Time for the half-yearly review already??? It’s hard to believe that I am halfway through my Year of Zero. 2020 has, so far, been a very challenging year for the planet and its peoples. After fires and floods, we faced disease and now there are riots and civil unrest brought about by racism. What’s next? A second wave? An economic downturn for certain, after that who knows!
When I published my first quarter review back in March, the Coronavirus had just hit Australia and we were entering a period of lock-downs. Now, three months later things are returning to normal, or the new normal some of us are hoping for.
I have not been as focused on my savings goals as I would like to have been these last few months. There have been some legitimate distractions. I haven’t strayed too far, but I do feel like I have lost some traction.
Some of the slide has come about because I was not prepared (or able) to go from place to place to do my grocery shopping. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible which meant reverting to shopping in one place and that one place was Woollies. I had been trying to avoid Woolworths in favour of using smaller more independent outlets.
Despite this lack of focus, I have saved money simply because it was not possible to go anywhere anyway! So here is my self-report in the declared categories for the three months from April – June.
The itemised half-yearly review:
1. No overseas travel
Nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! Given the current ban on travel, I might not be travelling next year either!
2. No extended travel within Australia
Once again, easily achieved! The furthest I have been from my home in the last three months is 90 km into Sydney to drop my Grandson off, 3 times. Otherwise, I have stayed in sunny Wollongong. I was booked to go on a cruise to nowhere to celebrate a friend’s 50th, but I pulled out due to work commitments and then it was cancelled anyway.
3. No new stuff.
I haven’t done so well in this area. I bought several items which did not fit into the categories I had set myself. (Essential, secondhand and only replacing broken or worn out items)
I bought some brand new items. (GASP!!)
- Firstly, a plastic bread slicing guide. Apart from the fact that it was a lot more expensive than I thought it would be, it seemed like a reasonable purchase. I have been doing lots of iso-baking (as has the rest of the world) but I can’t cut bread to save myself. I guess I could have just practised cutting the bread more carefully.
- I designed a souvenir coffee mug, just for the fun of it.
- A new book – on reducing kitchen waste
- I paid for some custom made key rings to use as gifts.
- And of course, I bought a few NEW things for my Grandson! (eg Lego)
The items that did fit in the restricted category were,
- A replacement iron after my old one shorted out the electricity. I had to call an electrician but thankfully I was able to re-set it myself after about an hour of unplugging everything and plugging it all back in one item at a time.
- Some winter clothes to make up for the things I got rid of as part of another massive wardrobe cull.
- A replacement phone case and screen protector,
- Expensive socks,
- A new booster seat for my grandson, he’s outgrown the old one and I need to keep him safe.
- Fabric to make tea cosies.
4. Reduction in Expenditure on Groceries
This is the area that took the biggest hit. Returning to Woolies and the inability to use cash* meant that I did not keep such a tight reign on grocery expenditure. I went over my budget 4 out of 8 fortnights in this time period. On the other hand, for almost a full month, I was living out of my pantry and freezer and only bought a few fresh items. Perhaps with the swings and roundabouts, I broke even.
* most retailers were insisting on contactless payments.
5. Side Hustle Happenings
Not much happened here. The photography business, OCE generated no income and no apparent interest. I did sell a few of my postcards and A (single) tea cosy through Etsy but taking into account the cost of materials, I am still running at a loss there. The courses I had scheduled for the local Community College were cancelled. I pitched a few story ideas but had no luck. To be perfectly honest I don’t think this side of things will get off the ground till I am done with the day job.
6. Only sign up for free courses
I did for a free TAFE NSW course and completed it in a couple of days. I also signed up for three more courses through Future Learn. I finished 2 of them. One on Disaster Preparation was not relevant to Australian conditions so I didn’t bother completing it. The nutrition course was disappointing as it was quite outdated and I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know. The third course on science writing was good but again not something I hadn’t already covered in a paid course a few years ago.
I did pay for an online gym membership BUT this was because I could not go to the gym. My gym provided a 60-day free trial to Les Mills on Demand, in lieu of access and after this expired, I paid for another 30 days as they were still not open. (They reopened on the 22nd June). I have actually made a net gain here. ($40 so don’t get too excited!) The online classes were good and I enjoyed them, but being at the actual gym is better.
7. Sell some of my stuff
Not possible. COVID restrictions meant you could not do this sort of stuff. I did sell one of the kombucha kits to someone at work.
8. Concentrate on free activities
This was easy!!! I couldn’t do much else! My trivia buddies and I tried a few virtual quiz nights, but everything else was cancelled. I did splurge on hiring and/or buying movies for the Hugh Grant Film Festival. In total this was around $60 and I am counting these as experiences.
9. Rewrite my 60 for 60 goal
My 60 for 60 list is a work in progress. I did do a big jigsaw. That’s one more ‘free’ item ticked off. When I look through the list now, many items seem irrelevant. Perhaps it’s time to admit the list was ill-conceived and start a new one altogether?
No new wins and no losses to report. I am doing OK here. I am continuing to reduce the amount of packaged food I buy and I am making more things from scratch. I have got better at bread making and have abandoned the automated breadmaker for fully hand prepared bread which tastes good! I have found an excellent recipe for focaccia. My freezer is well stocked with baked goods. I have been literally clearing out my fridge before I go shopping again and have only had to toss some food scraps that would not fit in the worm farm. I have switched tea bag tea for loose leaf tea.
My zero-waste kit did not get a work out as I did not eat anywhere that required them. I took lunch to work every day, ate at home every night up until 4 June when I went on my first ‘going out adventure’ to the pub!
11. Year of Zero Booze
By the time this is published it will be 184 days since I have had any alcohol. This has become a no effort resolution. I have switched kombucha for herbal tea as the weather has cooled down, and since I have not been out, its been easy to avoid social situations where drinking is the norm. I have genuinely enjoyed a few zero alcohol beers. A friend gave me some zero alcohol wine, which they had bought accidentally. It seems a waste of calories. I’d rather do without.
So once again my total score on the very arbitrary scale is 67%. I didn’t even try to manufacture that! It just happened!
I am on track to make my year-end savings target but only just! In previous years, travel has been by far my biggest expense and this is where I’ll make my biggest savings. The remaining items are just tinkering around the edges, but still, with diligence, the savings will add up to few thousand dollars over the year.
Goals for next quarter.
- To return to a more focused approach to grocery shopping, once everything is reopened.
- Buy NOTHING that does not fit the criteria.
- Sell a few items. I have an idea, that may be too challenging, to raise $1000 in a month by selling some “stuff”. I’ll think about it….I will make it an action step and first make an inventory of sell-able items and get them onto the local buy-swap-sell site.
- Do the side hustle thing! Really really!
- Win the lottery!