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New Financial Year

Saturday, June 30, 2007
In a few short minutes it will be the start of the new financial year. The start of higher pay for hubby, less tax (thank's Mr Costello!), tax returns and bonuses, and the opportunity to start a budget. Again.

As with anything new, the possibilities are endless. All accounts are zero. The whole world (well, year) is before you and you can do anything. Apparently that also includes spending willy-nilly, saving nothing and wondering in six months where it's all gone. So once again we're left asking the question: how to effectively manage our money?

I've always been a rather kinesthetic learner - I struggled at schools that directed learning using auditory and visual tequniques. As a wise man once said "If I hear, I forget. If I see, I remember. If I do, I understand."

So how do you understand financial management? For me, being a "doing" person, I have 13 separate accounts. Now don't worry, I don't pay fees on any of them. But they all have their purpose. I learnt long ago that the best way for me to keep on top of everything was a bills account, and direct debits.

Direct debit everything that you can as soon as possible after the money goes into the account. Transfer money to cover bills to a seperate account, put your savings aside and spend the rest.

So why doesn't it work? I blame the banks (stay with me here). The trend towards redraw mortgages, line of credits, and the concept of living on a credit card, and paying it off at the end of the month. These things just don't work for me. Yes I'm good with numbers, but keeping track of how much I have to spend? Actual savings? Doesn't work.

So this year, I'm going back. Back to the good old days of bills accounts, savings accounts and spending accounts. I want to find myself using the credit card less (and even reduce the balance), and cash more (well, not more, but you know what I mean). I want to have a small savings stash at the end of the year.

A new financial year. Endless possibilities. A blank book. What will you make of it?

Happy New Financial Year!

Planning to fail, I mean study.

Grab a cuppa, this is a big one.

While I regularly enjoy the break from uni, the inevitable happens. Firstly, I get excited about the next semester. Then I try and figure out what I’m going to do THIS time to make sure I get everything done. Yeah yeah yeah. It’s the same every year and it never happens.
But still I plan. This year is no different. I have dreamed for 13 years of doing this course, and now I’m finally doing it I intend to do it well. So guess what! I have a plan.

I’m still fleshing out the details, but the general rule is home study should account for three times the contact hours of the subject. Being an external student, I add those contact hours to my total. For the majority of my courses the contact hours are 4, which means I want to find 16 hours a week to study. (3 x 4) + 4 = 16. You with me? Great.

Firstly, the lecture. The lecture is provided over the internet within an hour of it finishing on Thursday at 5pm. It’s a 1 hour lecture, so I need to listen to that. Generally notes are provided, but I always add to mine. The advantage being that I can pause the lecture to do so. There goes 2 hours.

Tutorials. I attend 16 hours worth of tutorials over two days in the middle of the semester. That doesn’t mean I go unprepared. For each 3 hours worth of tutorials per week, there’s a good 2 hours preparation. Answering questions, constructing arguments. Another 2 hours gone.

Reading. Being a law student, reading long, picture-less texts (I was a business student in a former life – they like charts and diagrams and pretty pictures) is the major part of the degree. As is taking copious notes. This is by far the largest part of the week. Something in the vicinity of 7 hours. We’re up to 11 hours. Only 5 more to allocate.

Assignments. These are harder to plan for without knowing their nature. Seeing as how the subject this semester is focussed on legal research, I gather they’re going to be researched based, and require a fair bit of time. Initially 3 hours a week will be allocated, the extra reading time if available (as in, if I’m up to date on the readings and have leftover time – ha!)

Finally exams. There will likely be an exam at the end of the semester. Initially 2 hours a week will be devoted purely to reinforcing prior weeks learning, listening to past lectures. These hours will obviously increase after all the assignments are finished, and once the formal semester is over and until the exam.

So there you have it. My plan of attack for the semester. Now, for my next trick: fitting into my already heavy schedule.

Baby news

Friday, June 29, 2007
Well you may have noticed baby #3 is on the way. Today after a scan and a Dr's visit (and $167.20 later) we discovered the following:

  1. I'm due on the 2nd of February 2008
  2. I have low blood pressure
  3. I have "lower side of normal" iron and will have to take iron supplements for the majority of my pregnancy.
  4. There is a heartbeat - yay!
  5. My children walk slowly when I'm in a hurry.

All in all a productive day. Now here's a fun story. When I first fell pregnant nearly 4.5 years ago, my step-mother took me shopping and I chose fabric for her to make a cot quilt for my daughter who is now 3.5. 2.5 years ago my second daughter was born, and still no cot quilt. Over Christmas we were discussing it, and she PROMISED, that if we were to have a third, she would have the quilt ready in time.

My next task this afternoon is to call my step-mother and request the cot quilt be delivered by the 2nd of February. She's on school holidays now, she's got time. Hehehe.

Have a good weekend.

Last night's dinner

Thursday, June 28, 2007
As you can see, last nights dinner was Apricot Chicken. First a disclaimer. My mother passed away when I was 13 and I was away at boarding school. I went to a rather exclusive private school, were it was assumed we would all have careers and cooks, so there was no such thing as cooking classes or home economics. My father remarried when I was 16, and my step-mother is a career woman. Her idea of cooking is adding a jar of something to chicken and serving it with rice. Or mixing meat, sauce, vegetables and noodles for stir fry.

My DH on the otherhand loves to cook, doesn't like jars of anything, and has a mother who's a rather "experimental" cook. Although in the 4 years I've been regularly eating at her house she's only had one dud. Not bad odds.

So it's really been in the last 4 years I've taught myself to cook. I haven't had many disasters, because I like recipes. I am quite good at substituting (I have quite bland tastes) and adjusting where necessary, but I like to have a recipe in front of me to work from.

This recipe is my favourite. It's easy, simple, relatively cheap and the kids (and DH) love it. I can get a meal on the table for $6 to serve 4. Considering my target for main meals is $2 per person, it's a regular on our list.

Apricot Chicken
1kg chicken drumsticks (or 500g chicken thigh or breast, diced)
1pkt French Onion Soup powder mix
1 tin Apricot Nectar (or Apricots)

Preheat oven to 180 - 200.
Place chicken in a casserole dish
Sprinkle French Onion Soup over chicken
Pour Apricot Nectar or Apricots over Chicken and Soup
Bake in the oven for 1 hour for drumsticks or 40 minutes for thigh or breast, turning twice.

Serve with rice and green vegetables (my girls like beans, DH likes broccoli and I like snow peas)

Our Local Library

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
For those who don't know, I live in a rather small town, something in the order of 5,000 people. Ok, it's not that small, but when you all but grow up in a city, it's a small, small town.

Our local library is an excellent example. We share a single librarian with an adjoining town. As a result 5 out of the 6 people who work there usually aren't able to exactly answer your questions. BUT that doesn't mean it's a waste of time answering.

Last Monday I asked a lady about books for children about new babies. We had a look, but couldn't find any. She said she would keep an eye out for me.

On Friday I recieved a notice from the library that I had two books on reserve. Confused at first, closer inspection revealed that the lady had asked the librarian, tracked down these books and placed them on reserve for me.

Every Monday we go to the library (if the children are behaving) and listen to storytime, and then choose our books (two each for the week, and if the girls have been good, a DVD). We then get some kind of art/craft activity related to the theme of storytime that day. It then goes in the craft box for later in the week if the kids get bored. It also means we can bring up again the themes from Monday later in the week.

If you haven't been to your local library lately, I strongly suggest you check it out. Despite the lack of classics like Austin and Bronte at my library, the staff are helpful and will go out of their way to get anything they can for me. Plus they entertain my children for half an hour. Bonus!

This is the way we wash our clothes

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I consider myself a very lucky person. I rarely get sick. My children rarely get sick. So when they do, I feel it. I mean, really, feel it. It all started Saturday night, on our way out to dinner, little Miss 2.5 had a brief flirtation with being sick in the backseat. She was quite subdude for a while, but then perked up and we had a good night. Yesterday, she started with a runny nose. Of course, it's 15 degrees and she won't put any clothes on, so it's not surprising. Around lunchtime Miss 3.5 said she felt sick, and took herself off to bed. Yes, I nearly fell over in shock.

At 5pm when we left to get Daddy from work, the vomiting started. And continued. On. And on. So now I have two carseats, two sets of sheets and about a dozen towels to wash, on top of 4 or 5 loads of clothes. And it's raining. Again. Still. Whatever.

Oh, and cleaning up vomit when you're suffering "morning sickness" yourself? I don't recommend it. At least things are quiet for now. Just to get through 8 or 9 loads of washing. Yes, I can see that happening.

$250 Savings Challenge - Weekly Update

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Well, quite a slow start to the savings challenge this week. Most of the money is change collected from around the house (while cleaning), and came to a grand total of $10.05.
Bit sloppy really. It's probably because we're not really on a budget just yet, still getting over our big holiday and dealing with that. I have a new budget program starting on the 1st July, so we shall see what happens with that. It should help with the savings. It will be especially helpful if DH gets a payrise at his review this week.

Home Management Binder

For those of you not in the know, a Home Management Binder (or HMB) is basically a running manual for your home. The idea would be that if anything (heaven forbid) happened to you, anyone could come into your home and run the house, know the kids routines, have a menu plan with recipes, know when the bills were due etc etc.

Candy of Keeping The Home is running a course in building one from scratch. As I already have one, I'm going through and updating mine as she goes. You can find her instructions in the left column of her blog, under HMB University

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Saturday, June 23, 2007
Preferably down south to drought affected areas.

It is currently our wettest June on record, and the poor kids (and their parents) are very tired of being cooped up. Here are some rainy day activities we have done this week:

  • Shopping - going to the shopping centre is always fun with two small kids. I buy them donhuts and suffer the sugar fix
  • Cubby House - We built a massive one under the dining room table
  • Cooking - We made cupcakes and decorated them.
  • Picnic - We had a picnic in the cubby house with the cupcakes
  • DVD's - Mummy went to the library and got Hook, Fifi, Curious George and a few others I can't remember, and the girls watched them on Mummy's laptop IN the cubby house.
  • Daycare - Mummy begged and pleaded for a spot at daycare for a day so the kids could play with someone else.

And yesterday, for the grand finale, we drove 2 hours to go to a cinema to see Shrek the Third. And just for fun, on the way home we donned the girls in raincoats and gum boots to go to the local Show. It rained, it was muddy, and we stayed less than 90 minutes before grabbing the show bags and running home, dumping everyone in a warm bath and curling up under the blankets.

BUT we all had a good time. Which I guess is a good thing. Right?

Lost & Found

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
In an effort to curb the piles of stuff on the floor, I have instituted a lost and found. Anything found by me after asking for it to be removed is placed in a basket and sorted at the end of each week. Currently in the basket are various shoes, including wellies, books, clothes, toys, musical instruments, pencils, jewelery, bike helmets and place mats.

My kids are 2.5 and 3.5, and between them the floors can get piled with stuff within seconds of them getting through the front door. Stuff on the floor is annoying, it makes the place look messy and hinders regular cleaning, making the floors disgusting.

I try and get the floors vacuumed and mopped at least once a week, and by rights it should be more often. It is just too hard with stuff on the floor which I have no idea what it is, who it belongs to and where it's come from. And when I go through the entire house and pick up everything off the floor, once a week, my back is so sore at the end of it I need to lie down for 30 minutes before vacuuming.

It seems though, that the prospect of losing toys, shoes and various costumes, is motivating for my children, so I think this idea has merit. Although, if they ever found the basket, I think I'd be in big trouble.


Sunday, June 17, 2007
Truly the bane of (I suspect) most mothers existences. I am really struggling at the moment. I got very good at the end of last year and early this year hanging the washing out, bringing it in every day. I did my two loads (all that fit on the line) and had them put away.

Then, on about the 15th of January, the "wet season" started. From the 15th of January til I left for my trip on the 12th of April, it rained. Every. Single. Day.

Arriving back from our trip on the 29th May, we were surprised to discover it had rained. Every. Single. Day. while we were away. And since then, there have been 2 WHOLE DAYS without rain.

For a while this really affected my washing habits. I can't hang it out, so I won't do it. After a few days of rain that doesn't work. Enter, the dryer. DH gets fussy with his work shirts going in the dryer, so all the shirts now get hung up on a rack, and the rest go in the dryer. It's not perfect, but it does cut down the time the dryer goes for, making me feel a little better about using it at all.

My washing plan is to start a load pretty much straight up in the morning, and have two loads hung out by morning tea, all try and ready to come in at 3:30 or so. Doesn't often work, and especially using the dryer I can have it all done and put away by lunch time. That is, if I actually did it. See because I'm not hanging out the washing to catch sunshine, I'm lazy about jumping on the machine as soon as it's washed. So the load I started around 11 this morning? Still in the machine.

I do wish it wasn't quite so neverending. I did attack the ironing this afternoon, reducing the two huge baskets and full rack to about 1/4 of the rack and the two baskets. Hey, it's better than nothing. If there was just something decent on TV to watch while I did it. I had to put Harry Potter on today to get me through that lot of ironing I did.

And tomorrow's Monday. First day of the week. Surprisingly the washing is almost up to date, if I could just remember to get the damn load out of the machine!

$250 Savings Challenge

Friday, June 15, 2007

So, the deal with the $250 savings challenge is to basically prove I can do it. I have such trouble saving, but when it's something for me, that I really want, well, I can do it. I saved $1100 for a piano in 6 months last year, so $250 is a small achievable target. And if I do it 4 times, that's $1000!
This will be an ongoing challenge - saving from our regular income until I have $250, then starting again. The first $250 is going to something for me. An exercise bike I've had my eye on for nearly 6 months now. I do miss the exercise bikes at the gym.
So anyone who's in, $250 is the goal - whenever you can!
My first aim is to get change from the petrol money over the next couple of weeks. I only have a few trips planned, all within town, so I should be able to save about $20-$30 from the petrol budget. That will be a great start.

Morning Routines

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's amazing really, how much smoother the day goes with a good start to the morning. If I could just follow my morning routine, things just click for most of the rest of the day. Equal in importance (in my opinion), to the evening routine. This is what works for me:

1. Make bed
2. Shower
3.Dress to shoes
4. Hair & Makeup
5. Swish & Swipe
6. Start washing
7. Unpack dishwasher
8. Make tea and coffee
9. Kids up and dressed
10. Make kids beds
11. Make Breakfast
12. Breakfast
13. Take vitamins & medication
14. Pack lunches
15. Hang washing out and reboot laundry
16. Check to-do list
17. What’s for dinner?

What it does mean, is that nearly everything is done by 9am that needs to be done that day. If I do nothing else I've done a load of washing, the bedrooms at least have beds made, and I don't feel TOO bad if I do nothing else. That's particularly true if I do ALL my routines.

It seems fitting

that my first blog post is done whilst procrastinating a uni exam. It is due at 5:00pm this afternoon, and I have some 650 words to write by then. 450 if I subscribe to the +/-10% rule, which, to be honest, today I just might.

I say it seems fitting, for my other blog Procrastination Alley is well used to such posts. Although it has waned a little lately, I am sure I will resurrect it soon. The reason it was ignored so long was a couple of months consisting of on-campus uni work, assignments, a 6 week overseas trip a take home exam, and finally, a totally surprising, but totally welcome positive pregnancy test. The exam will be over this afternoon. FINALLY.

I don't think I can tell you how excited I am to finally be able to focus on myself, my kids and my house again, while study will take a backseat for 6 weeks. And I know that sounds insane, but I feel I'm suffering more than the kids (after all they get to watch lots of tv) with the lack of time with them, and the house well, it's definitely suffering. Even hubby commented that this weekend he was going to sort out the washing situation. I have (no joke) an entire bedroom of clean clothes. Every time we get dressed we head in there to find something to wear.

Now this is already way longer than I intended, so I'll go and set the kids up in front of the tv, and hopefully, hopefully get the exam done in time.