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.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Accepting Your Lot in Life According to the Good Book

Ecclesiates 5:18-20 (NIV)
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.
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.
He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

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

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!


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 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!