Join the “no-resolutions” movement.

You’re probably already seeing the same old shite you see every year on social media and on television centred around generic New Year’s Resolutions.

Lose the holiday weight! Stop drinking for January. New year, new me! 2020 is going to be the year I ……*enter generic resolution*

I’m not saying that any of these are a bad idea, particularly, but are they relevant for you? These are the things we tell ourselves we “should” do but they are so general not really tied to any long term goals. So often, this is why we “fail”. We join the gym because it’s January and we have been told to lose weight because we ate too much over Christmas and not because feeling stronger or faster will be beneficial to our overall wellbeing. 

I think there is a better way to plan for the year ahead and get what you want out of it.

Reflect

This time of year, in between Christmas and New Year, is a perfect time to check in with yourself and reflect.

In a world that seems increasingly chaotic and full of obstacles waiting to trip you up, it’s easy to feel lost and confused or like you are just sleepwalking through life. Life can get really overwhelming and Christmas especially can be a stressful time with expectations and comparisons at an all time high. So schedule in some “me time’ wherever you can manage to squeeze it in, turn off your phone and check in with yourself.

This can look like anything you like. You could take an evening to yourself and go all out; have a bath, light some candles, meditate and journal. Maybe you take a nice long walk and then sit in your favourite cafe with your notebook or your laptop. Whatever feels good for you, just carve out a day/half day/couple of hours to spend some time alone, reflect on the year and how you are feeling as we start a new one.

Use your alone time to look back on 2019 and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What went well this year?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What do you want more of?
  • What do you want less of?
  • What made you feel proud?
  • What are some of the best memories you made?

Visualise

Go way beyond 2020 and think about what your overall vision for your life is!

It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget the big picture stuff so try to zoom out and think about your overall wants and needs. I love to do this visualisation exercise every year to really get me into the right frame of mind and thinking long term.

Close your eyes and think about the kind of life you want for yourself, the life you want to be living in five or 10 years’ time. 

  • Where are you? 
  • Who are you with? 
  • What kinds of things are you doing together?
  • What do you talk about?
  • What does your typical day look like? 
  • How do you spend your time?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What is your environment like?
  • What gives you purpose?
  • What gives you personal satisfaction?

Write it down.

Now, think about what you need to do to be able to live that for real.

  • Do you need to earn more money?
  • Do you need to invest in your education?
  • Do you need to find more people who have the same hobbies as you?
  • Do you need to repair some relationships in your life?
  • Do you need a bigger support network?
  • Do you need to move to a bigger/smaller city?

When we set goals based on other people’s idea of what we should be doing, we find it harder to get motivated or stay on track and we feel bad about ourselves. When we set them based on our own specific needs and wants, we feel more confident, more motivated and are less likely to compare ourselves to anyone else. Your goals should be getting you closer to the life you want, not some arbitrary list of things you “should” be or have.

Take Action

Now that you have a handle on your long term goals, break those down into manageable short term objectives.

What do you need to have done by the end of the year? By summer? By the end January?

Is there something you can do today, right now, that will start you in the right direction? Maybe you want to do a course in a topic you are interested in. So, today you just take the simple step of searching some websites or colleges in your area that do this course. Then perhaps tomorrow you get in touch with them to ask about the application process. 

You might be thinking about getting back into a sport you used to love so you could start there. Find somewhere locally that you join a class or a club. 

It can be scary, at first, breaking your routine to do something new but it’s so worth it! You deserve it.

The end of the year is a nice time to reflect for most of us as work and life slow down for the holidays but it can also be a difficult time so don’t feel pressured to have or be anything in particular. I also like check in on my birthday or the anniversary of moving to London (or whatever city I’ve decided to uproot my life for at the time) because they are significant markers of time in my life as well. You don’t have to have your shit together just because it’s January! And you also don’t have to wait til Jan, just make a decision and start today.

Resources:

Listen: Conversation with YogaGirl – Rituals to Set New Years Resolutions https://www.yogagirl.com/podcast, Affirmation Pod – Motivation for your best 2020 http://traffic.libsyn.com/clean/affirmationpod/228_Motivation_for_Your_Best_2020.mp3?dest-id=291603

Watch: Lululemon Guided Visualisation –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xM_Ztreqjg&feature=youtu.be 

We need to talk about food waste

Roughly one-third of the food we produce annually is never eaten.

Just let that sink in for a second.

As a society, we have become so disconnected from our food system that we have forgotten all of the resources that went into making it, at every stage, and getting it onto our plates that we have just stopped valuing it.

We use land and water to produce crops. They are transported to factories where they are processed. Then transported from there to be packaged. Finally, packaged items are transported to store. And then we end up throwing a third of it away. 

When you consider that between April 2018 and March 2019 a record 1.6m food bank parcels given to people in the UK (Trussell Trust), it’s obscene. 

Some more facts to shock and disgust you (if I have to be depressed about the state of the world, I’m taking you down with me!):

  • If wasted food were a country, it would be the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide.
  • Food waste generates about 3.3 BILLION tons of carbon dioxide.
  • The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes.
  • 25% of the world’s fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe.
  • An area larger than China is used to grow food that is never eaten.
  • The average UK family is wasting nearly £60 a month by throwing away almost a whole meal a day – that’s £720 a year!

So where does it all go? 

Well, most of it just ends up in our regular bins and then in landfill. 

What happens to food waste in landfill? 

“Food waste is mostly organic material, composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen along with small amounts of some other elements. In a landfill, this organic material is buried and when this happens, microorganisms begin to break it down in a process known as ‘anaerobic digestion’. This is digestion in the absence of oxygen. The microorganisms derive energy from this to support their life cycle however as a by-product of this process, greenhouse gases (methane, carbon dioxide) are produced. If these gases are not captured they are released into the atmosphere. (https://disruptiveenvironmentalist.com/what-happens-to-food-waste-in-landfills-the-full-environmental-impact/)

The gas produced is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide!

It’s well and truly time to stop this madness so……what can you do?

The good news is that now you are aware of this problem, there are actually lots of things that you can do to reduce food waste.

My Top Tips

  1. Eat at home more – the restaurant business is a MASSIVE generator of wasted food. When you do eat out, only order what you can eat. If the portion is too big, take your leftovers home (and eat them!). 
  2. Grow your own food – this is not an option for everyone as it requires some space and time but if you do have a garden, home grown veggies taste incredible and work out so much cheaper than store bought. After seeing the effort that goes into producing just a handful of tomatoes or strawberries, you will have a newfound respect for food! Even if you don’t have a lot of space for vegetables, pretty much anyone can pot some herbs in your garden/balcony/kitchen so you have lovely fresh herbs to hand and you don’t need to go to the supermarket. Start with your favourite one and see how you get on.
  3. Store your food properly – a big part of why we throw food away is because we don’t store it properly and it spoils before it’s time. My favourite place for storage tips and kitchen “hacks” is Pinterest. There are so many amazing ideas there.
  4. Avoid a “big shop” if you tend to have a very busy schedule – did you know that bagged salad is one of the most thrown out items in British households? When I first heard that I wasn’t surprised at all and have thrown away many a sad bag of soggy leaves. I never know if I will have to work late, transport will be a disaster or last minute drinks with colleagues will come up so I only buy what I am going to cook in the next day or two to avoid forgetting what’s there and having to throw it out. 
  5. Use your freezer – If your fruit or vegetables are on the verge of going off, freeze them. Kale and spinach are great to have on hand for smoothies or curries for some extra nutrients. Frozen bananas make delicious vegan “nice cream“.
  6. “Rescue” food before it’s thrown away: there are lots of innovative programmes popping up in an attempt to collect and redistribute food that might otherwise go to waste.
    1. Olio – OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away. For your convenience, OLIO can also be used for non-food household items too.
    2. Karma – Karma is a Swedish startup founded in Stockholm, November 2016. The app connects surplus food from restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to consumers for a lower price. As a result, users eat great food for less and businesses receive an additional revenue stream — all while reducing food waste.
    3. Approved food – specialise in surplus and short-dated stock, food that is either near or just passed its ‘best before’ date – allowing us to pass on huge savings to our customers.
    4. Oddbox – “20-40% of produce in the UK is wasted before it even leaves the farms meaning a lot of unnecessary waste for the planet, a raw-deal for producers and a whole wonky world of missed opportunities for people like us to eat. Determined to battle food waste and give ugly, wonky veg a better, more beautiful future, they visited farms, talked to producers and came up with the idea for Oddbox. “
  7. Reduce your waste by using everything up: Read “More Plants, Less Waste” by Max La Manna for tips on using up everything amazing recipes and ideas for using up everything so there is less to throw away/compost in the first place
  8. Compost – Not every borough in London has a composting programme (10 boroughs don’t collect, 16 don’t collect from flats). If you don’t have composting in your area this is what you can do email your MP and the local council and request it. The more people who ask, the more pressure they will be under to provide it. Council tax is ridiculously high and this is exactly the kind of issue that councils were set up to tackly. To find out how to compost at home follow Amelia Barnes (@ameliakbarnes) on Instagram who has tons of information in her story highlights and on her website.
  9. Clean your recycling – Wash your plastic, cans etc before throwing them in the recycling bin to ensure no rotting food waste is left and causing gas to release as it decomposes.

Read: More Plants, Less Waste by Max Lamanna

Follow: @maxlamanna, @ameliakbarnes, @zerowastecook

Low waste (and low cost) skin-care swaps

In my quest to create less waste and spend less money, I’ve actually discovered several skin care swaps that have my skin feeling better than ever.

Ice roller -> lavendar infused ice cube

Ice rollers or jade rollers have been popping up on social media a lot of late with beauty bloggers swearing by them. The supposed benefits include

•reducing puffiness

•increasing bloodflow

•reducing appearance of pores

I have no idea if any of that is based on fact but I kinda loved the idea of rolling something cold all over my face! 🤣

A “sustainability influencer” suggested making your own by adding a drop of essential oil into ice cubes so I tried it and loved it. I use it every morning now. It helps me wake up and I feel like it reduces any puffiness. Also, smells amaaaazing. Cheap and easy to do but it feels like a luxury!

Oil-based cleanser -> Almond oil

Every night, I remove my makeup up (which is typically just tinted moisturiser and mascara these days) with Sweet Almond Oil and a hot face cloth. Just work the oil into your skin for a minute or two and then remove with a face cloth (mine are bamboo)you’ve run under the hot water tap. It’s dreamy!

After that, I wash with a facial cleansing bar to make sure my face is properly clean.

Then, cos I’m fancy AF, I spritz my face with some Rosewater.

Serum -> homemade oil blend

Instead of a super expensive serum, I made my own blend of Sweet Almond Oil and Argan Oil (50/50) with a couple of drops of frankincense. I read that frankincense has anti-aging properties and I have no idea whether or not that is total bullshit but it smells good and I cross my fingers!

Homemade scrub

Once a week, I exfoliate with a homemade honey and brown sugar scrub.

It’s so cheap and easy to make and if I accidentally get any in mouth, it tastes fab!

Homemade body butter

For years, I just used Palmers Cocoa butter and it was the only thing that I felt worked. I have pretty dry skin especially here in London where the water is really hard (I actually really miss the humidity of Taiwan!).

That was until I tested out this recipe that I came across on Instagram over the Christmas holidays.

You take equal parts;

• Shea butter

•Cocoa butter

•Coconut oil

Put them in a glass bowl and place over a saucepan of water. Boil the water and wait for your mixture to melt. Once it’s melted, let it cool for a few mins and then pop it in the freezer to solidify it a little. When it’s started to solidify around the edges, take it out and use a whisk to whip it up. When you have a nice fluffy consistency transfer it to a jar. I use a salsa jar because I eat chips and salsa at an alarming rate and always have a ton lying around my kitchen! You can also add a couple of drops of essentail oil if you want to make it scented.

Tranistioning from “normal” moisturiser to oil did cause some breakouts for a couple of weeks but I’ve now followed this regime since last summer and my skin is happier than it has been in years!

Let me know if you try any of these and how you get on with them.

Breaking Up With Fast Fashion

 

What’s in your wardrobe?

It’s time to break up with fast fashion and here are some of the top reasons why:

  • 10% of global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry, which is more than shipping and aviation combined!!
  • 77% of UK retailers believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery in their supply chain

First, take stock.

The thing is – you probably don’t need any new clothes. You likely have lots of beautiful items in your wardrobe you have forgotten about so, have a look in your wardrobe and fall back in love with what you already have. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of clothes you have, spring is the perfect time to cull your wardrobe!

Get everything out and pile it all in one place, Marie Kondo style, and sort it into categories:

  1. Keep – pretty self-explanatory! These are the clothes you love to wear often.
  2. Repair – many items in your wardrobe can be revived by fixing a zipper, letting a seam out or having the hem taken up. About once a year, I go through my wardrobe and see if there is anything that needs repairing.
  3. Sell – make some extra money by selling things with tags that you are never going to wear or some of your more high-end items that will get a good resale price on eBay, Schpock or Depop.
  4. Donate – for clothes that are in great condition, consider donating them to a charity shop where they can be resold. For things like winter coats and warm clothes, you might want to donate those to your local homeless centre. For torn or unwearable clothes, you may be able to donate them to animal shelters where they can be used as bedding for the animals. When in doubt, give the charity a call to see what they can accept.
  5. Recycle – for anything you can’t donate, find a local organisation that can properly recycle them like Terracycle.

Find a uniform……and then add your personal style

A lot of highly successful people have a ‘uniform’ that they wear every day. Mark Zuckerberg wears a grey t-shirt and jeans. Steve Jobs always wore black turtleneck and jeans. Arianna Huffington is a huge advocate for work uniforms and ‘repeating’ outfits.

If you find deciding what to wear in the morning causes you stress or you just can’t be bothered with the extra steps, a work uniform is a great option. (And if you’re lazy like me, you might also have a non-work uniform!). There is a lot to say for creating a capsule wardrobe of good quality basics that last a long time and fit well. For more on creating a capsule wardrobe, check out Project 333.

Simple, basic and capsule might sound kinda boring but they really don’t have to be. You can make any outfit more interesting with your choice of accessory(ies). Lipstick, jewellery, sunglasses, glasses, hair accessories, nail polish.

Slow fashion

Last year, I started seriously thinking about the impact our fashion habits have on our mental health, our finances and the planet. After watching The True Cost on Netflix, I couldn’t be willfully ignorant any more and I knew that I needed much more sustainable habits, both for my bank balance and for the environment. And as a proud (loud!) feminist, I also knew that the primarily female garment industry was exploiting women in low-income countries.

1 in 6 of the world’s workers are employed in the fashion industry and around 80% of those workers are female.

In January 2019, I finally made the choice not to buy any more fast fashion. So what are the alternatives?

  1. Repair what you have – there is a growing “mending” movement online and you can find amazing tutorials and inspiration.
  2. Swap with and borrow from your friends 
  3. Buy second hand – there are so many secondhand clothing resources in the UK.
  • Charity Shops – you’ll find these on any high street and some bigger organisations, like Amnesty International and Oxfam onlines stores as well.
  • Vintage – there are a lot of incredible and affordable vintage stores like, Rokit .
  • Peer-to peer – buy and sell pre-loved items on apps like Depop, eBay and Schpock
  • Secondhand designer – Vestiarie Collective is my newest obsession – full of beautiful pre-loved designer clothes.

4. Sustainable brands

When buying new clothes, have a list of questions you ask yourself:

  • Is this an ethical brand?
    • I use an app, Good On You, which rates brands on their Labour, Environmental and Animal policies.
  • Is this item going to last a long time?
  • What fabric is this item made from and can it be recycled?
  • If you feel the impulse to buy something, wait 30 days to see if you still want it. Instagram makes EVERYTHING look good and half the time, you will totally forget.

Be aware of “greenwashing”

Companies are aware of the emerging demand for more environmentally friendly and ethically sourced goods. Many will throw in terms like ‘sustainable’, ‘ethical’ and ‘vegan’ into their marketing without any transparency. These terms have no legal definition and absolutely no accountability. I’ve found Good on You to be a great resource for sorting through the bullshit.

Read: Project 333 EcoAge , Mending Matters

Download: Good On You app, Depop app

Follow: @fash_rev @venetiafalconer @ajabarber 

Watch: The Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj – The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion, The True Cost

So, you’re out of debt. What next?

I’ve been debt free now for 5 glorious months!

Surprisingly, I feel like that was probably the easy part. It took me about 18 months from when I decided get my shit together until I actually made the last credit card payment.

I forgot to to mention it in the last post but I used Dave Ramsey’s “Debt Snowball” https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/get-out-of-debt-with-the-debt-snowball-plan. It’s a really great method! Reaching each milestone was such amazing motivation.

Staying out of debt hasn’t been hard because not only do I have more money to play with than before, I also still remember the stress that came with it and I could never let myself go there again.

Saving, on the overhand, is proving a lot more challenging than I’d anticipated!

I’ve always been good at saving for travelling and stuff I want but I have a much harder time saving for things that are less tangible like emergencies or ‘rainy day’ savings or big things like a car, house or retirement.
My current savings goals are:

  1. Trip to Vancouver in July
  2. Full emergency fund of three months expenses
  3. A car
  4. Start saving for a house

Goal 1 is going really well for two reasons.

  • I fucking love travelling!
  • It has pretty clear ‘deadline’. If I don’t have the money by July, the trip can’t happen. And it’s definitely happening!

Goal 2 and 3, not so much. I’ve dipped into those pots a few times for non-essentials and am having a much harder time staying motivated. They feel a bit too big and too far away and also less exciting that a holiday or new clothes…..

Goal 4 honestly seems completely out of reach right now. And virtually impossible to make any real commitment towards. I am doing some research at the moment and trying to figure out my best option so this will definitely be a future post.

I’m a spender! I am an absolute sucker for new stuff. And while I’ve become a lot more conscious of the products I buy and where they come from, I still love spending. Instead of random fast fashion, I’m now splurging on house plants and rugs! Hello mid 30s!
I know my weak spots

  • Clothes
  • Food
  • House stuff

So, how do we stay focussed?

1.Use a ‘Zero-Based budget to ensure you’re saving as much as you can

2. Make is easy for yourself.
To get me into better habits, I’ve decided to automate my savings. They will now come straight out of my account a day or two after I get paid and go into an account I can’t easily access. Out of sight, out of mind!

3. Look at your balance
I can’t remember which podcast it was on it was but something the host said really resonated with me. Get used to and excited to see a big number in your bank account. I look at my bank account every morning and it does feel really good to see big numbers! I lived paycheck to paycheck my entire life and now I always have money in my account before payday.

4. Create some “rules” around your spending.
A good rule of thumb before purchases is to ask yourself a few questions. I love these from Money Saving Expert:

Skint? Ask:

  • Do I need it?
  • Can I afford it?

Not skint? Ask:

  • Will I use it?
  • Is it worth it?

5. If you really want it, earn extra money
Another tactic I use to stay on track with savings when I see something I really want to buy is to find a way to make some extra money to pay for it. Some of the ways to do this are similar to how to make extra money to throw at debts.

  • Have a clear out and see if you have anything worth selling
  • Use OhMyDosh to earn some extra cash
  • Get cashback – I’ve just signed up to Quidco to earn cashback on some of my purchases
  • See if you qualify for a “bank bribe” to switch your current account

Whether or not you can be bothered with the extra effort to find the money for something will tell you whether or not you really want it! It also helps to change your mindset when you have to work harder to get that shiny thing you saw and when you get it it feels so much more satisfying.

Lastly, if you do impulse buy you can return it! Don’t take the tags off right away. See if it really does “spark joy” and if not, take it back.

Changing your spending behaviours takes time and you will slip up. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Our relationship with money is deeply personal. It’s cultural. It’s gendered. It’s traditon.

We like to think we are rational beings, but we are more irrational than we realise. Advertisers know this. Marketing relies in behavioural science. They sell you a lifestyle, not a product. They tap into your emotions and insecurities and they are very, very good at it.

Keep an eye on those numbers, watch the debt decrease and the savings increase and your stress start to melt away.

Read: The Minimalists, Dave Ramsey
Listen: Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, So Money with Farnoosh Torabi
Follow: @FiscalFemme @TheMinmalists