The MBAWYAO Series – Episode Three

Hello and welcome back to my MBAWYAO Series! For those who are just tuning in, this is a series where I go through tings that are important to me and I MANIFEST them. However, I take the word “manifest” with a huge pinch of salt. In fact, I’m not using the word “manifest” in its strict meaning (“the ability to convert the energy of our thoughts into a newly materialized form”). I’m using it as a way to find out what I want out of life.
You can read episodes one and two here.

Today I want to focus on my ideal home.
This is something that’s always been very dear to me. I love decorating and making a space mine. When I was a kid, while all my girlfriends were planning their dream wedding, I was planning my dream house. And in this particular case, I mean literally planning: I would draw the actual blueprint of each room, measure the layout, decorate the walls with pictures and plants and imagine the colours of the walls and what kind of furniture would go where. As a teenager, I’ve moved my room around countless times (as far as the original configuration allowed me). Every time I am in someone else’s house, I always imagine what kind of makeover I would give it to bring the place more in line with my own taste.

I’ve lived in a lot of houses. Eleven, to be precise (twelve if we count the van). All these houses I’ve been renting (except the van), and if you are anything like me you’ll be familiar with the frustration of not being able to move things around the way you’d want to, or repaint the walls, get a nicer sofa, and just in general not being able to find a way around all those obligations that your contract entails.
Of course, none of the above applies once you get our own house. Back in London, buying a house was one of our main priorities. Unfortunately, unless you already own a country, good luck trying to approach the merciless world of real estate.

Since we move to New Zealand our priorities shifted, and recently we have preferred to invest our money in travelling and experiences rather than a mortgage. But the idea of building my own house, something I’ve always wanted to do, never really left my mind, and for a long time now I’ve been looking into tiny living. When I discovered the movement I thought that was exactly what I wanted: it’s affordable, sustainable, adaptable, and from all those YouTube videos it looks like anybody can do it. I’ve possibly watched every single tiny house video out there and I am proud to say that I now know everything from timber structures to energy-efficient fridges, from grey water systems to fibreglass insulation.
However, I’ve recently decided that a tiny house in its strict sense is probably not going to work for me (and for Giac and his 316519492 musical instruments). I have been downsizing for who knows how long, and I finally got to a point where I’m satisfied with my possessions. However, I don’t think I’d be able to fit all my belonging into a tiny house, and for the time being I’m not ready to downsize even more.

So the first requirement for my dream house is that is has to be slightly bigger than an average tiny house.
It also has to be:

  • Energy efficient – I’m not sure I’m ok with the idea of being 100% off grid (my main issue is the compostable toilet), but I definitely want the option to be there;
  • Self sufficient – I’m talking solar panels, wood burner, veggie garden etc;
  • Made of reclaimed materials – Ideally, I don’t want to buy anything new in the making of my house. I’d love it if everything came from op shops, friends and family, or the side of the road;
  • Cosy – Not tiny, but it has to have that homey feeling. I’m thinking lots of wood, lots of books, lots of blankets and cushions;
  • Big enough for me to have my own space – I currently have my own corner and I’m looking forward to having a whole room for myself where I can make art, pile up my books, hang my own posters, write and do my own shit;
  • Not cluttered – I don’t want any shit I don’t need in it, and I also want to love everything my house contains;
  • Easy to clean – As in, no stairs. I hate cleaning stairs.

I also have a colour scheme in mind: I really like white wooden cupboards with dark wood tops for the bathroom, lighter wood in the rest of the house, probably white tiles and wooden countertops in the kitchen. I also envision lots of plants (this entails that I also miraculously lear how to keep plants alive): I love the contrast between the forest green of hanging plants and the dark wood of the furniture.

My final request is to have a window above the sink. This is probably the only thing that has never changed in 30 years of me planning my dream house. I want to be able to do the dishes with a view.

I came to the conclusion that an Earthship would be my best bet. According to the guy who came up with the design, Earthships are actually the top solution in terms of sustainability – plus let’s be real, they are freaking stunning. (And mainly single-story.)
They are primarily built in the Southwest of the U.S., so I guess you’ll now where to find me.

Money tracking – January

Now that I finally have a stable income I’ve started to track my expenses. This is something I’ve never been good at: if I had a penny for every time I’ve created a money-in, money-out Excel spreadsheet… Well, who knows – I’m clearly shit at this.
But this time round I’m quite enjoying making sure I know where my money goes. I’m using Excel and colour coding which makes me uncomfortably happy for some reason. I’ve divided my expenses in the following categories:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out (this includes coffee)
  • Op shops
  • Other shops/online shopping
  • Health/doctor
  • Sport
  • Transports
  • Phone

And this is what has happened in January + my goals for February:

  • I’ve spent almost $70 in coffee in 17 days.
    I did know I have a problem. There are very few things I enjoy more than having coffee in the morning in a cosy café (and I’m sorry but making my own coffee at home is just not the same). Now that I have a job I feel entitled to treat myself more, however I believe that dilapidating my savings in caffeine would be rather silly. So my goal for February is NOT to not spend any money on coffee, but – ideally – to spend less than $50 in coffee.
  • I would also like to stop eating out as much as we have in January. I don’t know what got to us but we had dinner out A LOT since we came back, and I haven’t been organised at all with bringing my own meals at work so I’ve been splurging way too much on food.
  • I’m going to try and not spend ANY money in op shops in February. I don’t really need anything (except for a plant pot and a couple of frames, but my plant is dying anyway and frames can wait).
  • As for online shopping, I’ve actually just spend $100 on iHerb and Amazon for a few things that I’ve been looking for for aaaaages. Glob. But hopefully I’m done for the month now.
  • I did go to the doctor once in January which you have to pay for here, but hopefully I shouldn’t have any health-related expenses this month!
  • Sport: my main expense has been my basketball registration, but now that that’s out of the way I should not be spending anything else until next season. I might go to some more Circus Fit classes but they are quite cheap. Also, just to be on the safe side, I’ve quit the gym.
  • The grocery category is my biggest achievement: I’ve only spend around $100 on groceries in January (that’s not a lot at all in New Zealand) and that’s because I started working in this amazing organic supermarket where I can get food for free! Every day I’m working, at the end of the day I can grab any leftovers/veggies/bread/food that doesn’t look good enough to be displayed but it’s still totally fine to consume. And since I’m working a lot, I have a lot of free food. Success!
  • As for phone and transports, I imagine I will be spending the same as last month but these are recurring expenses that I’m ok with.

I haven’t included things like rent or bills because Giac covers the most of them which I’m aware makes me very fortunate, so I can aim at putting as much of my earnings as I can in the savings.
I’m rather satisfied with managing a whole month of money tracking (hashtag adulting), let’s see if I can keep it up and if February works out as I’ve planned!