How can you budget if you don’t work 9-5?

Ahh Budget. My favourite B word. Call it a ‘spending plan’, call it ‘money management’, knowing where your money is coming from and going to is the single most important thing you can do to make sure you stay on track. Everything after that is just icing on the cake.

I have no way of knowing for certain, but I imagine that budgeting as a proper adult is quite simple once you get the hang of it. You have amount coming in, and as long as you limit yourself to n amount going out, you’re away laughing.

But what if you have no idea what your x amount is going to be from week to week?

As discomforting as it may seem, this is the reality for most creatives. Jobs or auditions can crop up at any moment, so the constraints of a standard 9-5 are usually far from appealing. Instead, it’s common for performers like myself to juggle one or more jobs – usually in a casual capacity. Flicking through my diary for the past couple of months, I’ve worked everything from 8 to 56 hours in a week. How can someone possibly budget with such a huge variation?

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Over the past five years or so, I’ve worked out a system that works well for me. I’ve managed to build up a solid amount of savings, invest some money in shares, and survive the ridiculous costs of renting alone. While your circumstances may differ, I decided to share my budgeting steps in the hope that it may help someone out there get out of their casual working nightmare.

1. Know exactly what your expenses are

I mean exactly. And no, brunch twice a week is not an expense. These expenses are things that must be paid by a due date. Think rent, insurance, power bills, transport costs- anything that is going to come out of your bank whether you like it or not. Doesn’t matter if it’s weekly, monthly, or annually- work out how much you’re paying for that bill every week and write that number down.

2. Calculate how many hours a week you have to work to cover those expenses

This is going to be your Baseline. I know that if I work 22 hours a week, my bills are going to be covered. Anything over this is an expense, and anything under this is going to have to be made up somehow. If I get a job that pays twice as well as my day job, that counts as double hours in my mental tally. Four times as well? Four hours. You get the idea?

Note: If this number is already more hours than you can work in a week, it’s time to re-asses your Expenses because I can already tell you this isn’t going to work. 

3. Find a way that works for you to track your money

Like a diet, tracking your money is incredibly personal- what works for your best friend may drive you crazy.  But if you want to have any certainty of bills being paid when they’re due, tracking of some sort is absolutely essential.

I personally like to use Goodbudget for all of my finances. It’s an app that lets you get as detailed or simple with your money as you like, and it tracks how you’re going with spending for the month. You can link it up to your bank account, or handle the transactions manually.

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At the very least, I would recommend you have one Envelope for your rent, one for your monthly bills, and one for your annual bills. This means that at any point, you can look at your phone and know that you’re not going to get kicked out of your place any time soon, can keep that refrigerator running, and aren’t going to completely melt down when that huge annual car payment rolls in.

4.  Realistically budget how much you want to save and spend every week

This is so incredibly personal, and it’s also going to be the most fluid part of your budget.

For me, I budget $200 a week for all discretionary spending. That means every cost that isn’t part of my pre-approved ‘Expenses’ list comes out of that figure. If I have a pricier supermarket shop that week, there’s less to spend on brunch. If I know I have a big night up later in the week, I might kick my 5 Ways I Slash My Spending into action and stretch that money a little further. Because I’m me, I also try and tuck some of that money into a physical piggy bank to save for a rainy day

If sticking to a spending limit is tricky for you, I strongly recommend pulling out cash and sticking with it.  I withdraw $150 cash every week and leave a buffer of $50 in my bank account for unexpected Uber trips and late night cocktails at the theater (you would be surprised how often those two coincide).

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I also have some pretty over-confident Savings Goals that I want to achieve before the end of the year, so I have a figure that I want to save each week on top of my spending money.

With these two figures, you’ve got a pretty accurate idea of your Ideal Weekly Income. This is what I aim to work every week, but as long as I know that I’m hitting that 22 hours more or less consistently, I know that I’m ready to move on to Step 4.

Note. Aiming to work means you actively try to hit this number of hours every week, even if it means picking up an extra shift or two. Don’t aim to hit this income like I aim to go to the gym, or this system probably isn’t going to work for you.

4. Decide on your hierarchy

Now that you’ve got your Baseline income and your Ideal income, you need to decide what’s most important to you from Point 4. Any money that you earn over your Baseline income is going to be directed towards this first, and then all of your other Ideal savings in order. For me, that hierarchy looks a bit like this:

  1. Spending money
  2. House deposit
  3. Travel savings
  4. General savings

As I mentioned above, I budget for $200 discretionary spending per week. Any money I earn over my Baseline Income will be prioritised for that, and then any remaining will be tucked into my house deposit fund, then my travel savings, and so on. The less of a priority a certain savings goal is, the earlier it is cut when my earnings dip below normal.

If moving your money around imaginary envelopes like Scrooge McDuck doesn’t sound appealing to you, your hierachy make look more like this:

  1. Spending Money
  2. Savings

Or even:

0.5 Spending Money

0.5 Savings

Decide what matters to you, and rearrange that Ideal Income accordingly.

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5. Build your buffer

This is the important bit! If you’ve been paying attention, you might be crying ‘But Abbie, you said that you worked 8 hours one week- that’s way below your Baseline income! However did you survive?’

It’s time meet your Buffer.

Any week that I earn enough to make sure my Baseline and Ideal Income is met (I’m looking at you, 56 hour week), I focus on building my Buffer – in my case, that means that every penny of the extra money gets thrown into my General Savings account before I get a sniff of that online sale and blow it all at once.

Being disciplined about building a buffer is going to make all the difference when the work dries up or a passion project starts calling. It may take time to accumulate, but having a savings account to pull from when hours are slim is going to make all the difference when it comes to covering those bills- just make sure to only pull what you need for that week, and only if your working hours slip below that Baseline Income. Otherwise you’re going to see those hard-earned savings fritter away on an outfit here and a dinner out there (or is that just me?)

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If you’ve got the hang of this and you’re a financial control freak like me, you can also start adding more detailed envelopes in Goodbudget– I’ve got accounts ranging from ‘Birthdays’ (because I was sick of birthday presents chipping into my weekly spending money) to Cat, to ‘Splurge’ (because sometimes you need a little blowout). These also get topped up every time I get a windfall, and the money waits there until it’s needed.

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At the end of the day, living with a casual job (or three) is about being incredibly disciplined and amazingly flexible at the same time. It’s easy to go spend-crazy at the end of a big week- you’ve earned it!– and then chew your nails down to a nub when the work dries up. Taking the time to build a plan for your income(s) is going to be the key to finally stop living hand to mouth and start working towards those financial goals. You may not be working like a grown-up, but at least you can start saving like one!


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How can you budget if you don’t work 9-5?

Musing on vulnerability (OR What I learned from Chris Hemsworth about Acting)

When I decided to nudge my career along a different path at the start of this year and focus more on acting than music theatre, I began to go to as many workshops as I could with Casting Directors for film & TV. As an actor, the CD can be your greatest ally or your biggest door to crack open when it comes to getting work. They’re the first step on the path to getting booked, the people in charge of collating the hundreds of people suitable for a job and culling that list down to the final few to present to the creative team. I’ve found that as a rule, they are lovely, supportive, crazily hard working people and they deserve every ounce of credit they get. 

After a few of these workshops, I started to see a trend in the feedback I was receiving-

“What a strong performance”

“You were really in control”

What I was hearing was – I was too ‘theatre’, I had planned out too much of my performance, I was too ‘in control’.

I wasn’t allowing myself to be vulnerable enough.

Vulnerability is such a great asset on screen. And I think in life, too. Vulnerability, it’s the heart of the truth of who we are. The vulnerability of you doubting something, it’s usually based around a fear of showing who you truly really are. You put on some sort of bravado or mask or something – Chris Hemsworth

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Vulnerability is hard! It’s hard as a person, and it’s hard as an actor. I don’t want to let down my guard and reveal anything. I definitely don’t want to admit that I have doubts about something, or if my mental state is less than great. And maybe that’s what makes vulnerability so powerful.

As a human, it can feel necessary to build up an armour to protect ourselves from anything that might try to derail us. As an actor, it’s easier to feel confident if I’ve planned out every second of the audition I’m about to give. But is it really better?

Is it better not to admit when something is hurting us, and we need help? Or to tuck away our laughter rather than expose crooked teeth, double chins, or the way a snort can sometimes sneak in? (or maybe that’s just me).

It has been terrifying for me as an actor to leave my performance open and vulnerable to what could happen -terrifying, and much, much more interesting. My performances are no longer described as ‘strong’ or ‘in control’. I’m ‘interesting’ and ‘very talented’ (this one still makes my stomach flip, thanks amazingly generous CD). I can listen and react like a real person, and weirdly, if something goes wrong that’s okay. I was open. I gave it my all. I was humanDon’t you want to try it?


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Musing on vulnerability (OR What I learned from Chris Hemsworth about Acting)

Mid-Year Goals Review!

So I actually had planned to write this post for the middle day of the year (July 2nd, if you were wondering), but then I went to Tasmania for a bit, the blog went on hiatus, and life sort of got in the way. BUT since tracking goals is such a great way of achieving them, I guess there’s no time like the present to see how I’ve been tracking.

This year I used the highly complicated system of two post-it notes in the back of my diary to plan out what I wanted to achieve from the months ahead- one for personal goals, and one for career goals. While such high-tech tracking may not be for everyone, I’ve really enjoyed being able to flick to the back of my diary and see how I’m going. There was no huge amount of thought put into the goals, I just jotted down a few items from the top of my head- they are as follows:

Personal

-$2,500 in stocks, house deposit fund, and emergency savings

-Start a blog and contribute to it regularly

-Get in shape!

-Minimalise my house

-Build an alternative income source

Career

-Jump into opportunities without considering the financials

-New Agent

-30% of income performance base

-Voiceover reel

-At least two new clips for showreel

 

So how am I going?

Personal

-$2,500 in stocks, house deposit fund, and emergency savings While my savings aren’t quite where I would want them to be thanks to a little dental mishap, I’m still hoping to build them close to this target by the end of the year. I currently have $2, 678 in my Acorns account, $1,340 in my house deposit account, and $760 in my Emergency savings. One of the reasons my HD & ES figures are lower than I had originally planned for is that I decided to include another savings project- Travel. While most of that money is going towards flights etc for a wedding in the Coromandel in Dec, and then taking me back to NZ later in the month for my Christmas trip home, I’m happy to sacrifice some of my financial goals to see more of the world before it changes even more (pessimistic? Maybe so). I’ve also put a small amount aside to buy an actual camera to record that traveling, because there’s only so far a phone can take you. If anyone has recommendations, please let me know!

-Start a blog and contribute to it regularly Yay, you’re on it! It took me a while to get Ferdydurking Blog up & going, but apart from one hiatus after my Tassie trip when life got a little away on me, I have been writing regularly and enjoying the chance to get some of my ramblings out into the world. Thanks guys!

Can you blame me for getting distracted?

-Get in shape! I actually wrote a figure down for this goal, but it feels like something a bit too personal to share (I’m well aware that the weight on the scale can have very little to do with how you physically look, so I’m not too concerned about the final number anyway). In 2017 I’ve been moving my focus away from music theatre, and towards getting more screen work. As depressing as it may be, TV works does require- well, a TV body. I’ve spent most of the last eight months faffing around, but have finally knuckled down and am at my slimmest since…probably university? I won’t reach my goal by the end of the year, but I’m hoping to put my best foot forward for that beach wedding in December!

-Minimalise my house Nope, nope, big ol’ nope. I can’t help it, I’m a clutter-bug. I can clean a table and a day later it’s covered in stuff that I didn’t even know I owned. I have shifted so much stuff so far, but there’s still so much to go before I can be really happy with my surroundings. My zero-waste swaps have actually been really great for this, my shower looks pretty sleek and amazing without all of the plastic bottles and miscellany. Now to work that magic on the rest of the house!

-Build an alternative income source This one is still very much a work in progress. At the moment I work 40ish hours a week in a variety of customer service roles, which is starting to become incredibly draining.

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In my dream world, I will need to do a lot less engaging with people. I have started doing some freelance writing, which is something I definitely want to expand on, and I’m looking forward to dipping my toe in voiceover work, which has definitely liberated a few friends of mine.

Career

-Jump into opportunities without considering the financials Working a variety of casual roles has definitely been a help with my acting career, but it also can occasionally be a hindrance. It’s hard to say a whole-hearted Yes to an unpaid opportunity when the back of your brain is quietly calculating how many hours of work you’ll miss out on, and whether you’ll be able to cover rent that week. I’ve worked hard over the past few months to build up my savings enough to cover the odd patch of time off, and I’ve done three shoots recently with only a tiny twinge of guilt over lost income! I wouldn’t say I don’t consider the financials, but I now have the luxury of making them less of a priority.

-New Agent Done! After going through the drama of my old representation disappearing under my feet, the first half of this year was spent trying to find my perfect match. I am now with a new agent, and couldn’t be happier!

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-30% of income performance base Due to the unexpected loss of my agent, this has been a pretty slow year for my acting so far, so I’m a long way off this goal. Acting work is so sporadic that one good gig would be enough to turn this stat around, but at the moment I’m slugging away at a few of my recurring jobs, and making sure that I’m still working towards my goals

-Voiceover reel Voiceover work is something I’ve been looking into for a while – I’ve done a tiny bit of voicework before, and it’s been mentioned a couple of times that I should investigate it further. It’s taken almost eight months, but I’ve finally enrolled in a crash course, and if that goes well I’m still on track to get a demo reel recorded by the end of the year. Here’s to an alternative income stream!

-At least two new clips for showreel Ahhh, the ever present search for new showreel material. I’ve done a couple of projects this year with a very promising script that unfortunately have turned out to be completely unusuable once they leave the edit room. This is unfortunately a goal that I will keep working towards, but I haven’t been able to check off yet.

How is your year going? Have you spent some time reviewing your goals? How do you prefer to record and track your goals? Did you even set any? I would love to know!

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Mid-Year Goals Review!

What do you called an unemployed Actor?

….still an actor

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Greetings! And welcome to my Monday evening post, fuelled by the realisation that we are now almost at the end of June. For the duration of this post, I will be portrayed by the fabulous Titus Andromedon, a fellow struggling actor who accurately represents where I am in life at the moment.

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Life as an actor can be a pretty big roller-coaster – one week you’re drowning in auditions, dashing from place to place and feeling like the whole world wants a piece of you and your big break is mere moments away, and the next you’re watching the dust bunnies roll through your voicemail as you wait for that call from your agent that never seems to arrive.

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And with the unique combination of unfailing confidence and endless self-doubt that only artists seemed to have mastered, the quiet periods can be hard.

If you’re the sort of person that still has bills to pay between gigs (ie. probably everyone- if this isn’t you, please let me know how you’re doing it), the lull probably also means that you’re working twice as much at your day job, which can be draining. Sometimes you get home after a full day, look at your optimistic ‘to-do’ list of self tapes, acting classes and unpaid work, and then accidentally end up four hours deep in YouTube documentaries on the minutiae of life as a Mennonite (or is that just me?)

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I mean, you’re past the age of 23, so it’s probably too late to make a serious go of it anyway. Maybe you should just spend the rest of the evening with some Korean fried chicken and the course prospectus of a grown-up degree in something practical. You’re fine with this change of path. Totally fine.

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But then you hear that Kathy Bates didn’t score her breakout role until the age of 43. And that usher from the cinema down the road just had a feature role in Alien: Covenant!

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Maybe you’re not a dried-up, shrivelled old hag after all! And while I might be past my prime Home & Away high-schooler age, I guess there’s still hope that I can replace Dame Judy in the Bond franchise.

So what do you call an unemployed actor? Maybe foolish, maybe unrealistic. But also driven, dedicated, and above all things – still an actor.

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Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

What do you called an unemployed Actor?

Have you embraced your Freebie? (Tom Hiddleston has)

While enjoying my morning routine of interwebs and procrastination – yes, I know I’m trying to cut down, but sometimes a gal has a moment of weakness and that moment is every morning ever.

Anyway, while browsing I came across this fun nugget of trivia that I’m sure everyone but me has probably already stumbled across. Apparently Kingofthebritishgentlemen Tom Hiddleston originally wanted to audition for the role of Thor in the Marvel Universe.

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Oh, darling

According to rumours, he actually got close to the final audition rounds before director/Shakespeare God Kenneth Branagh pulled him aside to gently break the news that they weren’t going to be offering him the part-

“Ken told me that every actor has something for free. Jack Nicholson has an irreverence for free, Anthony Hopkins has a majesty and gravitas for free. Idris Elba, who plays Heimdall in Thor – and, by the way, anyone who’s been complaining about a black actor being cast as a Norse god is just crazy; this is a fantasy world, for goodness sake – has a watchful gravitas for free. He explained that what I have for free is that I can’t turn off my intelligence. Therefore Loki would be much more up my street.”

How cool is that thought? That there’s some trait that’s so inherently you, that it’s just suffused into every role you’ll ever play- no need to work for it, it’s always just there. And the more I think of it, the more I can list actors and their ‘freebies’. Morgan Freeman has that playful God vibe, Helen Mirran (my queen) has that edge of ‘don’t mess with me bitch’- And Hugh Grant? Floppy fringe. I don’t think he can act without it

Acting world aside, I got to thinking of my own Freebie in the real world- the part of my personality that is just waiting to burst out. I would say that mine is enthusiasm. Push the right buttons and I will gush at a hundred words a minute about something I’m passionate about (you don’t want to be near me when you’re complaining about an unexpected bill, or how you don’t have any savings). The same will happen if anyone even breathes about a theatre piece I love, or some passing obsession that I currently have. It’s like my brain is wired to thrive on that endorphin kick I get from being ridiculously over-excited about anything.

I think I look like this…

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But I really look like this…

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For so long I’ve spent time apologising for my random outbursts, or trying to pretend that I am waaaay cooler than I actually am by moderating my responses (sound familiar?).

Recently I’ve started to wonder if maybe it isn’t just better to embrace that side of myself. And if I come off a little manic (and maybe a little ax-murdery, as has been mentioned in the past) then phooey- playing a serial killer is definitely on my to-do list anyway.

And if I know what makes me a little more ‘me’, then maybe that will help me pinpoint when I’m losing myself a little. If I can’t be bothered to muster a kitten scratch or a suggestion than an actor should roll their fifteen super funds into one account, then something is wrong in my life and I need to identify it. Because not having the time to scratch a kitten? Definitely not me.

So what would your freebie be? Is it something that you’re happy to indulge in, or something that only your nearest & dearest get to see? Maybe you have the dryest sense of humour, or you can’t help working to turn any room you walk into into a place of calm. Maybe you don’t even know what yours is yet (Hiddles clearly needed some help). Or am I raving (with enthusiasm) on a topic that isn’t really applicable in the real world?

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Have you embraced your Freebie? (Tom Hiddleston has)

Acting Jobs You’ll Never See

Mention to anyone that you’re an actor, and invariably the first response you’ll get will be somewhere in the ballpark of “Cool! What have I seen you in?”

If you don’t have a suitably recognisable response lined up, you’ll probably get a vague knowing smile and the sinking sensation that you’ve been filed under the category of “actor”‘ (aka bless her, she’s still clinging to those dreams).

But just because an actor isn’t appearing in the latest blockbuster, doesn’t mean they’re not making a reasonable living. Here a few jobs that you’ve probably never realised that actors are getting paid for right under your noses (and yes, I’ve done most of them).

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Corporate Work

Ah yes, the only time I get to dress like a fancy office worker (I secretly get office-wear envy, I love a good pencil skirt). Corporate work can encompass any number of different jobs, from filming informational videos to using improvisational skills as role-players. Want to train your staff in dealing with difficult situations in the workplace? Hire actors to portray the customer of nightmares and let the training ensue. Now doesn’t that sound like fun?

Simulated Patient

I’m sure you’ll be reassured to discover this job exists- I know I was when I first stumbled across it.

Similar to the above, simulated patients work with training medical specialists to ensure that when they actually encounter real-life patients, they’re ready for it! Simulations  can be recorded for education purposes when it isn’t ethical to record an actual appointment, or can take place ‘live’ in an examination setting.

‘Communication stations’ in medical exams are usually used to asses a candidate’s ability to communicate appropriately, on top of all their medical knowledge. As easy as it sounds, experienced simulated patients are highly valued because of the high-emotion situations that are normally portrayed. Faking a cough may sound like an easy job, but I can promise you that after eight hours of sobbing over a dire medical diagnosis, I’m using every last bit of my actor training to keep my ‘performance’ real, and that headache has nothing to do with my acting ability.

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Presentations

Got a great product? Need to tell a lot of businesses about it at presentations or conferences? Hate standing in front of a crowd? Hire an actor! We can remember huge amounts of tech-heavy jargon, thrive on engaging a tough crowd, and we don’t scrub up too badly either. Product presentations are my favourite thing because (super nerdy moment) I get to pretend that I have this whole other life as my product hawking alter ego aka lady version of Gus from Psych.  (She likes stationary and long walks to the coffee cart for pastries. Just in case you were wondering)

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Voice Acting

While voice acting is a legitimate career of its own and there are many talented performers who specialise in it, a lot of screen and theatre actors also work behind the mic to record ads, voiceovers, videogames or dubbing- even that annoying voice thanking you for your patience after 15 minutes on hold. Voicework is the best (mostly because I can turn up in my comfies and don’t need to worry about that strange bald spot my fringe makes for once).

Motion Capture

I don’t even know what this involves. I just know that there are funny suits with white balls, and some actor is probably getting paid to move in it. It sounds awesome.

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Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

Acting Jobs You’ll Never See

Wanted: Cabin in the woods

As I write this, winter is slowly creeping in on Melbourne. The trees are dropping leaves and nights are cool enough that I’m sleeping snuggled around a hot water bottle. I miss the feeling of sun soaking into my bones, and the way it lingers on the corner of my couch when I have time to sit for a morning coffee.

Maybe it’s the change of season getting the best of me, but I’m also feeling as though life is stretching me thin at the moment. I haven’t had two days in a row off in forever (at least it feels like it) and I can feel my poor body struggling to keep up with the endless balancing act of my bill paying work and the ‘work’ of building an acting career. I get a sort of tightness in my brain that makes me crave a cabin in the woods somewhere with nothing but green as far as the eye can see.

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My soul needs this…without the stabby stabby

Failing a cabin, what would you suggest? How do you cope when life is getting a bit much?

 


Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for updates, and if you want to see more of me, come say hello on my Instagram or Twitter, I would love to see you there!

Wanted: Cabin in the woods