Monday, September 22, 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

As I mentioned in passing during my 30 day blog challenge I LOVE Christmas. I love the music, the colours, the magic, the food, the lights. I just love the festive season.

Now as is obvious from my recent manage your money series I also LOVE saving money and spending wisely.

Have a guess when I started planning for Christmas??

It wasn't September 16th - 100 days before Christmas - nor was it July 25th which is considered the half way point of the year by most.

Nope, this little Christmas lover was planning for Christmas in January.

Close your mouth before you catch a fly. It's not THAT shocking, I just love to be organised.

I start my lists early in the year.

I have a food list, a baking list, a gift list, an Elf on the shelf list, a family activities list, a kids craft list...I also love lists in case that wasn't obvious too.

The lists get started early in the year then around March or April I start buying items here and there. I add an extra chicken to the grocery shopping to store in the freezer for Christmas lunch, I buy craft bits and pieces and put them aside, if I see books or puzzles or small toys that would make great stocking stuffers I buy them and hide them in my closet - shhh no one tell my kids - but most importantly I also set my Christmas budget.

In years past we've never really set an exact amount per person but I never went over $100. This year as we have started on our 'getting out of debt' journey we've set a limit of $50 per person. This includes our kids, our family and each other.

I have always been a firm believer in the old saying "it's the thought that counts". Humanity has become so materialistic, which explains why so many people are in debt up to their ears, but we haven't just fallen in love with our possessions we've also become very competitive, we have to have bigger and better belongings than the guy next door.

The biggest favour you can do for yourself at Christmas time is to stop thinking that way. If your family and friends are upset that you don't spend a lot of money on them then are they really worth your time and love?

The reason why I start so early with my Christmas plans is because I do love the season, I want to do special activities, have huge meals, decorate the house, make it magical for my kids, but I don't want to be sent broke to achieve it.

Christmas happens at the same time every year there is absolutely no reason why you can't be prepared for it. It's not an emergency that just sneaks up on you, so no using your emergency fund to spoil your kids or to buy a new tree, it is an annual event. You don't need to start in January but give yourself and your budget a fighting chance to make it out unharmed. October is close enough for the Scrooges among us yet not too close that you have to choose between milk and bread or nan and pops Christmas gift.

Set a limit for each person, then add one person per week to your budget. Before you know it you'll have everyone's gifts under the tree and no extra debt.

I want to add here a belief of mine. I am not religious so I don't preach "Christmas isn't about the gifts it's about celebrating the birth of Christ" if that's your thing then celebrate to your hearts content.
For me and my lack of religion Christmas still isn't about the gifts. It's about spending time with your family and friends, creating memories that will last longer than any new gadget ever could. Your children will appreciate the activities you do as a family far more than what was under the tree. I'm 31 years old and I can name two gifts I received as a kid. A cabbage patch doll from my Nana when I was five and a baby doll and cradle from 'Santa' when I was nine and it's because I still have both.
What I do remember is going into the city each year and seeing the Christmas window displays at David Jones and seeing the huge tree in Martins Place. Exploring Santa's village at what was then called Grace Brothers.

Don't spoil your children with presents and create another generation of materialistic debt owners. Spoil your children with memories as they are what last and will be remembered in years to come.

P.s there's only 94 sleeps till Christmas ! :)


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Monday, September 8, 2014

Cheaper Than A Dentist....

Before I get started here I need to point out that at the end of the day the best way to maintain great oral health is to brush - twice daily - floss, try to cut sugar from your diet and have regular dental check ups.

However my blog is about saving you money and let's be honest some over seas trips are cheaper than an appointment with your dentist.

This brings me to Oil Pulling.

Before you run and hide hear me out.

I've been seeing articles on oil pulling here and there for about a year now. If you haven't let me explain:
Oil pulling is the act of swirling a spoonful of oil around your mouth for approximately 15 minutes. As the oil swirls around your teeth and gums it's pulls out toxins, bacteria, that build up to cause plaque and gum diseases after your time is up you spit out the oil and the bad bacteria with it. People who have done it boast of healed cavities, whiter teeth, and all over better oral health.

When I first read about it I thought it sounded painfully similar to the times when my parents used to threaten me with a spoonful of castor oil for misbehaving and I wasn't entirely sure it was something I could do.

Fast forward to June this year and on returning from our overseas trip I found myself with a constant tooth ache. It wasn't just one tooth. My entire mouth just ached 24/7. I was positive that had I managed to find the cash to send myself to a dentist I was going to be faced with a few thousand dollars worth of work and a prescription for antibiotics to fight gum disease.

So instead of $220 for a dental consultation I spent $17 on a jar of organic coconut oil.

You can choose any oil you like for this activity. Sunflower, grape seed etc... I chose coconut for it's taste and it's known attributes. Be careful which oil you choose as I've read that some of the yellow oils can stain your teeth.

Coconut oil has become my second love - next to vinegar - simply because it's one product that has a million uses.

I'm not going to get in to the science - I'll post a link to Wikipedia at the bottom of this post for those who are interested - but in a nutshell coconut oil has anti bacterial properties which is why it's so great to use in oil pulling. When ingested our bodies react to the oil which gets the whole process started. The oil turns on it's antibacterial agents and they go to work pulling all the crap from your mouth that toothpaste doesn't even know is there.

Three days of doing this was all it took to get rid of my toothache. I'm hypothesising here but what I think happened is that those antibacterial properties went to work on my gums and got rid of the bacteria that was causing what I believe was the beginning of gum disease. If I had gone to a dentist he would have prescribed antibiotics to do the job.

I use half a tablespoon of solid coconut oil, which when melted in my mouth turns into probably more than a tablespoon, and swirl for ten minutes. That's right I broke the rules.
Everywhere I have read up on oil pulling says to swirl for 20 minutes. 15 if you can't manage the 20.
I could barely manage ten minutes when I first started, but after the first two days it got a lot easier.

I did it while showering so the time passed quicker. There is mixed feelings on what to do with the oil once you're done. As coconut oil solidifies when cold some say you should not spit it down the drain in case it causes blockages. I believe that once it's been swirling in your mouth for ten minutes gathering crap it's make up changes and what you spit out is no longer capable of solidifying. So at the end of the day it's up to you. If you're worried spit it in a cup and pour it out in the garden.

Two months later and now I oil pull once every three days, sometimes longer if I forget. I haven't had a tooth ache since I started.
I still have sensitive teeth, this isn't a complete miracle worker, but it has worked on keeping my gums healthy.

My jar of coconut oil cost me $17.95, I've had it for two months and have about four days left before I'll need to replace it.

The point of this post is to basically tell you that yes you should see a dentist if you're worried about your teeth, Yes you should brush daily, and Yes you should certainly give oil pulling a try if you want to avoid huge dental bills for just a little longer.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.


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Monday, September 1, 2014

The Weights Been Lifted!

At this point in The Total Money Makeover we would only be at step four of seven.

I'm going to condense the last of the steps into one post for one very good reason.

If you have made it this far then the world is yours! You should only have one monthly repayment - being your mortgage - you are otherwise COMPLETELY debt free and you've built up an emergency fund that will sustain you and your family for a few months in an emergency situation.

At this stage I think you've become money savvy enough to decide where to go next and to do so without going backwards and digging yourself into a huge debt crater again.

However if you love the idea of early retirement or fully self funded retirement then keep on reading.

The last step was building our emergency fund and for renters it included saving a house deposit.

Step four is invest! I'm really looking forward to this step. As an adult child who is supporting a parent who lives on a government pension I know what I DON'T want for my future, or my children's future.
Investing early on in life will set you up for a beautiful retirement where the only thing you will need to worry about is your health. You will not need to worry about paying rent, electricity bills, living on beans, taking the bus. Investing now will take care of you financially once you finish working.

Take the time and spend the money to talk to someone who comes recommended, someone who knows and lives investments. This is really the only advice I can offer on the topic as I'm a newbie to it myself. Later on I'll write a post sharing links to useful information but for now the only thing I know is you want to find someone who knows what they're doing.

A good investment will let you travel the world, eat at fancy restaurants, pay for your children's wedding none of which can be done on a government pension. And don't think your superannuation will do the job either, that may last you twenty four months if you're lucky.

Step five is to save a college fund for your kids. This step comes with some personal opinions from me.
I will be saving money for my children BUT I will be teaching them to save too. In fact we have already started. They don't get a lot of pocket money at the moment after all they're only four and two and don't do much in the way of chores. They get silver coins for random actions. Helping each other or mum and dad, taking their daily vitamin, Miss four often asks to help dry the dishes - I'm hoping that trait sticks around - and Master Two 'helps' pick up after the dog - he tells me where it all is :)
Packing away toys, using manners and cleaning their rooms are not actions they get pocket money for. Each month they count their money and they get half to spend and half goes back into savings.

Also I'm not necessarily saving for college. If they choose to go to university then that's where it will go if not it can go towards a car or even a house deposit once they are working.

I'm calling ours the 'kid fund' not the college fund.

Step six is to pay off your mortgage. At this point in your life it should be a piece of cake. NO debt, a fully loaded emergency fund that will cover you for approximately 3-6 months and a couple of amazing investments doing their thing to make your retirement wonderful. There is nothing stopping you from throwing all you have at your mortgage and saying goodbye to it ALOT sooner than you ever thought possible.

And last but not least, step seven.

Step seven is to give. Back at steps one and two where we were living on beans on toast, never going out and taking the bus to save on petrol I mentioned I was of the belief that you only give if you can truly afford it. For some families it's hard to find enough money to support themselves let alone worrying about giving to help others. It's not being selfish or careless it's about self preservation and not perpetuating the cycle.
Step seven is great because once here you can help out every one you want. Support every charity that means something to you and not worry about going without yourself.

I'm so excited about this plan. It's basic common sense but it's the kind of common sense that when you're drowning in debt you need someone to shout it at you. The Husband and I have only been at it a few months. We've got our $1000 emergency fund, we've paid off one credit card, half way through the next and have big plans for our retirement.
We are also discussing what we are doing with the kids, they may not fully understand but Miss four at least is making plans for our 'own' home. She's got a list of what it needs once we've saved enough money.
We talk to them and explain it so they learn that having the newest things isn't the most important part of life. By teaching them now they'll hopefully grow up to never have any debt, other than a house, of their own.

Thank you to everyone that has read along and asked questions I hope you all see a happy step seven somewhere near in your futures.


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