Getting a handle on my finances

I created this awesome Excel spreadsheet that I can use to keep track of my budget, and I’m just nerdy enough that Excel makes me excited.

Anyhow, I think if I am careful and thoughtful with my money, I can have both credit cards and the orthodontist paid off by August. If I can get over that hurdle, the summer hurdle, I can get the car paid off by the end of the year.

I know I said in an earlier post that I was paying off the car and then selling it, but I think until we actually get to the place where we don’t need a car, I need to re-think that one. First of all, winters in the Pacific Northwest aren’t always bike-friendly. Secondly, if I get too crazy and try to change everything all at once, the kids are going to kill me.

Well, I just paid off a huge chunk of credit card, and the weird thing that happened was I was immediately tempted to go out and spend some money! I don’t know why I would want to do that, but this is tough. I keep telling myself to just chop up the cards so I can’t use them anymore, and this voice in my head argues back and says stuff like, “What if there’s an emergency? What if you NEED to use the card?”

I don’t know if I trust myself to pay off the cards and not use them any more…For now, I am putting both of my credit cards into a Ziploc gallon bag full of water and sticking it in the freezer. It will be a mind over matter battle to live within my means.

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Baby steps…going chemical-free!

Okay! So, I cleared out my bathroom of all but the essentials, and WOW, I had a lot of product that I never used in there. Just being aware of how much I’ve spent on stuff I didn’t use is eye-opening. I threw out about 30 lbs. of expired product, and I gave my kids a bunch more that they will use up. (Waste not, want not.) It is the best feeling to open up the drawers and medicine cabinet and not see a bunch of stuff in there. I still have all the stuff I need to look and smell clean, just not all the extra hair goop, twelve different kinds of shampoo, chemically-laden facial creams and cleansers, and other stuff that doesn’t seem like it would be that good for me.

I did opt to keep a few things, like face moisturizer, since I want to use that up before trying something new. About a year ago I started buying only organic or vegan face products and soaps, so I will probably keep up that habit. I had a lot of old free sample stuff from the department stores and mini-soaps from hotels. I am pretty sure I won’t need to use that stuff anymore…right?

I did find some interesting alternatives for everyday grooming online. I am going to give baking soda and apple cider vinegar a try on my hair, instead of using shampoo. Also, I read that coconut oil and raw cacao butter can be used as moisturizers.

I also want to experiment with making my own products with essential oils and raw ingredients. I will keep you posted on what seems to work and what doesn’t. I might eventually work my way up to making my own soap…we’ll see, as that looks complicated.

I’m not much of a make-up person, so I will probably not have to worry about that so much.

As for household cleaners, I am focusing on baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide in various applications. Baking soda and vinegar is inexpensive and can be used to clean everything from laundry to the bathtubs, to stovetops. I can use peroxide to scrub the bathroom, and I am going to try to wean myself and the kids off of using the spray chemicals for cleaning. We will need to safely dispose of the chemical stuff, or use the stuff we have left and then transition to natural alternatives, which will be a process.

The kids are on board with this…cool!

I did sit down with the kids yesterday and talk about my plan. Surprisingly, they were totally on board with selling all our stuff and basically moving to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. My teenage daughter (15) said it would be nice to not have to deal with high school, and my son (17) was interested in some of the homesteading skills he would have to learn.

I asked if they would miss stuff like TV and video games and they unanimously said, “no.” Weird.

I wonder if they will miss having a dryer for the laundry, or hot water on demand…I wonder if they will miss being able to run over to the grocery store across the street and buy ice cream whenever they want.

Or, maybe they will be so in love with the peace and quiet, so tired from a full day’s work, real work, that they won’t care about the stuff.

Well, now that I have their approval, I am going forward with phase one. Limited budget, paying off credit cards and debt, preparing to live on a very limited income.

I think I am feeling hopeful and excited.

Ugh. Middle of the night second thoughts.

I can’t believe I am really going to do this. But as I lie here in the middle of the night, listening to the delivery trucks across the street, stressing out, I realize I don’t have a choice.

(okay, hilarious sidebar, my dog is yowling at his own reflection in the mirror, as if to dramatically commiserate with me)

There has got to be a better way to live…

Today, I need to make a budget and start living within my means. I need to commit to get myself out of this mess so I don’t have live like a slave to my stuff anymore.

Starting out…

I’m so tired.

I’m tired of the daily grind, the need to drag myself in to a job I hate, every day, to earn money to buy things I don’t need and can’t even use because I’m always working. I’m tired. Tired of consuming more useless stuff, more television, more prepackaged, “easy” food. I’m tired. Tired of not doing what I know I should be doing to take better care of myself, my family, my planet. I’m tired of worrying about bills, grocery shopping, laundry, the house, the car, and I’m really tired of caring about what everyone else thinks of me. I am tired of living an un-simple life.

So I’m going to change everything. I’m giving myself 1 year to pay off my bills, sell 85% of my stuff, get my life figured out and start living a sustainable life. I am going to experiment with everything from eliminating chemicals from my daily routine, to learning how to make and store food from scratch. Pioneer-style. Old-school. I am going to start consuming less and simplifying more. And I’m starting today.

If this sounds familiar, and if you are sitting there reading this thinking, “Yeah, me too. But that’s life. Nothing but the daily grind until we die,” then let me tell you a secret. Your life doesn’t have to be empty days and weeks and months and years of the daily grind, either.

Join me in my journey, as I photo-document and blog about my experiences learning how to live on a little so I can enjoy life a lot.