Monday, July 29, 2013

What does your savings goal look like?

Product talk by Nuffnang

I don't believe that money makes people happy, but I do think it can make life a little easier and often less stressful. And having a family can be expensive (and I speak from experience). It's often a good time to sit down and re-evaluate your finances and goals. It can be really handy to put together a budget, even if you haven't done it before. There are extra expenses, often less income and a special little person or people who factor into planning your future.

My hubby and I are different in our approach to money and budgeting. Yes we have similar goals, especially now that we have a family, but I'm more of a spender and he is the saver.

But I will say, when I have a particular goal I am saving for I can knuckle down and save hard. When my hubby and I travelled overseas and saved for a deposit for our first home I had my goal and could see where I was heading. Once we had our home and mortgage, things changed a lot. Firstly, we didn't have as much disposable income and secondly, our big goal was to reducing the size of our mortgage while trying to build some savings.

I now have a new goal for my personal savings. I'm working hard to save for our first overseas holiday as a family. Once we had Miss S, I had visions of us heading overseas for a family holiday, similar to what we had done when we holidayed in the US for the first time in 2011. However after a 90 minute flight to Brisbane a couple of months ago when Miss S screamed for a large portion of the flight, I've had to rethink travelling with a child under two. So I'm now looking a little further into the future which means I have more time to grow my savings, bonus right!

I hope to travel to NY again, this time as a family 

Having a goal makes all the sacrifices and squirrelling away of money worthwhile. It's easier to forgo a new outfit or pair of shoes when the bigger carrot of a long, overdue holiday to a fabulous location is dangling over you. It's still a challenge to say no, but a little easier. 

A tool like myprosperity makes it easier to compile all your financial information and know its available in one place, making goal setting that much easier. If you're like me and have a few filing systems on the go, then it can be hard to keep a track of everything (tax time is lots of fun). Plus as everything moves online, I get so tired of having a zillion different logins and passwords all requiring strong passwords! Arrghh! 

So while I always have questions about the security of information and putting your details out there (definitely read the security policy and terms and conditions before signing up to anything), myprosperity can be a free handy tool to help you organise your financial resources and goals by category and hopefully help you reach them, big or small. Seeing where your money goes each week can help you find those spare few dollars each week to pop in a savings account for one of your goals.

Setting up a budget can be daunting and a bit overwhelming (all those spreadsheets and fancy formulas) but this is one tool that organises it all and not an excel spreadsheet in sight. And while a tool like this one will help organise financial information it won't take the place of investing your time and effort in knowing where you stand financially. It may prompt you to get your stuff sorted and head out on a bright new track and that's got to be a good thing right!

What are you saving for? Would a tool like myprosperity help you organise your finances and goals?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I can't resist...the royal baby

Well, things have been a little crazy around the purple notepad HQ with Miss S teething and not sleeping as well as usual, work and all those things that add up to keep me busy. As a result, my blogging time has taken a hit. But I'm back on deck, and I couldn't resist a quick post about the topic the whole world is talking about - the royal baby.

Wow, what a wonderful moment this morning (Australian time) to see the proud new parents leave hospital with their precious little bundle. While they may be the most famous parents in the world at the moment, it was nice to see them going through the same first moments all new mums and dads experience when they take their baby home for the first time. And it's nice to imagine them experiencing what all parents go through during their first night at home, (even if home is a cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace) the feeding, crying, sleeping, nappies and the blur that is the lack of sleep.

I was so impressed the Duchess of Cambridge chose to show off her 'mummy tummy' as some in the British media are calling it. She looked beautiful, glowing and all in a perfectly natural way. No tummy tucks or Photoshop, just a beautiful new mum.

And as much as I love seeing photos of the Duke and Duchess, I hope they can relax and enjoy the next little while together, away from the media gaze.

So that's my little post on the royal baby craze, a wonderful moment in history and so nice to see two become three! I wish them all the happiness in the world.

What do you think about the royal baby craze? Love it or all too much?

Monday, July 15, 2013

11,000 photos in one to preserve those precious moments

For many of us, photos are among our most treasured possessions. They tell a story, capture special occasions and remind us of our moments from our past. For most of us, they are among the first possessions in our homes we would grab in an emergency. But times are changing and a lot of our photos now sit on computers, hard drives and mobile phones or even in the cloud.

I recently put together a digital slideshow to mark my dad's 60th birthday and I managed to track down a handful of his baby photos. I had Mum running around organising photos of my sister and I as babies and children to include as well. While working on this project it struck me how in just three generations the number of photos we take to capture moments in our lives -especially our first year of life has increased to a incredible amount. Instead of lugging a camera to celebrations, outings and events, most of us now have a camera in our pockets or handbags, a camera we take everywhere. We no longer capture just the momentous celebrations and events, but every day life. 

One of my current projects is to pull together the photos from Miss S' first year, something similar to the baby album my mum lovingly put together for me. Of course, my photos are all digital. I don't have to take a film into the store, have the photos printed and then place them into an album. I've chosen to organise mine into a personalised album online and order a hard copy. I have culled all of the photos from those first 12 months, from just shy of 11,000 photos, yes that's right 11,000 photos to a more manageable 1200. A second round of culling awaits. 

So in three generations, the number of baby photos in our family has grown from a handful, around eight of my dad in his first 12 months, to me, around 300, and to my daughter, now sitting at an astonishing and pretty impressive 11,000. 

The discussion then moves to what to do with them. An album is a beautiful way of presenting and preserving them, but what about the ones that don't make the cut. After sharing this figure with my workmates, their advice was to store them all on a hard drive (done) and then in the cloud (need to explore further).

How to choose the best digital album for your photos?

For me, this was a big decision. I love photos, I love designing with them and I love displaying them. We were lucky enough to find an amazing wedding photographer who designed an incredible magazine style album for us. It set the bar high and showed me how the professionals do it.

I spent quite a bit of time researching both online and checking out examples in store. Most of the big companies who print photos also print albums now. Personally, I'm not convinced about the quality of the images, but if you're putting together a simple album and the quality of the image isn't essential then they are an affordable way of displaying your photos.

My ultimate goal was to find an album that would be perfect to display Miss S' first year so I knew I needed to have a test run. A couple of thousand photos from our holiday to the US in 2011 were still waiting patiently in a hard drive. I set about culling them and organising them into an album. I managed to place the photos into two albums, of about 100 pages each. And while it was a time consuming project, I really did enjoy reliving our trip and designing the albums.

I finally chose albumworks as the company to design and print my albums. A couple of reasons:
  • the quality of the album
  • the fact I could download the album design program to my computer and design in my own time and in my own space. I didn't have to login to a company's site and run the risk I could lose my design
  • the program is user friendly, offers plenty of design options and is easy to navigate
  • an Australian company - based in Melbourne. I could call with my questions, or email them
  • Price - not cheap but I was comfortable with the value offered
  • Finally, I ordered my first album titled - New York. And I was really impressed with the final product. I have had lots of family members and friends flick through the album and comment on how fantastic it looks. 

I'd love to hear what you have done with precious photos, how do you store your photos and how do you present your favourites? 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The perfect Anzac biscuit recipe...soft and a little chewy

This is a personal favourite and one I have honed over the years to achieve (in my view) the perfect soft Anzac biscuit consistency. This recipe is more for a soft Anzac biscuit, not super chewy but not at all hard.

Now I realise it's not Anzac Day, but I like to enjoy freshly baked Anzac biscuits all year round and I can't imagine I'm alone. 

It's a simple recipe and it now takes me 15 minutes from pulling the ingredients out of the pantry to popping the biscuits in the oven. Miss S doesn't mind munching on them either. Always a good sign!

Soft and a little chewy Anzac biscuits

1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup Ward McKenzie desiccated coconut
3/4 cup brown sugar
125g butter (Western Star)
2 tbs golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate soda 

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the oats, coconut and brown sugar. 

Put the butter, golden syrup and 2 tbs water in a small saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until melted. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda.

Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and stir until combined.

Roll level tablespoons of mixture into balls. Place on trays, about 5cm apart. (If you have a little mixture left I highly recommend sneaking a taste test of the pre cooked dough - super yum)

Press with a fork to flatten slightly.

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Set aside in the trays for 5 mins to cool.

Finally, enjoy!


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