Jobs for the boys and girls

As a parent you will be aware that having kids costs money. Since long before they were born, you have been spending money on them, and that amount seems to go up as they get older. At some point you actually have to start giving them cash regularly so they can buy something to eat or drink, pay their membership fee at whichever clubs they go to, pay their train or bus fare to get home, some more to top up their mobile and have something left over in case things don’t go as planned.

After all that, the day will come when your child finds out that their friends are getting allowances from their parents – and they are going to want to know why you haven’t been giving them what you owe them. Now they think about that, they’ve really been missing that money – they could have used it to go to the cinema or to buy a new computer game with. And you will make one of four choices.

The first choice will be to do nothing. Tell them they have everything they need at home and that you already give them enough for their clubs etc. This method will potentially upset your child and rightfully so. You are actually denying them the chance to learn about money – to experience having some disposable cash and being able to decide what to spend it on, or to save it or invest it etc. If you outright refuse to give them an allowance it could cause resentment and potentially encourage them to lie to you in future or even turn to petty theft.

The second choice is to cave in to what they want and start handing over the juice, the tax, their fee or whatever you choose to call it. This is also an appallingly bad choice, as the message you are sending is that money is free. You devalue money – you may tell them how much you work to get paid, and beg them to think carefully about how they spend it, but what you are showing them is that money is easy to get. This could result in them squandering the money and constantly asking for more. They won’t learn how to save or invest and this could cause them major problems as adults.

The third choice would be to offer them a ‘job’ – a chance to earn their money. They wash your car, they get paid. They mow the lawn, they get paid. They clear the snow from the driveway, they get paid. This is what most parents would do, as it teaches them that money has to be earned, and therefore has a value. The problem with this is that they have no incentive to do the job really well – as long as it looks okayish, they know they’re getting paid. They can’t earn any more either, as you don’t want your car washing or the lawn mowing twice or three times a week. You’ve effectively capped what they can earn. Effectively, you’re preparing them for a job in the service industry.

The fourth choice would be to offer them an opportunity. Let’s say, if they wash your car with a sponge and a bucket, they can get $5. They could then go around the neighboring houses and offer to wash their cars for $5, too. In an afternoon, they might make $25 or 30 dollars. However, if they had a faster way to wash cars, they could probably make double that. So, knowing that there’s really only one option to wash cars more quickly – you offer to buy a power washer. They agree to wash your car for free, and after that they can use the power washer to make as much money as they can and keep it for themselves. This option will send some kids money-crazy. They won’t believe how much they can make, and they’ll start coming up with other plans, such as saving up for a better lawnmower or a snowblower. This teaches your children a lot about money. They earn it, save it, invest it, earn more of it and repeat. They might scale the business by involving their friends on other streets. Choose this option and your child will know about money. They might just drop straight out of school, though, so watch them carefully!

Your round-the-world trip

How many times have you heard idle talk from people who are tired of their jobs, saying they’d like to give up working and take a trip around the world? And yet how few people actually ever do that?

It’s completely understandable that couples with kids or parents to take care of wouldn’t want to be away from them for such a long time and it might be too strenuous on the children or the oldies to take them along. But those situations usually don’t last forever. One year, your kids are ten years old. Five years later, they’re fifteen. Five years after that you’re well within your rights to have left them to get on with their own lives and start enjoying yours.

Many people are put off by the thought of just how much money they would spend if they tried to travel around the world. And if they have expensive taste, then so they should be. If they’re planning on staying in only the best hotels in London, Moscow and Tokyo, they’ll definitely have some saving to do. But if they’re willing to maintain a similar standard of living to what most people have at home, without the opulence, they’ll be very pleasantly surprised to find that it’s much cheaper than expected. Just think about it – tourists stay in Beverly Hills hotels when they want to go shopping on Rodeo Drive or go clubbing in Hollywood. And they pay so much that it becomes a ‘one-off’ vacation. Locals simply drive in from Whittier, Pasadena and other, cheaper towns where they live and don’t spend a fraction. The same logic applies to when you visit Paris or another expensive city – you don’t have to stay right next to the Eiffel Tower to go and see it.

First up, join AirBnB and a hotel booking site. Get a feel for prices in the places you’d like to visit. While it makes sense to stay in an AirBnB when you visit a pricey city like Miami, you might find great offers in five star hotels when you visit less popular places, such as Lagos or Peshawar. Start thinking about where you want to go and what you want to do there. Remember that you will most likely uncover some gems that weren’t in the tourist guides and you might befriend the locals who then want you to stay with them in their village for a few nights here and there. And keep rewriting your plan – it’s easy to say you want to take the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Beijing, but are you really going to pass up the chance to see Irkutsk? Use Skyscanner to get the best deals for the dates you’re thinking about flying. Ask agencies about any deals they have on round-the-world tickets. Remember, you can mix and match your method of transport.

Make sure you’ve received your passports and that there’s a good amount of time left on them (years, not weeks). Depending on your nationality, you’ll need to apply for visas for certain countries. It’s best to do this before you set off to avoid disappointment. Once you have the visas you need, make sure you’ll have access to funds. Carry different currencies in security belts – US dollars can be exchanged pretty much anywhere, as can Euros, British Pounds and Japanese Yen. Take credit cards rather than debit cards as, if you become a victim of fraud, your balance can be restored.

Now, decide on how you’re going to carry the stuff you need. Don’t try to carry more than one medium-sized backpack and one suitcase per person. It will be difficult to keep track of when it’s being thrown into the hold of that long-distance bus in Morocco and it is a pain to carry around anyway. Check out Luggage on Tour for some great solutions.

If you haven’t already done so, get your vaccinations done. For some diseases such as Hepatitis B, which is endemic in East Asia, it takes six months for the full course of injections, until when you are not considered immune.

Then, with a smile on your face, say goodbye to everyone for a while. You’re about to become that one person they know who actually did get up and travel around the world.

Household items that you might want to upgrade

If you’ve been living in your home for quite some time, there’s a good chance that the household appliances you bought when you moved in are becoming outdated and anachronistic. Unfortunately, as we tend to focus more on day-to-day concerns such as our jobs and family, we don’t have time to keep up with all the latest developments in the world of technology. As a result of this we may be settling for second or third best when we do our thing at home. Simple tasks may take us twice as long and use more energy than if we had upgraded.

Obsolete contraptions can be found in any part of the house and that includes the kitchen. More than a decade ago, big, clumsy-looking toaster ovens which look like they were built by Skynet landed in kitchens around the world, providing a new talking point for visitors. Years later, we all know what these eyesores are and wonder why people still have them at all. If you’re one of those people who is still stuck in the noughties, then get with the teenies and sling out that metal beast and get a smart oven which will match the soft cream of everything else in your kitchen.

Still in the kitchen, we see people using strange combinations of plastic bags, boxes and garbage cans to separate their trash for recycling. That’s just ugly and complicated and still ends up with confusion about which bag is which and which box is for what. Stop living in the past and get yourself a garbage compartmentalizer which will sort your recycling for you, making it much easier for you to throw things out without thinking and not having to worry about getting your recycling mixed up.

If you allow yourself a little pat on the back and a sly grin at how smart you are for using a cordless drill when you’re in your workshop – wipe of that stupid grin right away, because the joke is on you, old timer. Everyone knows that cordless drills are so passé these days and it’s all about impact drivers these days. If you haven’t already, you simply have to try one for yourself, right this minute!

Another thing is those not-quite smart gadgets that used to cost $200 but you can now pick up for loose change. You know you are so not with it if you listen to a DAB radio and if you still go on about your flatscreen TV. Nobody is interested as those products are so yesterday and nobody with any self-respect would be seen dead anywhere near them.  You have simply got to get with the program and drop some notes on a fully-integrated smart entertainment system with voice activation and a transparent, concave screen.

Some smartypants installed remote control lighting when Justin Bieber was still in diapers but still hasn’t upgraded it. Straight to the bottom of the class! Using remote control lighting is the technological equivalent of bringing up The Sopranos or even Friends in hip conversation. Today, natural lighting is so where it’s at in fact one could say that natural light is the new black. Leave behind your prehistoric ways and get yourself an awesome skylight put into every room.

Do you still deal with your anger by slamming doors, drawers and cupboards? Did you realize that everybody else is almost certainly laughing at you under their breath? There’s nothing more entertaining than to provoke a ‘slammer’ and then sit back to enjoy the show. You might even be a YouTube star, you don’t know. Well get into the modern age of psychological warfare – you don’t have to stop slamming at all, but let out all of that rage and let roller runners and hinge adapters absorb all of your negative energy, slowing the force down to give a smooth close. Your antagonists will soon be treading on tiptoes in fear of their lives around you, fearing that the slamming has stopped because you have finally flipped and you are now plotting their demise and disposal.

Wherever you look, you’ll probably be able to find items that need to be upgraded. Cancel any dinner invitations you have given out until you can get things straight, but be sure to accept any invitations you receive and take the opportunity to scour others’ houses for ways in which you might be behind. With dedication, you can drag yourself out of your bygone era and into the here and now.

The beach body I thought I’d never get

The first three months of the year are a great time to be in business if you’re selling any kind of diet, workout plan, gym membership or equipment and the like. The idea is that people will have ‘let loose’ over the holiday period, eating and drinking more than should and now they’re looking at themselves in the mirror and wondering why their reflection doesn’t fit in the frame anymore.

While there is undoubtedly some truth to this, I never really felt it applied to me. Was it because I was always extra careful at Christmas and refused that extra mince pie or glass of sherry? Oh, how little you know me! The truth is that I pretty much ate until I was full all year round. Add to that a few boozy drinks every single day and you’ve soon got a belly and love handles to boot. I suppose the only reason I wasn’t bigger is because I managed to haul myself around a tennis court once a week for a couple of hours of punishment.

Holiday binging wasn’t for me and neither were New Year’s diets. At least, that was until I gave up drinking. At first, I thought I’d try to do a month without alcohol in order to give my poor liver a break. After a month without any booze I caught myself in the mirror one morning. I had definitely lost some flab. Where could this lead? Is it possible I might actually be able to remove my t-shirt on the beach this summer? Surely not me. But the effect that not drinking had on my physique impressed me.

I remember seeing an interview with Jennifer Lopez in which she disclosed that she didn’t drink. At the time I was surprised but I shouldn’t have been. It’s no coincidence that top models, the stars of Baywatch, etc. are either almost or completely teetotal. You’re not likely to see Shane MacGowan auditioning for Britain’s Best Body anytime soon.

Anyway, with this in mind I decided to keep off the alcohol a while longer. I read that beer and other alcoholic drinks are basically full of ‘empty calories’. Every time I went to the pub I was consuming the same number of calories as I would get from a full meal, but they weren’t doing me any good – just lounging out around my belly and hips! So without alcohol, my calorie intake was vastly lower.

I decided that I was going to go ahead and try to get a beach body. Nobody would be able to believe it, least of all myself. I didn’t really make any big changes to my diet as I figured I still needed calories. I’ve always had a savoury tooth rather than a sweet one, so chocolates and cake have never been a problem for me. I kept eating meat, potatoes, rice and everything I ate before, just with more greens and probably less cheese! To be honest, I crave cheese way more than I crave alcohol these days.

I started running in the mornings. Actually, at first it was jogging, but the distance has always remained the same – 1.5 miles. It’s three times around my block. I’d follow that up with as many push ups as I can do and then as many sit ups as I can do. Initially I struggled with all of this and had to push myself to just go one better than the previous day.

After a couple of months, things started getting easier and coming more naturally. I was looking better and better without my clothes. I had to go out and buy a new pair of jeans because my old pair had started to look way too baggy. Would I be ready when the summer arrived? I decided I had to try a bit harder and looked into buying a piece of gym equipment that I could use for aerobic training at home.

I did my research and it came down to a choice between a home rower and an elliptical trainer. I plumped for the rower in the end due to the full body workout you can get while still focusing on the core. You can get a lot of information about it at Home Rower.

By this time, I had a regular workout schedule, but I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing too much. After all, even if I didn’t have a great beach body at the end of it, I would definitely be in better shape. The funny thing about exercise is, if you do a little, you suddenly feel like you can do more. Instead of feeling exhausted all week due to the effects of alcohol, I felt energised and ready to put 100% into everything. It was like stepping out of mud onto a paved road.

Well, I should probably tell you whether I made it or not. Of course I did. By August my love handles had vanished and you could see my abs. I wasn’t totally ripped but I looked much better than I had done just six months earlier. I booked two weeks in the Canary Islands and spent the whole time by the pool and the beach getting tanned up. By the end of the holiday I really had to keep looking twice in the mirror – perhaps it was vanity? More likely it was surprise at the opportunity I had given myself for vanity!

So, if I can do it, so can you. Swap lifting pints for a bit of exercise and without too much effort, six months you can have a beach body of your own!