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Cheaters Anon.

Photo Credit: Dave's Domain via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dave’s Domain via Compfight cc

“My name is Siân and I have cheated.”

So in my last post I renewed my no-spending vows and promised to reveal exactly how I had cheated.

But first, a little story. When I arrived in Munich 3.5 years ago, I was pretty much stone broke, or “financially embarrassed” as my friend Jean and I like to say. I had decided that nothing would stop me from accepting the job offer, but looking back, I really did it tough at first. I had to buy the cheapest of everything, because my boyfriend in Sydney and I had just forked out a load of cash for a new fridge, washing machine, dishwasher, mattress, sofa and side tables, so savings were non-existent. Plus, the role here involved a huge pay cut.

I had also not realised the way the rental market works in Germany. The TENANT pays the real estate agent a non-refundable fee of 2.8 times the gross rent of the new place. Whaaaa? In most cases, for NOTHING! Literally, these people stick an ad in the online search site, thousands of people apply (because Munich has a chronic rental housing shortage), they hold one open-house for 20 mins at a super inconvenient time, collect a thousand applications and pick the first one that meets the criteria. Done. For that, they earn around 2 grand. From the tenant.

My first apartment rented for 780eu a month. I had to pay two months’ rent in advance, a bond of 1500 and then a real estate agent fee of around 2000. All this on top of the furniture I was repaying at home, plus my flights…and I still hadn’t been paid my drastically reduced salary.

Long story short, I had to buy really cheap shit. Including a mattress. I bought the most inexpensive Ikea one I could find and slowly realised I might as well be sleeping on the kitchen table. I haven’t been able to replace it since then.

I’ve been sleeping poorly because of it. I realised last month that over time it had become so bad I was actually avoiding going to bed, knowing I would toss and turn for hours and never be comfortable, waking with stiff shoulders and a burning neck. Here’s a snapshot from my sleep tracker app of what an average night looked like for me:

2014-12-18 17.16.19


I didn’t want to spring for a new mattress (see what I did there?) at this stage in my financial development, so I decided to try something else first. I know amazon have their issues, I really do. But what I love about it as a consumer is that I can see what everyone else thinks of a product. Mattresses and pillows in particular are difficult to buy, because what feels comfortable for three minutes in a show room may not be what feels good long-term, when you test it in the privacy of your own privacy :).

So I picked the best-rated pillow and mattress-softening overlay and they were delivered the very next day. And holy land of nod do they make a difference to me.

It’s still not quite like sleeping in a good hotel, or my old bed in Sydney. And still, one of the first things I will buy when I am debt-free next year is definitely a really quality box-spring bed. But in the meantime, here’s what sleep looks like now:

2014-12-18 17.35.01

I know, right??! Progress.

I also bought:

Measuring cups and spoons. German baking and recipes go by weight, so you can find the world’s most advanced kitchen scales that can measure the exhalation of a cricket, but not a single “teaspoon” or “cup”. I figured it was much better use of my resources to simply buy a set than spend endless hours converting things in all my recipes. I am happy with this choice.

The Best Paleo Recipes 2014 ebook. I am getting a recipe book for Christmas, I know. And I didn’t need this. But it was on sale for $19.95 USD, (which it still is) and I liked a couple of the recipes I had seen sneak previews of. I definitely need more recipe books, because I cannot free-style in the kitchen like all those incredibly gifted people who can. I am paint by numbers or nothing at all.  This ebook seemed like a good choice.

So those were my cheats. I am not proud of them, but I am consoling myself with the fact that they all in some way contribute to my health. Sleep most importantly. And there was not a single wasteful or silly item, not even a cheap piece of costume jewellery that I’d have tired of after the first wear.

Even though I cheated, I consider that I cheated well. I feel like this is progress. And today, that’s good enough for me.


Building Rome – my first goal list

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Paolo Margari via Compfight cc

There are several things I know about myself.

  1. I would get my pinky toes surgically straightened if that was a thing
  2. I need whiskey in the apartment
  3. If I am stressed or upset about something, even without realising it, I: smoke, lose sleep/sleep poorly, obsessively think about what has upset me, drink (more than usual), cry easily over ridiculous things like a shoelace snapping, get short-tempered with people I love, laugh very little, get a break out, get a cold sore and avoid time alone.

I was going to make my very first Building Rome goals list more about getting over my breakup. But I have done an internal checklist and realised that actually…I’m not going through any of these things. I have no idea why, but I am happy, I am spending lots of time alone, I’m not really drinking, I’m not thinking about things, and I only really genuinely wish him well. He was a fun addition to my life while we were together. I seem to have nothing to get past and work on. Hooray for me!

However, the rest of my life is something of a shit show. Well, in some areas anyway. So now that I am joining in on the game, my goals are more about my life ambitions. And my body and general health. Here they are (inspired by* the Mental Mama category system):

  1. Financial: I will not spend any money (obeying these rules)
  2. Fitness: I will go to crossfit three times next week
  3. Creative: I will get started (one page min) on the outline for the TV series idea I have
  4. Health: I will take my own lunch to work each day next week
  5. Creative 2: I will write 2 pages for my chapter of the book I am cowriting with one of my BFFs.

There. Getting those done for a week will make me feel pretty awesome!

It’s a short week too, since I’m in Finland until Monday night. On something of an extreme holiday. Not in the usual sense of adventure sports, but because the girlfriend I am going to visit is severely pregnant and a small human could pop out of her at any moment. The very idea that I could be called upon to be of service in a birthing situation gives me cold sweats. Come on little girl, hang in there until I am on the plane home! 🙂


*totally copied.

Things I would buy this instant

I’m taking a deeeeep breath. Because the feeling rushing over me is very, very familiar. It’s the urge to spend. And it’s almost overwhelming.

I was in York, England for 5 days and just got back last night. Walking along the old town main streets I saw SO many cute shops and boutiques that don’t exist here in Munich. And when I came back and looked in my closet, I felt a little…impoverished. Also, the more cooking I do, the more I realise there are machines that can do bits and pieces far, far more quickly for me. I don’t have to sacrrifice my knuckles to the Grating God – I can shove the whole bag of carrots in a food processor! Or I could if I had one.

I feel like my grandma must have felt when washing machines were invented – the HOURS she would have spent scrubbing and wringing (although my grandfather was apparently famed for the strength of his arms and hence the amount of water he could wring from a wet piece of clothing, so that helped) and hanging. She could have had all those hours back. Same goes with the ironing. And the cooking. And that’s kind of how I am feeling now.

So here are the Top 5 things I would immediately purchase, if my purse wasn’t closed.

1. This jumper:

It’s cute and warm and cosy and it’s on sale for 22euros. TWENTY TWO clams. That’s hardly any clams at all! I couldn’t knit it myself for the same price! Mostly because I can’t knit, but you see what I mean.

2. This meat grinder:


Germans are mad for a pig. Mad for it. The nation was raised on swine. You can get it in just about any form – although they sadly don’t do bacon the way I know it. Instead of the hearty, thick, crispy slices I grew to love, there are wafer-thin, artificially smoke-flavoured “English-style” jobbies. Not the same, Deutschland. Not the same. Anyway, while minced pork is readily available, and minced beef can also be found, the country is curiously absent of minced chicken, turkey, lamb or any other animal you care to name and mince. And a lot of the recipes I am desperate to try call for such ingredients. If I had this chap (and he’s only 30eu!) this would be a problem of the past. Sigh.

3. This pressure cooker:

pressure cooker

Has anyone ever tried to soften adzuki beans? Anyone? I soaked the beggars for two solid days, and then boiled them for 90 minutes. At the end of all that, I could still have sold them as bullets. I stood on one and shattered my femur, but the bean was still intact. The key, apparently, is a pressure cooker! I don’t know what kind of wizardry it works, but it gets the job done – pronto. And because they cook faster, they use less energy too…so I would be saving the world at the same time as I saved myself some time. Sorry, that was a confusing sentence. I would not just use it for beans. Loads of nomnompaleo recipes use a pressure cooker, and they are recipes I want in! my! belly! This fellow is only 50eu. Reduced from 89! I’m losing money every minute I sit here writing about it.

4. This book:

kings ransom

Has anyone else grown up with an extremely patriotic parent no longer living in their homeland? Welcome to my life. My father was born in Wales, of Welsh parents and Welsh grandparents. He was schooled in Wales, studied in Wales, got his degree in Wales. He loves Welsh choir music, Welsh rarebit, Welsh weather, Welsh landscapes, Welsh songs, Welsh history, Welsh welshiness. His whole family stayed in the same village and he alone of them – urged along by my poor Spanish mother whose family had emigrated to Wales during her early teens and who hated the bitter weather – left the Welsh stronghold and moved to Australia.

His heart never made the trip.

Our family home had a Welsh “shrine”, filled with flags and lovespoons and framed quotes and stacks of CDs of welsh people singing (Tom Jones, take a bow). He had an artist weld him a Welsh dragon out of iron, which he used as the emblem for his bar. And he pressed upon my sister and I, most earnestly and unrelentingly, for years and years, the idea that we had to read everything Sharon Penman had written about the medieval history of Wales. We resisted, as children and teenagers do, but the day came where I’d finally had enough. I’d read his stupid book just to tell him I hated it – then he’d leave me alone.

Except I loved it. I cannot recommend her books highly enough. We started with Here Be Dragons, then Falls the Shadow, then the Reckoning and since then I have greedily devoured every single thing she ever wrote. As an historian, she writes so accurately that she footnotes any deviations she makes in timing or location for the sake of plot. As a first-class writer, she keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though you know how things turned out most of the time. She gives real, round life to historical characters. She particularly loves writing about Henry II and Elenor of Aquitaine and their “Devil’s Brood” which included Richard Lionheart and Evil King John Lackland.  I’ve read them all, except this guy. Also, the rest of his mates – everything she ever wrote – are in Australia, on my ex-boyfriend’s bookshelf. I will rebuild the collection, but in the meantime – I want to read this one!!

5. This air fryer:


I am a complete sucker for anything fried. Fritters, chips, bhajis, pakoras, patties – you name it, I will put it in my mouth and eat the hell out of it. This gentleman costs only 200 (!), and can not only offer me a lifetime of happiness, but can also cook a batch of fries on A TABLESPOON OF OIL. If you need further reasoning, you have no business being here.

Now, had I have purchased everything on this list, I would have spent at least 250eu.  And there is no doubt that I would have bought it all before I started this challenge. And next month, there would have been some equally tantaslising products I “needed”. And here you see where my money was going each and every month. And why it’s a damn good thing I am keeping my purse shut.

Speaking of purses, I GOT MY BOND BACK!!!! Finally, I cannot believe it’s over!

BONUS Travel Tip: If you find yourself in York, strolling along “Grape” Lane (which was called Grope Lane until a few hundred years ago, or less. It was thought that the original, bawdier name would deeply offend the visiting Queen Victoria should her royal eyes have fallen upon it. God knows what they did with the prostitutes who gave the street its name) do yourself a favour and go visit this restaurant: El Piano. It’s vegan, ALL gluten free and home to some of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted! This pig smashed her hooves in all sorts of joyful things and wore such a permanently delighted expression that her similarly impressed (gluten-and-meat-eating) boyfriend secretly took pictures of pig in unflattering, cheek-bulging ecstasy. The fritters are to die for, as are the felafel salad, the baby burger, the currant chutney, the mathematical chips, the quinoa-pineapple salad and whatever that purple thing was. I ordered so much food that the chef came out to warn me these were all adult portions. “Bring them to me!” I commanded, before gobbling them all up. Best of all, they sell kits so you can re-create some of the goody goodness at home!

If I spend in a forest and noone sees it, did it really happen?

Photo Credit: Gabriela Gattaneo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gabriela Gattaneo via Compfight cc

It’s just about a month since I committed to not spending. I haven’t seen any benefits yet (see previous post for reasons why), but I feel inordinately proud of myself…for a person who has achieved nothing at all!

But I do have a slight confession to make.

Past Sian had ordered and paid for a couple of skirts from H&M. They subsequently got put on back-order and she forgot them. They were delivered last week. Now, after unpacking them, Present Sian realised she wasn’t that into them any more, so sent them back.

That should, I guess, technically speaking, have been money that I just plugged off my debt. However! I needed a new pair of shoes for a wedding. Hear me out! This was not just “I have nothing to wear” it was literally “I only have motorcycle boots or flip-flops and neither are appropriate footwear for a wedding where I will meet my boyfriend’s family for the first time.”

So I bought a pair of appropriate, lady-like, please let me keep sleeping with your son type shoes. I came out even, financially speaking, so I technically did not spend anything…even though I bought something.

What do you think? Did I cheat??

Further to this, would people please stop inventing cool shit? I just saw this on Kickstarter: the memobottle. Is “donating” to Kickstarter in return for a copy of the product being developed, classified as spending? Is it? I’ve decided to refrain at the moment, but holy hell, if you start looking around that site, you end up with your purse wide open before you even know what you’re doing. People are amazing!

I have also started attempting to trick my brain into thinking it’s spending, by building up a virtual wardrobe. After being introduced to the concept of Capsule Wardrobes over at Un-Fancy, I have decided to use my year of financial celibacy to perfect the idea and get a better sense of my style. And the great part is, I can do it without spending money!

I scoured online shops and selected the 37 pieces she recommends for a good capsule (“9 pairs of shoes, 9 bottoms, and 15 tops…2 dresses and 2 jackets/coats”), and pinned them to a pinterest board I started for the purpose. Then I added the pictures to an app I already had on my phone – Stylicious. The app lets you classify the clothes into tops, bottoms and shoes, and then scroll through the 3 layers on 3 wheels to mix and match until you find a combination you like. You then clip them together and you’ve got an outfit! Here are my ongoing efforts, but please don’t laugh at my inability to crop!

And lastly an update on the story of the worst neighbours and landlady ever. I STILL do not have my bond back, and they are STILL in discussions about the rental contract. Honestly, the fucking Kyoto Protocol was signed in less time than this!

Please keep your fingers crossed for me – or, as they do in German, your thumbs pressed!


Work it! My new routine

Photo Credit: leighberry via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: leighberry via Compfight cc

Nope, not a dance routine. No-one needs to see what happens when the holy disco spirit enters me. Let’s just say it’s very white.

The year before I moved to Munich, I worked on an intense project with one of the best groups of people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We put in long, hard hours and since there was a bar right under the office we often ended up drinking sometimes three nights a week. It wasn’t FOMO, it (probably wasn’t) alcoholism or peer pressure – we just loved hanging out.

But it meant I had no routine. I was frequently hungover, I never prepared food for the following day, I gained weight and lost energy and my relationship suffered. Money was also pouring through my fingers, wasted on taxis, drinks, bar snacks and lunch each day.

Around that time, I started to think I might benefit from at least some kind of routine. Don’t get me wrong, if I don’t see several blank days in my calendar each week – for spontaneity, nights I just want to be alone, time to meet friends, days I want to take advantage of the weather and walk and be outside – I start to panic and feel claustrophobic.

But several things happen to me, especially here in Munich, if I do not have a routine.

1. I don’t cook. I haven’t been cooking that long, but I am learning slowly and enjoying the process. (My boyfriend and friends who are regularly the guinea pigs might be less keen!) But Munich is a city where coeliac’s disease is all but unknown. You can find selected GF items in the expensive stores, and there are two pizza restaurants that cater to us. But if you go to a run-of-the-mill wirtshaus (traditional guesthouse) or restaurant and start asking about ingredients, you’re not going to be popular.

“No,” I’ve been snapped at several times, “there’s no breadcrumbs in the sausages. Of course not!” And then I try to explain in my broken German that it’s not just that, it’s most grains, most sauces, any bread, soy sauce, etc. I feel princessy. I get a “look” and then my sausages will come without sauce as requested…accompanied by a fat slice of bread or a salad with croutons. Or the chicken in my carefully selected salad will be crumbed. Or the fresh fish will be dipped in flour before being slapped on the grill, despite the waiter’s assurance that won’t happen. I often become desperately sick after I eat out. And our company canteen is the worst. They even marinate the salad vegetables in something I can’t have.

So if I don’t have time to cook, I really suffer. I’d never deliberately eat something with gluten in it but the hungrier I get, the more desperate and willing to try I get. And until people here learn more about coeliac’s disease, I’m only really safe if I cook for myself.

2. I don’t work out. I am not what you would call a natural exerciser. In fact, there’s almost nothing I won’t do to avoid it. I have had adult tantrums because the car was parked too far from the supermarket. My sister and I have a joke that she’s Sporty Spice and I’m Library Spice.  She surfs, skates, snowboards, skis, runs and yogas. And I…don’t. Virtually the only reason I ever put sweatpants on (aside from they’re super-comfy after you’ve eaten too much) is because I have a desk job and I know how unhealthy that is.

But until I discovered CrossFit, the only thing I liked to do was swim. In fresh or saltwater. In landlocked Munich…that’s kinda hard. My skin reacts badly with chlorine and there are obviously no ocean baths here like there are at home. (The most beautiful place to swim in the entire world is posted above. Merewether Baths, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Part of my heart swims there every day. It’s incidentally the subject of the only painting I ever did, which miraculously sold).

I have to plan my workout nights in advance and just shuffle everything else around them, or its too easy to think I’ll get to it later in the week. Of course, I can be flexible, but if I have my “nights”, friends understand that I’m not available then, or not until after I’ve worked out (and, for everyone’s benefit, showered).

3. I don’t work on my goals. Writing. Improving my German. End of (current) list. I’ve had the outline of a novel ready for the last two years. I’ve finish exactly one and a half chapters. I always said that once I earned my living through writing, I’d be happy. But I’m not. I love my job. But ghostwriting for our CEO about how the reinsurance industry can protect itself against the rising rate of natural catastrophes is not filling my creative boots. Writing makes me happy, keeps me company, gives me a sense of achievement that nothing else does. But there’s still a tendency in me to choose drinking with friends over a night at home working on my stuff.

I never really wanted to spend time in my old apartment. It was over 100 years old and musty, damp and dark due to faulty overhead wiring. It was bitterly cold even in Summer. So now that I’m happy as a piglet in my new place, I’m testing a new routine:

Monday: Groceries get delivered (which keeps me out of temptation in the supermarket). I clean the apartment, cook several meals and freeze the leftovers for work during the week. 1 hour of writing.

Tuesday: Crossfit, 1 hour of writing.

Wednesday: Free

Thursday: Crossfit, 1 hour of writing.

Friday: Free

Saturday: Crossfit in the morning. Rest of the day free.

Sunday: Free

And the bi-product of all of this? I’ll not only be healthier and happier, I’ll be saving money. A night at the gym is a night I’m not out drinking and being forced to gamble on bar snacks. Having groceries delivered is the perfect, non-negotiable excuse to be at home and preparing for my week.

And I’ll be moving closer each day to my goals. Win-win-win.

Hooray for routines! Do you have one? Or can you wing it and fly by your pants-seat?



This is my cute new little apartment (not the best picture. And ignore the packing boxes on the balcony – they get collected next week). I feel like I am living in a treehouse! It’s incredibly quiet and peaceful and green and warm and solidly built. It’s pretty small, at 45sqm (484 square feet), but feels quite big to me. And I bought a bit of new furniture for it too. The high-backed arm chair and matching footstool, along with some new shelving for the kitchen, and the yellow overhead lights. Beautiful. 

And then I started my year without spending…

And this morning I realised, crap! I don’t have anything on the walls. No nice shelves, no pretty artwork, no big unusual clock. I could also use a third overhead light in the middle of the room, as it’s a little dark over the arm chair which is where I have been doing my writing when it’s cold outside. 

And Kmart in Australia decided to produce some gorgeous, really affordable furniture. This shelf below is only $29! Australian dollars! That’s about 15euro. And I need it! I genuinely need something on the walls.

Oh my goodness. This would go so perfectly in my new apartment.

So I have taken a deep breath and decided to think about alternatives.  

I have a stack of my Instagram pictures printed on card. I can tack these onto the walls above the bed or sofa. Or perhaps use some twine and paperclips and string them into a nice design. 

I also unearthed my old cuckoo clock! I can mount it and make a nice feature of it.

And I have two standing lamps in the living room…I can just shuffle one a little closer to the armchair when I write. 

There are going to be other solutions. But I hadn’t expected this to be so hard already just three days in!! I definitely would have tried to find something similar to the round shelf, or had my family post it to me from Australia. I would have tried to find something on the local Oh dear…like these honeycomb shelves. These would look great with some white ivy hanging out of them. 

Ok! I gotta run – I have some tacking to do!

And we’re off!


Photo Credit: RichSeattle via Compfight cc

Shit just got real, yo. It’s begun. Wasn’t off to the best start after I did several stupid things in a row:

– Sat on my glasses
– Turned on the iron while it was still in its protective plastic (messy. not recommended).
– Dropped my bikini trimmer from a great height and smashed it to smithereens (I refuse to grow…”it” out)

But with those hiccups in the rearview, off we go!

I have of course already found several things that I desperately want and would definitely have bought myself if not for this new resolve. Yesterday after my dermatologist appointment, I sat myself in the little “prepare your face for public consumption room” and slathered the most beautiful, creamy, light, dewy makeup over my skin. I hadn’t even been in there for my face (I’ve had an outbreak of reactive dermatitis on my hands – HOT!) but the bottle looked pretty and the room is adjacent to the toilet, so I tried it. It was perfectly matched to my skin tone and evened out all my blemishes. It made my dry skin look moist and radiant. I was like me, just better! I photographed the bottle and colour number and set off for the nearest store…and then remembered. I’m Scrooge McDuck now. I can’t have it. I have five other bottles of perfectly good makeup in my overflowing bathroom cabinet. Once they’re all gone, and only once they’re all REALLY gone, will I allow myself to buy this.

Then I got a notification from my favourite online store telling me a clothing item on my wish list had been reduced in price! OMG! It’s like, 25% cheaper now than it was the first time I wanted it! And I still want it! No. Instead I dutifully deleted my entire wish list…a little part of me dying with every click.

Then I finished reading this great book by Mary Roach and decided to read some of her other stuff! She’s got a book on the Alimentary Canal!* She edited the 2011 edition of the Best American Science and Nature Writing! No! You can’t have them. Sit down and go through your bookshelves again. There are most definitely books there that you’ve bought and haven’t read yet!

Sigh. It’s going to be a looong ride. Life can be really hard in a wealthy first-world country with no social issues and comparative gender equality for a steadily-employed girl in full health and happiness, don’t you think? Just gonna have to tough it out!


*It has been helpfully pointed out to me several times that I have strange taste in reading material. I don’t think it can be that strange when Stiff was a #1 best seller. But if your tastes run the same way, here are some others I have LOVED. Would appreciate any recommendations too…for me to buy next year, of course 😉

The Killer of Little Shepherds

The Poisoner’s Handbook

Mutants: On Genetic Variety in the Human Body

The Medical Detectives



T minus 4 days


Photo Credit: jurvetson via Compfight cc

I am reporting to you from the office (slow day, promise) because OMG I DON’T HAVE THE INTERNET AT HOME. There was some kind of confusion as to whether the new apartment needed a new modem. People came, people went, a lot of beeps were made, signals tested, things unscrewed (including my sanity)…and in the end, I apparently still need another part. That they will post. Via snail mail!

I have gone through 650MB of data on my cell, in FOUR days. I’m not going to sugar-coat it, I’m suffering. I’m really suffering. No BBC radio in the mornings, no dailymail (did the Kim Kardashian meltdown REALLY happen?), no blogs(!!), no spotify, no (ahem) totally legally watching my favourite shows online, lots of going cross-eyed trying to read long news items on a small screen, and mostly – no online shopping.

Which I guess is good because it’s T minus 4 days. Whatever I have not purchased by Sunday 10th August, simply does not get purchased. Well, for the next 12 months anyway. It’s scaring me, actually. I’m having doubts as to whether I can actually do it. As to whether it’s a good idea…then I look at my bank statements and I know it is. Something needs to change drastically, or I’ll end up like that woman who swears she can live off air alone.

I may or may not have been panic-shopping. Sort of at the same magnitude as people who believe in the zombie apocalypse, or the collapse of society after the Y2K bug (remember that whole thing?). I needed new boots, I needed new stockings to get me through the winter here, I needed overhead lights for the new place, and couldn’t the flower pots do with replacing? and and.

I realised I could pretty much keep finding excuses to stretch it out endlessly. And that there is no way to pre-account for every single possibility I will come across in the course of 12 months! I’m just going to have to make do, push the boat out, take the leap, metaphor, metaphor. So I have drawn the line in the shopping mall tiles, and from August 10th, 2014 to August 10th, 2015 these rules will apply.

I have a feeling I’m going to need my hand held. Everyone, clear your schedules.


Oh, and PS. In case you haven’t heard, I’m kind of a big deal around here. 😉

Big, big muscles

Photo Credit: valleyofthedolls via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: valleyofthedolls via Compfight cc

So today, I was innnocently researching global reinsurance buying strategies (my job is clearly better than yours), when I took a tiny pause. During that pause, I flicked facebook open. During the time I had it open, my eyes landed on a perfectly targetted ad. Then while I was innocently staring at the ad, my finger clicked on it. I took a cute little quiz about where I work out, my body shape and favourite colours, and before I knew it I was packing my credit card away after securing a FULL new workout outfit for 35eu. I know! Bargain, right?


We all struggle with self-control, I know that. For some people it’s food, for some alcohol, gambling, drugs and the good lord only knows what else. For me, clearly, it’s online shopping.  I was on auto-pilot the whole time. I didn’t think twice about it. And it would be ok if it happened once or twice, but it happens all the time.

So, right after I had selected the “Tahiti” workout combo,  I did some research on self-control, and on keeping presence of mind.

Willpower’s controled by the pre-frontal cortex

Front of head. Inside skull. First third of grey matter. That’s the chap. Things like sleep deprivation and poor diet can affect this area, which also contains emotional responses (“Hangry”ness, anyone?). Stress draws energy away from it too, so maintaining stress better has the knock-on benefit of improving willpower and self-control.  Which sounds like medical grounds for time off work, if you ask me.

It runs out!

Scarily, it seems willpower can be used up. Apparently for me, this happened sometime shortly after birth. But using the “muscle” analogy (which pretty much everything I read did), this means it can be exercised, built up and improved. Like my little biceps at a crossfit session. ONE day, I will be able to do a pull-up, and also not buy stuff. I will become the Arnold Schwarzenegger of not shopping.

You should pick one thing to work on

And take little baby steps towards it. Little, baby, baby steps. Everything said that taking too many goals on at once just confuses your brain and uses up all the willpower from the willpower well.

I have been waiting until I moved into my new apartment before starting this challenge, because there may genuinely be things I need for it. I move on August 2. I plan to start the following week.

I just hope I’m not in jail for bankruptcy before then.

Oh, and just in case online shopping isn’t your kryptonite (and you live in Germany), have an introductory offer of 50% off your first purchase, plus a grouping discout on 3 items…or something. My German’s still a little dicey. Here’s “Tahiti” for you. You’re welcome.



The Finer Points

Whenever I have mentioned this challenge to friends, the first reaction has been a load of questions. Mostly about what’s in and what’s out, and how far I will take this. What if there’s a nuclear holocaust and my winter coat’s not cutting it? This type of stumper.

Apparently, there is a lot more to think about than I realised.

Goods and Services

Can I go to the salon, the nail bar, the waxer? I mostly do my hair myself, so the first one is kind of redundant. I probably should go to the nail bar, but sometimes I just get a little overwhelmed by everything I “should” do for my hair, legs, skin, teeth, eyes, bones, feet and muff. It’s exhausting keeping up with maintenance. Some mornings I’m lucky if I’m wearing clothes, and I once left the apartment after jauntily tossing a black scarf around my shoulders. I got strange looks on the train, and only realised once in the office that the “scarf” was actually my black pyjama pants.

Mostly, goods and services are out. One exception is massages. I don’t go regularly, but for reasons I have explained in a previous post, there are times when I just desperately need a good strong massage. I actually don’t consider this a luxury item. Having Nid 2 (that’s apparently her real name. I’m going to work my way up to Nid 1, and then just Nid), a 45kg Thai lady, walking over your back and separating your ribs with her dainty but surprisingly strong elbows is something everyone needs to experience. You haven’t lived until Nid 2 has produced a crack from your femur.


Actually, it’s singular. I only have one. But it’s just about my favourite thing in the whole world. My Stack Magazines subscription. Each month, I am sent a different, random, English-language magazine from an independent publisher somewhere in the world. I never know what it will be, but my subscription has taken me on cycling journeys with men who’ve lost their babies, got me thinking about the diversity of journalism cadetship candidates, explained the exact reason and mechanisms through which drugs affect the brain, and introduced me to the flamboyant world of plant porn (not a typo). There’s even one dedicated entirely to happiness! Take a bow, Perdiz.

I don’t think I can bear to part with it, and it’s only 12eu a month! But as one friend pointed out, the 12 euros here and there are going to add up. And they’re what got me into this mess in the first place. This is really, really difficult choice for me. I’m going to need some more time here! Back off!


I’m keeping my phone and my internet connection. And electricity and gas connections. But only because it’s 2014 and my boss is kind of a stickler for me showering before work. Also, where else am I going to watch porn but online? (Kidding! I totally have a DVD collection.)


These are in. Because that’s the kinda person I am.

Other stuff

There are going to be things that pop up.What if the vacuum cleaner breaks? I can’t live among pizza crumbs and corn chip remnants for ever. I haven’t even started this thing yet, but I have to admit, I’m getting cold sweats. I actually, genuinely had a nightmare last night where all my bras had gone missing and I couldn’t buy a new one. If this happens, I am definitely allowed to buy a new one.

Everything else, I guess I will have to take case by case. Oh, and waxing is in.



Header Image Photo Credit: thewhitestdogalive via Compfight cc