Categories
Finances Financial Freedom Frugality

The Freedom of Frugality

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.

Categories
Finances Frugality

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.

~#~

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!

Categories
Personal

It is Time to Press Pause

I’ve suffered from a bit of an existential crisis these past few days. My beloved daughter informed me that she plans to officially marry in November.

By some time in December she should be gone.

It’s all hitting me. This stage of my life is officially over.

I started blogging as a form of cheap therapy. I needed to get my thoughts out of my head so that I could focus on my goal of being the best single mother I could be.

In hindsight, I believe that I focused on minimalism and frugality because, in a life that seemed so out of control, money and possessions were the two things that I could control. As one of my friends pointed out so many years ago, I tend to slip into “survival mode” when facing emotional issues.

In other words, when faced with something I cannot control, I shift my focus to shaving as much off of my budget as I can instead of dealing with what is truly bugging me.

And I’ve become quite good at that. As I announced in an earlier post, I doubt that there is anyone blogging online who lives quite as cheaply as I do.

That said, I’ve reached a critical juncture in my life. My youngest daughter, my sole reason for fighting the fight for almost 20 years, is leaving.

If I am not very, very careful, instead of dealing with this head-on I will bury my pain deep inside and obsessively focus upon my finances.

I can already see the signs. When I start seriously conserving money by washing my clothes in a bathtub despite the fact that I can afford a laundromat and debating the financial implications of a purchase, I know that I’ve slipped into survival mode. I can preach different reasons all I want but I know myself, and I have finally realized exactly what I am doing and why.

I am trying desperately to avoid the pain of loss that is eating me up inside.

It is high time I stopped doing that. While saving money is a good thing, my continuing obsession with money is unhealthy.

While I still want to achieve financial freedom, I have decided that I need to shift my focus inward for a time. I need to face the fact of my changing circumstances. For once in my life I need to face my pain instead of burying it deep.

I need to press pause, step back, and seriously evaluate my life.

I have not made this decision lightly. Behind the scenes of this website I have been madly writing about my finances. I even penned some painful posts about things that have happened in the past, posts that really need to stay buried, at least while some of the people involved still live.

I’ve written so much these past few days that despite increasing my posting schedule to a daily format I had things scheduled into next year as I’ve tried to come to grips with what is happening to me. Upon a critical review of my words late last night I saw myself for what I am: a woman in the midst of a major life change.

Some of the ravings didn’t even make sense as I flip-flopped between obsessively focusing on my finances and ranting against the cold, hard reality of what I am facing.

This stops now.

I pulled every single one of those posts. In fact, I’ve pulled every single post that I had scheduled from this day forward as an added precaution. I intend to review them over the next few weeks. I want to sift the good and helpful from the drivel and craft them into something that may benefit you before I give them to the world.

It is time for me to sit back, take a deep breath, and figure out exactly what I want to do next. I know I need to grow up. I know I need to own the fact that I am changing. I need to accept the reality of what I have become, decide who I want to be, and start making positive steps in that direction.

I will return in a few days, I promise. I simply need to work out a basic idea of where I want to go next without advertising the worst of my internal crisis to the world at large. You don’t need to witness that.

That said, my focus on extreme frugality is over. I have traveled as far as I can safely go down this path.

I’ll write more later.

 

 

Categories
Finances Frugality

Getting Serious About Finances

While many of the so-called experts are crying, I’ve discovered that my decision to enter the stock market could not have come at a better time. The US Government has decided that inflation is out of control so they’ve started to raise interest rates to “cool off” the economy.

According to my research, every single time the Fed raises rates, stock prices take a hit as emotional investors panic and others move out of the stock market into safer investments like government bonds.

This is very good news for me, because it means that I’ll be able to buy stocks at bargain basement prices.

In order to maximize my long-term profit, I need to take advantage of this dip. The more I can invest now, the better off I’ll be in the future. That means I have to get really serious about my finances.

I picked up a copy of Your Money of Your Life in hopes of some pointers. The book is filled to the brim with helpful information, but one thing I gleaned from the text was the fact that I need to account for every single penny I spend in order to learn where I stand financially and keep track of the progress that I am making.

I tried to do this on the computer at first, using my knowledge of Excel, and I fell flat on my face. I spent more time trying to use the darned program than actually entering information. I switched around to several free finance applications, only to run into the same issue. I ended up being so frustrated that I was ready to toss my computer against the wall!

So I went back to what I know. I understand the basics of paper accounting. I used that method to keep track of my budget for years during the early days, until my budget became so low I didn’t need to bother. I invested in a ledger and got to work.

Every single penny I spend is documented accordingly. It’s a bit of a chore, but it has made me more conscious of how I spend money. For the first time in my life I’m actually documenting how much I spend on food, books, and other items. I intend to use that knowledge to target areas where I can save in order to maximize the amount I have to invest while the market is in this slump.

Once I have a few months’ of numbers available, I’ll even go into parts of my budget that I’ve never discussed before–like groceries. Perhaps that will help you learn a bit more about controlling your finances, as well as show you a bit more about how I spend my money on a daily basis.

If you’re interested, that is.

Have you ever kept track of every penny you spend? Please share your stories in the comments below.