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!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bare Bones Living in February

The blogger at Frugalista Files is pledging to spend money only on the neccessities in February. I've been cutting back since 2005 so my efforts are now my lifestyle.

When I first began, I scrutinized how money was leaving my wallet and bank accounts. To this day, each week, I ask myself, "Is there something else I can cut back on...something that I really don't need."

A few of my first reductions in 2005:
  • Turned off the lights when I left a room and decreased my electric bill by at least 30%.
  • Refusing to turn on the air conditioner until it was unbearable and wear sweaters or robes during winter to reduce heating costs. (LA County weather) BTW, during the hot, hot summer days, I plan to be out of my house between noon and 3 so that I don't need to use my AC. It's the best time to use someone else's AC at the library, market, etc.
  • Discontinued long distance service on my home phone. (I'm not ready to eliminate the home phone yet, but it has crossed my mind several times.)
  • Eliminated voicemail and bought a standard answering machine. They are cheap, reliable, and without monthly service fees.I also got rid of cordless phones in the house because I had to replace the batteries too often.
  • Reduced use of my cell phone to less than 400 minutes a month. No extras. BTW, I've had the same cell phone since 2003. I can't make myself buy another one because this one still works: I've never replaced the battery. Trust me, I was very tempted just before the holidays with all of the ads but I didn't give in to it. I won!
  • Dropped my gym membership and began using city parks and slopes. I rejoined this past summer for one year, one gym location only - the cheapest way to go and no monthly payments. I insisted on paying in cash, up front, and I was able to get a special Internet rate. When it expires this summer, I will return to the city parks and maybe buy a favorite piece of equipment - but I seriously doubt it.
  • Changed from cable and cable modem to satellite and DSL. I dropped at least $40 a month and that was 4 years ago. Recently, I dropped to the lowest package on the satellite service - another $30 off the monthly bills.
  • Stopped eating out often and began cooking and freezing more. I became a little phobic for a while because this action alone helped me drop 10 pounds in a few months. I seriously began questioning ingredients in restaurant food.

These days, I am always searching and sharing with others in the frugal village to see what I can live without and add what I want more of in community living. I am saving for big emergencies and big purchases: If my little 14 year-old truck with almost 200,000 miles dies, I will have to replace it. Right now, it's still humming along but I am a realist and I've started pricing used cars online. Otherwise, I have no intention to buy anything really big in 2009.

My favorite vacation spot is HOME! When I have time off, it's nice to be cozy right here and free to live without any type of schedule. I nap and roam wherever, whenever and I absolutely love it. Freedom!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Proverbs 16:24

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

God surprises me through my encouraging and very loving friends. Money can't buy their sweetness and healing touch. I am grateful! Freedom!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Support Groups Promote Personal Growth

I joined a support group last night at my community church. Each Friday night, 24 groups, with every life topic imaginable, run simultaneously after a community dinner, testimonies of success, and announcements. I joined the Loving People group - based on the book by Dr. John Townsend - and I have a master teacher. I'm very excited! Our group had about 100 people in it. We later broke up into groups under 10 to discuss the teaching. It was a stretch for me but I'm up for a new experience.

In the general assembly of about 500 people, we celebrated one guy's one year of sobriety. If having 500 people applaud your success doesn't encourage you to stay on the wagon, what hope is left? (smiling) Another woman shared her freedom from abusive relationships. We applauded her courage to share the details.

I can't help but connect how my frugal life affords me the time and energy to learn from others in this setting. I am experiencing incredible joy and anticipation of personal growth. Real life has replaced TV programming and acquisition of more stuff for me. Real people will help my personal growth! Freedom!

Hear No Evil - Pay Off Debt

On my way to the gym this afternoon, I heard a radio money adviser tell a caller to not pay off her student loans and invest in the stock market. Of course, I SCREAMED NOOOOOOO! BAD ADVICE! He went on to say that she should treat the $40,000 loan like a mortgage.

I learned from a few folks who believe in freedom, not the world's system of money management, that debt is an oppressive trap. (For Christians, we are told in Proverbs 22:7 that the borrower is slave to the lender. It's very true.) Modern day slavery with money simply means that before you deposit your next paycheck, someone else has dibs on your earnings because you owe them. In essence, you are only working to pay them, not to enjoy the fruit of your labor. It didn't take me too long to realize that the joy of new expensive stuff doesn't last very long and to maintain the "high" you gotta keep buying stuff.

I am totally into how Dave Ramsey teaches us to avoid stupid tax: paying for stuff we don't need with money we don't have, to impress people we don't really like. I practice that line of reasoning. I understand life happens: If you are sick and you have to go in debt to get treatment, I think that one is a no-brainer. If your car dies and the cost to raise it from the dead greatly exceeds its value, and you must get a basic one to get to work, you might need a loan. I get that. "Justifying" a purchase of a new luxury car that equals over half of your annual salary, I don't think so.

The radio guy went on to say that she should take the next 20 or 30 years to pay off the debt. You gotta be kidding! Who wants that poopy diaper around for that long? What if she gets sick? What if she loses her job? What if she wants to live a simpler life in a few years and can't leave a high paying job for a sustainable one at lower pay in exchange for more time to enjoy her life? Those are the rational what-if questions that need review when deciding to carry a huge debt load. Those are the questions I asked myself 4 years ago when I began my debt snowball. Life in the pursuit of living without any debt including the mortgage: Freedom!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Managing a Monthly Food Budget

It is January 21st. There are 10 more days left before February.
  • This month, I budgeted $250 for all of my meals, household detergents and paper products. (BTW, I stopped buying paper dinner napkins, paper cups, and paper plates several months ago and began using cloth napkins, dishes, ceramic mugs, glasses all the time.) I still buy cheap paper towels and, of course, bathroom tissue in bulk and on sale.
  • So far, I've spent $151. I can spend $99 over the next 10 days and no more. Part of the $151 included stocking up on paper goods and detergent. I think I have enough detergent for the rest of the year so I can ignore the rest of the detergent sales for several months.
  • My regular freezer (I don't own a 2nd freezer) has about 2.5 pounds of ground turkey, several servings of broccoli, green beans, a 5 lb. bag of party wings, 3 medium containers of homemade soup, and the last of those delicious turkey meatballs I made from a recipe new to me last Sunday.
  • My pantry has 12 pounds of potatoes, a couple of cans of veggies, 9 packs of ramen noodles, apple juice, pasta - but not much.
  • Weekly to every 10 days, I shop at one of three stores and make occasional visits to the farmer's market in my city. This week, one of the stores has whole chickens on sale for $.69/lb. I usually buy 3 or 4 when they drop this low. I will bake one this weekend and freeze the others. Eggs, cheese, oranges, bananas, juice, apples, pasta, and pasta sauce are also on sale. So, I will restock on those. I still don't freeze fruit so I only buy what I can eat within a couple of days. There are only 4 items on my refrigerator list and 2 of them are on sale this week. Yay!
I will not need to spend more than $30 or $40 this week on sale items which will really be restocking items since I froze a few meals and deals over the past 8 weeks. I only shop at one store per week so if the ads don't draw me in, I don't drive around. I gave up Costco years ago because of their floor plan: They make you pass all kinds of tempting stuff just to get to the food waaaayyyy in the back. So, my preferred warehouse is Smart N Final.

I haven't eaten in a restaurant this month, yet. If and when I do, it does not come out of my $250 food/household budget. I have a separate budget for "fun" and that includes restaurants. I rarely order more than soup or salad (some salads aren't cheap but dinner salads usually are under 10 bucks). If invited to a special occasion, I will usually eat at home first so that I never show up hungry and I rarely create a large bill. If at someone's house and the food doesn't look tasty, it's truthful to say, "I just ate so I'm not really that hungry. I really watch what I'm eating these days." (hahahahahaha) It is soooooo liberating to know how to cook your own food and make it taste delightful! Sometimes, I'll add garnish for "presentation" then chuckle because one can easily pay an extra $20 for fresh $2 parsley on the plate. Those days are gone for me unless it's really a totally new dining experience or my special sushi place - I have no desire to learn how to roll sushi.

Getting together with people you enjoy - not the food filled with the unknown, or waiting for bad service, or trying to find a parking spot - is the main reason I like to meet them in a restaurant. Otherwise, I'd just rather stay at home and invite 1, 2, or 3 over at a time for good conversation and a simple homemade meal. Freedom!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yes, I Can Change...What Will You Do?

I am enjoying the wave of hope, dreams, and change on this MLK Holiday, the day before the Inauguration of our 44th president, Barack Obama. I am especially enjoying it because I already know I can change for the better and my change is still my personal responsibility.

  • 4 years ago, I began experiencing a new powerful wave of personal change as I began paying off debt. Now with only a mortgage and an emergency fund, I am a more relaxed person. I can change.
  • For the past 4 years, I only used a credit card to secure a rental car when my 14 year-old truck needed servicing and I paid for the rental with cash. I haven't used a credit card for anything else. I also paid cash for the car services. I can change.
  • I am free to help others who really need a boost with cash and time because I'm not working like a dog to buy more stuff. I have the time to encourage others. I can change.
  • By paying off debt and only paying with cash, I repositioned myself. I can receive more love, affection, joy, peace because I'm not frenzied with bills created from buying more stuff: My outdated stuff supports my contentment. A friend of a friend even gave me a very nice wooden dining table/4 chairs that match set (laughing) that was just sitting in her garage a couple of years ago. I would have missed out if I was of the mind of "needing" a new one. Change came to me.
  • The never ending chase for stuff, status, validation from a world system unwilling to say enough opened too many doors for depression, anxiety, discontentment, bitterness to creep in. No more of that garbage! God changed me.
  • I have more creative energy to learn and live a sustainable lifestyle and live fruitfully. I have more interest in learning about my global community because all of my basic needs are met without the danger of repossession or foreclosure. I am enjoying more of the stuff that money can't buy - as my pastor often restates. I don't need to impress anyone with what I know, who I know, what I own, where I've traveled, or what I drive. I only need to show how well I can love and meet any needs within my abilities that I see right in front of me. I have changed. Change feels very good to me.
  • My conversations are more often centered around real life issues instead of media driven ideas or "one-up-manship". Later for that! I have changed.
  • I learned to let go of the past and I begin each new day given to me by my Creator to move forward with an expectation in a process of positive results. Good riddance, stinkin' thinkin'. I have changed.
  • I am looking forward to a day of living in a paid for house where I am coaching dozens in small groups who want a simpler life while kickin' back in my small living room. I'll be free to literally work for free, be the boss of me (under God, the CEO of my life, of course) and reach out to others in my community because I'll have enough. Collaboration will be key. Change is coming for me.
  • I can still dream and push for excellence. I can still help a few people here and there along the way. I can still improve myself. I can change.
What will you do? To me, the greatest respect we can give Dr. King lies within what we will do with what we have right now. The greatest gift we can give ourselves in 2009 is pay off debt and tell the bailed out banks, "There must be a better way than borrowing from you!"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dr. John Townsend - Simply the Best

The seminar was by far one of the best I've attended in a few years! (Read previous post for more details!) He totally focused on Loving People, his new book.

Afterwards, I joined a small group that will begin meeting next week to further examine the topics in his book: What is Love?, The Key Aspects of Love (connecting, truth-telling, healing, letting go, and romancing), Becoming a Loving Person. A community frugal dinner will be served with other groups then we will break out into our own study/growth groups. So now I am reading another book but not alone and I will be part of another community of willing adult learners who want to be there. Nice!

If you ever, ever have an opportunity to hear Dr. Townsend speak, you will not regret it. There were about 1,000 attendees but I felt individualized enough by his content and presentation.

Check out his website linked to the title of this post.

Wealthy Living

I began the weekend with leaving work immediately yesterday afternoon with "gazelle" intensity (a Dave Ramseyism) and headed home on the side streets - the method I've chosen to commute by driving for the past couple of months. I finally stopped in at a second-hand shop that recently opened. In 30 minutes I was able to buy a couple of tops, a skirt, and a pair of pants for $13.50. Some have designer labels. Yay for me! Yay for the local shopkeeper! My choice to stay off of the freeways paid off for both of us. Otherwise, I would've never passed her shop.

I arrived home before sunset and saw that my new walking shoes arrived from my online order. Fortunately, I began breaking them in with a brisk 1 mile walk around my neighborhood. I enjoyed watching the distant city lights illuminating the dusk as I mounted one of the small hills in my community near the park. I praised God for the view, the warm weather, and the good health to walk.

I ran into a neighbor who lives on a street a few blocks away from my home and we chatted for a few minutes: Just enough to touch bases and discuss how thankful we are to have jobs and a home. She updated me on some of the local government decisions and it reminded me of how I once kept up, in detail, with civics but let it go. I'll pick it up again one day but having the time to talk with her felt rewarding enough.

Down the street, I passed another neighbor's house who started her own greenhouse: I usually plant veggies annually but I've never built a greenhouse. (I prepared the bed for planting this weekend over the past 2 weeks. I will also plant start some seeds indoors and transplant them in about 6 weeks.) Hmmmm...over the years, I've waved and had brief exchanges with this neighbor but I don't know her name or much about her. I am hoping that I will get a chance to see the greenhouse up close. I know that I will strike up a conversation about it when it becomes feasible.

Today, I will attend a 3-hour seminar by one of the authors of Boundaries: Dr. John Townsend. He is speaking about loving others. I paid $20 for the ticket at my non-denominational community church I've attended off and on since 2002. I read Boundaries a couple of years ago and I highly recommend it to anyone in search of healthy living strategies. I am meeting a friend at the church coffee shop (I've already sipped my fill at home for the day) before the seminar begins so that we can sit together.

After the seminar, I will stop by the local farmer's market and chit-chat with with vendors and one chamber of commerce reps I know who facilitates the weekly market while I get my fresh produce. Around the block, I will pick up the other two books I have on hold at the library.

There's plenty to do at home today: gardening, ironing, reading, relaxing. I want to finally try a new meatball recipe I downloaded and use some of the ground turkey I bought on sale a couple of weeks ago.

The total money cost for today will be the $20 I spent for the seminar ticket, the $15 I will spend at the farmer's market, the gallon of gas with wear and tear on my car which is about $7. There is a high probability that I will buy one of Dr. Townsend's books/DVDs today, so I will take some extra cash in case. If the cost a book/DVD is more than $25, I will not buy it. Knowing what I will spend in advance keeps me grounded and protects me from heavy persuasion to buy, buy, buy.

The personal, positive interactions I will experience with my friend and attendees at the seminar, the folks at the farmer's market, and library will be the true wealth I will enjoy most today. I expect to have a good day. I have set myself up for success and not failure. If negative things happen, I at least started the day on a joyful path. Freedom!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Now Reading: Sustainable Planet by Juliet Schor and Betsy S. Taylor

This is the first of 3 library books I put on hold. I hope to pick up the other 2 tomorrow.

I Blog Because...

I am a born and trained teacher. I want to let folks know what really works in creating a meaningful and simple life without feeling like a deprived American and it works for many, many people. I don't always need professional advice: I need access to those who are sincerely trying to walk according to the beat they hear inside and are willing to share what works for them.
  • I enjoy writing.
  • Over the past 4 years, I've made some interesting changes in my life that go against the grain and I know I can change in ways that are both unpopular yet productive. I know how to surrender what I cannot change but I can definitely change me. I am the only one who can make my life work for me AND it's a lot of work with personal responsibility. I hope the resources on this blog empower you to go for simplicity if that's what you hear calling your soul at this point in your life. If not, I hope you are entertained because the voices of the frugal village surpass most of the entertainment you pay for - IMHO.
  • I am learning weekly about the severe impact of high consumption on the global community and social injustice in the USA. I can't change the world, but if I decide to change some of my damaging habits/attitudes little by little, I can change my response to my "immediates" around me and how I interact with others.
  • I now know the damaging chain reactions that high consumption play on personal mental and physical health. I continue to add links in the side column for contemplation. I can't control how many years I live but I can control the quality of the years I have left.
  • It is less painful to learn from other people's mistakes and I've made plenty. I hope you learn from my mistakes but also reap the benefits of personal change as they apply to you.
  • I have taken back a significant portion of my time, my energy just by reducing my exposure to other people's fantasies in the never-ending media broadcasts (remember when TV went off around 1 AM?): movies, news, TV programming, radio, all the blaring advertisements that don't help me, and frivolous web sites. I am thinking my own thoughts more often and I own up to my own thinking. Some of that thinking makes it to this blog.
  • Frugal villagers provide incredible camaraderie. We tend to be genuinely happy, down to earth folks that cross all racial, socio-economic differences especially since we are not competing against each other. (I personally meet at least 2 a week when I am out and about and strike up very interesting conversations.) I enjoy hearing their helpful voices through their articles and blogs.
  • Freedom!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 Reading List is Underway

For the past 2.5 years, I read, on average, 2-3 books a month, mostly non-fiction. (My favorite fictional writers are Walter Mosley and John Dunning: Both of whom are mystery writers of realistic fiction.) I was able to devour lengthy, thought provoking books primarily because I took a combination of train/bus to and from work. Now, that I am driving again, I am choosing to give up the weekly 7 to 10 hours of TV news, HGTV, and Food Network so that I can maintain my reading diet. I will likely watch about 2-5 hours this week and continue to rely on websites for detailed news coverage and car radio news for local highlights.

Tonight, I spent time placing books on hold via Internet through the Los Angeles County Library system. Years ago, buying books was one of my horrible, spendthrift habits. And when came along, I increased the purchases exponentially. Thank God, those days are long gone. I also give most of the books I buy away so that they don't clutter up the house: I no longer need several bookshelves to hold all of the books.

So, I'll try to read free of charge as much as possible in 2009 as I did in 2006-2008. Freedom!

Living in a Peaceful Home

I happened to watch an episode of Super Nanny the other night and wasn't too surprised with the lack of order and routine the young coupled faced while raising their 3 little munchkins. I realize much of the drama may be accentuated because it is, after all, a programmed TV show in the race for ratings. However, I know first hand that many people really do live chaotic lives and have little control over their home life. Stressful!

I don't have kids, so I already have a tremendous advantage for peaceful living at home. I've known a few others in the past who are also single without kids but home isn't peaceful for them either. I'm not going to say that I am the world's best housekeeper, but my home is orderly and quiet. I can find whatever I'm looking for within minutes and I routinely plan decluttering days throughout the year. I scrub and vacuum the rooms myself on a weekly basis. Interior design isn't one of my strengths but for me, my living space feels cozy. I didn't buy too much house (only 1,000 sq.ft. on a 4,000 sq.ft lot) almost 10 years ago neither have I ever taken out a 2nd mortgage or a HELOC and so I really can afford to live here and I don't struggle: As it should be. Clearly, had I not controlled my behaviors, my desire for more, especially since the house really could use some basic improvements, I might be in foreclosure right now. Had I not gotten sound advice and read information for myself, I might be faced with a crazy mortgage plus a loan from HEL(oc) and not able to enjoy my "little" space. That's no way to live.

Frugal living frees me from complicating my home life since I don't have a need to fill it with stuff. I don't need to have parties to impress anyone. I don't invite those who appear arrogant and trapped by a pursuit of materialism or extravagant living IF they are also ATTACHED to a desire to criticize me because I've chosen to live otherwise. I'm careful who I invite to my home and I keep the peace. Comfort remains the top priority because it rejuvenates me. Maintaining inner peace and practicing healthy boundaries with myself and others provide the environment I need to live a productive life. It's so simple and enjoyable! Freedom!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Designer Purse: $28 on eBay

This is a genuine Coach purse that I bought on eBay for $28. Used? Yes. Older style? Yes. I can use it for many years and I wanted (not needed) a black purse.

Purchases like this one make me giggle inside because I have nothing against most used/second-hand items. It ranks right up there with a London Fog raincoat I bought for $5 a few years ago at a yard sale and a silk blouse I got for $4 at a secondhand store.

So, yes, I like designer clothes and accessories. When I do buy new designer wear, I usually take advantage of the markdowns at the outlet stores which start at 40% off: I still wear an Ann Taylor blazer that was marked down from $160 to $40 about 4 years ago and I still receive ample compliments when I wear it with the $4 silk blouse and the $25 Tommy Hilfiger jeans. I think I paid about $30 for the brown leather shoes at the Bass outlet store. Amazing. Annually, I spend about $500 for clothes (so, obviously, I don't shop too often) but I also buy 2 to 3 pairs of running/walking shoes above the $500 because I wear them out.

I always buy new running/walking shoes and I like buying them at at a discount.
I absolutely love ignoring the commercials and the ads that constantly dictate EVERYTHING ... especially when they shout, "Hurry!"

Trying to Reduce Use of Plastic Containers/Bags but I'm Losing the Battle

I gave up buying bottled water for 2009 and today I bought 3 canvas bags for shopping but I am not going to win the war against my use of plastic bags and containers: It's EVERYWHERE! I can hardly buy anything that isn't packaged in plastic.

So, I need to let this one go because I will end up stressing out over it. I suppose until manufacturers give up using plastic, the landfills will continue holding them forever. Oh well, this issue is waaaaayyyyyyy bigger than me. Let's hope the kids we're teaching today will figure out green ways to use it all. I'm walkin' away from this issue while chomping on my sandwich stored in my reusable plastic sandwich container. (smiling) Freedom!

Another BFF: The Slooow Cooker

One of my cheap thrills for the past year has been waking up to the enticing smell of a cooked meal. How did I live for so long without a slow cooker? I really like tossing in all of the herbs, spices, mushrooms, celery, and usually chicken breasts or drumsticks and turning it on low about 2 hours before I go to bed. When I wake up, it's like someone prepared food just for me and then I laugh at myself because I am the someone who prepared the food... just for me. Hahahahahahah!!!
Often, as I brew my morning decaf, I make my lunch from the slow food for the day and put the other 3-5 servings in the fridge for dinner that night or lunch (sometimes breakfast) the next day. It's a very healthy time saver and another form of self-nurturing. Yummy Freedom!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

German Billionaire Commits Suicide

"Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless."
Ecclesiastes 5:10

The irony of the billionaire's suicide is that a resolution between his business and the banks was made two days after his death. (Read his story.)

I've heard it said in many sermons and from motivational writers that it is not how you start in life but how well you finish. This elderly man, the 5th richest person in Germany, was 74 years old. He probably would have lived at least another 20 years but became so self consumed with how the global economic meltdown affected him that he decided to take matters in his own hands by throwing himself across a railroad track.

I have nothing in common with this man but the story helps me reflect on my own life and what I believe:

My personal aim in frugal and simple living is sustainability, not hoarding to create exceptional wealth. Helping a few folks along the way throughout my life's journey because of this path I've chosen, is enough for me. I'd like to think that the authentic, daily interactions and relationships that I make time for weekly would help sustain me if my mind rebels in thoughts of suicide.

I've chosen not to spend extraordinary hours a week to work (or pay for more classes) so that I can buy/consume more stuff. I am not anxiously striving to compete and appear oh, so fabulous in what I drive, what I wear, where I live or travel. I am free to connect with everyday people whom I trust God will use to make my everyday life as meaningful as possible. I am free to grow and learn through excellent and challenging times. Most of all love comes to me when I am the company of those wishing to express it and through every breath given by my Creator. If circumstances become overbearing, I can walk away. If I lose everything, I can start over. I will certainly die one day but there's way too much living to do before that day comes. Freedom!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

3 Days of No Spending, Temptation Hovers About

I haven't spent any money outside of monthly bills and giving to my church since last Saturday: I went to the farmer's market, filled my car with gas, and came back home. It is now Tuesday night and I still have a half tank of gas, food for all of my meals for the rest of the week, and enough coffee for the next 3 months that I brew at home. I think I will shoot for a 5-day spending fast. I've done it many times before over the past 4 years but I will likely need to fill the tank before Friday. We'll see.

As I was driving home today, Office Depot called out to me to stop by and browse. I yelled back, "Not today. Going straight home and putting on my pajamas and eating what's in the fridge." I also noticed a used furniture store that caught my eye, but I said that I would have to set aside a day when I plan to spend. Today is not the day. I'll have to put that on the calendar. I already marked my January calendar to order a new pair of walking shoes and a few pennies for some clothes. So, I will buy the items before February. Just not today, not this week. Freedom!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lessons from The Tortoise and the Hare

My favorite Aesop's fable is the
The Tortoise and the Hare: The slow tortoise wins his/her own race every time.

Although I have applied some elements of this philosophy longer than the four years I have intentionally lived a simpler life, (I started in 2005), I keep reading material by sooooo many others who are winning in life by moving slower in everything. What's the rush? Why hurry if you aren't trying to catch a bus or train? (By the way, if you miss the bus, another one is coming...I've said this out loud to commuters so many times during the 2 years I used public transportation. Hahahahahaha.)

The best part about The Tortoise and the Hare is that the tortoise knows full well who s/he is and that although there is a level playing field, s/he will never be like the hare. There's no reason to compete except against self and what s/he knows is in him/her to do. That's it!

There's no reason for me compete with anyone beyond a video or board game or maybe how many calories I can burn in an hour at the gym but why do that? Competitive folks are astounded when they realize that many people around them are not in competition with them. It's very interesting to watch. Watching them move at lightning speed or bounce around until they wear themselves out encourages me to move even slower in their presence or else they will start to stress me out and they often do.

I'm not proposing that the hares become like tortoises: Everyone can freely live according to their God given core personalities/abilities and we can live in harmony. I've learned that my life is simpler when I don't try to act like a hare: I can learn from the rabbits but I'm not one of them. I've even learned that we like some of the same foods. (smiling)

So, in an effort to decrease judgment and stress when I find myself in the company of rabbits, I mind my own business, listen to and try to encourage them to compete against themselves 'cause I'm not interested in competing: I steadily advance one slow step at a time toward making my own life work for me. If we can exchange what works in our own pursuits of happiness in an effort to create a collaborative, supportive community, all the better: To me, that's real living. Maybe we can start by sharing healthy carrot soup recipes. Freedom!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Living Well in 2009

My new year's challenge to you is to turn off the news and read the entire book of Proverbs for the next 3 months.

Start with Proverbs 6:6-8: "Go the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest."

Please don't wait for a new president or government to change your life (they really can't). Only you have the power within you to change your life and the Bible is the most reliable and wise guide even if you don't believe in Jesus like I do. Simply put, universal laws work whether or not you fully understand or believe in them.

So, I've shown you in the photos above what $52 can put into your fridge and pantry when you buy only what is on sale: I estimate that I will be able to eat about 45 meals/servings for the next 12 days from this sale alone. (Plus, I have other food in the freezer/pantry to supplement what I just bought.) No restaurants for me for the first 2 weeks of 2009 including no fast food. Notice, I was still able to include my favorite junk food - potato chips.

With the ground turkey and turkey sausage, I will enjoy spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers, burritos, and stand alone patties for breakfast. The turkey alone will be part of 34 meals. The pasta and sauce will provide about 20 meals with or without the meatballs. I tend to eat about 4 small meals a day or 28 meals a week. I cook several things at once and either refrigerate it or freeze it. That way, I am not cooking all week. As I pass several temptations on my drive home from work each day, I recall what's already cooked at home. So when the eateries are signaling the dollars in my wallet to stop by and spend, I tell those dollars,"Stay!" pretty much like many of you tell your dogs at home, firmly with love. Also, if friends want to get together, I have enough to share and they can command their money as well.

I have enough toothpaste to last through summer and I already had a couple of tubes in storage so I don't think I will need to buy any in 2009 at all, we'll see. Now, even when toothpaste goes on sale again, it would be wasteful for me to buy it because I already have enough. It's crucial to know when you've stored enough and stop buying. Save your money for something else or give it away to someone else who needs it.

Tomorrow, I may go my city's farmer's market for some fresh produce but I already have enough frozen for the next two weeks. The best part is that I have absolutely no pressure to visit a market for 2 weeks unless something else goes on sale that I already eat on a regular basis AND I don't already have it stored.

Praise God for the ant! Freedom!