much to spend and who you need to buy for. Does every adult need to get a present? Do children need to get a gift from everybody? It can feel awkward bringing up this topic of conversation but for all you know, others are feeling the same way.

RELATED : 10 easy ways to develop literacy in under fives

The older we get, the more we often value time spent together over material things. We’d prefer to buy what we want much of the time anyway too. Don’t be afraid to suggest putting in boundaries around gift giving and see what happens. It might save you some money, but also your sanity.

Buy less toys

How to cope with the rising cost of living

For parents reading and for whom money is extra tight right now, stop buying toys where possible. Make it part of your routine to visit your local toy library. There is almost no need to buy toys when libraries today are stocked full of such a huge range.

For a small annual fee, you can have access to all the toys, puzzles, educational toys, puppets, board games, ride on cars, scooters and dress ups you could ever need, not to mention gear you can borrow for parties. It can be a way of trialing toys that your children might like to own before parting with money for them.

Rethink streaming services

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Whilst many of us enjoy snuggling up in bed to stream endless tv shows and movies, it is not a necessity. When the cost of living is making you rethink every decision around spending, this can be one to go. Can you watch free to air catch up TV rather than Netflix, or have just one streaming service at a time?

When you watch the shows that you want to, cancel and switch to another service. If you have Foxtel, perhaps you could downgrade to a cheaper streaming service instead. Can you get out your DVD collection (if you still have any) or head to the library to borrow some? For music, consider listening to the radio or Spotify Free, and stop Premium.

Use the library

How to cope with the rising cost of living

Reading is a wonderful pastime but can become expensive. By utilising the library, you can try out a range of authors and genres. You can put books on hold from libraries around the state. You can borrow physical copies or ebooks. For those who are time poor, listening to books can be super handy. They can also become quite expensive. Libraries allow you to borrow audiobooks free on Libby or Borrowbox. If you haven’t already, download these apps and see what titles you can borrow today.

Shop secondhand

A great way to keep costs down is to shop secondhand. Op shops sell a huge range of clothes and shoes and often organise them by size. Money goes further on books, toys, linen and kitchenware, and you can often find a bargain in furniture too. Garage sales and listings on Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree all help to give items a new life. We reduce the impact on the environment by keeping old items out of landfill and not needing packaging and manufacturing for new products.

Join your local Buy Nothing group.

An easy way to combat the cost of living is to join your local Buy Nothing group. It’s a fabulous way to get to know other people in your area, ask for items that you need and pass on items that you no longer use. So many times I’ve almost made a purchase, and then stopped to ask my group.

RELATED : Spending time with your partner- date ideas that won’t break the bank

More often than not, some kind person has one to give away and saved me needing to spend money. Other times I’ve almost thrown things away or put something in the donation box, not knowing if it would be accepted only to have someone so grateful for the item that they’d been looking for.

Switch it up

Being intentional with your finances doesn’t mean that you have to miss out altogether. Instead it might look like a potluck dinner with friends where everyone brings a dish rather than an expensive meal out. Having tap water, soft drink or juice instead of alcohol. Packing a picnic and bring a thermos to enjoy rather than buying food when out.

Buying frozen pizza or decorating bases to cook at home rather than ordering a pizza. Swap interstate or overseas holidays for camping and holidaying near home. Go with friends or family and split the cost of an Airbnb.

Utilise cooperatives & community groups

For those who are struggling right now, find your nearest cooperative. They often have meal packs at a fraction of the price of companies like ‘Hello Fresh’. They are genuinely cheaper than buying every ingredient seperately from the supermarket. Community groups, churches and charities can provide free bread, fruit and vegetables and hampers to those in need. Some hold soup nights or free meals. They are a great source of friendship if you are feeling isolated.

RELATED : Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting.

Reach out for help

If you’re really struggling and not sure what you can do or who to turn to, Scott Pape from the Barefoot Investor recommends giving the National Debt Helpline call on 1800 007 007. There you’ll find free, confidential counselling, there to help you figure a way out.

In closing

In closing, the rising cost of living in 2022 is pushing many individuals, couples and families to breaking point. It seems like every area of our life is getting more expensive with not much relief in sight. While these tips won’t solve the problem of how to stretch every last dollar, hopefully it is a starting point.

By reducing our expenses, negotiating better deals, saying no to the unnecessary and trying to live more frugally, we can get through this difficult season. By starting a side hustle or finding a casual job, we can reduce some of the financial pressure we find ourselves in and start to build up an emergency fund buffer. If life is really hard for you right now, please reach out for help.

There are many charities, organisations and churches equipped to help and would be more than happy to assist you. Alternatively, pop a comment or send us a message and I’ll do my best to point you in the direction of some help.

Parenting through a pandemic – how Covid has changed the way my kids play.

Parenting through a pandemic

This pandemic has affected all of us in some way, shape or form.

For some, it’s meant a halt to travelling overseas. Limited our ability to earn a wage or keep a business afloat. It has reduced social interaction and dating opportunities. Changed our retirement plans. For others it’s make it hard to visit loved ones in hospital or nursing homes, or say goodbye when the time comes.

For those of us with children, Covid has changed the way we parent. As a mum of three boys five and under, it has been a challenging time. We’ve felt stir crazy. I’ve missed my friends and know that my kids have missed theirs too.

For many young children, the world with Covid is all they know. It has been amusing to me, to sit back and watch their play. I can’t help smiling at the ways Covid has started to change this. To them, they are just living out their reality of living through a pandemic. They are trying to make sense of the world they are living in.

Here are some of the ways my two older boys aged 5 and 3, have incorporated Covid into their play.

Social distancing

While playing with a wooden treehouse, my eldest carefully placed little stepping stones along the fake grass. He had some gnomes balanced on top of these. “They’re social distancing mum. They can’t go any closer. They need to make sure they leave gaps in between.” Other times they have drawn crosses on the ground in chalk so their bikes can be spaced apart. They stick masking tape on the wood floor for them to social distance when playing games. Matchbox cars have to leave a gap between each other. Teddies can’t sit right next to each other for tea parties. Pictures in their sketchbooks show space in between people.

There is always a clear spot to stand on and a gap to keep apart. My children take it very seriously because they see us doing it in real life. They don’t always like the rules but understand they need to be followed. They don’t want to get in trouble for doing the wrong thing. My eldest reads signs and asks questions about what it all means. It’s a lot to take in for anyone.

Hand sanitiser

My boys are used to washing their hands regularly, or at least being reminded to, and using hand sanitiser when out. One time we went to the supermarket together and went to the automatic dispenser. It deposited a huge amount into my son’s hand. “Ugh!” he exclaimed. He proceeded to rub it all over my arm. “All better.”

One day at kindy pick up, my then two-year-old argued over having to do hand sanitiser. I eventually won the battle and he agreed to put it on. He then crawled around on his hands and knees, licking the ground. “I’m a puppy dog. Woof woof!” He spent the next ten minutes grabbing things off the ground with his mouth, licking everything, dropping his dummy for fun so he could pick it up with his teeth and just generally being disgusting, much to the dismay and worry of the staff and parents watching on. At least he had clean hands.

My then four-year-old ran out to greet one of our friends. He grabbed the hand sanitiser we keep by the door and held it out for our friend.  “You need to use this before you come inside.” We were mortified. We’d never modelled doing this or asked them to do it but our friend was a great sport. He agreed that it was important and proceeded to clean his hands thoroughly before he entered the house. He commented that we had our children well trained.  Despite our embarrassment, it was a funny moment and we were proud of our boy for taking steps to keep our family healthy and safe.

Covid Safe Check In

When we visit shopping centres, church, play cafes or have appointments, my boys are used to the routine of checking in. They want to do the right thing and follow the rules so like to remind me. “Mum, don’t forget to check in! Can I do it?” This translates to their play at home. When my boys play pretend cafes and shops, they always make sure that there’s a Covid Safe check in at the front. They draw one and sticky tape it wherever they are playing. “Don’t forget to do your check in. Ding! Can I see the tick?”

They have fun creating QR codes to put around the house. Barcodes of all shapes and sizes have appeared in the most random of places. They even made one for our front door so our guests adhere to the rules. People have a little chuckle when they visit and sometimes get out their phone to pretend which of course the boys love.

Covid Marshall

When assigning roles to play, along with the typical mum, dad, cat, baby, princess, policeman etc, they now include a Covid Marshall, naturally. “I’m the Covid Marshall.  I make sure that everyone follow the rules, checks in and social distances. I get to wear a lanyard so people know who I am.” They enjoy getting to be this role because they of course enjoy bossing others around.

My toddler is slightly addicted to tv (confession time). Whenever he hears talk of Covid Marshalls, he finds it all a bit confusing. “Like Marshall from Paw Patrol” he exclaims. “Paw Patrol Marshall!” He breaks into an uncontrollable giggle.  It’s a lot for a three-year-old to comprehend. Even some of us adults, let’s be honest.

Covid testing

One of the new games that our kids like to play is ‘Covid testing.’ It’s a fun game where the balance board is placed on its side to form a semi-circle and the boys sit behind it. I drive my pretend car past, after booking in online of course. We all put our masks on, then they ask for my details.

To save time, I have my printed form with a QR code ready to go. Once verifying my identity, they tell me what to expect. “Now this isn’t going to hurt. It will just tickle your tongue and tickle your nose. Be brave and you’ll get a sticker!” My test comes complete with a torch being shone down my throat so they can properly assess what they are dealing with. They are very thorough with their tickling.

One can’t be too careful with Covid testing. It’s a serious business. I must be a good patient because I am presented with stickers. Lots of stickers. I am also bandaged multiple times because apparently I’m very sick and need to rest. I am praised for my bravery and told to keep an eye out for my results. They will message me later.

I am told to come back and get tested right away, because it’s the game and otherwise it will be boring. I drive back into the waiting bay, and this time I go by a different name. This confuses my eldest, because I am still Mummy, but eventually he gets the idea that I’m just pretending to change my name.

I don’t have a printout with my new identity which bothers him. He quickly excuses himself so he can scribble a new one for me, I mean Cynthia Ashlee Harper Rosedale. My two big boys mask up and take turns looking down my throat and tickling my nose. It really is a wonderful experience. Off I go to await results. This involves lying on the carpet on my tummy.

I always hope that perhaps they might come and play cars on my back, play with my hair or give me a back massage. It looks more like being jumped on, stacked on top of, hair becoming a tangled mess or my back being karate chopped and wobbled. After a minute or two of fearing for my life and longevity of my back, I scramble to a different, somewhat safer position.

A few little random moments

  • Once we tested positive, my eldest put a sign on the front door. With my help he wrote, “we have Covid so please don’t come in.” He drew a self-portrait with a mask on.  He keeps saying to me, “I can’t believe I actually have Covid. Can you believe we have the Coronavirus Mum?” My three year old has been saying in a husky little voice, “I have Covid! I have Covid!”
  • When our boys play doctors, they now wear masks (sometimes two each), ask questions about their movement interstate and overseas, if they are vaccinated and if they are feeling well. They give each other pretend injections and booster shots. For some reason they particularly love giving their parents injections (clearly you can never have too many).
  • When they come to chat to me while I’m on the loo, they accompany me to the bathroom afterwards. “Mum, you need to sing Happy Birthday while you wash your hands! Two times!” Thanks Wiggles and Playschool I mumble under my breath as I agree that yes, I should wash my hands for longer and reluctantly join them in song.
  • During early 2020 when things were starting to get serious (but it was still far away from us in South Australia), my then three-year-old was trying to make sense of it all. He would cheekily say ‘coronavirus’ instead of ‘cheese’ when posing for photos. This tended to be awkward out in public.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, these moments are a nice reminder that it’s not all been bad. I knew I had to write them down or they’d get lost in the chaos of daily life. Our children can still find joy in the everyday as they navigate the world around them.

How has Covid affected the way your little one’s play?

I’d love to hear down below!

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year … (unless it’s not).

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year

There is so much hype around Christmas. We are bombarded with things to buy, gifts to exchange, music to listen to, movies to watch, cookies to bake, money to spend, places to be and memories to make. We feel like we need to capture every moment on our phones and post them to our socials to prove that we’re having a wonderful time.

What if things aren’t great though? What if this upcoming season is just another reminder about how hard things are?

Spare a thought for those who are doing it tough this year, or every year.

For those:

🎄grieving a loss

🎄missing a pet

🎄 lost their job

🎄struggling to make ends meet

🎄grieving happier times

🎄longing for a child

🎄wanting a relationship

🎄missing a relationship

🎄unhappy in a relationship

🎄having an empty nest

🎄wishing for grandchildren

🎄lonely

🎄homeless

🎄in jail

🎄away from home

🎄the first Christmas without someone

🎄 another Christmas without someone

🎄when life is not what you thought it would be

It can be an awful time for so many. My heart breaks for those who have recently lost someone and are having to go through the first Christmas without them at the table.

One day, we might experience deep grief and loss. It might feel like our life has fallen apart and the world has caved in.

We just don’t know what is around the corner.

For those of us who are not in one of these stages right now and are enjoying this time of year, perhaps consider how you could help someone out.

How can you show them that you care?

How could you remind them that they are deeply valued, important, noticed and loved?

How could you include them in your plans?

It might make the world of difference for them. ❤️

How to save money at Christmas, so you don’t go into debt 🎄❄️⛄️

Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting.

Why you shouldn’t feel bad for not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting

Bluey is such a wonderful show. It’s clever, uplifting and funny. It’s loved by children and parents and has taken the world by storm. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s well worth watching.

However when Bluey comes up in conversation, I often hear mums make comparison to Chilli and Bandit. They feel bad for not playing with their kids so beautifully and so often like Bluey’s parents do. They want to but they just don’t know how to do it. This makes them feel guilty and get down on themselves.

I get it. I strive to be a fun mum, who plays with her kids, spends five hours outside each day, hikes our national parks, plays in the creek, goes to the beach. I love being present with my kids.

For the last five years I have either been awfully sick whilst pregnant or breastfeeding. I have had a child with a dozen specialists, needing constant appointments. Trying to balance work, home life, errands and the mental load is a lot.

Right now I have a preschooler, toddler and baby.

It takes forever to leave the house, even for a walk. I try to breastfeed whilst breaking up sibling fights. I put bubs to sleep and my toddler keeps running into the room yelling. I try to hang washing and having two children crying. I go to the toilet and having conversations about why I sit down to wee but daddy stands up.

If I have a spare minute, I look around at the chaos not knowing whether to duck to the loo alone, make myself lunch, make a coffee (now I’ve boiled the kettle three times), start thinking about what’s for dinner, empty the recycling, reply to that message, fill out that form, clean under the highchair, fill up the birdbath, hang out the washing or wipe down the sink. My toddler wants me to sit down and watch an episode but I know if I do that, I’ll be chasing my tail all afternoon. It’s a constant pull in multiple directions and it’s easy to feel guilty about whatever I’m neglecting in a single moment.

My evenings are spent catching up on the unfinished jobs of the day. Cleaning up, paperwork, watering the garden. Exercise. Time with hubby. Bubs is in our room so it’s difficult to tidy or organise or put the light on to read.

My sleep is broken and we often have a child or two in our bed, or on the mattress beside us. We are exhausted.

It’s just so constant and I don’t often have my hands free to drop everything and just play. If I do, it’s often interrupted and just so hard.

That’s ok. I’m doing my best. It’s a stage.

Coming back to Bluey.

It’s helpful to learn, or remember, that Bluey is 6 years old and her sister Bingo is 4.

Parenting a school age child is different to that of a preschooler or toddler. Your capacity is different. You might be getting more sleep at night and be able to get some things done in the day.

They will spend some time at kindy or school and you’ll have breaks from each other.

Their ability to play games is different, even just that much older. They have a longer concentration span. They can take turns. They enjoy playing pretend.

This age group doesn’t need nappy changes or day sleeps. These sisters don’t have a baby sibling requiring constant attention. Chilli isn’t pregnant or recovering from a caesarean section. It’s easier to be present with your children when you have both of your hands free.

It’s also just a cartoon. It’s not real life.

We can strive to be a better version of ourselves and be inspired by the wonderful show that Bluey is, and also remember that no one is perfect. Chilli and Bandit aren’t perfect parents and they’d be the first to admit this.

One day you’ll look back and wonder how you managed it all. How you coped during the wonderfully hard season of little ones.

Keep this in mind to alleviate some of the guilt that comes with not living up to the Bluey standards of parenting. Give yourself some grace. You’re doing the very best you can.

❤️

How to do it all as a woman?

How to do it all as a woman

Answer: You don’t.

You can’t.

You simply shouldn’t have to.

When you type the following phrase into Google; ‘How to do it all as a,’ guess what words drop down below?

Woman. Working mom. Single mom. Mom. These are the top four answers provided.

I didn’t see ‘man’ or ‘working dad’ or ‘single dad’ ordad’ come up as an option. Why is that?

It’s because we rarely refer to men as working fathers. Their success is boxed into different roles. As a successful CEO. As an entrepreneur. As an author. As a talented footballer. As an amazing father.

People still commend them for ‘babysitting their kids.’ They get praised for leaving early to take care of a sick child or taking the morning off for sports day or assembly. By taking time to look after their children, they are seen as compassionate, gentle and a family man. Don’t get me started on how some people hail dads as heroes when they simply complete a basic parenting task.

I remember one day we were invited to a picnic for relatives we rarely see. I was a sleep deprived mother who had packed the bags and the car with everything we needed for the afternoon. I spent the first two hours breastfeeding, then changing, supervising play on a rug, and then rocking bubs to sleep. During this time, hubby was enjoying a beverage or two, chatting to people, handing out Christmas cards (that I’d written), kicking around the footy and trying his hand at an impromptu game of cricket.

When bubs awoke, I decided to take the opportunity for a bathroom break before I needed to start the feeding cycle again. I gently asked hubby if he could change our son’s nappy while I was gone. Before I’d barely moved away, you should have seen the flurry of excitement that this event resulted from a man changing a nappy. Honestly. The older ladies gathered around in a circle, calling out that wasn’t he amazing for changing the nappy. Wasn’t he such an amazing dad. Look at him with his son.

I was gobsmacked. Had they not seen what I’d been doing for the whole time before this? It was like everything I had done was an assumed duty, an expectation. It wasn’t noticed until a man did the same thing, and then it was put on a pedestal and praised.

My hubby gets irritated at the incredibly low bar placed for fathers. It almost assumes that most men are either incapable of looking after their children, or don’t often do it well. That goes for domestics too.

Oh isn’t he amazing!’

He’s such an amazing dad. Look at how he plays with the kids.’

He did the shopping for you?

‘I can’t believe he cooks dinner two nights a week.’

‘That’s nice he’s watching the kids so you can have a girls night.’

A women’s success and self worth is woven together with all of her different roles and the expectations that she will fulfil them all to a high standard. The bar seems impossible to reach. Often these expectations come from deep within us. We expect greatness from ourselves. We also demand this from other women, which I’m not really sure why. Maybe our own insecurities spark judgement on other women’s choices.

Have you ever heard someone been told she’s a great mum because she plays with her kids?

Normally I hear women feeling bad because she forgot it was sports uniform or library borrowing day. “I’m such a bad mum.” Pretty sure I’ve never heard a bloke call himself a bad father merely for forgetting something.

I see a real problem with this. Why is there so much pressure placed on women to do it all and do it perfectly? Don’t get me started on the relentless pressure to look put together all of the time either.

We often hear about the mental load of motherhood. How there’s so much on our minds to think about, do and organise.

Meal plan. Grocery shop. Meal prep. Cook dinner. Purée baby food.

Make snacks. Cook meal for that friend going through a hard time. Cleaning. Washing. Ironing. Folding. Putting away. Putting grown out of clothes aside for next child / hand down / donate / sell. Buy new size clothes.

Put stuff away. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Research schools, organise tours, fill out forms, arrange interviews; buy uniforms, shoes, stationery. Pack lunchboxes that are healthy, packaging free, allergen aware and that your kids will actually eat. Clean out lunchboxes before holidays and you forget that rotten piece of fruit.

Enrol kids in sport. Forms and uniforms. Use vouchers. Become taxi driver. Figure out logistics and how to coordinate everyone’s schedules. Pack and unpack the car.

Remember birthdays, rsvp to events, buy cards and presents, write in them, wrap them, remember to bring them. Bring something to school to celebrate their special day with their class. Make invitations for parties and keep track of rsvps. Plan and execute party remembering to hand out lolly bags at the end. Prepare for Christmas. Figure out what to get everyone and try not to spend too much. Hide them away and remember where you put them into wrap them later.

Organise the family social life. Research tradies and book in quotes. Pay deposits and invoices. Book immunisations, CAYHS, doctor, dentist, orthodontist and hairdresser. Book in date nights, arrange babysitters, plan weekend getaways and holidays.

Do something with photos. Write in baby books. Record special memories and funny sayings.

Work. (Paid work).

If simply reading this list has made you feel tired, that’s how most of us feel. Burnt out. Exhausted. Over it. Some about to have a nervous breakdown.

Too many hats and balls in the air. Something has to give.

Please know that I am not at all saying that men do not have much on their plate. They certainly do. Many do their fair share of caring for children, shopping, cooking and domestics. They take care of the yard and do projects and fix things and coach sport teams and a million other tasks. I just think that the expectations for men and women are vastly different.

I find nothing wrong with women having a career, moving up the corporate ladder, going back to work after having children and earning leadership positions in companies.

I grew up with my parents in very traditional roles. My father went out to work everyday and my mother stayed home to care for the children and look after the domestics. It was normal and they were happy and secure in their defined roles.

At a young age, I clearly remember going to the shops and wanting to buy a business shirt. I saw one in my size that had a pocket to carry a pen and a notebook. Never mind that it was Dwight Schrute yellow; it was smart and had a breast pocket and I wanted to have an important job and get money. At ten I had aspirations and couldn’t wait to achieve them. I wasn’t allowed to buy the shirt and was pointed instead in the direction of a pretty pink top and lacey white socks.

Here are five things that busy women can do to create boundaries and balance in their lives:

1. Good enough is good enough.

Not everything has to be perfect. Take shortcuts, and only do what you have to do. In my house, I make sure that the washing is put away because seeing baskets full of dry clothes stresses me out. I don’t iron, ever. I also don’t fold. I simply shove it in the correct drawer and move to the next task. I have a basket labelled for each person and hubby puts his own away. My kids are still young and pull their clothes out just for fun. There is no point ironing or folding for this to happen so I don’t waste my time.

Take shortcuts. Buy a Dyson or Robo vacuum. Buy pre-made lasagne and garlic bread. Have takeaway or fakeaway nights. Eat leftovers. Make a bulk lot of mince for spaghetti one night, then do Chilli con carne the next, and shepherd’s pie after that. If people complain about the menu, get them to plan next weeks meals and help cook sometimes. Older kids can take turns cooking. Keep it simple and share the load.

2. Talk about expectations.

Share with each other what things were like growing up and the roles that your parents assumed. Who went out to work, who stayed home, who cooked, who cleaned, who did yard work? Do they want you to be like their mother? Would they prefer you home in this season? Would they prefer you to have your career and they swap with you and be home, or work part time?

Could you hire an aupair or nanny to take off some of the pressure? A change can be a good thing for everyone involved. Some couples thrive when they have defined roles, and others prefer to share. I love when I get to mow the lawn and hubby stays inside to cook and watch the kids. Do what works for you.

3. Divide and conquer.

Everyone needs to pitch in. It shouldn’t all be up to you. You might need to write down all the tasks that you both do and actually allocate them. Give your kids jobs to do. Work as a team. Build in daily and weekly routines to family life so it doesn’t become a nagging reminder. We’ve all seen the joke that the husband says he’s going to bed, and, goes to bed.

The wife says she’s going to bed but has to complete the thirty tasks before her head hits the pillow. How is this fair? Why do we accept this as the way things are and make jokes about it? Put things into place so this doesn’t become normal in your reliant family.

4. Outsource.

Whatever you can’t do yourself or delegate to someone in the family, pay someone to do it for you. Hire a cleaner. Pay someone to do the lawns. Hire a nanny, whether live in or part time. It might cost you money but otherwise it will be with your time.

There are stages when it will make sense to work more and pay for people to do things that you can’t do yourself. There might be other times when it is better to reduce your hours and save money on these things. This will constantly evolve as your family grows and changes, as your career progresses and you prioritise things differently according to the season.

5. “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”

Oprah Winfrey made this wise statement which rings true for us. We can have the amazing career, raise young children, cook beautiful meals, boast a clean and tidy house, entertain guests, run the household, volunteer and travel the world. We can live a wonderful, fulfilling life but we don’t have to do everything at once.

We can’t do it all at once, and if we do, it won’t all be done well. We don’t need to pretend to be superheroes or super women. We simply have to choose what takes priority in our lives right now and place lower importance on the rest.

A lovely colleague and friend of mine often speaks to this quote. She stayed home to raise two sons. She remembers struggling when they were little and they were on one wage. Their fun outing was feeding the ducks with stale crusts kept aside in the freezer. She wouldn’t change a thing though as she loved being there for her young boys.

She went to uni when the youngest was at kindy and became a teacher. Her boys are now grown, and her and her hubby work full time. They enjoy having money to play with. They ride motorbikes on weekends, travel around Australia in their deluxe caravan and when not affected by restrictions, travel overseas at least annually. They enjoy renovating their home and love their life. My friend gently reminds us young mothers of this quote and that there will be plenty of time to ‘do it all’ later on.

Last thoughts

In closing, I don’t think that women can do it all. We shouldn’t have to. We need encouragement to do what we can and support to do what we can’t. We can’t continue to carry the majority of the household load while raising children and remembering all the things and running ourselves ragged.

We need permission to decide what is most worthy of our time and energy, and be released to somehow let go of the rest. The harsh truth is, no matter how devoted you are to your job, if you left, they would hire someone else within a month. You are indispensable at work but no one else can be a mother to your children like you can. You are irreplaceable. Your role of wife or partner, and mother should take top priority (Erma Mayes).

Start saying no to the tasks that you cannot devote time to and shrug off the ridiculous expectations that we so often place upon ourselves. Ignore the comments and snide remarks of those who don’t understand your choices. Do what you need to do to help you and your family survive and thrive in this season.

❤️

(Special mention goes to Cathy Kelly and her book, ‘Always and Forever’ Allison Pearson and her book, ‘I don’t know how she does it’ and the wise Erma Mayes who spoke to my local MOPS group for some ideas and inspiration for this post.)

Why keeping up with the Joneses can steal our joy

Have you noticed the growing pressure to spend more and own nice things? More and more I feel like we are expected to have a high standard of living.

I think that some of us want the first house we buy to be the one our parents saved up their whole lives for, and the ones our grandparents and great grandparents would have only dreamt of. There’s a lot to be said for being content and grateful for what we have and not needing to have everything all at once.

I am not trying to bag young people or say it was easier in my day. I’m still semi young (😅) and I know not all young people have this attitude.

I know house prices have gone crazy recently and times are hard and we are not all out getting avocado on toast. Some cities are becoming almost unaffordable for even the most basic of houses.

However. I do think that there is unreasonable pressure to have all the expensive things straight away. It is expected, in many circles, that once you are working you’ll buy the nice car, big house, new furniture and fancy tv.

It’s fine if you save up for these things but more times that not, this is paid for on credit or left with huge debts. I hear people all the time complaining about how busy they are. About how they ‘have’ to work full time. About how they ‘have’ to go back to work after having a baby or both ‘have’ to work to afford kids.

For some people, this is reality. They have no choice.

But at the risk of being hated, I’m going to say it anyway. Most of us have choices.

We can buy the amazing new car and have a loan, or we can drive an older one and save to upgrade it.

We can over-extend ourselves and buy a massive house and work lots to pay for it (and will be in trouble if they lose their job or interest rates go up) or we can borrow less than the banks let us and buy something that we can actually afford (even on one wage, allowing for unforeseen circumstances).

We can buy new flashy furniture and accessorise our houses and upgrade to new electronics or we can make do with second hand, saving up for new pieces when we can afford it. We don’t need to buy in to the new technology just because it’s new. We can reduce the amount sent to landfill and environmental impact.

My husband and I often feel envious after visiting beautiful homes. We can’t help but stare at modern, open plan kitchens (ours is old and wooden), gorgeous bathrooms (we have a purple bath and penguin tiles) and outside entertaining areas (we have a tiny deck and no undercover area). We have to remind ourselves that maybe one day we can have this, but it’s not our time yet.

We are choosing to live within our means. We avoid lifestyle creep by setting our own agenda about where our money goes. We decide what is most important for our family and stage of life.

We want to be around more for our children, spending time not money on them. We have less disposable income but are happy to go without some of our wants.

It all depends on who you are comparing yourself with. Are you comparing yourself to the professional couple on a double wage, with a six digit income? What about the single parent living on welfare, struggling to make ends meet? Someone homeless after a relationship breakdown or job loss? A family in desperate need of food, suffering in a time of drought and living in a single room hut with dirt floors? A refugee who has escaped a war torn country, living in a camp?

If we are only associating ourselves with those who are wealthy, or seeing influencers on social media show off their life, our world view is skewed a certain way. I am privileged and have much to be thankful for. I don’t have everything but have everything I need.

Do you feel that there is pressure to keep up with the Joneses?

5 reasons why you need Connetix in your playroom…

5 reasons why you need Connetix in your playroom

As a mum of three, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of toys on the market for children. We are bombarded with advertisements about what they need. Many claim to help with their learning and development.

I have been on a journey of minimalism for the last three years. I felt overwhelmed with the clutter, and piles of toys on floor stressed me out. My kids didn’t play properly with what they had and I felt like I needed to clean up after them constantly.

We got rid of over half of their toys and my eldest son got on board with it. He decided what to keep or sell and he put the earnings in his jam jars.

We have gotten rid of most of the noisy, plastic, battery operated toys and only a few quality ones remain.

I bought some cheap magnetic tiles from a popular department store to see if my children would play with them. They were a hit but I realised the magnets weren’t very strong so their creations would fall down easily.

I did some research on brands and the overwhelming response and reviews were about Connetix. I used some money from selling the cheap tiles, as well as some other toys, to fund a 100 pack. It was amazing. So much better than what we previously owned. I went back for another 100 pack, then the Mega pack when it was released, and finally some base plates.

Here are 5 reasons why you need Connetix in your life:

1. Open ended.

They are the ultimate open-ended toy. If you are wanting less stuff that does more, this might be just what you need. I am in awe of just how many ways these magnetic tiles can be used. They can make patterns on the floor, on a whiteboard or fridge, or leaned up against a window. They can be stacked in a tower. They can build a rainbow. They can become a road, a tunnel, a cubby, a box to hide toys.

My boys love testing out the walls to see where they stick and make elevator buttons. They make pretend radios and drone controllers. They learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and allows them to be creative. Check out their social media pages for never-ending inspiration about what to do with them.

2. Portable.

They are perfect to take on holidays. Recently we went on a beach trip and stayed in a small house. I only brought baby toys, cars, art activities and Connetix to occupy our 3 boys for the week. One day we had some 9 year old boys visit. They spent two hours playing with Connetix with our big boy on a small veranda. Not even the allure of the playground opposite was enough to distract them from their building.

Their dad was in awe of this amazing toy. It captivated their attention in a way he hasn’t seen before. He asked what it was called and messaged his wife straight away with Google links to buy some. I will bring them on every trip going forward because they are just so popular and versatile.

3. All ages.

They are great for all ages. Anywhere from three and over, Connetix is loved by all. I love that children find different uses for them and their interaction changes over time. As an adult, I love building with them too and trying new things.

I love watching the cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents when they come over and interact with the tiles. The intergenerational play is beautiful to witness. There has been many a time when the kids have run off the play outside and the adults have kept playing, remarking that they’d like a set for Christmas!

4. They are safe.

The magnets are secured safety inside each tile with ultrasonic welding and rivets. Connetix are regularly tested and are up to consumer toy safety standards. They are non-toxic, BPA free and pthalate free food grade plastic.

Unlike the cheaper versions, Connetix prides itself on making a product that is well tested and safe for children. When you compare the two brands side by side, you can tell the difference. I won’t ever go back!

5. They are great value for money.

I calculated that if you spend $300 on Connetix and your children play with them most days of the year, say 300, and use them for 5 years (say age 3-8), that works out to 1500 days. That equates to a crazy 20c per use! I don’t think that’s too bad when you look at it like this.

Like Lego, Duplo and train tracks, I feel like Connetix is worth every dollar. They will get used constantly and be well loved in your home. If for some reason they don’t get used, you can resell them for virtually the same price that you purchased them (and see it as hiring for free).

Don’t just take my word for it, check out the many reviews or simply ask around. Connetix have a good reputation for a reason. I encourage you to look into them and consider purchasing a pack or two.

You could sell some unused (or annoying) toys to fund them, along with other items in your house that you no longer love. You can request money towards Connetix for Christmas and birthdays if relatives are looking for ideas. I’ve held fiver parties where guests can bring $5 towards a bigger gift if they would like, which reduces wastage on unwanted smaller items. Give Connetix a go and I promise you won’t regret it!

[Please note, this is not a sponsored post and I have paid full price for every pack we’ve received. I realised that I’m always talking about Connetix and telling friends to buy some, so thought I’d write about it on here. ❤️]

Not all bad news: one story of saving money during the pandemic

The global pandemic of Covid-19 has caused financial hardship for many. Loss of job and income due to restrictions and lockdowns has been incredibly tough.

For some however, this season has been one of opportunity. It has been a chance to slow down and find time for things we’ve thought and dreamed about for years. A time for being creative and productive, and no longer putting off the things we’ve wanted to do.

I am one of those people. I have wanted to write for years but there always seemed to be an excuse. I was just too busy.

For me, the year of 2020 forced me to slow down. I missed the chance to go out and socialise but it was also an excuse to stay in and do things that I desperately wanted to do.

Saving money

* I found I wasn’t driving as much. We saved hundreds on reduced petrol costs and wear and tear on our car. This was at least $40 a week for both our cars, or more than $1000 altogether.

* No entry fees. We didn’t have our normal playgroups, kindergyms, Mainly Music, mums group, play cafes etc. I didn’t quite realise how much these add up to until I stopped going! This equated to an average of $20 a week, or over $520 throughout lockdown and tight restrictions .

* No swimming lessons. This alone saved us $18 a week for our eldest. Whilst it is an important skill to learn, it does get expensive! This saved at least $270 during lockdown.

* Mending clothes. I found I had more time to fix up what we had and enjoyed being able to breathe new life into the clothes and items that needed it. Rather than throwing out or outsourcing the job to someone else, I took the time to do it myself. I estimate this to be around $50 of savings, along with less sent to landfill.

* Health insurance. Our company paused our premiums for 3 months because we were able to prove that Covid reduced our take home pay. This saved us $780 on our hospital and extras cover.

* No organised sport. This was disappointing when my netball was cancelled (on the day of semi finals) but it did save $170 for a season.

* Not shopping for non essentials. I found I wasn’t browsing the shops or coming home with random items. I only bought groceries that we needed. This alone averaged to $40 a week, or over $1000.

* Got better deals on utilities. This took just a few phone calls and I was able to negotiate cheaper rates. This saves us around $300.

* Less birthday presents. During lockdown we weren’t able to attend parties and celebrations. Whilst we still bought for close family members, we weren’t going to friends or extended family birthday parties. This is normally a big expense for us so saved around $20 a week, or over $500.

* No travel. As much as this was difficult to miss out on, we did save money on going away with our family and friends. There were no caravan park fees, camping supplies, hotel rooms, air bnb, or extra petrol allowances. We normally go away twice a year for a trip and then 4 weekends or nights away. This saved us $2000-3000.

Earning money

* Refinanced mortgage. Doing so, meant that we got a lower interest rate and received $4000 to switch lenders. By the time you factor in the fees and charges, as well as the savings in interest payable, we would be ahead just over $4200.

* Finders fee. I told my friend about our mortgage broker and she decided to refinance to. I received $150 for referring her.

* Decluttering and selling items. I took the opportunity to minimise our possessions (thanks Marie Kondo). When restrictions allowed, I sold hundreds of toys, clothes, shoes, baby gear and items from the shed. I finally accepted that I wouldn’t go surfing again so sold my board and wetsuit. As an estimate, I earned $2000 from this.

* Cash back apps. I signed up for Cash Rewards and Shop Back to earn money from shopping for this I needed and would otherwise have bought, but simply made sure I did it through their app. I’ve earned $300 so far including referral codes from others.

* Winning prizes. I’m a sucker for competitions and have had more time to enter. I’ve won vouchers, movie tickets, craft kits and a pool table during the pandemic, adding up to around $5500.

* I finally began writing a blog. It’s still very small and not monetised yet, but I’m excited that it’s started! It’s a wonderful way to get down my thoughts and ideas, learn a new skill and connect with an audience.

* I started a business Instagram account which has opened a range of doors. It’s been so exciting to have new opportunities (content creating for an app, referral codes and affiliate links etc) and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. I’ve earned about $2500 so far from my page.

I’ve tried to bank the savings and earnings rather than letting it disappear into bills and groceries. I put this money towards our emergency fund which sits against our mortgage in an offset account, adding to my superannuation and investing in shares.

For some who have been in extended lockdown and harsh restrictions, you may have saved much more money (unless it went on takeaway food and online shopping!). It has definitely looked different depending on our location, work circumstances, family stage and expenses.

I know for us, it has meant slowing down. We have enjoyed a simpler way of life. More time to spend as a family, going for walks, doing free things together.

Our home is free of unnecessary stuff, better organised and feels calmer. We have tried hard not to fill our schedule as much, as we enjoyed having slower weekends during lockdown. We’ve done some planting in our yard and added a sandpit for the kids.

My sore hand improved because I wasn’t putting children in and out car seats constantly. We’ve organised the shed and adding a man cave. We talk to our neighbours and write more letters.

It hasn’t been all rainbows and roses but I’m grateful for these positive changes to our family life during Covid. I love that we’ve been able to save some money and use it wisely. I’m excited for my side hustles and blog and the opportunities that are opening up.

What about you? Has Covid been an opportunity for you to save money as well?

How to declutter your children’s toys for good

One minute you have your home that you share with your other half. You know the one; your stuff, their stuff, your combined stuff. It’s pretty manageable. And just how you like it.

And then you have a baby.

Suddenly your house is out of control. Formula, bottles, teats, sterilisers, breast pumps, breast pads, breastfeeding pillows. Maternity clothes, feeding tops, nappies, baby wipes, bassinet, cot, linen, bouncer, rocker, mobile, board books, dummies or pacifiers. Baby clothes, pram, capsule, muslin wraps, blankets, sleeping suits, wraps and carriers. Baby toys, bath toys, teddy bears, pram toys, foot rattles. High chairs, baby spoons, bibs. Walkers, activity centres, ride on bikes.

You have a lot of stuff and then the kid gets Christmas presents or turns one. Throw in hand me downs, op shop bargains and well-meaning aunties and grandparents. More stuff. Colourful, noisy, plastic things everywhere and more clothes than days to wear them.

As they get older and more siblings come along, the clothes and gadgets and toys often get out of control. More toys than we can handle.

Don’t get me wrong. Most parents are so grateful for these things as it shows us that people care and it saves us money on buying it all ourselves.

However, this level of stuff is overwhelming. For many mothers, the clutter stresses them out and they aren’t able to manage it. We are already feeling behind with the washing piles and unwashed dishes, the what’s for dinner dilemma and what birthday cake to cook, the piles of paper on the bench, the unread emails and messages, the dirty shower we never get around to cleaning and the empty photo albums we need to one day fill.

There’s already so much going on in our brain, too many tabs open.  When we see toys spread over the floor and chaos surrounding the house, it can be the tipping point.

When there is mention of clutter and children, it is often an assumption that the two go together. It’s just how it is. Children come with stuff. You just have to learn to live with it.

I disagree. While of course you will have a certain amount of stuff when you have children, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Over the last four years, I have learnt that the less toys that are in sight, the calmer I feel and the less mess that is able to be unleashed. Too many toys equal a child being overwhelmed at the choices he is presented with. His brain cannot cope and too much is vying for attention. He will pull something out, play with it briefly, and then do the same with the next one.

My top tips for reducing the toys:

  • Give away all noisy, battery operated toys (unless your child truly loves and plays with it). Source open ended toys that encourage imaginative play. Your child should be the boss of the toy and tell it what it is and what it can do. This makes for a quieter environment for you and your children and less cost and hassle for you to replace dead batteries.
  • Less dress ups. Children love to dress up as their favourite characters and heroes. They don’t need actual dress ups to do this. Fill a box with various scarves, hats, jackets and fabric. Ones with different colours, textures and sizes. Sit back and watch your child use their imagination to become whoever they want to be.
  • Less plastic, more wood. These are more beautiful to touch, lovingly created and much better for the environment. Where possible, opt for high quality toys with good craftsmanship. They feel nicer and often get played with more because of how they grip to each other. These will last the test of time and a better investment for your money.
  • Model getting rid of your excess things. Regularly go through your clothes, shoes, jewellery, books, kitchenware, nick nacks and paperwork. Talk aloud about how you don’t need this anymore, you already have two, I don’t really like this now, I prefer the pink ones, etc. Children long to imitate us, so demonstrate how you like to keep your things to a minimum.
  • Toy rotation. Most likely, your children will have more toys than space to store them. They also get bored with the same things. Start by selecting a few key toys to display on your cubes or shelves, and make sure you have a few different types (ie. Blocks, magnetic tiles, scarves or dress ups, animals, cars, trucks, train tracks, dolls, puzzles). Put the rest away in a different room or hidden from view in a cupboard. Some favourite might always be out and that’s ok (for us, matchbox cars are always displayed and played with). Have a regular time every week or so to switch these around. I find it best to do this once my kids are in bed.
  • Get kids involved. Let them choose what to donate to the op shop and which ones they would like to sell. Teach children the value of money by asking them to choose a price (within reason!), take photos to upload, collect the money from the person, under the doormat or letterbox. My three year old loves this process and happily runs to put his earnings into his jars.
  • Make gift giving intentional. Part of decluttering toys is making a plan to avoid more coming back in to your home. Create a list of ideas for your son or daughter’s upcoming birthday or Christmas. This could include ideas of clothing pieces and their current size, toys that you have wishlisted or seen in a store, money towards a bigger item (such as a trampoline) or an experience (to the movies, zoo, drive in, waterpark, bowling, etc). This doesn’t mean people must get something off the list and it won’t work for all families. However, if you have taken the time to put ideas together, and people insist of buying annoying plastic toys, I give you permission not to keep it. Quietly exchange it or regift to someone else. You get to choose what comes into your house.
  • Fiver parties. If you are hosting a party and are freaking out about the huge amount of gifts about to come in, consider writing in the invite if they could bring $5 in lieu of a present. You could mention that your child is saving up for a bike or lego set, and would love if you wanted to contribute to this. Always stress that this is optional, but many parents jump at the chance to spend less on presents and not have to go shopping for another party.

I hope these give you a few starting ideas about how to declutter your children’s toys, and more importantly, stop more from coming in. Know that you are the keeper of your home. You have to clean, organize and maintain the house so you get to decide what and how much enters in.

Start with ten minutes a day, walking around with a box or bag and grab anything that you no longer love. Make regular trips to donate them or list them to sell.

You’ve got this, mamma x

#declutter #decluttering #declutteringkidstoys #declutteringtoys #toydeclutter #minimal #minimalism #minimalismandmotherhood #minimalisthome #minimalistparenting #minimalmom #minimalmum #lesstoys #happykids #happymum #tidyplayroom #experiencesnottoys #reducewaste #declutterlikeamother #mumlife #momlife #moneysavingtips #savemoney

The art of saying no.

I am the first to admit that I’m terrible at saying no. I like to feel needed. Busy. Important.

So when someone asks me if I’m free on Wednesday, and my diary has a blank spot, I say yes. Well I am. I’ve got lots of things that I need to get done or down time that needs to be had but that’s not the point. I have nothing scheduled for then so therefore I am technically free, and have no excuse to get out of this new thing.

At uni, I had three part time jobs, multiple volunteer roles, and played two sports. On weekends, I would go out with friends on Friday nights, begin work at the local bakery at 6am, play netball after my shift, have parties that night, volunteer for children’s church Sunday morning, home for family lunch, play a soccer match and then be back for the youth evening service. Readings and assignments fit in around this. I didn’t see anything wrong with these commitments. I liked being busy and had lots of interests. I always ran late because I would over schedule.

When my hubby and I first started dating, I told him I was free Thursday nights and Saturdays. I was quite serious! Every other time slot was full. Needless to say, I began making more time for him but was just as busy with my competing interests.

Since having a baby last year, I continued to be busy. I was exhausted and sleep deprived (still am!) but couldn’t say no. I had play dates, swimming lessons, baby massage, mum’s groups, medical appointments. I would arrive home in a heap, my baby wouldn’t sleep unless I held him and would burst into tears when hubby got home. Dinner wasn’t cooked and the house was trashed because I was too busy going out. People had told me to make sure I go out at least once a day. ‘It’s good to get out of the house, have adult conversation.’ Yes I was free to go out every day but that didn’t mean I could cope with it.

My hubby did a course during his counselling degree at uni years ago about self-care, and it has stuck with him. He’s good at saying no. He doesn’t over commit and takes time to respond before saying yes to an invite. Now and then I ask him what they taught him because I want to be like that! Hopefully someone might find these ideas useful too.

No one needs to know your timetable. If you are invited somewhere and have too much on, or simply don’t want to go, it’s okay to say no. You can say, ‘sorry – I have an appointment.’ It doesn’t matter if you don’t have an actual appointment or not – the appointment could be staying home to put on a load of washing, or curling up with a good book. No one needs to know.

Schedule in down time. You are in charge of your time and calendar. Look at your diary before things book up and decide how you want to spend your time. How many nights out a week can you manage? When would you like to be home relaxing or getting things done on the weekend? Now I actually block out spots for ‘home day’ or ‘stay at home’ night. I schedule in time to do the washing, cleaning and grocery shopping.

Practice saying no. It doesn’t matter if you do it in front of the mirror or with someone you trust. Make the word part of your vocabulary if it wasn’t before. At the top of each week in your diary or calendar, write something like, ‘you can say no!’ Believe it or not, this can help when you get a call asking to do an extra shift (that you really can’t do), or another appointment (those nails can always wait) or the family birthday get together (that you honestly don’t have energy for).

Being such an honest person, I struggled with this at first. It felt like lying! But do you know, the more I stop and think before saying yes, the easier it becomes. Saying no is freeing and self-empowering. It puts you back in control of your life, rather than at everyone’s beck and call.

I’m still a work in progress. I’ve got a long way to go.

But it no longer freaks me out when I see blank spots in my diary.

I challenge you to say no to one thing this week. Decide on your priorities – work, partner, children, family, friends and figure out what is most important. Everyone is vying for your time and energy but you can’t be there for everyone.

I’m slowly learning to do less things and do them well. I can promise you that I’m no expert. I put off saying no to an invite for days and it was bothering me. I needed to respond. I mentioned this last night to my hubby. ‘I just don’t know how to say no!’ I complained. Once verbalizing this, I realised that I’d already made up my mind that I couldn’t go. I just had to RSVP no and get it over with. I wasn’t letting anyone down and it wasn’t the big deal I’d built up in my head.

We can’t do it all, and we don’t have to.

Let’s try to say no a little more. 

I post regularly on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/moneysavvymamma/?hl=en and have a great community of like-minded people.

I have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/moneysavvymamma/.

Come say hi on Twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/moneysavvymamma

I create content over on WeMoney, feel free to come over and say hi at https://app.wemoney.com.au/signup/?pid=KPSA5075

Thanks so much for swinging by. I hope you’ll stick around and have a read, and connect with our wonderful community.

20 ways to pay off your mortgage faster

pay off your mortgage

A mortgage doesn’t have to be forever. In fact, many people are paying theirs off in record time. Just imagine what your life would look life if you had no debt, and true financial freedom!

Here are 20 tips to help pay off your mortgage earlier:

1. Interest rate.

Check to see that you are on a good interest rate. Banks are like electricity companies – they apply the lazy tax. They offer good deals to new customers but often not to existing ones. Look around at their competitors and see what they can offer you instead. Go back to your bank and say that you’ll move if they don’t match the other rate. In many cases, they’ll do anything to keep you.

2. Make more frequent repayments.

Pay weekly or fortnightly instead of monthly. I prefer weekly as it feels like less money, and I like to see results quickly! Paying weekly or fortnightly means that you make an extra payment each year without even realising, and this will save you thousands in interest.

3. Round up.

Round up accounts each night or whenever you check your balance. Transfer to the mortgage. Small amounts quickly add up!

4. Need vs Want.

Do you need to live close to the city, in a large house, with a swimming pool? Opt to buy a home in an area you can afford (even on one income- you could lose your job / get sick or injured / pregnant etc). You can always upgrade later. Live within your means. In saying that though, before you buy a house, consider the next 5 years. If you want to start a family, perhaps don’t buy a one bedroom apartment. Avoid moving more than you need to or you’ll just end up paying stamp duty unnecessarily.

5. Get insured.

Make sure you (and your spouse) are covered in the unlikely event of permanent disability, loss of income and death. It is important that the stay at home parent is also covered, so if something happened to them, the partner could pay off the mortgage and be able to stay home with the kids without worrying about money or work. Often superannuation policies cover for this but it may not be enough, or they may not cover for pre existing medical conditions. Insurance is one of those things that you will probably pay for and never use, but this is a good thing.

6. Live without payments.

Transfer any Centrelink (government assistance) payments that you can live without to the mortgage. This might be regular or annual amounts.

7. Live on one wage.

If you are on a double income, see if you can live on one wage (good preparation for having children). Have one persons wage pay the rent or mortgage, groceries, bills etc and the other put all or most on the mortgage (or savings to buy a house). Knock as much as you can off, as quickly as you can.

8. Side hustle.

Any extra money you come into (2nd job, selling things, overtime, tax return, inheritance etc), put on the mortgage. Enjoy watching those numbers go down.

9. Reduce all unnecessary spending.

Write down every person you buy presents for (it adds up). Do you need to buy everyone a present at Christmas or can you do Kris Kringle? Make a limit, say $30 adults for KK and $10-20 for kids. Do you even remember what you were given last year for Christmas?

10. Bring your own food.

Pack your lunch. Bring a coffee to work rather than buying one. Don’t drink calories if you can avoid it (soft drink, juice, energy drinks etc). They are expensive and often don’t fill you up. Opt for a filling meal instead and drink water.

11. Spend your own money.

Don’t use credit cards or afterpay. Live within your means. Use cash and debit cards instead, and keep a list in your phone of things you want to buy. Wait a few weeks and see if you still really want them.

12. Refinance.

Get a good mortgage broker. Check that your mortgage is with the best bank / consider fixing or making variable etc depending on advice.

13. Seek advice.

Consider paying to see a financial planner or advisor. It might set you back a couple of hundred dollars but will save you thousands over the long haul.

14. Learn from the experts.

There are many fabulous authors out there. I’d recommend Canna Campbell’s ‘Mindful Money,’ Scott Pape’s ‘Barefoot Investor’ and Lacey Filipich’s ‘Money School’ books. Read, watch YouTube clips or join one of their Facebook groups for inspiration and accountability. Free Podcasts are a great way to learn more and achieve your financial goals.

15. Budget.

Make a budget and try and stick to it. There are plenty of apps and spreadsheets for this, some that are free and others that cost a few dollars. Others prefer a book and pen. Do your research and find what works best for you and your family!

16. Cash.

Use cash where possible – it’s harder to spend than a card. It seems to feel more real and hurts when you spend.

17. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

If you can’t afford a new or newer car, don’t! Save up and buy with cash. Opt for older (but still reliable). When you can afford it, upgrade. We have a fortnightly direct debit into a savings account for this very purpose. When we need to upgrade, we can use these funds to partly or fully pay for it.

18. Pause unnecessary spending.

Consider putting a hold on luxuries like eating out, drinking alcohol regularly, overseas holidays and even private school fees until you have paid off your debts, and possibly even your mortgage (or at least make a dent in it).

19. Be on the same page.

Try to get your spouse on board too. Watching your mortgage go down can actually be fun (I must be getting old)! It definitely makes it easier if you are both on the same page.

20. Do whatever it takes.

The more you can pay down your mortgage now, the less interest you’ll end up paying. Just because you signed up for a 30 year loan doesn’t mean it has to take that long. Do you want to still be paying it off in your fifties or sixties? Make a plan to pay it off early, if you can. Every little extra you can spare will save you thousands in interest over the life of the loan.

Final thoughts

Paying off a mortgage early takes intentionality, hard work and sacrifice. It is a hard slog. I have never met someone who regretted paying it off though. The freedom that it brings is life changing. We are working towards getting ours gone.

Are you motivated to pay off your mortgage quickly? What strategies do you use? Feel free to comment below.

Hello and welcome!

My financial story - confessions of a shopaholic at heart | Melanie Wegener

Hey! I’m Mel, or money savvy mamma. I’m a wife, teacher, mother of three little boys, stay at home mum. Well mainly. I work one day a week when I’m not having babies.

I’m passionate about women becoming financially literate. About understanding money. Being able to manage it well. Not being stressed about the lack of it, but being confident and planning for the future.

I write about living on one wage, saving money, side hustles and creating income, paying off debt, paying off mortgages quickly, and becoming financially independent.

I also write about minimalism, decluttering, and living with less. I’ve been going through our stuff over the last few years and getting rid of the excess. I sell what I can and donate the rest. I love learning from others and helping inspire some people too.

I love when mothers don’t just survive but thrive. I believe that it is important to look after yourself, nurture the relationship with your partner, eat well and exercise regularly, and have a tribe of encouraging people around you to cheer you on as you navigate the world of motherhood.

Feel free to come over and say hi on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (search for moneysavvymamma). I do regular posts, book and podcast recommendations and giveaways. You can find additional links on link tree.

That’s all for now!

Mel x

#money #finance #financialindependence #personalfinances #fire #firecommunity #debtfreecommunity #babysteps #financeblogger #women #mothers #financialfreedom #financewriter #minimalism #decluttering #livingwithless #motherhood #findyourtribe #mumlife #momlife