Bedtime Stories

As the kids are now in bed I thought I would take this opportunity to do a quick post about my favourite bedtime stories.  From an early age I’ve tried to introduce the kids to as many different books as possible, helped enormously by the wife’s huge collection of kids books.

I have to admit I’m quite picky about the books I read them as I hate books with really dark pages and black text as in the low light of the bedroom they are a real pain to read.  With that in mind here are some of our favourites that you might wish to try.

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(1) The Tiger who Came to Tea

This is arguably one of my favourites, very clear text, simple story and beautiful child like illustrations.  My son who is 3 has loved reading this for the last 2 years.

He know’s this book so well he can tell me the story nearly word for word which always impresses me.

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(2) Mr McGee Goes to Sea

Mr McGee is from the Australian writer Pamela Allen and its a beautiful little story with very clean pages and a nice rhythm to to the narrative.

The illustrations are quite simple and have a certain retro charm which adds to the character of the book.

(3) The Rascally Cake

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This book I only read because Big J kept pestering me to and whilst I was initially put off by the clarity of the text the excellent prose more than makes up for it.

This is a great book for boys as it has all the gruesome stuff that they love as well as great illustrations and a good sense of humour.

Of course it does not matter what book you read to kids as its the act of reading that is most important and nothing settles them for bed better than listening to your voice soothe them to sleep.

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Dad’s – You Need a Budget (Review)

SERIOUS DAD ADVICE ALERT

Whilst I have always enjoyed earning money I’ve not always been great at managing it.  In fact up until my kids came along I had pretty much hit an all time low with spiralling credit card debt and zero savings.   When I realised I was going to be a Dad it hit me that I had to do something about it.

That’s when I found YNAB (You need a budget).  I did a lot of research and investigating into budget planning and software and I found one that I thought could help me learn how to budget appropriately and tackle my debt.  YNAB is not just a software solution its also a philosophy and a way of life.

You Need A Budget is pretty simple. It’s honestly more about the method than about the software (but the software is pretty nifty). In order to budget the You Need A Budget way, you need to follow 4 simple rules:

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  • Rule 1:  Give Every Dollar (or pound) a Job
  • Rule 2:  Save for a Rainy Day
  • Rule 3:  Roll With the Punches
  • Rule 4:  Live on Last Month’s Income

There is no rule that is more important than the other; they all have to work together in order to achieve the right budget/life balance.

Rule 1:  Give Every Dollar a Job
This is as easy as it sounds.  When you set the budget each month, make sure there is no surplus.  You want to make sure that all of the money you have available is allocated and is there, ready to be used.  Any money you think you have left you can just put into Saving category or Emergency Fund.

Rule 2:  Save for a Rainy Day
You know something, sometime, somewhere is going to happen but you don’t know what, when or where.  You need to save some money and make yourself a cushion to handle these known unknowns.  Not only do you want to have a true “emergency fund” but you will also want to budget for “car repairs” etc… You know someday you will need repair your car, but you don’t know when or how much those costs are going to be, which leads to Rule 3…

Rule 3: Roll With the Punches
We are all human, you will make mistakes. This rule is here to tell you that it’s OK to make mistakes and to adapt and overcome.  So, those car repairs finally came along and you are £200 short in the “Car Repair” category.  That’s OK; you tried.  If this happens, you have a few outs: 1) allocate some budgeted money from another “rainy day” fund to help make up the difference for the car repairs; 2) borrow the funds from your “emergency fund” (though this should be last resort); or 3) you can borrow against next month’s income.  That’s because…

Rule 4: Live on Last Month’s Income
OK, I lied – this might be the most important rule (at least from a budgeting standpoint).  You will have a built-in buffer while budgeting because you will essentially be living off of last month’s income.  When you first start YNAB, you enter the amount of whichever bank accounts you will be budgeting from and you use it in the month you are currently in.  Then, as paychecks come in during that month, you allocate them as NEXT MONTH’S INCOME.  That way, when you go to budget at the start of next month you will have a clear idea of how much money you have available because you are essentially living off the money you earned last month.

The Results

I’ve been using YNAB for nearly 4 years now and I’ve gone from being in debt to being debt free with savings.  As a middle aged dad I can now hold my head high knowing that I can support my family through the good times and bad and give my kids a good standard of living.

Budgeting is never easy but with YNAB I found it quick to get started and more importantly easy to keep going month after month.   The software itself is really easy to use and the free iPhone app is a good bonus.

YNAB is so good, that I rarely look at and fret over the amount of money in my bank accounts any longer.  Now, I just keep track of my finances in YNAB and I know exactly how much money I have available and how it is being spent/saved.images

The last thing about YNAB: there is a free 34-day trial period to allow you to set it up and use it for a month to see if it works for you. The software also comes with a nine-day course (by email) to help guide you and go over the methods/rules.

Give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.

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