My no-spend-on-books month

I’ve done a no-spend month once before, years and years ago, when I joined Beth for her no-spend month.

That was a really great experience because it broke my Exclusive Books habit of spending hundreds of rands on books every month .

This time, I had an idea that my book-buying habit was getting a bit out of control because I was buying a title from Modern Mrs Darcy‘s list almost daily.

Even $2 – $5 Kindle deals add up… and fast.

Amazon also sends those almost-daily emails with their recommendations based on the titles you’ve viewed.

One day I looked and I had 31 unread titles on my Kindle – real books, not samples. And I’ve been reading on average 10 books a month.

I then decided this book-buying thing was getting out of hand and I decided March would be a no-spend month on books.

What did I do differently?

I unsubscribed from MMD’s list. It’s the same way I don’t ever take a catalogue or brochure from a store – if I don’t see it, I don’t want it. I will subscribe again when I feel more caught up with my current reading and I have told my book club to let me know if Small Great Things goes on sale 🙂

How did I do?

I’ve been waiting for Alec Baldwin’s memoir, Nevertheless, for over 6 months so the minute that became available on Audible, I pre-ordered it with a credit I had.

I somehow forgot about my no-spend March when I went to shop for the 2017 Library project and I picked up some books. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that I was buying books because in my head I had DIGITAL books as my goal. Aside from the 4 books for the library, I bought 1 for a friend and about 5 for me (!).

So I was successful with Kindle and Audible purchases; not with physical books 🙂

What now?

I’m back on the no-spend wagon. We have a mini-break coming up and I wanted some books for lazing at the pool so I bought some books on Amazon last week. Coming to an instagram feed near you 🙂

I do think I’m set for at least another 3 months so let’s see if I can keep up the no-spending challenge for books for at least another 2 months.

How about you?

Have you ever declared a no-spend challenge on buying books? Or make-up? Or clothes?

Speaking of which, I haven’t bought a watch since December 2012 and I now have only 3 working watches left. I’m going to treat myself for my birthday though (4 months away) or sooner if I see something I really want.

When life throws you curveballs

A reader recently sent me a question asking what my suggestions were for her and for other readers who get thrown from their usual routines by life’s curveballs.

I think this is a great question because she’s right – we all have things that throw us off track:

  • busy time periods at work (month-end/ year-end/ closing out a project/ going live with other projects, etc.)
  • busy periods in our kids’ lives (concert week, recitals or plays)
  • any illness (usually means kids or parents not sleeping)
  • going on holiday (lovely to be away but re-entry can be tough)
  • any out-of-the-ordinary happening that messes with your routine

I’ll share with you my top 3 ways to get back on track:

  1. Lower my expectations

That seems counter-intuitive but it makes complete sense for any of us control freaks.

I know after returning from a holiday that it’s going to take about a week for things to return to our normal. There’s no sense in getting stressed every day because there are piles of undone laundry, no food in the fridge and kids who can’t wake up for school because they’re too tired.

This one step is the biggest creator of peace of mind in the home.

  1. Get back to my basics as quickly as possible

For me, that’s making a menu plan and making sure we have enough fruit and vegetables in the house. I can almost always cobble meals together from the freezer or pantry; it’s when there aren’t enough apples or carrots that I start to twitch. Food is important to me and the family, so this is one of my priorities.

In essence, start putting your routines in order. When we get back from a holiday, I start unpacking immediately because I can’t stand things laying around on the floors and I’ve trained the kids to do the same. They’ve unpacked their own suitcases for the last 3 years.

  1. How can I restore order in the quickest, painless way?

I could take one day, generally the Sunday afterwards, and do laundry non-stop, and while that would be quick, it is not painless for me! I choose to do a daily load until we’re caught up instead as we generally only do the laundry about 3 – 4 times a week. It ends up being just a day or two longer, but knowing that there’s a plan in place helps a lot to keep me at peace!

If doing laundry isn’t painful for you, you might as well get it done quickly.

I read a blog once where the mom used to go to a laundromat, use 6 machines and just get all the laundry done if they had a curveball or two thrown at them. She said she’d take a book, relax for two hours and leave with everything up to date. That actually sounds splendid.

To summarise, I’d give myself two weeks to get back to my routines. Decide what is most important to you, and start doing that thing immediately (as you saw above, unpacking and food for me!).

Then build on those initial steps until your routine – and peace of mind – is restored once again.

What are your basics?

Do you have a strategy for life’s curveballs?

Memory-keeping: the system that works for me

Since this month is a month I want to focus on relationships, I thought I’d write one post to show you all about my memory-keeping, and at least I can then link to this one instead of the 5 or so on the blog 🙂

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  1. I take tons of photos on both my camera and iphone, and use photos from both devices for my albums. I’m still partial to my big camera (Canon) but life is much easier with my iphone 6 since the quality of the photos is so magnificent. As they say, the best camera is the one you have with you. And I add, keep your big camera out so you’re more likely to use it.
  2. I do a 52-week photo project of the kids. This is my third year.
  3. I then choose 4 pics per child per month, and 4 pics overall. Because I take so many photos, I purposefully choose images for that are not from our 52 project pics. One day soon, I’ll just print the 52 photos for our album but that day has not arrived yet. These limitations have given me a lot of freedom.
  4. Then I do project life. Here’s how I used to do it and here’s how I now do it.
  5. The key to successful memory-keeping is being realistic about time and money.
  6. And here’s where I talk more about money because all of this stuff costs money so the key is to think about what will work for you.

How do you preserve your family’s memories?

What have you found is the most realistic method for you, both in terms of time and money?

If this is one of your goals for the year, join me for monthly accountability coaching to get your things done this year!

My dream file, and why you should make a vision board

I’ve had this flipfile for seemingly forever. It’s my pre-pinterest Pinterest 🙂

Basically, in the days when I used to buy magazines, I’d rip out pictures of things that I like or would like to have in a home and I’d file them in a flipfile.

I recently came across my dream flipfile when I was sorting out my study.

As I paged through I realised that a lot of the pages I’d torn out are now reflected in my house. Not that I have an airy loft but the feeling of that airy loft is reflected in such and such corner or the bright pop of colour is reflected in that room. So awesome!

Look at this selfie I took one night with the timer on my phone and tell me if it reminds you of something.

I didn’t even realise it at the time but I’m reading like the woman in the picture above. I only found my file a few weeks after this picture was taken!

I’ve always wanted a reading corner with a chair, table and a big window. And I’ve got it!

When we came to look at this house, we walked up the stairs and when I saw that corner, I had a vision of me reading, or Dion reading bedtime stories to the kids. The previous owner had this corner arranged very differently and I remember saying that I had plans for that corner the minute I saw it.

The point of all this reminiscing is just to remind me and you to keep pulling out those pictures and to make your vision board or dream file.

If you’re feeling stuck on goals this year, maybe you need to get your hands cutting and pasting. The physical nature of putting together your board may be just the thing to get you unstuck.

Have a go and let me know if it helps.

How to make a vision board – part one and part two and part three

Have you ever made a vision board?

PS Fun fact – I even made a vision board for babies!

PPS I’d love to have you join me on My Year of Happy

My year of happy

While I was thinking about my year ahead, I decided to re-read some of my favourite books this year.

One of those is Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin, especially because she’s releasing a new book just on The Four Tendencies (I can’t wait!) later this year.

I started listening on Monday, my first day back to work this year, and it’s been (dare I say?) even better listening the second time around.

Maybe it’s because I’m a super big fan of the podcast which started after I first listened to the book?

Anyway, in the book, she mentions The Happiness Project and how she focussed on 12 different projects over that year.

And that’s when I had my bright idea.

 

I’m going to do my own version of a Happiness Project. My Year of Happy!

Basically, I’m going to focus on 10 different areas in my life, 1 for the months February – November. January is for thinking it all through and December is for relaxing and wrapping up the year 🙂

My areas are health, finances, holidays, friends, kids, husband, house projects – decor,  house projects – decluttering, faith/ God and fun – reading, photos, crafts. I probably have 2 – 3 things I want to do for each area and that’s plenty.

Also, when I get x and y done, they’re done! Which is so satisfying to me, especially because for many years I’ve had ongoing goals on my list so 3 of this per month, or 2 of that per month, or doing project x every month. I think I’ll have a mix of recurring goals and once-off.

Does a happiness project sound like fun to you?

If yes, great stuff. We can post pics of our little projects on Instagram 🙂 and if you’re an Upholder like me, you’ll have no trouble at all planning out your year and making your year happy as you do your projects. If you’re a Rebel, you’ll do a project only if you want, and on your terms.

But for the Obligers and the Questioners, those that need a bit more accountability, let me know if you want some coaching for your Year of Happy.

How it will work

You decide on your own 10 projects – one for each month Feb to Nov – or fewer if you want to repeat some categories. It’s your life; you choose. You know what your life is like so you can choose easy things in your busier months so that this is not something stressful.

Your projects will be different to the next person’s. There is no one size fits all.

Logistics

We will use Skype audio or IMO (if the video doesn’t have too much lag) and chat once a month for 30 minutes.

You’ll give me feedback and set your intentions for the month ahead. I’ll coach you on any obstacles or where you feel stuck.

At the mid-point of each month, I will have some “open office time” for a 5-minute call. This is specifically so if you want to chat/ brainstorm.

In between you work on your stuff by yourself.

Then we wrap the 2017 year of happy on 30 November, rejoicing in a year well-intentioned and well-spent.

The best thing about all of this is you remain in the comfort of your own home, in your pyjamas, make-up free, while getting the support and encouragement to go make yourself happy.

How much

Only $50 per month or R700 at today’s exchange rate. If this is something that you really want but that amount doesn’t work for you, then let me know what you can pay and we’ll make a plan. It’s my year of give and you get to benefit 🙂

There’s no commitment to stay for the full year – stop whenever you want.

Are you interested? Email me and we’ll take it from there.

How I made my kitchen a happy space on a very small budget

Remember I mentioned that I wasn’t very inspired by my kitchen?

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I LOVE the size, and that there’s plenty of counter space and storage even with no cabinets on the top in most of the kitchen. I even counted and I’m sure we could have 6 people comfortably working on different things in the same kitchen.

The point is that the bones are good; it just needed some updating.

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Now updating usually comes in the form of a renovation which I am not a lover of for two reasons: 1) extreme mess and lack of control…… and 2) renovations cost a lot of money. Apparently a good rule of thumb is 1/10th of the house’s price which is super crazy. But that’s my opinion.

So then I happened upon a green kitchen on Instagram and I was like OHHHHHH, I LOVE THAT.

I love green very much.

Dion had some reservations that it would be too green (is there such a thing?!) but trusted me.

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I was busy picking out the exact green when I saw a navy blue kitchen and I thought OOOOH now that’s lovely.

I showed him and he was much more into the navy.

I just wanted COLOUR and non-boringness so I was game to try the blue.

You see, I love The Nester’s advice. She said once, “if you hate something anyway, there’s no harm in taking a risk”. So true.

We ended up painting the walls and ceilings white and the cupboards are now NCS S 6030-R90B Seaside Breeze.

Best of all, we all LOVE our new kitchen. And the very best news is it cost just a fraction of a true renovation.

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Other small things we did…

  1. replaced the mixer
  2. put up shelves

And the minute we’ve saved enough money, we’ll redo the flooring. In fact, if you have flooring people you’d recommend, please tell me in the comments. I only have two quotes which are both far too expensive.

Some more photos of my navy kitchen:

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Have you ever painted your kitchen cupboards?

What colour would you do yours?

PS The blue kitchen pics were taken in midday sun so the light was very bright. The kitchen looks a bit darker at night.

Is your space working for you?

One of my biggest frustrations is when a space doesn’t work properly for me.

I feel like I don’t want to spend time there, and then I’m easily distracted while in that space too.

Can you relate?

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Example 1

I saw a room on Instagram that gave me an idea for one of our spaces. The person had a daybed/ bench in the kitchen area and it looked so inviting that I thought, “oh, I’d like one of those” and then I thought of something I could do.

So this weekend I moved one of my couches to the dining room. I still have the table and chairs; there is just more space to relax with the couch there.

Dion is still not sure about it but the kids and I love it there. I find them sitting and reading on the couch because the light is amazing in the mornings.

Do you need to move things around in one or two rooms to make your spaces work better for you?

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Example 2

I’m not a fan of beige anything 🙂

When we bought this house I knew I’d have to jazz up my kitchen somehow.

I decided on 4 smallish things (compared to a complete kitchen renovation – which we choose not to do because we prefer money to pay off our bond :)) and I’m delighted with the results from just 3 of the 4 so far.

The 4th thing is proving a lot more money than I initially thought so it will take a month more of saving to do that.

I’m going to put up pictures and such on Monday to talk you through some of my thinking.

But for now, I have a little thinking exercise for you.

Think of a space where you spend a lot of time – kitchen, bedroom, kids’ play area, study, etc.

Take a few minutes to evaluate your physical space and see how it’s working for you.

  1. Do you feel happy when you look at the space?
  2. Are you energised when you’re there?
  3. Does the space function well?
  4. Can you say with complete honesty that not much irritates or frustrates you there?
  5. Is it organised enough for your and your family’s needs?

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Your coaching challenge

  • If you couldn’t answer yes to at least 3 of the 5 questions, what are 3 small things you can do to brighten up that space and make it work for you again?
  • Do you need to move furniture around? Shop your home first before you think of going to buy new items.
  • Consider this the first draft and keep tweaking until the space is fully functional.
  • Don’t get caught up in Pinterest perfectionism – it doesn’t have to be pretty to be functional, organised and bring you peace.

If you’d like to talk through some of your space issues, let’s set up a free 15-minute chat for you.

I’d love to know which of your spaces you want to make work better for you, and what the first thing is you’re going to do.

Questions from the paying off your house posts – food, savings and utilities

I promised I’d address some questions I had from the paying off your bond posts.

From MamaCat

What about ensuring you have available cash already saved? For emergency situations?

The way we do it is to have a set amount that you automate to go into normal savings, in addition to the increased amount to pay off your house quicker.

The trick with savings is to do it first. For me, it’s the second thing I pay – first, my tithe and then my savings. I tried for a month or two in 1998 when I got serious about money to see what was left at the end of the month, and that just never worked.

The best is to decide which amount you want to save and move it out of your main bank account immediately – you will somehow make the rest of the money work if that’s all you see.

Your savings will then be used for true emergencies (not “we need new furniture”, but insurance excesses and such) and infrequent expenses, like TV licences, car services and so on.

The financial gurus recommend that you save at least 10% of your income; my aim is much higher 🙂

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From Jacqui

How do you handle the ever escalating food/petrol/utilities prices? I feel I need my annual increase to fund all these unavoidable increases in daily expenses.

I feel your pain. Really I do.

Electricity – we had “open” electricity at the old house which I do not recommend. At the new house we have a prepaid meter and we’ve not spent more than R1000 per month. At the other house our bill was in excess of R5500 for rates, water, electricity, sewerage and refuse removal.

Water – I almost don’t want to speak about this because it is my current cause. I’ve already investigated prepaid water meters and will be installing one of those soon. I’m afraid I’m suspicious of the metering system because I can’t see how it can be accurate….

Food – I feel like a broken record but the more I am intentional and menu plan, and then shop accordingly, we actually are okay. Cook two meals at a time and put one in the freezer. If you have leftovers, don’t throw them out. Put them in the freezer. Some nights I take out 3 – 4 different things, lay them out on the counter and it’s a buffet for everyone to help themselves 🙂

Things that throw out the budget are all the junk food and convenience food. If you need to buy a box of something, then choose whatever is on special that week. I haven’t bought boxed fish for months because it’s just too expensive. So chicken it is.

The very obvious one is also if you shop for food at the W store, you’re going to blow your budget immediately. I would much rather put that extra money in my bond…

Also, write the date you start using an item on the container in permanent marker. It’s psychological…. when I forget, we fly through margerine, butter, etc. but when I write the date, somehow it lasts for the full 3 weeks…. Do the same with cleaning agents so you know how long things last.

I also don’t believe in stockpiling. When I stockpile, I’m poorer, and that’s a fact. I buy what we need for the month because the shops are just down the road if you need something and also, you could just make do 🙂

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Weigh-Less has been a big help here too because I’m aware of what actual portion sizes should be. It’s a strange thing; because produce is so expensive, I’m very aware that we have to eat all the apples/ oranges, etc. because I don’t want to waste a bag that cost R25 – R35.

If we’re not going to get through things, I toss them into the freezer (broccoli, etc.) or cook up the fruit (granted, only apples!) so they don’t go to waste. In winter, I make soups.

Evaluate what portion sizes actually cost. My kids liked a particular brand of muesli but a 500g box cost about R40 and they’d finish it in two days. Not okay. So now they can get that once a month but the rest of the month, they eat more economical cereals like oats, Weetbix, or they have toast.

Petrol – there’s nothing much you can do except to drive properly so you don’t use up too much petrol, take your car to be serviced and don’t speed. Other than that, I always tell myself, at least I don’t live in Ireland (which has been the most expensive petrol I ever saw – R22 per L in 2009…). Funny story, when I saw the price of their petrol, I vowed there and then to never moan about the price of petrol ever again, and I don’t.

If you travel for work, explore whether Uber might be cheaper for you. I have many Pretoria clients and about a year ago, I took an hour to do some homework. I found that in all those cases, it’s cheaper to Gautrain + Uber rather than drive my car, so that’s what I’ve been doing for the last year.

Hope this helped, ladies.

Readers, please share your tips in the comments below.

PS If you’d like a fresh eye to look over your situation, send me a mail. We often can’t see things objectively because we’re too close to the action; I’m happy to help. And it’s my passion 🙂

How I paid off my bond in 5 years and how you can too – part 4

Here’s part 1 which lays the foundation and mindset stuff, here’s part 2 which is the start of all the practical steps, and here’s part 3 with some more steps and one which may be too woo-woo for you 🙂

And now for the numbers. I’ll promise to keep this short just in case you feel like stabbing yourself in the eyes round about now 🙂

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  1. Paying the bond

If you look at amortisation calculators on any of the banks’ or mortgage originators’ sites, you’ll be able to see that you’re basically paying off interest for much of those 20 years. Only a tiny amount of each of your repayments goes toward the capital while most of it pays interest.

I did a quick calculation. On R1 million, your monthly repayment is R9983 (at 10.5% interest). The majority of that payment only swings towards your capital in month 162 (13 and a half years into paying off your bond of 20 years).

Scary stuff.

So the quicker you can start paying off that interest, the better.

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How to do this

The minute your bond is registered, make a payment. Preferably the entire bond amount but any amount will do.

Our bond was registered on 5 July. I had some problems with them linking the new account to my profile but it was finally linked a week later and we paid the entire bond payment immediately even though the bank only required the first payment on 1 August. Those two weeks meant that the payment was applied mostly to interest.

If you’re paying off your existing bond, do your best to put aside as much money as you can and pay it on the 14th of every month. Right now things are a bit…. tight…. but we could afford a small extra payment (due to rounding up) so I put a scheduled transfer on my bank account for the 14th of every month for that amount.

If we do nothing else but this tiny extra payment, we cut 4 years off our bond.

Did you get that?

If we do nothing else but this tiny extra payment, we cut 4 years off our bond.

If we get to the point where we have half a bond payment extra every month, we reduce the term to 8 years, and if we work up to doubling our payment, we pay it off in 5 years.

I can’t wait for my next salary increase to increase that payment 🙂 🙂

This is the slow and steady way but that’s not really my style. I’m believing for much bigger results, like I shared in the last point of this post.

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If you’ve been paying only exactly what your bank requires, then here’s what you need to do:

Diarise to get a statement at least every 3 months.

If you do your main banking with the same bank who granted your loan, then make sure your profile is linked, and actually look at your statement at least every 3 months, and if you’re now obsessed because of my posts, then make it a part of your monthly review.

Here’s something else that is small but practical to do.

If your bond is R5678 (random number), make a quality decision to find R322 in your budget so that your total payment to X Bank is now R6000 per month. All I did was round up.

Now go to your bank’s website and set up a scheduled transfer/ payment to your bond for that amount on the 14th of every month (or 14 days from your scheduled debit order).

If you’re thinking, “how is this possibly going to make a difference?” let me tell you it will.

You’re developing the right mindset of single-minded focus.

You’re taking action in small steps now but those steps will grow soon.

These days we’re so fortunate to have technology (all the heart eye emojis); when I was obsessed with paying off our first home in the late 90’s, I’d walk to the bank in the CBD every 3 months and get an actual paper bank statement to encourage me in my efforts. Now I just log into the app and I can easily see the reducing balance.

How is all of this resonating with you? Does it feel like too much hard work? Do you feel overwhelmed? Let’s talk.

This is the final of the official posts. I so hope this was valuable to some of you out there. Please let me know to encourage me too.

Next time up I’m answering questions so let me have them.

How I paid off my bond in 5 years and how you can too – part 3

Are you enjoying this series so far? Remember to let me know if you have any questions in the comments and if they require long answers, I will write a separate post at the end of the series.

Here’s part 1 which lays the foundation and mindset stuff, and here’s part 2 which is the start of all the practical steps.

Let’s move onto the next couple of steps:

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  1. Don’t subscribe to “I deserve it” thinking

I hear this so often – I work hard and I deserve to have a nice car, or whatever.

Let’s be honest – there are many people who work much harder than some of us but due to circumstances they were born into don’t have as much in the way of material possessions.

So I’m of the opinion that while we all deserve things, that doesn’t actually fly with justifying your desires for all the latest material possessions – cars, gadgets, clothes, etc. you want.

I like to say, “I deserve to have my bond paid off quickly because I’m working hard on that goal” 🙂

Yes, by all means, treat yourself, but make it an appropriate treat. You can’t spend such a lot and still want to pay off a bond quickly. Unless you earn a fortune. In which case, this post won’t interest you at all.

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  1. Have no sacred cows

Dr Phil used to say (he might still say this – I haven’t watched his show since the twins were born), “you can’t have any sacred cows”. What that means is that nothing in your budget is untouchable.

“You can trim the grocery bill but I’m not giving up my big car”

The truth is if you want to make a big impact, then look at big expenses like cars, schooling (in some instances), holidays, and so on.

Sadly, one of our biggest line items on our budget in the last 6 months was water and electricity. How crazy is that?!

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  1. Step out in faith

With the last house we paid off, I remember going to work in the first week of January after about three weeks off from work. My boss, who knows all about my goal-setting behaviour, asked me if I’d set any interesting/ fun goals for the year ahead.

I took a deep breath because it was a big, scary goal, and said, “well, funny you should ask, but this year I plan to pay off that bond”.

It was way out of reach by normal standards but I had a sense that this was a stretch goal we could do.

Long story short but that’s exactly what happened.

Some hard saving from us, some unexpected monies here, a bonus there, a tax refund from SARS and it was done. In other words, a lot of smaller things helping us towards our goal.

It’s not magic, but there is something special with putting your intention out there, and believing (and receiving) answers from God as to how these big dreams will come to fruition. And let’s face it – had we not had this big goal we were working towards, those extra monies could very easily have been frittered away, or paid for holidays, furniture upgrades, newer cars, etc.

I have more to say on this subject but someone asked a great question which is now going into part 5 and will address a little bit more here.

Did point 7 feel too woo-woo for you?

What are your sacred cows? We all have them so don’t feel shy to share. Maybe it’s food, eating out, cars, gadgets, clothes…

If you’d like some coaching around these issues or for me to give you some customised ideas for your situation, email me for a confidential 30/ 60-minute session.

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