Zero-Based Budgeting

Not to be confused with zero budgeting, which is not a good thing, whether it’s because you simply don’t have a budget, or because you have a lack of anything to budget.

Injured Piggy Bank WIth Crutches

Zero-based budgeting – a concept I recently encountered – is the idea that each year’s budget starts from zero, and everything has to be justified. This is different to the usual sort of budgeting where you get as much as you got last year, whether you needed it or not (which explains a lot about government departments and their spending habits).

Jack Lew said “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” The same could be said of our belongings: they reveal a lot about who we are, who we think we are, who we would like other people to think we are, and who we would like to be.

What if we applied the concept of zero-budgeting to our stuff? Imagine emptying everything out of your house – including the furniture – and only carrying back in what you felt was worth the effort. Of course, many of us have so much stuff that this would be impractical, as we wouldn’t get through moving it out, sorting it out, and moving things back in before the day’s end.

The Big Wet Couch

Although now I think about it, the looming realization that anything you don’t move back in before bedtime will be prey to anyone who wants it might perhaps focus the mind in a wonderful way.

I admit, I’m not planning to do this myself. For one thing, the weather is hardly conducive to having everything outside. Yesterday it rained ice off and on all day. But I do sometimes sit down and wonder to myself what I would take and what I would leave, if I had to move to the other side of the world.

Moving house is basically the same as taking out all your stuff and putting it back, it’s just putting it back in a different house, and generally with an expensive interlude. It is remarkable how your enthusiasm for something can wane when it’s actually going to cost you something.

I stare at my possessions, drawing fine distinctions of worth and value. This teapot, perhaps, but not this one. These books, but not those. Looking at life this way has made me realize that I could actually do without a lot of the stuff that I have. Quite happily. So why not start now, avoid the rush?

Project 365 #23: 230110 Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed!?!

Take bedding, for example. When the poet spoke of “only half a bed,” I’m fairly certain he didn’t mean the rest to be covered with pillows, cushions, bolsters, and whatever other unnatural forms of padding have snuck in there.

Last month I went through the linen cupboard. We now have two sets of winter sheets and two sets of summer sheets for our bed and one set of each for the guest bed. Two blankets and a duvet (with a cover or two) for each bed as well. A sufficiency of pillowcases, allowing 1-2 pillows per head. What more could one need?

The June-prune list is therefore rather linen-heavy:
one queen-size duvet cover with matching pillowcases
three sheets
two pillowcases
a tablecloth
five CDs
one bath cushion shaped like a duck (alas, poor ducky, he grew mildewed)
and two mismatched glasses.

pruning-shears-24437_640

I also (and not without a pang) pruned out the Historical Sew Monthly – a paring of time, not space.

After all, 2015 was to be my Year of Finishing Things, not starting them. I haven’t finished many of the projects I had underway at the start of the year, but I have certainly made progress toward that goal, and the year is far from over.

One thing I did finish was the extending rewrite of Dead Man Talking, a stage comedy/farce which was originally a 20-30 minute bibelot and is now what I believe the Germans call “abendfüllend” i.e. evening-filling. I was able to put back in all the complexities of plot I had to leave out when it was a short play, and I think I am justified in saying that the plot is now a dastardly and cunning one.

Villainc

Of course, it still wants some rewrites before I send it on its way, but I am fairly pleased with where it is at present. I shall put it aside to simmer gently while I return to the speculative fiction work I first-drafted last year. Speculative fiction is a much better name for it than fantasy, I think – fantasy suggests that everything goes exactly the way you want it to, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

But first, I am rearranging the study/library/writing room – yes, I know, I’m spoiled – and doing a bit of pruning in there while I’m at it. Mostly rubbish and recycling, so unlikely to find its way onto the July List.

What’s up with you? Pruning? Budgeting? Finishing things, or starting over? Always happy to hear from you!

Of Goals and the Nature of Infinity

They say everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. I’d add a fourth, although it’s sort of a mixture of #1 and #3: something to aim for. Goals.

Not that sort – for someone with my athletic ability, a good game is one in which I don’t catch the ball with my face (I’m good at this, regardless of the sport and whether I’m actually playing it or just happened to be walking past).

I’m practically addicted to setting goals for myself, but they tend to be either unachievable or unachieved. Or both. See Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C. The prosecution rests, m’lud.

My official goal as a full-time writer is 13 manuscript pages a day (2,000 words) or 65 pages a week. My first week as a writer seemed to be spent largely at the vet, and this week I wrote even less (for personal reasons I won’t bore you with).

Let me set the scene for you.
INT: HOUSE. THURSDAY EVENING.
Deborah looks at this week’s page count: six. Nearby is the Caped Gooseberry (M.Sc, Mathematics).

DM: Six pages is something. Six is infinitely times as many as zero. (thinks) Is that right?
CG: Um… (trying to be tactful) it’s difficult to be consistent when multiplying by infinity. (encouragingly) Six is six times as many as one.
DM: What makes you think I’m trying to be consistent? (thinks some more) One is infinitely more than zero.
CG: No, one is one more than zero.
DM: (defensive) One can be infinite, if it’s the right one.
CG: Umm…

Apparently my theoretical mathematics is what is known as “not even wrong”.

Still, something is better than nothing, and next week is a new week (just to get all my clichés in one basket). Today I counted up the pages left unwritten in my current exercise book (the one I bought before Christmas) and decided that my goal for the coming week would be to fill those 42 pages up. It’s less than my original target, but (ulp!) more than I actually wrote in the preceding two weeks combined.

Of course, this is a thinly disguised carrot: if I fill up this book I will then have to go and shop for another one. Mmm, stationery shopping! (It’s not just me, is it?)

A thinly disguised carrot.

Are you a goal-junkie too? Do you actually manage to have reasonable expectations or are you like me, careering wildly from aspiration-induced high to shortfall-induced low? Is there a cure? Your insights welcomed.

Change Is In the Air

Not the largess sort, however, as pleasant as that might be. I always wondered: who first thought that flinging chunks of metal into the air over people’s heads is a good way to distribute munificence? Even lolly scrambles can be lethal if the hard-boiled element is introduced. However…

It has not escaped my attention that this coming week contains my final five days at the DDJ. And once the first spasm of Tigger impressions fades out, I’m planning a few changes (including to the blog, so keep an eye out).

To begin with, alarms. My two-alarm system has seen me jerked awake at 6:30 and 6:45 every weekday morning for – er, a long time. No more of that, thank you! In fact, I am thinking of becoming rather less of a clock-watcher all round – having a progression rather than a programme to my days.

Then a nice purgy spring clean (early autumn, but let us not quibble – it’ll be spring somewhere) which will hopefully get rid of all the dreck and detritus which has built up in the absence of suitable quantities of time and energy.

The next step is to acquire a desk. Christina Rossetti may have made do with the corner of her washstand, but, well, I’m not Christina Rossetti.

This is not me. I have ears.

Monday writings were usually accomplished with a board over my knees, and before that I sat sideways to my rather nice little bedside table, but never yet have I had a writing desk I can sit at and get my knees under. And it has to be the right sort of desk. I may be fussy, but if I’m going to be spending hours every day with this piece of furniture, it needs to be something I at least like.

Plus it’s a brilliant excuse to go trawling through all the second-hand shops – and since I don’t have to fit everything into Saturday morning, there’s plenty of time to consider the options and not get pushed by time and tiredness into buying something that isn’t really what I wanted, but happened to be what they had.

With so many changes imminent, you might say I am turning over a new leaf.

Drop Leaf Table

Ahahahaha… Sorry. I won’t do it again. For at least another paragraph. Probably.

As well as a greatly increased writing output, I am also aiming to spend more time on handwork, have people over for meals more often, and even spend more time on housework and gardening.

I know, the best-laid plans of mice and men – don’t involve being eaten by cats, and yet…
Until next week (if the cats don’t get me),
Sinistra Inksteyne