Bush playgroups: outdoors and the early years

One of the latest playgroup initiatives to make waves in Australia involves the great outdoors. Bush playgroups not only encourage children to explore outdoor environments, but to share this experience with their parents and carers. Not only are early childhood educators now taking on the role of ecologists and nature conservationists in order to inspire their younger charges, community leaders and educational experts alike are extolling the value of extended outdoor educational settings. Nature based learning, as it is also referred to, is also growing in importance as an aspect of childcare courses in Melbourne and around the country, demonstrating the increasing value that this type of setting can offer children.

Children who are raised in smaller dwellings such as apartments, unit or townhouses benefit especially as it allows them to lead their play outside. This is often an activity that is foreign to many kids. Partly this is because they do not have the autonomy of a backyard at their house, but engage in quite supervised outdoor play at communal playgrounds or places that don’t necessarily encourage pure exploration.

Further to this, studies have shown that adults that spend more time outdoors as children are more likely to also do so when they grow up. This is good news for our waistlines and our general health as the incidental exercise that is gained by outdoor pottering alone is a great way to combat a sedentary lifestyle.

Many bush playgroups encourage parental interaction with other adults and it gives parents and carers a chance to play with, or observe, their children play in an environment that is completely new. Many parents also enjoy a return to the type of play they themselves engaged in when they were young, but is now restricted, a lot less common or even risky due to many factors of modern life.

The emphasis on freedom is core value of a lot of the nature play that occurs in an outdoor setting such as a bush playgroup. In fact, across several urban areas around Melbourne and Canberra especially, landscape architect designed ‘bush’ parks are beginning to spring up. These natural (and carefully structured) unstructured spaces with many fallen logs, tunnels, rocks and things to explore are popular amongst kids of many ages. Some authorities even envisage this as an introductory space to encourage families to seek out and explore the wider natural outdoors across Australia, whether bush, forests, mountain ranges and nature reserves. Learning to manage risk in a more controlled environment such as purpose built bushland is seen as a great way to helps kids and parents become comfortable with the variability of outdoor excursions.

Weather from all the seasons is also not a deterrent, but a key factor of a bush playground. Encouraging children to be outdoors in all conditions firstly builds their resilience to a variety of environments. It also provides them with opportunities to learn about and witness for themselves the changing seasons and the flora and fauna that evolves with them.

Finding a business to suit your lifestyle

Many people go into business for themselves in order to be their own boss and have more flexibility in their lifestyle. Unfortunately, many are then shocked when they end up working even longer hours and have excessive responsibilities in order to build and maintain a viable business venture. Therefore, before you decide to make the change to business ownership, it is a valuable exercise to carefully consider what you prioritise the most to inform your professional decisions.  This will help you to find your niche and enter the market with confidence.

You might choose to purchase an established business. This can be costly initially, but if you have done suitable due diligence you will also be purchasing a loyal client base and the reputation of the brand that you will soon own. An established business could be in retail, hospitality, financial services or any industry in-between.

Purchasing a newsagency for sale, for example, is a sound choice for someone who is a great all-round retailer. You will deal with a variety of suppliers as you stock a variety of products and it is a fantastic way to get to know and support the local community. Many newsagencies have a Tattslotto capacity which can boost sales and cross-promotional opportunities, especially if you happen to sell a jackpot ticket. Some news agencies will also operate as Auspost outlets in order to provide a wider variety of services that may also attract business clients. Be aware that stocking the humble newspaper traditionally means some pretty early morning starts especially if you offer home delivery service, so be prepared to staff this accordingly if you can’t face getting up in the wee hours.

If you think that you might want to build something from the ground up, there are also a variety of options. In addition to logistics, such as where it will operate and before you buy a factory for sale, do some market research to identify, then profile your target customer. One way to do this is to define what ‘problem’ your business will be able to solve. By knowing what is currently frustrating customers or is a gap in the market, begin by articulating how your business can provide goods or services to fill this void. Many people may opt to undergo some market research, whether online or face to face, or you may take a more passive approach and read a lot of forums and investigate what’s trending online.

If you’re considering a start-up situation it can be a long road to get your business to the point of breaking even, let alone profit. Therefore, put in place plans as to how you will fund it and keep it running if things take a little longer than what you originally articulate in your business plan. For some people, it means remaining a side business until it takes off. This approach to risk management will give you some breathing room and hopefully prevent you launching to market without being adequately prepared.

Get Started on Your Project

Everyone has one. That project they’ve always wanted to get started, but there’s never time, and always something else to do. Whether it’s scrapbooking, writing a book or even starting your own business, they’re all projects it’s easy not to find time for, putting them off until one day you find you’ve missed your chance.

It’s time to seize the reins, take control and finally get around to the project you’ve always wanted to with this short guide.

How to Succeed

Before you can start, you need to know what finishing looks like: if you don’t have a clear end in mind, you’ll soon be disheartened, mired in the middle of a hobby that’s suddenly taking up all your time with no way out.

Decide what success will look like for you, and be realistic. If, given your other commitments, good progress looks like 1000 words a week of the book you want to write, set that as a goal. Shooting for the stars is all very well but if you don’t have a realistic chance of hitting them, set a more achieveable target. Nothing leeches away your motivation like regular failure.

Also decide what your failure conditions look like: if you need to put money into this project, set a budget and if it starts to run over, you need to bring things to a close.

Find Space

Set aside a space to work on your project. Whether that means having a spare room turned into an office you’re running your ebay store from, or simply a box of crafting materials kept by a favourite comfy chair, giving this project space will make it easier to work on: it will become part of your life and routine.

If you need more space than you can spare at home, it’s worth looking into storage firms. If you’re looking at self storage London companies often offer additional facilities like power outlets and meeting rooms to make them attractive to audiences beyond people storing excess furniture. This could be the solution you need to kickstart your project!

Be Ruthless

You need to regard project-time as an important commitment. Don’t allow yourself to cancel it because of invitations from friends or other calls on your time. You’ve decided that this is important so schedule your time in advance and stick to that schedule.

Using a calendar, digital or physical to plot out the time you’ve allotted to work on this project will help send a clear signal to friends and family members that you’re serious about this and not to be disturbed until you’ve succeeded!

How Much Money Can You Safely Borrow?

Almost everyone carries at least some form of debt. In the first quarter of 2017, consumer debt in America hit an all-time high of $12.73 trillion. Household debt continues to grow every year, alongside federal and corporate debt. In other words, the country is swimming in borrowed capital.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Debt of any kind can actually be beneficial if it’s used responsibly. Borrowed money can help save you time and effort in several situations, from buying a house, getting educated, or starting a new business. A quick loan from Cash Stop can help you meet your monthly expenses, buy that new car, or purchase a new piece of tech. Debt can certainly be useful in moderation.

By borrowing a sustainable amount, you can fund your dreams and complete important projects without messing up your credit score or your personal finances. Here’s how you can figure out how much money you can borrow safely:

Total Net worth

In order to borrow safely, it’s important to estimate your ability to pay back the loan. A crucial factor is your net worth. Your personal net worth is the estimated value of all your assets, minus the estimated value of everything you owe. In other words, it’s the net value of everything you possess.

When total debt is measured as a ratio against your net worth, it provides a clearer structure to your personal finances. As a rule of thumb, the lower the debt-to-net worth ratio, the more sustainable the debt.

While a debt-to-net worth ratio of less than 1x is ideal, any ratio below 2.5x would be considered relatively safe.

Interest Coverage

Another, and more precise, way to calculate debt sustainability is the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. By measuring gross monthly income against your net debt expenses you can accurately estimate your ability to service the debt load.

Experts disagree on the ideal ratio of debt expenses to income. However, a good place to start is the recommended ratio for qualified mortgages.

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, lenders, banks, and financial institutions can offer borrowers special protections and terms if the debt expenses or monthly interest payments are less than 43% of monthly gross income. This means a debt expense-to-income ratio of less than 0.43 would be considered safe. For home loans and mortgages, financial planners recommend keeping this ratio below 0.30.

In short, spending less than one-third of your pre-tax income every month on all your interest payments is financially sustainable.

Final Thoughts

The wealthier you are the more you can borrow. Your total wealth and gross income are important factors to consider when estimating how much money you can borrow. Banks and lenders have specific ratios in mind when they offer to extend a loan. Sticking to these ratios makes it more likely that your debt will help you grow, rather than put you in a detrimental, stressful position.

Other Home Improvements for a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient House

In the previous article, we discussed solar panels and how you can use them to turn your house into a sustainable, self-sufficient property. The prices of solar panels and supporting hardware are becoming more affordable by the day, which is why it is even more appealing to invest in a good solar panel system for your house.

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Solar panels aren’t the only upgrade to add in order to make your property more energy efficient and sustainable. There are other great home improvements to consider, and we are going to look into them in this article.

LED Lights

LED lights are among the best things to pick up if you want to boost your house’s energy efficiency. They consume much less power than conventional bulbs and investing in them will immediately lower your energy bills. LED bulbs are up to 80% more efficient than CFLs and neon lights. The cost of LED lights is also much more affordable than it used to.

This is a home improvement that practically pays for itself. You may have to pay for the LED lights yourself at the beginning, but you can expect to save a lot on your electricity bill that the savings will cover the purchase in just a few months.

Energy Efficient Windows

The cost of heating and cooling the interior of your house is usually the major part of your energy bills. Changing the interior temperature to the right level is even more expensive when you have cracked windows and bad insulation.

Investing in energy efficient windows is the first step towards solving that problem. Once you get the windows installed, you will find cooling or heating your house to be a lot easier and much more affordable. You can also add additional window treatments to boost energy efficiency even further.

Insulation Upgrades

Upgrading your home’s insulation is the next thing to do. Aside from wall insulation, it is also important to look into ducts, especially if you use central heating and cooling. According to the EPA, a fifth of the air forced through ducts in residential properties leaks. This results in poor energy efficiency.

Similar to the previous home upgrades we discussed, insulation for pipes and ducts is much improved and very affordable these days. Skipping this step would be a mistake, especially if the goal is to make your house more energy efficient in the long run.

A Smarter Home

Last but certainly not least, consider turning your property into a smart home. Use a programmable thermostat and install a smart home hub such as Google Home to further improve energy efficiency. These smart devices can be remotely controlled and programmed for maximum efficiency.

With a smart thermostat installed, for instance, you can have the interior of the house kept at a comfortable temperature just 30 minutes before you arrive home after work instead of all day long. Imagine the amount of money you can save from this feature alone.

Paired with solar panels and clean energy, these home improvement options are even more valuable. The next time you want to upgrade your property, consider the improvements we covered in this article to get started.

Solar Panels: Great for you pocket and the environment

You may have seen the price of solar panels and winced at the sheer amount they can cost. We understand that they may not be for everyone, as the initial outlay can be quite high, but there is a huge range of costs that span from a slight reduction in reliance on your energy supplier to completely removing all need for one, even selling electricity back to the grid. Not only are they a great long term investment for your finances, but for the environment as well. As the world undergoes a complete overhaul of their energy generation infrastructure, every little helps. As a country and an entire planet, we are trying to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we burn, and trying to increase our numbers in renewable generation. Read through this article and find out why your next investment should definitely be on solar panels.

Let’s talk prices

The make or break of any investment: the initial cost. How long will it take to see your initial ROI? Well here’s your answers.

The amount you spend on solar panels will all depend on a few variables. These include:

  • What percentage of your electricity usage do you want to generate?
  • How much space do you have on your roof?
  • How much electricity do you consume per year on average?
  • Do you need coverage for overnight/low light usage?
  • What is the peak live usage in your house?

If you are only wanting to remove a slight amount of your reliance on your energy supplier, then you won’t be looking at an absolutely giant investment. The benefit of doing it this way, too, is that you can gradually build up your arsenal of solar panels, spreading the outlay out over time. If, however, you are looking at completely removing your reliance on the national grid, you will definitely be looking at a quite sizeable sum.

Here’s the general pricing grid for a standard monocrystalline silicon solar panel system:

System sizeAnnual outputRoof spaceCost
1 kW850 kWh8 m2£2,500 – 3,200
2 kW1,700 kWh14 m2£3,200 – 4,800
3 kW2,550 kWh21 m2£4,000 – 7,000
4 kW3,400 kWh28 m2£6,000 – 8,000

Source: expertsure.com

How to choose a panel system

Scenario 1 – cheap option

In this scenario, you only want to remove a small portion of your energy supplier reliance by generating a little of your own electricity. In this case, you’ll most likely only need a 1kW system. Generally, this will give you an annual output of around 850kWh, which is 27.4% of the average electricity bill. If you are paying £500 for your electricity normally, this would mean that you save £137 per year, making your annual bill £363.

If you have given an initial outlay of £2,500 for your solar panel system, this would mean you would see your first ROI after 18 years. The following 18 years would give you £2,466 in return.

If you are only removing partial reliance on your energy supplier, you will still need to be connected to the national grid at all times. This is due to the fact that you will only be running a 1kW system. In real time, you will generally use more than this through your general appliances, especially if you have multi, high usage appliances switched on simultaneously.

Scenario 2 – expensive option

In this scenario, you want to remove complete reliance on your energy supplier by generating 100% of your electricity through solar panels. In this case you would most likely need a 4kW system. This will cost you around £6,500 and will give you around 3,400 kWh of electricity per year. This is around 110% of the average household consumption. Because you are completely disconnecting from the national electricity grid, you are going to have to prepare for times of low light, like through the night. In order to do this, you will need to purchase a storage battery that will store excess electricity for you to use in times of low light. For a 6 kWh battery, this will cost you around £2,800, which brings your initial investment up to around £9,300.

If your usage is 3,100 kWh of electricity, you’re probably wondering what you are going to be able to do with the other 300 kWh? Well, you can actually sell them back to the national grid through the Government’s ‘Feed-In Tariff’. For a 4kW system at ‘medium rate’ you are going to make 3.66p per kWh, which means you’d earn roughly £11 per year, which isn’t a great deal, but it all goes towards seeing your ROI that bit quicker.

As such, with all the above included, if you were paying £500 per year for your electricity before, with the 300 kWh sold back to the grid through the Feed-In Tariff, you would be saving £511 per year, which would mean a ROI after around 18 years, thereafter seeing £10,220 ROI in the following 20 years.

Investment ideas for beginners

Are you letting your money work for you? If not, you are missing a great opportunity to increase your personal wealth. Keeping money in a low interest account isn’t going to accomplish this. By choosing to invest your money in stocks, bonds or other options, successful investments will generate more cash for your future goals. Consider some of these potential investment alternatives.

Bitcoin

Different than other investments, bitcoin is a currency that can be used in a number of ways to help increase one’s wealth. The most common method is simply to purchase the bitcoin currency, anticipating it will increase in value. The currency is very popular with online websites including online casinos and at mobilecasinocanada.ca, they are considering the use of Bitcoin with other online banking methods.

Certificates of Deposit

CDs permit investors to invest their extra cash. This particular investment can vary in terms. Some CDs are short term with only three months while others can be as long as 5 years. Of course, one’s specific needs will determine the better term option. However, generally the longer the investment, the better your return on investment will be.  Shop around when looking to purchase CDs as banks do vary in regards to their rates.

Peer to Peer Lending

While this is a relatively new idea, peer to peer lending bypasses traditional banks and connects consumers looking to invest with those needing a loan. Notes are purchased by investors from websites. Borrowers must go through a thorough vetting process which helps reassure investors of repayment. Each month lenders will receive a payment consisting of principal repayment along with interest.

You may choose to try one of these investment ideas or perhaps another way to let your money work for you. No matter what you decide, one important thing to remember is that you must be diligent researching any investment prior to making it.