Goals Update – January

Today is my Birthday! yay…  Well, it’s just another day, but I did start late as I needed to meet a tradesperson at home (working on something on my house project list).  Now my bath is smoother, and I’ve been advised to clean it with washing up liquid.  As to the colour appearing yellow – might try changing the light globe (I’m assured it is WHITE!)

Financial

I didn’t put a goal to make my mortgage repayments – cause to me, that’s a given and it has to happen.  However, I am aiming to pay an extra $5k (as permitted by the terms of my fixed rate/term loan).  As such, I’m trying to ‘overpay’ asap, as the sooner I get my ‘extra’ money onto the mortgage, the more I’m saving in interest. And the sooner I can start on all the other goals below!

$20k target by 22 Dec: start of month: $13,487.55.  End of month: $14,119 at 30/1/13 – should be $14,249 by 31/1/13.  Well on track

However, this is about to take a BIG hit, as outlined above.  It will take between $3-4k out of this account.  Hopefully it will slightly lower my interest added to my mortgage (and by the same token, I’ll pay a touch less take on the interest I might have earnt if it was in savings)

Generosity target of at least $100 per week (weeks Mon thu Sun – and based on when things were withdrawn from my accounts):
week 1 – $175: church ($25) + belated xmas gift ($150)
week 2 –  $140: charity donation ($100) + church ($20) + Big Issue ($20)
week 3 – $80-$180: church ($20) + Brother loan ($100) + gift ($60) *loan may be repaid… so a ‘bad’ week* (3 hours volunteering)
week 4 – $125: church ($45) + Red Cross ($80) (+3hrs volunteering)

Bills savings of $200 per week:  totally automated, so yep, meeting that!  Cept I did (of course) withdraw to pay the contents insurance and water bills. Oh and I found I had close to $500 more than I needed in my fund for my annual health insurance premium, so I’m moving that to the higher interest account and putting it towards the $20k goal (rest assured, for the next few months, I’ll drip feed this health insurance fund to ensure I cover any inflation in premiums, but I have a few months yet).

Health

Cook at home twice a week: almost, but not quite met

week 1 – Wednesday (Fried rice) & Sunday (carbonara)
week 2 -once on Thursday night (chorizo potato salad) & Sunday (Cabbage salad with pear)
week 3 – Steak, packet potatos, hot cabbage & strawberry Souffle & Wed (spaghetti carbonara (which I’ve only JUST learnt how to spell!))
week 4 – Friday I made some polenta, and some cookies for a party.  SO, no that’s just one meal

Sugar – fail!  Chocolates on Mon, ice coffee Tue (did say no to icecream on Mon night… that counts in some regard!), choc chips on Thu night. I think I stopped tracking after this. Actually this ‘healthy eating’ is SO much more challenging with an ice cream monster in my midst – although I settle for a mouthful or two of his, it’s breaking my willpower!

Train for polo – fail. But yay for season break. If I was more dedicated, I’d do a swim session.  But I’m not.  But at least I’m not wasting a coach’s time.  Alas, one from two at this stage (the third wasn’t on as Monday was a public holiday).

Cultural

2 films a month: Acheievd. Saw Rise of the Gaurdians on Sun 30th (technically in week 1), and Jake Reacher on Mon 7th Jan.  Tom Cruise is a meglomaniac! I’d have seen something else with different company, but nonetheless, wasn’t too horrible and I was curious to see it. Last night I used my almost expired movie voucher to see The Impossible.  I had to pay for the date’s ticket – so cheap on a Tuesday! I’d like to see Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook (not yet out here).

2 books a month: Achieved. Worked through ‘Freakanomics’ by SD Levitt and SJ Dubner – if only I had a better memory I could recall some better stats in social situations.  Like how or why drunk walking is more dangerous than drunk driving.  Also read ‘Obedience’ by J. Yallop – a dark book, and slow moving, but I liked it.

Career

Certification:  Gold star for effort: First, I filled in the webpage, so my work has 14 days to approve my costs to get certified.  Simple step (save for uploading a photo – WHY?), and then I’ll really have to put my head down.  It just takes small steps and this one was easy – I even had momentum to do more, but sadly the site hindered that!  <– Alas, this was all in vain I quickly found out.  So I decided to divide and conquer the task – there’s 16 x 700 words episodes to write.  So I divyed up the tasks between myself and four colleagues.  That way we could manage our three ‘episodes’ and come together in a fixed time period to reflect and enhance each other’s writing.  And hopefully inspire us to embark on our remaining 13!  I did get two fanatastic episodes fleshed out, under the word limit, almost simultaneously as I got an email saying the payment we get for doing this are now coming irrespective of our action (or inaction), whilst negotiations continue between our employer and unions about our award.  Still it feels good to have started – as there’s every chance I might need them again once the union/work fights are resolved.

I’m starting to think I don’t like my un-measurable goals (or more to the point, my career goals!)- and can see me saying for months ‘no progress here’ – but maybe that shame will spur me into action?

Things I’d like to be…

I’d like to be (inspired by you Dar)

– a zero waste (landfill) home.  But I eat large single serve cookies from the vending machine when I’m hungry.  And buy the half cabbage wrapped in cling wrap (cause a whole cabbage is a whole lot of cabbage for one little lady!)

– sugar free. Ever been hungry and walked into a cafe? It’s SO hard to find a savoury snack!  And then your sweet chili sauce of course also has sugar in it, but I don’t do ‘chili’ really, so I can’t substitute.  This is mainly a weight management strategy (and an exercise avoidance tactic!)

– wheat free. Again, ever been hungry and tried to find something that is neither sugary nor wheat-y?  Potato chips for the win.  Likewise corn chips.  Fruit salad.  But that vending machine just haunted me. (let me be clear, I’m not celiac (heck I can’t spell it!) but I do try to keep my intake low to lessen my psoriasis)

– lactose free. I’m trying to limit lactose for the same reasons as wheat.  And I heard about the plight of cows, always birthing and boy cows dying.  But really, sometimes I am weak in the face of cheese.

– freecycler. If only people would take my stuff! (at least the most recent stuff  – I need a good home for oodles of bubble wrap).  I stopped reading the posts so I could be more of the below:

– anti consumer. But I really wanted a teal throw rug for summer as the winter one is itchy.  And if I waited 10,000 years I may find one in a second hand store, but then I’d need to not work and spend time thumbing through stores and checking ebay and gumtree

– minimalist. No stuff for stuff’s sake.  Alas, I have trinkets from travellers, and whilst i could part with them (no emotional heart strings), I don’t want my home to be TOO sterile!  Concrete floors are more than a good start down that path!

– public transport user. I’m SO reluctant to get a car, cause I know it’d be easier than choosing to walk or to catch a train or a bus.  But that work car often finds itself dropping off or picking up within walking distance of places (home and work namely!)

– debt free.  I only have my mortgage, and pay of any credit card debt weekly.  But still NO debt, wow that’d be awesome!

– make-from-scratch’er/no packaged food.  I can cook, but sometimes laziness comes to stay and she orders packaged garlic bread – complete with the icky plastic baggy!  And a rice cracker is so much easier than making or finding a recipe for a gluten free, sugar free snack!

– recycler.  I am, and I couldn’t be otherwise.  But today my take away coffee cup went in landfill, even though the lid and (clean) cardboard cup could be recycled (if I’d washed them well enough and kept them til I found the bin I needed).  I should have used my ‘keep cup’.

It’s not ‘all that I am’ but ‘all that I’m almost’…

Make a list of house projects – January Cure @ Apartment Therapy

Apartment Therapy dropped off my radar (probably the n’th time Chrome lost all my bookmarks to be honest) but now that I have re-found it, I’m oh so delighted for their January theme!  Day 1 was Make a list of projects

Well you don’t need to tell this girl twice!  But I thought I might share January 2012’s list, then May 2012’s list and today’s list.  Anything with a ? following it isn’t a definite project, just a thought.  Oh and I’ve listed from recent to less recent lists.  I’d hoped to get some more photos of finished projects, but no such luck.

Today’s list (Jan 2012)

Entry:

– Empty out box (which means I’ve DONE Day 2 of the cure!)

– Tidy/declutter drawers

– Tidy/declutter shelves

– Install small ledges for displaying things ?

Bathroom

– Regrout corners

– Get bath resurfacing fixed

Kitchen/Dining

– Open shelf lighting?

– Pantry lighting?

– Wall art

Living room

– Frosting on the windows

– Replace blinds ?

– Sliding Screen door

Bedroom

– nothing!

Niche

– recarpet?

– complete ‘hide the niche’ project

May 2011

I did this in a matrix form – with four boxes – hard and easy, and cheap or $$.  I thought this would give me a better ‘balance’ on what to do, so I didn’t feel like I was leaking money, but still moving forward.

Easy & Cheap

Recolour damaged dining chair legs (easy, just found the product, bought it, rubbed it on)

– New toilet roll holder (it was old and dingey like my soap dish) (impossible to find ‘new’ toliet roll holders that have two mounting points like my existing one – project abandoned)

– New wardrobe handles (why would I have no standard spaced handles? All handles are 96mm apart (from hole to hole), and mine… are 100mm.  I don’t want more holes in my wardrobe that much, so again, abandoned)

Easy & Pricey

– Window screens (in the last month, so Dec, I DIY’ed on for the hopper window.  But I would still like a sliding screen door for the balcony door.  These mosquitoes are KILLING me!)

– New roller blinds (not even attempted)

Rug for living room (This was soon after accomplished, once I found the rug, it was just expenditure!)

– Wine rack (the search continues… the only one I like is this one… all the way in the US)

Hard & Cheap

– Window film (have been in contact for a quote, waiting to hear back now that we’re in the new year)

Perspex sofa arms (Pricier than first expected, so I only got one fabricated, at about $60, but it’s great to have a stable place for a wine glass/plate/laptop or pad of paper.  So pleased I did this)

– Shelves to cover niche (ah… well now there’s not shelves, but a shutter.  But it’s not totally screened yet :s)

Fix damaged corner on ottoman (This was EASY once I got all I needed from the hardware store!)

– Recarpet niche (no movement on this one – seems I lost the carpeter’s number from last year, and finding a handy man for such a small job, impossible.  Carpet comes from mega companies and their minions install it… sigh!)

Hard & Pricey

Curtains in bedroom (really not all THAT pricey – Ikea’s Kvartal system, and existing curtains.  This took so long to get done as I needed to await YHL’s favourite gauzy curtain, the Vivan, to come back in stock.  Then I needed one more velvet curtain, but alas when Ikea got them back in stock they were a different colour and style.  So then I have worked around.

Before
Before
The velvet curtains from my flatting days have returned!
The velvet curtains from my flatting days have returned!

Bed ledge (again, not as $$ as I thought, with a $50 second hand bed and the right hardware and Mr DIY, it was DONE – here’s the post on how!)

The final product
The final product

Bath resurfacing (This was a case of book, and do.  And be disappointed.  It’s just not bright white.  Or smooth)

Install new taps (Just a case of getting the coin together and booking a plumber and a day off – all coincidently the same day as I met a lovely blogger, Colleen Marsden from www.365lessthings.com)

Display Hermes scarf (This was a drawn out process, to draw out the cost (ie the framing cost more than the scarf, which was a graduation gift, but getting no wear.  Then operation ‘hang’ – cause it was 10kg with perspex.  Last thing I want is something falling off my wall!)

Safely on the wall (and horrible lighting...)
Safely on the wall (and horrible lighting…)
The scarf in context (complete with Mr DIY's back!)
The scarf in context (complete with Mr DIY’s back!)

Find side table for living room (A closing down antique store I drove past during work one day had just what I needed.  It was $50 I was told.  I was SO pleased to find the $275 sticker when I got home.  See the business was closing down and the caretaker just wanted to move stuff, and we couldn’t find a price on it at the store.  So yay for solid wood, non ikea AND a great steal!)

– Bird cage display (yep, still on the current list – not done)

Jan 2011

Living Room

Choose couches (oh I love these beasts, every time I see them in an ad, I think, wow that’s a LOVELY sofa – and it’s like sitting on a cloud or a hug)

Choose lights and placement (went for an Ikea Maskros PS which I love, and just recently inspired a friend to buy the smaller option)

Choose paint colour (and style – like stripes?) (stripes just seemed too hard, so just went for an all over yellow tinted white, to lighten up my dark apartment)

Choose rug (this took FOREVER as Australia doesn’t really do geometrics, which is all I pined for and saw in the US.  In the end, Ikea came through, in blue tones that I love.  Sad to see it $200 off in the latest sales though)

Collect TV (thanks to friends who have three for two people!)

– Hang or install shelves to display birdcages (still lingering in my mind, but instead of 7 ornamental birdcages, I now have three, so it’s more manageable, but less impactful)

– Steam clean dining chairs (never happened – did try some spot cleaning with isopropyl alcohol)

Kitchen

– Where to store Kitchenaid/grater (wow, big fish to fry – in one of my underutilised cupboards…)

Buy microwave (again, just confirm measurement, and ORDER – simple, and slots into allotted cupboard well (even if I did remove have to remove the door to get the microwave past the hinges!))

Design lighting scheme (thank goodness for being able to see if a dish is clean whilst washing up – this was an amazing project to get finished!)

Fix stove knob (multi stage drama – new knobs didn’t cut it, I also needed a new post, which came with a new regulator.  And then the new knobs didn’t fit on new post properly (so the new knob sits higher than the others.  I’ve ‘settled’ for this – it’s all functional)

Bathroom

Buy washing machine (this was early days – I just needed to decide on brand etc, and order)

Replace damaged tiles (Impossible to find the matching colour, so now have three ‘feature’ mosaic tiles, and they look great.  Admittedly, they aren’t flush cause it was too hard to get the old adhesive and grout out of such a small space without risking more damage.  And then the new tile adhesive/grout combo was stark white, where all the other grout was greyed.  Enter ‘re-grout bathroom entirely’ project, commenced at 9pm one night when work calls meant I was locked out of a concert.  Wow, what a night that was!)

New soap dish (for old scummy uncleanable one) (Such a simple fix!)

Buy new taps (Thanks Aldi, $50 per set was a GREAT deal)

– Build in shelves or a rail (went for a rail option – with tension.  Meant no scary drilling of tiles)

– Mount iron and ironing board (abanonded, turned out to be a bit of effort for little gain – I tuck the ironing board into the space between shelves and the wall, and the iron sits on said shelves)

– Resurface bath (what a shmoozle – did it in July, but entirely unhappy with the colour, texture etc and have followed up with the company, still waiting to hear back after the Christmas holidays)

Bedroom

– Beside tables? (dreamt up a bedhead/ledge idea, and continued to use the cardboard storage boxes used for years prior!)

Paint colours and style (went for the same as the rest of the place)

– Try storing books on railing (nope, they’d fall, and they look untidy to me)

– Shelves to cover niche? (went with some shutters I found in the Op Shop up the road)

– Curtain divider (oh, man alive, does this make SUCH a difference to my sleep… but also impeded the hot air of the loft bedroom escaping.  Not that I regret this decision!)

Plumber

– Install new tapware (it happened – and then I felt flat, as it seemed the last ‘big job’ on my list!)

– Drippy sink fix (yes, though with two unprofessional attempts and two professional attempts!)

– Attach washing machine (are they required? No they weren’t)

– Install garbage disposal? (nope, decided against this with just one sink)

Electrician

– Powerpoint near entry (no can do – just too hard!)

– Rafters light in kitchen (semi solution for the kitchen part of rafters area)

– See if old kitchen light location usable (nope, it wasn’t 🙁 )

– Install pendant in either living or dining room (in the end, I got both!)

What I list about…

So here’s a snapshot (sanitised) of my current lists (that I have in electronic form):

– To do: broken into categories: work; day off; awaiting; long term

– BF’s to do list: things he keeps talking about…

– Be more generous: tracking ways I’ve been generous – moving that to this blog currently, in my monthly tracking

– Songs at end 2012: lists the songs I like on the radio/want to download

– Graffiti’d assets: This is a running list of work assets I see when on ‘down’ time that need graffiti attended to.  Bit of a weird habit!

– To google: For sites I can’t access with work’s blocks – weirdly this doesn’t get added to much at all, maybe I don’t need to ‘list’ it anymore

– Holidays (v1): Friends who live out of town that I should go and visit

– Holidays (v2): (predominantly) international destinations I’d like to visit (with time frames on what year and time of year)

– Events/Acitivites: date and other ideas to do with the BF (shush he doesn’t know I list this!)

– Big spending plans: born out of weeks where you could spend 10x you pay cheque and stress out, I just list all the money I plan/want/need to spend in the future – on things like income protection, insurance, funeral plans etc

– Dinner invites: Friends and family I really must invite around, who haven’t yet seen my ‘new’ (year old) place

– Grocery pricing: tracks  costs of regularly bought items at various stores

– Future decluttering: Things I need to get rid of, or are thinking might be on their way out (I need to improve on GETTING THINGS GONE!)

– Decluttered 2012: I was vaguely seeing if I decluttered more than 365 things.  Woeful.  I didn’t.  Keep in mind, I was equipping a house, so it’s not entirely bizarre to think I didn’t get rid of a lot!  There’s 115 line items, but some have multiples, so I’d say there were about 165 things.  But then I also include things that went in trash (which makes me feel uncomfortable), things I returned to stores etc.

– One day jobs: once a huge list that had everything I wanted to around my apartment.  I’m incredibly pleased with my progress!

– Gift ideas: for the BF

– Dimensions: of spaces and things in my apartment, so I know if a wine rack or photo frame fits

– Foods I don’t prefer: wow this list is long… I mean most food I will eat, but I use the ‘dislikes’ to narrow down ordering food out and choosing recipes

– Foods I love to order: this reminds me of the fail safe loves of food (even if they are unhealthy!)

– Countries I’ve visited: a simple count of all the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit in my so far short life

– Clothing likes and dislikes: this list was born out of shopping frustration (and a hot summer in classes in France!), and is rather detailed!

– Adventures: those crazy ‘sports’ that I’d like to do (incl sky diving and the like)

– Things that make me happy: to pull me out of a funk or brighten a day, it’s nice to revisit this list.  I started it in 2002 I think, on coloured bits of paper, and allowed myself positive and negatives on different sheets.  Over time, I’ve chosen to keep the positive ones only.

There’s a few other lists, that really, I shouldn’t have or I should ‘hide’ better (than being on Gtasks which syncs to my phone), mainly relationship-y stuff…  I also write paper lists at work, for ‘things to do tomorrow’ and the like.  I also write paper lists for myself.  Sometimes it feels better to cross things off…  And get through the MAMMOTH pile of one sided printed paper my work generates.

I think I’m willing to elaborate on lists, should any spark your interest, let me know!

Operation: Bed Ledge

All I wanted was a bed ledge.  And for so many months, I could NOT find one.  Sure, Ikea makes a bed ledges/shelving unit for my style of bed (the Malm), but I didn’t want all that shelving-ness.  I just wanted ledge-ness.  I searched the as-is section with a fervor bordering on stalker (helped that Ikea is on the way between my work and my parents place, which I do at least once a week).  But never did I find an ‘as-is’ Malm 3 Piece bed head like below (I’m not sure I could have made it work anyway – cause as is can be ANYTHING).

Ikea's 3 piece bed head offereing
Ikea’s 3 piece bed head offereing

One day, in as-is, I found this:

Malm occassional table
Malm occassional table

If I overlooked the orange-ness (haha… sure, me, and orange!), it was still 22cm too ‘wide’ for a bed head ledge. And a few centimetres lower. It just wasn’t good enough.  It just wouldn’t work.  And nor would Ikea’s ledges.  Nothing looked like it would work (despite me seeing them make a catalogue COVER with a ledge behind the bed that was the SAME width – one of those mysteries I’m yet to have solved!).  I diversified to gumtree.com.au and ebay.com.au looking for occasional and sofa tables that might, by chance, meet all my measurements, and hopefully tone in with the wood.

And then… amazingly, something in my brain switched.  I wish I could remember when or how or why.  I undoubtedly it was with my MR DIY (not the BF, someone else, I like to compartmentalise).  What if I had a second Malm bed.  What if I used a second ‘head’ of a bed, against the wall, and jutted my normal bed out off the wall.  And bridge the gap with a ‘foot’ of a second Malm bed?  This would all measure up PERFECTLY.  And then: I found a Malm queen bed in the black brown for 50 big ones on gumtree.  It would be mine.  And it was.  I took a friend along for a ride (she was up for company, and I had a mission – and she was a sport… cause there’s two long ‘side’ bits to make it a bed frame… well we needed to NOT impale ourselves on those on our drive back… and so she helped me carefully dispose of them pronto!)

I carted the components into my loft, and then balanced everything out.  Which is FINE when you live alone.  And you sleep ‘carefully’.  But then, well, someone came along and it went boom crash!  So a securing system was needed.  Lengthy negotiations with MR DIY commenced.  And, to be honest, best laid plans didn’t succeed (we though we could out-Ikea Ikea – with dowels.  But ikea hollowed out the bed head and it was never going to work :'( )  In the end, we just duplicated the L bracket scheme on each side.  Of course, I bought enough to do this initially, then we changed the plan, returned one set, only to have to go back and buy it again.  I’m a serial ‘returner’ of anything unused – waste not, want not!

Now for the photo essay:

Mounting simple L brackets to the horizontal ledge component
Mounting simple L brackets to the horizontal ledge component
Two 'legs' to my bed ledge - using a second Malm Queen bed head
Two ‘legs’ to my bed ledge – using a second Malm Queen bed head
IMAG0708
Drilling into the ‘legs’ to later screw the horizontal ledge to the vertical leg (creating an upside down L)
Attaching ledge compenent to legs component
Attaching ledge compenent to legs component
Brackets attached to the 'rear' (wall side) leg and the ledge
Brackets attached to the ‘rear’ (wall side) leg and the ledge
Look at that ledge!
Look at that ledge!
Sid eview
Side view
Finished - complete with BOOKS!
Finished – complete with BOOKS!

My house may or may not resemble an Ikea showroom – what do you think?

Want to learn more of my tricks for making a small loft work for me? How about how I store all my jewellery beautifully, so I know what I’ve got, and I wear it? What about an innovative way to organise my spices?  Or maybe you’d like to see more of my house – see the house tour.

Penny-wise

Well to be honest, we, in Australia, don’t have pennies – actually, I’m starting to think 5c pieces are useless.  Most vending machines no longer take them, and I’m inclined to decline those given to me as change.  They are just too small to be ‘worth it’.  But this post is about whether I ‘manage’ the pennies – as inspired by An Exacting Life’s post.

The answer is ‘sometimes’.  Since going away in October, I think I’ve let me fastidious money tracking lapse.  Prior to my holiday, I was tracking every expense, looking for an average ‘normal spend’ so I could start withdrawing just that amount of cash (and hopefully save the remainder).  In actual fact, my budgetting works in reverse to most (I think).  I set savings targets, and the rest is ‘fun money’. Here’s how it works, on pay day (weekly):

1. Pay mortgage (variable amounts, but a target amount per week, sometimes I overpay if it’s a ‘good’ week, other weeks I ‘under’ pay knowing I’m ahead… I track what I pay, so I always meet my monthly repayment by the due date).

2. Pay bills – this includes whatever is on the credit card from the week prior, plus any utilities/insurances etc that have come in the mail.  This may meant moving money from the fund outlines in 3. into the ‘everyday’ account.

3. Pay savings – some of these are automated – I take about about $20 per week to ‘save’ for my annual health insurance premium.  I also put about $200 per week away for bills – I have strata payments due quarterly, at a whopping $1250!  So if I don’t plan for this expense it can be a RUDE shock!  I also put away $50 per week as a savings cushion or holiday fund (I change it up, with respects to the goal), to meet a rewards program with my bank.  These are all automated.

4. Spend spend spend – this is groceries, eating out (by FAR my biggest expense, but I’m ok with that mostly), transport (negligible given I don’t own a car, and work pays for everything for my work car).  I try to make these around 20% (or about $240 a week) of my take home pay per week.  That being said, it doesn’t always work like that!

5. Savings – as Tuesday comes around, if I know I have nothing planned spending wise, I’ll sock away whatever cream is left that I won’t miss to savings, leaving about a $100 balance for ’emergencies’.  Knowing it’s a day til pay day, I seldom have an emergency, but I don’t like the idea of having no ready accessible cash, if only for a day.

Strangely, once the money is in the cushion/holiday account, I’m reticent to withdraw it.  Which means I stress myself out when I get down to a nil cash balance, or start putting things on credit cards, even though I know I have a nice big cushion tucked away.  I suppose I create a ‘poor’ mentality, so I keep on my toes.

All in all, I work to my money goals, and the rest I try to just take easy – and go with the flow.  Given I reach most of my savings goals (such as buying a place, and going on holidays), I feel like my strategy works.  That being said, I sometimes feel like my strategy makes me less ‘fun’ as I’m always planning and scheming and find it hard to just live it up – cause I’m always thinking ‘that’s money I could be saving for an awesome business class flight’…

The really thing I grapple with are the ‘slush fund‘ situations that Carla asked about.   My philosophy (generally) is that all should come out of my ‘spend spend spend fund’  (like my $30 per month prepaid phone credit).  However, given I love to buy stuff for my house (ok, get stuff DONE to my house), not all these expenses fit into this weekly budget.  That’s where I grapple with dipping into the savings cushion.  I do try to maintain a min balance on the savings cushion (which is my nice name for an emergency fund) of at least $10k.   It’s such a balancing act between growing the emergency fund and doing things I long to do in my home.  Some weeks I feel like I have no money, and endless ‘to do/buy’ things on my list.  But by writing a list last year, I was able to slowly work through all my ‘renovation’ goals each month, and now I’m close to being done. But that’s a subject for another post.

Cutting expenses

Pauline has inspired me, again (cause of course I like a good list)  She’s collected a number of questions to help to cut expenses.  And I’m a penny pincher if there ever was one!

My answers are all in bold.  Nice way to tell you a little bit more about myself, and my money management skills.

Car

Do you need a car? NOPE! So I don’t have one.  Well, I lie.  I have a ‘free’ work car, for driving to and from work, and at work.  Bonus! I then share a car with my younger brother.  At the moment, there’s no sharing – he’s half a world away.  That being said, I don’t need it, though I do enjoy having more regular use in his absence

Really? Sure, I’ll use one, but if I don’t have a car on hand, I work it out – pub trans, walking, a cab

Can you work from home a day per week, or commute? See above, whilst the car is free, I’m sitting pretty from a $$ (say nothing of my green credentials being shot – so much for being a greenie when I drive to and from work!)

Can you walk or cycle more? YES! (if only to be able to eat more bad foods!)

Do you pay the minimum amount on insurance for the coverage you need? Good question – we don’t pay comprehensive (so if the car gets nicked in my less that safe suburb, that’ll be a real shame!).  Compulsory third party insurance is unfortunately not at all competitive, but I did get two quotes back in September when it was due.  Otherwise, I don’t think we have roadside assistance, which seems ok – cause our parents and our other brother live nearby (and I also have awesome friends who’d help out if I got stuck)

Do you need two cars? Well, no – I don’t even have the car space for more than one!  But one is 100% free in the dollars sense… Alas, it’s due to be taken off me in March due to changes at work.

Housing

Are your utility bills as low as possible or are you wasting energy? For sure I’m wasting energy – I’ve got lax on switching off the microwave at the wall (and I’m using it less often now, so I really should make the effort!).  I have also powered the air con a bit lately – largely for guests, but I’ll admit that it’s often for me too!  I do have a 10% off contract with electricity, which is pretty pathetic (imo), but it’s not a very competitive industry (I’d know, I work in it!)

Do you need cable? I’d love to have it – but alas I don’t!

Do you turn off the lights when you leave a room? Always! Admittedly occasionally I leave some low energy mood lighting on if I know I’m coming home late (ie when I go out after work), as much for others that will come home with me, than solely me.  But I like a little ambient lighting when I get home…  My guest last night went and turned lights off before we watched a DVD – what a great friend!

Can you switch to a better deal for broadband / Netflix / utilities?  I don’t have internet at home! With a smart phone, I hardly need it (despite my friends telling me otherwise!!)  I stopped Quickflix – which is mail order DVDs Australia style.  I haven’t missed it either.  So that’s two things I don’t have as expenses.

Is your house properly insulated? Well it’s a concrete box looking out of one large set of windows (it’s a loft apartment!)  The concrete floor is a good thermal mass – especially with the air con!  But generally the place stays warm in winter, which is more important to me than cool in summer, cause I don’t get that hot.

Could you dry your clothes outside? Yes – although, this question would perhaps read better ‘naturally’.  I hang them up on a clothes airer inside my apartment.  I don’t own a clothes dryer.  I don’t need one, and if and when I do, I go to the local laudromat, pay my $5, and they dry it for me.  In a year, I’ve used them on two occasions  and interestingly, only for other people’s stuff…

Do you need a cleaning lady? Hells yes! But alas, no I don’t have one of these either.  I did recently engage someone for two hours to clean after doing a large wedding in my tiny apartment.  I used some of my ‘pay’ to cover this ‘expense’

Groceries

Are you eating everything you buy? More or less, yes. I’m churning through (quickly spoiling) fruit salad, as I don’t like to waste.  I hate to have ‘wet’ rubbish, so this really helps not to waste food.  I did throw out some parmasen cheese that was a little funky last time I used it

Could you switch to the store’s brand? Done – even though I did feel a little weird when someone was standing next to me in a grocery store.  I feel like because people think I earn ‘good money’ I should buy ‘premium’ – but I’m not that silly!

Do you eat meat with every meal? Nope!  Love a good vego meal, or even a meal that’s largely vego save for a slice or two of bacon.

Could you reduce meat, dairy and alcohol consumption, even temporarily? Sure can – bought some beer and wine for NYE – wow that’s a pricey trip.  But I can’t cut down to the extent that I’m ‘freeloading’ from my friends.  So it’s a balancing act.  Dairy has been severely reduced in the past year – mainly cause it’s hard to buy zero/low waste versions of cheese/yoghurt/cream.  I really would like to limit my trash, and dairy isn’t easy as I don’t have a local deli.

Have you gone through your stockpile for products about to go bad? No, but I do have a ‘to use’ list so I make sure those esoteric ingredients get used up, rather than languishing.  But no meat in the freezer (as I became used to at M&D’s place)

Do you use coupons? No – they aren’t really common in my local grocer (ie they are independently owned stores, not a chain).

Personal

Can you do without new clothes for some time? Yep – did this in 2011 – got SO bad, my father started questioning my decision, as he often hung out the family’s washing. It was worth it to be able to buy my own place.  Since then, I buy the bulk of my clothing whilst on holidays, which is usually once a year.  I buy underwear whenever it’s in stock and I’m in store (not often enough!).  I tracked clothing expenses for two years – I spend between $2000 to $5000, so a year off is a HUGE saving.

Can you ask a friend to cut your hair, or do your own manicure? I have a buzz cut – I supported my friend who is currently undergoing chemo.  So no more conditioner, no more hair dryer (at least for now!)  Even my hair clips are languishing in the drawer.  Now manicures.  This is something I’ve never done, but my partner has indicated he’d appreciate.  I painted them twice since – once was ultimate fail, but the second time was an improvement (thanks to good quality polish).  Actually, by late Jan, I can recruit my mum to DIY – she’s a pro!

Can you find a free course instead or a paid one? I’m not doing any courses… maybe I should be?!

Can you get your books from the library instead of buying them? Pft – people buy books? (OK, I bought two cook books as gifts for Christmas… but still). I have a list of library books to read, and I work through them.  That reminds me, I must renew them, they are due back today or yesterday (ekk!), and I’ve only read one of four.  (Bless friends for keeping me busy this Christmas/New Year period whilst my family were away). I’ll also never buy a magazine, save for a long haul flight – and then I’ll buy an economist, which is worth whatever the ticket price for the amount I learn!

Giving gifts

Thank Pauline, again inspiring a post!  How much do you spend on gifts – and why?

This is obviously a little more of a review, than a ‘pre’ Christmas thing.  But it’s something I grappled with this Christmas, being in a new relationship (and it’s a long time, it seems, since I was last in one!)

**Sorry for the stray balloon about halfway down – and the less than readable font. I’m very new to this, so I’m having some teething issues – but this post I learnt how to have subtitles, so that’s all VERY exciting!**

Family

I roughly budget about $150-200 per person for Christmas (Mum, Dad, and my two younger brother – big bro and little bro (one is tall… and older than the other).  Admittedly, some years I run away overseas, and they have to settle for about $20-$50 gifts.  I feel OK when I ‘scrimp’ (in my eyes) cause my mother at least thinks I’m very generous.  I don’t mind spending when I know it’s a gift they’ll like or use.  This year, mum and dad got tickets to Bruce Sprinsteen.  Little bro got a money transfer – whilst i could have got him something, he was leaving for a Europe trip, so I figure cash was simple!  Big bro heard about the cash… and so he got a pail filled with the same amount of money in $2, $1, 50c and 20c coins.  I was so proud – he’s someone who finds money burning a hole in his pocket, so this was my crafty way to be equal with his bro – but slow him down (he also has a sense of humour!).  The upside of the “change” gift was that it took to bulk of coinage that was littering the floor at the BF’s place – win win!

BF

Oh, did I struggle with this one! Before he went home to his family, i got him two ‘joke’ presents – things that had some up in conversations.  So, clothes pegs (or pins), and a scrubbing brush that you can put the liquid in!  Oh and a card.  I did this the night before he went away.  He didn’t want to open them – and I wanted to make sure he did, lest he think I was uber serious… Needless to say, he still went home and returned with generosity! (and… then I knew where to pitch my non joke gift’s value – about the same as my family above!).  So today he should hopefully get his gift voucher in the mail – let’s hope he likes it, cause if he doesn’t, I’ll happily use it! It’s a helicopter flight over Sydney Harbour – given he loves sailing, and has only lived in the city a short while, i think it’ll be good (and I’ll happily buy myself a seat alongside him when he/we pick a date to do it!).

Pauline – I agree with you about guys paying for a few dates  – and my boy is incredibly generous with dates.  Thankfully there wasn’t any tech gagets he wanted, though there are a few things I know I could have sorted that he’d have liked (like sunglasses, or getting his car detailed) but they all seemed like they had a high chance of failure – wrong style or hard to sort out the car thing.

Extended Family

This is guided by established protocols – this year the deal was ‘no gifts except for Grandma’ – so I made her an album of our family’s photos.  It’s such a relaxing and fun hobby – even if I only took a few nights to get it done.  And there’s so many leftover pages, I might get charged with adding other families…  Otherwise, some years it’s $50 per person you are charged with giving to.  I handle all 5 people our family draws out – seems I love thinking and getting a great gift – and my mum loves letting me… mostly!

Friends

Generally, I implement a strict no gift policy.  Works better with some groups better than others.  So this year I had to reciprocate (in a MAD hurry) cause the past two years they’ve not given me anything (and I’m OK with that!).  Anyhow, I went for about $50 each – which got a cookbook, or a lantern as suited the couples.  I’m pretty sure I ‘over’ compensated, but I’d rather do that, than scrimp – cause I feel like all year I bring less alcohol to things, and all my friends so generously offer their’s to me…

Colleagues

This year, I did nothing.  In the past, I made mini cakes or the like.  This year, my neighbours got something similar – I was reaching out to people I’ve lived with for a year and still don’t know.  It was nice to slowly getting cards back from each of them – now to match faces to names! If only I’d had the courage to knock on doors to give them my Christmas brownies (and likewise…  all the cards were secretly squirreled to me, even when I was home!!)  Some very generous neighbours also gave me a book, and some others, some chocolates – really lovely!

I did however volunteer myself to help with the BF’s secret santa in the office – and I/we won hands down as the best gift! (helps that he had his fave staff member… maybe?).  I got a cheap glass saladier and filled it with jelly beans, and wrapped it amazingly (if I do say so myself) with cellophane and a big bow.  Certainly some wow factor for a $20 gift. (I’ll fess up, I’ve done this gift before for my cousins… )  Seems the office continues to eat the jelly beans now, and the recipient intends to top up the bowl – win win!

All in all, I think I got out of Christmas fairly easily.  I think in total I would have spent about $800, which certainly seems like a lot, but I do put more into Christmas than birthdays (easier to get a good lead time on Christmas – whereas birthdays sneak up on you!)

Receiving

I would really like to have a zero waste home, as well as an uncluttered home.  Gifts scream potential for both of those!  So I’d rather say no to gifts than risk something I won’t use/enjoy/like!  That being said, my family are pretty happy to be ‘told’ what I’d like, and I can settle for that.  Some of the best gifts of all time were: a mini swiss army knife with USB (admittedly the USB is close to useless due to it’s small size in today’s terms, but the knife acts as a key ring, and I’d use the mini scissors close to daily) and a dress (I fought SO hard for them to not buy it for me – and they scoured the world, quite LITERALLY to get it for me, and of course, I couldn’t not wear it, and now I love it!?).