Featured Post: My Tips for Financially Surviving Maternity Leave

 

babygymOne of the things which you’ll come to realise quite soon after your pregnancy sinks in is the financial implications! I was employed throughout my 3 pregnancies and was very fortunate to have good a good maternity scheme where my money was gradually reduced to the statutory amount over a period of weeks. There are loads of caveats to maternity pay and its worth thinking about them ideally before pregnancy- for example to qualify you have to have worked a certain amount for 26 weeks before the 15th week before the baby is due. You can find out about them here on the money advice service website.

One of the problems with being off on maternity leave is that you have lots more time to spend money and lots more demands on it. For example, if you want to socialise or just get out the house you’ll find yourself going to coffee shops, playgroups and other activities. These are really important for your mental health, but come at a cost to your pocket. So just how can you save some pennies?

I know that for your first baby you’ll want everything new and lovely, however buying second hand and accepting freebies will save you a fortune. One of the things I’ve learnt is that babies grow very quickly, you wont need all those 0-3 month clothes, there will be stuff they don’t even wear. Babies and small children have no idea what they are wearing, I’d buy one or two nice new outfits and beg, steal and borrow the rest. Also buy quality items if you can (that doesn’t necessarily mean designer)- workhorse clothes which are well made from good fabric will wash and wear so they are always more economical. My third child is wearing the first child’s wardrobe and it looks a good as new!

The same principle applies to all the baby equipment. There is no point in buying an expensive top of the range pram, everyone ends up with a Maclaren. A change mat on the floor is better than a changing unit which they’ll only fall off and will take up loads of space. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can sell it all for big bucks once you’ve finished with it- the kids will trash it all and no-one will want it.

Toys will be a real temptation. Avoid at all costs. They only need one or two and the rest will become clutter and the bane of your life. If you enjoy books with your child (very important), then curate a small bookshelf and make the best use of your library.

The other thing which will save a fortune is to try to make the most of all the free activities out there. Baby rhyme time at the library is brilliant, many museums offer great free children’s activities or why not start a craft group with like minded mums at your house?

I loved my periods of maternity leave and loathed them in equal measure. It can be very empowering becoming a parent, but at the same time very difficult when you experience a massive loss of income and to a certain extent a loss of personal status. Getting to grips with your finances before the baby comes will give you a brilliant start to parenting, after all a happy mummy makes for a happy baby!

 

Featured Post: Summer Holiday Brain Drain

With my eldest now in year 5 i’m getting very familiar with the concept of ‘brain drain’. Its basically where your child can go backwards  in terms of their reading, maths and general school stuff during school holidays. I think some of it is related to lack of use- if you don’ t keep doing something then you easily forget it, it happens to us all. However, its a good idea for children’s confidence to try to maintain their levels over the holidays. Hope Education have provided me with the handy infographic posted below which provides some great ideas.

One of the things which I do is to buy the children a new notebook and get them working on a project of their choosing. We also have special themed days such as our India Day and special book club days to keep them reading. The other brilliant thing to do- highlighted in the infographic below- is to get them to keep a diary. This encourages literacy, comprehension and loads of skills including maintaining their fine motor skills. The other day the 9 year old found the diary he wrote when he had finished reception and he was delighted to have a look at it.

If you haven’t discovered it yet there are also some fabulous apps which can keep the kids thinking and learning. We like Reading Eggs, Scratch and Minecraft (surprisingly educational) here but there are loads to choose from.

Its only three weeks until half term, now is the time to start thinking about how to keep the children educated and using their brains. I must admit, I’ve come to realise that for me its best if I plan activities so we will be having a halloween themed book day, a trip to a railway museum, some cookery and possibly a theatre trip.

I’d love to hear your ideas for preventing brain drain; what do you have planned for half term?

 

summer-holiday-listicle

Featured Post: Eco Friendly Schools: How To Be Greener In The Classroom

Old habits die hard, so the saying goes. That’s why it’s vital to pick up good habits as soon as humanly possible. Often this means helping our children to learn to be good citizens while they develop intellectually in the classroom.

So how, therefore, can we get them to be good citizens in an environmental sense? With a renewed sense that the current generation must act to protect the planet for the next, it’s crucial that children understand what it means to be green.

Here are some practical ways to help them along the way:

Recycling

As a nation we’ve come a long way when it comes to recycling. In 2001 just 12 per cent of municipal waste was recycled and by 2010 that had jumped to 39 per cent. Now that figure is running in the low 40s. That is still below our target of 50 per cent by 2020 though, which means we must still do more at all levels of society.

junkmodels

some junk models by the 4 year old

That can start quite naturally in the classroom. Make sure every scrap of paper used is recycled and that the children use recycling bins in the classroom. Encourage children to bring in things like batteries and used ink cartridges that can be sent off for recycling, maybe even making it into a competition or challenge. Give children the responsibility of being ‘eco champions’ to co-ordinate your classroom’s efforts – they’ll thrive with the responsibility.

Art

While we’re at it, it’s worth considering which materials could be used for art projects. That can be packaging or discarded items in the classroom or also at home. Old shoe boxes, jars and plastic bottles might all come in handy in the right context – get children to squirrel them away and bring them in. By finding a new creative use for old materials children will be able to appreciate the fun side of recycling.

Go digital

The sort of technology available in the classroom these days means that it is easier than ever to ‘go green’ while learning how to use the devices that are essential to a modern, digital world. Children shouldn’t need to be issued with stacks of worksheets or handouts to help with their tasks, with computers and tablets helping to wean classrooms off using quite so much paper.

Transport

Don’t just think inside the classroom either. Help children to understand their carbon footprint by thinking about the way they get to school as well as what they do while they are there. Sharing lifts with classmates can help cut this down, as can encouraging children to use public transport or things such as a ‘walking bus’ to safely make their way in in the mornings. Teachers can set the tone by the way they travel in to work too. This might depend on where you are and what options are available. Teacher jobs in London might pose a different challenge to the Outer Hebrides for example, but the principle is the same: if you lead, they will follow.

Featured Post: How to Prepare Your House for Sale

houseAre you thinking of putting your property on the market? As parents this is something we’ve spent a long time considering and discussing. As our family has grown we have outgrown our house. Its a tricky thing to do successfully when you’re busy rushing about and you have a house full of stuff so we’ve put together some top tips for you. This advice will help you to ensure that your house sells quickly and for the highest amount possible…

First, think about your curb appeal

When you’ve been living in your home for a while it can be hard to see that it’s less than perfect. However, prospective buyers are going to be judging your property from the moment they set eyes on it, so make that first impression count!

Freshen up the exterior and attend to peeling paintwork, overgrown gardens, cracked patios and fallen-down walls or fences. By getting the outside of your property in top tip condition, the buyer will truly believe that it’s worth every penny you’re asking for.

Repair damage
Similarly, spend some time and money making essential repairs. For instance, if your chimney is beginning to fall down or you have big cracks appearing in the walls, it’s definitely in your interest to get it fixed.

Why? Well, putting your house on the market without addressing these issues is going to knock lots of money off the asking price as buyers know that they’ll have to foot the bill to put it right. But don’t worry: you can recoup the money you’ve spent on repairs by simply putting the asking price up a little, so this step doesn’t have to cost you as much as you might be imagining right now!

Freshen up with a lick of paint

If any of your rooms, skirting boards or trims are looking worse for wear, freshen them up with a new coat of paint. And, if you have particularly bold taste, you should consider redecorating in neutral colours. Opt for whites and creams as prospective buyers will find it easy to envisage moving their belongings into your home if you’re offering them a blank canvas.

De-clutter and tidy up

It can be hard to keep on top of the mess while you’re selling (especially if you have a family), but it will certainly pay off to give your house a deep clean before it’s professionally photographed. Tidy up before viewings, and use the fact you’re selling as an opportunity to de-clutter some of your belongings: nothing puts prospective buyers off like mountains of ‘junk’, especially if it’s obscuring the proportions of your rooms or blocking natural light.

Decide how you’re going to market your house

Finally, remember that some house buyers pay in cash (such as the kind of companies that buys homes quickly and don’t need to secure mortgages beforehand), whereas others are going to be locked into a chain.

So, decide what’s important to you: do you want to sell your house quickly and have it taken off your hands? Or, are you happy to let it linger on the market before negotiating offers and contracts? It’s a personal decision and both options could be the right choice, so just weigh up the pros and cons of each.  

If you follow these tips, you’ll be a long way towards getting your house ready for sale! For more advice, check out this information available on the Home Owners Alliance website.

 

Featured Post: What appliance could you not live without?

using washboard

Using a washboard- good training for when the washing machine breaks!

The other day I received an interesting email from Beko telling me about a poll they did on Twitter asking people which appliance they couldn’t live without. The consensus was that people couldn’t live without their fridge freezer in fact 49% of people said so!

I must admit I was really surprised about this as for me this would not have been anywhere near the top. I know this for a fact because a couple of years ago we were without a kitchen for a couple of months and as a result we were also without appliances. For me, with three children the thing which we needed the most was the washing machine. I could make do without a dishwasher, a microwave was a reasonable standby instead of the oven and I could just keep the cold stuff outside (although it did prove expensive having to pop to the shops every time we wanted a frozen item).

As the children get older and I’ve gone back to work properly, rather than working from home or ad-hoc hours, I’ve noticed just how much I use the washing machine. Its used at least once or twice per day for a full load of washing- children generate SUCH a lot of washing.

The eldest is studying Victorians at school and I got out our washboard to show him how Victorians would have done their washing. We last used this when the kids were tiny (see the picture above which I just thought was so cute I had to use it!). We had another go with it and then we considered our laundry pile and the amount of time it would take. The conclusion was genuinely quite horrific, i’d probably be spending at least three hours a day just on laundry if I had to do it the old fashioned way!

Sitting back and evaluating how lucky we are nowadays to have all these appliances to help with our domestic chores really puts stuff into perspective. Our lives would have been so different event forty years ago. Technology has improved the way we cook, the ease of access to food. It has saved us time, effort and made our lives so much easier. For me the next task is to train the children how to use it all, the eldest has been given lessons in washing machine use, they can all use the oven but unfortunately they cant reach the microwave!

I’d love to hear what appliance you cant live without, do you agree with me or do you agree with the Twitter poll?