Year of Zero – End of Year Review

We have made it to the end of this mad, bad, sad year and here I am with the Year of Zero – End of Year Review. At least in Australia, things have returned more or less to “normal” with no community cases for COVID for X days. The US and Europe are in mid-winter and things are getting worse. (I wrote this piece in mid-December and since then Greater Sydney which now includes Wollongong, has been hit by another bout of COVID19 with partial lockdowns and borders re-closing. My return to normal prediction was a little early!)

End Of Year Review

Over the last three months, (October – December) I feel like I have taken my foot off the spending brake and not stuck to my plan well. I did reach my savings goal but I think I could have done better. I have made a few purchases in preparation for my Great Southern Road Trip and although I am putting those on next year’s balance sheet, it has led to a change in mindset. I have been less frugal and more ‘spendy’. I have succumbed to some unnecessary purchases and while for the most part, they were second-hand op shop finds they were still not essential. AND of course there was Christmas! Although I don’t need to buy many gifts there was some outlay.

On top of that, in late November I discovered that I have to do a very expensive plumbing job on my home as the roots from a large tree have cracked and blocked my stormwater pipes. The build-up of water is flooding my neighbours’ yards. It’s going to cost several thousand to fix. Thankfully, I can split the bill with the other strata owners and most will come from the Strata funds. However, I think it will be more than we have set aside. 

My ultimate financial goal is to pay down my mortgage debt so I can retire by 2023. As a result, next year and the year after will need to be Close to Zero Years as well.

My self-report for the Year of Zero – End of Year Review follows.

1. No overseas travel

A stunning success! All year I have not stepped off the continent of Australia! 

Score: 10/10

2. No extended travel within Australia

I did go to Broken Hill in late September which I included in the last quarter review. I also went to my Mum’s for Christmas. Only cost being the train fare so all good on this front too. 

Score: 10/10

3. No New Stuff

My goal is to buy no new items and only replace things that have broken or worn out. 

Allowed items

  • My phone screen needed to be replaced. This was expensive – but the repair was ¼ the cost of a new phone so worth doing.
  • The zip on my wallet broke so I had to replace that – 2nd hand. 

    Items not on the list

  • A book “Designing Your Life” by Burnett and Evans
  • I got my 2021 wall calendars printed but have sold enough to cover the cost so this does not really count. 
  • Gifts for family members including (too much) Lego for my Grandson. 
  • I spent a fair bit buying some unnecessary clothes from Op Shops this quarter. I justified it by clearing out some other stuff from my wardrobe but I really could have done without it. At least it was not new!
  • Not “stuff” but I did pay for a subscription to Future Crunch and The Guardian.

Score: 4/10

4. Reduction in expenditure on groceries

This category is back on track. I have been making good savings on food and usually have some leftover cash at the end of each fortnight. I have been squirreling this away to use as a food kitty for the upcoming festive season. I also have been stocking up the freezer so will be able to have a few “free weeks”. For those of you who might say why don’t you cook less? Well, it’s a bit hard to make a single serve of spag bol!! I think next year I could investigate cutting back the allocated budget a bit more.

Score: 10/10

5. Side Hustle Happening

I actually made some progress here. As I said above I have sold enough of my calendars to break even and cover the cost and I sold some of my beeswax wraps. I’m not ready to list myself on the stock exchange yet but at least I made a bit of cash! (BTW there are still some calendars left if you’d like to buy one!)

Score 8/10

Buy one!

6. Only sign up for free courses

I didn’t do any courses free or otherwise this quarter.  I have been snowed under with the day job! 

Score: 10/10

7. Sell some of my stuff

No, no action here

    Score: 0/10

8. Concentrate on free activities. 

I think I have done OK in this category. I went on a few adventures with my grandson which required only train fare and food. We got free tickets to the Australian Museum when it reopened. I did a long walk (31 km) with some friends in place of the Seven Bridges Walk, this was “free” although we did make a donation to the Cancer Council. I went out for dinner once with a friend and although I went to trivia several times, my expenditure was very low as I ate before I went and I stuck to one non-alcoholic beer. 

Score: 7/10

9. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

I am still using more plastic-wrapped foods than I‘d like as I am having trouble finding suitable replacements. I made a one-off investment bought some salad vegies and herbs. I think I could grow those in summer at least. Apart from this, this goal is going well. It’s become ingrained, rather than special now. 

Score: 7/10

10. Year of Zero Booze

The day before this post is published will be the 365th day of my Zero Alcohol challenge. I made it right through!  It is no longer a challenge and it will be a big decision as to whether I start drinking again. 

Score 10/10

and the final score is…..

This quarter, my frugal-o-meter score is 76%. The highest so far, so despite feeling like I let the side down buying clothes I didn’t need, I have ended up OK!  

Here end-eth the Year of Zero 2020. I’ll let you know at the end of 2021 if I have stuck to my savings target despite not having a declared Year of Zero. I intend to remain frugal but will be doing some extended travel! Stay tuned for the Great Southern Road Trip!

Year of Zero – third quarter review

Well accountability partners, it’s the end of September already and time for my 3rd quarter review of the Year of Zero. This year is simultaneously dragging on at a snail’s pace and flashing before our eyes like a racing car. COVID19 remains in the headlines and continues to cause massive disruption. 

It’s hard not to become complacent about hygiene and social distancing restrictions. However, it is obvious the impact will be long-lived and wide-ranging. 

My Year of Zero and the resultant frugality has given me some stability and a focus for my energies which have (as I have reported) been waning. I am on track to achieve my savings goal. 

3 old fridges being used as mailboxes!
Repurposing fridges as letter boxes

My self-report in the declared categories follows:

  1. No overseas travel

Once again nope! None! I couldn’t if I had wanted to! An easy win!

Score: 10/10

  1. No extended travel within Australia

I have had some short intrastate trips this quarter. 

  • Twice to visit family on the mid-North Coast,
  • An overnight stay on Cockatoo Island 
  • A weekend jaunt to Armidale with family 
  • When this post is published I will be in Broken Hill with a friend. 

These trips fit in with my allowed short adventures category and have been within the budget set. Plus I can add that I have been helping the economies of our struggling tourist sector.

The Old Leyland  P76!
The Old Leyland p76 in a scrap metal pile!

Score: 10/10

  1. No new stuff

My goal is to buy no new items and only replace things that have broken or worn out. I have done better this quarter than at the half-year review.

Allowed items: 

  • I did some more wardrobe decluttering and bought a couple of new-to-me items from the op shop.
  • I had to buy another new car seat for my Grandson because the other new one I got was not suitable and a bit uncomfortable.

Items not on the list:

  • I bought three new books. I did originally borrow them from the library but ended up deciding to buy them as reference books. 
  • Some silicone muffin cases to cut down on using single-use patty cases. 
  • A replacement for the travel cup I made before and then smashed 🙁

Score: 8/10

  1. Reduction in expenditure on groceries

After a big hit last quarter, I made some really good savings this time around. I was able to live from my pantry and freezer for another  6 weeks. I managed to use up everything this time and I did very little cooking. I bought some fruit and fresh green veggies and that was it. It wasn’t the most interesting menu BUT I feel good that I wasn’t wasting stuff. 

Score: 10/10

  1. Side Hustle Happenings

I may as well just copy what I wrote last time. Except for one course at the community college, all my earnings came from the day job.

Score: 2/10

  1. Only sign up for free courses

I only did one course this quarter. A Mindfulness in Schools course. It wasn’t free, but my school paid for it so, theoretically it was free for me. I didn’t sign up for any other courses, not even free online ones. I am not sure whether that means I should give myself 10/10 or 0/10 for not doing anything new?

On reflection one of the books I borrowed was about how to meditate so this was almost like a course….

As I wrote in some earlier posts, my motivation has been running pretty low. I watched a lot of Netflix this quarter.

Score: 6/10 (as a compromise)

  1. Sell some of my stuff

Once again not really possible. 

Score: 1/10

  1. Concentrate on free activities

If you count Netflix as a free activity I aced this one! I’ve watched SO much telly this quarter. Some new (to me) series like Schitt’s Creek, Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid Heat. (Amazing!!), Line of Duty Season 5. Crappy movies, re-watching some old favourites like Offspring and so much more I can’t remember.  I didn’t even have the energy to be inventive in the vein of my Hugh Grant Film Festival. I just vegged! 

Score: 10/10

  1. Rewrite/revisit my 60 for 60 goals

I can cross off Broken Hill road trip and astrophotography this quarter. Not free but it’s two more items off the list. 

Score: 6/10

  1. Zero-waste-eco-warrior

I am maintaining a steady course with this goal. My zero-waste kit has come in handy several times now. I have stopped using tea bags, and single-serve coffee mixes replacing them with loose leaf tea and ground coffee. A double win here as it tastes better as well as saving on waste. My goal is to continue to find more ways to reduce plastic packaging. I have found a way to recycle the plastic blister packs from my contact lenses locally.  

Score: 7/10

  1. Year of Zero Booze

Winner winner chicken dinner! Still going strong with no booze and on 30th September it will be 276 days. Kombucha, the occasional zero alcohol beer and herbal tea are still doing the trick. 

Score 10/10

This quarter my score on the frugal-o-meter is once again 67%! It certainly seems like I’m a glass three quarters full person!

Ecohack 6 – Op shopping.

I love op shopping, and I have become something of an expert.  Op shops, short for opportunity shops are variously called charity stores or thrift stores depending on where you live.  I’ve been going to the Salvos (Salvation Army), Vinnies, (St Vincent de Paul), Lifeline and The Smith Family stores for decades! When I travel, I always visit the local charity stores.

I even created a blog The Op-Shop Queen back in 2011.  It was based on giving op shops reviews and buying a complete outfit, not including shoes, for less than $20. It’s archived and no longer accessible although I may resurrect it.Screen Shot 2020-08-09 at 10.16.06

Why Op Shops?

I earn enough to buy new stuff but don’t for several reasons,

  1. I’d rather spend that money on other stuff.
  2. I like the challenge of building a wardrobe from the quirky pieces you can find.
  3. The quality is often better. I’d rather pay $10 for a second-hand designer brand than $2 on a piece of crap made in Bangladesh under dubious labour conditions. Mind you the designer brand may also have been made in Bangladesh under dubious labour conditions, but it is likely to be better quality material and hence last longer.
  4. The feel-good feeling it gives me for keeping clothes out of the waste stream and doing my bit for the environment.
  5. It fits in with my buy-nothing-new-unless-there-is-no-other-way philosophy.

Keeping clothes out of the waste stream.

There are plenty of stats about the impact discarded clothes have on our waste stream. Fast fashion which is fuelled in part by social media, is an ugly trend where people wear an item once and throw it away. The desire to be seen in something new for every insta-moment is a real thing for many consumers.

Me? I have never really been into fashion. Ooops back up a bit there! I did wear shoulder pads and peplums back in the 80s, and I am conscious of not looking like an utterly uncoordinated bag lady. These days I try to go for a classy, elegant, timeless look that will withstand the “what colour is on trend this week” trend. If you keep things long enough, they’ll cycle back around anyway.

Keeping clothes for longer means that energy and resources used in making them is saved. We should be aiming for more wears per item.

 

Picking up a bargain.

I buy everything from op shops. Clothes, kitchenware, shoes, towels, stationery, books, magazines, storage containers, toys for my grandson. If I need something I go there first. My best buy to date is an evening dress which was brand new, with tags and still in the shops (i.e. it was still in season). The labelled price was over $900, I got it for $100. I even bought my Iains from op shops!

I am lucky my home town of Wollongong has several substantial op shops which are clean and bright.

You never know what you might find! A year or so after I got divorced, I went into my favourite op shop to find many of the items from my own kitchen on sale! The items that had been part of his split. I was a bit peeved that a lovely fruit bowl which was a wedding gift was there for $10! (I knew it was mine because of a unique sticker on the bottom). I decided not to buy it back.

Op shopping is now on trend!

Op shopping is becoming so popular that it is getting harder to get bargains. The charities who run them obviously want to make money, and I have noticed there has been a rise in prices. Back in the old days, designer brands were on the racks cheek by jowl with the Kmart stuff. Now, most stores have these items in their own section with much higher prices. I guess getting an Armani cashmere jumper at $30 is still a bargain.

I used to hide the fact that my clothes were from op shops. When someone asked me where I bought that fabulous dress or whatever, I’d say “Oh just a little place in Wollongong.” Now I reply “from my special shop” which my colleagues know means the op shop!

Decluttering trends and the time made available for decluttering by the COVID lockdowns have meant that many op shops are packed to the rafters with items discarded by others. Now’s a good time to start op shop if you’re not into it already!

Photo 25-04-13 12 06 54
That entire outfit not including shoes, socks and undies was less than $10

My tips for op-shopping.

  1. Remember that the clothes are there for a reason. The previous owner did not want them anymore. This could be because they are slaves to fashion, have put on or lost weight, gotten older and the thigh-high split skirt is no longer part of their look, or they died. The items could be damaged or stained. There could be buttons missing. CHECK them out carefully. Turn the items inside out and have a look for moth holes, rips, broken zips, missing buttons, stains. I need to improve on this front.
  2. The clothes are checked by the staff before being put on the racks, but they are not washed. There may be stained items. Make a decision if you think the stain will be treatable, otherwise leave it on the shelf.
  3. If it is missing buttons or is ripped is the item worth fixing? If it’s a beautiful item that suits you, maybe you could replace all the buttons, or put a cute patch over the rip. There are some good books about mending available.
  4. Try it on!! This is my biggest downfall. I too often buy things without trying them on, and they end up back in my own donations bag when I find they don’t fit or look terrible.  And while yes, I haven’t wasted much money and I have not contributed to the waste stream, it is still a waste.
  5. Be adventurous, try different colours and styles.
  6. Don’t be tempted to buy more than you need because it is cheap, and ‘environmentally friendly.’ Overconsumption is still overconsumption whether it’s brand new or second hand. You still have to find a place to store all that shit when you bring it home! Buying things just in case is still a waste.
  7. Challenge your family to do op shop gift-giving, where all presents have to be either homemade or second hand. Use scarves or other fabric found at op-shops to wrap your gifts. There are usually plenty of used-once gift bags available too.
  8. If you are a super bargain hunter op shops often have colour coded tags and these may attract a discount. Look out for signs in the store. Eg “all green tag items 50% off today” or “all pink tags only $2”. Some shops like the Salvos, have bargain days on Mondays and Tuesday where all items under $15 are only $2 and other items are 50% off. Since I work full time I can only get along to those days in the school holidays.
  9. Remember to take your own unwanted and no longer needed items to the op shop when you’ve finished with them. But don’t take your junk. Op shops have to pay to get rid of any unwearable, unusable items dumped at their doorsteps. This reduces their profitability and how many people they can help. It’s not the tip, so please dispose of real rubbish thoughtfully.

Plans for the future

I have written a post before about my inability to travel light! I have had an idea on how to solve this problem. Next time I travel, I am only going to take two changes of clothes and buy everything else from local op shops as I need it. This, of course, will depend on IF I travel internationally again. Who knows!

Don’t be scared, op shops are no longer smelly dank places where only the homeless people hang out! The car park is full of Lexus and Range Rovers and people snapping up bargains while doing their bit for our planet!