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!

300 not out!*

This is my 300th blog post. My 200th post was in October 2019. My stats say I have 464 followers although my homepage says “join 612 other subscribers”. I am not sure why there is a discrepancy between those numbers. Does it mean that some people, who at one time were subscribers, have dropped off my perch?

300!

Perhaps I’ll make it to 500 followers/subscribers by the end of the year.

2020 has certainly been a tumultuous year for the whole world! Certainly not what I expected when I started my Year of Zero. I thought I’d be making tough personal sacrifices but it turns out we have all been having a year of not much happening!

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I hope you’ll stick around for my 400th post!


 * 300 not out is a cricketing reference for any of you from non-cricketing places!

Eco-hacks- Episode 2 – Toilet paper trade-off

Category: Reducing single-use items.

It seems like another lifetime ago, but in March 2020 things went wonky in the supermarket aisles. The shelves were empty; denuded of basics like rice and pasta. If you had canned soup on your shopping list? Think again, there was none available! The lack of food staples was nothing compared to the hullabaloo happening away from the fridges and freezers, away from the breakfast cereal and flour.

Over in the paper goods aisle, there was some really serious shit going down.  People were panic-buying toilet paper in preparation for self-isolation. They were fighting over the last eight pack. Enraged shoppers were swearing at the cashiers. Rumours were fueling rushes on shops. “Coles at Figtree has toilet paper! Quick! Too late!”

The world went genuinely crazy! Over toilet paper? Yes, over toilet paper.

IMG_4764
Empty shelves: Woolworth’s Figtree March 22nd 2020

NOT ME! I was sitting pretty, because, in January, ignorant of the impending doom of Corona, I had bought a year’s supply of toilet paper (and paper towels, toothpaste and all those non-perishable, non-food type things) as I intended on only going to the fresh food market. I planned to stay out of Woollies for the year and save some money. I had made my estimates, done my calculations and bought in bulk. It was all part of my big Year of Zero. My plan to cut back, par down and save money.

Worth its weight in gold?

Bazinga!

I had a goldmine in my linen press! I decided not to cash in. In fact, I went the other way and thought “well how can I make what I have last even longer”? I was spurred on by an article in the Guardian about reusable “toilet paper” or rather, washable wipes that can be reused and potentially eliminate toilet paper from your shopping list and our environment.

Ever resourceful, I got a large towel from the op shop and used my overlocker (serger) to cut it into small strips about 12  x 8cm. From one $2 bath towel I got 66 little tiny towels. I bought a small flip-top bin with a well-sealed lid for $8 and I’m set. That ten measly bucks sets me up for the next five years! (or until I need to replace them)

I will still use some toilet paper because I am not gutsy enough to use the tiny towels for faeces, only urine. (Thank god I hear my friends sigh!) The used wipes get tossed in the little bin, and I wash them with non-clothes items like towels or sheets and hang them in the bright UV-laden Australian sun to dry. It turns out these small reusable towels are called “family cloths” and are big business on Etsy! Family cloths sounds a bit ooky to me, so I’m sticking with tiny towels.

I’ve used two double-length rolls of paper in the last six months. I hasten to add that my bathroom habits are… umm… shall we say, healthy and regular, so I’m not under-using my stash.

On top of the financial benefits, there are loads of eco-warrior princess points to be won here. Toilet paper typically comes packed in plastic, uses high-quality virgin paper and water in its manufacture. Although it breaks down quickly in the sewerage system it is still a single-use product that is chucked out. Sewage treatment is a significant drain on our community’s coffers and not one we can scrimp on if we are to keep safe and healthy.

Toilet paper is a multi-billion dollar industry, and it takes just one virus to bring us to our knees and create chaos.  I wonder how many people have got a truckload of unopened paper in their garage?

Toilet Paper Hoarder?
It turns out this buyer also bought the stash before COVID. Incorrectly ordering 48 boxes instead of 48 rolls. Image from Courtesy US NEWS and Report.

The history of toilet paper

This sort of crisis gets you (well me anyway) thinking about what did people do in the olden days before the invention of snowy white toilet paper?

Sticks and stones as it turns out. Snow, seashells, wooden scrapers, communal sponges on sticks, flat rocks, leaves, moss, lambswool and fingers have all been or are still used as cleaning/drying implements after the business is done.

Ewww,  if the thought of washing a little tiny towel grossed you out, think of those alternatives!

Toilet paper, as we know it is a relatively recent invention. The first commercially produced toilet paper landed in the grocery store in 1857.

If you’re interested, these websites have some interesting stories on the history and commercial development of toilet paper.

https://www.history.com/news/toilet-paper-hygiene-ancient-rome-china

http://www.wonderbarry.com/TP%20Site/index.html

So how much will I save?

Back in January, I calculated that I was buying a four-pack of double length toilet paper every month. So I figured I’d need 48 rolls for the whole year. I paid about $6-7 a pack. So my upfront expenditure was about $90 tops for the year. My current rate of use sees me using 6 rolls over the year, let’s say $10. Over 5 years I’ll save ~ $400. (Maybe)

It’s not really about the money; it’s about reducing my footprint. In terms of eco-princess brownie points, this is right up there! I’m doing my bit to save trees, water and electricity and come the second wave I’ll be doing fine!

Toilet paper cartoon
A hot commodity?

Yuck factor?

The title of the Guardian article referenced above refers to the ‘yuck factor’ of reusable solutions to cleaning or drying ourselves after we have been to the toilet.

Now, for you fellows out there here is a bit of private women’s business. We use toilet paper every time we wee. All things going well, it’s really just a little dab to wipe a few drips. For this little bit of liquid I have known some women to use more than ten sheets! What a waste!  Why have we become so separated from our bodily functions?

Personally, I am still not ready to go commando and use the wipes for faeces as well. I am not done analysing the reasons why as I was a cloth nappy mum and it’s not the poo that worries me…just my poo I guess. I have also proven my poo-brave face by doing voluntary faecal analysis to see what bugs I have in my gut and for a bowel scan. Maybe I’ll get there but I won’t tell anyone.

Anyways, if using your own reusable wipes is a step too far, at least switch to a more eco-friendly option. Seek out paper made with at least some unbleached, recycled paper in paper wrapping. Bidets are also a very good alternative if you have access to one. The water used in the bidet is a fraction of that used in the manufacture of paper and the washing of tiny towels.

Check out “Who gives a crap” a socially responsible company who makes good toilet paper and gives back to the community. It’s not white and snowy but then neither is your bum!


PS: Visiting friends and family? Don’t worry; the guest bathroom is stocked with the real deal!