Zero Funds February

I’m confident I’m not alone in thinking where the heck did January go?? I’ll be doing a January recap at the end of the month, but – it was an amazing month. It also had the added benefit of involving very little ‘thinking about the future’, which means my real new year can begin in February.

February is just awfully convenient for setting mini goals. This particular February is greater than most, since it begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday (excluding 29 February – am I the only one who thinks 29 February isn’t a real day?). After tossing up some different titles for this month’s goal, I settled on Zero Funds February (although ‘No Fun February’ was the lead contender, I thought it was a little on the Negative Nancy side). Zero Funds February involves the following:

Zero.

Spending.

Yep – you guys, I’m doing a one-month shopping ban. Except for pre-approved items, I will be spending zero dollars. This is functioning as a warm up for a future longer-term shopping ban. For now, it gives me a hyper-focussed period of time to examine my habits and triggers, and make some informed decisions about how I want to work my money going forward.

My mantra to get me through is extremely unoriginal:

recite-a7tow2

 

 

And behold – the pre-approved February shopping list:

  • Groceries / petrol / bills (obviously) (note that ‘bills’ includes gym membership, 4 week challenge cost and Netflix).
  • Protein powder.
  • Printing photos (9c / 4×6 picture at Harvey Norman – this is part of my year long goal to Project Life my photos and importantly use up all the craft crap I hang on to).
  • Skin cancer check (these appointments are IMPOSSIBLE to get, and the only Saturday I could get is the last Saturday of the month).
  • Two trips to the 50m pool for swim practice ($6/each).
  • 2 x gifts: Valentines Day, nan’s birthday.
  • Stamps.

More importantly – things that I will not be spending on this month:

  • Take-away coffee.
  • Lunches.
  • Sweet tooth snacks.
  • Yarn (I like to crochet in my spare time #legend).
  • All other craft-related items.
  • Stationery (including to do lists, notebooks, journals, colourful pens, stickers…).
  • Candles.
  • Clothes (including all activewear).
  • Accessories.
  • Shoes.
  • Make up / Skin care / Hair care.
  • Apps.

Do you have a monthly goal for February? Any advice on the above? Let me know in the comments!

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My approach to exercise

It is impossible to escape exercise and fitness as one of the foundations of 21st century millenial life. Exercising more/losing weight/being fit is goal at the forefront of most people’s minds. The number of people participating in fun runs, half marathons, triathlons and other “fit”events has increased enormously.

I am not immune to this trend – in fact, I love exercise. This is very lucky, as I also love food, and all of the “you can’t out-train a bad diet” truths aside, at the very least I’m committed to moving my body, which usually results in a natural desire to fuel it properly.

Anyway – a sermon on exercise and health is not why I am here. Rather, I wanted to share what I spend on “exercise”. Prepare yourself. It’s kind of mortifying. 

To start, I’ll lay out what exercise I do. I found an amazing group training group last year as a result of a Christmas gift from my parents. It revolutionised my attitude to exercise, and was the first form of fitness I actually stuck with, consistently, for an entire year. I saw changes I never thought possible, and I refuse to give up on that group now, after everything it has given me. 

I also recently joined a country-club style gym with my boyf. It is a 6 minute walk from our apartment, and has a huge gym, an indoor and outdoor pool (unfortunately not full sized, but we can live with that), tennis courts, squash courts, and, hilariously, a bar (in fact – two bars). 

The group training costs me $35.88 a week.

The gym costs me $34.50 a week.

So yes – I spend $70.38 a week on “exercise”. That’s approximately 7% of my weekly take-home pay. I note, for completeness and a better insight to my confessional, that my work provides me access to a free gym. 

 This total also does not include expenditure on the following, which I label “exercise incidentals”:

  • Activewear (maybe my most tragic weakness?)
  • Appropriate footwear
  • Triathlon entry fees (my next half ironman was a breathtaking $400, just to enter)
  • Fuel/nutrition (gels, protein powder, bars etc.)
  • Gear (tennis and squash racquets, tennis balls, gym bag, water bottles, sunnies, bike services, and so on)
  • Washing the never ending pile of sweaty outfits 
  • Pool entry for when I want to swim 50m laps (about $6/entry)
  • Game fees for netball (I won’t be playing this any longer, but last year it was $10/game)

You get where I’m going. I am a sucker for exercise, and affiliated activities. One of the motivations to track my expenses this year is to get an actual figure on what I spend on exercise. I’m convinced it’s a very high number. However, the only thing I could definitively tell you is what I spend a week on entry fees places – the rest disappear into cute amounts I can’t place, and can’t put an exact figure on at this stage.

I do note I labelled this category as “exercise” and not just plain old Exercise. That’s because to a large degree, this category is also Entertainment. Despite not being in a fantastic economic position, signing up to our country club was one of the best things the boyf and I have done for our relationship. The aforementioned shoebox apartment gives rise to strong feelings of claustrophobia sometimes, particularly when you live on top of each other. I always wanted to live somewhere with a pool and gym, but those options were significantly more expensive and more poorly located than our current place. We worked out we could stay at our place, and join the gym, and come out ahead by about $50 – $80 a week, and have access to better facilities than if we’d upgraded our place. 

We also found that this option gave us somewhere to go to get out of each other’s hair when things got a bit too much after long days or just general life stress. Even better, going together has given us a really healthy dimension to our relationship – we have fun conversations while playing squash that aren’t complaining about our day, and when we swim on the rooftop, overlooking the sparkle of the city while the sun sets, we feel grateful for each other and for the little things in the day. 

So at face value – I spend way too much on exercise. But I believe in investing in my health, and in my relationship, and the current set up achieves both of those outcomes. I definitely agree it can be done cheaper – there are thousands of work outs available free online, via apps or Pinterest or ebooks or Instagram – but unless you stick to them, they are useless, simply mental clutter. This category, for me, defines the “personal” of personal finance. I’m excited to share more about it as I transition into the second half of my twenties (nooooooooo!!!) and as I undertake a focussed approach to my finances in 2016.

[Check in] Week one

Although I’m busy holiday-ing through the grand opening of 2016, I wanted to check in on the progress of some of my 2016 goals. I note that I do lack a weekly financial check in at the moment because I would like to just be present on my vacation. 

Spanish

I want to stick with a language, so my goal is to do one duolingo Spanish lesson a day every day for 2016. I’m coming in cold to Spanish since it’s more common to study French or an Asian language in Perth. I’m really enjoying it though! Soy uno pinguino!

Current streak: 8 days

Fitness

Last year I did my first Ironman 70.3. It was exhilarating and amazing and I immediately signed up for my second (only two run in Western Australia each year). This one is on 2 May, and I’d like to take a half hour off my time and finish in under 7 hours. 

Training: well… I’m vacationing. I did a brief stint at the gym. I’m taking it easy on myself right now since there will be a gruelling 3 month training period coming up.

Finances

I paid off a very big credit card bill, what will be my last uncontrolled credit card spend for 2016. While I’ve racked up some dollars already pre-new year, there’ll be no more $1500 blow outs for me. As part of my Christmas gift to C, I scheduled in a budget date night for our return home (he loves budgets). I’ll share the results of that date at the end of January.

Memories

I want to take a photo every day of this year to scrapbook. I love creating and storing memories. This has been exceptionally easy since I’m holidaying an exciting new place every day. But, so I can feel smug, current streak: 8

And that’s all for now! I’ll leave you with a picture of the horrible time I’m having:

  

Facing my fear of investing

Major confession: I’m extremely fearful of investing money. 

It’s not the risk factor so much. It’s the fact I understand literally nothing about it. No matter how many blogs I read or articles I browse that address ‘investing for dummies!’, I can’t crack it. 

But I’m stating my intention. This is it! This is the year for breaking the fear and putting some knowledge in my head and some cash on the line. My savings account balance is currently $11,445. I have a strong feeling that my previous conception that investing can only be done by the $10,000s is wrong. So step one will be to take $2,000 and put it somewhere. 

Where? I don’t know. I’m very confused about every single facet of this business. But I’m ready to bulldoze my way in. I’m sick of holding myself back, and feeling behind. However, I’d love some advice. What were your first steps? Any advice for an impulsive, distractable person in their mid-20s such as myself?

Reflections

I bought a $2000 bike today.

I haven’t posted here for a long time, but this was the fact I wanted to start with. I bought a $2000 bike.

$2000 is a lot of money. The bike was brand new, and I always said I would only ever buy a second-hand bike on Gumtree and not waste my money. My (very nice) bike was stolen last week, as I lead up to the days of training for my first half ironman in November. I was devastated. That bike awas gifted to me from very generous friends. But did I need to replace it with a brand-new $2000 bike (adding in another $400 in helmet, water bottle racks, lights, a new lock, repair kit, pedals, cycling shoes…those thieving jerks really cleared me out). It rode nice. I feel good in that saddle. I’m really happy with my purchase.

But now I’m starting to question whether I’m allowed to spend that kind of money when I’m 25? Should I have saved it? Should I have picked a cheaper (less speccy) bike? Should I have just counted the $400 entry fee to the Ironman as a sunk cost and not bought a replacement bike?

I feel plagued by these kind of financial considerations all the time. I’ve had a few months of really losing control with my spending. My favourite personal finance blog, Blonde On A Budget, is now reporting on a second year of a total shopping ban. I cannot even fathom going on a shopping ban! I didn’t realise how thoughtlessly I shop – but it’s incredibly thoughtlessly at times. I have saved up a comfortable amount of money, which gives me a foolish sense of comfort that I can do things like buy a $2000 bike. But. Then I don’t have as much saved.

I have had a lot of financial confusions I want to start sharing again. I felt so much clarity when I was blogging about money. It kept me honest, and it kept money at the forefront of my mind. I look forward to reporting back again.

And I’ll keep you updated on how the bike rides. Fit is necessary!

[Organise]: My Kikki-K Planner Set Up

On a quiet afternoon, I can find myself deep down the Pinterest rabbit-hole that is organisational options. Lately I’ve gone on an Ikea and label-maker frenzy to get my pantry in particular, but new apartment on the whole, into an orderly and organised haven. My favourite yearly purchase is my diary – and this year I’ve decided to go for something different – a Kikki-K planner, rather than a one year diary.

After clicking through the various options – Filofax or Kikki-k? Or the billions of other brands I never knew existed? I went to the shops with the intention of purchasing this planner – limited edition gold, personal size, time planner. The gold was gorgeous, but I realised it was probably a bit faddish, and the size for what I was looking for, in terms of the page and week-to-view look was far too small. I also didn’t love the inserts in the time planner – the week-view tab was great, but Birthdays, Shops & Restaurants etc. didn’t really suit my needs. I browsed Kikki-K for a while and fell in love with this beauty, which unfortunately wasn’t on sale, and came it at a whopping $79.95.

So I waited a few weeks, and realised that it really was the diary that was going to suit my needs for the year. So as a final splurge, I purchased the beautiful planner and also the 2015 Time Planner Large Insert.

A gorgeous leather feel.

A gorgeous leather planner!

The first thing I loved and still love about this planner is the textured leather. It feels durable, reliable and easy to clean, as well as a really fantastic colour for regular use. Another selling point to me was the press-stud close. Although an elastic close is probably better for shoving more items into your planner, I preferred the press-stud close, because it gives a satisfying click shut.

This is how I have the front set up at the moment:

Planner front open

I was opting for a simple set up. There are some gorgeous and pretty layouts all over Pinterest and Instagram, but I wanted a setup that was simple, functional and applicable for both work and home. In the credit card inserts I have a small post-it stack (my favourite size!) which I use for potential date planning – the sticky lets me reschedule or move things around before I’ve settled on a particular time/date for an event. The dot stickers are from K-Mart, which I use to mark the various things I write in my planner. In the top pocket is the Today pad that came with the planner. I’m not sure if this will stay in my planner forever, but for now it looks cute.

Inside the zip I keep my old Driver’s License (it’s come in handy a surprising number of times), and I slot any parcel pickup notifications into the back flap so I can collect them all at once. I do a shocking amount of online shopping!

I have the tabs as follows:

1. Calendar [Week to View] (from the refill I purchased – see link above)

2. Meeting Notes

3. To Do

4. Planning [Month View] (also from the refill I purchased – see link above)

5 & 6. Spare Notepaper to be appropriated – currently used for drafting blog post ideas

7. To Action [Perpetual Calendar adapted to tracking all my exercise].

photo 3 (1)

As you can see, I colour-code entries with the dot stickers. Red is important, Yellow is task to be done that day, Green is exercise, Blue is event and there are white stickers but they seem pretty useless on white paper!

This is a pretty empty week on purpose by the way…

The refill has been amazing for adapting the Personal planner to a Time planner without having to include inserts I wouldn’t use, and having more blank paper for more versatile use.

My exercise tracking looks like this:

photo 4 (2)

Just simple – a Green sticker to say boom, exercised, and a short scrawl as to what I did.

Let me know what you think – would you do something different? I am desperately trying to track down a transparent ‘Today’ ruler to mark my page in Tab 1, but can’t seem to find one for the A5 size. If anyone can suggest where I can find one, I would be so grateful!