"Gather round chaps, this is the plan..."
Well, it's January and time to get down in black and white my goals for the year. I have one very large goal and a few smaller ones, the majority of which will support the larger one.
Let's get the smaller ones out of the way first.
Drop two dress sizes
I need to go from a 14-16 to a 10-12 by Christmas 2012. Unfortunately, me and dieting don't mix. I discovered last year that if I go on a diet to lose weight I don't succeed. I get bored too easily and distracted. I've even found that some days I got so busy I forgot I was on a diet until I got back in the house in the evening.So, this year I'm going to try something different.
1. I'm going to be switching to a vegetarian diet, which I know from past experience helps me lose weight automatically plus I don't feel so bloated after eating and have more energy.
2.Exercise. I'm currently doing an exercise programme on my treadmill. Yes, I have a treadmill! I can't remember if I blogged about this at the time, but around March last year I picked one up dirt cheap on ebay. The pre-set programmes change the speed randomly and without warning, so I've found that to be quite challenging and interesting for me. Also a friend has lent me a workout DVDs to try and I think I have a couple of exercise videos in the loft I could transfer to DVD too so I have a few workouts I can rotate. Somewhere upstairs I also have a weights bench and free weights - just a question of finding somewhere for them to go.The combination of all of these things may very well keep me interested in exercising for a lot longer than I usually last.
3. There'll be very little in the way of bought lunches, snacks, takeways or other naughty luxuries to throw me off course due to the large financially-based goal that I'll describe later. It's always at the forefront of my mind so I have less incentive to spend money on extras.
In the last two weeks of doing these three I've managed to lose half a stone already so I'm on the right track ;-)
Crack the non-chemical hair products dilemma
One of my minor irritations last year was never being able to crack the dilemma of my hair not liking non-chemical shampoos and conditioners. This year, I'm going back to basics and examining different natural plants and products that could clean my hair without turning it into a bird's nest. This might mean growing and finding ways to used plants with saponins, or investigating natural food stuffs that could do the trick. And of course, hopefully this will be a cheaper alternative to buying shampoos and conditioners, the more expensive the better as far as my hair seems to be concerned.
I will also spend some time dying my hair various different types of henna to see if I can get a dark brown shade rather than my current copper-toned light brown, which will also help with the condition of it.
Permaculture and growing our own
I need to grow at least 50% of the fruit and vegetables we will be eating this year to help support our large goal (later). This neccessitates a complete overhaul of the third major bed by the house to a productive bed plus the planting of several new fruit trees and bushes.
The third bed: it always looks 'interesting' at this time of year
I also need to sort out setting up some kind of greenhouse arrangment, because the tomatoes outside did not ripen until the end of September last year and there were still many green ones when the frosts hit.
To this end, I have already managed to pick up a greenhouse on ebay.
Such a fantastic shape! I squealed when I saw it. As my birthday is near the end of the month, everyone has pitched in to help buy it. So my task for next weekend is to get it up.
Read a book a week
This will be easier to achieve than you might think due to Martin buying me one of these for Christmas.
I have found that my treadmill time is ideal for reading ebooks! It just seems to make the time fly past and I'm surprised when suddenly the treadmill goes into cool down phase. At the moment, I'm reading Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch. There are thousands of free ebooks and thousands more for less than £2.
Get to Expert level at Microsoft Excel
I need to start addressing my Continued Professional Development. Learning excel to expert level will benefit me at work both now and in the future, as well as help me develop better tools for financial management at home.
I bought two books about a month ago. The first is Learn Excel 2007 Essential Skills with the Smart Method, which will give me a thorough grounding in the basics. The second is Learn Excel 2007 Expert Skills with the Smart Method, which will get me to a completely new level of knowledge.
The first book has 113 lessons in it with exercises, and my aim is to complete these by the end of June. Then I will do the Expert skills, which has 136 lessons. I think I will complete the first book quite quickly as some of the detail I already know, which is just as well as the second book will take a lot of effort to complete by Christmas.
And now for the big goal.
I alluded in my last post to having a goal this year that was going to be financially painful. It's actually a joint goal with Martin, and I think probably our first one in the almost eight years we've been together. We've had some goals before, such as pay off the mortgage, but that was a general plan to pay off as much as we could each month until one day it wouldn't be there any more, rather than set out a specific goal to pay off a certain amount across a certain number of payments.
Rebuilding a rare racing/road car
Martin will be spending the next 8 months rebuilding another Fairthorpe car, far more expensive this time as it is being built for both racing and the road. It's going to take all of his income and some of mine to do it and we estimate it will cost between £10,000-£12,000 to do up. That's up to £12,000 to find spare in eight months.
So we're going 'bare-bones' frugal. 'Rice-and-beans' frugal. 'What-shall-we-have-for-dinner-tonight-because-there's-nothing-in-the-fridge-and-just-spinach-in-the-garden' frugal. I'll have to use *everything* I know about frugal living to get us through this.
I am covering all the household expenses for the next 8 months (if not longer if we can make this work). Once a week I look at how much has been spent by Martin on household bills and expenses (have already set limits!) and I transfer the money to him from my own account. Any surplus in my account at the end of the month goes to him.
Why are we doing this?
First, it's time to do it. Martin's father would dearly love to see this car on the road, has been wanting to see it on the road since the 1980s, and at 82 with cancer that he's currently having chemo for, time is now of the essence. For anyone who has a relative with cancer, you'll know *exactly* what I mean but just can't bring myself to say. This car rebuild will give Martin's father the boost he needs to get him through the gruelling rounds of chemotherapy ahead of him, and keep him with us for another few years. He's extremely excited already and sometimes it's the only bright glimmer he has on the horizon when the side effect of the chemo are really bad.
Second, we're also doing it as an experiement. If we can live on my income for eight months, we can live on it for a year. If we can do a year, we can do it for two. How much could we accomplish with that amount of money at our disposal all the time? We could hit the mortgage hard and pay it off completely. Save some cash for investing. Pump our pension plans up. Martin could retire early and perhaps set up his own car business.
The possibilities are endless. And very powerful.
What does it involve?
The amount of management and preparation that has gone into this plus continuing daily financial vigilance is huge. I was in planning mode for three solid months up to Christmas. Everything I know about money management, finance and stretching pennies will be needed as well as much persistence and patience as I can muster when a filthy tired husband crawls into bed at midnight every night reeking of grease and petrol.
I have taken over the food and grocery shopping entirely now and menu plan down the minutest detail.
- My monthly food budget is £160, and that includes cat food. So far I've been under every week but that's only because I have so much meat stashed in the freezer.
- I have gone vegetarian to lose weight, learn to cook veggie food and cut down on the grocery bills. Only Martin will eat meat, which is probably the most expensive thing I buy every week. I have no issue with that as he has a manual exhausting job and I get to sit behind a desk all day.
- I have built up a food store (about a month's worth of dry and frozen food) over the last few months in case we run out of money at some point
- I will be growing at least 50% of our vegetables and around 25% of our fruit. The fruit is the hardest, as much isn't ready until late summer or autumn and it doesn't last long.
- All superfluous direct debits and standing orders have been cancelled. And by superfluous I mean anything that isn't an essential household bill or car-related.
- No buying magazines or physical books. Library only. In fact, no buying of anything unless every avenue has been exhausted first.
- I've built up a cushion of savings in case of emergencies, like the boiler breaking down (again) or the cat going to the vet.
- Our efforts at overpaying our mortgage have had to stop for now so I can cover all the normal bills.
- We can do one lunch a month and have one takeaway a month (but if someone else pays that's fine we'll eat more ;-))
Also eBay is taking a bit of a pounding at the moment. We have a lot of surplus stuff we're getting rid off to help fund the project, which is having the added effect of making the place a bit cleaner and clearer. Martin in particular has a lot of hobby bits and pieces he is selling and I'm slowly rooting through boxes of my stuff to add to it.
I must confess I'm looking forward to being lean. Over the last 12 months we've replaced a lot of broken stuff and bought some things we had been putting off which would make our lives run more efficiently and productively. But in all honesty it's made me a bit flabby round the edges (and not just physically!)and I need toning in every respect.
I like challenges, especially really hard ones that take a lot of ingenuity and effort. My brain needs the exercise to stop it going into hyperdrive and keeping me awake all night coming up with ridiculous ideas and scenarios.This project gives me something I can really get my teeth into and brings a lot of our interests together. Now, rather than doing them in isolation, they will all be interwoven into one big goal, which will really help when the going gets tough and we feel like giving up.
We'll need each other like we've never done before.