Monday, 24 March 2014

J & J report #10

Hello Friends,
from the point of view of the challenge this week hasn't been anything special. No Spend Days 1/7, YTD 22/83. Again I haven't spent money on anything untoward, so all is going well.

I am feeling a bit frustrated about how little non-Uni stuff I am getting done at the moment, even though it is completely understandable when I apply my logical brain and common sense. And focussing on the little things that are coming to fruition (literally) helps. So, although the garden is a mass of weeds and I barely spend any time in it at present, I can celebrate harvesting some apples from our young trees, the fact that there are a number of lemons ready to pick, and that we ate a beautiful dragon fruit (the red, almost purple, centred kind) for dessert this evening - fully ripened on the plant in our own back yard and only picked last night.
I can also celebrate being placed at a very reputable State High School for my teaching placement in May/June. One that is accessible by public transport too. Just what I wanted. I'm very excited.

Further on the topic of focussing on the positives of where you are on your journey, and recognising the positive changes made, rather than continually beating yourself up for not being perfect - I would like to direct you to one of my favourite blogs again "House of Humble" and their post of yesterday "Simple Living Our Own Way". They say it far better than I can (especially when I should either be sleeping or studying right now).

Best wishes for the coming week.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

J to J report #8 & #9

Well - I missed a week, no major surprise there - the workload from Uni has ramped up pretty quickly with two assignments due at the end of week 5 (just about to start week 4).  I did keep track though, so I can still fill in the update. The data for the previous two weeks are as follows:
Wk 8: 0/7 No spend days, YTD 20/69
Wk 9: 1/7 No spend days, YTD 21/76

As you can see - not so successful this past fortnight in terms of limiting the days I spend. And the main culprit is University. Although I have been taking lunch and coffee most days (I did forget one day, being too intent on getting kids to school on time) I have been finding that one cup of coffee isn't sufficient for a full day of study. If I ignored the days where my only expense was that extra cup then my statistics would be very different (2/7 and 3/7) so I'm not feeling too bad.

I'm still managing well with the Naughty & Nice list, mostly. Another couple of reference books purchased (on sale), and a children's book in support of the charity "Room to Read" that I will donate to the school library. It is a child's version, in rhyme, of how this charity started, with their first delivery of thousands of books to a school in rural Nepal (that only had three books until then, and kept them locked up, they were considered so valuable). Books do seem to be an ongoing theme with me don't they?

We are so fortunate to be able to afford books of our own.

I think I should probably add Charity to the Nice list, it seems selfish not to, and then I don't have to feel guilty about the two charity 'dos' I went to in the last couple of weeks. It is nice to have a night out and support a good cause at the same time, don't you think? We went to a lovely Vietnamese dinner organised by a good friend of ours in support of Room to Read, and specifically girls education in Vietnam (where she comes from), and the next night I went to an International Women's Day event.

The hard part is deciding who to support, there are so many worthwhile causes, but I'm not Bill Gates, and even he couldn't fund them all - so choices have to be made. In the past I have been a regular supporter of the Red Cross, UNHCR, Surf Lifesaving and the Salvation Army. Right now I am supporting The Conversation because independent, intelligent journalism is so thin on the ground in Australia at the moment, yet so essential. Other causes I support on a more 'ad hoc' basis.
How do you decide what Causes to support?

Monday, 3 March 2014

J to J report #7 - And life just got busier

No spend days this week 3/7, YTD 20/62.  My averages are getting better!

I did buy a book for my professional library, not exactly necessary, but of value. Otherwise completely on track this week. Even down to remembering to take along my thermos of coffee and a packed lunch to Uni. So I am pretty happy with myself right now.

I have a very busy month ahead, now that Uni has started back and I have started tutoring a morning a week at the local high school (first day today, loved it!). Unfortunately this means that my blog posts are likely to be short and sweet, starting with this one.

I will say that the decision to change cleaners has been vindicated. The new lady did her first clean here today - everything I asked to a high standard and she took the initiative and cleaned the ceiling fans without being asked. She has even requested I get the step ladder out for next time so she can finish them off properly! I am over the moon.

And with that I am going to have to finish - time to do so preparation for tomorrow.

What went well for you this week?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

J to J report #6, on the value of Cleaners

No Spend Days this week 2/7; YTD 13/55

I've been debating the value of having a cleaner over the last couple of weeks, given that I'm currently not 'working'. Can we justify the expense when I 'should' be able to get this done in my 'time-off'?

I qualify those words above with single quotes because: 
I am working, or at least I will be again next week, I'm just not in paid employment, I'm studying to change career, to one that will be better for the family long term (and that I want to do as well, I'm neither completely selfish nor a martyr); 
Why 'should' I? I plan all the meals, cook most, and make sure the pantry & fridge are stocked for those meals; organise all the logistics for pretty much every activity undertaken by members of the family; ensure that we maintain contact with family and friends; wash, dry, sort and often put away all the clothes and linen; organise medical, dental and hair appointments for the children; make sure the bills are paid and the house is maintained; communicate with the children's teachers and keep track of their work; volunteer at the school; do most of the planning for any trips we take; make repairs to clothing and other items; organise tradespersons where necessary. I'm sure I could go on.
What 'time-off'? I can always find another job that needs doing. My difficulty is usually getting myself to stop. I have to take myself out of the house so that I won't 'just do that job before I…. stop for a glass of water' (or similar).
Mould, easier to ignore when it is outside and not visible to visitors.
I have come to the conclusion that, for us, having a cleaner (and it's only once a fortnight) is worthwhile, even if I had to go out to work just to afford it, and here's why.

1. I dislike cleaning.
2. I get very tense when I have to operate in a dirty or cluttered environment.
3. I have perfectionist tendencies.

These three points lead to the following scenario.

First, I avoid cleaning. Consequently the dirt in my environment increases. When it reaches a particular level, still far from squalor, my stress levels increase and I get cranky. This crankiness increases because I realise that to reduce the dirt I am going to have to do something I really dislike and actually clean the house. This fight between the need to live in a clean space and the desire not to clean has, in the past, lasted well over a week (before kids of course, the rate at which the dirt accumulates is faster nowadays).
Once I reach tipping point I start cleaning, during which process of course I am extremely cranky, like most people when forced to do something they hate. Then comes the influence of point 3, my perfectionist tendencies. When I start cleaning I struggle to stop, because I keep seeing more that needs to be done. I could spend upwards of three hours cleaning our (very small) bathroom to my satisfaction, because it would mean scrubbing the bath until not only could no grime be seen, but it was completely smooth to touch, the door runners scrubbed with a toothbrush, the walls washed, the top of the cupboard spotless, no rust on the plug hole, the grout white rather than grey - and then I would start to see the repairs and touch ups that were needed.
Then I'll start the next room, which will probably be the kitchen as these are the two rooms in the house where being clean is most important to our health. Can you imagine how long that would take me? A whole day gone, without a break for even a glass of water, and no other 'jobs' done - you got it, I am now cranky beyond all recognition, hating cleaning even more than before, and resenting my family into the bargain.

In contrast, when I have someone in to clean for me, I know that the cleaning tasks essential for maintaining our health, and my sanity, have been done well once a fortnight and that, for the following two weeks I can quickly and simply maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness. If I can stop myself from getting into a lather I can keep the perfectionism at bay and live with what seems to be a relatively normal and socially acceptable level of grime (when I objectively observe my friends' houses). I have even developed the ability to leave the children's beds unmade and lego on the floor and just shut the door (most of the time). I (almost) only get cranky once a fortnight when I try to get my family to help tidy up so our Cleaner can actually clean.

What is your essential, sanity saving expense?


Monday, 17 February 2014

J to J report #6 - Naughty!

No Spend Days this week 3/7 Yeah! YTD 11/48

Although I had the best week so far in terms of 'No Spend Days', I had my first slip on my journey of not purchasing unnecessary items.

Now, notice that I said 'slip' and 'journey', I am not seeing this as a failure and giving up on my goals. Not unlike trying to lose weight, give up cigarettes (thankfully something I never started), or stop biting your nails, this is not something I necessarily expect to be completely successful at first time. I may trip on the journey again, but hopefully next time it will take a larger obstacle to make me fall.

What I do feel proud of is that this slip was not an unconscious one. I did not make any 'spur of the moment' purchases. I bought two items I wanted (though don't need) after much thought. 

The first was Emma Dean's recipe book "A Homegrown Table". I have wanted this book ever since she won Masterchef last year, and after reading it at Mum's I knew that there were a lot of beautiful simple recipes in it that I would use. I have already put some in my meal plan for this month, so unless I was going to steal my mother's copy, I had to get my own. I didn't just go out and buy it from the first place I found it though. I looked around thoroughly and eventually bought it at a department store for almost ½ the price that the major bookstores were charging.

The second item was a DVD of a television series that I had missed but particularly wanted to see. I tried sourcing it through the BCC library network, and through video rental stores, but no-one had it. So, after a lot of careful consideration regarding how much I wanted to catch-up with this series, I bought it, and it is one that I will watch more than once.

It is important that we don't berate ourselves for not being 'perfect' all the time, but that we continue to see it as worthwhile to take steps to improve our capacities in the areas we consider important. My elder son used to get upset when he couldn't do something perfectly first time, until we pointed out that when he was a baby he couldn't walk, and that it took a lot of falls before he was fully proficient, and then he went through the same process to learn to run, to kick a ball, to talk, to read ……Learning to live in a new way is no different.

Now - off I go to watch that DVD.
Have a good week.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

J to J report #5

No Spend Days this week 1/7. YTD 8/41.
Pretty consistent.

I ordered the books. In the end I had to agree with Riley (see comment, previous post) that books are important, especially to encourage the love of them in children.  Separately from book club I also ordered a boxed set of Malory Towers (Enid Blyton) for my niece's birthday, and a book of poetry for the school library. As I explained to Riley in my reply, I do this each time my children have a birthday, it is of far more lasting value than sending 'party bags' or similar to school, and cheaper too. Not that everyone does this (send party bags), but it was common at our childcare centre which was when I started with the book 'thing', and I felt it was a tradition worth continuing, and yet another way to show my kids how much we value books and reading. I would encourage others to do the same - the school librarian will have some ideas about what would be welcome. Imagine if everyone in the school did this - what wonderfully stocked libraries we would have!

So I guess I am amending my 'Nice' list to include the odd book.

I have also been to the movies a few times - this is getting my socialising in before Uni starts back, because I will do almost nothing except study once I start. That is on the 'Nice' list. I have seen 'Saving Mr Banks' about the author of 'Mary Poppins' PL Travers, and 'Philomena' about a lady whose child is taken from her in 1950's Ireland, both moving stories closely based on true events. I also plan to see '12 years a slave' this week. There are so many quality films based on true stories out at present, two others that would be worthwhile I think are 'Mandela' and 'Tracks'.

Coffee is still my downfall, so I have also purchased a decent thermos to take coffee from home to Uni. 6 coffees not purchased from the cafe will cover the cost so it seems justified. What do you think?

How did your week go? Did you achieve your own personal goal for the week?

All the best

Sunday, 2 February 2014

J to J report #4

Books - my weakness.
2/7 No Spend days this week (7/34 YTD). Better, but I would really like to get my average to 3 no spend days out of 7.
There has been some serious spending though -  all necessary as I am trying to get major tasks out of the way before Uni starts. Feel a bit guilty about the movies & lunch, though that too will disappear almost completely when Uni begins, no time for much once that starts.

I think it is important to realise that there are times where you will spend more, and others when it will be easier not to.  Holidays are a big one, not only because you have time to enjoy all those activities that you have been looking forward to all during term time (or the working year), but also because it is when you have the time to get other tasks done, like painting the house, organising the dental check-ups, getting the threadbare sofa reupholstered. Beating yourself up about it is pointless.

But equally, it is important to stop the unnecessary spending at other times, and this is really the more important part of my challenge - only spending on what is necessary. So far I have been doing quite well, the challenge is really helping to keep me in check. Part of that is committing to blogging about it, I'm trying to do it once a week, as it makes me feel accountable.  If you have set yourself a similar challenge and want a similar prompt to keep you on track, but don't want to blog yourself, how about committing to commenting on this blog & updating us with your progress each week? Would love to hear from you!

I am currently struggling with one particular item on the Naughty List - Books!  I banned myself from purchasing anything but books required for school or Uni, but the boys were allowed one book each from school book club last year, and they are asking for them again this year. And sometimes there are amazing bargains on fantastic books (e.g. <$40 for 10 'My Story' books, stories for children accurately portraying various historical periods) which are hard to resist, as are age appropriate classics such as "The Secret Seven" and "The Famous Five" by Enid Blyton.  I feel torn - between the desire to save money and my love of books and desire to expose my children to the world that books make accessible.

What is your spending weakness?