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27/02/2021

How to deal with the online fakery

This has been a week of contrasts: some very high high points and some pretty awful points, too…
 
Actually, it wasn’t that they were awful, they were just huge, and a massive lesson for me.
 
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m all or nothing. I’m either in or I’m out, there’s rarely any sitting on the fence because I find it too painful and I tend to get splinters in my bum that are difficult to get out. So I generally make a decision and get on with it.
 
If I’m a friend, I’ll support you as you go through your life, building you up and giving you a pep talk when needed. But if you start coming out with rubbish, I’ll tolerate it for a short while and then I’ll call you on it.
 
It’s been an interesting experience, being online these past four or five years. I’ve listened to the people/coaches who’ve said “You’ve got some incredible talents and experiences, use them to teach others, show them how to be the best version of themselves, build a tribe, sell your time by coaching them!” I really didn’t enjoy it at all. I don’t have any formal qualifications, I don’t want a tribe of followers and I don’t want to be standing up on the internet preaching how to “live your best life” because god knows that I don’t know how to do that; I’m just trying my best the same as everyone else. In reality, I’m just making this stuff up as I go along, the same as the rest of us. It’s nice to share what’s happening and it’s nice to hear what other people’s experiences are but I’m not going to stand up there and say “this is how you do it” because I haven’t figured that out yet.
 
Someone suggested that I ought to teach people on the subject of money, how to change the way you think about it and how to get out of the rat race because we’ve done that. “Share your experiences, it’s so inspiring!” It might be inspiring but it doesn’t mean that I can teach other people how to do that stuff or that I want to. The inspirational story part is one of the reasons that I started the podcast: I realised that we’ve all got an amazing story to share. It doesn’t mean we should set up shop and start selling our opinions on how to do things to people.
 
I know, I know, I have imposter syndrome and I’m probably downplaying myself, but part of that is a reaction to all the people that I know personally who’ve done exactly that: set up shop selling their experiences in something when they have no formal qualifications and very little experience in it.
 
To be fair, some people are very, very good at what they do, qualifications or not. Most aren’t. I’ve had some great results coaching my friends and making a difference in their lives (thanks for listening, you guys!), but that doesn’t mean I should become a life coach.
 
To me, this whole thing seems fake, it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s a pretence that because you’ve done something yourself, you can teach others to do it, or you can set up a company doing just that. If you already struggle a bit with Imposter Syndrome, imagine how it’s going to feel if you’ve built a business based on something you don’t believe yourself half the time or that you know isn’t actually true.
 
A classic example of the whole fakery on the internet, and particularly social media, is the “International Best Selling Author” claim . Thanks to Amazon, if you figure out a suitable niche category for your book and there’s nobody else in that category, you can sell five books and become an “International Best Selling Author”. The title means nothing these days. Now, some people genuinely can make that claim, my friend, Marie-Anne LeCoeur, is one of them. She’s sold thousands and thousands of books and is a genuine best selling author. Most people aren’t. I’ve been told by a coach to write a book, find a niche category on Amazon that doesn’t have many books in it and put your book in that. Pretty soon, you’ll be an International Number One Best Selling Author, you’ll be able to put the little gold Amazon sticker on your website and it’ll give you so much more credibility. There are whole courses on how to do this. It’s all fake.
 
It’s one of the reasons why, every now and then, I get off FakeBook and why I’m never on Instagram. Those gorgeous, effortless photos you see of the influencers looking amazing as they lie by the pool or rest their bodies elegantly against a rock on the beach? They’ve probably taken 40 or 50 photos before they got the one they liked and even then, they’ve put the photo through one of the apps to airbrush their skin, whiten their teeth, get rid of the cellulite and trim their waist and thighs. It’s fake.
 
I like real life. I like people who share themselves, their real selves, not the ones who constantly share that they’re #LivingTheirBestLife or #LoveMyLife or #Beautiful. Do you know that the top 30 hashtags on Instagram are along the lines of #InstaGood, #FollowMe and #Like4Like? I’m not even going to say anything about that.
 
There’s a lot more to come on what’s happened this week but this is part one. I’m quite sure that some people are waiting with a fair bit of trepidation as to what’s going to come out of my keyboard in the next few days/weeks. I mean, maybe they’re not, but, you know, I can dream if I want to. Let’s just leave it with there’s been a lot of #Fake in my week for now.

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02/01/2021

How to stop with the goal setting and get creative instead!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Is anyone in the space of “thank god that year is over”? I’m kind of not, but where I am at is, “Wow! How can so much change in ONE YEAR?”

2020 felt like a bit of a cathartic, transformational year for me:

  • I cleared out a lot of “friends”,
  • got much clearer on who I am… well, more like I became more at peace with who I am and allowed myself to be that a lot more, warts and all!
  • completely changed direction in my business,
  • discovered that I really like talking to people, recording it and putting it out to the world! Now that WAS a surprise. Maybe not to anyone else, but it was to me! 😂😂

I really hate planning and setting goals, so I never, ever bother with new years’ resolutions (or any kind of business planning, which drives my accountant absolutely insane!), but what I do enjoy is setting experiences: what do I want to experience in a particular area of life.

Now, let me say, while this way of doing things has its’ merits, it can also backfire beautifully if I’m not careful. I remember saying that I wanted excitement in my life at one stage. A few weeks later, we’d been on holiday, ended up in hospital after Keeley split open the back of her head, got pulled over by customs and spent several hours going through our luggage, Kira vomited into some glass revolving doors at a five star hotel, had a big argument with the front desk staff because they hadn’t booked adjoining rooms for us and the kids, had to cancel part of the holiday because our nanny broke her leg. And that was on holiday! Imagine what everyday life would be like if I kept “excitement” in my space permanently! Needless to say, I changed that one pretty quickly and got quite careful as to what experiences I asked for in my life! 😂😂

Having said that, you all know that my life is quite interesting and exciting at the best of times!

But for me, taking on experiences rather than goals works so much better and it leaves a lot more room for things to work out (which they always do because, as everyone knows 😜, I always land on my feet!).

So, if I break my life down into the areas that are important to me and look at what I want to experience, this is what I end up with:

  • Marriage – Intimacy and fun
  • Family & friends – fun, love & laughter
  • Physical health – High energy lightness
  • Spirituality/personal growth – intriguing exploration
  • Business – acknowledgment and creativity
  • Money – ease & flow with playful fun

Overall, this year there’s a feeling of fun, flow and massive expansion mixed in with heaps of love and laughter. I like fun, love and laughter… I can see that “massive expansion” coming back to haunt me, mind, but that’s never stopped me before!

So, what about you? If you chucked out the goals (if you ever do any!) and just thought about what you want to experience this year, what would it be?

Happy new year to you all! Wishing you good health, great wealth, success and happiness, mixed in with a lot of fun, love and laughter!

XXX

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08/07/2020

How To Spot A Self Centred, Egotistical, Narcissist

THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF AND BEING A SELF-CENTRED, EGOTISTICAL, NARCISSIST

Wheeeewwww, no holds barred on that title, then?
 
Let’s go back almost four years. I started working with someone who is all about “being true to yourself”, “follow your own path”, and “if people don’t like it, that doesn’t mean anything about you, it means something about them, so ignore it”.
 
I needed to hear that. I needed permission to believe in myself and do what I thought was right. It was so good to be in among people who believed that they had a right to speak up about whatever they felt the need to and do what they felt was right to them.
 
But there was always something that didn’t feel right about it all, I felt a little icky, and I put it down to having suppressed my own desires and feelings for so long after being a stay-at-home mum for a decade or so.
 
The thing I’ve come to realise lately is that I am actually really clear about what’s acceptable to me and what’s not, and how it occurs for me is:
 
WOULD I ACCEPT THAT BEHAVIOUR FROM MY CHILDREN?
 
IF NOT, WHY NOT?
 
Once I look at from that perspective, it’s much easier (though it may take me a little while to work my way through it! I need a child to discuss it with!).
 
Like I’ve said on any number of occasions, I am all for doing what’s right for you and following your own path.
 
HOWEVER,
 
We all live in the world together and I believe that the best basic rule for life is to treat others as you like to be treated.
 
If your behaviour has a negative impact on someone else, DON’T DO IT.
 
This isn’t about what someone would make your behaviour mean or anything like that, it’s more along the lines of don’t steal from someone, don’t cause actual pain to someone, don’t do something that you wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of yourself.
 
Follow your own path, but do it with respect, for yourself and others.
 
Don’t mock others or make them wrong for the path they’re on.
 
Follow your path with kindness and compassion, being true to your own values.
 
You don’t need to yell “F@#% you, I’m doing it my way! And if you don’t like it, I don’t want you in my tribe anyway” at every opportunity,
 
Or tell everyone how amazing you are for doing that and how you don’t care what other people think because they’re obviously intimidated by you.
 
That’s childish and immature, and smacks of playground politics.
 
It’s a teenager who hasn’t yet truly found out who they are.
 
Because once you do find out who you are and you do feel comfortable with yourself, there is NO NEED to call anyone else out for where they’re at (she says, calling people out for their bad behaviour! 😂😂🤷‍♀️).
 
I know any number of people who have an online business where they shout about how they’re going to be themselves regardless of what anyone else thinks and encourage their followers to do the same thing (there’s such an oxymoron in that statement!).
 
I also know any number of those same people, the really loud ones, are very, VERY different in person and are also clear that they have a persona, a character, that they bring out for their online business…
 
But hold on, isn’t their business is based upon teaching people how to be themselves? When they’re a different person offline to what they are online? There’s a little bit of hypocrisy going on here, methinks.
 
They’re not actors or comedians or radio presenters who have created a persona for the entertainment of their audiences.
 
These are people who are preaching about something that they don’t actually practise themselves. Not fully, anyway.
 
Being yourself doesn’t mean you shout “SCREW YOU!” every five minutes to someone who’s trying to contribute to you. Most of us got over that in the 70’s with the Sex Pistols. Been there, done that, and grew out of it, sorry.
 
Shouting “Screw you, I’m going to do it my way!” is basically a tantrum.
 
I wouldn’t accept that behaviour from my kids because it’s not in alignment with their core values, it’s as simple as that.
 
You can be yourself without shouting about it from the rooftops, and telling everyone how cool and different you are.
 
That’s narcissistic and egotistical.
 
It’s pure attention-seeking behaviour.
 
And there is nothing unique or individual about it: teenagers have been doing exactly that for thousands of years.
 
I’m sure there’s more coming about this topic because I’m not quite clear yet! 😂😂 But I’ll leave it there for now.
 
What are your thoughts? Is this one of the things that keeps you from sharing online or makes you feel uncomfortable? What do you think about this whole individuality/follow your own path thing? Let me know 😘💕
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07/07/2020

What To Do When People Spew Hate Filled Rhetoric

I’M REALLY UPSET

 
Well, more disappointed, maybe a little heartbroken. I’ve certainly had any illusions that I may have held shattered.
 
The posts I put up yesterday about people posting half truths and lies came off the back of the actions of a particular person, one whom I admire and who’s done a lot for me personally.
 
Which is why I initially unfollowed and didn’t unfriend them.
 
I am so grateful for everything they’ve done for me and it takes a lot for me to turn away from / against someone because I’m basically a very loyal person.
 
I’m also a firm believer in live & let live. If you want to hold some religious or political views that I find completely weird, that’s your choice. I’m not you, I have no right to tell you what’s right for you.
 
If you ask my opinion, I’ll give it, but it will be something along the lines of “do what you feel is best for you right now. As long as it’s not causing anyone else any harm then trust your instincts.”
 
What you choose to do may be completely out of alignment with me and, if so, we’d probably naturally drift apart, but that’s your path (and mine).
 
If you want to go down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, that’s your choice: good for you, enjoy yourself.
 
If you want to change your religion and become a nun / monk: good on you, go for it.
 
If you want to join a political party and become an MP: excellent, glad you’ve found something you’re passionate about.
 
But the minute you start telling me what I can and can’t think,
 
The minute you start telling me how stupid / deranged / passive observer I am for not seeing what you can see,
 
The minute you start creating division and scare mongering…
 
…Is the minute I turn around and walk away.
 
I don’t want anyone in my life who thinks that bullying and coercing people into agreeing with them is okay.
 
I don’t want anyone in my life who is sowing hatred and bad mouthing people who can’t / won’t respond
 
And I particularly don’t like it when people bring GOD into the equation and use God as a tool for denouncing anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
 
For the people I know who have disappeared down the conspiracy theory / racist / political rabbit hole and are quietly getting on with their lives while trying to change things for the better as they see it,
 
THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. You act with respect and love.
 
It’s the ones who are spewing their fear-filled rhetoric and inciting others to hatred that I have an issue with.
 
Thanks to one of my friends for helping me get clear on this. You know who you are. 😘💖
 

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04/07/2020

What To Do When You Don’t Fit In

I’ve rarely admitted this outside of my close family and friends because the whole world LOVES Oprah and they get pretty rabid when I say there’s just something about her that I don’t like. II don’t know what it is, I just don’t like her.
 
And yes, I know I’m totally weird and maybe that has something to do with it.
 
Every time I say to myself, “oh, maybe I actually should just ignore all those icky feelings I get when I watch her and just like the woman like the rest of the world does”, something happens to stop me doing that, as it did yesterday.
 
And let me just say right here that I know how much of a difference the woman has made in the world and I applaud her for that. I just don’t like her on a personal level, that’s all; you know, when you get weird vibes about someone and you can’t put your finger on it? There’s no rhyme or reason, you just know that it wouldn’t go well if you tried to create any kind of relationship with them. It’s that feeling.
A few weeks ago, a friend put me onto a book called The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. Oprah credits this book as being pivotal in her life. She and Maya Angelou wrote forewords for the book (if you’re interested in reading it, head on over to the Book Shop on my website and buy it through there, earn me some brownie points and maybe 5c from Amazon 😁) and it is indeed groundbreaking.
 
Unfortunately, I also find the book as boring as reading Eckhart Tolle. Amazing guy, really mind blowing things to say, sends me to sleep in about 5 minutes when I’m reading his stuff (and less when I’m listening to him talking (Eckhart, that is. Haven’t listened to Gary Zukav yet)).
 
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John, however, has found his new guru. He LOVES the book (I got it in Audible for him, which you can also get through the Book Shop on my website and you might even earn me 10c if you buy that one 😁) and he also loves quoting bits of it to me, which is great because it saves me reading it myself. 😊
 
I was trying to explain to John yesterday how I’m finding that being calm and peaceful maybe isn’t for me – I feel like I’m flat lining – and John quoted something that he’d heard on Oprah’s podcast when she was talking to Gary Zukav.
 
You can tell from the tone of voice that this isn’t likely to go well for John, can’t you? 😂😂
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Gary Zukav was talking about this stay-at-home mother of three who had one child who was particularly challenging and constantly attention seeking. When this mother went to yell at her child, she should actually pause for a moment, seek guidance from her soul and allow love to flow through. If she did that, she wouldn’t yell at her child, she’d hold them, and deal with them only from a space of calm, peaceful love.
 
Hmm. Is that right?
A childless woman and a childless man telling a mother what’s she’s doing wrong and how she’s going against her soul when she yells at her children?
 
No judgement there, then. No sanctimony, either.
 
Also, let’s point out that there’s ZERO understanding and ZERO personal experience.
 
I’m doing a podcast about this because it’s something that I want to look at in depth. This kind of arms-length judgement does no one any good, least of all the people being judged.
Particularly not when it’s a judgement on something that people have dedicated their lives to, are constantly trying their best at and striving to achieve perfection, and who would who would happily throw themselves under the bus to save the people they’re caring for.
 

That’s not to say we’re all perfect and don’t need to learn anything, but the other thing that comes up for me here is, there’s no room for individuality: you do it a certain way or it’s wrong.

Menopause, Marriage and Motherhood
Any full-time parent will tell you that kids push them to a point where they lose their sh*t. Only then do the kids stop pushing.
I always, ALWAYS explained things to my kids, in depth and several times. Ryan said yesterday that I only started yelling when i) they hadn’t listened multiple times, ii) they’d continued to do something despite being asked not to, and iii) they knew they were doing something they shouldn’t. Or they were in danger; then I’d start yelling instantly.
What are your thoughts on this?
 
PS Images of Oprah and Gary Zukav courtesy of www.seatofthesoul.com and Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sessions

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19/06/2020

How To Cope When Your Child Suffers Permanent Brain Damage

I had a long conversation with Kira about her concussion the other day…
 
…if you don’t know, Kira was thrown from a horse and suffered a severe concussion 5 years ago that resulted in her missing 6 months of school in Year 10 and – I found out on Wednesday – with permanent brain damage. We (including the medical team) thought the damage was temporary; turns out not.
 
She decided last week that she wants to start talking about what’s happened, partly because people have idea about the reality of the impact of hitting your head, it’s seen as “a bit of a concussion”.
 
As case in point, the reports on that old man that got knocked to the floor in the protests in the US, constantly stated that “the man has a concussion but is in a stable condition”.
If he walks away without permanent – and probably quite debilitating – brain damage, I’ll be very surprised.
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Kira was constantly ridiculed by the other girls for not wanting to ride horses (she was at an equestrian based school and was riding 4 or 5 hours a day when the accident happened).
 
No one believed her when she said she couldn’t read.
 
Her Maths teacher told her that if Kira thought she was going to pull the wool over her eyes and get away with not doing the work, she had another think coming.
Her English teacher told her how “disappointed” she was with Kira’s lack of effort and low grades.
 
It took three months for me to convince doctors that the depression Kira was obviously suffering was a symptom, not a cause (I basically yelled at the GP till he gave me a referral to a specialist 😁).
 
When we took her to Emergency after the accident, Kira was sent straight home, with the advice to give her some paracetamol and let her rest for a few days and she’d be fine.
 
There are a lot of other things about her experiences with her concussion and the ongoing impact that I didn’t know till the other day. I’ve always had a chatty relationship with Kira but she apparently couldn’t communicate what was going on, and half the time she just forgot anyway.
You can listen to our conversation in the podcast next week. It’s a good one, even if it breaks my heart.
 
In the picture at the bottom of the page, the photo on the left was taken three weeks after her fall, the one on the right a year or so ago (photo courtesy of Rani Joensen).
 
This photo to the right was taken a few days before the accident.
 
Before this, I thought that unless you were in a major accident, a head injury was neither here nor there. I remember any number of times that I got back on my horse, whether I was feeling dizzy or nauseous or whatever (I spent the whole of my teenage years being chucked off a horse pretty much every day).
 
Maybe my poor performance at senior school wasn’t just about the fact that I hated studying! 😂
What are your thoughts on this? (the concussion, not my rubbish school results! 😜
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15/06/2020

What If You Are Really A Pretty Amazing Person

These are my musings, right? I could turn this into a long-winded lecture about how we could all start accepting ourselves as who we are, blah blah. I’m not gonna. Partly because I don’t like (i.e. can’t relate to) that whole airy-fairy, woo-woo, dippy hippy blah.

Last night, a friend commented that she’s always thought that she was a pretty amazing person. She didn’t say it in a braggy, puffed-up, self-important kind of way, it was just a statement of fact: she’s just always thought she was a pretty amazing person.

I was stunned. I found myself thinking, “What? You like who you are? Really? Wow!”

As she carried on talking, I found myself filled with admiration for her: what a fabulous thing to believe about yourself.

What would life look like if I believed that I was a pretty awesome person? How would I behave? What would I do differently?

The idea that I could like myself AND be a nice person (she’s amazing) had NEVER OCCURRED TO ME.

Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t believe she’s perfect or that she has nothing to improve, it’s just that she’s basically already fabulous and she’s just building on that foundation.

It’s a pretty cool idea, and one that I think I’m going to try on.

Instead of coming home, like I did last night, and going over things in my head, wondering whether I’d overdressed, whether my make-up looked really crap (it’s a very long time since I wore any kind of heavy make-up and I’m seriously out of practice), wondering why I made a certain comment and beating myself up for giving a cup of tea to the wrong person…

Instead of doing all that, if I thought I was awesome, maybe I’d sleep a bit better at night.

Maybe I’d enjoy life a bit more and chill out, relax a bit, have some fun, stop being so uptight about stuff.

It sounds like a pretty attractive prospect to me.

I do think that it’s going to take a bit of practice for me to be able to say “I’m a pretty amazing person” without cringing / blushing / feeling stupid, though. Even the thought of saying it out loud makes me want to go and hide.

And let me say, I think a lot of the discomfort in this comes from being English: it’s just not the done thing to talk yourself up. It’s called ‘bragging’ and we don’t do that if we’re polite, decent people.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know.

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11/06/2020

WHY BLACK LIVES MATTER IS BECOMING P*SSED OFF MOTHER

I’ve been quiet on this one. I’ve really tried not to say anything. I don’t invite negative shizzle into my life and this is as negative as it gets.
 
Only I can’t keep quiet because then I’m called a racist: silence is violence and all that judgemental cr*p.
 
Here’s the thing: black lives matter. I’ve never believed anything different to that. I wholeheartedly agree that things have to change and I also believe that the system has racial prejudice built into it.
 
Well, duh. Of course it does.
 
Because human beings built the system and 99% of human beings are naturally wary of things they don’t understand. Ergo, they build their society and laws to protect them from things they don’t understand.
 
The only way we can change any of this is for people to become familiar and comfortable with other humans.
 
In other words, through education.
 
Do I think that this needed to come to the surface? Yes, absolutely it did and I’m glad it did.
 
Do I want things to change so that we’re all treated as individuals based on who we are as people and not on any outward appearance? Too right.
 
Someone’s gender, race, colour, culture, sexual preferences, dress code or anything else should have no bearing on how we react to or treat them.
 
I’m getting really uneasy about things, though. The problem is that I’m watching more and more people act in a way that I wouldn’t tolerate in my children.
 
The P*ssed Off Mother in me is starting to rear its head and, as any of my children will tell you, when that happens: run. 👿🤣
 
Let me just put in a disclaimer here: I can only talk about the UK and Australia because those are the two cultures I’m familiar with. So don’t start talking about me not understanding the way things are in the US, because I don’t, and it’s not a commentary about that.
 
⭐️⭐️ RESPECT ⭐️⭐️
Treating people with respect is my big thing. I do my utmost to treat everyone with respect and I get uncertain and tongue tied when someone is from a different culture, because I don’t know what that person’s idea of respect is.
 
I know a lot of people don’t feel the same way as me, but I do think that British and Australian society is built on a belief of respect for everyone. Our legal system is based around respect for individuals and property; you know, the whole “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” thing (you can tell which bible I used at school, right?)
 
That inbuilt respect needs to be expanded and refined as we as a society expand and grow. As something that was acceptable in the past now becomes unacceptable, we change it.
 
Let’s get one thing straight: there are idiotic morons who show no respect to anyone else in every society, gender and race, in every job, every profession, and in every country. Some of them are even in charge of entire countries, lord help us.
 
They also seem to bubble to the surface during protest marches and on social media, using aggressive or passive aggressive techniques to shame / bully / force other people into doing what they want or silence them. Which leads me nicely on to…
 
⭐️⭐️ MOB RULE ⭐️⭐️
I have a deep, deep mistrust of mobs. To me, when people get into a mob, they lose their sense of self; they start acting in ways that they normally wouldn’t even consider because they get caught up in the emotion of the moment.
 
Here’s my issue with the riots and ongoing destruction that’s happening: when you’re upset about something, you act in the moment, a Crime of Passion if you will, the difference between Manslaughter and Murder.
 
When it carries on beyond that initial uncontrollable outburst, it’s called a tantrum.
 
Once you’ve got people’s attention, start talking.
 
⭐️⭐️ TAKE OWNERSHIP ⭐️⭐️
Once the initial outburst is over, continuing the destruction and stopping people from cleaning up or protecting their property is done completely out of choice. Once you’re out of the grip of that initial burst of emotion, whatever you then do is your choice.
 
There are no excuses.
 
You simply chose to destroy someone’s headstone or deface a statue or hold a gun to someone who wants to clean up the mess made by the riots.
 
Saying that you’re doing it because you’re sick of the prejudice or violence or you want change is, to be really blunt, just an excuse. It might be a fabulous reason, you may indeed be totally justified and you may have lots of people agree with you and condone your behaviour, but it’s still just a reason, just an excuse.
 
Own the fact that you’re choosing to do it and stop blaming other people for what you’re doing.
 
Man, I can hear the outcry about that comment! I KNOW things have to change, I WANT things to change and I KNOW the governments & the people haven’t been listening, but all of our actions are still a choice. It’s always a choice.
 
⭐️⭐️ YOU CAN’T JUDGE SOMEONE FROM ANOTHER TIME BY YOUR OWN STANDARDS ⭐️⭐️
It’s called growth. It’s like judging your younger self against what you know now.
 
⭐️⭐️ BODY LANGUAGE ⭐️⭐️
And moving right into another quagmire, let’s talk about that video of the police officer knocking the indigenous kid to the ground.
 
 
If that had been my kid in that video, I would have been absolutely furious. Partly with the officer but mainly with the kid. I’ve watched that video over and over and what I see is an obnoxious 16-year old being really rude to someone and goading them in the hope that they can catch the whole thing on camera and plead police brutality. Which is exactly what they did.
 
Watch the body language: that officer was not seeing an indigenous person threaten him. He was seeing a gobby 16-year being an a*se.
 
Listen to the kid holding the camera: when his mate falls to the floor, there’s a nanosecond of concern and then what you hear in his voice are two things: glee and triumph.
 
Should the officer have responded the way he did? No.
 
Would I have been upset with him if that had been my kid? Yes.
 
But my kid would have had hell to pay when he got home for treating someone that way.
 
⭐️⭐️ DON’T TAR EVERYONE WITH THE SAME BRUSH ⭐️⭐️
The vast majority of police officers aren’t racist, no more than they’re sexist or homophobic or anything else.
In other words, they’re human, and you’re going to get all of the normal human traits within the police.
 
But, for the most part, people become police officers because they want to contribute to society in a positive way. They want to (dare I say it?) protect and serve. They’re certainly not in it for the money or because it’s a cushy job, and I’m ongoingly grateful for the work they do.
 
⭐️⭐️ UNDERSTANDING NOT JUDGEMENT ⭐️⭐️
The only way forward in this is ongoing conversation and education. Our kids should be learning all aspects of history and culture in school so that we, as a society, needn’t judge someone based on their race, culture or gender.
 
Once understanding is part of our lives, prejudice will be incomprehensible and… just weird.
 
I’m still struggling with all this and it’s one of the reasons I’ve held off saying anything.
 
The other reason is actually pure fear: the self-appointed social media police are on hyper alert at the moment, vilifying people for views and opinions that they personally don’t think are appropriate, and I’m bound to have upset several million people with my “ignorant, racist” views.
I wonder how many other people are keeping quiet for the same reasons?
 
I believe that racism, sexism and everything else is inherent in the system and that it’s way beyond time for change.
 
But I’m not comfortable with portraying a gobby 16-year old as an innocent party, I don’t think that destroying property or defacing buildings, statues and gravestones is justified, nor do I believe that the police are all racist bullies.
 
🤷‍♀️😁💖
 

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28/05/2020

Why We Need To Stop Spreading The Darkness

GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR A**E AND STOP SHOWERING YOUR CRAP ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA

This pandemic and the whole stay-at-home thing has brought out some hitherto hidden talents in some people.

People that I previously believed to be logical, down-to-earth and caring people have suddenly become neurotic prisoners of war, rabidly decrying the insult to their freedom and liberties by a corrupt, lying “System”.

They’ve become experts at digging into the dark places and finding articles and videos that show that what they suspect is true.

They’ve started calling people names, declaring that Barack Obama is related to Hitler and wants to kill off all the Jews, and that Bill Gates is a nasty little secret despot who’s aiming for world domination by injecting us all with microchips that will allow The System to control us.

Several things come up for me at this point. First, saying stuff like that is SLANDER. How would you feel if someone said things like that about you? What if someone twisted your words and added meaning to them that you didn’t intend?

I am not about believing everything I read, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I am definitely not going to spread rumours.

The next thing is: I am not an expert in most things and neither are you.

I hate to admit it, but it’s true! Okay, I’m an expert in some things: parenting, running a household, starting stuff and never finishing, even quantity surveying (yes, I have a degree in construction so I’m probably an expert, even though I don’t feel like one) but I’m not an expert in most things. None of us are. There is so much information available out there that we have to specialise in certain things in order to become an expert in them.

And therein lies the problem: there is so much information freely available, that we all think that watching some videos on YouTube or reading some articles that say the direct opposite to most of the things out there mean that i) we are now an expert, ii) our now expert opinion is valid, and iii) we have a right to spout that new expert opinion as though it’s the TRUTH and the rest of the world is a herd of sheep being kept in the dark by Forces of Evil, too stupid to see what’s really going on.

Just because we spend hours / days / weeks on the internet, reading and watching all this stuff does not make us an expert. Reading about the pros and cons of vaccinations or coronavirus or 9/11 does not make us an expert.

Do I think that our medical profession is too much under the sway of the pharmaceutical companies? Too right I do. I’ve just had the third operation to put right something that was caused by a doctor listening to big Pharma and not doing his research. And while I can do my own research and get myself informed, that does not make me an expert. It just gives me enough background to come to my own half-a**ed opinion and ask the doctor somewhat more informed questions.

However, it doesn’t give me the right to negate the doctor’s opinion. After all, they’re the ones with the degree and the post grad qualifications and the however-many-years experience. They’re the actual, real life, expert. If it’s their belief that I’m better off following a particular medical path, then their expertise in the matter surely counts for more than my kind-of-informed opinion.

I’m reluctant to say, “do as your doctor tells you” because I’m not ever going to hand over control of my life without getting as much knowledge as I can about something before making a decision. But I’m not going to be able to get to the doctor’s level of expertise before I need to make that decision.

Also, to disregard or negate what the doctor (or any other expert) is saying because we believe that they’re ‘being controlled by big pharma’ or they’re ‘just after our money’ or they ‘just want to get people out of there as quick as they can’ or ‘you’re just a number to them’ is a harsh criticism of someone who’s spent decades studying their craft and who’s also taken the Hippocratic oath to do no harm.

Again, how would you feel if someone said that to you? What if the tables were turned?

Obviously, there are doctors out there who are complete a**ses and who are in it just for the money, but doctors are human, after all; there’s bound to be a few of them.

A few months ago, I asked a friend – a retired surgeon – what his thoughts were on vaccinations and the anti-vaxxers in particular. I hadn’t expected his answer, or his anger. He was the doctor in charge of the last case of childhood smallpox in Colombia.

His comment was “If you’ve seen a child die from one of those diseases, listened to the screams, comforted them and their parents as they die, you would not be anti-vaccination. The problem is: there’s a price to pay. Vaccinations save millions but there are also a tiny percentage who react to the vaccinations and you get side effects like Autism. You have to weigh it up: is it worth saving millions at the cost of a few thousand? That’s what it boils down to. It’s harsh, and I don’t like to do it because I want to save everyone, I don’t want anyone to suffer, but we haven’t figured out a way to prevent these diseases with no cost. We are looking for a way, but we haven’t found it. We are doctors; we went into this profession to help people and we’re doing it in the best way that we can, but we’re not perfect.”

The final thing I’ve got to say on this (and I did digress a little there) is that, if you’ve got a load of time on your hands and all of this information/education/entertainment on hand, why would you choose to spend your time digging up things that make you more miserable? Seriously?

I love my crime programs, but I also find that my mood drops when I’ve been watching them. I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time watching TV and on the internet while I was recovering from the operation so I made a conscious decision to only watch things that left me feeling better when they finished. No more Waking The Dead, Silent Witness or Criminal Minds. They’re brilliant but bloody depressing.

Also, no more Donald Trump because he’s an absolute f*** wit, and definitely no conspiracy theories.

I focussed on what made me feel better, not worse. You get what you put your energy in to. I can guarantee that you’ll find anything you’re looking for if you look hard enough, even proof that 9/11 and the holocaust never happened. I’m sorry to go all nerdy on you here, but there was an episode of Star Trek: Voyager where Seven of Nine became convinced that Chakotay (vice-captain of Voyager) and the Marquis (former rebels) were in league with some alien baddies. She found heaps of proof, and things on the ship descended into chaos for a while.

The moral of the story: you’ll always find what you’re looking for.

That doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

And before anyone starts, I’m all for free speech and informed decisions and all that. This isn’t about that. For all that I’ve gone off on several thoroughly enjoyable tangents, this is actually about calling people out for spending their time not only making themselves feel bad but also wanting to share the badness around.

Seriously, people: get a grip. Stop feeling sorry for yourselves, stop being a victim and start living your own life instead of pretending that other people are stopping you from doing that and the world (and The System in general) is against you.

Obviously, all of this is said from a space of love and compassion… admittedly an irritated and I’m-at-the-end-of-my-tether-with-some-people space of love and compassion, but you can’t have everything!

😁💖

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21/05/2020

How To Embrace Your Strengths

Menopause, Marriage and Motherhood

I learned something very interesting this morning: I’ve lived my entire life being afraid the whole time (with the occasional foray into outright terror).I know we’re all scared a lot of the time, but this is the flavour of my life. My core conversation – the place from which I approach life – is “I’m scared”.

When I was 5, we moved house and I started a new school. I’d learned to read when I was young (love a good book!) and, being a precocious child, I was quite proficient by the time we moved schools.

My new teacher brought me to the front of the class and asked me to read what was on the board… but it was in a foreign language!

I’d learned to read the ‘traditional’ way as in words like these. But my new school learned to read using a phonetic alphabet and I hadn’t a clue what the words on the board said.I remember standing there like a deer in the headlights, not understanding and terrified.

As you probably know, since then I’ve spent my entire life trying to understand and putting myself into scary situations and generally being a scary person.

It’s an interesting nature/nurture conundrum because I think I am basically curious about experiencing different things as well as being naturally forthright, which can come across as being both brave and quite scary (there’s very little buffering between thoughts occurring and words coming out of my mouth).

And like I said, while I go through life in a constant state of low level anxiety with the occasional foray into abject terror, I’ve also felt the most powerful when I’ve allowed myself to be that “scary” person who isn’t afraid to say it as it is and take on someone/something previously seen to be invincible.

So, that’s where I’m at at the moment and I just wanted to communicate that with the world before I go and have a meltdown about the whole thing 😁

xxx

PS Back in 2002, when I first did the Landmark Forum, I had this really vivid nightmare where I was being chased by a tiger. Eventually, the tiger caught me and put a hand on my shoulder. I turned round and the tiger was me.

Funnily enough, the expression on the tiger’s face in the photo is exactly what I look like when I hear someone say something stupid and I decide they need to understand exactly what it is they’ve just said. It’ll be a very familiar expression to my kids (and their friends) 😁😂😂

PPS Just shared my exciting new discovery with John and his reaction was “well, duh” 🙄😂

Tiger photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institute’s Adopt A Tiger Scheme

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03/02/2020

Are you acting like the adult or is your kid in charge?

I just found this article, and, to me, it’s spot on.

I’ve had several conversations with friends who have younger children who’ve commented that the parents telling the children what to do is “old fashioned” and that parents these days “discuss” things with their children.

There’s nothing wrong with discussion, I always explained what and why we were doing things with my kids and we’d have a conversation about it.

But make no mistake: the final decision about what we were doing (and what the kids would be doing) was mine.

I’m the adult, it’s my responsibility to make sure what the kids are doing is the best thing for everyone concerned.

I’ve kept my mouth shut about this because there are so many people who believe that the child knows what’s best for themselves but the way I look at it is this: I have decades more life experience than my child and their well-being is my responsibility. I will ALWAYS listen to their thoughts and input and I will ALWAYS see things from their viewpoint. ALWAYS.

But if I think they’re making a mistake or what they’re doing is dangerous, not in their best interest or downright stupid, then it’s MY responsibility to explain to them why I think that, discuss the whole thing and then do things my way.

That’s my responsibility as a parent.

I was, apparently, absolutely infuriating as the parent of a teen. Said teenager would come home from school, tired and irritable and looking for an argument, and make some outrageous statement to me that was specifically designed to start an argument. Most of the time, I’m a bit unaware of that kind of thing anyway, happily living in my own la-la land, but my commitment to my children is that I understand them: if I don’t understand them and where they’re coming from, I can’t guide them to the best of my ability. So, I’d go quiet while I mulled over whatever ridiculous thing had been said, trying to see things from that perspective and understand why they might think that and then – working on the assumption that the comment was a serious one – I’d have an in-depth discussion about that viewpoint.

According to the kids, it was the most exasperating thing that I did; they didn’t want understanding and a discussion, they wanted a fight!

The other big one is “no”. No means no. There are no “hard” or “soft” no’s, there’s just “no”. And if I say “no”, the kids are more than welcome to explain why they think that’s the wrong answer and why they think the answer should be “yes”, but if they throw themselves on the floor, stomp out or start yelling at me that I’m mean, then they’ll find a “no” about several other things flying their way too, even if I’ve already said “yes” to them.

Yes, I know, I’m far from perfect and yelling at me will often result in not only me yelling back, but me also massively curtailing any pleasurable activities that were planned.

As a parent, I am the guide. Like a guide on a mountain trip, it’s my responsibility to make sure that I share my knowledge and equip the group as best as I can for the journey ahead.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let them wander to the edge of the cliff and walk over it, or if I didn’t warn them of the dangers and make sure they understood. I’m not doing my job if I let them ignore me and do what they want to do.

Nor am I doing my job if I didn’t have them look up and see the beauty around them.

My job is to have them understand the world, learn how to make sense of things, understand the rules…

 

… note: understanding and following the rules are two completely different things. You can only change the rules if you understand them.

But most of all, my job is to have them understand themselves, to learn how they work, where they’re most powerful, where they feel helpless, how they behave, what works for them and what doesn’t, what scares them or defeats them, what makes them feel good.

No means no.

As a parent, step up to the plate and take responsibility. Teach your children the things they need to know. Just because they don’t think it’s necessary from where they’re sat right now, doesn’t mean that they’re right or that they don’t need to learn it. If you, with your decades of additional experience, can see that this is what they need right now, then that’s what they need.

Stop being a flake to the people who are most important in your life.

Here is the article written by Dr. Luis Rojas Marcos, Psychiatrist.

There is a silent tragedy that is developing day after day in our homes and concerns our most precious jewels: our children.

Our children are in a devastating emotional state.

Over the past 15 years, researchers have given us increasingly alarming statistics about a sharp and steady increase in childhood mental illness that is now reaching epidemic proportions:

The statistics show that:

  • 1 in 5 children have mental health problems
  • A 43% increase in ADHD was noted
  • A 37% increase in adolescent depression was noted
  • A 200% increase in the suicide rate in children between 10 and 14 years has been noted.

What is going on and what are we doing wrong?

Today’s children are over-stimulated and overloaded with material objects, but they are deprived of what is truly fundamental for a healthy and happy childhood, such as:

  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits
  • Responsibility
  • Balanced nutrition and good sleep quality
  • Movement in the open air
  • Creative play, social interaction, unstructured play opportunities and spaces for boredom.

Instead, these last few years we have filled them with:

  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent and permissive parents who let children “rule the world” and be the ones who set the rules
  • A sense of right, of undeservedly everything without earning it or being responsible for it
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification and the absence of boring moments.

What to do?

If we want our children to be happy and healthy individuals, we must wake up and go back to basics.

It is still possible … with the following recommendations:

  • Set limits and remember that you are the captain of the ship. Your children will feel more confident knowing that you are in control of the helm.
  • Offer children a balanced lifestyle full of what they need, not just what they want. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your kids if what they want isn’t what they need.
  • Provide nutritious foods and limit junk food.
  • Spend at least an hour a day outdoors doing activities such as: cycling, walking, fishing, bird / insect watching.
  • Enjoy a daily family dinner with no phones or technology to distract them.
  • Play with family board games or if the children are very young for board games, let yourself be carried away by your interests and allow them to lead the game.
  • Involve your children in some homework or homework according to their age (folding clothes, ordering toys, hanging clothes, arranging food, setting the table, feeding the dog, etc.).
  • Implement a consistent sleep routine to ensure that your baby sleeps well. Timetables will be even more important for school-aged children.
  • Teach responsibility and independence. Do not protect them in excess against any frustration or error. Making mistakes will help them develop resilience and learn to overcome life’s challenges,
  • Do not pack your children’s backpack, do not bring their backpacks, do not bring them the task they have forgotten, do not peel their bananas or oranges if they can do it alone (4-5 years). Instead of giving them fish, educate them to fish.
  • Educate them to wait and delay gratification.
  • Provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the moment when creativity awakens. You don’t feel responsible for keeping children entertained.
  • Do not use technology as a cure for boredom, nor offer it on the first second of inactivity.
  • Avoid the use of technology during meals, in cars, in restaurants, in shopping malls. Use these moments as an opportunity to socialize, thus training your brains to work when they are in “boredom” mode.
  • Help them create a “jar of boredom” with business ideas for when they are bored.
  • Turn off phones at night when children have to go to bed to avoid digital distraction.
  • Become a regulator or emotional trainer of your children. Educate them to recognize and manage their frustrations and anger.
  • Educate them to greet, to take turns, to share without remaining without anything, to say thank you and please, to recognize the error and apologize (do not force them), be a model of all those values that you inculcate them.
  • Connect emotionally – smiles, hugs, kisses, tickles, reading, dancing, jumping, playing with them.

Thank you for the share.

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28/10/2019

35 Fabulous things to do on a No Spend Weekend

Have you ever had a no spend weekend?

I have to admit, the whole idea of a no spend weekend makes me want to vomit. I mean, who, in their right minds would want to focus on NOT SPENDING for a minute, let alone a weekend. I know that there are people out there who love the whole idea of frugality and can go for weeks, months or even YEARS without spending any money.

I’m not one of them.

Let’s cut right to the chase here: I really, really enjoy spending money.

I also believe that the more you focus on NOT doing something, the more you want to do it. It’s basic human nature.

Okay, it’s basically my nature, but I suspect I’m not the only one.

So, I had to go about this in a different way: instead of focusing on NOT spending, I put my energy into finding really interesting and fun things to do that were FREE. 

Although I like spending money, I also like getting stuff for free.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say I feel quite smug when I get something for free.

Fabulously Free Fun Days

While I’m going to keep the title of this post No Spend Weekend because it has quite a nice ring to it, as far as I’m concerned, this is really Fabulously Free Fun Days.

This is a brilliant reminder that you can actually have a lot of fun without spending a fortune. Remember those childhood days spent wandering in the woods or building cubby houses in the neighbours garden? 

The big bonus of this is that a No Spend Weekend can have a huge positive impact on your finances.

Huge.

So, here are my favourite ideas to kick start you, but put on your own thinking cap to see what ideas you can come up with for new activities.

35 things to do on a No Spend Weekend

1. Play board games

My family love board games but we rarely seem to play them. Mainly because we have several ultra-competitive children who don’t like losing! However, a no spend weekend is the perfect time to put a game night in the diary.

2. Have a home spa day

There are lots of frugal homemade beauty treatments you can make using ingredients you already have at home. Or just have a nice long soak in the bath with some candles lit, music playing and your favourite drink. 

3. Watch a TED talk

TEDTalks are among some of the most inspiring and educational videos available and it’s completely free.

4. Visit your local botanic gardens

Most Australian towns have a local botanic gardens. Find out about the local flora, bush tucker and the non-native trees and plants in the area.

5. Try out your local bike trail

More and more of these are cropping up around the country. They mainly follow the old railways lines, so the trails are fairly flat and easy to cycle. Many of them go through beautiful countryside and national parks, too. 

6. Get creative in the kitchen

Try your own version of Ready Steady Cook and invent a new dish with whatever you’ve got in the cupboards. Buying extra ingredients is cheating!

7. Go to the library

I’m a huge reader but for some reason I rarely go to the library any more. Till recently. Our local library not only has the most amazing range of books, they also have regular free special events such as craft workshops, writers workshops, children’s storytelling, and school holiday activities.

8. Give yourself a reflexology session

This is a lovely thing to do and it’s a great skill to learn. Reflexology can not only help you relax but it’s amazingly beneficial for your overall health & wellbeing. There are heaps of free how-to videos on YouTube.

9. Invite some friends round for a Fire Pit & BBQ

Dig a small pit in the backyard and have a little bonfire. Get everyone to bring some marshmallows and toast them as you chat. 

10. Go for a bushwalk

Out in the countryside if you can, or just explore a new part of town. Maybe try to find a new park or new favourite neighbourhood in your city,

11. Have a sleepover

Why should it only be kids who do this? Invite some friends round and have a sleepover. Play games, give each other massages & facials, eat popcorn and watch movies.

12. Start a blog!

Blogging is fun, creative and could even make you money further down the line!

There are lots of free sites that will help you get your very own website up and running in a day.

Whether you want to blog for money or just find a platform to express yourself and share your knowledge of a hobby, blogging is a top activity that you can start with no money.

13. Go to a museum

Visiting a museum or art gallery is definitely one of the best things to do with no money. While some of the bigger museums may charge entry fees, there are heaps of smaller & local museums and historic villages that are either free or entry by donation.

We’re just so lucky to have free museum entry so make the most of it

14. Have a doona day

It’s so much fun to stay in bed all day every now and then. Not to mention cheap! Watch Netflix, read a book, take lots of naps. Wear your cosiest pyjamas and try one of those homemade face masks I mentioned above.

If you’re usually a very busy person, giving yourself permission to stay in bed can be one of the nicest and thriftiest forms of self care.

15. Start learning a language

Try a free app like Duolingo.

16. Plan your dream holiday

It’s fun to have a dream trip planned, even if you can’t afford it right now. It might even motivate you to start that side hustle and save up for it!

17. Do a free yoga video on YouTube

A good channel is Yoga With Adriene. Her videos are very accessible for beginners. You don’t need a yoga mat or fancy yoga clothes – just dive in!

18. Call someone for a chat

I bet you have a relative or friend who would love to hear from you.

19. Attend a free local event

There are always events happening somewhere close for most of us. Check the local paper or online to find out what’s happening.

20. Write a letter to a friend who lives far away

Who doesn’t love getting a letter in the post?

21. Make a vision board

This is really motivational, especially if you’re working on a side project (or two or three…) like me. Write down your goals, then make make a dream board on Pinterest, or the old fashioned way, cutting pictures out of magazines to hang over your desk! You get to spend a quiet weekend daydreaming and then the next few months making your dream reality

PINTEREST

22. Go for a picnic or a BBQ

If it’s raining, have it on the floor at home. Don’t buy anything though – you’ll have to use what you’ve got at home!

23. People watch

Find a nice bench somewhere busy and watch the world go by.

24. Visit an elderly relative or neighbour

They’ll be happy, you’ll be happy, and you might even get a free meal out of it

PINTEREST

25. Learn to meditate

Scientists are clear about the benefits of meditation for our health, mood and relationships. A no-spend challenge is the perfect time to learn – especially if you’re looking for things to do on your own on the weekend.

Again, YouTube to the rescue with plenty of guided mediation videos for beginners. There are also free apps like Insight Timer that have ambient sounds to help you focus.

26. Bake a cake

If you already have some basic ingredients in, simple cakes are really cheap to make.

27. Volunteer

This might take some organising, but it’ll be worth it. See if there’s a local one-off event that needs some help, or maybe there’s an animal shelter near you that needs dog walkers?

28. Film night at home

Pop your own popcorn – it’s super cheap!

29. Do some photography

Go down to your local park and get some close ups of the flowers and plants or go round the city and take some interesting shots of the local buildings. You’ll find plenty of ideas for photos on the internet.

30. Clear out your wardrobe, a cupboard or a room

It feels fantastic to clear things out and tidy them up. I’m a huge fan of decluttering, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy moving house so often: it’s the perfect opportunity to declutter.

You can even sell what you decide to get rid of to earn some extra cash!

31. Have a garage sale

Once you’ve got that wardrobe/cupboard/room tidy, hold a garage sale to earn some cash from your castoffs.

32. Home karaoke

You don’t need fancy mics or software, just have a good old singsong at home! There are loads of karaoke videos on YouTube or you can get the old Sing Star out and warble along to that.

33. Make some artwork

This could be a good group activity with your family or friends.

34. Listen to podcasts

I’ve only started getting into podcasts recently, but they are great for staying entertained and/or educating while doing less fun things (housework/driving).

35. Learn some constellations, then go out and stargaze

Go out at night and see what you can spot. There are some great apps that show you what to look for or you could borrow a book from the library!

How about you? Do you have any favourite free things to do? Can you recommend any activities to do with no money? Let me know in the comments!

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10 THINGS TO DO AT THE START OF EACH MONTH TO BE SUPER FOCUSED AND CLEAR

 I read a book recently – Unleash Your Inner Money Babe: How to Manifest $1,000 on 30 Days by Katherine Zenkina – and as I was reading through it, I realised that I knew all this stuff already.

All of it.

I just didn’t put it into practise.

So, I put it into practise. And guess what? 21 days later, $1,000 landed in my bank account. Out of the blue, totally unexpected. It was from someone who’s been promising to pay me the money since last December. I’ve chased them up a few times, and there were half-hearted promises, the last one several months ago, but I didn’t expect to actually see the money.

But against all my expectation, once I put the practises from the book into place, BAM! There was the money.

Isn’t that interesting?

I got to wondering what other practises are there that I know about and that could be helping me to get my life moving in the direction that I want it to move, when I saw this pin: 10 Things To Do At The Beginning Of Every Month To Be Super Organised.

What a fabulous list to write! What a helpful tool to have!

With acknowledgement to Laura at thosepositivethoughts.com for the original idea, I rewrote the list based on the things that I do and find important. So, here you go:

10 THINGS TO DO AT THE START OF EACH MONTH TO BE SUPER FOCUSED AND CLEAR

1.  REVIEW THE PREVIOUS MONTH

The beginning of the month is the perfect time to reflect on how the previous month went as well as planning for the upcoming month.

Over the last few years, I’ve realised how powerful journaling is in both keeping me on track and helping me to let go of the things that are holding me back.

Sit down and spend half an hour or so looking back over the previous month. Go through all the areas of your life, e.g. family, relationships, work/career, money, health, etc. to see how you fared against your goals for that area

2. SET YOUR GOALS FOR THE COMING MONTH

Using your list of the areas of your life and your goals & outcomes for each one, create a list of actions that you want to take this coming month. 

3. MAKE PLANS WITH FRIENDS & FAMILY

The problem with being busy is that we tend to get to the end of the month and realise that all we’ve done is our daily grind. We haven’t spent any time doing things that we enjoy doing, or things that energise us and make us feel good.

Take a little time at the start of each month to plan some socialising time. Schedule in dinner with your family, a date night with your partner, a movie night with your bestie, a Sunday afternoon barbecue or picnic for your extended family & friends.

Make it a priority to organise this kind of thing.

4.  SCHEDULE YOUR CALENDAR

This is one of THE most important things you can do to make sure you’re focused for the entire month.

Once you’ve completed the three things above, grab hold of any appointment cards, notes from school, your action list, relevant emails and letters and start scheduling them in.

Remember, if it isn’t in your calendar, you’re likely to forget it.

And if it IS in your calendar, you don’t have to worry about it till the reminder comes up.

Schedule EVERYTHING in. All your appointments, all your action items, all your socialising, self care, school events, meetings, gym visits, everything. Put reminders on them all and then simply check your calendar for the next day before you go to bed. You’ll feel super organised and productive!

5. BUDGET FOR THE MONTH

The beginning of the month is a great time to budget for the month ahead. Once you’ve figured out what’s happening in the upcoming month, you can figure out how much you need to spend.

6. ORGANISE YOUR DESK/OFFICE SPACE

Your work space should inspire you, motivate you, and bring out the best in you. Personally, I find it impossible to work if there’s a mess around me. But I have to admit that that doesn’t mean that I’m super organised in my workspace; it just means that I shove everything in cupboards (tidily) so that it’s not in my face!

The start of the month is the perfect time to get that filing done, clean your desk (get the cleaning gear out!) and make the whole area feel inviting, clear & inspiring.

You can add a few photos, candles or inspiring quotes, and if you can, treat yourself to some new stationery or pens.

7. CLEAN OUT YOUR FRIDGE & PANTRY

Sometimes, I cringe when I open my fridge. Milk spills in the door, wilted bits of lettuce in the bottom of the veggie box, dried up bits of cheese floating at the back of the shelf and those inevitable empty jars that have been placed in the fridge by the friendly household ghost.

It has to be a ghost that’s responsible because no one in the family ever owns up to putting empty jars & packets back in the fridge and pantry, yet there they all are.

At the start of every month, give your pantry and fridge a good clean out. Throw out all the empty packets, jars, the half-eaten containers of food that are now out of date and wipe everything down. Doing this has the added bonus of giving you a good idea of what items need replacing and what you’re running short on.

8. TIDY YOUR LAUNDRY & CLOSET

Let’s be honest, most of our time is spent in a rush and putting away the laundry isn’t high on our list of priorities. Unlike some of my friends (I’m not going to mention any names, but you know who you are!), I’m pretty good at clearing out my laundry and putting away the clean clothes, but I do tend to just chuck socks and undies in the general direction of the drawer and hope for the best.

Spend a little time getting on top of your laundry and getting everything organised. Put the clothes away where they’re supposed to go, maybe even in colour order! Tidy your undies drawer. Go through your clothes, throw away things that are worn out and put together a bag of unused clothes to give to your local charity.

9. CLEAR OUT YOUR WALLET / PURSE / BAG

I’m a mother of four. I know exactly what my wallet and my bag can look like after a few weeks of neglect and it’s not pretty.

At the start of each month, take the time to clear all the receipts from your wallet/purse.

Organise your money so the notes in your wallet go from the largest at the front, to the smallest. This one minor detail can make you feel more wealthy because when you look at your money, you’re looking at a larger amount, not the smallest one. It’s a bit of psychology there, but it works!

Clear that mass of detritus that collects in the bottom of your handbag / purse. The random tissues, hair ties, sweet wrappers, notes from school, bus tickets and all the other junk that you just chuck in your bag so it’s out of the way. Get rid of it.

 

10. CHOOSE A BOOK TO READ

I love a good book (or ten) and I generally get through a book a week. I usually alternate between a good fiction book (I’m partial to a bit of Marian Keyes and Danielle Hawkins, an amazing NZ writer) and some kind of personal development/money book.

Give yourself a bit of a boost and read a couple of books – one for pleasure and one to move your life forward – every month if you can.

I hope this list helps you to get the most out of your month!

K xxx

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01/09/2019

Back off, Vegan Warriors!

How can you tell if someone is a vegan?

There was a rare but companionable lull in the conversation between my friend and I as we sat having lunch one sunny day. Both of us love people watching and we soaked up the opportunity for a bit of observation, until suddenly she said, “How can you tell if someone is a vegan?”

Ooh, this was interesting, I thought. I scanned the crowd, looking for signs that someone might be a vegan, but other than the obvious (and highly stereotypical) signs from their clothing, i.e. women wearing long, flowing, purple skirts adorned with tiny mirrors and bells or men with wild beards & hair sporting highly patterned shirts unbuttoned to the waist, I had no clue. There were no physical differences that I could see, so I was really intrigued as to how I could spot it. “I don’t know”, I responded.

“They’ll tell you.” she replied, “Loudly.”

I’ve written a couple of articles on intolerance from people who believe that they’re the ones with the only true beliefs or knowledge and that the rest of the world needs to acknowledge their superiority and align themselves with their beliefs. And I hate to say it, but there are a fair number of Vegans who fall into that category.

Vegan vs Keto

A case in point: I go over to the UK to find that my brother, Alan, is pretty close to morbidly obese. He needs to lose weight fast and I suggest that he goes on a Keto diet. For those of you who don’t know, the keto diet consists mainly of meat and veg and is pretty much zero carbs. According to WedMD, “Ketosis is a normal process that happens when your body doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and makes substances called ketones, which it can use for fuel.” Keto is about retraining your body to use fat for energy rather than carbs, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s ideal for my brother.

Alan put up a post on Facebook, declaring his weight loss & lifestyle intentions, accompanied by photos of the food he’s just prepped (see photo: it looked amazing), openly sharing his journey with the world, something that takes a lot of courage. A Vegan Jedi friend of his (that’s what he calls himself, so don’t assume I’m name calling here), comments that Alan is going to kill himself, that Keto causes heart disease and stroke, that it increases his diabetes risk and suggests to Alan that he check that the person who’s told him about the Keto diet isn’t just trying to sell a book.

I’m not.

And, let’s face it, if Alan doesn’t lose weight quickly, he’s a prime candidate for all those things anyway.

What works and what doesn’t

Here’s where my advice came from: 56 years of listening to my body, trying every lifestyle diet that there is and finding out what works and doesn’t work for me and my body. Since Alan and I are related, it’s likely that at least some of the things I’ve found are applicable to him.

But the first thing he needs to do is DETOX to find out what his body does and doesn’t like.

In other words, he needs to go on an elimination diet and cut out all but the most basic foods (i.e. meat & veg) eaten with the minimum preparation, then slowly reintroduce things to see what is causing his body aggravation. The most obvious way of doing that in a simple word accompanied by easy-to-find recipes: Keto.

In my opinion, and from my personal experience, the worst thing he could do is go vegan. The reason? Soy products have some serious side effects and soy is one of the things that causes me the most problems.

Unleash the power within

A few years ago, we attended Anthony Robbins’ Unleash The Power Within weekend, including doing the firewalk. The whole weekend was amazing. Tony Robbins recommends a raw vegan diet, so of course, after a weekend like that and always being keen on feeling better, I put the entire family on a vegan diet. After six or eight months, I had to stop because my hair was falling out, my skin was awful, I was putting on weight, I was permanently on iron tablets, my sleep patterns were shot, and I felt weak and lifeless. If it was doing that to me, god only knows what it was doing to the kids.

I thought I’d be okay on a vegan diet because I’ve gone years at a time without eating meat since being young. Not because of any moral reason but because I didn’t feel I needed to eat meat, it wasn’t what my body required at that time. But somehow, after several months or years, I always ended up eating meat again.

Intolerances

Twelve months ago, after spending years trying to figure out why my digestion wasn’t working too well, why I put on weight after eating certain foods, why I couldn’t sleep, why I had no energy, I went on an elimination diet. It had some surprising (and devastating) results. My body doesn’t like/can’t process:

  1. Gluten – which is really annoying because I love baking and I love bread.
  2. Legumes (beans & peas), particularly soy products
  3. Nuts – particularly cashews & brazils (no more Chocolate Brazil Nuts!)
  4. Some seeds – for heaven’s sake.
  5. Fructose – I can tolerate fructose in small amounts, but more than 2 pieces of fruit a day and I pile on the pounds
  6. Mushrooms – the only thing I’m actually allergic to is mould and all things mould-related, up to and including penecillin.
  7. Lactose – again, I can tolerate it in small amounts
  8. Nightshades – potatoes, capsicum, tomatoes, aubergine/eggplant (I get joint pain when I eat these)
  9. Canola/Rapeseed
  10. Sugar – obviously
  11. Low fat/oil – My joints seize up and my skin dries out so I look like a prune if I don’t ingest enough oil

It’s no wonder a vegan diet didn’t suit me really, is it? Despite what Vegans will tell you (loudly), it’s not for everyone. There is no One-Diet-Fits-All because we’re all different. I believe that we all need to find out what does and doesn’t suit our body and go with that. If we’re eating what works for us, we’ll naturally be fit and healthy.

The goals and outcomes

The whole point with my brother (or anyone else) is not that he goes on a diet to lose weight, but that he changes his lifestyle and eating habits to support his body and feel the best that he can, and that’s what he’s doing.

This is what I recommended to Alan for his new lifestyle (to be reviewed at some point in the future):
  1. Cut out all processed foods including sugar
  2. Cut out pre-prepared foods, particularly snacks
  3. Eliminate grains and legumes
  4. Minimise dairy
  5. Max 2 pieces of fruit a day
  6. Use butter/ghee or Avocado oil for cooking, Olive oil at a pinch.
  7. Drink the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon in 400ml of water every morning before you eat or drink anything else

This article and website by Joelene of Yummy Inspirations explains ketosis and has some fantastic recipes for both ‘strict’ and ‘lazy’ keto recipes (‘lazy’ keto is when you don’t count the carbs, you just eliminate them as much as possible without obsessing about it, which seems like a much better idea to me!).

I generally follow an Auto Immune Protocol diet (you can find out more about AIP here) because that’s what suits my body, but I’m not obsessive about it. I’ll go and eat pizza or rice occasionally and then I go back to my diet to give my body time to readjust. Alan may or may not end up eating the same way, but his focus right now is to get the weight off and get into a healthier state.

Follow the journey

You can follow Alan’s journey on his Facebook page, our website and our YouTube channel.

What are your thoughts on this?

K xxx

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11/06/2019

Totally Awesome 10-Step Strategy for Debt Reduction

  • We’re a nation drowning in debt
  • Money is the leading cause of marital disharmony
  • 10 easy-to-follow, clear steps to get out of debt
  • How to go from no debt to debt-free
  • Not doing #3 is the reason most people fail

 

Debt is at an all-time high in pretty much every country in the world and particularly in the western world.

We lurve our debt.

We wanna have all that stuff, all those things. We want to spend, spend, spend and the banks are more than willing to give us the cash to go out and buy all the things the ads tell us will make us happy, more beautiful, sexier, smarter, better.

Of course, the banks charge a premium for giving us this money, but, hey! What price our happiness, right? We deserve all these things because we work so hard, we’re amazing parents, we’re stressed out, we just deserve to have it all.

And we deserve to have it right now. Why would we want to wait till we’ve saved up? We can have that happiness whenever we want it….

…at a price. Between 14% and 24% annual interest rate. Compounded.

But hey! Like I said before, what price happiness, right?

The bank hands us an (unasked for) increase on our credit card because we’ve been good little customers and maxed out our old limit. “Here’s some more money for you to go out and spend!” they say, “Go and enjoy yourself, you deserve it!” So, we do. We go out and splash out on some new clothes, a fancy dinner, some flash new parts for the car, a holiday, and we feel great. “Man, it’s so good having that extra money!” we say to ourselves, “I’m so glad the bank gave us that increase on our card!”

The following month, we get our new credit card statement. We look at the minimum payment that we have to make… and wonder how we’re ever going to do it.

How are we ever going to pay it off?

Our happiness at the new shoes or souped up car or the week spent on the beach in Bali suddenly evaporates as we look at the length of time and the amount of money that it’s going to take us to pay for that brief little boogie of blissfulness.

Here’s some stats. Grab a cup of how, sweet tea, because you’re going to need it.

Say you have a credit card with $2,000 on it. The bank helpfully gives you a minimum monthly payment amount, which we pay, right? We take out the credit and then pay off the minimum.

So, if you have a $2,000 credit card debt with an APR of 17.99% (that’s an average kind of rate for a credit card), the minimum monthly payments on your statement will tell you to pay $41 a month.

“Coolio!” you think, doing some quick calculations in your head, “I should be paying this little charmer off in… just over 4 years: $41 x 49 months = $1,968. That’s a long time, but, hey ho, you can maybe live with it.

Wrong!

Time to pay off the card if you make the minimum monthly payment and – most importantly – don’t charge anything else to the card:

A whopping 18 years and 8 months!

You’ll be paying off those shoes or that holiday or the souped up car parts for almost 19 years, probably 15 years or so after whatever you purchased ended up as landfill or “18 years ago today” reminders on Facebook.

And you’ll pay a total of $3,684 in interest.

On a $2,000 loan. You’ll pay almost double the amount you borrowed in interest alone. You still have to pay off the actual amount you borrowed.

Avoiding debt – or getting out of debt – is something most of us don’t appreciate until we’re swamped by debt. We take out the cards, pay off the minimum monthly amount and keep that sucker maxed to its limit.

We also do the same thing with our Line of Credit mortgages because that’s way cheaper than credit cards, so that’s okay, right?

If you have any loans at all, my advice is to get rid of them as soon as possible. The weight of having to pay them, month in, month out, is dragging us under.

So, set yourself up to win: follow the Terrific 10-Step Strategy to Becoming Debt-Free

1. Get a grip

Take Ownership – The most important step in becoming debt free is to take responsibility.

The credit card companies and advertisers may have encouraged us to go and spend to but it’s ultimately us who racked up those charges.

Stop complaining, stop blaming and start taking control of your life.

Understand That This is a Problem – The banks won’t keep lending you money forever and ever, and you’ll just get further and further into debt.

At some point (probably soon if you’re reading this), you’ll reach your credit limit, there will be no more money available, and you’ll spend the rest of your life paying for all the stuff you’ve bought so far.

Stop wishing that the problem will just go away by itself and start dealing with the situation.

Debt is a problem.

Start reducing what you owe immediately and stop thinking that you can just drag it out infinitely.

2. Get the full picture

Start a Budget – People don’t budget because it’s boring and it can be very, very confronting to face up to how much you actually spend.

Plus, it can be hard work (not to mention depressing) to stick to a budget.

But having a budget is absolutely essential.

Knowing where your money is going is the first step to figuring out how to save more money. The more money you save, the more money you have available to repay loans and get out of debt.

Make a Plan – Trying to get out of debt without a plan is like trying to head off somewhere in your car without a map. You need to work out where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

The other great thing about having a plan is that you get to see progress. It’s so satisfying to tick things off when you’ve achieved them.

3. Get Support

Have a Regular Meeting About Your Finances – Schedule a regular monthly meeting with your spouse/partner.

Check on where you’re at, how everything is going and figure out whether you can save more money, whether you can pay off your debt quicker than you’d planned, and then list out the actions for the next 30 days.

Just remember: you are unlikely to stick to anything if you feel deprived. Make sure that you allow enough of a buffer to give yourself a few treats.

Find a Debt Reduction Buddy – I can’t encourage you to do this enough.

Having someone to talk to, hold you to account and encourage you when you’re down is crucial.

On top of that, you get to support them when they’re not feeling crash hot about the whole thing, too, and knowing that you’re making a difference to someone’s life is always a fantastic feeling.

Find a friend (not your spouse/partner, have someone outside your close relationship) to work with so you can support each other while you both head towards being debt-free.

I chat with my Debt Reduction Buddy every day for 5 or 10 minutes, just to check on how we’re going and whether we’re on track. Every few weeks, we’ll have a longer call and share in depth where we’re at (my buddy and I live 3,600 kilometres apart!).

But if you can’t talk every day, make it at least a weekly chat, preferably more. Any longer than that and you’ll likely fall off the bandwagon.

4. Educate yourself – give yourself the advantage

Learn the Power of Compound Interest – I discovered the power of compound interest when we first started learning about the whole wealth creation thing. I just never thought about the fact that while compound interest is wonderful at increasing your investments, it’s just as wonderful at increasing the banks’ investments, i.e. the interest on the loans and debts that I have with them.

Read the Fine Print – The majority of us don’t pay any attention to the fine print when we take a loan or apply for a credit card. It’s small print, it’s designed so we just ignore it. It’s generally in legal jargon, it’s boring and so it becomes confusing.

Considering how much the detail can affect us (hidden fees & charges, payout fees, ongoing fees, etc), if you can’t read it yourself, pay someone (a solicitor or legal advice kind of person) to read and explain it all to you.

You’re likely to save far more than their cost when you find out what’s in that fine print.

5. Take care of the pounds

Consolidate Your Debt if Possible – Unless you can keep up with all the bills, sometimes it’s easier to consolidate your debt.

It might make sense to get a low rate personal loan, for example, to pay off all the different credit cards and small loans if the interest works in your favour. It’s a lot easier to manage one loan instead of six.

Credit Cards are Loans – Understand that using your credit card is borrowing money.

When you borrow money, it needs to be repaid.

With interest.

6. Take care of the pennies

Get Rid Of Your Credit Cards – I personally don’t like credit cards. I know a lot of people who use them for business purposes so they can get the rewards or the flights or whatever, but personally, I think they’re too tempting.

It’s so easy to just not pay everything off one month, and then the next month, you can’t pay it all off, it’s too big, and so the cycle of debt starts again (hands up if you’ve done this. Mine’s in the air and waving around like a lunatic).

If you’re like me and you have a hard time keeping yourself from splurging, just get rid of them.

Get a a Visa or Mastercard debit card attached to your bank account, then you can still buy stuff online but it’s not on credit.

Send Multiple Small Payments Instead Of One Big One – Some loans compound daily (read the fine print to find out which ones, or call the lender and ask) so the sooner you can send in payment, the better.

Instead of sending money once a month, send in smaller amounts whenever you have money and it will save you heaps on interest over time.

Ask for a Lower Rate – Call your bank and negotiate your rates.

Do a little research and find the current offers on cards or loan rates, then call your lender and tell them that you’re thinking of moving banks so you can save some money on your payments. But you could stay if they could match their competitors’ rate…

You’ll be amazed at what you can get if you ask for it (like a 1% drop in mortgage rate that saved me $800 a month!).

Sweat the Small Fees – Small fees add up. A couple of dollars here, several late payments there, and you are looking at hundreds of dollars each year.

Our bank fees last year (including business banking) amounted to over $1400. $132.50 of that was in those $2.50 ATM charges. We switched our bank to ING who refund all of those ATM charges, an instant $132.50 a year saving.

Every penny counts.

Instead of paying the banks that money in fees, use it to pay off your loans.

Keep Trying to Trim Your Bills – People are always coming up with ever more intriguing and exciting ways to save money.

Keep scouring the internet, pinning on Pinterest and finding new ideas.

7. Get moving towards debt-free

Debt Snowball – Debt snowball works because you are concentrating on one loan and the psychological benefit of paying each one of them off is tremendous.

The idea is to concentrate on paying off one debt first and then work your way through the rest. You can either pay off the loan with the highest interest rate first or you can pay off the smallest loan first. Choose whichever works for you.

8. Bring in some extra money

Create a second income – The quickest way of reducing your debts  is to put more money into them. Since the amount you can earn from your job is probably limited, you’ll have to increase your income by creating a second income.

You can either build up some form of passive income online through blogging or building an online store or something, or you can get a part time job or build up a part time business such as mowing or dog walking.

Make More Than The Minimum Payment – When people pay the minimum amount due on their card/loan payment, it’s a dream come true for the banks.

Do you really want to take almost 19 years to pay off your card AND pay back almost THREE TIMES what you borrowed?

The only time it’s okay to pay the minimum is while you’re debt snowballing and that’s one of the loans waiting to be paid off.

Sell All the Stuff You Don’t Need – On eBay, Craigslist, Gumtree or anywhere you can. Have a garage sale or go down to the local Car Boot Sale.

9. Keep on track

Don’t Upgrade Your Lifestyle with Income Increases – It’s so easy to instantly upgrade your lifestyle whenever your income increases.

Getting a pay rise or a promotion is brilliant, but before you go out and spend the extra money, put the new figures into your debt reduction plan and see what a difference to your timeline (remember the power of compound interest!).

Just make sure that you allow yourself some celebration splurge to congratulate yourself.

Don’t Keep Up with the Jones – When all your neighbours and friends are buying new cars and going out to fancy restaurants, it’s hard to not want the same thing.

Just remember: this is about delayed gratification. You might not go out for dinner or have the flashy car now but in the near future, when you have no debt…

Fancy Doesn’t Mean Better – We’re taught to equate price to quality. If something is more expensive, it automatically means that it’s better, right?

You know what the best thing is for your health and lifestyle?

Being debt free.

Seriously. Imagine not having to stress about paying bills or whether or not you can afford something. Most marital arguments are about money; get rid of the debt.

10. Structure your life for success

Have Constant Reminders – Reducing debt is about changing the way you think about money. It’s about changing your relationship to money completely, and that’s going to take time and effort before it  becomes automatic.

So, set yourself up to win. Use an app to manage your finances and remind you about upcoming bills or outgoings or put reminders in your calendar or set an alarm on your phone.

Do whatever you can to trigger your mind about your path to financial freedom.

Focus on the Prize – Motivation is one of the keys to succeeding with paying off your debt.

Get a Post-It, write down your total debt and tape it to your computer monitor or the mirror in your bathroom. Seeing the number go down is a huge motivator.

Success Breeds Success – Start hanging around people with the right mindset and avoid people who don’t share the same values as you.

You might find that your whole social circle needs to change, but the right support system will ensure that you accomplish your goals and that you accomplish them as fast as possible.

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11/06/2019

These 7 Small Shifts Will Give You Irresistible Results With Your Money

  • The one thing you must do before you spend any money
  • How to:
    • get out of debt
    • manage your money
    • secure your future against unexpected expenses
  • Why we need to be debt-free
  • The Big Secret that all millionaires know

Why becoming debt-free is like going on a long car trip

I realised that I have such a lot to say about this topic that I tend to write lots and lots of words…

And my articles end up quite long. Detailed and lots of fabulous information, but too long for a Coffee Break read.

So, here’s the short version of this article and there’s a link to the more detailed version at the end, if you want to go into more depth…

Say you wanted to drive from Dallas to Toronto, you’d know to head kind of north, but beyond that, how would you get there? You need to have a car to get you there and you need to know how to drive it. The car also needs to work. If you don’t know that you need to look at the fuel gauge, you’ll soon run out of fuel. Plus, you need to make sure that you have enough money to buy whatever you might need along the way, right?

Our finances are like that long distance car trip: if you don’t know how to drive, you don’t have a car that works, don’t have a map, no money for fuel or food or places to stay, you’re not going to get very far.

But, if you manage the trip well, do a little preparation and pay attention to things, it’ll be an amazing experience.

It’s time to plan the trip…

1. Check your vehicle: Check your money DAILY

As your dad probably used to tell you, before you take any long car trip, you need to check the car over, make sure there’s enough fuel, water, oil, make sure the tyres are okay, that kind of thing.

We need to do the same thing with our finances.

So, how often do you look at your bank accounts?

When you’re at the checkout to make sure you have enough money to pay for your groceries?

When you get a notification to say that a payment has bounced?

While you’re burying your head in the sand like I did, you’re always going to feel out of control, irresponsible and not good enough.

Get an app for your computer & phone (such as MoneyWiz, Budget or Debit & Credit), load all your information in there and check your bank account…

Every. Single. Day.

You have a certain amount of fuel for your trip, you need to manage it, know how long it’s going to last, what it needs to cover, when it needs topping up and whether you need some extra fuel (money).

 

2. Decide where you’re going: Set Goals for Your Money and Review Them Regularly

The more complex our goals, the less likely we are to stick to them. This goes for most things; let’s take this long distance car trip as an example. If someone gave you detailed instructions for the whole trip, they’d be pages and pages long and you’d just go straight into overwhelm.

Instead, set clear, concise, easy-to-understand goals and be realistic about them!

Setting a goal of saving $500 a week when you earn $1,000 a week is neither realistic nor achievable. Not unless you’re living in a tent on a self-sufficient allotment, anyway.

Instead, make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Framed. Write them down and track your progress against them.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re off track, just honestly reassess things, create a new goal and get back on the road.

You will also need to review your goals because you’ll find that as time goes on and this new savings thing becomes a habit, you’ll find it much easier to put away a lot more money than you first thought was possible.

3. Pre-Start Check: You Must Do This Before You Spend Any Of Your Income

Here’s what normally happens when our pay cheque arrives: we pay the bills, pay the mortgage or rent, buy some food, maybe go out and have a drink or splurge a little on some new shoes, then whatever we have left is “savings”.

Only, most of the time, there’s nothing left.

Here’s what you need to do: pay yourself first.

Now, let me share with you what I thought ‘pay yourself first’ meant for many years. I thought ‘pay yourself first’ meant ‘go out and buy what the hell you like and then use whatever’s left to pay your bills’.

And I wondered why I was in financial hell.

But no one had explained to me what ‘pay yourself first’ actually meant. It means invest it, save it, put it away for your future, but do not spend it now.

Scott Pape, aka the Barefoot Investor, suggests that you pay yourself 40% of your income away BEFORE you pay anything else.

David Bach in his bestselling book, The Automatic Millionaire, suggests you pay yourself for one hour each working day.

However you decide to do it, save first and spend what’s left over.

4. Be Prepared: Plan For Emergencies

Think about our car trip; what could go wrong? All cars must carry a spare tyre or a run-flat tyre in case of punctures.

How often do we do that with our finances, though?

We may have thought about it and even tried on several occasions to squirrel away a nice little saving fund only to have the entire amount soaked up because the car breaks down or one of the kids gets a broken tooth or the washing machine dies. Suddenly, our nest egg is back to being an empty collection of twigs (and we give up on the whole savings thing because it just never works).

We need a fund that really will see us through those emergencies.

Scott Pape, the Barefoot Investor, recommends you put away 20% of your income as your own insurance against all of those things that life throws at you.

Imagine how much more easily you’ll sleep, knowing that no matter what life throws at you, financially, you’ll be okay.

5. Use Your Resources Wisely: Spend Less Than You Earn

Imagine we’re bobbing along on our car trip. We have a certain amount of money for the trip to buy fuel & food and every night, we book ourselves in to a 5-star hotel, order room service and a maybe nice bottle of Champagne.

Pretty soon, our money has run out. As we’re walking down the street, feeling a bit depressed and uncertain, we see a sign in a shop window saying “Run out of money? You can get some here!” So, in we go to get some of the money from the nice people. We’ll have to pay it back at some point, sure, but at least we’re okay right now and off we toddle to our next five-star hotel.

Unsurprisingly, pretty soon, we find ourselves out of money again. We see another sign: “Need money fast? We can help!” and in you run to get some more money quick. And on it goes.

It sounds silly, doesn’t it, but this is how we are around money:

we borrow more and more, get more and more cards, until we’re drowning in debt.

In his book, The Secret Language of Money, David Krueger says “through justification, luxuries have a way of evolving into necessities overtime. The special coffee becomes a routine, the better restaurant becomes the assumed standard and our expenses sneak upward and expand laterally”.

What this means is that if you go over your spending limit one month, then the chances are you’ll think, ‘oh well, I can do it again’, the next month. But this is a slippery slope, one that you don’t want to start on, so avoid spending justification at all cost.

6. Learn How To Drive and Read A Map: Become Financially Savvy

We’re not allowed to drive a car until we’ve passed a test to say that we know the road rules, then we have to take lessons to learn how to safely control the vehicle before we go for another test and show someone that we can drive well enough and safely enough to be allowed to drive by ourselves.

We don’t consider money in the same light, yet how much emotional misery is caused by money because we don’t know how to handle it and we head for disaster unknowingly?

Reading is one thing but doing is something else. Playing games is incredibly effective in having us understand what we read and helping us learn how to apply the principle, and there are two games that I’d recommend:

  • Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s Cashflow 101, and
  • Brad Sugar’s Leverage (Brad is the founder of one of the biggest and most successful business coaching companies in the world: ActionCoach)

Learn how to use your money and what impact every little financial action that you take has on your goals.

7. Use Your OWN Car Not Someone Else’s: Get Out of Debt – and Stay Ou

Picture this: we’re about to set off on our Big Road Trip but then we look across the road and we notice that our neighbour has a much nicer car than the one we’re about to set off in. It has air conditioned leather seats, shiny bits on the side and it just looks cool.

As a society, we’re taught that buying more things will make us happier. We’re constantly encouraged to go further and further into debt.

You know what The Millionaires Next Door all had in common?

No debt.

None.

Of any kind.

Ever.

Debt kills off our ability to grow financially.

No matter how much debt you have right now, you can pay it off much quicker than you think you can.

We feel great as we’re setting off for our road trip in the flashy car, but then we realise that the payments on the car are eating up all our spare cash and then some. We can’t pay for fuel. We have to sleep in the car because we don’t have enough money for a hotel. We can’t go anywhere because all of our money is going towards payments for the car. We’re stuck. We can’t move.

That’s how we live. We live in a constant state of fear about debt payments.

Make it your priority this year to pay off as many of those debts as you can as quickly as you can.

Over to you…

What small shifts can you implement this year that will have the biggest impact on your finances?

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30/05/2019

9 Life Changing Ways To Supercharge Your Debt Reduction

  • Household debt is growing every year
  • The difference between “good” debt & “bad” debt
  • 9 proven ideas to pay off your debt faster (whether that’s “good” debt or “bad”)

A fact-finding mission

I was trawling through the internet, looking for information for this article on debt (as you do) and came across some interesting information:
 
  • Australian household debt has steadily risen over the past three decades
  •  The ratio of household debt to income has more than doubled between 1995 and 2015, going from 104% to 212%
  • This means if the average Australian earns $80,000 net, they are spending $169,600 per year.
  • Australia is now reported to have some of the highest personal debt levels in the world.
  • The average Australian household in 2015 owed $250,000, made up of:
    • Mortgages 56.3%
    • Investment debt, e.g. rental properties or shares 36.5%.
    • Personal loans 3.1%
    • Student debt 2.1%
    • Credit cards 1.9%.

 

The difference between “good” and “bad” debt

Not all debt is the same. There’s debt that builds your wealth, allowing you to buy shares or property. This is “good” debt.

Then there’s “bad” debt. This is when we use debt to buy things that aren’t going to make us money: cars, holidays, clothes, etc. This debt usually comes at a high cost (think 14% APR on credit cards)

If you look at Australian debt figures, most of our debt is in the form of “good” debt: 56.3% on home loans and 36.5% on investments. So, a total of 92.8% of our personal household debt is spent on potential wealth-creation.

The other 8.2% is “bad debt”, which if the average total debt is $250,000, means that $20,500 is “bad” debt: credit cards, personal loans and student debt.

And, by the way, whatever Western country you’re from, the figures are likely to be similar to these, so don’t get smug thinking that Australians are worse at handling debt than you are. The US has a much higher percentage of credit card/loan debt – 26.3%, and total debt at around 120% of income. The UK’s household debt stands at 150% of income and Canada’s is even higher.

The fact is, no debt is “good” if you’re struggling to pay it.

The easy thing to do is to stick your head in the sand and try to ignore it in the hope that it will go away because it’s just too hard to face.

But sometimes, disaster strikes and we’re forced to confront our circumstances head-on. A series of unfortunate events — a sudden job loss, an unexpected (and expensive) home repair, or a serious illness — can knock our finances so off track and we can barely keep up with our monthly payments.

It’s in these moments of disaster when we finally realize how precarious our financial situation is.

Other times, we just become sick of living paycheque to paycheque and decide we don’t want to do this anymore.

For many people, becoming debt-free the hard way is the best and only way to take control of their lives and their futures.

How to Get Out of Debt Faster

Unfortunately, the space between realizing your debt is out of control and actually getting out of debt can take months or even years. The trick is to make the process as easy for yourself as you possibly can.

Remember, we can only tolerate feeling deprived for so long before we rebel and do something to make ourselves feel good.

The secret to taking control of our finances, getting rid of debt and creating a solid financial foundation for ourselves is to make sure that we don’t feel deprived. Whatever plan we create must include things that make us feel good and don’t leave us feeling deprived.

Fortunately, some strategies exist that can make paying off debt a much faster and much less painful process — and a whole lot less painful.

If you’re ready to get out of debt, try these proven methods:

1. Make more than the minimum payment.

If you have a credit card balance of $15,000, pay a typical 15% APR, and make the minimum monthly payment of $300, guess how long it’s going to take to pay it off. Bet you can’t.

6 years and 7 months.

Yep, seriously.

And you’ll pay $11,000 in interest.

Bear in mind, you’ll only pay it off in 6 years and 7 months if you don’t add to the balance in the meantime. That’s a challenge on its own.

Whatever kind of debt you have, the best way to pay them down sooner is to pay more than the minimum monthly payment.

And to not use them again, of course.

NB Some loans charge early payment penalties. Just check that yours isn’t one of them. But do the calculations anyway: it may be cheaper to pay it off early than to pay the interest.

2. Use the debt snowball method.

This is how it works.

  • Make a list of all your debts from smallest to largest.
  • Pay the minimum amount against all of them except the smallest. You pay as much as you can against that one.
  • Once the smallest balance is paid off, start putting the money you would have paid against that toward the next smallest debt until you pay that one off.
  • Repeat until all debts are paid off.

You can use this same technique but by listing out your loans in highest to lowest interest rate order and pay off the ones with the highest interest rate first.

Over time, your smaller or more expensive balances will disappear one by one, freeing up more money to put towards your larger debts and loans.

This “snowball effect” allows you to pay down smaller or more expensive balances first — giving you a few “wins” for the psychological effect — while letting you save the largest loans for last.

Ultimately, the goal is snowballing all of your extra money toward your debts until they’re all paid off… and you’re finally debt-free.

3. Make some extra money.

Sorting out your debts with the debt snowball method will speed up the process, but if you want to make a much bigger difference, you need to bring in some extra money.

Relying on one income is dangerous and leaves you open to failure until you’ve got your finances all sorted. In the meantime, set up a second income from somewhere.

You could do odd jobs or weekend things such as mowing gardens or cleaning houses, or you can set up an online business, maybe a blog or learn how to become a Virtual Assistant.

Sites like TaskRabbit.com and Upwork.com allow nearly anyone to find some way of earning extra money on the side.

Note: any extra money you earn needs to go towards your debts. It’s not there for you to go out and spend. Sorry to be so blunt, but I wanted to just put that out there because I know that when I got some extra money in, the first thing I’d do would be to go out for a nice dinner or buy myself that pair of jeans I’d been eyeing up (or maybe a bridle for the horse or definitely something for one of the kids).

The extra money is to pay off your debts.

4. Do a backwards budget (and stick to it).

If you’re going to really get on top of your financial situation, you need to know exactly where your money is going 100% of the time.no excuses.

You need to know how much you’re spending on what.

I personally don’t like traditional budgets. For me, they set me up for failure because I can’t stick to them for long and I wind up feeling useless and giving up on the whole thing.

A backwards budget allows you to pay yourself first, i.e. pay down your debts and pay up your savings before anything else goes out.

Like I said earlier, always allow some room for those little extras that mean that you can treat yourself for doing a good job and working towards getting yourself out of debt.

5. Sell everything you don’t need.

If you’re looking for a way to drum up some cash quickly, take stock of your belongings. Most of us have stuff lying around that we rarely use and could easily live without.

Sell it.

The psychological impact of having a good clearout is huge. It lifts our spirits and leaves us feeling much clearer and freer.

So why not sell your extra stuff and use the funds to pay down your debts? It’s a double whammy in the feel good stakes!

You could sell stuff on Gumtree or Facebook Market, have a garage sale or go to a Car Boot Sale. All else failing, maybe call a second hand furniture place to see if they’re willing to buy it or call a charity and donate it to a good cause.

6. Negotiate your bills

Just recently, I got in touch with a broker about our health insurance. We’d been with the same insurer for about 20 years or so and they’d been great, but the monthly costs kept going up and going up and I seemed to be getting less and less in return.

I’ve now got a higher coverage of extras that I use and it’s costing me $90 a month less.

We did the same thing with our life insurance and saved $400 a month.

Then we did the same with our mortgage and saved over $800 a month.

The broker told me that the rule of thumb is to change companies every two years. All companies, whether that’s banks, insurance companies, utilities suppliers, whatever, offer great discounts to new customers but don’t offer the same deals to their existing customers. So, change.

Or phone up your provider and insist that they offer you the same rate they’re offering new customers or you’ll take your business elsewhere.

It’s your money, take care of it.

If you’re not the negotiating type and you’re in the US, you just got lucky because you have a service called TrueBill (there are others but Truebill was the first). The Truebill app will review your purchase history to find forgotten subscriptions and other repeating fees you might want to cut from your budget, and it can even negotiate some bills down for you.

Unfortunately, there’s no similar service that I can find in Australia, so my fellow Aussies, Kiwis & Poms… you’ll have to get on the phone.

7. Transfer your credit card balance

In the unlikely event that your credit card company won’t budge on interest rates, then consider a balance transfer.

Credit card companies are always offering 0% interest on balance transfers, usually for 15 months or so. Just be aware that there may be a fee of up to 3% for transferring your balance. There might not be, just check and shop around if necessary.

If you’re planning on paying your card off, this may be ideal as it may reduce the interest that you need to pay to zero. Whatever you’re paying off is purely the money that you borrowed.

8. Use any unexpected extra money to pay off debt

Most people come across some type of unexpected income throughout the year. It might be a pay rise, an inheritance, a bonus at work or a nice tax refund.Whatever type of unexpected money it is, spend a little on celebrating if you want to, but put almost all of it towards helping you become debt-free.

9. Change your habits: avoid temptation

We’re all tempted by something. It might be catching up with friends at the local shopping centre for a coffee (me), browsing the internet and “just checking” what’s new in our favourite online store (my daughter), or driving past our favourite restaurant and wishing we could pop inside for a meal (John). If you have a credit card in your wallet, the temptation may prove too big.

Whatever your biggest temptation, it’s best to avoid it altogether when you’re paying down debt. When you’re constantly tempted to spend, it can be difficult to avoid new debts, let alone pay off old ones.

So, avoid temptation wherever you can. Change your habits. Go a different way home. Go somewhere other than the shopping centre to meet your friends for a coffee. Do something other than browsing the online stores. Put the credit cards away somewhere safe, don’t keep them in your wallet.

Change your habits so that temptation isn’t put your way.

The Bottom Line

No matter what type of debt you’re in — whether it’s credit card debt, student loan debt, car loans, or something else — it’s important to know there is a way out. It may not happen overnight, but a debt-free future will be yours if you create a plan and stick with it long enough.

No matter what that plan is, these strategies can help you get out of debt faster.

And the faster you become debt-free, the quicker you can start living the life you truly want.

What are some strategies you have used to pay down debt quickly? Have you ever tried anything on this list?

 
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29/05/2019

7 Tips to Skyrocket Your Savings

  • How to set up a savings plan that you can stick to
  • The secret to saving money
  • Why you need to save money
  • What to do when it all goes wrong (and it will)

***This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link on this blog. I would never recommend a product I don’t use or love myself! You can read the long, boring, legalese disclosure here.***
 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll know from past experience that put money away into a savings account with any kind of regularity is just not your thing.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that setting up a savings plan is one of the things guaranteed to make me feel like a complete failure.

Because I always fail.

But let’s face facts, there’s always a way to make things work and we need to give ourselves the best possible chance of succeeding, right?

And for me, these steps are how I give myself the best chance.

1. Set your goal.

The people who are the most successful at something have a strong ‘why’ behind what they are doing. So, first of all, we have to have a “why” that’s big enough to keep us going.

So, ask yourself: why do you want to save money?

  • Is it so you can live comfortably in retirement?
  • A holiday?
  • Your wedding?
  • The kids schooling
  • A new car?
  • An emergency fund?

Whatever your goal is, write it down and put it somewhere you can see it daily, to remind yourself why you’re doing this.

2. Know exactly where you are.

This is not the most pleasant experience when we know our finances aren’t in the best shape, but it needs doing.

Think of it this way, say you want to travel from Perth to Brisbane, but you have no map, no idea of which way is North, plus you don’t even know where Perth is. It’s going to make the journey impossible, right?

So, it’s time to look at all your bank, credit card, loan and mortgage statements and get a clear picture of your finances.

Don’t hide, don’t be disheartened. This is your starting point and you can’t go anywhere unless you know where you are, right? The minute you know where you are is the minute you can begin to take baby steps towards your goal.

As you’re looking through your finances, pay attention to the things you’re spending money on. Take note of the spending that doesn’t align with what’s important to you. What can you change? What needs changing? Where do you want your money to go?

This is when you start to take control and decide consciously what you’re going to spend your money on and create a budget for yourself. It doesn’t need to be detailed, but you need to know where your money is going and how much you have to spend on everything.

Take a note of all the things you’re spending money on that you don’t want to spend money on any more and add up the total. That’s the amount you’ll be saving.

Open a savings account, preferably in a different bank to your normal one, and set up a direct debit for the amount that you’re saving from your day-to-day account to the savings account.

Make sure that you leave enough for your day to day living without leaving yourself feeling deprived.

But transfer the money out of your day-to-day account each week/month before you have a chance to spend it.

3. Automate your savings

Based on your overall goals, knowing where you are and how much you can devote to saving, create a plan around it.

In another article, I spoke about ‘paying yourself first,’ meaning every time you get paid, save a percentage of your income before you do anything else.

It’s recommended that we save 10-20% of our income, but if you’re in a poor financial position (I.e. if you’re swimming in debt), you may not be able to do that.

But the secret is to start and to keep at it and automate your savings.

Don’t do it manually, make it happen automatically.

I can’t stress this enough: make it automatic!

Automatic.

We all know that if we’re left to our own devices (okay, if I’m left to my own devices), it’ll happen for a few months and then stuff will get in the way, and we’ll miss one payment… and then another… always with a good excuse.

So, automate your savings.

Shall I tell you who knows the power of automated payments? The Tax Department. Every tax department around the world takes their taxes out of their populations’ paycheques before the people get their money (at least, I think they do. They definitely do in Australia, UK, US, etc).

Take a leaf out of the tax man’s books and automate your payments to yourself.

4. Monitor your spending.

Online banking and all types of apps make it really easy to monitor your spending.

If you want to use an app, MoneyWiz3 is the best one that I’ve come across (and I’ve tried A LOT of them over the years) for the simple reason that it doesn’t just monitor and track your spending, it also forecasts your bank balances.

So, if you’re in a situation where you need to juggle between accounts, it’s the best app.

You can download it on iTunes here.

If you really want to get on top of your finances, the one thing you absolutely need to do is check your spending and your balances every day.

Every day.

Spend a few minutes each morning so you know exactly where you are. It’s five minutes that you’re investing in yourself and your future.

5. Redefine your spending habits.

A recent study found that people spend 12% to 18% more at fast-food restaurants when they use their cards instead of cash.

Maybe it’s time to switch back to cash. I know it made a huge difference for me in keeping me aware of exactly how much I’m spending. It’s so much different to hand over cash and see how much isn’t left in your wallet than it is to wave a card at a machine.

You might also want to try the old-fashioned envelope method to reinvent your spending habits. Basically, you have an envelope for each spending category. You draw out cash at the beginning of each month and put the relevant amount in each envelope and then you pay for everything in cash. When your envelope is empty, you’ve run out of money, it’s as simple as that.

It can be difficult to change our choices when they‘ve become habits, but realizing that you might have a habit that needs changing is half the battle. You can change your habits if your ‘why’ is strong enough — but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get your spending habits the way you want them the first time around.

6. Bounce back quickly & learn from mistakes.

If you mess up – and you will, you are human – don’t worry about it! Just notice what happened, work out why it happened (were you stressed?  Upset? Did you just forget? Was it all too hard?) and get back on track as quickly as possible.

Preferably without beating yourself up about it too much.

And definitely without giving up. You will make mistakes, it’s how we learn. So, learn the lesson… and keep going. That’s the only way you’re going to get there.

7. Leave room for fun & rewards.

The biggest reason we’re likely to give up on something, whether it’s a fitness program, a weight loss program or a savings plan, is because we’re left feeling deprived.

When you’re making this plan, leave yourself enough money to enjoy yourself a little.

Fun doesn’t have to be expensive but having a little bit of it built into your budget can definitely help you enjoy the journey. Reward yourself for the changes you’re making and the hard work you’re putting in.

29/05/2019

(Potentially) Harmful Habits

Out of the blue

A couple of months ago, an old friend, Jane, got in touch with me completely out of the blue. In one of the bizarre twist s that life likes to put on us, we discovered that we were both going through pretty much exactly the same things in our lives. The similarities were really quite spooky.

We thought that it would be a great idea to set up a daily call to each other so we could share what was happening for us that day and to keep ourselves on track because one of the things we both noticed about ourselves was that we have all these great ideas, all these good intentions… and we never carry them out.

Actually, that’s not true, sometimes I carry out the ideas, but most of the time, they fall by the wayside and life goes on in the same old way that it always has and before I know it, bang! There’s another year gone by and I still haven’t started that project that was such a fantastic idea.

Sparks of life

It’s funny (both funny peculiar and funny ha-ha) how I have these great ideas that spark life in me, get me all excited, make me feel good about the future… and I don’t do anything about them. I just get on with my mundane, boring life, and every now and then, I take a quick squizzy over the fence into the lush, green pastures of “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do that” without ever taking any real steps to actually climb the fence. I just walk right alongside it, dreaming about all the good things that might happen, whereas if I just climbed the bloody thing, I’d be able to caper through the heavenly emerald meadowlands eagerly beckoning me from the other side. And I wonder why life seems to be passing me by? Seriously?

Jane and I realised that this is how we both live our lives, always looking over the fence without ever climbing over it, so we thought that if we were going to break that habit, then maybe chatting to each other every day would help keep us on track.

Either that or we’d end up procrastinating together, one of the two. To be honest, it was touch-and-go which one it would be.

How things change

Fast forward a couple of months, close to a hundred phone calls, many hours of chatting about life, kids, hopes for the future, things that get in the way and all the rest of it, and here I am, running on adrenaline, not sleeping for more than 4 or 5 hours a night because I’m too excited about what’s happening in my life!

That fence of mine got climbed and I’ve been gambolling in the verdant fields of new things for the last month or so.

And this is where the habit of mine that I don’t like comes in. It’s not walking alongside the fence without climbing it. It’s climbing the fence and then falling in love with that I find on the other side. I always do this, I’m such an Ooh-Look-Shiny-New-Thing! kind of person.

Whenever I take something new onboard – and that’s a regular occurrence, despite the fact that I feel like I spend my life walking along the fence – my family & friends wish me a long-suffering (but hopefully fond) farewell, knowing that I’ll be present but unavailable for a short while. Then I launch myself into something head first and don’t come up for breath till it’s conquered, mastered and becoming just a tad boring.

Which is where I’m at right now.

Shiny new things

Having committed to actually having the blog be a money-making business by providing things that people not only enjoy but that also make a difference in their lives (that sounds really w*nky but you know what I mean), I set about actually putting myself out there, getting people to the website and providing people with the tools they need to support them (which I absolutely hadn’t been doing before).

And it’s working. Things are picking up speed.

I’ve found myself running faster and faster, desperately trying to keep up, all while trying to learn a million new things. At once. I don’t like to wait to become proficient at something, I like to be proficient at new things as soon as I start them. No excuses. I immerse myself in them, ignoring the rest of my life, not eating properly, not sleeping, possibly even not exercising (gasp!) until I become proficient. Interruptions to this almost vertical learning curve by way of one of my loved ones actually wanting to hold a conversation with me are greeted with a loud (and quite aggressive) “What do you want?” as they startle me out of my faraway learning place (aka another planet).

Unwanted habits

Now, I’m going to get all enlightened on you here because I’m going to tell you that I don’t really have any habits that I don’t like. That’s totally untrue and totally true at the same time. I’m trying to accept myself the way that I am, and if I do that, then I won’t have any habits that I don’t like, right? On the other hand, I irritate the crap out of myself sometimes. I’m loud, I’m tactless, I’m overly single-minded, I’m thoughtless and a gazillion other things. But you know what? One of the great things about getting older is that I don’t have the time to worry about crap like that. I’m just going to do things in a way that works for me.

K xxx

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28/05/2019

The Practical Guide to Budgeting… Backwards

  • Why traditional budgets don’t work
  • What is a backwards budget?
  • How to do one
  • Who it’s for
  • Who it’s not for
  • How this might be the quickest way to get ahead financially

Avoiding Budgets

I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I avoid budgeting is because I can never, ever see how we’re going to live and save and pay off our debts.

When I look at our previous years’ expenditures and try to forecast and budget for the following year, I tend to just give up.

I can never see how it’s ever going to work: I lose hope, I give up, I close the spreadsheet and I walk away.

That’s how it’s always gone for me. Budgeting is a great way to analyse spending for me, but not a good tool to utilise for planning.

One thing that changed all that is the Backwards Budget.

I’d heard about Backwards Budgeting years ago, but how it landed for me was “pay yourself first”. In other words, go out, spend as much as you want and then, if there’s anything left over, put it away in savings.

Needless to say, there was never anything left over. I’d totally misunderstood the concept.

The “pay yourself first” bit is about paying off your debt, then paying into your savings before you pay for anything else. It’s not about spending what you want and paying bills with what’s left.

Sad but true.

I wish someone had explained this to me years ago. Like most people, we currently have very little in our savings accounts and we have a life filled with debt. Living that way is stressful and unpleasant and stifling.

We dug our heads in the sand about this for years and pretended this wasn’t happening, telling ourselves we’d rather “expand” than limit ourselves by budgeting.

But the unfortunate thing is, our very actions – not budgeting – made us feel more and more stressed, more and more limited, more and more stifled. The exact opposite of what we wanted to avoid by not budgeting.

Something had to change, and this is one of the things that did: creating a Backwards Budget.

What is a backwards budget?

Basically, a Backwards Budget is where you decide how much money you want to pay towards debt or into savings each month and then you live off what’s left over.

That’s it: you have only the remainder of the money to live off AFTER you’ve paid yourself first.

Traditional budgeting gets you to work out what you expect to spend on each category and what’s left over is the amount of money you can put towards debt repayment or savings.

Like I said before, budgeting in the traditional way can lead to a feeling of hopelessness and make us stick our heads firmly back in the sand.

This way – budgeting backwards – puts the control firmly back into our hands.

We decide how much we want to save.

We decide how much money we want to pay off our debt.

It takes the focus away from the bills and helps remove those hopeless and helpless feelings.

Why use a backwards budget?

When you decide to use a backwards budget, your focus is on how much you want to pay off your debts and how much you want to save or put into Super/pensions.

In other words, the focus is on you and your goals, the power over what happens lies with you.

With traditional budgeting, the focus is entirely on your expenses. The power in this situation is out of your control: it depends on what bills come in.

Steps to create a backwards budget

1. Take a long, honest look at where you’re at financially right now:
  • What debts do you have?
  • What savings do you have?
  • How much is in your super/pension/401k?
2. Decide what your financial goals are. Do you want to:
  • Build an emergency fund (3-6 months of expenses)
  • Pay off:
    • your mortgage
    • any car loans (or sell your cars and buy new ones cash)
    • credit cards
  • Save at least 10% of your income for retirement
  • Save a deposit for a house
  • Put aside money for your child’s school or Uni

There are plenty of other things you could write down, just list them all out.

3. Decide which of your financial goals are to be given priority,

i.e., pay off the highest interest loans/credit cards first before you pay off the mortgage.

List them out in priority order, put work on only the first 2 or 3 for now. As you pay them off, things further down the list can be added.

4. Work out:
  1. How much money you want to pay to yourself in total each month (this can be a fixed amount or a percentage of your income), and
  2. How much money you want to put towards each goal.

If you decide to do percentages for your backwards budget you can put 20% of your total income towards your financial priorities. Let’s do an example…

A Backwards Budgeting Example

Let’s say our friend, Kate, has a monthly income is $5,000 and she decides that she wants 20% of it to go to paying herself first, which gives her $1000 a month.

Kate’s immediate goals are:
  • Set up an emergency fund with 3-6 months of expenses in it. In this case, Kate will need at least $6,000
  • Pay off her $10,000 credit card (which is maxed out)
  • Top up her Super Fund

Initially, each month Kate will pay $500 towards her emergency fund and $500 towards her credit card (on top of the minimum monthly payment).

She will set up automatic monthly payment so that these payments come out of her income every month before any other payments.

The best way to teach someone a budgeting method is for them to see it in action.

So, let’s say that our friend Frank makes $3,500 each month after taxes and deductions.

After 12 months, Kate will have the Emergency Fund that she needs, so she needs to find a new home for that $500. At this point, Kate can choose whether to put it towards the credit card or towards her Super. There are arguments for both sides as to whether to pay off debt or start saving first. Do a little research and make your choice. In this case, Kate decides to keep the 50/50 ratio of debt repayment & savings and put the $500 towards her Super.

The End Result:

After all this investment in her future has happened, Kate is left with $4000 a month to live on. This includes mortgage payments or rent, groceries, bills, and all other living expenses.

Benefits of a backwards budget

1. You know exactly where you’re at financially.

The trouble with normal budgeting (and heavens knows I know this well!) is that you’re constantly checking spreadsheets or apps to find out where you’re at and whether you can afford something

With a backwards budget, while you will still have to budget the remainder of your money, you know that a certain amount is going towards your debt repayment and savings each and every month, regardless.

2. You put money into your savings & debt reduction FIRST.

The main reason people don’t save money or pay off debt is that they pay their expenses and then leave the rest of the money in their bank account.

3. When you backwards budget, your savings happen automatically.

You can build an emergency fund relatively quickly because – again – it’s coming out of your income first.

The downsides of backwards budgeting

There are a few things to consider if you decide to backwards budget:

– It is possible that you can save too much money and leave yourself with not enough to cover your expenses.

– It doesn’t work that well for people who are drowning in debt, unless they turn it into a debt payoff method before of a savings method. You can’t have $10,000 in the bank but have $10,000 worth of debt. They basically just cancel each other out and you’re actually still at zero.

– This method can fall a little short if you see an increase in your income. Let’s say you normally make $3,000 a month and your backwards budget plan is to save $500 a month. If your income increases to $4,000 and are still only saving $500, you’ll see a horrible thing happen called lifestyle creep. When you see an increase in income with this method, you must increase your savings by the same percentage.

– If you need to know how your money is doing at all times, this may not be the best method for you. The backwards budget method doesn’t involve tons of tracking and focus on your spreadsheets involved. It’s a set it and forget it type of budget.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve tried a ton of different traditional budgets over the years and haven’t been able to find one that works, it might be time to try out backwards budgeting.

This budgeting method is awesome and will grow your savings insanely quickly as compared to most other methods.

Would you ever backwards budget? If so, let me know in the comments what draws you to this kind of budgeting.

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27/05/2019

12 interesting ways you can make money (without quitting your job)

 

I just came across an article on Vital Dollar’s website that got me totally intrigued. You’ll find out more about the article later, but anyway, kudos to them for giving me the title of today’s article! Thanks, guys!

Why we need more than one source of income

Right, there’s no nice way to say this: if you want to get out of debt (this is a reverse royal “we” here, because I’m including myself in that “you”, if you know what I mean), it’s very likely that you’re going to need one or two side income streams.

In fact, while I’m on that topic, if you want to get wealthy, you need more than one income stream, especially if that income stream is a job.

However, the internet is full of fake promises that you can make $1000 a month or $500 a day or “I earned $80k last year just from doing this one thing”

If you’re doing a search, the quick way of telling whether it’s a legitimate thing or not is whether it costs anything to set up. If you need to pay a fee upfront, generally, walk away.

But here’s a list of 12 ways of earning a second (or third or fourth) income while you’re still working your main job or looking after the kids or whatever.

Now, let me say that I’m not including any information on the money back or coupon sites that they have in North America. I’m in Australia, I know nothing about them and it’s difficult for me to really find out about them, so they’re off the list.

1. Start a blog or online business
Online business is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to start creating money for yourself. You can create your own blog for free using Weebly, which is what I did. If, in the future, you want to sell products, you can simply upgrade your Weebly subscription and start selling right away.
 
  • Set up a Weebly blog or website
  • Buy your domain name and host your site through Siteground – hands down the BEST hosting company. They have the best, instant and FREE  support that I’ve ever come across, and when you’re a complete technical no-nerd like me, that’s absolutely essential. Click here to go to Siteground now.

Create a blog and leverage it into affiliate sales or product endorsement deals. Consider topics like:

  • Travel
  • Cooking
  • Health
  • Technology
  • Personal finance
  • Style
  • Shopping
  • Holidays

2. Test websites for $30 an hour
Ever visit a website and you thought about how bad or how great it was? Did you know that you can actually can get paid to share your thoughts?

There are companies whose job it is to test websites and they pay members of the public to do the research for them. You don’t need to be a tech wiz or anything, they want an everyday, ordinary opinion on how their client’s websites look and work.

All you have to do is visit the websites they send you to (and there won’t be any dodgy ones, don’t worry!), have a look around, make a note of what isn’t working (if anything) and get paid. That’s it.

This is how it works. User Testing, for example:

  • Go to the specified website or app
  • Switch on the recording app to record your screen and voice while you’re on the website
  • Complete a set of specified tasks and comment about them as you’re doing them.

Payment: almost US$30 an hour (just under $10 for each 20-minute video you record).

Their clients include Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, and other Fortune 500 companies.

This is earning money for expressing your humble opinion, lol.

Here are some home testing websites:

   

3. Become a virtual assistant
If you’re not sure what a VA does, basically they can do anything and everything from checking emails and making travel plans to handling internet research and posting on social media.

Experienced VAs command US$50-$100 an hour and work for clients across the globe.

Some reputable sites are:

But there are hundreds of great VA companies, check out ones locally to you.

4. Tutoring
Give private tuition classes at your home, either in person or online via skype

There is a growing number of sites for this kind of thing, with levels from early primary through to University.

You’re likely to want to work for a local company, so again, do a bit of internet research to find reputable companies.

5. Change your search engine
This is an interesting one but currently only available to (most) US residents. Do you use Google or Yahoo to search for something on the net?

Did you know that Bing will pay you to switch away from Google & Yahoo?

This is most definitely Microsoft bribing people away from the traditional search engines, but if you’re not that bothered by privacy issues (I use DuckDuckGo because it doesn’t track you and I hate the thought of someone watching my every move. Weird, I know), and you want to earn a bit of extra money in the form of gift cards, this could be for you.

All you have to do is sign up for the program, conduct your regular searches on Bing, make it your default search engine, and earn credits that can be redeemed for gift cards. You can earn as much as $5 to $10 per month.

Note: Make sure you’re signed-in whenever you do a search.

6. Data Entry
Use your accurate and quick typing skills to enter information from home.

There are heaps of reputable companies such as Seek or CareerOne where you can register and search for work. Just specify “online” when looking.

7. Work for Amazon
Amazon Mechanical Turk lists the online jobs that Amazon is on the lookout for. They’re all work from home positions with flexible hours for one of the world’s largest retailers.

Some tasks that people are asked to do include:

  • Select the correct spelling for these search terms
  • Is this website suitable for a general audience?
  • Find the item number for the product in this image
  • Rate the search results for these keywords
  • Are these two products the same?
  • Choose the appropriate category for products
  • Categorize the tone of this article
  • Translate a paragraph from English to French

There are also more technical tasks available. Check it out here.

8. Affiliate marketing
If you already have a blog on something that interests you, leverage on your hard work and earn some money from it.

I recently completed an Affiliate Marketing program by the lovely Michelle Schroeder-Gardner. She makes over $50,000 a month from affiliate marketing alone (she has other income streams, too) and this course tells you exactly how she did it and how you can, too.
The course has 6 modules, over 30 lessons, several worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful and exclusive Facebook group, and more. You go through everything that you need to know about affiliate marketing, such as:

  • What affiliate marketing is and how it works
  • Why affiliate marketing is so good
  • The exact steps Michelle took to earn over $300,000 from a single blog post
  • It gives the links to more than 80 companies for you to market, whether you’re an established blogger or a complete newbie.


Click here to check out the program.

You can also check out the affiliate programs at Amazon Affiliate or Google AdSense. You simply apply for the program, choose products to promote, and advertise them on your content site. Whenever someone reads your blog or article, clicks on the links, and buys an item, you get paid.

9. Sell Your Unwanted Stuff For Cash
If you are in need of extra cash, your unwanted possessions can be a great source of income.

Just recently, we raised several thousand dollars selling things we no longer wanted or needed on Gumtree and eBay. You can also use Facebook and Amazon.

Alternatively, hold a garage sale or go to your local Car Boot sale.

10. Rent out your spare room on AirBnB
Did you know that you could rent out your spare room on AirBnB and make some good money?

If you live in a city or town centre, university town or holiday destination, you can earn good money by renting out your spare room.

You can even rent out your entire house when you are on holiday or away yourself. It can be a lucrative way to earn money without a job.

11. Be An Amazon Seller
There are many people who make a very nice income just by selling on Amazon.The easiest way to work with Amazon is to sign up for their Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA) program. You can click here to find out more. You simply list your items for sale, send your inventory to an FBA warehouse and Amazon takes care of the rest: payment, picking, packing & sending.

They take the payment for your items, they pack and send your products to the customer, and they take care of customer service for you. For that, Amazon charges you a standard set of fees for handling all this (click here to find out the costs), but it’s still worth it, particularly because your items are then  listed as Prime, which means more sales.

Many people earn a living selling exclusively on Amazon. For example, The Selling Family, are a husband and wife duo making six figures a year selling on Amazon. They also have a fabulous set of courses and programs that teach others how to do the same thing.

You can sign up for their free 7-day email course on how to make money on Amazon here.

12. Become a Rent-A-Friend
Yep. Seriously.

A blog post titled “Rent A Friend: How to Make Money by Being a Friend” came up in my feed this morning and I just had to check it out!

And I found out that this is actually a legitimate thing! People will pay you to be their friend! I’m not sure whether I’m sad, horrified, perplexed, upset or all of those things at once. I have to say that making money by being someone’s friend is the number one weirdest extra money idea that I’ve ever come across.

Check out the website here. They now have people both available as friends and looking for friends across the world. This isn’t a dating agency, it’s simply about finding someone to accompany you to say a wedding or a movie or whatever.

Basically, you can earn yourself $10+ an hour, the amount is entirely negotiable.

There you have it: twelve incredibly good and interesting ways to earn money without quitting your job.

Caring is sharing! Share this with your friends…
 
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16/05/2019

9 Ways We Sabotage Ourselves With Money

Menopause, Marriage and Motherhood
  • How we sabotage ourselves around money.
  • How to identify our habits around money.
  • What we say to ourselves to justify those habits.
  • How to create new money habits and new things to say to ourselves.
  • Learn to recognise when we’re in our old automatic habits and how to switch to the new ones.

***This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link on this blog. I would never recommend a product I don’t use or love myself! You can read the long, boring, legalese disclosure here.***

 

What happens in the “quiet” of our mind…

“I deserve it!”“I’ve had a rough day, it’ll cheer me up.”

“It’s a bargain, they’re 50% off!”

“My friend Katy swears that everyone needs one of these.”

“I need the right car and it’ll only be an extra $500 a month, I can afford that.”

“I live a stressful life; a drink at the end of the day helps me wind down.”

If you’re anything like me, you can relate to one or more (maybe all!) of these quotes as things that you’ve heard yourself say to justify your spending. It’s these things that keep us locked into constant debt, in a state of living from paycheque to paycheque. If we want to change things, get out of debt, get out of the cycle of overspending and living from hand-to-mouth (even if it’s a silver-plated hand-to-mouth situation like ours is!), then we need to take three steps:

  1. Identify our habits around our finances and what we say to ourselves to justify those habits
  2. Create new money habits and new things to say to ourselves
  3. Learn to recognise when we’re in our old automatic habits and switch to the new ones
    •  

The 9 Areas to look at:

When we’re trying to find the ways that we sabotage ourselves and the things that we say, there are nine distinct areas we need to look at, but before we do, we need to be aware of something: our entire advertising industry, possibly even our entire media system, constantly bombards us that we are right in saying each and every one of these things. I’ve put an example of something an ad may say under some of the areas. Being aware of them can help us to see what’s going on and give ourselves the opportunity to buy into that behaviour/belief… or not.

1. Entitlement

Ad Example: you work so hard, don’t you deserve to treat yourself to this?
If we’ve ever said “I deserve this” as we grabbed something and took it to the cash register, that’s entitlement. We may try to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re completely justified but if we were being completely honest with ourselves, if we were completely justified, we wouldn’t need to reassure ourselves about it, would we? (That sentence got away from me completely, lol!).

Entitlement is something like a reward system: I work hard so I should be able to buy this for myself. It’s about changing the way we reward ourselves; pay off debt rather than adding to it.

2. Instant Gratification

Ad example: Lose 7lbs in 7 days
Instant gratification is the desire to experience something now. The problem with instant gratification is that it’s instant, it’s fleeting and it’s soon over. Very quickly we need the next fix of instant gratification, and then the next one. Anyone marketing anything knows that people will go after quick fixes, including me. What got you reading this article? The headline: 9 Ways We Sabotage Ourselves Around Money. We want to know what the problem is and how to fix it, now. We don’t want to know that it may take some time or that it might be hard work, we want easy to follow, step-by-step magic pill.

Unfortunately, it’s this that keeps us in our downwards money spiral and it’s something that we must recognise and change into delayed gratification if we’re going to become debt-free and enjoy our money.

A quick fix to this problem is to have a 72-hour wait time on any purchase we make. In other words, if we see something we like, we need to put it back, walk away and wait 72 hours before we actually purchase it.

3. Retail Therapy

Ad example: 1970’s Coca-Cole ad, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke…”
The idea that buying something because it will bring you joy is something that’s been around for decades and that old Coke ad is a classic example. It’s all about the idea that going out and buying something will make us feel good. And it does, it brings a rush of joy and exhilaration. For about five seconds.

To move forward and change the way we view money, identifying our retail therapy triggers is the first place to start.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is shopping a stress reliever for me?
  • Is shopping my reward system?
  • Do I shop to avoid boredom?
  • Does my socializing often involve shopping or do I meet for coffee at shopping centres?
  • Do I ever experience guilt or remorse after shopping?
  • Are my credit card bills so large that I cannot pay them off every month?
  • Do I get an endorphin rush when I shop?
  • Do I use payment plans to help make a decision as to whether I can afford it or not?
  • Are home shopping shows an entertainment for me?
  • Can 0% interest or interest-free periods be a deciding point in my purchases?
  • Are there clothes in my wardrobe with the tags still attached?
  • Am I on a first name basis with the delivery drivers?
  • Have I ever hidden purchases from friends or loved ones?
  • Do I buy something thinking “I can always return it” but never do?

If at all possible, we need to avoid using shopping centres as meeting places. If we do, apply the 72-hour rule or leave our cards, money or wallet at home and only take enough cash out for what we’re likely to spend at the coffee shop.

4. Addictions

Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex, food, exercise, video games, shopping… we may become addicted to any of these things (the list isn’t conclusive). If we feel the need to do something, if we crave something and we’re unable to control that craving, then we need to address it and we may need professional help to do so. The intent of this article is solely awareness, so that we can begin to identify where we sabotage ourselves and then do something about it.

5. Self-Worth

Ad example: beauty ads
We’ve all been there. Our neighbour pulls up in their driveway with a brand new car and we instantly become a green eyed monster. We instantly start feeling bad about ourselves, our financial situation and our possessions. We feel the need to keep up, to buy something bigger or better (or at least equivalent), just to show that we can do that, too. Or even because we’re worried about what others will think if we don’t do that.

It doesn’t matter how many things we have or what is going on in our lives, when this kind of thing happens, we can feel insignificant, depressed and not good enough. This is when we’ll go and blow a bunch of cash just to feel good enough.

We’re obsessed…

…with celebrities and everything that they buy, even though the majority of these things, such as designer handbags, are out of reach for most of us. We love to see the expressions on our friend’s faces when they see our new purchase, or hear the happy sighs of our children when we buy them some expensive toy or clothes. I’m guilty of spending $1,000 on clothes from Nike or I Am Gia for the kids to keep them happy and make them look good, then hesitating over a $20 pair of exercise leggings for myself. It’s a rush showing off new purchases, particularly if we’re making our loved ones happy. I feel validated, approved of, good enough. In other words, my self worth is linked to the things that I buy and it’s a cycle I have to break to get out of this trap.

My solution:

I had a conversation with my children and got them onboard with what I was doing. They now get a weekly allowance and they save up and buy their own clothes, and hopefully learn the lesson of delayed gratification (they’re actually much better at it than me!). Then I apply the 72-hour rule: put it back, walk away and see if I still want it in 72 hours. Most of the time, I’ve forgotten about it and I wonder why on earth I felt such an urgent need to buy something a few days’ prior.

6. Relationship with Credit

Something weird occurred to me a few years ago. We bought a new house and along with the new mortgage came – joy of joys – a new credit card. I had ZERO intention of using it but, you know, things happened, I put a few dollars on the card here, a few more there, then – oops, – something big came along and thank heavens I had the credit card, and before I knew it, the card was maxed out and I was only paying off the minimum monthly amount.

The interesting thing is that I viewed that credit card as my money. In my mind, it was the same thing as the cash that I had in my wallet. The only concern was whether we could afford the monthly payment. It’s been the same thought process when we’ve bought new cars, new furniture, even new houses. Most of us believe that our ability to make repayments on debt is a measure of whether we should buy an item or not.

It’s this relationship with our repayment ability that allows us to justify carrying as much debt as we can.

7. Complacency

We live to our means. No matter what we earn, we spend it and find ourselves still living paycheque to paycheque, even though it’s a much bigger paycheque. Our (as in mine & John’s) solution has always been to earn more money, it’s never been to get a grip on our finances or to save or even to live within our means. We found it easier – and less confronting – to make more money than to deal with our beliefs around money. In other words, we were complacent about the whole thing, saying to ourselves, ”Oh, we’ll just make more money, it’s not a problem”, which meant the issue just kept pace with our income, it was never resolved.

There’s an old saying that if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. Yeah, we never took that onboard. I would go out to a café to work and get lunch. Every day. I justified this by telling myself that my time was better spent in producing content and writing programs than it was shopping and making my own lunch. But again, that’s complacency: we’re not taking care of our money. All of those little things – the morning coffees on the way to work, the lottery tickets, the unused subscriptions, the auto-renewals for products we rarely use, the health insurance that we could get cheaper elsewhere – is us not taking care of our money and it leads us nicely into the next area…

8. Lack of Planning

If we’re ever – ever – going to get ahead, we need to plan. When we’re experiencing money problems, it is easy to disconnect from our spending, lose interest in saving money, and avoid looking at our bank accounts. It’s so much easier to stick our head in the sand and ignore the whole thing until it hopefully goes away.

Only it generally doesn’t. Most of the time it just gets worse (speaking from painful personal experience).

Think about the TV show Dragons Den/Shark Tank. Business owners come in with the hope of one or more of the Dragons/Sharks investing in their idea. The Dragons want to know details of their plans, what the budgets are, what are the projected figures, how they will  deal with x, y, z. Inside the Shark Tank or out, no business is likely to get off the ground unless it has a plan, financial and otherwise. Yet most of us think we can go through life without doing the same thing. We rack up more and more monthly payments, accumulate more and more debt, have less and less savings, and blithely put our heads in the sand and pretend everything is okay (I’m totally talking about myself here). It’s so easy to make excuses and feel hopeless and do nothing.

When we don’t have a personal plan and budget…

…we have no clue where we are, where we’re going or how we’re going to get there. We have no idea how we’re spending our money, we have no plan for retirement, or doing anything else. When we don’t budget our money, when we don’t take care of it or pay attention to it, we end up living month to month because we haven’t worked out how we’re going to do things differently. When we do this kind of thing, we end up using our credit cards as our emergency funds (if we haven’t already maxed them out).

Take a step back

If we step back and view our finances like a business, we will naturally develop healthy habits and build wealth.

Think about this for a minute: a business operates off a set of plans — actions that are designed to produce a financially secure outcome. Monitoring our cashflow regularly is a basic requirement to ensure there are reserves available for the inevitable rainy day. A healthy business engages in risk assessment, debt reduction, spending cuts, and works to maximize growth opportunities.

If we want to get out of our money problems, we must plan. Actually, we must have the main Plan A and then the backup Plan B.

9. Not Taking Responsibility

All of this behaviour is simply us not being responsible for ourselves, our money or our lives. If we want to get out of debt and get out of the cycle of living from paycheque to paycheque and always owing people money, all we have to do is get responsible.

That’s it: just be responsible.

Australians are in denial

Here are some facts about Australian’s aged 45 and up from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Australia’s retirement savings gap among the world’s biggest”:

  • They expect to spend 23 years in retirement but their money will run out after 10 years.
  • 45% say they cannot afford to prepare for retirement due to more immediate financial commitments like mortgage and other debts.
  • On average, they have $67,000 per person less than the amount needed to fund an ‘adequate’ retirement (NB not a ‘comfortable’ retirement).
  • 35% describe themselves as “completely unprepared” for retirement
  • 51% feel they are “somewhat prepared”
  • 14% feel they are financially prepared.
  • 25% have less than $50,000 in super
  • Only 12% have $50,000 to $100,000 in super.
  • 46% are not confident in their ability to be able to maintain a comfortable standard of living once they have stopped working.

“Australians are in denial about retirement planning,” said Graham Heunis, head of retail banking and wealth management at HSBC Australia.**

The problem with being ill-prepared

The thing about being ill-prepared is that it is no one’s fault but your own. Our long list of excuses as to why things are the way they are is the real reason why things are the way they are. We must acknowledge that and take action. There’s no blame, it’s just the way things are, and if they’re like that and they’re not working, change them. That’s all. Instead of putting our energy into self-recrimination, guilt & shame (along with burying our heads in the sand), we can put it into changing things to reflect what’s really important to us. Like being debt free!

The realization that you are not prepared may be a bitter pill to swallow because facing the truth can be uncomfortable. The thing is, once we see the cause of our financial problems, we then know where we need to put our energy to get our act together and start saying goodbye to our money problems.

Do then repeat

There we have it: nine ways we sabotage ourselves around money and suggestions on how to fix it. As with anything new, it will take time for it to become an automatic response but if we repeat something often enough, it does become automatic, so the only thing to do is stick with it.

**[Statistics and quote from article: https://www.smh.com.au/money/super-and-retirement/australias-retirement-savings-gap-among-the-worlds-biggest-20150119-12t2l0.html ]

16/05/2019

7 Steps To Fix Your Money Problems

    • Easy steps to fix your money problems
    • Find out what you need to do BEFORE you take any action with your finances
    • Identify what your money blockers are
    • Map out your path to financial success
    • Learn to recognise when you’re back in your old ‘poor’ habits

In the financial doldrums…

A few months ago, we decided to finally – finally – take control of our finances. Don’t get me wrong, we thought we were in control of our finances… actually, no, if I’m perfectly honest, we never really have thought we were in control of our finances.

We budgeted… and then promptly ignored the budgets, justifying ourselves with comments like “But it’s on sale! It’s such a bargain!” and “I’ve worked really hard and I deserve this! I’m going to treat myself!” or even “But it’s so nice, I’ve got to have it! It would be a shame to miss out!”

We reconciled the accounts and checked what we’d (over)spent against the budgets… and then went out for a nice drink & high quality meal to make ourselves feel better and drown our sorrows.

We got anxious and depressed whenever a visit to the accountants was coming up because we were ashamed and embarrassed by how we’d managed our finances.

The things is, I know we’re not alone in this. People have rarely had any real financial management education; we’re taught to SPEND, not to manage.

Lovers of Instant Gratification

We’re taught to buy things now, get another loan, start using that credit card.

We’re taught that if we’re feeling sad, we should go out and buy things because that ad on the TV says that we’ll feel better if we do and the magazine said that car is the answer to all my dreams.

Then we’re judged by what car we drive, what house we live in, the street that it’s located in, the stores that we shop at. We feel the very human need to fit in, so if we don’t have what “everyone” else has, we do whatever we can to get it, regardless of the cost.

And we’re trained to do all this; we simply don’t know anything different, no alternative way to be.

Only a tiny portion of financial mismanagement is down to lack of knowledge or training. Most of it – probably more than 90% – is emotional; purely emotional.

The reasons we overspend are the important things, we must address those before we can take any other actions to get out of the mess we’re in.

Think of it this way: we all know that if we want to lose weight, we’ve got to do two things: exercise more and eat less. Do we do it? No. Not unless there’s a big enough reason.

In other words, we don’t do things unless our we get our emotions onboard with the whole thing.

7 Steps to Fix Your Money Problems

So, let’s have a look at the steps we need to take to fix our money problems:

1. Realise that our emotions rule our money

Q: Why do we (and I’m including you in that ‘we’ because this likely applies to you in some way, too) really have our money problems?

A: Because the decisions we make around money are emotional ones not logical, rational ones.

John & I pride ourselves on our integrity, respect and honesty, yet none of those values were immediately obvious in our financial life.

Actually, if I’m totally honest, they were completely non-existent for us around money. We had no integrity: we didn’t do what we said we’d do, we didn’t take care of our money, we didn’t respect either our money or the time and effort we put into creating it, and we definitely weren’t honest with ourselves about what we were doing.

We’d rather not be honest with ourselves

Rather than being honest with ourselves and facing the fact that we were screwing ourselves over, we stuck our fingers in our ears, and sang  “LALALALALALA!” at the tops of our voices while skipping to the local Indian restaurant with a brief stop at the bottle shop for some wine along the way. That was how we dealt with our money situation.

Let me point something out here: I’m a site Quantity Surveyor by profession, I manage the financial side of construction projects. John runs our property developments with such a firm grip on the finances that one of the tradies commented, “I thought you were from Liverpool not Scotland” (he was Scottish himself, so it was in no way racist). Yet when it came to our own finances, we had zero idea where we were at any point in time and zero control over anything.


2. Identify Our Money Blocks & Triggers

Once we begin to see that becoming debt free (or losing weight or any of those other things that we talk about and say we want to achieve but never seem to manage) is really an emotional/psychological puzzle that needs to be figured out BEFORE we can do anything, then we can start to take action.

This is the moment to grab a pen and paper, a cup of hot, sweet tea (we may be in for some big shocks!) and find ourselves a quiet spot to work in.

This bit is not going to be pretty but there’s no way around it. If we’re going to get this sorted for once and for all, we need to dig deep and be honest with ourselves.

What are the things we say to ourselves about money?

There’s never enough?

Money doesn’t grow on trees?

Filthy rich?

Us and them?

3. Running On Automatic

Our automatic behaviours (aka habits) are what keeps things in our lives. If our habits lead us to having no money, being in debt and living from paycheque to paycheque, but we want something different to that, then we’re going to have to change our habits.

Simple!

But not necessarily easy.

Breaking our old habits and creating new ones takes a fair bit of effort, it’s like a train starting out from the station; at first, the engine is putting in a lot of effort and not much forward movement is happening but after a little while, there’s enough energy been put into that forward motion that momentum begins to take over and going faster and faster becomes easier and easier.

In essence, that’s how forming a new habit works: it will be hard work at first but it will become easy very quickly (depending on the effort you put in!)

4. Realise When Our Automatic Emotional Response Has Gone Into Action

It was one of those days:

…one of the kids couldn’t find one of their school shoes (how does that happen?),

…we were late leaving the house, we’re out of petrol and there’s a huge queue at the garage,

…then we hit a traffic jam because the council have decided to do some work on the road in rush hour,

…the worst client we’ve ever come across in our entire working lives gave us hell,

…our boss took their bad mood out on us,

…we leave work and head to the shopping centre to pick up something for dinner and when we get home, we realise that not only have we bought far more in the supermarket than was on our shopping list, we’ve also spent several hundred dollars on a new dress, some face cream, some shoes for the kids and a couple of nice candles for the lounge.

We live UNconsciously

In other words, we were in a totally unconscious, automatic mode when we were out shopping.

We’d had a bad day, we were feeling stressed so we did something to make ourselves feel a little better.

For about five minutes.

Then we felt even worse than we did before because now, on top of all the stuff that’s happened to us during the day, we also feel guilty and ashamed with spending all that money.

That’s what we do, right?

Or another automatic behaviour (one of my personal favourites) is when we see money in our bank account, we immediately think “Okay, what can I buy?” and we go out and spend it.

These, and the behaviours like them, are just the automatic ways we behave with money. We need to notice them (and not cast judgement on them!), write them down and recognise them for what they are: the things that stop us, the things we need to change.

5. Identify Our Money Habits (Particularly The Bad Ones!)

There are nine ways in which we all sabotage our financial life. We may all have slightly different ways of tripping ourselves up in each area, and some areas may not apply to us much or at all…

…Actually, I’ve learned to be most wary when my immediate reaction to a suggestion that I may have something to learn in that area is a flat “No. That’s definitely not me.” Because those areas are where the biggest have always occurred.

If we find ourselves just dismissing something out of hand, that may very well be the place where we have the most to gain.

The Questions To Ask

So, it’s time to ask ourselves this: how do I behave in these areas? What habits do I have? This is the key: what habits do I have? A habit is something that we do automatically, unconsciously, without thought, and doing it makes us feel good because it’s so familiar.

We are designed as human beings to try to make ourselves feel good. We want to feel happy about ourselves, life, everything, so we do things that will make us happy.

Only we tend to go for instant gratification, which is where the problems begin to occur.

This isn’t bad, there’s nothing wrong, this is just about recognising what’s happening and asking ourselves if we want to do something different in order to get a different result.

We need to identify our rotten money habits and replace them with new ones.

6. Figure out what we actually want and map out a new path

That may sound like a ‘duh’ question but most of us would answer it either by saying what we don’t want – “Well, I don’t want to live from paycheque to paycheque” –

Or by talking about some vague dream that we have – “I want to be debt free and travel the world in first class style” (that’s one of mine).

Yeah, okay, that’s nice, but how much income will you need to allow you to do that?

How much money will you need in the bank?

What will your sources of income be?

My answer to all of those has occasionally been, “I’ll win the lottery”.

Cue rolling eyes.

Seriously? It’s like saying, “I want to lose a bit of weight!” Nice. How much weight? By when? How will you achieve that?

Think about it: we’re most successful when we have clear goals and a clear plan of how we’re going to achieve them.

7. Practise the new habits DAILY until they become automatic & unconscious actions

This is when our focus and intention is most needed: when that train starts to leave the station.

This is where our reasons for changing are most important. It’s also really important to recognise that this may get seriously tough and to make sure that we’ve set ourselves up for success.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Get an accountability partner – Find someone who we can talk to and who will remind us of our goals and intentions
  2. Change our morning routine – This sounds a bit weird, but if we change some of the things we do automatically, others things change more easily. Instead of getting out of bed, then going to the bathroom, then cleaning our teeth, then getting dressed, then making a cup of coffee, followed by feeding the cat, mess up the routine a little and do things in a different order. It’s amazing how weird it feels!
  3. Write down our intentions for the day each morning – not a To Do list, merely a little writing to remind ourselves what’s most important for us. This may be things like “Spend quality time with my daughter” or “Put $10 into my savings account” or “Check out about starting that second income stream”. It’s about reminding ourselves why we’re doing this and that new habits have now replaced our old, automatic routines.
  4. Practise watching ourselves – Become aware of what we’re doing, what we’re thinking, how we’re reacting. Get into the habit of writing everything we notice down in a notebook.
  5. Recognise and acknowledge when things are changing – It will take time, baby steps are the key here and it’s important to acknowledge every little win that we have, every time we manage to recognise something, even if we didn’t recognise it in time to catch ourselves before our old habits came into action, it will get easier and quicker and we will change things… if we keep at it.

Set yourself up for success!

We need to set ourselves up with a structure to succeed. No structure, no succeed, it’s as simple as that!

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12/04/2019

Screw up your courage: it’s a long way down

We put up a video on our YouTube channel – Stop Being So Poor – last week about John’s recent rock climbing experience (you can check out the video here) and I wanted to tell the story in a little more detail. Actually, let me rephrase that: I want to put the story into my words

Back in the eighties John was a pretty hot shot rock climber who spent every weekend and most evenings of his youth, down at the local quarry, Pex Hill, honing his skills so he could venture out into the rock-filled world of the Lakes District, Snowdonia, South Wales and then further afield into France (in particular Buoux).

This is a man who, when we started seeing each other, would do one finger pull-ups on the architrave over the door every time he went through it.

Given half an opportunity, he’d “traverse” the lounge using the Victorian dado rail as his finger hold. There was no foot hold. Heaven knows how it didn’t fall off! He climbed with the glitterati of the British rock climbing world of the time: Joe Healey, Gerry Peel, Jerry Moffatt and Phil Davidson. Just recently, John came across a podcast featuring Joe Healey (you can listen to it here –  https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/jam-crack-the-niall-grimes-climbing-podcast/id1065991509 – Joe’s interview is no 27 ) and Joe mentioned John as the best climber he’d ever come across. He also said John had dropped out of climbing in the 90’s. Which he did. Only he misses climbing and I’d love to see him get back into it. John, however, felt that he was too old now to do something like that.

Over the years, I’ve tried to get John back into climbing. I’ve bought him memberships to climbing clubs, I’ve got the kids to persuade him to take them climbing, I even bought him his own climbing wall (yes, actually!), but while he enjoyed all of them, none refired his interest in climbing for very long. Last Christmas, I decided to have another go and bought John a day’s guided climb in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

I know pretty much zero about climbing. I’ve watched all these guys climb up cliffs that look completely sheer to me. I recently watch Alex Honnold free solo El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Free solo! A 1000 metre climb with no ropes!

I say “I watched Alex Honnold climb”, I actually only saw bits of it through my fingers because they were somehow clamped over my face. I just don’t have a head for heights: I have far too much imagination.

Menopause, Marriage and Motherhood

As a result, rock climbing has never really appealed to me. Physically, I’m good at climbing, John tells me, but as far as I’m concerned, I shake and tremble my way up the rock, the shaking and trembling getting harder, the further the ground retreats beneath me.

John was a little bit cross with his present… well, no, at first he was pleased because he loves me, he appreciates the things I do for him and he thought this was a really thoughtful present, but then he realised just how serious this climb was. After spending a bit of time on YouTube watching videos on the particular route he’d be climbing (Bunny Bucket Buttress), he came out of his office looking slightly wan and edgy. This wasn’t bumbling round a bit of rock and having a fun day, he’d realised, this was a serious climb: 350 metres of vertical rock at a grade that wasn’t too difficult when he was in his twenties, only these days, he’s not in his twenties. He’s in his fifties. And he hasn’t climbed in a very long time. He hasn’t even kept himself fit, really. He’s had the spurt of staying fit, but only when there’s a purpose to being fit, like when he’s about to do a big trek in the Himalayas or something like that, otherwise he doesn’t bother.

When I booked the climb, it specifically asks for your experience and states that “You must be able to COMFORTABLY second a Grade 22 climb”. Sure he can, thinks I, and – rose tinted glasses firmly in place – I proceed to reassure the climbing company that John was not only easily capable of this but that he had, in actual fact, been a world class climber in his youth (well, he had!).

 

I kind of glossed over the fact that he hasn’t done any climbing in several decades, nor has he been to a gym in yonks (despite the fact that we possess enough equipment to fit out a gym, the little used reminders of my ongoing defeats in the battle to lure John into a fitness obsession), and that, in general, he believed he was way too old for all this “fitness s**t” and he was never going to climb again, it was a thing of the past.

Now, you see, I thought all that was really sad, and I wasn’t having a bar of it. I was absolutely convinced that if only John had a reason to climb again, then he’d find out that he wasn’t too old, he’d enjoy himself and get a little joie de vivre back in his life.

Actually, if I’m entirely honest, what I want him to get out of climbing is the adrenaline fix that otherwise he gets from living on the edge in his business and financial life by leaving everything to the last minute. I’d much rather he got his adrenaline fix from somewhere else. Just saying.

Plus, I don’t believe you’re ever too old to do something. You may not be able to do something as well as you could in your twenties but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy doing it. I blame my dad for that view: he’s in his eighties and he still runs every day, rides racing motorbikes and scuba dives. And he looks like a grey haired, balding Action Man (hi Dad!).

As John realised the difficulty of the climb, he realised that he would need to train for this, as in actually do a few months’ preparation and get into good physical condition. What am I saying? This is John we’re talking about. He’s never in a million years going to do a few months preparation, he’s going to leave it to the last minute and then try to cram the whole thing into a last minute exercise (no pun intended). Which is exactly what happened. He joined the gym, got a trainer, started Pilates and kept watching the videos of the climb he would be doing in a few weeks.

 I finally managed to persuade him to go to the climbing wall so that he could practise actual climbing. I know from my own experience that you can be as fit as a fiddle but when you start a new sport, you struggle; your body just isn’t used to being used for that purpose, it takes a  little while to build up the stamina.

I have to say that I was far keener for John to go to the climbing wall than John was. He really dragged his feet about the whole thing. I ended up resorting to watching the climbing videos over his shoulder and making comments like “Ooh, there’s some finger strength needed there! Do we have one of those finger exercisers?” and “Wow, his arms look tired! Have you been doing many pull ups?” and generally nagging him about getting himself down to the climbing wall so that he could actually climb.

Eventually he caved in (yay! Go me!) and off we toddled to the climbing wall with me as his not-so-trusty belayer (the person who holds the rope while the other is climbing; I’m not very good at it). Two weeks or so before he was due to go on the climbing day, I was beginning to get really worried. It was really obvious that he still found Grade 22 difficult. Not technically, he still had all the moves, but he didn’t have the strength in his fingers to execute them. I put the suggestion out that maybe he could, you know, possibly postpone the climb for a couple of months maybe, so he could, perhaps, feel a little more confident, you know, in his strength and, erm, ability to do the, ah, more technical moves.

In other words, I didn’t think he was fit enough to do this climb right now and I was trying to be tactful about it. Tact isn’t something that comes naturally to me, so this was a tricky conversation. But despite my ongoing suggestions that maybe he postpone for a few months, John dismissed my concerns (observations), adamant that he’d be okay, it was only a Grade 22, for heaven’s sake! He would have done that as a warm up in the eighties, probably even done it without a rope, he asserted.

Despite several attempts to persuade my aging rock climbing husband to postpone the big day, he stood firm in his belief that climbing Bunny Bucket Buttress was well within his climbing ability and off he went to meet his guide on the assigned day. John had a brief chat with him outlining his previous experience – I’ve done this, I’ve climbed that, I’ve soloed, I’ve first ascented, blah blah. It was all going swimmingly until the guide asked him what he’d done lately. “Erm, ah, well, I’ve been to the climbing wall a few times,” replies John. You could see the warning bells begin to ring in the guide’s head as he handed John a helmet, a harness and a short rope to attach to the harness.

Putting on a harness is something that any rock climber can do in the dark. Climbers spend their entire lives wearing a harness. They also put a lot of effort into their ropes and knots, which is fair enough because their lives depend on them. To be fair, John had never worn a helmet before, it’s one of those health and safety rules that go with getting a guided climb.

As John kitted himself up, the guide’s concern grew. John put the harness on back to front. Then he put the helmet on backwards. Then, red in the face with embarrassment and growing more apprehensive about this whole idea by the minute, he couldn’t remember how to tie the basic climbers’ knot and had to get help with that, too.

By this time, the guide was swearing under his breath about idiots who think they can climb but haven’t got a clue.

They drove out to the gorge and trekked for twenty minutes or so to the cliff edge.

The Blue Mountains are only an hours’ drive from Sydney but many parts of them are still inaccessible. The gorges are huge, steep and deep, their cliffs cutting vast rifts through the densely packed eucalyptus trees. These Blue Gums give off an oily mist that makes the whole area glisten with a blue sheen and led to the name, the Blue Mountains.

Finally, as the two men reached the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley, trepidation began to seep into John’s stomach. He listened to the guide, his anxiety growing by the second, telling him that they abseil down a much smaller wall than the one they’ll be climbing, the abseil wall is only about 150 metres high, so three ropes pitches.

For all us non-climbers, 150 metres of abseil means that it takes 3 ropes to reach the bottom and you must stop twice on the way down to change ropes and start a new abseil.

In this case, down a vertical and occasionally overhanging cliff. There are no ledges, nowhere to sit; at your stop points, you’re hooked to a bolt on the wall while you unhook from one rope and attach yourself to the next rope. Most of John’s climbing has been on single pitch cliffs. He’s rarely climbed in places where you need more than one rope, and he certainly hasn’t done that since we left the UK in 1991. Now it seemed to John that possibly he’s a little bit afraid of heights these days (possibly not, mind; I suspect he was just a bit confronted).

As he was preparing the ropes and equipment to begin his descent, the guide cheerily told John that the only way into or out of this part of the valley was via the belay they were about to begin, and that if anything happened, they’d have to call the rescue helicopter.

Oh, and if it started raining, they’d be stuck, too. Since the only way out of the gorge from here was up the rock, and since you can’t climb up wet rock, they’d have to call the rescue helicopter, ha ha.

The guide descended to the first stop point and hooked himself up to the belay point on the wall, unconcernedly hanging from a small rope (the one that John couldn’t remember how to knot) 100 metres above the forest floor and then it was John’s turn to descend.

 

I can only describe what I suspect was going through John’s mind at this point. He’s told me that he was “scared s**tless” and seriously regretting his decision to do this climb and what the hell was I thinking getting this kind of present for him?

 

The cliff was overhanging in a number of places, so as John descended, his feet lost contact with the wall. As he slowly spun in 360 degrees over 120 metres in the air, he was able to fully appreciate the inaccessibility and isolation of the rugged and harsh terrain. And his own mortality.

The climb back up, all 350 metres and eight rope pitches of it, was ‘pumpy’ (hard on the arms), ‘fingery’ (it hurt your fingertips), ‘sharp’ (the rock cuts into your skin) and ‘slippery’.

It was at the extreme edge of John’s current fitness level but his technical skill meant that he did the climb easily. It was physically challenging rather than technically. He only fell off once in the whole 350 metres, the guide acknowledging both John’s ability and his own relief after the first pitch.

Note to self: go easier on my husband next time. Or at least give him a bit more time to get himself in shape.

Actually, that’s never going to work: John’s a last minute, pants-on-fire kind of person; if I’d given him 12 months’ warning, he would still have started training only a few weeks before the event.

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09/04/2019

Little S**t of a Pony

I’ve always loved horses, so it was only natural when Kira expressed a desire to learn how to ride, that I enrolled the kids into riding lessons.

I have to go onto a bit of a side track here: if one kid did something, then most of the time, they all did it. Extra curricular activities were just too tricky to handle if all four kids were doing something different, so while they all did something they really wanted to do, they also had to do things that maybe they weren’t so interested in. In this case, Kira really wanted to learn how to ride and the boys were interested (and turned out to be great horsemen, just not interested in riding as a long-term prospect). Keeley, aged 2 or 3 at the time, just loved it.

Like anyone who’s been around horses for a while, we’ve had some complete doozies. There were horses who were great but totally unsuitable, there were horses that were great, but they didn’t like their owner. There were horses who were perfect in every single way. Most of the time.

Just occasionally, this perfect specimen would have a moment and do something completely unexpected. Like Ryan’s horse, Paddy. Jamie had a (totally unsuitable) grey Thoroughbred who was highly strung to the tips of his hooves. If a leaf trembled in the wind, Basil would take off like there was a tiger chasing him. If a raindrop landed in a puddle next to him, making a delightful ‘plink’ sound as it hit the water, Basil would leap to one side as though a horse eating crocodile was about to launch itself at him. To top of all this horsey angst, he had the IQ of a chicken.

If you’ve never watched a group of chickens, you may not know what I’m talking about here; let’s just say that if Chickens had the 5-second long term memory length that a goldfish has, it would be considered the Einstein of its breed. I love Chickens but they’re not the smartest of creatures.

One day, Ryan and I went out for a trail ride, I was on Basil, Ryan was on his reliable, trustworthy, down-to-earth mount, Paddy. We were lazily meandering through the trees, with loose reins, chatting away and I was keeping a weathered eye out for potential monsters (i.e. leaves rustling, a breeze drifting towards us, cockatoos above us (they like to amuse themselves by dropping gum nuts onto the horses as we go under them), and particularly that terrifying creature, the Kangaroo. It lies in wait, apparently minding its own business and grazing peacefully, but all horses know that in reality, when no humans are around, the Kangaroo turns into a vicious, flesh-eating psychopath whose sole goal in life is to terrorise horses. The Roo is second in the list of dread-inducing beasts only after the Emu.

Emus strike terror into the hearts of the bravest of horses, their beady eyes conveying in great details the torment and pain that the valiant steed will suffer should the Emu capture them. The first sight of an emu will compel a horse into a breath taking turn of speed in the opposite direction to the Emu. No barrier will stand in the horse’s way, all manner of barricades will be overcome in their rush to get away from this Dreadlord. The only thing that will make a horse flee with greater velocity, is the smell of an emu. If a horse smells an emu before it sees the emu… well, they say the speed of light can’t be broken; they’ve never seen a horse who’s smelled an emu.

So, Ryan & I were happily strolling through the trees, with me keeping a look out for potential dangers, when Basil & I both got the shock of our lives, both of us rooted to the spot in bewildered astonishment. Eyes wide, our mouths hanging open, we watched as the reliable, sensible Paddy leapt straight up in the air, again and again, Ryan hanging on to the saddle for dear life. Neither Bas nor I could see anything that may have caused Paddy to behave this way, and after a few more gigantic, four-footed bronco bucks, Paddy finally unseated Ryan, pivoted as though he was swivelling on a pole and took off back to his stable as though the hounds of hell were pursuing him. After landing with an undignified “whoof!”, Ryan picked himself up off the floor and dusted himself off, while Basil and I were still rooted to the spot in flabbergasted surprise.

Although Paddy was technically a horse (he was 14.3 hands high and his breed was a horse breed, not a pony breed. For non-horsey people, 14.2 hands high is the tallest a pony can be), he had moments where he behaved like his soul was that of a pony. Ponies may look like miniature and very cute little horses, but anyone who’s been around horses for any time at all knows that ponies are actually hell-spawned creatures.* The perfect descriptor for these miniature gremlins came to my mind: SOAP – S**t Of A Pony. And we’ve had our fair share of them. Actually, that’s not quite true; yes, WE’ve had our fair share of them, but apart from Paddy, who was Ryan’s horse, Keeley has been the rider of all of them. For her entire life, she’s had one little SOAP after another, and with one exception, they’ve all been the cutest, most gorgeous looking, little grey pony who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth…

To be continued…

* Let me say that I much prefer ponies to horses. Ponies are adorable, fun and absolutely essential for any child who wants to learn to ride or for anyone who wants to learn the full gamut of equestrian behaviour and talent. Ponies are unpredictable… naughty… evil geniuses… the devil in disguise. But ponies are never boring.

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16/01/2019

A Masterclass in Losing Your Lunch Stylishly

I’m not talking about leaving your lunch behind when you head off for school or work here, I’m talking about vomiting. Puking. Barfing. Chundering. Praying to the Porcelain God. Regurgitating. Spewing. Upchucking. Throwing Up. Doing the technicolour yawn.

I have been blessed with a child who can do all of these things WITH STYLE. The girl has class. She can hit a moving target at three paces with a steady stream of highly toxic, foul smelling, stomach contents, the stench of which no washing machine or cleaning compound has ever been able to remove. This girl is a Master Hurler. Literally. She makes the kid in the exorcist look exactly like what she is: a kid. A mere novice in apprenticeship to renowned Masters of the High Art of Expelling One’s Lunch With Velocity.

I was under the happy illusion when Ryan was young that I knew all about projectile vomiting. As a very young baby, I’d have a Catching Cloth waiting as I sat him up. The optimum placement was about two feet away, directly opposite his face, ready to catch the excess contents of his stomach. I could never figure out whether he was just greedy and didn’t know when to stop eating or whether he actually had a problem swallowing his milk. He put on weight, he seemed happy, and even the barfing didn’t bother him, so I just left him.

When he was about two weeks old, I went into Monsoon to buy a dress for a works Christmas dinner that we were going to. Ryan was screaming as I tried the dress on in the shop, and, like a moron, I picked him up to comfort him. At which point he vomited down the back of the dress, completely removing the dye from the fabric where the puke touched it.

Needless to say, I had to buy the dress.

So, when Kira came along, a few smelly years later, I thought I knew all about baby puke. The boys had their fair share of tummy bugs, too, so even toddler and young child puking was old hat by then. Oh, the bliss of the ignorant.

Kira’s keen to remind me of the humiliation she suffered at my hands when she was sick one time at the age of about 8 or 9. We were in the car, having dropped the boys off at school. Kira wasn’t well but I couldn’t leave her at home by herself, so I popped her in the car in her nightie. As we were driving past chapel at school, in front of the senior school, Kira announced that she was going to