7 Days of Good Thoughts

I’ve started a new book Happy Go Money by Melissa Leong and one of the chapters talked about having experiences rather than spending money on stuff. It got me thinking (as everything does) about money and how it’s spent. One of the questions was around looking at recent experiences and seeing if they were costly or just something simple and life affirming. This is a bit of a list of all the nice things I could think of that happened around the last 7 days and their worth:

  • I’ve moved to a new team at work and I went to my first all day meeting. It’s nearly Christmas so the mood was light and fun. One of the ice breakers involved a dancing pass the parcel that saw our head boss doing the time warp and a colleague showing us how to do the YMCA dance on our backs using our legs for the arm movements. You had to be there possibly but I haven’t laughed until I’ve cried in a very long time. Cost: nothing
  • The woman that sits next to me has regular Clarins facials and treatments and knows the staff quite well. Well enough that rather than throw out old stock because the ‘recipe’ had changed they gave it to her. Who then brought it to work with the result ebing I got 3 new expensive lipsticks. Cost: nothing
  • I’ve had 2 crafting sessions at work this week. In the first one we were given a small canvas, some coloured thread and buttons and designed Christmas Trees on the canvas. In today’s session we made snow globes. I may be 46 but I have been looking forward to this session for weeks! Everyone had such a good time, forgetting the cares of work & life for an hour. Total cost: £3.50 (as a craft club member I get subsidised prices)
  • Two people I’ve been thinking about recently that I haven’t seen in a while got in touch to arrange a coffee for the coming month. Cost: nothing (so far)
  • Another one who I was thinking of but wasn’t sure if they were actually bothered about being friends texted me to say she missed me and hoped to see me soon. Cost: nothing
  • I found a box of Bakewell tarts in the cupboard. Cost: I’m saying no cost as I bought them weeks ago.
  • And tomorrow I round the 7 days off with a free Arm Knitting session where we get to learn to knit with needles about 4 foot long! Never tried it before but it looks fun. And as I say, it’s free

So lots of positive experiences over the week and the total cost comes to £3.50 which isn’t really very much in the general scheme of things is it?

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Christmas Shopping on a Budget

I was chatting in a money management group the other day about spending habits and someone mentioned that they had recently finished paying off their debts and found that they kept the positive changes they had made during their time of financial hardship and it made me think about Christmas and how much my habits have changed since I started my debt repayment plan in 2015.

Before 2015 I would spend, spend, spend. I always left my Christmas shopping until the last minute and probably every year would either end up with another loan or put the shopping on my credit cards. Shopping was always based on a form of social pressure; to get the biggest, most expensive presents no matter whether they were fit for purpose. Nearly always people just ended up with whatever gift sets were in the shopping mall I happened to be in. Not very thoughtful gifts and no wonder I ended up in debt (one of the reasons).

I think now I am a much more thoughtful gift buyer even if I don’t gift very often. Being in debt and on a budget makes you recognise just who you should be spending your limited finances on. Firstly I cut my Christmas list down to those who were most important to me and of those remaining I made an agreement with siblings that I would only buy for their children (I have 11 nephews and nieces so still a lot!). Over the last few years that has been reduced again with siblings to a family gift so the 11 has gone to 4.

Another thing I have learnt is to shop over 12 months. I don’t set out to buy something each month and put it away but I do take advantage of year round sales or small, small business owner shops or craft fairs. I found that doing this has made me a more conscious shopper not just with the amount of money being spent but actually matching a gift to a person. As an example pre-2015 as mentioned I would blanket buy gift sets at over-inflated prices that whilst nice, you could change the name on the gift card and no one would be any wiser. Post-2015 people will get gift or a gift bag of small items that I’ve chosen when I’ve seen something that fits them perfectly. There is one present I have this year for my best friend. It’s small, cost me next to nothing but fits her perfectly and is something I know she enjoys very much. And probably 1/20th of what I had paid out in the past yet I believe she will get more lasting enjoyment (I’m being careful about what I say as she reads the blog J )

It’s not all positive. I did find when I started this some people took exception to not receiving a present any more no matter how much I explained my circumstances and while I believe that you don’t buy to receive it did amuse me the amount of people who would say ‘well if you’re not buying me one, I’m not buying you anything either’ but said in an incredibly grumpy way that suggests all they cared for was the gift and not anything else. But also funnily enough, they also turned out to be people that didn’t stick around as friends when they learnt that being good and sticking to a budget meant cutting back on lots of things. You certainly learn who are real friends and who are social friends when you have difficulties.

However this is all their problem and not mine. The majority of people accepted my decisions and are grateful for even a small gift. My dad always talks about it is the simple act of gifting and not the size of the gift and he’s right but when the world is bombarded with advertisements and social pressure at this time of year it’s hard not to fall for it.

I have one more restricted Christmas buying year (2019) and then from 2020 I have no budgeting anymore or rather not as strict as it is now. I am hoping that what the guy in the group said about keeping the good habits learnt is true and that while I may have a few more pounds to spend I won’t be silly with it and will stay a more thoughtful gift buyer.

Mindfulness and Crafting

After my anxiety went a bit sky high again this summer I had to have an Occupational Health report done by a doctor. During the chat we talked about hobbies and he remarked that even though it’s good to have hobbies all mine could be classed as solo ones that didn’t help when I would isolate myself when ill. His suggestion was that I look at how I could make them so I got to spend time with people rather than myself. Discussing it with a work friend it then became a kind of joke that I needed to be more ‘people-y’.

I enjoy crafting although I’d at that point only really done some knitting and bead making so I joined the office craft club. In the last few months I’ve been learning lots of paper crafts and created cabochons (clear glass beads that are painted) amongst other things. I’m not very good at it. My cutting out skills leave a lot to be desired and sometimes the finished output does look like it was done by my inner 6 year old than my real life 46 year old self but I love it. It is definitely one of the best decisions I have made this year. I’ve made new friends, got involved in some volunteering by selling poppies and just generally had a laugh. At the end of November I went to a Crafternoon Tea event which again involved paper crafting but with the added joy of tea and cake thrown in. What’s not to love.

Next year I have more of the same but am also signed up to have a go at silk printing and felt sewing. Over the last few months I’ve given thought to digging out my sewing machine and actually learning how to use it (my mother will be stunned, she bought me it 5 years ago and it’s never left the packaging) and just recently I’ve had the urge to bake again. That has to be at least 10 years. I’ve added a few photos below of some of the things made. As I said not everything is perfect but the peace of mind it brings and the stress release you get from crafting more than compensates for any finished product.

365 Ways to Beat Stress

I’ve been reading a book called 365 Ways to Beat Stress by Adam Gordon and while all 365 hints, tips and meditations are worthwhile there were a few that jumped out enough to write this blog. The books isn’t out yet but you can buy it here and the blog review will be on my sister site For the Love of Books on release day.

Keep Something Absurd or Incongruous on your Desk

Our bank of desks at work is full of crazy things that catch people’s eye as they walk past. It started last Christmas when the retail store John Lewis started selling robin ornaments for Xmas which were then given paper kimonos when we drew Japan in the World Cup sweepstake. Currently we have a tree decorated with mini carrots which are the emblem of supermarket Lidl for 2018’s Christmas campaign. For me, on my desk, are the spiders that everyone insists are octopuses (octopii?) which I made for craft club. I’ve a post coming tomorrow on craft club so I’ll say no more for now.

absurd

Swings and Merry Go Rounds

This reminded something from when I was around 18 or 19. I think it was in Manchester’s Hyde Park but don’t hold me to that. I remember all of us, new adults, laying on the merry go round, firstly staring at the sky as it spun and spun then closing our eyes. Sinning around with eyes closed felt like we were going in the opposite direction to what we really were. I also remember taking lots of photos as we spun and had some amazing (if I say so myself) pictures of the sky. Sadly my life got very chaotic for a while after that and I no longer have them but it’s a memory I cherish especially on a summers day.

swings 1swings 2

Practise Origami

As part of the craft club I’ve been learning a type of origami called tea bag paper folding. Teabag folding is a paper craft art for embellishing greeting cards using small square pieces of paper (e.g., a tea bag wrapper) bearing symmetrical designs folded in such a way that they interlock and produce a three-dimensional version of the underlying design. I’ve had a couple of goes now and while I still need more practise it definitely keeps you in the now and is very calming.

Lastly Balancing Female Hormones Naturally and Learn Sign Language. I sent pictures of these to my friend. While I appear to be going through early menopause in the manner of my aunt (little to no symptoms) rather than my mum (psychosis) my friend has a terrible time every month. She’s also signed up to learn sign language in January. I love the fact that it is seen as a calming, stress busting activity.

There are so many more things in this book I either do or want to do. I found it a timely reminder to stop every now and then and live rather than just exist.

 

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

I’m reading a book at the minute called I’ll Meet You At The Lost & Found and the initial few chapters are about self-love and not living your life for the acceptance of others but to value and respect yourself first and it got me thinking about employment. I’ve spent the last year on a development course at work where we’ve looked at what we want out of our lives and careers. I’ve one more module left but after 10 months I’ve been around in a circle with the result being I’m no wiser than I started (or so I thought up to an hour ago). 

I work in the corporate arm of the civil service. Afters years of working on the front-line it’s a very different atmosphere and there’s constant chatter about developing, building competencies and ‘getting the next grade’. This started from my first day on the job and seems to be the measure against everything. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve done a piece of work for someone to say well done, that’ll be good for your competencies. And I definitely fell into the idea of wanting to please others rather than myself as I got caught up in this probably to the detriment of what I might really want to do. And when I think about promotions it does feel like I’d be doing so to both please others and because they think it’s the right thing to do not me. 

As part of the course I have given thought to other types of work. I’m 18 months away from graduating with a degree and the plan is to follow that up with teacher training. However again a lot of that is based on wanting to please others by having an acceptable job type. When I’ve looked into the post degree study, the need to gain classroom experience, the continuous development rather than be energised I just felt old and demotivated. If it’s what I really wanted then surely I would be the opposite. I’ve actually spent a few weeks doing a 3 day training course as part of my job and by the end of day 2 have been exhausted. I don’t think I have the energy or desire to do it 5 days a week continuously. 

And this brings me back to the idea of a tea shop, crystal therapy business or something to do with crafting. Or all 3 combined. Talking about this DOES enthuse me. I’ve reams of research and done an awful lot of planning. I even started to put things into place to do something but am hampered until the debt repayment plan is cleared. Even better, these are things that I want to do regardless of other people’s opinions or wage drop or it not being a career everyone else wants. I can get very excited talking about tea, coffee and feeding people cheese & ham toasties no matter how strange that may seem to others. 

So where does it leave me? Well it leaves me with 18 months to fill. 18 months to graduation and the end of my debt plan. 18 months to being able to truly make decisions that best suit me. Until that time I’m going to talk about the career ideas that do fill me with joy and unless it’s a job that makes my heart sing I’ll be avoid any promotion activity. Then in 18 months I can start work on the last part of my working life to make sure when I retire I can say I’ve really given myself some self-love when it comes to earning money.

Finally I’m a big believer in synchronicity and following my inner thoughts (apart from work!) and was trying to think how to title this blog when the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite popped into my head. Banks puts his work above all else until he loses his job after a visit to the bank by his children. After which he realises that feeding the birds or flying his kite is a wonderful thing to do regardless of what his (former) employers think. Let’s all go fly some kites 🙂

Reflections

This has definitely been a year of two halves. I started the year part way through a daily blogging challenge, I had cut out about 80% of sugar and was trying to get in 10,000 footsteps per day in lieu of any other exercise and combined I managed to achieve quite a lot. Then I had some health issues, I wasn’t keen on the job I was doing and was demotivated there, my finance struggles seemed to worsen and looking back since around August I seem to have lost the plot with everything. Blogs have been sporadic and I definitely haven’t achieved my footsteps. In some ways the footsteps wasn’t an issue as I’d joined a gym and was doing 3 half hour sessions per week. However I pretty much sucked back in that 80% of sugar.

I’d got to the point where I’d lost 27lbs – 1lb off of 2 stone in UK measurements. Partly I think I sabotaged myself a bit but I also did what I always do when I’m stressed and I ate. I ate so much crap. Luckily when I’ve stood on the scales I’ve only gained 5lbs. I can work with that and have a mini goal to get rid of that by the end of this month plus that one more pound that takes me to that magical 2 stone figure. Regardless of what the end figure is on New Years Eve, 2018 is the best year I have had for diet and exercise in about 20 years so it can only be a positive

I stopped communicating in many ways whilst my depression and stress levels were high except for my book blog. I read a lot, even more when I’m in a down swing as it’s an escapism so that blog has done wonders. But I think I have more to say and am starting to miss this one so, while I may not get back into daily blogging I should at least be around more. 

I’ve started some planning for 2019. I found a notebook with so many lists of things I’d like to do, or read, or learn. One in particular is a list of all the jobs I need to do in the house. Not everything on these lists is do-able and certainly not in one year but they’re a good starting point for getting out of the house more and engaging with life.

I’ll add to this over the next few weeks as we come to the end of the year. One of the lists was of the things I wanted to achieve in 2018 so it will be interesting to see how much of that has happened. 

Gym and year so far weight loss review

We did the gym measurements check in early as we didn’t want to skew the stats as I’ll be spending most of next week eating hotel food so after 11 weeks (or technically 10 as I had a week off) and bearing in mind I’ve eaten cake or wagon wheels every day this week I have lost since I joined 2.2 kgs and 5 3/4 inches which I’m pretty chuffed about.
Looking at my nerdy spreadsheet I didn’t start noting inches until I’d lost a stone but in 2018 I’ve lost 26 1/2 pounds (the half’s important) and a minimum of 18 1/2 inches (they included abs and arms which I didn’t). Who knows what it should be but I’m chuffed enough with these figures anyway. So next time I tell myself I’m a rubbish dieter I should probably look back at this post!

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