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,
Courtney

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, 
Courtney

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,
Courtney 




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,
Courtney

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.

Remedies:
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,
C