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Archive for January, 2009

Wrap-up of January 09 Goals

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Finances

  • Work through Your Money or Your Life  I’ve made good progress, but still have about half of the book to go.
  • Update my budget for 2009  We’ll have enough to pay all interest on our mortgages and other loans and save about $30,000. Not as much as I would have liked, but better than nothing.
  • Submit overdue tax returns I’ve done everything I can and am now waiting for news from my accountant.
  • Claim all outstanding money

Work/Business

  • Coordinate a function/party for work Done. It was a huge success
  • Complete assignments for two work courses.
  • Blog five times per week for the month Done.

Personal/Spiritual Development and Education

  • Read daily and participate in Bookclub Done.
  • Download podcasts and listen to them while walking the dog. I downloaded the podcasts, but didn’t get to listen to them.

Relationships

  • Call my good friends in Australia Done
  • Write at least one letter to someone not on email Done
  • Go on a couple of dates with Hubby Done. We went to the Electric Vehicle presentation and for a hike. How romantic!

Social/Fun

  • Finalise plans for my March travels Done. Flights are all booked.
  • Catch up with local friends Done. Had a couple of fun catch-ups

Health

  • 25 no alcohol days. Fail. I think I had about 20 no-alcohol days, so it’s wasn’t too bad.
  • Train three days per week with Hubby I’m going to say I achieved this one, despite one week off for a bad back.
  • Go on a 2+ hour hike at least twice Done
  • Take weekly measurements to track progress Done

Household

  • Implement an improved system for managing household paperwork. Sort of. It’s been operational for a few weeks, so we’ll see if it sticks.

Photo by: macwagen

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All this talk of buying houses by Early Retirement Middle Way and Money on My Mind has me yearning for another property of my own. Of course, it’s completely out of the question for the moment because:

  • I’m in the USA for another two years so there is no point buying another house back in Australia now;
  • My finances are such that I probably couldn’t get a loan for another property now anyway; and
  • Apparently house prices have started dropping in Australia, so I can’t really recoup a profit from one of the other houses if I sold it.

Still, it doesn’t stop me dreaming. I love having my own place. I envisage having my own garden, putting in rainwater tanks and a greywater recycling system. I foresee a solar system on the roof. I want to live close to town so that we can do without a second vehicle and so we can walk or ride to shops, cafes and work. If we rent, we won’t be able to do any of these things.

Unfortunately, in order to buy a property close to the town I’m thinking, with enough land to have a garden and fruit trees, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. *Sigh* I guess I’m going to have to relegate this dream to the ‘longer term’ pile and just focus on the baby steps to reach that goal.

Photo by: Aaardvaark

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Earlier this week, Hubby and I attended a local presentation on Electric Vehicles by an affiliate of the Electric Auto Association (EAA). Hubby is quite keen to learn how to convert an ordinary motor vehicle into an electric car, and I went along as an interested observer. While we don’t need a second car while we are living here in the USA, we both think it will make a great project for when we return to Australia. As luck would have it, we found out that there is a course running later this year which will provide hubby with two weeks of hands on experience in conducting the conversion. I think he’s just a little bit excited about getting his hands dirty again.

who-killed-the-electric-carSome time last year we watched the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. Much of what we learned in that movie was discussed at this weeks presentation, so I thought I’d provide a quick overview.

The movie deals with the history of the electric car, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1 which was made available for lease in Southern California after the California Air Resources Board passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate in 1990. The movie also looks at the implications for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics and global warming.

The film details the California Air Resources Board’s reversal of the mandate after lawsuits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry and the George W. Bush administration.

The film discusses some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car and explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies. ~Wiki

California is now planning to re-introduce a regulation mandating more highly fuel-efficient vehicles. This could come into force as soon as the federal government grants the state a waiver from less-stringent national standards. The rule would require automakers to produce vehicles that cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016, resulting in an average vehicle fuel-efficiency of 35.7 miles per gallon – far higher than the current federal standard of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.3 mpg for SUVs and light trucks.

The rule had been delayed by the Bush administration since 2005 but on Monday, President Obama ordered his environmental officials to immediately review California’s regulation, strongly hinting that he would like to allow the state and 13 others to move forward with stricter emissions standards.

It’s quite exciting to be living in California at this time. I truly hope we see the comeback of the electric car in the near future. It would be nice to live without the constant smog.

 

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The Prime Minister of Australia has just announced a new initiate to encourage Australians to pull together to beat the rapidly worsening economic downturn. 

KEVIN Rudd wants to recruit an army of young volunteers to help the elderly, feed the homeless, and clean up the environment. 

In exchange for giving up their time, members of the new Community Corps would get discounts on their university <..> debts. The proposal could attract tens of thousands of volunteers from the 1.3 million Australians with a higher education debt. 

Corps members could deliver meals on wheels, youth and Aboriginal services, become volunteer firefighters, or assist the disabled and elderly. Landcare and water projects could also benefit. 

It is understood the Corps would operate within Australia, unlike the US Peace Corps, which works on projects across the globe.  ~ news.com.au

Thankfully I received a scholarship to attend University. For those of you who had to take on student loans, would you consider volunteering if it meant you could reduce your debts?

Photo by: Mil

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Jan 26th is Australia Day and although it’s still the 25th here, it’s already tomorrow over there. Confused?

Yesterday I hosted a big Australia Day party. Today I’m exhausted and I’m so glad it’s over for another year. I can’t believe how quickly a day can go. I had a great time though. As an ex-pat living in a new country it’s really nice to a have a taste of home, even for just one day.

Here are a few posts I really enjoyed this week:

Photo by: Jamestee

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In yesterday’s post I listed Sustainability Changes That Save Money which we have managed to successfully include in our life. Today I need to admit that there are many, mnay things that we need to improve upon.

  • Barter and trade with neighbors and friends.

[D] I’ve thought about it…does that count? Yesterday, Hubby and I were actually brainstorming some ways we could do some of this inthe near future.

  • Utilize Freecycle, Craigs List, and other local free exchanges.

[C] We use these where possible. It’s only been a recent pledge to buy pre-loved instead of new, so the habits are not yet ingrained.

  • Shop at thrift stores and garage sales, and arrange clothing swaps with friends and family.

[C] I swap clothes with family and have shopped at thrifts stores in the past, but it isn’t a big part of my life now. I think I’m 90% ready to say no to new clothes for the remainder of this year. I’ll get there soon, I’m sure.

  • Buy in bulk: buy from bulk bins at your local market, buy large quantities of staples via special order from your local market or online, buy a whole case which generally comes with a case discount, and buy large packages of food you use regularly. If buying in bulk leaves you with too much food, go in on the purchase with a friend or set up a community buying club.

[C] We buy bulk sugar, flour, beans and oats from Costco as well as canned goods. Honesly I think there is more that we could be doing in this area, and we plan to explore it further this year.

  • Buy fruit and vegetable seconds and day old bakery items.  

[D] We don’t go out of our way to do this.

  • Pick your own produce at a local farm.

[C] Where possible we buy at the local Farmer’s Market, however we need to embrace this more

  • Grow your own food.

[D] We have straw bales to start our own Straw Bale vegetable garden, but at the moment they are just growing grass.

  • Learn to preserve food by canning, drying, root cellaring, freezing, and pickling.  

[C] So far I’ve tried tomato relish and orange marmalade. I intend to experiment more when we have extra food in our own garden.

  • Make your own cleaning and body products from simple and cheap ingredients like vinegar, baking soda/bicarb, hydrogen peroxide, corn starch, cooking oil, lemon juice, and water.  

[D] We’ve used vinegar for cleaning, but haven’t tried any of these other remedies yet.

  • Unplug or turn off power switches to appliances when not in use, to save electricity.

[C]We turn off lights and appliances if they aren’t in use, but we really need to get power boards so that our appliances aren’t inadvertently sucking electricity.

  • Reduce shower times, bathe less often, and use bath water to water outdoor plants and flush toilets.

[C] We are concious of reducing the water we use, but haven’t yet started to monitor our actual usage.

  • Use coupons.  I recently bought a book of coupons for local shopping.  

[D] Not something we’ve even looked at yet.

I guess this is now a good opportunity to start working on bringing more of these elements into our lives.

Photo by: bitzcelt

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I recently came across this great list of 25 Sustainability Changes That Save Money over at Simple | Green | Frugal Co-op. Here are the changes I seem to have done well at implementing into my life.

  • Take advantage of your local library for books, music, and videos.

[A] I get about 90% of my books from the library.

  • Walk or bike, use public transportation, carpool with neighbors and co-workers, and consolidate any car errands to one or two days per week.

[A] We ride to work and to most places in our local community, walk to the grocery store and usually take the car out a maximum of twice during the week.

  • Think about getting rid of your car to save money on insurance, maintenance, and gas.

[B] We’ve downshifted from two cars to one.

  • Use a clothesline instead of the dryer.

[A] We’ve rigged up a line in our back courtyard and line-dry all our washing.

  • Replace paper towels & napkins with cloth.  

[B] Mostly we use cloth for wiping spills and drying dishes, but I admit we still use paper towel on occasion.

  • Make your own lunches for school and work.

[A] I always take lunch from home. I even said no to lunch with work colleagues yesterday.

  • Stop buying snacks and take-out food, and instead cook at home.  

[A]I can’t even remember the last time we had take-out. We eat at home nearly every night now and Hubby is even baking our own snacks. Mmmm…carrot cake.

  • Plan your menus.  If you plan your menus for the week, you will use all of the food you’ve purchased, you’ll be able to shop just once a week, you can make sure to utilize seasonal items, and you can save time and stress by not having to worry about “what’s for dinner.”

[B] We plan a weekly menu, shop once per week and use all of our food. However, at the moment we don’t consider what is seasonal. We need to become more mindful.

  • Recycle and compost as much as possible to reduce trash collection fees.

[B] We recycle everything we can, however I’d really like to start composting as well.

  • Mend and repair.  

[B] Hubby is a genius when it comes to fixing things. When he puts his mind to it, there’s almost nothing he can’t bring back to life.

  • As they burn out, replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs.  They cost more initially, but they will save significant amounts of electricity and will last many times longer than an incandescent bulb.

[A] All of the lights that are used with regularity now have CFLs.

  • Turn off the television, get rid of your cable bill, and take up reading, knitting, and walking more regularly.

[B] We don’t have cable, we limit out TV viewing to a few shows per week and have been reading more in the evenings. We are a little addicted to Netflix, although we do watch a lot of documentaries.

I’m quite happy that we are doing well on much of the list.  I can honestly say that we’re doing much better that we would have been two years ago, but tomorrow I’ll look at those items we really need to improve upon.

Photo by: Erica Marshall

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