Friday, August 27, 2010

Twenty Ways to Improve Your Life

An inspiring article showed up on “In the Trenches” last week, and it got me thinking. We often beat ourselves up over lost opportunities or analyzing decisions to death. What 20 things can I do to make life better? With what I have on hand at this very moment?

1 Lose two pounds to start
2 Have a yard sale
3 Paint our bedroom closet
4 Re-veneer my desk top
5 Sand and paint our folding chairs
6 Repaint our bathroom a better color
7 Try a new recipe for bread
8 Finish Isaac’s quilt
9 Put the back on Ron’s needlepoint pillow
10 Start saving for a visit to Italy
11 Listen to music
12 Study my Italian CD’s
13 Do one thing each day just because it’s fun
14 Wake up to see a sunrise
15 Give the kids hugs
16 Give Art hugs
17 Memorize one really good Bible section
18 Throw pennies from the coin jar onto the sidewalk, and watch who picks them up
19 Soak in the tub with bubbles for an hour
20 Write a real letter to a friend

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Too Much Stuff

Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.
- Edwin Way Teale

Having stuff is like having a cat. You think you own it, but it actually owns you. It’s amazing how much you accumulate over time. I’m convinced it breeds secretly in dark corners. Hence the phrase, “Where did this come from?”

Right now our living room is slowly losing that “disaster area” feel as I price things for next week’s yard sale and stash them in the garage. It should be a doozey. At least five neighbors are participating at their respective homes. We hope to have a really good turnout. The Foxes are no slouches either. Isaac went though another growth spurt and we’re trying to cut our losses on the clothes front. Then there’s furniture, books, and many items from my abortive attempt at the antiques and collectable business a couple years back.

Just where are those Life Laundry people when you need them?

Maybe we should follow Mom’s suggestion (she didn’t, by the way), to move every two years.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Six Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving

You don’t need smoke and mirrors to stash cash, you can do it. Just go for it.

Take the saying, “pay yourself first” to heart. What about an automatic deduction from your paycheck? Or put that bit of cash away in an account somewhere or under the mattress even, and plan your budget apart from it. You’ll never notice it’s missing.

Tuck away oddball business extras. You know, bonuses, overtime pay, tips, and put them in a different place. If it helps, buy a CD to keep yourself from temptation.

Live on last year’s earnings. Just pretend that inflation adjustment never came through. Don’t hyperventilate, you will be able to manage. Your savings will thank you.

Don’t laugh about this one, but do you remember keeping a penny jar in your room? Just dump each day's change into a clear sided jar and literally watch your savings grow.

Cash in your trash. If your state has a system for redeeming bottles and cans, go for it. If not, look into recycling centers near you. Aluminum cans in our area bring in a decent return.

Money making ventures like yard sales, credit card cash backs, rebates, and survey cash rewards add up. As soon as they come in hand, put them aside. Slow and steady wins the race on this one.

See, you’re that much richer, and it didn’t even hurt.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Too Frugal

At what point does frugality become a moral issue? When is the line drawn by cultural norms, instead of actual “wrongness” or “rightness”?

I just had a rather interesting back and forth with a PF blogger. He thought cutting a dryer sheet in two or putting two good nylon legs from two pairs together when the other legs got runners to save money was "too frugal". I draw the line at “thou shalt not steal” This command actually covers a broad range, from doing your neighbor’s finances good, to seeking to better your own.

So if I ask for free samples only to receive something free, with no intention to consider purchase, that is harming my neighbor’s finances. If I put money in the bank to gain interest or use it to start a business or get an education, that is seeking my own financial benefit, but is not wrong.

Another is “thou shalt not murder” Any practice that shortens life, or decreases health is eliminated. So avoiding the dentist for 20 years or eating only jelly sandwiches to save money when you have the means, is out.

Current gray areas include dumpster diving, trash picking, gathering aluminum cans off the street. In these cases the command to “honor your mother and father” comes into play. It includes the rights of authorities to enact laws. So if a dumpster has a “keep out” sign, it’s locked, it’s on private property, or the local laws prohibit it, then don’t dive. In the realm of “equals” these practices become issues, if they cause a brother to stumble, encouraging him to sin against conscience. In those cases, don’t tell him, or do it in front of him.

To withhold what is due God is a moral issue. You shall have no other gods before Me. If in order to save money I don’t pay the tithe, that reveals a heart attitude. I am worshiping mammon and not God.

There’s a different set of constraints and freedoms if God’s law is used as a moral basis for frugality. A greater freedom to pick mulberries from a tree in a field to munch on, or take a needed chair from a pile on trash day.

One point. We may be able to say definitively something is morally wrong (any form of stealing or coveting) but there's a whole range of preferences. I know someone that "never bought anything at a yard sale" and never would. But if another mom didn't buy stuff at a yard sales/thrift shops her family would go without the basics. The one lady has the means to decide either way. The other doesn’t. This becomes an issue when it causes a brother to stumble, when we look down on the “poor” man as a moral failure or look up to the “rich” one as somehow morally superior. If someone wants to halve their dryer sheets or double up on nylons, why do I think it odd? We shouldn't make distinctions where Christ hasn't. And if we are aware of a situation, don't we have a greater obligation to share with those in need?