back to basics

In 2009 or 2010, I discovered a sub-culture movement called “minimalism”. It intrigued me. I subscribed to about a dozen blogs devoted to practicing simplicity (some more extreme than others). I relished the idea of saving money, living with less, and mostly reducing stress from my life.

It wasn’t until May 2010 that I got serious about cleaning house. I signed up with a “freecycle” group and listed all the goodies I wanted to go to new homes. I changed my purchasing habits and bought less, made smarter buys, and tried to be more conscious of the money I was spending.

discovery purse

Over the last three years, I’ve been on and off with my minimalism. My then-boyfriend and I were never on the same wavelength when it came to clutter, but we were both all-too-eager to use the extra money for dinners out. Circumstances with job instability (his) and my pain/depression issues meant I cared less about savings and more about treating the symptoms with splurges here and there. I stopped using cash for gas and groceries, I stopped budgeting extra spending money in advance, I stopped moderating myself when I walked into Target.

Fast forward to now. I just missed my first mortgage payment in four years (and rent for even longer). It just slipped my mind. When I remembered, I found my bank account short. I did nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. There is nothing I can do. My savings account is empty (it all overdrafted when rent income was late because I wasn’t paying attention to the details). All I can do is wait, correct my mistake, accept the consequences (a possible ding on my credit report), and move on.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. In the past, it would make me crazy. I would obsess and panic and get nothing accomplished except waste energy waiting for the days to catch up to me so I could correct the oversight.

Now? I’m stressed to be sure and absolutely kicking myself. But there are things that I can do.

Sell some stuff. I don’t really have a lot in the way of valuable stuff that I am willing to part with at this point. But I can list some stuff on Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist to make at least a few bucks. If I come across anything I think a friend can use, I’ll probably offer it to them first and foremost. But the rest will go toward my savings account.

Supplemental income of the regular sort. I’m a writer. Well, I sometimes write. I’ve been better about it the last couple months than I had been the months preceding. At this point, I could probably have one new story published for the last three months of this year (which will make my accountant happy) and provide a small amount of additional income by December at the earliest. It’s certainly not the instant gratification option, but it’s future security doing something that I enjoy now. Win-win. There’s also potential for moderate, exponential growth over time and with frequency. So triple win.

Standardize meals at home. I expect this one to be easy since I’m already doing slow-carb diet with pretty much requires eating the same thing over and over again (which I’ll explain the logic behind that in a future post). With very little effort and planning, I know almost exactly what I am eating each day of the week. Having the same staples means lower grocery bills, less wasted food, and fewer trips to the store each week for forgotten items for a new recipe.

Budget meals out each week. I like eating out. I like hanging out with my friends and family while being served yummy, but budget-friendly food. I can’t go without. When I even try to do that, I end up eating out 50% of my meals. It’s really dumb, but that’s how my deprived brain works. Good news is that I know this about myself. I can go to almost any chain restaurant and eat decently for around $10. Skip the alcohol. Skip sodas, teas, all specialty drinks. Skip apps (I don’t really have the space for them anyway). Or order an app as an entree (they are usually ginormous and entree-sized anyway for cheaper). Skip the add-ons, up-sells, and desserts. Forty dollars a month is completely reasonable. If I keep my gas bill down for the week, the extra can go towards a bit of splurging on my off days (drive thru dollar menus FTW!).

Use cash. I budget $40 per week for gas and $60 for groceries. If I switch to cash, once that money is gone, that’s it! It encourages me to take less trips and be more frugal on drinking wine during the week. Left over cash can go to something fun, like gas money for a day trip to the beach, makeup, or something pretty. If I run out of gas, I go back to taking the bus. Hm, I should just do for the cooler months and get some extra knitting in…. Maybe two or three days a week. I’m probably one of five people in this town that finds the bus relaxing.

Obviously, there are some obvious things like reconciling my budget daily (takes a whopping five minutes), stop spending so much, budget big purchases/trips/classes/events.

There’s more to minimalism than just money and budgeting. It’s about simplicity. A simplicity that I miss and desperately want to get back to. For me, money is always the catalyst so here my journey begins again.

(photo credit: me)

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