I’ve been finding myself daydreaming a lot about escaping to the other side of the world – the Americas in particular.
There’s the Galapagos Islands, with their incredible wildlife.
There’s Bolivia, with its otherworldly, eerie salt flats.
There’s Cuba, with intensely colourful architecture and history in Havana and beyond.
But I think it might be North America I especially want to return to. There have been so many great deals on flights of late and they’re bound to get better – Air NZ now flies to the south as well (Houston) and American Airlines is due to enter the fray this year. I’d love to do another road trip across the US. Returning to New York, of course, to explore more boroughs and gorge on deli sandwiches. Heading down through the southeast, and then zigging up to the Pacific Northwest to see Portland, Seattle, maybe even up to Vancouver. (Yeah, it’d be a loooong leisurely trip.)
At least dreams are free.
What travel destinations are you dreaming of lately?
Have we decided if the ‘lipstick index’ is for real, or not? (That’s the idea that people keep splurging on lipstick in times of recession – little luxuries, yo.)
Well, on a micro level at least, it’s certainly rung true for me of late. I literally never buy makeup except to replace the one lippy I wear. My annual beauty budget is probably under $200, including skincare and haircuts. But some months ago I got a weird fixation with finding this particular shade that I was absolutely convinced I needed in my life. Sort of a dark vampy red, with maybe a bit of a plum/berry twist. Along the lines of Mac Diva, for those who care.
I spent hours online in the name of research, and far too long in stores lurking around counters and fiddling with the testers. Once, a strange man even peered over my shoulder just after I stepped out of a shop – I had probably close to a dozen swatches smeared on the back of my hand and was eyeing them up in the natural light – and hissed ‘they all look the same!’
I wound up buying probably around four (that’s a massive spree for me) and now I actually wear different colours on different days, sometimes. Crazy.
And at the same time, I dug out some stuff that had been sitting around forever (throwbacks to my days of magazine freebies) like amazing pore-blurring primer powder and electric blue eyeliner (turns out to be a nice pop when you have hooded lids, or in my case, one normal and one hooded). For the first time in probably 15 years I started spending downtime at home playing with makeup for no reason other than I wanted to, even watching YouTube tutorials and stalking beauty reddits.
Related, and possibly also a reaction to the whole forced austerity thing, I’ve almost grown a little bit of a shopping addiction – at least by my normal standards. I haven’t bought much – a dress here, a pair of pants there – but I can definitely now understand how people might get out of hand.
I think this probably stems from a deep-seated need for control. Not having it in other areas of my life, having my sphere of influence drastically reduced, has manifested itself in a new obsession with my appearance.
I’ll never ever be the kind of person who puts on a full face every day. (Or any day. My wedding being the one exception, and that wasn’t by my own hand…). Yet there’s something weirdly calming about being alone in front of a mirror, going through the ritual of making yourself feel a little more beautiful.
Self-employment has never really held any allure for me. But when great last minute travel deals pop up on my Twitter feed or email inbox, I gotta admit, I feel a bit of envy…
My office happens to be in an amazing heritage building, all wooden floors, exposed beams on the ceilings, raw stripped walls. There’s massive windows with a view straight across the road to the sparkling harbour – and the spot where cruise ships pull in every few days.
Going on a cruise isn’t at the top of my bucket list but it’s definitely something I want to experience once in my life. Where, exactly, I’m not sure. There are definitely lots of deals out there, like from Planet Cruise, and I often see pretty sharp prices on short cruises over to east coast Australia from Auckland. (Maybe a cruise calls for somewhere more exotic, though?)
I may not have the flexibility to take advantage of most last-minute travel deals, but here’s a few ways I do save on travel that I’ve picked up over the past few years.
So much is going on right now, I don’t even know where to start! It’s probably easier just to wait till some things start to fall into place. In the meantime, highlights of my summer break included seeing dolphins randomly at the beach, and wild pigs in the bush. And as of this week, active relaxation seems to be a good addition to the sanity arsenal.
The name of the game, at least for the foreseeable future, is stress management.
Ever heard of active relaxation? Oh, how I love a good oxymoron, but I think this is exactly what I need to be doing. I will report back.
Other things currently saving my sanity:
I’m so thankful to live in a nice neighbourhood with quiet streets, ringed by a coastal bush track. That first glimpse of the sea whenever I head for the trail gets me right to my happy place.
I’ve been on a playlist making binge lately (Guilty pleasures! Rock ballads!) and I’m not even sorry. My commute is basically measured in songs, as are my runs.
I’m devouring advice columns at pace. Cheryl Strayed, Mark Manson, Captain Awkward, Ask Polly. If you know of any more along those lines….
After so many months of not being able to face other humans outside of work, half the time now it feels like there’s nothing I need more than social contact. Bless the friends who know that life gets away from us sometimes, and pick up right where we left off, be it text, email, or in person. And amazing coworkers and bosses – seriously.
Possibly the best thing I’ve ever done. A chronicle of the highlights, the lowlights, the spending and earning. Blogging taught me to negotiate and made me some true friends.
Outside perspectives are so valuable when you’ve lost all sense of orientation. I know none of you can possibly know everything, and so I take them for what they’re worth, but the insights that even readers I’d never known existed until recently have offered have been amazing. I do not exaggerate when I say that comments and emails have honestly made me cry in a good way.
How is your 2016 shaping up? What’s rocking your socks right now?
A few months ago I accepted a new position that perfectly suits my nerdy, money-loving heart – one with the overarching aim of helping people get ahead financially.
Very early on, I got to attend a particularly enlightening conference (the video below comes from that) and also a community workshop in a lower socio-economic area of Auckland. Let’s just say the challenge is huge. More than ever, I’m coming to understand the complexity of the issue: it’s not just about individual efforts and bootstrapping, it’s about human nature and psychology – and of course, the wider system.
In a country like New Zealand, where the cost of living is pretty astronomical, budgeting can only take you so far. Where housing costs are out of control, home ownership is spiralling out of reach, the rental market is squeezed and the condition of rentals is a public health issue. Where public transport is pretty abysmal, and low-income households often lack access to a vehicle, and therefore, supermarkets and healthy food options. Where certain cultural norms mean that family can either be a boost or a drag, holding individuals back from getting ahead. Where high burglary rates mean frequent setbacks, unless you can afford excellent insurance. Where people being locked out of the property market today is going to have huge ramifications when this generation reaches retirement.
True, some people don’t have huge lofty goals and aren’t particularly interested in ‘getting ahead’. But we can’t get away from the fact that we live in a capitalist society, and you need money to exist in it. Inflation is a fact of life; things are only ever going to get more expensive. We’re already a low-wage economy, and if your income remains stagnant, you’re going to wind up at the wrong end of the inequality gap – a yawning gap that’s only growing. I for one don’t want to wind up being a burden on society. So I was really happy to see a session on upskilling and increasing your earnings as part of that community programme, because spending is only half of the equation. It doesn’t matter how good you are at budgeting, if you don’t have enough money coming in, you’ll never get ahead.
Sure, let’s build financial capability so people are better equipped to deal with whatever circumstances life may throw at them. (Pretty much everyone can and should be doing better, to varying degrees.) But it’s about more than that. Health, family, educational, church systems – all contribute to financial wellbeing. IMO so much hinges on those early years; if you start out behind it’s a lot harder to catch up and overcome setbacks. And the worse that things are for you now, the harder it is to think about the future.
(For one of the best posts I’ve read on this topic, head over to Frugalwoods.)
I’ve been fortunate on the health, employment, family fronts. Not everyone has the luxury of that kind of head start. You need to be able to get ahead of yourself in the first place, to get ahead of your paycheck, build up a buffer, get a reliable vehicle, secure your housing situation.
And yet, I came on board at a personally tumultuous time, financially speaking. By the CFSI’s reckoning, I was probably a bit closer to Financially Tenuous rather than my usual Financially Striving. It was so, so hard to come into work every day, think about personal finance, listen to coworkers’ tales of buying houses, all while shit was falling apart in my own life. Despite that, I’m so happy to be doing what I’m doing. I feel like it’s the perfect time to join the fray – financial capability is on the political agenda, recent legislative changes have improved consumer protection around credit and disclosure, and we’ve only just begun.
You all know travel is my big splurge. For me it’s about value, not penny pinching – getting the most for my money and enjoying the experiences I choose. There are zero trips in my planned future but I’m hoping for lots of summer chilling close to home – Auckland is full of great beach and bush spots that cost nothing except petrol to get there!