The Golden Girl donut

A little while ago I discovered the joy that is getting cookery books out of the library.

I’ve always gone to the library, obviously, I’ve not just suddenly discovered it as concept. I’ve facilitated my fair share of summer reading challenges with the girls, and been to story times, and done all the usual library things, but for some reason it had never occurred to be to get recipe books from the library. Silly really, as they are BOOKS, dur.

So anyway a few weeks ago I went along to the library, with my tote bag, and there were shelves and shelves of them! I sat on the floor and looked at all the pictures of all the things I’d probably never get around to making, but liked looking at nonetheless. I concentrated on baking because I find it more enjoyable cooking when I’m not hungry, just for the fun of making something. When you’ve been answering the ‘what’s for tea’ question every day at 4.30pm for over 20 years then the joy of cooking actual meals becomes a teeny bit diminished.

I ended up with a big stack of books for my tote bag and one of them was DONUTS by Vicky Graham.  View Post

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I’ve been struggling for a long time now to feel creative.

There are loads of excuses I could come up with, like a global pandemic, significant parenting and grandparenting responsibilities, stress, I don’t know, there’s plenty to pin it on, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I come to the conclusion that it’s something bigger than that.

I’ve been feeling this same kind of ‘God I wish I could just sit and stare at an unopened book and eat bourbons’ vibe probably, if I’m honest, since I wrote this post, which is before I’d even heard of the phrase ‘social distancing’, so it hardly seems fair to blame my lack of creative inspiration on Covid.

At the time I called it a midlife unravelling, because a friend had told me about this article and everything I read resonated with me so much, but since I wrote the post over two years ago a new word for it has been blipping more and more frequently on my radar – PERIMENOPAUSE.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I talk about the perimenopause quite a lot over there, which is fine – the lack of flow in the creative juice department lends itself well to a few sparsely worded Instagram stories, but I’ve written less about it here, probably because the sheer volume of words required makes it feel impossible.

While I do feel that the whole concept of perimenopause has gained more and more publicity over the last couple of years, I think there’s still a huge lack of understanding around what exactly the perimenopause is, and what it means for all the people who go through it.

If you think perimenopause, what do you think? Can you reel of some of the common effects or do you just think hot flushes? (Which actually are more common during menopause that perimenopause.) Do you know how long it can last? (Up to ten years God help us.)

I was listening to a podcast today that used an expression that really stuck with me – they called perimenopause an ‘all systems’ condition. Perimenopause isn’t just a gynaecological issue, it’s an EVERYTHING issue. It impacts every area of your life, from sleep to libido. It can cause joint pain, lethargy, anxiety, skin and hair changes, even tinnitus.

Perimenopause can effect your energy levels and your motivation. It gives you BRAIN FOG. It makes life sometimes feel overwhelming or infuriating or pointless.

Perimenopause gets EVERYWHERE, in every bit of you.

There are women who’ve given up jobs because perimenopause symptoms have made them feel like they’re no longer capable, like they might be going crazy, like they might have dementia, like they are drowning.

Is it really any wonder that when I wake up multiple times every single night, lie awake for sometimes hours at a time, unable to find a place to lie that isn’t too hot or too painful for my hips, that I might feel a tad lack lustre? Can I really be blamed for not wanting to sit down and bash out creative stories everyday when sometimes even opening my laptop makes me furious and exhausted all at once?

No.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this post to be honest, I think I just wanted to start talking here more about what’s going on for me right now and to give some insight for people who might be feeling that same lack of motivation and direction, some reassurance that if this is you, you’re not alone, you’re not crazy.

Over HALF the world’s population experience the perimenopause, so it’s time we started talking about it. If any of this resonates with you I’d love to hear from you – you can leave a comment on this post.

 

perimenopause symptoms

PS. My Menopause Doctor is a great source of information on the menopause and perimenopause and a great place to start if you want to find out more.

 

 

 

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Advertisement feature in association with Headway Tutors – providers of in-home and online tutoring.

Best online tutor

It’s a fun fact about me that, if you don’t count the paper round I had for literally 45 minutes, (which we don’t), my first job was as a one to one maths tutor. I was a personal tutor for about three years while I was at university and it was a great way for me, as a single parent to a toddler already, to make some extra money but work flexibly.

I guess when you think about it it shows how well suited I’ve always been to working for myself, because I took the initiative, found all my own customers and managed everything myself. It’s also quite staggering how far technology has come since then. There was no such thing as online tutoring companies back then because there was no such thing as online. Once I’d had the idea, the only way to find the people who wanted tutoring near me was to put an ad in the local paper. You couldn’t Google it – if you wanted to find a maths tutor you looked in the classifieds, or maybe at the postcards in the window of the newsagents.

I remember quite distinctly going into the newspaper office to place my ad, checking out the competition from the other private tutors and tutoring companies, and trying to come up with an enticing way to say ‘inexperienced but cheap’. My maths resources were Lego, (excellent for making fractions seem fun), a maths version of snakes and ladders that I drew myself on a bit of cardboard from a box and covered in sticky back plastic, and, if I was feeling flush, pages from workbooks that I photocopied in the library.

I charged £7.50 an hour. Happy times.

Find maths tutor near me

Nowadays the world of online tutoring is big business and there are masses of different online tutoring companies offering support with everything from the 11+ to GCSE Spanish. Many of these tutoring companies will offer the option of in-home tuition as well as online, and some may also run workshops or group tuition sessions, which can be more affordable than one to one tuition.

Because the options are now so much broader than the selection of postcards in a shop window, it can be hard to know how to choose the best online tutoring option for you and your child, so I’ve teamed up with tutoring website Headway Tutors to help you think about some of the questions you might want to ask yourself or a tutoring company before you make a decision. View Post

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why you should kick autumn leaves

The fall is a time for pumpkin spice lattes, cute warm sweaters and some of the best family activities. Outdoor and indoor activities galore, don’t miss out on some great opportunities this season.

Here are some ideas to help plan for activities with the whole family this fall.  

Explore a Pumpkin Patch

Have an adventure at the pumpkin patch! There is something magical about picking out and eating fresh pumpkins and watching them grow on their vines. Not to mention that many pumpkin patches have a lot more to offer than just the patch. Some offer hayrides, pumpkin painting, and even mazes through the fields. So research the pumpkin patches in your area to see what kind of events and activities they have available!

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Watching the sunrise or sunset with the family can be an incredible experience. Families in Houston love to do this on fall nights when the autumn foliage can be viewed from high in the sky.

If you’re interested in joining families in Houston, perhaps checking out the current Apartments in Houston that are for rent is a great place to start. There are numerous fall activities in this area and certainly all throughout the year as well.

Haunted Hayrides

If your family is up for a thrill, checking out local haunted hayrides or houses is the perfect fall night activity. From scary characters to creepy wooded areas, everyone will surely be spooked! Just a word of caution to check the event description as some can be quite scary and not suitable for very young children. 

Head to a Football Game

When autumn rolls around, football fans have their gear ready to go. Fall weekends are the perfect time to head to a local high school, college, or even NFL football game depending on where you’re located.

Put on your favorite team’s apparel and cheer them on from the stands!

Play in the Leaves

A simple activity that is free and may actually help you with your house chores. Rake the leaves your yard has collected into one large pile for the entire family to jump into. After you’re done, have the kids pick out a few to preserve or trace with a crayon for a fun craft project.

Get Lost in a Maze

Having fun in a corn maze trying to find certain items or posts is one of the many fun activities available in the fall. Grab a cup of warm apple cider and head inside the maze but make sure everyone sticks together! 

Have a Happy Fall!

Fall is the time to get out and enjoy the crisp cool weather. There are many fun activities that your family can do together and not all of them require spending a lot of money or time. Give your family some of these ideas and have a happy fall filled with memories! If you’re a member of a local community organization, then suggest one of these activities as a group outing. 

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Data rooms

It matters less whether you are running a small business or a large organization; you are going to store and transfer business documents especially for mergers and acquisitions. Data rooms are far more efficient and effective when it comes to data security and organization than a physical storage space. They feature useful tools such as advanced permissions, multiple-factor authentication, Q&A tools, bookmarks, and notes among other things. Transactions & Data Rooms go hand in hand in the modern business setting. You will need them for IPOs, real estate management, and other financial transactions. These use cases are just to mention but a few. Here are other things that require you to invest in a viable data room.

Mergers and Acquisitions M&A

A lot of companies carry out M&A due diligence using VDRs. Data rooms make it easy for companies to seal deals online without having to meet physically. You can easily share paperwork for review and sign documents online. It saves a lot of time and money when personnel do not have to travel long distances. Since companies share highly sensitive information and documents in such deals, they opt to use VDRs thanks to their security features. Common in the tech industry, large corporations often acquire small start-ups. VDRs make such acquisition processes easy to go through.

Legal Document Management

VDRs present an excellent way of managing legal documents. These rooms allow companies to share such documents without worrying about exposing their restricted documents to other companies. Legal documents can be extremely extensive, so the involved stakeholders must have unlimited access to go through the documents extensively. VDRs make it possible for multiple lawyers representing several companies to review a large number of documents and be in a position to negotiate for their respective companies. Popular use in the legal field is class action suits that usually involve a large number of people.

IPOs and Raising Capital

Raising capital is common for both existing and start-up companies. When raising capital, you must take security and accountability into consideration. Raising capital is an activity that takes a long time, sometimes several months. A lot of people and companies could be involved in such an activity as well. It is vital therefore that you use a platform that will accommodate all those involved, and provide enough security and accountability. VDRs take up this role with ease thanks to their user-friendly working platforms and their top-notch security features.

Real Estate Transactions

Commercial real estate transactions involve large transactions and huge amounts of data for the properties. Sharing this data would be difficult if the involved parties were to send emails back and forth. Some files would be too large to even attach to their emails. It is important to have a platform such as those VDRs provide to upload such huge files that the sellers and the potential buyers as well as other interested parties like government officials can review and give feedback. The platforms allow you to restrict access so that you can control how users operate on the platform. 

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As babies grow and start exploring more of their surroundings, they will develop various skills – including fine motor skills. These are not to be confused with gross motor skills – which, as Healthline explains, involve the whole body and include sitting, standing and walking.

Fine motor skills are more about dexterity, and use smaller muscles – including in the hands, fingers and wrists. Here are several toys your kids would enjoy using to hone their fine motor skills…

Ring stack

The Nemours KidsHealth website recommends buying one of these for babies; in other words, children in their first year of life.

At the heart of this toy is a cone fitting various sizes of coloured ring. Initially, your baby might just hold and mouth the multicoloured rings provided as part of the toy. However, through later fitting these rings onto the cone, babies practice fine motor skills.

Mechanical toy

As your child passes their first birthday and becomes a toddler, they could become increasingly aware of how objects function.

Hence, they could be increasingly drawn to mechanical toys – like pop-up toys as well as “busy” boxes where children can use knobs, buttons and levers to bring about particular effects. Such toys can assist in teaching not just fine motor skills but also cause-and-effect.

Arty toy

Your child’s fine motor skills could soon improve to a level sufficient for them to engage in various arts and crafts; for example, by holding a crayon, drawing pictures and – for the purposes of cutting and pasting – using safety scissors.

Fine motor skills would also be necessary if your little one wanted to write – such as to add a message to a birthday card they have made for you – or thread beads.

Construction set

Giving your kids a construction toy – like, yes, Lego or a similar toy from a different brand – would enable your little ones to psychologically develop themselves in various ways.

For example, in building a tower and discerning how to prevent it from toppling over, they can pick up problem-solving skills and refine their hand-eye coordination. However, you could have underestimated how much these toys would enable your kids to practice their fine motor skills, too.

Musical instrument

If any of your kids work hard to learn how to play a particular musical instrument, like a piano, violin or guitar, it wouldn’t just be a sign that they could potentially grow up to be a chart-topping musician (hey, here’s hoping).

It could also suggest that the child is further developing their fine motor skills. They would also need attention skills in order to play that instrument effectively.

Ride-on toy

Good Housekeeping enthuses that ride-ons can enable children to develop both gross and fine motor skills as well as refine balance and assist with coordination.

There are many different types of ride-on toy, too – including push ride-ons, pedal-powered toys and motorised toys. RiiRoo is one example of an online store that stocks various ride-on toys, making it easier for you to source one your kids will adore.

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money saving tips
Studies have shown that in the United States, the average household earns around $60,000 before taxes, which leaves around $50,000 to bring home. From that amount, they spend more than $2,300 on entertainment.

While these figures differ depending on the country, most people are looking to save on some form of expenses. Most recently, people have started to try saving on entertainment after realizing that it’s a luxury and not a necessity —the opposite of what pop culture has told us over the years.

One of the best ways to save money is through the envelope system. The envelope system is the idea that you assign your income into six categories: education, savings, bills, long-term savings, entertainment, and gifts. From there, individuals can divide the categories into sub-sections. For instance, the entertainment category can be divided into solo entertainment and entertainment for our loved ones and ourselves.

Saving On Solo Entertainment

Using the envelope system, let’s say 20% of your money goes into the entertainment category. You can dedicate 10% of this towards your solo entertainment, while the remaining 10% goes towards your all-around entertainment.

When it comes to individual entertainment, there are many ways to make the most of this 10%. You can ensure that you get the break you need while managing your money wisely and distributing it successfully in the other categories like education and bills.

the envelope system
Over the years, online gaming has become a popular avenue for entertainment. It’s an engaging way to unwind on a one-to-one basis. Many platforms offer money-saving deals, attracting those who want to blow off steam while being reasonable about the money they’re spending. Online casino games have become particularly popular in this regard.

This is because many are low minimum deposit casinos, meaning players don’t have to deposit a lot of money to start spinning online slots. Further, there are comparison sites like Bonusfinder, which provide up to date analysis on different deals and offers. Presenting deals allows individuals to capitalise on low deposits while trying out new casinos and experiences.

Saving On All-Around Entertainment

Of course, nothing beats spending quality time with your loved ones. Unfortunately, the more members in your party, the more expensive activities can be. That said, there are ways to save money on entertainment for our families.

For instance, if you and your loved ones are movie buffs, why not subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix? Of course, there is a monthly fee, but if watching movies is something you enjoy, paying the subscription fee will be cheaper than paying for several movie theatre tickets for multiple people a month.

If the idea of staying in doesn’t appeal to you, and that’s why you like to go out to theatres, there are activities you can do that don’t cost money. For instance, libraries are a great source of entertainment where you can read for free. Plus, in the summertime, there are always free events like street performances and concerts.

As more technology has been introduced, we’ve come to believe that we have to spend large sums on entertainment to get a good experience. That doesn’t have to be the case. There are many ways to save money on entertainment, whether for you or entertainment for you and your loved ones.

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How much is an Australian labradoodle?

If you’re trying to budget how much an Australian Labradoodle will cost you, you’re in the right place. Many dog lovers consider price as a factor in whether they bring an Australian Labradoodle home or not.

That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that price isn’t the only thing to consider. When you bring home an Australian Labradoodle, you will spend a lot of time and energy to raise them. This is time and energy you could’ve spent elsewhere but chose to spend with your new Australian Labradoodle.

In this article, we’ll talk about;

  1. How much an Australian Labradoodle really costs (with examples)
  2. What determines the cost of an Australian Labradoodle
  3. One-time expenses you need to budget for
  4. Yearly expenses you need to budget for

Let’s dive in!

How much is Australian Labradoodle?

The initial cost of purchasing an Australian Labradoodle is $2500 to $4000. The cost will vary depending on a couple of factors such as;

  • Are you buying or adopting an Australian Labradoodle?
  • Where is the breeder or rescue/shelter located?
  • What’s the breeder’s reputation?
  • What physical characteristics does the labradoodle have?

Let’s take a look at these factors.

Buying from a Labradoodle Breeder vs Adopting from a Shelter

First off, Australian Labradoodles are considered “designer dogs”. This means due to their mixed breed nature, they are high in demand and will be priced higher than other breeds.

Buying from a registered Australian Labradoodle breeder in the US will cost upwards of $2500. The more reputable a breeder is, the higher the price will go. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Breeder Location Initial Cost
Hale’s Australian Labradoodles  Bakersfield, California $3500
Agape Labradoodles Denver, Colorado $3000
Labradoodle Lane Dade City, Florida $2750
Royal Paws Labradoodles Houston, Texas $2800

Adopting from a shelter/rescue, on the other hand, will cost $100 to $1000 depending on which shelter/rescue you adopt from. Keep in mind it’s very difficult to find these designer dogs in shelters/rescues due to high demand. By the time one or two land in these centers, they are adopted out in the blink of an eye.

Let’s take a look at some shelters/rescues you can find an Australian Labradoodle and the cost.

Shelter Location Adoption Cost
IDOG Rescue Houston, Texas $100 – $750
Doodle Rescue Collective Nationwide $300 – $1000
Doodle Dandy Rescue Houston, Texas As per dog

As you can see, adopting from a shelter/rescue is cheaper than buying from a breeder. You will just need to get in the loop with shelters/rescues around your area so that when they find an Australian Labradoodle, you will be top of mind.

It is also important to know that a rescued Australian Labradoodle will need more care, empathy, and patience than a labradoodle from a breeder. Some of these Australian Labradoodles have encountered difficult things at the hands of their former owner, environment, or other factors. You will need to take them with an open mind, heart, and patience. If you don’t have these, it’s not fair to you or to the dog to adopt.

Breeder’s Reputation

If you have been browsing for a while, you may have noticed a huge variance in how much an Australian Labradoodle is. One main reason is the breeder’s reputation.

We have 3 types of breeders; professional, backyard, and puppy mills. These breeders have their own brand, motive, and pricing.

If you’re buying from a professional breeder, you can expect to pay a minimum of $2000 per puppy. If the Australian Labradoodle has unique features, you can expect to pay up to $4000+.

This type of breeder is part of organizations such as ALAA which direct breeders to uphold the set standards for breeding Australian Labradoodles. You may notice they have a badge similar to the one below displayed on their website.

Aside from this, the breeder will have a stellar reputation in the breeding world to complement their skills, expertise, experience, and great output. This type of breeder will seek to understand why you are buying an Australian Labradoodle, how you plan on taking care of your doodle and if you are a good fit. They will also answer all the questions you have and invite you to visit the location to have a look around.

The other two types of breeders, backyard and puppy mills, are generally after profit.

The backyard breeder may start breeding as a side-hustle to earn more money. This breeder will usually be inexperienced and will not offer the standard health guarantees. They also tend to be wary of allowing visitors to their property.

Puppy mills are the bane of breeding Australian Labradoodles. They don’t care about the health of the parents, the conditions the dogs live in, or whether you go home with a healthy doodle. All they care about is your dollar and making a profit.

If you do your research, you will notice their prices are very low (ie. $400) and they are very secretive about how and where they breed. They will also ask for payment in advance and will become defensive if you ask questions that dig deep.

Location

Location is another factor that weighs how much you will pay for your doodle. If you live in expensive states such as California, New York, Maryland, Washington DC among others – you can expect to pay higher. If you live in more affordable states, you can expect to pay the average or lower depending on where exactly you live.

One-Time Labradoodle Expenses

Let’s have a look at the average cost of one-time items for your new doodle.

Item Price
Australian Labradoodle Puppy Price $2000 to $4000+
Spay/Neutering $250
Fence $400+
Essentials (leash, bowls, crate, etc.) $200
Vaccinations $75 to $100
Microchip $25 to $35

Yearly Labradoodle Expenses (on average)

Item Price
Yearly vet exam $2000 to $4000+
Yearly vaccines $250
Vitamins $400+
Supplements $150
Dog food $750
Grooming $500
Accessories $150
Waste disposal $200
Heartworm medication $80
Toys $100
Training $50 to $60 per class
Accommodation (when going on vacation/traveling out of state) $25 to $100 per night

Conclusion

Owning an Australian Labradoodle is an expensive venture but worthwhile. If you’re on a budget, we recommend you save up and have at least $2000 to $3000 in savings for your doodle for out-of-pocket or unexpected expenses like illness/injury.

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Income from social security is an important calculation when it comes to your retirement. Most people try to wait as long as possible to start collecting social security, as this maximizes the amount you can receive. But there are some situations when it makes more sense to claim your social security early, even if it decreases the amount you’ll receive slightly.

A Refresher on Social Security Benefits, Including Early Collection

From the perspective of social security, full retirement age is either 66 or 67. If you were born before 1954, it is 66. If you were born after 1960, it is 67. If you were born in the intervening years, it is somewhere between this, with the age increasing by two months for each birth year. So, those born in 1955 reach full retirement at 66 years and two months, and those born in 1956 reach it at 66 years and four months.

While your age of full retirement is 66 to 67, you can choose to collect social security benefits starting at just age 62. However, you will receive less if you do. If you can wait until you are 70 to start collecting, you can receive even more than at 66 or 67.

How Much Early Collection Reduces Your Benefits

The following shows how much your social security retirement benefit would be reduced by if you choose to start collecting it at age 62.

  • Born in 1958: Reduced by 28.33% for you; spousal benefit reduced by 33.33%
  • Born in 1959: Reduced by 29.17% for you; spousal benefit reduced by 34.17%
  • Born in 1960 or later: Reduced by 30.00% for you; spousal benefit reduced by 35.00%

As a refresher, the spousal benefit is up to 50% of the worker’s benefit. The reduction in spousal benefits applies after that 50% is applied.

How Much Delayed Collection Increases Your Benefits

On the other end of the spectrum, if you choose to delay how long you wait to start collecting social security benefits, you can increase the amount you receive. There is an increase each year, up to age 70.

The increase amounts to 8% per year, broken down to 0.66% every month. This is the case regardless of the year you were born.

With that background in mind, explore some of the situations when you may want to consider collecting social security benefits early.

Benefits While Working

Interestingly, you can continue earning money without it affecting your social security benefits, as long as you’ve already reached full retirement age.

However, if you choose to start collecting at age 62 and are still working, you may not receive the full benefits. There is an annual limit to how much you can earn without seeing a reduction in your benefits. For 2021, it is $18,960. After this, each $1 you earn will deduct $0.50 from your benefits.

If Your Investment Skills Can Deliver Higher Returns

Based on the above information, you can maximize your monthly social security benefits by waiting until you are 70 to start collecting. You get an extra 8% per year. By age 70, this can mean an increase of 24%.

This is a very good return rate, but some savvy investors may think they can do better. It is definitely possible to get a better return than 8% annually, but there is no guarantee.

You should exercise a great deal of caution before collecting early for this reason. Remember that investments with higher return rates tend to be riskier. Even without added risk, markets are unpredictable, so this could also lead to you losing money.

You can run what-if and break even scenarios for Social Security benefits using good retirement planning software that is on the market today. Planning applications such as WealthTrace allow you to put in your entire financial plan and run Social Security scenarios. Simple calculators like AARP offers are also a great place to start.

If You Want to Make the Most of Early Retirement

For most people, you will be healthiest during the earlier years of your retirement. This means that you may want to spend more money on things like traveling and hobbies during that period. In that case, you may need the income from social security early to help fund those activities. Maybe receiving less per month is fine since you don’t plan to travel as much in the later years.

This will require you to weigh the pros and cons. Additionally, don’t forget to factor in any later health or care-related costs you may have as you age.

If Your Health Isn’t Great

Depending on your current health, you may want to consider collecting social security early. You may need the extra income that comes from social security benefits before you reach 66 or 67. This is especially true if your poor health means you can’t work as well as you used to or can’t work at all.

Unfortunately, if your health is very poor and it affects your lifespan, collecting your benefits early may even put you ahead financially over your lifetime.

But Remember Your Spouse

Before choosing to collect social security for your poor health, think about how it will affect your spouse as well. Remember that in addition to lowering your monthly benefits, it will lower your spouse’s survival benefits. This may not affect them, depending on other income and savings. However, it may also have a significant impact on their life and finances.

If You Don’t Think Social Security Will Last in Full

It is, unfortunately, no secret that the social security system has issues and may face some major changes in the future. If this really concerns you, you may want to start collecting early to ensure you get the money you are owed.

The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that while social security is likely to change for future generations, this isn’t likely to be a major concern for those currently approaching retirement. If there are changes that affect you, they will likely be minor. This would be more of a factor for your kids or grandkids.

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These days, kids start to learn how to use computers and devices at a very young age. And before you know it, your little one will be using the internet to connect with friends they met at school.

While it’s great to know that your children can talk to their friends online, particularly if those are children that you have met in person, you might be a bit worried about your kids meeting and talking to strangers online. And that is a totally valid concern!

What are some safety strategies that you can easily implement right at home to help keep your children safe when they are surfing the World Wide Web and talking to others online? We’ve compiled a few tips below to help you get started.

First Off, Teach Your Kids About the Dangers of Talking to Strangers

You probably already taught your kids not to talk to strangers in person, right? For example, you might tell them to stay away from strangers while they are at school or while they are outside playing with their friends. But what about their interactions with other people on the internet? Have you addressed the fact that they should also beware of strangers online? If you haven’t yet done that, it is probably time to do it.

Even if your kids are still quite young, if they are using the internet to interact with others, such as through gaming apps, it is a good idea to let them know about the risks. Adults might be posing as children on the websites and platforms that your kids use, and they might be waiting to trick your kids into giving away personal information. So, ask your kids about the people they interact with, and teach them that they aren’t allowed to share private and personal information about themselves and their family.

Run Background Checks on People Your Kids Talk To

Using a people search website is another step you can take to rest assured that you really know who your kids are interacting with on the internet.

You can head to Nuwber to type in a person’s name, address, or phone number and gather information about them that includes things like police records, lawsuits, property records, and contact details. This can shed light on whether someone who is talking to your child is being honest about who they are, or if they are lying because they’re a con artist.

Set Parental Controls

Another way to keep your kids safe online is by setting strong parental controls that help prevent access to websites and apps that could potentially be dangerous for your children by putting them in contact with people they shouldn’t be talking to.

Carefully go through the various parental control options that are available to you, and set them as you see fit. Combined with good antivirus and security software, this simple step can help you rest assured that your kids will use the internet in a manner that will help keep them safe from strangers.

Encourage Your Kids to Talk to You

Finally, encouraging your kids to communicate and be honest with you is yet another step you can take when you want to stay on top of who they’re friends with online. The more they feel comfortable talking to you and coming to you with questions or concerns, the better.

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Post in partnership with Competition Finder

It’s September, back to school, and that means one thing – STATIONERY.

I don’t have school aged children anymore, so my life doesn’t feel quite as defined by the rhythm of the school day and term times as it used to, but I haven’t lost my love of a new pencil case. To be honest I’m not sure that was ever really linked to being a parent, I thing I’m just a sucker for stationery.

I’ve teamed up with Competition Finder today to bring you the ultimate back to school blog post – four of my favourite stationery picks PLUS the chance to win £50 of Amazon vouchers, so you can have your own stationery blow out. (Or spend it on something else, like dog food or a hand whisk, I don’t really mind.)

Competition Finder is a great place to find all the latest competitions online. Competition details are organised by type, so whether you’re looking for holidays, cash prizes or something else, Competition Finder can provide you with all the details you need.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of winning Amazon vouchers though, lets indulge ourselves (me) for a minute and look at some bits and pieces that you really need on your desk, right now.

The Heirloom collection from Katie Leamon

I’ve bought a lot of notebooks in my time, (I dread to think), but I’m not sure I’ve ever come across as perfect a specimen as the notebooks in the Heirloom collection from Lily and Lionel for Katie Leamon. They are just exquisite – the prints, the quality, the thickness – they’re the absolute dream notebook.

They’re blank pages, I cannot abide a lined notebook, and they have a lay flat design, so no awkward spine cracking or holding pages open while you make notes. View Post

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Keeping on top of your finances is a lifelong struggle, but paying child maintenance is something you should always prioritise. Use these top tips to help you never miss a payment…

How to pay child maintenance

Child maintenance is money to help pay for your child’s living costs. It’s usually paid by a parent who has moved out and no longer lives in the same house as the child, to the person who takes care of the child regularly.

The amount of child maintenance you pay will vary depending on various factors. These include the number of children you have, the amount of time you spend with your child, and the salary you are on. If you think you’re paying more than what you should be paying, you should always seek legal advice from your Somerset, Manchester, or Lincoln family solicitor, for example, before taking formal action.

To avoid having to take legal action, here are ten top tips for paying child maintenance on time. So, let’s begin…

1.    Try to Maintain a Good Relationship with the Adult You’re Co-Parenting With

If you can, it’s best to try and remain as civil as possible with your child’s other parent. Try to discuss your child maintenance privately, without getting third parties involved, to save you a great deal of time and money.

Remember, trying to maintain an open and healthy relationship with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting.

2.    Set Up a Direct Debit to Never Miss a Payment

If you decide to sort out child maintenance amongst yourselves, without using a solicitor, remember to set up a direct debit to avoid missing any payments.

Family-based arrangements are often the quickest and easiest way to arrange child maintenance. However, they’re not legally binding, so it’s important to trust your child’s other parent and set up a direct debit to ensure the trust isn’t broken.

child maintenance payments

3.    Use the Child Maintenance Service for Peace of Mind

If you and your ex-partner can’t agree on a child maintenance plan, you can contact the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) to help. The CMS work out how much child maintenance should be paid and can arrange how the money is paid.

Usually, there are two ways: Direct Pay and Collect and Pay. Direct Pay is a direct transaction from one parent’s bank account into another. Collect and Pay is when the CMS collects the money and passes it between the two parents.

Although Collect and Pay is a better alternative if your ex-partner is continually missing payments, parents must bear in mind that there are additional charges for this service.

4.    Make Sure You Have a Payment Plan

When using a Child Maintenance Service, you are often sent a Payment Plan which details how much child maintenance you need to pay and when.

It’s incredibly beneficial to paying parents, as it tells you exact payment amounts and the dates they will come out of your account. Usually, Payment Plans are delivered when the CMS first work out the amount.

If you do not have one already, we strongly advise contacting the CMS for a copy and keeping it in a safe place.

5.    Budget at the Start of Every Month

Budgeting is a skill that you acquire as an adult, and it is imperative in gaining financial stability.

So, why not try sketching out a budgeting schedule at the start of every month? This will give you a clear picture of where your money is ending up, and ensure you keep on top of your finances.

Remember that every month is different, so don’t rely on the previous month to set you up for the next. It’s vital that you consider all costs as well as accounting for the unexpected.

6.    Set Yourself Reminders

As well as setting up a Direct Debit or using the Child Maintenance Service, set yourself reminders throughout the month to ensure you’re on the right path.

Whether you set an alert on your phone each week or have a note on your chalkboard in the kitchen, visual reminders will help you remember upcoming payments. Try to mix up your reminders i.e., where you write the memo, or at what time your alert goes off, so you don’t stop noticing them.

7.    Pay Off Any Outstanding Debt

To ensure payments are sent in time, it’s helpful to eradicate any pre-existing debt. Depending on your circumstances, this could be a lengthy process, but will ultimately help in ensuring your finances are in order.

To ensure you’re making the right decisions, contact a financial adviser or wealth management company, and they’ll be able to advise you on your next steps.

8.    Keep Your Solicitor Updated

You may not have used a solicitor to sort out your child maintenance plan, but if you did it’s important to keep them in the loop. In order for your solicitors to provide you with sound advice, they must be made fully aware of the situation.

Lying to your solicitor about your financial situation will complicate matters and cost you more money in the long run.

money saving tips

9.     Reduce Your Outgoings

Whether it’s changing your service providers, cutting down on luxuries, or even down-sizing home, reducing your monthly outgoings will help you reap the rewards.

It’s certainly not the easiest thing to do, but if you’re struggling to pay your child maintenance on time, it’s probably because you don’t have enough disposable income. Take time to reassess your finances and write down a list of your outgoings to find out where your biggest spends are.

10. Keep Your Child’s Welfare in Mind

Finally, remind yourself why you’re paying child maintenance. Your child deserves to have the best possible chance in life and your financial contributions can have an incredibly positive impact.

Whether it’s putting food in their mouths or paying for after school activities, child maintenance help towards creating a loving and stable environment for your children.

If you’re struggling to remind yourself of the reasons to financially support your child, try speaking to a friend, family member or counsellor, who may be able to help.

Remember, Don’t Give Up!

Although paying child maintenance on time can be tricky, stay focused and remember to think about the end goal. By financially supporting your child, you’re contributing towards their happiness, and can rest assured you’re fulfilling your job as a parent.

Good luck!

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