Fill Your Boots

Like Christmas, luckily my girls’ birthdays only come once a year. Unfortunately, or fortunately, they fall so close together that it does actually become like a summer version of Christmas. They frequently share a celebration (one year it was sumo wrestlers and an ice cream bar, water chutes and a balloon man in the garden – that was when the sun used to shine in July, obviously) and have a separate one each as well, plus lots of visits and treats with friends and family, whipping up a social whirl that rarely takes up less than 10 days solid. Add to that the fact they are both end of July birthdays, so falling at the very end of term, and you can see why it might become a little, how shall I put this, hectic.

So. Tonight is Felice’s last night as a ‘small girl’ because tomorrow at 4.02am she turns 11 and officially becomes a pre-teen. Her presents are an interesting mix of jewellery and clothes, making and doing kits and packs, shoes, funky tights and neon socks, music and, can you believe it, a huge chunk of Port Salut from her Dad (not her only present from him, I hasten to add, she was taken shopping a few days ago and nicely spoilt) which was something she wanted, et voila it is now sitting in the fridge, still wrapped in birthday paper. Sweet. And strangely grown up, it’s the sort of thing I’d get for her grandfather!!

The finest chocolate cake is in the fridge as well, the candles sorted, ready for breakfast feasting over “Happy Birthday to You” and all her presents are waiting on the chair with a few of Cecily’s (they always open a few of their own on each other’s birthdays, be rude not to!).

She was so excited tonight that she could barely bear to go to bed, but heck, I still get like that about my birthday and I’m really not keeping count anymore, so be a worry if she wasn’t all keyed up! And the day after it’s her leaver’s assembly and that’ll be that, holidays here we come.

Must be summer then, despite the gloomy weather (((sigh))).

Wish whoever has kidnapped the summer would bring it back, and given this is the third bad one in a row I have had no hesitation in joining the Prince of Wale cause to save the rainforests, despite Vivienne’s best efforts to put us off with her witterings (as opposed to tweeterings) about recycling fashion on Wossy’s show – what’s the deal with not washing your clothes, Viv? Bet you still do!

So have you signed up yet? If not, here you go (and no, it’s not just because they have Daniel Craig on there, though he was certainly a pleasant and welcome surprise when I landed and I confess to sneaking back for the odd fix now and again…).

Anyway, I really don’t thinkย  you can’t afford not sign up, else we are all going to start getting SAD syndrome in the middle of summer and be forced to emigrate, and despite Britain’s problems at the moment I do think that would be a shame…lol…or, on a much more serious note, be blamed for ever more by our rightly cross offspring who currently have no voice or influence and will be left to carry the can and try and cope with the consequences. Not right that, is it?

I mean, we spend so much time watching what we eat in pregnancy, trying to control how we give birth, trying to feed them properly, stop them falling and hurting themselves or getting hurt or lost or damaged – even paying for them to get a leg up educationally if we are so inclined – that it seems utter madness to me that any parent can still simply shrug and ignore climate change and rainforest deforestation.

Madness. Sheer madness. Like handing your child a poisoned chalice and saying, here sweetie, there you go, Mummy says drink. it. all. up.

So go do it now. Every voice counts.

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I’m back!

As you will have noticed, this is the first blog post for, er, a century or so [blush].

It’s not that I went anywhere, it’s just that I’ve had to focus on the business and children, and so much has happened… ok, excuses, excuses! Sorry! The action has all been taking place over here on Funky Angel, at the Funky Agency, with the Business Midwife clients, and over there on Twitter… everywhere but here actually!

So what’s been going on? Well, since I last blogged, I’ve been made redundant from my part time agency job and then started a magazine publishing company for some friends, and then went on to start The Funky Agency, and taken on lots more clients via my business coaching clinic, The Business Midwife.

It’s been busy to say the least!

We’ve nearly finished laying a patio in the garden (almost time for a Christening party!) and have been to France, went ballooning and taken up surfing.

The Funky Cherubs

The girls have continued to grow up a pace – Cecily is now officially taller than me, just reaching the end of Year 8 and has flown so much in the last year since breaking her collarbone that she is predicted to go forward into sitting Oxbridge at Sixth Form and has just been put forward to do triple science.

She isn’t overjoyed about the workload, but she has her mother’s focus as well as the brain, so she’ll cope magnificently I’m sure!

Felice did exceptionally well in her SATS and has continued to win medals through her athletic endeavors over the past year. She will be leaving our beloved John Rankin in a week’s time – a week! – and my nose is tingling already just thinking of how emotional Leaver’s Assembly is going to be!

She is becoming even more herself, if that is possible, and is happily poised to take off into the next stage.

Felice wins her race

Just me, then, left wondering what happened to my babies?!

Happy pets

And then there’s the animals…meet Lara…

DSCN1821

Lara is a year old this month and after a rocky start she has grown up to be a healthy chatty little cat, getting her paws into everything and happily tormenting and playing with her great dog friend, Albie.

Albie himself has grown up to be a fabulous canine, well, apart from his penchant for chasing swans and ducks down, sorry IN, the river and canal, that is. Not that he EVER get’s near enough to even touch them, but still, he does seem to have a liking for a daily swim… although we did find out a couple of weeks ago, when we went surfing near Croyde, that he REALLY doesn’t like the sea!

He came in with us and tried doggedly to clear the waves, in the process getting sea water in his ears and swallowing even more. He then got clonked on the head a couple of times by the girls’ surfboards and swiftly retired to the safer sand, shaking his head in disgust and looking exhausted…

Albie after 'surfing' in the sea

Poor doggog!

And last, but by no means least, there is Numero Uno, Jasper, 003 and a half, licensed to purr…

Jasper

Jasper (Aka supermodel cat) has finally settled down and forgiven us for introducing t’other two, and is now happy bossing everything else around, especially Albie, poor dog!

Media Circus
I’ve been featured in Woman’s Own, on the radio far more than I care to remember (a highlight was meeting Anne Diamond, what a sweetie) and am being considered for a series on Channel 4 about Frugal Families.

Like I said, it’s been a busy year and it’s only July!

Please do come and catch up over at Funky or on Twitter, and I promise that I will be updating the blog from the kitchen table with ramblings, rants, and family (good, bad and hilarious) times on a much more regular basis.

Claire x

Balancing Things Out

And as with everything in life, once you start looking you always find the yin to the yang of what you’ve just read… “Being Responsible is the Key”.

And what is interesting about this is that it basically says the same as the the gurus of wealth creation, Rich Dad, Poor Dad about poor struggling young first time buyers, ie sort out your financial independence FIRST and then buy property – don’t expect everything to be handed to you on plate and stop whinging if you are daft and it all goes South.

We couldn’t afford it either, and neither could your grandparents, but we managed – either badly or well, but we managed, and during tougher financial times as well. You can too if you give up the drink, the toys and the gadgets and simply concentrate on finding solutions (like starting a second job from home… lol!).

Wouldn’t go so far as to say send your children to work in a Primark factory, but when needs must and all that ๐Ÿ™‚

I mean, no one seriously thinks those children are working in those factories RATHER than going to school or working elsewhere for more money do they? If they are it’s because that’s the best option for them and their families, which then leads to the uncomfortable question of what happens when the contracts dry up from Primark et al…? Where do those children turn to then to earn money for the family pot…? Prostitution? Crippling themselves to beg?

OK, 60p a day isn’t much, and no kids should have to go to work, and yes we have to care, and do care, that the environment they are working in is less than good, BUT presumable the other options for their families are worse, and that’s where we will have pitched them by getting all self righteous and holier-than-thou to poor old Primark.

And what about Mrs UK Average and her kids, the ones she’s raising on a shoe string? If Primark can’t supply what she needs on a budget, is she just to shrug and feel all green and smug and go spend her last pennies at M&S like these short-sighted middle class do-gooder protesters who can’t follow an action through the end consequences or seeing that their world view isn’t necessarily the right or only one?

And on that note, I have been seriously discussing first time businesses with my girls, ages 12 and 10. They have to earn their pocket money, it doesn’t come as a given, because that’s how it is in the real world, and I want them to be financially free by the time they are in their 20s.

Felice (age 10) is determined to do something about animals, perhaps write a guide or ebook about dog care or having a puppy (since she is pretty experienced now!), and has put a postcard advertising her services as dog walker locally, and started her very first blog “The Latest Sniff“, which we will incorporate in the new revamped Funky Angel if she sticks with it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cecily wants to do something “random” online for her peers, details yet to be confirmed, and is interested in doing a mayhem radio show or perhaps interviewing people she admires, such as J K Rowling. I can’t see where the money is in that, but knowing Cecily she’ll already have a biz plan and niche market already mapped out in her beautiful head, so we wait with interest…

But what I do know is that I will be getting ‘Cashflow for Kids‘ for them for their birthdays next month. No middle classs daftness about buying doodahs on debt for my kids, thank you very much! The ubiquitous Jones’ can go their own sweet way as far as I am concerned – a healthy credit balance on the bank statement and no debt to trip you over is much more desirable than any amount of race horse shares, fast cars, and kids at private schools, and I don’t care if that means a kitchen garden, canal or road kill, frugal gourmet in the kitchen, and shopping at Lidl and Primark!

They are privileged, we all are in this country, and the best way to give thanks for that is to make the most of what you have and not abuse it.

Here endeth the lesson. Amen ๐Ÿ˜‰

Media Spinmongering…

I am working on a big project on the state of the housing market for the agency where I work part time. Some of the research has got me feeling a tad depressed, mainly as a result of the media spin and the panic people are experiencing. I haven’t really felt the squeeze myself, mainly I think because we live very frugally, using different outlets from locally grown and the markets through to Lidl for our food, cook from scratch, don’t smoke or have any other expensive habits, socialise locally, have had years of practice holidaying wonderfully on a budget, and generally hardly use the car since I mainly work from home and the children walk to school…

I had been avoiding the papers and the news because I couldn’t deal with the general gloom and doom, and was of the opinion that if anything was going to trigger a Second Depression it was the spinmongering of the media preying on people’s fears… And it really seems to be working on most people as I have seen a 50% rise in queries through Funky Angel in the last month alone! That’s a lot of people looking for other options!

I personally think (but then I would, wouldn’t I?) that working from home is the best and most cost effective option for families, and the work/life balance coaching that I have done for years has gradually shifted recently to take in to account people wanting assistance setting up their home businesses, not just the support to do make that change.

Have to say it’s hugely satisfying, and something I look forward to doing much more of in the future ie on Thursday!! Why Thursday, particularly? Well, it Thursday is one of my usual days for mentoring, so obviously it’s a day I look forward to, but this one is slightly different as I am mentoring a home working design team in how to set up an internet profile on a shoestring. They have a nice little business but no website presence, which is different from my usual client, and so I was delighted when they agreed to let me showcase them!

Watch this space!

Hurrah! New Tax Breaks for WAH Businesses!

Great news from the good ship Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs, who seem to have had a change of heart this week with regard to the type of expenses that can be claimed by the self-employed and business owners who work from home WITHOUT their home becoming liable to Capital Gains Tax when you sell it (…if you decide to sale, obviously… we’ll be discussing the sense, or otherwise, or this in our forthcoming Funky Finance on the soon-to-be-live New and Expanded Funky…)

New guidance in HMRC manuals, published on their website contain examples of the level and nature of home expenses that can be claimed. There are two areas of particular interest:

Specific expenses and mixed use of premises, and they’ve even given some useful examples!

A new element is term ‘fixed costs’ and includes mortgage interest, council tax and home insurance, and for the first time HMRC are content to allow a proportion of these costs to be claimed against the income of your business if certain criteria are met, such as:

  • The area of your home is used exclusively for business purposes for a prescribed amount of time – say, 9am to 3pm, which basically means that if you sit at the kitchen table working you won’t qualify for the additional deductions. Personally I think that is all to the good anyway, as you’ll know if you have already read my discussion of your home office, since perching at the kitchen table or on the sofa with your laptop will play havoc with your back! And psychologically it is much better, anyway, to have a separate office space, and it seems that the lovely taxman has recognised that and is looking for is an area that has the appearance of a home office ie it contains a desk, computer, chair, and storage etc etc.
  • The amount you claim has to be reasonable in relation to your business – so you can’t claim that you work 20 hours a day in the office (however much it might feel that way sometimes when you’re in the middle of a rush!. Additionally, the area used is the main proportion of the living area of your home – we’re talking 5-15% of the total living space, on average, here.

Apart from these two provisos, you will now be able to claim a percentage of the total cost of running the home. Which is news to celebrate over, perhaps mostly because it is a firm indication that the powers that be are getting behind the WAH trend in the UK and beginning to try and help!

So get the champagne out (you know me, any excuse!) and let’s raise a toast to the new era of working from home within our communities around our families!

NOTE: For further information see HMRC’s manual at BIM47825

It’s been a bit of a week!

Happily my attention to the SEO on Funky Angel has already paid dividends and we are climbing the ratings again and back on the second page for both working at home mums and business mums, which is great, and Nikki Pilkington will be giving us a hand with the new site.

Apparently Google has over 50 data centres and each searches individually, one after the other, hence why it takes up to 6 weeks for SEO to settle down after changes have been made or a new site or link established, so it’s a long game, like so much else in life! I cover SEO in detail in my forthcoming book for working at home business mums (and dads) and if you want to registered for a copy you will be able to next week!

Yesterday was the biggest house slump for a while, so mass panicking as people realised that they might be negative equity and that on top of the budget squeeze on petrol and utilities, well, people need extra cash, which is probably why we have seen such a huge rise in enquiries over the last few months! Because if you do need to make some extra cash, starting a home based business, either around the kids (and save on the childcare costs) or in addition to your regular job, is a great way to do it.

1,400 home businesses are started every week in the UK and mum businesses contribute ยฃ4.4billion to the economy according to surveys…and it’s easy to see why. It’s the most economical way of starting a business and the most family and lifestyle friendly as well, and it frees you up to become very creative and use your brain to make money for you, your family and your community, which is exactly what we need to combat a credit crunch.

However, concentrating on my own home business for a moment, seems my macs have picked up a trojan somehow and it’s been playing havoc, slowing them down and then freezing them up to the point where I haven’t been able to work and have had to spend huge amounts of time trying to sort it out. Macs are not as vulnerable to these kind of things as PCs, but when they do pick up a Trojan it can be difficult to clear. Anyhow, seems the spyware community got on to it really quickly so hopefully there won’t be any more problems…

Boosting the Constitution

Had a press release from Sourcewire today about the benefits of drinking water, and it got me thinking about our general health as we have all been in the wars or under the weather lately, Cecily is particular! In fact I had a phone call from her allergy homeopath yesterday just checking that the treatments that she prescribed last month to treat Cecily’s tree pollen allergy (constant sneezing poor love, for about a week before we managed to get on top of it). Obviously we had treated it with conventional hayfever treatments (first one didn’t work; second one did), but I wanted to make sure it was dealt with, rather than just suppressed.

Arlene Smith was great, and yes the homeopathic remedies had worked a treat, even her general stuffed up nose had gone, which was a bonus, but it got me thinking about Cecily’s general health as she seems to have had one thing after another since last year and she told me yesterday that she has verrucas, which are a sign of a slightly depressed immune system.

I think it is the overall stress of starting secondary school, and us having been practically homeless last year, plus adding a puppy to the family, fracturing her collarbone, and now she has SATS coming up after half term (although goodness knows how she’ll cope when she can’t use her right hand!), so with the nudge from the press release fresh in my mind, I am resolved to take her back to the homeopath and see if we can’t give her constitution a boost, plus start adding lots more garlic to my cooking and make her my special ‘medicine in a bowl’ chicken soup at least once a week.

That will help Felice and I too, we’ve both been very tired lately, and the stress and upheaval of Cecily’s collarbone and adding a new puppy to the family probably has been at the root of our fatigue, so early nights, lots of water, chicken soup and extra garlic is the prescription!