Lifestyle tips

Getting Yourself Organised for Tax Time

Posted in 'Organising' on June 15, 2015

It’s coming up to that time of year again — tax time, and if you’re among a large proportion of Australians, you may not  quite be claiming everything that you're entitled to. With the 30th of June creeping up, it’s a good time to retrieve the shoebox full of receipts you've accumulated throughout the year and consider what you can and can't claim.  

The ATO website provides a comprehensive list of deductions you're able to claim - and you might be surprised what's on the list that you may not have been claiming to date. For instance, if you work from home (even if you don’t own a business) you may be able to claim some of your workspace expenses including heating/cooling, cleaning, lighting and even office repairs. 

Of course to claim most of these deductions you will need to have maintained clear records including receipts of purchases. Whilst receipts and tax invoices from people  and businesses supplying the goods and services are some of the best evidence to use for your tax deductions, you can also use a combination of other documents to support your claims including:  
  • Bank or financial institution documents
  • Credit card statements
  • Email receipts
  • PAYG summaries
  • Handwritten evidence in a diary or similar - so long as the individual claims are no more than $10 and aren't collectively more than $300
  • Paper or electronic copies of documents that are a true representation of the originals are also acceptable. 
And whilst it might not help for the financial year just passed, there are a whole range of apps that can help you record and track your receipts on the fly like Shoeboxed AustraliaReceipts and Expensify that you can start to implement and use for the coming tax year. All have different functionality that allows you to capture and store relevant tax info on the run and some apps will even consolidate that information with your accounting platform. 

You can find out more about claimable tax deductions  on the ATO website. And don't forget you need to retain your evidence for 5 years from the day your tax return is due or the day you lodge your tax return (whichever date is the latter). 
PS: if the thought of getting yourself organised for tax time makes you nauseated then you know where I am

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Surviving the Last Week of School Holidays

Posted in 'Tips' on April 15, 2015

The last week of school holidays can be tricky for everyone. That first term flies by and it often leaves us wondering if we’re even due for holidays, let alone having been given a chance to plan for them. If you’re running short of ideas, and your sanity is at an all-time low, here’s 6 things you can do to keep everyone happy. 

Number 1: Get out into nature.

Kids have far more energy than parents that’s for sure, and unless you’re planning on some extreme sport, you’re not likely to use it all up. Getting outside, if only for a couple of hours helps. Nature has such a wonderful way of energising, refreshing and wearing you out, which makes it the perfect school holiday antidote. If you have some walking trails near you, this is the time to make use of them all, either on foot, scooter or bike. Alternatively you can hit the beach for a few hours if the weather agrees, or even head to a park. Older kids might scoff at the initial idea, but in my experience it doesn’t take long for them to start having fun. The getting out of the house gives everyone a break, and you can even organise it with a friend and a coffee, so the kids occupy themselves and you get adult conversation. Score! 

Number 2: Have an at home movie day.

If you’re not into the outdoors, or the weather turns for the worse, an at home movie day is a great alternative. Sure it won’t use up huge amounts of energy, but it will occupy everyone’s minds for a little while and is a great way of winding the whole family down and giving everyone an opportunity for relaxation before getting back into the next school term. Whilst hitting the cinema is a great outing, it can be crazy and crowded over the school holidays. Pull the curtains closed, throw pillows and blankets everywhere and stock up on some special treats. A bag of popcorn, some ice cream in a cone and ice-magic, and you can keep everyone happy for about a quarter of the price the movies will charge you (plus you don't have to queue up for the loo).

Better yet, the arrival of Netflix means you can download the free trial, and have access to a whole range of movies you might not have at home. Sure they aren’t new releases, but if you haven’t seen them, it doesn’t matter. 

Number 3: Have a loose routine.

One of the great things about school holidays is the break from routine. However for some kids, especially little ones who have a pretty detailed school schedule, the haphazard nature can get a bit overwhelming, leading to frustration and tantrums. Even a very simple holiday routine can help bring order for everyone; something as easy as having morning tea at the same time, or always having ‘outside play’in the afternoon before watching TV. The bonus of that, is it gives you something to look forward to, or to have a break; they watch Ben and Holly and you get an uninterrupted cuppa. Bliss.  

Number 4: Go out for lunch.

Making lunch can be tedious, and sometimes sandwiches at home just don't quite cut it.  Find a family-friendly restaurant or cafe and let someone else cook and clean up for a change. If you're stuck for ideas Eat out with Kids have got a great list of family-friendly cafes and restaurants in and around Brisbane and other Australian capital cities.  

Number 5: Have a dance party.

Dancing is one of those great mood changers and even if you do feel like a uncoordinated giraffe while doing it, it can be a lot of fun with the kids. And let's face it, the kids don’t care how you look, so long as you're having fun and they get to join in. Granted, this isn't an activity that’s going to take up a whole day, or even half a day, but when stress levels are high and everyone is ratty, play that funky music and just cut loose for half an hour. It’s guaranteed to make you feel better or at least give you a good laugh.  

Bonus Number 6: Enjoy it.

School holidays can be a real juggle with some days spent wishing they'd end sooner rather than later.  But in amongst the mayhem try and take a moment just to enjoy it. The days are long, but the years go by quick, and you before you know it, school holidays won't even be a bullet point on your agenda. 

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Tips for Transitioning Back to School Without the Craziness

Posted in 'Tips' on January 14, 2015
Sending the kids back to school for the start of a new year is an exciting time. But it can be a terrifying time too. For kids, because it's a change in their relaxed holiday routine. For parents, because they have to get the kids out of that relaxed holiday routine! So seeing as we still have less than a couple of weeks to go, here's some tips to save your sanity in transitioning the kids back into the school routine: 

1. Sort your school calendar/diary NOW

Juggling work or business and family is busy enough but throw in school requirements and it's mayhem. Add a little organisation and planning ahead and it can certainly alleviate a little stress. Whether you run a paper diary, online diary, calendar or whatever, get access to important school dates and start writing/typing them in NOW. And make sure your partner's calendar is synced (or copied if you're that way inclined) so everyone know's what's going on. Be sure to include term dates, public holidays, student free days, school sports and any other relevant stuff that's important to your family. 

2. Buy school shoes before they run out

Lots of parents tend to leave the school shoes purchases to the very last minute, because let's face it, kids' feet grow like weeds and we don't want them to grow out of shoes before the first day of school. But at this time of year, school shoes are a hot commodity. Head down and get your kids shod ASAP, otherwise you might find yourself cat-fighting with a bunch of crazy women over the last pair of black size 4 lace-ups. Heck, grab two pairs because chances are the first pair will only last one or two terms anyway!

3. Start the routine sooner rather than later

Whilst the relaxed school holiday mornings and late nights are nice for a while, they can make getting the kids back into a school routine a nightmare. Use the week before school starts to get the kids back into a bedtime routine and a morning routine to get ready, refreshed and prepared for the school morning craziness.

4. Check their lunchboxes

The start of the year usually means shiny new lunchboxes and to be honest I don't know who's usually more excited about them, the Mums or the kids. But it's worth taking a minute to check whether your children can manage opening their lunchboxes. The last thing you (and the teachers) need is a sobbing child on day one because they can't get to the sultanas and cheese tucked away in an ergo-enviro lunchbox in a thermo-sealed bag.

5. Label, label, label

Experienced school mums will chuckle at this one because as if you wouldn't label your child's things. But consider this, if you have a child starting prep, do they recognise their own name yet? If not, stick something else identifiable on things they use daily like water bottles, lunch boxes, hats and shoes. Lots of school labels have little icons that you can include when you order them making it more easily identifiable for little ones. 

6. Check the school bag (just in case)

If you're using last years school bag for your child, best to hold your nose and open it now. Just in case. Enough said. 

7. Set up a  school filing box for each child

Before the kids start school, set up a filing box for each of them. Make it large enough to fit readers, homework books and anything else that needs to go to and from school regularly. Make this the first stop the kids make when they get home from school (before they raid the fridge) to unload any important documents, homework and notes. 

Before you know it, we'll be back into the school year making lunches and ironing uniforms and happily waving our kids off at the school gate, hoorah!

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Survive the Christmas Shopping Shenanigans

Posted in 'Tips' on November 23, 2014
So the tinsels already draped, the fake Santas litter the shelves and Christmas trees seem to be popping up like weeds. Yes we're well and truly into the Christmas seasons. But, have you started your shopping yet? Before you know it, Santa will be hauling his chunky backside into town so here's some tips to get you through the Christmas shopping shenanigans if you haven't already started. 

Make a list and check it twice
Before you hit the shops (or your laptop), it's important to nail down a list of who's on your gift list, some gift ideas and most importantly a budget for each person. Drafting a list gives you clear direction, keeps you on task and not-to-mention helps to prevent missing anyone important. Oops, awkward!

If you're keen on nabbing a bargain or equally can't stand paying full price for Christmas presents, it's worth spending some time researching. Either grab a cuppa and trawl through the junk mail to mark out any relevant specials or alternatively scan websites like Lasoo which collate all the latest catalogues of most of the major department stores in one place. There's a lot of money to be saved if you're happy to research and then shop around for specials. 

Think Homemade

If you're a little crafty or don't mind hanging out in the kitchen from time to time, offering home-made gifts for friends and family is a great way of showing-up everyone else's gifts (as long as you nail it). Homemade jams or cookies (there's a nice recipe below), candles or crafts are nice. And there's more than 1000 things you can cram into pretty jars to give as gifts this year. Bling it up with ribbons and pretty labels and you've nailed it!

image credit
Buying gift vouchers for Christmas gifts can be a bit of a contentious issue. Some would argue that a voucher is an impersonal and thoughtless gift idea. I disagree. In fact, like anything, it's all in the pitch. Buying a voucher means taking the time to select the right store for the right person and then giving them the opportunity to buy something they really want. Buying Nanna a Spotlight voucher because she's so fond of scrapbooking, presenting your brother with a BCF voucher because he's an avid fisherman, presenting your niece with an iTunes voucher so she can download her own music on her iPod, or giving Mum a massage voucher (because what mum doesn't need a massage) is actually both thoughtful and personal. 

Shop online
Every year as soon as the Shopping Centre Santas start their Christmas photo gigs we also start to see the crowds gathering at our local stores. And the closer it gets to Christmas, the crazier things seem to become with people seemingly materialising from every nook and cranny. If you're not crowd-lover at the best of times then it's probably best to avoid the shops altogether if you can help it. 

Thankfully there's plenty of online stores that offer a variety of options for Christmas gifts. If you're looking for handmade gifts then Etsy is one of your options. There's also eBayLatest BuyGift Australia plus most of the major department stores offer online shopping as well. Some of them even offer a gift-wrapping service - ka-ching!

There's nothing quite like doing all your Christmas shopping in your pajamas whilst simultaneously drinking wine and watching re-runs of Grey's Anatomy! It's a win for everyone!

If you're finding yourself with less and less to do simple things like Christmas shopping and organising your Christmas parties, then it might be time to call in the big guns. Master of all things organisation, Kay can bring you one gift you just can't buy - time. 

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Declutter Your Way Into Spring

Posted in 'Clutter' on October 24, 2014

With Spring well underway it's a good time of year to start decluttering and organising areas of your home for the warmer months. If you're a little stuck as to where to begin, here are four simple ideas to get you started in the decluttering process: 

If you don't use it, lose it 

If you have clothes that you haven't worn in the past 6 months (weather dependant) start culling. Give your wardrobe an overhaul and find the things that you haven't worn in eons and truck them off to the op shop. 

Replace, don't increase

Purchasing new items of furniture are a great way of freshening up a room however consider using the new item as a 'replacement' rather than a pure 'addition' to your room. This will help reduce clutter in that room and prevent over-furnishing.  

Start Small

If the thought of decluttering makes you immediately break into a nervous rash, start with the smallest (or easiest) room in the house and go from there. Bathrooms are always a great place to start. Sometimes surmounting even the tiniest area of your house is enough to get the 'organisation inertia' going. Alternatively if it's all too much, might be time to call in the heavies (aka Kay) to get your decluttering sorted. 

Start Now

'Never put off tomorrow what can be done today' - rings more true  than ever when it comes to decluttering. If you're feeling the urge to declutter, the best time to start is now because tomorrow never comes.

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Thank you so much Kay. Your service has been great! We hope your business continues to grow & prosper - I'm sure it will if you continue to serve in this way!

— M Schoenfisch, Gladstone

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