Glaring Grocery discovery

The past week or two, I’ve felt the pinch of my savings goals, and finding it harder to ‘do everything’ with my pay cheque. It also came to my attention that I had another month’s batch of grocery receipts to process (I started tracking in December 2012), so I got onto that today. I’ve stated that my goal is to cook two meals a week, which equates to about 6 serves or more (2 dinners + 4 lunches at the very least). And mostly I’ve been achieving that.

One thing that’s clear – the pressure in my money management is not from home cooked meals! Now this should be no surprise, but I do feel like I’m in IGA all the time. All the servers know me, and almost know that I don’t want a bag, and on Wednesday, I’ll always want cash out. What I find most amazing is that my MONTHLY spend on groceries was 2.9% of my take home pay in December and 3.52% in January (I assumed a simple 4 week month as I get paid weekly). This is incredibly low, given that after shelter (which in Sydney you pay incredibly HIGH amounts for), food should pretty much come next (up there with electricity and running water I suppose).

I haven’t tracked my eating out spend since October, so I can’t confidently say what it is. (I think I stopped when I started dating… cause you eat out a lot more, but the expense is lumpy as to who pays and when etc). I could easily spend 12-16% of my pay cheque on eating out. **In some ways, this is totally out of line with my parents or many people out there. It seems ‘easy’ to go out for dinner. I think we feel entitled (my generation). Or we need only a small excuse. I realise eating out should really be seen as a luxury**

I probably miss most of the my meat consumption (which isn’t extensive) in these two months, as my butcher doesn’t give me a receipt. For Feb, I’ve started marking up the grocery receipt with what I spent on meat.

(in rough numbers, my mortgage has been taking up about 43% of my take home pay, and household bills (strata, electricity, gas and water) & health insurance take up about 15.5%).

EDIT: This post was inspired by Part 2 of the Spender to Saver series that Carla at My 1/2 Dozen Daily was writing.  Then by magic, Part 3 came out (after this post) and couldn’t have been more spot on.  I only wish I could work out how to comment on her blog!!

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!)


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).


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).


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.


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’…

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!


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.


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.


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’


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).


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!**


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!


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!


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…


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!)


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!?).

Annual Goals

Despite my efforts to make this ‘publish’ whilst I was enjoying life, I failed 🙁  But that’s given me time to reflect (and enjoy my time off) and so I’ll ensure everything listed still fits reality!


– Save a total of $20k by 22 Dec (for mortgage refinancing):  Current balance is $13,487.55.  Whilst this account doesn’t pay bills, it is dipped into occasionally for ’emergency’ spending (which sometimes means ‘a flight’s a really good deal, and I can save that money up again’!)

– Continue to meet all bills with weekly savings contribution of $200 per week

– Aim for $100+ ‘generosity’ per week – charity, church, random acts of gifting and kindness (this is setting the bar HIGH – but it’s in the ball park of 10% of salary, if others can do it, I should try it!)


– Cook at home at least twice a week – living alone, cooking semi-regularly means I have some healthy food, and limits my take out. It also means I don’t have to buy lunch (which I hate – not the buying as much as the decision making process… and then the money spending… I hate spending money and then finding it was ‘wasted’ because I didn’t like what I bought!)

– Limit wheat intake – try to make the ‘right’ choice more often

– Limit sugar intake – maybe ‘dessert’ once a week.  No sweet snacks…

(both the above aren’t measurable… so not very exact.  The rule I used between 12 Nov (my return from my last trip) and Christmas was to not eat any sugar.  Whilst that wasn’t strictly adhered to, I certainly lowered it significantly.  Whilst I was away, every day pasteries was the order of the day!! )

– TRAIN and play water polo – I’m good at attending every game (been known to reschedule holidays around games!), but not so good at training, so I need to commit to a weekly training, and stop making excuses!


– 2 films a month – a few years ago, I counted my ticket stubs on new years day, and had 40 for the year! That’s INSANE but an indication of how much I love immersing myself in the cinema (musty carpet smell and all!)  It’s truly a few hours where I can escape.  It’s not the same to steal it from the internet, and do your mending or cook dinner at the same time.  When I go to the movies, I don’t text. I don’t let ‘normal’ life interfere (though… I do chatter away to someone who has been silly enough to come along with me – sorry!)

– 2 books a month – So far I have had 52 loans at my local library, and given I’ve only been ‘in area’ for a year, that would be more like one a week (actually seems I started lending in March, so more than one a week!).  That being said, some of them aren’t ‘read’ – I did borrow some CDs.  I also borrow magazines, and they aren’t something I’m willing to count as ‘books’.


It does seem weird keeping targeted lists on social front.  But there are a lot of friends who I don’t keep in touch with as much as I’d like to.  I’ve certainly been better since I stopped being a student (Being a student just sucked life out of me – there was always something I ‘should’ have been doing, and it never seemed there was enough time just to live… to enjoy life…)  In the past I know I set a goal of calling a friend a week (obviously targeting ones I wasn’t seeing regularly, so largely those who live interstate) This was a big deal for me, as I realised I don’t call people ‘just for a chat’ and felt awkward about it.  One thing I have mastered in the post card sending whilst on holidays, as well as Christmas cards (though this year the latter list was severely truncated…)

– touch base with an out of town friend once a month

– make time for friends around regular commitments (work, church, water polo): I’m mindful that a close friend mentioned I was ‘always busy’, and therefore did lessen my load with water polo.  I want to make sure my friends don’t feel like they are neglected, but at the same time, not that I’m leeching off them to spend every hour together -it’s a balancing act between needy and hoity independence sometimes!


– Get my certification: Agh this is something I have to do, but have NO enthusiasm.  I shouldn’t take the next week off, I should stay at work at write career episodes – but the friends goal above is winning out!

– Start looking for my next role: career progression targets at work mean this is the year I need to look for a new role, so I can meet the certification + experience targets to continue progressing.  I’m loathed to leave where I am – I have a great boss, I’m still learning, I love my work, and I don’t want to risk any of those things by moving.  But if I don’t move, then I might be closing doors for my future (and I’m young, there’s a lot of ‘career’ ahead!)