Treat yo’ self

I WATCHED a particular TV series and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

If there is one TV series you bother to watch, make it Parks and Recreation.

If you love Chris Pratt, fourth-wall commentary and epic one-liners, this show is for you.

Parks and Rec teaches its audience many things, such as standing up for what you believe in, how strong friendships can get you through anything, and that breakfast foods are the only foods worth consuming.

There is however, one aspect of the show that stood out for me.

Tom and Donna’s annual ritual.

Three words.

Treat.

Yo.

Self.

Once a year, these two characters spend an entire day doing whatever they want.

Clothes, fragrances, massages, mimosas and fine leather goods are nearly always on the agenda, and, no matter the price, on this day, Tom and Donna treat themselves to anything.

The point of me telling you this is I believe everyone needs to treat themselves.

Now, don’t think this is me encouraging you to take out massive loans to buy Ferraris you can’t afford, or to go on a six-month overseas holiday without telling your boss.

This is me, reminding you, that you need to look after yourself first and foremost.

Whether you are single, married, laden with children or just taking what life throws at you, a priority should always be looking after yourself.

I know it’s easier said than done, but it is important.

Every now and then, do something that makes you happy.

Whether that’s a new summer dress, a nice coffee, a walk on the beach or simply washing your car, take a few minutes a week (at least) to do something for yourself.

In this world, we are told too many things about how we should act and what we should do.

Once you’ve allocated enough time and money to your home, utilities, food and children, make sure there’s something left for you.

Unlike Tom and Donna, ‘treat yo self’ days don’t have to be about blowing all your hard-earned cash.

The idea of their shopping spree is about spending time together and enjoying the privileges of working hard and earning money and living where they do.

We are spoiled for choice in Albany for our ‘treat yo self’ days.

You can go to many different boutique stores or enjoy a coffee while overlooking our pristine oceans, visit historic sites or watch live entertainment close by, or simply drive along our coastline and breathe in the fresh air.

I have a bit of a naughty habit of treating myself very regularly to the odd hot chocolate, or shoes, or nugs, but hey, if you can afford it, why not?

Life is short, live it!

I am a firm believer of grabbing life by the berries and reaping all the fruit it has to give.

No one is going to live your life for you, so make sure yours is the best it can be.

Want a few ideas for ‘treat yo self’ days?

Pack some fresh fruit, some drinks, a hat and a book, and sit yourself down at Middleton Beach on a sunny day.

Buy yourself a coffee and, starting from the top, walk down the entire length of York Street and back on both sides of the street.

Go to your favourite shop and give yourself $50 to spend on something special for the new season.

Take your kids down to the park and enjoy being in the sunshine with them, and listen to their cute giggles and squeals of excitement.

Get on the swing yourself and remember how it feels to fly.

It really is some of the simple things in life that can give you the most happiness.

Just remember to ‘treat yo self’ to them every now and then.

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Keep your eyes on the road

LEARNING to drive is the best thing and the scariest thing ever.

Well, not ever, but hey, when you’re 16, everything is measured in extremes.

Being able to drive yourself around is a freedom most of us take for granted.

When you first get your red P-plates, that freedom is a newfound sensation, an overwhelming feeling, and is just super awesome.

I remember the day my licence rolled over to green P-plates, (which have no midnight to 5am curfew like red plates do), and the first thing I said to Mum was: hey Mum, can I go for a drive at 12.01am just to prove I can?

The answer was no, obviously, because I wanted to take her cool car and I was meant to be in bed, but hey, if I needed to, I could drive after midnight.

Obviously late-night driving isn’t the ultimate aim of getting a driver’s licence, but it is certainly one of the perks.

One of the best things ever after getting my licence was being able to go out and stay out late, because I didn’t have to rely on my parents to pick me up.

Of course, that also meant I became a free taxi to my mates, but that’s another story.

At the moment, my younger sister is learning how to drive.

It has brought back all the nostalgia of my trips in the car with Dad or Mum, and the memories of learning how to not crash the car.

I got my manual licence – best decision ever.

Despite kangaroo-hopping for the first few weeks of my L-plates, I got the hang of the clutch eventually and I was off.

Once I got my P-plates, I could drive any car, which meant I was never restricted to what wheel I could get behind.

This also meant saving a lot of peoples’ butts when they were, ahem, unable to drive.

But before you can become a superhero driver, you have to do the hard yards.

I know a lot of 16-year-olds out there don’t particularly fancy listening to their parents or driving instructors and hanging on to their every word, but really, it’s totally worth it when they are teaching you how to drive.

They do actually know what they’re talking about; most of them have been driving longer than we’ve been alive.

Before my Ls, the closest I had been to behind the wheel was the passenger’s seat, and until you switch sides of the car, you won’t believe how different everything is.

You are on the opposite side of the car, so you have to get used to the car’s road position from a different perspective.

You are also closer to the oncoming cars, and that’s a bit daunting when you pass your first road train.

You literally have to keep your eyes on the road the entire time you are driving, because one second in real time is like, 10 seconds in driving time.

A split-second look away can mean the difference between waving at the cyclist as they go past, and sending them head-first into the ditch.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, so making sure you are safe on the roads and are respectful of other drivers is super important.

Yes, you will get the odd person pull out in front of you, or flip you off as you go around the roundabout, but the main thing to focus on is your car and the passengers within it.

Being behind the wheel means being responsible for other peoples’ lives, so make sure you look after them.

Don’t be tempted to go that little bit faster to pull out in front of that truck so you can get to Maccas before they close.

Take your time, enjoy the ride, and enjoy the privilege of riding solo.

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Heartbreak Hotel

A BROKEN heart is something that never truly heals.

Yes, that sounds incredibly deep and meaningful coming from me, but hey, follow me on this one.

When you are a kid, your heart is bursting with happiness and smiles and love and innocence.

As time goes by and you get older, that bright, loving heart can shrink, or fall apart, or start to drain of its colour.

That’s life, unfortunately.

What matters, is how you deal with it.

Heartbreak can change your thinking on life.

It can force you to see toxicity in your life, or make you grateful for those around you.

It can help you learn coping mechanisms, or make you see another side of the human condition.

Heartbreak comes in many forms; be it seeing your parent walk out on your family for another, not seeing a loved one ever again, or saying goodbye to a beloved childhood pet, heartbreak is something everyone experiences in their lifetime.

As horrible as it is, heartbreak is something that helps define who we are.

At some stage in your life, you will lose something, because despite messages from jewellers, nothing is forever.

Part of becoming an adult is learning how to cope with that and maintaining the strength to keep going.

In my twenty-something years of existence, my heart has been broken three times.

The details of each of these three days will forever be etched in my memory.

When I was eight, I lost my nanna to cancer.

I remember pulling up the blinds on my bedroom window and sitting and staring up at the sky, endless tears streaming down my face as I kept asking the sky, why her?

It’s not fair.

When I was 18, I watched a beloved friend lay their father to rest.

I walked beside my friend as they carried their father’s coffin down the path, crying too many tears for me to catch and shaking under the weight of grief and loss.

When I was 20, I turned away from what I thought was going to be my ‘forever.’

My heart wrenched and tore into two as I drove away from him for the final time, caught up in a tornado of devastation and confusion and disbelief, feeling sick to my absolute core for weeks.

These memories will always be with me, no matter how much I try to push them away.

Whether I like it or not, these experiences have helped shape who I am today.

When shaken by this grief, I have learned how to deal with difficult scenarios and have built up my resilience.

I have learned it is okay to let your guard down and let feelings overwhelm you for a moment.

It is okay to shut out the world and just be sad, because it is important to let emotion have an outlet.

It is okay to talk to people or simply sit in silence with them, because simple companionship can be just what you need when you are sad or angry.

I am eternally grateful to the people who supported me during my three heartbreaks, but ultimately, I am grateful to myself.

I let myself deal with these emotions and I worked hard and I continued on with my life.

We only live once, so we can’t let things bog us down.

Book your stay at Heartbreak Hotel and stay for as long as you need, but remember: it is only a hotel, and it is only temporary.

Let yourself grieve or scream or rage or sigh.

But then, keep going.

Get back on that bike of yours, no matter how battered it might be, and keep going.

Even though you might have fallen off while trying to conquer those potholes and dips in the road, just tighten the grip on those handlebars and just keep pedalling.

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Giving gifts of gold

FINDING the ultimate gift is a skill I have acquired over the years.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am highly competitive.

Very, highly competitive.

As in, I will eat that extra bite of dessert despite feeling bloated and sick just to prove I ate more than someone else.

My competitive streak will get me into trouble one day.

Because of my competitive nature, finding the perfect gift for someone is a challenge I will never decline nor fail at.

(I think modesty is a gift I need to give to myself).

Christmas is less than eight weeks away, so my soul-searching for gifts is well and truly underway.

Especially because online purchases can get delayed and in-store stock can get short during December, now is the time to put away the Christmas goodies early and avoid stress shopping later on.

My bedroom cupboard already has a few Christmas gifts tucked away under hats and dressing gowns.

I think I get my love of gift-giving from my mum.

I get super excited when I watch someone open a gift from me, and I wait with wide, eager eyes to see their response.

Anyways, back to Mum.

My mum loves Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve.

She loves being amongst the ‘atmosphere’ of a buzzing shopping centre and finding last-minute stocking fillers.

My dad on the hand, hates last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve.

For him, there are too many people, too many massive queues at the checkout, and those annoying people who feel the need to let their children run around and bump into trolleys erk him.

Fair enough, I say!

The tendency to avoid Christmas shopping like the plague (like my Dad) and run with the old ‘my presence is your present’ can be avoided if you just sit down and have a bit of a think about who you’re buying for and what you want to get them, before facing the sometimes-daunting trip to the shops.

You don’t have to buy the most lavish present in the world, or try and beat everyone else’s gift.

Instead, focus on something you think will really mean something to someone.

Even if it’s simply a packet of pens for that person who always loses them before an exam, a cute water bottle for your gym junkie friend, or a beautiful bracelet you know your girlfriend has been secretly eyeing off for months; it’s the fact you have put thought and effort behind your gift that counts.

I think one of the best feelings in the world is receiving a really well-thought-out gift, because you know the giver of that gift really cares about you.

One of my favourite Christmas presents as a kid was my purple iPod shuffle.

Yep, the little tiny square ones that could only hold music, back before the days of games and cameras on iPods.

Here’s the thing: I was more excited about the big red bow on the iPod box, because I had specifically asked Santa for a purple iPod shuffle with a big red bow.

My mum has a photo of me from that morning, and I don’t think my smile has grinned any bigger than that moment, because my purple iPod shuffle had a big red bow.

It’s the little things that can count most when it comes to Christmas gifts.

So, my tip for Christmas shopping is this: don’t leave it until the last minute.

This will put you under unnecessary pressure and take away the joy of giving.

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I wanna getaway

FEEL free to disagree with me here, but I think one of the best parts about going on holiday is the hour before leaving.

You’re at work, you’re watching the clock, and the butterflies start to kick in.

You’re speedily typing final emails, tidying your desk and finishing that last sip of coffee.

The building anticipation of leaving routine life behind gnaws at you, because freedom is finally within your reach.

The snowy-capped mountains of France, the sun-soaked streets of the Gold Coast, the pristine oceans and exotic allure of Greece or simply the shopping centres of Perth are calling your name.

I love holidays.

The satisfaction of submitting an approved leave form and smirking goodbye to your colleagues when you knock off is unbeatable.

The moment you leave the office, get in your car, grab the usual chocky milk at the servo, and head off with suitcases in tow is a moment I would like to re-live more often.

Unfortunately, life costs money and we need to work for money, so holidays are often more irregular then we’d like.

So, make every moment count when you’re away.

Some people prefer to have every day of a holiday meticulously organised, right down to what meal they will eat at a particular restaurant and the order of paintings they want to see at a museum.

Others have a more blasé approach, and would rather wake up whenever and choose the next part of the holiday depending on their mood.

I am in the middle of these two planning techniques.

I like to have a bit of plan, because I hate umm-ing and ahh-ing about what to do next, as I get bored very easily.

But, I don’t like being rushed, because you have to rush around in normal everyday life and holidays are (supposedly) about relaxing.

Having a general idea of what you’ll do on each day is helpful, especially if you have children or are on a short break.

Your travel destination will determine your activities, but if all else fails and you are completely lost about choosing what to do, go the safe option.

Go full tourist.

Get out your camera and take heaps of happy snaps; in front of a cool building, by a weird shop sign, in a fountain or eating a colourful snack.

But, don’t get so carried away taking photos that you don’t appreciate where you are.

Get out in the new air, walk around or cycle around and just enjoy being where you are.

Taking photos can be a good launching point to finding cool things to see and do.

When you start seeking good photo opportunities, you will open your eyes wider and see things you probably missed when your eyes were down googling on your phone.

That’s half the fun of a holiday; finding stuff you wouldn’t have thought to search online.

One of the most enjoyable moments on my last holiday was simply sitting on a jetty and taking in a new view of the ocean.

Sometimes it’s the little things on a holiday that make it one to remember.

So, keep this in mind: the idea of a holiday is to experience something new, enjoy accommodation that’s a bit different to home, and to come back to reality refreshed.

Take the time to find something fun, something interesting and something different for your next holiday, and I am certain you will have the time of your life.

(Unless you’re heading to volcano territory, then I suggest your ‘something interesting’ is not trying to take a selfie with lava).

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Contiki or career?

AH, the magical, mysterious gap year.

Urban Dictionary definition: the time spent while you have a visibly broken tooth, but are either too afraid of the dentist or too broke to get it repaired.

“What’s wrong with your face?”

“I’m having a gap year!”

Think you got the wrong end of the stick, Urban Dictionary.

Unless you plan on using said stick to traipse through the Amazon rainforest while on your gap year, I’d ignore any future advice from Urban Dictionary.

A gap year is the time after high school, generally between graduating from year 12 and your first year of tertiary education, where people ‘find themselves’, travel and work their butts off to earn study allowances.

What did I do for my gap year?

Nothing exciting, to my disappointment.

But hey, I’m sure I’ll have a crazy Contiki tour at some stage of my life.

The purpose of my story today is to help you have an awesome gap year.

Ironic, coming from someone who didn’t really have an epic gap year, but hey, I can tell you what I should have done or wanted to do!

First thing I would recommend: while you are still at school, keep your eyes on the lookout for jobs that might start popping up.

(A clue, businesses will start hiring extra workers before the mad Christmas rush).

But don’t overload yourself going cray trying to find work when you are finishing off year 12.

I think the perfect balance in a gap year requires a bit of work, a bit of play, and lots of memories.

(Yes, I sound like a sap, but just go with me here).

The time after high school is precious.

For me, it was the time where 50 trillion things happened, but those things helped me choose what I wanted for myself.

After that year, a fair amount of my mates took off to big P-city or across the country.

Your gap year is a time where true friendships really strengthen.

You figure out who you actually like, and who you just tolerated because you had to see them five days a week.

You also learn a bit more about yourself, because you aren’t surrounded by structure and timetables and rules.

You can do what you want, really (to some degree).

This is a slight risk for people such as myself, where the temptation to watch Vampire Diaries on repeat outweighs the desire to go to a late-night shift.

But hey, a gap year is a time for learning and learn I did.

I learned that your first real-life income is exciting yet can disappear pretty quickly, especially if you like nugs and shoes as much as me.

I learned that you have to make a conscious effort to see friends, because you no longer run into them in the school hallways.

I learned that it’s okay if you don’t go away on a massive holiday across the universe and meet George Clooney quite yet.

I’ll be perfectly honest here, I spent nights upset at myself because I wasn’t going on European holidays or going to uni parties in Perth, because I chose to stay in Albany instead.

But hey, I’m not too bad a person now.

So, three quick tips:

1: Take each day at a time; don’t freak out about things out of your control.

2: Follow your heart (yes, cheesy/10 but it’s true). If you want to do something, just do it. Eat your heart out, Shia LaBeouf.

3: Don’t let worry hold you back. There’s a quote one of my beautiful friends told me the other day – don’t borrow worry from tomorrow.

So, face your gap year head-on and go for it!

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Meeting the in-laws

In the stern words of Jack Byrnes: “Let me put it very simply. If your family’s circle does indeed join my family’s circle, they’ll form a chain. I can’t have a chink in my chain.”

After the release of comedy films Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, people from all walks of life could breathe a sigh of relief, because at least their father-in-law wasn’t as nightmare-ish as Jack and their grandchildren wouldn’t become little Fockers.

However, I am sure there were a few moments in those movies all people could relate to, and a few times people have thought they would become the unapproved ‘chink’ in the new family chain.

There’s always the awkward moment of using the future in-law’s bathroom for the first time, and of something going wrong, losing the family pet you were entrusted with, or being interrogated by aunties and cousins.

Not all in-laws are as frightening as the movies suggest, but meeting them can be a nerve-wracking experience for any new boyfriend or girlfriend.

Picture this: you walk into an unfamiliar house, hand in hand with your partner, and all eyes follow you as you cross the room.

Curiosity and uncertainty radiates from each person, as you shake their hands and are introduced to parents, cousins, friends and grandparents.

Names go in one ear and out the other, while you try to at least remember each person’s relation to your partner.

The first time I met potential in-laws, I remember questioning every detail about myself.

Was my hair nice enough? Am I dressed properly? What has already been said about me? Can I hold hands with my partner in front of them or is that weird?

Your brain can go into hyperdrive and you start to assume everyone hates you.

The Spanish Inquisition seems more appealing.

Going into these types of situations can make you over-analyse everything.

If they ask about your job, will it make you look underqualified or snootily overqualified, or will you gain respect for holding employment?

Will your chosen black clothing make you seem gothic and questionable, or give off a classy, timeless look?

Here’s the thing: your parents count as potential in-laws too, and they aren’t scary (mostly), so give the future in-laws a chance!

Meeting the in-laws used to be something you would do after a marriage proposal, but these days, families meet when a couple is simply dating, or are close friends.

Particularly with the role of social media in relationships, potential in-laws have more than likely already seen your face and that video of the pizza you smashed back in a minute one drunken night.

For some, meeting the family isn’t a big deal.

When you are in the dating game at a younger age, it’s more than likely you still live at home, so whenever your partner picks you up to go out, your parents or siblings will probably answer the door to them.

Depending on your family’s culture and your living circumstances, meeting the in-laws can either be a super intense, highly planned event, or a casual hello as you pick up the jumper you left at their house.

Back in the day of primary and secondary school boyfriends and girlfriends, most people didn’t have a driver’s license, and therefore relied on parents to do the carpooling.

You would meet the parents at school drop-off, down at the beach or before the movie starts at the cinema.

Despite the apprehension and unease surrounding meeting the in-laws, it isn’t always as scary as it can seem.

Just be yourself, be confident, be polite and don’t undersell yourself.

One tip?

Don’t wear that tight, low-cut number.

The in-laws’ dress preferences will probably not coincide with your partner’s favourites.

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Dress to be the best

MY WORST nightmare is the sheer thought of attending an event underdressed.

Seriously, I wake up in hot sweats just thinking of turning up to a wedding in daggy jeans or trackies, because I misread the invitation as ‘weeding day’.

Honestly, for someone who always does their best to dress well, there is nothing worse to me than not knowing what to wear.

Do you know what irks me? You’re invited to a gatho and you ask the host, what’s the dress code?

Their reply: ah, it’s just casual or something, just wear whatever. Oh, but don’t be too fancy.

Apparently, I have a bit of a reputation for over-dressing for occasions.

Nothing wrong with standards, people!

I am actually allergic to trackies.

Now, my interpretation of ‘casual’ is far different to a lot of people.

My ‘casual’ can range from a hoodie (a pretty one with no holes), to high heels with jeans.

For others, ‘casual’ can mean no shower, knotty hair and trackies.

See my problem?

I think there needs to be a complete overhaul of dress codes to match the times.

There are a bunch of Q&A sites and articles online with people asking ‘what do I wear to a wedding at 4pm?’, ‘is colour okay for a funeral?’ and ‘can I just wear black jeans to a black-tie event?’.

There are some seriously weird dress codes, like ‘business casual’, ‘creative black tie’ and ‘festive’.

Does a ‘festive’ dress code mean the most sparkly gown I own or reindeer ears and a cheesy sweater?

I propose new definitions of dress codes.

Let’s start with maximum overdrive.

Black tie/formal: Guys, this is an easy one for you – think James Bond. No, not your West Coast Eagles or bacon-themed tie.

Be classy.

Ladies, a ball gown, floor-length dress or a cocktail dress with statement jewellery will work.

High heels are generally the go.

Go full Beyonce-mode.

Cocktail: Blokes, put on your dress pants and dress shirt, but don’t feel you have to wear a tie.

Think of ‘cocktail’ as black tie in warmer weather.

Ladies, a cocktail dress is obviously the safest bet.

A knee-lengthish dress, optional high heels and perhaps a cute clutch as opposed to a chunky, heavy handbag.

Business formal: this is more for daytime functions, so go with your neatest work outfit, instead of blingy jewellery and semi-revealing outfits.

Dress pants, pencil skirts, tailored dresses, dress shirts and ties are the best options.

No jeans!

Dressy casual: this is my everyday safe option.

This can include a summery dress with flats or sandals, jeans with heels, neat jeans and a blazer, and casual button-up shirts.

Think going for coffee downtown or at the beach during spring.

Casual: most people’s favourite option.

‘Casual’ can range from slippers, trackies and a jumper, to jeans and trainers.

Depending on whether you are going to your nan’s for tea or having your girlfriend over for a movie night, I am sure you can adapt your ‘casual’ to give off the right vibe.

Honestly, putting in the effort to dress well, be it simply ironing that crinkly top or cleaning up the scuffs on your shoes, can make you feel good and let the world know you feel good.

Happiness is infectious, and if the world sees you feeling good about yourself, they might feel the tug of a smile too.

P.S. People totally notice if you are making an effort to dress properly.

The good type of noticing.

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These battle scars

I WANT to tell you a story today, but it’s a bit different from our usual chat.

I think it’s a story that needs to be told, because I don’t want people to feel alone anymore.

Here goes.

My first panic attack occurred a few months after I finished high school.

I was driving at night, lost complete confidence in my ability to be behind the wheel, my vision blurred, my heart was threatening to rip through my chest, I burst into tears and I had the most awful, gut-wrenching feeling of utter fear.

I was on the side of the road, afraid of my car, thinking I was going to die.

Thus began my downward spiral.

I was Alice in freaking Horrorland.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am quite extroverted.

In the days after the incident, I became so introverted that I barely recognised myself.

I became my anxiety.

Initially, I was okay.

I had scared myself, but carried on as normal.

But something just wasn’t quite right.

I became highly irritable and I twitched a lot, at every loud noise or sudden movement.

I was hypersensitive and numb to things, at the same time.

All I wanted to do was curl up in bed or on the couch all day, where I couldn’t feel disassociated or dazed.

I refused to get into a car.

I lost 5kg in a matter of days.

I couldn’t eat, I didn’t want to go out; I could barely function.

I quit my job because I became so anxious around too many people and noise and weird lighting.

My doctor said I was showing symptoms of anxiety and panic disorder.

I trembled the entire drive to and from the doctor’s office.

I endlessly researched my symptoms and discovered all the possible treatments.

I refused to believe I had a form of mental illness, because mental illness could not be cured with a week of antibiotics and bed rest.

But nothing could cure it overnight.

Trust me, with the endless hours I spent online, I would have found a cure by now.

I considered medication, hypnotherapy, a psychologist, brain surgery, and whether I had a physical illness that just produced similar symptoms.

I wanted an instant cure because I was so scared of an illness that was not yet fully understood and cured by science.

The worst part was seeing people turn away in fear as I shook and hyperventilated, trying to breathe with no air.

It took me more than a year to comprehend that the cause of my anxiety was undisclosed.

The sole purpose of me telling you my story is that I want you to be brave.

I want you to ask for help when you need it.

Because it is okay to not be okay.

What isn’t okay is to let it consume you.

I was consumed by my anxiety for months.

Some people are consumed by it for years.

I still get the odd feeling of disassociation in a shopping centre, and get twitchy when I am super tired.

I only started to become myself again once I had acknowledged my anxiety, and decided I wanted to figure out how to cope with it.

No matter how far you think you have fallen down the rabbit hole, there is always a ladder waiting to help you up.

Be that ladder a person, medical assistance, self-help or a combination of a few things, you have a ladder.

You just need to let yourself start to climb it.

As I always say, step by step.

My first step?

My name is Ash and I suffer from anxiety.

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Listen to the money talk

I WANT to talk about money.

Cold, hard cash.

Dough.

The dollar, dollar bills.

Some say invest everything – in real estate, shares, a business or an idea.

Some say save every dime and penny.

Others will avoid the topic all together, which isn’t particularly helpful when you are a 20-something year old and don’t know if you should buy a house or a bigger piggy bank.

Let’s start with houses.

Houses seem super expensive, particularly when you are used to whinging about a $4 takeaway hot chocolate and the $9.95 postage on Ozsale packages.

I saw a house in the paper last week and it was around the $300,000 mark.

Apparently, this average price is recommended for first-home buyers.

I said to my dad, “How am I meant to buy some- thing like that when I cringe at a $25 taxi bill, let alone a real-life, adult mortgage?!”

“Well, Ash, stop buying chicken nuggets and start saving.”

Yeah, easier said than done, thanks Dad.

So as usual, I went on a 15-minute rant about how impossible saving that much money is, and if I tried to save a decent deposit by putting away a portion of my income each week, I would be buying a house for my 50th birthday.

I would really like to buy a house before then.

Instead of freaking out about house prices like I did, I’d recommend talking to an actually qualified person.

There are loads of financial advisors in town who can work out what sort of loan you can afford based on your current income, and how much you need to save for a deposit.

There are also things like SmoothStart, which offer affordable house packages for first-home owners.

Don’t shut down the idea of buying or building a house before you have properly investigated your eligibility.

You will probably be surprised.

The world isn’t totally out to get us young people, believe it or not.

Only sometimes.

A house or a block of land is a great investment, as it can give you a place to live or build on, or even rent out, as well as holding some financial value.

Real estate is a good way of having something to your name; an asset.

It’s something to think about.

Now, budgets.

Working out a weekly budget is a super important thing, regardless of your situation.

Being left with $2.50 of your wage three days from payday is never a good feeling, so be sure to allocate adequate funds to each of your weekly spends.

Regularly work out how much you need for food shopping, rent or mortgage repayments, car maintenance and the array of utility bills that always sneak up on you a day before payday.

One piece of advice I hope you can take away from today is ask people who actually know what they are talking about!

There are people out there whose job it is to literally advise you on money.

Money worries are common amongst people of all ages, and it’s something that can have a negative impact on your life.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be a worry you face alone.

But hey, laying off the chicken nuggets and online bargains may slightly help.

So, go; seek, spend, save!

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