2016 End of Year Review

I haven’t posted in a while, life just got really busy since the baby arrived. But I am trying to get my life into some kind of order now and hopefully I can start blogging more. Apart from life getting busy I also lost a bit of motivation to blog so I am hoping I get my mojo back. Well I guess writing this post is a start lol so hopefully it continues as I do enjoy blogging. I wrote 21 posts all up last year and looking back I liked writing the monthly recap posts the most as they helped me reflect back on what happened every month.

OK so I thought I would review the year that was 2016.

What a year and it was pretty much dominated by my pregnancy. I think we were very blessed to fall pregnant reasonably quickly although it did feel like forever.  Overall I would say that I had a pretty good pregnancy. The morning sickness wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either. I didn’t vomit and I didn’t have any weird cravings so I can’t really complain. The final weeks were uncomfortable just like any pregnancy would be I suppose, but I stayed healthy and as active as possible right till the end. The baby surprised us all and came 3 weeks early too which was something I never even considered would happen. My advice to anyone expecting is to start organising and prepare your hospital bag at 35 weeks because you just never know!

So anyway we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy! The last two and half months have been challenging for sure but it’s also been very rewarding. The constant lack of sleep can really take a toll and I also faced breastfeeding issues and loneliness from staying at home. I have been working in some capacity for nearly 18 years believe it or not, so when I was home alone for the first time it wasn’t an easy change to adjust to. It has taken some adjusting and it is getting better, however it’s something I continue to work on. But despite all these challenges, I would never want to go back to how it was before. I am so lucky to have my baby boy and am so thankful that I get be his mother. One thing I have learned is that the sooner you accept that – this is how life is now and that this is what normal is, the easier it gets. It took me a few weeks to accept this but once I did life became so much better.

So apart from the highlight of having a baby, at the beginning of last year I set myself a goal to start reading books. I am proud to say I definitely accomplished this goal! I actually set a small goal to read 5 books and I ended up reading 12 books!! I am so thrilled with that number and even more thrilled that I have discovered a new hobby.

Here’s a list of all the books I read last year.

  1. The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella – Review
  2. 101 Ways To Save Money On Your Tax – Legally! 2015-2016 By Adrian Raftery
  3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – Review
  4. The Zero Waste Home: 101 Ways To Reduce Waste & Save Money In Your Home by Kate Anderson – Review
  5. Last Shot (Dev Haskell Mystery #6) By Mike Faricy
  6. A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) By Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes #2) By Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. Love Muffin and Chai Latte by Anya Wylde – Review
  9. Mr. Swirlee (Dev Haskell Mystery #2) By Mike Faricy – Review
  10. What to Expect When You’re Expecting By Heidi Murkoff – Review
  11. 30 Days Change Your Habits Change Your Life by Marc Reklau – Review
  12. Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson – Review

The book that really stands out as my favourite is Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. It was such a fun book to read and I really want to read the next book in the series.

I also set a goal to track my expenses every month. This didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked, I was actually doing really well up until November but as soon as the baby was born I stopped tracking. The process I follow to track my expenses is very manual and moving forward it is just not practical to continue tracking this way. A few people commented on the post I wrote about how I track my expenses and mentioned that they made use of online banking tools to do this automatically. I was aware that my bank offered this feature too so I’m planning on getting this set up so I can start tracking again.

Having a baby changes everything 🙂

In regards to our savings, I think we did pretty well most months. Our savings rate was in the black almost every month, it was just one or two months at the end of the year where it went in the red. This was mainly due to costs associated with our upcoming home renovation. We are currently waiting for approval from the local council, so once that comes through we can start getting quotes and then start the renovation. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final product and to have a more comfortable house that my little family can enjoy.

I also made a bit more money last year without really trying. I received a small pay rise from work and I was also added to the on call roster which means that for the weeks that I was rostered to do out of hours support, I received an allowance.

What were the other highlights….

Oh yes, our holiday to Cairns back in August was very nice. That was our “babymoon” and it was a very relaxing and memorable trip. Hopefully we will be able to take more trips like this with our little munchkin in the future.

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Cairns Queensland Australia

 

Overall 2016 was a pretty awesome year…a year I will never forget!

November 2016 Recap – The Most Memorable Month of My Life

I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy! He was very impatient and decided he had to come 3 weeks early!! I definitely wasn’t expecting to give birth 3 weeks early and it all happened so quickly. But he’s here, healthy and has brought so much joy to our family ❤

I took 3 weeks off work before my due date and thought I had all the time in the world to get organised before the baby arrived, I was actually a little worried that I would feel bored at home. My last day of work was on a Friday and I gave birth 2 days later! It was a massive surprise but we feel so blessed. The feeling you get when they finally arrive is truly amazing!

I’m hoping to write my birth story and share it here on the blog so I don’t forget it. I need to do that sooner rather than later.

Tracking expenses and calculating saving rates have been put on hold for now. I haven’t tracked anything since the birth and I’m unsure when I will start again as I have my hands full these days.

As far as my reading is concerned, I did finish a book in early November which I started reading the previous month.

thirty two going on spinster by becky monson

Thirty-Two Going on Spinster by Becky Monson

This book is pretty average and predictable. I found the constant self loathing, procrastination and over analysis by the main character to be really annoying at times. There are another two books in this series but I won’t be reading them. I wouldn’t say it’s the worst book I’ve ever read, I started to get into it more towards the end but it was the main characters self loathing that really put me off. You just want to tell her to snap out of it!

So November turned out to be a truly blessed month for us with the safe arrival of our first child. Hope you all had a great November and have an even better December! Take care 🙂

How I Reduced Clutter by Switching to Paperless Bills

I hate having paper bills pile up. They take up space and if you want to throw them out you have to shred them first for security reasons. The shredding part I’m always lazy to do so the bills just pile up as a result.

Pile of bills

So sometime last year I noticed that more service providers were offering email bills, so I decided to look into it and make the switch.

I have setup the following bills to be sent to me via email rather than post.

  • Electricity
  • Internet/phone
  • Water
  • Car (roadside assistance)

Unfortunately all the service providers allow only one email address for the bill to be sent to and no alternative address. Therefore, to get around this I setup forwarding rules in my email so that whenever I receive a bill it gets forwarded to my husbands email as well. At least this way we both get a copy.

I have a few bills that are direct debits so I don’t get monthly bills for those. The amounts for these bills remain constant so I don’t mind them being direct debits. The above bills however vary so I like to know the amount owing before I pay.

It’s not only bills though…this also applies to bank, insurance and superannuation statements. I have all of them setup to be emailed to me rather than posted.

The only bills that I still receive by post are for:

  • Council rates
  • Annual car registration

Once these providers offer paperless bills I will definitely make the move.

Switching to paperless bills and statements has been very effective for me. It’s reduced clutter, reduced the need to shred sensitive documents and to top it off its eco-friendly! It’s always feels good to help out the environment in some way.

Have you gone paperless with your bills and statements?

Image: (Woman’s Day Magazine)

October 2016 Recap

The month flew by as usual but it has been a rather uncomfortable one in regards to my pregnancy. The baby has grown so I’m carrying more weight which makes it harder to walk. There’s swollen feet, clothes not fitting and I’m also a lot slower these days, mostly physically though 🙂

I was telling my husband the other day “I think I’m over it” lol. That said I don’t want the baby to come now as it’s a bit too early. The last weeks of pregnancy are definitely challenging.

Our antenatal classes wrapped up about two weeks ago and they were really helpful. I’m so glad we signed up for them, we both learnt so much and they have really put me more at ease about labour and the birth.

money

In regards to finances we had a pretty expensive month. There were several extra expenses such as:

  • Renovation costs (payments to the architect)
  • Baby items (car seat, bath, baby carrier, clothes etc)
  • Food
  • Medicines and toiletries
  • Clothes (My husband needed to replace a few business shirts and jeans and I needed a few items as well)

Our savings rate as a result was in the negative at -6% 😦

The biggest expenses were the payments to the architect and the baby items. The eating out and take away food total was higher than usual as well. Looks like hubby and I were definitely more relaxed in regards to eating out, I think that might be because we know we won’t be able to go out very often once the baby arrives. I have also been feeling more dehydrated lately so we have been buying more take away juices and fruit salads which obviously adds up.

Anyways, hopefully the savings rate improves dramatically in November. Although the car registration payment is due which will be around $1000, there shouldn’t really be any more big expenses.

I didn’t finish reading any books this month but I am part way through reading one. The book I am reading is dragging on a little but I will hopefully finish it in the next week or so. I will review it in next months recap.

How did October fair for you?

It’s the simple things that lead to happiness

"The most simple things can bring the most happiness" - Izabella Scorupco

“The most simple things can bring the most happiness” – Izabella Scorupco

I saw this quote on Twitter the other day and it really rang true for me. That made me wonder what simple things make me happy.

Having a Clean House

When I have a clean house I’m usually in a happy mood. My mind isn’t racing a million miles an hour thinking about what chore needs to be done around the house.

Waking up Early in the Morning

I wrote about this recently and waking up a little earlier every morning has brought upon several positives in my life such as less stress and more time.

Blogging

My motivation goes up and down in regards to blogging however I have been blogging more regularly the last few months and it seems to lift my mood every time. I enjoy documenting what’s happening in my life, sharing things I have learnt and I also love it when people like and comment on my posts. It’s a great feeling to know that people have taken the time to read and acknowledge what I write.

 

What are the simple things in your life that always lift your mood?

September 2016 Recap

September is over already, the time really is flying by. I say that every month, lol! Here is a breakdown of what happened.

Finances

We did have a few extra expenses this month but despite this our savings rate was decent at 32%.

Our extra expenses were:

  • Renovation costs
  • My drivers license was up for renewal
  • Quarterly water bill
  • Baby items (we purchased a pram and a portable cot)
  • A few clothes for myself (I am running out of clothes that fit!)

On another positive note, I was told that I would be getting a 2% pay increase at work, yay! The increase takes effect at the beginning of October and I will get back paid from the 1st of September. So the income will get a little bump next month which is always nice 🙂

Pregnancy

I am into my third trimester now and I can’t believe that I will be meeting my little baby in just over 2 months time. I don’t feel prepared and I feel like I have a million things left to do. Hopefully everything falls into place by the time baby arrives.

We started attending antenatal classes this month and they have been really great. There are six classes in total and so far we have attended three sessions. The classes are really intimate (just five couples in our sessions), informative, friendly and we have both learnt so much in these sessions. I would highly recommend attending antenatal classes to anyone getting ready to have a baby.

I am feeling much bigger these days. I have only gained weight on my tummy which is a good thing but it’s starting to feel more uncomfortable as the days go on. I have also been experiencing some back pain especially when I sleep. During pregnancy you are meant to sleep on your left side but as I naturally sleep on my back so this has been challenging. Despite having pillows on both sides I still find myself waking up laying on my back…sigh!

But despite all the discomfort, the baby is kicking away on a regular basis, sometimes it feels like an earthquake is going on down there lol! Oh it’s just so cute ❤ ❤

Reading

Just read the one book this month.

30 days change your habits change your life by Marc Reklau

30 Days Change Your Habits Change Your Life by Marc Reklau

This book was pretty decent. It has several helpful tips on how to build habits by introducing small routines into your life. The chapters are really short too so it makes it easier to read.

Well it’s a long weekend in my part of the world this weekend and I have also taken Tuesday off, making it an extra long weekend, yay! We don’t have any plans other than to relax and do some shopping for the baby.

I hope September treated you well and hopefully October will be even better for you all 🙂

How I Track My Expenses

Expense Tracking

At the beginning of this year I set a goal to start tracking my expenses more consistently. I did track my expenses on and off last year but I found it difficult to stay motivated and do it consistently day after day.

When I decided to set this goal I also started to test out a few apps that can help me do this. Last year I was using the TrackMySpend app by MoneySmart which is a very simple app that requires you to manually enter every expense. The app also provides a monthly summary of all your expenses broken down by category.

I did find manually entering every expense to be a bit tedious at times so I thought I would look at what other apps were out there.

I tried out Pocketbook which is a popular app here in Australia. The app allows you to link to your bank accounts, hence you don’t need to manually enter all your expenses, except for cash expenses.

The only thing I didn’t like about Pocketbook is that when transactions don’t go through on the day you actually spent the money, this data is not translated how I like in the app. For example, if I buy my groceries on a Saturday the transaction may not go through till the following Monday, so the app shows the expense as though I bought my groceries on the Monday which isn’t accurate. Some might argue that the actual day the money comes out is what matters, however if you buy something on the last day of the month but it doesn’t go through straight away, it looks like it’s an expense for the following month.

Anyways this was a small quirk that I didn’t like about these automated apps. I tested out a few more apps such as HomeBudget but none of them did what I was looking for so I ended up coming back to the TrackMySpend app.

When I first started using the TrackMySpend app last year I wasn’t consistent with it so that was a worry. I knew I needed to come up with new a routine that would work for me if I were to start using this app again. Hence, I decided to set a reminder on my phone to go off every night to remind me to enter all my expenses for the day. My routine goes something like this:

  1. Reminder goes off on my phone at 9pm every night
  2. Login to my bank account and check what transactions have been made and enter them into the app
  3. Enter any cash expenses I made during the day into the app
  4. Ask my husband if he had any cash expenses during the day and enter them into the app
  5. Once I am happy that all expenses have been entered into the app, mark the reminder on my phone as complete

This little routine has worked like a charm since I started it at the beginning of the year. I love reminders, they have really helped me become more organised in my life.

TrackMySpend App by MoneySmart

The TrackMySpend app

Although the TrackMySpend app does require discipline and effort on my part, I have found it be easy to use and most importantly it does what I need. It does have a few quirks such as the summary screens don’t always scroll all the way down and expenses grouped by a tag show duplicates. I’m hoping that these issues will get fixed one day, but the core parts of the app work well so I am happy to continue using it.

How do you track your expenses?

Images: (phonenomena.com.auitunes.apple.com)

How waking up earlier has made me happier

happy

I love my sleep and for most of this year I have been struggling to wake up at a more suitable time in the morning. Pregnancy has brought upon a fair bit of fatigue, I remember my first trimester being particularly tiring in the mornings.

I needed to make a change, so a few weeks ago I decided to start getting up early. When I say early I don’t mean 5am, I’m talking more like 7am 🙂 However when the baby arrives I’m sure this will change completely!

My mornings are always a rush, I honestly don’t know where the time goes. Hence, to make things easier I have started to prepare my breakfast and iron my clothes the night before. These two changes have really helped to speed things up.

It’s been over two weeks now and as a result of waking up a little earlier and being more prepared in the mornings, I’m actually feeling a lot happier. And I think there are several reasons for this.

Arriving at Work on Time

I am getting to work at a more respectable time now. This gives me more time to settle in the morning and most importantly more time to get my work done which means less stress.

Feeling More Organised

I feel more organised because I’m making the effort to prepare the night before.

Getting Home Earlier

As a result of getting to work on time, I can also leave work on time without having to stay back.

The Week Slows Down

It feels like the week doesn’t rush by like it usually does and I guess it’s because I have more time. Some people might see this as a negative but I’m definitely seeing it as a positive as I like things moving a little slower.

I have to credit my husband for giving me the push I needed to get started on this. It really does help when you have someone supporting you to achieve your goals.

I’m really happy that this routine change has brought upon so many positives, I really wasn’t expecting it to. What small changes have you made in your life that has brought you happiness?

Image: (huffingtonpost.co.uk)

The process of purchasing a property in Australia

house

We have been lucky enough to go through this process 3 times. We purchased our first house back in 2010. We then purchased our second house in 2014 and sold the first house not long after that. In early 2015 we bought our first investment property as well.

While purchasing our second house I made a few notes on what actually happened as it’s so easy to forget the details as time goes on. I thought it would be nice to share those notes here, even though it has been 2 years since it all happened.

I would like to note that none of the properties we purchased were at auction, therefore the process outlined below is what happened in a tender.

  1. Make an offer and the vendor accepts the offer
  2. Sign a contract with the real estate agent agreeing to purchase the property ie: exchanged contracts
  3. Make the initial deposit of 0.0025%. This will be taken by the real estate agent
  4. You will then have a set number of days which is called the “cooling off period”. This is usually about 5 days. In this period you will have to contact a lawyer or a conveyancer to go over the contract of sale and make sure everything is ok with the sale. You will also need to get a building and pest inspection done on the property which can be arranged by the conveyancer that you hire. This is optional but I think they are definitely worth doing.If the building or pest inspections reveal anything alarming which makes you decide not to go ahead with the sale, then you will lose your initial 0.0025% deposit.
  5. Within the first 10 days after contracts have been exchanged you will need to make a 10% deposit. How you pay this deposit can vary. You might have to get a bank cheque and give it to your conveyancer who will then pass it on to the vendor or you might be able to deposit the money into a trust account provided by the real estate. In our case we had to make a 5% deposit to a trust account and the vendor wanted this deposit on the 5th day. Hence, in our case the vendor was willing to accept a reduced deposit for an earlier payment.
  6. You should already be talking to your bank to secure the home loan for the purchase. You should have this sorted within the first 10 days ideally.
  7. Make the stamp duty payment via bank cheque to the state government. Stamp duty is basically a charge applied by the state governments in Australia when properties are purchased. The cheque can be given to the conveyancer who will then pass it over to the relevant government agency. This should be done before settlement day, otherwise a late penalty fee may be charged.
  8. The settlement date is usually 41 days after the initial exchange of contracts, but this can vary. After settlement is complete you will get the keys!

 

In a nutshell, that’s basically what happens. This is the process we went through in New South Wales but it might be slightly different in other states of Australia. 

I hope someone out there actually finds this information useful 🙂

Images: (clipartpanda.com)

 

August 2016 Recap

I have to say that August was pretty eventful, so here is a breakdown of what happened 🙂

Financial

Taxes

As planned I managed to lodge our taxes at the beginning of the month. I was really focused on getting everything organised at the end of last month so I’m happy that I sent everything off to the accountant without wasting any time. It’s all done now and we both got refunds, yay! I am so happy and relieved that it’s done 🙂

Savings

We had our fair share of expenses this month, mainly due to our holiday. We visited Cairns which is located in far North Queensland of Australia. The weather was beautiful and we had a very relaxing holiday.

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View from Green Island – Cairns Australia

We were there for 4 nights and the total cost was: $3029

I paid for the flights and accommodation back in June so those expenses are not included in this months savings rate. However they are included in the above total.

We also had a few additional expenses this month which aren’t regular monthly expenses. They were:

  • Major car service
  • Antenatal classes
  • Quarterly electricity and council rates bills
  • Renovation expenses
    • We have started looking into renovating our house and hence this has brought upon various initial expenses such as approvals, surveyor fees etc. I expect to see more expenses in this area in the coming months.

As I mentioned above, my husband and I both received tax refunds, therefore our income was higher this month. This made our savings rate look a little better than it would have otherwise, especially considering we had several additional expenses this month.

Savings rate for August 2016 was: 23%

Lower than most months but reasonable nonetheless.

Pregnancy

I have booked a place for a 6 week antenatal course which starts in mid September. I have heard that these classes are really helpful so I’m looking forward to attending them.

Overall my pregnancy has been going well. I feel the baby kick and move everyday which is always exciting but I think these kicks are going to get harder as the baby gets bigger though lol! We have also started researching a few baby items and have pretty much decided on the pram and cot we would like to purchase. I will share what we end up buying in an upcoming post.

Reading

The books I read were…

Mr. Swirlee (Dev Haskell Mystery #2) By Mike Faricy

Mr Swirlee Dev Haskell Mystery #2 by Mike Faricy

I love reading these Dev Haskell mysteries. I read Last Shot (mystery #6) back in March and I enjoyed the story line of that book a lot better than this one. The main character Dev Haskell is rough around the edges but very likable. I like reading about his antics and the shady characters that he deals with. Overall this book was an easy and fun read.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting By Heidi Murkoff
(Revised edition for Australia and New Zealand)

What to expect when you're expecting by Heidi Murkoff

This is a well known pregnancy book and when I looked it up months ago I came across a number of mixed reviews, so I decided to give it a miss. But last month I thought I would check it out from the library and give it a go.

I have been reading this book on the side this whole month and I still haven’t finished it. And that’s after skipping several sections that didn’t apply to me. It’s a massive book and contains pretty much everything you need to know about pregnancy. If you are an “information overload” kind of person then this is a book for you. Even if you aren’t, you can skip the sections you don’t like and read what appeals to you. Overall the book is very informative and has been helpful.

September for us down here in the southern hemisphere means spring and warmer weather, yay! I am always happy to see the end of winter lol. Hope you all have a wonderful month of September 🙂

Images: (Harper CollinsGoodreads)