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.