Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Saving for a Rainy Day?

reproduced under Creative Commons license
Well, we’re a few weeks in to the PKTMNY project and the kids are really getting into the idea of saving for goals. They’ve both been furiously adding items to their Wishlists and regularly reviewing what’s on there in terms of amounts saved.

Their cards came through the post and they couldn’t wait for me to register them (and set withdrawal and spending limits – which I’d done when I opened their accounts anyway).  They haven’t remembered their pin numbers (they can barely remember what they’re supposed to do from one minute to the next at times!) but they can click on their page to get it again once they need it.

Are they enthusiastic about PKTMNY? Absolutely.

Do they love the website and having a debit card? Definitely.

Do they like setting up goals and wishlists and monitoring their tasks? Yep.

Does this translate into them actually doing the tasks? Erm, well, hmmm…

My son has downgraded his goal from a PSVita to a Beyblade (wise child) and my daughter has put hairclips on her list so that shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.  And they’re very enthusiastic about it.  The problem is though, that their enthusiasm doesn’t last beyond us checking their accounts and activity each week.

They’ve already learned to aim for achievable items – like a Beyblade or hairclips – rather than big ticket items and that came purely from being able to see in front of them just how big a gap there was between their pocket money savings and what they wanted.  Far more effective than me simply telling them that they would have to save up for years.

They’ve also learned a little bit about security – we had a long chat about how you had to remember your pin and not write it down or anyone could steal it.  Not only did that ensure they had an almost secret squirrel operation around getting their pin – with neither sibling allowed to be present while the other checked – but they’re also hugely impressed by the fact that their mother can remember 4 pin numbers!

Personally, I like the PKTMNY website.  I think it’s a great idea and both my children love the visual aspect to it, particularly being able to see what they’re trying to achieve and how much they have to spend. 

I suspect though that they’re just a wee bit on the young side (9 and 6) for it to translate into them carrying out tasks to earn pocket money.  That said, they’re far more enthusiastic about the idea that they were before so I’ll be sticking to using PKTMNY. 

It will take a lot more input from me – in terms of cajoling them to do their tasks – than I had hoped.  But then again, perhaps I’m being unrealistic about what a 9 and 6 year old will do to help out around the house.

This post is part of a project with BritMums, sponsored by PKTMNY, highlighting its launch. The new tool allows parents to easily pay and monitor their children's pocket money online, whilst allowing their children to earn, save, spend and manage their money in a totally safe and fun way. We have been trailing the service and all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Friday, 7 December 2012

It’s Pocket Money Day!

Being a thrifty sort of a mummy (the clue IS in the name), I’ve always tried to encourage my two to save attempting the old ‘pocket money in exchange for tasks’ technique with varying degrees of success.   

They are only 9 and 6, so I’m realistic about how much they will help around the house – or how much they will save – but, as they know that I won’t waste £2.99 on a comic, they do (when they remember) attempt to earn enough to cover the cost themselves.  The problem, of course, is that they (and me) quite often forget what they’re supposed to be doing and when – especially when the other ‘stuff’ gets in the way – like school, homework, swimming lessons, rugby, ballet and the rest.

So, our patchy approach to pocket money, I jumped at the chance to get better organised by taking part in testing out a new site aimed at encouraging kids saving habits. 

PKTMNY is a website that helps parents to monitor their kids spending (and decide how much they’re going to give them!) while the children themselves get their own debit card (don’t worry, you set the spending limit) and can save for items on their ‘wishlist’ (which they post on their page as a nice visual goal to aim for).  All sounds good, I thought, and in this tech savvy day and age, something that my two would probably be more interested in.

On setting up their accounts, I had the choice of setting up regular pocket money, paying one-off amounts (presumably for ‘special’ treats) and paying money for completion of specific tasks.   
Set them tasks and tick them off as they're done - simple!

Being a mean sort *evil laugh* I’ve only set it up for the latter.  I already save for my children in other ways and really wanted to use this site to encourage them to save money while also helping out.  I like the idea of being financially rewarded for tasks – it’s how the world of work operates after all – so I don’t think it’s too bad a lesson to learn.  Or one that can be learned too early.

So, two weeks in and the kid’s cards have arrived (much excitement on their part).  However, their earnings have been pitifully low.  ‘Oh no, are we back in the cycle of us all forgetting and it all falling flat on its face?’ 

Well, I actually think probably not.  Part of the problem has been the time of year – it’s Christmas with all the accompanying activities and ridiculous amounts of end of term homework – so in other words, it’s been the busiest couple of weeks so far this year.

But last night, when they sat down with me to ‘get paid’, they could see the tasks they had and hadn’t done alongside how much they could have earned.  There’s nothing like a visual reminder to send a message home.   

Rather than arguing with me that they had fed the cats (who were meowing through hunger at our feet at the time!) they were both rather sheepish on discovering how little they’d achieved when I only ticked 2 out of the possible 5 tasks for my eldest and 2 out of the 3 for my youngest.  However, rather than the usual whining about how they’d forgotten (which usually quickly escalates into how totally unfair life is) there was instead lots of chat between the two of them about how they were going to help this week; how much they would have by this Saturday and how much they might have by the end of the year.  So, judging by their very enthusiastic discussions, I am cautiously optimistic.

My two are still young but I think it’s important for them to earn their own money.  I earned pocket money as a child and that really helped me to become a saver.  I remember getting my first part-time job when I was still at school and saving until I had enough to pay for driving lessons.  I was very proud of the fact that I paid for them myself and never had to ask my parents to shell out.  
The kids can keep an eye on their savings going up via the website

I hope that getting the children enthusiastic about saving will set them on the same path.  And the very visual way that the PKTMNY site does this – with obvious rewards and goals to aim for – might be just the way to do it! 

That said, with a current balance of £4, I think it's fair to say that Cheeky Boy is a long way off buying the PS Vita on his Wishlist but you've gotta have a dream!

This post is part of a project with BritMums, sponsored by PKTMNY, highlighting its launch. The new tool allows parents to easily pay and monitor their children's pocket money online, whilst allowing their children to earn, save, spend and manage their money in a totally safe and fun way. We have been trailing the service and all thoughts and opinions are our own.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Gluten Free Flour Mix - courtesy of Phil Vickery

Having just blogged about my gluten free Christmas cake (adapted from Phil Vickery's fabulous recipe), here's the gluten free flour mix that you need for it:

Combine 300g fine polenta or chestnut flour
500g brown rice flour
200g cornflour

And that's it!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gluten Free Christmas Cake

Every year, I always made a Christmas cake.  I'm not hugely keen on the iced version but had an old recipe from a Tesco magazine (circa 1999) that I followed religiously every year.  It was a light cake made with tropical dried fruits and light muscovado sugar - and we all loved it.

Fast forward a few years and here we are: recipe lost 6 years ago in the move to this house (I think I accidentally threw it out!) and my Mum (the Christmas cake's biggest fan) diagnosed as coeliac.  Hmmm, what to do?

Thankfully, Phil Vickery has stepped into the breech with his fabulous gluten free Christmas cake which I've made for a few years now.  So, having enjoyed success with it, this year I decided to revamp it slightly and here is the result (pre-decoration - more of which later) and my version of the recipe (which is very close to Phil's with a few alterations).

350g/12oz raisins
150g/5oz sultanas
50g/2oz mixed peel
150ml/1/4pint sherry
zest and juice one lime
vegetable oil, for the tin
140g/5oz gluten free flour mix (use link)
1tsp gluten free baking powder
1tsp xanthan gum (you can buy Doves Farm at Tesco)
1tsp mixed spice
1 tsp all spice
140g/5oz unsalted butter
140g/5oz light muscovado sugar
3 medium free range eggs, at room temperature
50g/2oz ground almonds
2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
100g/4oz natural coloured glace cherries, washed & halved
1tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp smooth apricot jam, warmed
100g/4oz mixed glace fruits (red or green cherries, ginger, melon or pineapple)
50g/2oz nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecan halves)

1. Place the dried fruit and mixed peel in a pan.  Add the sherry, lime zest and juice and bring to the boil.  Take the pan off the heat, cover and leave to soak overnight (or if you forget, like me, over two nights!).  Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2.  
2. Oil and line the base and sides of a 6 - 8cm deep round or square 18cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, including a tall collar sticking up.
3. Sift the flour mix, baking powder, xanthan gum and spices.  In a separate bowl (or if you're lazy like me - in the food processor) beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and light.  Gradually and alternately add the effs and flour mix to the butter and sugar mix, then add the ground almonds.  Stir in the milk, soaked dried fruit and cherries.  Finally, stir in the agave nectar and honey and give everything a good stir.
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin.
5. To decorate (which I haven't done yet this year but will post photos when I have) brush the surface of the cake with half of the warmed jam.  Arrange a selection of glace fruits and nuts over the top and brush over a second layer of jam to glaze.

The cake will keep for up to 1 month (undecorated) tightly wrapped in foil in an airtight container.

When cold, remove the cake from the tin, wrap it (undecorated) in greaseproof paper and two thick layers of foil, then freeze in an airtight container.  Defrost for 3 - 4 hours.  When defrosted, decorate as before.

So here is my cake - will let you know how it tastes in a few weeks time!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Scary Hallowe'en Kids

OK, so I'm a week late with this post but it's not my fault - honest!! The school Hallowe'en disco was a week late as the kids moved into a fabulous new building. So I didn't get to unleash my creativity until this week!

Hallowe'en isn't my favourite time if year. I stress about my kids costumes and I hate how it's become so commercial like Christmas. I also don't like the American-isation of it. We used to dook for apples and go 'guising' which meant dressing up (in disguise hence the name) going round to your neighbours and performing a joke or a song for a wee treat. Half the kids coming to ours just held their hands out for loads of sweets (needless to say, I made them at least tell a joke before they got a thing!)

Anyway, rant over and onto my kids costumes...
Now sewing and are are not bosom buddies so the costumes were a combination of shop bought and distressed by me. I was quite chuffed with my face painting efforts though...