Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Living the dream

I've never really thought about dreams.  Dreams as in goals or a bucket list, like stuff you really want to do.  I came upon this startling revelation last night, quite by chance when discussing travel with a friend.  I've always considered myself to be quite an ambitious person - but how the hell can you be ambitious if you don't have dreams?  Of course there are things I would like to do; I've just never really thought about achieving them, the when's and the how's.  For as long as I can remember I've always just been too busy getting by from day to day. Dreams are the things you think about when your kids have grown up and you finally have time and money for yourself. Dreams are the things we do after we've worked our arses off for half a century, if we're lucky enough to still have the good health and energy required to undertake and enjoy them.

Which is a bit crap really, isn't it?  Why do we content ourselves with waiting our whole lives to do the cool stuff?  I mean what really stops us from achieving our dreams?  Sure, there's responsibilities, we all have those but if our lives were to depend on it - or the lives of our loved ones, we would move heaven and earth to make things happen.  At the end of the day it's money, the lack of it and our inability to manage it which prevents our dreams from becoming reality.  It's a bit sickening really in hindsight.  I mean just imagine all the amazing experiences many of us could have already had if we didn't fritter away so much money for years and years and treat all those few dollars here and there as though they didn't matter?  As if they didn't count?  That's the thing though isn't it, we're always too busy living for today.  We want everything now.

I decided last night that I am not going to be this way any more.  Dreams are more important than Diet Coke.  They're more important than petrol.  They're more important than convenience food and takeaways - not that I succumb to those very often, I can't!  But I can still do better - a LOT better. From now on I want every single dollar to count.  I want to count my coins every night like Fagin.  I want to climb my way out of the financial poo (please do not attempt to visualise this) and focus on achieving my dreams before it's too late.  Because now I've thought about it I have quite a few.  Such as:

Drinking wine in a Greek taverna.  Shirley Valentine is my heroine.  I love her to bits, we are scarily alike and from the moment I saw the movie (which I have since seen at least 20 times since)  I have wanted to go to Greece. It's kind of funny really because I've already been to Greece but I was only 13.  I want to go back as an adult and take everything in with fresh eyes like Shirley.

Float along in a gondola in Venice.  Another movie to blame for this one - ever since Liam and I watched 'The Tourist' we have wanted to go to Venice and see this beautiful city first hand. Definitely top of my list.  Along with scoffing obscene amounts of pasta, pizza and gelato a la Elizabeth Gilbert in 'Eat, Pray, Love'.  Come to think of it I wouldn't mind hanging out with some monks for a bit like she did as well.  But I digress...

Order a chocolate ice cream in France.  When I was just a spring chicken growing up in England I watched an episode of Blue Peter where the presenter, Simon Groom went to France and ordered 'une glace au chocolat'.  I was dead impressed and decided that one day when I went to France I would order the same as Simon, just because I could.  I even went to high school and studied French for five years but the mysterious country across the channel where they ate snails and frog's legs stayed out of my reach.  Two years after I emigrated to the other side of the world forever, they opened the Channel Tunnel.  Life is cruel!  But I shall not give up!  One day I WILL go to France and I WILL get to order my bloody chocolate ice cream.

Go back home.  Home to England that is.  Even if I only got to go there for a day, I would go back to Selborne, the little village in Hampshire where I grew up.  I would climb the Zig Zag to the top of the Hanger, sit on the seat my Dad built when I was little which is still there today and look out over Selborne Common.  I would visit all my old haunts; St Mary's Church where I got married and sang in the choir as a youngster, Church Meadow where we used to go tobogganing and the dear little school I attended.  I would stand at the end of the long driveway and picture myself as a five-year-old running down it to meet my mum at the bottom.  The day my undies fell down.  But that's another story...

I'd also love to see the Big Buddha in Thailand and Phi Phi Island as made famous in 'The Beach' but all in good time, I think that's enough to be going on with for now!  Oh - and write a book.  I know, I've already written one, and I love it.  Actually if you count the celebrity cook book I put together for our local ladies Lions club in 2004 I've actually written two!  But everyone has a novel inside them so they say and I have so many books in my head I don't know where to begin.

But all of these dreams have one thing in common.  I will never see any of them come to fruition without having the money to do so.  And I don't want to be responsible for not being able to fulfil them any more.  I may not have the money yet but I do have one thing and that's a will of steel.  Sure sometimes it doesn't always work the first time, rather like giving up smoking but I think this might actually be the impetus that pushes my buttons.  Ladies and gentlemen from now on getting money out of me is going to be like getting blood out of a stone!  OK, so I have the small matter of a truckload of debt and bills I have to clear before I can swan off to Greece and the likes but now I have a real incentive.  Not a 'meh' incentive like 'I want to be debt free' - although please don't get me wrong, that's one heck of a good goal - but it's a bit boring isn't it?  For God's sake, if we're going to celebrate financial freedom then let's do it in style!  And the sooner we can make that happen, the better. Starting right now, I'm going to dream my way out of debt!  Who else wants to join me?

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Swimming in jelly

I've decided trying to get ahead financially is rather like swimming in jelly.  A lot of the time you can't see what the hell you're doing and you can't move as fast as you like.  Not that I've ever actually swum in jelly but that's what I imagine it to be like and it's certainly how my financial progress feels at the moment.  Since I last wrote I have spent $190 on new brake pads ($60 more than the original quote because of course my little sewing machine wouldn't fit the three lots of generic pads the poor mechanic tried and would only deem to accept the more expensive bona fide Mazda ones ordered in especially) and $160 on a poxy citronella anti-barking collar which doesn't work.  Well, it does work; just not on Liam's pigheadedly stubborn and owner obsessed fox terrier.  A brief spray of lemony perfume in the snout is but a mere trifle in the importance of barking!  *Sigh*, well at least I tried...

And on the whole, things were looking marvellously positive last week!  I paid off three debts I'd been battling for months and will knock another one on the head next week, woohoo!  I was feeling pretty darn fabulous.  These debts have been annoying me for so long and I was so happy to get them out of the way because now I was going to be able to concentrate on some SERIOUS DEBT BUSTING.  You know, not the little bits and pieces and local stuff but the major league stuff like paying off my car and Ali's braces so that I could ascend a couple of rungs up the glorious debt ladder towards the stage where I only had my house left to pay for.  It was all rather exciting!

Until I checked the mail not even an hour later and found not one but TWO invoices from ACC wanting me to cough up over $600 in levies.  Of course I can totally understand why it would cost so much. Being a writer and sitting at a computer all day in my own home is extremely hazardous.  One of my hands could fall off or anything.  Before you ask, yes I did query it - three times in fact - but unfortunately am well and truly stuck with this one.  And, seeing as I don't happen to have a spare $600 sitting around I've had to sign up to pay it off over the next 10 months.  Bugger.  I tell you what, I am SO SICK of paying things off!  I dream of getting to the stage one day when I can just pay for things upfront.  Hand over the cash in cool nonchalance and forget about it without feeling as though something's gripping my heart.  I will get there and when I do I'll probably drive everyone completely mental with my Tigger-bouncing happiness.  If I can still bounce by then, at this stage I'm predicting around 85?  JK as my kids would say - Just Kidding.  I hope...

But there's that jelly swimming thing again - I can't see quite where I'm going right now!  I've recently changed mobile providers and power companies supposedly in the name of saving money but Lordy I don't know if I'm coming or going at the moment with all these flipping invoices!  I've got new ones, old ones, bits of old ones, start up costs, final reading costs, even a GloBug thingy and all I know is that they ALL want money!  I honestly can't work out who wants what and where its going to end. I hope they know what they're doing because I sure as hell don't!  I'm a great believer in that sometimes you do have to spend a little money upfront in order to save big money long term but at the moment I'm honestly wondering if this has been worth it. Time will tell I guess - according to GloBug I'm all set to save between $400 and $500 a year on power with them going by my current usage so the proof will be in the pudding. But as for the mobile savings and also the landline/Internet savings I signed up to Woosh for a couple of months ago?  So far it doesn't look any different to me! But we'll see, maybe I'm just feeling a bit on the sceptical side right now.

And I'm not too scared to say I'm rubbish at budgeting either. OK not rubbish, but I'm still to find a system which works for me.  I don't know about you but I find automatic payments and direct debits are not very helpful when it comes to budgeting.  It's all a bit 'out of sight, out of mind', and I'm not sure what to do to get them IN my mind.  In an ideal world I would like to budget the old fashioned way, you know, cash only, an envelope system, that sort of thing, so you know exactly what you have, exactly what you need and people can't take it without you physically handing it over to them. Unfortunately at this stage I never have any cash available because it's all allocated before I even get it!

So I'm asking you, lovely reader to share with me what budgeting system works for you.  I'm willing to try pretty much anything; it can be as old fashioned or as high-tech as you like, as long as it doesn't cost moonbeams but I don't want to keep swimming in jelly!  Somebody throw me a lifebelt!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A flying visit

Am sure both the boys will hate me for sharing this very staunch and serious photo but it was the only one I had a chance to snap during what was a very swift visit!  I don't know how I managed to keep it quiet I was so excited but Liam flew up on Easter Sunday to spend five days with us. Good grief, what a difference a couple of months make!  I couldn't believe the difference as he walked through the arrivals gate, so much more adult and worldly wise than when he had left less than eight weeks before and sporting a brand new haircut (remind me to tell you about the haircut!) To my surprise and embarrassment I found myself literally jumping up and down as I spotted him and burst into floods of happy tears!

I had already been given the heads-up pre-flight that he was VERY hungry and was looking forward to eating a LOT, which was just as well as I spent more on food that afternoon than I had done in more than two years!  Admittedly after Beach Hop and Easter we didn't even have a loaf of bread or any butter in the house so the lack of food was rather extreme even without his impending visit but even so, I wanted to ensure my gorgeous boy wanted for nothing during his time at home.  And to be honest I expected him to milk it for all he was worth - what 18-year-old wouldn't?  What I didn't realise was that my eldest son had changed in many more ways than just his haircut.

As I soon learned when I offered to buy him lunch and then at the dinner table that night, Liam now has a student's appetite.  You know, the 'used-to-making-do-ran-out-of-money-couldn't-be-stuffed-going-to-the-supermarket-would-rather-hang-out-with-mates-than-cook-had-an-essay-deadline-bought-beer-instead-of-food' kind of appetite.  Which compared to his previous appetite is tiny.  Here was a kid who just a few weeks prior could munch through a week's worth of apples in a day and devour a family size pack of potato chips and a king size bar of chocolate faster than anyone I knew. Now here was the same chap tucking into a modest helping of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and I had so much left over I was able to throw it all into an enormous pie the next day!  The bag of apples is still untouched, there is still half a packet of chippies in the pantry and I almost fell over yesterday when I discovered half his bar of Whittaker's chocolate still in the fridge!

But that's Liam for you.  After two months of surviving on his own he's learned to be grateful for anything he has.  He expects nothing and appreciates everything.  The world no longer owes him a living.  Going shopping together used to be a nightmare because he never knew what to buy.  This time it was a nightmare because he wouldn't let me buy him anything!  Even when he thought he might like something, he changed his mind.  Such as the phone he's had for years which only works sporadically and decided to seize up during his visit to the point he could no longer charge it or even turn it on.  'GOD I HATE THIS $*&#ING PHONE!' he would growl.  'Let me get you a new phone Liam, keeping touch is important!' I would say.  To which he would begrudgingly agree, only to change his mind 10 minutes later. 'It's OK Mum, I'll see if I can restore it when I get back home'.  His face lit up when I offered to buy the new PS3 game he had been drooling over - but couldn't bring himself to let me.  'It's too much money, Mum, how will you manage?' he insisted.  In the end the only thing I was allowed to buy him was a new pair of shoes and to achieve that I had to push him into the store, tell the assistant he wasn't allowed to leave until he had found a pair and said I was going to the loo!

Not that I'm complaining, mind.  He's obviously learned some wonderful and important life lessons. He's learned how tough it is to make ends meet and to survive on little money.  He's learned to prioritise and wait for things.  And I think he's learned how hard it is to do what I've been doing the past two years.  But best of all?  He is very, very happy; the happiest he has ever been.  He loves his new city, adores his friends to the extent that being apart from one another felt like losing an arm - heck, he's even learned to love Double Brown beer.  In fact he reckons you can even learn to love it when it's warm!  Needs must I suppose.  As for the haircut?  That's not just a haircut, it's a Bradda Cut!  Bradda Cutz is run by a couple of senior students who know how much it sucks to get charged $35 for a trim in a city salon.  So they offer free haircuts to other blokes in the building (or also happily accept donations of food), how awesome is that?  Liam has already saved $70 since he's been there and I must say, they don't do a bad job!

One of the main purposes of Liam's visit was to have more cooking lessons; as much by his own request as mine, as he learned in his first month that if you don't eat properly and include vegetables in your diet, you soon start to lose energy and feel like crap. Unfortunately lack of time and so many people to catch up with meant these never eventuated despite my best efforts but his Grandma bought him a mini crock pot for winter and he is looking forward to trying some new things and losing his current claim to fame as 'worst cook' among his peers.  Every Sunday he and his friends take it in turns to cook for one another and he had me in hysterics as he recalled the time it was his turn to play host.  Everything was going swimmingly until it was time to mash the spuds and he realised to his horror that he was so used to cooking just for himself, he had only peeled his usual three potatoes! His mates all fell about laughing and told him to keep the sausages for himself and went home to cook their own dinner!  Still, he'll learn - look at how much he's learned already!