Financial Independence for Young Adults

I got asked a while back to give some advice to younger people starting out in adult life on financial independence. This comes from me as a 31 year old woman, married with a almost 2 year old and a completely paid for 3 bedroom home in Australia. I do not regret for one minute any of the financial decisions i made to get to this point so do feel like i might have a perspective that is useful to share on this matter. So here it is:

Firstly it is AWESOME if you are in your teens or 20s are are thinking about financial security. You are so lucky that you came to this awareness at this age as you get to take advantage of time in in a way that people who don’t get to this point till much later in their life can. So congratulations!

Now there are a few points i’d like to make:

1. it is about INTENTION, and BALANCE at this age. The most powerful decision making tool you can have when it comes to spending or investing money is what its long term implications might be personally for you. For example money you can save and invest will grow in value which means that if you invest $1000 today it is worth so much more than $1000 invested in a few years time due to compound interest.

HOWEVER you also need to balance the fact that opportunities and experiences that will shape the course of your life might only be available now in your youth and not when you are older. For example if later in life you have a busy job, have children etc. travelling overseas for long periods of time or at all might be more difficult or expensive. If spending a year volunteering overseas is what you are passionate about doing this while you are young and have more freedom might make more sense than delaying it till you are older simply for the purposes of investing money. Likewise spending money on education can be a really wise investment if it is in a career you are passionate about and might result in a better income.

It would be hypocritical of me however to say that you should only invest in education if it is in a career that is likely to make you good money. Personally i studied archaeology despite the fact that many people told me i’d never get a job. Right now i’m finishing writing my PhD which is probably a degree i’m unlikely to require in the kinds of jobs that i’m likely to do. I did actually get work in archaeology, but regardless it was something that loved and i have experienced that the skills I got from study regardless of the field can be valued in the workplace if you sell them the right way in interviews. I also thoroughly enjoyed the experienced is got during my student years which i wouldn’t trade for anything. To me this was money well spent even if it doesn’t necessarily result in a higher income. It is important to note however that all of these choices i made were intentional. I would not have done a PhD if i’d had to take on a lot of debt to do so – rather i was paid a smaller amount in comparison to a normal wage but an amount i could live on and even save. My undergraduate degrees because they were in Australia also were reasonably priced and my loans for these are now fully paid and did not have interest applied (we are very lucky in Australia as our education loans only got up with inflation,  not interest). I think if you are in the US or elsewhere where education prices are a lot higher and you want to do a degree simply because you love the topic without much chance for a job afterwards, i’d be looking for a cheaper university to study at and going into it with the full knowledge that it was paying for an experience. Avoid interest payments on loans as much as possible by either not having loans or paying them extra fast (such as by getting a scholarship, working on the side, studying only part time while working full time or asking parents for an interest free loan if that was within their means). If on the other-hand you are studying to be a medical doctor then taking on debt for education is likely a far less risk to your future financial security as you’ll likely get a much higher paying job to pay back the loan. I would not be going into a lot of education debt if you are going to be studying something you are not passionate about just because you think you should get a degree. Or using university as way of finding yourself. Find yourself though other cheaper means before paying that much for an education to ensure it is money worth spent and is towards something you truly value. The point is to be intentional with this money spent and recognise that there is absolutely nothing wrong with not getting a higher degree especially if you do not have a particular career goal in mind.

2. Avoid loans at all cost and question your true needs. For many people getting a car loan, paying back the cost of their mobile phone though payment plans to phone companies or building up credit card debts is a normal part of life. These behaviours are the biggest hinderances to future financial security as they are essentially spending far more often multiple times the value of the thing you get the loan for. If you can’t afford a car then you can’t afford a car loan. One of our cars i purchased for $500 and it works just great. There are cheap cars out there you can save in cash for. There are often ways to live without a car as well. During my uni years i lived in share houses within biking or walking distance to my university so i never needed to own one. It is often cheaper to change your location to one that you can use public transport, bikes or walk than it is to pay the cost of a car plus insurance, fuel, maintenance etc.  If you can’t afford to buy a fancy iphone upfront then also you probably can’t really afford one either. Get a refurbished 2nd hand one or buy another brand of phone that is cheaper. My current phone cost me $100 new and it works fine. It is because of choices like having a $500 car and a $100 phone that i outright own my $465K house. On the other hand there is also nothing wrong with saving up to buy nice things if they are things you value. Just save up for them so you are only paying the value of them, not that, plus interest overtime.

My thoughts on credits cards though are that there is  nothing wrong with having one if your personality type is as such that you would always pay it off in full without ever having to pay interest on it. Credit cards can be useful as they are great way of tracking where you are spending money versus cash, and depending on how much you spend per month can score you ‘points’ for things like grocery vouchers which might save you money overall. However never make purchases based on trying to get credit card points as that defeats the purpose and make sure if you have to pay a credit card annual fee you actually are getting more than this value back from vouchers. Otherwise just use a no annual fee card without ‘points’ or just use debit. If you are someone that might be tempted to spend beyond your means than avoid a credit card completely and use debit instead so you can still track expenses through statements. There is a big myth that we need things like credit cards  or car loans to build a credit rating to buy a house in future. If you are in the US listen to Dave Ramesey on this subject. You will be able to get a loan if you can afford one in the future without needing a credit score. My bank used to consistently ask me if i wanted a mortgage from them because they saw how much money i had saved in my account. Ultimately if you have a big deposit and a reliable income you can get a home loan when you need one. And ideally a home loan should be the only loan you ever have to get, followed by an education loan if you really need.

3. Track your expenses with a program. One of the best things to do to understand where you money is going and what your true savings potential might be is to track your spending. Websites like Mint can do this from your bank statement or there are programs like MoneyDance (which is what i use) you can download to your computer. This divides everything to categories. This is the first step you need to do if you want to do a budget. Although i’m not necessarily a huge fan of the traditional budget as you can see below in point 6.

4. Have an Emergency Fund. Even if you are still living with your parents, try to build up an emergency fund. When i was 14 and got my first paid job i saved up $1000 before i even spent any of the money i earned and always had at least that amount of savings ontop of my spendings. The amount that is required for emergencies will be larger the older you get and more independent you may be from your family. Ultimately it will be this that enables you to be completely independent which gives you the freedom to make more choices. I like Dave Ramsey’s advice for this. If you have debts then start with $1000 as your emergency savings. Once you are debt free (he doesn’t count mortgages and i wouldn’t count any debt that doesn’t earn interest such as Australian student HECS loans) build that up to 3 -6 months of what the minimum you’d need to get by in terms of living expenses (probably 3 months is fine if you are a single student or a bit less if you have family you can truely rely on as a backup while very young). Have this money in something like a high interest bank account so it can grow a bit by itself but is a bit more difficult to access but not impossible should an emergency arise. And it is ONLY for true emergencies.

5. Save by Investing. One advice my husband was given when he was young  was “if you don’t know what you want to do with your life then just save money”. This was sage advice for him at the time especially as he had started professional work and had a good capacity to save money although he does say he wishes he’d saved more at this age as he could have. Of course don’t save at complete expense of experiences that might later inform you of what you want to do. but you do not need to have a specific savings goal like a home or a vacation, a car in order to save. Save now and you can work out the best way to use that money in the future and you’ll be so thankful you made that choice to do so in the past. Remember the power of compounding interest. And ultimately everyone should at some point be saving for a time they might be unable to work (ie retirement) so again you don’t need a ‘thing’ to be saving up for, it can simply be saving money for future living expenses which is ultimately the whole philosophy of financial independence.

Now when it comes to where to put these savings this is important. You don’t want them just sitting in a regular old bank account that makes no interest. You don’t want it stored as cash under your mattress. The reason being that inflation will erode all the value of that money and you won’t be getting it to work for you by growing and generating more money on its own. Interest rates from banks change a lot so this will take a bit of research. But if the interest rate is higher than inflation from a term deposit or a high interest bank saving account this can be good options when you start out. This is what i did until only very recently although the interest rates available were quite a bit higher than they are currently as i write this article. When interest rates are really low though then it can be better to look to other ways to invest. Bare in mind though investment carries risk – the risk that the things you have invested in loses value. Generally the greater the risk the higher the potential reward. Personally i’m not a fan of risk. And if you take on quite high risks with investing it can be little better than simply gambling.

Now being a younger person chances are you don’t have a large sum of money to invest. This increase the risks if you invest that money in say just a few things such as single stock shares or even an investment property. One way to manage risk is to diversify your investments. When you have smaller amounts of money this can be achieved by investing that money in things that are naturally diversified. For example index funds. They are like buying a share in a company that owns the entire stock market therefore you own a bit of the whole stock market too. Mutual funds can also be another option although make sure you investigate the costs that come with these. Personally we have index funds spread between 2 different funds to increase the diversity. Vangard is an example of this. Do you own research, i’m not qualified to provide advice on this and especially not based on your personal circumstances. But the key things to consider for your own life in investing are 1. manage your risk by diversity  2. find ways to invest that reduce your investment costs 3. Don’t take financial advice from people that will sell you investments, or random people in your life who may have just been lucky and not actually skilled in what they are advising.

6. Pay yourself first but don’t be too strict with budgets. This one relates to budgeting. So after tracking your expenses and working out what is a good amount you can afford to save every month, then set up an automatic payment from your everyday bank account into a higher interest saving account. Even if you are going to use that money to buy something like index funds it is important to have it separate from your general spending account so you don’t use it for anything else. It might not make sense to buy index funds every month due to the buying costs and be better to save up a larger bundle of money before going through with the purchase. That is where having a higher interest savings account is useful. Also the savings account might be it for you if it earns decent interest or you want to wait while you research the best ways of investing while saving money in the meantime. Either way it is best to have at least 2 bank accounts – a spending account and a saving account.

Now after this automatic payment into savings is made, the rest of the money you need to think about what to do with. Some people like to have a very detailed budget with lots of categories. Personally i don’t like strict detailed budgets. To me they are a licence to spend more money than might be necessary in certain categories (ie oh i have $50 left in my clothing allowance, so i might just buy this thing i wouldn’t have even considered if i only bought clothing when i actually needed it). If you have categories though where you tend to overspend and have room to reduce, it can be helpful. Personally our family has a food budget and our savings budget that is it. Our food money goes into yet another bank account so it is easy to track how much we have left. Yes we do tend to go out to eat if we notice we have money left. Before however we were spending much more than our monthly allowance so it helped us to get it down and we have decided we value the experience of occasional dinners out as ‘date nights’. So this is intentional spending which is what i’m saying is key. We do not however have a budget for things like clothing, entertainment, fuel as just try to spend as little money as we can on these things and expenses like insurance are necessities we don’t have any ability to reduce,  so again don’t need an ‘allowance’ as such. The key is getting that savings amount right so there is enough left to cover all your necessary expenses in your spending account. So overall we just try to spend as little money as we can with the goal that any money left over in our spending account at the end of the month then goes into savings. Putting extra into that savings account is very satisfying. So you don’t want to be too hard core with the amount you automatically save, or you might fail with this especially when unexpected expenses come up (which aren’t true emergencies). Too strict of a budget can cause some people to give up when they fail. Better to feel the thrill of having extra money left over after your automatic savings and expenses to save even more.

One approach you might find useful which we recently adopted since we paid off our home (because before everything was focused on just that) ,is if you have multiple big things you are trying to save for, use the left over spending money for these other items. So our automatic savings are for our financial future and our left over spending money is for big projects or things that aren’t truely necessities but we’d like such as holidays, improvements to our home, a new laptop etc. It is nice have a goal that is shorter term to encourage saving because our retirement is many decades off which is why saving for that is better automatically as otherwise we might not be motivated enough to just spend less for something less tangible. On the other-hand i find it quite easy to forgo eating out one night or buying something if i know the money i save by not spending then will go towards an item or experience i’ll get in a few weeks or months time that adds value to my life.

Ok i hope that helps. I think this advice probably applies to people at any stage of life. And remember when it comes to the investing side of things, do your research – i can’t advise you as such on this but can say that investing in something is better than sitting on money that earns no interest or interest less than inflation.

 

 

 

 

2 months of No Poo and I think i’ve Found my Happy Place

So for those interested in my experiments with the ‘No Poo’ method here is where im at. I’m still enjoying using my soapnut shampoo recipe. I probably wash my hair maybe 2x per week at the moment. And i’m not noticing it is really all that greasy or gross.

Every now and then (maybe every 3rd wash at the moment) i’ll do an egg wash instead. I’ve experimented a bit with the concoction i’m using and i’m really liking using just 2 egg yokes, a few tbs of water mixed together and then I add a few drops of teatree oil and eucalyptus oil (to stop itching) and then i put a small squirt of baby oil (it is Jojoba Company Baby oil which is predominately jojoba oil with some camomile essential oil it it).

I’m still using Sukin brand conditioner on just my ends and it feels just fantastic with this routine. I’m brushing with a boar bristle brush every day which helps distribute the natural oils.

I haven’t had to use my dry shampoo (arrowroot flour and cocoa powder) mix at all with this routine now so i’m guessing i’m through the ‘transition period’. The egg wash method has been the real breakthrough. And i’m happy to know that i’ve found another use for eggs which I will be getting lots of soon when we move to our farm and get some happy pet chickens.

I’m also thinking of looking into the Soapwort plant as a possible alernative to soapnuts. I love my soapnuts but there reality is they are a tropical import and i wouldn’t be able to grow them in my climate. Since my husband and I are wanting to be as self-sufficient as possible growing our own food then it would be nice if we could also grow something we can use to do washing with too. Soapwort is looking to be a promising alternative which will grow in a temperate climate. So i’ll be purchasing some seeds or a plant of this soon to plant at our property and try it out. Will keep you posted!

I think unless i change the routine for something with soapwort i’m unlikely to have anything to add to this except to say i’m very happy with my new no poo routine. It saves us money, i think it has really helped my hair’s health and it is nice to know i’m not adding unnecessary chemicals to my body.

Our Journey Towards Financial Independence

image
This Hill represents the dream for us living and eventually living off this land

So in some of my posts and youtube videos ive alluded to our long term goal which is to be financially independent. This is one of the big reason my family practices minimalism and frugality so I thought it was high time to discuss this formally and share with you all where we are at in this journey.

The average person probably isn’t really concious of what financial independence (Fi) is and even if they can work it out from the words themselves might think this is something only for the very rich to think about or in the realm of get rich quick schemes.

But no, financial independence is within reach of an awful lot of average people with average incomes. The key is it is a lifestyle that not only applies during the ‘getting there’ stage but continues for as long as one would like to remain financially independent- probably the rest of your life.

There are many people who are famous now for doing this and providing advice to get there. The favourite of mine of these is Mr Money Mustache. To sum up the theory of financial independence. You live well below your means by practicing frugality and meanwhile investing the savings most likely in the stock market. Then once you have savings which equal 25x the amt of money you have worked out you need to live in a year you can declare yourself financially independent. At that point you could retire early living on that amount. This relies on what is called the safe rate of withdrawal which is considered 4% which means in theory overall despite ups and downs in the share market you could withdraw 4% of your share portfolio to live on and the growth in the share market will offset this withdrawal so that you can continue living like this indefinitely.

Alternatively financial independence can just mean you can start being picky about the work you do for money. At this point your living expenses are covered so you can just do what you find meaningful and fun.

The downside for many people of this lifestyle is for the average person with only a moderate income it means signing up for a very low cost lifestyle basically for the forseeable future. If you are someone that likes new cars, lattes alot of travel and wearing fashionable clothing and don’t have a very high paying job you may not enjoy living the financial independence lifestyle. That being said it is about priorities. Alot of moderate earners have got to FI and prioritized travel and managed that on their living budget. But they probably aren’t travelling alot as well as spendimg alot of money on a lot of fancy things as well.

For my family we aren’t overally motivated by international travel. We already have experienced this and it didn’t really result in catching a ‘travel bug’, instead made us really value the country we already live in! Not saying we will never travel overseas again, but it won’t be a major focus for us.
We are also very happy living quite a frugal lifestyle. We don’t care about new cars, are happy buying most of our clothes and many other things 2nd hand and striving for a minimalist lifestyle has made us want for less anyway. We are happy to live like this indefinitely and instead get pleasure from creating things and learning things.

So where are we at and our long term goal?

Well we are very close to being debt free. We initially had the goal to buy our house in cash but in the end due to a change in first home saver bank accounts in Australia (they were closed down) we saw that it was going to make very little difference in morgage interest to us to to buy our place with a tiny morgage. That now will be paid off in about a month as will the rest of my student debt. That will be around 1 year after buying our house which is on a 20 acre property (but we were saving for several years before this).

So we are obviously far from financially independent as we were just getting out of being negative from our loans. However owning our own place and living there (which we haven’t been doing yet but will be soon) will greatly reduce our living expenses. Food costs a lot less than it does where we live currently and we are closer to family which will reduce our travel expenses to see them. Eventually we want to get the place off grid and mostly self sufficient growing our own food which will also save us. We are even hoping to have extra cash crops to sell at local markets or to restaurants providing a side income as well as some other ideas we have to use the place for other income streams.

We are moving there in about a month and will still need to have regular jobs for now and continue to save hard. But for us living a self sufficient lifestyle on our farm financially independent with a small income coming from selling produce etc to fund any greater luxuries we want is the end goal.

So we have a long way to go but we are also pretty happy with where we are at in our early 30s. Our family has really benefitted from the past mining boom in Australia and we have really tried not to waste this very fortunate opportunity and turn it into something that will set us up for life. While we have been very lucky in this regard there is no reason someone who has earned less cannot also get there. It might just take longer or require stricter frugality.

We also think where we are at now is possible because we have been happy to live in a somewhat dated modest size house. It is alot less fancy than what alot of young couples might consider a suitable home. It is smaller and less fancy than what both of us grew up with as our family homes. But it has everything we need and we like it. Eventually we’ll paint it and retile here and there but nothing too major.

If this is all not for you then that is fine! I do not judge those that value other things and are happy working a standard job for most of their lives. I also realise those that are struggling from pay cheque to pay cheque near the poverty line this is unrealistic. For those of you id urge to do everything in your power to get a better paying job so you can begin saving money or to move to a place with a higher ratio of earnings to living expenses. Not necessarily to become FI but just so you can have less stress caused by a lack of money.

If any of you dear readers are also on a similar journey id love to hear it!
I look forward to bringing you all on this with us when we start our permaculture lifestyle youtube channel too so stay tuned!

No Poo Method Update!

So to those of you interested in my no poo journey. It has been 1 week!

So thus far about a week ago i firstly washed my hair using the bicarb soda/ apple cider vinegar method. And it hated it! Mostly I hated the feeling of both the vinegar and the bicarb soda solution. It made my scalp feel stingy and I hated the smell and really everything about it. I also didn’t get nice hair afterwards. It was super dry and tangled and when I brushed it with my porcupine brush (boar bristle/nylon combo)  I had very staticy hair.

I also did some reading about how long term bicarb soda isn’t good for hair due to it’s alkalinity and some people even experience real damage from it. So I decided it wasn’t for me.

But I did hope that this first off wash with it would count as a clarifying initial wash ridding my hair of old product as I couldn’t find a clarifying shampoo where i live and any google search of DIY clarifying shampoo just brings up the bicarb soda/vinegar method anyway.

So after that and some further research i came across the use of soapnuts as a shampoo alternative. Now I was pretty excited about this as i already have a huge stash of them for my laundry. I’m actually a huge fan of them for that. From what i’ve read soapnuts are used commonly in India as a shampoo and is counted as ‘no poo’ as it doesn’t strip the hair of it’s natural oils it just cleans it of everything else. It is also meant to be somewhat conditioning.

So I made up my soap nut shampoo which involves boiling the shells in water for about 20mins. I also added some tea tree oil and a teaspoon of citric acid to act as a preservative and also used some zanthan gum to thicken it up to make it a bit easier to apply. This worked quite nicely.

So about 2 days after my disastrous bicarb soda wash I washed my hair with the soap nut shampoo. I wanted to like it – it certainly wasn’t as bad as the bicarb soda. But my hair was still very dry and also it seemed like my roots were now very oily despite my had just being washed.

2 days later i thought i’d give it another go an this time use more the shampoo. I also had purchased some completely natural non-silicone based conditioner (Sukin Organics brand which is available in Australia) and this time i used a lot more soap nut shampoo and just the tinniest amount of this conditioner on the ends of my hair. Eureka! This time I was quite happy with my hair. I think this might be the perfect combination for me and allow my hair to naturally balance out and eventually get to the stage that maybe i can just wash it once a week or so or even graduated eventually to water only.

Now going forward I think i need to make a stronger shampoo in the future with more soapnuts. I think i originally used about 6 nuts to 500ml of water and I think i’m going to double that. Also I think It would be better to have a 100% natural brush so i’ll be looking out for one of them in the future. I just used the porcupine one before because that was all i could get locally.

So anyway i hope that helps anyone thinking about going no poo. I’ll do another update after using this method for quite a while in the future!

I’m going to try the No Poo Method!

So i already have a pretty minimalist beauty/personal care routine (see video below). But im contemplating taking it up a notch and going no poo! By now you have all probably heard about no poo which is the idea that you can stop using shampoo and conditioner and after a period of adjustment your hair will be much healthier. Some versions of this use baking soda and/or apple cider vinegar.

Right now seems to be a good time if ever i’m going to do this, while i’m on maternity leave as I won’t have to deal with that embarrassing transition phase while im going to work and needing to look professional.

What appeals to me about this is that it might make my personal care routine even more simple and also save us money. That being said the shampoo i use is rather cheap so i guess i’ll also do a comparison on that between the cost of baking soda and apple cider vinegar too if i go down that route.

Anyway i though this might be something I could do regular updates on my experience trying this. Everyone’s hair and scalp is different so the more people share their experience the better.

I think i might need to get a better brush though…

Anyhoo… stay tuned for an update. I’m off to do a bit of research on exactly what this might involve.

 

Surviving Maternity Leave Financially

I am extremely fortunate to be living in Australia as a mother on maternity leave but also to have a decent job with several weeks of maternity leave pay and a husband with a good job. This means that we can afford for me to have a whole year off (most unpaid) which I know is a big luxury compared to many other families and also the situation in other countries such as the US where maternity leave pay is rare. Here in Australia though we like to compare ourselves with families in Europe with far more maternity leave pay and better conditions than ourselves! But I really am grateful for what we have here already.

Despite the bit of help from my workplace and from the Australian government (which gives 18 weeks paid leave at minimum wage), my going on maternity leave is a significant reduction in our regular family income. On top of this having a new baby and doing activities that mothers on maternity leave often do can create some potential new expenses we didn’t have before.

Despite this i have managed to 6 months post birth to have never used the ATM and to have not had to ask my husband for any spending money. However my husband does pay our rent, mortgage, bills, food etc out of his wage. But I have bought most baby items we needed after the birth as well as all my own social expenses, clothing, mobile phone bill, even a new $500 mobile phone from cash.

So where did this cash come from? From selling items around our home in our effort to become more minimalist. I even managed to put quite a bit of this cash onto our house mortgage, as well as almost all of my maternity leave pay.

Here are some tips that i think will help those of you also on extended maternity leave or even permanent stay at home mums.

1. Beware of the Coffees!
There is nothing lovelier than coffee with other mummy friends. And I personally have found that my baby is way better behaved and entertained when i’m out of the house with friends in different environments. But all that coffee (and lunches potentially too depending on what your friends are like) can really add up!
I have cut this cost down a lot by only occasionally buying coffee when im out with friends and a lot of the time bringing my own coffee in a thermos that looks like a water bottle. We often go to cafes with a separate play cafe area when is a bit away from them main area and i’ve never ever been told off by the wait staff for drinking out of this bottle and not buying anything. This though might depend on where you go. So if that situation isn’t the same for you, perhaps suggest to your friends to either have homemade coffee at each others houses, or for them to get take-away and take it to a park/playground where you can drink your homemade coffee in a thermos in peace.

My husband and I got a really great expresso machine for our wedding which makes cafe quality coffee so it is never hard for me to convince everyone over to my place on a regular basis 🙂 Having lovely coffee at home also makes my less lovely thermos coffee out more bearable.

thermos
This is what my thermos looks like.

2. Buy your essential baby items before you have the baby while you still have an income from your work
Try to buy essential items like clothing, your pram, carseat etc before you baby comes. Most people will do this anyway but if you can stock up also on clothing for when your baby is a lot bigger than a newborn. While you won’t necessarily know what season your baby will fit into a size 1 etc. you can be pretty sure that items like singlets, and longsleeve sleepers will be used regardless of the season. For ideas on what really is a minimalist essentials baby list check out my posts on both the newborn stage and 6 weeks to 6months stage. I got most of the clothing from a charity store for next to nothing anyway but it still does add up when you are talking so many different baby sizes needed.

3. Sell unused Baby Items to Fund New Items When you Need Them
While you may want to keep some things for subsequent children, if something is cheap and readily available 2nd hand (such as bouncy chairs and baby baths) don’t waste storage space storing these items, sell them on to help fund things you have worked out you really need now. One thing this has been particularly useful for is baby carriers. I personally use woven wraps and have ‘swapped’ ones that were better at the tiny baby stage for ones that are better now that i have a 10kg 6 month old. I didn’t lose much money doing this, sometimes losing no money at all for what i paid for them originally by buying 2nd hand to begin with and finding the best market to sell these items on, usually speciality facebook groups.

4. Be open about your financial situation with your friends
If you are quite close to your other mummy friends who are you spending most of you time with during maternity leave, be open about wanting to spend less money and even save money during this time. Chances are at least some of them will be in the same position and be quite happy to do activities that cost less money. Sometimes people feel peer-pressure or don’t want to miss out so will go along with the group doing things they can’t really afford, so will be probably relieved that someone has spoken up. You don’t even need to be strapped financially to have this conversation. If you are like us, aiming to have our house paid off and be debt free in an extremely short amount of time, then most people will be understanding of this too, and often might be inspired to try to do the same.

5. Find free activities to do with your baby (and friends)
Yes you can just stay home, or just visit your friend’s houses on a rotational basis. But it is also nice to get out and do some activities or do something more than just chatting and drinking coffee once in a while. There are often lost of free activities run by libraries, local councils, health centers, churches etc that may be available to you to try. Some of these that I personally enjoy are baby storytime at the library, nippy gym (which is free for us since my child is still under 1), going to the park to use the swings or having picnics there with friends, going for walks. There is also regular get-togethers organised by our local community health center and while some of these activities do involve coffee I will usually go just for the social element and bring my own (see above). Some of my friends and I have also introduced activities into our local get-togethers at each other’s houses including cooking, craft and practicing babywearing using woven wraps.

6. Have a small savings Account with Money to Last the Whole Time of Your Leave
Rather than have to ask your partner for money during this time which is easy to lose track of, set aside while you still are working a small pool of money that you both agree to that is for all your activities, clothes, entertainment etc while you are on leave. You can always add to this by selling items if necessary once you are on leave. But this way you can keep a track of your spending overall and know when you might need to pull back if things are going a bit much. It might also feel a bit nicer to not have to ask your partner for money if you were previously used to having your own income before. This will probably only work if your leave has a set end date and you aren’t just becoming a full time stay at home mum (SAHM). If you are a SAHM then perhaps have a pool of money to last a set amount of time such as 6 months or 1 year. The longer amount of time this is meant to last then the better idea you will have of how much you are really spending. Ideally this pool of money shouldn’t be used for every day expenses such as groceries and bills. Have a separate shared bank account for these things.

7. When you Need to Buy Items go 2nd Hand Where Possible
This one is kind of obvious at least to me, but so many people don’t really do this for the full spectrum of items they buy for their lives. When you do need to buy things look at charity stores, ebay, freecycle.org, facebook buy/swap/sell groups etc. This is particularly useful for ALL baby items, but also clothing for yourself. No doubt you will want a few items of clothing post birth as you’ll no longer fit into your maternity clothes and may have found that many of the clothing from before the pregnancy are now either no longer fitting either, terribly out of fashion (next time chose more timeless pieces!) or not breast-feeding friendly. Get what you can at charity stores for this. T-shirts or singlet tops with stretchy necklines will be your favourite pieces if you are breastfeeding! No need to have a lot of expensive ‘nursing tops’. If you are shy of feeding in public, then get a scarf.

OMG i’ve Discovered Zentangle!

11205580_10153965994288136_8603569620068725099_nI can’t even really remember how I came across the concept of Zentangle online. But it was only 2 days ago and already I have a notebook full of about 6 zengtangle doodles! If you don’t know what it is- Zentangle is a very specific form of doodling illustration. It has set rules and a series of official patterns that mean that anyone and i mean ANYONE can produce the most beautiful abstract pattern illustrations in no time at all. The idea behind it is that it is form of meditation and my word does it suck you in and become seriously addictive! The official site for it and info is here: https://www.zentangle.com I’m actually a pretty creative person at heart. But i’m also a creative person without much in the way of artistic tallent. So Zentangle is just perfect for me.

Kudos to the creators of this for finding a way to market doodling as there is all manner of official books, pens and cardstock you can buy from them. And they actually make it a core part of the ‘zen’ side of the meditative philosophy to use only ‘quality items’. There is no reason though you couldn’t do this with just a piece of scrap pattern and a sharpie. I personally dug around my house and found a notebook with blank pages i’d been given as a gift many years ago and use an Artline fineline pen from from the grocery store. A pencil is also useful for shading which adds perspective. As for an alternative to buying the books or paying to attend a class (which i’m sure would actually be a pretty amazing experience if you can go to one), is to go online to learn the patterns. http://tanglepatterns.com is a great resource for this. And i’m getting the books for free through the library but even without that them there is plenty enough inspiration and pattern tutorials online. Even just do a google image search or instagram search of zentangle and you will bring up such an amazing collection of inspirational artwork.

There is one possible downside to getting into zentangle however. It is so very very addictive and will also completely change the way you see the world around you. Now i can’t go anywhere without noticing the patterns in the sidewalk or in the leaves of trees etc. It now feels like we are completely living in a zentangle! I also constantly want a fix, be it learning new patterns and adding to my sample collection that i’ve started at the back of my note book or doing entire zentangles themselves. I’m personally planning to do one a day for the meditative aspect of it, but it is difficult i find to stop at that. And it is not as though I actually have time to do more than that either, especially as a busy mum trying also to do study, have a social life, look after the housework and run a youtube channel. But like many addicts I have been known to ignore other more pressing tasks to get my next fix!

Anyway here is a few of my first attempts. If you are looking for an affordable activity that is very fulfilling and fun, then this might be something for you!

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