Archive for May, 2010

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Stephen is a terrible procrastinator

May 30, 2010

Would you believe I wrote this in December? Thinking it would be a great post? And then did nothing at all, neither posting nor budgeting?

A budget plan for next year:

1. Get last year’s spending recorded and itemised as far as possible.
2. Apportion that spending into categories at some sort of sensible level.
3. Think through any changes in habits that might increase or reduce spending in those categories.
4. Based on previous steps, work out monthly expenditure
5. Note the big regular things (like annual insurance premiums, car registration) and tweak provisions for previous months to make sure there’s enough.

Better late than never, I say. The last couple of Sundays I’ve snatched an hour here and there and I’ve nailed everything I spent and everything I’ve earned in the last tax year, whipped up a spreadsheet or two to break it down monthly and set myself some targets for various categories. And the first Sunday of every month from now on, I’m going to track my progress.

I took the opportunity to take my number crunching back a couple of years. I noticed more spending on power, more spending on groceries, and more spending on air travel. I’m not sure there’s much to be done about that. I refuse to be cold over winter, and until we’ve bought a house, we’re stuck where we are. I’m pretty sure the increase in food costs really reflects prices going up. And because of my family circumstances, flying me to my daughter or my daughter to me has to happen regularly.

Unfortunately, there’s still a giant hole in my data. Remember early on in the piece I wrote about  tracking every last cash purchase? I thought of that as an interesting exercise, so once I felt I’d learned from it, I stopped. That was a really bad idea. What I should have learned, but didn’t until too late, is that recording things only works as a discipline against impulse spending if you keep doing it. Now it turns out that I have withdrawn actual thousands of dollars in cash from ATMs and I don’t know where it went. And unfortunately, it looks very much like that biggest blowout from 2009 compared to 2008 was in cash, somehow. I dunno. Maybe I’m buying illicit drugs in my sleep or something. But anyway, it’s shameful.

I am dealing with this in three ways. First, I’m going back to recording everything, every day. If it turns out to be annoying, I’ll let that provide more incentive not to spend. Second, since I don’t pay EFTPOS transaction fees, I’m going to make a real effort to put everything I can through EFTPOS so it will get recorded. And as noted, I’m marking my calendar to do budget updates so I don’t fall off the wagon.

Expect riveting posts in a month or so about how this is turning out.

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We are back, with bread

May 25, 2010

I’m sorry. I ran out of steam and ideas. And I had a crisis of conscience about not actually being poor*, or indeed consistently frugal. On the other hand there’s a lot of people posting cat pictures who aren’t themselves cats. Anyway, I have decided to get back on this frugal-blogging horse, and I have taken the precaution of preparing a few posts in advance to tide me over the dry patches.

Just to get the ball rolling again, right now this very second, I have bread on. Yeah, I know, bread, we’ve done that to death, who has time apart from childless yuppies and the unemployed? However…

… this is different, honest, in that it involves five minutes a day. Many things are achievable in five minutes a day, supposedly, but this is for real. Unlike the difficult path of dynamic tension, the results are immediate and gratifying.

The basic idea is that you mix a BIG batch of dough. You don’t bother kneading it. You keep it in the fridge, and once it’s had a day to get going, you just take a portion for a small loaf, shape it, and bake it. It’s the NYT no-knead bread approach taken to an extreme. And it works.

You can read about the rest here. (Update: this link went to the wrong place before, but I’ve fixed it now.)

The authors don’t make any claims about the properties of the bread, other than it being delicious, but I’m hearing a lot recently about long fermentation improving digestibility and making bread tolerable for people who can’t cope with bread made by the dreadful Chorleywood process.

But anyway, it tastes great, and the time taken brings this out of the hobby category and firmly into the money-saving.

Do excuse me. I have something in the oven.

* I live in fear of turning into Muriel Newman.