Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to Live Simpler, and Be Happier

When Joe and I decided that I should work part-time and be home to raise our boys more, we knew that we were going to have to make some big lifestyle changes. Not that we were ever "big spenders", but we did shop when we wanted, we bought the groceries that we wanted, we went out to eat pretty consistently, and we took vacations (all be it, small ones) a couple of times a year, without much thought. Those days are long gone, but not because we can't afford them, but because we have a new focus, new goals, and a new outlook on what's important.

When I made the part-time switch, we lost a fourth of our income. It would have required huge changes in and of itself, but about the same time, we decided that we needed to focus on paying down the mountain of student loan and car loan debt that we had built up. We wanted to be debt-free for our boys, for our future. So we created a budget (modeled by a good friend, and financial genius!), started using cash only, and re-prioritized.

Science experiments, instead of TV
Pancake picnic in our backyard

After about six months of putting all of our extra income toward the car (at a rapid pace), we became addicted and started looking into other ways to increase our extra cash, and decrease our debt. I started couponing, which has resulting in a stockpile of food I have only seen in mom and pop stores. This also became a bit of an addiction. We cut out internet, home phone, and cable (only internet has been renewed), and we had a couple of garage sales. I started planning ahead for birthdays, graduations, and other holidays by buying gifts when I found them on sale, whether close to their birthday/holiday or not. We made almost all of our Christmas gifts last year and I made Liam's big birthday gift, saving us hundreds of dollars, and once again, it felt good.

Since Nolan was born, we have made even more financial changes. We use cloth diapers (not exclusively, but it still cuts costs), we make our own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent, we expanded our garden-which we thoroughly enjoyed last year, I'm making baby food in preparation for Nolan's first eats, and we have become experts at finding cheap and/or free activities that are fun for the whole family. I have also become addicted (yes, I am aware that I have used this word several times) to "Buy and Sell" pages on Facebook. My family has purchased several amazing, previously loved, items at shockingly low prices, and have sold enough to, not only balance out our purchases, but some extra as well.

Lunch date with Daddy
Planting basil in the garden
We have learned where we can "cut corners" (which usually means, "make it better than you can buy it"), and we have learned to enjoy it. I'm not only excited to get our bills each month, but I'm excited to see what else I can do, that will make our overall situation more comfortable. It's crazy how much happier I am doing all of these things for my family and for myself! It's nice to feel like you are making a positive contribution to your family's financial future, even though you are making half as much money; that you are making lasting changes, and that your family is better off for them.

So here it is in a nutshell:

-Make what you can
-Grow a garden
-By used/sell what you don't use
-Use cash only
-Make a budget
-Pay down debt, and don't create more
-Use the library, Groupon, and other resources to find fun, cheap things to do
-Enjoy nature
-Get rid of "distractions" (cable, internet-if you can stand it....clearly I couldn't live w/o internet, but I lasted over a year!)
-Use a cell phone, not a smartphone
-Think ahead for holidays, birthdays, other celebrations
-Downsize your closet, your garage, your clutter
*Be happy!*

Doing these things will put you on track financially, help you use your time productively, and make you see what is truly important, your family!

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