Set & Forget – Investing just got easier

Check out Part 1 of my investment series in collaboration with Sharesies here

Just like anything, instilling responsible financial habits in both ourselves and our kids takes both time, patience and practice. As I mentioned last month, we began contributing to the boys’ savings accounts as soon as they were born, setting up automatic payments of $10 per week and then essentially ignoring the accounts over the past 14 years. Obviously a very passive approach to saving but one that has easily become a fixture in the family budget.

Now that we are actively teaching the boys about investment diversity with the help of their Sharesies accounts, it’s time to level-up and get them thinking about their money, and where it’s going, on a more regular basis. If kids are earning pocket money, or if they receive money as a gift from friends and family, an easy way to foster a very intentional mindset towards saving is to introduce a spend/save/donate ratio which is in line with your family’s financial strategy. This is easy to implement from a super young age using low denomination coins and different envelopes, boxes or containers for spending, saving and donating.

Applying this practice of regular contributions to existing investments is also worthwhile implementing with our kids’ accounts. Many of us probably pay into our KiwiSaver accounts with uniform deposits via our pay schedules or, manually instigated automatic payments. As of last week, we can now do the same with our Sharesies investments – auto-invest is now live on the platform and it’s so easy to set up!

I’m all about automating as much of our family’s ‘Life Admin’ as possible – especially those voluntary tasks which can be easy to overlook like, savings and investment. I’ve had Christmas Club savings in place for over 10 years now at both a supermarket and The Warehouse and let me tell you, the value-add of decision free, locked-in saving each week results in a massive high five to yourself come Christmas time. Hooking up your Sharesies account with auto-invest is another one of those adult life hacks that you spend 5 minutes on now and end up patting yourself on the back for years to come.

Why use Auto-Invest

  • Sharesies auto-invest helps you stick to an investment strategy that’s right for you. For Dave and I, this means contributing small amounts regularly to each of the boys Sharesies portfolios.
  • Auto-invest helps you build on an investment when you don’t have a large, lump sum to begin with – which is what Sharesies is all about to be honest!
  • With Sharesies auto-invest you can choose between 3 pre-made orders (one of which is specifically for kids accounts) or you can build your own DIY Order.
  • Auto-invest is faster than setting up an AP via internet banking – I’m not exaggerating. I set up auto-invest on both boys Sharesies accounts in under 4 minutes total. The platform is so intuitive and easy I feel safe and confident with what I’m doing every time I log on.

I’m pretty excited about this new offering from Sharesies for a number of reasons, but probably top of the list is that from now on, the boys will be able to see the benefit and growth in their portfolios as a result of regular investing. Getting our ‘foot-in-the-door’ and being able to purchase shares in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is a game changer for families and individuals alike. Now with auto-invest, diversification of our savings investments is just as simple to automate and as free of fees as our Christmas Club at the supermarket (but maybe not quite so boring so I should be able to get the kids to pay attention at least once a month lol).

Parenting and Ice Cream: When simple things are the best remedy

I inadvertently taught myself a good lesson this week;  despite my best intentions not to work on Monday’s as Nix is home from kindy, I found myself a participant in a continuous string of phone calls for over an hour, whilst I madly multi-tasked, wrote a difficult email I’d been dreading and stressed about the next deadline.

This was not how my summery Monday’s with Nix were supposed to go, in fact, where DID my summery Monday’s with Nix go?

IT’S AUTUMN!!!

Not to worry, antipodean New Zealand weather patterns say NO to seasonal conformity and say YES to 28° in the first week of March.

Hallelujah.

In need of an instant Monday-itis remedy I told Nix to ‘load up’, we were off to eat ice cream by the river.  

“No, you don’t have to get changed” – he was wet from water play at home.

“No, you don’t have to wear shoes” – we live in New Zealand!

“Yes, you can pick any flavour you like” – even though you are a creature of habit little darling and choose the same flavour every time.

Overseas travel forgotten, birthday parties agonised over…….a nondescript Monday afternoon had become my four-year-olds Best Day EVER.

The simplicity of a memory made, for the cost of a Jelly Tip and a Popsicle, was a lesson for me in ‘less is more’.

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Food nostalgia plays an important role in shaping cultural identity and as New Zealanders, we have our own culinary cues which many of us hold dear.  After 6 years of living in the states, upon touchdown in Auckland back in 2006, I was positively pining for a mince and cheese pie, some quality bread and Tip Top Hokey Pokey Ice Cream.  Combine those homesick-hunger-pangs with the imminent joy of introducing my new husband and toddler to my kiwi faves and I was one hangry, home-again traveler!

Growing up in NZ where many of us come from a farming or primary industry background, it’s no wonder as a Kiwi I feel a pang of familiarity and that ‘this is HOME’ feeling every time I crack open that iconic blue 2L tub and endeavour to peel off the perfect scoop of ice cream!  New Zealand milk and cream is coveted the world over mainly due to the pasture-fed lineage of hometown heroes, the NZ dairy herd. When one of our most iconic NZ owned companies, Tip Top, only uses fresh New Zealand milk and cream in their ice cream, it gives me hope that such an enduring taste of NZ will continue on in our freezers to share with our friends and families, making memories together for another generation to come.

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And so, Nixon and I sat and enjoyed our ice cream, a perfect #GoodtoShare moment, and then we ambled along the river, talking about crabs and if eels attack ducks and he got muddy (and loved it) and clambered and danced and sang and generally revelled in the peace and open space that is so easily forgotten (even though this spot is only 1.5km from our house!).  And as I felt my not-enough-hours-in-the-day anxiety begin to dissipate I quietly laughed at the knowledge that I had just proven a meme correct and how entirely 21st century Digital Mum that was of me;

“Ice cream solves everything”.

And Nixon wholeheartedly agreed.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Tip Top!  For more info head to: https://www.tiptop.co.nz/education/

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Milestones: 13.

I’m in a real ‘adulting’ mindset at the moment.  I’ve had a meeting with an insurance broker, we are getting Dave’s citizenship underway, our mortgage is up for renewal so I’m in full planning mode around refinancing and I’m really consciously trying to make our house and home work for our family without falling into the trap of obsessing about ‘MORE’.

Always in parallel alongside all of that very boring grown-up, life admin, is the most important job of all – parenting.

With the 8.5 year age-gap between Ethan and Nixon, the past 4.5 years of child milestones feel like they’ve belonged somewhat solely to Nix.  The heady baby days of rolling over, sitting up, his first steps, first word, first day of kindy……….they’ve been freshly imprinted in our family memory banks as they should!  However,  Ethan has moved from single digits into a legit teenager, now 13 and in his first year at high school.  That’s a massive fucking milestone that has crept up on me and literally slapped me in the face at the year 9 parents evening I attended last week.

I was sitting in an auditorium at my old high school, (thank god for kids of Old Girls getting bumped up the ballot!), next to some friends from out west.  I had just downloaded the school app (!!!), which is the most incredible thing ever, personalized with Ethan’s 6-day timetable, the contact info for all of his teachers, an absentee portal +  pretty much everything Dave and I NEED to know about Ethan’s day-to-day school life, when, I looked over at my friends and said; “can you even believe we are here????”

And by believe, I meant, how is it that we have somehow bumbled/guided our collective sons for 13 years to arrive at that point where we were sitting en masse in the largest high school in the country listening to the head of mathematics describe how he planned to teach our kids some really, really complicated shit?

I’ve got no idea how Dave and I did it, raised our son to be the awesome little teen he is today. But, the fact of the matter is, he’s taken Year 9 in his stride and has settled into High School like it’s NO BIG THING.

It’s actually a huge thing and a very worthy milestone to ‘quietly’ recognize.  You won’t be allowed to make a song and dance – because teenagers – so don’t even bother.  But once you’ve sat down with all the other bewildered parents at an orientation evening and listened to the expectations and deliverables required of a Year 9 student, your Mum Brain will be fried, emotional and reaching for the wine crutch.

No?

Just me then.  And I’m totally ok with that.

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Why is high school such a BIG step?

So, so many reasons, but these are the ones that resonate with our family;

  • There’s a legit choice, a sometimes agonizing one, around which college to send your kid to.  When you are making decisions that can potentially affect the educational future of your kid, the process of deciding on the in-zone school or out of zone applications, ballots, interviews, puts the decision front and centre in your kid’s mind as well as yours.  They probably weren’t so invested in the choice of primary school or intermediate but as an active participant in the interview process, Ethan was aware of what was at stake and where he hoped the ballot would fall.
  • Public transport may come into play.  Though Ethan rode a bus to intermediate, his trip to high school is a different route.  Every kid in the neighborhood lined up on the wrong side of the street on the first day of term last month!  Getting home again is just as tricky, there is a large bus bay at his school, but Ethan’s bus leaves from a stop outside the gates – of his massive, massive school.  If his last class of the day is on the far side of the school you bet he’s running to make sure he boards the bus so Mum or Dad won’t be forced into a last minute, hour-long round-trip retrieval!
  • Managing a 6-day timetable.  This has been a super hard transition for E, but we are getting there.  This is where Dave and I have to step in a double check he’s ready for the day ahead before he leaves the house.
  • Learning to move around the school each period and acclimate to a different teacher and classroom for each subject.
  • Homework vs sport vs family expectations vs the god awful game console.  Work in progress for us to be honest, but compared to 3 weeks ago things are on the up and Ethan is settling into a good after-school routine.
  • Social change.  Making new friends and switching up the kids he hangs with has been nothing but beneficial for E, but that’s to be expected.  He’s pretty mellow in the friends’ department and just enjoys spending time with whomever he has a common interest with.  His daily is heading to the gym each lunchtime and shooting hoops with whoever shows up.  I can imagine that this really important time in a teenagers life can be pretty rough waters for some kids as they begin high school and have to navigate new friends and social roles.

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So yeah.  Ethan is Year 9, his first year of high school and simply going about his days like primary and intermediate were simply some distant dream state from which he’s just now emerged.  He’s amazing, capable and confident and I’m just so proud of him.

Hoping your kids have started off the school year in their best possible way also, and if not, be their advocate, be persistent and don’t settle for nods and grunts and non-communication.  Getting your kids talking and keeping them talking through the tween years is sooooo important and will help all of the Big Kid transitions and milestones still to come.

There are many by the way, don’t forget to celebrate them…………….quietly lol.

 

 

Parents, this is how you win at the internet – MindLabKids.com

Summer school holidays are almost upon us here in New Zealand and, as far as I can tell, there are two distinct methodologies parents use to tackle the school holidays;

  1. The Organized Planner: Days, playdates, excursions,  picnics are all planned with military precision – only to be completely at the mercy of the sometimes/usually unpredictable January weather (especially if you live in Auckland!)
  2. The She’ll be Right Parent:  No planning necessary – it’s the holidays after all!

Whether you identify as a #1 or a #2 or a happy mix of both, it’s inevitable that weather, exhaustion or, real-life necessity such as parents having to adult and go to work, will result in days spent at home.  If you find this heralds the ‘I’m bored’ chorus we all dread, well, I’m all for letting kids ride out their boredom (if you can stand it!).  Giving kids the space and independence to be bored allows them the creative freedom to ‘un-bore’ themselves in ways adults may never have imagined.

If that doesn’t work, or has run its course, some intentional time online may be just the ticket.  Screentime for the kids; they’re happy, combined with educational, productive activities; Mum and Dad are happy.

Everyone wins!  (So bookmark this website now before you forget >> www.mindlabkids.com

What is MindLabKids.com?

The Mind Lab by Unitec is an award-winning, specialist learning lab dedicated to increasing knowledge and understanding of modern technology via workshops, school visits, holiday programmes and teacher professional development.  Emerging from this cutting-edge combo of education and fresh ways to deliver it, comes MindLabKids.com.

The website itself is an engaging, exciting online destination where kids can discover science and technology at their own pace, through hands-on experiments, challenges, and safe collabs with other kids.  Three new challenges are released each week around kid-magnet topics such as; robotics, 3D design, animation, and stop-motion, movie making and more.

How we use MindLabKids.com

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First points to note, rego is free, quick and easy.  Ethan was instructed NOT to use his own name as the username, plus, the only contact information requested was a parents email address – which I had to verify before the account was activated.

That was it!  Ethan was off, with Nix observing at elbow height, of course, intrigued by the fact that his big brother was stoked to be using the computer with Mum’s encouragement.

The home feed is a collation of challenges, fun facts, members responses to challenges, surveys, and cute memes – essentially everything kids want or more importantly NEED from an educational site that is kinda a cross-over with an age-appropriate social network.  You can respond to user-created content in a positive way via likes and even ‘favorite’ accounts that are uploading videos you love.

But obviously, the very BEST part, which the boys are loving, is getting their curious neurons firing and getting stuck into the online challenges.

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Nix and E both have a Mind Lab Kids Starter Pack (which got them so pumped to get cracking I gotta say!)  These are definitely not necessary to participate in the challenge responses, but Ethan found after looking at the kit inclusions such as a propeller, 3V motor, battery pack, pager motor, hovercraft plate (stuff we generally don’t have lying about the house), his mind was a little more open to the creative, problem solving process, knowing that he had some extra tools on hand.

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On that note,  seriously great Christmas gift right?!  Create your child’s login, write their username and password on a gift tag, wrap up the Mind Lab Kids Starter Pack and you’ve got the perfect parental gift trifecta; it’s educational, not a toy they don’t need and can be reused over and over again in different ways.

Boom.

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The first challenge the boys tried their hand at was Professor D’s Hovercraft Challenge – obvs Ethan and I helped Nix a lot with his, he was just down to go crazy with the glue gun to be honest, but that’s every 4 year old’s prerogative lol.

Check out our Hovercraft Challenge Response Video here on the MindLabKids.com website.

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Win a MindLabKids.com Starter Kit!

Get your kids excited about science and technology and they could win their own MindLabKids.com starter kit!

To enter;

  1. Join Mind Lab Kids, if your kids are already a member then they are good to go!
  2. Film and upload a challenge-response video to www.mindlabkids.com before 10am 10 December 2017.
  3. That’s it!

Full terms and conditions can be found here, otherwise, the main point to note is that you must be a NZ resident.

This post was made possible by www.MindLabKids.com.

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Raising Kiwi boys – the good, the bad and the muddy

Karicare Toddler is about as Kiwi as the kids that are we are raising here in New Zealand. As a Mum to a couple of Kiwi boys, Karicare Toddler asked me to have a think about what it means to me to be a Kiwi mum.  Made right here in New Zealand, Karicare Toddler have been committed to using the goodness of New Zealand cows’ milk from Kiwi cows on Kiwi farms. How awesome is it that our kids can enjoy the benefits of amazing NZ dairy from their earliest years?!

13 years ago when I thought kids were (maybe?) a distant possibility in my future, I could only imagine parenting boys. The thought of raising a mini-Melissa terrified me – and rightly so if you ask my mother!

So imagine my ‘surprise’ when Dave and I fell pregnant whilst in the very early stages of planning our wedding. “Boys it is!” I assured Dave, only to be told at every single scan that we were expecting a girl.

The pink presents began rolling in. Despite living in Southern California at the time, baby girl had more pink blankets then she would ever be able to use and Mum had Pumpkin Patch on speed dial ready to snap up every cute girls outfit released that season.

Luckily most shops these days have a fantastic return policy.  Baby girl was indeed, an Ethan. And then 8.5 years later, another bouncing, 10.4lb bundle of joy – Nixon – arrived.

Those are my qualifications for writing about Kiwi boys. I know nothing I can assure you, and what I and other mothers of boys do know is learned (or earned) through the school of hard knocks, lost socks and empty pantries.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family yarns Kiwi KidsTwo children deep, hindsight has proven what an absolute angel our first child was. It’s almost unfair that we didn’t realise how easy those first 8.5 years of parenting actually were. Because the bomb sure dropped when Nixon arrived.

The large age gap seemed like a dream initially. Ethan was completely smitten with his little brother, he’d waited for him a long time after being present at the sonographers appointment where we found out I’d miscarried during my previous pregnancy.  He was/is a proud and protective (exasperated, tormented) big brother.

Nixon is ::: dramatic pause:::, the exception to every rule I thought I knew about parenting.  He is, without doubt, the loudest person in the universe, the most full-on, stubborn, energizer bunny, tackle everything in his path then poke his finger in your eye just for kicks kid I have ever encountered.  He is also, unerringly cuddly, affectionate, verbose and crazy smart.  

We completely redecorated the house in 2011/12 and post-toddler-Nixon we will have to completely redecorate again.  Rimu windowsills, painstakingly stripped and refinished are now scarred, scratched, chipped and dented.  Walls, all re-plastered and painted have met the same fate.  Cushions vs marker pens, couch vs ballpoint, carpet vs play dough/dirt/dinner, brand new kitchen flooring vs laundry basket zoomed across it at top speed.  If you scoff and say “well, that’s just life with kids”, well perhaps.  Toddler destruction totally caught me by surprise as Ethan in his 13 years on this earth, has never, ever damaged our home or furnishings.

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Nix must have known I needed a great shot of him for the blog today so he obliged by mixing dirt for his vege planters………in his bedroom!

So, despite looking very, very similar our boys are as different as chalk and cheese and are also probably as different as night and day to the other million or so little boys that are growing up around New Zealand at the same time.  That’s really the beauty of our little country in these modern times, differences are (for the most part) tolerated and celebrated.  We are all raising our children in different family configurations, different housing arrangements, with different cultural influences and religious beliefs, more diets than you can shake a stick at but we are at peace amongst an alarming and ever-increasing rate of intolerance in the world around us.

The joy of both being a Kiwi kid and having the immense privilege to raise one – or 2 or 10 or however many you want – is an awesome journey to be on.  Of course, it’s made infinitely easier when there are fab products such as Karicare Toddler that are made in New Zealand and help us give our kids a great start in life.

This post is brought to you by Karicare Toddler.

Win with The Best Nest!

I’ve got three $50 Gift Cards to the Warehouse to give away.  To enter, just comment below with one thing you love about raising kiwi kids or one thing you love about living in New Zealand!  

Competition closes Dec 10 2018. NZ residents only.

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Parenting – Bright Ideas for Young Minds

A couple of weeks ago I attended an event that was a little bit different from those I normally go to each week.  It wasn’t a cosmetic/foodie/makeup event, it wasn’t a glamorous, heels and frock, dress-to-the-nines occasion (thank god!).  It was a book launch.  A beautiful thought-provoking, inspiring book launch that gave me all the feels and left me with an innate desire to be a better mother.

Cripes that’s pretty heavy!

Bright Ideas for Young Minds is a book that screams for your attention as soon as you lay eyes on it.  It’s big, robust and beautifully designed, printed and bound, with fun and exciting content to match.  But what is it?  It’s an activity book brought to life by New Zealand’s largest early learning provider, BestStart and written by kiwi educators with contributions from Plunket, Heart Foundation NZ and Jumping Beans.

In short, it’s amazing.

As well as providing parents and caregivers with a resource chocka-block full of 70 step-by-step activities that cost little or nothing, what Bright Ideas for Young Minds does so well (for me at least!) is remind me how easy it is to bring great joy to my kids.  Showing love through mindful, yet incredibly simple play is the very best education every child deserves.  The great part is, creating positive interactions such as those included in the book, are play options accessible to every New Zealand caregiver.  Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration, a gentle reminder that the currency most cherished by children is our time.

Bright Ideas for Young Minds (Mary Egan Publishers $39.95) is an amazing resource for anyone caring for kiwi kids age 0-6 years and is available now from all leading bookstores.

Win a copy of Bright Ideas for Young Minds!

Tell me how you’d benefit from this beautiful book, or, who you’d gift it to in the comments below.  I’ll draw the winner drawn 11/12/17, NZ residents only.

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9 Things NZ Mums Should Forget when raising Kiwi Kids

Sometimes when you’re a parent (actually quite often – like, daily), you have to make a decision, one that will determine which of two paths your day is likely to take.

You have to decide whether you are going to laugh or cry at whatever lunatic situation you find yourself in as the mother or father of a Kiwi child.  Laugh and you’ll more than likely pick yourself up, clean the poo off the walls and soldier on with the extremely positive outlook of ‘well, it couldn’t get any worse right?’.  Cry and you’ll limp through the rest of the day, somewhat comforted by the knowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that light goes by the name of COFFEE & CHOCOLATE – two of my very best friends btw, great peeps.

So in conjunction with Karicare Toddler (a heritage NZ brand who’ve been helping mums care for Kiwi kids for over 90 years now!),  I’ve been writing about what it means to me to be a Kiwi mum.  In this post, I’ve done some brainstorming and come up with a list of 9 things that I think we can all file away in that box that lives in the garage that you never, ever open.

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Things New Zealand Mums should forget about when raising Kiwi Kids

  1. Sleep. Look, set your sleep expectation level low and then subtract another hour off that and you won’t become disillusioned. It’s all about managing expectations with reality.  Find a caffeinated beverage that you like and work on establishing a long and meaningful relationship. Your days of pillow time will come back……..eventually. In the meantime, buy a great under-eye concealer.
  2. Shoes and long pants.  Forget about them, particularly if your kids are of the boy variety.  I could be generalising here as I do suspect that my boy’s aversion to footwear is in direct correlation with the distance we live from the CBD, the further away we get, the longer a pair of shoes will last. Which is not necessarily a bad thing!
  3. Being Perfect. Despite what Instagram will have you believe, none of us knows what the hell we’re doing, pretty pictures are just modern day smokescreens.  Let it go, do your thing and leave the vacuuming for another day.
  4. Bikinis < this needs no explanation right?
  5. Trying to fix everything. So your kid doesn’t like broccoli or quinoa, he’s not toilet trained yet, he’s scared of flowers…………. kids are weird. Trying to ‘fix’ or train them out of every little quirk or rushing them to meet every milestone before Little Johnny next door will only demoralize both of you and remove joy from your parenting.  Let your kids be weird in their own kind of ‘different’, they’ll grow up to be big weirdos soon enough so just embrace their cute while you can.
  6. Leaving the house in Spring/Summer without a selection of hats and 12 types of sunscreen. Hello living in New Zealand!
  7. Anything you had decided you would or absolutely ‘Would Not Do!’ before you had kids.  Seriously, you need to let go of those ideals right now. Life with kids is about survival, not berating yourself for failing to live up to your pregnancy Stepford Wife mandates!
  8. Sand-free towels at the beach.  Next time you’re at the beach do this;  sit on the sand, lay down and just roll over – YOU WILL NOT DIE!  Make friends with the sand and this will become one less thing to be anal about each summer.
  9. Not getting to know the other kindy/school/sports club mums and dads.  These fellow soldiers are your Brothers-in-Arms, ignore them at your peril!  I wish I’d realised this 5 years ago but thankfully I’m building my tribe, one Mum at a time. Being a parent can be lonely and isolating, forget looking for friends that seem to fit the same cookie-cutter mould you fancy you came from.  Just talk to anyone who makes eye contact with the pleading, desperate look you’ve seen in your own eyes at 4.41 am in the morning – “Help me!!!  I’m a parent, I don’t know what the heck I’m doing but I need a coffee and a tropical holiday, which one can you help me with?!”.

Take heart, it’s all worth it.  Wipe your little darling’s snotty noses, send them off to school and kindy today and count your blessings as you are one of us. A parent of an amazing Kiwi kid.

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This post is brought to you by Karicare Toddler.

Win with The Best Nest!

The joy of both being a Kiwi kid and having the immense privilege to raise one – or 2 or 10 or however many you want – is an awesome journey to be on. Of course, it’s made infinitely easier when there are fab products such as Karicare Toddler that are made in New Zealand.

I’ve got three $50 Gift Cards to the Warehouse to give away.  To enter, just comment below with one thing you love about raising kiwi kids or one thing you love about living in New Zealand!  

Competition closes 10/12/17, NZ residents only.

Mum-Life: A conversation between friends

Our touch rugby season kicked off on Thursday night, which is great, we love our module.  It’s social, fun and a great chance to spend time with our friends each week and have a run around together.  Preparation for touch has been somewhat lacking this season, I’m not particularly fit and winter has not been overly kind.  As I was squeezing into some tights on Thursday, getting ready to walk up to the fields I sent one of my girlfriends this text;

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Ok so let’s ignore the fabulous body-positivity message here, and monitor the irony of my profile pic.  I don’t even know how that got on my phone, I’m pretty sure I didn’t choose a pink doughnut as my avatar so obviously, the stars are perfectly aligned and the universe is sending me subliminal messages regarding carb-consumption – all.  day.  long.

Yesterday I was determined to attack my waistline so after running some errands with the boys I headed out for some fresh air, planning on an hour of fat-burning-walking.  About 30 minutes in, I came upon a friend who was chatting with her ‘pool guy’ in her driveway – sooooo Wisteria Lane, god I love where I live lol.

Anyway, we were making small talk, running through the mum-life state-of-play as the school holidays near their end.  As our convo progressed I had to literally, laugh out loud, only two mums (in their active wear no less) could discuss the variety of subjects we broached, entirely seriously and appreciate that they all happened within the prior 12 hours.

The hot topics de jour were as follows;

  • “What have I done this morning?  Been to the doctors to get warts frozen off one of the kids.  Why are they so gross?  Not warts, kids.  Why are kids so gross?”
  • “Why aren’t you at work?”
    “One of the kids has a rash, all over his junk.  We think it’s from rolling all over the rugby field last night”
    “Yeah, that’ll do it”
    “At least he’s put some shorts on today, might keep him from constantly itching himself.  God kids are gross”
    “Kids are really gross.”
  • “You know what else is gross?  Dogs.  I’ve just picked up all the bombs in the yard.”
    “I have to do that too.  It’s supposed to be Ethan’s job but I just can’t stand it when he leaves 90% of the poo on the grass and you think you’re safe, but next minute, there’s dog shit squishing between your toes.”
    “Dogs suck.  My dogs got stuck together this morning”
    “With glue?  Did the kids leave glue out?  Mine would do that, Mister Maker has a LOT to answer for.”
    “No, our girl’s on heat and the old boy had a go and they couldn’t separate”
    “Oh.  My.  God.”
    “I threw food at them thinking they’d both be so pumped to eat they’d pull apart.  Didn’t work”
     “Oh.  My.  God.”
    “Yeah.  So I went inside to Google how to separate them, turns out you throw water on them, but he’d shrunk down by then so problem solved.”
    “Phew, really dodged a bullet there”
  • “Do you know what I think the very worst part of school holidays is?”
    “No school?”
    “Huts.  Fucking huts everywhere.  My house was spotless this morning, now the linen cupboard is empty and it looks like a third world army is battling for territory in my living room.”
    “Not a fan of huts either”
  • “Ok then, better get back to this fitness thing I’ve got going on”
    “I’ll text you later about beer”
    “Righto”.
    “Shit I can’t.  I dropped and smashed my phone.  Something else I’m in trouble over, I also just curbed two of my mags right in front of hubby”
    “Oooooohhh.  Sucks to be you.  Do you still have a landline?”
    :::::::::crickets::::::::::::

Mum-life is the BEST THING EVER when you know some cool chicks to share it with.

 

 

“You are NEVER ready” – Get Financially Dialled in for Baby

Thanks to BNZ for partnering to help make this post possible.

It’s true, “you are never ready” is more often than not my response when friends and I discuss the age-old question of now, or, later, especially when it comes to having a baby.

My feeling is that you can plan the heck out of the process – make all the lists, read all the books, take all the classes, listen to all the experts (actually, this is probably unrealistic as every person you meet is an expert on raising other people’s children!) but nothing will ever, ever prepare you for the life-changing, maniacal experience of welcoming a baby into the world.

That being said, prospective parents DO have nine months to at least attempt to get their ducks in a row.  I feel like I’ve said this 1000 times but, when Dave and I found out we were expecting Ethan, we had NOTHING.  Like actually, nothing.  I’d been drifting around America for 3 years, surfing and having fun, and Dave had been drifting around for 28 years in a similar state.

We didn’t even have a car and no family in the state of California to lean on.  Shit got real, really fast. So, we simply knuckled down and implemented our own simplistic but totally doable envelope based budgeting plan.

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Baby Ethan, California

As Dave and I were both being paid in cash, it made sense to save in ‘cash’ too.  I fully credit the tactile tangibility of the simple envelope system with keeping us on the path to financial responsibility and helping us save for our imminent life on a single income.  How does it work?  Easy.  Work out your monthly budget and create an envelope for each outgoing expense; rent, power, food, petrol, insurance, internet, phone etc. as well as one for saving and one for FUN.  On the front of each envelope, make a note of the total monthly amount due, as well as the amount you need to save per week for that expense.  Divide your income up weekly between envelopes and voila – complete financial control is yours.

Of course, digital technology and the way we use the internet has changed a lot in the past decade.  You can probably ditch the envelopes and use online tools to get your finances whipped into a family-friendly state.  

Check out the Baby Calculator, an awesome collab between BNZ, Plunket and Massey University that’s based upon the spending of NZ parents.  Since 2010, BNZ has been Plunket’s principal sponsor. As this special relationship builds each year, so does BNZ’s understanding about what families will experience with newborn and young children. If you want an idea of the expenses that will be coming at you – along with sleepless nights, stinky diapers, adoring baby gazes and the best snuggles you’ve ever had in your life – then spend some time online with this invaluable tool.

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(GIANT) Baby Nixon, Auckland

12.5 years later, Dave and I have two wonderful boys and to be honest, the way we view our finances hasn’t changed a whole lot. We are very debt adverse, we have savings plans in place, we watch our spending and we make a lot of cool stuff happen for our family on the cheap. When we began discussing baby #2 we were in a completely different place both physically (New Zealand vs USA) and financially. We had just purchased our first home and had (somehow) managed to negotiate the crazy-speak of fixed/variable/table/reducing/blah blah mortgage speak. Negotiating buying a house and its subsequent reno was the third-most grown-up thing I’ve ever done (the first was birthing a baby and the second was purchasing a BRAND NEW BED! That’s some adulting right there).
We didn’t use our envelope system to pay for our house, though it definitely helped us on our way. Make sure you take advantage of every helping hand that’s available to you, starting with your bank. Buying a house is a really big deal. Historical loyalties to a bank you’ve been with since you were 5 should go out the window if they’re not prepared to take care of you when the time comes to borrow a LOT of money from them.

Pro-Tip: Look for deals and packages specially designed for people like YOU. A comprehensive option is the Baby Bundle from BNZ which offers a range of advantages;
• Fixed home loans – 0.25% discount on the advertised fixed home loan interest rate for the length of your fixed term.
• Variable home loans – 0.25% discount off standard home loan variate rate, including Rapid Repay
• Legal / valuation costs – Receive up to $1,000 towards legal/valuation costs when buying a new home or refinancing with BNZ.
• Credit cards – $0 account fee for the first 12 months on new credit cards.
• Transaction account – $0 account fee for the first 12 months when you open a YouMoney transaction account.
• Personal loan – $0 loan facility fee and discounted rate on a personal loan.

I started this piece by saying that you can never be truly ready for the impact a baby is going to have on your life. This is fact.
But, you can be smart, you can be prepared and you can be informed.

Visit www.bnz.co.nz/plunket for more information

Save your money and love those babies people!

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Bali 2017

Kids Health Insurance – Why I pay for it

(The irony of what I’m writing right now doesn’t escape me as we are on what I call, ‘hospital watch’ with Nixon after a day of vomiting and 2 days without a bowel movement.  Fingers crossed x).

I’m sitting here blogging and thinking back to 3 years ago when we had a very sick child.  Multiple GP visits had come to nothing and no-one seemed to be quite as concerned as we were about the fact that Nixon hadn’t passed a bowel motion in 45 days.  This had been his (and our!) lives for the past 9 months since he was born; obsessing over diaper changes, hoping for action in the downstairs department and fretting constantly over the lack thereof.

After two general anaesthetics and invasive biopsies of his large intestine, he was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s Disease, a congenital condition meaning (basically) he couldn’t poop.

Shit.  Literally lol.

Life with a newborn is frantic, multiplied by 100 when they’re sick.  Had I remembered to add Nixon to our health insurance policy?  Who knew?  Did I remember my failure to do so literally minutes after his diagnosis?

Of course, and that was cool as I totally needed something else to beat myself up about at that time.  Not!

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My brother and I were fortunate enough to inherit ‘legacy’ health insurance as we moved into adulthood, meaning that my parents had insured us as kids (with no pre-existing conditions) and these policies had been renewed continuously until we took ownership of them in our adult years.  Similarly, Ethan has also been insured since birth.  Nix obviously has a pre-existing condition (because of the delay in purchasing his insurance), so as Hirschsprung’s is a congenital disease, anything related is excluded for him.  Nix receives treatment via the public health system thank goodness, and the kids are both covered for the other great worry in our life – Melanoma.

I only realised the immeasurable value of our health insurance when my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma, a horrible battle which he lost after 9 months.  Dad’s treatment and condition warranted numerous scans, which to have with any urgency (or without the associated inconvenience of huge wait times and the very real risk to my immune-compromised Dad of spending large amounts of time in a hospital waiting room) would have cost Mum and Dad $1300 for each scan!  The mental/emotional support the policy gave our family was a huge relief in a time of massive stress and eventual grief.

So, HECK YES I love health insurance and continue to prioritise its place in our household budget.

This month, I switched the kid’s health insurance to KIDSmart by Accuro.  Both of the boys are now insured under a policy customised for kids that does NOT require an adult to be insured.  Our old health insurance saw the kids piggy-backed on to my policy without the ability to adjust individual amounts of cover as needed.  I found this incredibly frustrating and for parents who want to want to prioritise health insurance for their children but can’t afford the combined expense of an adult policy, this archaic way of issuing cover can make the whole exercise unaffordable and simply too hard.

There are some super cool perks to this kids policy as well, my favourite two are;

  • Your child will be charged the Kids Premium Rate until they are 25!
  • After 3 years of continuous cover, your child will receive an exercise-based loyalty reimbursement of $150 per year to be used towards school or sports clubs, swimming or dance lessons.  How cool is that?!

For a free online quote (it literally takes 5 minutes!), visit KIDSmart by Accuro and find out exactly what they mean when they say they take care of their people when they are healthy and when they’re not doing so well : )

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Thanks to Accuro for sponsoring this post!