Money saving tips for young families

It can be hard to stretch your family budget when you have toddlers, so here are some tips to help:

  1. Having another baby? You are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment while you’re pregnant and a year after the baby is born. Don’t forget to book in a dental check up before your child is a year old (easily done when you’re busy with a baby!).
  2. Shop around for financial products including home and car insurance. If you can’t find time to do that, phone your insurance company when your renewal letter arrives and ask them if they can give you a better deal.
  3. Shop around for gas and electricity too. Often the best deal is the web tariff, so you don’t even need to pick up the phone.
  4. Don’t let your old baby stuff gather dust, sell it now and use it to buy toddler stuff instead!  You can buy and sell at Netmums.com, eBay, car boot sales and notice boards at some Sure Start centres.
  5. Look up new recipes using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal ingredients are usually cheaper than ones that have been grown overseas, they are better for the environment and you’re supporting local farmers, too.
  6. Try planning your meals for the week before you go shopping. This saves you having to throw away food that has gone out of date because you bought too much. It also saves you from popping to the supermarket mid-week when you run out of food. That means you won’t be tempted to spend £20 more than you expected! Meal planning sounds a pain, but it gets much easier with a bit of practice.
  7. Check to see if your mortgage company will let you take a payment holiday for a few months.
  8. If you have credit cards and or accounts with home shopping companies, make sure you pay them on time. Once you’ve added up the interest and late payment fee, it can be surprisingly expensive. Check to see if your credit card company will take a minimum payment by direct debit – at least you won’t have to pay the fee then.
  9. Check out babybudgeting.com for loads more ideas for saving money when you have a baby.

How to turn your hobby into a business

Running a business around a hobby is a popular choice from work at home Mums. Hobby-based businesses can provide a small income to further fund your participation in your hobby, or can be the inspiration for a fully-fledged business.

Here are five pointers to get you thinking:

1) Is it possible to ‘monetise’ your hobby?

A rough and ready way to assess whether you can actually make money from your hobby is this:

Cost of raw materials + Time taken to make an item (x 2 to account for marketing, admin etc) x your accepted hourly rate

This is the figure you would need to sell the item at (excluding postage etc) to make your business ‘worthwhile’.

2) Will you still enjoy your hobby when it is a job?

Getting paid to do something you are passionate about sounds perfect. But would you still enjoy your hobby if you ‘had’ to do it?

Imagine your hobby is textile crafts. As a hobby, you have the luxury of taking as long as you like to create and perfect each piece. But if it was a business, you would have  to be more disciplined about getting items made in a certain time. Would this affect your enjoyment of your hobby?

3) Is there too much competition?

One of the problems with ‘hobby’ businesses is that lots of other people may have the same idea, and because it is perceived as ‘enjoyable’ many people expect to pay (and many businesses are happy to provide) low prices for the products or services. It might not therefore be profitable to compete in this field.

Think laterally! You could adapt your business idea so rather than (say) selling knitwear, you teach people to knit. Or set up a website selling knitted goods made by other mums.

4) Consider how to reach your customers

As well as making your product, or providing your service, you need to think about how to reach your target customers. There are a number of routes available from selling on third-party sites (ebay, etsy etc) to attending events or hosting parties.

5) Even hobby businesses need to be registered!

You need to be appropriately registered to pay taxes from any income from a hobby business. The first step is to register as self-employed at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk within 3 months of starting your business, whether or not you are making any profit.

6) Already running a hobby business?

If you’re struggling to make your hobby business profitable, take a look at EarnWhatYouDeserveasaMumpreneur.co.uk.


Fun activities for toddlers: Water

Toddlers love water – pouring, stirring, splashing and even throwing it! A paddling pool in your back garden is great fun, but sometimes the weather just isn’t warm enough or you don’t have the time to set it all up then clean up afterwards.

Here are some quick and easy water activities that you can try even on cooler days. Just put on waterproof clothing if it’s a little chilly outside.

1. Bucket of bubbles

This simple activity keeps my toddlers amused for ages. Get a clean bucket (adult-sized) and half-fill with water. Add a good squirt of washing-up liquid and stir the water vigorously with a hand whisk or similar. Keep going until the bubbles are getting near to the top of the bucket then add a selection of cups, bottles, spoons and funnels in various shapes and sizes. Toddlers love scooping up bubbles, pouring them, trailing them across the ground and even making cappuccinos!

2. Water containers

Fill a selection of bowls and buckets with water and place around the garden. Add some cups, pans and bottles and your toddler will carry cups of water from one to the other. You could even put a few spots of food colouring in the buckets.

3. Water painting

Give your toddler a bucket of water and a clean paintbrush (the type you’d use for decorating your house), then let them ‘paint’ paths, fences, walls or anything else they fancy!

4. Washing dolly’s clothes

Have a miniature wash-day with a bowl of bubbly water and dolly’s clothes. Then give your toddler some pegs and a washing line to hang the clothes on.

5. The bath

If the weather is just too cold, give your toddler an extra-long bath-time instead so you can both stay warm!

Have you got any quick and easy water-play tips for toddlers? Please leave us a comment!


Work from home mums: party plan tips

A party plan is a good way of earning some extra money and you can get some products at a discounted rate, too.

It’s cheap to get started and you can run a party as soon as your kit arrives, so you can start earning straight away. The company you work for will provide catalogues, posters and invitations for you. Plus you can work hours that fit around your family.

Here are five tips to help you get started as a party plan representative

1. Love the product

It’s an uphill struggle selling something if you don’t totally believe in it. There are many party plan companies out there, some well-known and others less so. Take some time to explore the different products to find one you really love. The Direct Selling Association is a good place to start.

2. Know what you want from the party plan

If you’re looking for £30 here and there to top up your family’s income, then running a party from time to time will usually do the trick. But if you’re looking to get a regular income (say, to replace a job), then you’ll need to be more organised and put in much more effort

3. Check the contract

Party plan companies work in different ways, so make sure you read their terms and conditions carefully.  Things to look out for include:

  • Are you committed to meeting any targets?
  • Do you have to buy your own catalogues and pay for postage? Are there any other costs?
  • What percentage commission will you earn? Will this increase if you hit a target? How easy will it be to hit that target?
  • Work out how much you’re likely to take home from each party – is that what you expected?
  • How much help and advice will your team leader give you? How experienced is he/she?

Most party plans are from reputable companies but be careful as there are a few scams out there. Check out the Direct Selling Association (http://www.dsa.org.uk/) and Business Opportunity Watch (http://www.businessopportunitywatch.com/) for more information.

4. How many other people are selling this product in your area?

It’s easier to get party bookings if people haven’t already been approached by reps working for the same company as you.

Your party plan company may be able to tell you how many reps they already have in your area, but that won’t tell you how active those reps are. For example, if a local rep only does parties on the run up to Christmas, then that’s not going to be a problem for you. If there are already three reps doing several parties a month, then you’d be better off selling for a different company.

Have a look at the places you might find a rep – check school notice boards and fetes, ask around your friends to see if anyone has heard of parties by that company in your area.

Some reps looking for new recruits are quite persuasive, but a little research will give you the facts you need before you sign up.


Bedtime stories for toddlers: Why are they so important?

Bedtime stories are a cherished part of our childhood memories.  But these days we’re so busy that many of our own children don’t have this special experience.  Less than half of today’s children go to bed having been read a bedtime story: fifty-two percent of parents just turn off the light and leave the room, with TV often being the child’s last activity of the day.

Childhood experts believe bedtime stories are vitally important for these reasons:

1) Learning

Studies have repeatedly shown how encouraging early reading leads to improved language and literacy, which  leads to academic success and social/emotional wellbeing through to adulthood and beyond.  It’s never too early to start – the Bookstart scheme has shown that parents who introduce their babies to books give them a head start over their peers throughout primary school.  Apart from helping their reading, sharing a bedtime story with your child improves their motor skills, through learning to turn the pages, and their memory.  It also enhances their emotional and social development.

2) Routine

Babies and toddlers thrive on routine, and the bedtime routine is no exception.  Child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron says “Reading a bedtime story is a great way of helping a child get a decent night’s sleep, as it ensures their mind has settled down.  The closeness to a parent and the rhythmic sound of a bedtime story being read act as the child’s sleep cues”.  Studies have found that often, baby and toddler sleep problems are  caused by inconsistent and ineffective bedtime routines.

3) Physical contact

Nothing beats a cuddle with the person you love most in the world.  The bedtime story helps you make sure your child gets their snuggle quota, especially if you are unable to be physically close at other times of the day because you’re working or caring for your other children.

4) Bonding

Often after reading a story, young children may talk about things that have been worrying them, as they are now relaxed and feel in a safe environment.  You can encourage this by asking your toddler how the characters in the story might be feeling, and relating those feelings to your child’s own experience.  Or you can use stories to explore challenges your child is facing, e.g. the arrival of a new baby, the start at nursery, a series of hospital appointments.

Don’t forget, it’s not just your toddler who benefits from bedtime stories.  For many parents, the knowledge that however hard their day has been, there will be a period of close, quiet, shared attention and emotion, makes the bedtime story the most magical time of day.

So have a browse through your children’s bookcase and reap the many benefits of the bedtime story!


How to make money online as a mum blogger

Looking to make some extra money online? Well, the best place to begin begin is with a blog. You’ll be in great company too, there are thousands of mum bloggers across the world !

So what is a Blog?

A blog is basically an online diary. With a blog you can upload posts about anything that you want and some people create personal blogs as a way to keep in touch with family members. Pictures, videos and other information are uploaded so your loved ones are up-to-date with what is going on with you.

But here we are going to talk about business blogs. These differ from personal blogs in that they attract readers in order to sell products or services. That means business blogs must, first and foremost, be of interest to your audience, whereas a personal blogger can write about anything that takes her fancy.

To be read by others, your blog will need to:

•    Have content that’s updated regularly – at least weekly, but 3 times a week is better.
•    Be promoted regularly – it’s no use having a great blog if nobody knows it exists!

If you are new to blogging, use a free blogging platform to get your feet wet. Sites like Blogger.com, WordPress.org and others offer free blogs to users. Depending on the site you choose, the themes and plug-ins (added features) will vary.  Most will walk you through the process step by step using tutorial videos so that you can be up and running in no time.

Before you start posting, decide what will be the theme, or niche of your blog. A blog about your personal life or a wide variety of subjects doesn’t do as well as one that is geared towards a certain niche.

For example, if you like knitting, that could be your niche. Create posts that talk about how to knit, what to knit, how to make knitting profitable, recommended knitting websites and suppliers and so on. Once you have decided on a path, it is time to get writing.

How do you make money?

There are many ways and it’s best to experiment with a few to see which is the best fit for you and your audience. Here are five ways of ‘monetizing’ your blog:

1) Google Adsense – Google displays adverts on your blog that are related to the subject of your blog. When someone clicks on an advert, you are paid. This is easy to set up but unlikely to make you more than pocket money unless you have thousands of visitors to your blog.

2) Affiliate marketing – you recommend products to your readers and are paid commission on any products you sell.

3) Sponsorship and advertising – you sell advertising space on your blog.

4) Selling ebooks and other information products – write a book or course on your subject and sell it from your blog. There’s more information on how to sell ebooks in this post: online business basics

5) Freelancing – if your blog demonstrates your skills in your niche, why not sell those skills? You could use your blog to promote yourself as a freelance writer, for example. Or a you could use a graphic design blog to sell your design services.

There are new ways of earning money from blogging appearing all the time. Listen to what your audience want and find a creative way of giving that to them while making an income at the same time.


Family money management: tips for staying in control

Once you have a family it becomes more important than ever before to stay in control of your finances. That’s because you have your family’s future to care for as well as your own, plus your expenses go up and the chances are your income goes down!

Here are some steps you can take today to start taking back control of your money:

1. Start tracking your spending. The first step you need to take when taking control of your money is find out how you’re managing your finances. Where does your money come from and where does it go? You may be surprised to learn that how you think it’s being spent is often different than how it is actually spent.

To find out where your money is going, begin tracking it right now. Your tracking system can be as simple as a notebook page with columns, or you may want to get software to help to help. Then write down all the money you spend as soon as you spend it. Don’t let guilt keep you from making entries. This step is meant to help you find out the truth about where your money goes, not judge your spending.

2. Set up a budget.  If you don’t think you can follow a budget, think of it as a spending plan instead. To get your finances on track and start saving, you will need to spend less than you make.  Write down where your money is coming from and on what dates you are paid. Then figure out how much of that money is spent on bills and other necessities. Write down how you will spend the remainder.

This is where you may realise you need to cut out some expenses so you can stay within your budget. Remember to plan ahead and put money aside for large purchases. Your needs will probably change every few months, so review your budget or spending plan regularly.

3. Start saving.  Most of us aren’t accustomed to saving. We spend our money as quickly as we get it. If you can only afford to save a little to begin with that’s fine because it will get you in the saving habit.

4. Put away your credit cards. If you have your credit cards with you when you go shopping, you will probably use them. Eliminate your credit cards as an option by putting them away or even hiding them. If you remove them as a temptation, you’ll force yourself to live within your means by spending only the money in your bank account.

5. Ask your credit card companies for lower fees. Pick up the telephone and ask your credit card companies if they can work out a lower rate for your credit cards. Usually they will try to help you because it hurts both you and the credit card company if your debt goes to collectors. A lower rate means it will cost you less to carry the balance while you pay it off. This is a good tip for many of your bills – ask your electricity, gas and insurance companies if they have a better deal than the one you currently have.

6. Think of ways to earn more money. We often think of money management as cutting expenses, but there are many ways that you can increase your income, too.

You can gain a lot more control over every aspect of your life once you control your finances. By following the above steps, you will be on the way to getting that control.