It’s been a year since we declared being debt free, and in that time we have had a baby, quadrupled our rented house footage, and have been able to stop scrutinizing and questioning every penny spent. Although we currently have a fully funded emergency fund, we find ourselves running short on cash after furnishing a larger place (our previous cottage was tiny and lovely and fully furnished with built-ins) and paying for all the baby stuff we never thought we would want to have around.
Every year or so Ali and I find ourselves in a place of wanting to break bad habits and re-evaluate our life decisions by putting a freeze on spending activity. This is not difficult for Ali who is the typical dude who will question (for example) why he needs new clothes when the soles are falling off his old shoes. I’m the kind of gal who is like “oh, I’m bored? how about a trip to TARGET?!”
Sooooooo, since late August we have declared a spending freeze on everything except the necessaries (groceries, toiletries, gas, etc) with a nod to the idea that we should be using things up before buying new.
This has been extremely difficult for me! I laughed when I bought the cup of fresh squeezed lemonade from the girls at their family’s yard sale for $0.25, but I didn’t laugh when I spent $200 on furniture. I’m annoyed and freshly aware of how retailers use sales and email coupon codes that expire “tomorrow!” to try to entice impulse purchases with the justification that it “might not go on sale again.”
Action steps: I’m taking a deep breath and stepping back… unsubscribing from email lists and daily deal sites and RSS feeds from those who focus on deals, because it encourages me to want to spend money on something just because it is a good price. Our checking account balance is low enough right now that I risk fees if I use the cards again so that is warning enough to keep the purchases at bay. We’re carrying cash for groceries and stopping to let each transaction hurt a little rather than provide the dopamine rush of swiping the plastic for the magic free money tree.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this yet, but I will admit that I have lost the frugal budgeteer edge I had gained during our project – we are back to old consumption habits and impulse purchases that are impeding our timeline for putting together a down payment on a house (presumably our next big financial move). I don’t mind renting but I would like the option to buy when the time is right.
Our Q&A with Kelly House appeared in today’s print version of The Oregonian newspaper. Here’s a link to the online story, some interesting reader reactions.
Although our situation isn’t/wasn’t necessarily typical in the details, carrying around a large burden of debt is unfortunately VERY much the norm.
We welcome you to click around this site’s archives to find out more about what the journey looked like for us, and hope that you will find some inspiration for your own life and situation. We’re cheerleaders for the freedom that comes from being debt-free.
- 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Clip Coupons (Kentin Waits | Wisebread)
This article succinctly summarizes my complaint with couponing. I’ve been trying out it out a bit in the past month since signing up to receive weekend delivery of the Oregonian. I’m disappointed to find that I have accumulated a lot more processed food in the pantry that I don’t enjoy eating, simply because a $1 coupon brings it down to ‘reasonable’ cost. My shopping energy has turned toward hunting down the exact type of item the coupon requires (not to mention the coupon sorting energy) and I am no longer as well stocked with fresh and healthy produce.
If you are into couponing, here are two local sites that basically have the exact same content (I can’t figure out who is copying who) and obsess over online and local NW shopping deals and coupon strategy.
“Combine spring cleaning, recycling, and fun – It’s an upscale FREE garage sale! Your outgrown stuff will be loved by someone else, your house will be less cluttered, you’ll find new-to-you items you CAN use…plus, you’ll be helping positive organizations in our community!”
“Clean out your house, garage, and shed of all the STUFF you no longer need want or love, wash it up, make sure all the parts are there and everything is in working order, and bring it to the Spring Stuff Swap!”
- SPEND OUT (Gretchen Rubin | The Happiness Project)
- 6 Crucial Job Searching Steps Most People Skip (Julie Rains | Wisebread)
Good basics refresher; As someone who was an Office Manager receiving end, I feel meh about the thank you note followup part and personally think that step is a little on the cheesy / desperate side.
- Balancing Technology (Valerie Plowman | Babywise)
This piece brings up some good points about the balance between technology, life, parenting. We’re thinking a lot about our media consumption and the amount of time we want to spend face-to-face with our son in these upcoming months.
I’ve always loved this Threadless shirt, and now that we have finished our debt repayment project in the form of a rhino, the design has taken on an entirely new meaning. I should get a onesie or t-shirt for our son! Ha.
I have been collecting links to share with you, and the list has grown so huge I am going to break it down by section. These posts basically represent the types of reading I do in addition to photography and design related books and sites.
MONEY in GENERAL
Enjoy! Hope you find something here useful.
I gotta be honest, I see the new Bank of America debit-related fees in direct correlation with airlines charging for luggage. I don’t understand why people don’t immediately bail on BofA for better organizations. I’m happy with my experiences with the local credit union for my business accounts, and Ali and I use ING direct for our personal finances. Recommend!
Here’s some of what I am reading this week:
Don’t duck new debit card fees by grabbing your credit card (the Oregonian, Brent Hunsberger)
Is Bank of America’s $5 Monthly Debit Card Fee Just the Beginning? (Wisebread, Paul Michael)
Avoiding the Poverty Tax (Wisebread, Philip Brewer)
Use These Printable Money Envelopes to Switch to Cash and Stay on Budget (Today’s Nest, via Lifehacker)
You don’t need the new iPhone (mnmlist) ‘Men have become tools of their tools.’ ~Henry David Thoreau
The Benefits of Buying Virtually Everything Used (TIME, J.D. Roth)
9 Ways to Earn Extra Cash When Money Is Tight (Wisebread, Mikey Rox)
For those of you who are interested (or currently residing) in tiny houses, here’s an article about organization:
Staying Organized in Small Spaces (Kent Griswold, Tiny House Blog)
Ali and I have a storage unit where most of our household basics are stored while we live in our little furnished cottage, and this helps us keep things under control.
One of the ways I kept balance during our months of extreme frugality was by occasionally indulging in little luxuries. Now that we’re done with our first major financial goal, we’ve freed up some cash to indulge in slightly larger luxuries like travel, eating out, and less excruciating decision making when out shopping.
Living a Simple Life While Adding a Few Luxuries (Jeff Nickles, My Supercharged Life)
SIMPLICITY CAN BE INCREDIBLY LIBERATING.
Hi Everyone! In the past month we’ve been basking in the freedom of being debt free, and enjoying sharing our story with friends and family. It’s powerful to know that choices we made in the past year so drastically influenced our life and will help shape a new financial story for our family.
I haven’t yet announced in this forum that we’re now parents! We’re starting our family life debt free, which feels wonderful. Everything feels timed to perfection.
On the less positive side, around the same time I realized I was pregnant I also realized that I hadn’t been keeping up with my business accounting very well this year. I discovered a huge gap in my photography income to expense ratio, having spent much more than I thought toward re-establishing my little photography business. It looks like I was so busy micromanaging personal expenses that I neglected to watch my professional expenses and ended up getting “death by paper cut” in a lot of little expenses that added up to quite a sum. It was a rookie mistake to miss the bigger picture snapshot of my business accounting. I’m still reeling from that wake up call, and trying to figure out whether I will be able to close the gap, or should consider the difference lost “start up” expenses for the year. Whether people are generous in their portrait followup sales will make a big difference to this outcome, because I have not been able to charge what I “should” be charging in session fees this year, rather hoping for the followup sales. (Another bad idea.)
I’ll leave you with a couple of interesting links I’ve had in open tabs for a week now.
Buying with plastic not good for impulse control, or obesity (Published: Saturday, September 17, 2011) Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian
A Comprehensive Guide to the Envelope System by Matt Bell (Wisebread)
[award-winning photo by Alex Bernasconi – image source]
Here’s a photo I took of the black rhino at the Oregon Zoo. Film, 85mm focal length, Nikon F100 camera.