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Archive for November, 2008

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How did I do on my November goals? Let’s see:

  • Travel. I had planned a six-day roadtrip for four adults through California and wanted to stick to a budget of $1000. Because I’m actually still away I haven’t done the final sums, so I’ll dedicate a post to that next week. STILL IN PROGRESS
  • Financial. I wanted to put together a budget for the next six months which will allow me to add substantially to our emergency fund. We’ve had a few unexpected expenses in the last few months and we have planned some travel for early next year, so I revised our current budget. If we can stick to it, we can add about $28,000 to the emergency fund by the end of June 2009. PASS
  • Health. I needed to reduce my stress, get more sleep, drink more water, eat good foods and exercise. Because I was sick I didn’t exercise as much as I had planned, but I did rest more than I have in a long time. I knew this was going to be a non-specific goal and I’m happy that I did the best for my body at the time. PASS
  • Work. I had planned to complete an assignment for work. Unfortunately I got quite sick for a week which seriously limited my creative inspiration during that time. The assignment was only partially finished and will need to be worked on in December. On the plus side, I was assigned the job to organise a big function for next January. It didn’t leave a lot of time to get organised, but in a few short days I had put together a committee and had everyone working towards a great event. This more than makes up for the other incomplete task. PASS

Photo by: T.MoE

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Last week we watched The Bucket List on DVD again. For those that haven’t seen it, it’s about two strangers who meet each other in hospital, where they are both told they have only months to live. They decide that there are things in life that they would like to do and see before they kick the bucket, and they commence a journey around the world to see all the big sights like the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids. Their travels are really only part of the journey they are on, and both make some big realisations in the process.

While this movie inspires me to create a bucket list of my own (I have one, but it’s in my head) what really hits me is is that most of us don’t know how long we have left. Knowing this, if we have big plans, why would we put them off? Why not live like we have 6 months left: Make up with lost loved ones, tell people we love them, see those things we must see, experience as much as we can within our means, and leave a legacy to be proud of.

I think that being reminded of our own mortality ensures that we don’t get complacent with our dreams. There is no better time to pursue them than now.

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We are currently enjoying our road-trip around California. The trip will total about 1400 miles, and to reduce the amount we spend on travel we made a little bit of an effort to employ some good new habits.

Things we did before we left to improve our fuel efficiency

  • Car tune up. Having clean oil and air filters improves fuel efficiency. Before we left home, we made sure we had our car tuned up to make sure it was running at its best.
  • Inflate tyres. Inflating our tyres to the specified level will reduce the amount of friction on the road and will improve our mileage.
  • Remove unnecessary roof racks. This will the reduce the amount of wind resistance our car will experience and save us plenty of gasoline.

Driving techniques which limited the gas guzzling

  • Accelerate and brake gently. We can increase our mileage by keeping the ride smooth because our car consumes the most gas as it accelerates. We try to avoid weaving in and out of traffic and if we can find another driver traveling about our speed, we’ll happily sit in behind them.
  • Use the cruise. Cruise control automatically keeps the speed relatively constant, thus reducing the need to accelerate. 
  • Shift into neutral. When we are waiting at lights, we shift the car into neutral to reduce the strain on the transmission and allow it to cool off somewhat.
  • Turn off the AC. Where possible we’ll park in the shade so we don’t need to radically cool the car. When it’s not too hot we rely on air from the vents, or when travelling at low speeds we can wind down the windows. At high speed, it’s probably better to use AC rather than have the windows down, becuase that introduces drag. 

Other ideas

  • Choose cheaper gas. Obvious huh? When you come into a town after a long stretch of driving, don’t pick the first gas station on the edge of town. They usually have the highest prices. You’ll find cheaper gas further in town. Also avoid big service centers on the freeway. If you exit off the freeway, you’ll find cheaper gas in a small town off the main thoroughfare.

Photo by: pbo31

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The joys of car ownership.

Three days before we planned to head off on our big roadtrip around California my husband organised his usual inspection of our car. He ensured the oil, filters and tyres were in good order before our trip of over a thousand miles. He booked the car in for a wheel alignment to ensure it would be travelling well on the road. Unfortunately, the mechanics found something wrong with the suspension….to the tune of $280. *Sigh* There goes this months budget.

Adapt and overcome

While the monetary cost was somewhat painful, doing without a car for a few days was daunting. We are so reliant on our one car that our immediate reaction could have been one of panic. I had to get to work, hubby had to get to an appointment which was normally a 20 minute drive and my family had to get on their tour bus to Mexico. Instead of panicking I told hubby that I would ride to work despite a lingering illness, I could get my family on the ferry which would take them close to where they needed to catch their tour bus and hubby worked out how he could get to his appointment using public transport and a few miles of walking.

Boy…Are we proud of ourselves

This might seem like a minor thing to most people. To us, however, being a little bit resourceful and managing without a vehicle shows that we are on the right path. We can make do. We didn’t need to make it more difficult than it was. We all survived and learnt a little something in the process.

Photo by: JosephGilbert

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California Dreaming

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A little while ago I posted my list of medium-term travel goals. This week I’m off to try and tick off a few more of my ‘must see’ places:

  • Yosemite National Park, California, USA
  • San Francisco, California, USA 
  • Sequoia National Park, California, USA
  • Big Sur Drive, California, USA

My biggest challenge is to try and do this trip on a budget of $40 per person per day, including accommodation, transport and food. I’ll write a post when I return about whether we managed to achieve it.

Photo by: Premshree Pillai

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I was tagged by Money On My Mind. Here are 6 things you don’t know about me…

  • In my life I’ve been a cleaner, waitress, surf shop assistant, kitchen cabinet maker, student, landlord, photographer and an aerospace engineer. I’ve rarely worked only one job at a time. As a teenager I worked three jobs in addition to going to school, playing sport and acting in the high school musical. No wonder I’ve always been exhausted! I started working at the age of 12.
  • I’ve always been a saver and I find putting away money the most natural thing in the world. At 15 I bought my own car (a 1969 VW beetle) and at 16 I bought my first shares. The first time I went into debt was when I bought my first home at 23.
  • Growing up, I remember my family being poor. I never felt hard done by and my parents worked hard to make sure we had all our needs met. It was kind of fun finding enough pots and pans to catch the water leaking through the roof when it rained. My sister and I also became very resourceful with our toys. Once we were given someone’s hand-me-down Barbie Doll. We already had one Barbie, but really wanted a Ken doll. So we cut off Barbie’s hair and boobs and there you have it…the world’s first transexual Barbie doll.
  • As a teenager I became a savvy thrift-shopper. I would find amazing, unique pieces of clothing and everyone would always comment on my outfits. (In a positive way). My most memorable purchase was this amazing tailored, black velvet jacket which I found for 20c.
  • In school I was a straight-A student. At the end of grade 12 I was awarded the Australian Students Prize which goes to the top 500 students graduating high school each year.
  • Since my early 20’s it’s been my goal to become a millionaire by 35. If you combine mine and my husbands net worth, we have over a $million now (despite losing a lot on the stock market). I think I set this goal becuase I thought I would feel secure when I had that much money. I don’t…and that’s why I’m changing the way I live my life. I hope by blogging the journey, that I will receive the clarity I need.

I am tagging:

Simple Green Frugal

Middle Way

Choosing Voluntary Simplicity

Ugly Debty

Canadian Dream: Free at 45

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In the last few months, we have made a real effort to turn a darker shade of green. I mean, I’ve always recycled, minimised water usage and turned off the lights, but recently we’ve stepped it up a notch. All these changes have been really easy to implement and although they are great for the planet, they are also nice on the hip pocket.

1. We’ve replaced most of the light bulbs in our house with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. They might cost more to purchase but they last for years and save money on your electricity bill. To be honest, they weren’t even that expensive to buy. We got a bulk pack from Costco and replaced the high-use bulbs in our house first. As the rest of our regular bulbs need replacing, we’ll swap in more CFLs.

2. We walk to the grocery store and carry home our shopping in reusable canvas bags. It’s great for the environment and even better for our biceps. It takes a little strategic packing, but we have the clerks at the grocery store well trained now. We make a point of refusing all plastic bags and it’s been interesting to watch people’s reactions to our explanations. I must say, recently we’ve been getting less strange looks. Perhaps it’s catching on. 

3. We buy less stuff. I have a real problem with buying more new things which just adds to to the amount of waste produced. We’ve decided to try and buy everything second-hand, but so far it’s just meant we haven’t bought anything. I intend to try craigslist.org and freecycle.org when we get the chance.

4. I use the local library. I love to read. I inhale books and of course I have the bookshelves to prove it. To my credit I’ve bought 90% of my books second hand, but it’s still money and still paper. In about 60% of cases now, I can find the book I want in the local library. I can check online and if it’s not available I can then choose whether to buy it or not. One of these days I’ll try some of those book swapping websites.

5. We repair. Actually, my husband repairs and I congratulate him on what an amazing job he’s done. He’s extremely resourceful and has saved many an item from the scrap heap. Most recently he’s given a second life to a beloved pair of shoes I’ve had for about 10 years and a pair of sunglasses on which the arm had completely snapped off. Not only has this saved us quite a substantial amount of money, but I get to keep using items I love and we save them from becoming landfill. 

6. We minimise our heating. So far we’ve managed to not turn the heater on at all. On cold nights we put more clothes on, use a throw rug and snuggle. We open all the blinds that allow sunlight in during the day and then closed everything up mid afternoon as the sun drops low.

7. We regularly give the car a checkup. Actually my husband maintains the car and I congratulate him for having so many useful skills. Having dirty oil or a dirty air filter actually costs you more to run the car. A quick tune-up will see your car run more efficiently and it will emit less pollution.

8. We turn of the tap (faucet). It’s such an easy one. We don’t need to keep water running while cleaning our teeth or peeling potatoes. We water our very minimal lawn as little as possible and we wash the car at a car wash that recycles their water.  When we lived in Australia we would always be on water restrictions. It was a normal part of life in a dry country. Now we live in California, another very dry place and we are horrified at the amount of water that is wasted.

9. We utilise reusable water bottles and mugs. There is no need for a new plastic water bottle every time I want a drink. I just refill my BPA-free bottle with filtered tap water. I also carry my travel mug with me on trips to the coffee cart. My barista appreciates that I bring my own and do my bit to reduce the horrendous amounts of paper and plastic cups making their way into landfill.

10. We are starting to buy more local and seasonal food. We eat all the fruit off our orange and apple trees. We frequent our local farmers market and do our best to identify local produce in our grocery store.  We still have a very long way to go on this task, but at least we’ve made a start. Next year, we are starting a small vegetable garden in our courtyard.

There are plenty of other simple, cost effective things we should be doing. Can you suggest any we can implement right now??

Photo by: Orcoo

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