Powering Down

March 16, 2009

It is commonplace for the cost-concious, the frugal-minded to power down lights when leaving a room or unplug unused appliances.

Since I became unemployed yet again back in November, I began taking my power usage one step farther.

I open my blinds as soon as the sun comes out, turn the thermostat down as far as I can comfortably bear, and try to avoid any usage of electricity other than the occasional push of my vaccum (which I have reduced down to once a week).

I cannot say that such tiny measures have placed millions into my pockets, but it has made me more aware of what I use and why.

Do I really need the lamp on when I read? Or can I sit by the window in my livingroom and enjoy my book in the dull March sunshine?

Such “hacks” work in my day to day life. With the arrival of spring weather on its way, I am sure that I will find other ways to cut back, and power down my home.

From This moment forward…

January 15, 2009

When I started the Thriftehayseed blog back in April 2008, I thought that I could add myself to the masses of the ‘frugal advice’ style blogs that were so dear to my heart. I realized

  1. Blogging frequently is hard
  2. Most frugal advice is already out there, and has been written by more knowledgeable individuals than I.
  3. I had little clue what I was doing.

That being said, I have decided that my blogging efforts on Thriftehayseed need to be refocused.

  1. I will blog about things that I do to cut costs.
  2. I will link to favorite blogs and recommend books
  3. I will blog more frequently, without any pretensions. I will put my family first, my health first, and most of all GOD first before blogging.

Looking back at `08

January 1, 2009

Like many, I stayed up to ring in the New Year’s with family. My youngest son even managed to stay awake long enough to watch the telecast of the ball drop in NYC.

2008 was, well..
I began the ThrifteHayseed blog after my job was downsized in March. I love to write, so I thought that blogging would come easily. I soon learned that serious professional-grade blogging is not easy at all. Balancing my household, children, and marriage made posting to the blog another task to procrastinate. One month after being downsized, I began another full time job. Writing to my blog got shelfed most of the time.

My new work schedule was difficult to adjust to. As I began to adjust to the new work hours and new job responsibilities, life happened. I began to have some health issues.

By August, my health issue had gotten to the point that my doctor began to talk to me about seeing a specialist, and also having a CAT scan.

Just days before Labor Day, I underwent surgery. I took a non FMLA leave, but only missed one week of work.

What I hadn’t counted on was that my immune system had taken a traumatic blow. I began to catch every stomach virus going around. No amount of vitamin C helped. I missed work for the simple reason that I had never been that sick and weak before. Ever.

One weak before Thanksgiving, my new workplace decided to drastically reduce its workforce. In all, 80 individuals lost their jobs that day. I felt like I probably deserved to be perm. laid off – the others, not so much.

The year ended with me having no new job prospects. The economy ended down, and my rural area has been effected by it strongly.

What now, `09?
I stopped making true resolutions 2 years ago. I never seemed to keep them anyways.

Instead, I have been making a list of things that I would like to do better at.

Here’s this year’s list:
(1) Keep myself healthier.
(2) Maintain a prioritized spending budget, and cut as many unnecessary costs as possible.
(3) Study GOD’s Word on a daily basis. Study it, know it, and then put it into action in my life.
(4) Make more happy memories; Eliminate new regrets.

Happy 2009.

It crawls in our mailboxes, out of our children’s backbacks, and colonizes on our kitchen counter.

It’s Paper.

  • Cutting off the supply Line

To reduce Paper Clutter, one means is to cut of the ways in which you receive paper. Begin by cutting off unnecessary catalog deliveries. Usually, a quick call or email to the catalog companies will cut off all deliveries as soon as two months. If credit card offers are the majority of your incoming paper, there are a few options:

Junk Mail is not the only incoming paper into our housome, and it is very unlikely that it is for your household as well. Other incoming sources of paper many include children’s school work, church flyers, coupons, etc. One method to cut out paper into your home is to place a small box (cardboard boxes are cheap and environmentally friendly) and sort through all paper that comes into your home daily or weekly. Typically, my two sons will bring home 10-15 sheets of paper each from school a week. Each Friday, I try to make it a point to go through their weekly paper pile. I keep a select few for mementos and scrapbook items, mail some to grandparents, and use the others as scratch paper.

Eliminate Unnessary Paper Waste

Not to sound a little Environmentally biased, I do think that one way to conquer paper is to cut out unnessary paper waste. I “repurpose” as much paper as possible into my scrapbooking, into making mini notepads, or as collage materials for my local church. Other ways to cut unnessary paper waste include recycling, and using non-paper methods (electronic).

Divide and Conquer what you have

Having reduced the amount of paper that comes into our homes and eliminated unnessary paper waste, the next portion of the Paper Conuest is to Divide and Conquer. Begin by getting a large cardboard box, storage tub, or milk crates and piling all your paper clutter into them. Grab some smaller boxes or even bags. Begin by quick sorting through all of the paper items. This first quick sort is to toss out anything that you are certain beyond all reason is trash. Don’t daly on this one – just sort through it quickly. Secondly, Repile all the paper back into the box/boxes. This is where true organization comes into play. Go through your paper mountain again, this time carefully evaulating each and every item. Ask yourself the following:
        1. Do I HAVE to keep this for Legal/Financial Purposes?
        2. Do I WANT to keep this for personal reasons?

If you answered yes to one of these questions, you place the paper items into a seperate box. Be your own critic here over the necessity of the paper items. When this sorting (The Dividing) is through, it is time to Conquer!

Conquer what you have decided to keep by immediatly taking the time to put it in a designated place (and no ,shoved up underneath your bed is not a good place). File it, place it into binder, mail them to family members – deal with (Conquer) your paper pile. If you do not have the needed tools to deal with it, make a POSTED date by which you will do it and place reminders to yourself everywhere to the point of annoyance.

Things to keep in mind

Try to reduce the amount of paper that comes into your house. Make efforts to recyle and/or reduce paper waste. Sort and Find a Home for the paper that comes into your house. By setting down basic guidlines, you will be able to prevent your home from becoming a permanent rest stop for paper.

Budget.

It is almost a fowl word in many households. People rationalize their resistance to the budget in many ways. However, there is nothing scary or intimidating about a budget.

Putting it in Writing

Dave Ramsey often says the budget must be “on paper, on purpose”. I agree. Budgetting is essentially putting everything in writing. A basic notebook, calculator and pencil will work. If you are more technologically inclined, then Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, and other financial software does exist. The key is to pick something that you will actually feel comfortable using and USE it!

Income –

Begin by listing all money that comes into the house. This includes salaries, bonuses, tips, gifted money or found spare change. Every copper coin that comes into your household must be writen down. If you are a single adult, then you are accounting only for yourself. if you have a spouse, children, or other tendents, then their incomes must be recorded.

What MUST be paid

Now that you have on paper or spreadsheet all income that comes into the house, you must begin calculating what MUST be paid. Dave Ramsey often refers to this as “prioritized spending”. Home, food, and utilities must come first. To insure that my family has shelter, the first thing I list in my budget is the payment on our home. Secondly, the second thing on my list is food. We have a family of 4, so I have slated about $100 a week on our grocery budget. Thirdly, we pay our utilities. Every other bill falls somewhere else in the list.

This part is about the barebones minimum. I am not saying that other bills should be ignored, or that this number will not change. This is being real about what is the bare amount that has to be paid, no matter what.

Tweakin’ It – Or the Emergency Budget Committee Meeting

Once you have placed in writing what comes in and what must come out, then things will begin to get hairy. Realize that your first, second, or even third spending plan/budgets will need some tweaking. Let’s say you estimate that your family will only spend $50 a week on groceries, and that come 2 weeks into the month, you are finding it impossible to do. Don’t give up on your budget. Just Tweak it. Look at how you can adjust or sacrifice in one area to give yourself some extra in another. The key to the tweakin’ is in not giving up. My husband & I are in our 4th month of living “on paper, on purpose” as Dave Ramsey says and I suppose we have had about 6 “emergency budget committee meetings” since.

The key is not to give up. Find a system of record keeping (budgeting) that works best for you and tweak it until it becomes second nature. It is the budget that has helped to put my household on track to getting out of all debt.

Links:

Gather Little By Little: “Create a Budget and Follow it”

Christian Personal Finance: “How to Budget”

Bible Money Matters: “Cash Flow Planning (part of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University)”