Think, think, think…

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?  ~Winnie the Pooh

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the last few days (and that is always dangerous!) and you may have noticed the lack of posts and no usual Friday Fling – I have been time poor (as one might say these days).   My post today has been initiated in part by reading the recent posts of other bloggers where I was inspired, not only by their goals, but their determined action and also the fact that many aspects of their lives they wish to improve sound just like mine.

I am sure you can identify with this yourselves but I also sense from reading many of the blogs I follow that like me there is an underlying deep desire to want to stop the world for a while to savor the moment – to live with and enjoy the changing seasons – to celebrate our days and have fun and involvement with our families and friends and the wider community.  I know that I keep trying to refocus my time and energy to reconnect, re-order and re-size – I often feel I am becoming disjointed, chaotic and everything seems far too big to handle in so little time.

Now before you continue I suggest you may want to go and make yourself a cuppa and perhaps even a snack – a healthy one of course (or a flask and sandwiches for any slower readers) as this is going to be a l-o-n-g post!

So, I thought, there are a lot of us all going in the same direction and it is good to have both encouragement and useful advise and tips along the way and the blogging world certainly provides this.  Of course the fundamental question for me – yet without an answer – (but I am working on it) is ‘Why are so many of us in this same position of wanting to reduce and organise our stuff, make better use of our time and feel in control of our lives and finances?  In short change the lives we seem to be living for the one we want to live – mostly by getting away from the constraints we feel modern life has imposed on us – without losing the aspects of it that have developed which are good.

This then led me to my other question ‘How do we cope with the never ending change often thrust upon us by the society we live in today’?   I didn’t ask for the credit crunch and recession (I had no idea the banks were in such deep trouble) but I have to find a way through it – I didn’t ask for heaps of junk mail to land on my doormat each day (I prefer to save the trees and not use printing inks full of solvents) but once I have them I can’t easily dispose of them without checking that I am not missing a good offer  – I didn’t ask for technology to develop so fast that it now invades my life and at the same time makes it impossibly demanding on my time – when I wake up to find 100 emails in my inbox each day but yet I hardly ever receive a handwritten letter from a friend I question whether all this is truly progress.

In her post of August 22nd Laura from movetoportugal.org made the following list of the goals she is working on (I hope you don’t mind me re-posting this)

  • Downsizing (which includes reducing our impact)
  • Finishing the house
  • Health and weight loss
  • Frugality (and money)
  • Moving to Portugal

If you exchange Portugal for Scotland in my case this could well be my list and I suspect the first 4 items could be most peoples.

One target I feel I need to put into place ASAP is to lose a few pounds in weight and also gain a few £’s in savings and it was this particular notion that generated my further train of thought.

Health

Now I might be on my own here (I suspect not though) but interestingly my experience is that if I were to switch these two targets around to read ‘Lose a few £’s in savings’ (by spending too much) and ‘Gain a few pounds in weight’ (by eating too much of the wrong things) I would not have any problem in reaching my target within a very short space of time!

I believe the main reason for this is that I would not have to restrict my normal actions in any way.  I would not have to avoid temptation to eat rubbish or spend money – both categories of my life that seem to come naturally where diets and budgets do not.

So the million dollar question is ‘How do I turn this around so that I can eat and lose weight and spend but still save’?

My answer is that I probably cannot (at the moment) but again I am working on this and I will implement a plan and I will take action.

So, I ask myself, ‘Why is it so difficult’?  Well for me in particular (yours may be different) I could identify a number of reasons:-

5 reasons I find eating healthily and losing weight difficult

  1. I am not huge by any means and I am only talking about losing half a stone (mainly around my spreading middle) but it is creeping up gradually and as I have to take Thyroxin daily (I had to have my Thyroid removed in 2008 due to cancer) this has had some bearing on my weight gain over time. Getting the medication stable is a work of art in itself – too much and I get palpitations and ‘jittery’  too little and I gain weight and become tired.
  2. We consume far too many buns and treats at work for all kinds of occasions – birthdays, back from holidays, getting married, getting divorced, passing exams, weather too hot, weather too cold – at our firm whatever reason we can find to celebrate and treat ourselves we will!  This is so different to when I started work back in the early seventies where you all stopped for a 10 minute tea break  twice a day and didn’t snack and graze at your desk.  Birthday buns and the like were just not on the agenda in those days – a simple Happy Birthday was usual and treats and rewards for other events never happened  – unless it was the day you retired!
  3. Having to cook ready meals or quick egg and chip type meals because I have worked late, or not been shopping after work, or too tired to make a meal from scratch and not having enough of anything in the cupboards and fridge to scrape together a meal.  Even my best made plans can go wrong when I have unexpected overtime and cannot then go to the supermarket.
  4. Eating more than I need and snacking.  Have you noticed just how big our dishes are these days – cereal bowls, plates and cups are huge in comparison with the ones I grew up with.  Costa and others sell their drinks by the bucket and have you seen their new super-sized Bourbon and Custard creams (Wow), the average 5’4″ woman weighed 8st 6 lbs with a 26″ waist in the 1950’s and 11st 2lb with a 34.5″ waist in 2006 – I think as a nation we could be overeating a little bit and need to control our portion size!
  5. Having a desk job for the last 13 years.  Some days I find that I have hardly moved off my chair especially if my colleague goes to fetch our lunch.  Email is quick but means I can ask anyone anything from my desk whereas when I first began work I had to physically go and find a person.

10 reasons I find controlling my spending difficult –

  1. Constant changing of fashions and ‘in’ colours – anything from clothes to glasses to household items and furniture – and the sheer abundance of choice out there.  It is very tempting to go and browse in TK Max, Laura Ashley or Ikea and then convince yourself you need this or that.
  2. Escalating food prices.  Basic staples and healthy foods can be some of the dearest products.  Vegetables can be dearer now than buying a pack of cheap chicken legs.
  3. We have more snacks and lunches out – if we go out for the day or go our nearest shopping centre we always stop for a drink and a snack just to recharge.
  4. Our money has now to stretch to fund things like printing inks for the printer, water filter cartridges, packs of printing paper, mobile phone top-ups and DVD discs to mention a few.  When we first married none of these items were required.
  5. Our utility bills and insurances have seriously increased over the years and continue to increase substantially each year.
  6. Constant storage problems and the cost of buying storage items to solve the problem of keeping and organising ‘stuff’.
  7. We spend more on Christmas and Birthdays than perhaps we once did partly because our family is growing and partly because I buy for quite a few friends at work – I am not particularly objecting to this – it is just a fact and an expense.
  8. Savings interest and pensions are just not reaching the same returns therefore we either have to save more or prepare for a retirement with less money and work for longer.
  9. Paying by card is somehow more detached than paying with cash.  We use a debit not credit card but I still think it encourages you to spend more.  If you only have cash in your pocket and no other means of paying you have to tot up whats in your basket before you get to the till.
  10. Lack of time can increase my spending – resorting to expensive ready meals – having to grab items rather than having time to shop around and also that old dilemma – if you don’t buy it today you can’t go back and find it still there tomorrow.  I often buy things impulsively that I regret just because I can’t really decide if it is suitable for what I want but feel if I leave it and then decided it is what I wanted it would not be there when I returned to the shop. One of our recurring frustrations is when we take too long to decide over something only to find it has then been discontinued.

This is not a finite list but I am sure that many of you will identify with some of these points.  Some of them I can do little about – such as Council Tax – but for the rest I will look at my options and create a plan.

It is clear that I need to turn around how and what I eat and how and what I spend so that it is as normal as the habits I have now.  I think it all boils down to the feel good factor –  I need to transfer the feel good of a quick fix chocolate biscuit (high calorie) onto the feel good of an apple (low calorie) and likewise the feel good of spending onto the feel good of saving.

I will now need go and do more thinking before I can proceed and formulate a plan.  Watch this space…

I would love to know your thoughts on the subject and any suggestions you might have.

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9 thoughts on “Think, think, think…

  1. What a thought provoking post this is,we are trying to readjust our lives too, to take the country lanes instead of the motorways of life! I suppose we reached this decision by friends dying young, having more time on our hands ,with the children mainly living away from home ,and sadly no longer having dependent parents. We have always been interested in green issues and set up and ran a local FOE group in the 80’s so we do where possible try to do things in an environmentally friendly way.
    I have read quite a few books over the years and the biggest impact for me has been only buying something eg. clothes,books, stuff for the house if something else is removed from the house.It works wonders with implusive buys as you have to love it more than something you already have! I don’t go looking around the shops so much because I don’t need anything.
    I read out your piece about food for celebrations at work to my husband and he agreed with every word.
    My biggest challenge at the moment apart from loosing a few pounds too, is reducing my time spent on the computer. I read too many blogs which I love and I need to curb my list somehow. I do find however that reading and being reminding of my aims through other blogs reminds me I want to be on those country lanes, so thank you for the reminders above.
    Sarah x

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    • Hi Sarah
      Thank you for your encouraging comments – the one in / one out rule is one I should bear in mind – I usually beat myself up too much for buying things that I then discard because they are not as useful as I thought they were going to be or are superseded by something coming along that is better. So I find getting rid of things difficult because of the whole waste thing. I am in the throws of changing my ‘cuttings’ binders and have had to put the old ones in the loft just in case they might be useful in the future or the new ones I have are not as good as I thought they might be! Is there any hope for me? Now after reading your comments I think I might just have to go and get them back out of the loft and take them to a charity shop.
      On the computer front – I too should spend less time reading blogs – since having my own I find this has also escalated and my hubby has become a computer widower. He keeps reminding me of my famous last words I uttered in 1998 – ‘what do we need a computer for?’ and now I am by far the biggest user my whole life is on here. Viv x

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  2. Thanks for the shout out and the post. It’s got me thinking too.

    I’m on a constant quest to reduce my spending, although it’s not too bad, I could still do better.
    What I find helps is a wish list. I keep a list of everything I would like/need and then eventually when the time/price is right I buy them. This means I think before I buy nearly all the time.
    When it comes to clothing I’ve eliminated fashion from my wardrobe by sticking to a ‘classic uniform’. It stops me moving with the up to date trends but keeps me looking okay (most of the time :))

    Other things that help keep me on the financial straight and narrow:a zero based cash budget and menu planning. Both huge money savers.

    I’m sure I’ll be back to this post when things come to mind. I’m looking forward to following along as you achieve your dream of moving to Scotland 🙂

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    • Hi Laura
      Thanks for stopping by and making time to comment – you have certainly got plenty of good ideas. I like the idea of the uniform – I once tried something similar myself by carefully selecting a capsule wardrobe for work and some co-ordinated leisure items for home – but then everything wore out combined with a few unsettled years during my operation in 2008 and treatment afterwards where my weight plummeted to 7stone and on my return home from hospital I had to dash to Sainsbury’s clothing section for a couple of outfits just to get by. It has slowly increased again over the last 4 years so in my wardrobe I have a motley selection of sizes 8 – 12 and even a size 14 (must have been a tight fitting garment – that’s my excuse!) I have always been on the natural skinny side until I hit 40 and then recently having my Thyroid removed so any extra weight always feels heavy to me. 8st 12lb is my optimum level but my main reason for losing those few niggly pounds is mainly for health as I am an apple shape just like my mum and gran!. I have been buying clothes haphazardly recently and your comment has certainly helped me to realise that I must address my wardrobe problem again.
      Not sure quite what you mean about a zero based cash budget and menu planning is this something you have in detail on your blog it sounds interesting though perhaps you will get back to me about this one? Viv

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  3. Excellent post. For myself, I could never motivate myself to lose weight just so I could look better or wear different clothes. I am just not that appearance-oriented. The only technique that ever works for me is wanting to eat healthy food. If I go on an anti-consumer jag and get determined to stop buying junk food and packaged food, there is no stopping me! It makes me feel good not to support evil corporations 🙂 I have been on one of those jags for a while now (inspired by Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules). My budgeting was kick-started by saving for my kid’s college degree. Said kid left school after a year, but I have kept saving at the same rate, so it seems normal now – plus, I get to keep the money!

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    • Hi there – thanks for your comments – you sound like you can become very motivated to change something and really get your teeth into things. I very much admire that – I expect there is no stopping you – perhaps you could send me some of your determination. Your comments have led me to think of instances where I have had such perseverance in the past and look at what prompted this and why other times I have had the intention but not the follow through. In the seventies whilst at Art College me and my better half had a very green totally ‘no plastic’ kitchen. We had enamel buckets and the old wood and bristle dish mop, glass storage jars etc and not a plasti-pot anywhere it was fun to do – sadly when we had babies we no longer felt it easy to live by this principle but we have remained strictly vegetarian so have helped with our carbon footprint. Viv

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    • Hi there Dusa – Thank you for stopping by and your lovely comment – I think a lot of us are looking to simplify and reduce in all areas of our lives – we are just overloaded by stuff, time pressures and responsibilities – I find it encouraging that there are so many useful ideas on the blogs I visit – I enjoy reading your thrifty and up-cycling posts but particularly liked your post about your spend out “http://brightobjects.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/spending-out-the-kitchen-edition/” Once or twice a year we have a trip to John Lewis one of my favourite shops and find we do something similar – I do like to buy things of quality that last and choose them carefully because we find we do keep things for years and years (last washing machine 22 years old, fridge now 27 years,bed we replaced this year 26 years old, kettle 12 years) it is always very satisfying to feel I have got my monies worth out of things – sadly our decorating is a similar age in places but that certainly doesn’t have the same satisfaction!!

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  4. I actually find I spend less by not having cash. I keep a very close eye on the checking acct, so always know what’s in there. I tend to think of cash as “free money” and it trickles through my fingers. The debit card actually makes me more accountable.

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