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Are you dreaming of a beautiful new bathroom?

Whether you love the idea of sleek, hotel-style glamour, a soothing and sensual relaxation space, or a period-style update to complement your home, there’s never been a greater choice of bathroom styles, colours and finishes available to suit all budgets. Take a look at some good cost estimates for renovating a bathroom in New Zealand. So where do you start when updating "the smallest room"?

Small really can be beautiful

Although some of us may be blessed with plenty of space, some of us are more used to small, sometimes cramped, bathrooms.

How can you make the room feel bigger? Wall-hung fittings, including the toilet, vanity unit and storage shelves increase the sense of space by revealing a more visible floor area. The added bonus is that they’re very practical, too, making floor-cleaning easier.

Slimline, compact fixtures are ideal for a narrow bathroom, and a high-gloss finish reflects more light – useful in an otherwise gloomy space. Frameless shower enclosures can also increase the sense of space in a narrow room.

Choose a light, neutral colour scheme for both the floor and walls to give the impression of spaciousness. If your bathroom lacks natural light, consider adding a skylight, if possible, to create a light and airy feel.

If you’re really pushed for space, why not create a wet room? This can make the most of a small floor area and help you squeeze in an extra ensuite to add practicality and value to your home.

Practical doesn’t mean boring

Even the most luxurious bathroom must also work as a practical family space. Modern high-efficiency toilets use less water to flush, and the latest innovation is a "rimless design", which is easier to clean and more hygienic.

Adequate ventilation is crucial to prevent the build-up of condensation and damp problems. Install a good extraction system and consider underfloor heating to help dry surfaces more quickly – it’s also warm underfoot on those chilly mornings.

Tiled walls and floors have always been a practical choice, and there are hundreds of beautiful options to suit all tastes. Metro tiles are still as popular as ever, but newer trends include mirrored tiles, wood-effect tiles, and richly patterned, Moroccan-influenced floor tiles.

If you regularly experience a queue for the bathroom, why not install a his-and-hers shower? Following on from the long-established double washbasin, a double walk-in shower, with separate shower heads and controls, will help you beat the morning rush.

What’s your style?

If you love traditional period-style bathrooms, rejoice! They’re currently very much on-trend, so there are lots of Victorian and Edwardian inspired roll-top and freestanding baths on sale. If you don’t have the space or budget, get the look for less with ceramic handled fittings and period-style taps instead.

Gold, brass and copper are also popular choices right now. Taps and pipework in brushed copper or subtle rose gold work with both period and modern décor and combine particularly well with another current trend – dark bathrooms – to give a truly dramatic effect. Think indigo blue, dark wood-effect or anthracite grey paired with a border of copper mosaic tiles to complete the look.

Hi-tech pampering

As with all areas of the home, smart technology has also made its way into the bathroom. Digital showers control the temperature and flow rate more accurately, and you can save your preferred settings for next time.

While you’re in there, you can also keep up with your favourite TV or podcast with a waterproof wall mounted screen, or even choose one that’s built into a heated towel rail. Alternatively, stream media via Bluetooth to a wireless shower head speaker – non-stop entertainment even as you bathe!

 Should I DIY?

It pays to check with a professional before installing a new bathroom, you need to make sure it complies with any council and building regulations. Electrical work, such as lighting or an electric shower, also requires certification, and there are a number of jobs such as plumbing and tiling that really need specialist skills. Try Refresh Renovations for professionally managed bathroom renovations. 

home improvement loan could be one way to make your perfect bathroom a reality. For more information on how to finance your dream home renovation, download our Home & Reno ebook.

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Track your spending: This is probably the number one thing any of us can do to start building better financial foundations. It’s hard to make changes for the better until you know exactly where your money is going. Include everything from bills and bank fees, to nights out and online shopping benders.

Check your credit score: It’s never been easier to know exactly where you stand when it comes to your credit score. Check it now via Credit Simple, and consider requesting your credit file at the same time. Do it well before you think about applying for a personal loan or other types of credit, so you can address anything that may need addressing.

Clean out your wallet: We reckon a tidy wallet, is a sign of a tidy financial mind. Clearing out all those old receipts is another excellent way to track spending. It’s also a great opportunity to do a quick audit of what credit and/or store cards you have, if you need them all, and should you consider consolidating some debt?

Write a goal, make it bite size: This is the fun bit really. Think about what you’d want to be spending your money on, or saving towards, if you made a change to your current habit. The dream can be as big as you like, but break it down to achievable monthly targets such saving a certain amount from every pay packet. Write the goal and your monthly target down and leave them somewhere you can see it.

And pick yourself a prize. It can’t be all homework. When you hit that monthly goal, reward yourself. Keep it small and inexpensive, so you don’t immediately derail yourself, but something you’ll find satisfying. It should help keep you on track.

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Flooring: A high-traffic area, the kitchen is prone to spills ranging from water to oils, dishes and wine. You want to look for kitchen flooring materials that are low maintenance and can withstand use over time. The most durable flooring options include: concrete, stone, tile, vinyl and wood laminate. Besides durability, cooking requires long periods of standing and walking back and forth. Flooring that has some cushioning is helpful, especially if you suffer from back issues. The most ergonomic flooring options include: bamboo, carpet tiles, cork, rubber flooring, vinyl, wood, wood laminate. But alas, there is also style and appearance to consider: we suggest weighing up the priorities when selecting.

Windows: A much-loved feature in the kitchen is the window above the benchtop and sink – you spend so much time here, so make the most of it by optimising your views out of this space. Consider where kids may play, views out into charming landscapes or nature, and where the sun rises and sets to help determine where this feature will best sit. A wider window taking up majority of a wall space provides lots of natural light into a space you often need concentration is a great option, whereas a long and thin horizontal window will allow light in without completely sacrificing privacy.

Lighting: We all want to keep our fingers and toes so a well-lit work area is a safety essential in a kitchen but the key to great kitchen lighting is to rely on a cast of lighting sources. Layer your lights by mixing ambient (overall), task, and accent or decorative lighting with natural light. The kitchen has become about so much more than food prep; it’s inevitably where everyone congregates when entertaining, so it’s important to ensure lighting is both task-oriented as well as ambient and friendly. Avoid anything overly bright, you don’t want it to feel clinical, and if possible fixtures should be dimmable so the light can be adjusted to meet different needs, from early morning lunch-making to late night dinner parties.

Storage: Having a well thought out plan or design for your storage needs is a must before commencing any work. When thinking of your cabinetry, consider if you want to build to the ceiling – this allows for ample storage as well as avoiding endless dust that collects with cabinets that fall just short. Make the most of your kitchen storage by incorporating drawers in the kitchen island, pull out pantry shelving racks and corner cupboards. If you have the budget for it, invest in soft-close drawers.

The Kitchen Triangle: The kitchen work triangle is a concept that was developed back in the 1940’s when kitchens were very compact and appliances very large. The concept is used to determine efficient kitchen layouts. The primary tasks in a home kitchen are carried out between the cook top, the sink and the refrigerator. These three points and the imaginary lines between them, make up what kitchen experts call the work triangle. The segments of the triangle represent traffic flow within a kitchen, ideally creating a rotational movement between the tasks. Despite the fact that the kitchen triangle is a 70-year-old rule, it is still something worth keeping in mind when you are redesigning your kitchen however, it is highly likely that you’re going to factor in other new-age elements such as eating, doing homework, and entertaining.

Appliances: Choose appliances before you plan your cabinetry, so you can be sure they fit. If you have a big family, you might need a double oven or double fridge. You’ll need to decide between electricity or gas for cooking – induction cooktops are not only environmentally friendly, they save time, energy and the absence of flames makes the kitchen cooler and safer. Ensure there is enough ventilation around the appliances and plan out power points and where cables and plugs will be placed. Consider if you want your fridge and dishwasher on display or behind cupboards. Built in appliances look a lot slicker but can be more costly and complex to change in the future.

Islands and Breakfast Bars
These are what make the kitchen a multi-tasking space. Get one long enough to fit at least three chairs along if possible. Make it work harder by adding wine storage or cookbook shelving, power points for laptops and charging phones, or extra drawers or hidden cabinets that you don’t need to access regularly. Depending on the shape of your kitchen, an island can make the work triangle more efficient. In a compact kitchen, consider a rolling or mobile island that can be tucked against a wall when not in use.


Read more on the cost of adding a new breakfast bar to your kitchen.

Benchtops
What standard is the rest of your house? If it’s mid-level, a marble benchtop is probably over-selling it a bit. If it’s top class, a skinny laminate benchtop will let it down. Laminate is the cheapest benchtop option, it can be made to size and there are loads of colour and edging options – but it can scratch and you can’t put hot pots directly on it. If you’ve chosen your benchtop to be the hero feature in your kitchen, engineered stone and granite are hardy and good looking. Marble is beautiful but may stain. Stainless steel is great for an industrial-style home but it does scratch and it can be hard to stay on top of fingerprints and smudges. If you have a traditional house or a country-style kitchen, a timber benchtop could work, whereas a concrete benchtops give a “wow” factor and come in a variety of finishes, but can be expensive.

Backsplash
Avoid using small tiles such as mosaic tiles as grease and grime can easily stick to the grout lines making them very difficult to clean. Consider what’s best long-term; colour or a neutral? Although a colourful backsplash has immediate impact, a neutral backsplash can add just as much character to your space. Backsplash height is often a design detail homeowners overlook. The backsplash has to end somewhere, but where it ends is up to you. If you just want a hint of tile, only bring your backsplash up to the bottom of your cabinet or first shelf in an open shelving design such as the one below. Your tile backsplash is always going to be right up against your countertops, so it is important to make sure the two materials and colours work well together. If you want your kitchen to remain timeless in design, we suggest sticking with a classic field tile size such as a white subway tile.

This article has been supplied by Refresh Renovations

A home improvement loan could be one way to make your perfect kitchen a reality. For more information on how to finance your dream home renovation, download our Home & Reno ebook.

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Did you know the average New Zealand wedding costs $35,000? But if that figure is making your eyes water and your palms sweat, don’t despair - you can have a magical day for a lot less. Here are some tips for cutting the cost of your wedding without giving up the day of your dreams.

Be creative with your venue

You can get married anywhere you like, as long as your marriage celebrant agrees. This means you don’t have to hire an expensive venue if you don’t want to. Could you have the wedding at home, or at your parents’ place? On the beach? In a friend’s beautiful garden?

If you want to get married in a public place like a park, you need to apply for a permit from the local council, but it’s usually a straightforward process.

The other good thing about choosing not to use a traditional wedding venue is that you’re not tied to using the venue’s catering, and can organise your own, which is often cheaper. Most churches also charge for weddings, but the prices can vary a lot.

Prioritise what’s important to you

For every couple, there will be things that are really important to you on your big day and other things you couldn’t care less about. Sit down and work out what the most important aspects of your day are, and allocate your budget accordingly.

And for all those little things you don’t consider important, cut them out altogether.

Ask your friends for help

It’s often the “little” things that add up to a budget blowout. Things like photography, a cake, the invitations, the flowers...the list goes on.

This is where it’s really worth asking for help from your friends and family. Chances are you know someone who’s an excellent photographer, musician, or an amateur baker, who would be glad to help you celebrate your big day. Just ask - and think about making it a favour instead of gifts situation.

Try an online invitation service

Using an online invitation service will save you a packet on printing and postage costs. It also makes it super easy for people to RSVP, and for you to keep tabs on who’s coming.

Hit the flower market

Rather than using a florist for your wedding flowers, get some creative friends to source flowers from a local flower market or someone’s garden (ask first!) and make up the bouquets and buttonholes themselves. Let’s face it - all flowers are beautiful, whether they are professionally arranged or not.

Be dress smart

When you hire a local dressmaker to make your dress, there is no middle man. You’re literally just paying for the materials and the dressmaker’s time. If you buy from a wedding dress store, the retailer adds a considerable mark up on top of the designer’s cost.

An added bonus of hiring a local dressmaker? Your dress will be unique and will fit you perfectly.

If you’re committed to a designer look, there are several websites, both NZ and international, selling second-hand and sample dresses at reduced prices.

If you’re pretty sure your dress is only going to be worn once, rather than adapted into an even gown, or passed down the generations, consider renting. It can be a fantastic way to get a stunning designer gown at a fraction of the cost.

Get married in the winter and/or on any day except Saturday

If you really want to get married at a traditional wedding venue, you may find you can negotiate a good deal by booking a less popular date - such as during winter, or on a weekday. Venues may be keen to strike a deal that means they don’t have an empty date in their calendar.

Don’t let your guest list get away from you

Your wedding guests should be people who are important to you. If your guest list has expanded to include distant family and people you’re inviting only out of politeness, it’s time to trim it back. Remember you’re buying dinner and drinks for every person you invite.

You could also think about keeping the formal part of the reception for family only, and inviting others along for the party later in the evening, or  throw a casual pot-luck BBQ at home the next day for everyone you couldn’t afford to invite to the formal gathering. Instead of a sit-down dinner, you could keep it casual by booking a food truck.

Avoid the open bar

Weddings have changed over time, and an open bar - where guests can order hard spirits and cocktails all night long - is no longer the norm. Most wedding guests will understand that you don’t have an unlimited budget and be content with wine and beer.

The other advantage of avoiding a formal venue and having your wedding at home, is that you can buy the alcohol yourself, which should make it much cheaper.

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Hibernating for winter? It’s easy to heat, eat and treat your way to an expensive winter, whether its from high energy bills, too many takeaways or expensive indoor entertainment.

Here are some ideas for a productive, fun winter, that may save you some money and even set up some healthy financial habits for the future.

1. Cook at home - and do it slowly. There are many advantages of slow cooking in winter, either in a slow cooker or in the oven. The first is that it allows you to buy cheaper cuts of meat that work best cooked at a low temperature over several hours in things like stews, casseroles, soups and curries. You can cook them in bulk making one lot of ingredients last several meals. And, if you’re using the oven, it can be an effective way of keeping the house warm. Plus, of course, it’s delicious!
Hot tip: once you’ve turned the oven off leave the door open while it cool to make the most of the warm air.

2. Have a clear out. Don’t wait for spring. Give the house a clear out, while you’re more likely to be in it over winter. Think about selling anything you don’t use or need for a little extra cash and instead of replacing items that are looking a little tired, have a go at upcycling.
Hot tip: paint test pots normally cost only about $5 each; a great way to make over small furniture items.

3. Create a winter bucket list. It can be pretty tempting to hit the shopping mall to keep yourself entertained on a cold, wet day, which can quickly derail the best financial intentions. Instead, get the family together and come up with a list of free or cheap things you’ve always wanted to do near where you live that are winter-friendly. Museums, libraries, hot pools, or take a drive to find some snow.
Hot tip: stay home and go retro with jigsaw puzzles and board games which you can often pick up cheaply at second hand stores.

4. Give your house an energy audit. Before the real winter weather sets in go room by room in your house checking for draughts. Draught strips and draught stoppers are cheap, effective ways to plug small gaps. Consider lowering the hot water cylinder temperature just a degree or two, keep doors shut on rooms you don’t need to heat and close your curtains in the evening.
Hot tip: If you have electric heaters consider investing in timers so they come on before you wake, and before you get home in the evening, without having to keep the house heated 24/7.

5. Upgrade your skills: If you’re planning on hibernating for winter why not put some of that time at home to good use by doing some study or learning a new skill. Learn a new language, study others’ tips for financial success, take up a new hobby. Who knows how it might pay off? There are lot of reasonably priced online courses available, as well as free podcasts. Or create your own reading list and work your way through it.
Hot tip: Set yourself a goal at the start of winter, whether it’s to read a certain number of books on a topic, or finish an online study module - and schedule in your time.

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There’s nothing like a drop in the temperature to motivate you to book a winter holiday. Whether it’s sun or snow that floats your boat, here are a few ideas for planning an affordable holiday.

Go against the flow

If you possibly can, travel in the off-season for your destination. If you don’t have kids at school, always travel outside school holidays. Travelling outside peak times will often mean cheaper flights and accommodation, as well as fewer crowds.

Always research flights online in incognito mode

Airfare and flight comparison sites track your browser history, and can raise the price on the same flight each time you search for it, to create a sense of urgency. To hide your browsing history, open an incognito (in Google Chrome) or private window (in Safari) every time you search for flights.

Consider flying mid-week

The cheapest days to fly are usually Tuesday and Wednesday, with Friday, Saturday and Sunday being the most expensive. If you can be flexible with your dates, you can save a lot by flying when demand for flights is at its lowest.

Keep an eye on grabseat.co.nz

There are some great deals on airfares within New Zealand, and to Australia and the Pacific Islands on Air New Zealand’s grabaseat website. Keep an eye on the website and be ready to swoop.

Do your research when booking hotels

When you’re looking for a hotel, it’s really important to shop around. If you use a few different hotel comparison sites you will soon get a sense of the going rate for a particular hotel room.

Armed with this information, it’s always worth contacting the hotel directly. Some hotels promise the best rate when you book with them directly. And many more will offer you a better deal when you tell them the best rate you’ve managed to find on comparison sites.

You may also find that you get cheaper rates the closer to your required dates you book, as hotels try to fill empty rooms. Obviously leaving your booking till later can mean you run the risk of missing out, but it’s a good tip if you decide to book a last minute getaway and aren’t tied to a particular hotel.

Don’t forget travel insurance

It’s a good idea to make sure you have comprehensive insurance cover for your trip. And if you’re renting a car, consider buying out the insurance excess. It will typically not cost you much, but will give you peace of mind should the rental car suffer any kind of damage. Some credit cards also offer insurance if, for example, you book your flights using the card but then can't travel due to a medical emergency. Before you rely on that just make sure you have a clear understanding of who and what your card insurance covers.

To really save a packet, consider a house swap  

House swapping is fast becoming a global phenomenon. The concept is simple - you swap houses with someone living in a different part of the country (or the world) and no money changes hands.

The whole system works on trust and goodwill - you’re unlikely to trash someone’s house when you’ve trusted them with your own pad. And you’re both so grateful to have a place to stay for free that you take good care of the house. Simple.

To get started, list your property on one of the many house swapping websites out there, such as holidayswap.co.nz or kiwihouseswap.co.nz.

Staycations are awesome

You don’t need to travel overseas to have a fantastic holiday. Why not explore one of our vibrant cities and soak up some culture, see a show or do some retail therapy?

Alternatively, go and find some snow for the complete winter wonderland experience - you can always try tobogganing or sledding if skiing’s not your thing.

New Zealand is also packed full of beautiful scenery to explore - for the cost of little more than petrol and a packed lunch. Get out there and make the most of the off-season!

If you really can’t afford to head away, make a list of the things you’ve always wanted to do in your own town, city or region and commit to a weekend of being a tourist in your hometown. Visit a hot pool, enjoy a new bush walk, find a new beach, let the kids plan a local road trip on your Google maps … you might be surprised at how much fun you can have without breaking the bank

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Here are some simple tips and tricks for enjoying a warm, dry house this winter, without ruining your financial plan.

Check you’re on the best energy plan for your household

There are so many different energy providers and plans out there, and those plans are changing all the time. It’s worth using an energy comparison website from time to time, to check you’re getting the best deal.

Look for a comparison site that is independent of the power companies, such as Powerswitch, which is backed by Consumer NZ. If you’re not getting the best deal from your energy supplier, it’s quick and easy to switch to another plan and/or another supplier.

One thing to consider though is that switching utility providers does usually involve a credit check, which may impact your credit score. So do your research thoroughly before choosing a new provider to switch to, and maybe don’t switch too often.

You could also call your current provider and use their competitors’ plans to try and organise a better deal for yourself.

Use less hot water

Heating water is expensive, so one of the simplest ways to reduce your energy bills is to use less of it.

Check the thermostat on your hot water cylinder is set to no more than 60 degrees celsius at the cylinder and 55C at the tap. If it’s set any higher than that, not only are you wasting energy but you risk being scalded by the water coming out of the tap.

A water-efficient shower head is another way to save on hot water. If your shower fills a 10-litre bucket in less than a minute, it’s wasting water.

Replacing the shower head with a more efficient one (one with a flow rate of 9 litres a minute or less) will significantly reduce the amount you’re spending on hot water.

Doing your laundry in cold water is another good energy saver. Modern washing machines and detergents clean well in cold water and a hot water wash can use up to 10 times the amount of energy as a cold wash.

Finally, keep to a strict time limit in the shower! According to Energywise, a 15-minute shower costs about $1, while a 5-minute shower costs just 33 cents. Over the course of a year, a family of four could save up to $900 just by taking shorter showers.

 Switch your light bulbs to LEDs

You can save about $20 a year for each light bulb you replace with an LED bulb. An LED bulb uses about 85% less energy than an incandescent one. LED bulbs are more expensive, so you may want to replace them as your old incandescent bulbs fail rather than all at once, and you will make savings in the long-term.

Turn off appliances at the wall  

Did you know that leaving your TV, computers and games consoles on standby can cost you up to $100 a year? Buy a multi-plug board for all your entertainment kit, so you can switch everything off at the wall with one flick of the switch.

Invest in insulation

Many New Zealand homes are poorly insulated, making them difficult to heat effectively. If you’re unsure of how much insulation your home has already, it could be well worth getting an insulation company around to do a free assessment.

Ceiling insulation, in particular, is usually easy to get installed and can make a big difference to the energy efficiency of your home.

Buy a timer for your heated towel rail

Heated towel rails are wonderful things, but you don’t need to run them 24/7. Get a timer and set it for a few hours right before your shower, so you get a toasty warm towel without driving up your electricity bill.

Before installing a new heating solution, get professional advice

What’s better - a heat pump or a series of panel heaters? The most efficient, cost-effective  type of heating for your home will depend on many things such as the level of insulation, or the type and size of your home, and the rooms you want to heat. It’s definitely not one size fits all.

It’s probably best to seek advice from the heating experts. Try to find one who deals in all types of heater, so they don’t just recommend the one type the sell.

You can also get useful information on heating types from Energywise.

 

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Be suspicious of any unexpected contact

If someone contacts you out of the blue, whether by phone, email, in person at your front door, on a website or through social media, always consider the possibility that this could be a scam.

This could be someone you don’t know at all. It could also be an unexpected, out of context email or social media contact purporting to be from someone you do know. For example you might get a Facebook friend request from someone you’re already connected with, or an email from a colleague asking you to click on something.

A lot of scams start with unexpected contact, so it’s best to be super vigilant when this happens to you.

For unsolicited emails, check the sender’s email address

The easiest way to tell the difference between a genuine email from your bank or the Inland Revenue and a scam email claiming to be from those organisations is to check the sender’s email address.

For example, if you emails from your bank usually end in westpac.co.nz and you receive one ending in ".net" or ".com", you should be suspicious. You may also see strange characters or a string of numbers in the email address.

If you have any doubts, call the organisation the email is supposedly from to check. If someone is scamming people using their brand, that company will want to know.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

If someone is promising you something amazing, stop and think. Perhaps they’re telling you you’ve won a cash prize in a competition you don’t remember entering. Or it could be inviting you to invest in a scheme that offers incredible returns for very little outlay.

Either way, you should be very wary of anything that sounds too good to be true - and make absolutely sure you do not give any personal information to the scammer.

Ask for the name of the person you’re talking to and the company they say they’re from and do your own research if you think it’s something worth pursuing. But keep in mind scammers can be sophisticated and may set up a trail of evidence so they appear legitimate.

Keep reminding yourself that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Never give out personal information

You should always be very suspicious if someone is asking for personal information, such as a PIN number, online banking password or bank account details. These are details that no legitimate company would ask for.

Don’t be pressured into making a quick decision

Scammers know their best chance of scamming you is getting you to make a quick decision, without thinking through the possible consequences.

A legitimate company will allow you time to consider any financial decision you make. If you’re being pressured to act immediately, that should ring alarm bells.

If in doubt, do your research

Type the company name into Google and see what comes up. It’s also a good idea to search for reviews of the company, or search for the company name and ‘scam’. This will soon show up if other people have fallen prey to the same scam.

When shopping and banking online, make sure the website is secure

Sometimes scammers will make a copycat version of a website, which looks identical to the real thing, in the hope that you will unknowingly enter personal information such as your credit card number.

Legitimate banks and online stores will always have a web address starting with ‘https’. If you see ‘http’ in the web address instead, do not enter any personal information.

Don’t worry about being polite

If someone comes to your door unexpectedly, it’s quite all right not to open the door to them. Likewise, if you receive a suspicious phone call, there is absolutely nothing wrong with hanging up.

Scammers will prey on your natural urge to appear polite, so make sure you don’t give them the opportunity.

Create a strong, unique password for every website you use

This is the best way to reduce your risk when shopping and banking online. If you use the same or similar passwords for different sites, you’re at much greater risk if someone discovers your password.

If you find it hard to remember your passwords, you could consider using a secure password manager such as LastPass.

Never open attachments or click on links in unsolicited emails

If you don’t recognise the sender or you feel suspicious about the content of an email, just delete it.

Keep your virus protection software up to date

Make sure you use a reputable company and update your software regularly. Don’t trust free downloads as they could be fake and end up exposing you to greater risks.


If you think you’ve been scammed:

If you think you’ve been scammed, the first thing to do is stop all contact with the scammer.

If you’ve paid them any money, contact your bank or the payment service you used and explain what has happened.

Next, report the scam to Netsafe, New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation. You can report any kind of scam to Netsafe - it doesn’t have to be an online one. Phone 0508 638 723.  Netsafe is also a good source of other information on protecting yourself from scams.

If you think the scammer’s actions are criminal (and they usually are), you should also report the scam to the police.

Finally, even though you may be embarrassed, it’s important not to stay quiet about what has happened to you. When you tell other people about the scam, you’re helping reduce the risk of them falling prey to the same scam.

Stay safe out there and, most importantly, be vigilant!

We write these articles for you, our Harmoney borrowers, to be, what we hope, are helpful tools for different aspects of life. The information is designed to be a general guide only. As you read, you should consider how - or if - the information might apply to your circumstances and consider if your needs mean you should seek further advice from an expert in that particular field


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Turn screen time into shared time

Managing kids’ screen time can be challenge these days especially when the dreaded “I’m bored” kicks in. Instead of plonking themselves in front of a game, use some of the other features of your phone or tablet for fun, group activities.

  • Put on the kids' favourite song and film a music video.

  • Create a short film from a scene from a favourite movie or book or even have them write their own.

  • Record some everyday sounds, or take photos of everyday things from odd angles and get the kids to identify what they’re seeing or hearing.

  • Create a scavenger hunt list of things to find during a walk in the park, and have them take photos of each item as they see it.

 

Stage a movie day at home

Instead of a trip to the cinema, which can get pricey, why not stage a movie day at home? Invite some friends and tell everyone to bring a DVD, or cue up some kid-friendly movies on your streaming service. Pop some popcorn and scoop some ice creams..

Hit the swimming pool

Check out the school holiday programmes as your local, indoor or heated pool. Public swimming pools are usually great value for money and most kids can happily spend hours in the water, making a trip to the pool a great, day out.

Bake up a storm

Everyone loves to bake, and a good baking session can take the best part of a day, by the time you’ve researched the recipes, written the shopping list, visited the supermarket for ingredients and actually done the baking.

Things that need decorating are an excellent idea - not only does this keep the kids occupied for longer but it’s also a great outlet for their creative streaks. There are lots of websites and blogs out there too, dedicated to budget-friendly family baking recipes.

Plan an adventure by public transport

If you don’t often travel by public transport, it can feel like a real adventure to board a bus and just see where it takes you. Better still, if you can, board a bus that connects with a train and then a ferry. It a simple way to experience another side to the city you live in. Make sure to pick a fun destination and take plenty of snacks for the journey.

Hit the library

Not only are libraries a great source of books and DVDs to borrow, they also usually run special activities in the school holidays. Whether it’s arts and crafts or storytelling, the great thing about these activities is that they’re often completely free.

 

For more ideas about cutting the cost of everyday things this school holidays, read ‘How to survive school holidays without breaking the bank’.


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Let’s get real. We’re all emotional beings. Why has it taken us so long to give ourselves permission to talk about emotions in the work environment and begin to feel comfortable sharing them?

Emotions are not playground cooties to be avoided. Engaging with and understanding your emotions at work is fundamental to relating to your team and connecting with what is happening for each of us.

Old beliefs suggest that everyone will fall into a melodramatic heap if we share feelings yet, at Harmoney, quite the opposite is proving true.  

At Harmoney we have been using the Emotional Culture Deck* and what it has shown us is that sharing emotions actually makes our agile team retros more fun and helps create stimulating conversations about what supports change. Essentially a card game, the Emotional Culture Deck enables people to identify what they feel and express it without judgement.

Doing that is essential to creating an environment of psychological safety for employees. And without that organisations will find it hard to implement transformational change.

It is great to know that the language around “an emotional culture” is now becoming more normalised in the workplace. Feelings are what create the texture of a culture. Ultimately, we need to embrace the notion that feeling is central to all we create together.

 

The Emotional Culture Deck is the brainchild of New Zealander Jeremy Dean and his company Riders and Elephants.
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