Zero-Based Budgeting

Not to be confused with zero budgeting, which is not a good thing, whether it’s because you simply don’t have a budget, or because you have a lack of anything to budget.

Injured Piggy Bank WIth Crutches

Zero-based budgeting – a concept I recently encountered – is the idea that each year’s budget starts from zero, and everything has to be justified. This is different to the usual sort of budgeting where you get as much as you got last year, whether you needed it or not (which explains a lot about government departments and their spending habits).

Jack Lew said “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” The same could be said of our belongings: they reveal a lot about who we are, who we think we are, who we would like other people to think we are, and who we would like to be.

What if we applied the concept of zero-budgeting to our stuff? Imagine emptying everything out of your house – including the furniture – and only carrying back in what you felt was worth the effort. Of course, many of us have so much stuff that this would be impractical, as we wouldn’t get through moving it out, sorting it out, and moving things back in before the day’s end.

The Big Wet Couch

Although now I think about it, the looming realization that anything you don’t move back in before bedtime will be prey to anyone who wants it might perhaps focus the mind in a wonderful way.

I admit, I’m not planning to do this myself. For one thing, the weather is hardly conducive to having everything outside. Yesterday it rained ice off and on all day. But I do sometimes sit down and wonder to myself what I would take and what I would leave, if I had to move to the other side of the world.

Moving house is basically the same as taking out all your stuff and putting it back, it’s just putting it back in a different house, and generally with an expensive interlude. It is remarkable how your enthusiasm for something can wane when it’s actually going to cost you something.

I stare at my possessions, drawing fine distinctions of worth and value. This teapot, perhaps, but not this one. These books, but not those. Looking at life this way has made me realize that I could actually do without a lot of the stuff that I have. Quite happily. So why not start now, avoid the rush?

Project 365 #23: 230110 Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed!?!

Take bedding, for example. When the poet spoke of “only half a bed,” I’m fairly certain he didn’t mean the rest to be covered with pillows, cushions, bolsters, and whatever other unnatural forms of padding have snuck in there.

Last month I went through the linen cupboard. We now have two sets of winter sheets and two sets of summer sheets for our bed and one set of each for the guest bed. Two blankets and a duvet (with a cover or two) for each bed as well. A sufficiency of pillowcases, allowing 1-2 pillows per head. What more could one need?

The June-prune list is therefore rather linen-heavy:
one queen-size duvet cover with matching pillowcases
three sheets
two pillowcases
a tablecloth
five CDs
one bath cushion shaped like a duck (alas, poor ducky, he grew mildewed)
and two mismatched glasses.


I also (and not without a pang) pruned out the Historical Sew Monthly – a paring of time, not space.

After all, 2015 was to be my Year of Finishing Things, not starting them. I haven’t finished many of the projects I had underway at the start of the year, but I have certainly made progress toward that goal, and the year is far from over.

One thing I did finish was the extending rewrite of Dead Man Talking, a stage comedy/farce which was originally a 20-30 minute bibelot and is now what I believe the Germans call “abendfüllend” i.e. evening-filling. I was able to put back in all the complexities of plot I had to leave out when it was a short play, and I think I am justified in saying that the plot is now a dastardly and cunning one.


Of course, it still wants some rewrites before I send it on its way, but I am fairly pleased with where it is at present. I shall put it aside to simmer gently while I return to the speculative fiction work I first-drafted last year. Speculative fiction is a much better name for it than fantasy, I think – fantasy suggests that everything goes exactly the way you want it to, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

But first, I am rearranging the study/library/writing room – yes, I know, I’m spoiled – and doing a bit of pruning in there while I’m at it. Mostly rubbish and recycling, so unlikely to find its way onto the July List.

What’s up with you? Pruning? Budgeting? Finishing things, or starting over? Always happy to hear from you!

4 Replies to “Zero-Based Budgeting”

  1. Two sets of sheets? You are very confident of your drying capabilities then? Myself I like 3 sets of bed linen for each bed in regular use and 2 sets for guest bed(s); but then I dry by good old sunshine… and then there is the risk of accident – spills, etc


    1. Well, we do have a total of four sets of sheets for our bed, it’s just that some are fluffy and some aren’t.
      There is a dryer in the house – it was here when we moved in – but we only use it about once a year when the sheet situation gets dire. I find it unfluffies the sheets far too quickly. One does not purchase fluffy sheets in order that the lint trap may wallow in fluff.

      1. So glad to hear that progress is being made on the Finishing Projects! I, too, have made progress, thanks to joining the church sewing class. Lots of half-started garments are surfacing and reaching their conclusion, mending is being done, releasing yet more garments to wearable status – some after many years.

        But the de-cluttering thing is more complex than it seems. In order to get the bench hot-spot sorted, I decided to free up a basket to contain some of the things that realistically needed to stay on the bench most of the time, so they could be moved when emergency bench space was required. To get the basket emptied… well now, what to do with the need-to-keep items currently in that? This meant sorting out at least one filing drawer, into which lots and lots of Important Papers had been stowed prior to and after our recent move. SIGH. Two back-aching days later i got started on the basket. Another two days later the basket was empty. Now for the BENCH! At last i have some clarity on the bench 🙂 There is a way to go, but the exercise has rubbed in the need to keep going, small bit by small bit – my back can’t take too many prolonged paper-sorting stints!

        1. Reminds me of those puzzles that used to frustrate me as a child: you have to move all the squares in order to move the one you actually want to move. Aaargh!
          Still, sounds like you’re making progress – and have quite a bit of motivation to keep those areas clear!
          As for the mending – well, I have to say, your mending basket is slimming down a lot faster than mine is…

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