I solemnly swear that I’m up to some good

It’s easy (for me, at least) to spend a fair bit of time thinking about where my money is going- or rather, where it’s vanishing to.

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This month I want to start spending more time thinking about where my money is going. And yes, that is a very important set of italics.

I’ve reached a stage with my money where I’m no longer the panicking, impoverished arts student. I wouldn’t say that I’m functioning with a grown-up level of income (what’s a real job again?) but I am at a point where it’s time to start thinking about how my spending is serving the world – what lives am I changing, what values am I representing?

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and confess that I’m frequently guilty of going for the bottom line. Why bother spending top dollar on some boring essential when I can duck down to Big W and get what I need for just a few dollars? But it’s time to stop kidding myself (and yes, this hurts). More often than not that bottom dollar is supporting sweat-shop labour, unsafe conditions, and probably terrible environmental practices.

If I’m voting with my money, then I sure don’t want it to be going to those people. I want to live in a world stuffed full of companies that are truly trying to make a difference! Hell, I want to live in a world that still looks like our world in fifty years. If that means shopping a little more mindfully and perhaps forking out more for businesses that support my goals, then I guess that’s a small price to pay.

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WALL-E is adorable, but not if his world becomes our reality

While I’m at it, I’m going to do my best to support the people with the dreams! The good folk in my area who have taken the dive and are trying to make good when the whole world says they can’t. I’m talking delicious freshly baked breads, beautiful plants (from somewhere other than the supermarket I’msosorryIcan’tleavethemtheretheyneedmeeee), handmade ceramics, locally grown organics, coffee from that new spot that just needs time to become the next big thing. Doesn’t that just sound like the dream?

And maybe I will have to make some sacrifices to follow through. Maybe I cut down my takeaway coffee habit to so there’s money to pay more for my veges, or maybe I save for the items I truly want to bring into my life from suppliers that I honestly want to support. The great thing about having a budget is that it’s totally possible to look at your spendings in black & white and re-evaluate as circumstances change.

I’m not going to lie, this is going to be hard for me. After so many years of being dirt-poor, parting with more money than I absolutely have to is going to take some getting used to. But I’m going to take a big ol’ breath and let go of the reins a little, putting my money where my mouth is. Because what’s the point of money, if we’re not using it to make the world a better place?


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I solemnly swear that I’m up to some good

April Reading Roundup!

Such a busy month, so few books read!

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The Fossil Hunter: Dinosaurs, Evolution, and the Woman Whose Discoveries Changed the World – Shelley Emling

First, a moment to snigger that the author of a biography of a fossil hunter is called Shelley…/moment

I had never heard of Mary Anning before being assigned this biography in bookclub, and to be honest, that’s crazy. The amount that she contributed to the scientific field without acknowledgement or financial restitution is absolutely staggering. You may not recognise her name, but you’re probably more than familiar with the men her work assisted. Does Darwin ring a bell?

While I devoured the story of Anning’s life, The Fossil Hunter itself left something to be desired. Given that so little is known about Anning’s early life, Shelley resorts to a bucket-load of ‘Maybe she would have’, ‘perhaps she did’ that can get irritating as the book progresses. Nevertheless, it’s a great intro to a woman that definitely deserves more coverage. Time for her big Hollywood feature?

 

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A Life in Parts – Bryan Cranston

This book. This Book! I’ve heard it said the Christopher Lee reads The Lord of the Rings every year- I think that’s going to be my pattern for the next few years with A Life In Parts.

Like most people, I only knew Bryan Cranston as the Dad from Malcolm in the Middle,  and I was vaguely aware that he was doing some great work on Breaking Bad but it was a show that I had never gotten into. So prior to reading this book, it’s safe to say I wasn’t a gushing fan- I only picked it up in the first place because I read an excerpt online that piqued my interest. I’ve now read it twice and I think it’s a safe bet that I’m going to pick up again before the year is done (I have a high tolerance for repetition, I consider it a life skill).

I haven’t read many celebrity auto-biographies, but I feel like this one is probably different from most of them. There’s no salaciousness or navel gazing here- Cranston is clearly someone who has dedicated his life to his work, and he lays that rocky path out in the open with a brisk matter-of-factness. For me, the main appeal of this book is the insight Cranston gives into his thoughts on acting and his process, complete fodder for my soul. I would have thought that it would hold less appeal to readers in other fields, but the goodreads rating definitely proves me wrong there. If you see this book all lonely on a shelf, don’t hesitate to give it a loving home -it’s worth it.


What have you been reading this month? Comment below to share your favourite, I’m always looking for recommendations!

If you want to see more of me, you can check out my Instagram & Twitter, I would love to see you there!

April Reading Roundup!

Let’s Hear It For The Crew!

As I write this post, I’m tucked into a corner off set as we film a pilot for a fun little web series I was asked to be a part of. I’m over-caffeinated (because that’s what sets are good for), and I thought it might be fun to shine a light on the side of the industry that I think can be sometimes overlooked. (Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the financial ravings later on in the week.)

Any actor will (or should) hand on heart admit that what we do is nothing compared to the work the crew put in. This team were here before I arrived this morning (at an hour that I firmly believe shouldn’t exist), and they’ll definitely be here striking the set long after I leave. They work through my breaks to set for the next scene, and leave lunch early to do the same. Long after I’ve wrapped there will be people colour correcting, editing, re-editing, soundmixing- painstakingly working to make sure that my performance is the best it can possibly be. Actors get the glory, but it’s the team behind the camera who really create the art.

As a theatre kid at heart, one of the first things I noticed on set is the crazy amount of down time for actors.  As I type this I’m ‘on five’ again because our crew is busy resetting for a different angle on this scene. Every shot needs to be set up individually, and the larger the shoot, the longer it can take. There are cameras and lighting rigs to wrangle, sightlines to consider, boom positions to be negotiated – way more than you would ever think from watching a twenty second commercial spot on TV.

Once the crew are good to go, I’m called in to shoot that one particular scene from that  one particular angle. As soon as they’ve got the coverage they need, it’s time for the crew to reset and back to waiting around for me. (Seriously, so much waiting around!)

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Every part of filming has a person responsible for monitoring that aspect (and I mean literally every part, it’s crazy).

It’s bad manners -and sometimes unsafe- to encroach on any of those jobs, so all I have to worry about as a performer is being there when they need me, keeping out of the way if they don’t, and making sure to be ready to bring the goods when it’s time to shoot. It may sound weird, but it’s kind of a wonderful feeling.

More than anything else, on a film set the ‘talent’ are just one piece of a very organized puzzle. The next time you’re sitting through five minutes of names to get to the Marvel post-credit scene, spare a thought! Every one of those names is a person who sweated through bad weather, long days, sleep deprivation, and probably weeks or months away from their family and friends to create alongside the Hollywood stars. And you can bet they don’t get the sweet-as goody bags.

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Working SO hard guys


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Let’s Hear It For The Crew!

How to win at Rewards Programs

I love a good reward program.

Growing up in a family with three young children and a business to run, I think that money must have frequently been tight for my parents. I don’t recall ever noticing that it was a problem though, because if the toaster broke down, a new one would arrive through flybuys. Grandparent’s birthday coming up? There were department store gift vouchers to spend from credit card points. I learned from watching my parents that if you were patient and consistent, reward schemes could be used to bridge gaps or nab those products no-one ever really wants to spend money on.

Once I moved to Australia, I discovered that loyalty schemes really weren’t as big of a thing- back home in NZ, it seemed to me growing up that everywhere offered Flybuys! I think people of my age saw me as a bit of an oddball as I dutifully signed up for a variety of reward programs and scanned my card with every purchase. What about my personal data?? (Look, if The Man wants to know how many times a week I buy bananas, they’re welcome to that knowledge)

It took a while for points to accumulate but when my trashy plastic smoothie blender started spewing smoke about six months ago, I jumped online & voila! Enough points saved up for a slimline fancy model and free shipping to boot. One less thing that I have to waste my hard earned money on, and a pricier  model than I could have ever afforded to splurge on! Which is win-win, because I’m trusting that it will last longer than an inferior version, and the warrantee is better if it doesn’t. Quality over high-churn plastic, folks!

The benefits aside, nothing every really comes for free, and most Reward Programs are very cleverly set up to slowly tempt you into parting with more of your hard-earned money. Here are a few things I’ve learned (some the hard way), that mean you can be sure that you’re always coming out on top.

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THOU SHALT NOT CHANGE THY SPENDING HABITS

The Man never wants you to have something for free. Any loyalty scheme you sign up to will constantly be trying to edge your spend a little higher, and then just a liiiitle higher again. Resist, friends! If an offer is tempted you to spend more than you’ve budgeted or intended to spend, disregard it immediately. Spending more than you want to means that you’re not winning at all- if you weren’t intending to drop $40 on that shiny new product but the thought of those extra 300 points is oh-so-tempting, step awaaaay from the offer. You’re not that easy to play!

THOU SHALT SIGN UP WISELY

Never really shop at a certain store? Don’t let them talk you into signing up for their reward scheme. You don’t need that sort of clutter in your life and handing over your contact details just results in the temptation of endless sales. Save your buying power for programs where you actually have a chance of redeeming for a reward.

THOU SHALT RECONSIDER PROGRAMS AS CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE

There are two main supermarkets near my house. Coles offers Flybuys, and Woolworths offers Everyday Rewards. As you can probably guess, traditionally I’ve been more of a Coles girl, preferring to save points towards a product redemption than a cash discount off my shopping. However, recently Everyday Rewards recently upped their game by offering conversion of their points to Qantas Frequent Flyers- the same rewards system my credit cards work towards. What’s a girl to do? With over $100 of Flybuys value stockpiled for a rainy day, my efforts don’t need to be focused there. Time to watch those Frequent Flyer points grow!

THOU SHALT PLAY REWARDS SCHEMES OFF AGAINST EACH OTHER

Here’s the thing- rewards schemes do farm my data. Do I really care? Not particularly- how much I spend on Cookies n’ Cream isn’t information that I would care about handing to a stranger on the street, so I have no problems with the supermarket knowing it either. And there is a massive upside to them tracking my spending. After my switch to Woolworths, you know what happened? Coles got a little bit lonely! They started sending me emails- ‘Spend $90 a week for four weeks and get $50 off your next shop!’

Sorry Coles, that’s more than my weekly budget, and as we all know from the first rule of Rewards Programs, you don’t change your spending to earn a reward. Even spending an extra $10 a week on products I don’t need would have made the $50 reward redundant.

I stick to my Woolworths spending.

A few weeks later- ‘Spend $70 a week for four weeks and get $50 off your next shop!’ Now we’re talking! $50 is a decent chunk of a week’s shopping, so I switch my supermarket for a month and enjoy a final week with a sizeable chunk off my final spend.

Can you guess what happened next? You betcha- I get an email from lonely little Woolworths- ‘Spend $80 a week for four weeks and get 12,000 bonus points.’

Now I know it’s hard to grasp the value of those points, but to give it perspective, Woolworths normally offers one point per dollar spend- so those 12,000 points are a mighty big apple that can be converted into some pretty big savings. I swap back.

Do I think that either of these huge supermarket chains actually care about me as a customer? No way. But I do think that they have very smart computers that track changes in my spending habits and link me to offers accordingly. Make them panic and see what your big dollar reward scheme will do for you.

THOU SHALT NEVER LET THE CREDIT CARD WIN

For the most part, I am SO against credit cards- like most financial nerds, I see the spiraling holes that they can suck people into. Any support that I’m about to offer for their schemes is conditionally that you’re in control of your finances enough to be currently living debt free. Again, THOU SHALL NEVER LET THE CREDIT CARD WIN.

We good? I’ll continue.

Credit Cards offer some of the fastest ways to earn rewards on everyday spends- however when tempted by a credit card reward scheme, it’s important to consider the value of what they’re offering to you. Amex offer a huge return on rewards, but their cards are also hella expensive. Do you want to be paying $400 a year for your card to receive $400 of travel credit you’re realistically not going to have time to use?

And then there’s the other trap, where a card seems reasonably priced, but when you get down to the nitty gritty, the points on offer still aren’t worth it. Indulge your inner financial nerd, google the actual dollar value of the points on offer. For those playing along at home, apparently a Qantas Frequent Flyer point is currently worth around $0.02 (depending on how they’re redeemed). So if a company is offering 10,000 bonus points, you’re looking at roughly a $200 usable value. If the card has an annual fee of $150, is it really worth it? Or if you have to meet a minimum spend to activate those points, is that spend going to push you way above your usual budget? Could it be that they’re really just trying to groom you into a spending habit? THOU SHALT NEVER LET THE CREDIT CARD WIN.

But Abbie, don’t you have a credit card?

You’re right, dear reader. Consider me busted. But while doing all my credit card research, I stumbled across a credit card that was offering me Qantas Frequent Flyer points- the same points I had already collected for flying to Italy and back. If I met their minimum spend for the first three months of the card, I received 50,000 bonus points (to put that in context, I received about 5,000 for flying to the other side of the world). On top of those points, I would continue to receive 1.5 points for each dollar spent- and the kicker?

The card is absolutely free.

The bank is so keen on turning me into a dedicated credit user that they’re happy to offer me a carrot I can’t refuse. Why? They’re trusting that having to meet my minimum spend for the first three months is going to groom me into a spending habit. They’re trusting that I’ll be negligent about paying off my balance every month and they’ll get me with interest. They’re trusting that I’ll either forget to cancel the card, or be so hooked that I’ll happy pay the $249 annual fee the following year.

Falling prey to any of these points means the Credit Card wins –THOU SHALT… I’m not going to repeat the point again, you get it.  You’re playing the banks at a game they pay people a lot of money to ensure you lose. You’ve got to keep on top of the ball if you want to come out on top.

….

THOU SHALT NOT LET THE CREDIT CARD WIN

(Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

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Do you participate in any rewards programs? Did I miss anything? I would love to hear what you think!


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!

How to win at Rewards Programs

When it’s time to say No

We live in a world that places value on Yes. Yes to staying late at work, Yes to the third girls night out in a month, Yes to that upsize.

Yes means that you’re a team player, a go-getter, someone who’s seizing every opportunity that life throws your way. But do you also sometimes feel trapped by the big Y-E-S?

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(Gratuitous Hiddles GIF because we’re getting deep)

As I’ve detailed before, when I’m not able to make ends meet with acting gigs, I cover my bills with a variety of casual jobs. These all dove-tail nicely and usually mean that I’m able to earn more than I need to to keep afloat. And I mean way more. It’s completely normal to get a ‘By the way, are you free on…’ every time I’m in an office. My knee-jerk reaction is always to say yes, because who’s going to turn down extra money? If I don’t practice my No muscle, there are times when I can look at my diary and realise that I’ve worked 50-60 hours in a week. My workplaces are probably grateful to have an extra set of hands available and I know that my bank account always sure appreciates the extra boost, but how is any of that helping me move towards what I actually want in life? Looked at objectively, my Yes is serving everyone but me.

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The self-sacrificing Yes can disguise itself in a number of ways.

Online sales are my weaknesssss- I’m the person that will open a dozen tabs and add hundreds of dollars of items to my cart before coming to my senses and leaving everything behind. So where has my Yes to their emailed invitation gotten me? I’ve probably wasted a few hours of work time and decided that I need to completely overhaul my wardrobe, browsing the sale was really only the good little capitalist in me trying to burn my hard earned money on some low-cost, sweatshop clothing. Is that really what I’m working for?

The real irony is, the more I’ve been working in a day-job, the harder it is for me to resist the chance to throw my money away. I’ll find myself engaging in hard-core research for products I don’t even need, because deep down I’m trying to justify the overwork. I’m working so hard so I deserve to spend money on the things I want – or the things they tell me I want. And then what do I have to do to replace the money I spent?

Bingo. I say yes to overtime again.

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Sometimes not using your Yes won’t make sense to the rest of the world.

This whole blog post started in my head last night when I went to grab a burger on the run for dinner. At the end of my order, I was offered sauce for an extra 50c and obviously said yes because aoli is life.

And then I got ‘and what drink would you like?’

The options on offer were canned soft drink (which I’m avoiding because I’m trying to deny that it’s time for a visit to the dentist) or bottled water (see here and here for the back story on that one).

‘None, thank you’.

‘None?’

‘No thanks’

‘Are you sure? It’s free with the sauce.’

‘I’m good, but thanks’

‘Not even a water?’

‘No thank you.’

I had to turn down a free drink four times before she would accept my answer.

Because who doesn’t say yes to free? Crazy people, that’s who!

Saying Yes would sure have ended the conversation sooner. But then where would I have been? Technically I would have been up the cost of a water, but why do I need it? I had a bottle in my bag, and if I had taken the plastic bottle it would have lurked on my conscience all night.

No matter how badly the lovely woman wanted me to follow the purchase path (probably making her till order easier) and take the ferdydurking free water, withholding my Yes was what was better for me. (Okay, technically it was more of a series of very polite No’s, but you get the point. I’ll write on the power of a good No another day.)

Treasure your Yes-es as if you had a finite amount to give- because you do! How many times can you say Yes to everyone before you suffer a complete breakdown?

Save them for the things that will bring you joy. Say Yes to that movie with friends, that extra-nice bottle of wine, or that short film that you really don’t have time to do but the script is just so.damned.good (guilty). Save your Yes-es for the things that will feed your soul, because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who has to live in the life you’re creating.

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PSA: This post is written from the perspective of a compulsive Yes-er. If you think that mayyybe you’re a compulsive No-er, you go and sprinkle those Yes-es like stardust, you beautiful little nay-sayer!


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!

When it’s time to say No