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!

The Art of Reframing Your Circumstances

“Here you go, Mom!” Katie dropped a stack of tee shirts on the kitchen table. “Cut these up so we will have them ready. I don’t know when we’ll be able to get more towels or toilet paper at the store so we may have to switch over soon.”

“Okay,” I replied as I picked my jaw up from where it had fallen on the table. The older she had gotten, the more she had grown to prefer using disposable paper products. We had been debating their use intermittently over the years. I wanted to go with cloth to reduce expense and our environmental footprint. Katie wanted the convenience of disposability. To see my modern child actively encouraging me to switch to cloth after arguing against it for so many years speaks volumes for the times we currently live in.

And I have a confession to make. I’ve never in my life experienced a time when we could not buy things like paper towels and bathroom tissue. Aside from my switch to family cloth before my move here, the only time I’d ever had to experiment with alternate sources of paper towels and bathroom tissue was when visiting the homes of friends in the mountains. Back then, quite a few people lacked access to indoor plumbing. While almost everyone had running water, outhouses were common, and within the outhouses of older folk you would see corn cobs, stacks of newspapers, and the occasional catalog (typically a Sears catalog) in lieu of the bathroom tissue that is ubiquitous today.

People thought I was insane when I switched to family cloths and menstrual pads. Even I thought I was going a bit overboard when I did that but I wanted to experiment so I did. Now I’m beginning to wonder if we all might have to switch.

That frightens me. The thought that our world has changed so much that things I’ve grown up with, things I’ve taken for granted may no longer be available scares me in a way I cannot explain.

To prevent myself from going insane (I’ve got people who used to make fun of me pestering me for advice now!), I’ve had to start reframing how I look at our current situation. If we look at this a bit differently, look at this from another angle instead of thinking about the fact that we are doing these things out of necessity, I believe it will remove at least some of the feelings of deprivation and make this entire situation a creative challenge.

But how do you reframe the fact that the shelves are growing rather empty at the stores? How do you reframe the fact that things you took for granted are disappearing?

I thought long and hard about that during our last shopping trip the other day. I stocked up even more than I’d planned, spending $200 on canned goods and other shelf-stable items as I felt the fear mount at the sight of the empty shelves. The kid must have been feeling the same emotion because our cart was overflowing by the time we dragged it home. Our freezer is stuffed and the canned goods have overflowed my pantry. I’ve placed the overflow on my living room shelf to compensate for lack of storage. I’ve not attempted to garden in the back yard, so based upon my failures in the front yard I am concerned. Will I be able to grow enough back there to supplement? What will we do if I can’t?

Reframe, Annie. Reframe this. This is just another challenge. You can handle a challenge. You are one of the foremost frugal living experts in the United States. This is your time to shine. You can do this. You can not only figure out a way through this, you are going to do whatever it takes to show others how to get through this time as well. So stop whining, reframe this situation into the puzzle that it is, and get back to work.

If I was concerned at our dependence upon Big Business before, I definitely am now. Based upon how this plays out (Trump’s “absolute power” and “LIBERATE” tweets are NOT HELPING!), our current situation may become the new norm. So how do we get through this?

It dawned on me that the more we can reduce our reliance upon the major corporations – the more we can reduce our reliance upon mass manufacturing, period, the better off we will be. But how do we do that?

Our primary needs at the moment are food and shelter. Most of us have enough clothes to get by for a while (you haven’t thinned out your wardrobes, have you? Please tell me you’ve not thinned down your wardrobes), so as long as we can pay the rent (or mortgage) and keep food on the table, we’re in good shape. So what about the rest of the stuff that we take for granted – like bathroom tissue and paper towels?

I don’t believe my grandparents ever bought paper towels. As far back as I can recall, they would use recycled cloth for towels that they would wash and re-use until those towels fell apart. My grandmother would sew repurposed fabric into potholders and thicker towels to handle larger messes. I just grabbed a handful of repurposed fabric to use before the kid persuaded me to switch back to paper.

When you think about it, using repurposed clothing as hand towels, cleaning rags, and family clothes is actually better on the environment. The damage is already done with those; they were made, they were sold, and they were used for their intended purpose until they reached the point where they either wore out or went out of style. If we cut those items up, converting them into rags or family cloths, we can not only reduce the burden on our landfills, we can reduce our dependence upon the corporations. If we reduce our dependence upon the corporations, it won’t affect us if they go under near as much as it would otherwise.

Even better, by reusing the things that we already own instead of buying disposable stuff, we can significantly reduce the amount of money we need to live on. I don’t know about you, but cutting costs is high on my priority list at the moment. “Da Corona” (as people jokingly refer to it here) caught me a bit flat-footed financially. I’d planned to go back to work come spring and had budgeted accordingly since I quit my job last October. Because of that I don’t qualify for unemployment like so many others are fortunate enough to do. While I do make a few dollars each month from my book sales, it’s not enough to make me feel secure. Since this old bat is in the age range where this stuff becomes seriously deadly, I’m pinching my pennies as tightly as I can in order to wait this out. I like living too much to risk it.

“Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.”

Unknown

That is the mantra I am chanting as I go through my days. That was the mantra I chanted when I realized that I am spending more of my writing time plopped upon my bed instead of at the kitchen table. I needed something to place my laptop on to allow it to breathe since overheating can kill a laptop. My first instinct was to order something online, which I immediately rejected. The less money I can spend, the better.

As I pondered the issue, I noticed the boxes that our latest pet supply order had arrived in. The cardboard was rather sturdy; all I needed was something flat and firm to rest my laptop on. I grabbed a roll of tape from my bin and got to work.

A bit of cutting and a few strips of tape later and I had my solution: a “board” made out of layered cardboard that was large enough to work as a lap table. It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever created but it works.

Laptop on stand.

I could dress it up with some paint or fabric but I decided against that for now. I want it to look rough; that way people will know as soon as they see it that I did not purchase a solution to my problem.

I want the world to know that I made it myself in order to encourage others to get creative as well. The less we buy and the more we make, the better off we will be. The more we repair and the less we replace, the more money we will have in our pockets moving forward. I am embracing that whole-heartedly.

For instance, not only is the laptop stand handmade from recycled cardboard, the laptop is a handmedown. It was gifted to Katie several years ago (thank you again!) and she eventually passed it on to me when she upgraded. This laptop is close to seven years old, which means that it is a dinosaur in our consumerist society. I installed an SSD in it that I found on clearance, added a lightweight version of Linux (Linux Lite, for the curious), topped it off with a keyboard protector to extend the life of the keyboard (that came with a matching cover for the trackpad), and placed it into service. With a bit of love, this machine will last for years, especially since the operating system I selected uses a fraction of the resources that Microsoft Windows does.

Big Business will not like my solution. They want me to buy their stuff rather than make something using stuff I already have but you know what?

We don’t need to buy their solutions. Purchasing their solutions may allow their employees to make a few pennies, but it also allows the CEOs and investors to quarantine in their mansions. I may not be able to do much about income inequality, but I can fight back with my personal choices.

This old woman is choosing to use what she has instead of buying new. I hope that you will do the same where you can.

It takes but a bit of effort to cut old clothes into rags and use them instead of paper towels and bathroom tissue. It takes but a bit of creativity to repurpose cardboard into a lap desk. Bits of cloth scraps can be pieced together to create larger pieces of fabric even. I’m currently using tiny squares of cloth scraps from my mask making to create a quilt even:

Tiny scraps of fabric that ended up being 1-inch finished quilt squares.

You don’t need as much as you think you need, my friends. You don’t always need to buy a solution when you encounter a problem. If you learn anything from me moving forward, I hope you learn that.

As for me, I need to conclude this post and get back to work. I want to make sure that the kid has enough masks to get through the week without getting bored. I also want to craft a few extra for another friend, who generously gave one of the masks I made away to an elderly lady that had crafted a mask from a paper towel. She is my hero, so I want to make sure she not only receives a replacement mask to stay safe, but that she has a couple of extras to give away if she discovers anyone else in need.

I may not have much but I intend to help my fellow man where I can. As for the corporations who believe money is more important than human lives, fuck them. I will avoid giving them my money out of spite. I don’t care how much money the government gives them, they will still collapse if we stop buying their stuff in protest. Even better, we will weather the economic fallout of this pandemic far better than those who continue to support them.

I think I’m going to enjoy the challenge of growing a garden this year. I believe that I will enjoy removing my financial support from a food supply system that doesn’t care whether their workers live or die. With every spade of dirt that I shift, I am going to remind myself of that. I will remind myself of the lives being lost to feed the machine.

I hope that you will join me.

~#~

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 Stitch Rebellion

As our governor began to list the dead yesterday evening, chants from the protestors outside drowned him out. He sighed, explained that this wasn’t about popularity. He would save as many lives as he could save, despite the protestors campaigning for him to let people die by reopening our economy.

It reminded me of a parable I read in the Bible ages ago. There was a shepherd who left his flock of 99 sheep in order to search for the single lamb who had wandered off. Preachers tend to use that parable to illustrate how the Christian God cares so much that they don’t want to lose anyone. Considering that our governor is trying to save lives, is deliberately challenging a society that says money is more important than human life, that parable seems to match this situation.

What would the shepherd in that parable do if his flock were in danger of dying from coronavirus? I pondered that for a long while last night. I do believe that that shepherd from the tale of old would do whatever he could to save as many sheep as he could – even if the sheep weren’t happy with his choices, especially if the wolves were whispering that they needed to endanger themselves, even endanger others rather than obey the shepherd.

To me, this is about so much more than Coronavirus now as I think upon the situation. We have corporate CEOs and other rich people who are upset because the economic shutdown is endangering their yachts and their summers in the Hamptons. They don’t like the thought of losing money so they are campaigning to eliminate restrictions, even at the cost of human lives.

Even now, as medical workers die, essential workers are falling ill and dying as well, and neither their employers nor the organization who was formed to protect them give a shit. They are expendable; we are all considered expendable in the money-making machine that is our current society.

At least it’s out in the open now; at least we know what the major corporations think about us. We are just fodder for their money machine. We need to work their jobs and buy their stuff even if it kills us because they need money to quarantine on their yachts.

These were my thoughts as I continued to rearrange my living room to make a home for the sewing machine. As I tidied, I stumbled upon a ripped sheet that I’d intended to reuse as scrap along with a pillowcase with failed seams. Rather than continue to use them, I was going to recycle them and replace them with new. I wadded them up to place them in my scrap bag.

But then I paused. What if, instead of scrapping them and buying replacements, I patched them instead? I’ve got quite a bit of random fabric scraps here. Both kids have given me their discards and I’ve quite a few mask scraps as well; what if I used the true scrap to repair these items and keep them in service?

I grabbed a leftover piece of tee shirt from the scrap bag, pinned it beneath the tear on my sheet, and started stitching. I initially began to stitch by hand but as I worked I grew angry. We have been programmed to believe that it is wrong to repair items; if something isn’t shiny and new and perfect, if it doesn’t match the decor in some fancy magazine, it is wrong. It is wrong and we are wrong if we don’t do what the corporations want us to do. We should toss our old crap and buy their new stuff, even if we can repair it because that’s what keeps them rich.

I grabbed a colorful spool of thread from my box, a spool of thread my kids picked from a clearance pile when they were small. Deliberately selecting a random, mismatched bobbin, I stuck that sheet upon my machine and went to work.

I vented my rage upon that patch, deliberately experimenting with random stitches as I sewed. When one bobbin ran out, I grabbed another and kept sewing until that patch ended up being a statement of rebellion.

Because fuck the system that says everything must be picture perfect. Forget the system that says we must toss our old stuff and replace it with new. Why not go back in time, to how the Japanese would continue to layer new fabrics upon old items for years in a method called Boro?

This is what the patch looked like after I vented my rage:

The backside of the patch. This won’t show when the sheet is on the bed.
The top side that will show. I went wild playing with the stitches as I vented my frustration upon the patch.
The patched sheet back in action. To my surprise, my patch gave Katie a giggle. She thinks it’s a great idea.

I know it’s not perfect but you know what; it works. It works, and it’s one less sheet I have to purchase from some stupid corporation who thinks money is more important than people. This sheet was purchased at a thrift shop at least 15 years ago and if I have my way, I’ll patch it from now until Hell freezes over, just because I can.

We’ve been so conditioned to believe that we need to toss things that aren’t perfect, but why not embrace the imperfection instead? Why don’t we go back to the ways of our ancestors who used to repair things instead of throwing them away? We can not only help our environment by keeping things out of landfills and reducing consumption, we can save money and quietly protest the corporations who want us to toss our old and buy their crap instead.

So instead of tossing that shirt or that sheet or whatever it is into the rag pile or even into the trash, take a good long look at it instead. Can you repair it and keep it in service instead?

And remember: this isn’t just about sheets. You can keep your car running, like my friend who ordered the mechanic to replace the motor in her truck instead of taking his advice to purchase another vehicle. You can keep your old computers in use instead of buying a new one. You can take old stuff and make it into something different when you get bored. You can even recycle leftovers into a completely different meal. You can do this in so many different ways, and each time you do that you make this world a better place.

If you happen to have something that you’ve somehow patched, repaired, or recycled around your home, please share your story in the comments below. Let’s show the world that this is a good thing.

~#~

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!

Supply Chain Concerns

Okay, folks. At last count these are the situations we are dealing with in addition to the COVID-19 outbreak:

On top of that, there also happens to be a Swine Flu outbreak that I’m watching that will affect our food chain as well as the fact that the United States Postal Service is having its own financial issues.

Are you beginning to understand why I am urging you to grow at least some of your own food now? Because I didn’t link to all of the news reports I have found on this stuff; there’s actually more out there than I listed.

If you look back in history (which I did when I researched the Stock Market these past couple years, you will notice an astounding similarity to the Great Depression. While the exact details are different, the similarities I am noting are highly concerning.

When it comes down to it, however, our primary needs are food and shelter. As long as we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food in our bellies, we will be okay. That’s why I’m not going into too much detail about other areas at the moment. If you resist the urge to toss your excess at the moment, a bit of creativity will get you through this.

Everett Bogue’s concerns about a potential housing crisis continue to bother me. There are calls for rent strikes in major cities where the cost of living is extremely high. I had trouble sleeping last night due to those concerns. While they shouldn’t affect me (I live on less than many do), there is still a chance that it might affect others. If Coronavirus continues to run rampant to the point where state and local governments are motivated to keep us in place we should be safe for the most part, but I am beginning to find the stories our governor are sharing in my state to be concerning. Landlords are apparently attempting to bully people into paying up or moving out; while our governor here is making an effort to shut that down, I worry about what will happen in the states where the governors don’t care who lives or dies. We still have a few governors who have refused to take the steps needed to flatten the pandemic curve; those states might very well allow people to be evicted if they cannot afford to pay their rent.

I am torn about this situation. I’ve always been a firm believer in keeping essential recurring expenses as low as they can go; I’ve learned through hard experience that it is easier to come up with $200 than it is to come up with $2,000. Unfortunately, I know that not all of you have followed suit. You’ve either rented or financed a place that is more than you can realistically afford now that you’re unemployed or you live in a city that has sky-high rents.

You need to have a place where you can stay home and stay safe for the duration of this pandemic. With state parks being shut down, I’m worried about how the van-dwellers and full-time RVers are faring. I’ve not even had time to look, so if you have any news please share it with me. I do need the information in order to best advise you.

That said, I am going to go out on a limb based upon my current information. If, and this is a big if COVID-19 eases up with warm weather, there is a chance that governments will reduce restrictions on movement and allow evictions and foreclosures to resume. Depending upon which way Trump jumps with his plan to re-open the economy next month, some of you who are struggling to pay your rent may have a problem.

Even if Trump backs down on the May thing, we might have a problem depending on what COVID-19 does in warmer weather.

Once the scientists develop and deploy a vaccine we will have the economic fallout to deal with. At least one person is calling for the US Government to allow Capitalism to work the way it was designed this time around but based upon what I have seen in the past with the bailouts of the auto and finance industry combined with Washington’s determination to continue that pattern, I am skeptical that Capitalism will be allowed to follow its natural course this time either.

If they don’t allow Capitalism to work naturally, the US government will continue to throw fortunes at these businesses to prop them up, not realizing that 1) the money will not “trickle down” to those of us at the bottom of the financial food chain and 2) helping those businesses stay afloat won’t do a bit of good if the general populace cannot afford to buy their stuff. The failure of a number of businesses is inevitable because of that, regardless of governmental intentions.

If the pandemic eases a bit with summer to the point where restrictions are eased, you may want to consider locating a cheaper place to stay in order to best weather the financial fallout, especially if you are currently struggling to pay your rent right now. I don’t care where it’s located or what it looks like, this is something you might want to consider but only if the pandemic eases with warmer weather.

It will do you no good to escape a sky-high rent bill if you catch Coronavirus and die in the midst of a move. If your choice is between avoiding Coronavirus and paying your rent, I hope you will prefer to avoid catching Coronavirus. It seems to be killing people in all age ranges.

Should you choose to remain where you are (which I honestly believe is best if you can afford to do so), you do need to minimize your recurring expenses regardless. The experts are already beginning to call this a Recession. While the stock market is up a bit due to the bargain hunters scooping up shares, that will change as companies release their quarterly earnings reports and revise their projected earnings downward. It will continue as smart businesses cut or eliminate dividends in order to weather the economic fallout.

Economists won’t make the call until it’s already under way, but once they utter the term “Economic Depression” I suspect that the stock market will really begin to slide. They are already growing concerned at the signs.

I believe that the chances are high that we will face an economic depression. I’m not saying this to frighten you but I am urging you to prepare for that possible eventuality. Cut your expenses. Grow a bit of food. There is only one way through this and all I have to guide you are the stories from my parents and grandparents because the Great Depression happened before I was born.

While I doubt you will be forced to go barefoot and shove your single set of clothes into the cracks of your walls in hopes of keeping the snow from covering your quilt each morning (yes, my father had to do that), I do believe that we will learn hard and fast what is truly important in the grand scheme of things.

Just remember: food and shelter are your primary needs. Unless you’ve decided to toss all of your clothing here recently, you should have enough excess in your wardrobe to get you by. Since more and more US-based clothing factories are switching over to the manufacture of PPE, you might want to keep the clothes you currently have, despite any temptation you have to thin your wardrobe down. Clothes do not last forever, and modern mass-produced clothing does not tend to last near as long as most believe it will.

I learned that the hard way when I moved here with a week’s worth of clothing. The items I selected wore out so fast it made my head spin, leaving me in a lurch because I spent so much replacing the appliances I foolishly left behind that I struggled to replace my ratty clothes.

It is not fun to walk around with holes in the crotch of your only pair of pants, so keep your clothing, folks. Depending upon how bad things get, that extra may come in handy. If anything, you may end up needing to recycle that stuff for rags if you cannot afford bathroom tissue and paper towels – or even diaposeable diapers. Middle Daughter is already struggling to keep her youngest in diapers due to this crap.

I’m running on about four hours of sleep, so I am going to conclude this post before I repeat myself further. I’ve been doing this for days as I hustle to not only make masks for those I love but because I want to get the sewing caught up before I start the garden, whose time is fast approaching. The sooner I can get this done, the sooner I can take a couple of days off to catch up on my sleep.

I am seriously looking forward to some sleep. I am exhausted.

Stay safe. Think about what I’ve written here. I beg you to begin making preparations now while there’s still a bit of time. As for me, I’ve got to get back to work. These masks won’t sew themselves and I’ve a purse to make for a lady as soon as they’re finished.

~#~

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 Perception of Minimalism and Thoughts About the Economy

Everett Bogue sent me an email the other day. We email each other on occasion and he’d stumbled upon an article he thought I would find interesting.

I had to read the article twice. Then I had to ponder the article for a couple of days because I could not believe what I was reading.

Why? Because based upon that article, despite the fact that I was one of the top Minimalist writers of the Great Recession, I’m apparently neither the proper gender nor a member of the appropriate socio-economic class to be considered a minimalist. Colin Wright made it though; I was surprised he even got a mention.

One of the aspects of the high-handed article that I found so hilarious that Everett himself, the central voice in the Minimalism movement and the very person who encouraged me to apply minimalism as I struggled after having my telecommuting job moved to another nation, wasn’t even mentioned in the article. He was the person who privately explained to me that I could achieve my dream of being a stay-at-home single mother. Despite the fact that it was Everett’s personal experience and voice who jump-started the Minimalist Movement of the Great Recession, he was written out of the history of the Minimalist Movement.

Even more hilarious, the very impetus of the Minimalist Movement, the Great Recession itself, wasn’t even discussed despite the fact that many of us were driven to live on less because we had to. A lot of us lost our jobs during that time, including myself. The author decided to delve into the art scene instead, which has absolutely nothing to do with our lifestyle.

Leo Babauta wasn’t even mentioned. None of us old guard were named in the article except for Colin, and they didn’t even deign to link to his website, which is infuriating. Instead, they discussed the pseudo-minimalists who jumped on the bandwagon well after it left the gate, the wealthy folk who decided that Minimalism was cool and had the money to do what those of us who started this movement never could and definitely never would:

Throw money away on super-expensive, impossible to maintain furniture, appliances, and gadgets that the true Minimalists would have never deigned to bother with.

Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unwanted/unnecessary in order to have more time/money/energy to focus on the wanted and the necessary. A true Minimalist would know that it is stupid to spend $1,000 on a high-end special hotplate when you could walk down to your local thrift shop or box store and pick up a hotplate that serves the exact same purpose for $20 – or free in my case. My hotplate was given to me by a neighbor.

Minimalism isn’t about spending $1,000 on a high-end washer/dryer combo. A true minimalist would reduce their laundry and either wash their clothes in the sink (as I have in the past), go to a laundromat, or invest in a portable washer, hanging their laundry up to dry in order to minimize their impact upon the environment.

But since the elites hijacked the Minimalism movement in order to hawk their wares (you know who I’m aiming that dig at) and give fancy speeches to those who have so much money they can’t figure out where to spend it, the rest of us who started this movement, the ones of us who became minimalists due to our frustration at the economic climate at that time have apparently been written out of the history.

So I have one thing to say to the authors of that article: kiss my ancient female ass. I was a minimalist before you were probably out of short pants and I don’t give two shits whether or not I fit your paradigm.

I personally embraced minimalism because what I had been taught about life wasn’t working. The only way I could afford to feed my kids was to learn how to live on less money. The only way to live on less money was to reduce the amount I purchased. And as I reduced the amount I purchased, I realized that there were advantages to living on less that I’d not conceived. Not only was I able to become a stay-at-home single mother (which I’ve been told is still physically impossible), but I freed up the time that allowed me to write a number of books designed to teach others how to do the same if they wanted.

That said, I never imagined I would experience the time when minimalism, particularly my version of financial minimalism, would be desperately needed. I’ve already written a number of books on the subject; if you want to survive what’s coming I suggest you find one and start reading. I’m not about to repeat myself in a new book when my old books say the exact same thing and provide the advice you need to get through this.

Which brings me to the other subject I would like to discuss.

One of the things Everett pointed out in his email and bogcast shortly after was that, during the Great Recession, a housing crisis caused quite a few people to become homeless.

While I do believe that the housing sector is about to undergo a massive change, there is something different happening now. The Federal Government has suspended evictions and foreclosures. States are slowly following suit. They don’t want us to be homeless now. In fact, they are busting their butts in several states (including mine) to provide housing to the homeless, which is something I never imagined I would see in my lifetime. The governor in my state actually called out some landlords who were trying to quietly evict people just the other day, calling that a major no-no.

I suspect that the Federal Government is so determined to prevent the spread of Covid-19 that they might end up subsidizing or even purchasing the properties of tenants and mortgage holders in danger of being evicted. It’s either that or have the landlord class rise up in protest. Since Trump is rather fond of the landlord class (he happens to be one of them), I suspect he’ll act to serve his own personal interests and apply the method he devises to save his own butt across the board in some way.

So for now, while this stuff is running rampant, I don’t think any of us need to worry too much about being homeless. While a housing crisis is pretty much inevitable since so many of us can’t afford to pay rent, I see too many signs that indicate that the Federal and State governments won’t allow that to happen. The landlord class is at the top of the house of cards that describes our current economy; the Federal Government seems determined to throw whatever they can at those top layers, to the point that they are all but ignoring the cracks that are appearing at at the foundation. Because of that, they will do what they can to keep the landlord class somewhat content so we can remain in our homes. While I don’t know how they will do that exactly, for now I believe we’re safe.

So keep your stuff. Stay home. Plant a garden if you have a yard or scavenge some buckets to start a container garden. I heard of one lady who bought a bunch of $1 trash cans to start her garden in since she didn’t own any buckets, so that might be an idea you can use. While only time will tell how things will pan out in the housing arena, for now I believe we’re safe from being evicted.

I will keep an eye on the news and warn you if I see any indications of trouble. If you happen to stumble upon something in your area, let me know. This is definitely something I want to stay on top of.

While you’re at it, ignore the advice of frugalists who think living on thousands of dollars a month is living cheap. They have no fucking clue what we’re about to deal with. If you don’t like the advice I give, find someone else who practices what they preach. Find someone who lives on very little money like I do and follow their advice. Just as with the Minimalist Movement, the frugal living movement is filled with charlatans who have no idea how to truly live on less.

You’re not going to coast through this by living the status quo, folks. Prices are already starting to rise nationwide. They will continue to rise. Most of the stuff we take for granted (including quite a bit of our food) originates from nations that are being hit hard with this virus, and it will take a while for the production in our nation to compensate. That’s the real reason it’s hard to locate bathroom tissue and diapers in the stores. Worldwide production is down. While factories in this nation are working hard to compensate, they actually do try to pay somewhat of a living wage so prices will go higher.

But if the strikes over PPE, sanitation concerns, and hazard pay continue, we will have a rocky road ahead of us as they sort things out.

Minimalism, folks. You need it. While you don’t need the “toss all of your stuff” brand of minimalism that many propose right now, you do need to embrace the financial minimalism that my grandparents, my parents, and myself embraced as a way of life.

Water jugs and butter bowls can become bowls and planters to grow food. Plants can be grown to provide food instead of decorative greenery. Vegetables make pretty flowers too so don’t worry – they’re still pretty, just in a different way. If you can’t afford potting soil, make or grab a spade and a bag and dig some out of the yard. Find and “borrow” some if you have to. Do whatever you have to do to use what you have and locate what you don’t to start growing a bit of food. Some farmers are having to let their food rot in the field because they have contracts that won’t allow them to sell to the average person, so the cost of food will go up until that gets sorted.

If you happen to know a farmer, make that person your friend on Facebook. You can’t exactly meander out to their farm with the current restrictions, but if you can figure out a way to befriend them, they may allow you to quietly liberate some of the food they’ve got rotting in the field. If they have a heart (and dislike wasting food) they may be willing to turn a blind eye if some of that produce disappears into your belly.

Ask your friends if they happen to know a farmer who raises eggs and meat. I know some in urban areas who raise chickens and ducks. There is very little difference between chicken, duck, and goose eggs so don’t be picky. And if your kid happens to have a BB or pellet gun, clean it well and start target practicing. While I really hope it doesn’t get as bad as that, you can kill small game with a BB or pellet gun, and you don’t need a gun permit to own one in most areas.

If you really want to learn more about growing and quietly raising food, read Dolly Freed. I’m reviewing her book myself.

As for that surplus of clothes in your closet, you might want to keep them even if they don’t fit. Dolly Parton’s “coat of many colors” is a real thing. You can repurpose old clothes into rags (which will come in handy if you can’t afford paper towels, napkins, diapers, or bathroom tissue in the future). You can sew patches on your pants with the fabric, or even extend the legs on children’s clothing. You can piece them together to make quilts and other needed items. Hell, you can burn them in a stove in the winter if you get cold along with that stack of books you never got around to reading. It might not be the most eco-friendly thing to do but at least it will keep you warm.

I would rather have you over-prepared than under-prepared for this situation. Since we do not know what is going to happen, it is best to prepare for even the situations we cannot conceive of. I find it personally hard to even imagine that there will come a time when I cannot acquire food. I’ve not helped slaughter an animal since I was a kid but you know what?

That won’t stop me if my grandbabies get hungry. I hope it won’t stop you either.

So let the fools who think this is going to blow over in a few weeks do their thing. The so-called minimalists who are using their time off work to toss their stuff will learn the truth soon enough when their 401(k)s start plummeting to nothing. Everyone who has placed their faith in the stock market will learn a harsh lesson about life before this is over.

DISCLOSURE: I sold out of almost all of my stocks as I saw this coming. While one medical company I’d invested in went belly-up before I could catch it, the only companies I’ve still got an investment in are an entertainment company (since the demand for entertainment will increase for the duration) and a finance company that is essentially a “check into cash” place for the corporations. They make sure that they get their money first in the event that any company they provide financing to goes belly up, so they rode out the Great Recession pretty well. I kinda like the thought of someone charging corporations usurious interest rates the way so many of us are charged because we are poor, so even if I lose every penny I will receive immense satisfaction at the thought that those fat-cat CEOs are getting a bit of comeuppance.

I’m using the money from the companies I sold out of to help get through this. This girl is putting survival first.

I believe we will all learn some hard lessons about life before this is over, truth be told. We may have to learn and do things we never imagined to get through this.

But you know what? We’re going to be stronger in the end. So don’t be scared; just do what you can to prepare. While it could get rough, we are smart. We are creative. We will do whatever it takes to get through this mess. Just don’t waste your time casting blame, because at this point the reasons do not matter. What matters is that we survive this.

And we will survive this. I will share everything I possibly think of to help you through this. I’ve went through times when I had to feed a family of five on $25 a month. I’ve went through times when I lived on the scraps my kids left on their dinner plates. I’ve slept in stairwells. I’ve snuck into garages and huddled under mountains of scratchy curtains to sleep during the winter. I’ve even lived in my van in the past, so if anyone has the skills to figure out how to get through this mess it’s me.

Because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And I will share every tip I possibly can to help you through it too.

But if you’re going to make it through this, you need to start preparing now. It is best to over-prepare than under-prepare. Hoard your cash. Cut your expenses to the bone. I’m even going through my expenses and doing the same as I wait for the danger of frost to pass so I can start digging.

For the record, I’m seriously dreading the digging. I’ve not had a garden in ages and all I’ve got is a spade to work with. If I’m lucky, Middle Daughter will find that hoe she thought she saw in her shed the other day. We’re combining our forces to grow a garden.

It will be a cold day in hell before I risk my babies going hungry.

And thank you for your email, Everett. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.

All you old-guard Minimalists who are still out there, who understand what minimalism is truly about, you need to get off your duffs and start writing again. Seriously, these fools that are popular now are not helping matters. I don’t care how you do it, you have a duty to help people learn how to live on less so they can survive this. Send me links and I’ll get the word out that you’re back.

We are all going to have to band together for what’s coming.

~#~

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 Plan for an Uncertain Future

Okay, folks. We’ve got some work to do. Sitting on the couch isn’t going to make things any better – it will only make you insane.

Best case scenario is we have another recession. We live through this, our friends and family live through this, but we have some financial challenges to deal with.

Worst case scenario is we lose some family and friends and end up facing a Depression that makes the Great Depression look like child’s play.

That’s what we’re facing. Either we square up and meet it head on, or we let it kick us in the private parts while we skulk off to cry.

Either way, we can’t escape this. The only direction we can go is through it, so it’s time to get to work.

That was the pep talk I gave myself when I felt myself becoming sad at our current situation. As skilled as I am at living on less, seeing the names of my friends in the obituary column really hit hard.

But do you remember that old TV show the A-Team? You younger folk might remember the movie based upon that old series. It was my favorite show when I was a kid. And my very favorite scenes were when Hannibal made a plan and the team prepared to take care of business.

I have personally chosen to look at this as a challenge. I’m not only a minimalist, I’m one of the foremost frugal living experts in the United States. If anyone knows how to live cheap, it’s me. That said, this is a completely different situation from any I’ve ever faced. Even during the Great Recession I was able to go out and get a job. It may not have been the fanciest job, but I could get a job.

This time I’m at the age where, if I go out and get a job, I could kill myself. Since I enjoy living too much for that, I intend to tough it out on as little as possible for the duration.

When creating a plan, you need to focus on immediate needs first. For us, that meant whipping up some face masks so that my daughter could be a bit safer at work and I could be safer should I need to leave the house.

I had a few problems with that need, however. Not only had it been close to a decade since I’d sewn anything, I’d eliminated almost all of my sewing supplies. On top of that, I had never sewn a mask in my life, so I didn’t know where to start since I was horribly out of practice.

I could have thrown up my hands and said it was impossible but I knew that it wasn’t. I had a needle and some thread; add some material and a bit of creativity and I knew I could handle it. I gave the kid my card and asked her to pick out some fabric and interfacing (non-woven interfacing increases the effectiveness according to several family members in the nursing community) while I sat my butt down and began watching mask-making tutorials on YouTube.

I took ideas from a number of different videos and went to work. I no longer had a dedicated set of fabric scissors, so I repurposed the kid’s rotary paper cutter for the cutting part. After scrounging a bit around the house I selected an old tee-shirt to sacrifice to the cause (elastic shortage in this area) and got to work.

As I stitched, the kid came into the kitchen hauling a 1970’s era sewing machine. Her dad had picked it up at a yard sale and gifted it to her several years ago. She’d never used it; did I think it would make the sewing faster?

About that time a friend called. She was at the same store that sold the fabric: did I need anything? I begged her for some sewing machine needles and oil. When those arrived, I cleaned that machine and used it to finish the first mask.

While I was at it I sewed several masks for myself and some friends. I want as many of my friends to make it through this as possible so it made sense. I’ve seen enough of my friends in the obituary column. I’ve kept myself busy at that project for these past few days.

Now that the immediate project is done, I’m making plans for my next project, which is ensuring that we have some fresh food if money gets really tight, supply lines break down, or inflation makes the prices go up. I’m not exactly fond of yard work so I’ve decided to plant what I can in repurposed containers and to establish a three sisters garden in my back yard. You don’t need to weed a three sisters garden, which makes it perfect for my personality. As an added bonus, it will remind me of my grandmother, who made me promise ages ago to never forget the Native American blood that flows through my veins. While I may have been too young to remember the tribe she told me our ancestors were from, I’ve kept that promise to the best of my ability. This little garden will give homage to my ancestors.

These are just little steps that I’ve taken, steps that have not only kept me busy but have allowed me to prepare for what’s coming. If anything comes to mind that might make the coming days easier, I jot it down in a notebook to consider once I complete my current projects.

This is something that all of us need to be doing. Take a serious look at your life and ask yourself what you can personally do to prepare for any hard times in your future. Try to look at this as a challenge: just what can you do to not only make things easier, but that will stretch your abilities a bit?

Instead of paying your bills blindly, examine them to see if there is any expense you can eliminate. Do you subscribe to several streaming services? Eliminate one. Can you reduce your phone, cable, or other utilities? Can you open a window and avoid using the air conditioner this summer, at least for a while? If you go to a laundromat, can you scrape together a bit of money and invest in a small washing machine? If not, have you ever tried washing your laundry in a bucket or a bathtub? If you’re not an essential worker and are stuck at home, why not give it a try? That will allow you to save money you would otherwise spend at a laundromat.

There are so many different ways to save money! Just look around your house for ideas. If you can’t come up with any, read one of my books on the subject. The less you spend, the better off you will be moving forward. The best time to prepare is before you need to; the next best time is now.

Think about it this way: you can either feel sorry for yourself or you can do something about your situation. The first option doesn’t help a damn bit, but the other one just might save your ass.

It’s up to you.

~#~

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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!

This is Not the Time to Practice Minimalism

We are currently experiencing an entirely new situation. Millions of people are now out of work, told to stay home in order to control the spread of Covid-19 because that is the one thing we can do to minimize the spread and loss of life. Businesses are closing their doors and they may not be able to re-open once this is over. Some businesses that we rely on each and every day were so leveraged before this happened that they may very well fail before the “all clear” is given.

We do not know how long this will last. We will never even know how many people actually died from this here in the United States because there aren’t enough tests. My friends are dropping like flies, healthy friends. I’ve had several that were found dead already, or became sick and died. I look at the local obituaries with dread now, shocked that this is happening so fast that someone I can talk to one week will be listed in the obituaries the next. I’ve never seen so many people die in our area – and none of my friends who died were tested for coronavirus. There simply are not enough tests for that to happen.

Now, think about this.

Most of the things we buy are made in China. China is trying to restart their economy, but due to the fact that there is no vaccine for this, they could get hit again and have to shut back down. We don’t know what will happen over there, we don’t know what will happen to the other nations who manufacture the other things we need.

One thing we do know is that our nation is, for the most part, a service economy. Compared to the past, we do not manufacture near as much as we buy in this nation. I watch my governor go on television every day, begging for someone to open a PPE manufacturing plant in this state, because every time we try to buy the supplies we need, our state government gets a notice that the items we were expecting to receive have been seized by the Federal Government. From what I can tell, that’s now happening internationally. If the US can catch it in transit or whatever (and I gather the manufacturer’s headquarters are based in the US), they’re taking it.

There will be repercussions from that in the future.

We do not know what we do not know. We don’t know what will happen at the end of this story. This is why I am begging you to be cautious.

Think about it. Say you’re off because of this current situation and you think it is a great time to thin out your stuff. You’re bored, so you decide to go full-on Minimalist. You don’t see any harm in it because you believe that things will blow over soon. You can always replace the items you discard should you need them.

But what happens if you can’t? What happens if you decide to thin down your wardrobe to a week’s worth of clothes, and the clothes you decide to keep wear out before this is over? Where will you go to replace your clothes? Will you even have the money available to replace those clothes? What happens if you decide to toss that extra refrigerator in your basement and your current one dies? You can’t just hop out to Rent-A-Center and get a new one right now. You may not be able to find a store open to buy one (if you do happen to have the money). You might be able to order one, but with the chaos in our shipping systems, it could take a month or longer for a replacement to arrive. What will you do in the meantime?

I am speaking from personal experience. When I moved here, I decided to eliminate as much of my possessions as I possibly could to minimize my moving expense and to explore just how little I needed to live. I know what it is like to need a way to cook and store food and not have the money to acquire it. I know what it’s like to have the clothes you decide to keep wear out before you are able to replace them. While my situation was a bit different (my issue was money), it translates over to the current situation because not only do we NOT know if we’ll have enough money to afford to replace the items we keep that fail, we may not be able to locate replacements to purchase.

I am begging you. If it is something useful or functional, please keep it for the duration of this time. Box up your extra clothes that still fit. Save your scraps. Definitely keep your sewing supplies and other “craft” supplies for the duration. Depending upon how this plays out, you may need them.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope this blows over and we are able to go back to “business as usual.” But there is enough uncertainty surrounding this situation that we may not be able to do that for a time.

You need to prepare for that.

Excellent leaders prepare in advance for all potential scenarios. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not urge you to do the same. While I do believe that, on the whole, we own and buy much more than we need, there is a chance that you may need that excess before this is over with.

Stop throwing your stuff away! If it is functional, I am begging you to keep it. Stash your excess for now. You can always toss it when it is over.