How to bribe yourself into being a decent adult

Dearest Reader,

Some parents use rewards to encourage their children to behave well, get good grades and contribute around the home. 

While my parents always stressed the importance of doing well at school and being respectful, there weren’t many rewards. Unlike my fellow classmates, I didn’t get cash for every “A” I brought home, nor did I get anything for doing the chores around the house.

Rewards, it turns out, cost money in one way or another. Since there wasn’t much of that in our family, my parents chose the cheaper option – punishment. There was punishment for bad marks, bad behaviour or not doing my chores.

One could debate on the effectiveness of reward vs punishments in parenting, as one could be considered bribing and the other as emotionally damaging. But since I am unqualified to speak about children or parents, I shan’t be diving into this.

But as an adult, I have more responsibilities and chores than ever before. On top of that, there is definitely no more room for disrespect or emotional outbursts. Even in the face of great injustice, I must smile, nod and keep doing my work so I can earn money and pay the bills.

But we’re all human, and we are going to fail at some things. Maybe you’re late with a bill. Maybe you’ve been eating junk food and feeling the effects. Maybe you’ve neglected your studies. Maybe you’ve spent more money than you earned from smiling and nodding. Maybe you haven’t moved your ass off the couch for weeks.

The thing is, as an adult, you’re not going to punish yourself. I don’t envision verbally abusing myself, or slapping myself across the face, or taking away my own phone, or sending myself to stand in the corner and think about what I’ve done. Thus, your slip-ups are going to go unpunished and you’ll continue messing things up.

My big weakness is and has always been exercise. I do not enjoy it, and I tried everything from gym to swimming to classes to competitive sports – it all seems just sweaty, boring, difficult or painful.

The things I love doing – writing, reading, socialising, crafts – do not require me to lift my cheeks off the chair. And I know that exercise never ends. It’s not something you do for a while, and then you’re magically healthy for the rest of your life. You have to keep doing it until the day you die.

I have tried many things to get me to do it. I tried the gym. I tried making it an appointment in my diary, as a non-optional sort of thing. I tried buying a hoola hoop, pink weights, a floral yoga mat, a Lorna Jane bra. I tried handball, football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, dancing, running, cycling, pilates, yoga, exercise videos, and most recently, personal training. None of it works.

So I decided to try the other thing. The thing my parents didn’t do.

I decided to bribe myself.

I set my weekly exercise goal (a humble one). To get myself to stick to it, I give myself a reward. If I don’t make it, I don’t get a reward. If I keep at it for a whole month, I get a reward PLUS a bonus reward. I track my goal by colouring in little squares that represent parts of the goal.

The only limitation is that my reward must benefit my health, fitness or overall wellbeing in some sort of way. A new exercise top. Ingredients to make this crazy expensive acai bowl. A massage. A manicure.

It hasn’t been long, only two weeks so far. I’ve done two weeks before and still failed, so I’m not going to say this is the miracle cure.

But I certainly don’t recall ever being motivated by colouring in a square because it represented a step closer to getting a pamper. It somehow…works?

The moral of the story is there is nothing wrong with a little bit of bribery. If it helps you climb your personal Mount Everest, just throw money at the problem. Maybe not good parenting advice, but certainly good adulthood survival advice!

 

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Dearest Reader,

Regardless of where in adulthood you find yourself, chances are shit will keep crawling after you again and again, and you’ll find yourself lying in the dark, wondering: How the hell did I get here, and what the fuck do I do now?

The curveballs life throws at you come in many shapes – maybe you find you hit a dead end in your profession, and you don’t know whether this is what you really want to be doing.

Or maybe you took a good hard look at your finances and realise you need to change game plan because you’re knee-deep in debt. Or maybe you want to scratch your eyes out every time your partner walks into the room because it’s just been a rough patch.

Or maybe it’s just a good old-fashioned “I don’t know what to do with my life!” – trust me, we’ve all been there.

I’ve asked myself all these questions – should I quit this job? Should I break up? How am I going to pay for this? – and I’ve survived it to tell the tale.

So I am here to tell you exactly what you should do you don’t know what to do.

Are you ready? You better sit down for this.

You do nothing.

You don’t talk to people about it, you don’t make any decisions, you don’t google what others in a similar situation have done. You simply sit, and do nothing.

You’re not fit to do anything while you’re still crying into a tub of ice cream, and chances are you already know what do to, but you just don’t like the answer.

Once you find stillness, change the question – it’s too overwhelming to tackle the issue in its entire magnitude. If you’re trying to eat an elephant, you must cut it into bite-sized pieces.

The question you must ask is: What is the next right move?

The next right move in your professional kerfuffle might simply be to think about the sort of job and money you’d like to have, and then work backwards to see what steps you need to take. So the best thing to do today is not to quit and take another crappy job, but to ask Google more about the job you really want.

Likewise, think about the financial situation you’d like to be in, and work backwards. Maybe today, all you can do is go through your bank statements and, like me, end up asking yourself: Am I working just to keep Target in business? Why is this all over my bank statements??

If you can identify one of the culprits that got you into the mess, you have already taken a small step towards a change that will help you achieve your bigger goal.

I hope, dearest Reader, you find some comfort in this.

And if all else fails, the next right move might simply be opening a bottle of red and dealing with this shit tomorrow.

Why you don’t have to party it up in Vegas

Dearest Reader,

In a moment of intellectual weakness, I recently indulged in watching the first Hangover movie to forget about adult life by watching other adults completely ruin theirs. I have been to Vegas in the past, and while I enjoyed my brief time there, I am sad to say I didn’t wake up with Mike Tyson’s tiger in my bathroom.

A few days later, I sat for lunch with a couple of friends, and as the wine began to take over, we stopped to appreciate our levels of freedom, and the fact that as single ladies with no kids, we could literally pick up our things right now and go to Vegas.

In fact, we could stay for two months if we so pleased, we could do whatever the hell we wanted over there, we could gamble away our money because we worked for it and owe nothing to nobody, and we could hire all the strippers we wanted, and we could party party party all night long!

It took a moment of silence to realise that while we could certainly do all these things, it sounded like a horrible idea.

“We don’t like to party party party,” one friend said.

“This is true,” I admitted.

“And we don’t like to gamble, and if we want to watch a show we can watch it here, and if we want to see a bunch of shit-faced dickheads looking for hookers, we could also see them here,” I added.

“Exactly. Instead, we like to do this,” said my friend, pointing at our table and surroundings.

By this, she means of course sitting by the water in the sun over a boozy lunch. There is food to share, there is music, there are other people to observe and most importantly, there are alcoholic beverages of which some are pink and sparkle.

Yes, we officially calmed down a notch, I thought. But it is because we had those party times and frankly, we are just over it. And I’m finally ok with it!

So we quickly moved away from planning a getaway that would be filled with depressing gambling addicts, mild sexual harassment by Bachelor party crowds and vomiting at Caesar’s Palace.

Instead, we dreamed of places we could go to where some handsome young men would serve us beverages by the ocean and massage us while we fabulously enjoy the sun. We would then have naps and repeat this at dinner time.

And why pay for chewed-up strippers in Vegas if you could be sipping a Mojito somewhere in the Caribbean while observing beachgoers smear coconut oil all over themselves right in front of you?

We are women for God’s sake. If you smile and wave at said oiled-up beachgoer, they’ll come over and try to entertain you with pick-up lines, drinks and compliments, maybe even flexing their muscles to impress, so that’s a wonderful show to enjoy.

In short, calming down is awesome – it’s the classier version of the younger you. And from what I imagine, it smells of coconuts and tastes of Caribbean rum.

Table for one: Conquering the fears of dining out alone

Dearest Reader,

On my list of things to do before I turn 30 was a holiday on my own. A social experiment if you will, to see what it would all feel like. So I decided on a holiday in Venice to celebrate 30 years of me.

But as a girl travelling on her own, I felt incredibly nervous about sitting down in a restaurant to eat. I worried that I’d be observed, pitied or judged for being alone; on the first day of my trip, my fear was so crippling that I only dared eating takeout. But I started feeling pretty silly about it soon because it was defeating the purpose of me coming here.

So I decided to drink a glass of courage (=wine) put on a dress, do my hair and go on a date with myself. 

I found a place, and ordered Venetian classics – a starter, a main, a side and a dessert all to myself. I also ordered half a bottle of wine. And it was perfectly fine. Nobody was asking, observing or judging. I figured that I was being worried for no reason and that it was all in my head. What a relief!

With renewed confidence, I went out a second time. And of course, when you think you’ve got life all worked out, it reminds you that you haven’t. Maybe it was because I speak the same language and it allows for familiarity, maybe it’s because I look young or maybe it was because I am just so darn approachable; whatever the reason, the waiter took my order and asked: “How come a beautiful young signorina like you is travelling and eating alone?”

So my biggest fear came true after all. How should I respond to this?

The truth is that I’m turning 30 and I wanted to, you know, go on a holiday with myself, do that eat pray love sort of thing. But this is very personal and I didn’t want to share it with this guy.

I briefly entertained the thought of pretending to be on business. But I didn’t want to lie and hide, because I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

I also resisted my natural urge to respond with sarcasm, or an equally degrading counter question, like “how come a man in what appears to be in his 40s is still waiting tables?”. I figured I’m bigger than that.

Instead of all this, I simply said “Because that’s how life turned out.” And left it all up to his interpretation.

His face filled with pity. He lightly patted me on the back, shook his head and walked off with my order.

My biggest fear came true, and it was exactly how it had played out in my head – almost like in the movies.

I wondered; would he have asked me if I was a young man? Would he have asked me if I wasn’t “beautiful”, clearly worthy of company in his eyes?

As I was contemplating, I walked into the bathroom and was brought back to reality by panicked knocks from the inside of the stall. Clearly, someone got stuck in the toilet.

I started offering my help in different languages and a tiny voice responded in English that she’s Scottish. I talked her through different unlocking manoeuvres, calmed her down with a few jokes and together we got the door open eventually. She was grateful and relieved as we said goodbye.

I walked back to my table and paid the waiter no further attention. For some reason, the toilet incident helped me snap out of it right away.

Criticism, however painful to your ego, is important to consider when it is meant to help you grow. But this was not that sort of criticism. In fact, this whole interaction was not about me at all.

Maya Angelou once said that when dealing with haters, remember that “You’re not in it”. I never really understood what she meant, but it finally clicked. The question, the pat on the back, the head shaking – these were not a reflection of me, but a reflection of his character. If he hadn’t targeted me, he’d have asked someone else something equally stupid later that day. He just had to let it out somewhere. I know this to be true because he later made some diet remarks when a lady ordered her dessert. So do as Taylor Swift says – haters gonna hate and it’s best to shake it off.

So I watched my little bathroom pal run back to her family and tell them all about what happened. Instead of feeling upset about the waiter, I started feeling pride because my heroic toilet stall actions helped reunite this lovely Scottish family.

Most importantly, I felt pride because I knew that her smile and gratitude were the real reflection of who I am.

On not getting married in my 20s

Dearest Reader,

As I was reflecting on my 20s with my friend, she pointed out some of my major milestones over the years, one of which was not getting married.

I was, indeed, very close to getting married. In other words, I was engaged.

As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out quite wonderfully,  “if you’re engaged and you don’t wanna get married … it’s a little tense.

It’s like you’re on that first hill of the roller-coaster but you don’t really wanna go on the ride…”

I remember my mother starting a piggy bank for me when I was still in primary school. “This is for your wedding dress“, she said.

Like many other women, I was taught that marriage is one of the most important accomplishments in my life. I must get married, it will be the happiest day of my life, and I won’t be complete without a ring on my finger.

So it was certainly tempting to get married. It was all right there in front of me.

I could finally announce to everyone: GIRLS! I MADE IT!

I would have had that big party and be the princess for a day in a beautiful white gown. My parents would cry happy tears, everyone would applaud me, I’d never be alone again, and I could have as many cats as I like as long as a man was in the house!

But I thought about what my life would be like when the party is over. The dress goes to dust in a closet. My parents fly home. The new family scatters all over town and we will meet once a year. More than loving all the glamour, I had to decide whether I loved the life without it.

So in the end, I didn’t get married. Because sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do.

The moral of the story? Destroy whatever piggy bank has been started for you. Get married because you want to, not because everyone else wants you to.

And if you feel good about getting married, have all the glamour and cats you want!

How to manage money like an adult and save up to 40% of your salary (in a big city!)

Dearest Reader,

I am what is called a Millennial, or formerly known as Gen Y. When I browse around the web, I can see that my generation is most known for lavish, for spending, for ordering fancy things like avocado on toast which prevents us from buying houses, and for being glued to our phones which we use to order avocado on toast.

I live in Sydney, Australia and have previously lived in London, so I know a thing or two about living in a big city where you seemingly have to spend – but over the years I’ve learned that with a few adjustments, I’ve actually been very anti-millennial and pro-saving. In fact, I have finally hit the sweet spot in which I can save up to 40% of my monthly income!

1. Be a smart renter

Sydney is one of the most expensive cities on this earth, and anyone who’s lived in similar cities knows that “only spending 20% of your income on rent” is impossible. If you are like me, on a very post-study average income, you’ll be paying more like 30-40%.

A total downer indeed, but this is the price we pay to live where it’s all happening, and you have to be smart about your rent. Consider these questions:

  • Can you share your place with a friend? Or even a sexy stranger?
  • Would it be cheaper to live a little further away from the city centre?
  • Would it be cheaper to live closer and pay less on transport? (welcome to Sydney!)
  • Could you make a sacrifice, like not having a tub/balcony/washing machine?
  • Can you find some place where bills/internet are included?
  • Can you downsize?
  • Can you settle for a less scenic view from your kitchen window?

All these things affect your rent, so make a list of deal breakers and be open to everything else!

2. Bring your own avocado and toast

Guys, let’s face it – in the city, coffee is at least $3, lunch is at least $10, multiply by 5 and you’re looking at over $60 for coffee and lunch per week. Doesn’t seem like much, until you realise that’s over $200 per month, and $3000 per year. How much do you earn that you can spend that much on lunch, dude?

You know this. You have heard this before. But you keep doing it.

I want you to go to the store now, buy the cutest portable cup you can find, get yourself a nice coffee machine and make your coffee at home. And for God’s sake, get your avocado and toast from the grocery store and bring it to work. It will save you thousands.

3. Catching up with friends doesn’t equal restaurants

A very simple night out in Sydney – a meal, a drink, a dessert to share, tip, uber home – can easily add up to $70 – $100. Add more drinks, and you’re easily up to $150. Do this three times, and you’ll realise where all your fucking money went.

But city life works like that – you catch up after work and that’s just going to have to be at a bar, and obviously you have to spend and if you don’t do it, you won’t have any friends, right?

Wrong.

There are 100 other things you can do together that don’t require money.

  • Sit in the park with a hipster coffee and judge people
  • Work out together (or plan to, and then end up sitting down and judging people)
  • Invite your friends over instead – cook, make cocktails, popcorn and a movie etc.
  • If you’re artsy or culturally inclined, there must be free exhibitions and events everywhere
  • Take a day trip to nature
  • Catch up during work lunch ($10 instead of $100!)

If you can replace some of the nights out with other activities, you’ll find that you can save a ton of money and still socialise. In fact you might become the one friend that’s a little more exciting to hang out with.

4. Finally, learn the difference between wanting something and needing something

You worked hard for your money, and you have every right to spend it on whatever you like. But you know you’ve been spending it on shit you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t like.

You don’t need more clothes. You don’t need more make-up, skincare products, decoration for your house or any more stationary. Use up what you have first, and you’ll automatically go on a spending freeze. This spending freeze can save you hundreds of dollars a month, which you can save up for greater goals – a trip? a house? Wouldn’t you rather have a coffee in Paris than buying yet another bag?

I hope this was helpful – if you have any more advice, leave it in the comments! 🙂

10 Questions to get to know someone

Dearest Reader,

I was recently approached by some of my beloved readers who requested to know more about me, and I was sent a very interesting set of questions which I thought I’d share with you. They could really spice up a dry first date, I’m sure.

Feel free to copy/paste into the comments and write your own answers, I’d love to know more about you, too! (and if I’ve missed any questions you’d like me to answer, feel free to ask some more 🙂

1. Did you choose your profession or did it choose you?

Well, my own choice, which was ‘princess’, turned out to be unfeasible.

I believe you learn more about your passion as you enter the workforce and realise what you do and don’t want to do. I only discovered my love for education after years of working in the corporate world and hating every minute of it.

2. When people come to you for help, what do they usually want help with?

Most people ask me for practical advice, how to do, organise or manage something, because I am thought to be a very organised and efficient person.

I never get called for emotional support. I should probably look into that.

3. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

Definitely an extrovert, the loud and annoying kind that demands all the attention.

4.What are you most likely to become famous for?

Probably my ability to turn almost anything into a ‘your mom’ joke. It’s a sad state of affairs.

5. What is something that people are obsessed with but you just don’t get the point of?

Game of Thrones.

6. When do you think a person is ready for marriage?

Oh boy. You tell me!

7.What’s the farthest you’ve ever been from home?

This chair I’m sitting in, which is located in Sydney, Australia.

I’m from Germany, and this is literally the furthest from home I could possibly go.

8.What’s the best and worst thing about getting older?

The best thing is that you stop caring so much about what others think (and I mean actually stop caring, not just saying it). It is a very liberating feeling because you realise the only person you have to do right by is you.

The worst thing are the physical changes; longer hangovers, lines on your forehead and really considering whether bending over to pick that thing up is worth the back pain.

9.What are some things you wish you could unlearn?

Random brain space wasters like the names of Heidi Klum’s children or the lyrics to Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”.

10. Are you confrontational?

Definitely not, and I generally respond to confrontation with sarcasm.

You know, like a teenager!