No matter what the checkbook says.
Everything, and I mean everything depends on your perspective. As Andrea of Frugally Sustainable says, “Living the good life has everything to do with quality over quantity and people over possessions. It has very little to do with how much money you have.”
I urge you to read Andrea’s post in-depth (use the link above)- she goes into detail on some suggestions such as:
- Develop your passions
- Learn a new skill
- Invest in people
- Volunteer your time
- Enjoy nature
- Health is wealth
- Stay at home
Now It’s Your Turn
Daily Goal: What small step can you take today that will lead you closer toward the good life?
Me: I’m considering writing all those suggestions on a piece of paper and putting it somewhere so I can see it as a daily reminder! It is soooo easy to get caught up in the push to run around like mad, trying to be like and please everyone else. Don’t take that the wrong way- I get much satisfaction out of helping others and caring for them- and I’ll do just about anything to make it happen. Just not at the expense of my own mental or physical health, or that of my family. I am not a martyr. Today I am staying home and doing things like washing the laundry to care for my family. That is enough for me today. And that makes me happy.
This has always been a tough one for our home. BUT, we are getting better at it and reaping some rewards- like less stress and more stability.
Frugally Sustainable has a guest writer for this topic, with some solid general guidelines for getting started if this is something you have struggled to accomplish. This is what Jody Allen of Stay At Home Mum — The Secret to Living on One Wage suggests:
Set up the following categories:
- Rent/Mortgage Repayments
- Utilities (Electricity, gas, water)
- Phone, Mobile and Internet Expenses
- Insurance (House, Health, Life, Car etc)
- Car, Transportation and Tickets
- Food and Clothing
- Other (debts, gym memberships etc)
Jody elaborates further on some ideas of how to tackle this project and keep it from being overwhelming. (My personal opinion is that you shouldn’t let it get overwhelming– keep it simple so that it is empowering! )
Now It’s Your Turn
Daily Goal: Make a budget.
Jody has these resources suggested to help you get started:
They are awesome! However, what I found that worked best for me was getting away from the computer and writing it all down old-school style. It seemed that the months I was more successful in managing the budget were the ones that I was diligent in spending time with some paper (duh). What I would suggest if you are ready to turn over a new leaf and tackle your spending is this:
- Get a 3 ring binder- any old one will do. No need to spend money on tracking your budget!
- Print out 12 -15 of these budget worksheets by Sissyprint. The categories are similar to those discussed in Frugally Sustainable’s post. They are pretty (for the girlies). I say 12-15 of them because if you are like me, you will screw a couple of them up.
- Fill out the month for each month and stick it in your binder.
- If you don’t already have a filing system in place for all your monthly statements, get 12 clear page protectors and stick your paid statements in one for their corresponding month. (This way, you’ll have them at your fingertips if you need to go back and verify something.) Now most of your budgeting materials are all in one spot.
- Use the back of each month’s budget sheet to make any notes. I’ve found that there are always things that come up that are weird and have, in my mind, no category on the regular sheet. These are things like membership dues, doctor’s visits, or educations expenses. Whatever the total is for the things that require further explanation, put that amount in the Other category.
This should help you get a clearer picture of where you stand. And be patient. Just making your Budget Binder is a big step in the right direction, but it doesn’t magically solve your financial woes overnight.Keep it real, mmmmkaaay.
It feels so good to be in charge of your stuff! In fact, check out all these free printable organizing sheets available on Tip Junkie. I use grocery and meal planners, as well as chore and home duty worksheets. (No, I’m not paid by any of the entities I’ve mentioned here- I just know they work well for me. Not selling anything.)
In the end, the only one that can make this happen is you. Don’t worry about needing to tweak your system, just keep doing it. As long as you keep at it, you will get to your goal- figuring out your budget and sticking to it. Good luck!
Think about it.
Keep some perspective.
I hope you are ready for a very real, very honest look at some of the reasons why some people MUST live frugally rather than choosing to live frugally. There is no disillusionment in Frugally Sustainable’s sixteenth post. Please take the time to read it yourself. In a nutshell, here are some reasons why frugality becomes a necessity:
- We see frugal living as a burden
- The definition of our wants and needs is all messed up.
- We flat out buy too much.
- We don’t take responsibility.
- We don’t have a budget.
- We don’t earn enough money.
- We don’t have an emergency fund.
- There’s too much clutter.
- We’re living trying to impress others.
- We shop for therapeutic or recreational purposes.
- We think that vintage wisdom is a thing of the past.
Daily Goal: Identify the reasons why you are living frugally out of necessity. What will you do to correct yourself and set a new course for your family? What are some other reasons that you feel like cause people to live paycheck-to-paycheck?
Me: It has taken us the first five years of our marriage to figure out where our money leaks are and what we need to do to NOT live frugally out of necessity. I think the economy hitting bottom was, in the long run, a good thing for us. I know that sounds ludicrous, but it was what (besides the birth of our daughter) made us grow up as a couple.It has fostered honesty and clear communication between us. These are the problem areas we have discovered:
- eating out
- ‘toys’- things we justify to ourselves as necessary entertainment
- multiple impulse buys on small things- they add up!
- not having a budget and not sticking to it when we finally did make one.
- not setting aside whatever money was left over from the budget for savings and emergencies.
Those were HUGE issues for us. Now, in our sixth year of marriage we have finally gotten our act together and these five leaks are not at such a five-alarm status with us. We have finally chalked up the self discipline (for the most part) in just saying ‘no’ to the areas that were wreaking havoc on our finances.
You know what the really cool part is? We actually enjoy the challenge of saving as much as we can now! Don’t get me wrong- we are not cheap. We spend as little as necessary on things like groceries, clothing and shoes. If there is a coupon or a discount to be found, we USE IT. We can feel where these efforts build our savings or allow us to do the things we want to do together or for others. For example, we like to participate in 5K races (me), tri’s and big obstacle races (husband). We don’t worry about the participant fees – which are often to support a special cause or charity- and we have tons of fun creating memories as a family. It doesn’t generate tons of clutter in our home, either.
We are enjoying the awesome freedom of self-control.
Ok, I know there was a huge two month gap from my last post until now. But I’ve been busy doing, well, the things I write about here! So let me warn you, I intend to finish the Frugal Living Challenge Series, but please don’t expect a post everyday. Maybe like twice a week. And something else thrown in between them to keep you up to speed on what is brewing here. It really has been life changing for myself and family. So, without further delay:
Learning to Share and Barter
Andrea at Frugally Sustainable has an amazing 25 item list of suggestions to get you started thinking about how you can learn to share or barter. There are all kinds of things you have or can do for someone else that will meet their needs, and down the road, yours too. I’d like to break this conversation down further into two ideas: Ways to meet your physical needs and wants and ways to feeling emotionally or spiritually uplifted.
Meeting your physical needs and wants
Some of my favorite suggestions from Frugally Sustainable are
- To participate in Freecycle
- Share yard tools
Some of my own suggestions are:
- Give Listia.com a try. You offer up for auction things you don’t need or want in exchange for points to spend like money on other Listia auction items. If what you want isn’t stuff, then keep your eyes open for gift cards to places you frequent- we have had great success with Amazon and Lowes gift cards.
- Exchange accessories with your friends. Do the ol’ girly exchange party and make some mimosas. Accessories often have less signs of wear and tear than clothing and they are one-size-fits-all, so no matter what shape or size, no one feels left out.
- Don’t be ashamed to shop at Good Will. Or ReStore. Or Army Surplus stores. Donating your things to these places is great, but there are treasures for you, as well. Frugally Sustainable suggests shopping used first and that is right on!
The Intangible Gifts: Feeling Emotionally and Spiritually Uplifted
“And the greatest of these is Love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
There are suggestions on this list that give you more elusive gifts than just stuff. Giving freely of yourself without conditions or strings attached has immediate and long-lasting rewards. When you give to someone out of love (not that you have to be in love with that person, but because there is simply love in your heart) a beautiful thing happens: more love is made. Things like this include:
- make a meal for the family that just had a baby
- volunteer your time
- perform random acts of kindness
Those were a few suggestions from Frugally Sustainable. Some things I like to do are:
- Sharing from my kitchen, whether its baked goods or lotion or soap.
- Sharing from my garden
- having a friend or neighbor over for a cup of coffee or tea. Just offering an ear or one-on-one time is priceless.
Nothing fancy. So share and trade, my friends. Enjoy!
Gardening, as much as I love it, has been quite a challenge. We have a VERY small backyard and are novices still in planning and knowing what to plant where. We are getting better at it however, and each year we see more successes than failures.
Frugally Sustainable has a fantastic post written by Mike Lieberman, the publisher of UrbanOrganicGardener.com. He shares his advice on how to start your urban garden, as well as tips on how to keep it simple and cost-effective.
I think a mistake that is made, or rather the misconception about urban gardening that many people have is in thinking that they are being told that they can ‘do it all’ with their tiny space. That was my mistake as well. Many can’t do it all- have veggies, herbs and whatnot to support yourself completely throughout the year. As with anything, there are a few exceptions- I read Root Simple and Cold Antler Farm. But everyone CAN do something. Even if it is just one container on your apartment balcony, that is SOMETHING.
Daily Goal: Head over to The Urban Organic Gardener and start learning how your dreams of growing your own produce can become a reality. Then share with us your gardening goals for 2012.
Me: As I said before, we are getting better at using the space we have and knowing what works best for us. This year, we are keeping the veggies simple with cucumbers and tomatoes. Last year’s drought really kicked out butts! Herbs are getting more of a focus, since they were the main survivors of the previous year’s extreme weather. Now that we have some experience living with our garden, we also know what we are going to use the most. It sure is hard to tend to something in 103 degree heat when you don’t really like it anyway!
I was overjoyed to see this as a discussion topic for the Challenge! I’ve got this one in the bag, baby.
There are several GIFTS in Andrea’s post for this topic: first, a healthy dose of information and confidence. Really, anyone can grow something, on any scale and it will benefit you. Second, she shares an interview with Rhonda at Growing Herbs for Beginners, who in turn offers a FREE video class on Growing Herbs for Beginners! Hellloooo…. FREE?!
When you hear anyone say you can grow herbs in containers, even if you live in an apartment, it’s the truth. Provided you know your containers need adequate sunlight, you are more ready to do this thing than you realize.
Today’s daily goal is to take the free video class on growing herbs for beginners, but I’ve been doing that for at least three years. Last year really went bust with the draught – we were very lucky that none of the Texas wildfires affected us, save for some ash on our cars, health advisories, and a constant stream of smoke across the horizon. I won’t count last summer as a failure on my part! I’m excited this spring to replant. I’m keeping the veggies to a minimum- cucumbers and tomatoes, and I’ll be putting in a lemon tree. The rest will be devoted to herbs, of which I have a growing list. Chamomile, mint, cilantro, basil, Calendula, Echinacea, stevia, and parsley to name a few. It has taken me a while to figure out which plants grow best where in our space, but this year I think I have it figured out and am hoping for the best success yet. I hope to have plenty of herbs for our family and enough to share with friends and neighbors. I’m even hoping to throw in some flowers to add color to the garden! So, while you are reading this today, just know I’m in my garden pulling the winter weeds out, getting ready for the spring planting. If you are in my area, check my GA Facebook page over the summer- I hope to barter herbs with fellow gardeners so we can spread the wealth of our gardens and have a greater variety available to us.