Sunday, October 30, 2011

Random thoughts

  1. When did underwear start to mean just knickers/underpants/panties?  I still think of underwear as, well, everything you wear under your clothes - bra/vest, knickers, stockings/tights/socks.  If I hear someone talking about a pair of underwear, it just sounds strange.  If I'm talking about writing a list of what to pack to go on holidays, I don't write bras and underwear because that's just saying the same thing twice.
  2. When did all the men on telly start shaving their armpits?  The bare chest has certainly seemed to have become more and more common but it's only in the last couple of years that it's occurred to me that much of that is artificially bare and I've realised that because I started to notice how many men don't even have any hair under their arms.  What I understand even less than these men who feel the need to de-hair themselves are the women who find it appealing.  I find men so much more attractive the way nature made them (women too, come to think of it).  I also keep remembering with a smile that bit in James Bond when he's in a Japanese bath of some kind and the Japanese man makes a remark about how the attendants are giggling over the amount of hair on James' chest, to which Sean Connery replies something like "a bird will not nest in a tree without leaves".
  3. For no reason in particular I found myself reading the wiki entries on what exactly baby boomers are, which led me to find out that I'm apparently from Generation X.  It reminds me of that old email that did the rounds a bit more than ten years ago about how the current set of people entering college would have been born after 1980, which means they have no real memory of the Reagan/Thatcher era and don't understand the philosophical importance of 'wax on, wax off'. 
  4. Someone recently reminded me about the documentary Inside Job - not sure if I mentioned it but it's well worth a look.  It goes into the reasons behind the financial crisis and is probably not the kind of film you might expect when hearing 'the latest Matt Damon film'.  This is a trailer for it on youtube.
  5. Just came back to edit this post after reading this blog post from sallygardens and clicking through to a trailer for a documentary called Gasland (including someone being able to set the water coming out of their kitchen tap on fire by holding a lighter to the tap before turning it on - mad!).  Worrying issue - will have to find out more about this.  My first thought is that Ireland is just not a country big enough to be taking any chances with what land it does have.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Budgeting after debt elimination

I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about budgeting and how to manage it once I'm out of debt.  The sad fact is that if I'd handled my budgeting better over the last three years (since I moved here) I'd already be out of debt now.  Even if I'd been budgeting properly in the last few months, I'd be far closer to my goal of being debt-free by the end of 2011 (which is not going to happen now).

A few months ago I found this budget spreadsheet on the marriedwithluggage blog.  I've come across lots of different budget spreadsheets over the last few years of reading more personal finance blogs and websites but never found anything I liked better than what I had developed myself.  But this one, I really like.  Others have always seemed far too complicated and awkwardly set up for my use and so I have just stuck with what I came up with myself, which I have refined over time (probably to the extent that to anyone else it wouldn’t seem simple at all but that’s the way these things go).

However, having learned quite a bit about money, budgeting and, most importantly, my relationship with money (which is sometimes none too healthy) I have learned that I do need a different way to budget. At first I told myself that I would need a new way to budget because I would be out of debt and would have more money at my disposal and would need to make sure not to go crazy buying stuff I don't need or want.  I'd even started writing a blog post about it, very little of which is making it into this post becuase after writing it and after messing around with this new spreadsheet for a bit I realised that my thinking has been flawed all along (given how long I've been in debt, some might say that doesn't come as a big surprise).

Actually, I've changed my mind and am going to include here the bulk of what I started writing a few months ago.  Come to think of it, I think this was mostly what I posted in a comment to that blog above.  I was obviously so impressed with myself I decided it was worthy of a blog post of its own.

Begin: At the moment I simply can’t budget in a big way for things like eating out, entertainment, clothes or basically anything that isn’t absolutely necessary.  I make my fixed debt payments, pay whatever other bills are due, make only slightly higher than minimum payments to credit card and by the time I’ve transferred a small amount to savings to cover annual expenses there really isn’t an awful lot left so it gets divided by the number of weeks that month (four or five) and that’s what I have to spend on everything that week.
By July I will have finished paying off some large dental bills that have really been hurting the last few months (I should have paid them over longer than six months, but that would have involved interest so I decided not to do it) and also have made my final payment on the big loan I took out five years ago. After that I will have some overdraft and credit card debt but plan to have that fully cleared by the end of the year.

So I will need to start thinking much differently about the way I budget and actually budget for what I need in various categories.  I must start keeping my daily log again so that in a few months I have a somewhat realistic idea of what I actually need to be spending on the various categories.
End quote.

You see, what I realised after having written that (in April, I just checked) and allowed it to simmer under the surface while I struggled with a massive depression and a bad work situation, is the fundamentally flawed aspect at the beginning of it.  "I simply can't" when really the truth is that I simply don't.  And now I need to just start doing it. 

Since I made my final loan payment at the end of July I haven't done too well on actually keeping to the kind of budget I was.  Partly because I'm just so sick and tired of having to be careful.  And I've always struggled with that line between what is sensible budgeting and what is sackcloth and ashes budgeting anyway.  Sometimes trying to keep myself sane has come before getting myself out of debt more quickly but I made the decision a while ago that as long as I do things consciously then I am okay with that.  But I definitely don't want to be sitting here in October 2012 talking about still being in debt.

Using the spreadsheet above I actually played around with how I would do if I was earning different amounts of money (I needed this badly when I had started looking for a new job so that I could figure out how much of a drop in salary I could sustain if necessary).  And I found that a big help.  I also needed some different categories and, since I have a tendency to need to micro-manage spending at least for a while until new habits establish themself, I broke some categories down even more.  For example, I don't have any pets so that section was gone.  I replace it with a breakdown of not just food and drink but more detailed.  Because I don't just spend my money in one place.

Food became:
  • Farmers' Market
  • Fair trade shop
  • Supermarket
  • Other
  • Preserving supplies
Drink became:
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Water (I buy fizzy water - sometimes I like someting fizzy to drink but I haven't got the sweet tooth for things like coke or fanta these days.  It's also handy to have for guests - if a German asks for water, nine times out of ten, they'll mean fizzy)
  • Other
This post is long enough for now and doesn't quite say all that I wanted it to say but I'm just going to hit publish anyway.  If I think too much about this stuff part of it goes away before I can finish.  My main point for now is that the type of budgeting I 've been doing just won't cut it if I ever want to get to a healthy financial situation.  But it's not just the budgeting that needs to change, it's the way I think about it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Random thoughts

I bit the bullet and bought myself a really good pair of shoes.  It seems like for the last few years I haven't bought many shoes and when I have it has mostly been of the cheapish and reduced even further in a sale variety.  And, as sometimes happens, most of the shoes I do have, have started all falling to pieces at the same time.  And I've gone into a shop or two and tried on whatever was on sale but nothing seemed to quite fit right.  So this morning I went to the shop which is also the place where the make the orthotics that I got last year.  I figured they'd at least have shoes that will offer decent support and would probably know their stuff.  I still bought what was one of the cheaper pairs of shoes there but at 120 euro, that's about five times more than I would normally spend on shoes (maybe a bit less than about twice as much as I've spent on hiking boots).  They're black boots, just about ankle high (which I wanted because I have a couple of pairs of trousers that are just a teensy bit too short that I'll now be able to wear more often), extremely comfy to wear, my orthotics fit in them no problem and she said there would absolutely not be a problem with getting them repaired or re-soled when the time comes.  She spent plenty of time listening to exactly what I wanted, paid attention to it and went looking for what I was after and then afterwards, also spent some time telling me how I can best care for my new shoes.  Well worth the money so far.  Here's hoping the shoes live up to my expectations now!

And today I remembered one of the really good things about keeping a blog because I bought a red cabbage yesterday and although I cooked this dish quite a lot last winter, I just couldn't remember exactly what I needed for the basic recipe.  A quick search and I had all I needed.  Just waiting for it to finish cooking now.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another very interesting documentary

Saw this a few weeks ago as well and really enjoyed it.  Just now thought to look for the website - it's a French film and the translation of the title isn't quite what I would have thought it would be but really works: Think Global Act Rural

Do try and see it if you can - there's a trailer on that website too.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Random thoughts

Some of the (very, very many) films that are almost guaranteed to make me cry, in no particular order:
  • Love Actually
  • The Parent Trap (any version of it)
  • Ghost
  • Armageddon
  • Forrest Gump
  • Terminator 2
  • The Great Escape
  • V for Vendetta
  • The Truman Show
Every once in a while I realise that something from my childhood has had a bigger impact on me that I thought.  My dad was a firm believer that your pockets were for keeping money, keys or a hanky in but under no circumstances for keeping your hands in.  It was a big no-no for any of the lads working for us (not to mention for any of us kids) to be standing around with their hands in their pockets.  I always thought it was a bit over the top.  But now I find myself occasionally watching a film or television series (even sometimes just in work or out and about in daily life) and being so incredibly irritated by people standing around in even the most formal setting, with their hands in their pockets.  You're meeting the president?  Why not walk into the room with your hands in your pockets.  About to tell someone they're dying?  Sure, leave your hands in your pockets. The things our parents drum into us and those around us often stay with us whether we realise it or not.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Random thoughts

Still don't seem to be in a place where I feel like I can get back to normal posting any time soon.  Part of this is the recurring thought that I have nothing of worth to share.  This has been a big problem for me in general during this bout of depression and goes beyond the usual low self-esteem issues I've always struggled with.  However, I do have lots of ideas for things I want to post about and quite a few half-started drafts and I will try to spend some time on them over the next few months.  In the meantime I'm just going to occasionally post mish-mash posts of random thoughts.  I do far too much over-explaining anyway.  So here goes:

I've just ordered The Friday Night Knitting Club, a book which I bought (in an airport I think) a few years ago, read, was fairly sure I wouldn't read again and so it went into the pile for the charity shop.  Only for me to remember a few months later that I had meant to copy down the instructions for knitting an afghan patchwork type blanket.  Following the not terribly huge success of the Blanket Project I would really like to give this type of thing another go.  But with bigger squares and an overall smaller blanket.  Because while it might not look great and while it may be coming apart at the seams (yes, I really need to learn some sewing/finishing skills) that blanket is made of almost pure wool (this stuff)  and will keep me warm on the coldest of days or nights. 

A friend in choir told me recently about a new car-sharing scheme in our town.  I knew there were one or two in operation and had always planned to find out more and it was great to talk to someone about their experiences.  And even better, the closest place the cars are parked to me is the car park just about four minutes walk from where I live.  I plan to join up soon but am undecided as to whether or not I'll start using it as an excuse to just start using a car for everything.  Time will tell.  Need to save up enough for the deposit first.

I've done so little to make any headway with the house since this post.  The armchair is full with a pile of clothes to be ironed/folded/put away and the yellow couch is completely covered with stuff at this stage.

I have moths in my bedroom.  So annoying and I really need to start dragging stuff out and seeing if I can find any particular spot of infestation.  Have only seen individuals ones and am killing any I do see when I see them (or throwing them out the window if it happens to be close to it, which it rarely is).  But the place I have seen most of them is in the corner very close to my bed.  I've been sleeping on the couch for the last couple of weeks and trying to convince myself it's only because I wanted to spend a couple of weeks sleeping in a double bed again.  Have thus far only found one blanket with a hole in it and washed that at 60 degrees so hopefully even if there were any eggs laid on it (in it?), that will take care of it. 

I went into a shop the other day because I need to buy a laundry basket.  Came out with a small footstool.  That's just the way things are at the moment.