Childcare loyalty program

Do loyalty rewards programs belong in childcare?

Publication: Mirage
Source:
https://www.miragenews.com/do-loyalty-rewards-programs-belong-in-childcare

Loyalty rewards programs aren’t a new concept, they have been around for 40 years; the idea of rewarding customers for their dedication to a brand and in turn creating retention for a business is an everyday concept for Australians. In fact, according to a study by Loyalty Reward & Co, published on ACCC, Research shows that almost 80 per cent of Australians are members of at least one loyalty scheme.

When Brent Thompson, Glenn Noy and Kara Smyth – who have over 30 years combined experience in the childcare sector – became aware of the imbalance of childcare centres versus demand, they were inspired to create a difference to combat the oversupply of centres and give the boutique centres a competitive advantage over the larger players. And so, Australia’s first childcare loyalty rewards program, Nurch, was born. Kara Smyth, Co-founder at Nurch believes that centres are investing copious amounts of time and money to acquire new family enrolments, but by allocating that [time and money] to Nurch, centres can dedicate those additional resources to the children to create a more consistent learning environment for children and carers. “As of June 2020, the average life cycle for children was 15 months for the sample of childcare centres that introduced Nurch in the December 2019 quarter. When we compare the same childcare centres the average lifecycle of those children at the childcare centres increased to 17 months. The increase of two months shows the increased loyalty the parents have shown to the childcare centres”, Kara says.

It does raise the question though – do loyalty rewards programs belong in the childcare industry or is it giving people a reason not to leave a centre if they are unhappy with the quality of education and care or working conditions? An educator in the sector recently said, “I am disgusted by a loyalty program for childcare. I feel like it compares making decisions about children’s education and care experience to where you pick up your next bag of pet food based on who will give you the tenth bag free. This disregards quality education and care practices and preys on people who may be financially vulnerable.”

According to the ABS, the average family income in Australia is $120,000. Childcare search and comparison site Care for Kids has shown the average cost of childcare in Australia soared during 2021 to a high of $177 a day – a large, and for many, unavoidable household expense. If there was a free opportunity to earn digital gift cards to reduce household spending, would they take it?

Nadine Ross, National Operations Manager for Imagine Education Group, comments, “Initially I was a little sceptical but the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and the main feedback we receive is that families can’t believe a loyalty rewards program exists for paying their childcare bill. Most of our families at Imagine Childcare receive $400 a year in gift cards and the trend is that they like to save them up for Christmas Holidays or use the points to buy groceries or other household items”.

Aimee Gossange, a parent enrolled in the Nurch program says, “I love the idea of loyalty for childcare – goodness knows it costs us parents enough to send our kids to daycare. We retrieved a voucher to the value of $200 over the Christmas/New Year period and still have much more to redeem”. Another parent, Emily Keable, states, ”Childcare for three children isn’t cheap! We have enrolled our kids, three days per week. This leaves us around $600 out of pocket per week, $30,000 per year, after the gap fee. Nurch rewards add up to about $1000 per year in what I believe is childcare savings for us, as we’re able to spend the gift cards on everyday items for our house and even my children’s school supplies”.

Since its launch in 2019, Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards members have redeemed $1.446 million in digital gift cards. Nurch currently has 42 partner child care centres across four Australian states (Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales) with an additional 15+ centres implementing the program by December 2022. Nurch is aiming to partner with 300 centres Australia wide to reward 30,000 Australian families, by 2025.

childcare subsidy changes

New Childcare subsidy changes: What do they mean to your family?

As a parent who also works in the childcare sector, I love speaking with my mum friends on all topics relating to childcare, especially any childcare savers. What surprised me recently was that some of my friends were not aware of the changes or how the new childcare subsidy laws benefited or impacted their family (or growing) family. As you will see in this article, every family may be slightly different. If you think you know how it works, I might surprise you with the fine print.

New family income estimate

The Australian government has finally increased the Childcare Subsidy income requirements which are based on your family income estimate and work or study needs. If you have not previously registered for Childcare Subsidy, I highly recommend you ring Centrelink to begin the process today. If you delay this, you will not be eligible for any backdate of payments as it goes from the date of registration.  Once you are all set up and you have linked your Children’s childcare to your Centrelink account, you can manage most things via an app. But remember that the government will reconcile your family income estimate vs your actual taxable income and they will settle all debts shortly after you have lodged your tax return. They know that this is sometimes problematic so they withhold 5% of any eligible subsidy in case you have a debt. They will provide you with the 5% after you lodge your tax return if you are entitled to it. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to register even if you aren’t eligible for any subsidy as your ‘estimate’ may be more than your ‘tax’ return and you will be paid back.

Your family income Child Care Subsidy percentage
$0 to $70,015 85%
More than $70,015 to below $175,015 Between 85% and 50%
The percentage goes down by 1% for every $3,000 of income your family earns
$175,015 to below $254,305 50%
$254,305 to below $344,305 Between 50% and 20%
The percentage goes down by 1% for every $3,000 of income your family earns
$344,305 to below $354,305 20%
$354,305 or more 0%

Source:www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/your-income-can-affect-child-care-subsidy

Higher subsidies for families with two (or more) children aged 5 or younger

From 7 March 2022, any family registered with Centrelink will automatically receive a higher subsidy for the second (or subsequent) child if aged 5 or under.  To get the higher subsidy, a family must:

  • Earn under $354,305
  • Have more than one child under 5 enrolled into childcare.

Eligible higher rate children will receive a 30% higher subsidy, up to a maximum 95%. You will be notified of the changes but its always good to check with your centre or Centrelink.

Some interesting things to consider with these new rules are:

Multiple births: 

The government will automatically decide who is the youngest child if born on the same date. If you are a type A, you may not get a choice on this sorry. You are welcome to contact Centrelink if you want this recorded in a specific way.

Blended families:

As with everything diverse, it is still a challenge for our government rules.

If your family has different CCS accounts for different children in your family,  then your higher subsidy will not be applied until July 2022. Any missed payments will be backdated.

If you want to receive the higher CCS amount before July 2022, you need to choose one member in your family to claim the CCS for all children. This would be like applying all over again and may not be a convenient option for your family.

But if you take up this option, you must update your enrolments at your centre to ensure you are compliant with the Subsidy Laws.

I can see this being problematic so be prepared to ring Centrelink a few times about this one! I don’t understand how because you need to register all relationships to your Centrelink account.

Different Centres:

If your children attend different centres than this may cause a delay in you receiving the higher subsidy also. I was unable to find anything online about this but this is a little industry knowledge of how the system works.

Centrelink Debts:

The government put a pause on any centrelink debts during COVID-19 so I see this biting a lot of good people in the you know what. If you have a Centrelink debt, you are provided with the total amount and 28 days to pay or dispute this debt. What people aren’t talking about is that your subsidy may stop until it’s been paid back.  I was unable to find anything concrete online but it is known that Centrelink will just deduct the debt from any  payments you’re eligible for. This is obviously very problematic as Childcare is expensive without funding and the Subsidy is there to help working families to offset the costs. If this occurs, it is not your centre’s fault as they just charge the fees after any subsidy is applied. If you are a Nurch member, you will earn points on all the gap fees you pay so you will see more points in your Nurch bank and it might be the childcare saver you need after all of this.

If you need any assistance with Centrelink Debts, please click HERE

As I am writing this, I am following the political race closely as every party has a ‘pledge’ on how they will make childcare more affordable or run a slander campaign on why their opposition’s pledge is not in the best interests of Australians. I can see why people get confused as to what the subsidy funding laws are.  Please be sure to understand that any government making ‘pledges’ needs to go through many hoops to have funding changed. I am confident that these new laws will stick around for at least a few years.

Picnic

10 Valentine’s Date Ideas with Nurch

Valentine’s Day is coming up this weekend and if you’re looking for some cool, romantic or active date ideas, you’ve come to the right place – and, if you’ve got Nurch points to cash in, even better!

1. Hot air ballooning

Love will indeed be in the air on a hot air balloon ride. See cities and winery regions from a completely different view with a Red Balloon experience.

Hot air ballooning Sydney

2. A romantic weekend away

Is there anything better than a weekend or overnight getaway? Explore some new local regions or jump on a plane in some of Australia’s finest home-stays, beachside properties or opt for a unique experience, glamping. Airbnb has plenty of options and inspirational suggestions. Or visit a luxury Ovolo Hotel for a magical stay.

Inverloch Glamping Co.

3. Couple’s relaxation massage

Only have the opportunity to swing a couple of free hours? Don’t fret, relax – literally! Thanks to our friends as Endota Spa you treat you and your loved one (or friend) to a nourishing massage that will leave you feeling revitalised and ready to take on the kids!

Couples relaxation massage

4. Picnic

The simple things in life! Pack a picnic – get your partner, friends, kids or fur baby and head to a local park for a relaxed lunch in the sun. Better yet, head to Dan Murphy’s to add a bottle of your favourite sparkling!

Family picnic

5. Camping trip

Get out and under the stars, cuddle up by a fire and spend the day’s adventuring in the great outdoors. Pick up your camping essentials from Anaconda or BCF.

Romantic camping trip

6. Movie date

When was the last time you saw a movie, that wasn’t a kid’s animation? (Although I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a kid’s film!) You could treat your lover to a movie date with HOTYS or take the entire family on a date to Event Cinemas.

Movie date

7. Sports or live tunes

Day or night, TicketMaster have you covered for all things live sports, music and theatre. Bond as your share a special immersive experience – with or without kids!

Live music

8. Gourmet Dinner

How great is it when you can eat an entire meal, out, without any interruptions or cleaning up? Gourmet Traveller has some fantastic restaurants to choose from, for a relaxed lunch or delectable dining experience.

Gourmet Dinner

9. Netflix & Chill

Kids or no kids, a night in can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered! Get your favourite delivered to your door with Uber Eats and chill with Netflix. Or, brand new to Nurch, try incredible dishes from some of the best restaurants Australia has to offer from Providoor.

Couple in bed

10. Adrenaline junkies?

For the adventurous couples, Adrenaline has you covered! Book in a day to swim with dolphins and seals in Mornington, Jet Boat in the Gold Coast, test your team working skills double kayaking in Jervis Bay.

Double Kayaking in Jervis Bay

Now that you have some ideas, what are you planning?

In need of a babysitter? Our wonderful friends at Kiddo App have lovingly gifted Nurch members and fans a 10% discount on babysitting. Use NURCHLOVE valid until February 28 2022.

Want to win a $200 gift card to spend how you want this Valentine’s Day? Head to our Facebook page or leave us a Google Review by 11.59pm February 12 for your chance to win! Full details, click here.

Romantic ideas

2021 Gold Stevie Winnner

Nurch – Best New Business Product 2021

Publication: The Stevie Awards for Women in Business
Source:
https://stevieawards.com/women/nurch-best-new-business-product

Company: Nurch PTY LTD, Chermside Brisbane, Victoria, Australia
Company Description: Nurch is Australia’s first childcare loyalty rewards program, founded in 2019 by Glenn Noy, Brent Thompson and Kara Smyth. Nurch head office is in Brisbane with a team of 6. It is a B2B & B2C high-tech and innovative platform designed to increase and retain childcare enrolments by rewarding family loyalty & spending. Nurch has recently won awards for product innovation, tech & childcare services.
Nomination Category: Product & Service Awards Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Best New Product or Service of the Year – Business Products

Nomination Title: Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards

Nurch is Australia’s first childcare loyalty rewards program where families earn reward points based on their childcare fees. The high-tech platform is a brand-new product released on September 17, 2019. The program synchronises with each childcare centre’s software to automatically download the details of enrolled families, including the attendance records and fees paid by parents.

Nurch is 100% compliant with childcare subsidies and Australian consumer Laws. It is constantly updated and automated to meet government regulations, laws and changes.

Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards is a business that provides benefits to childcare centres and families through the clever purpose-built loyalty rewards platform. Its primary purpose is to reward Australian families for spending time at their centre. By rewarding loyalty, centres increase their profits by retaining more enrolments while retention leads to greater consistency of care for our children and their carers. Centres have a viable platform to market their business through offering promotions.

Nurch works because it automatically rewards enrolled families though is an incentive to attract new enrolments because it gives parents something back for what they pay in fees.

Nurch for families

Families earn 1 point for every $1 they pay to their centre. With access to an online secure portal, families can log on and redeem an e-gift card with their choice of over 85 Australian leading retailers. Families can save on groceries, buy household items and even save up their points for a holiday. When selected, the gift card is automatically emailed to their inbox and is ready to be spent. Nurch is free for families to join, and it helps them get a little back from paying childcare fees.

Nurch works for families –Watch this Video: https://youtu.be/1c8BdKVeSV8

 

For childcare centres

Nurch is a program implemented by premium Australian childcare centres. Its tech-based data-driven secure marketing platform is an innovative and practical solution to enrolment retention and promotions that automatically manages the logic, distribution of the points and redemptions by connecting to childcare software data.

With the strategic retention marketing aspect of the business handled, centres can invest more time growing their business and creating memorable learning journeys for children.

Since September 2019, Nurch has successfully launched Australia’s first childcare loyalty rewards program. Nurch is a product that has financially assisted 4000 families, and 32 childcare centres to retain and grow enrolments. In the coming weeks, we have an additional 40 centres which will assist a further 4000 families (total 72 centres, 8000 families).

The redemption of members increased 704% which is a strong indication that our customers are satisfied with the product and redeeming the points earned for digital gift cards. Our partners grew internally by 45% with only our existing partner centres. Overall, the results are positive and on target to achieve 300 centres with 30,000 members.

Nurch is an Australian first, in its first year of business therefore past performance and expectation is not yet measurable. Further, our first year of operations has been and continues to be disrupted by Covid.

Nurch is proud to have a 100% retention rate, indicating our B2B customers are very satisfied. So far, five centres have been sold to different entities and none of these centres has cancelled Nurch. Further, we’re currently working with the new owners on a plan to implement Nurch in other centres they own, too.

Nurch has 5-star reviews by enrolled families, on Facebook and Google. Further, we receive online support from our members who appreciate the program. In September 2020, we conducted a survey that revealed that 53% of our members would choose a Nurch centre or remain enrolled at their centre due to the program.

The future is extremely bright for our young business. Although our current economy changes rapidly, in the next five years, we see 300 centres partnering with Nurch – Australia wide; this will benefit 30,000 Australian families. We are on track to reach our goal of 60 centres by the end of 2021; then we aim to double that for five consecutive years.

Imagine childcare musical instruments

New staff rewards category with aim of boosting staff retention

Publication: The Sector
Source:
https://thesector.com.au/nurch-launches-new-staff-rewards-category-with-aim-of-boosting-staff-retention/

 

When popular early childhood education and care (ECEC) specific loyalty rewards platform Nurch launched in 2018, the premise was simple… families are paying substantial fees for ECEC services, so why not reward them for their loyalty and spending?

 

With Nurch, families earn points on their gap fees, which are then redeemable at over 100 leading Australian retailers. By giving back to families through Nurch, approved providers increase the satisfaction of their families, and retain enrolments, which is not only better for children’s outcomes but which supports the business to be sustainable through retained enrollments and a boost in goodwill.

Given the success of the platform, which has attracted more than 42 services to the fold so far, the Nurch team have kept their eyes and ears open, looking for ways to enhance their offering, and capitalise on their extensive experience in the ECEC sector to create, shape and refine a product which meets the needs of services and families.

 

Changes now in play

The latest opportunity for the sector was announced in the Federal Government’s most recent Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. A number of changes relevant to the sector were put forward, with the most significant being that from 24 January 2022, ECEC providers can choose to offer a discounted fee to employees with children enrolled at one of their services without impacting the eligible subsidy.

“As soon as we heard the announcement, we recognised what an amazing opportunity it represented, not only for our existing Nurch users but for the sector as a whole,” Kara Smyth, Cofounder at Nurch explained.

Under the new measures, ECEC providers can choose to offer a discounted fee to employees with children enrolled at one of their services and report the full fee. The savings on the new structure of these discounts, Kara said, are new savings for all providers which present as an opportunity to give back and reward the most valuable families on their books – the educator parents.

 

Key facts

From 24 January, ECEC providers can offer staff discounts to those who work as educators or early childhood teachers in centre-based long day care or outside school hours care settings and who have children enrolled in the same provider network.

Providers can choose how much of a discount they want to offer, but it must be structured in such a way that the educator parent still pays at least a five per cent gap fee.

It’s in this window where Nurch represents a real value add for savvy providers. Here’s an example.

Jane, Aaron and the great value add

Jane is an early childhood educator who has one child in care. She works at a service in St Kilda, and her son Aaron attends a service just down the road, in Windsor, which is also operated by Jane’s employer.

Jane’s employer has always offered all employees a 25 per cent discount on their fees. Before the changes, the service had to report Jane’s discounted fee in session reports, and her CCS was calculated based on the discounted fee.

From January 24, Jane’s service still offers all employees the 25 per cent discount but now they can report the full fee in session reports – now Jane’s CCS entitlement is not affected by the discount, and her fees are reduced, reflecting substantial savings for Jane and her childcare provider.

Using Nurch to take it one step further

Her family income of $110,000 combined means that her CCS rate is 71.67 per cent. With daily fees at Aaron’s service of $106.50 for a ten-hour session, Jane was paying around $100 in gap fees for the three days Aaron was in care.

Under the new changes, and with her discount, she’s in a much better position financially, but her service didn’t stop there. Enrolled with Nurch, Jane, and all the other educator parents at her service, earn a minimum of one point for every dollar they spend on childcare fees. 300 points mean $10 to spend at well known Australian retailers like JB Hi-Fi, Woolworths, Coles, Bunnings, K-Mart, Myer and many more.

 

Givers are grinners

By providing Jane with a 25% discount, she will receive around $80 a week in staff discounts which makes her total weekly gap fee $236 per week. Jane will also have her Christmas shopping sorted as she will earn a minimum of $400 a year in rewards through Nurch too. The childcare centre will receive an additional $2800 a year in funding revenue for Jane. A win-win for everyone.

 

Why educator parents are such treasures

Those educators who wear two hats – caring for children at the service, whilst also being service users – are some of the most valuable assets an ECEC approved provider has, with their perspectives, views and experiences offering all parents in the service a unique window into how the various systems and processes in play work, Kara explained.

More than just staff members, parents who are educators offer a unique “Mum to Mum” (or Dad to Dad, or Dad to Mum) perspective on the inner workings of a service, and can add a layer of credibility and trust to the experience of all enrolled families.

“Parent educators are like gold,” Kara said. “They are the biggest advocates for what’s working well in your service, and should be your first port of call when it comes to making changes to benefit your community.”

 

Rewarding educator parents

“The Nurch program is a great way to recognise and reward loyalty in all families, but especially those educator parents,” Kara explained.

For Nadine Ross, Nurch user and Head of Operations at Imagine Childcare, the announcement in relation to staff discounts represented a real opportunity to work with their team and come up with an offering that sets them apart from other providers – something which is essential in the challenging recruitment environment of ECEC today.

 

“We talked with our team,” Nadine explained, “and soon learnt that they were interested in learning more about how this discount applied to them, and what it would mean for their weekly fees.”

 

Now that both the Nurch platform and the discount policy is clearly understood by her team Nadine is confident that her educator parents will stay with her service and do what they do best – deliver high-quality education and care.

At a time where the sector is battling staff shortages, employee retention has never been more important, and the most valuable employees to retain are those who understand ECEC like no other, experiencing it right alongside the parents and families they work with every day.

The Nurch team is ready to provide advice and support to services who are looking to maximise their offering to educator parents, and to all families. To learn more, contact Nurch.

Secret ingredient to retaining enrolled families

The secret ingredient to retaining enrolled families

Publication: The Sector
Source:
https://thesector.com.au/2021/10/11/new-ecec-loyalty-program-could-be-the-secret-ingredient-to-retaining-enrolled-families/

With so many families familiar with the concept of rewards programs, it makes sense that this popular initiative could find a space in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. After all, families are spending large portions of their income securing optimal education and care experiences for their children… What if there was a way to ensure that they were rewarded for their choices? 

Enter Nurch, a new ECEC specific loyalty rewards platform, which sees families earning points that are then redeemable at over 100 leading Australian retailers. Points are linked with the amount of gap fees paid by enrolled families, in a sector first which not only rewards loyalty but also becomes a point of difference for approved providers.

“With over 15 years of experience in ECEC, we were tired of the same old promotional strategies or discounts childcare centres used to increase enrolments,” Kara Smyth, Cofounder at Nurch explained.

While the “tried and tested” promotional strategies are sometimes useful for building enrolments, they rarely benefit those loyal families who remain with a service throughout their child’s learning journey. It was here where the Nurch team saw the greatest opportunity to affect real change.

Nurch not only helps to bring new families in but also retains those who have chosen to stick with the service, recognising their efforts with well-earnt rewards.

Nurch rewards existing families with redeemable points to spend

For every dollar a family spends on gap fees, Nurch points accumulate. These points can then be redeemed for digital gift cards issued by Prezee which can be used at over 85 leading Australian retailers.

Seamless integration between Nurch’s loyalty platform and a service’s child care management system (CCMS) facilitates the calculation and allocation of points for each family with the corresponding adjustment automatically made to their Nurch account, making the process high value and low stress for busy service operators.

Nurch has quickly become an essential part of the offering provided to families by Imagine Education Group, one which Nadine Ross, National Operations Manager says is “a special point of difference which shows families our care doesn’t stop in the centre, we care about their family life at home too.”

“It’s now an essential part of our marketing and operations,” she added. “We find it tremendous to be able to provide our families with rewards they value.”

Service managers are also able to create special promotions with Nurch points to incentivise families to book in on days where vacancies exist, or to reward those families who choose to book in for four days a week or more.

 

Nurch’s innovative product was recognised with Gold Stevie at the 2021 Stevie Awards

Nurch’s innovation has been recognised internationally, with the team recently being recognised in the 2021 Stevie Awards – Women in Business where they received a Gold Stevie, reiterating the young startup’s success in finding a solution that supports both families and providers as well as empowering women.

Ms Smyth has recently been nominated for Brisbane’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year for her work with the company.

“The importance of valuing loyalty, consistency of care and your staff has never been so pivotal to the success of any childcare centres,” she added, “and we are thrilled that our hard work and vision is being recognised.”

To learn more about Nurch please see here.

Single parents

How to navigate back to school as a single parent

Publication: Beanstalk
Source: https://beanstalkmums.com.au/back-to-school-single-parent/

 

January is the season of back-to-school expenses. As a single parent, you essentially now have the joys of doing this on a single income with or without help from your ex-partner.

I am dedicating this blog to tips on how to make your dollar spread further by making sure you only get what’s needed, and how to handle an ex that doesn’t contribute to the expenses at this time of year. Interested in how I’ve managed to handle this time of year for the last 15 years? Read on.

SCHOOL SHOES

Is it just me, or are black leather school shoes the ugliest and most expensive things, ever? I feel so ripped off that I can’t buy cute shoes for the amount of money I am forking out.

My process for shoes is to always buy quality fitting shoes – preferably on sale, if that is an option. But, shoes aren’t the place I try to bargain hunt as growing bodies need good quality shoes. Kids wear these shoes all day, so they do need good shoes. But, I lessen the burden by buying just one pair if the school allows me too. How? I always opt for the black leather running shoe. This meets the leather shoe criteria to meet uniform requirements, and it can be used with the sport uniform too.

Rebel Sport, Myer, David Jones and Athlete’s Foot all sell these types of leather running shoes. Be sure to check whether you have any points from your loyalty programs to help reduce the costs of the shoes too. The company I run, Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards, sees the savvy mums cashing in their Nurch points earned from paying childcare fees on school shoes in January. I love seeing gift card redemptions coming through.

The downside of this trick is that when kids reach high school, this leather running shoe trick no longer applies. In that case, I make sure the sneaker is something they would wear on the weekend, if I can. That way, the shoes are more versatile and I find my teen’s feet have fully grown by year 10 so I can usually get a little longer out of the school shoes (if they look after them!).

UNIFORMS

Personally, I only ever buy 2 formal uniforms, 1 sports uniform, 3 pairs of socks, 1 hat and winter items, as needed. If the school requires the bag, I buy 1 bag and it usually lasts till the graduating year. The reason I only buy what I need is because I do midweek washing and I can wash the uniforms. If they are in good condition, I will buy them second hand. If not, I just ensure they are big enough to be worn for the whole year (possibly two years). I find that after two years, they are ready to be thrown out (especially if you have a son/s).

If your school allows you to buy the basics from Target, Big W or Best n Less – then take advantage of this! No one can tell what you paid for it so get the cheapest one available, every penny counts when you’re a family on a single income. Do some online research shopping to manage your time best.

BOOKS

The book list will provide you with what you need to buy. My tip is to see what you have at home first before you buy new. But my best tip is to put a call out on your community social media pages to see if other families are selling textbooks, secondhand. Other than that, there really isn’t any way of getting around this except just buying in bulk to save dollars if you have multiple children. Personally, I opt for convenience and if I can, I tick the box to get the school to supply and I pay the school the book fees.

SCHOOL FEES

If after all of this, you are scraping to get the school fees in, speak to your school. Some schools will delay, offset, reduce or void school fees if you need the help. Personally, I have always paid my school fees in full and early to get the discounts available. But if you need help, don’t suffer in silence – just ask. Most schools will gladly help you out. This applies for Public, Catholic and Private Schools.

LUNCH BOXES

Is it just my children that want a new drink bottle and lunch box every January? I do comply because after one year of usage, they do look gross. I also think if a $20 lunch box is going to make you enjoy packed lunches more, I will save dollars on tuck shop visits. Just be sure to buy lunch boxes that are practical and large enough for the items required. My children are expected to pack their own lunches so I buy ones that suit their lunch making skills. BPA free, recyclable plastics are durable and easy to clean. The clips are also handy as opposed to zips that can break or get jammed.

LOST ITEMS

I have a rule. I only buy one of everything at the start of the year. If my children break or lose their items, they are required to earn the pocket money required to replace them. I do this because I find that children lose less items when they know they will have to replace them out of their pocket money or by doing extra chores. I strongly believe that this helps children learn the value of money while saving me the cost of replacing items mid year. If you do need to replace something and you can wait, I find after Easter and July sales are always off the most competitive rates. When my children have to fork out their own cash for items, I use this as an opportunity to teach them my exceptional bargain hunting skills, learned from 15 years as a single mum. Skills that I assure you, you will learn to master.

SELLING ITEMS

Try to recoup some school expenses by selling the items your little one might not use or need. If you don’t end up selling them, donate them. There are always people in positions that would appreciate the kindness.

SHARING EXPENSES

Some single parents have great exes who are happy to halve the cost of essential items, like back-to-school expenses. Others can’t, won’t or don’t! All you can do is keep receipts and ask but don’t expect it. If it gets paid, great. If not, then as the primary carer you would have had to buy these items anyhow.

Child Support is calculated to cover essential items. Essential items are school expenses except for Private School fees. So don’t use your stingy ex as the excuse to void your responsibility here whether they do or don’t pay Child Support. Life isn’t fair, but it’s not the kids fault and as the primary parent you have a responsibility to provide this. The way I justify it to myself is that the more I have paid for my children, the more I know I did my part and that’s all I can control. My part.

I hope you enjoyed the blog on the tips I have used to navigate school expenses when I was a single parent. I still follow all of this now even with a husband – once a single mum, always a single mum! I know that your life might be a struggle right now but trust me when I say this, it does and will get easier.

Being a single parent actually gave me the grit and determination I needed to run and co-found Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards. The best part of Nurch is that everyday I wake up knowing that my program is helping single mums save on everyday purchases like school items for their children.

Life is a constant hustle but if you look for the lessons and opportunities, it will guide you to where you need to be. Sometimes the lesson is just that your kids need to see how hard it is to work for them so they can realise their full potential too. In a perfect world, school items and education would be free but it’s not. Our job as a parent is to do what we have to do to give our children the best opportunities.

Mother and daughter

How to choose the best childcare centre for you

Publication: School Holidays Australia
Source:
https://schoolholidaysaustralia.com.au/what-is-the-most-important-factor-to-consider-when-choosing-childcare/

 

As a mother to 3 children who are all 7 years apart, I have learned and relearned my childcare journey from the very beginning, every single time. Do you want to know what I learned about what the best centre is? There isn’t one, it’s just the best one for you and your child. In 2021, there has been an oversupply of childcare centres and the decision of picking has become a lot harder too. Here is how I would pick my best candidates. Hot tip – you must always have a few options as there is no guarantee that you will get into your favourite one so learn to be a little bit flexible on that too.

Location Location Location!!

The most important thing to consider is the location. If the centre isn’t convenient or it’s a bitch to access in peak hour traffic, reconsider your options. It should be no more than 10 minutes drive from your house. Some people like to ensure their centre is near work. I have even seen young children catching the train with mummy to work. I advise against picking a centre based on your office location as that could change. Obviously though if your home residence is more of a temporary option, choose something near work. Or better yet, choose something in the suburb you plan to establish roots in. If you are the type that needs to drop into the store regularly on your way home, you could consider centres nearby those stores. But the 10 minute drive prerequisite still applies no matter how you spin it or justify it to yourself. Remember, you have 18 years of being a mum taxi, there is no need to over commit right now. My teenager has me driving around the countryside for his sport so trust me when I say this, choose local!!

Centre Facilitates

Once you are happy with the location of the centre, then it’s time to look inside. I would safely say all childcare centres offer a good educational experience. It is how they deliver this as to whether it’s the right centre for you. Each centre will have different layouts of the rooms depending on the number of children they have capacity for. They will also have separate or joint playrooms to accommodate the different ages. Personally my preference is to keep the rooms smaller and share the playroom space as it allows the children to have more room to explore when they aren’t inside the classroom partaking in age appropriate learning games.

Another thing to consider is the quality of the facilities. Some centres are brand new and very spacious, while others are older but still homely. I pay close attention to the educational materials to see if the centre invests your childcare fees back into the kids through learning experiences. While I like a new centre as it looks cleaner, I don’t pick a centre just because its brand new. One of the best centres I went to was older but they renovated it and kept it very clean. If the centre isn’t cleaned regularly, it is a breeding ground for germs. It also says management isn’t really in the business of caring for children if they aren’t interested in keeping their play spaces clean.

Your Routine – will it suit?

So a few things to consider here is when the centre opens, closes, the inclusions and will this help or hinder your mad rush to do the school run? New centres offer coffee to takeaway everyday. Most centres offer food and nappies. Some offer nothing.

Another important question I always ask is where the nap time arrangements are. If you don’t think your child will do well in the nap areas, ask what the plan B is for a child that has different needs. Your child will need to nap or they will be a wreck at home and that is not fun. Also, if you need to drop your child off early and pick up late, be sure to check what time they separate the children into their rooms. What you want to avoid is centres that rely on the house ratio rule too often to avoid paying too much in staff wages. Ultimately, your centre should help your home routine not disrupt it and make home time unbearable.

Staff

Probably the most important aspect of your decision is the people who care for your child. The staff. Good long term staff is a sign of great management. Good management not only pay their staff well, they care for their personal and professional needs too. Being a childcare teacher is a tough job and personally, I don’t think they are given enough credit for their efforts. When you have great teachers, your children will be loved and nurtured. I am yet to meet a child who doesn’t end up having a ‘favourite’ teacher but it’s not about ‘favourites’, it’s about the consistency amongst all staff. I knew I was at a winning centre when the teachers set my daughter her own learning challenge at 3 years old. She loved to paint so they gave her the colours to mix and a printout of a water painting to copy. It was a fabulous activity which engrossed her for hours.

Questions to ask the staff are:

  • So how long have you been with this centre?
  • What made you choose childcare?
  • Do you like working here?

The best way to get to know the staff is to book in as many stay and play visits as you need to feel comfortable. If they aren’t accommodating on this, I would be asking why. Making a decision on a childcare centre is a tough decision as a mum and you want to feel comfortable.

Games for kids

7 Fun Holiday games for kids

Publication: School Holidays Australia
Source: https://schoolholidaysaustralia.com.au/7-fun-holiday-games-for-kids/

 

December is an exciting time – Christmas is in the air, the weather is warming up and everyone is gearing up for six weeks of family fun! Sure, six weeks is a great amount of time off, but in the back of your head are you thinking, sh*t! I need some entertainment ideas!!

If your answer to that question was yes, you’ve come to the right place. Kara from Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards has brainstormed some fantastically fun holiday games for your kids.

Christmas cooking

Did you know that if you turn a gingerbread man cookie cutter upside-down it makes the shape of a reindeer? Mind blown? This simple trick is a sure fire way to bring out your kid’s inner chef.

Head to Woolies, Coles or your local supermarket and grab some ingredients and settle in on a wet weather day for some delicious baking. If your house didn’t smell like Christmas before, it definitely will once your Reindeer’s are done!

Treasure hunt

Ever since the first time we did an Easter egg hunt with my son, he just can’t get enough of treasure hunts! This is a great game for children of all ages and can be done on an inside or an outside day.

Hide toys, lollies, presents… whatever you can find. If you’re looking to get technical, you could even create a drawing of a map!

Amazing race

Definitely one for the entire family to play, even at Christmas! Split into teams or the kids can play against each other. Create clues, activities and challenges for a truly amazing race. We’re talking, food challenges (like, when Macca’s used to blind fold you and make you guess what you were eating; personal fav was the french fry and soft serve combo!). Pin the red nose on Rudolph, egg and spoon race or relay, draw/paint challenge… We love to get creative and have some fun with this one!

Puzzles

My daughter Ariah has loved all things analytical since she was a toddler. Puzzles are a great way for you to interact with your child to learn problem-solving and team work. My daughter loves to get started by finding all the edges and starting from there. KMart often has puzzles for $5.

Art

If your child isn’t interested in puzzles, then art or drawing is another way to have your children at your office desk with you for a few hours. Over Christmas, I get my daughter enough supplies to make all the gift tags and Christmas cards. She LOVES it. She even loves to make presents like bracelets etc. If it’s not puzzles than Art that will help your little one be entertained without a screen these holidays.

Are you familiar with Mr. Squiggle? (oh! Am I showing my age?? haha). Turn your childhood memory into their childhood memory. While Mr. Squiggle isn’t around any more, you could play the game at home with your kiddies.

Park Bingo

This game can be done in a day or played over the six weeks! But, it will take a little research. Find out the best parks in your area and use this template to enter an image and name. Print it off so your kids can play along and cross them off as you go! They could even play along with their friends and see who gets ‘bingo’ first.

Variations: Indoor playgrounds, outdoor parks, water parks, nature playground.

Christmas Bauble Toss

Set up some red cups and throw a christmas bauble into the cups. Each cup is worth a number of points. Combine that with some festive and fun tunes – and you’ve got a great family fun game!

 

Which one/s will you be trying these holidays?

Psst… By the way, if you’re a Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards member, you can use your points to pay for any materials or ingredients for these fun games.

How to find your parenting village

How to find your parenting village

Publication: Beanstalk
Source: https://beanstalkmums.com.au/find-your-parenting-village/

 

We weren’t designed to do parenting alone and that is why being a single mum is the hardest thing you will ever do.

At 21, I was a single mother living on the pension, who had to go bankrupt. While I had family nearby, I never felt like I had that constant support network to rely on. Nevertheless, what didn’t kill me made me stronger and I was able to find a whole other village that wasn’t family. And that gave me confidence that the world is full of beautiful people.

If you feel lonely, lost, overwhelmed, overworked, hamstrung or about to break – you need some help from your village. If you don’t have a village, we need to find you one because you need to be okay for your kids to be okay. Think about that for a second. I live my life by a saying I picked up in all the years I travelled (oh those were the pre-covid days!).

“Fit your own mask first before you help others”. What?! A mum putting her first. Albeit a single mum! No way!! Trust me, if you make sure you are okay first, you will be a better mum and better everything.

A long time ago, finding a village was a lot easier because there were so many more village helpers, but COVID is making it challenging to find close ones. So, we now have to get creative to find our helpers and I have found the most unlikely people to be my biggest supporters. So here are my go-to tips.

FAMILY

Is it just me that found an entire new respect for my mum when I became a mum? I feel like I see her and want her more than ever. Not necessarily just a mum, but you might have a dad, siblings or extended family who are reliable, understanding and play an active role in your family, and live close.

But, your village helpers aren’t just family or in-laws – yes, they are amazing, and you must count your lucky stars when you do have that support from family but not everyone has family to rely on.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR

I am incredibly lucky to have lived next door to two wonderful women, who became like family to me. One I unfortunately don’t live close to anymore, but both women are still people I can call on and visa versa.

Karin has helped me with last-minute babysitting more times I can count! Fiona is not only my friend, but my children LOVE her, and she is always so supportive. Another person I couldn’t do life without is Sharon. She became part of our family when her sister was friends with my eldest sister. Sharon is my second mum and my children now know her as Ninny.

CLOSE NETWORK

Delightfully unexpected surprise additions to my village were the wonderful schools and supportive sporting associations my children are a part of. The teachers and coaches have been such great confidants and helpers. I have felt so supported all these years and the teachers have understood my “out of the box” family dynamics. They have always offered to help where they can or pointed me in the right direction to find help. Not to mention, you have something instantly in common with parents of the other children in the class or team – so don’t shy away from starting a conversation.

PARK IT

Having an “established” routine and community group, like schools and sporting groups, can definitely make finding village support easier. But, what if you’re a new mum or a toddler mum who isn’t quite there yet? I say, park it! Visit your local park consistently and albeit you’ll find another mumma who is doing the same. You already know they likely live close by and have similar aged children. Leverage that; you’ll know quickly if they are someone you feel could be a part of your village. And, don’t be scared to ask for their number or arrange another time to meet. Sometimes finding your village feels a lot like mum dating (which I guess it is, in a way). But if you’re feeling the good vibes, it’s likely they are, too!

Tinder mums

TINDER FOR MUMS

Speaking of mum dating… One of the newest ways to meet mums in your area is through, Peanut App. It is basically Tinder for mums. I met my now husband on Tinder, so I have a lot of faith in Apps. And now, I have also met lovely mums through Peanut. Peanut or other online forums, like Facebook groups, can be a great tool to use, especially during lockdowns when face-to-face meets are not allowed.

CHILDCARE

As a mother of three children and the cofounder of Nurch Childcare Loyalty Rewards program, I know my way around a centre and OSCH (outside of school care hours) or two, and good from bad. Your childcare should be nurturing and supportive, a likely and safe community to share the load. I once had a childcare worker ask if I cuddled my son. I was mortified that she alluded that my son was unsettled because I didn’t show enough love. I un-enrolled my son and we were much happier at the next centre where the staff supported my son and his learning needs. Your children’s childcare workers are saints in my eyes, and they have a relationship with your child. I have requested babysitting from my children’s carers many times. Just because they are paid, doesn’t mean they can’t be your helpers and confidants. Providing an income is helping them too so enjoy the nice exchange.

UBER FOR BABYSITTERS

Not all centres allow you to hire your childcare workers. But I am pleased to say I have found wonderful helpers online. Babysitting Apps, like Kiddo, make it easy to connect with close-living, prescreened sitters that have a valid Blue Card and a Police Check, checked references and ratings by other families – who are available when I need them.

Often when you need to hire a babysitter, it’s almost always an emergency and Kiddo has simplified the whole process. Unlike other babysitting websites where I post an advert and people apply, I choose the time I require and select the sitter available during that time. This makes finding a babysitter, last-minute, super easy.

MUMS GROUPS

As a new mum, I thought the mum’s group the hospital signs you up for was going to be lame. Like, “I didn’t need to go to them”. And it’s true, you don’t. But, it’s the best place to start. All of the parents there are in the exact same boat as you – tired, nervous, excited, smitten, scared, maybe even peeing their pants a little from a weak bladder. But, from 20 new mums in my group, I’m still friends with five of them, five years on.

Eventually mums, you do get to an easier age where they don’t need constant supervision, but it pays to have a supportive village. My now 14-year-old is very independent and prefers to take care of himself. He has his own phone, bank account and even orders his own takeaway or uber if he is home alone. But let me assure you, I still call on my village helpers as raising teens is beyond my pay grade and what teen listens to mum? Not many. So even if your children are closer to teen years than little children, still spend the time creating your little village as they make this whole parenting thing a lot easier and happier.