Minimalistic traveling

Over the last few years, I seem to have started traveling more. Admittedly, it is mostly for work, but not all. I have done more air travel recently than I have the entire rest of my life. That’s probably not saying too much, but it’s true! For the most part, I enjoy it. (I’d enjoy it a bit more if I didn’t get motion sickness from bumpy flights though!) I love seeing new places and taking in different scenery.

There are some things I have learned from my recent travels. First off, I really detest checking my bags. I like having my eye on my stuff at all times if possible. Okay, some smaller planes still make you hand over your small suitcase\carry on, but at least it goes from the trolley at the front of the plane directly into the plane, and right back to me when the flight is over. Hey, I don’t trust people! I’ve had my suitcase gone through more than once! Secondly, because of that fact, I have to pack smarter. As you have probably already figured out, I like stuff. I like taking my stuff with me. You know… just in case! I have finally figured out that packing lighter and smarter isn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.

I think what helps me the most is HOW I pack. I used to fold everything all nice and neat and lay things on top of each other, just like I would in my dresser. Turns out, at least for me, if I roll up my clothes, I have considerably more room. (AND less wrinkles!) I can put the things that I would put in my backpack in there as well. I was so mad at myself for not figuring it out sooner. Seriously! This could have made my previous trips so much easier. I always bring too many extras. How about instead of 3 extras, just take 1? I actually did it. It’s amazing how much more room I have when I don’t try to take my entire closet with me! This doesn’t mean I can take a lot of other things with me. I see all that extra room in my suitcase, and I feel the need to fill it up with things. I refrained. I am making progress!

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This is half of what I brought the first time I came to Montana. One pair of jeans (besides what I wore on the trip over), pajama top and bottom, two tank tops (for under shirts), a t-shirt, a dressier tank, and two different styles of sweaters in case eating out was going to happen. I also brought three pairs of socks (one extra), same for my other under things, and an extra pair of more comfortable shoes. One layer in my suitcase! Woo hoo! I don’t think you realize how big of a deal this is for me!

I gathered all my other stuff. One small bag of makeup, one baggie of chargers, and two baggies of miscellaneous toiletries that I have to bring. I simply can’t use hotel shampoos and conditioners. My hair is too picky for that.

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There is still a ton of room in there. I would call this a success! (There is some dramatic dance moves going on right now!)

So, what it comes down to is this… Plan ahead. Make a list in advance of what items you want to take. Then, take the time to assess what is on your list. What can you eliminate? What isn’t necessary? Can you survive your trip without it? If you can’t, is there a smaller version you can take? It seems like it should be a no brainer, but sometimes these things just don’t occur to us when we’re in the act of packing. I actually did purchase a few “mini” travel items that took up half the space… Deodorant, first aid kit, and toothpaste. There was nothing overly extravagant, and the total cost was under ten dollars. The nice thing is that I won’t have to purchase them for a few more trips, so it’s totally worth it to me!

There is a certain feeling of freedom when we have less to (literally) carry around. Go on your trip, have fun, and take less with you! You’ll have less to keep track of. You’ll thank yourself for it!

My need to have less stuff

I have a confession to make. Lately I’ve been feeling very closed in and trapped by my stuff. Over the last year I have gotten rid of a lot of things. I’ve had garage sales, and donated trunk loads of my unwanted and unused goods. I have a lot less. So why do I still feel like I’m drowning?

I have theories of course. I have problem areas in my home… my dining room table, a certain oversized bookshelf, and my computer/craft/music room. These are either my high traffic areas, or where I spend much of my time. I’ll be the first to admit that when I get home from work lately, I’m tired. I collapse on the couch and don’t want to move. That is where the problems start. Everything that has happened during the day doesn’t get taken care of, so it starts to build up. It sure doesn’t take long!

The “drop zone” at the end of the day

Where items with no home hang out

I also bring things home. That offsets all that I have disposed of.

I’m sure you can relate. I know I’m guilty of not putting things away. We don’t have control of what happens in our homes when we leave for work, unless you live by yourself. It all adds up in a hurry. Then, within a few days, I start to feel the stress of all my stuff hanging around… far away from where their rightful place is. I feel like I’ve lost control. My stuff owns ME.

IT NEEDS TO STOP!

I’ve read many articles, blog posts, and books about decluttering and minimalism. It all sounds so appealing… so very nice. My big struggle is getting past my heritage and upbringing. You see, I come from a long line of pack rats. NOTE, I did NOT say hoarders. My family has long believed in stocking up on things… getting extra when there’s a deal to be had. It’s not garbage and nastiness… Just lots of items for later use… large boxes of various electronic cables, canning jars full of random nails and screws, shoe boxes full of artist paint brushes. I’ve noticed, as I look around my home, that I tend to do the same things. What makes it all the more ironic, is that I live in the house I grew up in. I still have things in my basement that my dad saved. (Cabinet drawers full of screws, nails, zip ties, etc.) There used to be A LOT more things, but I finally got up the courage to sift through most of it.

I just need to be brutally honest with myself when I take time to deep clean. I need to take every single thing out of my closet and start asking myself those all important questions that all those articles have brought to my attention. Do I use this item daily?  When was the last time I used it? If I were to get rid of it, is there another item that I have that could work similarly to this one? Do I know anyone that I could borrow one from if it was absolutely necessary? If there are several similar items, is there possibly one item that could do all the things that the multiple items can do?

I need to get a variety of boxes together and designate them for definite keepers, undecided, throw away, and donate/garage sale. Ultimately, what I like to do is have my garage sale, and then donate what doesn’t sell. I try to find a cause to donate the clothes, crafts, and other specific items to, whether it be shelters, nursing homes, schools, or various local charities that could use them before donating to my local thrift stores.

I have already decided to do a garage sale this year. I’m really not all that fond of putting on garage sales. I never have been. I work in customer service, so sometimes having a break from people is nice. However, I will admit, that when my daughter comes and hangs out all day with me, it is much more tolerable. We usually don’t make a ton of money, but I do enjoy her company. We listen to music, talk, and laugh obnoxiously… THAT I enjoy immensely. I think the biggest thing that I have learned about the yard/garage sale process, from my coworker, is to price all your items as soon as you have decided to sell them BEFORE you even put them in that designated box. When you’re ready to have your sale, you don’t have to spend the time pricing everything frantically as you’re staging all your tables. It takes so much stress out of the entire process! (Thank you, Angie, for THE MOST amazing advice!) I am even going to talk to my neighbors about the possibility of a neighborhood sale. That would bring in more potential customers. Why not? Last year, I designated the money I made for birthday and Christmas presents. It worked out really well. AND I GOT RID OF STUFF! Watching my things leave with an excited person was refreshingly pleasant. I’m glad someone will enjoy them.

As the summer season approaches, I am going to try and be more vigilant about putting things away as soon as I’m done with them. I’m going to recommit to my “5 things a day” rule. I’m going to put my reusable grocery bags back in my car as soon as I’m done putting my groceries away. If I bring something home, I am going to try to get rid of two things for every one thing I have brought in. I’m going to “Power Hour” my way around my house and have my biggest garage sale to date. (Last year’s was pretty big, so I have a lot of things I need to get rid of!) I’m going to go thru all my clothes and shoes, and get rid of the things I truly don’t wear anymore. I’m determined to reduce the amount of things in my home!

Sometimes all it takes is the realization to reawaken the declutter beast. That has happened to me.

ARE YOU READY TO OWN LESS? I KNOW I AM!

Healthier eating made delicious

There was a time, when the majority of the food in my home was hamburger helper, pizza rolls, boxed cereals, frozen burritos… instant foods full of empty calories and a long list of ingredients that I can’t pronounce. I know so many of those ingredients aren’t good for us. Not to mention the amount of refined sugars and sodium added are usually pretty high.

Over the last few years, I have searched for recipes that are not overly time consuming, rich in flavor, with whole food ingredients and minimal or no sugar added. I’ve tried to incorporate more vegetables and fruits into my family’s diet. I love vegetables, but the rest of the family is not so welcoming to produce beyond green beans and corn. My kids will entertain the idea of broccoli as long as my homemade cheese sauce is included, but my hubby still won’t go there. “Broccoli is gross!” Whatever, honey. You’re missing out!

One of my favorite websites is https://www.100daysofrealfood.com. There are so many incredible recipe ideas here! The recipe index is absolutely amazing. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even desserts are available for the tasting. The amount of information Lisa puts out there is awe inspiring and inspirational! I can only hope that some day, I can do half of what she does. I’m taking steps in the right direction though! I just wonder if the hubby will accept this once he finds out… Shhhh! Don’t tell him PLEASE!

One of my biggest goals is to incorporate healthy ingredients into my meals and have my husband NOT notice that there’s extra vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. I’m also determined to replace his normal snacks with a healthy alternative.  Instead of cereal, how about some homemade breakfast “cookies” (with flax and dried fruit)? Instead of a handful of jelly beans, how about a kiwi, banana or a mango? Seems simple enough, right? Half the battle for me is removing the less healthy habit and making the healthy substitute available, hoping he will take the bait! After all, if there is no jelly beans to eat, and there’s a mango sitting there ready to consume, then all that’s left to do is pick it up and eat it.  We’ve been working on that, and so far, we’re making progress.

My other challenge is that several of my friends have food allergies… dairy products, gluten, and coconut. I have searched for recipes that I can make that can accommodate them as well. This is a BIG obstacle. I like using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. I also love dairy… a lot. Gee, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned all the milk! I’ve tried to find alternatives to some of my go to items. I’ve found that coconut heavy cream whips up well into whipping cream for my fruit salad. It definitely tastes different than normal whipped cream, but it’s a nice alternative for my lactose intolerant friends. I can use canola or grape seed oil instead of my usual coconut oil for some things that my coworker can’t have. Challenging? Oh yes, but I do love a good challenge. I love doing research.

The recipes I have to share are a combination of ones that I have found online, and ones that I have made up after trial and error. There’s a few that have some sugar added, BUT, in general, on the healthier side.

HEARTY & TASTY BREAKFAST COOKIES   –  A great grab and go item for a rushed morning!

HOMEMADE GRANOLA  –  Delicious cereal that keeps you going all morning long.

CASHEW COOKIE  –  Simple and tasty!

THE BEST FRUIT SALAD  –  A nice, cool treat, snack, or dessert on a warm day.

REAL CHEESE CHEESE SAUCE  –  A great way to get your family to eat their veggies. When my family asks for mac & cheese, this is what they want!

PESTO  –  Great in a variety of different recipes!

BLEU CHEESE DRESSING  –  By far THE BEST bleu cheese dressing outside of a restaurant.

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-the-best-whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/  –  Oh so easy, and makes a delicious, juicy chicken.

SAUSAGE SQUASH CASSEROLE  –  I’m not a fan of squash OR Zucchini, but I will eat this up and go back for seconds!

DARK CHOCOLATE TARTLETS  –  Dairy free! A deliciously low guilt indulgence!

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-chocolate-mousse-from-deliciously-organic-cookbook/  –  MY FAVORITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE RECIPE BY FAR!  *Sometimes I’ll add 1/4 cup of mini dark chocolate chips to this for a little something “extra”.

https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/whipped-cream-recipe/  – Quick and easy… and no sugar!

These recipes are a few of my favorite things to eat. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! It’s hard to eat healthy. It’s also hard to find the time to make things instead of simply buying pre-made items. Even if it means cutting your sugar intake in half, that’s still a step in the right direction. I’m a big fan of sweets. If I can do this, you can too!  Spend an hour making something delicious that you can feel good about.

LET’S GET COOKIN’!

 

 

Finding myself

When I was young, I was painfully shy. I would literally hide behind one of my parents when someone talked to me. It was crippling to my social life. I couldn’t even order a burger without the pickles! It was difficult to reach out and make friends, so I honestly didn’t have very many. I was always the weird one… the quiet one… the poor one… the emotional one… I hated all these things about myself. I would try to take on a different persona to try and fit in. All I wanted was to blend in with everyone else. It wasn’t until high school that I found “my tribe” of people that I could really be myself around. These people didn’t care how weird I was. They didn’t care that I would laugh so much that I would get the hiccups. They didn’t care how I dressed. They enjoyed the same music and humor that I did. Most importantly, I could truly be me. They didn’t try to change me, and I didn’t feel that I needed to change myself.

After high school, we went our separate ways, and I started to lose who I was. The big world was full of selfish, cruel people whose sole desire in life was to make me suffer. Then came a bad marriage, a bitter divorce, and split custody of my kids. I became an empty shell… damaged goods with a trunk full of baggage. I lost myself somewhere in there. I hid behind a false smile. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and no one else really did either.

Fast forward 25 years….  20+ years remarried. My kids have grown into amazing adults and are doing great things with their lives. (Proud mama moment here!) There has been a lot of struggles, laughter, and sorrow. It took a long time to crawl out of the hole I was in and start to discover myself again. There was constant soul searching. It was hard, but I did it.

The tribe is back together too. There was a long time period in there when we lost contact. That was before I had a cell phone or email. Everyone was off to various colleges, and doing incredible things. I was a terrible letter writer. (I still am. Go figure!) My people found me on Facebook.  I was elated. 🎶 Reunited, and it feels so good!

Having these beautiful friends return has brightened my life and helped me see the part of me that has been missing for so long. I was most definitely me, but I didn’t realize what part was missing until it was restored.

I am back to being that “me” that I actually love. The more confident me… the adventurous me… the genuine me… the me that accepts ME for who I am. Sure, I  have my moments. We all do. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be happy and accepting of ourselves all the time? If you figure it out, please let me know!

What I do know is that doing things that bring me joy helps bring that feeling of accomplishment, satisfaction, and self back into my life. It helps me find my balance. It helps me relax.

Summer's little guilty pleasures

pink flip flops

Finding out who you really are can be a difficult process. When you find that part of you that makes sense, hold on tight and let the good things take you on an amazing journey. Find those people that accept you for who you are. Being true to yourself and loving who you are is extremely important. We all lose ourselves sometimes. Just be sure to take time for you and find your way back!

FIND YOURSELF. LOVE YOURSELF. BE HAPPY.

How menu planning saves me time and money

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about menu planning. I love everything about it. It makes my grocery shopping more streamlined, which saves me money. I can coordinate my menus with what I already have in my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Besides those reasons, it’s also nice just simply knowing what’s for dinner. I always felt a bit guilty when my hubby would ask what the plan was for dinner and I would say, “Ummmm, let me think about that for a bit”. We would then end up with something like french toast or grilled cheese. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and we like them, but they were always my “go to” dinners when I didn’t have anything planned… again.

Yet once again, I turn to my lists. Can you tell I love the lists? Yes, yes I do!

The first thing I did was to make up a blank spreadsheet. I then started categorizing my dinners… chicken, beef, pork, simple dinners, breakfast for dinner, pasta, etc. I marked the ones that were designated as crock pot meals. I sat down with the family one evening, and we started blurting out dinner ideas. I wrote down everything we could think of that we liked. (And some the kids didn’t like, but I did!) I made a separate list for all the recipes I had collected over the years that I wanted to try. I wrote down all the names, and where I had them stashed, so I could find them again.

 

 

As you can see here, I put a star by all the crock pot ones. I would designate one dinner per month as a new recipe/”test” night to try new things. If we liked it, I would cross it off and add it in to my rotation of dinners. If we didn’t, it would be crossed off the list and forgotten about. It worked out really well for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above are some of the dinner ideas my family came up with.

Once we had all the ideas written down, then I could start entering them into my calendar. Just in the ideas I have on the bottom two sheets, there’s 72 dinners. That’s nearly two and a half months of menus with no repeats, aside from my “leftover” night, or possibly the “fend” nights. I try to arrange my menus in such a way that I can use the majority of the leftovers in the next couple of days’ meals. Chicken in a crock pot is one of my favorites for this. Original chicken the first night, make chicken stock overnight, then use some of the chicken for chicken quesadillas the next night, and homemade chicken noodle soup the next.

On the top of my calendar, I would put the items that I needed to get from the store for my recipes for the month. I would rearrange my days a bit if I couldn’t find my items on sale. When my kids were in school, I would make sure that I knew what their schedules were, and make sure to plan very quick and easy meals for those nights.

 

MENU PLANNING FOOD IDEAS   <==  Blank spreadsheet PDF for dinner lists

And there you have it… how I keep my sanity when it comes to dinner. We all have enough things to think about. An evening of planning will save you so much time in the long run. (And even more if you have already filled out your food inventory lists. You know exactly what you have in your pantry and your freezer, RIGHT?)  Plan well, save well, and eat well, my friends.

 

 

Finding balance: How I get more out of my personal time

I’m a busy woman. I have a husband. I work a full time job, and I have a multitude of hobbies and interests. By the time dinner is done, there doesn’t seem to be much time left for ME. How do I find time for myself and all those things that I enjoy so much? I refuse to get up any earlier. I am so very NOT a morning person. Waking up earlier will not do anything for me. I’ve made multiple attempts, and it just doesn’t work for me. I can’t stay up too late either… 5:30 comes too quick as it is. I require a lot of sleep. When am I supposed to have time for my hubby, my job, housework, writing music, doing photo shoots, photo/video editing, blog posts, exercising, taking online classes, doing my craft projects, meeting with my girls…. Oh my gosh, just looking at the list here is stressing me out!

It is so hard for me to find balance!

I’ll admit, there used to be days that I didn’t do much of anything when I got home from work… at least nothing that requires much moving around. We all have those days. I’m just too tired. I’d sit on the couch and watch tv, or play games on my tablet. There I’d sit until bedtime. It still happens on occasion, but not nearly as often as it used to.

I found some motivation.

I want more out of life. I’m tired of spinning my wheels and seemingly not moving forward. In order for me to get more, I have to do more. That’s pretty obvious.

I started making to do lists. This worked… kind of. I had an impossibly unrealistic list of all the things I wanted to get done. I would do great at three or four, and then I would get sidetracked. At the end of the day, my list was still incredibly long. I was frustrated. All I could focus on was all the things I didn’t get done instead of the things I DID get done. It was so depressing. I decided to come up with a different angle…

Doing more example #1:

My friends talked me into take some free online classes. (My girls really are the best!) They have the best “sales pitch”! Honestly, I’m really excited about it. I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to do it before. After all, I love learning. I always have.

Summer is just around the corner. My daughter is getting married in August. I also have a class reunion coming up. I started up my treadmill routine again. I don’t need to lose weight, but I would like to tone up.

My solution to #1:

I can take my online classes while I workout. I use my tablet to take my classes, and I can still do my walking and my free weights all at the same time. I get around 45 minutes of exercise AND get my courses done. Success!

Doing more example #2:

Music is my passion. I love playing music… as in playing the piano, among other instruments. I love writing music. It relaxes me. It excites me. Music speaks to me.

I thoroughly enjoy photography. I love the challenge of that perfect shot. I have recently branched out into the video end of shooting too. I love the art of editing my photos and videos. (I really do enjoy not having to edit them at all though!)

My solution to #2:

I started a YouTube channel (thank you, my friends, for yet another suggestion), and have incorporated my music together with my videos and photos for the world to see. Not only is learning how to edit video interesting and challenging, but it has given me a different, eye opening perspective on my music, and how to meld the two together. It has also helped me to step out of my comfort zone. Brand new territory for me!

When I get home from work, dinner and chores are first priorities. If I do some preplanning, (think menus!), I can have dinner over, chores done, and dogs fed by 7:00. Then I go upstairs with my tablet, and start up the treadmill. I’m done with my online classes and my workout by 8:00. Next I go to my computer room and power up my computer. I get to work on my music and/or photography. By 9:30, I’m trying to button things up and start getting ready for bed. 10:00 is bedtime. (My schedule varies from day to day.)

My weekday schedule looks something like this:

Get organized!

This definitely isn’t an exact science, but the routine works well for me. When I try to stick with my schedule, I seem to get a lot accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. At the end of the day, I am satisfied with what I’ve done. That is honestly what makes this worthwhile to me… being happy with what I’ve done with my day.

 

My weekends vary a bit, but they usually look something like this:

Get more out of your weekend!

You may have noticed that I wake up pretty late on the weekend. Hey, I mentioned before that I’m not a morning person. It takes me a while to wake up and get ready to face the day!

This may all seem like a lot, but as I said before, it works for me. Yes, life happens, and things don’t always work out like I plan them to, but having the routine helps me stay on track. I get so much more done when I have at least an outline to go by. I may not get everything done on my schedule that I have planned, but it helps to keep me focused. Sometimes I set a timer. It is so easy for me to get side tracked. (Squirrel!)  My friends know all too well how distracted I can get. I find it embarrassing, but they find it hilarious.

 

Whichever way you decide to plan your time is fine… as long as it works for you! Make your list of things you want to get done and do it! It’s such a satisfying feeling when you reflect on your days and see all the things that have been accomplished.

 

Make the time you have work for you.  You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish

Plan out your days and get more out of life. You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!

Resisting the impulse buy and emotional shopping

It’s been a rough day. I’m not talking your average crappy day. I’m talking about the: “I have the worst possible migraine but I’m working anyway, every person I come in contact with is being the worst version of themselves, my car decided to have a flat tire, and I ran out of gas”, kind of day. “I’m so depressed. You know, if I bought myself a little something, it would cheer me up” kind of day.

Sound familiar? I don’t have these specific things happen to me often, and certainly not all at once, but circumstances are inevitable and out of our control. Crap is going to happen! How we deal with it is critically important. I can guarantee that if you choose to spend to try and make yourself feel better, you will end up feeling worse when you get home!

There’s also the: “I have cash burning a hole in my pocket and I just feel like buying stuff” scenario.

Enter the guilt phase. It really is a vicious cycle. Feeling down? Buy something to make you happy. Get the bill, and then you’re feeling down again… Better buy something to make you feel better…. I’ve been there! It’s tough to break the cycle and rage against the machine, but you CAN do it!

First and foremost, realizing and understanding the cycle will aid you in making better decisions for yourself. This is another case where self control is key to your success. The simplest and most obvious way to avoid the cycle is to NOT GO TO THE STORE. Several things have happened… you didn’t spend money, you didn’t use any gas, and you didn’t waste your time. There’s still temptation though. Our “everything is at our fingertips” life creates its own set of problems, doesn’t it? You can buy just about anything anywhere, and at any time. Modern technology is fantastic, isn’t it? If you’re fighting that urge, focus on something else. Play some music, work on a project, take your dog for a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, bake some muffins, do some laundry… anything that keeps your mind thinking about something else. The urge WILL pass, and you will have success. Little successes are still successes, and each one makes you stronger.

So what if you’re out with friends? Then what? Are you obligated to buy things because everyone else is? Um, NO! Even if you have to have a rehearsed speech to tell your friends… you CAN resist. Deep breaths. You’ve got this.

One step at a time. One situation at a time. You are strong. Flex your will (or won’t) power. You can do this!  And when you do, find joy in your success.

Be strong

Stay strong and enjoy your little successes.

Here a penny, there a penny: Saving for the holidays

I love change.  Let me clarify…. The coin kind of change. Those lovely shiny circles that jingle in the bottom of my purse, and weigh down my pockets. That’s just one of the beautiful bonuses to using cash to pay for my purchases. I get LOTS of coinage.

I know many of you would prefer to not have anything to do with change, but I love it. When I have some extra dollar bills, I’ll actually exchange them at my bank for a roll of dimes or quarters. Why, you ask? Well, for me, there’s a lot less temptation to spend it. I’m not real likely to carry a canning jar full of change in my purse because I feel like it. Hey, I’m still human. I’m not immune to the impulse buy unfortunately.

Did you know a full quart canning jar of quarters is $158? It really is! I haven’t filled up a jar of dimes, nickels or pennies yet, but I’ll let you know when I find out!  I’m hoping a jar of dimes will be around $500.  How awesome would that be?! The best part about my “piggy bank” jars to me, is that it’s so exciting to watch them fill up. I took four jars and etched them for the different coins. I’m a craftsy person. I liked the idea. I think they look pretty cool. Yes, I have four jars. I’m a bit OCD… they NEED to be separated!

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First and foremost I use these coins for Christmas presents. It may be May but it IS NOT too early to start thinking about your holiday shopping planning. Would you rather fork out hundreds in November and December, or save a little cash all year long? The majority of the country goes deep into debt because of the holidays. I absolutely refuse to let that happen. Think about it… set aside $50/month for 12 months, and you have $600 in December. That’s $12.50 per week… That’s practically one espresso and one fast food lunch.  Start this month and you’ll have $350 by December.  Save $100/month starting now and have $800! Utilizing a spending freeze could be quite beneficial here. (Hint hint 😉) Obviously, you don’t have to wait until Christmas to purchase your gifts. If you find a great deal, by all means, get it! It’s all about SAVING and DISCOUNTS right? Some opportunities are too good to pass up! But ABSOLUTELY set a budget and have a plan.

You should already know what the people on your list want or need. Think about having 6 months to find those perfect gifts instead of weeks or days. See? Planning not only will save you time later on, but added stress. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy the holidays instead of feeling weighed down by it. Granted, some last minute emergency present is bound to rear its ugly head. It always does. Not only should you expect it, you should (hopefully) have a little money leftover to use for said gift. Remember your self control. What’s left over should be put in your fund for next year.

That, my friends, is how I fund my Christmas every year. Make your change work for you!

 

 

 

 

 

Discount please?

I love a bargain. I’ve already mentioned that once or twice. When I’m shopping online, I search for coupon codes and anything else that will help me pay the least amount possible.  My latest deal was 47% off. I would’ve liked more, but, I’ll take what I can get! Layering several discount codes, along with a sale ended up putting a smile on my face.

What I’m talking about in this post though, is store discounts. Coupons, loyalty cards, and rebate checks are all fantastic. I think we can all agree on that. Sometimes the most effective thing you can do is simply to ask. (This used to be really hard for me. I tend to be on the shy side. I don’t like causing a fuss. I have worked really hard to try and overcome some of my social anxieties. It has been a difficult challenge, but I’m working on it.) I will let you in on a secret here. Retailers are more willing to give you a discount if you pay cash. Even a few dollars saved is better than nothing.

True example #1:  A few months ago I was shopping at The Guitar Center. I have never been in one before, and it was glorious! Any of you who know me knows that any kind of music store is classified as a candy store in my eyes. (Well, that and office supplies. We’ll leave that for another post… I promise!) I had a few things in mind and tried to find the best sales in the store. The sales gal that helped me was amazing. She answered all my questions with patient expertise. I picked out some incredible items that will aid in my musical endeavors. As she rang up my items I asked her if there were any promos or deals that she could hook me up with. She hesitated, but as I felt her hesitatation, I grabbed my wallet, and pulled out a stack of cash. “I’m paying with cash. Could there be a deal associated with that?”. I smiled as sweetly as I could. She said she would have to call a manager to see if he could approve a promotion they had going. He came over, heard her account, saw my cash, and gave me an additional 50% my entire purchase. That question saved me $200. Seriously!  I was ecstatic! It was all I could do to keep it together until I walked out the front doors. THEN I did the happy dance. It never would have happened if I hadn’t asked. I’m positive that paying in cash helped my case as well. Credit cards cost their company money. Cash is cash… no strings attached.

True example #2: Last December, I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping for work. (This will also be a post for a later time!) One of the items on my list was a laptop.  I was at my local Fred Meyer, as there isn’t a lot of electronics stores in my area, to look at some sale items I had seen. I found two that I thought would work. One however, wasn’t within my budget. I really wanted that one, but, I just couldn’t afford it. As the cashier was ringing up my purchase, I asked about any extra coupons or deals. He grabbed an in store coupon that dropped the price by an extra 25%. As I marveled in the added savings, it occurred to me that I could actually get the other laptop that I really wanted, with that coupon. I ever so kindly apologized, but asked if I could get the other laptop instead, cringing as I knew he would have to void out the existing transaction and get a manager override. (Remember, I hate making a fuss!) He was super nice about it, and I ended up with the much better unit… with one penny to spare in my budget. YES!!

You may not always get additional savings, but how will you know if you don’t ask? A little advice here… being polite will go a lot farther than rudeness. Honestly, who would you be more willing to give a discount to? The friendly person kindly asking if there’s a discount, or a rude, demanding person? Think of all the crap customer service people go thru. Enough said.

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Want your extra savings?  Get out there and ask for it! You’ll be amazed how often you can make that happen!

 

 

The Dreaded Spending Freeze

Habits are so hard to break. I suppose it depends on what it is, but when it comes to spending money, it is difficult for me to reign myself in sometimes. I know, I know…. Frugal me having a hard time not spending money ? WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? Like I said, it becomes a habit. The interesting thing is, the majority of the time, I don’t even realize it’s happening. Some random event will happen, and suddenly it becomes so obvious. I can see my overspending habit laughing in my face.

TIME TO TAKE CONTROL OF MY MONEY!  Enter the spending freeze.

Several times a year I adopt the spending freeze for a month. Usually, January is my first month for a spending freeze. The Christmas season is one of my favorites. It is also my least favorite. Every year we all spend, spend, and spend some more. We have become spending monsters. The habit of spending has taken hold. For me, it is absolutely essential to begin the new year relearning my thoughtful, deliberate spending rituals. I’m NOT suggesting that you skip paying your bills. Obviously, those are mandatory. What I’m suggesting is that for one month, avoid any extra spending.  No eating out, no coffee shops, no movies, no Amazon or Ebay. No extras added to your grocery cart,  only what you need for your menus… I think you get the idea. This requires conscious awareness. It sounds painful… miserable… depressing…  It all depends on your attitude. If you have already convinced yourself that it will be horrible, then it probably will be. BUT, if you look at it as an opportunity to push the reset button and renew your frugality, then THAT will be your reward. Well, that, and a substantial amount of money saved at the end of your no spend month! We don’t realize how much money we spend frivolously every day. That white chocolate mocha you buy every morning on your way to work is around $5 if you add a tip. That’s $100 in a month! Eat out for lunch every day? Chances are that’s $6 per day. There goes another $120 per month.  I don’t know about you, but I could always use an extra $220 a month to put towards bills, or stash in savings, or designate it for Christmas presents.

Make that cup of coffee at home and take it with you. Brown bag your lunch. DRINK MORE WATER. Watch movies at home, play some games… Yahtzee anyone? There are so many ideas out there. Pinterest just might become your new best friend.

When I first made the decision to start participating in routine spending freezes, it was out of desperation. My bills were spiraling out of control.  My credit card balances were high. I was stressed financially, emotionally, mentally… I wrote a pep talk for myself. I printed it out. I laminated it. I put it in my wallet. I forced myself to read it every time I reached in there to pay for something I didn’t need. It worked.

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I no longer HAVE to have my spending freezes, but I choose to. It invigorates me. It helps me stay grounded. It helps me to focus on the more important things in my life.

January has long passed, so I challenge you to make a goal to have designated spending freeze months.  Pick your months, and do it. Mentally prepare yourselves and take control of your money!  You’ve literally earned it!!