Categories
Business Finances

Surprise Promotion

While puttering around at work the other day I received a page to the office.

“What’s up?” I asked as I stuck my head in.

“Have a seat,” the main managers gestured to a chair positioned between them.

When I got up from that chair, I had been promoted to management. I started my training the next day.

I must confess that I was a bit surprised to be offered the position. Based on what I’d observed, I thought they had the management situation well in hand. I’m honored and delighted that I was wrong.

This new pay raise will make it that much easier to survive on my own. Not only that, I may actually end up with a bit of money left over each month to invest along with my book royalties, especially now that I’m taking additional steps to save money.

Even better, the extra money in my paycheck will put me one step closer to achieving my goals.

Life is truly good.

What good news do you have to share? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances

Upgrading My Life

Every year I try to invest in at least one thing that will improve my quality of life.

In 2017 I invested in a refurbished desktop computer to make writing easier.

In 2018 I invested in some shelves, a number of books to educate myself, and a larger monitor so that I could see the screen on my computer better.

This year your friendly neighborhood cheapskate invested in a washing machine.

While I don’t mind going to the laundromat, my schedule has become so hectic with work that I dread taking time away from my day to load up, drag the stuff the few blocks to the laundromat, and listening to screaming kids as I spend my hard-earned cash washing up. I’ve debated the individual merits for at least a year or so even on this website, and I finally located a machine that will pay for itself quickly. It’s not as large or as fancy as the kid wanted but it will wash about 95% of my laundry so I am content.

I paid a bit under $80 for the washer, a warranty, and one of those little floaty lint catchers, and have been busy wearing it out ever since. With the chaos of these past few weeks I was overdue for a trip to the laundromat so I had a good $30-$35 worth of laundry to wash. Just getting the mess caught up would put me halfway towards paying it off, I realized when I saw the price on Amazon.

For several days after it arrived I kept that little machine busy every single moment I was at home. I quickly discovered that the fill hose it comes with is virtually useless; even if you rig it up to your sink, it is so small that it takes ages to fill the wash tub. It’s a much quicker process to just fill up a couple of buckets and dump it in.

To use the washing machine, I simply place it in my bathtub and position the drain hose so that the water goes straight into my drain. I fill it up with buckets from the faucet, adjust the knobs, and putter around doing other things as it does its thing. To dry, I hang them up on my drying rack after I spin them out.

The laundry completely dries in just a few hours.

Now that my laundry is caught up I simply wait until I have a small load. I stick it in the washer either before or after my work shifts depending upon my schedule.

It is truly a game changer.

You don’t know how useful something is until you do without it for a time. I’d never much thought about how convenient having a washing machine could be until I lived for years without one.

Even better, now that I have a washing machine again I’m able to reduce how much money I spend, not only at the laundromat, but around this house, cause this girl is going back to using cloth for a number of items again. I’ve already went back to using my handkerchiefs to blow my nose instead of bathroom tissue. I’ve went back to using cloth even for cleaning up nasty messes since it’s no big deal to toss a couple of really dirty items into the washer and knock them out in an individual load.

I’m even seriously considering going back to using family cloths instead of purchasing bathroom tissue, but that’s still up for debate.

For the moment I’m simply going to savor the fact that I can wash laundry whenever I want while I debate the merits of investing in a small dryer.

What have you done to upgrade your life so far this year? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Empty Nest Finances

First Month Without Katie

I just finished paying the first round of bills without the kid sharing half of the expenses.

I made it. I even had a bit to spare.

I must confess that I was worried so I clamped down drastically on my spending. I’m not quite sure why I was worried (this isn’t my first rodeo, after all), but that old demon Fear loves to play games with me.

In order to reposition myself for the future, I’ve decided to actively use up some of the stockpiles I’ve acquired over the past few years. Cleaning supplies, cosmetics, paper products, food–all this and more are going to be used before I purchase more. This will allow me to not only safely stretch my finances while I adapt, it will provide the opportunity to use up some of the things around here while I learn just how much I use when it’s just me as well as free up physical space in this little home.

This girl has got to go back to the basics, build her foundation, in order to move forward. Who am I? What do I want out of my life? These questions have been running through my mind since the tearful day I said farewell to my daughter.

There is life after parenthood. I’m going to embrace it. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve been really, truly free to discover who I am. My dad died when I was just getting started; before I recovered from that I found myself pregnant. Even when you count my childhood years I’ve spent the majority of my life caring for others.

Now it’s time to take care of me.

Have you ever noticed that, for females, life seems to be focused so much on caring for others that it almost ends when all you’ve got to focus on is yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Retirement

Social Security is Not Enough

A coworker is being forcefully retired at work.

At over 70 years of age, he has worked for my bosses now for 40-plus years.

Tears were shining in his eyes as he told me the news. He has one month’s notice before his last day.

“But you’ve got Social Security, right?” I asked, casting about for a way to console him.

“It’s not enough,” he sighed, visibly shrinking. “It’s not enough to take care of me and my wife. That’s why I’ve kept working.”

I didn’t know what to say. What could I say?

I listened to him talk instead.

Years ago my friend bought into the lie.

My friend had believed that Social Security would take care of him when it came time for him to retire.

But they lied. They’d lied to him, and now it was too late.

My friend faces a frightening future as a result of his trust.

I don’t know what is going to happen to him. I don’t know if he will be able to find another job at his advanced age. I don’t know if he’ll be able to pare down his expenses to compensate for the lost income.

And there’s nothing I can do to save him.

I closed my eyes in silent prayer as he left the room. I prayed that he would find a way through this.

I also made a vow to myself.

That is not going to be me. That is not going to be my future. I’ve seen the writing on the wall; if I don’t do something to build up my passive income I’ll share the same fate as my friend.

I’ve got to keep trying.

I’ve got 21 years before I reach the age of 70 in order to make my goal a reality. I will do whatever it takes to avoid his fate.

And while I’m at it, I am going to continue shouting from the rooftops about the dangers of relying on the Government to provide for you.

Hopefully people will start to listen.

Categories
Finances

How to Start Saving Money

Habits rule our daily lives. From what we do when we first awaken to the last thing we complete as we crawl into bed, we are controlled by habit.

Habits allow our brain to take a break from the mundane, to power down for rest, or even to focus on other things.

Tweak those habits, and you tweak your life.

Try it.

Place a single penny into your change jar, then check off that day on your calendar every single day for a month.

Just one penny. When you drop that penny into the jar tell yourself “I’m saving money; I’m living beneath my means.”

See how long you can keep the chain going. If you want to drop more change into the jar do it, but the goal every single day is to deposit one penny into your little savings account.

You are not to touch that money. That money is your savings. Every time you deposit a penny, you are that much closer to financial freedom. Don’t worry about the details right now; just get into the habit of depositing at least a single penny into your savings jar.

I dare you.

Categories
Finances Food Frugality

Resisting Temptation

It was early evening. I was on my way home from work, hungry after my shift because I’d not eaten since the day before. The aroma from a local pizza place called to me, enticing me with its flavorful aroma.

My nose went on high alert. My stomach started growling. My eyes drifted to the restaurant as I began to pass and my whole body began to get involved.

They were advertising $5 pizzas.

Five dollars isn’t much. I had the money in my pocket. I could grab a pizza, my mind supplied as Hunger spoke. I could definitely afford to splurge on a simple $5 pizza!

Before I realized it, my feet had carried me off of my path and into the parking lot of the pizza place.

I forced myself to stop in my tracks.

I had food at home. I generally only eat once a day, so my hunger was normal for that time of the evening. I’d already planned what I’d intended to eat when I got home.

I did not need to spend $5 on a pizza.

Oh but how I wanted to! My mouth was watering, my stomach was howling, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sign. Five dollars. Just five dollars. I can afford five dollars.

I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and walked away.

Temptation can strike in many different ways. It can be that new gadget you’ve seen advertised, the ones your friends are all showing off. It can be the beautiful vehicle in the used auto lot when you’re walking in the rain. It can be a pack of cigarettes when you’ve resolved to no longer buy them.

Or it can be a billboard advertising cheap food at a restaurant when you’re hungry.

Five dollars isn’t much. It’s not even an hour’s wage, but spending that five dollars resulted in a choice. If I had spent that five dollars, I would have told myself that a whim in my now was worth more than my security in the future.

As I quickened my pace to escape the enticing aroma I reminded myself of what that five dollars represented. It was over a half-hour of my life before taxes; a half-hour that I could invest in my future. Thoughtfully placed, that five dollars could provide another fifty cents worth of passive income for the remainder of my life.

It is far more important to me to secure my financial freedom than to enjoy a stupid pizza.

I went home, reheated my leftovers for dinner, and gave thanks. Temptation had lost another battle and I was a bit closer to my goal as a result of my decision.

What temptation have you faced lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances

Voting Every Day

Every single penny you spend (or don’t) is a vote that tells the world a little bit about you. Every single penny you spend votes for the world you want to live in and the businesses you support.

Do you drive past the stores on Main Street to shop at the Mega-Mart on the outskirts of town? Do you buy trendy crap made in China or handcrafted items made locally? Do you prefer to eat at the locally owned restaurant or the national chain?

Do you prefer to buy something once and keep it forever or do you prefer to replace things when styles change or new features are added?

Do you prefer to spend more money than you make, forking out for interest fees, or do you save your money and possibly invest?

You may not think this matters but it does. It really does.

When you eat at a locally owned restaurant that money stays local. It helps the town you live in. When you buy at the Big Box store that stocks its shelves using foreign factories that money goes to pay wages and buy supplies that help the GDP of another nation.

If you spend your money voting for foreign made items, you’ve no room to complain about the loss of jobs in your own nation. If you use a self-checkout, you’re part of the reason why your cousin will have her cashier job eliminated…

…And if you buy stuff that you know will fall apart in days or weeks or months, you are encouraging companies to sell even more of the same.

I try to be thoughtful about the items I purchase. I avoid credit, voting with my lack of spending in that area against those companies who profit on our profligacy.

Just the other day I voted with my money again. I resent purchasing items that are designed to fail and I like to keep my money inside the nation I call home whenever possible so when the last can opener I purchased promptly failed I decided to take action. I went online and invested in a heavy-duty American made can opener, a device that should last for a decade or longer with proper care.

I was amazed at its heft when I picked up the package. Delighted at the solid construction. This is a can opener that might very well be the last can opener I need to buy if I care for it properly.

That is something I am more than willing to vote for.

What have you voted for with your money lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Inspiration self-improvement Success

The Secret to Achieving the American Dream

The American Dream of improving your life, of having the ability to own your own home and change your circumstances is alive and well.

It is hidden in plain sight, crouching among the waves of advertising and manufactured needs we have been indoctrinated with; one simple sentence that so many choose to ignore:

Spend less than you earn.

You cannot afford a champagne life on a Budweiser budget. You cannot afford a new iPhone each year making minimum wage. You cannot spend money you haven’t earned yet to keep up with your neighbors.

It just doesn’t work that way.

If you want to succeed you have to live beneath your means. Find some way to make the money you save earn more money. Hustle to make even more money if you don’t have enough because it’s not the government’s job to support you if you don’t want to work.

The only one responsible for you is you.

It’s not always fun to do without when everyone around you is spending like mad. I feel that pain every single time my coworkers waltz in with their takeout for lunch and I’m sitting in the corner eating crackers.

My mouth waters, my stomach growls but I have to face the cold, hard fact of my life:

I will never be able to improve my circumstances if I spend every penny on stupid shit.

It’s not fun to walk to work in the rain and the snow and the mud. It’s not fun to pass up the opportunity to go shopping with my friends.

But you know what is fun about my life?

Paying all of my bills in one fell swoop at the first of every month. Having money to spare when those bills are done. Going home each night knowing that the lights will be on and the water will be running hot. Knowing I’ve got food in the pantry, clothes on my back, and money in the bank for when I need it.

I can sleep at night knowing that I’ve got more than enough to meet my needs. I can smile in the morning because I know that there will be money left over each payday to add to my investments. Watching those investments earn dividends that increase my income even more.

I have achieved my version of the American Dream on a minimum wage income simply by accepting my current financial limitations and living within them.

And day by day, simply by changing my mindset from survival to growth I am actively improving my circumstances. The day will come when I no longer need to work a public job in order to survive. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, only this time I’ll hedge my bets.

I am the daughter of an ex-con and a stripper. I barely have a high-school education. I had kids way too soon and ended up raising those kids on my own. I’ve got so many strikes against me I stopped counting but you know what? I’ve achieved what many believe to be impossible and I’m still moving forward.

If I can achieve the American Dream despite my challenges, you can do it too.

Now get to work.

Categories
Finances Investments

Patient Experience

Last year I invested in Corus Entertainment, a Canadian company I stumbled upon when I first began investing in the stock market. I could sense that they were about to make some serious changes to the company; based upon that and a gambler’s hunch I bought in.

Sure enough, just as I expected, the company slashed their dividend. However, I hadn’t anticipated just how that would affect the stock price.

It tanked.

I decided to ride it out. It hurt, watching one of my very first investments, one of the very first companies I’d invested in using my limited experience to drop so sharply. I counted it as the cost of experience. I would learn something from this; even if I lost every penny of my investment it would be worth the price of admission.

It would also test a theory of mine. Based on my studies, I believed that in a quarter or two that the stock price would rise again as the company used the money previously allotted to a dividend to improve itself.

I was right.

Over the past few weeks I’ve watched the price of that stock slowly tick upwards. Yesterday, in the excitement of a new earnings announcement I watched the company’s price briefly hit $5.41/share.

I only paid $4.94/share when I bought in.

So what have I learned? I’ve learned that dividend cuts can be a very good thing for shoestring investors. Wait until the cut is announced. Watch as the price of the company’s stock tanks, and then buy as much as you can afford. In a few quarters as the company uses the extra funds to grow stronger, the stock price will advance again.

I am currently using that method on another company I’ve discovered. I intend to buy until the stock reaches a certain price and then move on to my next target.

Patience is key. Just as a successful business isn’t built in a day, a profitable portfolio isn’t built overnight.

I have now discovered that I learn best through practical experience. I’ve learned to pay the price of admission, even if I don’t fully understand the game. I’ve learned that experts can be wrong, and the only way to discover that is to do your research and make your own decisions.

What have you learned lately? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Investments

Potential Paths to Success

The kid got her permit today.

She’s over the moon with the achievement. She intends to acquire her driver’s license, invest in a vehicle, and get a better-paying job.

Late last night she discussed her options with me. She asked if I would mind if she lived with me, splitting the expenses until some time in 2020. This would allow her to have a support system when her fiancée is deployed overseas this year.

While the mom in me was like really? the frugalista in me was cheering.

It opens another option line for my future.

If the kid remained living here my bills would continue to be low. I could piggyback off of her, using her vehicle to re-acquire the license I gave up while writing The Car Free Experiment. This would allow me to get one step closer to my long-term goals.

We discussed the option of getting a factory job together. We would both save money by splitting transportation costs. We could almost double our hourly income with this route; the extra hours we would receive would mean that our weekly income would more than double.

I could invest $500-$1,000 a month if we went that route.

In order to receive a base amount of money to live on ($500/month), I need to have $60,000 invested in dividend stocks at a 10% return. Not including rolling over my dividends and chipping in my royalties, I could have that socked away in less than 10 years by simply investing that minimum $500 a month; less than five years if I managed to invest $1,000 monthly.

I could work in a factory job for 10 years. It would be rough, but I could do it. I may not even have to work in one for that long, depending upon how my overall investments, my book royalties, and other options pan out.

No one knows the future, of course, but I find that exploring options is a worthwhile exercise. It allows me to brainstorm potential paths towards my long-term goal and to weigh potential pitfalls as well as what steps I would need to take in order to hedge my bets.

If anything, this path would allow me to turbo-charge my investments and allow me the income needed to acquire a vehicle of my own, as well as the money needed for any classes as I work out the best career to settle in for the long-term. I have no real desire to work in a factory until the day that I die.

What options are you considering to achieve your long-term goals? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances

Thinking of Long-Term Goals

Last night I fell asleep thinking about my long-term goals. Eventually I would like to own my own home and perhaps build a small real estate portfolio in order to provide yet another stream of passive income.

I’ll have to build my credit if I want to accomplish that.

I don’t like credit. Credit makes it far too tempting to overspend and the interest rates charged…well, I’m cheap.

That said, a good credit score would open doors and opportunities for me that otherwise would be closed should I decide to pursue home-ownership and real estate investments.

I’ve been discussing this fact with my beloved Auntie, who has become my financial counselor as of late. She offered a suggestion that I would like to run past you in order to hear your opinion.

Auntie pointed out that credit cards do not charge interest if you don’t carry a balance. She shared that she keeps a credit card that she uses to make her everyday purchases that she pays in full each month. This not only helps keep her credit in good standing, it provides a layer of protection in the event her card information is ever stolen, since she never uses her debit card. This keeps the money in her checking account safe.

I have no need for credit at the moment; living beneath my means the way I do means that I don’t require it. That said, I know from experience how challenging it can be when a credit card thief empties your primary bank account.

An extra layer of protection would be a nice thing to have. I am a firm believer in hedging my bets when it comes to finances and I have become extremely cautious about using my card in unfamiliar stores. I carry cash with me to avoid using my card these days as a result.

If I took Auntie’s advice I would not only gain a layer of financial protection, I would begin building my credit score. This would allow me to secure credit should I require it in the future to achieve my long-term goals. I could use the card for my everyday purchases, budgeting accordingly as I already do, then pay off the balance each month. This would allow me to avoid any interest fees. At the most, I would have to pay an annual fee on the card until I figured out a way to eliminate that.

What is your opinion? Do you think it would be a good idea to apply for a credit card and use it in this manner? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Save Money

In light of how many people I see on a daily basis who refuse to save money, I started asking myself why this was a thing. To me, it makes perfect sense to live beneath my means but in my world I am in the minority.

I thought I’d brainstorm to determine if perhaps my path was the wrong one.

  1. Treasure Hunts are fun! It’s a wonderful feeling to find loose change in your couch cushions or beneath the seat of your car when you need to buy a roll of bathroom tissue to make it to payday.
  2. Late fees and overdraft charges are a normal part of life. Why try to fight them? Just pay the money and move on. You can always eat beans or charge your grocery bill as you recoup the losses.
  3. GoFundMe Pages are in style. Who doesn’t like having their very own GoFundMe page to finance a move or to pay their bills when they lose their job or get hurt? It’s a badge of honor to crowdfund in this day and age.
  4. The Government will always be there to help if you really need it. All you have to do is ask and they will deliver. This safety net is a wonderful thing.
  5. It is fun to apply for food and financial assistance. Government agencies are always delighted to help anyone who applies for help. They make it so easy. You provide your bank account records, pay stubs for the past few months, information about everyone living with you, and statements from all of your neighbors to prove that you’re not housing a secret millionaire at your home and poof! Money just starts rolling in.
  6. You learn how to survive on less sleep. It’s a good thing to toss and turn when you receive a shutoff notice on your heating bill in the dead of winter. Who cares if you have to go to work in the morning? You can use that extra time to binge-watch your favorite show or go hang out with your sweetheart.
  7. You have something in common with all of your friends. Since everyone around you stays broke as well, you can all commiserate on how expensive life is. It’s lonely being the only one with money in your circle of friends and they tend to get upset if you point it out.
  8. It’s less work. Instead of wasting your time trying to stretch your dollars you can veg out in front of the television every evening and enjoy your life instead.
  9. It’s so enjoyable to one-up your friends. Want to make them jealous? Buy the latest and greatest phone that just hit the market and show it off. Get the lastest mega-package from your cable company so you can brag about watching all the hit shows. Cruise to work in a brand-new car and brag about those low monthly payments. Move into a nice big house in a great neighborhood so you can make fun of your friends who are stuck in the ‘hood. Watch their faces color with shame because they’re not as successful as you are. The ones with the most toys wins!
  10. You only live once. If you take it with you, your kids will fight over the money you left behind anyway. Why not eliminate the drama and die broke? You’re the one who busted your ass to make the money so you should be the only one who gets to enjoy it!

Did I miss anything? Share it in the comments below.

Categories
Economy Finances Security

The Importance of a Financial Buffer

The United States government shut down the other day. Regardless of your personal beliefs on the issue, one thing that we can all agree on is that the pay suspension for many Federal workers is causing many families to suffer. So many people the world over live from paycheck to paycheck; even a delay in the receipt of their income can be devastating.

The fear of financial insolvency has colored the choices I’ve made for decades. It’s one of the primary reasons that I favored low-wage, “disposable” jobs in industries such as fast food as a single mom. I selected those positions because I knew that if I lost one job that I would be able to secure another position within a matter of days.

It is much better to have financial security than it is to have a higher paycheck.

As I grew older and wiser I realized that job security wasn’t enough. It’s obviously not enough for the Federal workers currently suffering the political fallout from the current situation in Washington and it’s not enough for anyone with a family depending upon them. Things happen. A kid can become ill, forcing a parent to stay home and provide care, a car can break down making it impossible to go to work, a refrigerator can die, or the heat in your home can fail in the dead of winter. You can even become ill or injured, forcing you to take time off of work in order to heal.

This is why I began the practice of keeping a financial buffer.

My current buffer would provide three month’s of comfortable living in the event of an unforeseen disaster; five months in a pinch. Even with my determination to invest every penny I can I’ve still managed to continue increasing the amount of money I keep stashed in my emergency fund.

Everyone needs to keep a financial buffer. With our current political situation, this buffer would have allowed these families to continue providing for their families for the duration of the Government Shutdown with minimal disruption. It wouldn’t be fun, but it would be a helluva lot better than facing homelessness or food insecurity.

I don’t care how little money you make; if you don’t have a buffer of safety stashed away in a bank account or a lockbox at home you are taking a foolish, downright stupid chance with your financial security. Shit happens. When it does, your paycheck is usually the first thing you lose. Unless you want to live in a cave like Daniel Suelo you need to keep a stash of cash just to survive.

It’s not fair but that’s just how it is.

So suck it up Buttercup and face reality. It is not the world’s job to support you. Most people won’t even care if you lose your paycheck, they’ll just offer platitudes and go on with their day. It’s up to you to support yourself and your family; to do that you need to keep some cash on hand in the event that the unthinkable happens.

You can start out by saving your spare change. Instead of tossing your pennies on the ground, put those suckers in a jar at home. Roll them occasionally and stick them into a bank account you won’t touch, or convert them to cash and stash it in a lockbox at home or a safety deposit box at the bank. Put it somewhere you won’t be tempted to touch it when you stumble upon a sale of your favorite whatsit.

Instead of blowing money on a tattoo or getting your hair professionally done or a fancy manicure, take that money and stash it away. What’s more important to you? Is it more important to keep up with the Jones’ or is it more important to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly?

I don’t know about you but I prefer to eat any day.

You can splurge on the extras once you know you’ve gotten a buffer built up and will be safe in the event you go to work one day and discover your job has closed. It is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your finances.

***

Do something good today. Share this post on social media. You share cat photos all of the time; this post could be the wakeup call someone needs to prevent a financial disaster. Help your buddies help themselves for a change. Thanks for caring!

Categories
Finances Investments

Financial Surprise

As I caught up on the task of logging the money I’ve spent this month I discovered that I’ve done a lot better than I anticipated when it comes to reducing my spending. Even with stocking up this month on pet food and supplies atop of saving some money back for the upcoming book/surplus sale the local library is hosting soon I will have more money left over at the end of this month than I anticipated.

Between that, the fact that I still have last month’s royalties stashed away, an extra paycheck coming this month, and a new round of dividends hitting my account I might be able to afford another round of investing. The stock market is down at the moment; prices on my favorites are at a delightful low. If I could afford to toss another hundred dollars into them that would allow me to inch a bit closer to financial freedom. The extra dividend income may come in handy once Katie moves out but if I don’t need it I would have that much more to reinvest once winter ends.

I’ll know more at the end of the month. For now, it gives me hope that I’ll be able to survive the winter without being forced to suspend my goal of financial freedom entirely.

It’s always a treat to discover that you’re doing better financially than you thought.

Have you ever looked at your finances and realized that you’re doing better than you thought you were? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Live Beneath Your Means

The other day an acquaintance approached me for a loan to pay their overdue water bill. They knew that the bill had been due on the 10th of the previous month; instead of paying it then they decided to do some other things with the funds since their water wouldn’t be shut off until the first of this month and the city only charges a five dollar late fee.

I was approached for the money the night before their water was due to be disconnected.

This is a common occurrence in my life. I watch people spend money eating out, buying gadgets, ripping and running from sale to sale only to approach me when their bills are due because I am notorious for living beneath my means.

Seriously, folks–it is time to grow up.

Bills Come FIRST

If you know that you have a bill coming due, reserve the money from your paycheck to cover it. Period. If you don’t have enough money coming in to cover all of your bills, you need to either reduce your expenses or increase your income because if you can’t afford to pay your bills now, borrowing money is going to make it even harder to pay your bills next month and the months after that.

It is simple math. You cannot spend more than you earn. It doesn’t work that way, no matter how you juggle it. It’s not fun to go without when all of your friends are buying like crazy but tough! That’s life. Suck it up and move on. Yelling at the friends who refuse to support your profligacy is not going to help you one bit. We live beneath our means to best provide for ourselves, not to help people who refuse to control their own spending.

As for the person I referred to earlier I have no idea if they sorted the issue. I’m tired of being cussed out by idiots.

Have you ever been attacked because you refused to enable someone’s spendthriftiness? Please share your stories in the comments below.

 

Categories
Finances Life

The Necessity of Facing Reality

Now that I’ve had time to breathe, it is time to face my current reality. I need to know what I’m facing in order to move forward.

Facing our current reality is a necessity. Burying your head in the sand won’t help one bit. You must know exactly where you stand, regardless of how shaky the ground so that you know what you are dealing with. That is the first step in overcoming any challenge you may face.

I’ve sorted my reality into a list of advantages and challenges. I’m leading with advantages first since good news always helps to soften the blow of the bad.

Advantages

  • I currently have a public job that brings in a bit less than $600 these days due to a cut in hours. Worst case scenario, I can live on that year-round once Katie moves out, though it will be rather tight during the winter months due to increased utility expenses.
  • I have my writing business, which is my passion. It brings in anywhere from $50-$120 a month, depending upon sales and runs a couple of months behind of my actual earnings. For instance, the royalties I receive in November will be from sales in September.
  • I have a checking account with roughly $1,000 in it; $500 is my pillow, and the rest covers my bills for the upcoming month.
  • I have over $1,700 invested in the stock market at the time of writing. My investments aren’t currently valued at that due to the slide in stock values, but it still brings in a bit of money each quarter.
  • I have a small investment in silver that can be sold if needed.
  • I have marketable skills in computer repair and sewing that can be utilized to earn extra money if needed.
  • I have no debt that I need to worry about paying off.
  • I have the amazing ability to live on very little money when necessary.

Challenges

  • I am facing the emotional upheaval of my daughter moving away. This may affect my reasoning if I’m not careful.
  • My expenses will double when the kid moves out. More than double from my current budget, since expenses are much higher here in the winter.
  • I have no idea what to do with my life as I move forward.
  • I possess neither vehicle nor drivers license, so employment options are limited if I need to seriously increase my income.
  • My cash padding is reduced due to my stock market investments, so I am running a bit leaner than I like as I head into the coldest months of winter. That makes me nervous.
  • I’ve realized that I have an unhealthy relationship with money and things that I need to deal with. I tend to focus on money (since my spending is under my control) when other facets of my life seem out of control.
  • I have realized that dental issues have been causing the exhaustion I’ve experienced this past year. If I don’t attend to this issue the infection could kill me in time. Since I have no intentions of leaving this world for some time to come, this is something urgent that I need to address.
  • I have very little saved up for retirement.

Evaluation

Overall, looking over this list I’m not doing too bad. It seems scary but the challenges are far from insurmountable. I’ve faced much worse in the past. History indicates that I will sail through this winter just fine. It might be tight, but it is workable. To be safe I won’t invest any more money into the stock market unless I know that I can definitely spare the funds. I will hold on to that money just in case I need it to pay bills this winter.

In the meantime, I need to keep a close eye on my spending. I need to reduce the amount I spend to adjust to the fact that I will have less free money in the future. It isn’t a pleasant reality to face but I have to deal with it. Fortunately, I have a few avenues available to make extra spending money if needed. I can take in sewing work by doing repairs and alterations. I can repair computers. I can even work on MTurk in my spare time.

I am already taking steps to correct my dental issues. As a result, I’m already noticing an increase in my energy levels. All I have to do is continue my current action plan and this issue will be eliminated. I will have to save up for a pair of dentures but I’ll figure that out as I go along.

I’ve realized that I do have an unhealthy relationship with money; understanding that you have a problem is half the battle won. I’ve altered my focus a bit to compensate. That said, that unhealthy focus will actually benefit me in the upcoming months since I may have to get creative to stretch my limited funds. I’ve got lots of experience with saving money as a result of my previous obsession with keeping expenses low.

I’ve formed a basic game plan to help deal with the emotional fallout of Katie leaving. I invested in a nice journal to provide a safe, pleasurable place to work through my emotions. I’ve altered my focus to the person I want to become instead of making financial goals at the present time. Once Katie moves out I’ll keep busy by sorting and rearranging my home to accommodate. I’ll be able to sleep in the bedroom and I’ll have more room overall once she’s gone. That is an advantage I want to keep my attention on. I will handle things better if I have something to look forward to.

I’ve got a nice stack of books in my “read” pile. These will keep me occupied and provide ideas and inspiration for the cost of free since I already own them. This will not only be cheap entertainment, it is educational as well.

I will eventually need to work out a definite goal but that is not an urgent need. I’ve waited twenty years to begin saving for retirement; a few months is not going to change things much. In fact, it might even benefit me. I may come up with ways to increase my income that don’t rely on working full-time.

Hmm. Thinking about it, that is actually a reasonable and safe goal to shoot for. Take this time to regroup, research, and brainstorm in order to increase my online income to the point where I can not only invest in my future but to supplement the income from my part-time job. I do like my job so I would like to remain working there; if I can arrange things to do so, while improving my standard of living, I would be much happier than I would be if I had to trade 40 or more hours of my life each week to earning a paycheck.

That is definitely something to keep in mind moving forward. I would like to work less, not more.

do want to improve my standard of living. I’ve thought about it, and I would like to invest in certain items like a small washer and dryer at some point in the future. I would also like to invest in a few items purely for decorative purposes over time. I’ve realized that I enjoy a bit of bling in my life so it is time I embraced that aspect of my personality. Minimalism be damned; I’ve settled into this home, I’ve no plans to move in the immediate future, so I see no point in deprivation so long as I can afford the occasional treat.

In Summary

By facing the reality of my current situation, I’ve realized that things aren’t as bad as they first appeared. I know where I currently stand. I know what I’m facing in the immediate future. I’ve got a workable plan for the short-term and a hazy long-term goal. It’s a start, which is all I need.

Have you ever sat down and thoughtfully analyzed your situation and the challenges you are facing? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality Happiness

The Diderot Effect

The Diderot Effect has been used as a lesson against mindless consumerism since the minimalist movement began. The moral of the lesson is always the same: buying something nice will lead to us buying other nice things until we’re broke and miserable.

I was right on board with that thought from the beginning. Why should we strive to buy better things when we’re all poor in the first place? I reasoned. Wouldn’t it be better if we used what we had instead?

It would definitely be cheaper, I thought.

So that’s what I did for years. I scrounged around for free or cheap stuff and made do in order to save money. I kept it clean, used it till it died, and scrounged replacements as time went on.

Diderot’s complaint was that a gift of a fancy robe caused him to upgrade his entire home to match. He spent far more than he felt was appropriate and regretted his decision. His rant has been used as an argument against consumerism ever since.

Let’s poke at him with a stick. If we strip away the consumerism aspect his theory is simple: if we allow ourselves to upgrade one aspect of our lives, in time we will upgrade other areas to match.

Does this work in both directions? Let’s use my life as an example. Here are some pictures of my home before I became extremely frugal:




 


 

 

This is my bedroom now:


new bed

Note that every single item in all of those photos was paid for in cash. I purchased the furniture in the first photos secondhand. I didn’t break the bank to achieve the first look; I used what I had and accentuated it when time and money allowed.

And if I allow myself to be honest with myself, the first set of images suits who I am inside much better than the photo of what I’ve become.

In short, I am a living example of the Diderot effect. By focusing solely on what I could scrounge and exploring how low I could go financially, my external environment deteriorated as well.

What Can We Learn From the Diderot Effect?

We can see from my example that the Diderot effect works in both directions. In the first set of images, I started out by purchasing a bedroom set from a friend and accentuated accordingly. In the second…

…I’m not so sure how to explain the last photo.

While there is a risk of allowing ourselves to buy more than we can afford, if we curb the temptation to overspend, I believe that we can harness the Diderot Effect to improve our living circumstances over time.

An upgraded wardrobe, purchased used (or new when money allows), would provide improved job opportunities.

An upgraded home would improve our quality of life and allow us to attract, not only a different set of friends but a completely different lifestyle than the one we currently have.

So repeat after me:

There is Nothing Wrong With Improving Your Life

There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve your financial circumstances.

There is nothing wrong with affordable luxury.

We need money in order to live. That is a fact of life that, try as we may, we cannot escape in our modern society. There is no sin in improving your wardrobe bit by bit to gain a better paying job, and there is no sin in upgrading your home as you can afford it.

I’m preaching to myself as well here. Until I started this post, I’d no idea how far I’d fallen.

Oddly enough, my income hasn’t even changed much between the two photos. I had changed, and I hadn’t even realized it.

Harnessing the Diderot Effect

I’ve decided that it is time that I went back to the woman I was when I snapped those photos. She wasn’t ashamed of owning nice things; she bought what she could afford when she could afford them and savored those luxuries in her life.

She didn’t tolerate useless clutter but she allowed herself occasional treats. She enjoyed scented candles, incense, and a monthly box of inexpensive bath salts that she split with her kid.

She didn’t feel guilty when she went out to eat. She didn’t feel guilty when she bought a pretty dress at Goodwill. She carefully budgeted her money but allowed herself the little splurges when money allowed.

She wasn’t perfect; she allowed herself to be persuaded to live above her means around the time those photos were taken. She took out some credit cards and financed a washer and dryer that caused her to struggle. I suspect that attempt to move too far and too fast is what started her on the journey to where I stand today.

But if I learn from that experience, if I harness the Diderot Effect in a responsible manner, I should be able to improve my life dramatically.

I can go back to who I was again.

Confession and Challenge

This post ended far differently than how I originally envisioned it. I imagined that I would rant against consumerism like I have so many times in the past as I sat down at my keyboard. I worked myself up to a white-hot rage against my previous self…

…until I looked at the date on the original photos.

I wasn’t a mindless consumer back then. I had started down the path of minimalism, true, but I had used the philosophy to curate my life for the better. I had stumbled upon minimalism before it was a thing and I used it to better my life before I got swept up in the pissing contest of less is more.

I don’t like what I see that I’ve become. I’ve allowed myself to settle for less and less until I lost sight of who I truly am. I was so driven to live on less that I forgot that there is value in moderation.

Maybe Katie was right. Maybe I did deprive her in my desire to live cheap. I did it with the best of intentions but I can’t argue with the truth I see in those photos.

Seeing these photos made me realize a truth I’ve avoided facing for far too long. This post is the reason I decided to press the pause button on my blog and my life in order to rethink things.

I can’t change the past but I can learn from it so I’ve set myself a challenge. I am going to identify one item that I’ve denied myself for ages; an item that I could never justify purchasing under my previous mindset. An item that cheapskate me would never buy because it was far too expensive and served no practical purpose other than to provide me pleasure. I am going to buy it, just because, in order to prove to myself that I am worthy of owning beautiful things once more.

After that, I will begin to use the Diderot Effect to reclaim my life.


Have you noticed the Diderot Effect in your life? Has it been a positive or a negative change? Are you happy with the results of the effect? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Rock Bottom

I do believe I have now officially hit rock bottom as far as expenses go. With my daughter as my official roommate, she splits half of the household expenses with me. Here is a breakdown:

Rent: $250 a month
Electric: $50 avg. in summer
Water/Sewage/Trash: $39.88
Internet: $30.59

Total: $370.47

My Half: $185.24

As usual, I am not including the amount we spend on food. We buy in bulk during sales and stock-up periods and then don’t purchase much of anything for quite some time until we use up what we have. On top of that my daughter now takes turns with the grocery expense; I have no idea how much she spends when she pays for groceries on her own.

I’m not going to calculate how much our bills go up in winter at the moment because, let’s face it; they are half of what I was paying previously. Even worse, I know that they will go up once the kid moves out.

I still don’t own a car. I walk to work, the store, and order online when it makes financial and physical sense. I currently use Google Voice for my phone, though my daughter has a cell phone that she pays for herself. If I went with her route I would pay $50 a month for phone service.

I know of no one else on the Internet who lives on less than I do unless they happen to be homeless. I rent a home, I have basic utilities, I never go hungry and I have money left for small extras every month. I am able to live comfortably on the $600 a month I earn in my public job, which now allows me to save every penny of my book royalties to invest in my future.

Let’s face it: there’s only so low you can go on your monthly expenses before you negatively affect your quality of living. I have no desire to go any lower than I already have. That said, I’ve no intention of going on a spending spree and buying everything in sight. I am taking advantage of my current situation to put money away to regain my financial freedom.

Out of curiosity, if you happen to know of another frugality writer who lives on less than I do, please point me in their direction. I’d love to learn their secrets.

Categories
Finances Frugality

Frugality is Not Enough

As I write this my home looks like there was an explosion in a clothing factory. I’ve spent the past few days washing laundry in my bathtub to save a bit more money this month. It is times like this when I dream of owning a washer and a dryer; it would be absolute heaven not to have to drag a heavy cart to the laundromat or wash things out by hand.

After I rinsed out the last round I sat down and priced some simple, small washing machines. I could probably buy one next month but if I did so my investment goals would suffer. Do I really want to delay my financial freedom for this? I asked myself. Every hundred dollars I invest brings me an hours’ wage closer so can’t it wait?

Yes, it can.

I know I could go to the laundromat; I’ve enough money in my pocket to pay for it easily enough but I’ve gotten to the point where my dream has become real to me. I’ve realized that I can really, truly achieve financial freedom through investments. Unfortunately, my income is so low that, in order to achieve my freedom, some sacrifices must be made. I am literally stealing from my present in order to finance my future.

This has caused me to realize that frugality is not enough. When your income drops below a certain amount immense sacrifices have to be made if an emergency arises or you would like to acquire something that would make life better.

I am tired of living at that level of forced sacrifice. It’s time to make some changes.

What do you sacrifice when you want to save money? Please share your stories in the comments below.

Categories
Finances

Do You Dream of Financial Freedom?

Imagine waking up whenever you want to, without the need of an alarm clock. You sit up, stretch, and ask yourself:

What do I want to do today?

This is the life of financial freedom. You don’t have to work; you have enough passive income to cover your needs. Your time is your own. You can rest, learn something new, visit friends, volunteer…

…or enjoy the fleeting childhood of your children.

Do you dream of a life like that?

I achieved it once. I managed to be a stay-at-home single mother for my youngest child, a feat many told me was impossible.

What would you do with your time if you were financially free? Please share your stories in the comments below.