I’ve definitely set myself some lofty targets for this year! My hardest goals by far are the three biggest (which I suppose are all quite common goals for the very reason that they’re so hard to achieve!) which are losing weight, saving money, and getting in my music practice hours.
Oddly enough these three goals work together extremely well. If I’m trying to lose weight then I will avoid eating out which will save money (and the same works in reverse – if I’m trying to avoid eating out to save money I will probably lose more weight by default). If I’m spending my free time exercising and playing music then I’m not out spending money. If I’m busy rushing home to fit in my music hours and plugging away at it all weekend, I have less need to distraction or retail therapy, both of which cost money and probably involve eating as well.
So far so good. I find as time goes on that I’m more and more inclined to want to find more ways to spend more time at home doing music, to spend less money, to eat less and exercise more. Throughout January my life has gradually been shifting in that direction. The immediate focus period I’ve set myself is through to the end of May (which is always a watershed because of my birthday) so five months to pay off our credit cards, get back to my lowest weight yet and hopefully beyond, and get most of my songs written and rehearsed ready for the album by virtue of the hours I’ll put in. All of that can just about be done – I need to lose between 8 and 11 pounds a month to be in my target weight zone, which is not easy but not impossible if I’m living right.
On the money side, I need to put every spare bit of money I can against our credit cards and basically need to cut my weekly budget to £50 each on food and discretionary – that’s almost half what it was before. It might sound like a lot and the food is doable but £50 on discretionary is so tight for the lifestyle I have. By the time I’ve bought the necessities (toiletries, occasional postage, gifts, lunch out inevitably once a week, plus I’m still routing my pool membership even though that’s technically a bill now) I have enough for maybe one meal out, visit or other social activity – and that’s if we don’t have any really dire necessities or emergencies. On the other hand, I’m really so determined to have this debt paid off and not to leave it to chance or hope that there will be other funds magically appearing from somewhere, and this is what needs to be done – it’s just that I’m right at the beginning of this process of adjustment and it seems like every single week there is something that requires extra funds. It’s only for five (now only four more) months though so I want to do the best I can – but it means no new clothes, no new shoes, and I will have to hope that my printer cartridges hold out until May! Just silly things like that can get quite pricey. It seems a far cry from the days when I could wander around the market or the shops and think nothing of spending £10 here and there on something that caught my eye! But I will be glad to get back to “normal” come June, just without the massive debt hanging over us.
The upshot of all this is that I think it’s going to have quite a detrimental effect on my social life. Even if I can afford to eat out once a week, from a diet perspective I really want to avoid it if I can (that’s when it all seems to go wrong!) and from a time perspective as well an evening out means adjusting my practice schedule – it’s totally doable and I can be flexible (I will need to be!) but a week where I’m not out at all means that every night I can come home, eat a healthy home-cooked meal, make sure all my workout gear is washed and sorted, and get in a solid couple of hours of practice. This is actually how I’d quite like life to be and I’m quite happy to try and save social things for the weekend where possible, and maybe to cut down on the frequency of things a little bit without it being too noticeable to the extent that I never see anyone!
This week I already said no to two offers, although both were work related. One was drinks and dinner after work on Friday with one current and one former colleague, both of whom I really like and it would have been really nice to go but I’ve already spent too much this week and I know it’ll be a big night and could well blow a complete hole in my budget. The second was a leaving lunch for someone at work who had picked a place with a set menu “deal” – although the deal was £20 for two courses! I know he’s leaving but really? £20 just for lunch? That’s not in my budget either and I didn’t massively like the person anyway so that was an easy No!
I think the thing is that I just have no clear answer or plan for this situation. The first step would be to bank some cash in advance (ie save some extra from one week so I have some to spend on something social in a future week) to feel less bad about it from that perspective. The second step would be identifying healthy options for eating or other activities which involved less eating – bowling and karaoke are two options that have been raised recently. And I suppose following that logic the third step would be to work out how being social would fit into my week alongside the music hours, and hopefully also bank some additional hours during weeks where I have less on.
I don’t want to be a hermit for the next five months, but I think in the past I’ve often sacrificed a certain percentage of success on my goals for the sake of doing what other people want me to do and maybe I just need to be a bit more discerning and remember how much I enjoy my little life of music and exercise, and how important those goals are to me. After all, you can’t do everything or accept every invite and everyone has to draw the line somewhere. Things will be different in the second half of the year anyway.