Ten Ways to Stretch Your Maternity Pay

It’s not easy starting a business when you’re on maternity leave, so here are a few tips to make your money go further.

  1. You are entitled to free prescriptions and dental treatment while you’re pregnant and a year after the baby is born. Don’t forget to book in a dental check up before your child is a year old (easily done when you’re busy with a baby!).
  2. Shop around for home and contents insurance and car insurance. If you can’t find time to do that, phone your insurance company when your renewal letter arrives and ask them if they can give you a better deal.
  3. Shop around for gas and electricity too. Often the best deal is the web tariff, so you don’t even need to pick up the phone.
  4. Have you got baby equipment that seemed a good idea before the little one was born, but has hardly been used? How about that heavy travel system that fills your entire car boot and that travel cot that turned out to be too small? You can sell these now and spend the money on kit for your older baby such as a play pen, garden toys, a bigger travel cot and a baby bouncer. You can buy and sell at Netmums.com, eBay, car boot sales and notice boards at some Sure Start centres.
  5. Look up new recipes using seasonal ingredients. Seasonal ingredients are usually cheaper than ones that have been grown overseas, they are better for the environment (less travel) and you could support local farmers too.
  6. Try planning your meals for the week before you go shopping. This saves you having to throw away food that has gone out of date because you bought too much. It also saves you from popping to the supermarket mid-week when you run out of food. That means you won’t be tempted to spend £20 more than you expected! Meal planning sounds a pain, but with a bit of practice it’s hardly any effort at all.
  7. Check to see if your mortgage company will let you take a payment holiday for a few months.
  8. Sell your maternity clothes on eBay.
  9. If you have credit cards and or accounts with home shopping companies, make sure you pay them on time. I never used to miss a payment, but I was a bit disorganised after my babies were born and I missed the payment deadline by a couple of times. Once you’ve added up the interest and late payment fee, it can be surprisingly expensive. Check to see if your credit card company will take a minimum payment by direct debit – at least you won’t have to pay the fee then.
  10. Check out www.babybudgeting.co.uk for loads more ideas for saving money when you have a baby.

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Creation Collaboration Women Wednesday

A month ago, a group of friends created a new social network for women in business called Creation Collaboration. Their aims were to promote their own businesses and products, plus support other women in business. And they already have 50 members.

One feature I really like is the Collaboration Women Wednesday  Blog Hop, where you can sign up your blog and visit other members' blogs. This is a great way of networking online and getting more visitors to your own blog. I joined in last week and didn't quite get it right, so I'll try harder this week!

I really recommend taking a look. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

This is why you’re already good at marketing…

Last week I listened to Natalie Lue of Self Employed Mum, Bambino Goodies and Baggage Reclaim speak about blogging. Natalie's name is mentioned in hushed tones by mums who blog because she actually makes a living from blogging.

Being able to earn an income from home by writing is the holy grail for many mums. It's tempting to ask 'what's her secret?' I suspect it's the same secret as for any business owner – know your customers, deliver what they want and more, work hard, keep improving, keep an eye on the finances, plan well.

I really enjoyed the presentation and learned a lot. But what really got me thinking was what she said about 21st century marketing. It's no longer a one-way-street where the seller tells the buyer about their product. These days, marketing is about the business having a conversation with the customer.

That's great news if you're starting a business and have a mental block about selling. Often, our image of selling is the hard sell; pinning someone to a wall and not letting them go until you see their credit card.

If we turn this on its head and think about marketing as a conversation, suddenly all our tension goes. Most of us are actually pretty good at having conversations.

Here's what you could talk about.

Connect with your customers

Do they like your product/service? How could you improve it? What else are they looking for? Who else is selling what they like? Can they help you spot new trends? Can you give them something so useful or interesting that they want to tell their friends about you? How could you turn them into your fan club?

Show them you're an expert

Prove to them that  you really know your stuff. Customers no longer want to be told that you sell the best widgets in the South-East – they want to make up their own mind. How can you help them to do that?

Build your brand

Try to get across what your business is about, what it stands for, its values. Again, not in an old-style 'this is our mission statement' kind-of way. Think about the things that matter to your customers – help them to solve their problems, keep them up to date with the latest news, point them towards great resources. Then let your business brand shine through what you do.

Business blogging is the best way of having this conversation online. Doing it offline involves, well, talking to people!

What kind of conversations are you having with your customers?

Creative Commons License photo credit: paris_corrupted

Got a business blog? Get it noticed!

TicketsWould you like more traffic to your blog, plus more links and more comments? How about a chance to network online around the business mum community? It's free and will take you just a couple of minutes.

(You're right, it's a no-brainer.)

How? By joining in the Business Mums' Blog Carnival.

Here's how it works. Each month, a different business mum blogger hosts the blog carnival, listing the best  posts that month. If you're a mumpreneur with a blog, you can submit your own favourite post of that month to the carnival.

We're looking for posts that add value in some way, so maybe they inspire, inform or make us smile. It's OK to talk a little about what you do (we're all in business after all) but a post that's just a sales pitch isn't going to be much of a read.

This month, your carnival host is Heather Townsend, The Efficiency Coach. To enter, email a link to your best post to heather (at) theefficiencycoach (dot) co.uk by 24th May. Heather will publish the carnival on 30th May.

Don't forget to check out the carnival when it's published so you can get to know other business mums out there and leave them a  comment.

Creative Commons License photo credit: daguerreo_type

Inspirational Business Mum: Vikki Horner of Maths Extra

maths extraToday, Vikki Horner of Maths Extra tells us how her daughter Charlotte inspired her to start a business to help children with special needs.

My business is a labour of love

My daughter Charlotte has Down Syndrome and wasn’t ‘getting it’ in the classroom. So I developed a new method for learning how to tell the time, breaking the learning down into small steps, making it visual and hands-on.

Because it was so successful, other parents wanted to know what to do to help their child and so Maths Extra was born.

I designed a working kitchen clock which gives children a sense of movement. Then I put together a handbook full of photos and ideas, activities and games to help parents and teachers. The clock and handbook were named after Charlotte, of course!

Learning to Tell the Time with the Charlotte Clock

It took about a year for Charlotte to understand both digital and analogue formats as in “It’s 7.30” or “It’s half past seven.” Not only did she start to use ‘time’ vocabulary,   her organisational skills really came on a pace at home and at school.
And Charlotte began to keep her room tidy!  Everything in her drawers was organised and folded perfectly. Even her clothes that were ready for washing came down in a neatly folded pile.

Charlotte’s sense of her world increased by learning this crucial skill.

I had many challenges, even more so when I became a lone parent 

Suddenly I had to deal with everything myself. Good job we didn’t have a dog too!

Working around my daughter’s schedules and needs was tricky and quite problematic especially during the long school holidays.  Charlotte was making good progress with other subjects but maths has always been the biggest mountain to climb. I never gave up.  I have always believed that my daughter should gain an understanding of basic maths so she could learn to tell the time and use money.

Children are expected to work with abstract concepts too soon – they cannot find a way in.  It’s like we are asking them to decipher hieroglyphs and if parents were given a sheet most would not know how to access their meanings. Would you? 

I tried every resource possible, or so it seemed! Everything was too abstract and nothing used in school helped Charlotte progress. It took a trip to New York to learn about the original invention designed to provide children with a structure in a multi-sensory manner – Stern Structural Arithmetic. Here we go! I knew I had found something that would really help. 

Charlotte enjoyed learning maths this way and began to flourish

By then she was thirteen and had only three years left of formal education, however, at sixteen she passed GCSE’s at Entry level for Maths, English, Science, and food Studies, with Art GCSE. That’s my girl!

Then our emphasis turned to learning about money.

Where would I like to go next with my business?

Although I am passionate about helping children with special educational needs, I would like to see more nursery settings and schools introduce the children to learning with this system. This will give them a better start and our children with special needs will have the opportunity to work alongside their peers in an inclusive way. (I’m working on it!)

I set up the business because my experiences are not unique, there are many families experiencing the same things. I’ve ploughed through it all and come up with solutions that are worthy of passing on. 

People just need to know where to find me, so a big thank you to Business Plus Baby!   

Vikki Horner

www.mathsextra.com

You're welcome, Vikki! If you've enjoyed this article, why not sign up to Business Plus Baby's mailing list to get updates delivered to your inbox? See link at the top-right of this page.