How to invest in yourself!

So back at Radio Verulam today with the Gorgeous Danny Smith and I was inspired to chat about ‘investments’ by Curly Headed Boy.

It’s spring time, maybe you need a fresh look at your life and a bit of an overhaul?

The question is how to invest in yourself?

Money Saving.

Money Saving Tips
Money

We are quite strict that even from pocket money, our kids have to put something aside.  It’s just so that it becomes second nature to them and eventually when they start to earn money, they naturally expect to be putting a minimum of 10% away.  Otherwise, his head will be automatically working out how he can spend every penny.  Instead, he will automatically assume that some money goes into savings.

It’s not about how much money you earn.

Its about the amount of value that you get from it.

And how much money is left at the end of your month!

As he looks like he would prefer a creative career, he is going to definitely have to manage his money really well to weather the highs and lows, as it’s unlikely to be consistent.

Yes, he might be really successful, but it might not be long term, or he might get one big windfall, that he could blow through really quickly.  In fact we had an award system, where he earn’t quite a lot of money, and what inspired this post was that he agreed to put 50% of it away into savings.

Imagine if you’d put aside all that money since you were a kid?  At 45, I’d have a lot more going on!  Women need to be especially aware of the fact that we have a tendency to not prioritise our pensions ahead of the needs of our relationships or families.

If you would like to start, but can’t afford 10%, just work towards it.  £5 is enough, as it’s a step in the right direction.

Try to create 2 different savings options:

1) Savings forever (not to be touched apart from investing in houses/education)

2) Savings for fun (don’t pay for Christmas and holidays afterwards when the fun is over)

Check out the rest of my money saving tips here.  I have no doubt that they’ll help you out of a financial hole, make sure that you have more value from the money that you spend, and help you to be financially healthier.

 

Your Health

green and red healthy food

This should actually come first in my opinion.  There’s no point in saving money if you don’t have a good quality or long enough life.

I know that things happen, and we can’t plan for everything.  But there is no doubt that your quality of life will be better if you drink water, eat healthily, and exercise.

I like to focus on being HEALTHY, then FIT (no point in being fit without health), and STRONG (which means toned and tends towards slimmer).  Check out all my tips on how to get healthy without dieting or killing yourself with exercise.  It’s so easy to try to go for a quick fix, but we all know THEY DON’T WORK!

Then you need to remember that everyone needs downtime, otherwise the levels of cortisol (stress) just get higher and higher and higher.  That affects your immune system and leaves you open to illnesses and diseases, like my Fibromyalgia.  I know you will get stressed again.  But there will have been a dip, and that is what is important.

Remember, that it’s not selfish to take care of yourself!

 

Your Mind

Great books for mums
Books, books, books …

Have you heard the theory that if you spend 15mins extra a day learning something, then you will overtake your 99% of your peers within a couple of years?

That’s how I did so well in IT.  I wasn’t a natural at it, but I studied every night, and within a few years they’d forgotten my initial struggles.  Eventually I became a global guru – crazy!

You see it at school every day with kids.  The teachers nag parents to read once a night with their children, just for 5-10 mins.  It sounds like so little, that it’s easy to drop.  However, 3-4 years down the line, it’s really obvious which children did or didn’t get that time.  (I know that parents are often busy and it’s not always easy to fit in time with the kids).

However, as old readers will know, I’m not sure about the idea of pushing yourself to pay for a private education, as I’m not convinced it always pays off.  Hence we moved Curly Headed Boy from private back into the state sector.  So don’t assume that education has to cost lots.  Mind you, him being so keen on dancing is a bit of an investment!

I see it as an employer all the time.  Those in my team with a passion for learning are on Youtube and keeping up to date and improving constantly.  The others are just fine, but they don’t do as well and naturally don’t attract as many customers.

It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time.  Just lots of little consistent bits, is what adds up eventually.

 

Your Community

Charity Shop Finds
Butterfly Sparkles!

I must admit that I believe that what you give out you get back.  If I smile at people, I tend to mainly get smiles back.  There are a few grumpy people, but the smiles I get back cheer me up.  It’s not any extra pressure on my day to make this little effort, and I get rewarded in bucket loads.

The same goes for ‘paying it forward’.  I don’t believe it’s right to be a martyr, or give so much of yourself that you damage your health and family.  But our community is important, and there are always things that you can do , however little.

Maybe it’s in helping to spread the word about a new small business on Facebook?  A simple share of one of my posts for Espiritu, is amazingly helpful.  I have lovely clients who regularly mention us whenever someone asks for a local hair/beauty salon or Spa.  I’m really lucky, so I like to help out other businesses where I can.

Perhaps you support the local charity shop where you can by buying from there and giving them things that you are finished with.  I’ve made amazing purchases in charity shops in the past, and my kids love them.  There was a really interesting post though over on a friend of mine’s blog, where she was feeling guilty about wanting to sell some more expensive items.  No you should never feel guilty – it’s not right to put yourself in trouble.

Or maybe it’s helping out at your kids school a couple of hours a week if you have the flexibility?

Remember, you don’t have to solve a WHOLE problem – that’s what often stops people from helping out, donating or volunteering.  Just help a little – and all the little bits add up.

 

What else?

What do you think that you should invest in?
What have I missed out?
Friendships? – I kind of fit that in with community, but many invest much more in their friendships.
Clothes? – I recently bought some clothes, as there is an expectation that I look a certain way for work, but I’ve never bought anything outrageously expensive, as I’m way too tight fisted.
Relationships? – So difficult to juggle with a family and kids, but they can last a lifetime, so worth investing in.
Houses? – With all the changes in our economy, maybe it isn’t a priority anymore to invest in bricks and mortar?
Watching TV – there is social side to this, where you can feel left out if you don’t know what’s going on!

Ten Tips On How To Take Care Of Yourself!

I’ve been wondering what to talk about with the gorgeous Danny Smith on his drive time show to Radio Verulam for a couple of days.

Should it be my improvement with Fibromyalgia, should it be that the minute the sun comes out we panic about bikini’s or should it be more relationship stuff?

But then I realised it’s all about something simple.

Something so simple that we are rubbish at it.

TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES.

Having Fibromyalgia has been my teacher in how to take care of myself.  So I’m not that bright either – it took a chronic pain condition to sort me out – doh!

So if you were going to start now, what would you need to do to take care of yourself better?

All of these things are possible, whatever your situation, age, or how busy you are.

(Click here to listen again for ONE WEEK only – monday 5.30-6pm).

1) Go outside

Mumwithenergy

It makes everyone feel better.  Walk, power walk, or run.  Whatever it is.  Go.  Out.  Nature has a way of healing us and making us feel better.  Even when it’s cold and wet (it doesn’t bother children after all).

We have a rule in my house – if the sun is out go outside, everything else gets delayed just incase the sun doesn’t last.  So homework, computer games, everything waits.

And if the sun isn’t shining, still go out, but take Vitamin D3!

2) Get moving

Did you know that we are meant to do 10,000 steps per day?  If you are starting on a health kick, this is a great place to start.

From there get your core strong and  to protect your back and improve your flexibility, so do Pilates, Yoga or Tai chi.  Remember, when you are 90, it’s going to be about your ability to balance as you walk, not wether you can run 10km.

There’s no excuse to not do it – stop doing so much of something else instead.

3) Music is food for the soul

Dance, giggle, listen to music.  Let it carry you away for a moment.

Go to zumba or a dance class; it doesn’t matter if you are rubbish.

Music is the best thing for bringing body, mind and soul together.

4) 30 mins rest

I know we are all busy and running around.  But 30 minutes with your feet up, not moving, relaxing once a week or when you are exhausted makes a BIG difference.

I’m NOT talking about vegetating in front of a TV program you will have forgotten in an hour.  Instead listen to music or read a book.  You could even try meditation even if you haven’t before?  Just be quiet for a bit.  Let your senses rest.

I love having a bath once a week on a sunday.  I do it first thing, so it just means I’m down a bit later in the morning, so it’s not a massive imposition on the big hairy northern one.

5) Keep your energy reserves

Healthy Eating For Families

A car won’t work without water, neither will your body.

It needs petrol, so do you.    Eat breakfast, even if it is just a banana.  For lunch and dinner eat a balanced meal with protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates.

Sometimes the batteries need a boost.  If you have a problem, try going to your local health food shop and see what supplements they suggest.

6) Pamper

Everyone needs a little pamper, wether you do it yourself or at a beauty salon.

It’s the act of showing your body that you are willing to spend some time on it once a week that counts.

I’m not talking about being a slave to the mirror.  Just about remembering that we are all beautiful and deserve to be taken care of.

7) Sleep

Actually sleep probably should be first, as without it, everything is much more difficult.  I’m constantly surprised about the people I talk to who are knackered, but who go to bed at midnight every night.

Go to bed the same time each night.  Get up the same time.  If you are tired, go to bed earlier.

Don’t drink caffeine, coke or eat chocolate after 4pm if you find it difficult to sleep.  (click here for my top 15 tips for parents and the rest of my sleep tips)

8) Your time is valuable

Protect your time.  It is valuable.  Learn to say NO more often.

Doing a good days work is healthy, but it’s not about working ‘harder’, it’s about using your intuition and finding ways to work ‘smarter’.

Think about the top 3 most important goals for you personally and for your work.  Now strip out all the time wasted on the stuff that you don’t have to do and that don’t achieve those goals.

9) Laugh

The Dalai Lama says the purpose to life is to be happy.  Watch happy films, listen to happy music.

Surround yourself with loving people who will listen to your woes and then make you laugh.

It’s not about partying hard.  It’s about having fun.  It’s light hearted, and will make you feel better.

10) Eat cake

I have a room at my Spa where women can bring their friends, have a pamper and then eat cake on vintage plates.  I LOVE cake.

Cake is a treat.  It’s a little bit naughty.  But very nice!

I take my daughter out once a week for ‘Willow Wednesday’ and we get a magazine and eat cake in a coffee shop.  It brings us together, snuggled up, reading about ponies and princesses.

 

If you want people to take care of you, you need to show them that you are worth taking care of by taking care of yourself!

It helps your loved ones too, because when you are healthier and happier, so are they.  So do it for them too!

What do you think to my top 10 – what would you have added instead, or not included?

 

 

Toddler in den

Adventure comes in surprising places

Mum and child in the woods
Not so warm!

 

Brrrrrrrrrrr!

It was freezing (0 degrees!), but the kids didn’t seem to notice at all.

I was wishing I’d put my thermals on, and was eternally grateful for choosing woolly socks and snow boots over wellies.

But the cheerful ‘Ooooh Mummy look at this’ coming from one direction versus ‘No Mummy come look at this first’ from the opposite direction cheered me up.

Curly Headed Boy was chuffed that he could easily pretend he was in an ancient forest with bears and wolves around every corner.  He was off climbing through brambles and goodness knows what else.

Toddler in den
My secret den!

Little Dimples was enchanted with a little partially constructed den that she had found and I was instructed to find more sticks to add to it.

The Hairy northern one meantime was taking photos left right and center, so he too was in his element.

Next time we are definitely bringing the big black monster (it would be easy to put the dog back in the car at the end of a walk, while you get a cuppa, or drink it outside).

 

Where were we?

A well kept secret that when I mentioned it loads of people seemed to know about, but no one had told us; Wendover Woods.  (We live just outside St Albans, and it’s about 34-45mins away).

We’d brought the radio flyer just incase the kids got tired, but I was amazed that Little Dimples (3 in a month) was able to keep walking the whole distance, even when we were climbing back up the hill, it must have been all the ‘Ho Hos’ that we sang.

Children investigating
Climbing an imaginary mountain!

I’d still recommend bringing something though if you have a toddler, or be prepared to carry them.  In fact I was amazed how many young families there were and especially how many with little babies, either with industrial strength push chairs or slings.

We tried out the Cafe in the Woods, which I thought was great.  Simple stuff for grown ups and kids that hits the spot and at a good price (menus are online).  It got really busy though (at 11.30), and it’s winter.  So I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t get any where near it in the summer.

Next time we are going to go as soon as we get up and have bacon butties before we go for our walk; yum!

Plus we’ll remember to try the free iPhone app which has a map of the area and a tree finder, which I think is a great idea.

Once the family gets a little older, there were people cycling, running, and there is a Go Ape as well.  I talked to a local mum who says that in the summer locals walk up rather than drive so it doesn’t get as busy car parking wise as you’d expect, and that it’s great for parties.

I also saw someone in a wheelchair, so when it says that it is accessible, it obviously is.  I was a bit worried with my fibromyalgia that it might be too much for me, but I needn’t have worried (don’t worry fitness types; it could be a lot more physical than we tried).

I was worried that Go Ape would be too obvious and we’d get nagged to go, but it wasn’t too in your face at all, and the play park is great, so I’m sure the kids will be happy there.

Muddy Puddle At Wendover
A HUGE Muddy Puddle!

Of course of all the potential things to play on the boys were much more interested in the huge great big muddy swamp that was all iced over and covered in big sticks, and eventually we did have a catastrophe.

Luckily it was time to go home, so we wrapped Curly Headed Boy in a blanket and popped in the car.  I’d recommend a spare pair of trousers for each child just incase.  (And a hot toddy for you, when you get home).

 

The Numbers

A discovery pass for a year is £37, which gives you free parking.

Parking would cost you: £1.50 for 2 hours, £3 for 4 hours or £5.50 for an all day stay.

So if you went all day 3 times in the summer, and then for 4 hours more than 4 times a year, it would have paid for itself.

There are also a pile of other freebies or discounts listed here on the page about Discovery Passes, the most significant being 15% off forest holidays or  10% off trailbase holidays and the most useful being free refills on cups of tea or 15% off Go Ape (see details for exclusions).  So you could save lots more than the pass cost you.

You also get a few bits and pieces to start the kids off with ideas of things to collect and enjoy while they are there, which I think would be a great idea if you were the type of family who thought it would be a good idea to get out and about, but weren’t sure how to get the kids interested.

 

Overall

Boy covered in mud
I fell in!

 

Curly Headed boy said that ‘it was the best holiday he’d had’; he’s not always that easy to please!  Later that day he said he was really lucky to have me as a Mummy; now we know that’s true, but it’s not often that he remembers, so that was a lovely thing for him to say.

Little Dimples said ‘Forest was good. I loved the play ground’.

The Big Hairy Northerner thought ‘the woods were magical’.

I loved it, and really loved my hot toddy when I got home!

For me buying a pass would feel like a commitment and a reminder, and I think it would be well worth it.  I suspect very strongly that we will be renewing next year when our pass runs out.

We are bound to go back lots, so I’ll do another review in the summer and let you know what the BBQ sites are like and whether it gets too busy or not.

 

Disclosure: I was given a years Discovery Pass in return for doing a review, but my opinions are my own.  I’d like to thank the Forestry Commission for being so patient with me, as soon after they offered for me to get the pass I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and have been nervous of going and busy with sorting it out.

 

#DoSomethingYummy: Half Term and Two Year Old Birthdays

Cuteness alert!

This wasn’t just any old half-term.

This was the one where Little Dimples turned two and totally ‘got’ what a birthday was.

So here she is singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to herself!

 

 

Oh and if you didn’t get the last few words, we reckon it was ‘and there you go’!

 

I know that the subject of sick children is really hard to think about, so many of you will want to ignore the fact that this is to do with CLIC.  All I’m asking is that you think about it for a second.  Some families have kids who aren’t well enough to sing ‘Happy Birthday’.  But organisations like CLIC make it easier on the children and the families.  We might not be able to get rid of all disease; that’s not possible.  But charities that support families at these tough times are therefore very worthwhile to give your hard earned money to.

This post is being written as part of the blog prompt for #DoSomethingYummy  from Typecast which is the campaign for CLIC Sargent Charity for children with cancer.  I’ve picked the prompt ‘Of Half-term and getting the kids involved‘.  

 

An Alternative to New Years Resolutions: Your Top 3 Life Priorities


I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions, I think it’s a time for a detox, clear out and rest.

Goals can just add to the weight of things we don’t achieve as Mums.

What I use are ‘Life Priorities’

 

Life Priorities help you to organise your time, energy and money spends for the year ahead and only focus on what is important to you.

 

Imagine a year where you can finish it feeling satisfied that you covered all the most important bases (not everything, just the important stuff); it’s a good feeling!


To do it ..

  1. Get an hour to yourself (if possible, otherwise do it on the fly)
  2. Get a piece of paper and put on some music that relaxes or inspires you
  3. Think about everything that happened recently or in the last year that you can feel really grateful for  (this means the ideas come from the heart, not the logic of the mind or emotion of the gut).
  4. Now think about looking back at the end of your life
  5. What do you most want to be sure you have achieved?  What would you be gutted not to have?
  6. Pick 3.

I know three isn’t many, and that you will actually have lots of other priorities, and you are welcome to write down the others as well.  But what I do want you to just pick 3.  You’ll want to refine and polish them as time goes by, so don’t worry about making them perfect.

YOU CAN”T GET THIS WRONG!

Just Change It Later On If You Realise that other things are more important.

Mine are:

  1. That my kids feel loved from top to bottom by me and love me in return
  2. My books become ‘THE pick me up books for all Mums’
  3. That I stay strong in myself physically and emotionally

There are reasons behind all of these, and reasons why they take the top rankings, and they are in no way a judgement on the fact that I know already that yours will be different.

For example, for some parents the top priority is to provide every academic opportunity towards a secure future career for their children, or to ensure they make a great marriage, or to make sure they have amazing experiences, or to nurture them.  Some Mums might not have a potential career option, or not at the moment, or not feel it’s in the top 3.  Some might not have their health anywhere near the top 3 (I would really recommend that you consider how much it will help your kids if it is at least in your top 5 though).  Others might have providing financially, or spiritually as the top priority.  Maybe yours is maintaining your relationship (note to the hairy one: the reason our relationship is No4 is because me being strong has always been an important aspect to the success of our relationship).

Why bother?  Because we all get tired, overwhelmed, stressed, overloaded, exhausted, knackered, unfocussed and end up fire fighting and headless chicken running around at some point.

If every morning you remind yourself what your top 3 priorities are, you will be able to make sure that AT LEAST those are done, and then the rest.  Plus loads of things you’ll just not bother to do, saving you time, energy and money.

Plus you can manage your weekly To Do’s and make sure that you at least make time for these three.

What it means is that:

  • I make time to hug my kids, because otherwise I get unhappy.
  • I exercise 3 times a week, and eat pretty healthily.
  • When work opportunities come up and I’m busy, I pick the ones that help me to spread my books

In my book, I talk more about how to pick your top priorities and find out more about you as a person and what you love to do, or have or who you love to spend time with, so if you’d like to find out more, remember you can read a kindle book without a kindle.

Fancy finding your Top 3 Life Priorities?  Pop your top 3 priorities below when you’ve done it or come over to my Pinterest board and add them there..  If you blog about it you are very welcome to add a link in a comment to any blog posts you write about it, so that other Mums can get ideas for how it helps or what affect it has on you.

Here’s a summary for you as a picture, I can’t wait to hear what you pick!

Some tips for the easter holidays

Curly Headed Boy’s holiday started on wednesday and he is off for 1 month, back for a couple of days and off again!  I really look forward to the holidays, but it can be a really difficult time.  I’ve got work to juggle, a 13 month old baby who hasn’t understood the concept of waiting yet, plus a 5yr old who has still not learnt that constantly interrupting and nagging me for stuff won’t work!

So what I did last week was make a couple of big decisions ….

  1. I’m not doing any major work over the easter holidays, just some foundational stuff and my blog.
  2. I also took some time out for a rest and a bit of a rejuvenation, to give me the energy to survive the month.
  3. I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking at the diary and working out things to do, as the more potential structure there is, the easier sometimes.  Mind you, I’m not as organised as some, one Mum I know has something booked for every day already.
  4. I keep reminding myself to make sure that we have fun and not to try to achieve too much.
  5. I’m changing my plans if they don’t feel right on the day and don’t work for me.

I think that the key is to make sure that we are OK first, so that we have the energy to keep going!  What are you up to?