That black, black day is coming up

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 26

Product: Let’s see. What else can be buy less of? How about other people’s love? Do you have people in your life you feel obligated to buy love from?

That’s not how love really works and you know it. We all know it.

Holidays are so horrible when it comes to obligation and guilt. For more on this one you can go back and read when I gave you the suggestion of releasing others from feeling that guilt about you.

You can also go and watch this clip. It describes it all.

Don’t you want to be a person who buys your friends gifts when you see something that makes you think of them fondly and you know they’ll love instead of saving it for the next holiday or birthday or- worse yet- feeling like you have to buy them something when you don’t know what to get them. We can never balance the pressure right in socially pressured situations anyway.

Please do what you can to help break the sticky web of obligation that is now normal here. Buy out of the blue gifts for your friends. Be generous all the time. Don’t spend so much on socially pressured situations and it will be more enjoyable to be naturally generous.

Reason to buy less: It’s much harder to lose your car keys when you don’t have a lot of other stuff around.

Suggestion: Sleep on it. Don’t buy anything that’s not consumable without sleeping on it first. (I will allow the situation of being in a store and stopping dead with the realization that you’re on your last roll of TP. By all means, run back and grab more toilet paper without sleeping on it.)

Give each purchase the weight it deserves.

Do you know how much work it is to adopt? They don’t just let you waltz into an orphanage and pick up a ward. They make sure you’re serious about it.

Think of this grossly overstated metaphor next time you’re contemplating a purchase. If you are going to be dishing out the cash and being responsible for a product that will stick around with you, you need to be sure you are ready for the responsibility. This is something you will have to live with and care for. Once it wears down you will need to repair it. Are you okay with that?

Or can someone else give that thing a better life than you can? Were you just going to throw it in a drawer until one day you happened to need it? It is just a sparkly flash that is pretty today and will be boring to you within a week?

Don’t take in products that you’ll be putting back up for adoption for the remainder of its useful life once the initial interest has worn off. They deserve better than being jerked around like that.

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It’s time to face the music

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Welcome to our month long buy less plan! Read here to get caught up on what’s going on.

Day: 20

Product: Another form of entertainment we don’t need to spend money on is music. There are lots of ways to buy music but there’s also lots of ways to get free music.

The only reason you need to buy music is if you need instant gratification. And you don’t. Unless you’re somehow involved in the music industry, you don’t need to be able to listen to a particular song just because you decide to.

You can however, listen to great music very easily anytime in the genre you like. Over the air radio is free. You don’t need to pay for a satellite radio subscription.

There are also several free sites online that stream great music. The library also has lots of CDs (yes, they still make those) so you can listen to specific songs you enjoy.

Before you spend another $1.99 for a song you can hear for free, try buying a gift for a friend or donating to pay for several meals in a third world country or put it in your savings account and have it for something important later.

Reason to buy less: You want to be spontaneous. Whether it’s a friend dropping by unannounced or an unexpected day off that you can drop everything and head out camping, you don’t want the messiness of your stuff to hold you back. Either grab the gear and go or grab the tea and stay; but you want it easy to grab.

Suggestion: It’s easier to spend less when you learn to find joy in creativity. The more products you have, the fewer times you are faced with reasons to be creative.

Remember when you got your first dorm room/apartment/ home? Remember trying to figure out how you could make a pizza with just a hot plate? It’s amazing what you can accomplish with very little. Just because you slice bananas for you cereal every morning, doesn’t mean you need to have a banana slicer. You can use one or two brain cells to figure out how to slice your banana some other way.

Before you buy a new product, figure out how many brain cells it would take to figure out a way to do without it. Then go home and give those cells some exercise.

It’s fun to be creative. It gives you a sense of capability and triumph.

Try living without that thing for awhile before rushing out to buy it.

Stuff in the closet or stuff in the wallet?

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So those who know me at all (or have visited this blog more than twice) are probably surprised that it took me this long to get to this benefit of living a decluttered life.

Ready? Drumroll please… it’s nicer on your budget!

That’s right folks! ‘Tis true. The less you have the less you have to SPEND on it. After the original purge it means less to care for and going forward with this thinking it means less purchases of new stuff.

I went into Dollar General yesterday. I had a list of four things: Chewable Tylenol, toilet paper, batteries and canned dog food.

But wouldn’t you know it, right inside the door, as soon as I walked in, were these pretty baskets for 70% off.

sale signs

That’s right, 70%!

There was a nice sign there that showed me the math. I saw how great a deal it was. I instantly started trying to find a way to justify buying a basket. I looked through all the sizes trying to imagine different things in them. I considered buying one of each size just to have on hand when I had a basket need arise. I WANTED these baskets. It wouldn’t be wasteful, it would even be SMART to buy them at such a deal, I told myself.

But then I thought of my newly spacious house. I thought of taking these baskets in and filling up the extra space and then filling the baskets with even more stuff after I had worked so hard to pare down.

lots of baskets

So, surprise, surprise, I didn’t get them. And that means that I left with my intended purchases and my wallet was happy.*

And here’s the thing. (That I can see clearly once I’m out of the dizzying attraction of the store shelves and signage.) If I ever do need a basket, I can go to Goodwill anytime and find several baskets that would work that would be cheaper than those in Dollar General even at their great deal. I choose to let Goodwill do the storage for me AND save me money.

Thanks Goodwill!

*Full disclosure. I did get one thing that wasn’t on my list: a bag of chips. Yes, I need to work harder at decluttering my hips too. Yesterday, a fail. Tomorrow, another chance.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/salesigns/5432150813/”>Mathew Fisher</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/heypaul/2496688/”>Hey Paul</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

If you give a man a credit card…

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medium_7749383 (1)There’s nothing quite as effective at discouraging the desire to go into debt as what I experienced in our early marriage. Granted, I wasn’t much for it to begin with; (debt isn’t a four letter word for no reason) but I am thankful for my lesson in debt in those early years before we had the opportunity to make too many bad choices.

I, always being drawn to money and how to care for it, had a job at the local credit union. (Note: Credit unions are awesome. Some time I’ll write up a post listing all the reasons but for now take my word for it. Go with a credit union.) At that time it was the real estate boom and I found myself in the mortgage department. (Remember that? Cash flowing, big smiles, bigger houses, everywhere. It was a grand time and, spoiler alert; that time came to an ugly, halting end and I had got out of the business just in the nick of time.) Being a small, honest credit union, we didn’t screw over our customers like a lot of places did; but we did benefit from the common idea floating around that, “Everything is great. Go refinance and get the most you can so you can grab life by the horns and live like there’s no tomorrow.”

Yes, I put that in quotes like someone actually said that exact thing but in reality it was just in everyone’s minds. Exactly like that. I swear.

So I spent my days consolidating people’s debt for them. The main part of my job was to take the list of debtors and obtain payoff information. We could then pay this debt for the people so at the end we could present the people with a squeaky clean credit report (and maybe even an extra check too)– except for one item:

They would owe all the money to us-

And all the future interest would be paid to us-

And if you don’t pay we get to take your house.

Again, I was at a credit union so I never saw anything shady. We denied so many people who had come in after hearing the phrase, “Everything in great. Go refinance and get….” because they really were in no place to refinance. I sure hope they didn’t just go somewhere else and get screwed over when things collapsed.

But I still saw so much debt. Technically the magical debt ratio numbers said they could afford it; but I knew, they would end up paying us for so very many years so much interest just because they hadn’t chosen to delay their earlier purchases until they could afford it.

And yes, we all knew it. As soon as many of these people with 10 different credit lines had everything cleaned up into one nice, neat home loan– they would go out and get more cards and just repeat the same behavior.

Remember that book? If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? The mouse starts out by taking one cookie and ends up expecting and taking more and more little things until he eventually takes even another cookie. Were these folks like that? Did they just take the consolidation and then continue to ask for another little thing, (“One credit card for emergencies”) than another, (“The hot heater went out. I’ll just open a Home Depot credit card…”) and another, (“…and I’ll set the limit a little higher just in case we run into more problems.”)

Now, please know that nothing I’ve said so far constitutes financial advice. In fact, oftentimes a refinance could be a very good step in the road to financial freedom. I don’t want to portray it in too negative of a light. I know that everyone didn’t use the refinance like that—or at least didn’t intend to.

But I saw so many people that had made the same choices (it seemed like everyone had a Kohl’s card) and were all in the same spot. They all wanted to make things better for themselves and we were more than happy to let them pay us interest. We made so much money from people just because they weren’t willing to do without and wait until they could pay cash and because we were willing to wait for our money to come back to us– sometimes double the amount we would pay for them.

From my perspective– behind the desk, behind the screen– I saw daily the ugliness that was consumer debt. It’s not as obvious when you are actually looking at all the nice stuff you’ve accumulated for being willing to obtain that debt. But honestly, we all know the ugliness is still there. It lurks in the background. It can steal your joy, keep you up at night and attack your relationships (the ones that matter the most.)

So here is my financial advice. Be willing to forego the shiny things. Be willing to deal with a little (or sometimes a lot of) discomfort. Be willing to not keep up with the Joneses. Unless you can pay for it all now in full, can you really afford the consequences?

In the years since I’ve learned the truth about debt, we’ve avoided it like the plague. (And it was not always easy. Man, I have so many other blog topics just bursting to cover!) And now we can enjoy those shiny, comfortable, comparable things if we want with no strings attached. In fact, we couldn’t even ‘re’finance our house if we wanted to since we don’t owe anything on the house anymore! It’s a great feeling.

Have you had dealings with debt that you are willing to share? Drop a note below and it will either inspire us or we’ll do our best to inspire you. I promise.


photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/wheremyarm/7749383/”>WhereMyArm</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

I’m the queen of self-control! *peep* Fine, maybe I’m not.

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Yes, some people are wired certain ways.

Let me tell you of my first money related memory. I was 5 or 6ish and I remember standing in a dollar store contemplating a purchase. I had plenty of money. The product seemed sound (ironically, it was a wallet– with neon colors and a magnetic enclosure.) I had advice from people I trusted; my little sister thought it was cool* and my mom said I should get it because it was useful and I hardly get anything for myself so I deserved it.

I put it back.

That’s how I am wired so having and using a budget is perfectly normal for me. It’s a very natural choice for someone naturally thrifty to have a system specifically designed to help you save and spend wisely. For me it’s fun and fulfilling. Many budgeters fall into this category. We know how to budget and do it efficiently. It’s great.

But what if I were to try to budget, say, candy instead of money? Picture that same five or six-year-old girl with a fresh Easter basket full of candy goodness. Jelly beans. Robins’ eggs. Peeps. Ahhh, Peeps. I loved that candy just like I loved that money. I loved what it meant for me. I knew it would bring me joy.large_4515395229

And it was entirely gone in two days.

I could never make my candy last. I knew I should. I knew I always ended up with regret and shame. I would go crawling to my sister (who always saved her holiday candy so that it lasted to the next candy-filled holiday) and ask for some of hers. She would often share and she would at times (I am NOT making this up) lend me some candy until the next holiday where I would have to pay her back with interest. Yes, candy interest. For candy, I am wired entirely opposite. I took that loan so I could have candy now at the expense of my later self. Hey, I “needed” it.

A budget is also perfect for that type of money manager. When you can’t naturally determine and follow through on the best course of action for your well-earned money you NEED someone to step in and show you how. Will it be fun and fulfilling like for type of budgeter #1? Probably not at first. At first you just need to work one step, one dollar, at a time. You need to learn that you CAN do it and it won’t kill you to not eat it all… I mean USE it all right now. It’s hard. It’s work. But the cool thing is that these types of people actually get so much more from budgeting. The more you work, the more you overcome, the more you win. Do you think that Rocky would be such a great movie if Rocky was already expected to win?

And that’s why I remember that wallet.

Nobody expected the frugalness to win over the wallet. The fact that I put that wallet back means more to me and is more fulfilling because it was something I struggled with. I don’t have fond memories of passing up the straw glasses or yo-yo because those never really called my name. I never had to overcome those temptations.

If you have more temptations to overcome then we cheer you on. We want to see you win. That’s why a budget is so helpful. Because you have to put in the work. YOU are in control of every little thing because every little thing we do, when we do it with purpose, is a victory. Let a budget give you victory no matter how much you have to overcome. It’s worth it.

*Sure it may have been because at that age everything your big sister likes is cool but it was the 80’s. Neon WAS cool. It was an extraordinary wallet for only a buck. (In case it’s not clear, I am still glad I did not buy it. The memory is much better than the wallet would have been.)

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyjcase/4515395229/”>Great Beyond</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;