Lifestyle tips

5 Quick Tips for Getting Your Finances Organised

Posted in 'Organising, Tips' on June 7, 2016

Organising your financesEven the most organised person at work may still have challenges with getting their personal and household finances sorted. They may have their to do lists tweaked within an inch of their lives, but would rather take 20 kids filled with red cordial to a theme park than declutter their personal finances.

Given the end of financial year is racing up on us faster than a horde of teenagers when you say the word "pizza”, here are a few tips to get your finances prepared and organised.

1)    Sort The Shoebox of Receipts

Hands up who has a shoebox crammed to overflowing with receipts that possibly, maybe, potentially relate to your tax return?

The most expensive way to handle this is to deliver it to your accountant or bookkeeper to sort and do their thing with. It takes them hours to comb through your receipts to try and work out what is valid. They then have a few days of backwards and forwards emails or calls trying to answer questions with you. All of this work is billed in 15 minute increments at premium rates – especially during peak times of the year. Yes, it works, but there are other options.

If you are super busy and can’t tackle this yourself, you could hire a VA, temp agency admin person or personal concierge to tackle this task for you instead of your accountant.

There are even technical solutions on the market. Shoeboxed is an innovative business that has been around for a number of years. You just send your receipts away to them in one of their magic envelopes or via snapping a photo of your receipt, and they sort them out and digitise them ready for you to import into your preferred accounting software.

Whichever option you choose, now is the time to get that shoebox sorted. Handing anyone a massive shoebox in a month’s time and expecting a fast turnaround in readiness for your tax return is a recipe for voodoo dolls being created in your image. Get in now before the rush!

2)    The Bulldog Clip of Relevance

Not all receipts are tax related. Clothes, shoes, electronic games etc., all may need to be returned if they are faulty within their warranty period. For receipts for items with a shorter warranty period, just clip the receipts you may need as proof of purchase into one big bulldog clip. Every few months go through and throw out receipts that are no longer needed.

3)    Build a Bill Station

Over 25% of people admit to being late in paying a bill because they misplaced it somewhere in the home. With bills hitting us via paper, email, and BPay view, it is easy to lose track of what is due when.

Late payments create problems with your credit rating and can attract late fees. A little bit of organising can make the difference.

Set up a bill station in one part of your house. It can be a large magnetic bulldog clip on the fridge, a plastic envelope type folder (so things don’t drop out), an old fashioned spike or a ring binder. Just don’t throw your bills loose into an in-tray as they will get mixed with other things – whatever solution you choose, it needs to keep your bills together.

As a new bill comes in – print it (if it isn’t in hard copy) and add it to the bill station. Keep your bills sorted by due date, with the closest due date at the top, so you know which bill has to be paid next.

The easiest location for your bill station is right near your computer and printer. That way there is less distance for you to travel and you are more likely to add the bill to your Bill Station.

4)    Create a Mega Bills Calendar

Most fixed bills such as electricity, rates, rent/mortgage are not a surprise. They come around regularly each month or every few months.

One way to keep track of what is coming up is to create a mega bills calendar. This can be a hard copy calendar which means you need to create it each year.

The easiest solution is to simply set up your bills as a recurring event in your Outlook/Google/Other digital calendar and colour code the events with a special colour that you only use for bills.

You can build your calendar over the year as you receive your bills, or you can invest some time into building it once for the whole year by combing back through your past bills for the previous year.

Whichever way you create your bills calendar, you make your future financial years easier as you can see at a glance what bills you will be receiving and how much each bill is likely to be.

5)    Get into a Routine

Routines are essential for busy people. Carve out a set time each week or fortnight to pay bills, update your account balances, plan for the coming week, work out your budget, empty your purse of receipts, write notes and file those receipts that are tax related and shred receipts that are no longer needed. 

Link your routine to a particular event to make the habit more likely to stick: The evening of payday; The first day of the month when you change the calendar over; Sunday nights when you prepare for the week ahead. Set it as an appointment in your own calendar and stick to it.

Fixing your financial clutter is the perfect new financial year resolution. It doesn’t need massive filing cabinets and thousands of Kikki K folders and planners (unless you want it to). It can be as simple as a few bulldog clips and a simple routine.

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Have You Ever Considered A Career As a Concierge?

Posted in 'Organising' on February 18, 2016

While most of you know that I am a Personal Concierge for a select handful of wonderful clients, not many people know of my other business – as Co-Director of the Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers (iCALM) and co-owner of the Diploma of Personal Concierge Services.

Today, I thought I would give you an exclusive look at the other side of my world.

A Quick History of Personal Concierges

Most people when they think of Concierge's, think of high class hotels. The Concierge is the person you talk with to organise theatre tickets, get a reservation at booked out restaurants, rearrange travel arrangements, and sort out parcel deliveries … along with a host of random requests.

Need a private dinner party catered by a top chef? Want five dozen roses delivered precisely at 7.10pm to coincide with you popping the question? Want your mini-bar emptied and refilled with vegan snacks and drinks? That's where a good Concierge comes in.

A Concierge is the ultimate "go to" person, and has a long list of contacts available to solve every issue or crisis.

In recent years, Concierges have moved out from the hotel lobby and into private homes.

Concierges now work with individuals, couples and families and take care of everything from getting quotes on repairs, through to making sure there is bread, milk and groceries at home when the owner flies back from their overseas trip or FIFO role.

You can also find Concierges in banks, hospitals, retail stores, private clubs, academic institutions and commercial buildings.

People have realised the lifestyle and productivity benefits that having a Concierge to assist you can bring, and it is now a fast growing industry sector world-wide.

Australia Was Left Behind

The demand for Personal Concierges has skyrocketed in Australia and New Zealand in the past decade.

The problem was that the professional industry bodies that existed were based over in the USA and focussed almost exclusively on USA issues. Being on the other side of the world has its drawbacks when trying to build networks and solve local challenges.


In May 2011 my fellow Director Adele Blair and I founded the Institute of Concierge and Lifestyle Managers (iCALM). Our goal was to support fellow Australian and New Zealand concierges through networking, education and employment.

iCALM sets a high Code of Ethics for our members and we have worked tirelessly to provide networking and development opportunities to build the skills of people within our profession.

Training & Education

One of the key issues we found as part of iCALM was that there was no consistent training offered, and concierges had to pick up their skills as they went along.

There are private courses and professional development opportunities offered in other countries, but there was no one who offered an accredited qualification. Until now.

In 2016 iCALM launched the world’s first accredited Concierge qualification.

We have partnered with Entamio Education Group and have jumped through every hoop to have a Diploma of Personal Concierge Services formally accredited, with our first students starting in early 2016.

The Diploma of Personal Concierge Services

The Diploma is self-paced and offered via online learning, with direct support by Adele and myself to our students

Students will complete 20 units covering core skills across business, project management, professional development and finance well as units specific to the role of a Concierge.

Completing the Diploma gives Concierges a well-rounded entry into the industry, backed by an accredited qualification.

Who Becomes a Concierge?

People choosing to become a Personal Concierge have a variety of backgrounds. Many concierges have had early careers as event managers, personal assistants or nurses and become a concierge as part of a career change.

If you are organised, a "go to" person, are great at juggling multiple projects and priorities and have high levels of discretion, then being a Concierge is the ideal career.

The other key skill needed is the ability to form close networks. Being a Concierge is being part of an industry where turf wars and competition is an alien concept. Success only comes from working closely with others in the industry and pooling networks and expertise to help deliver results for your clients.

Combining your background and skills with formal training, opens the door to an exciting new career where no two days are the same.

More Information?

If you would like to know more about the Diploma, visit the iCALM website

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Christmas Planning Without the Tears

Posted in 'Organising' on November 26, 2015

Christmas TreeThe shops have been filled with tinsel and trees since September. Santa has taken up residence in all the shopping centres and Christmas craft is starting to make its way home in the schoolbag. 

You are already having nightmares about trying to find presents in shopping centres resembling roller derby competitions at its worst. The thought of decorating the house and creating gourmet meals while still looking super cool, calm and collected is turning you to drink.

Before you reach for another Chardonnay, here are some tips to help you plan out your Christmas and stagger out the drama into manageable quantities.

1st Week of December

  • Budget: Work out your budget for presents, food and wine to help reduce New Year bill shock.
  • Present List:  Write out a list of the people you need to buy for either on paper that you can keep in your wallet, or in a note on your smartphone. Remember to include present ideas, sizes and colour preferences.
  • Shop Online: This is the best week to shop online so your parcels arrive in time for the big day.
  • School Presents: Buy/make gifts for teachers and fellow classmates, as well as adding in a few smaller gifts for unexpected presents that crop up.
  • Groceries: Buy your puddings and cake this week (if you don't have them already or are not making them). The good ones sell out quickly. Also buy your cards, gift tags and gift-wrap this week so you can wrap your presents as you go rather than doing a marathon on Christmas Eve.
  • Book babysitters: If you have any Christmas functions in December without the kids, lock in your babysitters this week (and your hairdresser, dog washer, house-cleaner, gardener and nail salon).
  • Sort Your Calendar: Write in all your family Christmas parties, carols, and school functions into one calendar to keep track of everything.
  • Give back: Remember to add a few items for charity food collections or wishing trees this week. It makes it easier for charities to distribute to those in need if they receive donations early in the month rather than closer to Christmas.
  • Decorate:While we would all love a home that is Pinterest worthy, the reality is that a Christmas tree is the only real essential. Anything else is a bonus. Remember to take a photo of the kids decorating the tree every year - it makes a great memory.

 2nd Week of December

  • Christmas cards: Write and mail out your Christmas cards this week unless you were one of those super organised people who did them back in November. Buy post office preferred cards to reduce mail costs.
  • Presents:  This week is when you get present shopping in earnest. Remember to keep to your budget. If you can, try and get all your shopping done in one shopping trip (… this is where a great babysitter comes into play, or swap caring for your friend's kids while they shop and then visa versa. Shopping with kids in tow at Christmas is not fun!)
  • House Preparation: Having guests stay over Christmas? Time to get the spare room clean and ready for guests and to check out if you need any new towels or sheets.
  • Groceries: Plan your Christmas cooking menu and order your ham, turkey and seafood is week. Add in bonbons and Christmas napkins to your shop.
  • Homemade gifts: This is the week to make and package up any homemade Christmas gifts that won't spoil.

 3rd Week of December

  • Post all out of town presents:  Christmas is the busiest time for Australia Post, so get in early with your presents for friends and family.
  • Wine week: Stock up on wine, brandy and other drinks for Christmas this week so you avoid the crush at the bottle shop in the days before Christmas.
  • Groceries:This is a great week to add in any longer life items such as Pavlova shells, biscuits and nibbles. Top up all your AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries this week so there are no tears on Christmas day if toys don't work.
  • House Preparation: Clean out the fridge in readiness for the onslaught next week and prepare the BBQ.
  • Christmas Light Displays: Avoid the Christmas week craziness and check out the Christmas lights this week.

 4th Week of December

  • Groceries:This is the week for fresh ingredients. Aim to be at the shop when the doors open to avoid the crowds. Remember to add in cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer into your shop.
  • >House Preparation: Wash and prepare all the Christmas crockery and glasses you only use once a year, and give the house a deep clean in readiness for your guests.
  • Other Preparation: Recharge the batteries on your digital camera or video recorder in readiness for capturing the magic moments.
  • Presents:Run out of ideas? Gift cards or vouchers are perfect last minute gifts. Coles and Woolworths stock a massive range of cards for loads of stores and experiences, or get in touch with your favourite service or concierge business to give someone the gift of time.

 After Christmas

  • Sales: Take advantage of the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, wrap and bon bons for next year.

Christmas is naturally a busy time of year. With a bit of planning, you can reduce your stress and serenely sail into the silly season.

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Important Phone Numbers (Printable)

Posted in 'Organising' on October 15, 2015

Emergency Contact ListHave you ever considered how much of your life is in your mobile phone? When you need a contact phone number, you zip your phone out of your handbag and open your contact app.

But what happens if your partner needs to contact someone on your phone contacts app when you aren't there? Or your babysitter? Or when your phone goes flat and the power is out?

This is where having a central, old-school pen and paper version of your family's most important phone numbers stuck to your fridge or family organisation board is worth its weight in gold.

Emergency Contacts Printable

I have put together a detailed printable designed for Brisbane families. It has spaces for all of your regular essential contacts, as well as spaces for critical contacts relevant for Queenslanders including the SES, your friendly local snake catcher, and your gutter cleaner.

It also has spaces for you to record the key details of your insurance policies. We heard of many locals who went through the Brisbane floods and storms of recent years, who lost their insurance policies in the disaster. It caused them additional stress trying to track down who they were insured with and their policy details. By having all of these details in one central place, you will be able to access them quickly in case of emergency.

How To Use This Printable

There are a couple of ways that you can use this printable:

Take some time over the next week to review the list and fill in your details for your household. I suggest laminating your finished version to stop it curling over time.

Add It To Your Emergency Kit

Laminating your list also helps to make it durable. Just throw the completed printable into your emergency kit at the beginning of storm season/fire season and you are ready to go in case of emergency.

Finally, take a photo of your completed list and share the photo with the adults in your household to save onto their mobile phones. (Let's be honest - how many of your household will key in all the contacts you have in your phone?).

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Survival Tips For Enjoying the Ekka With Kids

Posted in 'Tips' on August 4, 2015

Ferris wheelYou are not a true Brisbanite if you don't have fond memories of strawberry sundaes and overpriced show bags from the Ekka. So how to do create these same fabulous memories for your children and not go crazy in the process?

Here are our top Ekka tips to help you not only survive, but actually enjoy your day at the Ekka.

Top Ten Things To Do With Younger Kids

1.    Wander through the animal pavilions to see cows and other animals up close and smelly.

2.    Eat at least one Strawberry Sundae (suitably photographed for posterity).

3.    Watch a woodchop event and then hide anything that looks like an axe at home.

4.    If your kid is dinosaur mad, take in the animatronic Dinosaur Adventures in the John Reid Pavilion.

5.    Younger kids get a kick out of the Hoot & Hootabelle show at the Entertainment and Fashion Stage at 10am, 11am and 12 noon daily. (You on the other hand may not be so thrilled and may take the chance to upload some photos to Facebook during the performance).

6.    Have your kids milked a cow before? The Milking Barn has hands-on presentations on the hour between 10.30am and 3.30pm daily.

7.    The RACQ Animal Nursery is always popular. Try to get in early to avoid the queues and fights over the fluffiest lamb to feed.

8.    Admire the fruit and vegetable district exhibits and wonder at the giant vegetables in the Royal International Convention Centre - Ground Floor.

9.    Appreciate the amazing cake displays at the QLD Cake Decorators exhibition in the Royal International Convention Centre - Ground Floor (and then remind your kids that lopsided birthday cakes made by mum taste twice as good).

10.  Enjoy the fireworks and evening ring performances (if your kids can stay awake that long and are not terrified of loud explosions).

Things To Do With Older Kids

1.    Check out the FMX Freestyle Kings - some of the best FMX riders will push themselves and the machines to the limits 12-45-1pm each day at the Energex Community Arena. Know that whatever you see will be replicated in your backyard, so think carefully about this one!

2.    X-Treme Action Monster Trucks featuring the Transformers are on at 7.10-7.30pm each night at the Energex Community Arena. More explosions, loud machinery and pyrotechnics to set off your headache.

3.    Stand holding the bags while they tackle all the Thrill Rides at Sideshow Alley.

4.    Watch things explode at the Big Bang Education science shows at the Education Stage upstairs at the Royal International Convention Centre. (Can you sense a theme here about explosions?)

Ekka Rides

Rides at the Ekka are split between Sideshow Alley (up near the RNA Showground) and the Children's Outdoor Carnival over at the other end of the show near St Paul's Terrace. Sideshow Alley is more designed for the older kids, while the Outdoor Carnival is perfect for the pre-school and early primary aged kid set.

Some showbags have discount ride coupons included, so if your goal is loads of rides, check out the showbag inclusions carefully.

Ekka Safety

Crowds plus kids over-awed with all the new sights is a recipe for challenge.

  • Start by dressing your kids in super bright colours to make them easier to spot in the crowd. Some mums dress their kids in matching rainbow or red t-shirts and neon bright hats so make a separated child easier to track down. We have even seen parents consider hi-vis vests (not that we would judge you if went that far!)
  • Remember to take a fun happy snap on your phone before you head out the door of your kids on their way to the Ekka. If you have a great day, it will be a nice memory, if your child gets lost, then it is easier to say, "Here is a photo of my child and what they were wearing." Measuring current heights and taking fingerprints are optional extras.
  • Pick up child identification wristbands from QLD Police. They are usually available just inside most gates or at the Gregory Terrace Police Station just inside Gate 1.
  • If you do lose your child or partner, there's a Lost Person's Station at the Gregory Terrace Police Station.

Parents' rooms at the Ekka

Having a toilet map is super handy for those "I have to go NOW" moments. Download and print the map and highlight the toilets (it was so much easier when they had an app!)

Parents' rooms are located next to the Woodchop Bar; in Sideshow Alley; near the Beef Cattle Pavilion; across the road from the animal nursery and at the Woolworths Fresh Food Pavilion.

Showbags at the Ekka

There are two very different approaches to buying showbags.

1) Get in early.As the pavilion gets extremely crowded as the day progresses, some people buy showbags as their first task for the day. This means they either have to carry them all day (yay - NOT!) or they may hire one of the lockers outside the Showbag Pavilion for $8 for the day. This works well as long as your showbags are not heavily chocolate based.

2) Scout early - Buy Late. The other school of thought is to do a wander through the showbag hall early so the kids know exactly where the bags they want are located. You then do a targeted attack run on your way out of the show. This means you have bargaining leverage during the day (not that any parent at the Ekka ever needs that!)

It also helps to give the kids a set budget for showbags, and then let them browse the showbag section of the Ekka website. They will do this for hours trying to work out what they want, and how to make their $ stretch the furthest possible. Showbag maths is the ultimate way to teach kids about money.

Food at the Ekka

Many parents on a budget bring their own snacks and sandwiches to enjoy. If you are looking for budget friendly kid food check out the $2 cheese toasties at the Woolworths Pavilion.

One other hidden gem tip: The CWA has an old-school eatery under the John McDonald stand near the Beef Cattle. That's where you pick up the best scones, jam and cream at the Ekka.

General Tips

  • Avoid People's Day and weekends if you are not a fan of crowds. Seriously. Don't do it! Take a day off work if you have to - You will have a much more enjoyable day!
  • If you want to see the animals and fruit exhibits, go early in the 10 days the Ekka is open, as many leave part of the way through the show.
  • If discounted showbags are your thing, go to the Ekka on the last day. Sure, the popular bags will be sold out, but you will pick up heaps of two or three for the price of one deals.
  • If you want to catch the night shows and fireworks, grab your spots by 5pm as the seats fill early. This can create problems for kids sitting nicely in one place from 5pm - 8pm without having to duck out for wee breaks. If you are doing to do the Ekkanites thing, have at least 2 adults to tag team with the kids and the seats.
  • Go to the earliest possible kids' shows each day and get to each show at least 15 minutes early to have a chance of getting seats.
  • Bring a stroller. It is an awfully long way to carry little people!
  • Pre-purchase your tickets online or at RACQ offices to avoid the queues.
  • If you are travelling by public transport, you can buy a combined travel and entry ticket from any attended Queensland railway stations.
  • Public transport is the easiest option but remember to avoid travelling home during peak hour if going midweek so your over-tired kids are not crushed up against business commuters.
  • Parking is limited in the area. Your best options are the old Royal Children's Hospital car park or the Royal Brisbane Hospital Car Park, Parking for the day will set you back between $25 - $32.
  • Wear comfortable shoes designed for walking and tops that cover the shoulders to minimise sunburn lines. Yes, I know this is mum type advice, but 3-inch heels and strapless tops still make their regular appearance at the showgrounds.
  • Go in with the right mindset. The younger your kids the less you will see - make peace with that! Some kids are happy with one ride, a cuddle of a lamb and an ice cream and then want to go home. Other kids only want to ride the one ride over and over and over and …. Forget trying to tick off the "must see everything" box and go for the" whatever your kids enjoy" box.
  • Take loads of photos. Photos of your kids patting animals, riding ponies, enjoying events and eating carnival food are some of the best you can get for the family album. Just don't be so much behind the camera that you miss fully experiencing the Ekka with them.

Things to Pack

Remember to pack

  • Panadol & bandaids
  • Hats
  • Water bottles to stay hydrated. There are water fountains across from the animal nursery at Expo Place One; near the dog pavilion; up near the Wood Chop bar as well as near the goat and cattle pavilion.
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitiser & baby wipes (for the inevitable spills)
  • Changes of undies for younger children (accidents happen)
  • Phone battery charger pack

To find out more

Go to the Ekka website to download maps, get timetables of events and to plan your day

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I wish I could keep Kay all to myself.....she just handles what needs to be handled.....easily, effortlessly and without drama.

— C Matson, Alito

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