How to Spend Less Money

How to spend less money with one simple step.

Prices are getting kinda high these days, and the signs are such that this frugalista is paying attention.

It’s time to cut our spending, folks. We need to tighten our financial belts in order to hedge our bets as we move forward.

There is a lot of financial advice about how to do that. Eat out less, buy this or that, even don’t buy this or that.

Remember the latte and avocado toast advice?

Yeah, me too.

But you don’t really have to deprive yourself if you want to save money. The key to conservation is to become aware of your spending.

It’s so easy to spend money. When we swipe a piece of plastic to pay for everything, it doesn’t even feel real.

It does when we pay for it, though, doesn’t it?

How to Start Spending Less Money

Take a small notebook, one small enough to keep with you. While you can use your phone, I find that the ritual of writing adds to the effect.

Whenever you buy something, write it down in that notebook. Create a code for needs, wants, etc. Then, at the end of each week, tally up how much you’ve spent in each category.

Don’t worry about spending less. Just make it a point to write down every penny you spend.

That’s it.

In time you will find yourself not buying things because you don’t feel like pulling out your notebook. You will also look at how much you’ve already spent and decide that you’d rather not spend any more.

Sometimes you may even want to spend more by buying in bulk.

And sometimes you will make it a game to see how long you can go without spending money.

Anything goes. There is no right and wrong way. The key here is to become more aware of the purchases you do make; logging each purchase not only does that, it gives you a moment to ask yourself “do I really need this?”

So if you want to save money, start by carrying a tiny little notebook.

Your wallet will thank you.

Do you know any other quick money-saving tips? Please share them in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Signs of the Times

Watching your neighborhood can tell you more than the news these days. What does your neighborhood tell you?

My sleepy little town is typically unaffected by what happens in many parts of the US. Around here, things change slowly, so when they change, I know to pay attention.

When times are good, the rental houses around me stand empty. No one wants to rent a ratty old house from a slum lord when they can afford not to.

When I see these houses stuffed to the brim with families far too large for the space they’ve rented, I know that the economy is on a downswing.

This also applies to the river that runs near my house. There is a sheltered spot where the homeless squat during times of trouble. It is rare that anyone stays there for long; our community has a big heart. I’ve seen homeless people just passing through given apartments, clothing, food, and all of the necessities needed to help them recover their footing. The homeless get help in my town, real help. It is offered before they even have to ask.

So when there is life at the homeless camp, I always pay attention.

Both situations are happening simultaneously in my little area. Single mothers have crammed their children into tiny spaces, leaving them to roam free while they work to pay their bills. That’s what happens when people can’t afford childcare. Desperate parents have no choice.

The children in these homes have decided that I’m someone that they can talk to. They greet me as I step out of my car after work, telling me about their day and always knock on my door around my bedtime for one last hug before I go to sleep.

They were the ones who spotted the newest inhabitants by the river.

Another gentleman has placed a travel trailer on a spot of land that has been empty for over a decade. He runs a generator for electric. I’m not sure what he does for water. All I know is that he’s not bothering anyone so I hope that the city leaves him alone. He’s not exactly living “legal” based upon the rules in this town.

But my town is the canary in the coal mine. When people struggle here, there is something seriously wrong out in the world.

Because my town rarely changes.

I’ve had fun since my youngest left the nest. I’ve been indulging in things I’ve never really allowed myself to indulge in since becoming a parent. It’s been fun allowing myself to upgrade the things around me.

But I see the signs, signs that something serious is amiss in the world. This isn’t some news agency playing up a situation to get more attention. This is the reality of the people around me.

So while I am doing well financially, I see the signs that warn me to prepare.

It is time to tighten my financial belt to better ride out the coming storm.

In times past I’ve always focused upon my recurring expenses. Keep them low, and I can enjoy myself with the excess.

But I’ve never before seen three events like these occur simultaneously.

So this time I plan to do something a little different. I plan to not only monitor my recurring expenses, but all of my purchases as well.

I may have a job at one of the highest paying factories in town (along with my book royalties), but that does not give me an excuse to be complacent. I know from experience the danger of complacency.

Have you noticed any signs in your area that give you cause for concern? If so, what have you noticed, and what do you think it means?

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

How to Save Money on the Things You Need

I love squeezing pennies. They shit the prettiest quarters when you do it right. One of the main ways I save money these days is by buying in bulk.

Most people don’t buy in bulk. They look at the list of things that they need and buy the smallest, cheapest container of each item that they can.

And every time they do that, they literally throw money away.

The other day I needed a single pound of ground beef. When I went to the store, I discovered that it would cost almost $5 to buy that single pound of meat.

A 10-pound package costs $29.25, so guess what? I bought 10 pounds of ground beef that day.

You see, by paying $30 for 10 pounds of ground beef, I saved $20. How? I saved $20 because I know that, in time, I will use 10 pounds of ground beef. If I had just bought a pound whenever I needed it, I would have spent $50 for the same amount of meat, so by buying the larger pack, taking it home, and freezing it in 1 pound packages I saved money.

When you buy things in bulk that you use, you do have to spend more money upfront, but the savings is worth it. I spent 40% less on ground beef than I would have normally, for instance.

It’s the equivalent of receiving a 40% return on your money, in investment terms.

The next time you’re out shopping, look to see what items you can buy in bulk to save money.

It will save you a fortune.

If you want to know more about saving money, check out my book The Shoestring Girl. Within that book I share the variety of ways I saved money in order to become a stay at home single mother while raising my kids.

Given the way prices are rising, you may need all of the help you can get.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Phase Two, Engage!

It‘s been over a year since Katie left the nest. I’ve used the time to not only come to terms with the fact that I’ve entered into another stage of this adventure called Life, but to figure out what I wanted to do next.

I’m not about to just rest upon my laurels, after all. That’s not the stuff that I am made of.

The first thing I did was take complete stock of my circumstances. I’ve come a long way! I’ve more than tripled my income since 2019. I’ve gained a bedroom and a bed which feels heavenly whenever it is time to sleep, along with some other items to increase my comfort level.

Quietly, I began to make plans. I didn’t speak of these plans, not even to you. Instead, I considered my options and formed a basic game plan while I engaged in the mindless tasks at my job.

Yet I did form a plan. To start, I knew that I not only needed reliable transportation, but I also needed to increase my credit score as well. This will allow me to take the steps needed to build my wealth even further as I move forward. I invested in a new car to accomplish that.

Once that was sorted, I crafted an office area in a private spot, invested in some books to build both skills and knowledge, and got to work.

I wrote in a post several years back that, after spending my life exploring frugality and life on less to achieve the goal of being a stay at home single mother, that I wanted to explore the other end of the spectrum, a life where frugality is a choice and not a necessity. I want to see how far I can go now that my maternal obligations have been discharged.

The basic preparation phase is complete. I have launched the next phase.

Forgive me for not sharing too much of my goal. While I’ve discussed it in the past (many of you should be able to work it out), I want to hold it close for a bit longer while I position myself to make this goal a reality. I will share more as I get closer.

For now, I am exploring options for long-term employment at a simple, yet less physically intensive, position. I’m not sure what the results will be, but the income from a public job will allow me to maximize my savings for a major purchase that I am planning. While I could do it without working a public job due to my royalties and investment income, the journey would take longer. I can reduce the time span by working a public job as well as pay into Social Security for my eventual retirement. I’m not sure if Social Security will exist by that time but I’m willing to take a chance.

At the moment I am taking advantage of the weather in my area. With the use of creative ventilation combined with some fans, I hope to keep my electric bill low for a few months in order to maximize the money I can squirrel away. I want to have as much down payment as possible in order to minimize my monthly payment when the time comes.

I’ve also began to teach myself how to cook. Every meal I can prepare at home is more money saved. It will also be far healthier than I could get at a restaurant. It will also give me creative food ideas as we continue to have shortages of one thing or another.

One of my investments has been an Instant Pot. It allows me to pressure cook cheaper cuts of meat to my desired tenderness while saving time. Given the price of meat these days, it has already paid for itself in the short time I’ve had it.

I have also began to rework my yard a bit. I wanted to pull my car off of the street to reduce the risk of it being hit, since I live on a narrow street. This will also allow me to avoid being snowed in; the snowplow drivers seem determined to plow anyone in who parks on the street in winter. I’ve had to miss work in the past or call for a ride after discovering that they’d blocked me in with piles of snow.

I removed a piece of fence so that I can save money in another way: washing my car at home. Commercial car washes are not cheap; I’ve no desire to give them money if I can avoid it. I’d rather stick the savings back to get closer to my goal.

While I will continue to invest in books, I have set a limit upon my purchases. I tend to buy several at a time based upon subject, so instead of running the risk of buying a mountain of books that I never get around to I refuse to order more until the current round is completely finished.

Every penny I can conserve will take me closer to my goal. My challenge is to maintain a higher standard of living than I allowed myself to enjoy in years previous.

I will keep you posted on my progress as I move forward. So far, my simple efforts have taken me $2,000 closer to my goal. I’m curious to see how well I do.

What goal are you currently working on? What stage are you at? Please share your stories in the comments below.

How I Gave Myself 10 Hours a Day to Learn and Study

When you work a full time job, carving out study time to learn something new can be a challenge, especially if you have children at home.

Sometimes, just thinking “where will I find the time?” can be enough to make you quit before you get started.

I’ve been there in the past. I find myself in that situation yet again after making the decision to deepen my knowledge. I decided to not only purchase several books, I also took advantage of a sale on Udemy to invest in some classes.

I had a bit of a moment at this point. I work 10 hours a day at the factory; aside from quitting my job and resuming life on my royalties, how in the world would I pull this off?

I don’t want to quit my job, however. I actually like my job. It gives me the interaction I need with the outside world that helps keep me sane. As long-term readers know, I tend to go a bit bonkers when I hang out at home for too long. I also like the fact that this job allows me to stick my book royalties straight into savings; this increases my future income should something happen that causes me to rethink things. Even more important to me, the money I earn brings me closer to my goal.

Since I didn’t want to quit my job, I needed to get creative. While I have two or three days a week that I can study (depending upon my schedule), I also need to clean my house and do any shopping. I may not shop as much as a lot of people, but I do need to buy food on occasion.

This is how I solved the problem and carved out 10 hours a day to study. You can use this method to carve out time for any project.

Unlearn

The first thing you need to do when you need to carve out time in your life is to forget everything you think you know about time management. There is a lot of confusing information out there, and most of it is contradictory.

Most of us lead unique lives, so our solutions need to be as unique as we are. Our goal is to improve our lives, not force our square pegs into round holes, after all.

When it comes to learning, we have all been taught from an early age that the only way to learn something new is to apply our butt to the chair and crack open a book.

The world has changed so much, however, that this no longer applies. While it is an effective way to learn, most of us don’t have enough free time to even think about sitting down!

Analyze Your Environment

Take a few days to analyze not only your environment, but your habits.

  • Do you wake up a few hours before you have to leave for your job?
  • Do you have a long commute?
  • Does your job have those “hurry up and wait” moments?
  • How long are your breaks at work?
  • Are you able to hide in your bathroom (at home) for some peace and quiet? (Moms, I’m looking at you!)
  • Can you carry any study materials around like a book or even a phone?
  • Are you allowed to listen to music with headphones or watch videos at some point during your workday?
  • SAHMs, do your kids still take naps?
  • Do you watch television, play video games, or scroll social media before/during/after your shift?

Don’t rush this process. Just go through your normal day while taking mental notes of any potential opportunities to study. Chances are, some ideas will come to you right away, but it may take a week or longer to notice an opportunity. Just keep your mind open; you may not be able to locate time to read, but you may be able to watch a quick video or listen to a lecture or podcast. Or you may be able to read ebooks or other digital materials in short spurts on your phone.

Remember, there are many different ways to learn these days. You have books, lectures, podcasts, videos…I’m certain that there are other ways to learn that I haven’t even thought of, ways that you can learn or even practice what you are learning during your day. By the way, do you know of any learning method I’ve missed? If you do, give me a shoutout in the comments below, thanks!

Devise Your Learning Plan

Did you see an opportunity where you could pull out your phone or a book and read a bit? Perhaps you’re allowed to listen to music while you work? Maybe you can wake up a few minutes earlier, or hide in the bathroom longer.

Even the smallest bits of time can be used to learn. Years ago when I decided to take a computer repair course and launch my repair business, I realized that I could read before I clocked in and on my break. It wasn’t much, but it was something! My coworkers teased me until they discovered that I’d actually leveraged the knowledge I’d gained in those studies to build a small but profitable business.

Prepare to Launch

If you discover that you have small pieces of time in which to read, prepare by either placing a book in your bag or loading an ebook on your phone. Test it; few things are more annoying than sitting down to read and not being able to open the book!

If you’re able to watch short videos, test to confirm that you can watch them. Some places don’t have quality cellphone signals; if that’s your situation, download some relevant videos to your phone.

If you are able to listen to music, download some lectures, audiobooks, videos, or podcasts to your phone in preparation. While you may not be able to sit down and watch a video, many are designed to allow you to receive the knowledge while just listening instead of actively watching the videos.

As for me, I now listen to audiobooks and related materials while I work each day. I mix it up with some music for variety, but I’ve now gained study time while on the clock at my job…with no one being the wiser except for you! Shh! Don’t tell on me! 🤫

Have you ever done anything creative in your quest to improve your life? Please share your stories in the comments below.

A New Journey?

It is time for me to turn down a glass. I have survived my very first year without my beloved Katie. I have not only survived, I have made some massive changes to my world, changes that have reaped some interesting dividends.

This year was a year for me to cut loose and have fun. I hit the ground running. I gave myself a bedroom, the first proper bedroom I’ve had in over a decade. I even gave myself permission to spend money, and boy did I spend it! I made sure to save 10% of each paycheck (plus all of my book royalties), but other than that, I allowed myself the freedom to do what I wanted.

I had a bit of a panic over that not too long ago but then I realized that I’d not really wasted much money. Instead, I’d acquired things that not only made life more comfortable, but would last for quite a while. I even acquired a few things that have helped me save some money. The air conditioner, heaters, electric blanket, and electric throw have all helped to lower my utility expenses. The car increased my monthly spending (due to the payment), but it allows me to travel to work in bad weather without fear and even allows me to visit my beloved aunt on occasion.

I never imagined that I would be thankful for having a car payment, but I am. It feels incredibly luxurious to be able to hop to a neighboring town if I need something immediately that I cannot acquire locally, and it feels like heaven to be able to make the drive to visit my aunt. I even got to spend Thanksgiving with her and my cousin due to that car.

I am immensely grateful for that.

One of my goals this past year was to increase my income. I managed that in spades. Now, instead of living on the shoestring budget of $500 a month, I bring home close to $3k. My mind boggles at the change.

In order to increase my income I took a job at a local factory. I ended up in a position that is rather mindless. I spend 10 hours a day painting latex onto a mold before I rotate it through an oven. That position has given me time to think.

What do I want to do next? I began to ask myself. Did I really want to spend the remainder of my working years standing on a hamster wheel? My life had fallen into a routine. I work 4-5 days a week, 10 hours a day. My weekends were spent cleaning my home, watching television, and chatting with family and friends. It’s a good life, a simple life. I enjoy it, but do I really want to spend the next decade or so this way?

I don’t want to retire. I’ve realized that, while pleasant in spurts, that I make myself a bit insane when I take time off to stay at home. I need to have that excuse to get out of the house, if only to provide social interaction. I could retire, even now that I have the car payment. I can afford to do so, but the fact is that I don’t want to. Sometimes getting what you think you want helps you to understand that you didn’t really want it as bad as you thought. I’ve realized that when it comes to retirement.

I need a purpose in my life, or what’s the point in living?

The beauty in my mindless job is that it gives me plenty of time to think about that, to ask myself the important questions while getting paid in the process.

I’ve realized that, if I continue on my current path, that I will simply become a mindless consumer. I will work, then I will spend my weekends decompressing with the latest movie or fad, shifting about on a path that will take me absolutely nowhere. While I see nothing wrong with that, it’s not what I want for my life. I’ve spent my life learning, growing, and experimenting. To stop…well, I don’t want to stop.

I want to do something new.

I don’t want to go back to extreme frugality. That’s served its purpose for me. It allowed me to be a stay-at-home single mother, and for that I will always be grateful. I’ve no real desire to write, however. After spending more than a decade knocking out books, blog posts, and articles in order to pay the bills I find myself burned out. I rarely even journal anymore. I find it a chore just to jot down a few sentences to summarize my day in my journal.

So now what?

I would like to increase my income a bit more. I love the security of having money in the bank, of being able to buy what I want, when I want, without fear. I love being able to replace an item immediately when it dies instead of having to budget. I love discovering an item on sale that I want and being able to take advantage of the cost savings. I like being able to buy things that make life better.

I want more of that, but I know that, if I remain where I’m at, that while my income will increase with raises over time, that there is only so far that I’ll be able to go. I also know that in time, the mindlessness of my current job will make me crazy, so I asked myself what I could do about the situation.

I’m too burned out to write. I’ve no real desire to hop from factory job to factory job in order to increase my pay. If I’m to work in a factory, I’ll remain where I’m at because the work is easy and management is good to me.

I came up blank. Perhaps I’ve spent too many years focused upon being a mom, but I could not think of anything else I could do that would not only provide something to occupy my mind, but have the potential of increasing my income over time.

Eventually I turned that question on its head and asked myself what would I do if I could do anything and money were not an object?

That question yielded instant results. As a child, I had two major passions. I loved to write, and I loved playing with computers. I was the child who could happily spend entire days in her room either writing stories or exploring the capabilities of her computer. As an adult, I even went to school for computer repair and ran a service/repair business for many years. Even now I take on the occasional client just for kicks.

I may be burned out on writing, but there are areas of study in the computer field where I’ve barely scratched the surface despite my curiosity due to money and time constraints.

I can make money in the computer field, but even when I don’t make a penny, I still have fun.

So I did a thing. I gave myself permission to delve as deep into computers as I desire. Even if I don’t use the skills to increase my income, I’ll be keeping my mind active and having fun in the process.

It would certainly beat spending my weekends holding the couch down as I watch my latest show.

I thought long and hard as I painted those molds. At my age, the odds of eventually acquiring a job in the field may be slim. The skills would increase my chances of employment in other fields, however, and even if it didn’t I knew I would have fun. It would definitely give me something to look forward to on weekends!

I decided to give myself a good review of the field, in order to ensure that my basic knowledge was current before I proceeded. I invested in a few books and began reading them at night and on weekends. Come spring I would treat myself to something I’ve not treated myself to in ages, a brand-new computer (not used, not refurbished), but a brand-new system that would make my inner geek scream with delight. I would acquire that computer and just play.

Excited at the thought, I began to price my dream machine. Due to space considerations, I settled upon a laptop, a gaming laptop because those are the ones that make me drool. I discovered that it would cost about $2,500 to acquire the machine I wanted to acquire, but since I was planning to use my income tax refund to pay for it (and I’ve already acquired everything else I want), I could afford the splurge.

A friend of mine had decided to invest in a newer system, so while helping him select a computer that would meet his needs, I checked out the sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To my surprise, I found a laptop that ticked my boxes on sale for $1,400.

I had the money. Even with spending what seems to me an insane amount of money over this past year, I continue to spend quite a bit less than I earn so I had more than enough to make the purchase. I bought it along with a fresh round of books since I’d almost finished the review round I’d purchased earlier this year.

That purchase flipped a switch in my brain. I feel alive again. I couldn’t wait to finish my shift and come home the day it arrived, and I stayed up way too late getting it configured. I delved into the books and began experimenting.

Finally, after a year of hiatus from thinking and planning and struggling, I have a new journey to embark upon, and I am going to have fun with this. I plan to acquire some certifications as I move forward. While I don’t know if I will ever use them to gain employment, they will serve as personal markers of my skill, but at least one of the certifications may improve my odds of acquiring a job I can do from home if I ever get burned out at the factory or a shift in the economy sends me job hunting.

So life is good, and I’ve a new journey to pursue. While in some ways it’s a continuation of a journey I began long ago, this feels like a fresh start all the same.

It’s so easy to get caught in a rut, to do the same things you’ve always done and think the same things you’ve always thought. Mixing it up, allowing yourself to do something that you’ve previously not allowed to do can be good for the soul. Even if you decide that the path you’ve started isn’t for you, you’ve still learned something about yourself.

What do you plan to do with the coming year? Do you plan to start a new adventure? Please share your stories in the comments below.

BTW, I finally finished the adventure of acquiring a new smile. What do you think of the new look?

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Winter Arrangements

This year has been one immense roller coaster ride. Just one year ago, a few weeks from now, I made the decision to remake the world around me.

I realized that the world I’d created for myself no longer suited the person I was becoming. The last reason for the life I’d chosen was leaving. It was as if I was dying.

Did I want to “die,” to just fade away into that dark night, or did I want to embark upon another adventure?

The thing about life is that it’s about change. People change. Times change. It’s the ones that remain static, who hold onto the past with clenched fists that grow old and cold and miserable.

My life was changing. I decided to roll with those changes by exploring an aspect of myself that I’d never allowed myself to explore.

I decided to give myself permission to spoil myself, and to have fun while I was doing it.

This past spring it occurred to me that if I invested in a large enough air conditioner, that I would save money in the long run. I could cool my home with a single unit instead of the two air conditioners I owned. I bought one on sale and, sure enough, it did. That air conditioner paid for itself in a single summer season through lower energy bills.

But winter is coming, and winter is when my energy bills are the highest. I had shaved over $50 a month off of my energy bills by investing in a new air conditioner. Could I do something similar with my heating?

I looked around and discovered that there are portable quartz heaters that are rated to heat a space of up to 1,800 square foot. My house is only 500 square feet. They were still on sale due to summer, so I decided to buy one as an experiment. If anything, it will allow me to delay turning on my baseboard heaters. Since those heaters jump my electric bill $100 or more a month every winter season, I decided that it was worth a test.

The heater I purchased.

The heater arrived. I rearranged my living room so that I could place it in a spot where the air would blow towards my kitchen and bedroom. I will let you know what happens when the bills begin to arrive.

View from the front door.
View from the kitchen.
It looks so tranquil!

Have I shown you what my bedroom looks like? I can’t remember so while I’m sharing a photo of the newly rearranged living room, I’m including a photo of my bedroom as well.

I acquired my dream bed.
Another angle of my bedroom.
My bedroom at night. I feel like a Queen when I go to bed now!
The shelf behind the door.

It’s amazing to think that my home has changed so much. Here is an old photo for comparison.

Living room, 2018. The kid had the bedroom so no photos of that, I’m afraid.
Another angle of my living room/bedroom area.

Over all, the changes are immensely positive. Not only does my home suit the person I’m becoming better, I feel happier when I’m at home.

Have you ever decided to remake your world? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Art of Evolution

When the economy tanked in 2009, I found myself laid off with bills to pay and a child to support.

Instead of becoming bitter at the fact that the world was changing, I evolved instead.

I threw all of my energy into a free blog I’d created to toy with, mastered the fledgling online-publishing field, then I wrote and published my very first book.

When it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to afford to continue living in the house I rented, instead of fighting the inevitable I evolved again. I cast about for cheaper housing, traded for an older mobile home, and settled into a life where I would continue to evolve for some time.

I realized that, by helping others help themselves, that I could help myself achieve my goal of being a stay-at-home single mother. To better facilitate the process, I shifted my spending patterns, cutting my expenses down to a level I’d not anticipated.

I didn’t do it all at once; the evolution from Average American to Minimalist Frugalista was a slow process. I evolved by making one small, single change, allowing myself to grow comfortable with that change, then moving on to the next item of transformation.

By evolving, I turned a situation that was considered disastrous by many into an opportunity to achieve a dream. I thrived where many struggled simply because I adapted to the situation.

We are now facing a similar era of change. Covid has upended our daily lives. People are dropping dead around us. Employers are severely understaffed, and childcare is not only dangerous, it’s prohibitively expensive if you have access to it.

If you attempt to maintain your status quo, the chances are high that it won’t work out so well. But if you allow yourself to roll with the changes, to evolve, then you can come out on top of the situation.

Remember:

How can you evolve to better prepare for the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Power of Programming

One day each week I take some time to decompress. I plop down on the couch, turn on a relaxing YouTube video for background music, and I just think.

My thoughts tend to be rather random, but this week my eyes strayed around my living room. I looked at my home in amazement. In less than a year, this place has been completely transformed. I went from sleeping on the floor, using a tiny gifted television and a host of thrifted and gifted items to owning a brand new, large screen television, a new futon, and other items. With the exception of the coffee table that has been in my life since childhood, many items around me are new and have been purchased by me, for me.

I have a bedroom now. I not only have a bedroom, I have a beautiful canopy bed and other items that give me so much pleasure every single time I lay down to sleep at night. When I wake up, I take a moment to revel in how luxurious I feel.

I even own a brand new car. I could barely imagine owning a car a year ago today, much less a brand new one.

How did I do this? I asked myself in wonder as I looked around. How did I go from living on so little to the life I live today?

I realized that the changes in my life began after I gave myself permission to spend money on things that I enjoy. It wasn’t until I knew that my youngest daughter was moving out that I’d felt safe enough to actually spend money on me.

Why?

I journeyed back in time. When I was a child, my parents had more than enough money during my early years. It wasn’t until after my father lost his leg that we began to struggle financially. Before that, I didn’t even realize that money was a thing. We’d owned apartment buildings, a newer car; we’d even owned a farm in the country.

Had that been why I was so hesitant to spend money on myself?

While that seemed like part of the answer I realized that it wasn’t the entire story. After high school I’d taken a job, bought a newer vehicle, and while I wasn’t wealthy, I had enough money to buy the things I needed–if not everything that I wanted. I routinely treated myself to road trips, meals out, and even nice clothes back then.

To be honest, back when I was in high school and shortly after, I wouldn’t have been caught out in public wearing anything less but a nice shirt or blouse, quality pants (I preferred slacks), and ballet flats. That’s a big difference compared to just a year ago today.

But I became pregnant at the age of 19. I was unmarried, and to this day I can recall the tears as I spewed hate upon myself. I was a horrible person. I was a slut. I deserved not just to die, but for horrible things to happen to me because I was a horrible person.

My life began to spiral after that. People around me fed into my self-hate by telling me that the only future I could hope for was to be a “welfare mom.” No one would want to bother with “damaged goods.”

I was nothing and I did it all to myself.

Over the years I’ve rarely looked back at that time because it was too painful, but this time I persisted. I had went from living a comfortable (if not wealthy) life to painful, struggling poverty during the course of that pregnancy.

And I didn’t truly begin to pull myself out of that until shortly before my youngest turned 18.

Oh, I had good times over the years, but even when times were really good I felt guilt every time I treated myself to something nice, to the point where I didn’t treat myself at all unless I thought that treat would benefit us financially. I bought books because they could help me learn how to improve myself. I invested in computers because through computers I made our living.

I wouldn’t even purchase new underthings unless my current ones were completely worn out, and many times I would continue to make do until the items were totally useless.

I realized that during that time of emotional duress, that time when I spewed self-hate upon myself, that I had programmed my subconscious mind to believe that I didn’t deserve to have nicer things.

Perhaps that is why, when I would fill my house with things I loved, something would always happen that turned my life to shit.

I almost didn’t buy the car because of that programming. During the negotiations, I stepped outside to look at it, and I heard that whisper in my mind:

Who am I to even think of buying a brand-new car? There are much more sensible ways to spend your money! This is stupid, frivolous…go home before you do something stupid. This isn’t you.

But I knew that it was a logical choice. It was well within my budget and met every criteria for the purchase of a vehicle that the experts lay out. The cost (even with interest and that warranty plan included) was significantly less than my annual income. The payment I’d agreed to was beneath what even the experts agreed was acceptable. It had everything I’d ever hoped for in a vehicle down to the color and I knew that it would provide not only reliable transportation moving forward, but provide me an immense amount of pleasure as it did so.

The turning point wasn’t simply logic, however. The turning point was when I asked myself why not? Why not own a brand-new vehicle, if it met my needs and desires? Why not enjoy having the ability to drive to work in a car that gave me a feeling of pride? Didn’t I deserve to treat myself to something that was not only practical, but beautiful as well?

While I have no regrets about the life I have lived, I now wonder if I deliberately denied myself nice things because I had programmed myself to believe that I didn’t deserve them.

If that is the case, are there others out there doing the same thing?

Have you ever looked at something you wanted and told yourself that you didn’t deserve it? Do you live with things around you that fail to make you happy yet you refuse to change them?

Has there ever been a point in your life where you hated yourself so much that perhaps you, too, have programmed your mind to believe that you only deserve to live so well, but no better?

If so, please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Facing The Frugality Trap

Frugality is the art of resource conservation. In the financial arena, it’s the art of reducing expenditures in areas you don’t care about so that you can allot the savings to areas of your life that you do care about.

In our society, however, once we become labeled as “frugal,” people tend to lose their minds if you spend money for anything other than the basics. Frugality is lumped together with “tightwad,” “cheapskate,” and other derogatory terms to the point where people cannot conceive of the fact that a frugal person can spend money and will willingly spend in the areas of their life that they deem important.

I’ve spent the last few decades living an extremely frugal life. My goal was to work at a physical job as little as possible in order to spend as much time as I could being a mom to my children. In order to fulfill that objective, I reduced all of my expenditures to an extreme degree. About the only thing I would allow myself to spend on was on the computers and devices that allowed me to work from home and generate enough money to meet our living expenses.

Very few people noticed that fact. I didn’t advertise it, and since I kept the items I purchased for several years it slipped beneath the radar for most of my physical acquaintances.

My life has changed now. My children are now grown so I find myself in the position where I can work away from home as much as I desire in order to attain my new goal of a comfortable retirement, or at least a comfortable life until Covid or some other thing decides to end my time in this world.

In order to achieve my goal I wanted to maintain a simple existence, minimizing the amount of mental overhead and physical clutter while having the ability to travel with a minimum of fuss wherever I wanted to go. While my town is eminently walkable, I found I did not want to invest the time it would take to walk to the type of jobs I had decided to work. I wanted the monotony and security of a factory job. It would have taken several hours out of my day to walk to and from those positions since the public transportation options available in my area are riddled with imperfections.

I needed a reliable vehicle. Before I seriously began to shop for a vehicle to meet my need, my daughter offered me her old car. She had decided not to take it with her when she moved to California and it met my immediate needs, so I accepted her offer and purchased the vehicle.

Being an older vehicle (22 years old), I knew that, in time, that car would need to go to the shop for repairs. In order to avoid walking to work, I needed to acquire a secondary vehicle as a backup.

I did not want the headache of maintaining a second vehicle. Not only do cars need to be driven regularly in order to avoid falling into disrepair from disuse, they require extra space to park them along with the myriad needs that all vehicles require.

I prefer simple.

I realized that if I invested the money in a brand new vehicle with a very good warranty plan that I could limit myself to owning a single vehicle. If I arranged for said vehicle to have a “loaner” plan, I would be able to meet all of my transportation needs without issue in the event that my vehicle needed to be in the shop overnight, an essential need since that was the problem I wanted to solve.

For months, nothing stood out. Every vehicle I investigated lacked something on my mental checklist. If I was going to spend such a large amount of money on an item that would depreciate in value, I wanted to spend that money on a vehicle that would meet all of my needs. This vehicle needed to be a hatchback (this would allow me to haul the supplies from my stock-up trips home easily along with any larger purchases). It needed to easily handle winter driving, and since this was going to be the vehicle I owned for several years, it needed to possess a myriad of safety features. I also decided that it needed to possess features designed for maximum comfort because if I was going to spend so much money on a single item, by golly I would check off as many boxes on my “ideal vehicle” wish list that I possibly could because F it; in our current age I could die tomorrow so I may as well enjoy today.

One day I came across an advertisement from Cronin Hyundai in Nicholasville, Kentucky that indicated that they may have a vehicle that met every item on my list of features. I called them, explained my needs and received confirmation that yes, they had vehicles in stock within my price range that met my specifications. By the end of that day I had purchased a Crossover SUV with an extended service plan that I can only describe as “Apple Care” for cars, a service plan that would eliminate vehicular headaches for 10 years or 100,000 miles. The way I drive, that translates into almost a decade free of having to deal with the things I would rather not deal with. While I did take on an auto payment, it is well within my budget and easily affordable on both my current and projected income for the life of the loan.

This purchase was not only logical, it eliminated a huge concern that had been weighing upon my mind. It also met my need to have some sort of long-term payment plan on my credit report in order to boost my credit score even more. I have plans to utilize that in the future, and simply paying off my credit cards every month was insufficient for my plans.

It threw my inner circle for a loop, however. In their eyes, frugal folk like myself do not invest in new vehicles. They buy old cars, drive them until they drop, then move on to the next one. While that works for many, I realized that, for me at least, I would have ended up spending more money than I would by purchasing new. It would have also endangered my employment choices for the future because attendance is key when one works at a factory. You will get fired if you are late or miss work, after all.

I almost didn’t make this purchase. Despite the fact that the vehicle met every single criteria I had set, even my personal notion of frugality protested. It had been drilled into my head that frugal people buy used vehicles. Logic won out, however. Every person that I know (including myself) that purchases a used vehicle invariably encounters that time when their vehicle requires repairs; they not only face the financial headache of paying for repairs along with their financial obligation, they struggle to get to work while their car is in the shop. Even if I had paid cash, I would have been in the same position I was in with my current vehicle, rendering the financial expenditure moot.

Due to my decision, I now find myself dealing with questions from those who cannot conceive of the fact that frugal people do indeed spend money. While my family is overjoyed at the fact that I finally opened my “moldy wallet,” others who do not know my true financial situation are not so supportive. Their comments and questions have ranged from “midlife crisis” to demanding financial specifics that I have no desire to answer.

How does one handle this situation? Do you simply smile and ignore the snide remarks and invasive questions or is there a polite way to tell people that your finances are none of their business? While I did take the step of not advertising the purchase, it is rather difficult to conceal a new vehicle when your friends see you driving said purchase or notice it parked in front of your house.

Have you ever made a purchase that didn’t fit in with other’s preconceived notions of frugality? If so, how did you handle the invasive questions and snide remarks? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Consequence of Choice

Last night I stumbled upon a show about wealthy people and their relationships. It was one of those so-called reality shows, the type where they show the awkwardly staged scenes and stuff.

I would have switched it off but one of the women caught my attention.

This woman had focused upon her career for so long that her biological clock was ticking, so she had entered into a romantic relationship with a man who was struggling financially with the goal of children in mind.

Wrong or right, many woman are forced to make the choice between having children and pursuing their careers in our society. I faced a similar choice.

Thirty years later, my children are grown. My youngest moved out, and after an adjustment period I embarked upon a new journey, a journey I would have started earlier if I had not given priority to my children.

Watching the clips in that show made me feel a pang of regret. If I had made a different decision, would that woman have represented me? Could I have avoided living in poverty if I had chosen not to have children? Was there some way that I could have juggled motherhood and not delayed my financial progress?

I don’t know.

I don’t know, and I realized that the questions were moot. I made the best decision I could using the knowledge that I had at that time.

They may not have had a lot of money growing up, but they had a mom who loved them, who actively chose to work at low-wage, easily attainable jobs so that, when pushed to choose between the job and the kids, the kids could win every time without financial risk.

I made that choice. It wasn’t a wrong choice, or perhaps even a right choice, but it was my decision, and I have no regrets.

When you make a choice based upon your best knowledge of the situation, then regardless of how things pan out, that decision is a wise one. It doesn’t matter if others made a different decision; we all live in unique situations. Comparing yourself to others is not only pointless, but a form of self-torture that’s best avoided.

What choices have you made that carried lasting consequences? Have you ever looked at someone who made a different choice and thought about the path you didn’t take? How did that make you feel? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Use Credit to Save Money

One of the common claims about credit is that it costs you money to use. While this is true in many cases, in some cases credit can actually save you money instead.

For instance, say that you have saved up money to make a major purchase. You have done your research, decided what you want, and have finally went to the store to make the purchase when the sales person makes you an offer to charge the item.

Don’t be so quick to brush away the offer. In some cases, these offers may come without any interest charges if paid off in a certain amount of time.

This is one of the tricks I learned about when I researched the habits of the wealthy. Instead of using their cash reserves to make purchases, they would instead finance things at a low or nonexistent interest rate. This would allow them to keep their money in the bank, earning interest…allowing them to make a bit of money.

I actually encountered that the other day. While my initial reaction was to refuse the line of credit, it occurred to me that I could place the money I’d saved up for the purchase in savings, finance the item for no interest, and actually come out a bit ahead on the purchase.

It may not seem like much, but these little decisions add up. Now, instead of being out the amount in my savings that I’d planned to spend, I will be able to allow that money to draw interest. While I’ll have to make payments on the purchase, I won’t have to pay anything for the privilege. This not only allows me to work on my goal of improving my credit, it lets me earn a few more dollars on my money that I wouldn’t have earned otherwise.

In many cases, these little offers are designed to be quick and easy to apply for, so they take very little time to secure. Just a couple minutes to fill out an application allowed me to increase my net work just a little bit more.

There is a caveat on some of these offers. Many of them are designed to encourage you to take out a credit card that you will be encouraged to use in the future. If you do use the card for future purchases, those purchases will be subject to interest charges if the bill isn’t paid promptly. That said, many places offer discounts if you use their cards to make purchases, but if you pay the new charges promptly, you come out ahead of the finance game as well.

Pennies make dollars, and even the smallest amount in a savings account can earn you a bit in interest. If you can keep your hard-earned cash earning interest for just a bit longer, your finances will thank you.

Have you ever accepted a no-interest credit offer in order to allow your hard-earned cash to continue building interest in your savings? Please share your stories in the comments below.

One Rule For Comfortable Finances

It’s nice to not worry about money. I’ve spent my entire life focused on reducing my financial footprint out of necessity so I find my current situation novel.

Even so, there are rules that I still follow. Ten percent of every paycheck is placed in savings, and despite encouragement to do otherwise, I still keep my recurring expenses as low as I can keep them. After that, I’ve been allowing myself to splurge a bit on items that I know I will use and enjoy.

Even with allowing a loose rein on my spending, I still spend less than I earn at my public job, so my net worth is increasing. In time I will figure out where I want to invest the excess, but today is not the day.

I follow my rules for a reason. I have learned through hard experience that Life can be unpredictable. One never knows the future so it is always best to be prepared. The absolute best way to prepare for challenging financial times is by keeping your recurring expenses as low as you can keep them even during times of plenty, because it is a lot easier to come up with $500 dollars a month than it is $5,000.

That said, it can be tempting to upgrade your lifestyle when your income increases. You may want a nicer (or bigger) place to live or even a shiny new car to drive, yet while you may be able to afford them at your current income level, that is no guarantee that you will continue to afford them in the future. For all we think we know the future, next week or next month may mean that we have to work for minimum wage just to survive.

I am keeping that firmly in mind as I move forward. I have seen too many people burden themselves with higher rent/house payments, car payments, and even boat payments only to have an injury or job loss send them into a tailspin.

I have preached this rule for over a decade now. I learned my lesson during the Great Recession. When you keep your recurring expenses as low as you can keep them, it allows you the flexibility to go with the flow as financial circumstances change. It can even allow you to work less if you desire. I used this rule to be a stay-at-home single mother for years, and I’ve also used it when I worked as a single parent, because it allowed me to work at jobs that are easily acquired so that I would never have to choose between my job and my kids. I had to accept a low wage at these jobs, but for me the tradeoff was worth it.

Whatever your current income, remember that times can change. You may have a really nice job today, but that does not guarantee that you will have a nice job tomorrow. It pays to keep your recurring expenses low just in case.

It also pays to allow yourself some time to adjust when you find yourself suddenly flush with cash. When you do not allow yourself time to adjust to the windfall, you can wake up one morning and realize that you’ve spent yourself broke. Lottery winners do this on a regular basis.

Don’t be them. Resist the temptation to spend yourself broke each week because you happen to have money in your pocket and more scheduled to come. It is much better to have money left over and the knowledge that you will be okay should hard times come.

Do you keep your recurring expenses low? How do you do it? Do you have any advice for the rest of us? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Continuing Adventures of Annie the Annoying

Remember a while back when I said that, after exploring how low I could comfortably go financially that I wanted to explore the other end of the spectrum?

I have officially started that journey.

Last month, when a local concrete factory announced that it was hiring, I submitted an application. It can be a challenge to break into direct-hire factory work; many places will use a temp service so that they can eliminate people whenever their staffing needs call for it. Considering that the majority of my official work experience has been in the food industry, I estimated that my odds of being hired were low but miracles happen so why not?

By the grace of God, I got the job.

I worked out my notice at the restaurant, screwed up my courage, and went to work.

This new job is a challenge. My body is still adapting to the change in physicality. Not only does this position require a bit of speed, it also requires an upper body muscularity that I am working to develop.

The money side is a different story.

I am earning more each week than I am accustomed to living on for a month. That feels strange. I’ve never earned as much money as I do these days.

My discretionary spending has went up as a result. I’ve kept my recurring expenses stable (and at my normal level), but I have finally loosened the reins to allow myself to spend a bit more. I’ve acquired some plants to soften the ambience in my home but other than that I’ve not done much. I’ve placed my decorating plans on hold as I adapt since I’ve got the rest of my life to savor the process of redecorating.

The largest shock is the fact that I now have medical insurance, real medical insurance from a job with low co-pays and good benefits. I’m unused to having medical insurance from a job. That knowledge of being able to go to the doctor without worry about the expense feels strange.

Does it say something about our nation that I’m more surprised at having medical insurance than I am at the pay?

I’ll write more when I have something interesting to share. In the meantime, can you share what you have going on in your life? I would love to hear updates from all of you.

Sending hugs, Annie.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Chapter’s End

“I hope you hate your new job!” Gemma’s eyes flashed as she flounced up to me.

I smiled. “I’ll miss you too.” I had heard that sentiment several times over the past two weeks; managers and coworkers alike were upset when I had given notice. While on the outside the statements seem harsh, they are actually the highest compliment one can receive in the restaurant industry.

That is the statement you receive when you are truly loved.

So many people pass through the restaurant industry. Few stay. They become a blip on the radar to the crew who sticks it out long-term. Many times the old-timers don’t even bother learning the names of the new ones. Why bother when they’ll be gone in a few days?

While I’d never planned to stay when I started working at that restaurant, I’d lingered long enough for the crew to get attached. I’d gotten attached, too, so when I turned in my notice I quietly began to say my farewells.

While it was bittersweet to work that last day, this was something I had to do. Now that all of my children are grown, it is time to work on me for a change and for my next adventure I’ve decided to continue my exploration of finance and life. I’ve spent the last two decades actively exploring frugality (most of my life due to circumstances, to be honest). Now I want to see how far I can go in the opposite direction.

The job offer I’ve accepted is part of that process.

This new adventure is a continuation of the experiment I began with the purchase of a journal a while back. I gave myself permission to buy something luxurious to explore the Diderot Effect. I’d taken a good hard look at my home and realized that my personal environment had changed in a way that did not please me. I did not enjoy having my home look like something out of Deliverance, so I decided to change it.

I am still working on that.

I asked myself what I would own if money were not an object and I didn’t have to count my pennies. I asked myself what my ideal home would look like if finances were not a concern, then bit by tiny bit I began making changes, but I didn’t stop there. I also asked myself what I could see myself doing in my ideal life.

Once I adapted to Katie moving out, the answers shifted. I discovered that I needed the face-to-face interaction that a public job provides. Few things give me more joy than watching my coworkers smile when I sing out my greetings each morning. That said, I didn’t see myself remaining in the restaurant industry. I saw myself in a position that not only provided a stable schedule, but provided a larger income and insurance benefits as well.

I start that new job on Monday.

I will miss my old friends, so after that last day at my old job I took the evening to mourn.

Now it is time to move on. I will make more friends starting Monday.

Change can be scary, but change is also the way that we evolve. Like the butterfly, we have to dissolve ourselves in order to become something better. We have to pare down to the bones of who we are deep down and rebuild ourselves from scratch if we want to grow.

Have you ever decided to change your life, to evolve and explore something new? If so, what did you do? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Art of Thoughtful Spending

An interesting thing happens when you realize that you have achieved your financial goals. You look around and want everything. This commonly happens to lottery winners. It’s the primary reason that they quickly spend themselves broke.

This is why I decided to purge before I allowed myself to spend. The reminder of how easy it is to accumulate too much serves as a counterpoint to the desire.

Even so, it became more and more difficult to resist the urge. My daughter has watched me pass up the things I’ve wanted so many times that she is actively encouraging me to cut loose.

But I do not want to be that person.

I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following the path of others. I didn’t achieve financial freedom by following their advice to spend and spend. I achieved financial freedom by focusing on my mind and my business. I refuse to step backwards.

That said, I could feel the urge rising as the kid persuaded me to window shop and browse online. I would catch myself ready to place something in the cart and realize that it was only a passing whim.

That was why, instead of buying like mad, I invested in a small notebook instead.

Every time I see or think of something I want, I write it down. I don’t worry about how outlandish the desire; anything that pops into my head is dutifully noted. At night before bed I pull it out, review the list, and make a point of adding to it. Then I close my eyes and visualize how my life would change if I added this thing to my possessions.

An amazing thing happens when you allow yourself to mentally spend money. Your mind begins to visualize the clutter. I could see myself wondering where I would stick things. I could even see myself using an item for a time before throwing it away.

I do not want to be that person.

That was when I began making my gratitude list. I started making entries about all of the things I already had that I was immensely grateful for.

On the top of that list was my freedom.

Everything I have added to that giant wish list pales in comparison to my freedom.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the urge to buy things. That said, in most cases we feel the urge to buy not because we truly want something, but because we have been programmed to believe that these things will somehow make our lives even better.

But what can be better than freedom?

The next time you feel the urge to buy-buy-buy, go out and invest in a little notebook instead. Pick one that makes you feel wealthy. Add a nice pen to that, and go home.

Start making a list by asking yourself:

What do I want?

At the very top of your list, write:

I want my FREEDOM.

Every time you feel the urge to spend, pull out your luxurious little notebook and jot it down. Then ask yourself: Will this thing take me closer to my freedom?

The answer will change your life.

As for me I’ve yet to spend much. Aside from honoring my promise to buy the phone, I am still purging. I do treat us to meals out on occasion, since one of the things I wanted to achieve with my freedom was the ability to do just that. I lack the skills or the desire to cook much, so this provides us with some healthy variety. Even better, it allows me to do something to help my local businesses survive the pandemic.

As for the rest, I am still thinking.

How do you deal with the urge to spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

How to Acquire a Cheap Car

Shortly after the near-miss flood, Katie announced that she’d become tired of walking to work in the rain and wanted to buy a car.

I watched her scroll through posts and eye the selections at local lots before I made a suggestion: “why don’t you ask around at your job? Surely someone knows of a car that you can pick up cheap.”

It took three days. A gentleman at her work had an older one. He’d parked it, intending to fix it up but the task was proving to be more time-consuming than he could manage. If she would reimburse him for the new set of tires he’d just purchased, the car would be hers.

“It needs a lot of work,” he warned.

Years ago, a mechanic told me that any car that would start and run was worth at least $500. This car would not only start and run, it had a brand-new set of tires.

I encouraged her to go for it.

True to his word, the car did need some TLC. But the tires and battery were both brand new so she practically got the car for free. We drove it home and went to work.

One day was spent sorting the fuses. It took several hours and an entire package of the things but I managed to get the windows, door locks, and a range of other things to function once more. Katie spent that day scrubbing the interior.

I am far from a mechanic so I recommended that we have the car inspected. We used his advice to create a list of repairs, sorted by urgency and skill set and got to work.

You can do an amazing amount of auto repairs if you are willing to learn from videos posted online. While I lacked the equipment for some of the jobs, I saved her a small fortune on the things I’ve fixed so far.

Even better: Katie no longer has to walk in the dark for her early morning shifts. She has a car that will take her wherever she desires now, and will soon have it in good enough condition to weather the cross-country move she’s planning in the future.

She doesn’t have a car payment. The car is even old enough that the insurance cost is negligible, so her bills haven’t went up that much.

At first some of her friends called her crazy for following her mother’s advice. They told her she wasted her money on a clunker. But then she pointed out that their expensive cars, complete with car payments, were costing them far more in repairs than her vehicle was.

The critics fell silent when they realized she was right.

We have been programmed to believe that newer is better. We will bypass the older, “uglier” car in favor of the new and shiny as a general rule. Yet if one is willing to do the work (or hire it done as money allows) you can save a fortune by purchasing one of these unwanted vehicles. Provided that the frame is sound, everything else can be fixed.

The thing that most don’t understand about used vehicles is that, unless you can afford to buy one that’s still under warranty, you will inevitably spend at least a thousand dollars that first year as you work out the kinks, so why not spend that on an older vehicle that costs less in taxes and insurance, skip the payment, and enjoy the cost savings?

I learned that lesson the hard way after I financed my first vehicle. Trying to repair one when you’ve got a payment and full-coverage insurance can be almost impossible if you’re in college or work a low wage job. After that first mistake, I made it a rule to buy old, fix them up, and drive them until the frame died.

This one lesson has saved me a fortune.

While I do believe that it is better to avoid owning a car if you can, that can be a challenge in many parts of this nation. I see no point in giving money to finance companies if it can be avoided; older vehicles solve this problem nicely.

If you already own a car that is paid for don’t trade it off for a newer one. Fix it up and you will have something that will last for many years.

The Freedom of Frugality

Frugality is essential during economic upheaval.

Over six months have passed since Covid-19 reached the shores of the United States.

Thanks to frugality, I haven’t had to worry about it much.

I spend my days at home. I’ve no need to chase money at a public job; my savings combined with my royalties and investments have provided more than enough to live comfortably.

This would not be the case if I had allowed my expenses to keep pace with my income; by keeping my expenses as low as possible during the rich times I was easily able to save enough to live on even now.

The economy will become even worse as time moves on. While I no longer bother to keep a close eye on it, that much is obvious.

If you have not adjusted your expenditures downward, if you have not began to reduce your spending, I urge you to do so. Once the spiral starts, everyone will be affected.

I warn you now through the looking glass of experience: I have lived through challenging economic times in the past. Those who try to continue living as if money will always be plentiful tend to be the hardest hit when their incomes dry up.

I won’t bore you with a step by step tutorial; I’ve written several books on the subject should you realize the truth of my words.

As for me, I am taking this time to focus upon something other than the death and misery and terror around me. I’ve ceased using social media and rarely bother to even check the news.

My friends know to tell me if something important happens.

Have you began to reduce your expenses? Please share your stories in the comments below.

The Shoe Patch

A few years ago the kid bought this cute pair of “boat shoes.” I liked the shoes so I watched her enjoy them because I knew that, in time, she would get bored of them and pass them to me.

One night I noticed she had tossed those shoes in the trash can, so I fished them out.

“Why are you throwing away your shoes?” I asked.

“They’ve got a hole in the toe,” she responded. “I wore them out so I knew you wouldn’t want them.”

I examined the shoes carefully. One little hole had formed upon a single shoe, right where the big toe rests. Deciding that they would still work for running around the house, I added them to my collection.

That was a year or so ago. The other day while I was wearing them to mow the yard I noticed that the other shoe was developing a matching hole. Since the original hole was growing larger, I realized that it was time to make a decision. I checked the soles to discover that they were still well-secured and in good shape and then headed for my sewing kit.

Two tiny scraps of denim later and I’d repaired those holes. It was a challenge to sew on the scraps with a straight needle, but I’m happy with how they turned out. Not only did I use what I already had to repair them, I used up stuff that most people would have thrown away to save something else that most people would have thrown away. Even the thread was something that most would discard – it’s so old that the spool is made out of wood!

I’m rather proud of the fact that I repaired those shoes. I saved them from going into a landfill far before their time despite the fact that they were engineered to be used during some trend and then discarded.

To my surprise, I am enjoying the fact that I am able to do things like this. With every stitch, the joy I felt at doing my part to defeat the consumerist programming we have all received was immense.

Think about it. What do we all think when we find a cute pair of shoes that we like? We go out and buy a pair for ourselves. What do we do when those shoes fall apart if we really like them? We toss them in the trash and purchase replacements.

I did neither. I fished those shoes out of the trash. I wore the heck out of them, and then I repaired them so that they will last even longer. I’ll wear the soles off of those things for sheer spite, because fuck the corporations who have programmed us to buy-buy-buy. Fuck the corporations who are now spreading fear over our food supply because they got caught allowing sickness to spread in their factories for the sake of their millions. Do you think they care that the Coronavirus could possibly contaminate our food supply? You can bet your bottom dollar that they don’t.

I spent my entire childhood believing the lie that we’re supposed to buy solutions to our problems. I spent my entire childhood watching my father complain when he had to repair things due to lack of money. To him, it was a shameful thing to wear patches on his clothes because he considered it a sign of poverty.

Well guess what, Sunshine? We’re all going to be struggling for money before this is over. Well, the average person will. I’m not so sure about the millionaires. If we continue to listen to their lies, we’ll continue to buy their stuff and they’ll continue to weather this in the Hamptons. Oh, they’ll complain because they can’t afford to hire their private jets as often but I really don’t consider that to be struggling, especially since so many of us are having to rely on food banks just to eat these days.

Every penny that we can avoid giving the corporations, every penny that we can keep for ourselves will not only help us weather this storm, it will slowly add up until it begins to hit their pocketbooks. All of those bailouts that the US government is giving to the major industries won’t do a bit of good if no one buys their stuff once this is over. It will only delay their inevitable collapse.

I am now looking at this as a challenge. I now look around and ask myself: what can I do to prevent making the rich even richer? What can I do to show people that we’re throwing too much perfectly usable stuff away? What can I do to counter the programming?

And it’s apparently working. My youngest daughter hauled in a pattern and some fabric so that I could make her two pairs of pants yesterday. She’s remembered that, while initially more expensive to make, that the clothes I make at home not only can use the fabrics and patterns that she prefers, that they last a lot longer than almost anything she’s been buying at the store. Her friends are admiring the purse I made her a while back and realizing that they can make their own purses out of the fabrics they choose while building in features that make them more durable than one can find in a store. Even business owners are contemplating the financial impact of paying over $1 each for cheap disposable masks over having a seamstress construct masks that will last for the long-term.

I know. As they’ve seen how well the kid’s masks are holding up, they are starting to come to me for quotes.

I don’t know how this is going to pan out, folks. All I know for certain is that our current state of affairs is not sustainable. We’ve reached a choice between buying their disposable crap or conserving our funds just to eat. I see no point in letting the rich get richer while we go hungry.

I’ll start on the garden when this rain stops. I’ve already planted a few items in salvaged containers that I’ve repurposed to get a head start, and Dolly Freed’s logic of raising rabbits for meat has become oddly appealing. I don’t know if I’ll go that far, at least not here, but I’m going to keep my options open as I monitor the situation.

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

~

While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

~#~

If you happen to find this post helpful, would you consider sharing it with a friend or on social media?  Thanks!


I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Apple iBooks
Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!