From today, reflections has a new home on ipac’s brand new public website.

You can now find us at: http://www.ipac.com.au/blog/category/reflections

Thank you for all your support to date. All subscribers have been captured on the new blog and will continue to receive updates in their inbox, focusing on issues that are important to our lives.

Our main topic areas will be career, community, health, life, money and wellbeing, with the aim of giving you the tools to discover what’s  important to you and plan a life around it.

In other exciting news, we are also launching a new blog from ipac’s founding director Paul Clitheroe.

Paul Clitheroe is Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine. He regularly comments on current events and opportunities for investors.

You can find his blog at www.ipac.com.au/blog/Paul-Clitheroe

‘Tis the season to be jolly but for some people Christmas can be a stressful, or even depressing time of year.

While the festive season is meant to be a joyous time of parties, presents and spending time with loved ones, for those of us with financial difficulties, grief or family troubles, feelings of stress, loneliness and isolation can be exacerbated.

So if you are finding Christmas less merry than it should be, here are some tips to put the fun back into the silly season.

do it your own way  

Don’t try and keep up with the Jones’s – plan a Christmas that suits your circumstances, budget and mood. For example, if planning a big feast at home stresses you out or puts pressure on your budget, make it more casual this year by asking everyone to bring a plate. Or better yet, consider going outdoors for a picnic or beach barbeque.

Similarly, don’t put pressure on yourself to follow every tradition. If you don’t want to put-up a Christmas tree, don’t have time to decorate your house, or don’t fancy having certain friends around for Christmas drinks this year, don’t. And if you’re family doesn’t get along very well, it’s perfectly ok to go out to a restaurant to limit the time you have to spend together. It’s your celebration, so feel free to do it your way.

limit expectations

Just because it’s Christmas, doesn’t mean you’re suddenly transformed into Martha Stewart. So if your home doesn’t look like it comes out of an interior design magazine, or you burn the turkey, try not to worry about it.

Similarly, don’t expect too much of everyone else. Remember others may be under stress too so try to be as understanding as possible.

If you’re family has been feuding for some time, don’t expect it stop just because it’s Christmas. Instead try to stay calm, limit your alcohol intake and choose both who you talk to and your topics of conversation wisely. Another good idea to ease tension is to plan an activity like a board game or outdoor cricket.

look after yourself

It’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed, lonely or depressed at this time of year but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.

Some good coping mechanisms are to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, eat healthily, get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly and take time out to do things you enjoy. Don’t rely on alcohol or drugs to get you through.

If you’re feeling isolated or alone, consider getting more involved in your community. Volunteering can be a great way to help you feel more connected, while embracing the spirit of good will.

But if you’re finding it hard to cope with day-to-day things, seek professional help. You can find details of a counsellor in your local area in the beyondblue Directory of Medical and Allied Health Practitioners or your local doctor should also be able to suggest someone.

take care of loved ones

Be aware that Christmas can be a difficult time for some people and not everyone may be feeling quite as merry as you are. For example, they may feel overextended, miss love ones that have passed away, or be stressed out by rising debt. Those with family difficulties or who have just gone through a relationship break-may feel incredibly lonely and isolated.

Be sensitive to the people you care about and if someone isn’t coping, encourage them to seek help.

If you or someone you love needs some emotional support, Lifeline has counsellors available 24 hours a day, and the call does not show up on your phone bill. Call 13 11 14.

So you have a great idea for a new start-up company or creative project but how do you raise the initial capital? 

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThese days more and more people are turning to their communities for grants, loans and investment. It’s called crowd funding – basically going online to ask your community for start-up capital.

The most obvious advantage of crowd funding is a cheap source of capital to kick-start a new enterprise, but there are also many softer benefits. Crowd funding helps you build a community of avid supporters who are invested in your project both financially and emotionally. As this community wants your project to succeed, they will continue to support and champion it throughout its life.

Crowd funding is fast becoming a funding solution of choice for many entrepreneurs, musicians, filmmakers, designers, social innovators and small business owners.

Here are some of the crowd funding sites operating today:

Profounder helps businesses raise money from their friends, family, communities and the general public. Each entrepreneur creates a fundraising profile, and sets-out their own investment terms based on sharing a portion of their revenues. Businesses can choose between a private offering to friends and family, or a public offering to the general public. The public offerings also have a social slant as once investors make back their original investment, any remaining revenues are donated to a nonprofit chosen by the business.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects around the world. Unlike profounder supporters do not make an investment, but rather make pledges in return for tangible rewards such as products, benefits or experiences.  It’s based on an all or nothing funding model – meaning if a project’s funding goal is not reached in the set timeframe, no money changes hands.

Indiegogo is a funding raising platform for any project or idea whether creative, cause or entrepreneurial. It allows projects to raise money, offer perks or tax deductions and even pre-sell their work. Project creators keep the money whether or not the goal is reached.

Fundbreak is an all or nothing platform for funding creative projects in return for rewards. It’s similar to Kickstarter but based in Australia.

Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before commiting any money.

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DIn his 2005 address to Stanford graduates, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, urges them to pursue their dreams and see the opportunities in life’s setbacks.

Drawing on some of the pivotal moments on his own life, this speech inspires us to do what we love, and to “stay hungry, stay foolish.”

[tweetmeme only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DIf you’re feeling the pinch of rising interest rates, looking for a way to cut-back on spending this Christmas, or just have a soft-spot for a bargain, you may be interested in the newest online phenomenon – social buying.

Harnessing the force of group buying power online, social buying sites offer steep discounts, usually between 50 and 90%, on anything from dining to hotel rooms, spa treatments, gym memberships and recreational activities.

 how does it work?

Most social buying sites work on subscriptions. This means you sign-up online by entering your email address and city, and daily deals are sent to your inbox each day.

You have 24 hours to sign-up for the offer and if enough others sign-up too, the deal is yours.  In this case, you will be emailed a voucher and your credit card will be automatically charged. However, if the minimum numbers of people do not sign-up for the deal, it doesn’t go ahead and you will not be charged.

sharing deals with friends

Social buying sites also encourage you to share deals with your friends via email, facebook and twitter. As well as helping the deal go ahead, referring friends is incentivised with sites offering further discounts, or even free deals if enough others sign-up.

 Buying gift vouchers for friends is also welcome and encouraged. So if you’re looking for discounted Christmas presents, social buying sites could be a good place to start.

social buying sites

There are new social buying sites cropping up each day. Here are a few with deals across Australia to check-out:

  • ouffer offers daily deals on a range of activities including dining, spas, concerts, sports, shows and classes. Locations include Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Wollongong, Ettalong and Auckland. If a friend you refer buys something within 72 hours your account is credited with $5.
  • Jump On It has daily deals including hair and beauty, spa treatments, dining, short breaks and experiences like horse riding, dance classes and movie tickets. Locations include Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Canberra, Darwin, Wollongong, Newcastle, Geelong and Auckland. Jump On It gives you $10 if a friend you refers buys something within the first 72 hours.
  • OurDeal has specials on everything from restaurants, day spas and hair to concerts, sports matches, fitness sessions and adventures like scuba diving, cooking classes and wine tours. It operates across Australia in Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Hobart. OurDeal gives you $10 in credit for referring a friend once they make their first purchase.

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