Monday, December 18, 2017

Am I Normal? Christmas and a Wedding

Planning this wedding around Christmas time has made me realize either I am not normal (whatever that is) or the rest of the world may be crazy.
I'm not a huge fan of a large part of the Holidays. I love the lights and food and being with family but I don't like the pressure to buy more stuff. I know "I don't have to buy it" but what do you do? Not give your kids and grand kids gift? I want them to know we care. At the store yesterday Cowboy and I were both stressed, though I kept joking and goofing off to make light of the situation I could tell Cowboy was ready to bolt. We both made up excuses to get out of there and "Do it Later". At our age we help our kids when they need it, spot them a $20 or help out if we have it, take them to dinner and still buy them a haircut, gas or clothes even though they are young adults. We know it's hard and we like to help. So buying more at Christmas seems forced. Though we do it.
Yesterday I told Cowboy I wanted to do something very practical and give them a gift box of basically personal items we use every day and a book on Financial planning. We purchased them all a gift or four depending on the budget we had given them. They may open this box and wonder what was mom thinking. That's okay. It will save them money with out giving them more money which I don't like to do at Christmas.
This year I told them something you want, wear, need, and read. Only one kid listened. Why do I ask. I should just say give me a list.
I've ask all the adults except a few who have no other family to not give gifts. I would rather sit down and talk to you and share a meal.

The Wedding...

I am so grateful we decided to do this at home but man the pressure is still there. I won't go into details and I know it's me not those that keep asking me questions but I want to do it my way. Sometimes I feel like I am being passive aggressive in digging in not to follow the norms. Yesterday we went to the deli bakery and the sign for a basic wedding cake $140. I said "Cowboy we are ordering 4 dozen white and chocolate cupcakes with white icing". We don't even eat sweets so this is for our guest. Total for 48 cupcakes $24. When he saw that a basic wedding cake was so expensive he was grateful that I am the way I am.
On the flowers my mom has generously offered to buy them and I have to keep reeling her back in though. I am quite sure she doesn't want to tell the designer florist that her daughter only wants a baby's breath bouquet. Mom was dreaming of orchids.
On the pictures I have ask our small group of guest, mainly our family to take pics and share them with us and I will print them out on a free app from my phone.
On the music I said in the email invitation (Emily Post just rolled over in her grave) "If you like to make playlist I love old 60's and 70's music and Cowboy loves old Country. If this is your thing then please make one." If no one does we will just put in a cd or turn on the radio or t.v. music. See I don''t really care about all of that.
What I do care about. I care that you are comfortable. I care that there is love and friendship, family and fellowship. I care that everyone has a full belly and lots of laughs and feels loved. I want the people around me not to suffer and have an experience of love and happiness. None of that depends on what you get for Christmas, what kind of flowers I hold, if we have a fancy cake, if there is music on or lots of talking. Love and Kindness come together around a shared meal and an atmosphere of belonging and love. As Maya Angelou said "It's not what you do that matters it's how you make someone feel", that is what they remember about you.

Friday, December 8, 2017

What not to do when saving money.

There are lots of things you can do to save money but there are a lot of things you don't do to save money. Basically it's about choices. You can't do everything all the time. I'm having a big struggle with this one right now. I'm a saver, however I love to go out to eat with friends and so this is the one area where I do spend a little more, but I don't shop very often unless I need something, I don't drive an expensive car, and my house is modest. I struggle to buy things often because I was raised with a use it up, wear it out, or do without mentality. Grateful for this on one hand because it's made me a frugal saver on the other hand this year my accountant told me I needed more expenses so I could buy new office furniture (ugh..I was going to just paint my Granny's old desk). Right now I'm trying to figure out if it makes sense to spend money to save on taxes..this one has me perplexed. Maybe a post on that when I figure that one out. For now there are lots of things you can "not" do to save money.

I'm not a fan of "negative' words but I think this is the only way that the point gets across on this one.

Don't go shopping for things you don't need. I don't shop unless I need something, it actually causes me anxiety to shop.

Don't wash your clothes until they are dirty. If I wear something and it doesn't get dirty I hang it back up. I generally wear something three times before I wash it unless I work out or get sweaty in it.

Don't go out to eat as often. I have a few standing lunch dates with friends but we usually meet at restaurants that have lunch specials or I simply just save my money and use it for this one thing I really enjoy, it's not so much about the food as it is the company.

Don't drive a new car every few years. I had a paid for car but due to some repairs it needed and the amount of travel and the fact that I was a single mom at the time I wanted something super safe and reliable so I purchased my first new car in over twenty years. I bought one that was cheaper than what I could afford and put down a huge down payment, I pay more on it every month and should have it paid off by the three year mark. I feel safer in this car because of the all wheel drive especially if I'm out in the middle of no where in a storm or bad weather. This was a conscious well thought out choice.

Don't pay the minimum payments on any loans. I always pay my credit card in full each month (this is a work card). On my car note I always add at least $50. There are some lean months for me that I can't but if I have extra I always add more. When I get a job that pays a little more I pay the debt first and sometimes pay double payments. When I sale my other home (we have moved) I will pay my car off and there will be no debt.

Don't go to expensive events very often, opting for free or inexpensive entertainment.  There is so much to do this time of the year but much of it is very pricey.  My birthday is coming up and I purchased a chiminea used online and ask a friend to come over and we are making some appetizers and sharing a bottle of wine by the fire. This is cheaper and more fun for me than a bunch of people going to a restaurant.

Don't replace things until they need replacing. Really struggling with this one as we built a new house, it's smaller and the land is bigger (we saved to buy the land) and hardly any of my old furniture fits in here. It's crazy, the house is smaller (by 1000 feet) and I need smaller, taller furniture. My old furniture looks out of place and needs replacing. My accountant told me since I built the house in this year that the office furniture is 100% deductible and everything else I can deduct the tax on (9%). So I'm weighing this one out. I've decided to do the office furniture only if I can really find what I like and to only buy what we don't have that needs to be replaced. Mostly I think I need to start donating and take the tax deduction.

Don't buy an expensive magazine ($10) that says how to save money on meals when you can easily find bean based, plant based, and cheap healthy meals online or in cookbooks from the library or that you probably already own.  This happened tonight. I love to cook and I saw this magazine and it was $10 with cooking healthy and cheap. I thought "I know this stuff". Beans, plants, peas, carrots, potatoes, onions are all cheap. Processed food, meat, and exotic foods are not. This is not rocket science. The best way I have found to save money is to make a list and a menu plan. This never fails to save me money.

Don't overbuy on Christmas. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because there is no fuss other than the focus on food, family and gratitude. This year we have two mortgages as we try to sell one house and I'm exhausted from moving, working and oh yeah...I'm getting married in two weeks. I told the kids (we have six and three grandchildren) that they were getting limited presents this year and I'm not doing stockings this year for the kids. I want it to be more about family and gathering together than about stuff.

Don't fall into the expensive keep up with the Jones trap. You can buy a used prom dress, and do your kids really need a high school ring (mine didn't even ask) that they will not wear after they graduate. Do you need an expensive wedding. We are getting married in three weeks and only because Cowboy finally agreed not to have the big wedding. I was dead set against it. First of all it's ridiculously over priced. We did plan one and I cancelled it because seven to ten thousand dollars for one day is crazy to me. We are getting married in the living room. I sent out an email to my family and closest friends and said be here at 2 on Jan. 1st if you want to be at our wedding. Please bring a dish instead of a gift (we need nothing) we are providing a vegetarian meal and asking for sides. My mom is borrowing some lanterns and we will have tea lights for candles. The cake will be small and is a gift from my mom with some basic white and green flowers. We will get married in front of our mantle in our cabin. There should be about thirty or forty of our family and friends here. I'm asking the kids to put together a play list and bring a speaker. I'm going to ask the guest to take pictures and share this with us. We will eat, laugh, hang out by the fire, eat and drink and keep it simple! No thank you cards required either, take your dish when you go!

Have a great holiday.

Love and Light,

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Back to Simplicity

Back to Simplicity

In my thirties (I'm almost 47 now) I had an aha moment sitting in the school parking lot. I had been struggling with that age old feeling I had in school that somehow I just don't fit anywhere. I had my yoga and I had my family but somehow I still felt like a square peg in a round hole. I was driving an older model mini van and looked around me and saw so many of the same kind of SUV I couldn't believe it. In that little parking lot  I counted fourteen SUV's that looked exactly the same, same model, same color, same everything. I realized then that I didn't want to follow, I needed to find my people.We had just built a new  to me house in a great neighborhood with a lake view. We were drowning in debt. In my modest little van I had an awakening that I needed a simpler life.

Raised by Depression Era grandparents I was a black belt at thrift but bought into the idea of "Deserving" a new house, etc...My ex husband had just graduated college yet again and got a good job and I thought we could afford it. I was wrong. After 3 years in that house we were at a $1400 a month negative on our income. I found Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey at the Library (I couldn't even afford a book). We cut the cable off, we got rid of the credit cards, I took another part time job ((I already taught yoga five times a week). We had a talk about selling the house. We found a house, the house I am in now, moving from tomorrow after fourteen years. We sold the house bought a house 1/2 the size with half the mortgage and none of the prestige. I began taking classes and volunteer leading classes on simple living. I studied and worked as a volunteer on sustainability, in this area of my life I was very pleased.

Several years later I divorced and all of a sudden taking a van load of recyclables to the recycling center was not on the priority list. And making my own pizza crust and brown sugar really went off the list. My only priority was feeding my kids. Our (the kids and I) income dropped about 80% overnight. Again I took another job and decided that I would have to work twice as hard to build my business to keep working for myself. I worked for myself and a non profit for about two years and was able to only work for myself after that, however fast forward six years and I am working seven days a week, I end up with about 4 days off a month and usually end up working part of those days to catch up. So life isn't simple at all.

My life is yet taking another turn. My fiance of five years and I move to our farm tomorrow. We are getting married in a few months and with a lot of thought I have decided once again to close a thriving business, my yoga school of ten years. For the years I was married it was a side gig. It was a little extra money but nothing I could live on. In the past six years I've built it up to a thriving successful school with about 25 students per year along with other endeavors. Why close a thriving school? Because I am  tired. My life is not simple anymore. I eat out to much because I'm to exhausted to cook. I buy new clothes because I need to look professional. I bought a new car because I drive about 40,000 miles a year teaching workshops and training teachers. I have a house cleaner because it's cheaper to pay her per hour and go to work. I have people to mow my yard because I can't do it.  I love it, much of these luxuries but I'm to exhausted to really enjoy them. I feel blessed but I had this aha moment as I was talking to one of my teachers who works as hard or harder than me. I told her "You can't work all week, nights, and weekends without burning out.", and then I thought "I do that!". So I have an 18 month plan to let go of nights and weekends, I now work four to five days a week as a yoga therapist in a medical clinic, about ten hours a week.

I'm again reading my old tattered books on simple living. This time though it's not about money or being in debt, those principals I stuck to and that has  put me in a place where I have more freedom to let go, I'm not rich but I've avoided all debt except a small car payment and my mortgage. I'm in "Time Debt". So here is my plan and maybe it will help some of you who have a debt of your own. Maybe it's a financial debt or time debt or simply an enjoyment debt.

Things to do to simplify.
I will slow work down and let go of some of these things and do them myself.

  1. Clean the house yourself over a house cleaner (Saves up to $100 a week)
  2. Do the yard yourself (saves over a $110 a month) 1 and 2 also give you exercise.
  3. Exercise at home and let go of the expensive gym membership or get a cheap membership at some place life Planet Fitness. We have this and love it, I consider it money saving in doctors bills and medicine. 
  4. Cook more plant based meals at home. Meat is the most expensive item you can buy at the store. Beans, grains, and veggies and fruit not only make you healthier they reverse many diseases  and they are cheaper to make. 
  5. Grow a garden.
  6. Keep the furniture you have and paint it or fix it up.
  7. Buy used furniture at estate sales and online.
  8. Make do with what you have. 
  9. Borrow things you only use once in a while.  We recently needed fence post holes dug and paid our neighbor to do it cheaper than we could rent the machine to do it. This was a big farm job.
  10. Downsize to a cheaper house. 
  11. Sell the expensive car if you can and buy a cheaper one or keep the car you have and work on paying it off and drive it longer. That is my plan. It's my only debt and I'll pay it off soon. When we save up enough we will buy me another nice used car and give Jim my old car to drive because it's economical on gas. 
  12. Use the entertainment you already have. It you really enjoy your cable etc.. then utilize it instead of going out for entertainment. Or get rid of it and get a ROKU stick and use Netflix or Amazon Prime. I do this and it cost me only $20 bucks a month. Jim loves to watch some shows that come on Direct T.V. and we were able to get that for $60 dollars a month long term. We don't however go out much and love to be at the farm. We also love to snuggle on the couch and watch a show together. 
  13. Go through your closet and pick out only what you love. Don't think about it. Now hang only that back up. You will be shocked at how much easier it is to get dressed and how much less shopping you will need to do. Put everything else somewhere else (like another closet) and if you don't use it get rid of it by selling it.
  14. Learn to sell online, clothes, furniture, you can sell tons of things. Be careful meeting people in public.Most police stations allow you to use their parking lots for this.
  15. Take free classes or barter for things you enjoy. You can also YouTube anything from yoga to meditation. 
  16. Make family a priority. 
Love and Light, 

She is a yoga therapist, stress management specialist and loves personal finance and the act of living a simple life. She enjoys spending time with family, being in nature, working out, reading and writing. She lives on a farm in Arkansas with her fiance Cowboy Jim and three horses, three dogs and two cats. 
*The picture is Courtney and her son's Cole and Will. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Using What you Have Creatively

The past six years I've worked very hard and increased my income to poverty to starting to feel comfortable. However,  due to the nature of being self employed there are times of the year that get really tight due to what one could call an "off season". At those times I have to be mindful of where money is going but normally not extreme like I had to do for many years. This year due to an error that was out of my control I ended up having to use my savings to cover some very large unexpected expenses. I'd already agreed to a large investment in my business that I was under contract to meet. So what did this mean? It meant I had to use all my savings to cover those bills and live on what I make from one contract that was far less than my monthly bills.
For a while I was feeling panic rise up in my body. I knew that I had the ability to save, cut back, make changes, be resourceful, but it had been so long since I had to do black belt creative tightening I wasn't sure if I could remember.

Reflecting on this I was thinking about what I have learned over the years and what I have been doing to make this hurt a little less until things pick back up. 

1. First of all live under your means. I cannot stress this enough. It feels somewhat hypocritical because right now I own two houses. We have one for sale and one we are building. The deal is both payments are less than what we could afford by industry standards. This goes for my car as well. If you take your income and you take out 30% your consumer debt should be under this, this goes for your car, house and any other debt. When it came time to build we built a house that is smaller and more efficient. When it came time to buy a car I did get a new one but I did not buy the most expensive, I chose one that met my needs but was substantially less than what I could afford. I also put down a large down payment and have paid it down substantially by paying more on the payments when I had the money.

2. Save when you have money so when you don't you are not forced to go into debt. I teach meditation for a living and one thing I tell people is we meditate when things are going well and when things are not we have that resource we can call upon to deal with stress. Meditation allows us to look at our thoughts and actions objectively so we slow down and make good choices and at the very least it helps us deal with stress. Saving money is something you do when you have it so when you don't you don't end up borrowing money and getting into trouble.

3. There are always ways you can cut back. See it as a challenge almost like a game and it becomes rewarding not a punishment. When financial stress happened to me this year I got out my budget and took a good look at my monthly bills. For years I had to use a paper budget because money was tight enough that I had to know where every dollar went. Over the years I had gotten to a point where it was automatic and I could just pay the bills and balance my checkbook without worry of constantly looking at a budget. I also had an idea of how much I could spend and not spend, it was automatic. However now it was time to get back on board with a stricter plan. I took a hard look at my budget and was able to free up $333 dollars a month in bills that were not mandatory. I was paying for an extra insurance policy that was not something I had to have and I temporarily stopped payment to my retirement. I can always make a lump sum payment when things pick back up. I also started being mindful of eating more at home, we eat vegan at home and this saves a ton of money as meat is expensive.

4. Be creative and look at your current subscriptions and what you have. I have a membership to a gym that is only $20 a month and it's on contract for a year so I can use that for no extra cost any time. It included perks like chair massage so that is another thing I can do if I want to do something fun and not spend extra money, bonus healthy and happy! I also have a membership to Amazon Prime which gives me movies as well at Kindle Unlimited benefits. These are benefits I paid for already are not something I am paying for monthly. I can read tons of books at no extra charge, watch many movies and documentaries for the one time I cost I paid for at Christmas time. The fact is most of the time when I go out and  pay for a meal at a minimum of $22 with tax and tip, I think to myself "I could have cooked a simple meal at home and it would have tasted better". When we go to the movies (they no longer have our cheap movie night or we would do that) it is always about $40 to $50 and it's just not worth it. Jim makes popcorn on the stove and we cut up some fruit and enjoy a movie on our couch for pennies.

5. Take time to enjoy the fact that you are resourceful and creative and you have mad survival skills. It's a handy skill and eventually leads to financial independence. It also leads to a higher sense of self esteem as you take control of your life. If you are struggling I suggest listening to, taking a class on, or reading Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I started with his mentor, the late Larry Burkett, when I was younger and have followed FPU for years now. I credit it to helping me stay the course or get back on when I get off. Sit down and add up all that you owe then add up all that you make and the value of what you own. Then come up with a plan to pay it off. I won't go into details here but you can easily find "The Baby Steps' online from FPU. When you take charge you lose that feeling of floating in the financial abyss. Money doesn't have feelings, where your money goes or doesn't go is part of our choices. We will and do make mistakes but nothing is not recoverable. Even in the worst of times you can take control and you can figure it out. Believe in yourself.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Art of Resourcefulness: Living Well on a Limited Budget.

It's very important to me to be real. One of my new friends in the past few years Karen Fabian, yoga teacher out of Boston, became a friend because I reached out to her after she posted a blog post about taking a job at Starbucks. You see Karen is an author of several books on yoga and a successful teacher by all accounts. She was real with the fact that she works several jobs teaching yoga and works at Starbucks to make ends meet. She enjoys her job at Starbucks and it has benefits, something independent yoga teachers do not have.  I did not know until I recently authored a book that the actual royalties off a book are not much unless you sell many thousands of books. Of course I am hopeful it will bring opportunity but in the meantime you have to pay the bills. So this leads me to tell you my story.

In the past 17 years I have worked tirelessly as a yoga teacher, teaching classes, workshops, retreats, running three schools, writing a book, writing blogs, owning a studio at one point, and managing yoga studios and programs for other businesses. It's been very hard work, many weeks working 7 days a week for weeks on end. At the end of the day I make about the same as I would with my degree in Early Childhood Education..which is to say not very much. Think of a kindergarten teachers salary and that is about the same for a yoga teacher on top of her game. The upside is the great life yoga brings to one who really loves it, the downside is to live like this you must be very resourceful unless you have an alternate source of income.

This past year I worked very hard to build up enough income to get approved for a loan to build a house on a farm. I did it, and it wore me out. I also saved up quite a bit of money for the summer months when my income drops by two thirds. Then some unexpected things started to happen. First of all I have four kids and they still need some assistance as two are in college and one is on his own struggling to make ends meet. My accountant realized we forgot to put some income down three years ago,  that was quite a big hit, this meant amending returns. Unfortunately she had a full plate with a death in her family and checked the wrong box (year), but I had already paid those taxes when she realized what happened. She is a great accountant and stuff happens. However this meant we had to amend a new return and I had to pay those taxes as well, so two years of taxes on top of this year as a self employed person. Let's just say my car is about worth what this all cost me. This meant a large part of my savings was gone, and I am still waiting on the IRS to pay me back for the year I overpaid. One of my big contract jobs decided to take a few weeks off so this meant no pay check for about two months. And my house is on the market and I had to make repairs that I budgeted for and they ended up costing three times as much.
Bye, bye savings.

So all this is to say I found myself in a pickle. My fiance and I currently have two house payments, double the bills and well we have to buckle down for awhile until we sell a house and work picks back up. Fortunately for me I was raised by Depression Era grandparents who taught me well. I didn't know that everyone didn't live like this so when things get tough I am so grateful I know so many tricks to survive. Here are some things I do.

Resourcefulness 101.

"It's often not the big things that save us money, as they only come once in a while. It's the every day things we take for granted that add up." 

1. Look what food you have on hand and make a meal plan using as much of it as possible (visit your freezer and pantry) then go to the store and buy only what is needed. 

2. Go with a mostly vegetarian diet. Plant based diets are cheaper when you don't buy processed food. You hear "Eating healthy is not more expensive", that is a myth because people buy processed food substitutes to do so. It is actually much cheaper if you do it right. About $3.00 a meal. *Countries that subsist on mainly a plant based diet are generally free of many of the diseases of Western countries until they adopt our diet, then they have more cancer, heart disease, and Diabetes. Disease = $$$$$. 

3. Get on Pinterest and get ideas for healthy meals. 

4. Get on Pinterest or old magazines and go to your closet and make outfits of what you already own. When funds are low and I feel like I need new clothes I clean out my closet and get rid of what I don't wear then I make at least 10 outfits with what I have.

5. Sell used clothing to a consignment shop. I go every season and take clothes I don't wear and keep a running credit. I then pick up shoes, hand bags, clothes and jewelry from the consignment shop when I want new clothes and don't have the budget. 

6. Put off things that cost money until you get paid again. My dogs are due for shots and as you know that is expensive. I get paid in two weeks so that goes on the list of things that wait (I ask the vet and she said it was no problem). 

7. Make a game out of not spending. For instance if you usually get coffee or soda out pack your food. THINK AHEAD. If you eat out pack your lunch and stop at a local park and eat and maybe take a walk while you are there. *Meal prepping comes in handy here too. You can prep a healthy meal with protein, grain, and two veggies for under $4 a meal. $4 vs $12 eating out adds up quick. 

8. If I need new makeup I go through all my makeup and get rid of what I don't need and organize what I have and use that until I can pick up what I need. 

9. My profession is one where I need to have attractive bare feet. I generally get a pedicure monthly. This is expensive but I am horrible at doing nails. It literally looks like a first grader did my nails if I do them. What I have been doing is simply getting a nail polish change for 1/4 the cost instead of the whole pedicure. This can literally save about $50 a month. Do them yourself if you have the skills, that is an even bigger savings. 

10. Running low on hair supplies or toiletries. How many of us have bottles and bottles of shampoo, conditioner, fancy little soaps or hotel supplies that we don't use. I know you do. It's time to clean out again. Get those together and use them up until you have more money to replace what you have. If you truly don't have any then look at the clearance isle at your store or buy what is on sale. 

11. Don't drive on unnecessary trips. Combine trips when you do drive. 

12. Work out at home or use your gym membership as entertainment. I have one of those $20 gym memberships and I love it. If I am low on funds and I want to do something I get my behind to the gym. I go anyway but my goodness I pay for it, so now is the time to make use of all the things you pay for that you don't take advantage of. If you don't have a gym membership then look on YouTube or Pinterest for at home works-outs with no equipment and go to the park or walk your neighborhood. You literally need nothing to get fit. 

13. When people have the money, at least I know this is true for me, I am more likely to go out to eat, shop, go on vacation, buy clothes etc... When you don't have the money use it as an opportunity to clean and organize what you have. You will feel rich in a clean house, clean car, organized closet, and when you life is in order. Getting healthy is easier when you cook at home and pack meals. 

14. Use the time you have not doing things that cost money to downsize what you have. Again this goes to cleaning out stuff. And why not take some things to the local auction or have a yard sale and make some money while you are at it. 

15. Let things go for a while that cost money. This is drastic but I feel good about it. It's more important to me not to go in debt than to keep putting in my retirement. I have a good retirement and only one debt that will be paid off when I sell my house. I don't use a personal credit card. I have stopped my retirement contribution temporarily rather than borrow or charge until work pics back up and my house sells. 

16. How many of us have things we have purchased that we don't use that much. Think about it Amazon Prime (movies, music), Net Flix, a nice lawn, a deck or front porch with comfy furniture? It's time to take advantage of what you have. Remember when you were a teenager and you would stay home and watch movies and make popcorn? When I was a kid growing up in the 70's & 80's it was a big deal to make nacho's and watch video's. That's what we all did on Friday nights. Relive that. Once we could drive we would often go downtown and walk. We didn't have a lot of money so maybe we just window shopped. Do that, get some ideas and see what you can recreate at home. Invite people over and make popcorn and watch a movie or sit on the deck. While your at it clean off your porch, deck, etc... and use what you have to make it comfy (get out the Christmas lights and string them up outside, use up the old candles). Watch lightening bugs and actually talk to people. Leave the phones inside. 

17. This is a good time to sit down and write a budget as well. Simply line up all your bills on one side of the page. The dates you get paid across the top, then the bill due dates and amounts. Divide them out so they are sent "before" they are due to avoid fees and missed bills. Then budget for an emergency fund if you don't have one (save), food, gas, medicine, and extras. If you don't tell your money where to go it just goes.

Resourcefulness really is about being creative. We become more creative when we have to. That mental muscle builds and strengthens our self esteem as well. 

Love and Light,

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Have a Happy Home

Happy Home on a Budget:
 How many of us have time off and we plan to leave, shop,  run errands, go on vacation etc.. Now we all like a good vacation but I imagine many people out there are running away from home because it feels lonely or reminds them of all they have to do.
Today I have an unstructured day, I try to have a few of these each month. There is nothing on the calendar, no appointments, no place to be. For me the fact that I can stay home all day is the best. It makes me so happy. I literally do what I can to "Not" schedule any appts on these days, they are declared holy home days!
 I thought I would share the many things I've learned over the years about making a home feel homey, comforting  and a place you want to be.

1. Once I read that more people sell their homes because they don't want to clean them and they are overwhelmed. Wow. The first rule of thumb is to get rid of clutter and trash.
2.  Throw stuff away, donate, give away and clean your house. Start daily by making the bed, picking up dishes, dirty clothes and clutter. Stuff in a basket is much better than stuff strewn around the house.
3. Get rid of anything you don't like or makes you feel uneasy. That vase that mean old Aunt Thelma Sue gave you that you feel obligated to keep...say "Hello Goodwill". Don't keep things that make you feel yucky.
4. Put things out and use things that make you feel good. Who cares if your house matches. You don't have to buy anything, use what you have. I collect coffee cups that make me happy and none of them match. I don't care. Put up pictures of loved ones and happy things. Remind yourself that you are not alone. Put quotes up that comfort you. My favorite one is "I am Brave!"
5. Have you heard of Hygge, pronounced Hooga? Oh my if you are my student or Danish you have. This is the word for "Cozy" in Denmark. It can't really be translated but it's what Danes do when they are snowed in for 90% of the year. Think candles, twinkle lights, warm socks, cozy throws. You can hooga in the summer with a cozy deck, candles, plants and good books. Hooga that house now by going to the basement and getting out those Christmas lights, who cares if it's June!
6. Put good food in your house. Think of your house as your home spa. Keep delicious healthy food in your house and have it ready to consume so you don't go out so much.
7. Depressed?  Open the blinds (sunshine people, sunshine is your friend), light those candles and or incense, turn on some great music, turn off those damn overhead florescent lights and turn on the lamp light. Plug in your twinkle lights and do your thing. Cook, clean, sit and drink a glass of wine or eat some of your yummy food and count your blessings.
8. Keep good books in the house. I swear by this. I have meditation books everywhere that are dated. So I simply pick one up and turn to today's date and read it. Never fails to lift me up.
9. Have journals to write in or a simple gratitude journal. I know some of you are like "I don't feel like it, I'm depressed." Do it anyway. Some days I've only been able to be grateful for a roof over my head, food to eat and air to breath but you know what that is more than so many have and it really works. Now count those blessings.
10. Have a designated workout/ yoga/ meditation area. You live in a studio apartment you say. I say grab a basket and put a yoga mat, 2 dumbbells and copy a sheet off of Pinterest on how to workout with no equipment. The key is having these things in an area where you can exercise, You only need about a 6 x 6 space to get a good workout in. You will feel better even if you don't feel like it make yourself do it and see. Give yourself 20 minutes. There is TONS of stuff on Youtube for working out at home.
11. Lastly if you are depressed then it's crucial to eat some protein and get off sugar. Sugar is the devil and makes everything worse. Grab some nuts, a piece of fruit and some water.
12. Keep B vitamins and Omega 3,6, 9 at home and take it every day with your multi vitamin. Many issue like depression and anxiety are due to a lack of these nutrients. When you take them as part of your home spa experience your mood will be better and you won't have to fill up on experiences outside of your body or space.

Love and Light,

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Meeting a Need Helps Spark Creativity or Does It?

The other day I had tea with a good friend, another person who is creative and wants to create in the field she loves. It made me think.
  Now don't get me wrong I love my work, often I realize how blessed I've been to have work I truly love, however as with all things in life there are the ups and downs. During the low times I fantasize...don't we all?
Do you ever wonder if you had all the money in the world would you lose your drive to create? I'm not sure really. At times I think I would still go to work every day and do the work I love but I am not sure I would care as much what people think about me or if they liked me. Somehow I believe that need to please is directly related to our need to survive.
Do you think about what you would do it you had all the money you needed? I do and here is my list.
However I have another great fear. I might get what I want and then I won't contribute as much. I have the desire now to write another book and that is also directly related to a need I have for my teacher trainings (needing curriculum that is cohesive). If I didn't "need' these things to make my work life better I'm not sure I would be so inspired. At the end of the day I think God often allows us to "need" money (or fill in the blank) in order to help us achieve great things.
*I still think I would write but I also think it might be easier to go to the lake. :)

1. Visit people I love
2. Take more trips. See the U.S.
3. Read more.
4. Yoga more.
5. Exercise more
6. Volunteer more
7. Buy a lake house and sit on the dock...often.
8. Buy more candles, fresh flowers, & twinkle lights.
9. Have someone cook amazing meals for me and clean my house.

As it stands though visiting people I love has a lot of meaning when I have limited time to do it, same with travel. I'm a veracious reader and do yoga often but can never get enough, same for exercise. One thing I sorely miss is volunteering. When my kids were younger and I didn't have to work so much as (as single mother) I did a ton of volunteer work from teaching kids to read to organizing mission trips, I miss it. Giving back is something I am still able to do through bartering and giving what I can back from my work,  but I miss the hands on work.
My lake house...I'll never give up on that. A great Rumi quote paraphrased says "Let yourself be pulled by that which you truly love". I will not be giving up on my dream of the little lake house with a dock, two Adirondack chairs and a table. Maybe I can make more candles, flowers and twinkle lights happen. On the cooking and cleaning I'll keep dreaming. In the meantime I have books to write, classes to teach and will be grateful for it all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Misconceptions about Financial Freedom and the Remedy.

Misconceptions and the Remedies to Gain Financial Freedom.

My hobby is personal finance. I love it like other people play and watch sports or participate in other activities. It's funny though because it really doesn't change. Sure there are little tricks here and there but for the most part it's pretty simple and basic. Save, get out and stay out of debt, live below your means and think rationally before you spend. Then why is it so hard for so many? This is what perplexes me and keeps me going. I believe part of the reason's are misconceptions about money and work and allowing our emotions to rule our spending. Lets' explore some common misconceptions.

Misconceptions about the road to financial freedom.

1. You will have to live an austere life of doing without.
2. It will be painful to do without.
3. It will make you so different from the norm that you will feel embarrassed to be alone in a world of people with nice things.
4. It's a hippie dirty life.
5. You have to make a lot of money to avoid debt.
6. You have to make a lot of money to save.
7. Your kids (or you) will be made fun of for not having what others have, such as a 10 year old not having a new cell phone.
8. I'll be left out of doing things with people.
9. Simple living is for old people or lazy people and wasn't that a thing my grandma did because she lived through the great depression?
10. What's wrong with having nice things if I work hard. Don't I deserve it?

Now lets talk about the remedies and the why's. First of all the why is because you are a slave to the lender when you are in debt and you are not really rich just because you have nice things. Less than 1/3 of the population has savings for retirement. Something is going on here and you can't see it on the surface.

1. You simply make choices and think consciously about your spending. I spent money on my nails and beauty treatments yesterday because it is becoming sandal weather. However I had done without for months because it was sock weather. You simply think about what is most important before you spend. You do without one thing to put emphasis on what is important to you.
2. It is so empowering when you have a goal and you know that you are simply doing without things that won't really bring anymore quality to your life. Do you really need another pair of jeans, shoes, etc...If you do then buy them but if you are shopping for sport ask yourself if working an extra twenty years is worth it.
3. Most people are only concerned with themselves. They don't notice or care if you drive an older car or live in a modest home. They probably don't notice what you wear either. For years I dressed my kids from Goodwill with a few things here and there for Lands End or the Gap (on sale). My kids looked adorable and no one knew the difference. I had a system of buying used clothes from my friends who spent way to much on fancy clothes their kids could wear for one month.
4. I am so grateful that my parents and grandparents taught me this valuable lesson. Many times in my life my parents were struggling. They were divorced and remarried but at times we lived in trailer homes, drove old cars etc. However our homes were always immaculate. My parents planted flowers. If something broke they fixed it. Our cars were older but spotless. There was never any trash laying around. The house was clean and we had garden fresh food. Our yards had flowers planted and were always mowed. At one time apparently we were on Food Stamps for a few brief months, I never even knew. It wasn't said but it was modeled to me that no matter how little you had you took pride in it by taking care of it.
5. I am certainly not perfect here but I have learned the hard way. I've been in and out of debt several times in my 46 years. I've also had a bankruptcy in my twenties. What I have done is look at myself and the habits and choices that got me into that trouble. Paying interest is the opposite of saving money. The poor get poorer because they are constantly paying more in high interest in late fees. Here is a simple example. You get a $5000 tax return and you have no current debt. You make $30,000 a year. You take that tax return and you spend $2000 on toys and crap you don't need. You then go to get a new car and put the $3000 down on a $30,000 car (which is fairly average these days). You likely have a payment of about $450 a month for the next seven years. Or you can take that $5000 and buy a good used car and have no payment. The following year you get another tax return and you sell your car for $4000 buy another car now for $9000 and you have a nicer used car. During this time you take that money you would have spent on car payments and save. Say you save $5000 over the course of 4 years (about $100.00 a month) and you are only 25 years old. By the time you retire you will have turned that into over $150,000 with compound interest (see below).
* Now I want to confess here there are always "It depend's moments" and those depend on your personal situation but that is the point (life is about choices). This is my story.
I put a huge down payment on a new car a few years ago. It was a cheaper car than what I could afford and I chose to do this a few years after my divorce. I travel for work and my other car was having mechanical issues (I had paid it off in three years making less than $32,000 a year), it had terrible gas mileage and I had a horrible problem with it hydroplaning every time it rained (no matter my tires). When I went to purchase a car I chose one that was less expensive, got great gas mileage and was all wheel drive. I did the work before hand and my insurance was the same, my gas bill was cut in half (actually more) and I feel so much safer now driving in bad weather. I will have it paid off by next year (in 3 years). The security of safety was important to me as a single person. I chose this debt at a low interest to buy the security of a safe vehicle to travel in. It is the only debt I carry besides a mortgage, and if things go as planned that will also be paid off in four years.
6.You have probably heard stories of little church ladies who worked in cafeterias and died and left a million dollars to some charity. It does not take a lot to save. Please do yourself a favor and research the magic of compound interest. If you live within your means and take care of what you have anyone can save. A $1000 with triple in 20 years with the magic of compound interest. It's the emotions of the human that get in the way by spending more than they make. Many regular folks retire well by using this method. My ex husband and I took advantage of his retirement plan at work and never took the money out, this was incredibly beneficial to us. Every time he was given a raise we were increasing our savings. When we got divorced I received half of our savings. Now I had been only a part time worker as I was taking care of our four kids ninety percent of the time. After the divorce I started working two jobs. I've continued to put $100 into that account a month, not what I want but it is something. My focus has been on being debt free, holding on to the savings I have and working more and building up my Social Security. In a few short years by the time I am fifty my fiance and I should be able to both go part time or cut back as our bills will be small and we should still have enough to max out IRA's to the full capacity.
7. If people make fun of you or your kids feel they are doing without then make sure to discuss the value of what real friends are. Find people who think like you and instill the values that are important to you into your kids. Make sure to not use words like "We can't afford that" or "we are poor". We want to instill in children that riches are not found in material goods but in relationships and that frugality buys the freedom to choose how you spend your time. If you do not have to work two jobs you can spend more time taking your kids to the park and playing games. This is what they will remember.
8. Find activities that are free or low cost. Choose friends that enjoy the same kind of life as you. When I was younger I started a book club on Voluntary Simplicity. We all shared what we had. Found things to do that were cheap and enriched our lives. We had many potlucks and movie nights. It was not uncommon for me to have twenty people in my house for a potluck and a viewing of a movie like "Low Impact Man". I will treasure those memories forever. Now I have a new book club on Voluntary Simplicity where we meet at the library once a week. It is the highlight of my week and keeps me grounded.
9. Frugality buys us the freedom to have experiences like quality relationships and the ability to travel. Debt puts us in the work mode and extends the hours we have to work to pay our bills. Is it worth it?
My grandparents worked nine to five jobs. They had no debt and much to my surprise when they passed away they left mom and I a pretty nice sum of money. I had no idea they had it. We took glass back to the store to get a nickle. We watched every penny. They had a fishing cabin and went to visit realatives in Houston and Mexico every year. They had a full life but they made choices in life and boy am I glad I had that example.
10. Choose a few nice things and make them stand out. If you have clutter and many things you don't need the nice things get buried. It is better to spend a little more on quality that to buy a bunch of cheap junk. The point is to have more quality and better quality of life with things you enjoy rather than an austere life or a cluttered life that feels like a burden.

So simply put. Save. Don't have debt. Live within your means. Value people and animals over stuff. Take care of what you own. Value your time.

Love and Light,

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Simple Tips on Managing Things that Flow: Money & Personal Space

So this is a chore chart and a budget. See some similarities? 
Our household chores and our money are always flowing. They don't have a clean beginning and an end. Plus we spend more money when we are unhappy with our space, often trying to buy temporary happiness.Think of how much your time is worth? Every-time you pay for something you are paying with the time it took you to earn it.

You have to constantly keep up with your laundry or dishes or you have no clean clothes to wear or dishes to eat off of. With your money if you don't keep up with what is going in and going out you often end up with overdraft charges, late bills, and no savings.
Both your home and your finances need constant attention and both are highly influenced by your emotions. If you are overworked and tired  (or go out to often) and have no dedicated time to clean your house or balance your checkbook/ accounts then your house (and I should add car) will be dirty and your checkbook will not be in balance and bills will get overlooked. You will feel the chaos. The good news is with a little effort you can have a peaceful home and know where your money is going avoiding late charges and having savings.You can also maintain a space you want to be in and that you have pride in, no matter how much money you have. Some people are more comfortable living on the edge of having enough money or living in a messy space. I often wonder if this is true or they are just overwhelmed and don't know where to seek help.

Simple tips on how to manage things that flow: Money and Personal Space 

Personal Space

  1. Every time you get gas empty all the trash out of your car.
  2. When you have your oil changed (every 3500 to 7000 miles) use a place that offers a cleaning with the oil change or change it yourself and  use this time to wash the car, vacuum it and wipe down the interior and spray the tires with a tire cleaner. A clean car body last longer. Also have your tires rotated at least twice a year. 
  3. This is something I have done for years daily and it takes about 30 minutes. Make your bed, do all the dishes and wipe down counters, wash, dry and fold a load of laundry, pick up any loose trash, put up random shoes and clothes and do a quick tidying up. If you haven't done this the first time with take awhile but as you get caught up it's shorter and shorter. Have family members pitch it. Set a time for 10 to 30 minutes and everyone works on something.
  4. Weekly or every two weeks: Dust, Windex, clean the bathrooms, vacuum and mop, change the sheets. Also change cat litter, do yard chores.
  5. Plan days where you go through a drawer, a closet, files etc and clean them out for a hour, or half a day or a whole day. The key is to set some time for this monthly, or quarterly. Do a little at a time or a whole day. Take some things to Goodwill, sell some stuff at the auction or the resale shop, and trash the rest. *This is a great financial motivator as well when you see all you buy that ends up as things you don't need.
  6. Put together outfits in your closet that you can grab and go. This will amaze you and save on time, mess and money.
  7. When it's time to buy groceries go through the fridge quickly and dump out anything you don't need (leftovers from 2 weeks ago plus expired stuff ) and wipe down the inside really quick. 
  8. Do the same with your cabinets, when they are empty (need to go the store or dishes are in the dishwasher) take a damp cloth and wipe them down. 
  9. When you are done washing dishes take a damp cloth and wipe any marks off the cabinet fronts or walls. 
  10. Finally add some special touches to your house cheaply to make you want to be there. A clean house is a house you will want to stay in. Adding twinkle lights, candles, comfy throws and getting rid of clutter makes a home feel homier. Also some people like to bring in things from outdoors like flowers and twigs and pine cones. Put a chair, side table, lamp and foot stool by a sunny window for reading (usually South or West Facing). This is all cheap and makes you appreciate your space which leads to better emotional health and saves money because you will not want to leave and you may actually want to have people over. 

Your Finances: Simple Tips for Financial Flow
  1. Balance your checkbook/ accounts  weekly.
  2. Keep a certain amount of cash for purchases (look into envelope plans or simply keep the cash you have set aside and mark it. Example: Fun Money, Groceries),
  3. Pay your bills and then take out for fun money. 
  4. On a simple piece of paper write down all of your bills and add them up, know the totals owed and the payments. This is crucial. You must know where you are to get where you are going. Do this monthly. 
  5. Write down what you make a month. Subtract your fixed bills, groceries, gas and savings from this and that is your fun money. 
  6. Always have an emergency fund. Emergencies will happen. Period. Everyone's car breaks down, dishwasher breaks, kids falls and needs stitches (hello hospital bill). Don't use this for paying the quarterly insurance payment that you knew was coming, that is a fixed expense.
  7. Have a plan for where your money is going. My step mom taught me this years ago. Write down the days you get paid and the bills that are due and correlate them. Save for big bills weekly. For instance don't try to use your whole paycheck to pay rent one week, instead hold out a little each paycheck for when rent is due. Same goes for those quarterly expenses.
  8. Whatever you do don't go out and spend your money before bills are paid. This is what children do, you are an adult and adults pay their bills on time. Things happen in life sometimes beyond our control I realize this. I had a car wreck, divorce, my first husband had debt that I didn't know about in my name, and I had a medical emergency all in a 18 month period, after that I had to file bankruptcy. I was 20 years old, naive and learned some grown up lessons fast. That was when I took charge and started to learn as much as I could about personal finance. No matter what has happened to you or mistakes you have made, you can recover and start new. 
  9. Check your credit score at least once a year and make sure you know what is on there. You can get one free every year from Experiean, TranUnion and Equifax. You can dispute a charge and the company that has the charge on your report has to prove that you didn't handle it. A bad credit score effects your insurance rates, your ability to get a loan for a car or house, and the rates you get charged for interest. If you are deemed a risk you pay higher rates. I use an online service called Credit Karma.
  10. As much as you can pay as you go and avoid debt, especially credit card debt. People who use credit cards spend approx 16% more when using a credit card then when they have to pull cash out. Don't buy things you can't afford. Let go of allowing material things to feed your soul, that is temporary and doesn't last. Look to your inner character for your happiness and find meaning in the things that matter. To define this make a list of 10 things that bring you happiness. * I would bet money that at least 7 of them don't cost anything or they are very cheap.
Lastly: Taking care of what you have and taking pride in your possessions by caring for them, your appearance by being clean and put together has nothing to do with money. My family on both sides taught me that class is not about what's in your bank account but how you value and take pride in what you have been given by God and by the quality of your character.  

Love and Light,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Growing up even when you are a grown up. Thoughts on work.

A few words inspired by watching my young adult children come of age.

Just a few things I want to share with my children (and anyone else that cares to read them) that I am often learning myself (I'll point those little mirrors out).

1. Never quit one job without having another lined up.
2. Know that you have to work the yuck jobs before you move up the ladder. Your boss didn't start out a boss, he or she probably scrubbed a toilet before they were a boss. You have to earn it.
3. Take pride in your work. If you have to scrub a toilet make it the shiniest cleanest toilet in town, then go take a nice hot super soapy shower!
4. Work with a smile.
5. Be kind to everyone where you work.
6. No job is beneath you. I've changed adult diapers, while I was pregnant, working, and going to college and I appreciated the heck out of knowing I was helping that person have some dignity and live a better life.
7. Don't put all your self worth altogether in your work (This is the one I am reflecting on myself). It's great to take pride in your work, this is good. It's good to be proud of yourself for being independent but at the end of the day know that your character not your titles in life define who you are. This will help you when you have to work a job you don't want to just to pay the bills.
8. There is great pride in providing for your family or supporting yourself. Even if your working a job you don't feel like feeds your ego, knowing you work hard and provide for yourself should give you pride weather you are a maintenance person or the Supreme Court Judge.
9. It feels really good to know you can take care of yourself. I've worked two jobs most of my life in some form or another. It always made me feel good to know I could go out and get a job and provide for myself. I never doubted that I could get a job. I doubted it might be a great paying, prestigious job but I knew that as long as I could work I would have some sort of security. There is power in this.
10. If you need to find another job be tenacious and always make connections with people who know you. Often times work is found not by putting in applications but by who you know. Letting people know you are looking for a job is a great way to find a job. Not everything is advertised.
11. If you are unhappy make a change. Working all kinds of jobs helps you know what you like and don't like. What you are good at and what you are not good at. I was a horrible waitress (I don't multitask well). Found that one out and will check off my potential list. I'm great at personal sales, marketing and event organization. Found the later out by doing it for a living and as a volunteer. Everything you do will teach you something.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Fit as a Fiddle on a Dime in Little Time.

Being healthy is one of the most frugal things you can do.
Here we explore why and how.
Everyone knows that eating fruits and veggies is one of the keys to good health yet we have an epidemic in America of heart disease and diabetes killing us, literally killing us. And if you are lucky enough not to die you may live without your limbs as diabetes often results in the loss of limbs, blindness and loss of feeling in your feet and legs. You may have a stroke and get to live with neurological problems the rest of your life. Yet two thirds of Westerners are now considered overweight. That means that more people are overweight now than at a healthy weight. 

 I am a Solution Focused Coach and a Certified Yoga Therapist so I generally focus on the solution, so that is what we will do here. I do encourage you to focus on the why and ask yourself "Why you want to be healthy?" 
 When you ask people why they don't change you often hear "I want to be Happy". Does this mean eating bad food and being lazy are the keys to happiness. What do you think?

In third world countries that subsist on mainly grains, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits and veggies they are void of many of the cancers, heart disease , and diabetes that are killing us. They are often also void of many of the mental and digestive problems that plague us. Food can either me poison or medicine. You must choose what you put in your mouth. Garbage in, garbage out. Doctors for the most part treat the symptoms of disease not the underlying causes.

We as a nation have become more dependent on cars for transportation and the technological age means we spend more time than ever with our behinds glued to a chair. This not only results in obesity but also in many other problems that are created when movement is void in our diet. Our joints begin to hurt as we sit all day often in ways that are not ergonomically correct for our spine. Our bones which are alive need to have healthy movement patterns to stay anatomically correct. Our muscles will atrophy often causing the need for aides like walkers by the time some hit their forties. Keeping your buttock and thigh muscles fit keeps you out of a walker or using a wheelchair. Keeping your abdominal muscles and back muscles fit keeps you from having back surgery due to strain on your spine, your lumbar spine that is between your low back and upper back, we now see people in their twenties have spinal surgeries for lumbar issues. Your lumbar spine has to support your torso, arms and head, if its weak it pulls you low back and you often get bulging disc. Not moving also allows for congestion in our lymph glands, they need movement to drain our lymph fluid which is part of the plumbing system for our bodies. Our cardiovascular system moves lymph and oxygen rich blood through our bodies bringing vital nutrients to our organs. If we are static then blood volume does not get moved around and brings on a host of problems. Movement along with relaxation allows our heart rate and blood pressure to normalize. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

After the excuse that people want to be happy so that is why they eat poorly and don't exercise the next one I hear is "It is to expensive!". Is it more expensive to be sick? One stent can cost upwards are $30,000, and you often need more than one if your arteries get blocked. Open heart surgery is upwards of $100,000. to bypass those clogged arteries. This is a disease of the wealthy nations. 

Health is one of the most frugal things you can do.

10 Steps to Health on a Budget
1. Learn to cook dry beans and brown rice. It is one of the cheapest foods you can make and it is high in fiber, a complete protein and so good for you. Google some recipes or enjoy the tactile experience of a good cook book. Leave the meat out and substitute with a good vegetable broth. Start with one batch per week and have leftovers. 
2. Walk. You need nothing but comfortable shoes. Walk in your neighborhood or go to a park. Walk it's easy and free. If weather is a problem look online there are always used treadmills under $150. This may sound like a lot but this is about the cost of gym membership for a few months.
3. Learn to cook veggies that taste good. Again "Google" or look up recipes. Avoid fried veggies and go for roasted, raw, steamed, or baked. Tip if you are couponing beware that most coupons are for processed foods. You might be better to spend that time gardening.
4. Add these to your diet (Focus on adding foods instead of taking them away). These are super cheap and super healthy. Oats (In a canister easily cook in microwave. Avoid sugary packets.), Bananas, apples, oranges, potatoes with skins on, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, onions, garlic, dried beans, brown rice. 
5. Soy milk. That's right. GMO free organic soy milk. The test done on soy where from soy isolate that is a highly processed soy filler that is used in fast food and processed foods that is in your fast food hamburger. Skip the hamburger if you want to avoid it not the super healthy soy milk. GMO organic soy is a SUPER FOOD, and can seriously alter your chances of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Eat 2 servings a day. It will not raise your estrogen in this amount. You would need over forty servings a day and it still likely would not have any effect.  
6. Google "Cardio" online and find all kinds of cardio exercises you can do in your home with no equipment. You can do short sessions or long. You choose. Especially if walking is out for you. 
7. Use an app on your phone like 7 minute workout. I will confess I do short workouts often and I am a normal healthy weight with no plaque in my arteries (just got tested) and less than 1% of a chance of diabetes or heart disease, I have perfect cholesterol. I generally do 7 to 12 minutes of cardio several times a week, walk a few times a week, do yoga two to seven times a week (2 full hours and 3 to 4 five minute sessions and meditate). Most days of the week I spend 15 to 30 minutes exercising. 
8. Meditate. Use an app, get a book, sit your butt down and close your eyes and pay attention to what you hear.  You don't have to like it for it to work but I bet you will. It balances heart rate, blood pressure, hormones, and the  list goes on. The benefits are huge. I love Insight Timer on my phone. Replace 10 minutes a day (or heck do 1 minute) of news or t.v. to meditate. 
9. Squat: Do any kind that works for you (again Google how to squat) to keep your thighs and buttocks strong to keep your knees healthy and keep your legs strong so you don't atrophy your muscles. Knee problems are often due to weak thighs and buttocks. Once you start falling mortality goes way down and so does quality of life.
10. Do some kind of core (abs and back) exercise at least three to five times a week. Keep it simple like crunches, locust pose, boat pose, planks, sit ups, anything that strengthens you middle to protect your back. After you do these do some gentle twist and hugs your legs in to release your back. It takes about 5 minutes.

The benefits of eating right and exercising are health. It doesn't take more time or more money, you are just reallocating the time you already spend. You have to work more to pay to eat out that fast food meal for $10, wouldn't you rather work less and eat a healthy meal for $4. It takes less time to eat right and exercise than it does to go see the doctor and have cancer or diabetes or spend years with heart disease. You can spend 1 hour a day focused on exercise and preparing good food or you can spend 24 hours a day sick or dead. You get to choose. Life is full of choices and health should be an easy one.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Our Story About the Road to Financial Independence.

My personal story of downsizing, building, and working hard to retire early. 

I will admit that I write these as a sort of personal support system to keep myself accountable. Right now that means focusing on building a smaller house, fixing up an old farm and downsizing our possessions. It also means using extra income to pay the farm off in four years so we can retire to part time.

 It was actually easier in some sense when I was single and the money was mine alone to be responsible for. Now that Cowboy and I have combined households there are two people putting income in the bank. That also means there are two people making decisions about the income.
We are downsizing the house quite a bit, however many of you know we have purchased a 40 acre farm. Cowboy worked and saved for several years for the down-payment and about 1/3 of the out of pocket cost for the house. I built my credit and worked on paying off all my debt except my vehicle for work. We are a good team but it takes a lot of focus for two people to stay on task for a goal this big.

The term "Simple Living" is not really in Cowboys vocabulary. He likes to do all things outdoors which includes hunting, fishing, riding horses, working on the farm and camping. This includes all the big boy stuff that comes along with it.  He also is a world class martial artist so he still likes to go to tournaments and support his students and judge competitions. This all cost money. The sponsors may pay his hotel and a meal or two but we cover most of those expenses. To me this is not a simple life but it is important to him and that is what deliberate living means.

My hobbies are yoga, exercise, reading and keeping a cozy home. I also love to go out with my friends to have a nice meal and an occasional movie. These things are pretty cheap to do. Shopping is not really my thing and I struggle to spend money on anything except books, healthy food, our home and of course our kids (this one is where a lot of our money goes).

You can see pretty quick where some of the compromise comes in.

Cowboy is 58 and I am 46 at the time of writing this. He is a police officer by day and every other hour of the day he runs his roofing company.I am a yoga therapist, own a yoga school, work in a medical clinic teaching stress management, do personal and business coaching, and I am a writer (though semi paid at this point on the last one). In the past two years his business has grown exponentially. I took another job in my field last year but we did not  increase our style of living. I put all my checks in savings from the second job. We have used every extra penny to buy the farm and build the house and pay off debt.The big challenge is that we know we can't sustain working two jobs each forever. The upside is we are happy, we love our jobs and take pride in hard work. We would like to semi retire in three to four years to both working part time and fully retire at age 62 each. This plan works if you are younger as well. I've been following this way of living for many years and a I can tell you a 40 acre farm wouldn't be in the cards if I hadn't. And we don't make a ton of money. We have an average income. Very average. We both were in tough shape five years ago as we both had just gotten divorced and between us we didn't have $300. We  had some pretty good debts to get out of as well and lawyers to pay off. This has all been done with hard work, saving, and living a simple life of needs versus wants. We feel very blessed but it's not because of luck it's because of working hard and dedication to our purpose.

How are we going to do become financially independent? Well here is what I know for sure. You can make a plan but that doesn't always mean it will stick. Life happens and you must be willing to be flexible. From my many years of writing down my goals I can tell you that most of what I have ever written down has either come true of some other priority came up that became a new goal. I've always hit my goals because I stay focused on doing a little bit "often" to achieve those goals.  I believe strongly that you must have a map to know where you are going. So here I am going to share my map.

What does Financial Freedom mean to us:
1. No debt including the house.
2. The ability to live off working part time and savings.
3. The ability to save money towards retirement.
4. The freedom to do more of what we enjoy and relax more.
5. The ability to pay for anything we need out of our savings or part time income.
6. The ability to volunteer for causes that are important to us.

What we are doing to achieve Financial Freedom:
1. Have a talk with our six kids. Four of whom are young college age adults and set boundaries with what we can and cannot do.
2. Sell our house and use the equity to pay off our one debt (my car) and use that money towards finishing the work on the farm. Any balance of funds will go on the mortgage. I actually saved the money to pay off the car but we had some unexpected taxes so I've held on to it until we get moved and make sure we don't have to borrow money to finish our house.
3. After paying our bills and having our living money (food, necessities,and a nominal amount of fun money) we use any extra income that we make to pay the mortgage.
4. Not increasing our lifestyle. Still living like me make quite a bit less that we do. We have each doubled our income in five years and we still live like we make half. Even if our income hadn't increased we would have some plan for FI.

What does not increasing your lifestyle mean:
1. You live on half your income. This may mean working more for a short time to get your debts paid. You may have to start with less than half but make that your goal
2. Use all extra income first to build an emergency fund (start with $1000)
3. Pay all your debt off as quickly as possible by focusing on needs versus wants. Use all extra money to pay debt.
4. Once your debt is paid save three to six months income for your needs and a bit extra for emergencies.
5. Create a life that is sustainable for a work - life balance.
6. Live below your means. Just because you make good money doesn't mean you have to increase the size of your house or buy a new car.
7. Let go of what others think about you. Don't try to keep up with others expectations of what it means to be rich (they are probably drowning in debt, you don't have to).

Basic ideas to support financial freedom: 
1. Live in less of a house that you can afford.
2. Drive a good, reliable economical used car.
3. Don't shop unless you need something.
4. Take care of your health by eating fruits and veggies and exercising often.
5. Drink water over anything else that cost money including bottled water. Buy a water filter and make your own bottled water. I reuse glass bottles from other things we buy.
6. Make outfits with what you already own and only buy what you need when you go shopping. Be aware of your needs before you leave the house.
7. Keep a tidy house, yard and car. The desire to have more is often do to a lack of taking care of what you have.
8. When you go out to eat share a meal, order soup and salad and water. Eat light. *Props to my friend Gayla for this idea!
9. Utilize your parks and outdoor spaces over a gym. Use videos online to workout at home. Google things like "Strength training or Cardio without equipment". You will be amazed!
10. Utilize great deals in your community. Tuesday is $4 movie night at a local theater and popcorn and coke is about $2. This cost us about 1/4 of going another night.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How to get motivated and make choices inline with your purpose (goals).

Here are 10 questions to help you align with your purpose.

I base this on my belief and personal testing of this process with myself and many clients. Inside each of us is the  "source" that knows what we need. Sometimes we need someone to facilitate us finding the "knower" and asking the right questions.

  1. What are you grateful for?
  2. What would you say your priorities are?
  3. How do you spend your time? Look at your calendar 
  4. How do you spend your money? Look at your bank statement or receipts.Or ponder.
  5. What are your goals in 3 months 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, and twenty years?
  6. For each time frame write down three things in logical order you need to do to reach your goal.
  7. Now sit back and pick one goal and visualize yourself at the completion of this goal. Who if anyone is there? What are you wearing? What are the sounds you hear? What are the smells and taste associated with this place (would you be eating something)? What do you see around you? What do you feel inside at this place of completion or life goal?
  8. It is important to use your senses to train your subconscious mind to start doing these things automatically. Once you have an idea of this then visualize what each part of that goal would be. Example: Be healthier and  Lower Cholesterol in three months. Step 1 : Find 10 recipes and make a food plan based on foods that lower cholesterol. Step 2  Go to the grocery store and buy food. Step 3 . Prepare and follow the meal plan.
    This will change how you spend your time as you will be doing these steps and will have to replace something else you do like eating out or driving through drive throughs, this will change how you spend your money as well. 
  9. This applies to all aspects of life. You can do these for financial, relationships, health, spirituality, etc. For each goal make a bullet list. Example
    Goal : Financial
    Have 1000 dollars saved in 3 months: 1. Have a yard sale 2. Sell my clothes at resale 3. Don't shop and put back $300 a month that I would spend on going out and shopping. 
  10. Are you spending your money and your time in line with your goals and priorities? How would you change your time and financial choices based on these findings. 
Remember the little things happen every day, the big things only once in awhile. They all matter. Today is truly yesterday's tomorrow. What will your tomorrow look like? Only you can steer that ship.
Love and Light,

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

It's a lot about what your not doing.

How to save money by not doing stuff.
 I just came home from the grocery store after attending a yoga class and sat down with some chicken salad, tea and crackers for lunch.
Here is what I didn't do.

1. I didn't pay for the yoga class because I bartered with my friend who is a yoga teacher for yoga classes for a certain amount of pay when she subs mine, or we will just trade out on subbing. 
2. I didn't call a friend to go out to lunch. I didn't have a fancy lunch or a fancy breakfast. 
3. This morning I didn't go through a drive through and get breakfast. I simply used what I had to make a rather filling shake of oatmeal, soymilk, flax meal, frozen bananas. 
4. We didn't buy the camper my honey called about and wanted. We did have a little talk about our priorities (he understood). We also had a talk about borrowing his Dad's camper since I haven't seen it move in 5 years. 
5. Today I won't go to the expensive gym but I will walk outside for 20 minutes. 
6. Tonight  I won't go out for dinner today but I will make a big salad with the groceries I purchased from the store. (We do go out but not as much anymore).
7. Today I won't go shopping for clothes or anything else I don't need. I will go to my closet and put together 10 outfits tonight so I can easily find something to wear. 
8. I won't go buy any new decorations for my house but I will clean my house when I get home.
9. I won't go and pay for new music but I will use the Prime account I have to listen to some "Bread" or "70's" hits on my Alexa Dot that was a gift from a friend while cleaning with some awesome twinkle lights leftover from Christmas and some cheap candles I have accumulated. 
10. We won't go out to do anything extra curricular (though we do sometimes but not often) but we will watch NetFlix or Amazon Prime (we use that membership well) and we won't pay for cable. Last night we ate a cheap dinner at a local cafe and went to the Tuesday night deal of a movie for two with popcorn and a drink for $13.21. 

It is often the daily choices we make that save us money. It is not so much the big stuff. 
When making choices in life it helps to know what your priorities are and your purpose and align your choices with that purpose (more to come on that). 

Love and Light,

Sunday, January 1, 2017

This is your Dream House? "How to make the right decisions based on your life goals."

I am building a house. This statement is often met with responses like "Congrats!", "This is your dream house!", "How great to be able to have exactly what you want.", "You can make it just like you want it". Look I know I am privileged by the fact that I am human and own property. It is a privilege to live in this country and be able to own a house, much less build one.
Make no mistake about it though this is not my dream house. This is a house that I hope will help me reach my dream of financial independence by age fifty. That's right my goal is not a dream house, my goal is to not to owe anyone and be debt free by fifty.

If I was single I would be selling my big suburban sprawling 1930's home and buying a little cabin on the lake. Instead I chose to get engaged to a Cowboy and you know what Cowboys have? Horses. Well now I have one too. We also have many other animals and are both animal lovers. When I met Cowboy I said "Where do you want to live?" and he said "It starts with a C and it ain't the city!". Got it. Living in the country on a ranch with beautiful views, animals and horses will be great, I'm down for it. I am not complaining but there have been many caveats I have given Cowboy in exchange for building. One I will not go into more debt to have it. When we move into our new place if all goes as planned (Please Lord let it go as planned) and my house sells we will owe less on the farm than we do on my current house in town. Jim has worked and saved (and sacrificed) and put in labor on the cabin. I have purchased upcycled materials and made sandwiches and study how to do things on our budget.

The choices, the choices are killing me. So many choices. Things I never knew about all of a sudden I get glazed over worrying that I am making some big mistake buying the $551 dollar soaker tub over the $1500 jetted tub. I'm stressing about should I have can lights over regular lights that were in my budget. I've had to look inward and give myself a shake and say "Courtney remember what your goals are! Wake up sister!" Okay compass guide me back. Yes my goal and Jim's goal is semi retirement in 4 years. As I write this we both work two jobs, sometimes three. In four years if we stay on track we can cut back to working one job a piece at about 20 hours a week or so. That with and taking care of a ranch will be plenty of work. I'll be fifty and Jim sixty three. A good time to owe nothing and have the freedom to do the things that matter more, spend time with family, animals, long walks, cozy fires, and enjoying life. I'm not waiting to enjoy life but I certainly don't want to wait until I can't before I retire.

How I find my compass when I feel lost in the financial abyss.

  1. I ask myself "What are my life goals?
  2. Is this a want or a need?
  3. If it's a want would I give up equal time in work to have it. For instance would I work three weeks to be paid in a bathtub over money? The answer was "No" by the way. The answer was "Yes" on the windows on the front of my house. Always equate your wants with how many hours you have to work to pay for it.
  4. Will buying this keep me from reaching my goals?
  5. Will buying this put me in debt?
  6. Can I live without it?
  7. Is it better than what I have now? Will that be good enough?
  8. Can I get creative and find a way to get something similar with upcycled materials or by finding a way to achieve a similar result. For me a soaker tub with a seat and a oversized window sill was a good compromise. Also easier for me to get in and out of. 
  9. Can I give up something else to have this thing that I want? 
  10. Will this house make me house poor? A beautiful house and no money for groceries is the pits. Trust me I've done this and it's awful. I'd rather go without the can lights.