The Only Personal Finance Blog You Need

Decluttering my bathroom a few days ago, I came across a tired looking little bottle of Burberry perfume. It was purchased roughly 4 years ago for me by my now husband. I don’t remember what the occasion was but it was some holiday. it may have been valentines day, my birthday, our anniversary or Christmas. Like most Americans we have traditionally bought each other and everyone else we know often extravagantly expensive and unnecessary presents for every occasion. That is but one leak in our huge explosive geyser of waste that has been our financial situation from the time we just met each other 7 years ago to just about 6 months ago when I discovered the Mr Money Mustache blog. since discovering that blog my life has changed so dramatically.

Not only am I more active, I’m way more practical, healthy and financially competent. I am actually way enthusiastic about making the changes I have, such as deciding to sell my car, buying a bike and bike trailer and getting really really really cheap cell phone plans. Also preparing all my meals at home from scratch and no longer buying unnecessary stuff has made my life not just more frugal but actually more enjoyable. I enjoy thinking up ways to save money and can’t wait to do even more in the future. I started this blog originally because I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head, but this concept of easy frugality has been a game changer.

I no longer care about what other people are doing with their money. Of course, deleting Facebook caused me to look more closely at my own life- my own priorities and values instead of everyone else’s. I have gone on a low-information diet, and I now see so much clearer than I did when my mind was cluttered with unnecessary information from magazines, commercials, advertisements and the regular onslaught of meaningless shit from random people, most I may barely know.

I admit, with each change I make it does feel as if I’m about to step off a cliff. In the end I usually decide to take the leap because I have assurance that there will be a wonderous net of a beautiful, simple naturalistic and free lifestyle that will catch me as I let go of all the trappings of my consumer driven life. The feeling is an intense and addicting combination of excitement and fear. the more stuff I get rid of the more stuff I want to get rid of.

A big part of me is still afraid that everyone who comes over to my house will judge me for not having all the makings expected of an average target-shopping suburban housewife home. I’m also afraid that my husband will start/continue to think I’m crazy and will be unhappy to leave his comfortable bubble of consumption. Even with all these looming possibilities, what I want is to be surrounded by the items that mean something to me. I want my dwelling to be filled with only the objects and tools that make me smile, that serve my life in a positive way and help me to become the person I believe I am meant to be.

Right now, for me, that means getting rid of my TV. Not just my TV, but also the Xbox and Netflix. I will still have my computers which I can use to get entertainment and information and watch DVDs (as I have a Mac from 2008 that still plays them.) I’m afraid that if I do this there will really be no turning back. I will no longer be able to lay back on the couch and flip on the screen and forget about my problems. I will no longer be able to keep up with all the new episodes and series that are coming out, leaving me with a little bit less to talk about with other everyday people.

The only downside is that the more I let go of the more I am becoming an outsider. I hope that one day I can find a community where I can truly learn and grow and not feel ashamed of the lifestyle I am choosing. Until then I will keep making small steps and jumping off the cliffs as they come up. Of course I will report what happens strait back to you. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey.

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Wishing for Less

Sometimes all we need is a little less. There is a huge and profound connection between owning less, having less stress, spending less money and having less health problems. When we let go of the things in our life that don’t serve us by either being of practical use or pleasing to our senses, we actually begin to highlight the things in our life that really do serve us by making us more happy and productive.

The more we let go of, the more gratifying it is to live our lives amongst the treasured and trusted objects that we have carefully selected to be a part of our day to day routines. We begin to notice the way we feel more, we have space for quiet contemplation and tranquility in our day. When we own less it also forces us to think creatively. Instead of going to the store so we can buy all the latest technology, we can spend our time exploring the potential of the nifty things we already own- such as all the settings of our digital camera or rediscovering our collection of CDs from college (Radiohead, anyone?). When we own less there is less to worry about, manage and maintain. Even if it is as simple as a big assortment of totes with random bits and bobs taking up space in the attic, it still causes us mental clutter when we are reminded of these items and we expend mental energy trying to remember what is stored there and if those things are still useful to us, and even thinking about decisions of what to do with the items. When we surround ourselves with only the things that we truly love and care for, we feel less compelled to purchase new items on a whim or because everyone else has it. This saves us loads of money over time- money that we can use to pay off debt, invest, or donate to a great cause. When we become less stressed, we have the mental energy to pursue our interests instead of parking it on the couch for a night of TV watching. Even better- when we cut out TV all together, we automatically will find other exciting activities to pursue that don’t involve sitting in front of a screen. Naturally this will help to burn calories as we spend our time having fun and being active.

These are just some of the many ways that owning less opens up doors to exuberant happiness in our lives. There are no rules or time limits to how one should go about minimizing, and the journey to owning less will be as unique as the person taking it.

Creating a Harmonious Routine with Young Children

Are you always behind on everything on your to-do list, but you’re busy all the time? Ever wonder where your peace went? Did you leave your old hobbies and interests back in another year? Let me tell you something right now. Your child wants you to be happy, and they want to contribute to the care they receive. Believe it or not, they even want you to be cared for as well. They certainly don’t want to be a burden, and they actually don’t need to be entertained (though they will want to if that’s what they’re used to!)

The key is to plan ahead, and more specifically to design a sequence of events that occur throughout the day, every day to help the day unfold smoothly and peacefully for the whole family. It seems like a daunting task with huge stumbling blocks (and perhaps even some exasperated excuses) at first, but with forethought this simple step can create an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration for both you and your children.

First, let me talk about the elephant in the room. The Big Letters T and V. Ours is certainly big enough and uncomfortably (for me at least) prominent in our living room to discuss. The problem with TV is that it is a drug. It just is. For more information about it, please read The Plug-In Drug. It affects the brain in the same way sugar or any other pleasurable substance does, and they more it is consumed the more strong the urge to keep consuming it becomes. The best thing of course would be getting rid of it all together. I’m such a big fan of that. But it’s so strong in our culture that I feel the unfortunate need to say, the second best thing would be to severely limit screen time (i.e. once a week for a very short time). Believe it or not, kids need time to be bored. Boredom is the precursor to creativity (by creativity I really mean child-lead imaginative play.) Just think about how every moment your child is a pacified zombie in front of a screen, is a moment your child could be spending fully engaged in REAL life with their mind, body and soul.

When you take care of the things in your life that need tending to, you’re actually showing your child what it means to be human. Everything you do is a functional model for them to follow as they grow. It’s so important that you do the things that are not only necessary, but the things that are good for you. The things that are good for the world. The things that make you happy and healthy.

At about the age of 2, children become not only able but eager to help you in your endeavors. It may take a bit of practice, but if you let them they can help you fold clothes (or maybe just throw the wet laundry into the drier). They can help you put dishes away (try wooden bowls!) and they can certainly pick up their toys (As long as they don’t have too many!). Involve your child in not only their own care routines, but the care routines of the house and yard. Let them put some of the groceries on the conveyor belt. Let them carry a few items into the house when you’re unloading the car.

sisi baking

The benefit to this is threefold. A child’s feelings of self-confidence is definitely boosted when they are helping to care for themselves, but it is boosted even more when they are helping to care for others. You are going through your day with your child, getting chores done alongside them as they need to be accomplished, instead of waiting for naptime or the end of the night. In this way you’re keeping your house peaceful and free of clutter and uncompleted tasks. You’re also allowing yourself to have the time during nap or night time to do the things you love to do, or simply to relax.

The learning and sensory experiences involved with chores are beautiful. The soil in the garden replaces play dough. Using a safe knife to cut pears replaces the toy knife. The bubbly water in the sink replaces the water table. The fine motor skills practiced to pull weeds, or the large motor skills needed to sweep up. Talking about colors while folding laundry, or letters while writing the shopping list. Another term for this is “Life as the Curriculum” and is also the Lifeways model of child care. Instead of creating a contrived life for your child full of classes and preconceived play scenarios, just allow them to be a part of your life. Give them time to play independently (in this way they will experiment and replay the real life scenarios to further assimilate the learning in their brain!)

It’s most certainly an old way of thinking and doing things, a life wrought of necessity. It’s certainly contradictory to everything we are told we need to provide our children (505 Summer Play Themes to Keep Your Toddler Busy… Pinterest, I’m looking at you…) But what a beautiful, peaceful way of life for you, your child and your family!