THERE is nothing like a waist-expanding Christmas to put you in the frame of mind for change, writes Tracey Smith. Especially if over-indulging in spending didn’t really jingle your bells.
Perhaps you found yourself craving more time with loved ones instead of shopping for them; it could be time to shift down a gear.
If you are aiming for a more self-sufficient lifestyle, look at the year ahead as a comfortable learning curve and prepare yourself as much as possible, perhaps for donning those wellies in the Ardèche.
The whole savings thing is quite infectious once you get going and the perspective of ‘compromise by sacrifice’ changes completely once you start to reap the benefits; it really is quite a buzz.
Whatever level of downshift you are pitching at, you have a far greater chance of success if you ease into the changes gently. Use my year planner as a guide and add your own thoughts and ideas too.
Here’s a little inspiration to get you started.
Open a new account for the savings you will trim from your usual monthly budget and watch the fund grow, with interest.
Charity shop trawls are fantastic. Hardback books make great presents and maximise your purchasing power with clothes in the sales and put them away for next year.
Make a 'Downshifter Gift Wish List' (say that after a glass of home brew) with things like slow cooker, pressure cooker, bread-maker, juicer, jam pan, sewing machine and beer/wine making kits and pin it up in the kitchen, proud and prominent.
With a more careful spending regime, you can look forward to having more free time and everything will change colour. If you analyse your ultimate goal, the answers will give you the motivation to pull your dream into reality.
January: Get the scissors out and cut up the plastic, then bin that catalogue. Make a batch of Christmas cakes and puddings for next year. Research keeping poultry and maybe start with a few four-week old chicks; they could be laying at Easter.
February: Research evening classes to learn French if you plan to move there, or perhaps a smallholding course or a useful and practical skill like mastering the sewing machine. Turning to the garden, get a composter on the go.
March: Get advice from a local nursery and make an organic start in the kitchen garden. Herbs, tomatoes, spuds and more, your confidence will grow alongside your achievements.
April: Have a major de-clutter and head to the car boot sale or auction house to realise your booty.
May: Your investment in the garden should be paying you back. Feel the health benefits kick in, eating fresh food at its peak. Ditch expensive pre-packed food and cook more from raw.
June: Barter your garden excesses, or blanch and freeze. Organise a gentle bike ride with a few friends, get fitter and embrace your surroundings.
August: Don’t get into debt for a holiday, consider a house swap instead with a like-minded friend.
September: Volunteer a few hours to an organisation that needs help and feel good about giving the gift of your time.
October: Make hearty feasts with cheaper cuts of good quality meat, slow-cooked to perfection.
November: Plant out spring vegetables with the compost you made and give them the best possible start.
December: Hand-made, personalised hampers, presents and cards will be a pleasure to give and you can look forward to taking your downshift move to the next level in 2009.
For Tracey Smith's take on the latest slow, green news, great reveiws of eco-books and products plus plenty more besides, visit her at the Green Family Blog.