Holidays don’t need to leave you in Debt

Holidays don’t need to leave you in Debt

Last week’s blog was about how a holiday can be a need and not a want, especially at this time of year when you’re burnt out, stressed out and ready to throw in the towel In this blog, I’m going to show you how you don’t have to put yourself in debt just to have a decent break. Last week, when Mt Agung’s eruption on the island of Bali was playing havoc with flights due to the volcanic ash cloud, our own family travel plans were thrown into chaos.  Add to the mix a child who has come down with suspected Glandular Fever and suddenly this Mum is going into alternative solution mode.  You see, I had chosen Bali as our family Christmas holiday destination for the following reasons:
  1. It’s cheap to get there with direct flights from Townsville
  2. It’s cheap once you get there ie. Food, accommodation, shopping, travel, tourist stuff etc.
  3. I can afford to eat out every day/night and pay for a nice 4 star hotel without breaking the budget
  4. I get to show my kids that life is not all about Xbox, Ipads and electronics
As this trip was booked and paid for months in advance, I was a little concerned that we might not be able to go.  Now I’m all for holidaying in your own back yard, but the most expensive part of holidaying in Australia is eating.  Most times I book a self-contained unit so I can reduce our meal costs, but being a single mum 330 days of the year, the last thing I want to be doing on my holiday is cooking and cleaning – NO THANKS! So, knowing that holidaying in Oz might be on the cards, I started to do some research to find out how we could still have our annual family holiday on the same budget if we had to.  Of course, my boys wanted to go to the Gold Coast and check out the theme parks, what kid doesn’t, but this Mum was already mentally adding up the cost of such a holiday. After a little research, these are the tips I would like to share with you.
  1. If you do enough google searches on Gold Coast theme parks, you can get surprisingly good rates. Check out sites like experienceoz.com.au where you can save on average $10 – $40 pp for prepaid theme park tickets.  Their destinations are vast, not just for the GC.
  2. To save on meals and snacks, purchase the Entertainment Book for your holiday destination and watch the savings add up. You can preview books at entertainmentbook.com.au
  3. Quick searches on sites like Trivago.com, Booking.com, Hotels.com etc. can see savings up to 50% on hotel accommodation. If you’re willing to stay a little further out of town the savings are even greater.
  4. To hire a car, do your research at CarFlexi.com, this site has all the major and minor car hire companies for you to compare. Don’t forget to utilise car hire discounts available in the Entertainment Book and memberships like RACQ, RACV etc.
  5. Save on travel costs by driving your own car. If you do this, be sure to pack some premade sandwiches, drinks and snacks to avoid spending unnecessarily when you stop for fuel.
  6. If you have a long drive throw in a tent and some pillows, there are free campsites all over Australia. Check out sites like freecampingaustralia.com.au
  7. Have friends at your holiday destination? Call them and talk to them about doing a house swap or bunking with them for a night or two.  Two nights accommodation saved either side of your holiday can free up a few hundred off your budget.
Throughout the year I allocate a small amount of money each week that I don’t even miss to ensure we can have a break at the end of the year.  If you’re not good with money, why not go back to the good old days of opening a Xmas Club account.  This type of account allows you to squirrel little bits of money regularly but the catch is the bank/building society won’t let you get access to it until December.  Even just $35 per week will see a nice little nest egg of over $1,800 to put towards your next holiday. So what are you waiting for, go plan your next holiday and how you’re going to pay for it now.
How a holiday can be a need, not a want for your sanity

How a holiday can be a need, not a want for your sanity

All year, I work with clients, educating them on how to break bad habits of the past and create new ones for a more serene financial life. A large part of this is recognizing the difference between a need and a want.

As the school year comes to an end, I have noticed that the patience and tolerance levels of both the kids and I are wearing a little thin and in general, we are all just feeling exhausted.

Depending on who you speak to, a holiday can be both.

Here are my top 5 reasons why I am happy to admit (especially at this time of the year) a holiday is definitely a NEED:

  1. When you’re burnt out and exhausted, you’re no good to yourself or anyone around you
  2. Your tolerance level for just about anything (in particular if you have kids) plummets to all-time lows
  3. Motivation becomes an effort
  4. Your quality of sleep drops, exacerbating tiredness
  5. Your Mind and Body go into survival mode reducing levels of joy and happiness in your life

Benefits of taking a holiday:

  1. Holidays put you in a good mood, make you feel more calm and increase your energy levels
  2. They help dissolve stress which is good for your health
  3. They clear the mind and help you re-focus upon returning to work, thus improving productivity
  4. You often meet new people on holiday opening up a whole new world of social contact and increasing happiness levels
  5. You no longer feel the need to yell at your kids because by the third cocktail your tolerance levels have increased dramatically

How do I find money for a holiday when money is tight?

If you’re thinking of taking a holiday but not sure where you’ll find the money, analyse your expenses and pick five wants that you can do without (or reduce just a little).

Here’s five expenses that really add up:

  1. Weekly takeaway
  2. Dining out
  3. Daily cup of takeaway coffee
  4. Can of Coke/Sprite/Juice
  5. Alcohol

It’s not necessary cut out all these expenses, but look at maybe reducing the number of times you get each, eg. cut out one takeaway meal for the family once a month, results in a saving of $600.

So don’t miss out on another family holiday just because you can’t afford it, change one habit today and see how much your life can change in just 12 months.

How to make sure you get it right Second time around

How to make sure you get it right Second time around

Over the past 7 years I have tried and failed miserably at trying to meet another long-term partner.  Lately though, I noticed I’m not alone in my pursuit of another long-term loving relationship with not so long-term results.

You see, I’m part of a single mums and dads Facebook group and there seems to be a common thread amongst us ‘Divorcees’, in particular those who are raising their children on their own fulltime.  It is not uncommon, in particular to see the women beating themselves up about not meeting someone for years.  Often these comments are followed by “I’m scared of messing up another relationship” closely followed by “I just can’t find anyone decent”.  Believe me, I can completely relate to these sentiments.  After Divorce railroaded my life for nearly 5 years, I’m certainly in no hurry to repeat that exercise again.

But this got me thinking, how can you make sure you get it right second time around.  After all, the statistics for failed marriages is actually higher than first marriages.  WTF?  You’d think people would learn from their mistakes the first time but apparently not.

So here is what I think you should be on the look out for when you think you’ve met that special someone again:

  • When out on a date, watch how they treat the waitstaff and others around you. Wanting to impress you, they will surely treat you right, but their default personality will show in how they treat others.  As you get more comfortable in a relationship, they will most likely default to treating you how they usually treat others.  Things to watch for: Are they polite to the waitstaff?  Do they use their name, say please and thank you?  Do they offer you to order first?
  • Ladies, if a man asks you out and makes no attempt to offer to pay, DO NOT, I repeat do not go on a second date. I know there’s a few women out there who will disagree with me here, but when a man asks you out and offers to pay, what he is paying for is the privilege of your time.  If he is too stingy to pay on a first date, then chances are he’s going to be stingy your entire relationship.  There will be plenty of time for you to go Dutch when you’re actually in a relationship.
  • Pay close attention to how they talk about their Ex and how much they talk about their Ex. If conversation is dominated by talk of the Ex or talk derogatively about their Ex, be wary, clearly they’ve not unpacked baggage from their past relationship.  This also goes for yourself, if you find you’re bringing up your Ex all the time, then maybe you’re the one who’s not ready.
  • Are their words congruent with their actions? Do they act with Integrity or do they say one thing and do another?
  • When you get to the stage of introducing them to your kids, watch how they interact with your kids or other people’s children. Do they make the effort to do stuff with your kids?  Are they polite, considerate, understanding and patient with them?  Or do they always want to do stuff without the kids or get upset because the kids are around?  Remember if you’re a single parent, you’re a package deal.
  • Take note of how they make you feel and follow your intuition. If they are ticking all the right boxes but your gut is telling you something isn’t quite right, follow that gut feeling.  Intuition is your internal guidance system trying to warn you when something is not quite right so listen to it.

Lastly, I’d like to wish you all the best in future endeavours to find love and remember, different people bring out the best (and sometimes worst) in others so don’t judge a person based on their past.  Like the Share market, past performance is no indication of future performance.

What I wish I could tell my Twenty something year old self

What I wish I could tell my Twenty something year old self

The other evening I was having a quiet drink in a local pub chatting to a friend when suddenly this young attractive lady walked by and nearly got knocked over by my friend’s waving arms as he animatedly told me a story about how his ex-girlfriend and Mum got into a punch up.  Rather than be upset, this young lady was intrigued by the story and ended up joining us for quite some time.  You see, this young lady, let’s call her Jill was 25 years old and recently separated from a 3 year relationship and now felt like she was 3 years behind, especially financially, where she should be in life.  Jill went on to tell us that she felt like there was a lot of pressure on her to meet ‘The One’, get married and have kids.

I could hardly blame her, I remember being 25 wondering if I was ever going to meet ‘The One’ especially when all my cousins and friends had somehow managed to meet ‘The One’ and settle down.  Jill went on to tell me her year had been filled with going to her friends’ weddings and it was starting to get to her.  She asked me if I had any words of wisdom for her and it got me thinking, “What advice would I have given my 25 year old self?”

And this was my response:

  • Always ensure you have access to your own money. Make sure your pay is paid into your personal bank account and any contribution to a joint account is paid from here
  • Any contribution to joint monies in a relationship should be an agreed percentage. Oftentimes the man earns more than the woman so is it fair that if you each put $300 per week into a joint account this might represent 5% of his weekly wage but 10% of yours?  By making it a percentage, it will always be fair and relevant to your actual earnings.
  • Invest early, small amounts invested regularly to take advantage of compounding interest will make a big difference in the long run. Especially with your superannuation.
  • If you bring assets into a relationship make sure you have them valued before you begin living together, this includes Property, Superannuation and Shares etc.
  • Consider a Binding Financial Agreement if you bring major assets into a relationship. No-one enters a long-term relationship thinking about splitting up but it’s like insurance, better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

Lastly, I told her not to be in a rush.  When you consider the average man and woman live to age 82 and 84 years respectively, there is plenty of time to tie the knot and have the privilege to annoy someone for the rest of their life.

So next time Aunt Gladys asks you why you’re still single tell her you’re still working on laying the foundations for a truly great relationship that will stand the test of time.

Educating Yourself After a Marriage Breakdown

Educating Yourself After a Marriage Breakdown

When my marriage fell apart, after the initial shock, my first thoughts were “I get a second chance to be happy” and “Crap, I better go back and get that degree I quit if I’m to raise my kids for the next 15 years”.

At the time, my boys were 19 months and 3 years old and I was in a well paid part-time temp job in Brisbane.  But as my ex had just announced he was relocating to Perth and we had no family in Brisbane, I had no choice but to move back in with Mum and Dad, who were located in North Queensland.  I was fortunate enough to be offered a fulltime job in the Townsville branch of the company I had been working part-time for in Brisbane.  However, as I was already bored in that job, the thought of doing it full time and having to put the kids into fulltime daycare did not excite me, so I decided to go back to University to finish that degree I had started 20 years previously.  Leading me to my next challenge, how does one subsist on government benefits alone while trying to raise two kids, re-educate myself, pay for lawyers and have a life.  I learned very quickly it all came down to asking the right person the right questions.

This is what I learned:

Studying with kids as a single parent is hard.  Even harder if you have them fulltime like I did.  You need to treat your studies like a full time job.  If you’re trying to juggle kids, working and study, it’s likely that one of them is going to drop at some stage.

If you have to work due to financial pressures, look into all avenues for financial assistance or re-work your budget.  I found menu-planning and most recently online grocery shopping can save you hundreds of dollars each year by helping you stick to your budget.

Financial assistance is available for single parents to re-educate themselves in the form of Centrelink Pensioner Education Supplements and subsidised childcare through the Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee assistance (JET) program.

Universities have various Grants to assist in paying for books, living expenses and tuition.  Check their websites for more details.  You can also defer your tuition fees through HECS-HELP or VET FEE-HELP.  See StudyAssist.gov.au for more information.

Smith Family/ANZ Saver Plus Program – this is a 10 month financial education and matched savings program that assists families to gain financial skills, establish a savings goal and develop long term saving habits.  The matched funding can be used for educational costs such as computers and tablets, text books and uniforms.  I funded my 2nd year books through this program.

When it comes to property settlement matters with the ex – try to negotiate more support whilst you are studying to allow you to do it fulltime.  Lawyers get you caught up on percentages and eagerly tell mothers (in particular) they are entitled to a higher percentage if not working.  But instead of percentages of the property pool, think strategically like exchanging 5% of the property pool if the ex will pay 75% of school fees, books, uniforms and sports while you are at university and the first year you are back at work instead of 50/50.

Re-educating yourself post separation can make the world of difference to your self-esteem and career prospects.

So what are you waiting for?  Check out your options today!