The end of April can only mean one thing: checking where I’ve ended up with the 10 changes in April. Let’s go.
Yes, please! Here you can read what I’ve learnt from my offline weekend. Long story short, it was so good that I will repeat it this coming weekend and will continue to do it on a regular basis. Nothing has ever cleared my mind as well as avoiding mental digital pollution for 24 hours.
Pay off all debt
Done! And OMG it feels good. I used my savings to pay off the remaining debt, which goes against the general advice that you should save 3-6 salaries before rolling up your sleeves to tackle your debts. I disagree. Interest rates on savings are so rubbish that it makes sense to pay off debts as soon as you can to save money from not having to pay outrageous interest fees on debts. If that sounded complicated, here’s a simpler version: not saving can save. Do save what you can but do get out of debts asap and boost your savings later (this advice is not for massive debts that take decades to clear like student loans or mortgages, obviously). Money aside, it’s the feeling that you don’t owe anything to anyone that’s totally worth it.
Verdict: because it’s complete, my message to myself if – do not get into debts again.
Save as much as I can
First of all, I need to say that I am grateful that I earn enough to make savings. Secondly, April is always a spendy month because my husband’s birthday is in early May, and it means more expenses to buy presents and less money left to save. But, with no debts left to pay and with focus on saving more, I doubled my savings this month.
I hate to hear people (or myself) say “I will never be able to do something” because often what they (I) mean is “it’s not on my radar so I don’t even try”.
I’m still far from having a healthy chunk of money to retire early, and I’m nowhere near a needed deposit to buy my own home, but it was the first time that I thought that maybe it’s not that impossible. If I continue to save at the current rate, I may be able to buy a flat in five years time or so. Wow. That’s not a bad thought to have.
Treat myself to small things
Loved it. Most often, the small things were flowers and tasty foods. Daffodils have been in season, and it’s been a pleasure to see pops of yellow colour in my living room. A small bunch costs £1 or £2, and the uplifting feeling it gives has been priceless. With tasty foods, it has been a similar story: a croissant may not be the healthiest of foods, but it made my Monday mornings a lot more enjoyable for as little as 80p (M&S croissants are the best). Such small gestures cost me very little but made me value myself a lot.
Stop looking for negativity
I’ve made some progress, but I have a long way to go.
First of all, I went through my Instagram and Facebook lists and unfollowed all the accounts that sucked the joy out of me for whatever reason. Secondly, I stopped visiting the sites and blogs that did the same. Thirdly, I watched less news.
But old habits die hard, so occasionally I found myself checking the accounts that I have unfollowed, believing “I need to see that they’re as sucky as they were because it would mean I was right to leave them”. Yes, I have a twisted logic sometimes.
The simple truth is: if something or someone makes you unhappy or miserable, just leave it alone and don’t look back. I still have a problem with the “don’t look back” bit. But I’m working on it.
Tick off things to do off my London list
Done! Seen in April: Thames Barrier, Little Venice, Postman’s Park, colourful houses in Chelsea, St. Bartholomew’s Church, One New Change rooftop. I cannot wait for summer to come to explore more places in the city that I am blessed to be able to call home.
Run in the morning
Wellll. On the days when I worked from home, I did do it, and it was good. But never once did I manage to get myself up and running before going the office. I exercised at home for 10-15 minutes instead so I won’t beat myself for being lazy. I don’t know, maybe I can blame it on the weather – pushing yourself into a rainy 5’C early morning requires motivation that I don’t seem to have. I will try to do it in warmer months.
Verdict: try again.
3+ hours of French a week.
I did well until last week when I was away for work, so technically I failed the overall goal. But I did a lot more studying than in the previous months, and the best part of it is – it reignited my passion for learning French. There’s something about being able to understand the French news and books better that makes me want to become a better student. One day, I will speak French.
Meat-free for more than 50% of the month
Done. Without calculating the exact meat-free meals, I know I have been even better than the 50% goal. Did I see any difference in how I look or how I feel physically? No, not really. But mentally, I am happier in knowing that I can contribute to lessening the meat consumption and maybe improving the animal welfare a tiny bit. Because changing my eating habits is a drop in the ocean, but if all of us did the same, we could literally change the world. More people are becoming much more aware and conscious of their consumption, so maybe there is still hope for humanity.
Reduce plastic use.
Oh dear. I tried so hard, but I feel that I have failed miserably because once you start to pay attention to plastic around you, you can’t unsee the oceans of it.
My own ways to deal with it were quite standard:
1. carry a fabric tote bag to carry purchases;
2. refuse plastic bags from shops;
3. buy fruit and vegetables and meat from small stalls and shops that don’t wrap produce in plastic;
4. refuse plastic straws in bars and restaurants;
5. use a water filter instead of buying bottled water;
6. use my own coffee mug in coffee shops instead of their styrofoam cups;
7. carry a refillable bottle of water;
8. and recycle as much as I can.
And despite all that, I still had two big bags of plastic to put into the recycling bin at the end of the month. I wasn’t happy. It’s a fail, and as I consumer I am lost about what else I can do to help the plastic disaster.
Seriously. Recycling is not the answer, it is certainly better than just dumping our waste to rot and pollute our lands and oceans, but we should significantly reduce our use of plastic where it’s not needed. Why on earth do supermarkets wrap bananas in plastic? Why do so many people make a face about an idea of refilling their own bottles from public fountains? Why is recycling still a choice and not an obligation?
I hear more people talk about the problem and I can only hope that collective action to reduce plastic waste will make a difference. But oh dear we have a long way to go…
Final thought of the month?
When I started the 120 changes idea in January, it was all about changing my own ways. But in April I was tackling some challenges that are bigger than me – like, the meat consumption or the plastic waste. I am a firm believer that we all must play a part in making our world a better place, however small every one of us is. Because we’re not small when there are many of us. Because together we can be a force of change for the better.