Author Archives: Annie

I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Is Your Life in the Black?

Published / by Annie / 12 Comments on Is Your Life in the Black?

I ran into an old friend the other day. We hadn’t seen each other for several years so we took a few moments to catch up. My friend announced proudly that he had recently purchased a house, showed me his car, and bragged about his high-paying job. He was a little worried about making the new house payment but his wife had just started her own business selling cosmetics for a popular company. Could I attend her party in a couple of weeks?

I must confess that the conversation left me feeling somewhat small. While he regaled me with the size of his paycheck, the square footage of his new home, and other things, all I had to share was that I had written a few books, lived in a small rented home, and earned minimum wage at a grocery store. The little trips I take to help animals achieve a better life couldn’t hold a candle to his latest vacation overseas so I didn’t even bother to mention them.

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart. Over the past few months even my daughter had told me that she looked down on my simple life; while she was thankful that I had sacrificed higher paying jobs in order to spend more time with her as she grew up she bluntly announced that she might have been better off if I had ignored her wishes and spent more time making money. She would have had fancier things that way.

Was I really such a failure that my own child looked down her nose at my simple lifestyle? The look on my friend’s face when he discovered that I didn’t even own a car spoke volumes.

I’ve done a lot of soul searching since that fateful encounter. I’ve examined my life thoroughly as I asked myself did I make the right decisions? If not, should I start making changes? Should I apply for a job at a local factory where a friend of mine earns almost a thousand dollars a week with overtime? I wouldn’t have the time to write anymore but I would make a lot more money. I could buy a car, save up for a house, buy some nicer clothes….

I was still tormented by these thoughts when the first of the month rolled around. As I calculated my monthly budget and paid my bills I realized something: I could pay all of my bills before they came due. I didn’t have to struggle. I don’t toss and turn at night wondering where the money is going to come from to pay my electric bill. I don’t have to hide a car to avoid repossession until I could make the payment. I’m not driving around on expired tags because I can’t afford to put insurance on my vehicle as some of my friends are doing. I don’t cringe when the phone rings and I’m certainly not in danger of losing my home because I failed to pay the back taxes.

I’m operating in the black. Each and every year my writing business pays to support itself. It has done this from the beginning. For a few years there it also brought in enough money to support my simple lifestyle without the need for a public job. While it may not be able to support me currently it is still earning a small profit.

While far from rich I have enough in the bank to pay my bills without struggle every month. I can afford the things that I need without having to rob Peter to pay Paul. I’m able to splurge on some extras and save up for more expensive items. I even have a small savings account that I contribute to.

And unlike my friend who looked at me askance when he discovered what neighborhood I called home, it doesn’t take multiple jobs to support my lifestyle. I am able to live on minimum wage at my part-time job, which allows me time to pursue my passion of writing. I have even been able to take time off from working entirely over the years and savor the experience of being a stay-at-home single mom without having to sacrifice my morals to do so.

Even better, my simple lifestyle granted me the ability to recover from an injury that would have bankrupted many that I know. It enabled me to quickly regain my financial footing when I was able to start working again.

I may not have a fancy car or a luxurious house. I may not be able to take fancy trips or turn my friends green with envy but the truth is I have something far more valuable.

I have peace of mind. I can go to bed at night without worrying over unpaid bills. I can take time off work to help save the lives of unwanted animals. I have the time to make the world a better place by sharing my knowledge and experience with others.

I can afford to pursue my passions.

Do you live in the black? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Wisdom of Experience

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on The Wisdom of Experience

I can always tell when Daughter’s payday arrives. She rolls into the house, arms filled with purchases as she hands me her share of the bill money.

I resist the urge to ask her if she opened up a savings account. While I know from experience how unpredictable the world can be I still remember what it was like to be a fresh adult of 18. You are excited with legal freedom, brimming with the confidence of youth. You are so excited to have money of your own that it burns a hole in your pocket as you hurry to spend it.

“I’ll do that next week,” I know she’ll say if I ask.

In the meantime she announces, “Right now XX is having a big sale. Look at my new stuff!”

I stifle a sigh as I examine her purchases, nodding my head as she tells me I should splurge on a new pair of shoes or a couple of bras while they’re on sale.

“Maybe next time,” I put her off. “Right now I’m saving up for a writing computer. My old laptop won’t last forever.”

“You’re just waiting for me to get bored with my new clothes and give them to you,” she counters with a huff.

I glance down at the brand new pair of Converse sitting beneath my desk. In her rush to order them she selected a size too big. Rather than exchange them she had passed them down to me.

I am content with oversized shoes.

“You got me,” I laugh.

The time will come when she realizes that money doesn’t buy happiness. She will look back in amazement at all of the money she spent on passing fancies. She will count her change and wonder how to survive until payday.

Eventually she will look at mom wearing her handmedowns and realize that, while far from rich, that Mother has the bills all paid, money in the bank, and the contentment that comes with having enough.

I just have to wait.

The Longevity Factor

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We don’t consider the longevity of purchases much in this disposeable age. For the most part we buy the best we can afford without a thought about how we intend to use the item.

Once upon a time as a snot-nosed kid I stumbled upon an elderly couple quarreling about this in a grocery store. Wide-eyed, I watched the man snatch a package of super-soft bathroom tissue out of their cart and exchange it for the cheaper brand.

“There ain’t no sense in spending a fortune on something we’re gonna wipe our asses on and throw away,” he grumped at his wife’s protests.

Just the other day my daughter and I found ourselves facing that situation.

“Look, mom! This facial tissue has lotion in it!” Katie exclaimed as she handed me the box in question.

“Why the hell would I want to pay more for something we blow our noses on and throw away?” I grumped as I handed it back. “Toilet paper not good enough for you now that you’re working?”

“It scratches my nose,” she complained.

“Then use a bandanna like I do. It’s softer and you can reuse them.”

Katie snorted as she placed the box in the section of the cart reserved for her personal purchases.

“I’ll get it for myself then,” she huffed.

The old man smiled from the halls of my memory.

A Sunny Solution

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on A Sunny Solution

Necessity is the mother of invention. It is an act of pure genius when one can use the things they already have available to solve a problem.

One of the major problems I currently face is my inability to tolerate backlit screens for very long periods of time. Even when I dim the screen as low as it can go looking at it becomes painful after a short while. Rather than cry and say that “I can’t” I started looking around for a solution.

I found it in a pair of dark sunglasses. I keep them at my computer and put them on whenever I go to work. It makes it really hard to see my keyboard in dim light, but a carefully positioned lamp takes care of that issue.

I have received a few chuckles from my daughter and friends when they see me working but I don’t care. It works and that is all that matters.

What workarounds do you use in your daily life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Magic of Decision

Published / by Annie / 7 Comments on The Magic of Decision

I’ve lived in this little house for close to seven years. In that time I’ve never gotten around to making the little touches that turn a house into a home. I didn’t see the point since I didn’t know how long I was going to live here. Was I going to upgrade to another house, move into an RV, or thin down to almost nothing and travel once the kid was gone?

I honestly didn’t know. Something deep inside of me was restless so rather than waste time, money, and effort getting comfortable here I just made do in several areas. I would probably relocate after the kid left for college anyway, I reasoned.

I spent the first few days in shock after the kid turned 18. The knowledge that I was legally free of the responsibilities of parenthood and could do what I wanted did not compute. What would I do? While I still had a year before she left for college, I needed to get cracking!

But then I realized something: I am happy here. I like the house, I like the area, I even like the simple job that allows me to pay my bills while pursuing my simple passions.

I didn’t have to move. I didn’t have to travel. I didn’t have to go out in search of answers or happiness or even adventure.

I had enough right here, right now. I could settle down and stay right here.

As a result of finally making a decision I’ve finally started to settle in. I purchased a set of curtains to begin the adventure of making this little house a home. Once I accomplish the goal of getting my window treatments sorted I’ll move on to another.

Many people fail to realize how liberating it can be to make a decision. It frees you from considering other possibilities and allows you to focus on a single path instead of worrying about all of the other paths you could or should be taking.

For me personally, making the decision to remain here even after the kid moves out eliminated a stress that I didn’t even know I was carrying. It allowed me to admit that I didn’t need to travel. I didn’t need to move, change my circumstances, chase some dream or fulfil some magical bucket list.

I am happy right where I’m at.

What decisions have you held off making? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Take Advantage of Downtime

Published / by Annie / 3 Comments on Take Advantage of Downtime

Many years ago I was waiting somewhere for something. A lady came in after me. Once she found out that there was going to be a delay she settled down, pulled out some yarn, and started crocheting. While the rest of us shifted and grumbled, she contentedly tinkered on an afghan she was creating.

Curious and bored, I started a conversation with her. How could she just sit there crocheting? Wasn’t she upset that she was being forced to lose her valuable time because so-and-so was running behind?

She smiled at me patiently as she began to switch colors on her creation. She was pleased at the delay, she confessed calmly. It would allow her to get a bit more done on her afghan.

She proceeded to explain to me that downtime was a blessing to her. She spent so much of her day running errands and taking care of business that she rarely had the opportunity to work on her crocheting projects. While at first she resented the delays she eventually realized that she could take advantage of them so she started keeping her current project in a bag that she could carry with her. Whenever she had to wait somewhere she would reach into her bag, pull out her yarn, and start crocheting.

She completed a lot more projects as a result she informed me happily.

Her words stuck with me after we parted ways. At the time I worked multiple jobs, trying to keep food on the table for my children while also taking an online class in computer repair. Time was something I rarely had enough of. Could I do something similar?

I started taking my computer repair books to work with me. I would read them while waiting to clock in and during my break at work. I read them anytime I had a few minutes to spare while waiting for appointments and at night when I had trouble going to sleep.

I finished my computer course a lot sooner than anticipated as a result so I kept up the habit, reading more advanced texts on computer repair and eventually branched out to read books on business management, success, and other topics. I raised a lot of eyebrows when I would pull out my weighty tomes at work or in waiting rooms. Like the woman who inspired me, I patiently answered their questions and moved on.

I still do that now. I keep my Kindle in my purse, ready to take advantage of those snatches of time whenever I encounter them. Instead of vegging out in front of a movie or a television show, I pull out the device and start reading.

Not only does this help to eliminate stress by giving you something to look forward to while you are waiting, it allows you to accomplish something in those little pieces of time that would otherwise be wasted.

I use the time for learning. Currently I’m reading books on philosophy and religion, spiced with books on success and the occasional novel. I’m currently working on Bobby Knight’s book The Power of Negative Thinking after catching it on sale for 99 cents before I dive into the works of Emerson.

The next time you find yourself waiting try to devise a productive way to use those little snatches of time. Can you jot down some notes for a school project, touch up your manicure, clean out your wallet, work on a craft project, or read a book?

Make a quick phone call to an elderly relative. Update your task list. Send a text to your kid and tell them you love them. Make an appointment to get your car serviced. Plan out your budget or meals for the next week. Anything is better than just sitting there mindlessly checking your Facebook as the minutes tick away.

And at the end of the day, instead of plopping down on the couch to commune with your television or play a video game, think about the other things you could do instead that would improve your life. Even if you only take a few extra minutes of your time before returning to your regular routine, those minutes will add up to hours that you have gained instead of wasted.

What can you do with your downtime? Please share your stories in the comments below.

How I am Teaching Responsibility to my Young Adult

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on How I am Teaching Responsibility to my Young Adult

As my daughter Katie neared her 18th birthday the inevitable challenge arose:

“I’m almost 18!” she huffed at me one day. “You need to start treating me like an adult!”

“I’ll treat you like an adult when you start acting like one,” I retorted firmly.

This led to a conversation about what it takes to be considered an adult. I explained to her that able-bodied adults pay their own way in the world. They don’t rely on Mommy and Daddy to support them. While they may not be rich, they have bills that they have to pay and they do.

“What if I start paying rent then?” Katie suggested. “If I pay half of the bills, would you start treating me like an adult?”

After I recovered from my surprise, Katie offered to begin paying half of the household expenses. Since I live very cheaply, that’s not as much as it seems. Two hundred dollars a month during the summer months, with more added to cover the extra heating expense when winter comes ended up being the amount we settled upon. We are both responsible for any personal expenses and we split the expense of buying food and supplies (like bathroom tissue) that we both use.

To be honest, I agreed to this with the belief that she would keep up the payments for a month or so and then start coming up with excuses. However, over six months have elapsed and she has paid her share of the expenses cheerfully. As a result, I now treat her like the adult that she wants to be treated as.

This not only solves the issue of dealing with a young lady on the cusp of adulthood, it teaches her how to budget in a safe environment. I keep the whole amount for the bills on hand in the event that something happens that prevents her from paying just in case. Instead of my daughter moving out to live with friends who may or may not be fiscally responsible with their share of the expenses, she gets to live with someone (mom) who knows how to make sure the bills are paid regardless.

It has also made life as a single parent easier. Instead of having to pay all of the bills, they are now halved. As a result, I actually have money to save or to use on those little extras I’ve sacrificed over the years (I’ll write more on that later).

How have you decided to teach fiscal responsibility to the young adults in your care? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Ten Things to Do When You’re Bored

Published / by Annie

“I’m bored.”

Those two little words can strike fear into the heart of any parent. Whenever a kid is bored, trouble is not far behind so we strive to find something interesting to keep the kids occupied.

Boredom is something that affects adults as well. While periods of boredom can be good for you, we often end up turning on the television, checking social media, playing video games, or mindlessly texting a friend as we try to find something to occupy our mind.

While I am no stranger to boredom I find that it helps to have something productive to do when boredom strikes. That way, at the end of the day you can tell yourself that you made a tiny step towards something better.

If you’re like me, however, you can find it difficult to figure out exactly what to do when in the midst of those moments. To help, I’ve created a small list of ideas to get you started.

  1. Read. Reading is the one thing that even the poorest person can do to improve themselves. How-tos, self-improvement, even certain novels can open your mind and teach you something new. With the ubiquitousness of smartphones these days, it is a simple matter to download a free reading app (like the Kindle app) to read free or low-priced books wherever you happen to be when boredom strikes. While you can carry a physical book with you, books can be bulky but since most of us carry a smartphone already, opening an app on the device would not be an issue when the opportunity arises. I carry my Kindle everywhere I go for this purpose.
  2. Make Lists. Open an app on your phone or carry a small notebook with you. When you feel boredom about to strike, brainstorm. Write down the things you want/need to do in the near future, ideas for new and current projects, hopes and plans for the future. This not only occupies your mind, it allows you to do something productive with your time instead of just wasting it on social media or fretting.
  3. Clean Your House. Everyone’s home has something small that needs to be done. Even if you just cleaned the place, there will be some small thing that needs doing. Look through the list you created (create one if you haven’t already) for some small thing you can accomplish. If you’re not big on lists have a few simple tasks that you always perform when boredom strikes. We always have clean dishes to put away, the litterbox to scoop out, a trash can that needs emptied, and a kitchen table that always needs a bit of tidying so when boredom threatens to strike I start there.
  4. Throw Something Away. Instead of being bored, go through your mental inventory of possessions in search of one or two things that you can safely discard. If you are away from home, make a list of these items so that you can eliminate them later. If you are at home, why not go ahead and get rid of them? You will have something to do, and be simplifying your life as a result.
  5. Take a Walk. Walks don’t have to be long to benefit you. Take a turn around your apartment building, go around the block, or even farther if time and energy allows. Look around you and see the interesting things you can notice, or just think about whatever crosses your mind. I find that walking is one of the best ways to relieve stress. When I feel myself getting frustrated or bored, I grab my jacket and take a turn around the neighborhood. I get some strange looks when I do this late at night but since I live in a very safe area I am able to wander unmolested. Find a safe place and try this for yourself. Not only will walking relieve your boredom, it will help to improve your health as well.
  6. Call/Visit a friend or Family Member. We all have that friend or relative that doesn’t receive much company. Why not call or stop by just to tell them that you love them and are thinking of them?
  7. Learn Something New. Read books or take a class on something that you would like to learn about. You can learn a craft such as crocheting, sew simple projects by hand or machine (if you have a machine available), even how to repair your home or the items in it. If you want a promotion at work, read or take a class on business management to improve your chances? It can’t hurt, and will give you an advantage over your competition.
  8. Write. Start a small journal by either writing down your personal thoughts using a writing app on your phone or by jotting them down in a small notebook that you carry with you. This not only gives you something to do, it will help free your mind of cluttering thoughts that can distract you. I find that writing my thoughts down helps me clarify my feelings on certain matters, which reduces stress. It gives you a nonjudgmental sounding board, a place where you can safely reveal your innermost thoughts. the experience can be liberating.
  9. Take a Nap. We all need more rest. Get some. Instead of vegging out in front of the television, turn it off and catch some Zzzs. Set an alarm if you need to wake up for something. Many people find that they are so exhausted due to their busy lives that they sleep for far more than they expected to.
  10. Do Nothing. Find a quiet spot, sit or lie down, and just relax. If you find yourself thinking about something, just allow the thoughts to flutter through your head. Eventually something may strike you that needs to be done. When that happens you can make a note or get started. I find that I get my best writing ideas this way.

What do you do when boredom strikes? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Having a List Can Increase Productivity

Published / by Annie / 6 Comments on Having a List Can Increase Productivity

A cherished part of my childhood was spending part of each summer vacation with my Auntie. Not only did I get to play with her kids, she lived a totally different life from my parents. I’ll never forget the day when I saw her sit down with a piece of paper and start writing.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m writing down the stuff I need to do today,” Auntie replied.

“Why?”

“Well, it helps me figure out what I need to accomplish. At the end of the day, it shows me what all I managed to get done, so I can go to bed feeling satisfied.”

Younger Me didn’t understand that. What was the point in writing down silly things like “make the beds?” It seemed like a waste of time. Instead of writing a stupid list, why not just do the stuff and get it over with?

Many years later she showed me. When my father died Mom and I were lost. I followed Uncle’s instructions to drive over to their house instead of heading home. That night was spent grieving, but the next day? The next day we had stuff to do.

Auntie sat down and helped us create a list.

  • Get Annie’s glasses fixed (Mom had slapped them off of me in her grief and broken them).
  • Take Dad’s suit to the funeral home.
  • Switch the bank account into Mom’s name only.
  • Select our outfits for the funeral.
  • Call A, B, and C to inform them of Dad’s death.

It wasn’t a very long list but it included simple things like “grab a bite to eat” and “go to bed early and rest.” Because my Auntie had created it, I helped my Mom follow it to the letter.

I realized at the end of the day that it had felt good to mark the things off that little piece of paper as we accomplished them. When I went to bed that night, it was with the realization that we had accomplished everything that needed to be done that day.

Almost thirty years later I still make lists.

Pythagoras taught that everything in nature could be divided into three parts. He believed that no one could become truly wise if they didn’t understand that every problem they face was diagrammatically triangular. He was famous for saying, “Establish the triangle and the problem is two-thirds solved.”

My lists contain a bit more than three things but his reasoning (as demonstrated by my Auntie) holds true. Simply organizing your thoughts by making a physical list eliminates the heavy lifting in your day to day life. Instead of stopping to think of what you’ve already accomplished as you work out what else you need to do, it’s already there in front of you. Just pick something else from your list and get to work. At the end of the day you have physical proof that you accomplished something.

Lists don’t have to be fancy to be effective. You can jot them down on the back of an envelope, make a list in your daily journal, or use an app designed for that purpose.

I’ve personally learned that simpler is better. I keep a cheap notebook on my kitchen table for mine. When I sit down for my first cup of coffee, I turn to a fresh page and start writing. If I accomplish something that I didn’t think to put on the list, I write it down and mark it off. If I think of something that I need to accomplish at some point in the future, I jot it down on the side as a reminder.

When I complete something I like to take a moment, sit down, and relish the fact that I got one more thing accomplished that day. It sounds silly but that little moment of reflection means a lot. It reminds me that, instead of wasting my time, that I’ve actually managed to accomplish something. It makes a bad day better when you can go to bed knowing that you accomplished something. Here is a video that explains it better than I can.

Do you make lists? If not, why not give it a try? If you find that it helps you, please consider sharing this post with your friends. Thank you. Thank you

A Rule About Gifts

Published / by Annie

I don’t buy many gifts. However, if I am out and happen to see something that reminds me of someone that I care about I get it for them when money allows.

The other day I managed to hitch a ride with a coworker for the rare treat of shopping in a neighboring town. It had been years since I had enjoyed the pleasure so I savored the ability to pick out several gifts for loved ones. I got some things for my daughter Katie, my grandson, and my very first granddaughter who is due to arrive in the next few weeks.

One item in particular made me smile when I stumbled across it. It reminded me of something that a friend and I would do back when we were kids. I snagged the item along with something else that I thought would give her pleasure to use in her home.

With a toss of her head and a wave of her hand she refused to even examine the items.

“I’m not into stuff like that,” she sniffed.

I was hurt. While she thanked me offhand for thinking of her I was still floored. I had cared enough to carefully select items that she would enjoy and that were useful. While I didn’t expect her to keep the items forever (they were designed to be used and then discarded), I was hurt that she refused to even give them more than a cursory glance.

I have a rule for people who do things like that. I neither buy nor accept gifts from them again. I’ve had this rule for many years. It eliminates having to worry about whether or not the person will actually accept my offerings as well as the pain of rejection should they refuse, while also preventing any disparity that would arise from unbalanced gift-giving.

Before this event occurred I had been saving money towards a rather expensive item that I knew my friend needed. Since I now know that my friend has a tendency to refuse gifts outright I have shelved my plans. The money will be added to my computer fund.

Do you have a rule concerning gifts to other people? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Magic Bullet

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Magic Bullet

The other day my daughter saved one of those Magic Bullet mixer kits from being tossed. She brought it home and announced that we would once again be able to make smoothies.

I had an even better idea. One of our favorite treats in the summer just happens to be milkshakes but due to the price we are rarely able to treat ourselves to one. I suggested that we go to the store and grab some ice cream so that we could make our own.

A few scoops of ice cream, some milk, and a spoonful of caramel later Katie had a delicious caramel milkshake. Some ice cream and coffee later I had a coffee-flavored milkshake. We even grabbed some inexpensive whipped topping to put on top.

Since a half gallon of cheap ice cream costs slightly over $2 in our area, we are now able to make several large milkshakes for half the price as a single small one in a restaurant.

We’re quite proud.

How have you saved money lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Baby Steps

Published / by Annie

Two days after my friend arrived, she had a job.

When she received her first paycheck, she rented a house.

When she received her last paycheck from her job in Michigan, she had her utilities switched on.

Now her daughter has managed to secure employment.

Just a small series of baby steps and she is well on her way to a better life. She is amazed at how easy it was to find work in this area, at how inexpensive the rent is. For the first time in many years she has hope.

I am honored to be a part of it.

She still has a ways to go, of course. We need to locate a refrigerator that she can afford, but for now we are freezing gallon jugs of water that she can use with a cooler to keep food cool. She will need to acquire furniture as well since she had lived in a hotel for several years but bit by bit we’ll get it sorted.

As I tell her when she thinks the hurdles are insurmountable, I started here with even less.

So no matter where you are right now, I want you to know that if you are willing to work toward your goals, you can achieve anything. I’ve done it, my friend is doing it, and you can as well.

I have faith.

A New Gadget

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I am not a fan of single purpose gadgets. In my opinion, it is better in most cases to spend a little more money for a device that will serve many purposes than to have a collection of single-purpose devices laying about.

However, there are times when a single purpose device makes sense. For instance, it can be prohibitively expensive to purchase and repair a combination washing machine/dryer for your clothes. By investing in the single purpose washing machines and dryers, you will save money in the long run on repairs alone.

That said, there was one single purpose device that I told myself that I would never buy. I saw no point in purchasing a Kindle ebook reader since I could read the ebooks I purchased on my computer, my iPad mini, or a number of other devices. Unfortunately, since my injury I have a problem with backlit screens. While I can use them for short periods of time if I dim the screen, reading on a backlit device for long periods of time is entirely out of the question.

My friend’s daughter (technically my God-Daughter) loaned me her Kindle paperwhite as a test. When it ended up being a game changer I saved up the money and invested in a Kindle of my own. As a result I am now able to read my significant library of books in comfort again.

Part of me feels guilty about buying the Kindle. To ease the pain of my purchase, I went with the cheapest Kindle they had, complete with ads (as much as I hate them). Right now I could not justify spending an extra $20 to avoid them.

For the record, I am extremely grateful to be able to read my ebooks again.

What was the last single purpose item you purchased and why? Please share your story in the comments below.

Moving On

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on Moving On

Going back to work has been a surprising success. While I still have my issues I have discovered that I am able to cope for the most part and bury my secret breakdowns in my pillow at night. Even now I am worried that I will be discovered as a fraud and a brain damaged failure.

Even so, during the day I am still working towards my goals. Bit by bit I am catching up on my rent but in a way that allows me to have a little money to spare for other projects. I’ve been broke for far too long so I have to cut myself a bit of slack in the finance department.

For the record, I’ve officially written off the past two years as a wash. I learned the hard way that there is no real safety net in the United States for those who truly need it. Because of that, I intend to continue building my own safety net through my writing. Unlike the government programs that promise to be there, my book royalties are an income source that I know I can count on. It may not be a fortune, but at least it is real.

While I could probably fight and receive some money for the past two years I would rather spend my time recovering and planning for the future instead of chasing some pie-in-the-sky dream. I would rather do the simplest work than sit on my butt crying ‘woe is me’ to collect a check. I don’t need a lot of money to live here so if I continue to work towards my goals I should be just fine.

I hope so, at any rate.

Have you ever had to make a similar decision? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Recharging

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Recharging

Between work, volunteering at the local animal rescue, helping my friend get sorted, and the myriad other things I’ve been doing lately my batteries ran down. I felt myself growing less and less energetic as the days wore on.

When the kid woke me up on my day off to spend time with me before she went to work and I found myself still feeling exhausted, I decided that it was time to recharge. As soon as she left I locked my door and went back to bed.

I turned off the ringer on Google Hangouts so I wouldn’t be disturbed by phone calls. I muted all notifications from everyone. I ignored the things around the house that needed to be done in favor of giving myself what I needed: rest.

I spent the day sleeping. When I wasn’t asleep, I stayed in bed and read a book. I turned on some music during one trip to the bathroom but other than that I didn’t touch my computer. I didn’t even bother to answer the door when people came knocking.

I feel a lot more rested this morning as a result. True, the house didn’t get tidied and my friends are wondering why the heck I dropped off the face of the earth for a day but that’s okay. I needed time for me, and I took it.

This is minimalism at its finest. Reducing or eliminating the unimportant to make space for what you truly need. As a result of my impromptu vacation from Life, I’ve had the energy this morning to work up several blog posts and take care of some other writing duties that I had started to fall behind on.

Life has a way of sweeping us along with requests and obligations for our time that can overwhelm us before we realize what is happening. If we’re not careful the day will come when we wake up, not because we want to, but because we have so many things we need to do for other people.

Every so often, we need to take some time to recharge. Turn off the phone, disconnect the Internet, curl up with a good book, or just sleep. Ignore the door when somebody knocks. Unless it happens to be Emergency Services (you can always peek out your window and check), everything else can wait until tomorrow.

When was the last time you took time to recharge? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A Quiet Solution

Published / by Annie / 4 Comments on A Quiet Solution

My friend and her family (I mentioned them in an earlier post) have finally moved down from Michigan. Until they find a place they are camped out in my tiny house. As a result, privacy is virtually impossible to come by at home and the quiet time I need in order to write is completely nonexistent.

I could gripe and complain but I see no point. I knew that things would be challenging from the moment my friend expressed an interest in moving back to Kentucky. As a result, I decided to get creative.

On the days I am not working at my day job I load up my two laptops and take a walk to the local library. I fire up my 11 year old XP laptop, work up my posts and other writings, then transfer them to my Linux laptop and upload them when I’m done.

It sounds like a lot of work but it is worth it. I have everything set up on the XP in order for me to write comfortably without distractions and have absolutely no desire to use a more modern computer that will go online.

The librarian looks at me askance when I arrive with my big bag of gear but leaves me alone otherwise. I honestly couldn’t care less if she does think I’m rather strange. I am solving a problem with a minimum of fuss and that is all that matters.

How have you gotten creative to solve a problem recently? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Maintaining Balance

Published / by Annie / 5 Comments on Maintaining Balance

Back to school season is always a bit hectic around here. A local church hosts a free yard sale that is packed with donations and yard sale discards that would normally end up in the trash while the local clothing closet has a yard sale where you can purchase bags filled with the clothing of your choice for a dollar apiece.

Along with that we have to go to school registration day and make the trip to WalMart for Katie’s and Donavon’s (my grandson’s) school supplies.

Each of these acquisition trips are accompanied with purging. When new clothes come in, old clothes go out. The ones that have been worn into rags are discarded while the items that are in good shape are bagged up and donated to the local clothing closet for them to either distribute among those who need clothing or to sell during their bag sales.

This is one way that we maintain balance in our lives. Since our space is limited, we refuse to allow our possessions to grow beyond what our house can comfortably handle.

What do you do to maintain balance?

Seven Truths About Minimalism

Published / by Annie / 2 Comments on Seven Truths About Minimalism

Modern minimalism is misunderstood by many in this modern age. It is believed that if you can’t fit all of your possessions in a backpack then you are not a minimalist. The truth about minimalism is far different.

I have practiced minimalism for close to a decade now—I didn’t even learn that I was a minimalist until several years after I began my journey. These are the truths I have learned from my experience. The true key to minimalism is to find the balance that works for you. I sincerely hope that this list helps.

  1. You can own things and still be a minimalist. The trick is to not allow yourself to become so attached to your possessions that you sacrifice your quality of life to acquire and care for your stuff.

For instance, say you decide to make a cross-country move or to travel. Instead of either discarding the desire or financing an expensive move (or storage in the event of travel) you eliminate everything but the essentials to reduce the cost and ease the burden of logistics. In the event of a disaster, you toss your essentials into a bag and bug out, leaving the rest to fate. If something happens that destroys your home, instead of mourning the loss of your possessions, you know that you have the most important things with you and just move on from the experience.

If your possessions begin to overwhelm your home, instead of spending money to rent a storage unit (or moving to a bigger home) you eliminate the excess until you get to the point where you are comfortable again.

  1. You can have children and still be a minimalist. You can even own pets if you want. While you can’t eliminate your children (and shouldn’t eliminate your pets) in the event of a move or a financial crisis, you can have these in your life and still practice the minimalist lifestyle.
  2. Extreme minimalism is not practical for the long haul. While it is a wonderful way to live while traveling and can save you a fortune in money and a bunch of headaches, if you decide to settle down in one place for a period of time minimalism can become a burden. You will end up sacrificing more time and money than if you were to stock up on certain items.

For instance, if you only purchase the minimum of personal care products (soap, shampoo, bathroom tissue, etc.) at a time, you will spend more money in the long run to keep yourself supplied. If money gets tight you might not even be able to afford these things. Therefore, buying larger containers and stocking up when items are on sale makes practical and financial sense if you are going to stay in one area for a time. Few things are more awkward than getting holes in the only two pairs of pants that you own when you can’t afford to replace them.

  1. Minimalist alternatives to certain items can be more expensive than traditional choices. Multi-function appliances and devices tend to cost significantly more to purchase, maintain, and repair then traditional items. A washer-dryer combo costs more to purchase and can be difficult to get repaired in the event of a failure than owning individual washer and dryer units. EBooks can cost more than purchasing a used copy of the physical book. Digital copies of music and movies can cost significantly more than picking up physical copies at yard sales and thrift shops. If you enjoy owning the books that you read, the movies you watch, or the music you listen to, you can save a significant amount of money by purchasing used physical copies over purchasing the digital editions in many cases.
  2. Extreme minimalism over time can become uncomfortable. It is nice to have a bit of variety in your wardrobe or to have a comfortable bed to sleep in. A simple table and chairs can work wonders for the comfort level of your houseguests. While you don’t need near as much as society wants you to believe, a certain amount of possessions can make life much more pleasant. It is nice to have a refrigerator to store cold items. It is wonderful to own a hotplate or some other way to prepare food. It is incredibly convenient to have the ability to toss things into a washing machine instead of having to arrange a trip to the Laundromat. If you live out in the country, lack of transportation can turn a pleasurable experience into a nightmare, and trying to read for long periods of time on a computer, tablet, or similar backlit device can put excessive strain on your eyes and cause headaches.
  3. Long term minimalism is best accomplished by baby steps. Drastic changes have a habit of backfiring into regret. It is best to start small by thinning out one area at a time to eliminate the obvious excess. Continue this procedure until you reach your personal level of enough.
  4. Everyone’s version of minimalism is different. We each have our own set of preferences and habits that will affect the choices we make in our possessions. For instance, I don’t like television so I don’t own one but I do have an assortment of older laptops that I use daily. Someone else may prefer watching television or playing games on a television but have no desire to own a computer. Instead of a collection of computers, they might own a television and a variety of game systems or media players. Neither choice is wrong if they fit the lifestyle of the person in question.

If you are thinking about pursuing the minimalist lifestyle, consider these facts before you do anything drastic. They may mean the difference between enjoying a better life of being miserable from what becomes a failed experiment.

A Word on Coping

Published / by Annie / 1 Comment on A Word on Coping

There was a study done about drug addiction a few years back. Scientists took two rats. One was placed in a basic cage with no mental stimulation, while the other was placed in “rat heaven,” a cage filled with mazes and other things that the rat could use to keep occupied. Each rat had two water bottles. One bottle contained plain water while the other bottle contained water laced with a common street drug.

Both rats sampled the two water bottles but the scientists noticed a distinct difference between the two. While the rat that was in the basic cage used the drug-laced water bottle semi-constantly, the other rat, the one that had other things to occupy it, preferred the bottle that contained plain water.

This difference helped the scientists to conclude that one of the reasons that drug addiction is so prevalent is because people either don’t have enough to keep them occupied or they lack hope for a better life.

When life is a constant struggle, when we see people on television or in certain neighborhoods, or even in our own extended families who have so much more than we do, it is easy to get frustrated and give up. Instead of fighting to improve our lives we focus on methods of escape, be they drugs, alcohol, or fantasies. We get to the point of “well, my life isn’t going to get any better so why bother? This helps me cope so I’m going to use it.”

After a while we become so attached to our coping mechanisms that we fail to even try to improve our lives any more. Once that happens we have a reason to use our escape mechanism even more in a vicious cycle that never really ends.

I’ve dealt with this vicious cycle many times in my life. As a child, I didn’t think that I would ever manage to escape the drama of my alcoholic parents where in reality all I had to do was wait until I was a legal adult and move out. As an adult trapped in an abusive marriage, I became addicted to fantasy since my reality was so miserable that there were times when I didn’t work to escape my marriage and pursue a better life.

And now, in this current challenge, there are times I want to sit on my butt, whine, cry, and say that “I can’t” continue to fight this damn disease in my head and continue to function as a normal adult. I want to escape into a fantasyland where I am hale and hearty. I want to forget the fact that I can’t do everything I want to do.

But you know what? I’m not going to allow myself to do any of that. I know from experience, from watching my parents before me, that if I allow myself to start down that path that I won’t have a chance in hell of beating this. Even worse, I will have to give up the hope that some way, somehow, my struggles will inspire others to keep fighting.

It doesn’t matter what you are facing. It could be something physical like an illness or an injury. It could be financial like a job loss. It could be something personal like an abusive relationship, a divorce, or your kids growing up and leaving the nest. Whatever it is, if you lose hope, if you allow yourself to give up, if you choose to try to escape your current reality and instead pursue something that makes you feel better, you won’t ever be able to overcome whatever it is that you need to overcome.

In other words, no matter what your current challenge may be, you need to get off your ass and do something about it. If you need to earn money, figure out a way to earn money. If you suffer from a disability, figure out workarounds for that disability. If you are in an abusive relationship, figure out how to get away or end the abuse somehow. Do not allow your challenges to define you. Rise above them and keep fighting until you kick them to the curb.

You can do this. It won’t be easy. Some days you might want to hide beneath the covers and cry. You might try and fail, then try and fail again, but as long as you are trying you are making progress, if only figuring out the things that won’t work. It took Edison hundreds of tries to figure out how to design the light bulb. When asked about his numerous failures he said that he hadn’t failed, he had just figured out XXX amount of ways that wouldn’t work.

We need to apply that to our own lives.

So no matter how many times you have tried and failed, remember that if you keep trying a solution will eventually appear. Keep that hope in your sights and never allow yourself to forget what you are fighting for. Remember, every sacrifice you make in order to achieve your goals is for a reason.

And never, ever give up.

What keeps you going? Please share your stories in the comments below.