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Minimalist Bill Payment


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In the three years I’ve lived here I developed a bit of a ritual when it came to paying bills. One day I would walk around town to pay my rent, electric and water. Another day I would go online to pay my internet bill. Netflix is charged automatically.

MoneyBag2

This past winter meant that I was forced to walk in freezing temperatures every month; some days it was just too cold (or icy) and I would have to wait until the conditions eased.

I didn’t enjoy having to wait to pay my bills. I like to get them over with so that I can go on with my life. I considered my options and after getting permission from my landlord I decided to start paying all my bills by check, using the postal system.

I took one night to pay my internet bill online and write out the checks for my rent, water and electric. The checks were placed in my mailbox and the flag raised for the local mailman.

It felt odd the first time I did it. All of my payments were mailed before the first day of the month. I even went ahead and ordered more checks and stamps – I had planned to order them later in the month but I reasoned that it made sense to get it over with. During the next few days I checked my bank account to verify that each payment was received and cashed, which of course they were.

This is the second month that I will be doing this. Two whole months of not having to lose a significant chunk of time walking around to the various places to pay my bills and all it costs me are a few measly stamps.

I like the fact that this method saves me time. I also like the fact that this decision helps support the postal system in our country, which is struggling to meet expenses.

I especially like the fact that I won’t have to walk around in the cold come winter.

The best part of this method is the fact that all of my bills are paid in a single sitting, leaving me to get on with my life. Like so many people, I have better things to do.

How do you pay your bills? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Letting Go of Prized Possessions


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Today I gave away two books that I have considered priceless in my collection. They were the books that I used for knowledge and inspiration during my earliest days when frugality was a desperate necessity.

These books were read so much that they literally fell apart so I had gotten them spiral bound to last me forever.

The first book was “How to Live Well on Practically Nothing” by Edward H. Romney and the other was “How to Survive Without a Salary” by Charles Long.

I loved those books. Every time I became afraid I would open them up and absorb their contents. I would read and reread passages for pure comfort as I went through my darkest days. I can’t tell you how many nights I fell asleep with them beside me, especially through those early times when I was alone and lost and afraid.

That says a lot about me I guess. About how when I moved out on my own that I could still hear my husband’s voice mocking me, telling me that I would never be able to survive on my own, how I was nothing and no one and so completely stupid that I couldn’t even take care of myself, much less my kids.

Those books were my anchor, my security blanket you could even say.

It has been a couple of years since I felt the need to hold them yet I could not let them go, and every time I spied them sitting on my bookshelf the memories of those fears would laugh at me all over again.

I tried to donate them to the library several times but I just couldn’t. I just couldn’t, you know?

What if something happened? What if I needed them again? How could I live without them after all the good they’d done for me?

Over and over I kept clinging to those two little books despite everything I’ve done and accomplished. Over and over I leafed through those pages and relived those aching, painful fears.

Today when Mr. A knocked on my door I did it. I ran to my bookshelf, snatched them up and shoved them at the man before he could even say hello.

I explained that they were my two favorite books in this whole wide world. I told him that they had helped me save a fortune over the years – and that I could think of none better to benefit from their knowledge.

He was so surprised that he almost forgot what he came for.

And I refused to watch him carry them away.

There is no one I would rather give those books to than my dear friend and neighbor. I hope that he loves them as I did, and that they help him as they helped me.

It seems silly to cry over a couple of old books but there are tears in my eyes as I write this. The truth is that I had to release them so that I could finally move on from the pain that is in my past.

I apologize for not snapping a picture but I had to make the cut quick and clean. I had to do it so fast that I didn’t think, because if I had I would have snatched them out of his hands and placed them back in my library but the truth is that I don’t need them anymore. I haven’t needed them for a very long time. Instead of a benefit, they were a crutch that symbolized those early fears.

It is high time I moved on.

Have you eliminated something precious to you lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Elimination


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I have spent these past few days collecting items that we no longer have any use for. I found:

  • an assortment of software discs
  • an old phone
  • some empty boxes (I like to keep original packaging until the item goes out of warranty)
  • old computer cables (leftovers from my repair business)
  • two handbags
  • a pack of coffee filters (I no longer have a coffeemaker)
  • a cooking pot (I already have two that meet our needs), and
  • an old laptop I was keeping for parts

Mr. A is wonderful about distributing items to his wide network of friends so I packed up everything but the boxes (they were crushed and put in the trash) and passed these things to him. I know that he will recycle what he can’t pass on or use himself so there will be no waste.

The amazing thing is that I’m not done yet. Even with my commitment to living with less, things accumulate in my life. That’s okay – it just goes to show me how rich I really am.

I can already see a difference in my little home and I wonder what it will look like when I finish this time.

It feels good to have a little less stuff in my life.

Have you eliminated anything in your life lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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The Joy of Non-Ownership


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dance in the rain

My roof started leaking last night. I placed buckets under the drips, calmed Katie down (one was over her bed), brewed a cup of coffee and laughed at my good fortune.

You see, I simply rent this little house. This means that a leaky roof is not my problem – its my landlord’s.

So many people believe that owning things is the key to happiness but over these past few years I’ve discovered otherwise.

When you own something you are completely responsible for its care. You have to pay for it, care for it and fix it when it breaks. In the case of a leaky roof this can become quite expensive.

Unlike my home-owning friends, I am not responsible for repairs such as these so this morning, instead of frantically trying to figure out how to afford a contractor I woke up, brewed a cup of coffee, grabbed the phone and called the landlord before starting my day.

Have you ever experienced the joy of non-ownership? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Using Stuff Up


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I have a bad habit of stockpiling things. I’m not sure if this is because of how I was raised or because I spent so many years struggling after I had kids, but I detest letting anything go even if it just has a little dram in the bottom that I know I will never use.

It’s time to own that.

In the years since I have embraced simplicity I’ve never ran out of the things I’ve needed. To be honest, I generally have a surplus of everything.

I want to see if I can break the stockpiling habit. I want to discover whether this habit actually helps me to save money or if it costs more in time and effort to care for my stockpile than it is worth.

I’ve already managed to get us down to a single bottle each of shampoo and conditioner. I’m also down to a single bar of soap sitting in reserve under the bathroom sink. My chest freezer is only half-full now (usually it stays close to overflowing) and I can see open spaces in my pantry, even with emptying the cabinet above my washer.

As my supplies get used up I will experiment with purchasing smaller quantities. My only exceptions will be items that are bulky and difficult to haul like pet food.

I hope to learn more about what I need and how I purchase with this experiment. Perhaps I don’t need to stockpile near as much as I believe. Even better, I may not be saving as much money as I think I am when I buy in bulk, especially if I factor in the time to care for the overstock and the precious space these items take up in my tiny home.

I’m not sure how long it will take me. Already I am inspired by the extra space I have opened up, so hopefully it won’t take too long because I am especially curious as to whether or not I have been saving money by buying in bulk.

Have you ever deliberately used up all of your stockpiles? Have you examined whether buying in bulk would benefit you? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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How to Protect Your Electronics During Storms


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We have a lot of bad thunderstorms during the warm seasons here so many people suffer from damaged electronics as a result of power surges.

When I went to school for computer repair, one of the things I had to study was the various methods available to protect electronic devices. The covered surge protectors, UPS systems and all sorts of goodies.

The best advice I received (and the one that has kept me safe for many years) came from an old tech, who advised me not to trust my electronics to any of these devices during a bad storm.

He pointed out that if a surge is bad enough to fry out a surge protector, it could still damage your valuable devices. He also pointed out that many points of entry like phone lines and CATV wires are often overlooked by many consumers.

As a result of his advice, this is what I do personally to protect my valuable devices from storm surges.

Use a Surge Protector Every Day

I use simple surge protectors on all of my essential devices. This protects them from unexpected surges when I’m home and when I’m not. I even use it on my CATV cable to protect my modem and router from damage.

However, I don’t trust them to protect me from everything, which leads to my next step:

I disconnect everything during storms

While surge protectors are great for small surges, most people don’t invest in the really good ones and aren’t as safe as they would like to think. To be really certain that a surge can’t hurt your valuable devices, physically disconnect them from any and all outside connections, including DSL wires, phone lines, CATV cables and power outlets.

While this means that I can’t make use the Internet or make phone calls during stormy weather, it also means that my computers, router, cable modem and other electronics are safe. If the weather is really bad I unplug my microwave, toaster oven, refrigerator and chest freezer as well. My washer and other devices are always disconnected after use so I don’t have to worry about them.

Fortunately, most of my electronics are portable (and thus have batteries) so I can still work even through the worst of storms, provided that they don’t outlast the charge on my devices.

This may seem like a lot of work but it is the one sure-fire way to guarantee that your valuable electronics and appliances are kept safe in even the worst of storms.

How do you keep your electronics safe during storms? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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How to Leak-Proof Your Water Dispenser Spigot


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Water Dispenser

There are a lot of heavy metals in the tap water here. It wreaks havoc on traditional water filters so I have found it cheaper to buy filtered water instead from the dispensers found in a local store. I reuse my containers to save even more money over purchasing regular bottled water.

One of my containers is a three gallon water dispenser with a spigot. This allows us to leave the container on the counter to refill our glasses at will. When we first purchased it, however, the spigot leaked.

This is an easy fix if you know what you’re doing.

  1. Empty the water container.
  2. Remove the spigot by reaching inside the container and unscrewing the retaining nut. There was a rubber washer on mine as well.
  3. Completely dry the spigot hole on the dispenser, spigot, nut, washers and threads.
  4. Coat the threads, nut and washers with food-safe lubricant. I used plain old vegetable oil for this.
  5. Remove any extra lubricant from the parts. You don’t want it to drip!
  6. Reassemble the spigot on the dispenser and tighten the nut thoroughly.
  7. Add water to the dispenser to test the seal.
  8. Enjoy your leak-proof water dispenser!

While you may be able to get a leak-proof seal without using any lubricant, I personally find that the light coat of food-grade oil is quicker and easier than fiddling with the thing to get the seal just right.

Do you use water dispensers or are you able to drink your water directly from the tap? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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The Line Between Simple and Stupid


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There is a fine line between simple and stupid. It lurks in the paths we follow as we search for new ways to save money. Many times, if we aren’t careful, we cross that line without ever realizing it was there, turning our experience of simplicity from one of pleasure to one of work and misery.

Many times this mistake can convince us that we are just not cut out for the simple life.

One of the reasons we fail to see this line is because of our ancestors. They did things in their everyday lives that seemed so simplistic but were so much work! These things can take time and money away from us that we could better spend enjoying ourselves – wasting them in what we were raised to believe was the proper way to live with less.

A long, long time ago I fell into this trap. I wanted to save money by canning my own food. I bought the jars, the cooker, the little pieces of equipment and attempted to can the bounty from a pear tree that grew in our backyard.

Several canning books, an emergency room visit and six stitches later I looked at my work. I was exhausted and injured and all I had to show for it was a tidy row of jars stuffed full of pears.

We were broke by that point (canning jars are NOT cheap) and to my dismay about 15% of those popped their seal.

I figured it up and realized I had spent enough money to buy us a tidy stockpile of canned food.

I spent enough time that, even at minimum wage, I could have earned enough to fill our damned pantry a couple of times over.

When I realized that I could have bought a few storage bags, tossed it all in the freezer and not lost any of it to spoilage the truth finally hit me:


What people believe to be simple often isn’t.


Fast forward to the present day. I was seated at my kitchen table, sweating like a pig. It was half past one in the morning but not even stepping outside granted relief to the heat and humidity.

I faced a choice. I could remain uncomfortable, taking several baths a day to ease my misery and reduce the stink from my sweat. I could spend $30 on a fan and drag it to whatever room I wanted to be in…

…Or I could just install the air conditioner.

If I went by how I was raised I would have sucked it up and accepted the sweat and the stink. When it became worse I would have spent the $30 on a fan, added an extension cord and altered my budget accordingly.

However, I know from experience that my little air conditioner barely makes a blip in my electric bill so I did the absolute opposite of what simplicity dictated.

I stuck that sucker in a window and cranked it up.

Within minutes I could tell a difference. The temperature hadn’t lowered yet but the humidity had obviously changed. I was no longer sweating like a whore in church and it felt really, really good in my tiny home again.

So I’ll have to pay a few dollars more on my electric bill. I would have had to spend the money to power a fan anyway. Not only did I save the money I would have spent on a fan, I saved time and money on both laundry and bathing because I won’t have to work so hard to avoid stinking.

By making a decision that ran counter to the definition of simplicity I was raised on I increased my comfort level significantly. I also stopped wasting the time that I was spending in a mental debate about buying that fan.

We’re not even going to talk about the stinky laundry and smelly me. Yuck!

The moral of the story

The moral of this story is that simplicity is not always what we think it is. Sometimes the stuff we were raised to believe is simple often isn’t, which is why I don’t make my own clothing or cook my own soap.

I don’t even make my own laundry detergent any more since I discovered that a three-dollar bottle of the store bought stuff lasts me for almost a year.

When you are looking around for ways to simplify your life take care not to cross the line between simple and stupid. If a traditionally “simple” solution costs you more in time and money than you save it isn’t the one you need.

Have you ever crossed this line? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Microfiber Update


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One of the main things I use to clean with is microfiber cloths. As I explained in my book The Minimalist Cleaning Method, Expanded Edition, microfiber doesn’t require expensive chemicals to work (just water) and it removes germs as well.

I use my small collection of microfiber cloths every single day and I’ve used the ones I bought in 2011 so much that they are starting to wear out and their cleaning power has been affected.

Rather than start using cleaning products with them I walked to my local Family Dollar and grabbed another pack from the automotive section. Ten cloths of random sizes cost $5. I came back home, tossed my old ones and got back to work.

My new microfiber cleaning cloths.

My new microfiber cleaning cloths.

Do you replace your cleaning supplies regularly? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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Future Plans


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I’ve been thinking about what I would like to do when the kid is grown. I’ve no real desire to remain in this town and a powerful desire to travel.

I’ve considered backpacking my way around, using Greyhound buses to go places. I’ve even thought of getting a motorcycle and motoring across the country but none of these ideas really fit.

However, there is one idea that would suit my needs and desires: van dwelling.

Something like this would be fun and easy to drive!

I am researching a variety of options, from acquiring a class B RV to a small pull-behind camper trailer. The trailer idea would be a good start, because I wouldn’t need to own a vehicle while I got it set up and learned about it – I could acquire one, park it in the back yard and learn from it until I was ready to acquire a tow vehicle and start my next adventure.

A 19′ travel trailer would be fun to live in!

Of course, I haven’t decided yet. I’ve just started a notebook that I’m stuffing full of research while I consider my options. Something like this would allow me to take my home with me when I travel, which would be a bit more comfortable since I do enjoy sleeping in my own bed at night.

Not only am I researching campers and RVs, I am also researching their operation, solar panels, generators and all of the other things one needs to know about these things.

While I may not actually do this, it feels fun to consider my next adventure. It shows me that my life will not be over when my youngest is grown but will instead open a completely new, fun chapter in my life.

Do you have any plans for adventure in your future? Please share your stories in the comments below.

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