Habit changing

Posted January 4th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Habit changing is the Simple Savings theme for 2006 and I have been putting my new calendar to good use. In fact, I have been busy trying to change everyone else's habits as well! Take Noel for example - since I fractured my leg he has been brilliant helping out with the washing and so on, but in the end I could hold my tongue no longer and had to give him a crash course in washing clothes. For example - one does not wash wife's best blouses with husband's thick woolly 'farm fleck' socks. One does not wash towels with anything else unless you want the family garments to be permanently covered in fluffy bobbles. One doesn't hang clothes out by their shoulders on the washing line unless you want everyone to walk around with quirky little peg shaped lumps sticking up on either side of their neck. Last but not least, the golden rule - one does not dry wife's bras on the washing line by tying them there using the shoulder straps!

Husband duly sorted, next it was the kids' turn to get a makeover. When I was growing up, I did absolutely nothing to help out around the home. Admittedly I was an only child and wasn't a particularly messy type, but my Mum did everything for me. It's only now I am being run ragged by children of my own that I could see what a lazy and selfish brat I was, taking everything for granted. Consequently my own children have turned out the same, but I had finally had enough of constantly running around after them and picking up after them. The house looked like a bombsite and I was worn out. So last night, I fought back! I stuck a new set of rules up in the kitchen, which read as follows:

  1. Any cups, plates or bowls that Liam and Ali leave laying around must be washed up by them in the sink.
  2. Any clothes or towels left laying on the floor will be picked up and Liam and Ali will have to wash them by themselves.
  3. Any toys, artwork or magazines which are not picked up and put away properly will be put in a rubbish bag, hidden away and will not be brought out again for a whole week. If the mess does not improve, the offending items will be given away to children who do not have as much as Liam and Ali do.
  4. Any mess, puddles or flooding in the bathroom must be cleaned up when Liam and Ali get out of the bath or they have to clean the toilet.

You should have seen their faces when they read the notice and realized that I was serious! We went through the house with a rubbish bag, tossing in everything that they had got out during the day and left laying around the house. Once they had finished, they couldn't believe how tidy the house looked - and they also couldn't believe that they had made so much mess in one day, even I couldn't lift the sack! It certainly made them think. While Ali was filling the sack, Liam went round and filled an entire washing basket with clothes and towels that had been strewn all over the place. They were then shown how to sort the washing and operate the washing machine. Finally, they went around gathering all the cups and plates they had left laying around and I showed them how to wash their own dishes in the sink. I know, I was embarrassed that at seven and nine years of age, my children had no idea what to do! Whose fault was that? Mine of course! The house looked wonderful after their jobs had all been carried out and they were really proud that they had done it all themselves.

The surprising thing was; how much they enjoyed doing it! They loved learning how to wash the dishes and putting their own washing in the machine, because they loved the responsibility. All these years I have just been thinking it's easier to take care of things myself, thinking that nobody else would do it the way I like anyway and acting all martyr-like. Today they were super conscientious about picking up after themselves and when they asked me where a particular toy was, they would suddenly remember 'Oh - it's in the sack. Can't I just grab one out of there?' But I stuck to my guns and they learned a valuable lesson. Long may it last - let's hope for all our sakes I don't have to teach them to clean the toilet yet!

The only one left who needed to change a habit was me and I chose a tough one to fill in the first month of my calendar. I do confess to enjoying the odd glass of wine (Fiona and Naomi will vouch for this) and I don't have a problem with that, I certainly don't buy the most expensive brand, but my wine drinking leads to all kinds of other bad habits. For example:

  1. If I feel like a glass of wine on a particular evening and I don't have any, this means an extra trip into town to the store, using valuable petrol.
  2. While in the store buying my wine, I invariably end up buying half a dozen other things, particularly lollies and drinks if the kids are with me.
  3. When I drink wine, I often end up eating later in the evenings, such as crackers and cheese, chips and dip, that kind of thing. I only eat them out of habit and because they are there, not because I am hungry. Not good for the waistline eating at the wrong time of day!

So, the wine had to go! I filled in my Wealthy Habits Plan on the calendar and on the website:

  1. The one bad habit I would like to change is: drinking wine.
  2. I am going to replace this habit with: lime juice and soda.
  3. I will gain a saving of: $50 per week, which is around $200 per month or $2400 per year (Jings!)

    I will remind myself to change this habit by: keeping a packet of Tim Tams on the kitchen bench. (I read an article which stated that drinking a glass of white wine is equal in calories to eating a Tim Tam and there's no way I would sit and eat two or three chocolate biscuits in an evening, so this is a great deterrent for me). I will also place a Memory Trigger sticker on the wine rack.

  4. My reward for progress will be: hopefully losing some weight from cutting out all those calorie laden glasses, not to mention the full fat cheese and crackers!
  5. I will make my old habit hard to do by: only keeping beer in the house, which I don't like.
  6. My new habit will be easier to do because: the wine will not be there and I don't want to use any unnecessary petrol going to get some.

I wrote down in my calendar all the things I would like to do or could achieve with an extra $2400 a year - wow, how easy would that be, just by changing one little habit! So, that's what I'm doing and so far it's working. I put a little tick on my calendar for each day that I don't partake of any wine, which is great motivation because it's right where I can see it and I don't want to see any crosses on there for days that I fail! I'm already well on the way to saving my first $50!

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