Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Word, Some Goals, the Promise of the Future

I know a lot of people who choose a word for the year. I've not done this in the past, because it just didn't resonate with me. I have almost always had some things in mind at the beginning of the calendar year, some goals and plans and such. Some years there has just been one thing that was my focus for the year. In 2012, it was adding a second child to our family. Despite common sense dictating that there would be no way we would bring home a child with us in 2012, I felt instinctively that this would happen, and it did. Other years I have felt that the task for the year was to connect my children to their history, and in 2014 my focus was on moving to London (also something which defied logic at the beginning of that year but did indeed come to pass). So it's not that I've not had a focus, it's just never been connected to a word.

But this year, I've found that there's a word that describes what my work is for this year. The word is foundations. This year, we do not have any big tasks to do as a family, and I personally do not have one big task. But there have been some little things that have emerged that require attention and effort. This year, when we do not have a big task which looms in all our minds, there is time and space for attending to the little things.

First, I am attending to a habit which is not in and of itself bad, but certainly not productive. I like to buy clothes for myself. There is nothing wrong with this, and most things I purchase do not cost much, as I prefer to purchase mostly secondhand items. However, I have plenty of clothes, particularly of the pretty, exciting type. Loads of dresses, lots of shirts, a few very cute skirts. I don't need any more of these things, so I am not going to buy any. If I need any of the foundation garments which make wearing other clothes comfortably possible, then those are the things that I will buy. I need a good pair of shoes that can be repaired, so I'll save the little bits I'd spend on a cheap dress or a clearance top, and put that together to get something that will last. And I will wear every single thing in my wardrobe. If I don't wear it during the year, or if I wear it and realize it's really not working for me, then I will donate it. At the end of the year, I hope to have a solid foundation of clothing and shoes that will be usable for the long term, and I will have broken the habit of letting a pretty dress catch my eye and carry me away in visions of how wonderful it would be to wear it.

Second, I am going to attempt to drastically reduce the amount of single use plastics and other assorted single use items that we purchase and use. I've gotten a resuable coffee cup that is lightweight and easy to pop in my bag when I go out. I've put various reusable household items on my Amazon shopping list and will purchase those gradually throughout the year. Before our children joined our family, I had gotten quite good at using various bags and boxes and jars to avoid excess packaging at the store, and I am hoping to return to those habits this year.

Third, I am going to develop better budgeting habits. We've done okay and always had enough money when we needed it, but with many unexpected expenses over the course of the past several years, I feel like I'm always playing catch up with our budget. I began in 2017 tracking down all the little (and sometimes medium-to-large) recurring expenses that we have throughout the year, and I am organizing our budget differently now to be able to accommodate all of those expenses without stress. I am also checking our accounts every day. This is a simple thing that was suggested to me when I took an online financial improvement course, and it is already proving to be helpful. I feel much more confident in the decisions I make regarding how to spend money and when. Even when we are low on funds, I feel a lot less stress about it, because I know exactly what is coming in and going out of our accounts every single day. Perhaps this will sound silly, but in times of financial stress in the past I've sometimes avoided looking at our accounts due to my own sense of fear of what I'd see. Now I am not afraid of seeing a low balance in an account, because I've seen that before, and I've handled it. 2018 will be my year of handling things well every month, of coming to our finances from a place of confidence and not fear.

I'm not sure what future years will hold, but there are some big things I am wishing for, and I know that building a solid foundation under my castles in the air is a fitting thing to do. I am excited for the future. I am looking forward to the work I have to do. It is good work, worthy work. I am glad to do it.

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