Thursday, March 26, 2015

How To Avoid Looking Poor

Although many people are struggling these days to make ends meet, there is no excuse for looking dirt poor. Society has taken casual dress to a whole new level called slobby. 

Like it or not, first impressions do make a difference and we are judged by our appearance. People used to dress up to go to town. Now it is common to see people walking around in pajamas in stores. I find this trend very disturbing. 

(Pic: Her Campus)

~ Always strive to look fresh and pretty. Personal hygiene is of the utmost importance and you don't have to spend a fortune to look presentable. Soap and water are cheap. Try generics for your personal hygiene needs. I have even found some makeup that I liked for $1. Keep makeup simple. The no makeup look is always in style. 

~ Upscale clothing may not be in your budget. It's not in mine! However, you can still look neat and chic. Keep your shoes and clothing in good condition and learn the art of accessorizing. There are bargains to be found at thrift/discount stores and consignment shops. It makes me never want to pay retail prices again! 

~ Take pride in your home, however humble it may be. Clean and tidy is always in style. Be creative and resourceful with your decorating. Pinterest (and the internet in general) are a godsend with how-tos and frugal ideas galore!

 (Pic: Pinterest)

~ Find inexpensive ways to create curb appeal. Buy seed packets of perennials at the dollar store to create a little flower garden or plant in pots. Paint your front door. Keep the lawn mowed and bushes trimmed. Don't allow junk to accumulate around the home exterior. 


~ You can eat well on a budget by cooking from scratch and buying fruits and veggies in season. If you miss your favorite restaurant foods, make them at home yourself by googling the dish and restaurant to find a recipe. Try All Free Copycat Recipes.

~ Keep your vehicle clean, inside and out. Whether it's a newer model or a reliable "clunker" that gets you from point A to B, you'll feel better driving around in a clean car and you won't have to worry about flying objects in case you're in an accident.

(Pic: Dreamstime)

~ Avoid putting on the "poor me" face. By this, I don't mean you can never share your struggles with close friends and family, but this is not the image you want to project to the world. Smile and be kind to others regardless of your situation.

Though you may be struggling, you never know who is watching. How much better it is to be an example on how to deal with challenges with grace and style. You could be an inspiration to someone else. You just never know....

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Cooking, Cleaning and Minimizing

It's going to be another beautiful day with a high of 83 degrees. Sunshine makes me so happy!

I tackled house cleaning with gusto yesterday and I'm feeling it today. Oh, my aching back! *smile* I rearranged furniture, swept, mopped, vacuumed and dusted to my heart's content all while playing music in the background.

Today I am going to take it a little easier. I have laundry to do and also want to wash my bed linens and get a start on all the curtains.

One of my youngest daughter's friends stayed over last night and said her mom only cooks boxed foods and she gets tired of it and wanted Taco Bell the night before. Alfred said our children were spoiled because they loved real food. 

There was a time when I, too, made only boxed or microwaved foods. Eeek! I didn't know how to cook when we married. But eventually I learned how and I'm good at it. I can make just about anything with a good recipe. 

Occasionally we will have a boxed meal (like Hamburger Helper or frozen pizza), but my family prefers home-cooking. With me being home full-time, I am happy to do so. 

I also do not mind packing my husband a lunch. It saves him time and ensures that he eats lunch since he skips breakfast and also saves us money.

As I was cleaning yesterday I had a few more ideas on how I could minimize possessions. 

~ I want to get an over the range microwave so I can sell my microwave and the stand it sits on.

~ I plan to sell the entertainment center in our bedroom, mount the tv on the wall and install a shelf below it to hold the dvd player and cable box.

~ Move my desk to the other wall in the office so it's out of view from the dining room table (dining room and office are open to each other), eliminate small shelf next to desk.  I'd really like another desk (this one is massive) but for now I will work with what I have.....unless I can get Alfred to build me a simple one?

~ I have one bookshelf that I need to cull once more. I have gotten rid of so many books, but there are a few keepers. If I could slowly replace the books with Kindle ones, I could sell the books and bookshelf.  

Alfred will likely flip out over a couple of these ideas, but I'm all about simplifying and streamlining our life. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Blessings

Though the official start of Spring is not until Friday, we are now enjoying Spring weather! I can not tell you how happy this makes me. I need the warmth and sunshine.

Yesterday we mowed the grass and tidied the yard. There is still more work to be done, but with these nicer days it'll be a joy to get outside and work.

I have found a way to bring in a little extra money this summer! A friend of mine has her own business cleaning condos and I'm going to clean two small units for her on Saturdays for $80. So that will give me $320-400/month extra in the budget to work with. A blessing indeed!

Our son and his fiance had been staying with us the past few months and they began moving into their first apartment this weekend. I have a ton of cleaning to do!

I plan to make homemade granola bars today. I have barbecued ribs in the crock pot which I'll serve with fried potatoes and frozen corn.

The windows are open and the birds are singing. It's going to be a beautiful day!

Monday, March 09, 2015

Widen the Gap: Saving Even When Money Is Tight

As we work to become debt-free, one of my goals is to widen the gap between us and debt. We can do that by breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. 

In the past, I have thrown all extra money towards debt rather than creating a buffer for emergencies. In doing so, when an emergency or unexpected expense comes along we fall into the trap of using credit. That must change, obviously.

It is my goal to save something every week - even if it's only $5 - to get into the habit of saving. Slowly, but surely the amount will increase if we leave it alone.

I was thinking of ways we could build our savings. 

~ I could round up the amounts spent when I figure the checkbook so a cushion builds up there. My mother-in-law did that and always told her husband there was no money to spend. At the time of her death, she had a few thousand dollars in the bank. 

~ Continue saving change in a large jar. It has never reached the full mark, so I'm anxious to see how much that baby holds!

~ Do the 52 week challenge. First week, save $1. Second week, save $2. The most you are putting aside is $52 in a week but at the end of that time I could have over $1,300!

~ Whatever money is saved using coupons, deposit the same amount into savings.

~ Save any rebates received. I just earned $5 from Lowe's when I bought paint in January.

~ Continue using SavingStar and allow that money to build up and transfer into savings periodically.

~ Take advantage of Christmas Club account. My banks won't allow you to touch that money until November, then I can transfer it to our savings.

~ But what about Christmas? Step up my use of Swagbucks to earn points to redeem for gifts cards for online retailers like Amazon or even PayPal and use those for my Christmas spending instead. If you would like to try Swagbucks, sign up under me at this referral link and you'll get 150 points right off the bat. 

~ Save leftover money. Any money left in our checking can be transferred into savings each pay period. 

~ Figure low for Alfred's paychecks and save the excess.

~ Sell stuff with the money being split between savings, debt, and immediate needs.

My goal is to have at least $1,000 saved for emergencies by the end of the year.

Rather than looking at the overall goal and getting overwhelmed, I am setting mini goals and celebrate reaching each milestone. 

Goal 1: Save $100
Goal 2 : Save one day (8 hours minimum) of Alfred's gross wages
Goal 3: Save 20 hours of Alfred's gross wages
Goal 4: Save 30 hours of Alfred's gross wages
Goal 5: Save 40 hours of Alfred's gross wages

I'm beginning to think in possibilities. Any amount saved, no matter how small, is progress and is still better than nothing at all.  

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Make Life Better

It is so easy to fall into a daily routine that you fly on auto-pilot. You stop noticing the little things that make life meaningful. 

Or maybe each day is the same. You are bored and restless and can't for the life of you figure out why.

Perhaps life has dealt you a bad hand and now you feel the cards are stacked against you. You've become the victim rather than the victor.

No matter what is going on in your life, there are always ways to make life better than it is currently.

Try a change of scenery, preferably out in nature. Beaches, rivers, mountains...whatever you have in your locale that is majestic and awe inspiring. 

Do something different. Drive a different route. Try a new recipe. Rearrange a room. Decorate a cake. Doing the same things while expecting different results is crazy!  

Journal daily. Write about everything that's wrong in your life. Eventually you'll get tired of hearing yourself whine and will be inspired to take action.

Clean up. Wash and detail your car. Clean your house until it sparkles. Clean up your yard. Cleaning is cheap and having a clean environment definitely boosts your mood. 

Brainstorm ideas. Whatever problem you are facing figure out what's the worst that can happen. Now brainstorm solutions to that problem. Write down everything. Don't worry about impracticality. Just get those ideas on paper. Which ones can you do today? Start there.

Eat well. Even if you're on a very tight budget, it's possible to eat well. Focus on the cheap foods that have the biggest nutritional punch. Beans, rice, apples, eggs, tuna...Here is a list of 44 healthy foods for under $1.

Look for the good. We are bombarded with negativity, but begin to look for the positive, the inspirational, the silly, and the feel good stories. We  can all use more laughter and positivity in life.

Set goals. Financial, fitness, whatever.... Choose something that is important to you and set mini-goals. Celebrate all those mini-successes along the way to reaching your overall goal. 

Make a plan. Once you've set your goals come up with a simple plan to make these goals a reality. The plan doesn't have to be perfect for you to begin. You can modify it along the way as needed. Just get started today.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

7 Ways to Enjoy a Slower Life

In today's world it seems everyone is always busy and in a rush. Are we really accomplishing all that we think we are or are we just adding greater stress to our life?

I propose the idea of enjoying a slower life where we can enjoy the simpler things.

1. Create simple routines to make your life easier. Make a menu for the week and do the shopping in one swoop. Always clean up after meals.

2. Allow yourself ample time for appointments and outings. Leave a little earlier so you are less stressed by traffic delays and can arrive at your destination unflustered. 

3. Do less. We only have 24 hours each day. We do not have to do and be all for everyone. Cut out the things of least importance and begin to focus on what matters.

4. Stop multi-tasking. Focus on one thing at a time and do it to the best of your abilities.

5. Eat slowly. Savor the taste and aroma of the food you are eating. Not only is slower eating better for you digestion, but it aids in your body registering it's satisfied before you are stuffed to the gills.

6. Stop comparisons. Your life is your own and you don't have to compete with anyone. Focus on what you really want out of life and forget about what everyone else is doing. Live and let live.

7. Spend time in nature. Nature is such a fascinating thing. I love to watch the birds and animals, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin and listening to the wind and rain. Nature is soothing and calming. We could all use more of that!

We all only have one life to live. You need time to think and dream, to rest, and appreciate each day for what it is.

By slowing down and focusing on the most important things, it enables you to appreciate the life you are living, make changes when necessary and enjoy the journey.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Simplicity Goals

~ To become 100% debt free within the next 10 years and remain that way.

~ Get back to basics and live a simple life.

~ Learn to crochet.

~ Create a home that my family and friends love to spend time in.

~ Become a skilled gardener and preserve the excess.

~ Have solar panels and a water tank installed in the future to reduce our dependency on local utilities.

~ Create a stockpile of food, hygiene items, medical supplies and paper products in case of emergency or economic collapse.

~ Learn how to shoot a gun and hit my target.

~ Make handmade gifts.

~ Shop secondhand as much as possible. 

~ Cook and bake from scratch.

~ Make my own home cleaners.

~ Learn basic survival skills (build a fire, first aid, etc.).

~ Become physically and mentally fit.

These goals are for the purpose of reducing our outgo so we can become debt-free, build up savings, and become more self-reliant in case of natural disaster, terrorist threat, economic collapse, extended unemployment or if Alfred were to become disabled, God forbid.

The world as we know it is becoming more unstable. Crime is increasing along with the rising costs of living. I believe it is better to be prepared rather than counting on the government to be your saving grace (Hurricane Katrina anyone?). 

That doesn't mean I'll be recklessly buying survival essentials in a panic. Instead, I will consciously plan and purchase items as finances allow and in an organized fashion.

I don't think it's possible to be over prepared. I feel it's always better to be safe than sorry.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on being prepared and going back to basics.