Year of Zero – Half Yearly Review

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!

Score: 10/10

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.

Score 10/10

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)
coffee cup
You have to admit that’s pretty funny!

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.

Score: 4/10

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.

Score 5/10 

* 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.

Score: 5/10

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.

Score 10/10

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.

Score: 1/10

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.

Score 7/10

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?

Score: 0/10

10. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

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!

Score: 6/10

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.

Score: 10/10 

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.

  1. To return to a more focused approach to grocery shopping, once everything is reopened.
  2. Buy NOTHING that does not fit the criteria.
  3. 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.
  4. Do the side hustle thing! Really really!
  5. Win the lottery!

 

Planning your best life Part 2 – My Plan

View in a car's rear view mirroe

I was chatting with someone at work the other day about the Corona Lockdown and how comfortable I had felt with having a socially and legally acceptable excuse for staying at home.

I said to my  colleague, “I know I am not shy and I am pretty outgoing, but deep down I am really an introvert”

He said, “I know you are, you have too many self-improvement goals not to be an introvert!”

He explained further, perhaps in response to the look on my face which was somewhere between horror and amusement,  “I mean you find your sense of being and energy from within you not outside of you. You set your own goals and don’t rely on others.”

That made me feel better. In the seconds between his first and second statements, I was in my usual way, dissecting what he had said and imagining that I must be presenting to the world as some crazy list driven old lady rabbiting on to anyone who’ll listen!

But hey! I am a list driven person! I need external accountability. I need apps like Habitbul to tell me how many days I haven’t eaten sugar for, or how many days I have been without alcohol. I am the sort of person who starts “eating better” on the first of the month. If it’s a Monday, that’s particularly portentous! I tell people I am having a Year of Zero. Telling anyone who has access to the internet, (via this blog), to hold me accountable. You all become my accountability partners!

Strategic planning meets ikigai.

It should not surprise you then, that I have a written plan for my future. Plan is perhaps a bit generous, as it is not a sequential step by step map, but rather a framework of intentions. A reminder to myself of what I want to do and achieve in the time I have left. It is based loosely on the model for ikigai and my school’s strategic plan!

Ikigai is a Japanese concept that translates as “your reason for getting out of bed in the morning”.

To be happy and thriving, your life pursuits need to be harmonious. Your values, what you’re good at, what the world needs and what you can make money from should combine to make an elegant and mathematical Venn diagram.  Your mission, passion, vocation and profession can combine to give you a longer life.

This diagram from Thrive Global, illustrates the concept.

Screen Shot 2020-05-19 at 17.45.50

 

NSW public schools must have a three-year strategic plan with three strategic directions. These strategic plans are published and must be reported on at regular intervals. The strategic directions are then broken into activities or projects which determine what the school is going to be focusing on for the next three years. (I copied these plans from a random high school)

 

My Framework for the future

I like the idea of having an overarching framework and combining the elegance of ikigai, with the logic of the school plan, worked for me. The interdependence of the different aspects of projects is something not illustrated in the strategic plan.

My framework has three spheres

  1. Health and Wellbeing
  2. The day job
  3. Creative maker.

 

strategic directions update October 2018_Page_1

strategic directions update October 2018_Page_2

 

In each of these spheres, there are some projects which I consider to be important for this time in my life. When I retire, the “Day Job” circle will have to be adapted.

This framework gives me some direction and helps me stay focused. I re-read it every couple of months and do a mental check of how I am travelling. Do I need to reconsider or refine my Projects? Are they still relevant? On the other hand, the framework is not an ironclad promise, but a guide.

I think without it I would be lost and chasing after every shiny thing that comes my way.

I think it is helpful to sit down and take stock of what you are doing, where you have been and where you are going. This is especially important after a big change in life circumstances like divorce or even after something like this Pandemic.

What is important to you? How can you make it your focus? What do you have to start doing and importantly what do you have to stop doing to make it happen?

Yes, I do make lists. Yes, I do have self-improvement projects. They give me a map to follow but also allow me to look for new paths. I am happy for you to share my framework, but make sure you fill in your own blanks.  Find you own ikigai!