Educational Travel Games for Kids

Passing the time during a long journey, or even a short one, can be a nightmare when you have kids in tow. “Are we nearly there yet?” – how often do you hear this throughout the course of a journey?

You might want to shout “not yet!” but you have to understand that travelling for little ones, or even big ones, isn’t the same as it is for adults. We understand that it takes time to get somewhere, and that the waiting is worth it, but they don’t, they just want to get where they’re going, and are usually over-excited as a result. The key? Stay calm, take deep breaths, and your serene exterior will hopefully seep its way to your children.

Despite that, the key is also to keep them entertained, and thanks to modern technology, with iPads and tablets now owned by most families, games with an educational twist can be played on the go quite easily.

There’s no excuse not to instil a bit of learning into a journey, after all, you might as well put the waiting to good use. Age plays a part in what kind of games you can play, so let’s check out a few suggestions.

Younger children (ages 0 to 6)

Bingo – a quick internet search will give you plenty of worksheets you can print out, and a fun child-friendly game of bingo is a great pass-the-time idea, which also helps children recognise numbers. You can also play this with shapes for the younger children in this bracket. The winner gets to pick a treat!

Match colours and shapes – again matching colours and shapes is a game of repetition, which is how we learn best. You can easily print out some shapes and colour blocks before you leave and put them in your travel bag, whipping them out when boredom kicks in, and this is also a different twist on a game of snap!

Words that start with… – Practising the alphabet and developing vocabulary is easily done on the go, simply say a letter, and get your little ones to give you a word that begins with that letter. Again, a prize for the best suggestions.

Eye spy – I’ve put this in the younger age range, but its great for any age really, and also helps develop awareness of surroundings and the alphabet again. You can pass hours with this one!

Older children (ages 6 plus)

iPad – Older kids do tend to turn towards technology for keeping their minds active. Whilst the iPad is great for playing games, you can also download some educational apps and play them together. Even games such as Candy Crush Saga can be used to help develop matching skills, but why not download a language app and learn some of the language of the country you’re heading to, together as a family?

Carmen San Diego – The famous computer programmes aimed at children of around 8-12 years will pass hours, and they won’t even realise they’re learning. Cleverly using characters and plots, weaving in word play and using alliteration, this is a good way to learn language skills and vocabulary, and can be done on the go.

Country’s flags and currencies – Weave learning into where you’re going, by matching flags and currencies, flags and languages etc.

As you can see, all our suggestions take away the focus of learning, yet sneakily kids will develop skills whilst they’re doing them. That’s the best way to do it in my opinion! Imagination games, word play, using awareness of space and surroundings, asking questions on what they think things are, and discussing it – these are all ways to pass the time and learn something along the way.


Managing Your Digital Life Made Simple

Life these days is lived increasingly in mid-air, somewhere we can’t see, in the ether if you will. It can be easier paper-wise, so you don’t have a drawer full of receipts and files, but whilst you can’t see all this information, it can feel like you have no reins on it, no control. This is all a bit of a recipe for stress.

So, how can we organise our digital life, so to speak, to make it less stressful, more streamlined, and less destructive on those forests by cutting down the paper?

Be password savvy – Any secure website will require a password, and it’s never advisable to use the same password for them all. If you get hacked then you’re running a huge security risk if you don’t mix it up a little. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Having said that, you don’t want to be remembering a head full of different passwords, and you certainly don’t want to be writing them down. A good way to use a password manager like Last Pass. Always generate important passwords using a strong password generator, rather than using real words.

Back up your files – Whilst they’re not paper-based, computer files still need to be organised and backed up. If your computer dies, you don’t want to be losing all your data, so for that I’d recommend using Dropbox as the cloud-type of storage you read so much about these days. Simply logging into your account will drag your information down from the sky and onto whichever machine you log into. Simple, and much safer.

Organise your files – Creating folders for the month and storing all paperwork relating to that month within it will make it easier to find things on the go. You can easily download your online statements etc and store them in that particular months’ folder. To keep it up to date again, delete folders after, say, three months, and keep it on a rolling system, so you don’t end up with a computer full of useless folders from four years ago!

Spreadsheets – They sound geeky, but they’re really not. If you’re a freelance worker, or undertake any kind of freelance work, then you will of course need to keep records of your work for tax purposes. I find a spreadsheet is a good way to keep a basic running tally, to go alongside the other records you need to keep. A simple tally like this will help you make quick calculations, rather than stressing yourself out with trawling through more complicated records.

Review regularly – When you’re trying to go paperless, you’re basically streamlining your life, so the key is to keep it simple. If it’s not working for you, play around with it a bit, and keep updating everything as you go. I don’t like to leave things to pile up, because that’s what clutters my mind and leads to stress. If you can keep on top of your admin, then you’ll be freer and more organised as a result.

The Upside of Investing That Spare $100

If you have a spare $100 and put it in into something that returns 6%, in 40 years time it’ll be worth $1096. If you’re older and leave it there 30 years, it’ll be worth $602. Basically anything you spend $100 on now is costing you $602 in future dollars.

If you only have a spare $50, and are prepared to let that money sit there for 40 years, it’ll be worth $548. Just think if you get that money invested and out of sight, out of mind whenever there is extra. Here are just a few ways to save $50-100. As you can see, leaving it there an extra 10 years, is almost the same as saving double now.

The key is making it real.

I’ve found that the key to getting myself to invest is coming up with some numbers that make it real for me.

For example, if I’d invested $1000 a month in the VTI fund, which tracks the US stock market, for the last 10 years, that investment would be worth $205,000 now, compared to $120,000 of contributions. That’s even with the massive crash of 2008.

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The Benefits of Giving Up an Unused Subscription

Let’s imagine that instead of paying $15 a month for a subscription you don’t really use, you’d invested that money for the last 10 years instead. In this case, even starting from $0, you would have over $3000 now after only depositing $1800.

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The calculator I’ve used for coming up with the above tables is

What you you have a spare $1000?

I know for some people the idea of having a “spare $1000” isn’t a reality, but also for many people it is. For example, you get a tax refund or the like.

Here’s what you can expect if you invest an extra $1000 that you have available.

At a moderate 6% rate of return, that money will have grown to

5 years: $1349
10 years: $1819
20 years: $3310

If you only have a spare $500, here’s what you can expected

5 years: $674
10 years: $910
20 years: $1655.

My Personal Long Term Savings Plan Revealed

It’s really hard to talk about money face to face. Different people are in different situations and it makes it awkward. For the sake of public accountability and just to share what I’m doing, I’ve decided to share my personal savings plan.

Calling it “retirement savings” doesn’t work for me. “Retirement” sounds like something that’s going to happen to someone else, not to me. This is what I call my “long term savings plan.” Renaming it in this way makes me feel like it’s me who is going to get to spend this money!!

At the moment I have around $100,000 invested. The two scenarios below involve me saving $200 per week or $300 a week for 20 years, which will put me at almost 54. Now, saving $300 a week consistently is not something I expect is going to be easy. To achieve this I’m going to need to put every bit of spare money into investments as soon as I get it, but as you can see, I think it will be worth it.

I’ve used a medium rate of return of around 6%, something that should be achievable after taxes and fees.

Here’s what my account should like like after the full 20 years. Clicking on the images will expand them.

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This is the much less impressive projection of what it should look like after the first 10 years. As you can see, it really is time and consistent investing that does the magic with compounding returns.

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The Cost of Waiting to Start Investing

People are often really intimidated by investing. In my view, 30 is the absolute latest you should start. Obviously earlier is better but for any people they won’t do that. Starting at 30 still gives you 40 years until your 70, which in my mind is the point where I don’t want to be doing any paid work anymore. I can imagine that between 55-70, I’d want to scale back but not stop completely. Assuming, I’m around and healthy that long of course.

The graph below shows the change in the amount of money you’d have if you invest for 40 years vs. an alternative strategy where you start regular investing 5 years later. As you can see, the difference in the total amount you invest is only $20,000 but the difference in returns is over $250,000. For these calculations, I’ve used a fairly conservative rate of return of 6%, which is around about what a broad stock market ETF (exchange traded fund) will return. This is when you buy a fund that just tracks the whole market rather than selecting stocks.

If you do this within a tax-free account like a ROTH IRA in the US, then you are all set to keep all of your profits. In my view everyone should be saving $100 a week, religiously. If you can’t do this, there are various ways to hustle to earn that level of extra income, just as working online on a site like odesk or fiverr, or helping a friend out in their business.

The calculator I used for this is from

Traveling for Work Without Your Kids

Torn between your career and your children?

Of course your children will always come first, but you may also have that longing to push yourself professionally and fulfil those career aspirations. Leaving your little ones for a business trip, no matter how long you’re going away for, will break your heart no doubt, but there is some good news, a silver lining on that cloud.

The good news? These days you can do both, and it’s perfectly easy to do once you put a few methods in place

Here’s a few ideas.

Don’t be afraid of lists – Lists are a basic life-saving thing for me. If I think of something, I write it down, and that way I won’t forget it. If you have memory like a sieve, such as I do, then this will be your serious go-to! In the case of heading off on a business trip without your children, then leaving to-do lists and reminders at home will put your mind at rest, that everything is covered, and also inform those left behind at home on what to do. Making checklists is a good idea for things that need to be done at home in your absence. For example, a checklist for the getting out the door to school routine. Here are Sir Richard Branson’s list making tips, which I find quite inspiring.

Skype is your friend – Setting a regular time to Skype video call the kids is the perfect way to stay in touch, both visually and verbally. The phone with just a voice can seem impersonal, don’t you think? Your kids seeing your face will put them at ease, and make you feel better too. Just make sure that you schedule a time that doesn’t disrupt their routine, and maybe just before they go to bed, provided you don’t think it would upset them too much – or you for that matter! Sometimes Skype rates can be very high for calling home from some overseas countries, especially from cell phones. In that case it might be cheaper to explore using an international broadband cellphone service. This is an especially simple option for communicating with places like your child’s preschool or technophobe family members who don’t want to deal with phone apps and the like, since you can just call their regular number.

Consider an au pair – If you travel a lot then employing an au pair might be the best way to go. A live-in au pair will mean your kids are with someone they know well and trust when you’re not there, and also for you, this means your little ones are in the hands of someone you trust too. Go through a reputable agency and draw up a list of questions you want to ask before you start interviewing. Picking the right candidate will mean you have utter peace of mind.

Involve the kids – If you have children who are of an age to understand the places you’re travelling to and how you’re getting there, sit down before you go and tell them stories about the place you’re going to, and how you’re going to get there, such as the flight etc. This will help them see your business trip as something positive and fun, and they will be wanting to know all about it when you get home. Take lots of photographs too, which you can email them to show them what you’re doing while you’re away.

Special treats – Create a ritual that only happens when you go away. For example, whoever looks after your children when you’re not there, get them to take the kids to the cinema and make this a recurring thing that happens when you go away on your business trips. Another idea could be a movie night with snacks, popcorn etc. This will help make your going away something for them to look forward to for another reason, and take their minds off the fact that you’re not there.

The important thing to remember is reassurance that you’re only going away for a few days, and that way time will pass much quicker. These days, us women are increasingly business-oriented, as well as being as maternal as we ever have been. Yes, you can do both, and yes, it can work!

Moms’ break in Barcelona

A holiday with the girls, sans children – does this sound like your dream break right now?

Whilst I’m not going to say that anyone really enjoys leaving behind their little bundle, or bundles, of joy, there are some times when touching base with female friends is just needed, don’t you find? Fun times with the girls can’t be beaten.

Barcelona is a great choice of destination for such a catch up, and there’s lots to do, more than you’ll ever fit into a few days. As with any city break, you need comfortable shoes. Okay, you need fashionable, comfortable shoes, I’ll rephrase that!

Get yourself glammed up, get yourself looking sleek and sophisticated, it’s time to hit the city, Spanish style!

1) Tapas!

The famous Spanish way of eating has to be consumed in Barcelona; I’m sure it’s the law or something, and if it’s not then it should be! The traditional way is to have pintxos which are basically small dishes, tapas, which are served on a slice of bread. Munch whilst you’re gossiping and catching up, and you usually eat them with toothpicks.

2) Get cultural

When you have your kids in tow, it’s not always easy to really explore what you’re seeing, because you’re too busy keeping an eye on everyone and seeing to their needs. This is your chance to immerse yourself! Barcelona is one of Europe’s most cultural cities, and if you head to one of the many museums or galleries, such as the Fundacio Joan Miro, then you’ll really be in for a treat. A girly cultural few hours, with a few drinks afterwards maybe?

History-wise, the Museu d’Historia is the perfect choice.

3) Chow down some paella

Someone else cooking for you? Yes please! Seafood is famous in Spain as a whole, but it is especially fresh and delicious in Barcelona. Paella is practically the national dish, so it would be a crime not to eat it whilst on your visit. It’s like going to Rome and not eating pizza!

4) Indulge in your sweet tooth

There are some serious top-quality confectionery stores in Barcelona, and some, like Papabubble, let you watch demonstrations whilst they make their mouth-watering products! Tired of buying sweets for the kids but never getting any for yourself? This is for you! Of course, you could also purchase a few to take home as a treat for your children.

5) Beach time

A girly day on the beach is just the ticket! Escape the hustle and bustle of the city to one of Barcelona’s close-by beaches. There are several, but Sant Sebastia is a popular one.

6) Retail therapy!

The ultimate girls’ activity! You’ll find high street stores, such as Mango, and designer labels lining the streets of the city, but Passeig de Gracia is the most famous shopping district of the city. This is where you’ll find the most affordable stores too, so perhaps start there and leave the window shopping to the designer stores, that’s certainly what I’d be doing!

7) Girl’s night out

Freedom, your friends, a new city – this all adds up to a delicious recipe. Cocktails on one of the outdoor terraces on the La Ramblas, followed by clubbing it up at one of the many hot nightlife spots around the city. There are countless clubs, but Razzmatazz is one of the most popular, and oldest – perfect for dancing around your handbags. Cabs in Europe tend to be pricey so if you’re going to be heading out on the town perhaps pick a centrally located hotel, many of which are modern European in style.
Just seven suggestions there for a moms’ break in the Spanish city of Barcelona. Catching up on gossip, enjoying freedom time with friends, and basically catching up on YOU – the perfect time you could spend, before returning home to the ones you truly can’t do without.

photo credit: Luis Hernandez – cc

Simple Tips for Managing Your Investments

1. Everyone should have an investment plan.

This should consist of

1. Criteria for adding an investment to your watchlist.
2. Entry criteria.
3. Exit criteria.
4. Routines – specifically scheduled routines e.g., I’m going to invest in a broad based ETF (like VTI) once a week on Tuesdays at noon.

Exit criteria is probably more important for stocks than entry criteria.

2. Yahoo finance.

I like Yahoo finance for managing my portfolios. They’ll send a weekly email with the % your portfolio has increased or decreased in the last week as the subject line. They also put the biggest mover in your portfolio in the subject line. Great info without even needing to open the email.

3. If you’re self employed in the US, fully fund your Roth IRA.

This is a no brainer. The big advantage of a ROTH IRA is that you can take your contributions out at any time with no penalty. You only can’t withdraw the profits.

If you keep $25,000 in cash in your Bank of America checking you can get 30 free trades a month through Merrill Edge. This is more than sufficient for me.

Otherwise, you want want to just buy commission free ETFs. Pick the brokerage that offers the ETFs you want on a commission free basis. TD Ameritrade has a pretty good selection. This is a bit limiting but better than nothing. You’ll get free trades for 60 days if you open an account and deposit a minimum of $2000, so you could buy some additional stocks that you plan to just hold, during that period.

4. Don’t think your 30s is too late.

In your early 30s, you still should have 40 years of investing.

Check out this chart from Milford Asset which shows the power of a $10,000 start point, 10% p.a. returns after tax, and an additional contribution of only $50 a month.


10% p.a. after tax is hard to achieve unless you’re using a ROTH IRA where there is no tax. This makes the scenario shown in the chart to be somewhat achievable if you can slightly outperform the overall market (which averages around an 8% p.a. return over long periods).

5. Don’t be scared of mistakes.

You will undoubtedly make a few mistakes in investing. This happens to even the most experienced and capable professional investors. Start small with your stock market investing so that mistakes don’t matter.

Never risk more than 1% of your money on a single stock. You can use stop-loss orders to achieve this. What you would lose if the stop loss order was triggered shouldn’t be more than 1% of your money.

A general rule is that you could put a stop loss in around 3% lower than the stock’s most recent level of support. The support level is where a stock has bounced back from a low. It indicates where people start to view the stock as cheap and come in and buy when the price goes down. You can see the support level if you eyeball a chart of the stock, which you can easily do online.

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. These are just my opinions.