Thursday, July 16, 2009

Weeknights at the Park

I am thrilled when I visit my local park around sunset in the middle of the week and see dozens of families avoiding the dumb TV and use of AC with me. That was the case last night and many summer nights in southern California!

Free, frugal, cheap fun!
Freedom1

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Corn Cross-Pollinated! Yippee!

The 2009 growing season in Southern California has produced a bountiful harvest for us: We've enjoyed several servings of lettuce, spinach, collards, string beans, bell peppers, tomatoes.

I planted some corn a while back and you never know if it will properly pollinate and produce. Much to my surprise this morning, there are currently 4 ears of corn on the stalks! I am so excited.
Rosemary, oregano, and basil are prolific. Mom's blackeyed peas are sprouting and I am hoping the okra will flower. What a year! Freedom!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Enjoying a Fun and Frugal Summer

Please don't let a small budget stop you from enjoying time with your family and friends! Are you kidding me?

What can you do on a small budget?
  • Museums
  • Theme Park specials (with coupons) - and be sure to take your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without any shame, thank you.
  • Many cities have free concerts
  • City/County parks - peanut butter and jelly picnics are a sure hit
  • City plunge (swimming) - usually very cheap
  • Library
  • Exercise - walking is free
  • Invite friends over for hot dogs and tell them to bring the buns. Laugh and talk for hours without the dumb TV
  • Netflix
  • Matinees at the local movie theater
  • Learn something new either on your own or pick a neighbor's brain.
  • Plant a garden (BTW, it's time to plant pumpkins for fall)

I do all of these things with my godson and he mostly cares about the time I spend with him more than the money I spend.

Freedom!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drowning in Debt?

Are you drowning in debt?
Check out this article of a woman with $60,000 in debt. I admire her courage to share her story. Fortunately, many of us in the frugal village have real solutions for her and you IF and only IF you are willing to accept the fact that what you have been doing doesn't work and hadn't worked.

Freedom requires sacrifice and we all know that freedom just isn't free. My highest unsecured debt 4 years ago was $27,000. I paid it all off using the Dave Ramsey plan. It worked and still works. It has totally changed my life! I see and hear things differently. I give freely laced with wisdom. I have greater understanding about life itself. Please join me and thousands of others living the affordable good life!

Freedom!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Might As Well LAUGH!

The latest satire from JibJab.com helps us all keep a sense of humor as many keep expecting the government to change their lives. Check it out: http://sendables.jibjab.com/originals/hes_barack_obama

Taking responsibility to change my own life makes life worth living! Freedom!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mainstream America Goes Frugal? Go Figure!

Many online news articles are focusing on the ever changing lifestyles of Americans who have recently decided that living frugally is chic. Chic? Oh my gosh! I cannot imagine my lifestyle as mainstream chic. How many times over the past many years have co-workers, family, and friends cringed over the sacrifices I've made to either get rid of debt, stay out of debt, or live within my means without using credit. Funny stuff, alright.

I hope the new chic living leads them to the wonderful freedom we enjoy!
Freedom!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Enjoy Life!

No matter what happens today, I intend to enjoy my life to the fullest. To help with this effort, I will limit my exposure to the negative media, walk away from negative people at work, and only spend money on basic necessities if I spend at all.

I intend to frugally and efficiently make the most of every positive interaction today: I don't want to waste a moment of each one. I intend to enjoy life! Freedom!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm Going to See Aretha in a Couple of Weeks...Paid Cash


For all of the skeptics who believe that us frugal folks are choosing deprivation over great living, we are not. We simply make sacrifices in many segments of life and focus on exceptional fun, to us, in other areas. I see it all the time: I have co-workers and friends who make exceptional incomes, live frugally, yet take extraordinarily expensive vacations each year. Choices!


I decided long ago that whenever I attend a concert, I will get the best seats I am willing and able to pay cash for. So, when I saw that the great Aretha Franklin was coming to the Hollywood Bowl in a couple of weeks, when I thought how much my mom would like to see her from only a few rows from the stage instead of using binoculars from the cheap seats, when I considered how much I avoid spending on everything else in my life, I felt comfortable and confident to spend a large sum of cash for this 2-hour concert experience! A choice without deprivation! Freedom!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recession-Proof BBQ Wins with Friends and Family!

(Photo Courtesy of Freefoto.com)

So, mom and I decided to throw a Recession-Proof BBQ the Saturday of this past Memorial Day Weekend! She baked her heart out and I barbecued the night before. We joyfully served and waited on our guests. We decided to love on them and they loved us back! It was a hit!
The whole thing cost us less than a night's stay at a 3-Star hotel. We entertained about 30 people over the 8 hours our friends and family came and left. It gave us all an opportunity to escape the press of the recession and our personal drama. WHAT A RELIEF!

When we take the time to focus on others, we actually feel better ourselves. The cost is more time than money but the rewards are countless! Freedom!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Californians Vote NO to Tax Increases

There's nothing wrong with not wanting to increase taxes and it's okay to cut back or downsize spending and/or programs. It seems that eliminating is a bad word unless it relates to constipation. Well, it's not a bad word. We can also eliminate some of the voting districts and have fewer state lawmakers represent more people. Then, maybe, a fewer number of talking heads can reasonably come of with budgets that work decade after decade.

We see it everyday, programs and services, people in positions that the state government doesn't need to provide. Even as a public school educator, I've personally identified thousands of wasteful activities that stray too far from reading, writing, arithmetic, technology, and the arts over the two decades I've been in the system. (I still believe the government should provide basic educational services but in case you didn't know, many of the kids throw away the free lunches. We can encourage those who can to bring their own lunch and eat all of it!)

When I decided to eliminate debt from my life in 2004, I gave up a lot of foolish spending/thinking and "special programs" that I thought I had to have in order to really live. Guess what, I am living well without spending more than I can afford. Eliminating the practice of personal deficit spending has given me new life! I have more than enough mainly because I need and want less. Freedom!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Connecting

Healthy connections with others, not spending money, makes life worth living but may not help the economy. Oh well! Nurturing healthy connections has been a primary focus for me in 2009. Many successes, some failures, I continue to enjoy the good at the core of the people I spend time with day in and day out. Freedom!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

People ARE Spending So Ignore the Media!

(Courtesy of freefoto.com)

Again, was out yesterday taking mom to lunch after a pampering Mother's Day Eve morning at the day spa and guess what I saw? A restaurant and mall packed with people spending money! You just can't believe the media on this topic as I've been repeating over and over again since last Thanksgiving!!!



Maybe folks are spending half of what they once did but THEY ARE spending. Maybe a business once took in a million a month and now only collect half a million but, HELLO, adjust. No more whining to the media or the government!
From BLS.gov, "Unemployment rates rose in April for adult men (9.4 percent) and blacks(15.0 percent). The jobless rates for adult women (7.1 percent), teenagers(21.5 percent), whites (8.0 percent), and Hispanics (11.3 percent) were little changed over the month. The unemployment rate for Asians was 6.6 percent inApril, not seasonally adjusted, up from 3.2 percent a year earlier. "

I just want the media and government to give a balanced representation: 15% of blacks are unemployed which means that 85% are employed. 9.4% of adult men are unemployed which means that 90.6% are working.
10% of the national/state/local population that wants to work are unemployed. The other 90% who are working are spending, just not as much. Uh, this glass is more than half full!!!
Adjust! Adjust! Adjust!
Enjoy life and love each other! Speak the truth! Freedom!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Auto Zone is Hiring - Saw Ad in El Monte, CA

If you live in the Los Angeles area, Auto Zone is hiring! I took a look at their online application so it may be regional or national. I personally would talk to a store manager to get a feel for what they are offering. Check it out! Every little bit counts! Freedom!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Here's to Your Healthy Heart

We can't control how long we live but we do have some say in the quality of life we have. Check out the healthy lifestyle recommedations offered by the American Heart Association.

Hope you aren't allowing this crazy recession to depress your life and positive outlook. Our lives are so much more than society lets on. The free joy of eyesight, beauty in nature, smiles of those we encounter are all part of real living. Daily, I choose to push aside the media and gratefully enjoy the basics, the boredoms, the no-drama paths that allow me to live as stress-free as possible. I can't change anyone but myself and that's hard enough but not impossible. When I decide to make healthy changes, I see what I missed before and actually live better. Freedom!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Keep Moving!

(courtesy of freefoto.com)


As the daylight lingers, your body longs for more movement and less "couch potato-ing." If you don't own any fancy home gym equipment, long walks around the neighborhood or high school track are FREE and beneficial physically, mentally, and helps curb depression!

I've continued minimizing my exposure to news, weather, and sports and have increased my movement. I feel so much better! Enjoy! Freedom!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Make the Bird Go Farther!

On MSNBC.com, Elizabeth Rogers demonstrates what many of us already do with one chicken to economize and avoid waste. Check it out!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Homegrown Veggies




Recently, someone at work remarked that I was like Michelle Obama in growing my own veggies. I responded by noting that Michelle Obama is more like me since I've been growing some of my own food for over a decade and she apparently just started - with a lot of help I might add.




It's so wonderfully amazing to plant seeds one week and eat food from those seeds a few months later. You don't need to own any land to plant since many vegetables and herbs will grow in planters and pots. There's nothing like a home grown tomato or herbs for cooking. I feel like I am walking in God's abundance when I can depend on Him to produce as He works with my willingness to plant, fertilize, and water: He is my source. I feel less dependent on farmers and drivers and markets to connect me with the sustenance I need to survive. Since I know how to cook and follow recipes, I don't need to visit restaurants or buy packaged meals which cost a lot more than cooking from scratch even after you factor in use of energy. Knowing bsically what ingredients are in the food I eat matter much more to me these days than even a few years ago.




If it still cold where you live, try planting a few seeds indoors this week. Browse the numerous gardening sites on sunlight, fertilizing, and watering for great results. Enjoy the abundant life available to those willing to act on wisdom and knowledge. Freedom!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Versatility of Ground Turkey

Trying to eat well during the recession? Consider ground turkey instead of red meat beef for various recipes. Also, consider eating less of the pound at one meal than you normally do and add more fruit and veggies to the meal. When I buy 1.25 lbs. of ground turkey, I am able to make six small to medium hamburger patties from it which becomes part of 6 servings vs. 4 with larger patties. I feel satisfied and full. If I make meatballs, I make them smaller and end up with about 30 instead of 15 large ones: Plus, spaghetti and sauce go on sale regularly.

I like ground turkey in burritos, tacos, and nachos. These are filling meals on the cheap especially because the turkey often goes on sale at least once a month in at least one store. These combinations are digestable, tasty, and appreciated by your body since they aren't too heavy on your system.

Your side dish can include sliced fruit - you should slice it yourself since it's cheaper than the market slicing it for you. Cutting back on consumption is healthy physically, financially, and emotionally as you begin to appreciate that you have more than enough for yourself and some to share with others. Freedom!

Now Reading Simple Prosperity by David Wann


I'm in the middle of this delightful read. He is the co-author of Affluenza. Wann presents many sound arguments and suggestions on taking charge of our lives vs. allowing the media and culture to dominate and tell us how to live. Freedom!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Remodeling Bankrupt Malls

In the middle of this recession, we can justify scaling back for the common good and improve the lives of the common people for good! If gigantic malls are going bankrupt, fewer malls might give way to more open space. Fewer restaurants might lead to more gardens for communities to grow their own food, prepare it together, and eat it together in well structured community centers in local parks. Fewer fast food joints would definitely lead to more healthy people. And, of course, with fewer car dealerships we could use those showrooms for more after school programs for kids and cheap to free weekend events for families.

For the hundreds of thousands who have become unemployed, more retraining in community infrastructure jobs like nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers, police, fire fighters, camp leaders, mentors, designers, landscapers and engineers who are skilled in building new parks, etc. If we increase communal efforts to raise psychologically and emotionally healthy families, training others to do it would create more jobs. Government would not need to create the jobs if creative and competent entrpreneurs are given tax friendly terms to do business and, perhaps, low cost lease agreements in old mall space or car dealerships for their headquarters.

Fewer malls could make way for more affordable housing and rehabilitation centers for the mentally ill homeless.

I see so many possibilities in helping ourselves and our neighbors with less of what we have allowed to become needs when the extras are merely unnecessary altogether. Many in the sustainable living village see it and live it as well. When we let stuff go, we open ourselves to exciting and more efficient lifestyles and it's all good. Freedom!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Psalm 131


1.
God, I'm not trying to rule the roost, I don't want to be king of the mountain. I haven't meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans.
2.
I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother's arms, my soul is a baby content.
3.
Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always!
FREEDOM!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mass Media Reports on Frugality

A TIME magazine article decides to report how the nation has become frugal due to the Great Recession! Interesting read but nothing new to those of us who lived simply before the economic downturn. Freedom!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Full Moon Means Time to Run Away...From Debt!


A couple of nights ago we experienced yet another gorgeous full moon! Almost every time I see one, I think of the runaway slaves who escaped or died trying under the glowing clarity of the moon: They broke the law in search of freedom! Renegades to the core!



I used the renegade spirit as I spent 4 years running away from debt and finally broke free of the enslaving cycle. I "bought" my freedom and no one can convince me that voluntary debt is good for me and neither is a neanderthal FICO score. We must not only think outside of the box, we must insist on living outside of it altogether in how we use the government's currency parallel to our precious time and talents. The box remains a HUGE trap where those who benefit most are savoring the sour fruit of our own stupid uses of credit cards and wacky loans. They take advantage of our unwillingness to sacrifice, wait, save, then spend. I decided in 2005 I just would not live that way any more!



In my world of paying cash or living without it, I chronically experience serenity, peace, and joy: It didn't take a miracle, it took discipline and hard work. Less shopping for others and more time giving loving care, interest, concern, gosh, the simple time of day, leads to life sustaining connections that money cannot buy. Amazingly, a shared, simple homecooked meal with tax-free laughter and fun in the company of family and friends warmly fills up our senses and decreases our desires to overspend: Money cannot fulfill you! Stuff will never make you happy! We feel complete as the coins jangle in our pockets while we spend time together. One caveat in this recession: Many of us have a better understanding of what's really important. Let Freedom ring!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Welcome to Tax-Free Bartering!!!




I had 2 very new and exciting small scale bartering opportunities this week between 2 co-workers: One of them shared homemade bread with me while another gave me a daffodil. In exchange, I gave them fresh organic lettuce/mesclun blend from my garden. It didn't start out as an official trade but when I received their gifts, I wanted to exhange. No US currency used so no taxes owed. Freedom!

I will lawlfully pay taxes I owe but I intend to take advantage of every opportunity I get to legally avoid paying them. Currently, government isn't taxing love, generosity, goodwill toward each other, nor being a good neighbor. Yes, the "little" man can get ahead when we choose cooperation over competition and use less of the government's currency. Love each other. Freedom!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Tax Reduction Would Be Great

Since the government refuses to give us all a meaningful stimulus package like it did for the auto industry, banks, and Wall Street, how about a reduction in the tax rate schedule for all of us? The miniscule 6.2% in tax stimulus reduction on the first $6452 of earnings or $400 is so demeaning compared to the over the top tax brackets. We need a REAL break from the percentage they already take from us. We must start voting for legislators who serve our collective best interest. Take a look at the crazy tax bracket schedules and realize how ruthlessly our government takes 25-35% of our earnings PLUS some more? Certainly, we the people can do something if only going out each election making our vote count. Freedom!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What Did the Ancients Do? Ask Yourself Before You Buy It

Another strategy I use to curb my buying of and into superfluous goods and services: I ask myself what did the ancients do? I also ask myself, "What did grandma and great-grandparents do?" This really helps keep money in my pocket because if they were able to live and enjoy life without it, so can I. The media, banks, and government seem to consistently impose discontentment with life without stuff and services so that we try to become content by spending and "managing debt." No more of that for me. Freddom!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Believe in Frugality but Not Global Warming


I have yet to see man control a hurricane, an earthquake, natural wildfires and floods. Man cannot control nature. It's a big myth, a lie, a falsehood! Man can't "make" a rose nor create native soil for food. There's so much that man cannot do in the natural, real world. Yet, man tries to profit from the thought of global warming as the earth goes through its natural cycles of warming and cooling. I once bought into it but now I just see it as another ploy to control me and my cash.


Planet Earth is a HUGE place! Even if you've only travelled a few hundred miles from where you live, one can easily see the vastness of land, sky. etc. While I want to do my part in wisely and frugally using my resources, it's not because of global warming: I just don't want to live wastefully and I don't want marketers insisting on what I must buy to do my part in "going green" especially when so many big businesses waste energy and resources. All 6 billion of us inhabitants aren't causing the so-called global warming dilemma either. Only "advanced" economies cause most of the "damage." Most people around the world understand not polluting the water you depend on for life and not creating an entire profit making industry to purify what nature/God already provides for our existence.
Many would argue that the melting of polar ice is a natural phenomenon occuring in our lifetime. Is it really our "duty" to save polar bears or are they suppose to naturally disappear? Hmmmmm....


I challenge you to question what you see in the natural world, study the ancients, read about "developing countries" and think about who consistently blathers about global warming. Question one: Are they profiting from their blather? Question two: Are they trying to control you when you aren't truly harming yourself or anyone else? Question three: How much more social injustice derives from both wasteful westerners and a parallel global warming argument? Allow your questions to help you create more questions and think for yourself. Freedom!

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Truck Will Reach 200,000 Miles This Morning!

As the GM CEO steps down due to US Government pressure, my 1995 Toyota pickup, which I bought new with a dumb car loan because I was dumber about finances back then, will reach 200,000 miles as I drive in to work today! I am thrilled!!!

The only major repairs beyond routine brakes, tune-ups, oil changes, etc. have been a new radiator, starter, timing chain, and water pump. I want to keep this truck even when I get a newer car next year.

Kelly Blue Book says the truck is only worth $1000 but to me it's worth at least $11,000 since that's the lowest cost of any newer vehicle that I'm currently interested in buying. Even if I had to replace the motor or transmission, it would be worth it to me because I can pay for it outright without incurring more debt.

Freedom!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Accepting Your Lot in Life According to the Good Book

Ecclesiates 5:18-20 (NIV)
18.
Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him--for this is his lot.
19.
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God.
20.
He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.
FREEDOM!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Free Joy of Songbirds


Over the 9.5 years I've lived here, the songbirds seasonally show up each spring to sing their hearts out! They have no care in the world except to sing! When I moved in here, there were already two older trees available to them. Over the years, I 've planted about 7 more trees without intentionally inviting the birds to hang out at my house, but I'm glad they choose to land here. Last year, I was privileged to host a nest in one of the older deciduous trees but didn't discover it until late fall. These simple natural, organic events thrill me to pieces!!!


Since I don't overwork and removed excessive stress in my life, I have time to both listen to and enjoy the songbirds. I literally stop and smell the roses growing my front yard (and will likely clip a few of them later on today). Life in the natural world is completely fulfilling and I am grateful that I am able to appreciate it. Freedom!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Currently Reading: Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama

In my journey to makeover my finances and simplify my life since 2004, I also lost and have kept off about 14 pounds over the past 2 years. I did not go on a diet. I simply changed my eating habits which included eating in more than eating out. As I saved money on fewer items and more healthy food, the pounds dropped off. I added more exercise to my lifestlye to eliminate more fat and add more muscle.

This book reinforces what I organically learned on my own regarding food: Diets are out while lifestyle are changes in. I am not on a quest to live a super long life but I might as well be as healthy as possible and do what I can to sustain the life I have right now.
As I reduced my intake of junk food, I was able to cut my monthly grocery bill by about 20%. On the other hand, some of the healthy snacks I enjoy cost a bit more than the junk food. So, I just buy them less frequently.
When I take the time to address my eating habits and my relationship to food, my personal awareness increases. This self awareness directly influences my personal use of resources and contentment which are immediately connected to my relationship with money and how I spend, save, or give it away. For me, it doesn't make sense to spend exorbitant amounts of money and time to make money only to eat it up. There are bigger fish to fry and projects to do that can make a significant difference in the lives of others and my own than working to eat items that deplete me. I prefer to feel healthy. Freedom!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greatest Weapon Against Debt: Contentment


If you choose contentment with what you have, you'll likely spend less money on what you don't need but really want or you can at least delay it until you can afford to pay cash for it without harming your emergency fund.

My lists of wants are never ending.

All of my needs are met and they are not grandiose: I am very low maintenance which helps me keep up with myself (smiling).

So, that being the case, I am in no hurry to buy the wants which means I have more time for family and friends and solitude - which I regularly need in order to rejuvenate so that I can consistently continue personal productivity in society and enjoy a meaningful life.

Contentment keeps me from doing an awful lot of time-wasting activities. Those wasteful activities simultaneously insist that I use more energy than is needed to simply be content. Shopping is a wasteful activity when all of my needs are met and I haven't planned to make a significant purchase. So, I simply go straight home after work or running required errands like doctor's appointments or a drive by the post office box.

Contentment at home means I don't overclean but I do enjoy order. It permits me to relax and garden but not to the extreme. I read, read, read but not too much. Contentment means I go to bed at a reasonable hour because I've placed a priority on my wellness over projects that just don't matter as much as being well. All of these strategies help me live a balanced life that works for me: A life that is debt free (except for the mortagage) and tax free since the government hasn't come up with a scheme to tax my life when I don't use its currency. Whew! Freedom!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Being Grateful

Today,
I plan to focus on being grateful! I try to pinch ideas of gratitude daily, but I am going to focus more on it today as I have so much to be grateful for and am able to express it in words and deeds. Choosing to channel my thoughts this way in the middle of work and busy activities becomes a rejuvenating form of meditation. It strengthens me and guides me in being the best person I can be today. Freedom!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Government: For the People, By the People, Not AIG and Others Like It

Enough already!
We, the people, know how to stimulate the economy. We, the common people, know better than the bailed out executives, how to spend money in ways where MANY people benefit and not just a select few. Why give it to them? Why not give it to us?


If the US Government must give away money, it needs to give it directly to the people and not corporations or banks. Can we trust a government that would prefer that we borrow from a bailed out bank than give us taxpayers money directly and eliminate debt as we pay cash for everything? Not really. It's a vicious cycle and when the climate dictates that we, the common people, must borrow to live and make progress, we lose and remain slaves to the system. Those folks are having their own party and the rest of us are really only invited as servants on the outside looking in. Then, we, the common people, get caught up in wanting the stuff they, the bailed out and out of control few, have, the vacations they take, the toys they buy and going into debt to get it.

Forget all of that! I will live within my means and be very content.

The debacle with bailing out banks and big businesses reinforces my simple living and paying cash lifestyle. The people who gave the bailouts must be getting something out of it but they whine to the media about it being outrageous. Why play this game? When I am in a position of power to make changes, I just go ahead and make the changes. No posturing or whining required. That's part of being in charge of anything at any level in life.

We, the people, don't need to react. No! Proactivity is far more powerful and sustainable. I choose to not pay to play the game of stuff and debt and extraordinary living. The US Government obviously isn't going out of its way to help the majority of the people because those in power choose to cater only to the few in both private and public powerful positions - a smaller percentage of the population.


No more borrowing from the bailed out for me unless I become excessively desperate - God forbid. I'm bailing out of the debt game. I'll pay my taxes and I won't take out any loans in the name of a tax write-off when it's cheaper to just pay the taxes and not owe banks simulataneously. If the US Government doesn't want to effectively help me/us, then I will just settle for it staying small and out of the way of our progress as the hard working-not-asking-for-a-handout people of the United States of America. Freedom!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Gift of Life

"What a gift life is to those who stay the course!"
Book of James, Chapter 5:10-11, Message Bible


Enjoy simple living

Pay off debt

Appreciate the love and concern of family and friends

Stay the Course!

Freedom!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Borrower is Slave to the Lender




"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." Proverbs 22:7


Even churches that claim to practice what they preach from the Bible have gotten caught up in the foreclosure debacle according to the MSNBC.com article. Fortunately, my faith in God has little to do with my perspectives of and experiences with church leadership: Over the decades, I've met and interacted with my share of ignorant spiritual leaders when it comes to very practical matters. Ironically, the teachings of the Bible are extraordinarily practical and straightforward regarding best practices for living and handling resources.

Seek God for yourself through prayer, scripture, meditation, studying and not from a church. The Christian church has nothing to do with buildings but people. It's the greatest love story of all! We could all meet in homes, at the beach, or a park and God would be just as pleased that we gathered together in His name. Sure, it's great when a church can offer various programs and ministries but not when it borrows money beyond its capacity to pay it back.

Pursuing God's best for myself in spite of many bad sermons that try to control me in how I spend my time, talent, and resources continues to liberate me in making my life work for me. Freedom!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Making a List and Checking It Twice

One key strategy I've used for all of my shopping involves the use of many lists. I keep a running grocery list on the refrigerator. I have a "big purchases" list as well as daily to-do lists. I realize to many, keeping lists leaves you listless (get it?)

By writing what you want to buy now and in the distant future, you reduce the impulse spending and become empowered to stick to your budget. Writing down expenditures forces me to plan ahead and prioritize. Simultaneously, I keep a saved amount to buy things on sale when those items match what's on one of my lists. For example, I know I want to purchase a new mattress this year and it's been on my list for several months now. So, I know that when the timing is right and the right sale crosses my path, I can freely go buy the mattress, pay cash for it, and enjoy exhilarating nights of slumber. Obviously, the mattress I want is a fabulous upgrade from the one I've slept on for the past 10 years.

In past posts, I've discussed, in tandem with others in the frugal village, the importance of buying food and grocery items you use most often when they go on sale and stock up on them. I still have plenty of toothpaste, detergent, bathroom tissue that I bought on sale a few months ago. My freezer is full of poultry and seafood I bought on sale. (I don't eat red meat any more but there are always sales for tasty steaks and pot roasts.) No need to list what you already have and if you already have it, there's no need to go shopping. The less shopping you do, the more money you save. Marketers will try to persuade you that you actually save money when get a 10 or 20% discount. NO! You save when you don't spend at all. If it's not on the list and I see it on sale, I don't buy it. I save.

Listing helps me plan and control the dollars instead of letting them control me! Freedom!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Avoiding Isolation


I tend to isolate myself because I actually enjoy it. One friend calls me the happy hermit. However, living in isolation on a regular basis isn't God's best and it isn't healthy. As I make my to-do lists each day, I literally write "stay connected" to remind myself to practice what money can't buy by intentionally communicating with someone beyond news, weather, and sports. I often make myself listen after asking a key question to take us to another level and then heart connections begin. After most encounters, I feel lifted but mostly less alone in the world or in my own space.


Spending money will not fill the voids of life: only safe people can do that for you. Buying more stuff will not bring lasting joy, it will only create more clutter and debt if you don't pay cash for it. While I don't make resolutions at the start of a new year, I do set goals and my primary one this year is to avoid excessive isolation. I joined a small group at my church and I've increased my text messaging and emailing and card writing a notch or two with new and remaining friends. I am reaping a harvest of oneness with others and an increase in wellness. Turning off the TV and maintaining free or easy connections with friends and family makes life worth living. Freedom!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Having My Cake and Eating It Too!


One component of authentic love relies on doing something for others which they cannot do for themselves. It's the essence of enjoying a meaningful life that money cannot buy.

Yesterday, I received these expressions of authentic love for my birthday: My favorite German chocolate cake, you see above, baked by my mom, a handmade card from my 11 year-old godson, a card with some hugs (I love hugs) and a chat from a good friend at work, text messages, emails, and e-card from my sisters and a couple of friends, a phone call from another friend, and a surprise birthday email wish from a friend I had not heard from in a few years which truly warmed my heart and helped me recall some good memories. No amount of money can buy these real gifts and I feel incredibly rich by these expressions. When I decided to live a simpler life, it also empowered those who care about me to give me simpler gifts that are far more meaningful to me than having them shop while wondering if she will like this, whomp, whomp, whomp: I find no joy in people wasting precious time trying to find the so-called "right gift" at all!

The decision for me to live without expecting others to spend government currency for my birthday also plants seeds of freedom in others and furthermore keeps the government and marketers out of my personal business. Why should anyone have to pay taxes on my birthday gift when they can make it or tell me they care tax-free? (except for the unavoidable extra taxes we pay for phone services, Internet connections, etc.) My low maintenance life provides me a fruitful existence. Enjoying more of the stuff money can't buy - Freedom!


Monday, March 9, 2009

My First Debt-Free-Except-for-the-Mortgage-Birthday!


I turn 45 years old today and it's the first debt-free-except-for-the-mortgage birthday I've had since my 20's but then again I didn't have a mortgage back then. It's been an interesting journey that has changed my life in so many ways beyond a reduction in bills. (Check out my blog archive.) Simple living offers incredible stress-free rewards.

My birthday wish for everyone is that you will take the rest of 2009 to eliminate debt. It's a wonderful feeling to get a paycheck and only pay cash for one mortgage debt and simple services like utilities, goods like food, and fun stuff like saving and giving to others. Freedom to live without allowing the pressure imposed by the media and the culture to spend on stuff I don't need and most of which I really don't want is sustainable through good economic times and bad times. Freedom!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Best Things In Life

The best things in life are free and tax-free! Enjoy them! Freedom!

Friday, March 6, 2009

I Really Only Trust God


Our United States currency still boldly proclaims on each bill, "IN GOD WE TRUST." Had it not been for my faith, I certainly would be in a terrible state of mind right now.

I really only trust God. My faith has actually increased in the last 4 years as I paid off debt and became prepared to address the effects of an economic slowdown or recession without being fully aware that it was coming head on.

I don't trust the government, my employer, any church, any entities more than I trust God. When things are working, I trust God. When things aren't working, I trust God. He is my provider, the creator of my very life itself. I did not put myself here and He is the only one who can truly take me out.

Ten years ago, I committed to following the teachings of Christ and the biblical doctrine - which speaks volumes about how to manage money, personal energy, and resources. It works for me. I live in peace and I live simply. I love my life! I wish everyone could experience sheer peace and joy from a fulfilling lifestyle. Even if you don't believe in God as I do, you can experience tidbits of what I am communicating by eliminating debt and spending less. You'll be amazed how much more of life you can really enjoy. Freedom!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

You Have the Power to Pay Off Debt


You can do it!
You can sacrifice buying wants during this recession and pay off your debts so that when the economy picks up, you will be in a very powerful position to impact and create change in your immediate world. With only a mortgage, I am free to both save and give. My attitude about life improves daily because I am not weighed down by the "making ends meet-rob Peter to pay Paul -when is payday-woe is me" mindset. My simple life affords me many opportunities to spend wiser on many things I want that go far beyond my needs. I am able to freely contribute to the life of others in so many ways.

Dave Ramsey's plan works. His baby steps work. I can share this from personal experience. If you want to begin a journey toward personal empowerment, I highly recommend the Dave Ramsey program. I've been working it since 2005 and I intend to use it as a template for personal success for the rest of my days. He saved my financial life.

Check out the other resources listed in the sidebar that changed my life through changing my thinking. Those who benefit most from debt are the ones telling you to how to manage debt. I am a true believer of simply eliminating it and you don't need to pay anyone else to help you pay off your debt. Just start paying it off, penny by penny, dime by dime, no matter how long it takes. A life without the limitations of paying other people all the time awaits you. Freedom!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Many Shoppers at IKEA Yesterday


Periodically, I enjoy reporting my own news regarding the economy. I needed to buy a couple of items at IKEA yesterday and the store was packed. Plenty of employees around to assist customers. Many people were in line to purchase items.



I sympathize with anyone who is between jobs. I hope positive news of what's working, instead of the ominous doom and gloom regularly reported, encourages you. Just because we're underwater doesn't mean we are drowning. Freedom!

Friday, February 27, 2009

What the Heck is 3 Trillion Dollars?

Does it feel like Washington D.C. has gone delirious? I'm not living in fear but continue to remain cautious about the imbalanced euphoria in believing that spending will set anyone free. Personal experience dictates otherwise. Freedom!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Benefits of a 4-Day Fast


Just completed a 4-day fast: 3 days of water only and 1 day of juice only. Today, and the rest of this week, I will gradually return to my next-to-regular-way of eating with vegan intakes. Already, I only eat chicken, fish, shellfish, and turkey products. I gave up pork quite a while ago and beef in the last year. I still enjoy the taste of red meat but my body does not digest it well at all so I let it go - even the occasional steak went bye-bye. (I will taste it if invited to someone's home and I live to tell about it. Not a big deal. (smiling))


Here were some of the benefits of my recent fast:


  • Fasting allowed my body to rid itself of toxins as it also forced me to slow down and rest. I rested in the same way you might do when you have the flu except I had no fever, cough, or runny nose. (There are many websites that explain this process. Check them out. keywords: benefits of fasting.) I still got a lot done!

  • The fast temporarily relieved me of chronic hay fever-like symptoms and I breathed clearly without any obstructions.

  • My mind became decluttered and my anxious tendencies were calmed. Often my stomach jitters even after a full meal and throughout the night. No jitters during the fast.

  • Fasting forced me to focus on the basic needs for rest and rejuvenation. I also meditated through prayer. As I realized my helplessness to complete this journey without some supernatural help, I simultaneously became strengthened in my spiritual connection to Almighty God.

  • On day 4 when I began drinking 100% juice and water, my energy increased exponentially and I felt an unusual wellness within me. I didn't crave any food at all. Throughout the day, I only consumed about 50 ounces of juice and I felt very content and inner peace ruled the me!

  • Fasting brought on clarity within my mind, heart, soul, and spirit. It gave me an incredible boost in being able to plan personal activities and projects for the months to come whereas before the fast, I had hit a "wall" or obstructions in my thinking.

  • I feel like I can take on the world today as my positive attitude has been reinforced!

Another side benefit of fasting: no dishes to wash and less waste. I became keenly aware of how much time I use, just to eat, by how much time became available from not washing dishes, preparing meals, and storing food. I had nothing to throw away and nothing to clean. Already, I don't eat out much which takes more time to find parking, select items, order the food, wait for the food, eat, and wait for the check, wait for the change, you get the picture.


I am hoping the vegan diet this week will reset how I consume food for the rest of the year. It's all an adventure! I will likely fast at least 2 more times this years. It's quite liberating to go without food for a while! Freedom!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Which States Have No State Income Tax? Increase the Bartering!

If you are thinking about moving to avoid state income taxes, the following list from about.com leads the way to go:

Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and
Wyoming.

Two states tax only dividend and interest income:
New Hampshire - a flat 5% tax on dividends and interest income over $2,400 per (or $4,800 if married filing a joint return).
Tennessee - a flat 6% tax on dividends and interest income over $1,250 per year (or $2,500 if married filing a joint return). More Tax Planning: U.S. Quick Tips
zSB(3,3)

Though I have no intentions of leaving my home state of California anytime soon, anything is possible in the future. Based only on state taxes and weather, of course, I would likely consider Texas or Tennesee. However, taxes are likely higher on property, sales, etc. Still seems best for me to live on as little as possible and do as many d.i.y. projects as I can manage. I can only be taxed when government currency exchanges from one source to another. Otherwise, life remains tax-free. When will we all wake up and increase the bartering or simply increase helping each other without charging? Furthermore, check out the federal rules for giving tax-free gifts of under $12,000. It reiterates that we can't give "gifts" for services. Well, I do like to show appreciation to those who help me so I simply won't call it a gift if we decide to barter over and above a $12,000 project in a very moral way. (laughing).

Government can't legally tax us for being friendly, neighborly, or loving and so, it is in government's best interest for us to distrust each other, keep our distance, and pay for all services and goods so that it can collect a tax and spend, spend, spend it in the name of plutocracy. Hmm! I don't want to live that way!

We have so much potential to collectively work around taxes and so many people already know and practice these opportunities. I am enjoying thinking about the possibilites! I will keep seeking! Freedom!

"Death of a Dream?" Really?


Check out "Death of a Dream," by Joel Kotkin in the Newsweek article online. It's a perfect example of negative voices that focus on splotches of evidence among a minority of California residents without considering the dispositions of the majority. Over 30 million people live in California. Mr. Kotkin decided to focus on a tiny sliver of the plutocracy which primarily includes politicians, Hollywood, and the dotcom industry to summarize his views of an entire state in the middle of crisis. While I respect his point-of-view, I can't allow it to debase my own thinking about creating and maintaining a fruitful life that can positively impact my own "little world." No matter where you live, it will not be perfect.

I've learned that wherever you go, there you are. I must make my life work for me no matter who is "in charge" because dreaming, working, seeking are all personal responsibilities. I do not put my hope in bureaucracy, government policies, politicians, the wealthy. No. My hope remains in the source, God.


Please don't be discouraged by the negative critics. Analysis, yes! Negativity full of doom and gloom, no! I'm learning that life's beauty remains more of an internal process than external. I can be very content in the middle of crisis. I don't need to run when trouble strikes. I'm learning to ride the waves and surf through it all especially in California! Freedom!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Enjoy Life!

We have so much to be grateful for and I intend to enjoy it! The best things in life are still free! Freedom!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tax Me More, I'll Spend Less


The State of California finally passed a budget full of tax increases. No need for me to panic or spend my life's energy caught up in a debate that I am powerless to solve or erase. However, I have choices in how I behave with my own money: Frugal people like me will likely spend less or utilize more ways to pay for items out of state and have them shipped to us.


Our new budget will raise the sales tax which will motivate me to buy fewer and fewer unnecessary items, sticking ony to the necessities. Already, I cook most of my meals at home and eat out about twice a month. I don't take big vacations any more, so all of the taxes that slip in to vacate don't apply to me. (Plus, there are lots of less taxing options for travel such as trips to state/national parks, monuments, and venues. Luckily, they did not raise taxes on gas, which almost happened.)
I rarely pay for big ticket entertainment like I did many years ago, so extra spending that revolves around parking, souvenirs, snacks, etc. will not fall on me. Still, the best way to avoid sales taxes is to not buy taxable goods and services. Then, they can continue to blame the economy on people who won't spend. Yikes! A co-worker recently told me living like this isn't fun. To me, it's more fun choosing a meaningful lifestyle that doesn't revolve around spending money - which remains an unnatural, inorganic way to live.

Personal income tax increases will motivate me to increase tax sheltering options or make less money and stay at home. Hmmmmm, contrarian thinking. The less I can live on, the less I need to work, the less in personal taxes I will have to pay. I can enjoy more of what money can't buy and I highly value free time to creatively do whatever I want to do which, as of now, can't be taxed!


If a person has a lot of debt or lives a highly consumeristic lifestyle, furlough days and pay cuts are extremely frightening. While I don't like pay cuts, I see this recession as an opportunity to rethink and tune up what I value most and it's still freedom. So, what else can I cut back on in the weeks to come so that I won't have to pay more taxes? What else do I need to let go of so that I can spend more time at home or in tax-free community with others? I refuse to waste my energy working up a sweat about what politicians are imposing on me. Since I am a native Californian with no intentions of moving to another state - at least not yet, this is my best personal response: change my own behavior and work around their humpty-dumpty system. It's challenging. It's uncomfortable. It's empowering! Freedom!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Creating Levity

(Please feel free to use these photos in your own publications.)
Spinach growing in my garden.

Jade plant in the front yard.

Lilacs blooming on side west side of my house.

Calla lily in the front yard.


African lily in the back yard.

I invite you to silence your radio, turn off your TV, walk away from your computer and toward whatever creates levity in your life, if only for a few minutes. Plants help me regroup and eliminate stress. I choose to enjoy more of what the economy will never provide for me and realize that I am and will be fine! God is my source!

Freedom!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Little 1995 Truck Passed the Smog Test Today!

First, if you live in California, cars older than 6 years old must be tested every two years to make sure they aren't over-polluters. It's a great racket, uh, business. I found a coupon at http://www.smogtips.com/ which helped reduce the cost by $30. I paid a total of $59 - just $9 more than I paid 2 years ago.

I sat in the lobby trying not to hold my breath because although I've kept up the maintenance on the truck, thoughts kept piercing through telling me, "It's an old truck with almost 200,000 miles, don't be surprised if it doesn't pass, girlie!" Ha! It passed!

The best part about the experience, after the price, was talking to the owner of the business: He was a man who wanted to talk and had something to say. So, as he finished the testing, we connected in a very friendly, platonic way.

Get a load of this: Yesterday, I intentionally visited another Smog Check business on a holiday in the pouring rain with the expectation of making a deal. I was absolutely the only person who walked in for the test and was ready to pay cash. What these shops charge for the service isn't regulated by the state. The guy told me he was going to charge me $69 to start plus vehicles from 1995 and older now need a 2nd "new" test for which he was charging another $20. (I verified the new test on the Internet last night as I also found the online coupon.) I said, "Okay, I'll check around elsewhere, thanks."

As I walked out back into the pouring rain, he told me if I find it cheaper, he'll do it for $10 less. WHAT????? You have got to be kidding me, right? The man who wants to make a buck often finds a way to not let money walk out of the door during a recession on a rainy day. Why would I come back to him if I find it for less? I thought, he really doesn't want to make any money today. He let me walk out of the door with cash in my purse. I came to do business but he let me walk away! I was stunned! Yes, I had mumbling words that were sarcastic! Please, God, forgive me.

Glad to have choices in doing business! Glad I didn't wait until the last minute to get this done which gives me far more options to pay less. Freedom!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Living Outside of the Debt and Stuff Enslavement System




Just before Thanksgiving 2008, I finished Harriet Tubman by the brilliant researcher Catherine Clinton who, by the way, wamly responded to my email that I sent stating how she enlightened me.

Tubman remains one of my favorite real life heroes but I was struck by how she crafted dozens of runs to free so many slaves but did not adequately prepare for her own retirement in Canada: Over the course of many years, cash flowed into Tubman's life from abolitionists yet she did not put any of it away for later living: She struggled to make ends meet in old age. (From another source I learned that her contemporary, Sojourner Truth, lived in a paid for home in the 1800's. Certainly, if Truth can do it, I can too!)

Another odd and interesting fact: Tubman was committed to freeing her family and was able to motivate her aging parents, siblings, and their families to run and live outside of the slave system. Her husband, John Tubman, however, chose to remain a slave. This broke Harriet's heart and I know we can read into the variables affecting his decision but it baffles the mind to know someone who can set you free yet we choose to remain enslaved. He remarried another slave and stayed within the system. (Guess she said, "I love ya, baby, but I got to go. Can't live like this no mo'. (LOL))

This is exactly how I perceive many people who don't want to live outside of the "being broke with debt and stuff system or being an enabler."

The broke enablers don't want to confront the addicted or extremely dependent ones they are supporting so they claim that this self-destructive behavior of giving away huge sums of their earnings is what they are on the earth to do. Some people seem to prefer to remain broke decade after decade and will recite the "the comforts of enslavement" to you. They are only fooling other slaves, not the frugal and free. I'm not convinced that such a line of reasoning correlates to God's best for mankind.

An incredible body of information to financial freedom can be found online and, of course, libraries, bookstores, etc. Most folks know at least one wise individual or couple who are exceptional in handling their resources and money. Often, the broke folks shun the wise and free as if they are intergalactic aliens when coins are jangling in their pockets yet, praise the same when they spend their last dime a few days or weeks before payday.

Freedom from the enslavement of debt isn't a mystery. The Bible has clear instructions but if you don't believe in it, check out the non-biblical resources in the new blibliography I've posted. Universal truths are true whether or not you believe God is the source of them or not: The principles work. In 2004, I stumbled on Dave Ramsey and a plethora of information began chasing me down. I couldn't resist! It made too much sense and as challenging as it was and still is to control my human nature, as the slave system of debt and stuff beckon me back into the game, I love my freedom and I'm not going back. Freedom!




Saturday, February 14, 2009

Single and No Valentine? Becoming Better, Not Bitter!



Happy Valentine's Day to all of the 6 billion+ people in the world!
This message is targeted to the singles without a "special" Valentine: All you need is love! (Thanks Jesus and The Beatles!) Even if you had a special committed one-on-one romantic relationship, it's never enough. You've got to have those other friends and connections to make life balanced and fun. The more love I give, more love boomerangs back to me both from expected and unexpected sources.
One very important key to experiencing the abundant love around me is to let go of fantasies and accept whatever people have to offer: If some of the folks in my life can only offer me a paper clip, then I'll take it and make it useful... I won't put them on the shelf. Those willing and able to journey the deep waters of life with me, my soul becomes restored by their devotion and I experience incredible comfort and healing. However, I won't torture the paper clip bearers with how extensively the deep water navigators demonstrate their love for me nor will I attempt to change them. That's not fair! I just let them be! I've chosen not to feel cheated by the paper clippers because they do help my life in small ways as they do help keep small things connected and in one place. I'm taking it all in and enjoying the ride!
So, singles, make it your special day to love yourself then love others as you love yourself! I'm certainly not moaning and whining about not having one special Valentine 'cause I really have an abundance of love in my life through various healthy relationships! Love and Freedom!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Are You Blooming?


From Matthew 5:1-16 (Message Translation)
1.
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down
2.
and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3.
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4.
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5.
"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are - no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
6.
"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
7.
"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'carefull,' you find yourselves cared for.
8.
"You're blessed when you get your inside world - your mind and heart - put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9.
"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
10.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
11.
"Not only that - count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.
12.
You can be glad when that happens - give a cheer, even! - for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
13.
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14.
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.
15.
If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand.
16.
Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
FREEDOM!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Please Don't Blame the Recession on the Frugal Consumers

I continue to read articles that blame the current recession on consumers who won't SPEND. Oh brother! The media somehow twist our frugal choices as harmful to the country. I find these accusations extraordinarily BIZARRE!
  • Frugal people chose to spend and use our resources with as little waste or flamboyance as possible.
  • Frugal people are in all economic groups and classes. Frugal people spend money we actually have instead of borrowing and re-entering enslavement.
  • Yes, we enjoy many things money can buy but mostly the stuff money can't buy and far more of it. Frugal people are often very generous.

In a spend, spend, spend culture, folks are too busy to acknowledge the wisdom found in the natural world of sustainability, no waste, abundant provision without exploitation. I simply don't need more than I really need. I don't want what I don't want.

I don't want an American car. As my 14 year-old Toyota truck hits 200,000 miles in the next few months, I am saving to BUY another Toyota or Honda. My Ford Escort bailed out on me in 1995 with less than 7 years and 100,000 miles after several crazy/expensive repairs. So leave me alone about supporting the American auto industry since. I support anyone's decision to pay cash or near cash for a new or used car to help the ailing American auto industry which gave up its lead for greed a long time ago.

I want to SPEND some money in home improvements on my little house but if I can't pay cash for it, I can live without it. I can wait and save the money unless the government wants to include me in the stimulus package. Oh, but since I'm not behind in my mortgage, I don't qualify for the discussion. Of course my renegade lender regularly emails me about taking out a HELoc to spend and consolidate debts I don't have or make improvements. Are you kidding me? My one mortgage is my last debt and they want to "help me out" by giving me more debt. I surrender to Dave Ramsey's plan and he won't let me! (smiling)

I plan to buy a few items under $1000 this year using my debit card or cash. I AM SPENDING just not as much nor as fast as most big SPENDERS. Every little bit counts but it counts more to me in my emergency/disaster fund: After the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, I have no reason to believe it will quickly help if a big earthquake destroys my neighborhood. I must have enough cash to evacuate and set up a new temporary tent.

If the roofing on my house caves or if I need to replace the 30-year old furnace this year, guess who will be spending cash to fix it? It's not fun to spend those funds on what I don't need or want. If I had to choose, I'd rather be dirt poor and free than owe another dime to a bailed out bank. I'm not going back to that life! Freedom!

Compassion for Mom of Octuplets Needed...Media, Go Away!

Based on my own experiences with confronting mental illness in my own family gene pool, and past periods of depression and anxiety within myself, I am assessing that the mom of the new octuplets needs our compassion far more than our judgment. Our country has a very poor record of how we address the mentally ill and I refuse to go along with how the media attempts to create opportunities to judge this woman. I find the interviews and articles frightening in setting her up as some type of scam artist. You have got to be kidding!

I want to challenge all of the pro lifers out there who have those blazing bumper stickers on your trucks, vans, and cars, (I'm a pro lifer but I don't have a bumper sticker) to contribute to improving this woman's situation and not allow those babies to fall into the rickety government-run foster care system. Although she and I live in Los Angeles County, I don't plan to become physically involved. It's easy to write a check but I'm beginning to pray about a meaningful contribution I can make than just a check so I'm starting by attacking the media in this blog: Let her be! I'm not allowing myself to get entangled in "how this could've been avoided" debates. As a realist, I address and respond to matters at hand: Those babies need a "village" if they are going to make it. Will keep you posted on my progress. Freedom!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Good News at Goodyear!


I had my free tire rotation at the Just Tires Store owned by Goodyear this afternoon. I asked the familiar sales guy if Goodyear was laying off and he smiled as he told me not only were they not laying off, but he went over his quota and recently got a raise! It was a pleasure to hear good news about his employer and his own success! I congratulated him, wished him well, and said I'd see him in another 5,000 miles.

I gathered my own free good news without satellite TV or digital switching boxes or newswriters who want to control my thinking. I know, tomorrow is a new day and they may announce layoffs. So, for now, I will enjoy the good news I gathered and I choose to broadcast it myself! Freedom!

Validation - An Excellent Short Film on YouTube

If you have about 16 minutes, check out a wonderful short film about validating others on YouTube! I discovered it from a fellow blogger. I hope you feel inspired. Freedom!

ENJOY!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Grandmother Survived the Great Depression...Worrying, Not an Option



As crazy as generational family lines can be, all of us have ancestors who survived worse economic times than what we are currently facing. For me, worrying about the current state of the economy is simply not an option.

Fortunately, my grandmother shared many stories of being a poor teenager in rural Mississippi in the 1930's directly with me. All of her life, she lived frugally and made her own fashionable clothes/hats up until her last few years on the earth. She made most of my clothes until I was about 10 years old but later made my prom dress, a few skirts for work, and almost anything upon request. She never had much income but all of her basic needs were always taken care of and she shared what she had with others as she became very rich in other ways: My grandmother loved to cook and my mother shared stories of the dozens of the people my grandmother fed during her childhood of the 1950's. My grandmother, the seamstress, always had cash flow from sewing for clients and she stashed cash all the time!

In my 20's, my grandmother, who had given up driving when I was a child and knew how to use the fragmented public transportation system in LA County, directed me to drive her with sandwiches and soup she prepared for the homeless "residing" in downtown Los Angeles. She'd collected clothes to give away including some she handmade: She neither needed a government program nor a non-profit to feed hungry people. I will never forget the splinters of hope as we opened up the trunk and passed out what she had prepared. I can see it in my mind even as I write this blog.

I don't have the sewing talent or the willingness to periodically deliver food to masses of hungry people on my own but I did inherit the detachment of not buying if you can make it mindset from her as it was imposed by economics and limited access to education and opportunities. I also inherited trying to make life easier for others throughout the journey with my resources and abilities. I only realized what she really passed on to me in the last 4 years as I eliminated debt.
She ironically died on Valentine's Day, 2004 a few weeks before my 40th birthday: Ironic, because she wasn't the easiet person to get along with yet, turns out, she left the best gift ever! The woman with a 4th grade education turned out to be wiser than us all in home economics and taking community responsibility. She often warned me to not become an educated fool and although I did some foolish things with money that I know she would've never done, I am redeemed by returning to the forced frugality principles she lived by with a fabulous twist in my choice to live simply. Freedom!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Can You Zumba?

I went to the Saturday morning Zumba class at the gym today and boy did she give us an invigorating workout!!! There must have been about 75 of us representing various cultures, youth, seniors, in shape or training to get there. Check it out! Have some frugal fun! Freedom!

Live Strong Website

If you haven't done so already, check out the Live Strong website. I enjoy the holistic approach to personal growth and change. Phenomenal! Freedom!

Letting Go


My Loving People small group discussed issues of letting go last night as we are all determined to facilitate personal growth together this year. Letting go is tough until it starts to ruin your life.

Our great teacher imparted the following to us:

  • Loving people are growing people who are continually changing to become better people.

  • Safe people are spiritual and willing to look at their "stuff" or adequately self-reflect. They are graceful truthtellers while,

  • Unsafe people are religious and "perfect." They are unwilling to learn because there is nothing wrong with them, legalistic, and show little grace.

  • Love cannot be fully experienced unless you are growing.

  • Trying to change doesn't work but training to change does work.

  • Love is seeking and doing what is best for the other person at the expense of your own desires for the relationship.
All loving relationships take focused commitment to keep them healthy and each participant needs to constantly seek personal growth to sustain bonding.

I find it easier to focus on intimate friendships by choosing to live with less debt and less consumerism. (My small group doesn't lend itself to the impact of money issues on lifestyle choices but the connection of real living and letting go of materialism is striking.) My conversations with friends center far more around real life perceptions, ideals, imaginations, and creativity than ones projected on us by all forms of media, advertisements, and celebrity gossip. Even with strangers, the right questions lead us to deeper exchanges of thought, if only for a few moments, than the blathering of radio and TV.

Enjoying more of the stuff that money cannot buy, even though it sometimes feels uncomfortable, allows me to grow into more of my authentic self! Freedom!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Power of Loving Relationships

"Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." I John 4:11-12

When I am in the company of loving friends, the world's problems totally shrink, money problems don't exist, and global warming remains only a theory that I care less and less about. Loving and connecting defeats all fear by increasing our resolve to move forward and face another day knowing that we are not alone in the journey.

I am very fortunate to have others to reach out to only to have them reach back to me...strangers, acquaintances, and friends. I've had exceptionally intimate interactions involving connecting and reconnecting this week. I am enjoying more of the essence of life that money cannot buy: Love and Freedom!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm No Professional Economist But...


"Keep It Simple, Steph" has been one of my mantras for several years. While I am not a trained economist and I admittedly don't get the BIG picture of many projects because I can focus on implementing details, it just seems to me that the government is making a terrible move in the giving away of money it doesn't have. Here in California, our elected officials seem totally clueless about money and budgets. What's wrong with these snapshots?

What I do know about personal finance/personal economics still holds true on larger scales: Spending money you don't have only leads to more trouble, stress, insecurity, risk, early death - in some cases. It ends relationships, can lead to crime, doesn't promote harmony. I don't like the current government policies regarding economic stimulus based on my own past stupid mistakes with money. If I trusted government, I'd be scared to death right now. Since I trust God, wisdom, and the fruit and consequences of my own actions - both smart and dumb decisions, I can live in peace right here at home in my sweet little house without buying more stuff with money I don't have. Self control has become one of my greatest assets. Freedom!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Another Excellent Read

Just finished The Overspent American by Juliet Schor. She provides much of the research, surveys, and data that support an objective point-of-view of perilous spending of money you don't really have and how us humans are so vulnerable to traps of spending and keeping up appearances.

Check out Juliet Schor on YouTube. Rethink, react, set yourself free.

Freedom!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Enjoy the Manna Before Entering the Promised Land

Before entering the promised land, the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. God provided the manna for sustenance and all of their basic needs were met. Yet, they complained. They couldn't enter until behavioral changes were made internally.
For me, the promised land is living debt free including the mortgage: I want to live on little materially but contribute hugely to the communities I am part of at work, home/neighborhood, church, my city, globally. The path I've been on in simple living and reducing consumption is my manna and I'm not complaining.


If I do this right and over a long period of time, I can fund my own projects or collaborate with others on a much larger scale. I don't need to wait on government to do what I know needs to be done. You don't have to be a millionaire to deliver the goods to people in the global and local communities. An example: If I choose to not replace my functional 13 year-old sofa and use the same $800-$1000 to assist someone else in need, I've chosen to act in a fruitful and sustainable way and I feel good about it. I personally grow and help lift someone else. Sheer joy! I'm not just talking about food, clothes, shelter. If my neighbor down street decides to go to college in a couple of years, why shouldn't I be one of his benefactors? That's way more important to me than buying more stuff to look at and get dusty!


I already partner with a couple of charities who do BIG projects globally by sending checks. One of my charities takes shoes to 3rd world villages in Central and South America and another digs wells in African villages to provide clean water. Another one supports HIV/AIDS orphanages in Africa and educational access. I am told that the children are reminded that many of us here in America love them and this is how we show it and if we never make the trip, they know we care. That's what life is all about, to me. I am free to use my skills to make life fun for me and walk with others in fulfilling their dreams. We are connected.

At home, I have many opportunities to care for children through tutoring, buying them shoes, clothes, taking them for haircuts, etc. on my own. My very effective community church lives up to its name and has ongoing support for practically every adult and childhood need but it also consistently teaches personal responsibility in digging out of a pit through education and training: We'll help you out but you still have to do the work. We aren't waiting for government to sustain us, God is our source and we are filled with an abundance of education, abilities, talent, and experience among us. We pray for God's help but we aren't waiting for mystical miracles that we are already practically empowered to perform ourselves. Faith without works is dead!

The best things in life are still free from the cost of money but freedom isn't free. I work at it everyday and I am better for it. I am breaking out. Freedom!