What’s your theme for 2019?

Rin Hamburgh tells the story of how she discovered theming, why it’s a revolutionary practice for business owners, and how you can apply its principles in your own work and life to make sure the new year is your best yet!

Back in November 2014, a word popped into my head. The word was Hope. It kept coming back to me in all sorts of ways – in things I was reading, in conversations I was having. As we headed towards Christmas, I decided that perhaps the following year would be filled with hopes and dreams come true. It was a nice thought.

Sure enough, in 2015 my partner finally passed his driving test and got a promotion. We sold our flat and had an offer accepted on a house. And, most importantly, I fell pregnant and gave birth to two beautiful baby girls. I also tested out a little idea I’d had about using junior freelance writers to help me increase my capacity at work.

As I sat in the hospital with my newborn twins in November 2015, another word popped into my head: Peace. Crazy! How would 2016 be peaceful with not one but two babies around?? Not to mention a house move. I didn’t know then that I’d also be a single mum before January was out, and that I’d launch my new business in the August of that year.

And yet despite 2016 being an absolute whirlwind – with an awful lot of challenges, I’ll admit – somehow a sense of peace did seem to cover the whole year. I held onto that word like a mantra during those sleepless nights, endless hours of breastfeeding, and difficult conversations with lawyers about maintenance and visitation rights.

Knowing how the previous year really had been filled with hope somehow allowed me to believe that peace could maintain me through this one.

The power of theming

I won’t bore you with all the details of the subsequent years – though I can tell you that 2017 was a year of Opportunity and 2018 has had two words, Growth and Balance – but I will tell you why this isn’t an example of me losing it from lack of sleep or too many G&Ts!

In fact, although I honestly had no idea at the time, theming your year is something of a recent trend.

It’s a technique that Mike Vardy, productivity strategist, speaker and author of The Productivityist Playbook talked about in an interview in Forbes last year. Vardy has three words, which he picks in August because he likes to start his year in September.

He says: “It’s nice to have that consistency throughout the year, that you just have to think about these three words as opposed to some massive resolution, or vision statement, or mission statement…

“It keeps me on track, and it allows me to make a quick gut check and look back at the Mike Vardy – who in August decided on those three words – as opposed to trusting what Mike Vardy in the moment might want to do, because Mike Vardy in the moment sometimes isn’t the smartest guy.”

How to pick and use theme words

While Vardy picks his theme words, mine just seem to arrive one day out of the blue. I’ve started to look out for them now but I try not to direct them because, though I don’t quite understand how, they seem to come from outside of me and be almost predictive in their nature. But you could also be very deliberate about choosing and setting your words.

You might want to take yourself off one day and spend some time quietly reflecting on next year and what you want to change or achieve. Do some journaling or free writing, without too much of a focus in mind other than the upcoming year in general.

Perhaps take some magazines along and tear out images or phrases that jump out at you. If you’re someone who enjoys meditation, yoga or some other form of mental, physical or emotional relaxation then by all means, bring that into your reflection time.

The point is to find something that resonates with you. And there are no rules! It surprised me that I got two words for 2018 but it felt completely right that as I focused on growing my business I should put as much energy into maintaining balance in my life – investing in my children, my relationships, my health and so on. Sure enough, I’ve doubled my team and my turnover but I’ve also started taking weekends off and been on three holidays!

As for how you use your words, again I don’t think there should be any rules. Mine have often been a comfort that I’ve held onto when things have been tough. In 2017 the word Opportunity came with a real sense that I needed to be active in taking hold of those opportunities, which gave me courage to apply for the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and to hire my first employee.

This is what Mike Vardy had to say in his Forbes interviews:

“When I’m choosing the projects that I want to pursue, when I’m deciding what conferences I’m going to attend, when I look at what is going to take my attention away from my intentions that I already have or what things are going to fuel my intentions going forward, I can look at these three words. If it doesn’t hit two of those three words, if my goals or my projects or any new idea, I just cast it aside.”

 What does 2019 have in store for you?

This year, things have happened a little differently for me. In October a picture popped into my head, instead of a word. A picture of a bean seedling just poking it’s head above the soil, all fresh and green and bursting with life. I wondered what it might mean, but pushed it to the back of my mind. After all, I don’t get my theme word until November and I’m something of a traditionalist!

And sure enough, on the first Monday in November as I was driving the girls to nursery and contemplating that very inspiring picture of a bean seedling, it arrived. Breakthrough! That would be my word for 2019.

Already I can see how it is going to play out – we’ve just won our biggest ever project, which will be kicking off in the new year, I’ve invested in a coaching programme to help me navigate the changes in my life and career, and we’re applying to go back into the Natwest Accelerator Programme.

I know that having a positive word doesn’t guarantee that everything will go the way I want it to. But given how important mindset is to success, I’m glad that I have such an exciting word to hold on to.

What about you? Have you got a word for next year? If not, it’s time to do some digging!

How to Balance Business and Babies

How to balance business and babies

This fab blog was written by writer, sponsor and fellow ‘Freelance Mum’ Rin Hamburgh (who writes from the heart and is a big fan of being freelance). Thank you for your brilliant blog Rin.

No one can prepare you for the realities of being a parent, can they? No matter how much research you’ve done, no matter how many friends you’ve watched go through the sleepless nights and the teething terrors, it just doesn’t hit home properly until you get there for yourself. And when you’re trying to run a business at the same time, it’s even more intense.

I was a freelance journalist and copywriter when the twins were born and didn’t really take much in the way of maternity leave. In fact, I remember taking a call from a client while I was in hospital, and writing a feature for the Guardian while balancing my laptop on a Pampers box and expressing for the girls’ next feed!

That’s the great thing about us freelance mums – we’re pretty hard core. But there’s no doubt that balancing business and babies (of any age) is a real challenge. So are there any tips and tricks that can make the process easier? Definitely. Here’s what I’ve learned in my freelance mum journey.

Set realistic expectations

Both with your clients and with yourself. It’s no good promising the earth and then stressing yourself out or doing a poor job because you’ve overestimated how much you can actually achieve. It could be that you need to take on fewer clients or give longer lead time for when the work will be delivered. Remember to build in time for disasters and emergencies – trips to A&E or unexpected vomiting bugs will happen and will definitely disrupt your schedule.

Call in the troops

If you’re going to successfully balance motherhood and maintaining your business – even at a lower intensity than before the kids came along – you’ll need help. There are plenty of different paid childcare option from au pairs to nannies, nurseries and childminders. I got a nanny in for just four hours a week to start with, when the girls were 3-months-old. I felt comfortable knowing they were just in the other room if they needed me, but I could still crack on with work.

And then of course there’s family and friends. Why not try doing a swap with another mum in business, with you looking after all the kids one day and her taking over on another day? Or look at a combined childcare and co-working space like Caboodle. You may find that a combination of all of these works best for you. My two are almost three now and we do two full days at nursery and one full day with a nanny, which suits us all really well.

Delegate what you can

No one can do everything, it’s just not possible. And when you have little people to look after then it’s even more of a challenge. Think about the things you find most difficult, stressful or time consuming. Work out how much your time is worth and then see if it might be cheaper to get someone else to do one or two tasks.

This could be getting a cleaner so you can crack on with your admin instead of scrubbing floors, or outsourcing your admin to a VA so you can get more client hours in. Do the maths before you automatically dismiss the idea as too expensive. Just because you do something yourself, doesn’t mean it’s free. Time is money!

Find support and solidarity

Ok, so this is possibly a bit biased but honestly, the support you can find at something like Freelance Mum will be invaluable as you try and balance parenthood and business. Just knowing that you’re not alone will lift a huge weight from your shoulders and you’ll find a fresh sense of motivation and passion as you listen to other mums sharing the ups and downs of their journey. You’ll also get plenty of tips, referrals and even actual work from the other members, which will all help to boost your wellbeing as well as your business.

Do what works for you

When the twins were tiny, my mum was always berating me for not napping when they did. But for me, the process of getting a bit of work done was actually more of a draw for me. It gave me a sense of control over my life that was otherwise sorely lacking and was, I honestly believe, one of the things that kept me sane during those first few difficult months. It also boosted my self esteem no end.

That said, if napping is what will make you feel good – or cleaning, or binge-watching Netflix – then do it! Especially in the early stages, keeping sane should be your primary goal, for yourself, your children and your business (in that order).

Do you have any tips you’d add? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on social – we’re on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And why not come along to one of our Bristol meetings?

With huge thanks to Super Funky Penguin for the photo.

Freelance and flexbile working – making it work around family life

Freelance & flexible work, fitting in around family

Guest blog by Holly Tucker, the woman behind notonthehighstreet and UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses

I’m hugely passionate about flexible and freelance working. I started notonthehighstreet.com when Harry was just three months old, so my workload had to exist around my life and family. Luckily for me, I was able to follow my dream of creating my own business whilst being a new mum – and I’m not saying it was easy! But it was hugely rewarding.

For many new mums, working in this way is not an option. There are hundreds of thousands of incredibly skilled, talented women (and men!) out there, who will go above and beyond for work and projects that can fit around their families. It seems incredulous to me that businesses aren’t waking up to this yet.

To try and help turn the tables, I recently became an ambassador for Digital Mums, as part of their #WorkThatWorks and #CleanUpTheFWord campaigns. ‘Flexible working’ seems to sometimes feel as if you are giving less than perhaps a permanent member of staff, or maybe it’s just the negative stigmas attached to it. #WorkThatWorks is strong and positive, and just by saying those words, you’re reminded of something we all forget from time to time; work should ‘work’ within your life. I just love the whole concept and hope it helps to really change the landscape for mums.

I read an interesting study by People Per Hour recently, which said that 40% of the US workforce will be freelance by 2020, which is just incredible. We’re seeing the biggest change in the working world in over 100 years, when we shifted from an agricultural to an industrial economy. So many people are tired of the traditional 9-5, and want to take life into their own hands. Technology has advanced so much that it allows us to do this, ‘the office’ is wherever you are! Many of the jobs we do today didn’t even exist 10 years ago, because we’re evolving with these changes

Freelance Mum Blog showcase

Freelance mums, dads and kids Netwalking in Bristol

Included in these new jobs are the thousands of makers, creators and small business owners that I’ve championed, mentored and worked with over the last 15 years. I created Holly & Co to be a destination for this remarkable group, to find colourful advice, inspiration and support. Because I know that this path can sometimes be a bit difficult and lonely, it’s my mission to unite these amazing individuals, because I believe that we’re stronger together.

I feel so ecstatic about the prospect of a more freelance world, and all of the talent, colour and uniqueness it will bring. I can’t wait to see more people take a deep breath, be brave, and live their own ‘Good Life’! Bring on 2020!

Summer reflections – 10 things I have learnt as a Freelance Mum


In many ways, summer holidays are no different to any other day, as a freelance mum.

Holidays are no different to any other day, as a freelance mum. It’s all a juggling act, just in different guises. Yet with summer, comes greater expectation and lets face it, we all want to enjoy time off. As a freelancer and a mum, that’s never easy.

Which is why I thought I’d take the time, take stock and share some of my reflections on and things I have learnt this summer as life as a freelance mum.


1 – Having time away, a complete change of scene and a large dollop of daydreams really is good for the soul.

It’s also good for making things happen. I’ve always known this, but it was reinforced this holiday when we were in Devon. To quote Freelance Mum member and hypnotherapist, Abi Rogers ‘a change of scenery is essential!’. Believe it or not, our brains are actually more productive when we’re not concentrating on the task in hand – hence those ‘eureka’ moments at random times’. Brilliant excuse for more holidays’!


2 – How to do a ‘dinosaur plait’Dinosaur-plait-freelance-mum

On one particularly wet afternoon on holiday in Devon, I decided to master different type of plait. Not much of a life skill, but I like being creative and I’m rubbish at following tutorials. So I was pretty impressed I managed to watch one enough times to actually manage something that vaguely resembled a plait. It’s nicknamed a dinosaur plait, as it looks a bit like the spine of a dinosaur, it’s official name is a ‘4 strand, 3D plait’, which sounds far more impressive. The most impressive part being, I can now just about do one, while Suki is watching Peppa Pig. Jemima, however, is having none of it – though I may have tried out the odd one, without her realizing.


3 –  Canva

I’m not saying I’ve mastered it, or even that Canva and I will ever be best friends, but we’re now on speaking terms. We have fallen out several times previously, but with a bit of training from Karen Norman from Sensible Marketing, Canva and I are now friends. Together we can be creative and make nice pictures. Sometimes we still get cross with each other, but we’re getting on a whole lot better than before.


4 –   It’s not a case of scaling up, or even scaling back, but taking time to look at the bigger picture

One of the things I enjoy about August, is because there’s no Freelance Mum events in August, I have time to look at the bigger picture – not just the day-to-day running. A chance to look at the year ahead and not feel like I’m fire fighting, it’s a really good place to be and a great way to get a sense of the year ahead.


5 –     Running a summer offer is good for keeping marketing and social media fresh Freelance-Mum-Summer-Tote-Bag-Montage-Summer-Photo-Comp

On good advice from Linda Davies Carr, The Maser fixer and Rin Hamburgh, I decided to run a summer offer – book a podcast before September 30th for £150. Simple and streamlined. Not to mention the Freelance Mum Tote Bag Photo Competition, great suggestion from Nicky, of Nicola Jane Photography. Think ‘Hello’ magazine style, with photos of the Freelance Mum Tote Bag, in various locations, work/home/holiday. A fun way of generating content and makes people smile.


6 – Children really do, just love spending time with you Jemima-freelance-mum-home-studio

You don’t have to be doing anything special, they just like being together. I was reminded that this week, while Suki had a nap and I suggested to Jemima, we pop into the studio and do some work. I had a few emails to send out and she happily popped on the headphones and ‘recorded some voiceover’. I love how completely at home she is in the studio, she chatted away quite naturally, sharing all her stories and thoughts, while I typed away. It was like listening to her soul. Her memories and thought, the things that she shared were just gorgeous and it was all about us being together. Not only that, Suki’s favourite part of our camping holiday was ‘her whole family sleeping in the same room together’. Sometimes they’re so gorgeous I could eat them all up.


7  – Keep in contact with people who like what you do

Don’t give up. They might want to be part of it, but the time isn’t right. They might just be really busy! It was proven this summer, when Redmaids’ High began sponsoring Freelance Mum. They joined us for Brave, Bold & Bonkers in March, then went quiet. To be fair, they were busy merging with another school and it turns out that merging schools and building a new one, is demanding stuff! I could have gone quiet, but I gave them space, kept in touch and we got the green light this summer. Happy days for all of us.


8 – It’s a good time to update roller banners, signage for events and tinker with images for social media

Without the events every month, it’s a good time to update images, hit September with a fresh line up and reflect that in posts. See, I told you Canva and I are getting on (I may live to regret writing that).


9 – Both my girls can ‘swim’ without armbands

When I say swim, I mean ‘not drown’ – but they are both quite adamant that neither of them want to wear armbands, which means taking a trip to the local swimming pool is even less relaxing. And it wasn’t exactly relaxing in the first place!


10 – I love the summer, but I like routine too. And while I have no intention of wishing away, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things come September. No doubt I’ll soon be wishing I had that lovely day dreamy headspace again, which is why I’m already planning half term 🙂

So then, what’s your reflections on summer? What have you learnt, in life as a freelance mum, this August? If you’re chomping at the bit already – come and join us at Freelance Mum in September, we’d love to see you.


Expert Nutrition From Bump & Beyond

Expert nutrition advice from the moment you decide to try for a baby.

As a parent of two young children, meal times can be something of a struggle. In fact – eating & eating out is a completely different occasion to compared to that of 4 years ago! Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way, though it would make a nice change to get all the way through one meal without any one announcing ‘ yuck, I don’t like that’. Still, at least they’re eating something and we’ve come out the other side of a fussy eating phase, where the only food that was consumed seemed to be yellow.

Bump & Beyond illustration ladies and fruitBut it’s very easy to be all consumed (no puns intended) with just how much food our little ones eat, let alone think about ourselves. Yet take a step a back to a life before children, one of the most important things we can do on our journey to parenthood is prepare for the event. Looking after our diet can make a huge impact on conception, one of the most important things we can do is make sure our body is in the best physical condition – which is where Rosie Letts comes in.

As a nutritional therapist, Rosie has always had a keen interest in diet and the role food plays on our health. It was only after having her own children, that she realized there was so much lacking in the main stream when it came to family advice. So armed with first hand experience and expert training, she launched Bump & Beyond Nutrition – assisting parents on their reproductive journey, from the moment they decide to conceive a child, to when they start for school. It’s an impressive field.

After all, as Rosie explains, science of genetics has improved so dramatically we now know that what our Grandmother ate before and during their pregnancy, affects the way our DNA is expressed. Whilst our genes are malleable to an extent as adults, whilst you’re in the womb and a young child – you can do the most good at this time.

Which is all well & good saying it, but when I cast my mind back to my pregnancies – a time I was desperately trying to stay healthy, if I so much as contemplated eating anything green & leafy I wanted to vomit. It turns out, it’s often the way the body is trying to tell us something – Rosie has had consultations with pregnant women who are addicted to licking walls, typically an extreme calcium deficiency. As for chocolate cravings – that’s often a lack of iron and zink.

What I love about Rosie, is that she’s been there & done it – she understands the reality of being a parent & just how exhausting the journey can be. Take breastfeeding, for example, until you’ve been there it’s impossible to understand just how draining it can be – and it’s nothing to do with the umpteen night feeds! More having a little person plugged into you, can sap you of your very energy. It’s well known that a breastfeeding mum needs an extra 500 calories, but sadly that’s not all in cake! There’s so much iron & zinc in breast milk, it’s important to pay attention to getting extra good quality grains, meats, greens and vegetables.

And from breastfeeding, there’s weaning – with it’s own set of worries, just how much do these little people need to eat & how often? It reassured me to learn that children don’t eat in the same way as adults, its more a case of healthy grazing. The most important things we can do is lead by good example – eat good food, in good formats and together as a family.

In the time I spent talking to Rosie, it changed my mindset when it came to family meals. I’m quite sure plates aren’t about to be licked clean, but I feel on my way to healthy eating success!

Rosie Letts is available for 1-2-1 consultations on pregnancy, conception & also runs private weaning classes.

Tots Up Reward Bus

Like many parents, sleep is a big topic of conversation in our household – namely the lack of it. It would seem we have not one, but two children, who are both programmed to wake at 5.30am every morning. It’s not funny. No matter how many times we explain ‘you have to stay in bed until your clock goes yellow’, up they leap announcing it’s broken and they want to get up.

That is, until we tried the Tots Up Reward Bus. Knowing I’m the mum of two pre schoolers, a good friend put me onto the bus (so to speak) and it’s spot on. A simple reward chart, that celebrates good behavior in a fab & fun way. A tried and tested concept, with a design that is something special.

As the name suggest, the Tots Up Reward Bus, is a 3D magnetic bus – complete with it’s own bus stop of passengers. Every time the child does something that deserves a reward, they’re allowed to put a passenger on the bus – until all 10 passengers are on the bus. I don’t know who was more excited to put the first passenger on the bus – me or Jemima!

It’s the brainchild of Sally Marks – a graphic designer and lecturer in graphic design. The concept was born 15 years ago when she was working for a spell with children on the autistic spectrum. Any good behavior was celebrated, while trying to ignore negative behavior. Not surprisingly reward charts played a large part in things & she quickly designed a basic paper bus, which allowed them to chart their success.

The bus didn’t make an emergence again until several years later, when she was potty training her own son. She went back into her files and dug out the paper bus, stuck it to the fridge with the passengers, who in turn were stuck on to the bus with blu tack, every time a reward was needed. It was a friend who noticed it & asked if she could have one to use in her house, which sparked the idea – if other people liked the bus, was she onto something?

So last year, Sally began a start-up course for businesses & the Tots Up Reward Bus was born. She’s worked closely with an educational psychologist who agreed the reason the bus is so successful, is because it’s so simple – it’s very easy for the child to understand what they are working for & what they have to do to get it. Speaking as a mum, it looks just striking too & is very engaging for children. Our bus gets several comments as visitors see it sitting on the kitchen worktop. For me, the proof is in the pudding. Not only is it a hit at home, but when Jemima & Suki had a sleepover at Nana & Bap Baps, the bus went with them. I received a very excited phone call from Jemima the next day, to tell me she’d got a passenger on the bus. The day there were all 10, was even more exciting!

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Mini First Aid – made easy for all the family

For many mums, when weaning begins, it opens up a whole new world of problems. From ‘will they ever eat from a spoon’ to ‘what if they choke’? It’s one of those more serious aspects that doesn’t dawn on you, until you’re watching your baby get to grips with eating. And it’s typically the point that lots of mums get in contact with Zoe Hunt from Mini First Aid.

Mini First Aid was born in 2014, when mum Kate Ball, wanted to bring a range of classes to parents & grandparents, which were accessible to the whole family & specifically geared up for treating infants and young children. Of course, there are some elements that are universally the same – like how to treat a wound, but the nuts & bolts are aimed at dealing with tots.

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DragonBird Theatre Company

DragonBird Theatre – prepare for a land of make believe!

When I was a new mum (all those many moons ago!) and grappling my way round the ‘baby circuit’, I was at a loss some days for what to do. Not because there was a lack of activities in Bristol, almost the complete opposite- I found myself overwhelmed with opportunities. The trouble was, Jemima wasn’t a fan of the car, or pushchairs – so wherever we arrived, she was usually having a meltdown, we were both stressed, hot & sweaty & everything seemed to start on the back foot.

Eventually, I decided it didn’t matter where we went, we were going to arrive in a pickle anyway, so we might as well make it something worth getting in a state over. I plumped for DragonBird Theatre Company, despite it being the other side of town for me, I was drawn to them as it was the first time I’d come across theatre for babies.

I wasn’t let down. In true form, Jemima & I arrived in our usual ‘post meltdown car journey slightly stressed’ fashion, but it was worth the effort. I can still remember it now. The session began with the performers (and brains behind DragonBird Theatre) Lotte Norgaard and Tilly Langdon, walking aroung the space & greeting every one with hand puppets Dragon & Bird, singing their signature ‘hello song’. You get used to ‘hello songs’ at groups, they’re usually nice enough, but sung with a slightly forced smile. This one was far more beautiful, almost folk like & soothing – in fact, almost 3 years on and I can still hum the tune.

They then began a short performance of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – everything larger than life & almost like a real life cartoon in front of your eyes. The children were spellbound. Completely caught up in the moment. The performance itself was only around 15 minutes, so no time for attention spans to wander, before the audience was invited to join the adventure. The room was divided into different areas so the children could experience ‘walking through the squelching mud’ or the ‘swishy swashy grass’, making the whole thing larger than life & completely interactive.

In terms of ‘the baby circuit’ that was some time ago, but the memory stays with me- it completely captivated all the children & gave them that first taste of theatre. Capturing their imagination, from the safety of their parents laps and showing them the power of make believe.

I’ve followed DragonBird Theatre ever since and although I can’t make it on a regular basis, I love what they do. Both Lotte and Tilly were drama teachers, before they formed DragonBird Theatre and both felt compelled to work with early years. Both of them have complete for what they do & radiate a real warmth. Their philosophy, is it allows families time to enjoy playing together – to think about nothing else for those 45 minutes and just indulge in the experience.

The sessions are all carefully structured for short attention spans, incorporating all the senses – so they’re engaging from the get-go. They’re aimed from birth – 5 and you can really see it working on every level. In fact, they don’t stop there – coming up they’re performing The Tempest as part of Shakespeare for Babies at The Egg. How’s that for ambitious?

DragonBird Theatre Company was a little chink of sanity & escapism, in the midst of a very full on time for me. To watch little ones get caught up in the fun and spirit of adventure, is a joy for any parent. It’s part of their childhood I want them never to grow out of.

The Baby Bank

As a mum of two young children, I know the rate of knots that we get through baby & toddler items.

In fact, the smaller the child – the more ‘equipment’ you seem to need. Car seats, baby baths, cots, high chairs – they all come with a price tag & don’t even get me started on clothes. Every 3 months, it feels like a case of out with ‘not so old’ & in with the ‘newer’. But hey, these are growing children & their needs must. While there are some things you can make do with, there are other things, which are a necessity. I couldn’t even hazard a guess at how much we’ve splashed out in the last 3 years & I wouldn’t even say we’ve been decadent.

It would seem I’m not alone in my thinking, in fact Eva Fernandes & Becky Gilbert have taken it one step further & together have co-founded Bristol’s first Baby Bank.

The Baby Bank is pretty much as the name suggests, pre loved baby essentials for families in need. Or, in other words, a bank of baby items to see you through your baby’s first 12 months.

Baby Bank preloved toysAs the founder of the popular baby shop Born, on the Gloucester Road & mum of two teenagers, Eva is no stranger to the baby world. She wondered how she could help families in the light of austerity measures and hit on the idea of a Baby Bank. A place where pre loved, but perfectly good items could be donated to families starting out.

Realising she could be onto something, Eva got in touch with the Reused Network, who in turn tweeted out she was looking for storage space to get the scheme started. In the world of social media, meets real life, Becky Gilbert saw the tweet – then by chance bumped into Eva. As a mum of baby & toddler, Becky was keen to pass on her pre loved items to families that needed them. So although the pair of them were coming from slightly different angles, together they were a pair well met.

The Baby Bank preloved baby equipmentThat was in May and it’s incredible to see how between the two co-founders, how far the Baby Bank has come. Already they have nearly outgrown their first storage space, which was given to them by The Big Yellow Storage Space. It’s a clear reflection of how many parents are keen to help & are donating their old items. The question is – how do people qualify to receive items from the Baby Bank?

That side of things relies on referrals from health visitors, children’s centres and other local professionals, who identify the families in need of support. In return, the Baby Bank provides them with a bank of items to get them started. It’s a simple idea, but the implementation of things is the most time consuming part! Just sorting through the donations is time consuming, but already the Baby Bank has attracted a team of 30 volunteers, all working in different capacities to keep the wheels in motion.

The storage unit needs manning & keeping the word out relies on a social media team. You can tell by looking at their Facebook page alone, just how popular the scheme is proving. There are Cake & Donate days being held & grant applications being made. It’s early days – in fact you could say baby steps, but already they’re looking at gaining charitable status and opening other Baby Banks across the country.

Speaking as a parent, there is something about knowing you can pass on your little ones belongings & help another new family, which feels right. Those first few months are hard enough getting started – thank you to Baby Bank Bristol, for making the parenting world

The Real Cost of Raising a Child

Experts say it costs £227, 266 to raise a child – we look at the facts.

I was recently invited to be a panellist for the Great British Budget this February and monitor how we spend our money. You may remember my first blog post at the beginning of this month, as things all got started. My major concern wasn’t the budgeting, as using the handy app I could download. I was right – though I downloaded it correctly y & started with the best intent, as a freelancer, monitoring income & outcome wasn’t so easy – with payment at unpredictable times of the month.

Not put off & with an impending visit from the stork, I decided to monitor things as best I could- spurred on by the thought of saving a few pennies. When I was recently sent this report from Liverpool Victoria, which seemed more than relevant, all things considered.

However, I am a woman of many talents, but number crunching I am not! So, with that in mind, my lovely other half is guest blogging for this post. As a Database Analyst, father & fellow budgeter, he’s more than suited to this job. Over to you Eddie Woo…

The REAL cost of raising a child

Right then, I can’t promise to be as flamboyant and even literate as Freelance Bristol Mum, but I have to agree that I may be better placed to discuss financial matters, as most, even basic calculations, get thrown my way when we’re both in the room. I’m talking even simple things like 200 divided by 4, I think it’s just my role as father, partner and family calculator.

These numbers often get thrown at you, often pretending to be helpful, but actually really just a scare tactic to get people to read all the facts, and potentially buy things. Let’s initially break it down. UK wide the average cost of raising a child is £227,266, with the Southwest among those areas actually higher than that at £233,555. This equates to slightly over £10,000 per year. So with a family income of say £50k per annum we’re looking at 20% spent on the child. And that’s just ONE child. This is where I think it already falls down. If you have more than one child, there is still the implication that it costs this much per child, but most parents would not buy completely new EVERYTHING for a second, third or fourth child. Of course there are costs that are specifically per child, namely education, but depending on school choice this impacts more greatly in the child’s later life.

Education. According to the reports, if you start looking at the numbers, Education takes into account over £70k of the £227k. Now schooling from 5-16 isn’t cheap and definitely needs budgeting, but a hefty part of this number is taken by the Higher Education years, where £9k a year tuition fees, subsidised rent and general living expenses often eat into even the wealthiest parents hard worked earnings. So those of you with pre-schoolers have a little way to go for this, but those with teenagers have this just around the corner.

The next biggest chunk is the opposing end of the age range and is looking at childcare and babysitting. A staggering £66k is spent on this, making the ages 1-4 the most expensive per year after the higher education years.The cost of childcare has risen recently, and this is again shown by the fact that this number has risen 67% since 2003. It’s a necessary expense with the modern day working family, in fact an interesting point made in the report states that the average parent now say they have to earn £26k per year just to make it worth their while going back to work due to high childcare costs.

The next set of items on the list are food/clothing/holidays/hobbies and toys, all costing between £10k and £20k over the ages 0-21. Although there are lots of variations on costings of food, between buying pre-made ready meals and cooking yourself, I think this is a family choice and although if on a budget I’m sure cost savings can be made, food is still a compete human necessity. Clothing and toys are interesting. As touched on earlier, as long as you are willing to use second hand items, and when I say second hand I mean both from your own child and potentially others, I think this cost can be brought right down.

When Jemima was born, which I’m sure is a familiar tale, there were lots of very generous friends and family eagerly giving us clothes, and to a degree, toys in preparation for parenthood. Yes we still bought some nice clothes, but if we didn’t want to we could easily have survived on the gifts of others. It’s never made clear in reports like this about whether second hand items are included. The fact it’s not mentioned would suggest it assumes everything is bought new. Using that logic, buying second hand items, or even re-using items, like cots, moses baskets, clothes, toys, etc can really cut this scary £200k+ number right down.

There are other items of note in the report and it does make interesting reading, but it’s the headlines that always set out to scare you. What I don’t ever think is taken into account is the actual life changes that families make for children. When children come along they become your life, whether you want them to or not, and as part of your life the money you earn will be spent on them. Lets face it, most children are loved & wanted, so as a parent you are choosing to spend your money on them.

It’s naive to think that some costs won’t go up after having a child, everyone knows nappies have a cost for example, but as a huge part of everyday life they fit into the budgeting and you get on with it. Holidays were mentioned above but a camping holiday in Devon has different cost implications to a 3 week trip to Disneyland and families budget accordingly. Reading articles are definitely interesting and the main point of Liverpool Victoria’s report is to ensure families have sufficient insurance should bad things happen. It’s a very valid point and worth considering, but not because it costs £230k to raise your child, but because you and your family might need it.

See – I said he’d break it down better than me!  ‘Family calculator’ isn’t a bad description, though I’m quite sure I’m not that bad… to add, we’ve been looking at second hand much more this time & love mooching around charity shops. That said, the sales have been so good this year, it’s not always been cheaper to buy second hand & we’ve managed to buy a cot, mattress & changing unit for £185,  from a leading retailer – much cheaper than we could find on Gumtree on eBay. Happy Budgeting!