Friday, June 07, 2013
I am writing this while sitting as close to the fire** as I can without my clothes melting, dressed in full tracksuit. I am wearing slippers with fur liners and stockings under my yoga pants, and a polyprop that smells a little strange, in the way that only old polyprops can.
The creme de la creme of cosy, is of course, Bed, and the last few days I have been going to bed as early as seems reasonable for a 31 year old woman. While in bed, I like to curl up with two delicious hot water bottles, in full pyjamas, under a feather duvet and two crochet woollen blankets, and with another person. In a nest of pillows. There can never be too much cosiness!
READING: Yep, still working my way through The Confusion. Can't help thinking I'd be making better headway if I was reading just the one book? But why not wade rather than rush... it's not a competition after all.
I've also begun my anticipatory holiday reading. Fran leant me a copy of Paris: The Secret History by Andrew Hussey. Parisian "outsider" history, allegedly. TBH, I've perceived it as only vaguely outsider thus far - but I'm only up to the Renaissance so there is defo room for further developments. I hear the nineteenth century was good for such things, and I hold high hopes for an excess of twentieth century material.
WATCHING: After a discussion during a drunken Friday catch-up, Katherine sent me a link to food history series Supersizers on YouTube. Basically, the premise of this show is that Giles, a restaurant critic, and Sue, a comedian (allegedly), investigate the food and costumes of a particular historical period and are completely gluttonous in the process.
Shannon has described the show as 'nihilistic' and there is something deliberately bleak about the way that they throw food around. I keep thinking 'ARGH! WASTE!'. And how they complain - about what is essentially my dream job.
There are umpteen complete episodes on YouTube, and you should definitely check it out, if only for the cockatrice and the cock riding a piglet in the Medieval episode.
Wireless Nights with Jarvis Cocker - Nights of Passage, mostly because of the story about a woman falling off the Newcastle-Amsterdam Ferry and into the waters of the English Channel.
I usually find Wireless Nights self-conscious and a bit annoying - it takes the "radio-ness" of Radiolab to the Nth degree and it feels rather laboured. I think that the more recent episodes are a bit more settled into the format.
Maybe I'm just not enough of a Pulp fangirl to be listening to this podcast.
KNITTING: Cast on a new pair of socks! And after completion I will have a break from socks for a bit I think.
Do you have a good solution for dealing with all this COLD?
*This sounds only a little more Dickensian than it actually feels.
**heater that likes to pretend it's a fire.\
Thursday, June 06, 2013
Back in 2010, I started paying back my debt with a vengeance and it became a pretty substantial blog project for me. I wrote up a bunch of interviews with people who I thought dealt with money well (Nat, Lizzie, Lake) and a series of posts about how I was dealing creatively with not spending so much. I think 'money' is probably one of the most used tags on this blog.
While I'm not blogging about it as much, spending less money and being out of debt/saving myself some dollars is still very much part of what I do on a day to day basis (witness: savings tower). I am nauseatingly proud of this and should not be engaged in conversation on this topic. Just ask anyone.
Having refined my savingsy/frugally ways over the years, and boring the pants off of everyone I know, I thought it was timely to revisit some of the most helpful things I've found to do to spend less and save more. I hope that someone else finds this useful - I know that in the beginning stages, reading blog posts about people in the same situation as myself was incredibly helpful and kept me on the straight and narrow.
I'd initially planned this as a single blog post, but realised that I had so much that I'd learnt and wanted to share into the ether that it made more sense to make it a series.
Thus, the first logical step:
Get your foundations sorted: work out a budget.
The concept of budgeting has such a stink of deprivation around it that most people are disinclined to look into their budget until they're absolutely at the end of their financial tether. I know I was.
Because I'm now saving, rather than paying off debt, it's something I rather enjoy these days (how horribly smug of me). I like to think about it as my spending plan, rather than my budget.
The questions you're trying to answer with your budget are: Where is my money going? How much do I owe? How much do I want to save?
1. Where is it going?
It's super hard to work out a budget without knowing how you're spending your money already.
There are a couple of ways that you can collect data about what you're spending your money on. The most straightforward way is to collect receipts and enter your daily spend into a notebook or spreadsheet, categorising each transaction as you go. Alternatively, you can use some kind of software or app that will pull information from your bank account and put it into categories based on your definitions (you can use something like Kiwibank's Heaps or, if you have access to it, Mint). I've used both the receipt and electronic methods - and sometimes a combination of the two.
Even once your budget is sorted it's good to keep an eye on your spending, as it helps to see how you're tracking against your budget and if you need to work more on the plan that you've nominated. It's not always easy to keep up, but it is worthwhile.
At this point, you can also rationalise your spending. Work out what outgoings are fixed: bills, rent, food, transport costs. I don't do this now, but I used to include my ration for coffee in my weekly fixed costs (they now sit under 'fun'). It's up to you whether you want to do this, but be aware that it will affect any capacity for saving or paying back debt and sometimes considerably. For example, I drink soy flatwhites which cost $4.50 each a day. If I budget for my daily coffee, then I am budgeting for $31.50 each week or $63 a fortnight. Or $126 a month. (Eep). I'd rather spend that on my trip to Europe, thanks awfully!
2. How much do I owe?
Since you're looking carefully at your bank account and spending, you should also work out how much you owe - add together ALL your debts, even the little amounts.
Calculating your debt seems crazy scary, but finding out the worst is better than being hazy on your debts. I've found the reality is rarely a friendly number, but it's a matter of 'better the devil you know' when it comes to debt.
When I first worked out how much I owed, it was truly the first step in having a sense of ownership of my finances. It was also a rather large number.
3. How much do you want to save/at what rate do you want to pay off your debts?
You can work out the rest of your budget - what you'll save, how you'll pay off your debt, and what you can spend for fun - from this point.
I've been trying to save or pay back my debt at around $400-500 pw, so I'll nominate that amount to go into my savings and look at whatever is left over for fun money. If I didn't have an aim in mind, I don't think I would be saving at such a steep rate.
I believe you should be paying off your debt before you begin to save, as saving money at the same time as paying off debt is self-defeating. Interest rates on credit cards and overdrafts are really high and unless your savings are in something like a term deposit, the interest you're earning on your savings won't make up for the interest you're paying on your debts. I know that there are arguments to the contrary, but I'm yet to see a convincing one!
Lately I've been keeping aside around $200 for fun money - 'fun' includes things like haircuts, coffees, social evenings, clothing and knitting/sewing stuff. I also try to make it cover medical expenses, although it's nice to know the savings are there to cover in a pinch. If I know I have a big expense coming up, I'll adjust my other expenditure accordingly. For example, I'm planning to get my haircut this week and pick up a pair of boots from the repairer - so eating lunch and dinner out is off the agenda.
I know from past experience that I can have a totally acceptable social life on around $100 a week - and I'm planning to scale back to something closer to this for the next few weeks of saving before my trip. It's nice to know what my absolute minimum limit for fun spending is (while having a not-hermit existence), and that I can scale back to this at any time.
I was reading the comments on a Stuff article about budgeting a few weeks ago, and the general tenor seemed to be: "that advice is all very well, but not buying coffee doesn't save me much money or fix my immediate debt problem". The point is, you can't fix your debt immediately, it must be done incrementally. And the true cost of debt is time.
Finally, it's important to remember that budgets aren't static! Some weeks are simply more expensive than others, while others allow for more money to be put aside (I saved heaps when I was glangey). Be honest about what you're spending and re-examine your budget on a regular basis. It's basically a hobby of mine.
I will never get bored with talking about money, and how to save it. Do you have anything super helpful about budgets that I haven't covered here?
Next time: Cheers for all that. So, how the hell do I stick to this budget?
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Confession: this is not the first time that I've made Laura's pulled pork recipe. At some point during the three weeks I was riddled with glandular fever I decided that all this lying around wouldn't do at all, and pulled my disease-ridden body out of bed to make pulled pork, a fact that in itself vouches for my deliriousness.
Predictably, I was unable to eat it; in fact, the smell made my stomach turn. As I was vomming frequently at the time, this stomach turning had predictable results. This was, indeed, an ill-fated pulled pork-making venture.
Shannon, who ended up being the sole eater of the pulled pork, vouched for it's deliciousness*, which encouraged me to have another go - and YES, it was totally worth it. Please don't let the discussion of my illness put you off making delicious pork.
Second confession: I made a LOT of changes, but I don't think quite the extent that I didn't make this recipe at all (willing to hear arguments to the contrary). Here are the changes, listed in suggested order that they might affect the success of this recipe:
- I had no fennel seeds for the mop, so I used whole star anise instead (it made sense when I did it but seems kind of whimsical now).
- I had no ground ginger for the rub, so I had to leave it out.
- I couldn't find pork shoulder or belly at the supermarket, so I bought a leg instead.
- I made the pulled pork in the slow cooker, using guidance from Beth at Budget Bytes.
Annnnnd despite my thorough bastardisation of what was undoubtedly a well thought-out and tested recipe, everything turned out well! Slow cooking the pork left me with no bark (the crispy bits on the outside of the joint), but the meat itself was delicious and not horribly dry. The bits on the bottom of the joint that were sitting in the mop during the entire cooking time - these certainly had more flavoursome deliciousness. But, I think because I marinated the pork overnight, the rest of the meat had plenty of flavour too.
In conclusion: DO IT. Make some pulled pork! We ate ours with flour tortillas, and coleslaw with smoked paprika and almonds, but it was also good two days later in a market baguette with melted cheese.
Would you believe this is the best photo I could get? Pulled pork is difficult to photograph. Probably a topic about this at a food bloggers' forum somewhere.
*Writing that sentence gave me the opportunity to reflect on how amazed I am that he ate the pork when I made it while I was SO ill. He basically ate my disease. Ew.
Have you ever made pulled pork before; and what's your favourite way to cook it and eat it? I want to eat all the pork.
Monday, June 03, 2013
Last week I announced that I was surprised with how little embarrassment I felt with that week's archival selection.
Lest you think that I'm some kind of paragon of self-acceptance, allow me to assure you that I managed to make up for last weeks sangfroid with the selection below. 2006 is particularly embarrassing: I am so angry and pretentious. Ugh, so pretentious.
But, in the spirit of self-acceptance and without any further ado, I present this week in SCP history:
2010 (could be also called: the Tumblr years)
- Sunday Awesome - (that's a great picture btw).
- Wednesday List of Ten Things in 2010 updated - I was making a list of ten things I wanted to do in 2010 and crossing them off! I am notoriously bad at this kind of thing, but it's interesting to note that I did in fact manage to achieve most of these.
- Gratuitous Picture of Yourself Wednesday - this was such a thing at the time.
- A list of things that are possibly quite awful but that I have really enjoyed doing lately - four years later, I still enjoy doing most of these things, but have run out of unread/listened to Hercule Poirot mysteries.
- Crochet bicycle seat cover - OR Further Adventures of a Crafty-Beserker - still think this is pretty cool too.
- Tasks overdue: everything, all of it - I have no idea what was happening here.
- Mmm tastes like achievement
- North island road trip - Tokomaru Bay - that was a great trip, and Tokomaru Bay still rocks my socks.
- What I have eaten - the week in review - includes a recipe for a delicious cheesy garlicky polenta, that I haven't made forevs and wish to make. Like, now.
- This enigmatic comment: Nothing is more dangerous than an evil freak.
- A Polish engraving of a tui that I rather liked.
- Last night - I am embarrassed about some imagined faux pas (I'm sure it was my insecurity that was the most socially awkward aspect of that evening).
- New Zealand Content Review Part 1: Dostoevsky's The Idiot - I decided that I was going to review a series of 'classic novels' from their NZ content, or lack their of. This is a dreadful exercise in pretentiousness, but, as I've said before: WHOOP there it is.
- Reading my flatmate's books part 1: Singer's The Slave - not quite as bad as the other one.
- Help me help my stalker - behold, the awfulness of my 24 year old self. The only post that I've seriously considering just deleting. Please don't judge me, I am not such an awful person now.
- 20 hits form a site I've never heard of - leaving aside the fact that I used the term 'hits', why the hell am I so angry?
- Not enough hours in the day - moving to Australia in six days and I was freaking out.
Any idea where this "Nothing more dangerous than an evil freak" quote comes from? Did you ever GPOYW? How do you feel about leading questions?
Oh and: happy birthday Queenie.
Sunday, June 02, 2013
Me Made May finished on last Friday. I mentioned that I'd signed up to this sewing-blogger celebration of craftiness earlier in the month - and that I'd chosen the fairly modest aim of wearing two item of handmade or refashioned clothing per week, and making two items of clothing during the month.
Wearing the handmade bits was rather a doddle. I usually wear skirts to work, and of those I think that just one is non-handmade. Besides which most of my outerwear is hand knit or refashioned - scarves and hats and gloves, and I began the month obsessed with the trench coat that I altered. And it's definitely cold enough to pull out all of my deliciously warm hand knit socks.
I had less success with the making handmade bits to wear. I made myself a nifty fruit jumper, drafting up a larger size of Dixie DIY's Hot Cocoa sweater with some success, giving up on the neck-band part because my fabric was not stretchy enough and I just wanted to wear it, damn it. I like the idea of colouring in or outlining a few of the bits of fruit with embroidery thread, but I haven't put aside the time to do it yet.
I haven't completed anything else for myself, only making a teeny-tiny baby dress for Shannon's step-brother's new little girl, and two solitary socks - as in, two individual socks from different patterns, not a pair. This isn't my best effort, but in my defense I have been trying to spend a little less, and nice fabric is expensive, as is nice yarn. Once you've sewn or knitted with nice materials, it's really difficult to convince yourself to go back to using rubbish. It feels nasty on my hands, darling.
Lastly,I have been pretty dreadful at getting photographs of my outfits. For a while I had no memory card for my shitty camera, and as my computer faces a window it's difficult to use the camera on that without terrible glare behind me. I convinced someone at work to take a photograph of my outfit one day - and, with the exception of the one above, that's the only photo I have.
So, Me Made May hasn't been a great success, but nor has it been a complete failure. If I do it again, I'm going to work on making a concerted effort to get some photos taken, even if it is kind of awkward and I seem incapable of posing non-hammily.