Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

The Trap of Convenience

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, you might have missed hearing that we’ve now reached one degree Celsius of global warming and that the Paris agreement – while admirable and inspiring – hasn’t come close to producing enough policy and legal change to avert an additional degree of warming.

My family and I agreed that we might not be able to change the world, the government or big business, but what we can change are our own actions. We decided to set a goal for ourselves of becoming carbon negative. What that means is that we want to find ways to reduce our emissions as much as possible and then find ways to offset more emissions than we produce. If you’re interested in following our progress, you can read more over at the Carbon Negative Family.

We aren’t at a point where we can make big financial investments yet, so we’re looking at small behaviours that can add up. As painful as it was, one of the first things that we targeted were our convenience items. These are those little labour saving items that we couldn’t possibly do without in our time poor society.

Cutting out our little time savers began two months ago. I spent a few weeks frustrated by how much extra time the change was taking before I had the most astonishing realisation – it wasn’t actually taking extra time at all. I was noticing the time spent on new versions of old activities, and completely blind to how much time I was saving in other areas. If anything, I have more time available now than I did before we starting changing our behaviours.

Once I realised that I was time richer, I noticed another startling change: I’m not bored out of my mind any more. Instead of having one or two lengthy activities I now have a dozen quick ones. My day is more varied and I can choose between far more ways to spend my time. When my partner comes home from work and asks me what I did during the day, I actually have something to talk about.

By switching from externally produced services in the form of products to doing things ourselves, we’re becoming increasingly self-sufficient. I feel more competent to run my life however I want to, because I’ve stopped listening to all the nonsense that advertisers have been telling me for years. I’m testing their theories and I’m finding them lacking. It’s a liberating switch from being told that I, as a mere consumer, have been the one lacking all this time.

I hadn’t expected such a small number of changes to have such a big psychological change for me. What I also didn’t expect was the financial change. I’ve stopped looking at our bank account and wondering how we’re going to get to the next pay period without cutting into our savings. I’m not feeling guilty for staying home and raising our young children instead of working a paying job. Instead I’m looking at our bank account and wondering if we can buy those solar panels now that we were planning to save for over the course of a few years.

Convenience has been an ideal that I’ve held up for a long time as the standard that I should aim for. The way that I was living my life certainly was convenient…just not for me. I’ve realised that anything convenient in my life is probably a place where I’m disorganised and indulging in lazy thinking. Seeing every instance of convenience as an opportunity to think about the way I behave, to design my life rather than have it designed for me, has been invigorating. We set out with this change to help the planet, and what we’ve finally discovered is a way to help ourselves.

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Kicking Off Our Financial Shoes

For Christmas I was given a copy of Scott Pape’s recent book, the Barefoot Investor, and we decided to try and implement the financial plan that he outlines. There were a lot of suggestions in the book that aren’t particularly new – eliminate credit card debt, automate your financial plan, etc. – and we had already implemented a lot of them. What differed were the particular ratios and details in the approach.

Our family’s financial situation is currently experiencing a lot of change, so it seemed like a good time to set new, positive habits before the passage of time adds a layer of difficulty that we don’t particularly need. We began by breaking down our income and dividing it according to the guidelines in the book:

  • 10% goes to a splurge account. A new haircut, beer with friends, or that morning coffee that makes life worthwhile? The money for that comes from this account.
  • 10% goes to a smile account. A new car, going on holiday, or whatever bigger goal makes you giddy with anticipation? This is the account where you watch that dream come closer with every pay period.
  • 20% goes to a fire extinguisher account. Paying off credit card debt, saving to buy a house, or putting out some other sort of financial fire? This is the account where you hose down your financial problems.
  • 60% goes to a daily expenses account. Think rent, food, and other items that are really boring until you suddenly can’t afford them.
  • There is an additional account, mojo, which is a savings account at another bank that you never look at. This is where any unexpected windfalls or bonuses go. For us that will be overtime payments, tax returns, or the money from selling things we no longer want or need.

I contemplated this account structure for a few days, and thought about the ways we have made financial mistakes in the past. We tend to cruise along well week to week, but then a big bill comes in that we have forgotten is due and suddenly we’re scrambling to cover the cost. To solve this problem, we changed our structure to the following:

  • 10% goes to the splurge account.
  • 10% goes to the smile account.
  • 20% goes to the fire extinguisher account.
  • 50% goes to our daily expenses account (down from 60%).
  • 10% goes to a big bills account. This will be for things such as annual insurance payments, car registration and repairs, or surprise medical bills.
  • Bonus income still goes to the mojo account.

Calculating the amount of money to funnel into each account was easy, and setting up the automatic transfers only took a few minutes. The money moves before we see it in our main account, so there is no risk that we will spend it on the wrong things without thought. Our plan essentially implements itself, so all we have to do is keep each account to its intended purpose and it will work.

For me the most fascinating element of the new plan has been the emotional response from my partner and me. I think the new plan is great, because I can see how we will eventually meet our goals if we just stick to it. All those questions about “how will we do x?” come with a simple answer: we wait. I don’t have to ask if I can afford to do something small and fun, because I can just look at the balance of our splurge account and compare it to the cost of what I want to do. There is no longer a trade off in my mind between eating at a restaurant and paying the phone bill. It is the ultimate in financial freedom.

My partner, however, is not riding the same emotional high that I am experiencing. We have a lot of years behind us where we have enjoyed the alternative freedom of consolidated revenue. Until now we have worked towards one goal at a time, so achieving the next goal felt much easier and was faster. Waiting for things that were once satisfied immediately can chafe and feel restrictive.

It will take time for us to see how the financial structure plays out both mathematically and emotionally. Will we stick to it, or will our old habits push us away from this new approach? No matter how perfect a plan seems to be on paper, there are human factors that are difficult to account for. Unlike past plans this one isn’t asking us to cut out hot chocolate, new shoes or evenings at the movies, which I think gives it a higher chance of working. It will be fascinating to see if our perception of ourselves as mathematical, logical people wins out over our impulsive and frequently irrational selves.

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Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part Four: Irregular Need Expenses

Today’s post follows a previous post, Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part Three: Irregular Want Expenses. I am continuing to tackle my irregular expenses, this time focusing on the things in my life that I truly need. As I wrote in that post, needs fall into the following categories:

  • Things that keep me healthy, such as food, medical treatment, and sanitation;
  • Things that keep me safe, such as shelter, utilities, and protective equipment; and
  • Things that help me to produce an income, such as computer software, stationary and education.

Needs are a difficult area to sensibly save money on. We have a tendency to save money where we most need to spend it, and to neglect savings where we could painlessly make them. Why? Because sometimes our needs become tangled up in our wants, and sometimes our needs are genuine needs. The difficulty is working out which one is which.

Food is something that a lot of people I know will try to save money with first. This makes sense, because we are constantly reminded about how much we spend on it, but it is not always sensible. If we cut out meals we just feel hungry and miserable, and if we cut out quality we can make ourselves sick. I don’t think saving $100 dollars on meals only to spend $100 on a doctor’s visit and medications is good financial practice. With a baby on the way, this would be an insane place to cut back.

Some of the things I thought I needed were not really needs at all, but rather convenient methods of fulfilling those needs. I have become creative, and found the following alternatives:

  • I switched from regular chiropractic appointments to visiting a student physiotherapist. The chiropractor cost me $65 per session, the student physiotherapist only $20. It’s a good difference, and when I consider that I had to see the chiropractor every week compared to every two weeks with the physiotherapist, I also have a decent time saving. The physiotherapy is helping me to solve several underlying problems that my chiropractor had either not identified or had chosen not to explain. Over a year, this switch should save me approximately $2860. And that saving assumes I need to see the physiotherapist for that long.
  • I started using computer games to continue learning German. Learning German is a need because my partner’s family speaks less English than I speak German, and my children will be bilingual. Classes cost $330 per semester, so by replacing this with games, material borrowed from the library, and pronunciation help from my partner, I can save $660 per year and learn much faster.
  • Use what we already have. As with the computer games for language learning, there are a lot of things that I already own that can be used for multiple functions or put to better use somewhere else. Instead of buying wrapping paper, I now use the beautiful coloured paper I bought years ago that unfortunately isn’t a standard size for the printer. We dismantled a spare broom to use as a curtain rod, and the curtains are very insulating quilts that we weren’t using. These are small changes and difficult to count, but they probably pass $200 per year. Tiny things become expensive when you add them up.
  • Became members at a wholesale store. This one usually comes under the warning category, but in this instance the membership was a gift and the store is far enough away that we really think about what we want to buy before we go while being close enough that we don’t lose the savings in petrol money. My partner and I go together and make sure the other one doesn’t get excited buying things we don’t need. We only buy in bulk what we will genuinely use. I estimate that we are able to save about $300 per year by buying predictable, non-perishable groceries there.
  • Building models is a significant component of my architecture course. I have found a few bulk packets of cardboard for incredibly good prices. The large sheets of cardboard cost $7 each, and I managed to buy a packet of 100 smaller sheets for $10. True, they are about one sixth of the size, but when I account for that difference I still save $116. Getting creative with my models has meant there are a lot of components that I could recycle instead of purchasing.

There will be other small changes I can make during the year, but as a starting point this saves me $4136 per year on things that I thought I needed but could easily do without. With these savings, and the others I have discussed in the previous posts, I am able to reduce my annual expenses by more than $8665. If I include the savings on baby supplies, that increases to $12304. At my last job, after tax, it would have taken me three months to earn that much money.

I can assure you, the small changes I have made here took me far less effort than three months of full time work would have.

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Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part Three: Irregular Want Expenses

Today’s post follows a previous post, Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part Two: Baby Expenses. My irregular expenses are the next area that I need to focus on, and the one that I have decided to tackle next. These expenses can change depending on a range of factors, which make them harder to predict than contractual expenses.

Spending money is an interesting thing, because we can’t avoid doing it if we want to have food to eat, clothes to wear, and things to do. We are conditioned to part with our money, and the world is filled with clever marketers who rely on that conditioning. The true minimum for our survival becomes clouded with emotions, wants mistaken as needs, and habits that we never question.

For the sake of this step in my process, I need to begin by distinguishing between the things that I need and the things that I think I need but really only want. Needs are things that allow me to survive and prosper. They fall into the following categories:

  • Things that keep me healthy, such as food, medical treatment, and sanitation;
  • Things that keep me safe, such as shelter, utilities, and protective equipment; and
  • Things that help me to produce an income, such as computer software, stationary and education.

If I am being honest with myself, most of the things I spend my money on don’t fall into those categories.

I do not intend to save money this year by reducing my quality of life. I know myself: if I am financially sad, I will go on a massive spending binge. I’m the type of dieter who becomes angry and eats an entire tub of ice cream. Binges are bad in any area, and I know that I am better off spending $10 per month on something than having a single day where I blow $1000 on useless crap that I can’t return.

Here are some of the ways I can save money without feeling deprived:

  • Go to the movies at a different time. Tickets are $7.50 all day on Tuesdays, $9.50 for matinee sessions, and $17.00 for an evening screening. If I see 12 movies a year, by going Tuesday night instead of Saturday night, I save $120. As an added bonus, my Saturday evenings remain free to do other exciting things.
  • Get creative with my clothes. My body is already changing with pregnancy, but there is no need to race out and buy a new wardrobe. I’ve started by wearing the clothes that used to be too big for me, which is exciting because I haven’t worn them for so long. My cupboards are filled with patterns that I could modify and fabric that is untouched. Not only will I have clothes custom designed for me, but I can also clear out some storage space for other things. Using what I already have will probably save me $500 in new clothing.
  • Walk to the shops. The supermarket really isn’t that far away, and the walk is pleasant. Petrol was 155.9c per litre when I last looked, so filling the tank in my car is easily $55. If I can avoid filling it once a month, I save $660. As an added bonus, I stay fitter and fill my body with endorphins.
  • Make gifts rather than buy them. I recently decided to make some cot sheets as a gift for my cousin’s first baby, because I didn’t like the ones in the shops. I only saved $20 on materials, and it took me days to do it, but I had so much fun. While I was entertained for a solid week by this one project, I wasn’t spending money on anything else. If I make the gifts I need to give this year, and save $10 on each of them, I could easily save $200. As an added bonus, homemade gifts get me way more points than shop bought ones.

Just these four changes could potentially save me $1480 a year, and I know there will be countless other changes I can make to shrink my expenses without shrinking my lifestyle. At my last job, it would have taken me two weeks to clear that much money.

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Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part Two: Baby Expenses

Today’s post follows a previous post, Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part One: Fixed Expenses. If you’ve ever had children, or have ever talked money with someone who has, you will know how expensive a new baby can be. Getting pregnant in a year where I wanted to get positive cash flow happening might not be considered great timing but, then again, is there ever a perfect time to have a baby?

Obviously, having a baby is a significant on-going expense, and I will probably write about how I am financially coping over the coming years. For now, I can see this being divided into two main expenses: getting the baby out safely, and supplies for when the baby is here.

Where and how to birth a baby needs to be more than just a financial decision. The cheapest option would be alone and at home, because you don’t even need to pay for the trip to the hospital. This might be fine if you happen to live with a qualified midwife, but I don’t. Since I am firmly ruling that option out for safety reasons, I am left with a few options: a public hospital as a public patient, a home birth with an independent midwife, and a private hospital with a private obstetrician. My partner and I have chosen a home birth with the midwife, which is going to cost us $5000. She charges a flat fee, and happily it is the same amount as the Baby Bonus offered by the federal government.

The fun, although financially dangerous, part is preparing for the baby’s arrival. This is the part where expectant parents get to go browsing through the baby stores, looking at cute little pants and shirts. Well, it was fun for me until I started looking at price tags. Good grief, even my clothes don’t often cost that much.

I’m sorry, little one, but you’re going to be the king or queen of second hand, at least until you’re old enough to realise how cheap Mummy is being.

Here is a short budget I’ve drawn up, comparing what I could easily spend in retail versus second hand or homemade. I don’t know if this comparison makes me want to laugh or cry.

Item Quantity New Subtotal Made / Second Hand Subtotal Difference
Cot 1 $299.00 $299.00 $40.00 $40.00 $259.00
Pram 1 $750.00 $750.00 $0.00 $0.00 $750.00
Baby carrier 2 $230.00 $460.00 $30.00 $60.00 $400.00
Clothes 30 $15.00 $450.00 $2.00 $60.00 $390.00
Car seat 1 $269.00 $269.00 $15.00 $15.00 $254.00
Feeding chair 1 $59.00 $59.00 $15.00 $15.00 $44.00
Bottles 10 $6.79 $67.90 $0.00 $0.00 $67.90
Nappies 24 $30.00 $720.00 $2.00 $48.00 $672.00
Wipes 24 $5.00 $120.00 $0.10 $2.40 $117.60
Breast pads 5 $11.95 $59.75 $0.10 $0.50 $59.25
Breast pump 1 $79.00 $79.00 $0.00 $0.00 $79.00
Cot sheets 5 $25.00 $125.00 $10.00 $50.00 $75.00
Blankets 5 $25.00 $125.00 $10.00 $50.00 $75.00
Wraps 10 $2.50 $25.00 $1.50 $15.00 $10.00
Play mat 2 $25.00 $50.00 $5.00 $10.00 $40.00
Toys 10 $5.00 $50.00 $0.00 $0.00 $50.00
Bath 1 $25.00 $25.00 $0.00 $0.00 $25.00
Bassinette 1 $129.00 $129.00 $0.00 $0.00 $129.00
Nappy bag 1 $49.00 $49.00 $0.00 $0.00 $49.00
Steriliser 1 $49.95 $49.95 $0.00 $0.00 $49.95
Mattress protector 2 $39.95 $79.90 $15.00 $30.00 $49.90
Plug protectors 2 $5.95 $11.90 $2.89 $5.78 $6.12
Totals:     $4,053.40   $401.68 $3,651.72

If you’re looking at some of my new prices, and wondering why they’re so low, for a lot of them I went with the cheapest product I could find on a random baby store website if I didn’t already know a price. It would not be challenging to spend $10,000 on this. Some of the second hand items are free from friends, so there is no price to include for them.

My approach to this will also save me money. I plan to breast feed, expressing milk if I need to, which is essentially free. If I wanted to use formula instead I would be looking at $30 per tin. With nappies and wipes I plan to make my own. These will be incredibly cheap, since I am able to reuse fabric that we already have; old towels, torn sheets, that sort of thing. I need to buy some elastic and other miscellaneous bits, but I should be able to make all the nappies I need for the price of a single disposable pack.

Working through this budget so early has had a second bonus: by knowing exactly what I need immediately, and what I can do without for a few days after baby is here, I know which items I can ask for as gifts. Melbourne has a thriving second hand market compared to Canberra, so I’m able to get my parents to scout out eBay for me and pick up cheap things as they become available. Other things such as plug protectors and play mats make easy gifts for people to give, and I don’t need to feel guilty about asking for expensive items. If we play it smart, this doesn’t need to break my budget at all.

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Balancing My Budget In 2013 Part One: Fixed Expenses

One of my goals for this year is to finish with as much wealth in cash and investments as I began. This might sound simple, but I am not currently working in regular employment and I do not want to go back to my previous career in administration. To complicate things further, I am enrolled in full time study, which is expensive. This means that I need to get creative.

I began this process by counting every cent that I have. I wrote an Excel spreadsheet listing each of my accounts and the total amounts in them. I counted the money in my purse and added it in. Even cheques that I hadn’t banked at that point were included. My first step is total honesty with myself, because without knowing exactly where I am starting I will have no idea where I need to end up.

There are two ways to improve cash flow: increase income and reduce expenses. Both of these categories can be divided into fixed and irregular. The fixed expenses in my life are the first things I am going to target. These are the expenses that come from contracts and are generally set up as direct debits. I rarely think about them, so I want to target them while I remember them. Here is the list of my fixed expenses:

  • Rent*: $360 per week or $18,720 per year
  • Gym: $120 per fortnight or $3,120 per year
  • Health insurance: $112.71 or $1,352.52 per year
  • Internet*: $69.95 per month or $839.40 per year
  • Mobile phone: $62 per month or $744 per year
  • Websites: $120 per year (but I’m not even sure on this one!)
  • Credit card: $35 per year

The starred items are shared expenses, so I only pay half. This means my fixed expenses for the year are $15,031.22, and that is without food, electricity, clothing, going out, and all the other parts that form a normal life. It is far too high, so I have reconsidered how much I am prepared to spend on each of these items. Here is that list again:

  • Rent: We were careful on this one when we moved in, and most people can’t believe how little we are paying for our place. Rental prices in Canberra are high, and we probably should be paying about $400 per week for our little house. The only way we could bring the per person price down would be to start sharing, and after our last house neither of us want to repeat that experience. This expense can’t be improved at this time.
  • Gym: When I first signed up, I was somehow convinced that I also needed to sign up for personal training on top of my membership. I am going to cut the personal training as soon as the contract ends and go to the classes included with the base membership instead. This will reduce my costs from $120 to $44 per fortnight, saving me $1,976 per year.
  • Health insurance: I reviewed this one a few years ago, and preliminary research suggests that I am still getting a good price. However, I am paying for hospital and extras cover when I probably only need hospital. Rules about health insurance are complicated in Australia, so I need to get some advice before I make a decision here, but if I drop the extras cover I might save $360 per year. If I switch to an annual policy, I should be able to save even more.
  • Internet: What we pay is definitely too high for what we get. Most companies require a 2 year contract if we are going to get a better rate, and we probably won’t be living here that long. This one requires a lot more research.
  • Mobile phone: I found a small company, Vaya, that is a reseller for Optus, which is the company I have been using. Vaya charge $11 for a service similar to what Optus was charging me $59 for. They also have an easy direct debit system, so there will never be another $15 late fee, and they don’t charge me to receive my bill. Annual saving: $612.
  • Websites: I have had so many problems with website hosting this year. If we are able to find a better ISP, and they provide free website hosting, I could roll this into our internet bill. Penmonkey will still cost me if I continue to pay for the domain name, but my main website will not. I am considering merging the two sites if I can figure out how.
  • Credit card: I keep this one out of habit, but I really don’t need it. The plan is to move all my direct debits from this card to my transaction account before I hit the annual fee in April.

The changes that I can make here are simple, little things, that will stretch far into the future. I could probably get the research done in a single day, and most of them should just require filling out a form to achieve. Total expected savings: $3,043.

Expected change to my quality of life? Minimal, but, well … how would you feel if someone handed you three thousand dollars for a single day of work? Add in the tax I don’t have to pay because I am saving money, and it is even more valuable. At my last job, it would have taken four weeks to clear that much money.

Which fixed expenses do you have that could be reduced or eliminated? What would you need to change to get a better arrangement for yourself?

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My Bank And I Must Live On Different Planets

As part of my plan to get my online store up and running, I decided to tackle the financial side of things as my first scary step. Plenty of people tell me that I’m good at finances, but the truth is I’m just good at basic maths. Merchant accounts, gateway providers and financial policies are outside my realm of expertise.

I started my research by going to my bank’s website and having a look around. There were a few things I understood, but not a lot. I submitted a request for a call back, then moved on with my life and began looking into other options.

A few days later, my bank called me back. If you use a German bank, please stop reading now because you probably won’t believe another word of this blog post. Believe it or not: getting a call back two days later outside the requested hours is actually considered good customer service for an Australian bank.

We chatted a bit about my business model and what I want to do. My plan is fairly straight forward: design a product (done), write a website to sell it (in progress), set up an automated back end so that anyone using my online store doesn’t have to wait for me to do my bit (the current research), fix any mistakes I inadvertently make (pending launch). All I wanted to know was what I need to do to get an account to build the transactions into.

The man from the bank was delightful as he explained the process. What he was explaining? Not so great. I would need to go to my branch, submit an application form, show them the business ready to launch, and then wait six to eight weeks. If there were any problems with my application, this process could be delayed by six to eight months. A merchant risk assessment department will be involved, and I must show them that my business is a great opportunity for them.

To clarify, all I want is to have an account that my customers can put money into. I might be in crazy land here, but I am fairly sure this is not a revolutionary idea that will rock humanity to its core. I hear stories, possibly only rumours, that this is something other people have done before.

Despite my shock at the timelines, the conversation got worse. If I want to trade in multiple currencies, it would be $40 per month per currency in account keeping fees. I need to keep the equivalent of $5,000 as the minimum balance in each account. To clarify, if I want to accept AUD, USD, Euro and GBP, I would need to have $20,000 sitting there in my bank account, doing nothing. That is nearly the cost of my living expenses for a year. For those of you who are routinely operating in those currencies, that is 21,024USD, 16,088EUR and 13054GBP.

Then there were the requirements. Not only do I need to have a fully prepared business sitting there cooling its heels for two months, but there are standard requirements that this business must fulfill. The one that boggled my mind was the requirement for a landline phone. In order to have a bank account to trade with my online only business, I need a landline. Not a mobile, not a Skype account, but a phone that plugs into a wall. I protested this quite loudly, and he said that we might be able to explain that it is a home based business. There was a bit of disdain in his voice. I used up a year of professionalism by not saying: “Nah, I really operate this business from Bavaria while I relax at Oktoberfest.” This was really difficult for me, and I expect applause and a medal.

At the end of our conversation I decided that I will go with PayPal. He warned me that I might turn off some of my customer base because some customers don’t think it is very professional. In my world, it just isn’t professional to create obstacles for my customers the way the bank has for me. If losing one or two customers over PayPal will keep $20,000 in my existing account and means I can launch months earlier, I think I can live with that.

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The Paperwork Shambles (Probably Part 1)

I’m in Melbourne for a few days, staring at the list of things to do, and vaguely wishing I hadn’t given up alcohol. The past year and a half has not been the most organised of my life. When I first became sick I was working full time and studying, so a lot of things had been put on the back burners with an I’ll-get-to-it-later timeline. Add in a debilitating illness that I am still recovering from, and a lot of important things simply haven’t happened.

I just activated my new Visa card. They apparently sent it to me in November 2010. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, since my old card was still working, but not fabulous since this was the second bank card I have activated in the past week (the other one was from May 2011). This evening I realised I have more than twenty letters from various companies that I have not opened. Somewhere in my paperwork shambles I even came off the electoral roll, and I really need to get myself back onto that.

Ugh. I want to go back to Canberra.

The sheer amount of little things that I have to deal with is impressive. The calm, rational side of my brain is happy to deal with this, breezily shrugging and acknowledging that everything can be dealt with one way or another. The stressed out, overwhelmed side of my brain is wondering if I should just borrow the shredder I bought for Mum and quietly feed my problems into it.

In some ways, this mess is a blessing in disguise. I am at a wonderful point in my recovery where I am able to do complex things in short bursts, and most of the chores I have waiting for me in Melbourne fit that category perfectly. I need to reconstruct my own timelines, figure out where I am, decide where I need to be, and go from there.

One of my one percent realisations was that my structure determines my outcome. This realisation has had the impact of a hundred percent change, but is in itself a very small shift in my mental attitude. Once I have a solid framework to build off, everything from that point moves towards the goal. If I take a few extra hours at the start to plan what I want and need, I can save myself weeks or months in repairing work later.

My paperwork is reminding me of many structures that I can build, all of which will give me a greater chance for success. Each little shift in these structures will have long lasting implications for my prosperity and happiness, which can only be a good thing. They are one time shifts, so they will sustain themselves. I can review them as often or as infrequently as I like once they are established.

First on the list is my banking. I have activated all of my cards, so my accounts are once again fully functional. Over the last week I have reviewed the interest rates for accounts I have and accounts I could set up. I am moving my money for better returns, which is essentially giving myself a lovely little pay rise. I am consolidating accounts, which should save me the ridiculous fees that Australian banks feel entitled to charge. Fewer accounts means fewer statements, and fewer statements means I won’t have so many unopened letters sitting on my desk in the future. My time investment here will be approximately one day, spread over a few weeks. In financial terms, it is a gain of over $400 per year with the increased interest and the reduced fees. In future effort, I will probably reclaim the spent time within a year with less monitoring to do.

There are some accounts out there with a higher short term interest rate than the one I have chosen to go with. The catch on these accounts is that after four months my interest rate will drop considerably. It is the banks’ way of luring me in on the gamble that I won’t remember to move my money at the end of the term. They are right, I won’t, and so I have chosen to ignore their game and go for one that offers a middle rate of return. I don’t need to set myself reminders. I don’t need to lose a few days of interest payments with each account shift. I can calmly plan for a new budget and move on with my life.

Once I have everything set up, I plan to automate my money transfers and bill payments. I don’t want the hassle of having to remember to pay a certain bill by a certain time. For an investment of five minutes per account, I can save myself the late fees I sometimes get stung with since I became sick.

I feel positive about the opportunities in my situation. There are still so many things to be done, but I can get to them one item at a time. I just need to focus on sub sections of the list and not stress out. Hopefully the government won’t call an election before I get there.

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