Category: Goals

2019: The Year of Discipline

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” 
― Eleanor Roosevelt

If you’ve been around this corner of the internet for a minute, you’ll know that I don’t really get into resolutions so much as I do yearly themes. I’ve found this to be a much more useful way to frame a year and the things I want to achieve in it.

A lot of good has come out of my Year of Health and I think my next focus needs to be on making some of the big changes I’ve made stick. This has been a good year after a few harder years, ones of hustle and grind. I’m starting to feel as if that hustle is paying off more, and that the grind is not taking the toll on my mind and body that it once did.

Looking ahead, I’d like to turn my attention to maintaining positive equilibrium and trajectory. 2019 is going to be the Year of Discipline. What is this going to look like you ask?

Fewer Lazy Days
I’ve been pretty honest about the fact that being married to an introvert has made me develop some homebody tendencies. And I’m not mad about it, I take great pleasure in down time and scheduling time by myself or with Jeff. However, looking back, I see that I have allowed myself to default to lazy far too often in the past year. Whether that means staying in bed too long in the mornings, goofing off on the internet too late at night, or just generally lazing about–those are hours and days I won’t get back. Now, I’m not throwing in the towel on relaxing, but I do want to be more thoughtful and intentional about how I use my leisure time, so I’m going to try and schedule at least one small activity a week to get out of the house more and take advantage of the city. Especially during the summer!

Financial Discipline
I made big progress this past year in making healthier money habits, next year is about maintaining them and holding myself to a policy of radical honesty. I will continue to document my makeup spending freeze and report truthfully on my purchases. I think I will resurrect my item based goal and see if I can hold myself to a goal of only buying 19 items in 2019–and I’ll hold myself publicly accountable on this as well.

Staying Healthy
Let’s be clear: I still hate exercising. I will probably hate it until the day I die. But it’s good for me, makes me feel better about life overall, and keeps my body and brain in a better state–who every could have guessed it! I’m most able to stick with exercise routines when I do the work of building them into my other routines and making it difficult to deviate from them, so that’s what I’m going to try to do more of in 2019.

Emotional Discipline
One of the things I still don’t feel I have enough of a handle on is how effected I am by other people’s moods, circumstances that I cannot control, or simple bad days. Rather than swinging from highs to lows so easily, I want to work on being more stoic and resilient and less susceptible to emotional influence. I’m not entirely sure how to best achieve this, but I think it will involve being more considered in the media I consume, more measured in my own speech and actions, and generally attempting to be more thoughtful and slow to react. Good luck to me…

Dress for the Job I’ve Got
I’ve gotten my career to a place that I’m proud of and at a more senior level and now I want to be sure I look the part. As my trivial and superficial goal, I’m committing to more discipline in my in my morning routine. I want to get up earlier and spend more time putting together more and better prepared outfits, using my accessories and jewelry more often and effectively, and to upping my grooming game. Instead of whipping my hair into ponytails and buns when I’m at a loss–this will be the year that I finally tame my damn mane!

Let me know if you’ve picked any goals or themes for 2019 in the comments!

Things to Leave in 2018

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.” 
― Henry Ward Beecher

A by-no-means-exhaustive list of stuff that you should give yourself permission to simply ditch in the upcoming year:

Subscriptions you aren’t using (we ditched NowTV)

Crippling self doubt and/or loathing. God, the time you’ll get back…

Any sense of shame or dismay about your faves–if you like cheesy pop music, reruns of specific sitcoms instead of that new prestige drama everyone one else is into, certain video games, or anything at all that gives you joy, lean into that feeling and let your fan flag fly!

Social media feeds that do not positively contribute to your life in some way, or that magnify unhealthy or negative tendencies

One toxic relationship–doesn’t matter what kind

One bad habit

Any tendency to speak unkindly about yourself

Self flagellation over that one Big Idea or task that you can’t seem to make progress on. Take a break, give yourself some grace, focus on something else for a bit and see what happens

The broken gadgets and mismatched cords in that one drawer you never open

Clothes that don’t fit

Books you don’t like

Stuff you don’t use

Obviously this is mostly a self reminder, but more seriously, list me some of the things you are going to try to leave in 2018?

Overcoming the Sunk Cost Fallacy

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.” 
― Noam Chomsky

This year I have thrown away or donated literally hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. Wherever possible I have given away and donated things that I don’t want or don’t use. My little sister has benefited from the regular reorganization of my bathroom shelves and closet. I’ve given unloved items to coworkers and friends, and my preferred charity shops have received several drop offs. But stuff has also ended up in the trash where I couldn’t reasonably or ethically unload it.

I sort of cringe to type that, but it’s the truth and I’m continuing to try and be radically transparent about my money choices. Hi, I’m C. and I have (metaphorically) tossed money in the garbage in 2018.

In thinking about what I’ve gotten rid of in the last year in a bit of depth, I realized how much of being able to reduce my possessions and luxuries to a more reasonable level has come from a breakthrough about a concept that is well established in the economics world and drives a surprising amount of consumerism in my opinion. Let me explain…

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

The Sunk Cost Fallacy is an economic and business concept which can be explained in a lot of very complex and intelligent ways but can be boiled down pretty simply: a sunk cost is money that you have either spent or lost and that there is no way to get back. The fallacy part happens when human biology and psychology kicks in. There is some pretty good scientific reporting out there about how, as a species, we are designed to try and maximize our investment of time, energy, or resources. Unfortunately, there is also good scientific reporting to show that we can also be pretty dumb about calculating our return on this investment. Where we have spent time, energy, or resources on a thing, the more we have put into that thing, the less likely we are of being able to walk away from it, even if the results are bad.

Businesses fall prey to this, and so do people. If you’ve ever stayed in a movie theatre watching a film you hated, if you have ever extended a relationship of any kind even as it turned toxic, if you have ever continued to throw money at an idea or business even as the likelihood of your success shrinks, if you have ever kept eating a meal after you are full simply because you’ve paid for it, you have fallen into the SCF. Obviously these things are not at all on the same scale as one another, but the principle is the same.

Once you awaken to the SCF, I mean really awaken to it and its effects in your life rather than just being aware of it as a concept, you start seeing it everywhere. Learning to realize and accept my own SCF thinking when it comes to my spending has been a process for me over the past couple of years. A small, irrational part of me used to try to justify my bad money choices–which I think is a fairly common experience. If I hold on to this item, I may use it some day. It may fit. I may like it more. It may be useful.

I’m facing up to this because, speaking only for my own case, this has been categorically bullshit.

A makeup or skincare item that breaks you out or you hate the look of on your face is no less expensive or more valuable for sitting on your shelves for months because you refuse to either re-home it or throw it away.

A piece of clothing that you never wear or lingers in the closet (possibly with the tags on) did not cost you less because you are holding on it.

An item that doesn’t function the way you need it to will not function better for taking up space in your drawer, and you probably will not use it more over time.

When you buy something, in almost every single case, the damage has been done. The cost of labor, construction, and transportation has already been incurred. Your wallet has taken the hit. And unless you come to your senses and return the item quickly, you are not getting your money back. This is why certain items have ended up in the donation pile or in the bin this past year. I had done the financial damage, the choice was not the best one, and I had to find an intelligent way forward.

Managing your bad money choices.

So, how have I coped with this uncomfortable tally in the past year? A few ways.

I put myself on certain restrictions, and documented them publicly to keep myself honest. I didn’t quite meet my goals, but by writing and talking about them, I am convinced I mitigated damage. Did I spend money on makeup this year, even though I had a goal not to? Yes. Would I have spent more without my goals? Almost assuredly yes. Did I buy more than 18 personal items this year? Yes. Would I have bought more without the mental check of knowing I was making myself publicly accountable for them? Definitely. All told, I spent less than 4% of our disposable income on personal shopping this year and I feel good about, even though in terms of sheer numbers I know I could have used that money better.

I made a little extra money by reselling some items. Did I recoup all money I spent in the first instance? No, but I did get some cash back by reselling items through trusted consignment dealers and listing them online, and I cleared out space in my closet as a result.

Where I couldn’t sell, I donated plenty of items to shops where 100% of the proceeds go to charity. Does it make up for money spent or environmental production costs? Nope. Did it help make anything even a tiny bit better in the world? I like to think so.

I did (actually) practice some delayed gratification. I would like a much more “finished” and decorated home than we have, but I decided to be okay with our fairly spare furniture and blank walls for a while longer. We bought some art for our home for our anniversary this past year and one of my 2019 projects will be spending money on getting things framed. I bought one piece for the front room and I’d like to buy one or two furniture pieces next year if I’m happy with our financial progress as well, but I’m going to play it by ear.

So, what can I take away from a year of trying to be more honest and intentional about what I buy?

 

The only cure for poor spending choices is the discipline of good ones.

That means making budgets and sticking to it.

That means planning your purchases in advance, with thought and intention, and not giving into impulses. Food, travel, clothes, random shit…it all matters.

That means building a wardrobe slowly, intentionally, and thoughtfully.

That means delayed gratification in saving up for big ticket items for your self, home, or family rather than slapping down a credit card.

None of this is groundbreaking or radical stuff, but it is important to reiterate until it becomes gospel to you.

October Accountability

“Unshined shoes are the end of civilization.”
– Diana Vreeland

It’s that time again, time for some radical accountability in exchange for my beloved cabinet purchase of earlier this year.

It was a good money month. We negotiated with our landlord for reduced rent whilst we deal with the gaping hole in our ceiling, but even before that we met our goal of keeping several hundred additional pounds in the bank for savings and debt payments. We’ve cut way back on discretionary spending on food, and I’ve been mindful about packing and taking lunches to work most days. When I don’t, I’ve switched up my habits and have been spending my cash budget on healthy options at a grocery store rather than a more expensive option. Small habit changes, bit results in our monthly cashflow!

My sanctioned purchases this month were replacement underwear and athletic shoes–acceptable and necessary given that I’d literally worn their predecessors to shreds. Unsexy but true.

I did have a naughty moment and pick up a blazer this month, kittens, but I don’t feel bad about it. A navy blazer was on my shopping list for 2019, and I found a beautiful vintage Aquascutum wool one in a vintage pop up for £45 which is a bargain (literally a tenth of the price I would end up paying for a current season jacket). I also had to replace another pair of work heels this month as I lost another set to the cobblestones of London and the heels were more torn up than a cobbler could deal with. I am not beating myself up about this too much either, as being well-shod is a requirement in this city. Finally I had a gift card that allowed me to pick up a pair of trousers which might be bending the letter of the law, but does not break it. Ha!

And other than that, nada! I had to replace some beauty and hygiene items but I did that with drugstore equivalents and have discovered some major gems. My next empties blog post is going to be a doozy as I’m blazing my way through products lately and slowly finding a few cheaper alternatives to more expensive items, and in some cases verifying that some things really are worth the money. Alas, however, that I cannot replace a few major makeup items until I’ve also used up their like-for-like equivalents already in my stash.

Tell me of your own small victories this past month in the comments, kittens!

Five Things I Loved in October

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” 
― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Happy Halloween!

Another month has flown by and 2019 is barreling down on us fast, my piglets! The weather has turned cold recently so I’m adding extra layers to (my side of) the bed, pulling the jumpers out of storage, and suddenly gripped with the all-consuming desire to make soup for two meals a day. This is the best time of year.

That being said, it’s been a rough month for a lot of people I know and the world in general so I wasn’t surprised that in tallying up the things that brought me joy in October, items or pop culture that soothed and comforted kept cropping up. As the winter holidays creep closer with all their attendant joys and stresses, take a moment to do something comforting. It’s good for resilience and good for the soul.

Tell me what you’ve been drawn to this month in the comments!

Salt Fat Acid Heat, on Netflix

Another month, another love affair with a smart food show. In a oversaturated market, Netflix still manages to make some really delightful programming and I continue to eat it up with a spoon–pun intended. The host of Salt Fat Acid Heat, writer and cook Samin Nosrat, takes so much JOY in food and it’s wonderful to watch and participate in that joy with her. I now want to run out and buy her cookbook simply to make some of her recipes while rewatching this show…that’s how much I liked it. (Also, shout out to Tom and Lorenzo for this observation which is 100% correct!)

 

Leather jacket, by & Other Stories

A confession, I got my leather moto style jacket from & Other Stories at least three years ago and loved it, but was so intimidated by it as a piece of clothing that I rarely wore it. I honestly didn’t feel “cool” enough to wear it, such is the power of psychology of fashion and clothing. But over the past couple of years, as I’ve learned not only accept but lean into the styles and clothing I like and not act as though I had to meet some sort of achievement (be it thin-ness, grown up-ness, or wealthiness) to wear them, I have become so much happier. And a result, probably more stylish. I have been wearing the heck out of this leather jacket this year and loving it more and more every time I do. I will be a bit sad when I have to set it aside for a proper winter coat, but at the moment, the weather continues to be perfect for jackets and I continue to be a happy bunny about this fact.

 

Botanics Organic Hydrating Eye Cream

In my quest to discover drugstore or cheaper equivalents to higher end products, I’ve picked up a few bits and pieces from trusty Boots this past month including this eye cream. It’s been a joy. The weather turned chilly this past month and during the colder months my skin requires an extra boost of hydration and I’ve already been layering up additional moisturizing products. Eye cream is a product that incites a lot of feelings in the beauty world, some people swear by it and others consider it so much wasted money. Me personally, I feel that an extra layer of moisture in that area is beneficial and this is a delightful, lightweight cream that absorbs quickly without feeling greasy or disrupting other skincare or makeup items. Highly recommended!

 

 

Chillhop, YouTube

This is such a strange one but work this month has been very busy with a lot of curveballs through I’ve had huge stretches of time where I’ve been in a situation where I needed to do a lot of writing in very loud, crowded, and busy spaces. I needed unfussy, mellow, and pleasant background noise. Jeff has teased me about it all month but this channel has been a lifesaver! There are a million and a half channels like this but so far Chillhop is my favorite, which you can also find on Spotify.

 

Luminous Silk Foundation, by Giorgio Armani

A proper update in my 13 by Halloween challenge is coming shortly, but as a preview–yes! I did finish this foundation to the last drop! What a gorgeous product it is too, I do not remember the last foundation that I finished before it went off, caused skin issues, or was otherwise aggravating. This was (yet another spot on) recommendation from X. who has yet to lead me astray in such matters. The only reason I have not repurchased it is because it is 1) expensive as hell and, 2) I have another foundation I intend to use up before pushing the boat out on another. Per my shopping restrictions I am going to try and find a temporary replacement in the drugstore, but if I give myself any outs at all when it comes to my ban it may be for something as foundational as…well… you get it. That day is a long way off, so in the meantime let me salute a bottle that’s done good service in the wars and which I can heartily recommend for a variety of facial textures and tones.

September Accountability

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” 
― Joe Biden

As part of my self accountability in monitoring my spending for the rest of the year, here’s the summary of what I bought this month and why.

Actually, let the record show, this was a pretty good month. I had to do a lot of travel for work, which mean eating on the road, but I’m lucky to be able to expense those meals. We have gotten a bit lazy and sloppy with cooking, which is going to be a big goal over the next month instead, as is exercise, which is something that fell off the radar over the past couple of weeks as I’ve dealt with a dust up of hormones and anxiety. You are never 100% in all areas of your life, but in terms of self control, I’m doing pretty well of late. I credit good friends and effective habit building.

Justifiable purchases: Another humble trouser purchase was required as yet another pair of work pants bit the dust…but as if in answer to a prayer from the sartorial gods, my beloved Everlane finally opened their wares to international shipping! I picked up this pair of fairly reasonably priced trousers and have been extremely happy with the fit.

Less justifiable purchases: I did not, however, strictly need the jumper that also wended its way onto my Everlane checkout screen. I’m calming myself down immediately but come January I will definitely be making another purchase, probably of their ethical cashmere or silk lines.

Takeaway orders: 3 because the Small Dog fam got absolutely lazy this month. SHAME.

Small wins: I did not succumb to a 30% off coupon for a skincare product that I’d definitely like, but do not need until I use up other items in my bathroom cupboard. I also have not, as yet, succumbed to the temptation of Sezane’s fall collection launch–which is difficult because a lot of it is exactly my aesthetic right now.

 

Check Your Budgets

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 
― Epictetus

The other weekend, Jeff and I were doing our monthly bills round up when we noticed some charges on a card that neither of us recognized. We’re pretty sure this card was “skimmed,” as it’s not the first time we’ve had a security issue with the bank in question. It’s a solvable problem but we were angry and frustrated by it. This was over the bank holiday and we were considering a bit of a madcap city break for some quality time. The money in the budget for this? Compromised by these false charges. Ugh.

Jeff got on the phone to the bank immediately and we’ve done the necessary paperwork to resolve it, but it was a shock and annoyance all the same. We’re probably going to close this account after two cases of lax security from the same provider in a year. 2018 is already too fraught for this kind of stress!

However it was a good moment to review our household budget and goals. I’ve started a new contract and Jeff earned a promotion this past summer, so we had some modest growth in our take home pay and we hadn’t really considered how to use it. Our one purchase for the house was made and I’m on some personal spending challenges already, but we knew we had gotten a bit lax with items like eating out or travel costs around the city. Take into account the ever fluctuating exchange rate between dollars and pounds (thanks, Brexit, you slow moving mess), which has more of an impact on our monthly finances than you may think, and you can see why expat life and banking can be a bother on a good day, to say nothing of an obnoxious one. We decided we wanted to try and add another $300 to our debt/savings plan. Which also would have been doable had not our card been compromised. Ugh again. Anyway, we’ve set up some minor self goals to help achieve this in spite of other people’s criminality and it was a nice way to look ahead to the upcoming season in terms of money and plans.

Moral of the story: always check your bank statements, kittens. Some jerk may have prevented your planned trip to Bath.