How to enjoy being poor on your way to a better life.

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I recently wrote a quickie book called Dirt Poor and Lovin’ It!  It was a mini hit.  I have added more to it since I first published it and I keep adding when I get an idea or hear some great advice.

I believe that all things have seasons and that includes being poor.  If you are smart about being poor and make it work for you, the tables will surely turn.

I was inspired to write this booklet when we started our own house search.  We desperately wanted to buy our very own home and it just felt like it was time.  When I worked with a lender for a pre-approval I was a little disheartened to find that we only qualified for $130,000.  We live in Sacramento California where the average house is now going for $350K to $500K.  A dumpy house in the ghetto would be $200K.  So, I was feeling beyond challenged.

We have a large savings that we have been building for this purchase but it wasn’t looking like nearly enough.  I began to get back into my hardcore frugal and penny-pinching mode.  I was saving every nickel and dime.

I watered down my detergents, my shampoos, the bubble bath.  I would just add fresh grounds on my old grounds to my coffee filter for days using the same filter, therefore, using less coffee and only one filter for 3 days.   I refused to even buy light bulbs.  When a light died I stole a bulb from another room where I never used that overhead light.  I even swept the floor when I thought my vacuum was broken (turned out to just have a large lego lodged in the pipe).  If I needed anything I would first look about and see if I could repurpose something I already had or borrow from the neighbor.

I stopped spending completely outside my rent, utilities, and groceries.  I cut way back on the grocery budget.  We went from maybe around $1,000 a month to between $300 and $600 at the most when I had to get toiletries, dog food, and diapers.  I had some friends that had to do food stamps for a short time because times had gotten a bit challenging for them.  They were allowed $400 for a family of 4.  I was inspired to see if we could do that.

We have been living as though we have very, very little funds, as if we are on food stamps, and we have nothing to spare.  I have put all the extra in savings.  When we got our refund I distributed it wisely.  Paid off a tread climber (the only luxury item we have purchased in years).  I created what I call a ‘household savings’.  We have the big daddy savings in another bank so we never touch it but we have no savings for our regular use.  I opened one to connect to our checking account.  I stocked up on everything.  My pantries and bathroom cupboards are loaded.  I must have enough toilet tissue for 6 months.  I have enough soap and shampoo for months and months.  My stockpile pantry in the kitchen is loaded.

I still didn’t buy light bulbs.  Those and paper towels are a luxury right now.  I’ve gotten super cheap.

Has our quality of life decreased?  No. We are playing at parks, forest, and home.  I have stacks of books from the library I’m really into.  I have great music going all the time on Pandora.  I have my coffee. I have TV and Joyce Meyer.

But you see, when you have been frugal and living on one income for years you learn to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.  At first, it’s hard to go from a life of going out all the time, shopping for what you want when you want, buying groceries without looking at prices.  It seems so restrictive and depressing.  Then you get used to it and find that the quality of your life has increased 10 fold.  You are now spending quality time with your family and enjoying life.

Then you take it up another level and just stop spending outside the bills and rent.   And groceries of course.  I prefer my homecooked food to going out.  Most food that is convenience and packaged or diner food taste so lifeless.  My food is fresh, hot, and delicious.  I make my own versions of everything out there.  I make my own frozen burritos, my own Ranch dressing, my own pizza.

I can even make my own laundry detergent, household cleaners, shampoo, and face masks for pennies and come out ahead and environmentally kind.

Then I got to thinkin’ even more.  Just how broke could I handle getting?  If my dryer broke down I would hang my clothes out.  If it was winter I would hang them on homemade racks like the shower rod and chairs.  I used to hang my clothes out but we moved into town and I have no clothes line and…I just got lazy ok?!

Even if my washer broke down and I had no money for the laundry matt…I would wash my clothes in the tub.  Heck, our great, great, great grandmothers went down to the river or used a washboard and tub.  The Amish still do.

As for groceries, you can just buy produce, meat, cheese, flour, and make a ton of great food from scratch.  I love homemade food SOOOOOO much better than going out to eat.  Well, at least where we can afford to eat.  The HomeTown Buffet isn’t considered fine dining, I do know this.  We also have kids and it’s no fun.  Won’t be for years and years and years.  We just use that $50 for a weeks forth of groceries.

We used to not have the internet and just an antenna.  I loved the local channels.  We pay a small sum for stripped down DirecTV package now and I swear that 95% of it is infomercials and reality TV that I detest.  I loved all the old movies and westerns, the 80’s sitcoms.  The antenna doesn’t work well in the city sadly enough or I’d still be with it.  As for the internet, I used to just go to the cafe or library to use it.  I would buy a cheap cup of coffee and enjoy being out in the social cafe scene.  Now I do need it for the blog and books and I have the cheapest I can get that isn’t dial-up.

When my family and I lived on a fruit farm by the river I did hang our clothes on the line, I did make big buckets of homemade detergent, I only used vinegar and dish soap for cleaning.  With permission, we picked the fruit on the farm.  We had pears, cherries, lemons, oranges, plums, mandarins.  It was great.  We bought cheap eggs from the landlady.

We have been poor, poor, and poor.  And we have never suffered.  We live better than some friends of ours that are wealthy…or upper middle class.  We don’t stress about money, borrow from Peter to pay Paul, wring our hands when bill paying time comes.

So, here I am tonight eating ice cream and celebrating our new house.  We bid on a cheap HUD house and God was kind and blessed us.  I had to get frugal and smart with the house buying and I’ll go into that with another blog.  We have just enough left over after closing cost to get the work done on the home.  And it will need some work but not that much.  Old homes were built simply and solidly.

So, all that frugal and thrifty living has paid off.  And once I got used to it, I have to say that it’s enjoyable.  It sure beats having to work.  Being a housewife suits me just fine.  I did have to find an outlet and that is with my blogging and book writing.  We all need a hobby and if it’s free and then starts making you some money….well, yee haw!

 

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7 Days into the 40 days to change.

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My household is 7 days into our own self-made 40 days to change experience.  We are not doing anything extreme, such as cutting out a thing or making a big lifestyle change.  We are not going on diets or selling all our belongings to backpack through the wilderness.  We aren’t even practicing zero spending.

As a homemaker I’ve kept a nice home, cook healthy food from scratch, I’ve been fairly frugal, and we are active.  But, and this is a nice sized but, I have slacked in the last year and a half.  I have been so into my writing of books and posting of blogs, doing all my own editing (not recommended) and publishing, marketing, and promoting…well, my home and family need some sprucing up.  So do I.

I have been feeling tired and irritable lately.  My home looks dusty and messy more often than I like, my spiritual practice is inconsistent, I have no schedule as of lately, I’m gaining weight and haven’t been aboard my Tread Climber in weeks, my kids are getting too much media, and I have succumbed to convenience foods more often than I will admit publicly.  My home and family life is out of balance with the writing life.  Also, my writing needed to be really worked and polished.

So, I’ve written a blog a few days ago outlining my desires.  I’m not stopping or starting anything per se, I’m working with what we have and improving it vastly.  I’m giving myself 40 days to explore new ideas and ways of doing things for our home and health and implementing what will work long term.  Each day I chunk out a bit of work to improve all the areas I’ve listed.

Thus far I have scrubbed and organized the kitchen and created a new menu and way of cooking for my family that is extremely healthy and gives me more time for play and work.  I did not choose one diet.  We have gone wacko in trying to be completely vegetarian, vegan, and then to the opposite end with paleo.  We failed after 3 weeks.  We enjoyed each diet and the benefits but, after trying again and again for 5 years, it’s obvious not one will stick.  I decided to combine the best of all three!  I have created a diet that is half vegetarian, with some vegan substitutes, and many of the paleo ideas…organic, nonGMO, free range, grass fed…

This may sound crazy but we have the best diet now.  I did not get rid of our junky food, I just created a cupboard shelf up high where I keep it all.  We love our junky food once in awhile and with it around it’s less of a constant thought and obsession, if I really want mac and cheese or to bake a cake I can.  I have also taken to doing, what I call, mass cooking every few days.  I will start the week off baking a big chicken, simmering a big pot of black or pinto beans, baking two loaves of whole week bread, steaming a big cooker of brown rice, and making a huge container of fresh, organic salad.  Oh, and a pot of homemade yogurt that lasts a whole week.  We then eat off all that good stuff for a few days or more.  You can make burritos, salads, or just have the rice and beans.  The chicken can last days by taking some to make burritos one night and a quarter of it for pasta another night, chicken salad the following night.  The bread is toast in the mornings and yogurt at lunch with apples and nuts and honey.

I find I have all sorts of time.  My mass cooking day really only takes a morning.  I have my coffee and turn on my Cuban music on Pandora and cook for a few hours and voila!  I have three days of cooking done.

To get really healthy I have decided that there are two great changes to our families diet that we can live with.  I have cut the sugar out completely for myself and the boys and husband never had that much to begin with.  I was the one hiding chocolate in the cupboards.  I have also upped our vegetables times 10.  I do green juices almost every morning and most days I add green smoothies.  We have salads every night along with up to 3 to 5 vegetables at every meal.  My kids were getting too into snacks and starting to snub the vegetable and that is why I have gone hardcore.  I also want to loose weight.  I’ve been watching sugar documentaries and I don’t want any of us to have adult diabetes or be obese thank you.  My kids are so incredibly healthy already.  This was the longest, coldest and wettest winter and they suffered a few days of a cold.

The other changes I started after getting the kitchen and cooking schedule in order was my exercise and spiritual works.  I had not been able to sleep the other night and caught Joyce Myers on TV.  Her sermon was perfect for me and so I pulled out her books that I had stocked up on months ago.  I also dusted off the tread climber.  I now read and work out an hour every day, combining my spiritual readings with my fitness.  I ordered The Case for Christ at the library and I’m off to see The Shack.  I love the Christian lifestyle, however, I’ll admit that I still have a lot of questions about the Bible and how to really connect to God.  I am open minded and love the metaphysical and I often wonder if the Bible isn’t filled with some parables to teach us through stories.  I just keep reading and researching until one day I find what feels true.  I know that faith feels good and a wholesome life is a good life.  I also know that you have to keep filling up on the good and spiritual works and continue to work on righting the mind.

As for the house, I rearranged the living room and stored some items in the garage.  I love uncluttering but found that I got too extreme with that also and now I miss some of my stuff (like the coffee grinder).  I now pack it up and store it if I may want or need it later.  I cleaned the house from top to bottom and created a daily cleaning schedule to keep my home tidy and kept up.  I do extra chores daily such as wash dirty walls or get the mold out of the tub.  I did have to go to a chemical bathroom cleaner for the tub.  It was so moldy and we have no window in there.  I tried a natural way and sometimes that doesn’t cut it.  I found a great cleaner that makes my shower/tub sparkle.  I took down some of my paintings because my walls looked cluttered and silly.  I run the vacuum throughout the house daily.  I have to, I have children and two dogs and long haired cat.   I either do a quick morning cleaning or have some tea and do an afternoon sprint of cleaning and tidying.

Now for the writing.  I have sent every one of my books off to be properly edited.  I thought I’d done a great job but have received criticism for my typos in reviews.  I want my books to be nice and neat.  I have also bought covers for the last remaining books.  People are more likely to buy books that have covers that don’t look free.  People respect a writer that doesn’t have grammatical errors in her books even if they are only .99 cents.

I also have fiction under a pen name and I have one book I’m working on and 3 on a back shelf that I had started and dropped for one reason or another.  I would like to work on getting these done and build my fiction library.

The last item for this week was house hunting.  I have been having some frustration and blues around what we can afford and what the market offers.  Right now we can get a loan for 130K and we have 30K saved to work with.  We are in California.  Yes, you see my problem.  There is hope believe it or not!  We live in Sacramento and that is now too expensive with the city folk coming on down.  I have found that we can still buy a house in Yuba City that is decent and in a decent neighborhood.  But we must be very clever.  I found a fixer-upper in a nice neighborhood yesterday and put an offer on it this morning.  It is a great old house in a charming neighborhood.  The catch is that it is trashed and filthy beyond imaginings.  The yard has cars and furniture and probably 3 years of dog poop.  We were asked not to go out in the yard.  We would probably need hazmat suits for that.  But hey, this is a chance.  I offered very low with the offer of buying As Is.  We would do all the cleanup.  Other potential buyers may give them their price but will want them to clean and repair all sorts of stuff and they don’t seem to be the “clean and repair” sort of people.   We will see.  They may tell me to go stick it or they may pack their overnight bags and be on their way to a trailer park nearby.  I’m working on my judgment too, did I mention that?

What else, what else…tried to give up coffee.  Not that I have an issue with coffee.  I love coffee and everything that is coffee and it’s cousin.  I turned to tea because I can’t seem to have my coffee without sugar or honey and heavy creamer.  I tried to do Stevia and milk to take it down a notch but detested it.  I also found I was feeling aggressive and not sleeping at night much.  Well, I did tea for 4 days and found I could barely stay on my perch alert during the day and still didn’t sleep great at night.  I was not happy without it and so I have gone back and now I find I don’t mind milk and Stevia now that I have been separated for some time.  I will never part with you, my dear coffee.  I now have my spunk back and my chores are done swiftly with a cup and a song.

Media and my boys.  They are now only getting an hour of PBS in the morning or an hour of Netflix in the late evening.  The weather is warm and sunny and they play outside all day soaking up the vitamin D and running, climbing, digging.  We play good music most of the day in the house and play or read.  Not to say that I don’t resort to Netflix more often at times when I need to conduct business and I can’t throw them outside.  There will be days where I will use it as a tool to get some work or peace accomplished.  I’d like to start turning the focus to ABCMouse daily for at least a half hour for the oldest to prepare him for his homeschooling that will begin at the end of summer.

So, there is my first week.  I’m feeling good.

 

 

 

 

40 Days to Change.

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One Sunday, not too far back, I attended a church service.  My son had suggested that we go and, being that he is not even five years old, I went simple out of the sense that higher powers were sending a message through my son.  That is how the Universe works after all.  You never get direct and clear guidance, you get a riddle that comes through a person, place or thing.  During the service, there was a banner that said, “40 days to change”.  I liked it.  Of course, it was more about Christianity and the message of the bible but I’m an opportunist and I decided to put my own spin on it.

40 days can be used to inspire all kinds of change.  People do 30-day challenges all the time to jump start a new direction in their lives.  It was time for a change and why not give yourself a full 40 days to get to the finish line.

 

Here are the challenges that I’d like to meet; optimizing my families health, getting sugar completely out of our diet, having more fun, being active daily.  For my own personal goals, I want to focus on my writing.  I want to have the books that are already out there shine and to build a big fiction library under my pen name.  I want success with my writing, with my families well being, for my well being.

I can start a program that will be outlined through the 40 days, however, these are goals that will only be integrated during this period and then continued for a lifetime. That’s the hard part and the fun part.  Finding what works for you and the family, finding things that you all will enjoy to infinite.

Day 1 began yesterday.  It started with the books I already have and our diet. I also had to adjust our budget so we can start living a bit better and having some fun.

First I must explain that we live on one income and it’s been very small for years.  Only recently has my husband taken over the management of a small gas station and is doing well, thus our income has increased.  With our tax refund, we paid off a couple little debts.  Our income is larger and more flexible now.  We are still in that extreme frugal mode and it has become a drag, to be honest.  Bali wants to take all the extra money and save like crazy.  I agree with this and I also want us to all eat better, as in green juicing and more organics, and I want to travel to be with friends and family.  We need some fun with that savings regime.

So, I will need to create a new budget.  That will be on Day 3.

So, we will focus on diet.  I have been experimenting with Paleo but I missed baking bread and I found it boring.  Then I went crazy and wound up going off it by practically shooting up bread and chocolate.  I made myself sick and now I’m at the drawing board again.  I have decided to mix a few ways of eating.  Paleo is great and I saw the benefits for me and my family,  however, it’s also not super realistic in the long run for us.  We like homemade baked bread and beans and rice.  We love our homemade french fries.  So, what am I really trying to accomplish here?  Getting rid of the sugar and more vegetables.  This is doable.  Cooking from scratch is what I love doing and it is the best way to get the sugar out.  If you don’t eat convenience foods you don’t eat chemicals and sugar.  Getting my kids on more veggies.  Juicing!  I love juicing and they love drinking it.  Then there is the coffee.  I have to let it go for now.  There is nothing wrong with it except that I must have honey or sugar and lots of cream in it.

Last night I began cleaning my kitchen deeply and organizing all the cupboards.  I didn’t throw anything away, I just put certain foods and baking supplies up on higher shelves.  We aren’t going extreme this time because I always act out.  Cake stuff went on top shelves and dried beans went in jars on the counter.  If a cake day happens, so be it.  There is a comfort in knowing that there is cake mix or a box of macaroni and cheese in the cupboard.  When you strip out your kitchen you feel like your life has been changed so drastically and that is when the freak out happens and you find your face planted in a cake.

I ask Bali to bring home some tea and veggies for juicing and he brought home bags of organic vegetables, greens, lemons, apples, ginger, and all sorts of teas and natural Stevia.  I scrubbed the teapot and washed and stored the coffee pot.  Out came the juicer onto the counter.  By the time I went to bed my kitchen was scrubbed and organized like a cafe.  A natural foods cafe.

I have also switched the cat and dogs off the cheap food and to Taste of the Wild.  That is expensive but grain free and some of the best stuff.  My dogs are sensitive and the sweet potatoes used in the cheap grain free brands gives the hound hot spots and the rice in the other brands was making them itch.  I switched back to this good brand and this is the second day.  No itching.  Maggie, the cat, has also been switched to Taste of the Wild for felines and she has stopped itching.  She also has firmer stools now and isn’t as frantic to get out the door when that moment comes upon her.

Today I made a huge batch of green juice with 4 types of greens, apples, lemons, carrots, celery, ginger, and beets.  I had a quart and the boys drank 3 cups.  I have black beans soaking from last night and now they are simmering with garlic and salt.  I have brown rice steaming in the rice cooker.  I will be baking bread today and steaming veggies to go with our burritos along with an organic chicken I baked the other day and have already used for 3 meals.

When we cut out the snacks, even pretzels, and any kind of eating out, especially the occasional dollar menu at Taco Bell, we have that extra money to exchange for more organic greens and fruit.  I find that my children will eat much better, they will eat the plate of vegetables and bowls of beans if they don’t have the choice of crackers.  They get a huge dose of vitamins with the green juices in the mornings and the day starts out powerfully in the health department.

As for me, I am on my second cup of tea and I’m not suffering.  I like the idea of tea.  I can drink cup after cup all day and not feel nervous and shaky when I’ve accidentally had one cup too much.  I can feel my poor little liver thanking me.

Now for the books and writing.  Yesterday I took some of the tax refund money and bought more nice book covers for my ebooks.  There is something about having a purchased cover that ups sales.  I also sent the last of my books to my friend the editor.  She is kind in not charging me a full price yet as I only make a .35 cent royalty on my books.  I’m only beginning to do well and it is literally enough for tea, covers, and a little editing work.  As my books grow in popularity so do the ratings and this phantom person, I call “The Professor”.  It’s always someone different but each and every book that starts to do well will eventually get a visit and a rating from “The Professor” who will say that he/she would have given me the full 5 stars but my typos and grammatical errors kept me out of the top list.

It’s time to spend that extra money and get professional about all this book business.  When I started it was all just fun and a dollar here and there.  I couldn’t afford a dime.  I did free covers and did my own editing.  I sold a book a week.  Now I sell 11 to 16 a day.  I have to step it up.  I am having all my books recovered and edited professionally and I can still do it on a budget.  I go to the friend that gives me a deal for proofreading and I buy covers from James from GoOnWrite.com who has a section of two for one.  I get the $75 discount on two books but then select from the two for one.  I get 4 covers for the price of two!  I’m still frugal people!

With my fiction, I just need to sit and write.  And write fast.  No thinking.  Just write.  When you get into a rhythm and in tune with your characters and story,  you will know when you are going the wrong way or creating the character in a way that doesn’t work.  You “feel” your story.  You can’t think about pleasing others or if this story will get those stars and good reviews.  Just remember that there are readers for all and any kind of books.  You will find your readers.  And you will have your very own group of them.  You will also have your very own set of critics.  God bless them.  Once you have fans and critics you will know that you’re making it.

With blogging, that’s still just fun but I have found better photos and a better background.

Today is Day 2.

Today I’m baking homemade bread and simmering homemade beans.  I’m going to tackle a room a day.  Yesterday was the kitchen.  Today is my closet.  I’ll get rid of the frumpy clothes.  I’ve purchased a little makeup.  I miss wearing more than mascara and it boosts my looks and esteem when I go out.

Another part of the 40 days challenge is getting me to my best inside and out.  Focusing on daily meditation.  Creating a more attractive wardrobe where I don’t look like a slob when I’m out shopping for groceries.  Going back to wearing nice makeup and coloring my hair.  I have slacked on the exercise so that will become daily again.  Getting the sugar and junk out of my diet.

I had a family reunion recently and my aunt gave me some old photos.  I was not that chubby as I always thought.  It was the sugar and chronic dieting that got me to a larger and not so fabulous state.  I’m not looking to lose a grand amount, I am looking to lose a good 30 lbs and have clear, glowing skin and shiny hair.  I am looking to have a great and simple wardrobe and always present myself to the public looking bright and pretty.  I want to look my absolute best at all my ages.  I have young sons and I’m an older mother and they can still be proud of me.  I can be proud of me.  That starts with self-care.

The journey begins.  We are off to a good start.

 

 

Poor man’s diet.

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Recently I turned our family diet toward a more Paleo lifestyle.  I did all kinds of research and reading as I always do before taking on a new venture.  Paleo seemed like a great way to eat for better health and years ago I had been put on this diet to clear up some health issues.  My acupuncturist put me on the diet before it became so popular.  It cleared up my issues in a short amount of time.

Today, my only issue is being 30 to 40 lbs beyond a balanced weight.  I had some unclear skin and I have a sweet tooth out of control.  I began on this way of eating and the skin did clear up and the sugar cravings diminished.  But I also have been in a foul mood for weeks and I haven’t lost an ounce of weight even with all the exercise and nursing.  Perhaps I am not eating enough or I’m just getting to that age where it will take an act of God to lose the weight.  I have a wonderful metabolism where I don’t gain any weight and I don’t lose either.

I am feeling restricted and I swore with the pregnancy of my first son that I would never, ever be so cruel to put myself on a restricted diet again after experiencing how great life was without a diet to follow.  Diets are just ways to abuse and torture yourself and then really f–k up your self-esteem because you will fail…eventually.  There are even articles on how the body fights dieting and will do what it can to put the weight back on.  Only a tiny percentage of individuals succeed.  You have to change eating habits long term…as in forever.  You have to find a way to eat that you love and can do to the day you die!  Get it?

I’m not loving the Paleo.  I thought I was just getting us healthier but I feel angry and I want to yell at my kids and kick the cat when she meows at me at 5 AM with that demanding way she has.  I feel like my kitchen has died and gone cold.  Meat and vegetables are on the menu morning, noon, and night.  I am thinking vegetarian is looking good again.  At least as a vegetarian, you can cook again.

My kitchen used to be filled with the smells of baking and simmering.  There were soups stewing on the back burner and a couple loaves of homemade bread in the oven.  Once a week I made veggie pizzas from scratch and on these rainy days, I made delicious and hot casseroles.  I made fat burritos and baked vegan cakes as a treat.  The kitchen was warm and cozy, filled with children playing at my feet as I chopped and diced and sauteed.  There were big mason jars filled with flour and nuts.  Now I just steam some vegetables and reheat chicken from the day before and we call it a day.

I want to have great skin and I would love to be slim and fit.  I just am not willing to go to extremes and sacrifice the warmth and nurturing my family gets from my cooking.  We are healthy in our eating and we do exercise every day.  I don’t loose weight and I don’t know if I’ll ever figure it out but I can’t diet.  It is a depressing world for me.

There is nothing like cooking from scratch.  To play music and work in the kitchen kneading dough, blending almonds for milk, sauteing tomatoes for a sauce.  It is heaven.

When I was a kid, before the body obsession and millions of attempted diets that just got me fatter, I was slim.  I didn’t have an issue.  I had 10 lbs to cushion me and thought that was not ok.  I found a photo of me as a kid the other day and I was shocked to see that I was very slim.  I had a perfect body.  Why did I ever think I had to lose weight?  Partly my vain mother and eventually I did get chubby when I discovered smoking pot and candy.  The sugar and pot did not have good effects on the body or my skin.

I thought about how we ate in my childhood home.  We lived in the mountains far from a decent sized town and we were very poor.  We ate simply.  We ate well and my mother loved to cook and eat also.  She always had a pot of something brewing and stewing on the stove.  We ate a lot of brown rice and beans, pot roasts with lots of cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.  We at bananas, oranges, and apples because the fancy fruit was too expensive and there were no mangoes or grapes at our tiny corner market.  We had to eat what was cheap and available.  We ate bread, but whole grain and not a lot.  There was a big garden, an apple tree, and chickens for our eggs, meat, veggies and fruit.  Milk was a luxury and I was allowed one sweet treat on Saturdays along with Sunday pancakes at the local diner once in a while.

We didn’t do convenience foods and packaged foods because that was an unwise way to spend what little money we had.   We didn’t have money for junk food or soda. We drank water.  We cooked from scratch and cooked in ways that stretched meals, such as using lots of potatoes and rice and beans.

We were very slim and healthy.  It was when I started buying greasy fries and bags of candy on my lunches off campus in high school that I started getting the acne and getting chubby.  It was the extreme diets that led to more and more weight gain.

I think about all this as I think about yesterday when I gorged myself on the dollar menu at Taco Bell and ate stale candy after doing some house hunting in undesirable towns and getting frustrated and feeling tired of chicken and being hungry.

Going on special diets is also expensive.  I can’t keep us on a frugal budget with this way of eating.  When I cooked freely we ate well and for half the cost.  I had also slimmed down naturally with the first baby.  I didn’t exercise like crazy and I didn’t diet.  I did stay away from dairy and sugar because I was nursing and I walked daily because we lived in a town that I could walk to the store, to my husband’s shop, and to visit friends.  I cooked all sorts of foods from scratch.  We never ate fast food or went out to eat.  I did not eat junk food.  I treated myself to chocolate in the evenings when I was running a daycare.  It was my equivalent to a glass of wine to unwind.  I was at peace and the weight came off within the year.  With the second baby I started my old dieting behavior and have lost and gained the same 10 lbs.  Lesson learned.

So, we will go back to our old way.  Being poor and on a budget can be the healthiest thing for your family if you know how to be healthy and smart with the grocery money.  I will go back to my own advice.

How to overcome addictions and bad habits.

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It’s around 6:00 am on a Friday morning and I’m sitting in my cozy bed with my delicious coffee, laptop, a cat, two snoring little boys, two dogs, and Good Morning Sacramento.  I have a list of to do’s but it’s all good stuff.  This is a good life.  My life was not always this way.  Some 8 years ago I was alone with not even a goldfish to greet me in the morning.  I was depressed and lonely.  I had some habits that were keeping me in a holding pattern.  Bad habits or addictions, whichever you prefer to call them.

Bad habits or addictions of any kind are destructive to a good and wholesome life.  Simple as that.  You can’t use drugs, over eat all the time, be a chronic stoner, drink heavily all the time and have a great life filled with normal friends, close family, your money in good order, success at work, and inner peace and joy.  A good life and addiction are polarized opposites.  They can not co exist in the same realm.  Not for long.

Some people get fooled because they have addictions and life works out.  For awhile.  But sooner or later the negative and polluting effects of the drugs and drinking catch up.  It’s all metaphysical really.  Call it karma or Law of Attraction.  What you put out comes back.  What you sow you reap.  What you fill your mind with is what you create in your reality.  So, if you are putting yourself in a fog and distorting your thinking with vices then your life will reflect that sooner or later.

I have overcome a few addictions…or really deep rooted habits, that’s how I like to label them.  There are addictions that are in our blood and there are habits that we formed out of wanting to escape or survive and we have done them so long that we just can’t find our way out.  Either one takes a lot of power of the mind and the creation of a whole new life to get to the other side.  Not everyone travels this long and, sometimes, dark and lonely road all the way over to the other country.  The land of milk and honey.  It’s too bad because if you get to the other side it is so well worth it.

For me to say I know how others should do this is rediculous and vain.  Just because I crossed the wild river doesn’t mean that I can build a boat for others to cross over.  What I can do is show you how I did it and if it speaks to your soul then try it.

First, I got to the point of being so tired of my life as it was.  I struggled with it for years and years before I woke up one day and said, “I’m done.”  It sounds simple but it took years of beating my head against the wall and the feeling was deep in my very bone marrow when it finally arrived.  I had exhausted every avenue, I’d tried every way, easy and hard, to change my life.  I finally surrendered and went to a place where others seemed to know what to do to succeed.  I did join AA for over a year.  I immersed myself.  I needed so much help in the beginning.  I had to relearn life in a clear, present, and healthy manner.

But it was also a mind set.  It is a way of being, thinking, and acting that I use anytime I want to over power a habit or way of being that is not conducive to living fully and richly.  I learned tools in AA that I use for all parts of my life to this day.

For example, recently I wanted to change our eating habits to Paleo.  I wanted to succeed at this but I LOVE sweets.   Cake and coffee are my last vices.  I love to use the excuse that I don’t smoke or drink anymore so cake is my last drug.  I have justified many a Boston Cream pie with this slogan.  But I’m tired of being overweight and I see the effects of too much sugar on my health.  I also don’t want my boys to get too into the sweets and have poor health.

So, I struggled with it, tried easier ways, tried finding tricks around doing it fully.  This is a pattern for most of us.  We know we have to change and then we set about doing it.  It gets hard, we miss our habits and then we start negotiating or trying to intellectualize the situation.

Negotiations just mean you are buying more time to be stuck.  Intellectualizing, well, you can’t intellectualize your way into sobriety or healthy habits.  You can think and do therapy until the dawning of the next civilization and it won’t get you sober.

Just do it!  Such a perfect slogan by Nike or whomever.  When it comes to breaking old habits you have to just wake up one day and say, “Enough!” with conviction and then set out to build a new life and new habits with all the fever of a man being chased by a bear.  You have to have a new mind to make a new life!  You have to tell yourself that there are no alternatives, no way back once you start forward.  When the going gets rough and you want to go back you tell yourself, “You have no options to go back.  You have no choice anymore.”  Then you find an alternative that is healthy and positive.

For example; I replaced constant pot smoking and weekend drinking with walking and studying.  I researched everything and I walked miles everyday.  I also wound up with a little homeless mutt and that helped with getting me out and about.  I replaced smoking cigarettes with eating, unfortunately, then movies and reading.  I replaced sitting on my bum being stoned or drunk with writing books, getting involved with the theater, going to a Center for Spiritual Living and taking classes, going to AA and getting fully involved.  I have a whole new life today, 7 or 8 years later.  Now I’m married with children and two rescue mutts, and a cat that came out of an orchard.  Today I’m full, happy, healthy, and sane.

Now I’m working on my health and fitness.  I love exercising but I struggle with comfort foods and sweets.  I now find alternatives at the health food store and am pretty hardcore about no carbs, except fruits and veggies.  I tell myself that this is what I have committed to for at least 3 months.  There is no opting out.  It is a power mindset.  When 3 months come and go we just add another few months on and try for a year.

  • When you give up a habit you MUST replace it with something else or you have an empty space and that will get you into trouble.
  • Finding support is essential for surviving the hard times.
  • Finding friends or making friends that are doing the same thing you are doing will keep you motivated.
  • Research and learning about the issue helps to understand yourself and move forward with more conviction.
  • Creating a new life; such as new hang outs besides the pub, joining a jogging group instead of eating out with friends if over indulgence is the issue.  Finding frugal blogs and books and others that are living simple lives if debt is the issue.

Good luck!!

 

The fun in Frugal and living debt free.

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Hard times hit us all at one time or another.  A spouse loses a job, someone gets sick, we move and life is rocky at first, we start a new career or go back to school and the budget changes in big ways and not always with the green arrow going up.  Then there is debt.  Credit cards packing our wallet, school loans, and that house.  Oh geez, what to do.

If you have debt this will take some time to conquer.  But how worth it to overcome this.  Debt holds us back.  It holds us back from making new life changes (such as going back to school or staying home with a new baby), it decides how well we live and where we live, it keeps us up at night.  When you are debt free, you are truly free in so many ways.  Free to sleep at night, free to move about the country, free to stay home and raise the family.

I wrote a couple books as of lately and in doing so I reread my Complete Tightwad Gazette.  I forgot how fun this huge book is.  I have to reinspire myself often to stay on the frugal track.  Right now we are debt free after years and years of working a few jobs at a time to get out of that debt.  The cars are paid for, one of them was even a cash purchase.  We have no mortgage yet, but we rent and my husband feels like that is just throwing money into the fire.  I have to agree.  We will just pay forever as with a house you buy, there is a chance to pay it off and own it outright.

So, that is the goal now.  In the meantime, we live without the luxury of credit cards and shopping sprees, lunches out unless it’s Taco Bell’s dollar menu, and I walk everywhere with the kids.

A year and a half ago we downsized to a little house and saved ourselves around $600 a month on rent and utilities combined.  With every life challenge, I learn more and more about saving and scrimping.  I know how to be extremely frugal.  Do I always practice it? No, and I have to reel it in all the time.

We have had job loss, a couple moves, gone from great jobs in management to minimum wage cashier jobs.  Through it all, I never had to go back to work outside the home.  I’m grateful for this because I had babies at home and I wanted to be with them every day and all day to see them sprout and thrive.  I couldn’t bare the thought of putting them in a daycare.  Not there aren’t great daycares out there and I know that this is a reality for so many.  I write all these frugal, homemaking books in hopes that I can help those moms stay home if they want.  I feel there is a way if you get smart about the money.  I also believe that sometimes it is actually more cost efficient to have one person stay home.  With commuting, lunch and coffee out, office clothes, and daycare, it adds up.

I remember being in huge debt and wanting to take off and travel or go back to school full time.  I couldn’t do either because I had to have at least 2 jobs to make ends meet.

When you become debt free the world and possibilities open up.  You can be frugal to save money instead of scraping by.  When you practice frugality and thrift as the normal way and you put money away in savings monthly, when you cut cost as much as possible, and voluntarily downsize your life…you win in the end.  You will never go through hard times again.  Why?  Because, when hard times hit you will be prepared.

If Bali loses his job, we have an emergency fund to live off of for a year.  We also have cheap rent and no debt, no car payments.  We can cut off our cable (which is already stripped down), we would downsize to one phone, and we would start shopping at WinCo solely.  That would be all we would have to change.  We wouldn’t suffer.  If Bali got a job flipping burgers we would still be able to pay bills.

Many people are in debt out there, living paycheck to paycheck.  They blow the extra money, the bonuses, they have shopping sprees with the tax returns.  Then s**t hits the fan and they are unprepared and life gets scary.

Here are some quick ideas for beginning a new life the frugal way:

  • Downsizing big time.  Smaller house, get rid of a car.  Move into town and get rid of all the cars and bike, walk, or bus.  If you can’t move get a roommate.  Transform the garage into an apartment.  Some counties will actually pay for this, such as Marin county.
  • Cut and trim all expenses.  Get smaller phone contracts, get rid of the cable and get an antenna, reduce the water and gas usage.  Find ways to reduce, reduce, reduce.
  • Cut the grocery bill in half.  Start shopping at Winco or Foodmaxx.  Good news, they have far more organics and nonGMO’s than ever.
  • Cut up the credit cards and use cash.  Implement the envelope system.
  • Hang clothes outside on a line and inside on a rack during the winter.
  • Drink only water.  Put a filter on the sink or get the Brita pitcher.  Of course, I would never tell you to not drink coffee, just buy a less expensive brand and on sale.:)
  • Give up your addictions.  Cigarettes and good wine cost too much.  Try a sober life and take up jogging.  You’ll be the better for it.
  • Stop going out.  Brown bag the lunch, pack food for trips and outings, make your own coffee.
  • When you do go out use those two for one coupons.  Make it a special event to go to coffee.  I have points I earn at the bank and get Starbucks cards every couple months.  Save those up and use to treat yourself.
  • Walk everywhere to save gas.  We walk to the park, library, appointments, groceries.
  • Do free activities, going to the woods to hike, the ocean to play, the library for movie night.
  • Library.  You can get great novels and new movies, even music through this free Barns and Noble.
  • Reuse, recycle, refurbish everything you can.  Be creative. Mend your clothes, paint that dresser.
  • Become a queen of scratch.  Don’t just cook from scratch, make your household cleaners, your beauty products, baby stuff…all from scratch.  It’s far easier than you think.
  • DIY.  YouTube is great for this.  You can learn to fix your sink, sew, cook, build a house.
  • Unclutter and throw a garage sale to make money.
  • Learn about trading and swapping in your area. This is becoming very popular.
  • Learn about gleaning at the local farms.  Sometimes the farms throw out produce stores don’t want.  See if you can get it at a reduced rate.
  • Use candles.  Before I had babies I used candles at night.  I loved it.
  • Learn to live off grid.  This isn’t for everyone but if we learn to really live simply we save money, we live sustainably.  We need to learn to live green and now.
  • Learn to farm.  Even in the city you can have a garden, a couple fruit trees and chickens.  If not that much space is available, just do container gardening.
  • Grow your own seasoning.  Grow herbs in the windows.

Good luck.  Have fun with this.  Learn everything you can.

The Lazy and Cheap Housewife by [Singh, Kate]Dirt Poor and Lovin' It!: Learning to live on minimum wage painlessly by [Singh, Kate]

https://www.amazon.com/Kate-Singh/e/B018FNFDSM/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0