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!

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Something serious (but with GIFs)

If you, like me, spend most of your time overanalysing yourself, you might be familiar with the joyful feeling of finally realising that you are satisfied with where you’ve got in life. Mind you, this is not a frequent occurrence. I believe it happened to me twice – in fact, I still recall the journal entry I wrote in 2013, when I got my first job in London and I was earning my own money and riding my bike around and I felt like an accomplished, independent woman.

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I love pushing my limits and learning what I can do to improve, and in the past few years I have been working really hard to become the best version of myself. However, since moving to New Zealand I had to face quite a few obstacles along the way. Especially towards the end of 2017, I felt like I really needed a change of scenery in order to take a break from my thoughts.
I found that break in the five weeks I spent back home.
Since I’ve returned, I’ve been so incredibly relaxed. It might be because of the AMAZING weather we’ve had this summer, but my mood has definitely taken a turn for the better. In the past couple of weeks, not once I’ve woken up in the morning wanting to bury my face in my pillow until I choke. In fact, I’ve been feeling really motivated – and I’ve been productive as fuck. Making sure I had a checklist of things to look forward to upon my return really worked.

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But the biggest improvement for me was that I no longer feel compelled to do a bunch of things that I was only doing because I felt like I was supposed to. I don’t know how long I spent forcing myself to do yoga every morning (speed up your metabolism!), drink gallons of water (stay hydrated!), trying to develop a morning routine (get more things done early!), and just making list upon list of things I thought would make me feel better. But the truth is, I was stressing about them more than benefitting from them.
Once I was back in Welly after Christmas, however, I was no longer feeling the pressure to tick all these boxes. Every morning I would wake up, check in with myself, see what I’d feel like doing, and proceed doing it.
The surprising thing is that I didn’t have to plan this. How my brain normally works is, I have to decide to do things. I have to intentionally make the decision that I’m going to do something, write a post about it, and then force myself to do it, ending up feeling anxious and miserable most of the time, because it’s rarely something I actually want to do. But this time round, I simply found myself easing into a new approach to life.
For example, yesterday I quit the gym. I hadn’t plan to do it. Simply, instead of going to the gym as my daily to-do list reminded me to, I – well – didn’t go. I’d been running around all morning at work, it was a beautiful day and all I wanted to do was going to the beach and sit in the sun. And that’s just what I did. Then I went home and quit the gym. I sent an email asking to cancel my membership. Again, not something I’d planned, but I figured I didn’t want to spend money on something I was spending more time stressing about than actually doing. And that lifted a big weight off my shoulders.

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Doing a lot of research on how to improve yourself has its downside: you feel like there are SO MANY things you should be doing, and you feel bad because all these bloggers and YouTubers around you are doing them are you’re not. Stretch, meditate, wake up early, don’t eat carbs, go outside, sit up straight, clean up your space, follow your dreams… No wonder we feel overwhelmed.
And I still feel this way. I still – always – want to grow and better myself. But I’m learning that maybe this means to also take it easy. It’s ok not to do something because you don’t feel like it – you don’t need to justify yourself or find excuses or feel bad about it.

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I realise to most people this probably sounds silly. Why the heck would you make your life more complicated? I wish I was more spontaneous. I envy SO MUCH people who just feel like going for a run and they can get up and go, whereas I need days to prepare for it, plan my meals and poops around it, work out when to wash my hair and a billion other things. Unfortunately, that’s just how I am.
And for once in my life, I’m ok with it.

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Am I a consumerist biatch?

Remember when I said I didn’t want anything for Christmas? WELL.
Since I’ve moved to New Zealand, I haven’t really treated myself to anything rather than coffee. I did buy things I needed (some clothes), but I can’t remember one instance where I got myself something just as a present to myself. The reason for that is not that I didn’t want to, but rather that I never found anything I liked. In spite of never being big on shopping, not buying anything for 18 months is a record even for myself.
Then I flew to Europe. I had already warned Giac that I was not going to be responsible for my actions over Christmas, as I knew I was probably going to unleash my inner consumerist monster in London, and my mum had told me she would pay for anything I wanted back home (I know).
However, in spite of my predictions, I overdid myself and went absolutely bananas. I bought thirteen sweaters, three journals, two pairs of shoes, slippers, some t-shirts, a bunch of winter hats and scarves, and a crazy amount of makeup.
I am sure that, compared to the average consumer, this is not that much. But condensed into such a short amount of time, it sounds absolutely insane. Plus, it totally goes against my Zero Waste/minimalist principles. Although I did try to buy as much as I could second hand/from sustainable brands, it probably doesn’t justify the fact that I had to ask my parents to send me an extra parcel from Italy to New Zealand because I couldn’t fit all the things I bought in my suitcase.
Now, some things I actually needed (I had zero winter jumpers), but some other things I got simply because, well, I could.
And I was not expecting that.
When I wrote about the joys of being frugal and not falling for temptations, I meant that. Although at the beginning I did struggle with not having access to stuff, after a year and a half I’d learned to be ok with it and actually quite enjoyed living on less. But once I was back to the realm of shopping and consumerism that is London, I was surprised by how quickly I readjusted to that and turned into my previous, careless self.
I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t really regret buying things. I love each and every one of my recent purchases. And considering how few possessions I had before, I still feel like I don’t own that much.
But I wonder, why am I so obsessed about it? Am I trying to be a minimalist just because I read about it and watch so many YouTube videos on people decluttering their lives that I feel like I should only own 30 pieces of clothing?
After the big move from London to New Zealand, I wanted to get rid of stuff because packing up 33 boxes of books was such a stress that I didn’t want to do it again next time I move. (Although I obviously still have all my books – fuck it.) So I did go through all my possession and donated everything that I didn’t wear/use/love. My ultimate goal was to get to a point where I owned everything I needed, and I needed everything I owned.
After my clear out I was left with… Not much. And I was missing a bunch of things that I considered necessities (i.e. winter sweaters. Again. It’s cold here, ok?)
This crazy Christmas shopping spree filled that gap. I now only own things I love. I invested in some staple items that I know will last me a long time. I will probably not buy anything else for another 18 months (hopefully longer).
Also, strictly speaking, I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist, unless I refine what minimalism means to me. I sure wish I could live on less material things – especially in view of my next move. However, I do make use of everything I have. And I guess that’s the point: I’m happy to let go of things that don’t serve me any purpose, and to keep those that do, even if they are more than what fits in a single suitcase.
The other point is, I am not perfect (duh). Although I am passionate about Zero Waste and conscious consumerism, I also falter and succumb to my old habits from time to time. And I’m ok to admit that. Living this way is not easy, but in my opinion you don’t have to be one hundred percent “perfect”, this is all about being aware of the consequences of your actions and know that you are responsible for them. In spite of this Christmas craziness, I still think overall I’m doing ok. I’m not claiming to be perfect or to know it all – after all this blog is all about my journey and my struggles and my internal conflicts, and me analysing them as well as accepting them for what they are.

This was just a big fat ramble and it probably didn’t make much sense but I guess I just needed to let it all out, so thanks for listening. I promise the next post will be more constructive!

All the good things coming

As I mentioned in this post, a bunch of exciting things are coming up.
While I was back home over Christmas, I wasn’t missing New Zealand one bit. I didn’t want to go back. Why? Because I had nothing waiting for me there. With the exception of the summer basketball season coming up, I had absolutely nothing planned – and that scared me.
But since I couldn’t avoid going back – and I didn’t want to stay in Italy either – I decided to take the situation into my own hands and create something exciting to look forward to.
So here’s what I did:

  • Quit the dogs
    As much as I love my doggos, I had been walking them for about seven months now and I knew it was time to move on. This job was not adding anything to my CV and it was preventing me from applying to other potential positions that could have opened more doors to what I actually wanted to do. It was not an easy decision but I’m glad I made it.
  • Gave design agencies a go
    Before leaving for my Christmas break I met with a very interesting dude who gave me a bunch of contacts for some design agencies that might give me a chance. I’ve checked them out and made a list of my favourites, so I can contact them and show them how brilliant I am.
  • Applied at Commonsense
    I already had an interview here last winter which went great, but unfortunately they were looking for someone to work over Christmas and I wasn’t going to be there. So I called them back a few days ago and boom – I got a job! This is just a casual position for now but there are good chances that it’s going to turn into a part-time soon. I am very excited about this job as it’s exactly what I was looking for: something flexible, that keeps me active, in a friendly environment, aware of Zero Waste and veganism. I’m starting next week. Score!
  • Sent more CVs
    After all it’s after the holiday, which is the best time of the year to apply for jobs. Since I have time anyway, it would be a shame not to send as many CVs as possible for a couple of months and see what happens.
  • Reserved three days a week to write my book
    I’m writing a book! There, I’ve said it. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time or balls to do. But since now I’m in a (mental and physical) space to follow my passions, I’ve decided to take on this huge project and DO IT. I haven’t sent myself a deadline but I do want to take it seriously and fucking finish it.

There’s also something else happening but I’m not in the position to reveal it just yet (mainly cos it’s probably a way too ambitious project that might never happen so I’d  rather not disclose it in the first place, but we’ll see).
What are your plans for 2018?

‘Tis the season

It’s after the holidays, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how being a Zero Waster/wannabe-minimalist/life simplifier relates to the consumerist mindset and spending spree that is the holiday season.
Up until not very long ago, I didn’t think much about Christmas presents. It was just something you had to do. During my London years, I used to associate the appearance of Christmas decorations in Oxford street to the daunting awareness that I had to get people stuff. Every Christmas I would fly back home with a suitcases full of presents for my friends and family, and as much as I did enjoy buying nice things for them, I also felt like this was an obligation more than a pleasure.
December 2016 was our first Christmas in New Zealand, and since we were not going home I didn’t buy any presents to my loved ones. Instead, I sent them cards that I painted myself, and wrote them letters saying that I missed them. That was the most personal gift I’ve ever given them.
I realised all I was doing was taking the values I’d normally apply to my own day-to-day life and extending them to other people. I’m all about minimising waste and simplifying my life, so obviously I wasn’t going to forget about that when it came to present-giving.
But this posed another issue: what about the presents I was going to receive? I started to dread the prospect of unwrapping a present only to find the umpteenth birthday cake-shaped hat from Ikea (yes, that’s something I’ve actually received).
My main goal this year became to avoid superficial gifts that I didn’t need. How was I going to do that? I was gonna speak up. Thanks to finding the balls to tell people what I did and didn’t want, I managed to have my first (almost) Zero Waste, conscious-consumer-oriented, kinda minimalist Christmas.
And this is what I’ve learned:

  • It’s ok to ask
    A few months prior to my return, I wrote to my family members and gave them my Christmas wish list. I knew it wouldn’t make sense to ask for no presents at all as people still feel compelled to get you something, so at least I was going to ask for things I actually wanted or needed. This may be a bit blunt but at least you won’t end up with stuff you’re never going to use.
    This also goes for wrapping paper: I’ve asked everyone to please not wrap any of my presents or to at least use old wrapping paper or whatever wrapping they had lying around. It worked!
  • Presents don’t have to be a physical thing
    Giac, for example, always asks for experiences for his birthday. This Christmas, his aunt and uncle told us to pick anything we want to do in Welly and they would pay for it – it can be anything from a theatre performance to a museum exhibition to dinner in a fancy place. That’s amazing because it’s up to us to decide, and it’s one less item we had to carry back to New Zealand in our suitcase.
  • Cashy -cashy
    If somebody really doesn’t know what to get you (and is kind enough to tell you), you can always ask for money. This obviously only applies to people you are particularly close to, but if they really won’t go for not getting you anything, in spite of you insisting, then just ask them to give you a little bit of cash – which you can use to cover some boring expenses like paying for gas or for some bills.
  • Go with someone
    My mum didn’t get me anything for Christmas. Instead, she said she would come with me to whatever shop I wanted to check out, and if I did want to buy something she would pay for it. I’m not gonna lie, it was amazing to feel this spoiled and I did end up buying a bunch of things. But at least they are all things I love! And I got to spend time with my mum 🙂

Now, you’re always going to get the odd relative who doesn’t listen to you or doesn’t understand why you have so many requirements, but that’s ok. There’s only so much you can do and you can’t demand that everyone gets where you’re coming from. Remember not to get upset (something I still struggle with) and maybe try to explain your position again to them. At least you’ll know you’ve done your part.
I actually had some really great conversations about Zero Waste with people I would have never thought would be interested in that, so another lesson I’ve learned is to never assume. People are always going to surprise you!

BACK

I’m back from Europe and, to put it nicely, I am fucked up.
I’m not handling the jetlag very well and I am emotionally discombobulated, possibly the worst combination when you wake up at 4.21am three nights in a row and you just sit there staring at the ceiling and questioning every single decision you’ve made in life.

Being home after 18 months was an interesting experience.
We flew to London and we spent our first six days there. I didn’t know what to expect, and it turned out I was an emotional wreck for the entire time.
While Giac acknowledged the importance of taking it easy, not overdoing it and following all those suggested guidelines on how to recover from the jetlag, I behaved like a complete mess. I felt like I had to do everything but I didn’t have enough time. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner was booked with friends, I had a list of places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to do and stuff I wanted to buy. I would quite literally run from one place to another, ticking entries off my list as I progressed.

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Seeing all my friends brought tears to my eyes. It was great to catch up, to sit on a rug sipping tea and to realise that our friendship is stronger than  18,802km distance. At the same time though, I looked at them getting married, having kids and carrying on with their lives, and I couldn’t help but feeling like I’m missing out.
I hardly took any pictures – outrageous, I know – because I was too busy absorbing the London-ness of it all: caressing books in Foyles, smelling curry in Brick Lane, crying in front of relics older than New Zealand at the V&A, taking it all in.
I obviously didn’t manage to do everything I wanted to do, and on the plane to Italy I felt an incredible sense of incompleteness.

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Arriving home was way more relaxed, and I finally started sleeping and eating again – something I hadn’t been able to do since I’d left New Zealand eight days earlier.
Italy involved a whole lot of catching up with friends and family, eating good food, travelling around, and being ridiculously spoiled by my mum.

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But mostly, I felt safe.
When I lived in London, I couldn’t bare being home for longer than three days. I was so used to being self-sufficient, with my own schedule and rules, that having to adjust to my family’s routine made me freak out. This time round, though, I never wanted to leave. Those four weeks in Italy flew by, and when the time came to pack my bags the prospect of going back to the uncertainty of job-hunting-filled days in Wellington seemed daunting. As much as I enjoy my independence, I didn’t mind being looked after for a whole month, and not having to worry about a thing.
On top of this, I was so happy to be with my family again. I missed spending time with my parents, visiting my Grandpa, being able to hug them and have real conversations and do things together. I loved going for dinner with my in-laws and I wish we could hang out together on the regular instead of Skyping once a month.

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On the way back to New Zealand I cried in every single airport, on every single plane, and several times once I’d landed.
But we came back to a sunny Welly, and this morning we walked down into town at 6am and it was magical, so peaceful and quiet and beautiful I felt bad for not wanting to come back.
I realise this place is special, but it’s so freaking far away. But the point is that all the things I like about New Zealand are the way they are precisely because it’s so freaking far away.
I know that moving back to Europe wouldn’t solve anything. If I were to move back to London now I would have a very hard time readjusting to its rhythms now that I’ve seen how much slower life can be. London was a nerve-wrecking, heart-breaking, incredibly emotional trip down memory lane – but I know that I left it for a reason.
The thing is, I’m not sure where else I want to be. I wish I could live in New Zealand but have regular access to Europe every three months or so. But since this is not going to happen, all I can do is try to create myself a space where I feel happy, productive and content.
In fact, I do have some exciting projects coming up that hopefully will keep me busy for the coming months, so stay tuned if you want to know more, and in the meantime I hope everyone had a wonderful break and bring it on, 2018!

Hi all, just a heads up that I might not be blogging for a few weeks as I’m going back home for Christmas and I might not have time/will to update. I might occasionally upload but I just don’t want to commit as I’ll be on holidays and I want to focus on spending time with friends and family. I can’t wait!
Have a good break everyone 🙂

Grass For Dinneris taking a break