Getting what you want is about planning and focused effort

Planning is all about having the life you want, because you are prepared to focus and do what is necessary to achieve. Not one of us started our lives without our dreams for the future. THEN, life happened, our dreams evaporated. It is so easy to just let life pass you by and one day wake up and find that the place we have put ourselves, is not where we want to be.

When you plan, you take charge; you determine where you will end up. Is it hard? Sometimes it is. It is about being prepared to challenge your thinking; it is about deciding you are prepared to do what it takes. Just imagine being in a position to say to yourself, ‘I did it and I am able to do the things that I have planned for’.

Financial Planning is about setting yourself up for freedom. I once heard a wise person say that freedom was not free, but it is worth all you need to do to get you there.

• Financial Planning incorporates tax planning.
• Financial Planning incorporates business planning.
• Financial planning incorporates health planning.

At Peninsula Taxation and Business Centre we can assist you to take the steps to achieve your goals in life; to identify your needs and plan the stepping stones required to get you there. Please visit us at www.creatingtruewealth.com.au for more information and our contact details.

“Do not judge my future destination by my present location”

Irena Butler is the principal; an authorised representative of Madison Financial Group Pty Ltd. AFSL No 246679. Irena has been in the financial planning industry since 1985. Irena then developed the Taxation and Business parts of the business. Irena is a member of the FPA, the Financial Planning Association and holds the qualification and designation CFP, Certified Financial Planner.

Top Tax Tips to Maximise Your Tax Return

The 2010 tax deadline is less than a month away, so if you haven’t already lodged your return, now is the time to start doing something about it.

We have come up with our top tips to help you get your return right and maximise your tax refund this year:

1. Maximise your tax deductions –if you are claiming less than $300 you don’t need to keep receipts. The average amount claimed in personal tax returns for work related expenses in Australia is $1,920 per year, so claim what you can to ensure you don’t miss out on a great tax refund. Just make sure you know what you are allowed to claim in your occupation and keep the right records so the Tax Office can’t disallow your claims.

If you’re not sure what to claim, have a look at the Personal Tax Specialists’ website http://personaltaxspecialists.com.au/what-deductions-can-you-claim where you can find the specific tax deductions for more than 30 occupations.

2. Maximise your refund on children’s education expenses – here are a few tips to make sure you maximise your refund:

  • You must receive FTB Part A for each child or they must receive Youth Allowance (or similar payment)
  • There is no need to deduct the private use of an expense when claiming for education expenses, so if you purchase a new computer for your children and they use it for school work and for playing games or surfing the internet, you can claim 100% of the cost (unless you claim a tax deduction for any part of the cost, then that part can’t be included)
  • Education expenses can be split between children to maximise your claim, provided all children have access to the item purchased
  • Where a child goes from primary school to secondary school during a tax year, you are able to claim the maximum allowed for a secondary school student for the whole year
  • If you spent more than the maximum allowed in the 2009 year, make sure you carry forward the excess to be used in this year’s return
  • This year the maximum refund you can claim is $390 for each primary school child and $779 for each secondary school child.

3. No receipts needed for items less than $10 – it’s sometimes difficult to get (or keep) receipts for all of your minor purchases during the year. Rather than having to worry about them, just keep a diary with the information that would normally be shown on a receipt (date, business name, item purchased, price). Then you can claim up to $200 a year for these small expenses, without keeping any receipts.

4. Claim for internet, phone and pay TV use – most people would use one or more of these services during the year for their work. To be able to claim a deduction in your tax return you will need to keep receipts confirming how much you have paid and also keep a diary record to work out what proportion of the expense is work related.
Your diary should be kept for one month of the year and needs to identify how much of the service is used for work and personal use.

5. Claim for using your car for work – the simplest way to claim for car expenses is to estimate the number of kilometres you travel for work purposes during the year (you can claim up to a maximum of 5,000km per vehicle). Trips could relate to attending meetings, conferences or training courses, travelling to pick up supplies, equipment or tools, or travelling between job sites or office locations.

You will need to be able to show the Tax Office how you have calculated the number of kilometres you claim for, but you don’t need to keep any receipts for petrol, car repairs or other running costs.

For more information about any of these tips contact Personal Tax Specialists Pty Ltd on 1300 335 675, admin@personaltaxspecialists.com.auor www.personaltaxspecialists.com.au.

Tracey Collins, for the Personal Tax Specialists team

About Personal Tax Specialists
• Offers personal tax returns for investors and people working in professional occupations
• Specialises in these occupations: travel consultants, nurses, teachers, building industry, sales representatives, Defence force, journalists, airline industry, chefs, emergency services, real estate, security guards, rental property owners and share investors
• Established in 2009 by tax professionals Tracey Collins and Christine Snelson

Personal Tax Specialists Pty Ltd
your time and tree friendly tax accountants

Make your money work as hard as you do

by Carmel McCartin, Budget Bitch.

Ask most people if they work hard, and they’ll probably say that they do. Ask them if their money works just as hard and most won’t be able to answer that nor will they even know where to start.

So how do you make your money work as hard as you do? Well, I’m sure you’ll have an idea as to what my answer will be. Yep, the first step is to have a budget and you’ve just got to get it right.

Somebody asked me the other week “what is the perfect budget?”

That’s an excellent question and there really is no right or wrong answer. Just like the fact that we’re individuals and we’re all different, so too are our hopes and dreams, our lifestyles, priorities and our needs and wants.

So, what might be the perfect budget for one person might not necessarily work for somebody else. Even though we might work at the same place as our friend, and earn the same money each week, because our home lives are very different so too will our budgets be different.

There are many factors to consider in a budget: how much debt do I have? How much are my weekly, monthly and annual bills? How much income do we receive each week? What are our financial priorities? What savings would we like to put aside for the future? What will our needs be within a year? In five years time? In a decade?

Possibly the biggest question we must ask ourselves is this: do we have enough income to sustain the life we’re leading now and into the future? Sadly for so many of us, we don’t have an income problem but a spending problem.

Sometimes I think it’s just not possible to even earn enough money to buy everything that you want!

The perfect budget is like a diamond and has many facets. It has a portion to repay our debt as soon as possible, without choking the finances. There’s also a portion for day to day bills which enables us to pay these accounts on time without stress.

There is also a part that puts a little aside for ‘rainy days’. So many of us have no savings and therefore have to borrow money for the times when disaster strikes.

And, of course, there’s another section for fun – for having things we’d like, things to make us feel good. That’s important. The perfect budget doesn’t need to be too restrictive all the time.

Each part is in direct proportion to the household income and the needs of its occupants. It needs to be balanced so that each portion of the budget is fair to the other parts.

Of course, the budget we have today won’t be relevant forever. It can’t be. Just as we find our life continually changing, so too will our needs and wants. Our budget will need to be adjusted in accordance.

And just as our life changes, so too does our expenditure. No two months are ever the same and sometimes there are things that happen which require us to spend more money than we’d like. In a perfect world, these things wouldn’t occur. In a perfect budget there’s enough money put aside to, at least, alleviate some of the stress without reaching for borrowed money all the time.

Finding the perfect budget for your family doesn’t happen overnight. It takes some planning, and then some test-runs to make sure the perfect mix of spending and saving are in the right proportions. It needs time and patience to get it right for you and your family.

You have to remember that it’s ‘a work in progress’. There’s no sense in starting and then giving up in less than a week. That’s not giving you or your money a chance to have a financially secure future.

So how do you find this ‘perfect budget’? Well, the first step is to start working on it!

Carmel McCartin is known as The Budget Bitch. She specialises in Personal Budget Planning, Budget Coaching and Budget Education enterprise.

Carmel writes for the Border Mail Newspaper and is the author of “Money Tips from the Budget Bitch”

THE MONEY – WORK EQUATION

By Monique Nickalls.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?” Money in reality is a very scarce commodity, one that has to be worked for. On the other hand, it is all too easy to spend! And every dollar you spend is a dollar that you have worked hard to earn.

It stands to reason then that if you don’t spend as much, you don’t need to earn as much (or work as hard). It is very possible to keep up a great lifestyle by making small changes to your spending habits. After my husband and I both started new businesses from scratch about 18 months ago, without either of us having other work or income, I have to admit I have become a fantastic budgeter and probably a bit of a scrooge. But you know what, it feels good! I know living on a shoestring budget can be done, and it really isn’t that hard at all.

One influence I have had is that I always remember my grandmother saying that she didn’t believe the wife in a family needed to work – it was her job to budget, live within means, and look after the children and the household. Obviously times have changed a lot but I have always admired my grandmother and her belief in budgeting at home so she didn’t have to work, and so my Grandfather didn’t have to work as hard if she was a big spender.

So I thought I might share with you some of the things that have worked for me, and allowed us to start and grow our businesses without needed other outside work. Because the money I was running the house with was minimal, it literally meant our personal income could be minimal too without us having to go into debt.

1. The first thing to do is change your mindset. Every time you go to buy something, think do I really NEED that or do I just WANT it. Remember your priorities, and if you don’t really need it, don’t buy it.

2. A big change I made was the frequency of grocery shopping. I went from doing a big shop once a week to shopping every 2 or 3 weeks. Buy homebrand or the cheapest brand. Then budget in between for items like bread, fruit and veg, and maybe meat.

3. Buy in bulk and divide it up to store or freeze. Also cook in bulk and freeze left-overs.

4. An old trick when cooking on a budget is to pad out meat with vegetables, legumes, rice and pasta. This does work, and you can feed a family and have left-overs with about 500g of meat.

5. You can find some of my family and budget friendly recipes at my blog: http://yourcheekymonkey.blogspot.com/search/label/recipes

6. Try not to buy take-aways or lunches out. Preparing your food at home saves hundreds of dollars. Include in this drinks.

7. Don’t buy yourself any new clothes or shoes (or anything else) in your budgeting time-frame.

8. If you do need to buy clothes, especially for your children, go over the sales racks in the shops or purchase second hand.

9. For a bit of extra income, sell items around your house you no longer need or want – I used ebay or the local paper to advertise.

10. Try and save on your power bill by turning off anything in use and minimise things like air-conditioning and the clothes dryer. Same with the telephone bill – minimise outgoing calls and texts.

11. Keep expensive activities and outings with the kids to a minimum. Try crafts at home, nature walks, playing in the garden, going to the beach or for a picnic, dancing to music etc.

12. Just be conscious of what you are spending and where – pay your bills first, and realise that any luxuries are on your wish list for the time being!

Finally, in summary, I would like to leave you with one of my favourite sayings to ponder by Coco Chanel – “There are people who have money and people who are rich”.

Monique Nickalls JP (Qual) BSc (hons) Dip Prof Couns., is the Owner of Your Cheeky Monkeywww.YourCheekyMonkey.com.auwhere you will find gorgeous handcrafted products for Mums, Bubs & Kids.

Can we afford a helicopter?

In the past few months, there’s been a fair bit of talk about adult children, aged well into their twenties and often their thirties, who are still living in the family home with their parents. It’s not a new topic – rumblings have been heard since 2006 and indeed there are a few different groups who have heard me speak on the subject.

“Helicopter Kids” is a term used to describe these young and not-so-young adults who live with their parents. Bernard Salt, one of Australia’s leading demographic commentators, coined the term in his book, The Big Picture, as a name for the off-spring who “hover around the family home refusing to fully move out and establish their own household”. (1)

There are some family therapists of the opinion that if you treat your 22 year old like 12 year olds, by doing their washing and cooking for them and also paying their bills, then you are depriving them of the opportunity to learn crucial skills for living independently.

Of course, money is an area that can become a stumbling block for parental pride. Sadly, I know many parents who readily admit they’ve “never said no” to their children, regardless of their age.

While most would agree that it’s wonderful knowing your kids want to live with you, admitting that it puts a large financial strain on the household is a real challenge. Which parents sit down and discuss their personal finances with the adult members of their family?

With investments and superannuation taking a nose-dive due to the recent GFC, many parents who were aiming for an early retirement, are now scrambling to find the funds to support themselves once they leave the workforce.

Those of their offspring who have enjoyed a life totally funded (thus far) by “The Bank of Mum and Dad” could be forgiven for feeling that their world had its’ own personal Global Financial Crisis.

Most parents want to give their kids a financial start in life. By allowing them to live in the family home it means that a HECS debt can be repaid, a rental bond or home deposit can be saved. And let’s face it – the way things are looking, this might end up being the only financial assistance we’ll be able to give them.

But while giving them reduced rent (or no rent) is one thing, living costs are another issue.

How many times have we heard the story of the adult son who ate the chicken from the fridge (in one snack-fest sitting) that was supposed to be for the family dinner? Or the daughter who ran up a phone bill equivalent to the monthly mortgage repayment?

Let’s be sensible here – they don’t need to pay off their parents’ mortgage, but they do need to be responsible for paying their own way. How else will they learn to manage on their own ‘out in the world’?

Families can alleviate the stress that surrounds this complex issue by sitting down and openly discussing the costs of running a household which is now full of adults. All parties need the opportunity to negotiate a reasonable board that honestly reflects the full costs of additional food and utility bills.

If you can no longer afford the cost of a helicopter, and the whole subject is too daunting to organise, maybe it’s time to ask an independent person to help your family plan a strategy that will work for your individual family.

Remember! Your kids are now adults, and they need to learn this valuable lesson – before they leave home!

(1) Bernard Salt, The Big Picture , Hardie Grant Books, Prahran, Victoria 2006

Carmel McCartin is known as The Budget Bitch. She specialises in Personal Budget Planning, Budget Coaching and Budget Education enterprise.

Carmel writes for the Border Mail Newspaper and is the author of “Money Tips from the Budget Bitch”

After Christmas Sales

Nope! I didn’t go to the after-Christmas-Sales. And I don’t intend to rush out for the ‘January sales’ either.

There was nothing that I needed and I just don’t see any sense in spending money for the sake of spending money.

We can all talk ourselves into buying things that we really don’t need because we see a coveted article as ‘on sale’ at a ‘special price’. But, as I’ve said before – “Shopping is about spending money – not saving it!” (And anybody that tells you different is wrong!)

It amazes me that many times the prices in these sales have been inflated in the lead up to Christmas, and then ‘reduced’ in time for these sales. In April last year I bought a well-known brand of sheets at a bargain price of $50. Last week I saw an identical set at an ‘after Christmas sale’ price of $110.

Another thing that I find ludicrous is when ‘experts’ tell you to do your Christmas shopping now, in order to save money for next year, because everything is on sale.

Let’s look at it this way – you go out now, and buy your gifts for all your family, in readiness for next year. Where are you going to keep them? (Please don’t say you have an empty cupboard to fill)

The great gift idea you had for somebody, will possibly get purchased by either that person or somebody else through the coming year. (People also have birthdays) Or they might just buy it for themselves. What do you do with that gift now? Would you then consider that you’d ‘wasted’ that money? How many times do you end up buying them another gift anyway?

The biscuits you purchased (at half price) will possibly be ‘out-of-date’ by next Christmas. And how are you going to keep the chocolates in tip-top condition?

The decorations that you buy for 70% off are stored in the cupboard with your old ones till next year. Will that mean they’re still new next Christmas? Or are they just ones that haven’t been seen before?

The Christmas cards you buy now will only be put away in a ‘safe place’ till next December. If you’re like many people, you’ll end up buying more because you either don’t like the ones you purchased or you don’t remember where you put them.

And what happens if you have a radical change of lifestyle during the year and your Christmas traditions are changed dramatically? None of us have a crystal ball to see what will happen between now and December – who knows, you might decide to become a Buddhist, and then you won’t have to worry about the whole Christmas thing.

Perhaps a better plan is to go to the sales and write down that ‘great gift idea’. Then put that money aside so that if the gift is still appropriate when the time comes, you can purchase it. Do the same with the decorations, cards and other things and you’ll find that you have a helpful nest egg ready for next Christmas.

If you’ve been out loading up your credit card then remember this – unless you pay the total balance at the end of the month, the money you ‘saved’ will become ‘interest’ you must pay.

Believe it or not – there are many sales right throughout the whole year. You’re sure to ‘pick up’ some great bargains. And you’ll do it at a time to suit you – not at a time when the retail sector tells you to.

Carmel McCartin is known as The Budget Bitch. She specialises in Personal Budget Planning, Budget Coaching and Budget Education enterprise.

Carmel writes for the Border Mail Newspaper and is the author of “Money Tips from the Budget Bitch”

Auntie Carmels’ bag of Christmas Cheer

Imagine this scenario – it’s December and you’re away from home, staying in a hotel in Adelaide. Your brother (who lives there) calls, and invites you to join his family for their Christmas celebration. All their family will be together this weekend, so they’re celebrating early. Being part of their family, they’d love you to come. Its 24 hours away.

My brother has five kids who are all grown and have partners; there are some grandkids plus other ‘family’ members. The total is 20, and there will be an exchange of gifts at some point during the day.

Now this is not part of my Christmas plans and I am totally unprepared to partake in the gift giving ritual. If there had been more time, I would have been able to put some extra money aside throughout the year. I would also have had time to organise something special for each of them.

So here I am, 24 hours to prepare and not only is there a shortage of funds but I am also lacking inspiration in the gift buying department. Let’s face it – even 20 tins of biscuits is going to cost at least $100.

And then (at 2am) it hit me! The answer came from my subconscious while I slept. I knew exactly what to do.

I couldn’t hit the shopping centre till lunch hour. Into Rundle Mall, and I quickly found a large ‘discount’ shop. So far so good!

Grabbing a shopping basket, I began the next part of my mission – to buy 20 gifts at a cost no more than $2 each. Nothing should be too obviously gender-specific; but to liven the party I chose some purely male and female gifts. (men’s razors, girly soaps; that sort of thing)

I helped myself to the pile of free store catalogues to use as wrapping paper, (they’re colourful and end up in the same place as gift wrap) then spent $2 for a large ‘Christmassy ‘bag to carry everything. Back at the hotel I borrowed scissors and sticky-tape from the reception desk and soon everything was wrapped.

Family gatherings are great fun and this was no exception. The joy of spending time with people I love, but am separated from by time and distance, was immeasurable. Just to be with them was my own personal Christmas treat.

And then it was “time for the gifts”. My brother took me aside, quietly apologised for the short notice and explained that nobody would be upset that I had nothing for them all. Just being together would be enough.

He was right – it was, but I was ready to surprise them. When all the presents had been opened there remained, under the tree, a large bag that nobody had seen before.

With a flourish I announced that it was time for “Aunty Carmel’s Bag of Christmas Cheer”. Everybody would get a ‘lucky-dip’ and if they didn’t like their gift – too bad. They could always exchange with somebody else later.

What a hoot! We played a trivia game with a dip in the bag being the prize; everybody was a winner. An hour later – we’re still laughing and swapping gifts. Even Grandma got into the spirit, swapping screwdrivers for incense sticks.

It was the best $42 I’ve ever spent and it’s a new tradition; with family members competing to prove that they ‘need’ to be the Christmas Cheer Bag person.

You know – sometimes I think we’ve forgotten that Christmas memories are about people and events – the size and cost of the gifts are insignificant.

Carmel McCartin is known as The Budget Bitch. She specialises in Personal Budget Planning, Budget Coaching and Budget Education enterprise.

Carmel writes for the Border Mail Newspaper and is the author of “Money Tips from the Budget Bitch”