A Penny Saved (Or not)

Good morning, Dear Reader! This probably goes without saying…but it is hot AF here. I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly miserable I am in this heat. Recent news reports indicate that 20 states are under a heat advisory, so watch those pets, stay hydrated, and check on the elderly. And put those pint glasses in the freezer. Beer tastes better in a glass. (He’s cute, huh?)

What’s on my brain today, kids? Money. I don’t know if it’s because this week was fraught with many unexpected expenses. My keyboard of four years kicked the bucket. The price of school supplies for PUBLIC FREAKING SCHOOL almost makes me faint, or it’s the fact that my internet – that I pay a lot for – goes down Every. Damn. Day. All of that has got me thinking about money. Where I can earn more, save more, spend conservatively, etc. Groceries are incredibly high right now, so I’m scaling back on recipes – going back to many with rice and beans and reducing the amount of meat I consume or opting for homemade treats. I made cookies last week instead of buying pre-made ones. (I like cookies. Every time I see “Do you accept these cookies?” I’m like, “Damn right I do!”)

I’m not complaining. (Okay, I might be complaining.) I make a good living; I save 10% of what I make in various ways (PM for advice) and support good causes when I feel led. But, still. As a single parent, I worry about money. Are you even an American if you don’t worry about money right now???

I learned that talking about money is taboo, and while I don’t bring it up at the dinner table among strangers, I share thoughts with my closest confidants. I also feel like we should talk about it sometimes, and that’s exactly what I intend to do today.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. 

I’m going to start by pissing y’all off and including a quote from Josh Becker:

You would have more money for the things you want if you stopped foolishly wasting it on other things.

Now. That said, I get that if you make less than a living wage, you genuinely are strapped for cash. Rent (even owning a home) is very expensive. Add to that the rising cost of food, personal services, and gasoline, and you probably don’t have two nickels to rub together. Hell, even I am looking for resources for free school supplies. But, if you make MORE than what is considered a ‘living wage’ in the United States, then you do have an opportunity to conserve funds.

And…Newsflash: We often assume that our financial lives are entirely outside of our control. Wrong. This IS your circus, and this IS your monkey.

I’ve made a list of some things that most of us can do to reign in our spending. I’m not telling you what you should or should not do with your money. I’m just saying that if you constantly say, “I’d like to, but I can’t afford that.” there are things within your control to fix that.

First, change your story. Stop saying “I can’t afford this” and replace it with “I can afford it, I’m just making choices that prevent me from having it.” That’s a start and forces you to take responsibility. Maybe that hit a nerve (Good!). Sorry, not sorry. Only you can consider whether or not to make different choices.

My choices? Read on.

1) Dining out. I’ve cut back but haven’t completely stopped. But even two cheeseburgers, fries, and a drink round up to nearly $7 at McDonald’s. I don’t need to go into much detail on how expensive eating out can be. BUT…avoiding McDonald’s is not going to work in my home – so I use the McD’s app religiously. I save 20% on most of my orders and earn rewards. And trust me, I use those rewards. For example, I had enough rewards to earn a free Happy Meal. So instead of ordering the #7 for my kiddo, I used my rewards for the free Happy Meal and then ordered an additional cheeseburger. My kid didn’t even notice that his sweet tea was smaller. He cares only that his cheeseburgers are plain. My point? Get creative. You can save money, but you are impatient. (PS…save your Groupon for the second date. Don’t be a douche.)

2) Streaming services. In this house, we forego cable but I’m not sure our choices are much better. We have Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO Max. So. Many. Services. However, I come and go from some of these to justify our fetish. It’s a bit uncomfortable but I get over it. My Hulu and Peacock are not the ad-free versions (frustrating but not worth the extra money). I would LOVE to watch Yellowstone on Paramount Network during a regular season. But, {sigh} I wait for the full season release, then resubscribe to Peacock – with ads- binge the season, then cancel it when I don’t need it anymore. (Lather, rinse, repeat, inserting most subscriptions). 

3) Restaurant Booze. I like going out and trying new drinks, so I still do if that’s the entire point of where I’m going. Like, I’m not going to go to Bub’s Distillery, Vino Cellars, or Wire Road Brewing Company only to order water (Don’t buy the t-shirt!). But I’ve stopped ordering wine by the glass at dinner if it’s ‘normal people wine.’ Here’s a hint: The cost of a glass of wine at a restaurant is close to what you’ll pay for the entire bottle at a retailer. You’re welcome. Speaking of retail booze: If you like trying new wines, beers, or whiskey, check out Sam’s or Costco before hitting the liquor stores. Also, if you have sixty bottles of whiskey – you might not need more for a tad bit. Just sayin’. (You know who you are.)

4) Clothing. Research shows that we wear 20% of what we own 80% of the time. If it’s torn – can you fix it? I recently tore a shirt while camping. I pulled out a needle and thread and fixed it myself. No one has said a word. Also, I’ve started buying higher-quality items, but I’m buying less of them. I’m no fashionista, but my clothes are nice and comfortable. I don’t want or need much to be happy at my age.

Finally, if you really want to make a dent in your finances, let me be brutally honest with you. Cutting down on the items above, reducing the number of lattes you buy at places like Starbucks, and switching to generic items will help. But those are only band-aids and won’t stop the bleeding.

Housing, vehicles, and ‘toys’ (extra vehicles, motorcycles, boats, campers) are your most significant areas of financial drain. If you can reduce or eliminate these things, even for a bit, I recommend it. Sometimes one expensive toy begets another. A home that is larger than you need requires more energy to heat/cool/maintain/furnish. A camper requires a tow vehicle. A swimming pool requires expensive chemicals, and running a filter all summer is costly. A wine cellar requires…well, you know. Catch my drift? For more tips, read here.

What about you, Dear Reader? How do you save money, or what are you letting go of to have what you want? Comment below.

Despite the state of the world, I still think we will be okay. So, I leave you with this song to kickstart your weekend. These guys still have the luxury of being upbeat – they are from Canada. Who doesn’t like Canada?

PS: Share if you liked this post and thought others might, too. Sprinkle the link like glitter. Please and thank you!

Simplicity: It’s A Mindset, Not An Activity.

For several years now I have shared my story and my desire for everyone to embrace the idea of simplicity. My message, along with others who embrace rational minimalism, has been fairly simple: Do less. Be More. On most days, I stay focused, but sometimes I let others interfere in the plan (and by others, I really just mean my Ego), but what I truly know is that staying focused on what really matters in my life helps me to create a more simple life.

Like many who grew up in the material world of the 80’s, I struggle sometimes with drawing the line between what I need and what I want. Additionally, when people walk into my house and see its sparse decor, I worry they think I can’t afford to buy things to fill up the space. Then I beat myself up for even caring about that at all, because I know in my heart I’d rather spend my weekends hiking with my kiddo than dusting, cleaning, and organizing, so why get all worked up by what they think? Truthfully, I know the message of simplicity appeals to the hearts of many by the number of friends, family members and readers who have reported taking steps to make changes.

“I have come to believe and understand that minimalism, the intentional promotion of the things I most value and the removal of everything that distracts me from it is a message that appeals to the heart and resonates with the soul. It is an invitation that is appreciated, desired, and often accepted when offered.” – Josh Becker

I think all of us, if we spent time listening to our heart instead of the endless stream of advertisements, would realize that disengaging from distractions in any form can help solidify these truths:

Possessions do not equal joy. Recently I looked into buying a little Tiny Cabin. I wanted it in the back yard because I work from home and wanted a REAL office instead of the modified (yet functional!) area in my kitchen that is currently where I work each day. (Yeah, as if this ‘real’ office would make me put on make up and get out of my yoga pants. Not.) Anyway I started thinking that $8,000 for another space I’d have to maintain just didn’t feel worth it. My head said “This (cabin) will make work better”. Thankfully, my heart said “Only I can make my work better. Not my office. 

When we have true freedom, our head and heart are in synch. This weekend I was able to spend all day relaxing. If the following weekend is nice, I plan to take my son on a nature adventure. He is at an age where I’m still kinda cool and he seems to still enjoy our time together. I have been working a second gig in the evenings – not because I need to, but because I haven’t figured out how not to (another blog, another time.) But the wintery weather has left me with evenings free for about three weeks and you know what…I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve decided I will keep this going for another few months, but after that, I’m going to focus on me and my relationships instead of working all the time. I want to play in the mud and dig up worms, maybe plant a few tomatoes to see if I don’t kill them, and take weekend trips.

ericbook2
Look at the chunky baby who is now eight years old – tall and lean!!!

Simplicity just makes fiscal sense. I didn’t wake up one day and say “Gosh…I think I’ll work 40 hours a week for the rest of my life to pay off Capital One”. But somewhere, I bought the lies – and bought a bunch of other crap, for that matter. Today, I can honestly say I still make mistakes (Um…like considering a purchase of a tiny cabin…) but also rejoice when I can admit those mistake . I didn’t go down the Simplicity road to find fiscal freedom but the path has certainly made it easier.

Simplicity gives us freedom to choose better options. Work the weekends or play in the mud? Buy healthy locally grown food or processed boxed meals? Simplicity doesn’t always mean you have to ‘give up’ something. I traded a gym membership to save for a treadmill I can use at home. I traded high-dollar coffee drinks for organic glass bottled non-homogenized milk. I spend a little more money to order things online because I know I’d probably spend the same amount impulse shopping at the grocery store. Simplicity is about trading up – not living with a scarcity mentality.

Recently, I have been challenging old beliefs, focusing on what truly matters in my life, and setting priorities based on new emerging thoughts. It hasn’t been easy, but knowing I can come back to the basics keeps me grounded and better prepared to spend time and money on what is truly important. As dismal as it may seem, our days are numbered. I’d rather spend my time with my people than paying off my stuff. My choice in this will bring me greater joy, most likely, than anything I could purchase.

I wish you a simple week, dear reader. And I hope all is well in your world. I wonder, though:

What can you do without in order to have something better?
What hobbies or activities are you neglecting because you’ve got internal and external clutter weighing you down?
Speaking of ‘internal clutter’ – what thoughts do you battle with that keep you from gaining freedom?

I’m curious about all these – so feel free to reach out. Until next weekend…here’s your song. Stay warm and healthy. Stop touching your face and social distance as much as you can. I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and for once, it isn’t a train.