I am no longer stressed out by my stuff. This hasn’t always been true. I’ve spent a good part of my adult life stressed out by stuff. Read my previous post, Beginnings of a More Minimalist Approach for more on that. This includes stressing about what I didn’t have; when I learned to let go of the excess I did have I also learned to let go of the things I thought I had to have.
Today minimalism means I no longer worry and stress about how or when I can buy what I want. I just no longer want most of it. This is a very freeing feeling. When it comes to most wants I can either take it or leave it. It no longer factors into my happiness. A major win here!
Less is more… time
Once I had fewer things to maintain, it meant dusting and cleaning, in general, took up a lot less of my time. Most of what is out is in use. Now that the kids have fewer toys they play with just about EVERYTHING they have! What they don’t play with or age out of promptly goes to the donate box or bag and out of the house.
I can see what I have/find what I need when I open a drawer or cabinet. If I don’t see it I probably don’t have it. The fact that I don’t have it probably doesn’t bother me now. In the past it oftentimes would.
Less is more of what matters
Now we live in a 1320 square foot house. It is smaller than average maybe, but certainly not tiny and it feels just right for us. I still have a few things to pare down; this is not a one and done approach where you go through one purge and everything is perfectly minimal from there on out. Life changes, kids grow, and priorities get reevaluated. I am able to focus on the people in my house instead of the things. That’s just as it should be.
Please do not allow yourself to be scammed! You don’t have to pay to check your credit
Check your credit, just don’t think you have to pay for it. You can check it free annually at AnnualCreditReport.com It is the only place authorized by Federal law to check your credit free.
Don’t be Scammed…
Please do not be misled by pop-ups of dire warnings and exclamation points saying visitors to a certain cite have been hacked. They will probably do exactly what they want you to believe has already happened.
If you get a notice or a pop-up or any sort of alert prompting you to check your credit STOP! I had this happen last week when I tried to log in to my bank website. Mobile banking was down so I was wondering if they really had an issue. I called them and asked. And you know what? I wasn’t the only one reporting seeing the pop-up. And it most certainly wasn’t from the bank.
Turn those pop-ups off when they show up. You should see a logo in the toolbar showing you what pop-up is working. Turn it off, delete the extension if there is one, and run a security scan on your computer to be safe. Someone is trying to scam you!
Be Safe Out There
By all means, I want you to check your credit. Just don’t think you have to pay to check your credit. There are sites that claim not to affect your score and are free out there but I don’t bite. Check your credit and your spouse and kids’ credit reports on a yearly basis using the Annual Credit Report site.
If you have it in the budget to pay for identity theft insurance that is completely different. You get value because you are paying for a service to protect you and do the leg-work during recovery process if your identity is stolen in addition to checking your credit. That is different.
I see no need to pay a site to show you what you can see free of charge. I have not used the service, but a quick search told me that Zander Insurance offers identity theft protection starting at just $6.75 a month. That sounds like a much better deal than paying $1 for a trial subscription on a site like Experian just to read your report. Save your money for other things.
What credit protection services do you use? Have you ever fallen prey to a credit-related scam or identity theft? I would love to hear from you. This is definitely an area most of us use a little more education!
6 Side Hustles to Increase Your Income and Pay off Debt or Increase Savings
Need a side hustle? There are lots of ways to get your hustle on these days ranging from the traditional (second, part-time job) to the unconventional (reward points websites, survey sites, transportation). Here is a look at ways to increase that important emergency fund, make a little spending money, stretch your budget, or pay down debt sooner.
Side Hustle #1: Traditional Secondary Employment
If you have a fairly predictable schedule at your day job, or if you are the stay-at-home parent and your spouse does an evening/weekend side hustle may be a good way to go. My husband works Monday-Friday as a Survey Party Chief and has a retail side hustle on the weekends. This second job has reliably brought in between $400 and $600 a month. This is roughly the equivalent of what I made part-time last fall but does not require childcare, which can quickly eat up part-time earnings.
If childcare is necessary it will prove beneficial to look at what is available in your area. Find options you are comfortable with and look at their schedule and rates. This will give you an idea of what hours you need to work your side hustle as well as how much per hour you will need to earn in order to cover the cost of childcare and bring home some bank.
This may take some time and creativity, but it is crucial to make sure you will keep some of that paycheck. If you don’t you could end up losing money. I know I did toward the end of my part-time employment last year.
Thankfully my husband was given a well-timed raise that was more than equivalent to my take-home pay. This allowed us to have the same or higher income, continue on with the home loan process on our build, and quit paying childcare. Once the house was finished we wanted a little more wiggle room in the budget, hence his side hustle.
Common areas of traditional part-time employment include retail, package handling, food service (waitstaff, kitchen help, bartending), childcare (as a bonus you may get free or discounted services for your children and take them to work with you), and answering phones in the evening and overnight hours (think hospitals, emergency services, etc).
#2: Freelance Your Talents
Think of what you’re good at. Play the piano or other instrument really well? Maybe you have a great singing voice. Can you teach others to play/sing well too? Hang your hat up as an instructor.
This is a side hustle that would require little to no upstart expense and can be done in your home. Schedule lessons during the kids’ nap or quiet time. Post your services on social media, Craigslist, or simply spread the word at church and in your circle of friends. Put up flyers at school or local community centers.
Be sure to call around to local music shops or look at other local listings to make sure you are charging a competitive rate and not selling yourself short.
If you have a talent for graphic design and own your own software you can moonlight on sites such as Fiverr as a freelancer designing logos and other items. If you’re good at writing you could become a freelance writer. Submit samples of your writing to freelancing sites, set competitive rates (again, this may take some research), and sell your services online.
If you have a Bachelor’s degree and experience teaching you can become a VIPKid teacher. This can be a very flexible form of income either as a full or part time gig.
You don’t have to be a formal teacher either. If you are good at certain subjects you can market yourself as a tutor. Offer your services at the local library or community centers and in the fall let the local schools know your credentials and contact information.
Tutoring services can be expensive. Most parents will gladly try assistance through word of mouth recommendations before racking up considerable new debt with professional services.
#3: Make Your Car Pay for Itself
If you have a nice, newer car but are making payments on it why not make it help pay for itself? Look into driving for Lyft or Uber. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of having strangers in your car look into becoming a delivery driver. Craigslist usually has several listings on our local page for services such as DoorDash and Waitr. These services supposedly pay $16 an hour. You can also become a delivery driver (or buyer) for Instacart or the local pizza place.
If you have friends with kids who are getting their side hustle on or going back to work why not offer your services? Childcare can be expensive. You can set your rates below what centers would charge and save your friends some money while earning something extra on the side yourself. It’s a win-win situation! Plus you can also keep your kids entertained while their friends are over and get some social interaction without leaving the house. Sites like Care.com can make it easy to offer your services to local families. You can even sign up on the site to offer other odd jobs.
This may not provide a lot of income but it can provide some fun money and gift cards based on purchases you already make.
Survey sites such as InboxDollars pay you small amounts of cash for taking surveys in your downtime. You get paid anywhere from ten cents to a few dollars to answer questions and review potential new products. You should always see how much money a survey will pay and how long it will take to complete before selection. It’s an easy side hustle that may not pay much, but can get you a bit of spending money. You can typically cash out once you’ve earned $20.
I recently signed up to participate in taste testings through Food Sciences at the local university. Twenty minutes of my time can yield a $20 Walmart gift card. This is a pretty good, easy side hustle option to supplement the grocery budget or make a few discretionary purchases I wouldn’t prioritize in the budget. One thing I recommend is to keep your availability open and offer to do testing at times most other people would be at work to increase your chances of getting schedule for testings.
and Side Hustle #6: Cashback Apps
Cashback apps such as Ibotta, Fetch, Swagbucks (which also has surveys), and Ebates offer cash back or “swag” for items you are already purchasing. There are signup bonuses offering up to $10 just for signing up! It is important to note that you will only come out ahead on these apps if you do not make additional purchases just to get cash back rewards. If you typically buy a generic brand of pasta for 65 cents less than the name brand it will do no good to buy the name option at the store to redeem 10 cents cash back. You lose money that way.
It is also important to note that if you want cash back for online purchases you have to enter the store site through the cash back site or app. If you use more than one cash back site it will benefit you to check how much cash back you get for certain sites on the different apps so you shop through the highest rewarding one.
Again, don’t shop for points or cash back if you don’t need the item or wouldn’t spend the money otherwise. While these apps likely won’t go far to pay the bills and don’t technically qualify as a full-on side hustle you can redeem points for gift cards to stores and on purchases you want to make that don’t fit in the budget. That can be a nice little reward on your debt free/frugal journey.
Buy clothes second hand because clothing your kids for the summer doesn’t have to be expensive. For the most part I don’t invest in a lot of clothing over the summer. Really, to be honest, I don’t invest a lot in kids’ clothes period. Here’s why; they outgrow it or ruin it very quickly.
My daughter was my “daycare kid.” I learned quickly it does not pay dress your child to impress at daycare; the teachers are outnumbered, underpaid, and basically just trying to keep your kid alive all day. Stains and the occasional rip are just part of the deal.
Kindergarten wasn’t much easier on clothes but I was so glad I hadn’t bought new, expensive items when I saw my daughter get off the bus each day. First there was the experimenting with the scissors ( on the knees of leggings and her bangs!), then there were the endless grass stains. No sweat kid. Keep it up and you’ll be out of clothes, but at least I didn’t spend a lot of money on clothing.
Swimwear can be so Expensive!
A quick browse on shopping apps such as Amazon and Target made me realize the annual gifted swimming lessons were going to be major budget busters after my daughter had outgrown two of her three swimsuits. Tempted to run to Target to save 10% off on an in store purchase I decided to check a local resale shop and scored! It cost less to buy both kids new swimwear than it would’ve to buy my toddler a rash guard and trunks. He isn’t even a fan of the water, so why waste $20 to watch him NOT get in the water?! Use that money elsewhere in the budget!
Moral of the story? Get out there and check out the thrift and consignment shops for swimwear! Buy clothes second hand and keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket!
We are exactly six months away from Christmas; is your Christmas budget ready? Know how you’re going to pay for all those holiday expenses? If so, great! Haven’t got a clue? You still have time to get it together!
Our family has a sinking fund for Christmas. Every pay period $15 automatically gets deducted from my husband’s check and deposited into our Christmas savings account. It is on auto-pilot.
In the fall interest will be paid and a check is given to us to do our shopping. If I happen to find the perfect gift for someone on our list before that I can withdraw up to a certain amount without having to pull from another budget category. This allows some flexibility while still earning a little interest.
If that isn’t for you…
Not interested in setting up an extra account? Simply create a cash sinking fund and pull out a designated amount every paycheck or every month.
With a little bit of planning now you can still manage a little something special for everyone on your list without resorting to credit cards.
Set aside cash so you can be sure you have the funds in place to get your holiday cheer on when the time comes without reaching for the plastic.
Get a Side Hustle
Don’t have room in the monthly budget for gift giving? Get yourself a side hustle to set some aside for gifting and get a bit ahead of your expenses. Your bank account will thank you long after Christmas if you get your financial life in order now.
Downsize Your Gift List or Opt Out of Gifts Altogether
There is nothing wrong with this option either. The true spirit of Christmas is about a baby in a cradle who died on a cross for our sins. The gift giving commercial aspect isn’t a requirement for goodwill to man. Now is the time to let those you typically exchange gifts with that you are doing things differently this year. They may be relieved to save some money too.
If your extended family that gets together is simply too big to afford gifts for everyone participate in a name exchange and only worry about buying for one person. Let the kids exchange names too so they don’t go home empty handed or end up with an even more crowded toy box.
Have a potluck Christmas dinner and go caroling, check out the town lights, or attend a special service together instead of your annual gift exchange.
Is your Christmas budget ready? Let me know in the comments or head over to Instagram and join in on the conversation there! I’d love to hear your plans and how you plan to celebrate Christmas with your loved ones on a dime.
Chances are if you’re not an oiler you are probably wondering how essential oils and the paraphernalia that go with it can possibly be frugal. I know I did. The truth is it can be. If you make it. Like any other hobby or passion it can quickly get expensive and beyond your budget. Thankfully that has not been my experience thus far.
Not Just for Hippies
While in the past I thought of oils as an expensive thing mostly for hippies I have since been proven wrong. Slowly but sure more “normal” people in my every day life and on social media revealed themselves to be “oilers.” Yes, even some of the more frugal people I know. You really can be frugal and oily!
It doesn’t have to be Expensive – how to be Frugal and Oily
Yes, you can make it expensive and buy the most expensive and rare oils on the market. If you can afford them great. If you can’t please don’t. I didn’t buy any oils until I was in baby step three and out of consumer debt. Now I consider myself to be both frugal and oily. I do not buy oils on my credit card either; monthly Essential Rewards orders are placed based on the budget set in place at the beginning of the month.
Also, the minimum qualifying amount for a Young Living ER order is $50. If you switch from more toxic grocery store products for regular items like hand soap, dish soap, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, lotion… you can earn rewards points towards free product without drastically changing your spending habits.
Mostly I like to use essential oils for household cleaning. It’s what got me started. When we moved into our new house I was determined to use non-toxic products as much as possible. I use Thieves® to clean my entire house. It not only smells great but is an excellent cleaner. I drop it in the water chamber of the steam mop for added cleaning power (and yummy scent), spot clean rugs with it, clean bathrooms… it is my go to cleaner. In March I bought a large assortment of Thieves® products on my ER order and am still going strong on most of it. I plan to reorder what I have run out of; I feel I am getting value for my purchase.
Is it for you?
Do you use essential oils in your daily life? If so what are some of your tips to keep being both frugal and oily? I’d love to know! Drop a comment or join the conversation on my oily Instagram page.
While I can go on and on about how much I love oils you really don’t know if they’re for you or not until you try them. If you are not an oiler but are curious to try drop a comment or contact me by email and I can set you up with some free samples! I would love to chat more about all things oily!
Just a friendly reminder to slow down and let nature set the pace every once in a while. Life can be a non-stop breakneck pace if we let it. This is just a reminder from Ralph Waldo Emerson, the writer of some of my favorite quotes to slow down. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break.
It can be hard if you’re out there hustling trying to make a better life for yourself and your family. Every once in a while you need to slow down and breathe. You’ve got this! Slow and steady wins the race. You won’t get out of debt, fully fund that 529, or your retirement overnight. On the bright side you won’t miss your goal if you take some time off from all the hustle and just enjoy where you’re at now and what you’ve accomplished so far.
Sometimes taking a little break from the fast pace of it all can help give you the motivation and energy needed to pick up momentum in your goals. Maybe you haven’t had the time to just sit out on the porch, watch the kids play, and get to work on that meal plan. Catch up on that book you’ve been meaning to read. Chat with a friend you haven’t in a while. Heck, just sit if you want! As a bonus leave the phone in the house. The outside world can wait an hour or two.
I misplaced my phone for a few hours this morning and while it was stressful at first it was actually really nice not to keep checking my email, texts, or feeling like I should take pictures to document the experience. I just hung out with my daughter all morning and while she played and explored at the library while I skimmed a new library book.
You’re doing great! Look at your progress instead of how far you have to go. Grab the kids, go take a walk, and enjoy letting nature set the pace for an afternoon or even a weekend. Why not this weekend?
I grew up in a household that appreciated a good deal. It’s in my genes to take advantage of a good deal. My grandmother saved almost everything. Everything. Empty cereal bags inside the box were saved and reused. Canned goods were never thrown out. When she eventually moved into a nursing home I can remember finding canned goods in the cupboards older than me. I thought it was interesting at the time. My mother and older relatives must’ve found it completely overwhelming.
Four years ago last month my mother passed away. Years of carefully stored but rarely admired collections, heavily invested-in hobbies that never lasted, half-finished sewing projects, and four closets of clothes that mostly didn’t even fit lay waiting for us to determine their fate.
I had always known this stuff was there. A few years prior she had enlisted my help selling a few large items on Craigslist. She prepared for a yard sale that never happened. In the back of my mind I knew a lot was still there but once she had passed away and I walked through the house again the effect of the sheer accumulation of stuff that had little to no meaning to those left behind to deal with it after her death affected me profoundly.
From Passive Parsing of Possessions to an all out Purge
While I had already determined to be more intentional about the items brought into my home and had somewhat attempted to keep things minimal after we had our first child. I didn’t buy a lot but it still accumulated. I kept an empty diaper box around to hold unwanted items for donation.
Suddenly the things I was surrounded by stressed and overwhelmed me to no end. It had to go. I spent entire evenings walking through rooms, grabbing excess stuff, and piling it up to donate. I couldn’t get rid of enough fast enough. Three times my SUV was loaded and three times items were driven to the local Goodwill for donation. This was just the start.
Something had to Change
Going forward I determined that when I pass away my children would not be faced with a mountain of stuff. It just doesn’t seem fair. Living with it myself no longer seemed fair.
In her death my mother taught me some very painful lessons about who I want to be and how I want to parent. I refuse to ignore my health until it is too late. I will not ignore my finances and tell my children our family’s financial situation is not their business. I will not want to try to buy people’s love or smile and put on a brave face and hide the inner turmoil I face from the world. How depressing that must have been. How overwhelming. How lonely.
I learned more about my mom and even my own start in life after she was gone. In the weeks following my son’s birth I spent a lot of time sitting by my his NICU bed talking with my dad and we were both surprised how much I didn’t know. Things she never thought to tell me. Things I never thought to ask. I made a choice to refuse to hide my true feelings or project my own insecurities on my children. I want them to know and understand me just as well as I know and understand them.
New House, New Rules
When I started packing up our belongings for storage before selling our old house I used the opportunity to discard a lot of unnecessary items. Or rather I thought I did. Despite selling or giving away a few items in storage it seemed to have multiplied behind the storage unit door. It was time to take a more minimalist approach.
What had seemed like careful and strategic efforts to simplify things before I packed fell glaringly short; I had not one, but three meat meat mashers when I usually opt for a wooden spoon to do the job. Into the donate box they went along with countless other items.
Once the storage unit was completely emptied and its contents scrutinized several trips with my car loaded down and even an entire trailer load of larger items made the trek to donation centers. Each trip we unloaded unwanted items from our life the figurative weight of it all got a little lighter.
Just Getting Started…
As good as this feels I’m just getting started. My massive inclination to purge my life of excess possessions has helped me see the smaller edits needed in my life. When I spend less time focused on maintenance of stuff I have more time to focus people, myself included. That feels pretty good. Less is better, at least for me. I like having a more minimalist approach to life. Less gives me time for more. I’m still a work in progress, but progress sure feels good.
Even now I am not done. There is an ongoing effort to simplify things. The difference is I feel like I have room to breathe. Our kids can find their stuff. They play with the toys they own. Once the excess was gone I was free to focus on who, rather than what is in my house. That is how my more minimalist approach to life feels. Simply put, it feels good.
Our first home was a 1970s ranch style. We loved it; with all its quirks and inefficiencies, it was home. We realized the equity in our fixer-upper was the key to secure our family’s financial future. The outdated home we’d slowly renovated with cash and started our family in was also the way out of our consumer debt. We needed to build small, save big.
When we decided to build we were determined to build small. Build small, save big. Yes, we were building our dream home, but we were also building a better future. We needed a low mortgage, small utility bills, and big peace of mind.
Build Small, Save Big
1. Get rid of the Wasted Space
Our new house isn’t huge. It doesn’t have multiple roof lines and isn’t filled with closets and narrow hallways. It is that way by design. Build small, save big. Hallways block light and allow for closets where your stuff goes to hide for ages before ever seeing the light of day. Why not skip it all?
We kept an open floor plan for the living area with the living room, dining area, and kitchen mostly open. We have large sliding windows across the house and a sliding glass door in back. There isn’t a whole lot of empty wall space, which will save me time and money decorating and dusting.
2. Invest in Energy Efficiency Now for Ongoing Savings
This is pretty obvious, but the smaller and more energy efficient your home is the less money you spend each month on utilities. One of the bigger expenses of our house was the insulation. We have a tightly sealed little home with very low electric bills, which is desirable since we are all electric in our neck of the woods.
One thing our builder sold up sold us on that we are very happy about is our hybrid hot water heater. We paid more money upfront, but after doing our homework and checking out a video our builder sent a link to we realized that the hot water heater we planned to buy actually has a higher cost of ownership over the life of the appliance.
The heat pump pulls warm air in from the room (handy in the laundry room) and uses it to heat the water. If you’re a tech person it is pretty cool. I just like the fact that our electric bill stays low and my water stays hot!
We bought a stainless steel suite of Samsung appliances in our kitchen and scored big savings during the Black Friday sales which just happened to fall around the time we needed to buy appliances anyway. An error made with delivery scheduling (only one appliance showed up the first time) was made right with quick turnaround delivery of the rest of the order as well as a 10% refund. Prior to landing on the sale we had price comped the appliances we wanted at multiple stores around the area.
3. Basic Fixtures
For the most part with this build we kept it simple; the entire house is painted the same soft shade of gray. There are no granite counter tops in this house either. We opted for good old laminate counter tops in the kitchen and engineered stone in the bathrooms.
The cabinets felt like the bigger investment. They were made by a local cabinet shop and we saved big there too. Ten years from now if we change our style I will not feel like I have too much invested in the counter tops to replace them. The farmhouse sink in the kitchen seems like a huge upgrade, but came from Ikea, and cost far less than anticipated.
With a small deck in back and full length front porch we have increased space to watch the sun go down and entertain. The kids don’t feel trapped inside when it rains either.
In the end our small home is only about 60 square feet smaller than our previous home. Most of that space was cut out of the hallway and endless closets. The majority of what was in those closets has been donated or sold.
What we gained by losing those 60 square feet was financial freedom for our future. Cleaning takes a lot less time than it did when we had countless shelves housing all our unused possessions.
Looking for more creative ways to cut your budget? Here are three ways we save money every month you may not have considered.
Dump your trash service. In our entire almost 13 years of marriage we have not had trash service. This was initially the result of sticker shock.
We recycled a lot when we first married (by recycled I mean I organized items in bins in the garage and when they got full/stinky my husband took them in) and only had a couple of bags of trash a month. It didn’t seem worth it to pay for the service when once a month we (again, him) could drive it to the transfer station, drop off recycling, and pay a nominal fee per bag.
Once we moved out in the county this option became even easier. We live 15 minutes from the transfer station. Sometimes transfer stations take more recyclables than your city service. Check around. The less trash you have the better right?
Trash service where we live costs about as much as in town but usually involves an individual company operating by driving a single truck with a metal cage in the bed. Recycling isn’t included. It’s still more cost effective to keep doing what we do.
I slacked off on recycling the last few years but recently started up again. My daughter and I take it in weekly. I don’t have a fancy blue bin or tote to keep up with so for the moment we use an empty box or bag and just and recycle that too once we’re done.
I can honestly say we take out the trash a lot less often since we started recycling again. Win, win! A quick internet search for “waste transfer station near me” should be all you need to see if this is a good option for you as well.
2. I refuse to pay shipping if at all possible. This may not be weird but I definitely think it is overlooked.
Have a Prime subscription? Set your search filter to Prime only and don’t even consider items that don’t have free shipping.
Buying online from a retailer with a brick and mortar location close by? Most items ship free to store.
3. Lastly, you can save money by participating in surveys and research studies for things you’re going to do/buy anyway. I was selected for an Arbor Day Foundation survey and in return got 12 tree slips for a nominal donation. We needed the trees and would’ve bought them at a higher cost anyway.
If you know you can resist the sales pitch you can even score a free night or two at a timeshare. I haven’t personally done this, but know families who have done this for a weekend getaway to Branson or other weekend destinations.
There are lots of creative ways to save money. I’d love to hear your favorite “weird” ways to save? Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going!