Helping You Define Your Lifestyle

Low Maintenance Gardening for Large Spaces

Having a large outdoor area is a real luxury in so many ways, but it can also be a huge commitment. Recent research found that the average gardening enthusiast spends the equivalent of 53 minutes per week weeding their outdoor space, so just imagine how much time you could rack up pulling weeds if your garden is decidedly larger than average. Sometimes, downsizing can seem like an attractive option, but why give up space when a few low maintenance tactics could help you to make better use of your time? Time and time again, scientific research reinforces the benefits of gardening and spending time outdoors has on our wellbeing, so why not introduce a few simple gardening swaps to ensure that along with staying on top of things, you get to enjoy plenty of downtime too. 

Prioritise your layout

The fewer time consuming garden features you have in your garden, the less you’ll need to tend to them. This means deciding which things are a priority in your space and ditching anything that isn’t. Do you really need flower beds or a water feature? What about those herb pots and your vegetable garden? Your garden doesn’t need to be bereft of interest but you should think long and hard about which features are really providing value for you, which you enjoy the most and which are draining your time. Pots in particular can add hours onto your gardening to-do list as they require additional watering. If you’d really like to hang on to them, think about moving plants in larger pots that can hold more water. Along with streamlining your garden features, think about their placement too. Areas that are more time intensive and require lots of watering or digging may be better placed close to the house to help reduce time spent wandering to and from your property.

Be clever with the basics

Reduce the time you spend doing the essentials and you’ll find it easier to maintain the feature areas you have prioritised within your space. If you can afford to have someone to come in and mow the lawn for you regularly you can reclaim mowing time to be spent on other tasks. Or, why not invest in a top of the range robot lawnmower to get the job done for you? If you’re not too keen on dipping into the world of artificial intelligence, you could opt for a sit-on or wider mower to get the job done more quickly. A reliable diesel generator is another piece of kit that often proves a smart buy by providing reliable power at the bottom of your garden. Adding a dedicated watering system rather than pacing up and down with your watering can be a real time saver too.

If you’d like to reduce that 53 minutes per week spent weeding, you need to get your strategy on track. Your first step is to take action against weeds in early spring before they go to seed. Treat weeded areas with residual weed killer to stop them returning and think about covering soiled areas where weeds may sprout. Mulch and gravel are two simple  options for keeping weeds at bay.

Create a wild area or paved space

Keeping your entire garden pruned and pristine can be exhausting, so why not try leaving at least some of the space to do its own thing? Let the grass grow and the weeds flower and enjoy the wildlife that flourishes as a result. Keeping a meadow area in your garden can save you lots of task time and bring beautiful butterflies and bees in to pollinate your other plants. It needn’t look too messy either. Mow a path through the space to keep it looking curated and purposeful, and sit back to appreciate nature at its best.

If you can’t face the unruliness of a mini meadow, think about paving over some of your lawn instead. Paved areas can provide useful areas for outdoor socialising along with adding structure to landscaped spaces. And best of all, they don’t need mowing!

Stick with hardy plants

If you want a low maintenance garden, it’s time to ditch the needy and delicate plants in favour of more hardy and self-sustaining varieties. For all year round colour, explore the world of evergreen plants along with easy to manage shrubs. Think too about choosing plants that can get by with little water along with minimal attention. Rosemary is a great example, it thrives in the hot and dry Mediterranean environment and can therefore do its own thing fairly comfortably. Plus, it adds texture, colour and scent to your outdoor space. Plant along these lines and you’ll have plenty to enjoy in your garden all year round, without the need for too much effort.

What’s your biggest bugbear about having a large space to garden? Do you hate weeding or would you like to hire in some help to deal with the chore of mowing your lawn?

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5 Time-Tested Strategies for Financial Success

Financial Success

There are no short cuts to achieving financial success. To build, preserve and expand wealth that lasts you a lifetime, you must follow some proven principles. Here, we’ve compiled a list of 5 of the essential strategies you should make a part of your financial short and long-term plan to help you build your own financial success.

1. Set up a brokerage account

As soon as you’ve opened a bank account and signed up for your company’s retirement savings programme, jump on the next stage of smart wealth building by setting up a brokerage account. With it, you will be able to invest in stocks of different companies, no-transaction-fee mutual funds, as well as exchange-traded funds, which most people can’t access with their 401(k). 

To give you a quick guideline, opening an account with an online broker, Fidelity requires you to start with a deposit of $2,500; while at Charles Schwab, you’ll need only $1,000, which is not compulsory if you signed up for automatic monthly deductions of $100 or more from your account. For better money management and investment planning, it’s advised you go with a debit card that helps you with that goal in addition to making transactions convenient. 

2. Ensure your investing costs are at a minimal level 

Generally, less expenditure means more money in your account. As a fund investor, focus on ETFs and mutual funds with low expense ratios. As we already pointed out, the first thing to do is to register with a reputable online broker such as Fidelity or Charles Schwab so you can buy and sell stocks averaging $7 per trade. Besides, there are top discounters that allow you to trade select ETFs without requiring sales fees. Seriously consider index funds, especially those that track S&P 500, with estimated annual fees of 0.05%. Funds like Mairs & Power Growth (MPGFX) and Dodge & Cox Stock (DODGX) are recommended as they are top low-cost actively managed funds. 

If you have a fund manager, you’ll probably pay an annual consultation fee of 1%; but you can always negotiate for a lower fee. Another option is to go digital with an AI adviser, which can help manage your stock portfolio by using digital technology. An example is Wealthfront, which will not charge you a management fee if your balance is less than $10,000 and requires you to pay only 0.25% per annum for sums above that. You may also check Betterment, which levies just 0.25% of assets under management yearly. 

3. Diversify your investment 

Spreading out your investment with a variety of good value stocks and bonds can help you weather the storms of volatile periods and enhance your long-term ROI outlook. If, for example, your retirement is at least ten years away, keep 70% of your investments in stocks and put 30% in top-quality bonds. Mutual funds are good great for you too. For example, mutual fund managers, Vanguard Wellington (VWELX) keeps two-thirds of investments in stocks, as a principle, and the rest in bonds; and it has maintained a yearly return of 8.2% over the past 20 years. 

4. Rebalance, retarget and realign as necessary 

It’s important you get regularly balance your portfolio up for better overall performance. Move your investment assets around sometimes, divesting some funds off the ones performing well and shoring up the laggards to get a good mix. Always review your brokerage statements at least twice a year to see where your portfolio needs some rebalancing, retargeting or realignment and then go on to make the necessary trades. 

5. Adjust your investments

As your countdown to your retirement, your target should be an investment portfolio that gives you a good return that can stand the tide of inflation and also minimises your risk.  A spread of 50% stocks, 40% bonds and 5% cash is a nice mix that can help you achieve that goal. A mix of 60% stocks and 40% bonds and cash will likely give more growth; but if your risk threshold is less, then try a mix of 60% bonds and cash and 40% stocks.

Living with Depression: How to Keep Working

Living with Depression

In recent times, depression has become one of the most talked about mental illnesses that affect people in ways that no one could have foreseen.  It is easy to get disillusioned especially after you try for a long time and constantly fail to shake that dreadful feeling away

When your depression starts to creep into your work, it is the cue for you to shake things up a bit and try something new. Here are the things that you can do to make sure that you are not crippled by your depression at work.

1.  Break Up Work into Smaller Chunks

When you are depressed, you will find yourself settling for just being able to make things works. However, you will need to do more than just make things work. At some point, you will have to show up to work and get tasks accomplished. 

However, as you very well know, depression tends to scatter your concentration and suck away your energy. So, how do you keep yourself focused and energetic under these conditions?

Break up tasks into small ‘bite-sized’ bites and then work on them that way. Completing achievable goals will give you a sense of satisfaction.

2.  Work Does Not Make Depression Go Away

No doubt, you have heard people tell you or other depressed people, that if you get into something productive, you will not have time for depression. You hear it so much; it starts feeling as if it might be the elusive solution you have been looking for. 

However, this is far from the truth. Productivity will only do so much to distract you from the real problem. You will need to make sure that you are not duped into buying into this false philosophy. Do not fight fire with fire. While it will likely help distract you for a short period, it will not work a long-term cure or solution.

3.  Speak Openly About Your Depression

There is the potential that being open about your depression at work will have some disadvantages that you will not want to deal with. It has been proven, however, that speaking about it is much better than sitting on it and many workplaces now are very open to helping those affected with mental health problems.

1 in 4 people in the lifetime will have a mental health condition which means, realistically speaking, that in an office of 80 people 20 of those people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point.

When an employer or manager is made aware of the situation, they will accommodate the little things that you may miss, and you might even get perks like working from home when you feel like you cannot make it work.

4.  Personalise Your Workspace

It is always great to work in an environment that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. There is a lot that goes into making your space your own. You can start with lighting, colours and noise minimisations. All these things can affect your mental health without your realising it. Go for anything that makes you comfortable and positive. Add plants, family pictures and anything that makes you smile. If you do not want noise, you can get noise-cancelling headphones to block everything out and make yourself focus.  

To Sum Up

It is possible that you can be depressed and still function well. High-functioning depressives can juggle everything that demands attention and still have time to work on themselves. It all has to do with finding the right lifestyle, starting to operate with the right habits and then going for professional help. Medical care and therapy only help when you are doing more than just waiting for pills to kick in or things to get better.

Accept your depression – then challenge it!