Bean counting

Tags

, , , , , ,

(In 2014, my husband and I decided to make a significant change to our way of life: we dropped from a double-income household to a single income. You can read about this decision here. This post is part of my Living simply series.)

So here’s how we were able to reduce our spending to the point where one of us could quit working temporarily. (Going on two years now.)

The goal here is simply to spend less than you earn. Considerably less, if you can. In order to determine if you’re doing that, or if you’re even able  do that, you need to know exactly how much you earn (you can usually figure that out by looking at last year’s income tax forms, assuming your situation hasn’t changed) and compare that to exactly how much you spend. This part’s a little tougher for most people. But if you don’t know how much money you’re spending, and on what, you won’t know how to modify your habits to cut back.

This means keeping detailed accounts of how your money is spent. It may sound daunting, but it’s essential. We have a spreadsheet where we enter what we spend every month into various categories. Mr. Money Mustache has a great example here, and ours is broken into nearly identical categories.

And yes, this means saving your receipts for every. Single. Thing. You. Buy. It may sound tedious and odious and boring as all get out, but tracking your spending really is essential to this process. One way to simplify this could be to buy everything on credit card. That way you’ve got all your expenses on one or two bills, with a few receipts for cash or debit transactions. However, I am very hesitant to encourage credit card spending, because most Canadians already seem to be addicted to these little plastic monsters.

coffee-beans-1325565-1279x852

Get counting those beans!                                                 (Photo: FreeImages.com/Alexandre Jaeger Vendruscolo)

(This is probably the most important financial rule in our household: NEVER buy something on credit card if you can’t afford to pay the card off in full by the next payment due date. Never, ever, ever pay interest on a credit card. If you can’t afford to pay off your card by the end of the month, then you can’t afford the item you want to buy. Period. We also don’t have a line of credit and never pay with debit. But this is a more advanced stage of the process. Let’s get back to the early steps.)

 

How long do you need to do this tracking? We’ve never stopped. It’s still how we determine what we spend in a given month, and how we set our budget for the next year. But for starters, it’s a good idea to collect your data for about three months, then look at the data you’ve collected and see where you could make some strategic cuts.

Did you spend $500 or more on clothes and shoes in three months? Unless you’ve got kids, this is probably unnecessary spending. Especially when you know you’ve got some perfectly good clothes tucked away in the back of the closet that you haven’t worn in ages. Slash the clothes budget, and get creative with what you’ve got.

Or maybe you spent $500 on take-out meals and restaurants. What usually happens here is we run out of time or energy to make meals at home, so we splurge on take-out. In our house, the limit is one meal per week can come from outside the home. Otherwise, everything is home-cooked. The trick here is planning in advance, and making large batches of things that can be frozen for later.

Much like losing weight, you can approach this process in two ways: you can diet, that is starve yourself and exercise like crazy for a few weeks, for results that will last only a few weeks or days; or you can change your entire mindset towards food (and money), and make your changes permanent.

In brief, here are the first steps towards financial freedom*:

  1. Track your spending meticulously.
  2. Look at the categories where your spending is superfluous and identify ways to cut back.
  3. Set concrete goals. For example: Let’s cut our restaurant budget in half over the next three months. Let’s not buy any electronics (tablets, phones, TVs) for one year.

*When I talk about financial freedom, I don’t mean those TV ads that show people on a tropical island, sipping fruity drinks because they invested wisely and now they’re rich. I mean freedom from having to trade most of your waking hours for money. Rich in time, which is more valuable.

In later posts, I’ll talk more about where to make cuts in your expenses, and what to do with some of that extra “disposable income” once you’ve got yourself spending less than you earn.

So get counting those beans!

———————-

Are you excited about becoming more financially free, but you don’t want to wait a few months to gather data before getting started? Looking to make a big dent in your household expenses right now? Cancel your cable. Today.

It blows my mind how much cable companies charge for crappy television. I haven’t had cable in nearly 10 years, but that’s not to say I don’t watch television. You can get loads and loads of DVDs from your local library, both movies and TV shows, for free. Yes, that means waiting until the whole season comes out on DVD, so you’ll be a bit behind on the storylines compared to people with cable. It’s a small price to pay for saving $100+ per month. You can also ask a friend with cable if you can watch the show together, turning it into an inexpensive social event. A lot cheaper than a night at the bar, or the movies.

 

Back in the saddle

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

This past fall, I came out of semi-retirement and signed a three-month contract at a non-profit organization. Other than a couple very short-term gigs, this is the first real job I’ve had in some time. (I quit my job about 18 months ago to be a happy housewife. Find out more about that here.)

This week I finished that not-quite-full-time contract, and it was eye-opening being back in the saddle again, as it were. Overall, it was a great experience: I met new people, learned new skills, and got out of the house and out of my pyjamas. But I won’t deny that getting up to an alarm every morning and out the door on time was a real struggle, especially the first month.

Sitting all day is hard.

Sitting all day is hard.

Sitting at a desk all day is hard (not to mention not good for you). I put on weight, I wasn’t sleeping as well, and the pets started acting up because they felt neglected. At the office, not being able to take frequent breaks, to stretch or go for a walk, or even take a nap in the afternoon was also difficult. (I know, cue the violins.)

I was talking to a former colleague about it, and I told her how surprised I was at the challenge of getting back into that routine that I used to do every day. “I never thought it would be so hard to go back,” I said. “Maybe I’ve been away too long.”

“Or maybe we were never meant to live like that in the first place,” she said.

Bingo.

==========================

One of my colleagues at my contract job asked me what I was going to do when this contract ended, if I had something else lined up. “Nope,” I said. “I was unemployed when I started, and I plan to go back to being unemployed. I’m a happy housewife.”

“So you’ve got kids to look after,” he said. “No, no kids. I’m just a happy housewife,” I said, beaming. (I really do love being a housewife. And calling myself a housewife, while being a pretty staunch feminist. I think it’s hilarious. But I digress.)

“Oh. So you’ve got the means to make that work? I mean, you won’t be hanging out on park benches or anything?” he asked, looking me over, trying to reconcile my somewhat slovenly appearance with what must be my enormous trust fund.

“No, not generally,” I laughed. “Maybe on nice summer days.”

He walked away with a puzzled look on his face. I sometimes see that look on people’s faces when I tell them I don’t work, that my husband is the sole breadwinner. People assume my husband brings home a six-figure salary (he doesn’t) or that we must have inherited a fortune or won the lottery (we didn’t). The truth is, this lifestyle is a lot more feasible, for middle-class couples at least, than most people realize.

The median income in an Ottawa household in 2013 was just over $100,000, one of the highest in the country. Our total household expenditures in 2015, not including the mortgage, were less than half that. That includes all car expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc), all utilities, all food, all entertainment, one smart phone plan, vet visits for our dog and cat, any medications or health care we needed, our chiropractor visits, hair cuts, clothes, bus fare, charitable donations, all garden expenses, everything. We also managed to fit in a two-week trip to Newfoundland. All for less than half the median income in Ottawa.

(Again, that doesn’t include mortgage payments on our very average Ottawa home. The mortgage pushes our expenses over the halfway point of the median Ottawa income, but they’re still far below $100,000.)

I realize this income bracket is not attainable for many families, especially those working at or below minimum wage, and the fact that minimum wage is not a living wage is shameful. My husband and I, we’re lucky, absolutely. But we’re not that different, financially, from a lot of middle-class people in our city, or in other Canadian cities.

Obviously, the happy housewife or househusband is not a role for everyone, and I’m not saying everybody needs to quit their jobs tomorrow. But I see people who drag themselves to work every day, wishing their lives were different. I’m not talking about bad days: we all have those, even the happy housewives. I’m talking about people who feel trapped and miserable in their jobs, who dream of having more time to spend with their kids, or of maybe starting a little side business that they’re passionate about, or of taking up a new hobby to help them deal with stress.

These things are not unattainable. In the coming weeks and months, I’m hoping to write more about our experiment with a single income, how we got here, how we keep going, and why it has been absolutely the right decision for us. And I welcome your questions and comments.

If you’re looking for more examples of people living simply to retire early, check out the Minimalists, or Mr. Money Mustache. Both have great stories and tips about living simply.

To the young woman on the bus

Tags

,

It was confusing, because the man seemed to be talking on his cell phone. He kept saying things like, “Come on, Beautiful. You’re so gorgeous. Why don’t you talk to me?” Over and over again, holding his phone to his ear.

Sitting across the aisle, I was mildly annoyed, because this went on for 10 minutes and it seemed he was going to have the same conversation for the whole bus ride. I was trying to read my book.

I thought he was holding the phone to his ear. Suddenly I noticed that he was leaning forward talking directly to you. Telling you, “You’re so beautiful.” Asking to take your photo. Leaning closer.

I want you to know that I saw you, saw the look of fear on your face, and instantly recognized it. I’d guess the guy was about 30 years older than you, and possibly drunk. It’s in these situations that we have to make split-second assessments:  Do I ignore him? Do I tell him no, firmly but gently? Do I yell at him to fuck off? Do I inform the bus driver? How dangerous is this man? Are any of these people going to help me if things escalate?

Your decision to stay silent and simply turn your head so he couldn’t take your photo, then ignore him, was a smart one. You communicated your disinterest to him and protected yourself. The whole interaction lasted maybe 30 seconds; he leaned back in his seat and resumed his “phone” conversation. (If he had ever really been on the phone. I still don’t know).

I want you to know that I watched this interaction, and I thought about saying something to him. But like you, I was weighing the situation. How insistent is he going to get about taking your photo? Will intervening escalate the whole thing needlessly?

I will admit that other, more cowardly, thoughts also passed through my head: Would I look like a shrieking harpy if I stepped in? Would I look like a racist, because the man was Aboriginal?

On a danger-alertness scale, I’d say this situation was blue, or a “stay on your guard” type of situation. It was unlikely to become violent, since we were on a rush-hour bus full of people. But it was uncomfortable.

I say I recognized the fear on your face because 20 years ago, when I was your age, I also encountered situations like this one. I too felt scared and vulnerable when strange men showed me unwanted attention. When they didn’t get the hint that their attention was unwanted, and kept pushing. Those instant risk assessments come more naturally to me now. I can’t say I would have responded as calmly as you did. Having seen this bullshit for too long, I likely would have told him to fuck off. But then, at my age, those creepy interactions happen far less frequently.

I’m still thinking about this incident because I realized how scared I was to intervene. I’d never actually been put in a situation like that before. I like to think I would have the courage to speak up if it was needed.

I would have loved to tell this guy off, tell him that it’s inappropriate to ask to take anyone’s photo on a bus. That he’s scaring you and being a fucking creep. More and more, I feel like we need to turn these situations into teachable moments, because some men are just ignorant and don’t understand the power imbalance. But this guy was not fully sober, and not likely receptive to a lesson on sexism.

I think I made the right decision to stay out of it, because I do think it would have turned into an argument and would have lasted a lot longer than 30 seconds. But more importantly, I hope you think I made the right decision.

I’m not laughing

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Facebook has this feature where you can sometimes see the posts of friends’ friends, if your friends have commented on their posts. Sometimes I wish people would increase their privacy settings so I don’t have to see this crap.

Here’s a fine example from Monday this week:

Now, I try to have a sense of humour about this stuff. Yes, I’m a feminist and I don’t apologize for that. I can take (and give) a good joke. If this was a friend of mine, I would probably leave a snarky comment and leave it at that. But I don’t know this guy personally, and there’s something more insidious going on here that is worth investigating. And it isn’t funny.

I’m not even going to get into the argument about “the best novelists.” I absolutely agree that it’s ridiculous to say the top ten novelists of all time are all women, just as it’s equally ridiculous to say the top ten novelists of all time are all men. In fact, it’s kind of ridiculous to make a list of the top ten novelists of all time in the first place, but people do love lists. (Zack, if you need a list of outstanding women novelists who can easily compete with whatever you consider canonical, I suggest you start here or here.)

What I do want to address is the trope being used here to distract from a more nefarious agenda. Specifically, the use of self-derogatory humour to mask prejudice, in this case sexism.

Zack expects his mildly derogatory comment toward his own race to atone for (or should I say “whitewash”?) the blatant sexism of the first paragraph.

I’m sick of men masking their misogyny with self-deprecation. “Look, I’m not sexist! I make fun of my own sex/race! I make fun of everybody equally!” What they don’t understand is that it’s very easy to deride from your bubble of male privilege.

SOUND THE ALARM, EVERYBODY! HUMOURLESS FEMINIST SPOTTED! SHE JUST SAID “MALE PRIVILEGE”!!

Yes, yes, we’re all sick to death of hearing it. The thing is, it’s real, and we see it every goddamned day. Imagine how sick women are of dealing with it.

Now Zack probably thinks he’s a “good guy.” I’d be willing to bet he supports gay marriage and has friends of colour and treats his girlfriend nicely. On a good day, he may even be an ally. But not Monday at 2:57 p.m.

If you can dismiss over 1,000 years of writing by one half the population because of the sex of the authors, it’s not that much of a jump to dismiss the work a group of women fighting to get the vote, or the work of women engineers, the work of the woman who served you your morning coffee, or the work of the woman raising your children.

He probably thinks this status update is hilarious. He doesn’t really think women can’t write good novels. He just needed to say something funny to crucify the woman blogger who offended him.

Humour can be an effective weapon in making fun of the ills of sexism and racism. Humour can also be used to uphold these prejudicial systems, as it was in this case.

For the most part, in Canada we no longer have policies officially excluding women from spaces that have always been open to men: jobs, public office, etc. The barriers now are in our minds, our attitudes. These are the hardest to overcome, and self-deprecation and distraction isn’t going to help.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a white middle-class woman living in Ontario. I have my own hefty bubble of privilege. Everyone faces difficulties in life; none of us thinks we had it easy. What we don’t consider is how other people, systematically, have it much, much harder than us. The most insidious thing about privilege is that it is invisible to those who have it. We could all practice a little more empathy. This is the best description of privilege I’ve ever seen.

Flu season

Tags

, , , , , ,

It’s that time of year again. I was really hoping to have an illness-free winter, given how little time I spend out in public now that I’m not working. But my husband picked up a bug somewhere on his travels and brought it home. In his defence, I was convinced he was having a reaction to bad food so I wasn’t particularly careful about not catching it.

So he spent a whole day in bed with aches and a mild fever, and about five days later I did the same. Luckily it’s a short-lived bug, and I’m already feeling much better two days later. But his illness seems to be dragging on, and he isn’t quite back to himself yet. So I took it upon myself to find a flu-busting soup recipe. And I found this.

The list of ingredients looked amazing, until I got to the sweet potato. Then to goji berries. Goji berries in a soup? Really? The soup is puréed, so you don’t actually have to chew on chunks of goji, but I was still skeptical. On the other hand, I happen to have some old goji berries in the cupboard that I’ve been trying to get rid of, and stewing them in a soup would be a nice way to get rid of them. I’m also a big believer in onion, garlic, and ginger to fight illness.

Flu-fighting soup

Flu-fighting soup

My husband sniffed and made faces as I was frying the magical trio. The ginger was especially strong. I made a few substitutions: I couldn’t find green chilies, so I used half a jalapeño, and the shiitake mushrooms were very expensive, while the white mushrooms were half off, so I used those instead. After it had finished simmering, the resulting soup was not very attractive. (I forgot to take a photo, unfortunately.) But a quick run through the blender turned it into a beautifully thick, orange potage. It didn’t come out quite as red as in the photo, but I’m happy with it nonetheless.

As for taste? It’s delicious. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the berries helps mask the intensity of the garlic and ginger. I’m really impressed with this soup. Whether it works as a flu buster remains to be seen, but I’ll be making this recipe again regardless.

 

“Frozen”: Not exactly feminist fare

Tags

, , , , ,

I keep hearing—mostly from news anchors and talk-show hosts—how “Frozen” has many positive messages for young girls, and how groundbreaking it is for a mainstream children’s feature.

So a few weeks ago, when I saw the DVD at the library, I scooped it up. I’m all for better representation of women and girls in entertainment. And while I am no Disney fan (I will never buy any princess garbage for either of my nieces—sorry, girls) I was curious to see to what extent they ventured beyond the standard princess storyline.

Elsa and Anna from FrozenMy husband and I sat down and watched “Frozen”. We both laughed, especially at Olaf, who was my favourite character. I cried at the parts where they mean for you to. We both found the songs catchy but typical Broadway stuff, ultimately forgettable. Positive messages for kids? Yeah, OK. The importance of family, making sacrifices for people you love, not getting engaged to someone you just met that day. All good stuff.

As for the groundbreaking portrayal of female empowerment… Sure, I guess, if you compare it to Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which came out in 1937, before Rosie the Riveter, before “feminism” was even a word.

In “Frozen,” all I saw were two rich, pretty, skinny white girls who have first world problems. (Albeit fantastical ones. Poor Elsa and her magical powers.) Yes, they have some adventures and show bravery and independence. But they both end up back in their hometown, in the roles they are expected to play, and Anna ends up paired off in a traditional heterosexual relationship (though they get points for making her suitor a working-class ice-man rather than a prince).

This is where some people will argue that we should be satisfied that Elsa and Anna have been presented as brave and independent, or that at least Elsa isn’t paired up with anybody at the end. And that’s where I get really annoyed.

We should never, ever, be grateful or satisfied that our cultural outlets present human beings as individuals with agency rather than stereotypes. We should demand it. And we should communicate this with our purchases. (Hence, no princess gifts for my nieces. At least until there’s a truly pioneering portrayal of a female protagonist in these movies. How about a Latina scientist? Or a lesbian artist? I’m serious.)

The fact that Disney’s main female characters are almost exclusively princesses is hugely problematic to begin with. It immediately limits the range of experience the characters can have to, once again, first world problems. Not exactly mind-expanding content.

“Frozen” was entertaining and all, but if this is what we consider groundbreaking in terms of female portrayal, that’s pretty damn sad. And we should hardly be praising Disney or any other film studio for creating female characters that aren’t subservient simps.

An angry week

Tags

, , ,

When the allegations against Jian Ghomeshi became public last week, I was pretty angry. So angry that I wrote a post here and had to delete most of it before publishing. So angry that it took me a while to figure out what I was angry about, and to figure out exactly what point I was trying to make in that angry blog post.

Mostly I was angry that so many women had allegedly suffered assault at the hands of one man. But the number of people, men in particular, who jumped to his defence and immediately dismissed the accusations – that was infuriating beyond words.

dont rapeIt’s times like this that make me believe women and men really do live in two different worlds. Why is the default response dismissal and defensiveness? How can you not at least listen when a woman says she was assaulted?

The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. These are not strangers jumping out of the bushes. These are friends and acquaintances, people we expect will be reasonable, that will listen to reason, that can be reasoned with. Sadly, an assault by definition seems to require the loss of reason.

So it makes total sense when a woman says she was confused and didn’t leave because it was probably just a misunderstanding, and she didn’t want to be rude. What would you do if someone you thought you knew – even superficially – started wigging out and hitting you out of nowhere? Would you automatically hit back? Scream and punch and call the police? Not likely.

Just because something has never happened to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Often. To people you know and love, even.

Please listen to women when they make these accusations. False accusations of assault are extremely rare. Misogyny and abuse, sadly, are not.

The summer I became a feminist

Tags

, , , , , , ,

In late 1984, Madonna released her second album, “Like a Virgin.” Within months it – and she – became a huge international success. The album sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, and featured several hit songs whose videos are permanently etched into the minds of most 80s kids.

The last single from the album was “Dress You Up,” and the video was simply live footage from “The Virgin Tour”, Madonna’s first tour as a headliner. The song was released the summer I turned 11. It was a time of change in my life: I was beginning to pay more attention to music and artists, and fashion, as tweens generally do. I was playing less with my Barbies and spending more time listening to the radio. The summer I was 11 I started my period, and it was the last months we lived in the small farm house where I grew up – the only home I had ever known up until then.

madonna-dressyouupI still remember the exact moment I first saw the “Dress You Up” video. I was lying on my stomach on the green carpet in our old living room, my chin in my hands, my ankles crossed behind me. Madonna was strutting across the stage in a gaudy multicoloured jacket, worn over a blue lace top that only subtly covered her bra. She had her signature lace fingerless gloves and multiple crucifixes, lace tights under a miniskirt, and a big blue bow in her messy hair.

She walked out on that stage like she owned it, and had two male backup dancers following her every move. I had never seen anything like it. She wore what she wanted, she said what she wanted, she did what she wanted. My 11-year-old self was awestruck. Watching the video, I thought to myself, “If girls can do that, girls can do anything.”

I still believe it, and I still credit Madonna for opening my eyes to the fact. That we have choices. That we can choose to be bold and brash and outspoken and powerful.

I never got to see Madonna live until I was in my late 30s, on her MDNA tour. By then she was 52, and obviously not as energetic as she had been on her earlier tours. But it was a great show nonetheless. She didn’t perform “Dress You Up,” but she did sing “Like a Virgin,” and that’s all it took for me to transport back to my 11-year-old self and that summer when everything changed.

This post, incidentally, was inspired by Emma Watson’s brilliant speech to the UN last month, launching the He for She campaign. I finally got around to watching it last week, and she brought tears to my eyes. She spoke about when she became a feminist, and why, and it reminded me of 1985.

Talking myself out of writing

Tags

, ,

Off work nearly four months and not a single blog post. That’s not to say I haven’t had several ideas cross my mind. Or that I haven’t actually sat at the computer and started writing a couple. It’s that I have the terrible habit of talking myself out of it once I’ve begun. I’ve picked a bad time to write; I’m not in the mood; I’ve got errands that need to be taken care of; the animals are begging for attention. There are a million excuses.

I suspect that secretly, the real issue is that I’m afraid what I write will never be good, and so there’s no point in even beginning. It’s easy to talk yourself out of something if you think you’ve already failed.

So with this short, mediocre post, I am breaking the ice, I am reviving this blog, and I am giving myself permission to experiment, to write uninteresting crap, and to work at mediocrity until it turns into something kind of ok, and maybe even half decent. Eventually.

Life begins (anew) at 40

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Transforming your life is a scary thing. I’ve done it a couple of times now, and it never gets any easier. I’ve picked up and moved far away several times—twice to different continents—always by myself, always with nothing more than a basic plan and a need for change.

I’m about to undergo a new transformation, but a very different one from the ones I’ve tried in the past. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not doing it by myself, and I have a pretty elaborate plan, but it’s still riskier in some ways than any change I’ve sought before: I’m going to stop working.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say I’m going to stop trading my time, skills, and labour for financial remuneration in a formal and socially-sanctioned way. I’m still going to WORK. It’s just going to look different.

seedlingsHere’s the thing: I’ve never been a big fan of the Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 grind. Or any 40-hour-a-week grind. Some people may think this sounds childish, like I’m trying to shirk responsibilities, but I think it’s a pretty essential issue. The day we are born, our days are numbered. Our time is limited. Yet what we do with that time is largely determined for us (up to age 65 anyway) by this system that requires us to work to earn money to live. Without getting into Marxist theory or anything, we work because we buy stuff. Some stuff we need, some we don’t. At every turn, we are encouraged to buy more and more things; we’re told that we need ALL THE THINGS. It’s a lie.

I turned 40 a few months ago, and I’m becoming increasingly aware that what I NEED is food, shelter, clothing, and love. (And maybe my iPhone.)

Seriously though, that’s about it. The rest is noise. Wait, there is one other thing I need: Meaningful Work. I have no desire to sit around watching reality TV all day, eating garbage. I want to work. But work that excites me, that inspires me, that challenges me. Work that I can do when I’m ready to do it, not when the Man wants it done. (That’s right. I used “the Man.” I told you: I’m 40.)

And lastly, I want work that does not interfere with my ability to enjoy life and the people in it. Work that does not leave me exhausted at the end of the day, so that I’m too tired to make a meal for my husband, or help him with work around the house, or play with my dog.

And so I’m leaving my job next month, and for now I am not going to look for anything else in the way of steady employment. It’s a bit terrifying. Of all the big changes I’ve made in my life—moving thousands of kilometers away from family and friends, sometimes to places I didn’t speak the language—I don’t think I’ve ever felt so unsure about how things would turn out. But here’s the thing: Everything we do contains an element of risk. The question is, what type of risks are we taking?

I kinda stole that last bit from this article from HuffPo, where the author quotes from Machiavelli (Machiavelli!!) and it’s actually really inspiring. The gist of it is, we all make mistakes in life, so “make mistakes of ambition, not mistakes of sloth.”

I am fully aware that my husband and I are incredibly lucky to be in the position to be able to live on a single income. The cost of living, especially food and fuel, keeps climbing, and wages are not generally keeping pace. But we’ve also made significant sacrifices to get here. This has been part of our plan for years. A dozen times a day or more, we have the opportunity to buy all kinds of things. Each time, I weigh the cost. Nothing seems to really appeal as much as having the freedom to do what I want with my time.

So what am I going to do with my time? Friends, I’ve got lots of plans. The big one, I mean the really BIG ONE… I don’t think I want to say. I mean, I’m excited and I want to tell people, but I don’t want the pressure of saying it and then having people asking me about it all the time. Because I don’t know for sure that it’s going to happen. But what I really want to do is write a book.

There, I said it. But please don’t ask me every time you see me how it’s coming along or how many pages I’ve written. And please don’t ask me what it’s about; I’m keeping that to myself for now. (To be honest, I have a couple of books floating around in my head, I think. It’s a question of getting them out and into a format other people can enjoy. Or suffer from. Whatever.)

I also want to read books. All the books I’ve been putting off reading for the last 25 years or so. A Fine Balance, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Animal Farm, all the Jane Austen and Michael Palin books I haven’t read yet (no connection between those authors), the rest of the Song of Fire and Ice series. And TONS more.

I also want to spend quality time with my husband and our furry kids, and grow lots of veggies in our garden this summer. I want to blog more, and knit more, and get better at speaking Spanish. I want to cook and bake and meditate. But mostly, I want to figure out who am I when I’m not working. I think it’s going to be quite an adventure.