Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Wow, we are already three days into 2014! So of course the beginning of a new year brings with it the desire to improve ourselves through a list of new years resolutions. I know that lots of people don't bother with resolutions as they figure they are just going to break them anyway, but I think its important to periodically reflect on your life and write down some short-term and long-term goals you have for yourself. And the cyclical nature of a year means it is a good time for a bit of life-cleaning, although of course anytime is a good time to think about your goals!

So, here are mine and Andy's for this year:

1. Become financially literate, stop wasting and start saving.

Basically we have realised that we don't save enough money. We constantly live just within our means, no matter what our incomes are. A good test of this was when we first moved to Australia we only had one main income as Andy wasn't working consistently until about July. But we seemed to survive just fine on one salary. We now have 2 decent salaries and, big surprise, we don't actually save that much more money. Where has all the money gone?!

Having to ask ourselves where our money has gone is, in a word, stupid. Like, I could roughly say where it has gone (rent, food, alcohol and going out, travel, clothes) but I don't know EXACTLY where it has gone. It certainly isn't in our bank account! So a few months ago we started tracking our spending using the app 'HomeBudget' (love it) and working out a budget. Then, just recently, we have worked out that even though we now have a budget, we don't always stick to it, and just because we have a budget doesn't mean it is reasonable. (I am a bit embarrassed to say how much we have budgeted for groceries/alcohol/meals out every month.) Since we've been on summer holidays we have been reading a lot about cutting waste out of our budget and being smarter about where we are putting money for the long term.

So far we have done a few small things to cut our monthly expenses down such as:
- Less 'spending money' for us each week.
- Cutting sports and HD out of our Foxtel (cable) subscription. (This killed Andy. Frankly I want to cancel the whole thing but baby steps I guess. Give me a few more months...)
- Researched private health insurance plans we can change to once we are Permanent Residents.
- Shopping at Aldi instead of Woolworth's for our weekly grocery shop.
- Less eating out at restaurants.
- Joining the library. No more buying books and magazines!

We are now looking at possibly moving to a cheaper apartment as well, although we would like to stay around the same area we are living now. 

There is a lot more I could say on this topic but this isn't really the place for it. However if you too are interested in cutting waste and saving enough to become financially independent then I highly recommend the blog mrmoneymustache.com.  The author is a Canadian living in the US who was able to retire at the age of 30 with his wife as they saved up enough in their 20s to live off a passive income of investments. Pretty impressive! Also the thing I love about this blog as opposed to other financial independence sites is he talks about cutting waste but still living 'The Good Life': living in a nice place, eating good food, enjoying going out with friends, but not getting caught up in our materialistic and consumer world.

2. Eat real food, Exercise regularly

Ok this seems like a bit of a cliché but I feel like this is something we have got better with since moving to Australia and I'd like to continue.

First of all, in October we started cutting processed foods and refined sugars out of our diets. I have written a blog post about this one but haven't published it yet, so will link this to it when I do. The goal here is to continue eating 'Real Food', cooking more from scratch and eating less processed food. This has the added benefit of helping with goal number 1 as well!

We're also both better in terms of consistent exercise. I rode my bike to work a lot more this year, but doing so more consistently is a big goal of mine. I need to stop finding excuses: "it's raining/windy/dark/cold/I have too much stuff to carry" and just do it. I feel so much better when I get to work after a bike ride and it takes less time than getting the train. Again, riding my bike ties in nicely with our first goal of saving money.

We both run and swim a lot more here. The nicer weather and pool/gym in our building have helped to make these things easier to do consistently. Andy is also really good at playing soccer and tennis on a regular basis. (And golf, however I'm not sure that one counts!)

I think I'd like to do some sort of big race or event this year but I haven't decided what yet. I do like having something to train for and I haven't done a long run or triathlon in ages. So maybe a half-marathon (or full one???) or a triathlon this year. I feel like I've wanted to do a tri since we got here, and since I've recently got over my fear of swimming in the ocean, maybe I should aim for that. Ok, done. I'm going to do a triathlon this year.

When we were in New Zealand I started jotting down some ideas for resolutions and hilariously one of them I wrote down was 'make Andy meditate'. I'm not sure why I thought coming up with Andy's resolutions for him was a good idea (am I really that controlling?) but I think I just wanted to find a way for him to worry and stress less. Needless to say Andy looked at me like I was crazy when he discovered my list, and I am not sure that one will be getting done this year. I should probably try it myself before I go around making others do it!

3. Learn a New Skill

Now that the Masters is done I feel like I have too much free time at the weekend. Haha... ok so that is not strictly true, however as a teacher I am of course a 'life-long learner' (how cheesy am I?) so it's time to take up something new. There are two areas I'd like to explore (in addition to financial literacy) this year:

Computer Programming - I did some programming in high school and at university, however as with most things I learned at school, I remember very little of it. As a maths teacher in the 21st century though, I feel that programming is a skill I should have, at least at a basic level. My brother is a video game programmer and is going to recommend some books for me that will help get me started. I'll probably look at some free online courses as well.

Photography - A few years ago we got a nice Canon DSLR for Christmas and we used it quite a bit in the beginning. However neither of us really understand 'aperture' or 'F-stops' and whatever else you need to know to get the best out of the camera. Because of this Andy now just uses his iPhone to take pictures (which are not bad considering!) and the Canon hasn't been used since our honeymoon. Luckily our friend Dan works for Canon and he says he can probably get me a discount on a workshop. It would be nice to have better quality photos to put up on our blog!

And there you have it, New Years Resolutions 2014. It's actually been really therapeutic writing it all down, and hopefully having these things here will help to keep me accountable. I would love to hear about everyone else's goals for 2014!




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