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Author: Tortoise happy

Money lessons that weren’t about money (P.S. My gran is awesome!)

Money lessons that weren’t about money (P.S. My gran is awesome!)

My gran is awesome. She has reached the amazing age of 93 today! As I was baking fairy cakes for her- using the same recipe that she taught me as a little girl- I couldn’t help but think of all the little life lessons she taught me.

Lesson 1. How to bake fairy cakes Fairycakes

There is such simple joy in baking fairy cakes. You don’t need flashy, expensive ingredients. You don’t need hours of time. You can clear your mind, focusing on cracking the eggs and beating the mixture.

And yet, it is not an empty activity, like scrolling through pages of social media or perusing online shopping for things you don’t need. It feels fulfilling.

When your cakes are done, you can decorate them, or not. Share them, or not. But it always feels better to share them.

To my mind, baking fairy cakes is a way of living well. A way that doesn’t cost huge amounts of money. A way that brings people together. A way that is accessible to most.

Lesson 2: Find something to do

My gran would always tell my sister and I to find something to do. It is ridiculous how often I find myself not really doing anything. I spend far too much time scrolling on a computer screen and flicking between TV channels. Sometimes, deliberately doing nothing can be a good thing. But allowing it to happen too often or by accident is a waste of time and, quite often, money.

Simple as it sounds, ‘find something to do’ is such good advice. I have a much more positive mindset when I have used my time deliberately, and especially when that deliberate something has meant avoiding spending mindlessly.

Lesson 3: Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t like

I remember sleeping over at my gran’s house and watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In fact, I remember watching it several times! (In case you haven’t seen it, it’s based around 3 children who are evacuated during the second world war, staying with a lady who doesn’t want them around.) 

One night after the film had finished, I remember my gran telling me about evacuees that had stayed with her family during the second world war. Against the backdrop of the film, the prospect of having children to stay with you, having more friends, seemed exciting in spite of the circumstances.

I remember asking if it had been fun. I know what I expected the answer to be… a resounding yes. The actual answer?

No. They didn’t want to be there. It was extra mouths to feed. But everyone had to pitch in.

Ouch. Way to burst my bubble. But that response has stayed with me. It’s a reminder that we have to get on and do things we don’t always want to do. It also pops into mind when I perceive something positive about someone’s life; it might not be something that they think of as positive. It may be something they’re enduring for a period of time because it is necessary. It’s also a reminder of how much easier I’ve had it than my parents, grandparents and great grandparents- something I take for granted all too often.

Lesson 4: A trip to the shop

In the summer especially, we’d make a trip to “the shop”. Except it wasn’t a shop. It was the chest freezer in her box room upstairs that always had a block of vanilla ice cream. Do you remember the ones? They were packaged in cardboard, and could be sliced to be sandwiched between two wafers.

Now I think about it, this was an amazing lesson in re-framing. It was no less exciting that going to an actual shop for ice cream. In fact, the ice cream had obviously been bought from a shop. But we felt like we were getting such a treat, and even more so that it came from our own secret shop upstairs.

My house if full of things I have treated myself to in the past. It’s a really good way of looking at the things I already own, as it makes me feel less like I need to buy things all the time. It also means that I use (and enjoy using) the things I already have more often.

Lessons that weren’t about money

Some of the best lessons I have received about money, especially from my gran, weren’t about money at all. Most of them weren’t intended to be lessons, but simply common sense things that apply to life. However, all too often we can forget these lessons.

Perhaps it’s because we have more choice in what we buy and the careers we pursue, because social media causes us to compare more fervently than we have in the past, or because our minds are so full of information that we’re constantly taking in from screens. Whatever the reason, it is good to remember the simple, obvious lessons. The ones that help us live well and contently, without needing to constantly spend.

Whilst it’s been nice to reflect on these things that my gran taught me, I confess this post was mostly to shout about how awesome she is. Please feel free to jump in with valuable life lessons you’ve learned and feel free to shout about the amazing people who have shaped you…

Repaying our mortgage- luck, or judgement?

Repaying our mortgage- luck, or judgement?

It took us 5 years and 3 months to pay off our £103,000 mortgage. It’s not the quickest anyone has ever managed it, but by the vast majority of people’s standards, it’s pretty darn quick. (I still feel pretty staggered by it)

It wasn’t super easy and there are lots of things we went without in order to make our dream a reality. That being said, we also had a fair amount of luck on our side too.

I wanted to share with you some of the things that meant we could pay off our mortgage so quickly, and how much was luck, how much was down to our judgement and how much was a combination of the two.

We had a deposit of over 20%

Step one was getting together a deposit. A big chunk of savings came from pocket money, Christmas and Birthday money, Saturday job wages and early job wages that I’d saved rather than spent. My family always encouraged me to save rather than spend, so my bank balance grew nicely and rarely dipped. I also lived at home until I was 23, allowing me to save a reasonable proportion of my wages, even whilst I was earning an apprentice’s salary of £80 per week.

Being encouraged to save, able to live at home extremely low cost, and receiving pocket money were all things I was lucky to have. I just had to exercise judgement to not waste it all.

We bought within our means

We bought a house that was much cheaper than we could afford, meaning we’d have more money to make over payments on the mortgage. We were lucky to be able to do this, as housing in our area is below average for the UK. Of course, more expensive houses were available, so we also used our judgement to avoid borrowing to our limits.

We got pay rises

We both worked hard and were lucky enough to maintain our jobs and earn pay rises over the 5 years, as well as bonuses during three of the five years. Whenever our income rose or we got a bonus- you guessed it- we sent more cash to the mortgage. (You may be spotting a theme here.) Whilst we used our judgement to decide to overpay on our mortgage, we were lucky to be in careers that were rewarding our hard work.

We had a number of redundancy threats

Redundancy threats are not all that nice. In fact, they can be really, really horrible.

Do you know what they’re great for? Focusing the mind. We were both lucky to avoid redundancy for the whole 5 years whilst people around us both were losing their jobs. But these threats gave us a renewed determination and we used them to remain committed to our goal and not to grow complacent. Once again, we made the best of our luck.

We controlled our costs tightly

In spite of buying a house that was within our means and seeing our pay increase, the amount of money we spent on luxuries didn’t really go up. In fact, we regularly reviewed our spending and cut some luxuries as time went on and we became accustomed to being more frugal. I even reduced my wine purchasing from a bottle each week to one once per month (would rather have nice wine than lots of it) and cut chocolate biscuits from our grocery shopping.

This wasn’t always fun and it wasn’t always easy. There were alterations- permanent and temporary- that we had to make for various health conditions that meant we had to spend more. Your health can have a huge, huge, HUGE impact on your finances and quite often, it’s not something you can control. We were lucky not to have significant health problems, and not just from the perspective of our finances!

I know that we are lucky that we are able to tightly control costs- as I’ve mentioned, we don’t have health issues that have significantly impacted this over a long time period, or parents that rely on us, etc- but I have to admit that we take a lot of credit for controlling our costs so tightly so this is an area where our judgement helped hugely.

We were amazing budgeters

There are very, very few expenses that came up over that 5 year period that weren’t budgeted for. We had budget lines for car expenses, household expenses, contingency lines for ‘out of the blue’ expenses, Christmas and gifts, charity, and travel. We split the shopping around for renewals between us, and researched purchases extensively. We deliberately ‘over budgeted’ if we weren’t sure, increasing our emergency fund and periodically making extra payments to the mortgage. We didn’t use the heating on some days where we really could have done with it, just to keep within our budget.

Our budget spreadsheet was judgement through and through… but gosh were we lucky that some of our expenses never came to fruition, there were no significant costs that we hadn’t foreseen and our cars survived as long (and longer) than we’d planned for them to survive.

I got made redundant

Five years and two months after buying our house, I finally got made redundant. After 9 years with my company, I got a reasonable payout. Not enough to repay our mortgage, but enough to pay around two fifths of our remaining balance. When I added up my severance plus our savings plus our investments, we had enough to clear our mortgage, keep a bit of a buffer in savings and free up our monthly mortgage payment amount to rebuild our savings.

It took me a month to be brave enough to commit that amount of cash to our mortgage, but I finally did it in July 2016. It was the perfect time to get made redundant, and we were incredibly lucky that our numbers stacked up.

In conclusion

I posed the question at the start of this post as to whether repaying our mortgage so quickly was a matter of luck or judgement. Your perception on how much luck versus how much judgement it took will be influenced by your own experiences; some people will have had a lot more luck, but others will have had a lot less.

Whilst we worked hard, were disciplined and went without some lovely things we might have enjoyed, we also know that we were very lucky and worked hard not to squander our fortunate position.

Why on earth did I write this post?

Was it to make you realise you can’t pay your mortgage off without being very lucky?

I feel I’ve underplayed the effort it took for us to pull off this amazing feat, but genuinely we had a lot of good fortune on our side. The thing is, we could still have 20+ years remaining on our mortgage if we hadn’t set ourselves up for success, and hadn’t worked to put ourselves in the best position to take advantage of good fortune. Small changes can make a huge difference over the years.

So if your aim is to repay your mortgage early, you definitely need to make strong plans and stick with them. Make the most of good fortune that comes your way, set yourself up to be able to take advantage of opportunities and weather any storms as best you can.

How are you achieving your goals? Are you setting yourself up to really benefit from good fortune that comes your way?

What race are we in, anyway?

What race are we in, anyway?

Slow and steady wins the race. That’s the mantra I’ve had since starting this site. It’s the idea that I know big results take time and patience. That making gradual but continual progress will get me to where I want to be. The question is, where do I want to be? Am I heading in the right direction?

My journey

There were 4 aspects about my journey that were important to me when I started to write; being generous, being healthy, consuming less and experiencing more and achieving financial independence.

Whilst being healthy and consuming less in favour of experiences can have a positive effect on your finances, sometimes those areas need investment that might otherwise have been dedicated to the financial independence goal. Being generous seems particularly at odds with dreams of financial independence, and yet, it doesn’t seem right to hoard money or not share my time with those that need it now. Ultimately, helping others feels good and helps me be content with my current life.

Where next?

If I’m honest with myself, financial independence isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ I once thought it was. I’m surprised that, in realising FI isn’t everything, my mental health is so much better and I have a healthier (and less obsessive) relationship with money.

However, being able to have a healthy relationship with money and good mental health relies on me having at least enough money for at least my short and medium term basic needs.

My savings are automated and I review my investment and pension contributions regularly, nudging them up when I can. That is going to carry on, giving me increased financial security and letting me put my time, energy and money into pursuing the other things that are important to me whilst the going is good, whilst providing adequate shield for when the going is tougher.

Pause for a moment

We tend to think that we must keep forging ahead. However, if you’re lost in the woods, keeping going can get you even more lost. It’s a good idea to pause for a moment, now and then, to make sure you’re going the right way!

Thanks so much for reading if you got this far. I know I’ve been quiet for long spells this year, partly whilst I work out where I’m going, and partly because I’ve been loving spending time and energy with my friends and family. The virtual world and writing is awesome, but I’m lucky to have an even more awesome real world!

How are you all doing on your journey? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

 

The case for cutting the small expenses

The case for cutting the small expenses

If you want to spend less, you can cut big expenses or small expenses. Or you can cut a combination of both.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that cutting big expenses will save more. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t worry about the small expenses.

When you’re stuck with big expenses

There are some big expenses that we can choose to go without, or that we can reduce. Obvious examples are holidays and luxury vehicles. You might not want to cut back in these places, but they can make a big difference quickly. If these aren’t things that are in your budget in the first place, this doesn’t really help.

There are other big expenses that we can’t choose to go without, or at least cannot do so easily. For example, the cost of a rail season ticket or a car that you need for commuting, the costs of accomodation or the costs of child care.

You might be able to make slight savings here and there, but ultimately you’re stuck with significant costs that you have little control over.

Just because most of your income might be tied up in some big, immovable expenses, that’s not to say it’s not worth trying to cut the small expenses. It definitely is.

Why it’s worth cutting small expenses

Cutting out a daily coffee or weekly takeaway isn’t going to make you rich, but it could help you get a more firm financial footing.

Let’s say you spend £20 per week on a takeaway. By cutting the number of takeaways that you order in a year in half, you’ll save £520.

Having £520 in savings will allow you to pay your home insurance premium as an annual lump sum, rather than a monthly premium with interest. You’ll also have the amount that you were paying monthly that you can save for next year’s premium.

In the following year, you might find that you save £520 on takeaways, save money paying your home insurance as a single premium, AND get lower home and car insurance quotes that allow you to pay your car insurance as an annual premium too. Now you’re not paying interest on your home or car insurance. Plus, you’re freeing up the monthly payment that will allow you to save up for next year’s payment.

Life gets cheaper as you get richer

It’s crazy but it’s true, everything is more expensive when you have no money. Pre-payment meters and insurance, the cost of credit and availability of deals. Even food shopping is cheapest when you have the money to bulk buy.

The number of small expenses that you have and control will affect how much you can save. It might not be enough to afford a house or counter the astronomical costs of childcare, but it can give you a bit of breathing space, a firmer footing and some peace of mind.

What are your thoughts on cutting the smaller expenses?

They’re probably doing it with debt

They’re probably doing it with debt

Have you ever looked at someone’s life and wondered how they’re doing it? How they’re affording nice cars, days out, designer clothes and overseas holidays?

Perfectly curated Instagram feeds and glamorous Facebook statuses mean everyone has more people to keep up with. It’s difficult to see how people are affording lavish lifestyles but easy wonder how people afford a seemingly constant stream of expensive things.

Behind the scenes

Firstly, it’s easy to show what you want to show on social media. Secondly, there could be any number of reasons behind someone’s ability to spend lots. They may get family help or have received a large inheritance. Lots of people make extra money side hustling for cash (perhaps your neighbour is a huge, anonymous blogger!) Some people will be reaping the benefits of buy to lets or other investments.

There’s a good chance that lots (most?) of them are paying for it with debt, especially since credit card debt is supposedly growing at the fastest rate since the recession (theweek.co.uk). At some point, they’ll need to pay that debt back, and that will hamper them from being able to build their savings and invest for their future.

You do you

Is it likely that the people you’re seeing are astute financial guardians? If you’re seeing lots of lavish expenses, the answer is probably not.

Being frustrated or disheartened that people have what you don’t have isn’t going to change your situation. Instead, you need to do you. So whether that’s changing your expectations or desires, slashing your costs or increasing your income, or taking some time out from social media, focus on what you’re doing with your life rather than looking longingly at other people’s lives.

There’s a good chance, a few years from now, they’ll be looking back at you wondering how you’re so with it and financially secure.

Socking more into stocks and shares

Socking more into stocks and shares

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I can hardly believe that this is my fifth tax year of investing in a Stocks and Shares ISA!

It’s fair to say that I felt nervous about investing in stocks, and as though I didn’t know enough. I knew I had to take the plunge whilst I was young enough to bounce back from any silly decisions, and had time to learn.

My investing style

To refer to ‘my investing style’ makes it sound like something planned out, but its not as planned as I would like! Basically, I’ve invested an amount monthly (between £50 and £200, which has fluctuated based on my employment status) and now and then, topped up with chunks of money.

We’re not talking huge chunks of money, perhaps £500 here, and £1000 there.

The result has been pretty good. We are definitely in a stronger financial position because, for short and medium term planning, we act like the money in investments doesn’t exist. That means we delay purchases for longer and a less tempted to dip into savings for treats than if we held the money as cash.

On the other hand, this isn’t a ‘how I saved a gazillion pounds in 5 years’ article and I want to make larger contributions to ‘future me’.

Investing aim for 2018/ 2019

I’ve decided to set myself a goal for the 2018/ 2019 tax year. The only goal I’ve had to date is to make a minimum monthly fund subscription (£50), which I was really thrilled to be able to make even during the period where I was unemployed in 2016. Fifty pounds is a lot of money to find when you’re down to one person’s income.

I was going to aim for investing £1000 more this tax year than last tax year (without giving specific numbers, you can perhaps tell I’m quite a way off a gazillion pounds yet!), but to push myself that bit further, I’m aiming for £1500 more instead.

Slow and steady wins the race

Investing isn’t just for wealthy business men, contrary to what the media would have you believe. In fact, there’s evidence that women make better investors than men (reuters.com).

It took me a while to find the courage to dip my toe in the water, and once I did, I made very few mistakes (I learned a lesson from the few I did make), and overall my performance far surpasses what I could have achieved in cash savings.

For me, slow and steady is proving to be winning the race.

What’s your approach to investing, are you doing as much as you want to and what is life looking like for your future self?

Breaking news: Frugality is not a competition

Breaking news: Frugality is not a competition

You could be forgiven for thinking extreme frugality was going to be a sport in last year’s winter Olympics. There are lots of degrees of frugality, and it takes a lot to win. Except its not a competition.

I’d write about frugality more- I’m pro living below your means- except its a difficult subject to write about without appearing to be a sanctimonious know-it-all. I also know that being frugal is easier if:

  1. You have enough money for it to be a lifestyle choice, or
  2. You can see a beacon of light at the end of your tunnel

A fine line

I read the most perfect advice on a money forum recently; “There’s a fine line between being frugal and a joyless tightarse”. And that line will be different for everyone.

What seems frugal to you might seem spendy to someone else.

What someone considers a simple pleasure might be a feat of endurance for someone else.

I could profess my frugal prowess by boasting that I’ve never spent money on avocado toast. It’s not exactly relevant, as someone who doesn’t particularly like avocado. Or I could boast about making coffee from home. But living in a town that got it’s first proper coffee shop around 3 years ago, I’ve never had the daily latte habit to give up.

Ask me about holidays, and I’ll look sheepish though. Christmas too, whilst controlled, still isn’t what many would deem frugal. I did once make homemade pickled onions as a Christmas gift, but the cost of kilner jars resulted in it being rather pricey. It wasn’t very joyful either.

Choose your frugal comfort level

If you can enjoy a cup of tea with a thrice used tea bag, that’s great and you needn’t feel like you have to do otherwise But if those posh tea pigs tea bags bring you joy every morning, you don’t have to give them up in the bid to become the Emperor or Emperoress of Frugaltonia. Use your money to enjoy your morning cuppa.

Frugal articles are a great source of new ideas, and just because something doesn’t appeal right now, that’s not to say it never will.

I’m pretty sure (or would at least like to think) that most people who share frugal ideas do so to inspire rather than show off, so try to take those ideas that appeal and leave those that don’t. Every now and then I go too frugal, make myself feel stressed and miserable, and bounce back by spending money on a takeaway. I’ll probably do that dozens more times, but it doesn’t matter too much.

We have one life; it shouldn’t be spent going for a frugal gold (second hand) medal if doing so makes you miserable. What matters is reaching a balance that’s right for me and recognising when something isn’t for me. How do you deal with the frugality competition?

Nudging your finances

Nudging your finances

When you start taking control of your finances, at whatever point that is/was for you, there’s a lot of big things you can do.

The first time you switch gas supplier? Kerching! Shopping around for insurances? Kerching! Cancelling subscription services? Well, you get the picture.

Once you’ve gone through your finances with a fine toothcomb three times, it can feel frustrating not to be able to do more. This has especially been the case for me, after a lavish trip for my 30th last year plus a new-to-us car at the beginning of this year. Both purchases were saved for, but I never like to see my savings balance dip, even though they’re there for a purpose.

Nudging your finances

Every now and then, you can still give your finances a nudge. It might not save mega bucks straight away, but over time you’ll notice a difference.

Pay rise? Nudge up your pension contributions and/ or investments

New car more fuel efficient? Replenish your savings or nudge up your investments

Spending less on gas and electricity? Absorb the increase to your council tax bill (And be glad you’re netting off an increased expense)

 

Nudge, then look away

Nudges can take a little while to see satisfactory results. In the meantime, if you’ve automated everything to get on with it, you don’t need to obsess over it everyday. You can get on with your life, safe in the knowledge that your ‘nudge’ is adding up and ready to take advantage of the next nudge.

I’ve actually managed to follow my own advice. Not only have I been ignoring my blog (sorry to anyone who’s missed me), I’ve been ignoring my finances. Now I’ve had chance to look, I can see several of our nudges really taking hold. Proof that I don’t need to let money consume my thoughts in order to keep my spending sensible!

Looking after your finances. And our planet

Looking after your finances. And our planet

Since you’re here reading this, I’m guessing that you try to consider what you can do to minimise your impact on the planet without needing to spend a lot of money.

Sometimes, I invest a little more to make green choices, and if you’re able to do that, it’s really cool. Like choosing to offset your carbon emissions, or choosing a 100% renewable energy supply.

But, making positive environmental choices doesn’t have to cost you money, and the good news is that it can often save you money. And we all love a win win situation!

After watching the extent to which we are killing our oceans and marine life in Blue Planet 2, I have a renewed energy* for making more changes that help protect our planet and I know from various news stories and twitter chatter, I’m not the only one. I may have no power to reduce how much China and Indonesia (Ecowatch.com) dump into our oceans but that shouldn’t stop us taking responsibilities for our actions.

Saving money and the environment. As easy as 1, 2… 15

There are lots of ways you can save money and the environment. Rather than bombard you with a list of a million things you could or should do, this list of 15 gives you a good selection of easy options to get started with, or to continue with, your money and environment saving efforts.

  1. Clean with white vinegar. THIS is on my to do list this year. Plastic bottles of chemical cleaners are not cool.
  2. Carry a reusable water bottle. Please tell me you do this already? Oh, and you can put squash is reusable bottles, so you’re not gonna need to take fruit shoots everywhere for the kids.
  3. Repair broken items. If this concept is new to you, start small. If you’re good at it, gift it! Fixing something that your friend or family member loves is much more meaningful than buying a new something-or-other
  4. Drink less wine. Yikes! I went there! But wine production has a huge environmental impact, mostly due to the production of glass bottles and the machinery used in the manufacturing process.
  5. Choose loose fruit and vegetables. This week, loose broccoli at Sainsbury’s was 19p per kilo cheaper than broccoli in plastic wrapping. Why wouldn’t you?
  6. Use the library and buy used books. If you have an E-Reader, its an awesome way to enjoy loads of books without a physical copy.
  7. Reflect on a purchase for at least 24 hours before buying. This is just good ol’ money advice, but hey- buying less junk is good for the environment too
  8. Walk instead of drive. 
  9. Switch off lights when you’re not using them (and yell at others to do the same! Seriously, why are all the lights on all the time??)
  10. Eat less meat. It could be a meat free day each week, or just a smaller portion.
  11. Wash clothes at a lower temperature. And be sensible about what you’re washing. Washing clothes too often is only going to wear them out faster.
  12. Eat fewer packets of crisps and bars of chocolate. They’re individually packaged in non-biodegradable packaging.
  13. Challenge yourself to get a low cost per use of every item you own. Using an item only once is NOT cool
  14. Don’t drive like an idiot. Accelerate slowly. Like, not ridiculously slowly… you know what I mean. Driving fuel efficiently is going to do wonders for your wallet as well as reducing your car’s emissions.
  15. Research your purchases. Otherwise you’ll end up with a shitty kettle or TV that makes you want to throw it out of the window. Yes, I’m talking about my kettle and TV, which I failed to properly research.

Getting started

There’s a good chance that you do some of these already, which is great! Next up is adding a few more into your normal routine.

You could add reminders into your calendar, or on your shopping list, put a post it note on your car dashboard, or just pin this post for later and come back to it.

If you’ve had any success or particular challenges in making environmental choices, or have any cool alternatives,  please do join in the conversation and add a comment!

 

*Pun not intended but I’m quite pleased with it, so it’s staying in!

The small, big wins

The small, big wins

You don’t have to look far to find some pretty incredible achievements, be it paying off thousands in debt in a few short years, amassing a million pounds plus in investments or retiring (years and years!) before hitting 40. And they’re just financial achievements.

Naturally, these are the kinds of accomplishments people celebrate, write about, and share. They’re the kind of accomplishments that you and I most likely devour word by word, reading how they did it and wondering if we can emulate that same success ourselves.

Sometimes these stories are hugely uplifting and motivating, giving us new ideas, renewed energy or even being part of our epiphany- financial, or otherwise. Sometimes, while this isn’t their intention, they can leave you feeling a little lost, frustrated or even- dare I suggest- envious.

Often, achieving these huge goals becomes easier as time passes. That’s not to say a gargantuan effort didn’t go into them for a long period of time. Just that, by the time you’re at the point of reaching this kind of achievement, you have built up momentum, you have got used to doing things a certain way, you have formed strong, positive habits, and you’re springing upwards from solid foundations.

My small, big win

I realised today how much bigger the small wins are than we give credit for. Because I’ve done something that, for ten years, I didn’t have faith that I could do. It sounds like the smallest, most irrelevant thing that someone could tell you.

Today, I made a pie.

For ten years, I avoided making pie, specifically making pastry. I don’t believe it was deliberate, but at some point I erected a barrier in my mind and never questioned it. The barrier that said ‘you’re not a pastry maker’.

Perhaps this is the most ridiculous thing you’ve read. How someone could spend 10 years of their lives avoiding making pastry out of fear? I wasn’t even aware I’d built this up in my mind until I gave myself an ultimatum to use my rolling pin, or else it would be banished from my house.

Though there can be few more simple achievements, it has genuinely set the tone for the year. A tone that says more is possible than I permit myself to believe. 

In itself, it is a small win, but it paves the way for more success.

More small, big wins

So the pie is probably irrelevant to you. That’s fine. It’s big deal to me, because it’s my barrier that I broke down.

Unless you have a similar irrational fear of making pastry, I don’t particularly recommend making a pie. However, I do recommend identifying what barriers you have in your mind and taking the first small steps to your big win.

Maybe your fitness is really low. Choosing to go out for a run is a big win.

Maybe you overspend on takeaways. Choosing to home cook a meal in favour of another take out is a big win.

Maybe you’re living paycheck to paycheck. The first time you can weather an unexpected bill without resorting to borrowing more money is a big win.

Maybe the fear of losing everything is stopping you from investing. The first investment is a big win.

The incredible journey can’t begin if you don’t take a step.