The Club Cleaner

11/08/2010

(Photo Source)

This is the story of how I got it, and how I got rid of it.

During the past summer, I attended golfing event.  I had never been golfing before, and I found the experience very interesting.

I also quickly found out that not only does it cost an arm and a leg to get into a golfing facility, it equipment also costs a lot.  Golf clubs and golf shoes are not cheap.  For this event, I just wore my running shoes, and borrowed clubs from my friend.

At a 50/50 charity raffle, I won a set of golf cleaners!

Woopee!  But I had already made the decision that golfing wasn’t for me (I think it’s a wasteful sport, but we’ll save that for another post).  I knew that I had to get rid of them on the spot before they came home with me.    I asked one of the guys if they wanted it since I had no use for it.  He was super happy, and I got to leave with one less item to clutter my place!

How do you get rid of freebies that you may not need or want?

Recently, I haven’t been doing a very good job keeping tabs on my expenses, so in this post, I decided I would track my expenses for the month of October and report back to you.  Accountability is great motivation!

Here’s a snapshot of my expenses, excluding rent:

I’ve excluded rent, charity, retirement, savings, long term investments, and money I give to my parents because that’s a little too personal here.  Everything else, I’ve included.

Groceries: I’m not sure if I should put alcohol under here or entertainment.  I usually don’t spend very much on alcohol, maybe a bottle or two of wine a month.  This month was an exception as BF was hosting a Hallowe’en house party.

Transportation: I bought some filters for my cabin and engine since the mechanic flagged them last time.  It costs $35 for them both, and would have cost me $100 had I gotten them done at the dealership!

Telephone: Check!

Entertainment: Volleyball fee’s were due this month.  We split the costs as a team, and it usually ends up around $10 per person per game if you average out the season.  Unfortunately, this only left me with $10 of entertainment budget left for the month.  A budget of $140 would have been more reasonable.

Medical: I had been neglecting to see my dermatologist, so I went in for an appointment and got my prescription filled.

Eating Out: This is a touchy topic for me.  BF and I are big fans of eating out on the weekends.  I’m pretty good with packing my lunches for the week, but when the weekends hit, we go out for food with friends on a Friday, grab brunch or Dim Sum on a Saturday or Sunday, and there you have at least $50/weekend.  We do cook at least one meal on the weekend and have started cooking more, so I’m hoping to spend $150 next month!

Toiletries/Grooming: Was running out of shampoo, conditioner and my trusty MAC blotting powder.  I could have bought this stuff next month, but it would have happened sooner or later.

Clothes: I returned the jacket and shoes I bought last month – I didn’t love them.  I also got my winter jacket from last winter dry cleaned ($25) and my jeans altered ($15) and my boots fixed ($40).  In addition to that I bought a pair of  burgundy tights, a pair of knee high socks (for Hallowe’en costume and my trendy item this winter), a 6-pack of underwear, 2 shirts and a cardigan.  Full disclosure, people :)

Misc: I spent this on the Minimalist E-Book sale.  I don’t usually buy books, so I decided to file it under Misc, though I guess technically it can be under entertainment.  I’ve gone through two of the e-books, and I find them to be pretty good reads.

I think I’m gonna start playing a game where I get a prize at the end of the month if I am within my budget.  This calls for me to roll up my budgeting sleeves, while keeping in mind my overall savings goals, and being realistic.  I like a challenge (and a prize!).

That’s all from me!

How about you?  Do you enjoy tracking your expenses and budgeting?  Do you reward yourself after you’ve reached a certain goal?

In my last post, I talked about how a comment left by reader Mason sparked in me the need to respond.  I responded because he brought up good points, despite being a bit rude and accusing.

This brought about responses from the Everyday Minimalist, Hasina at Fabulissime, and Charlie over at Charlie’s Blog.  It was great reading all these different responses and made me think even more on whether or not minimalism is a fad.

From reading the various discussions, and my own experience, minimalism is personal.  Everyone’s minimalist journey is different – you don’t even need to call it a minimalist journey – call it the awareness journey, priority journey, whatever you like.  You can have 50 items, you can have 100 items, you can have 500 items – it doesn’t matter.  No one is counting.  What’s important is that you make a conscious choice to keep the things in your life because they add value to your life.

Yes, there are people who take minimalism to the extreme and live with 50 items, or 100 items, and they write an e-book or book about it.  As Everyday Minimalist put it, they live with their backpack and headful of ideas.  Good for them.  If they create a quality product where there is a demand and need for it, it’s smart marketing.  If it can sustain their lifestyle from selling their products, then all the power to them.  They deserve it.  But they are not the only minimalists out there, and not all minimalists need to follow that path.

Sure, we read about minimalists who have quit their day jobs and are living the carefree lifestyle, jet setting or living out of their backpack.  Not everyone can do that.  Not everyone wants to do that.  This way of a minimalist lifestyle that is most feasible for young, single people.  What about the couple who work a little above minimum wage, and are barely making ends meet to feed their family of 5?  Do you think them quitting their day job is going to give them freedom?  Probably not.

There are plenty of people who work 9 – 5 jobs, own a house, own a car, live with more than 100 things, watch tv, sleep on a bed, and they can also be minimalists.  Being a minimalist is having your priorities straight and living in line with your purpose in life.  You spend money and time on things that will bring you value, and cut out the rest.  It can and should be fun :)

For me, living a more minimalist lifestyle has following positive impacts:

  • Spend with a purpose – I really do my research before buying something (i.e., no less impulse shopping)
  • Spend less
  • Save more
  • Be more aware of other aspects of my life, such as the chemicals I use (i.e, shampoo, cleansers, etc.)
  • Be more aware of the food I eat and eat better (i.e., how processed it is, is it local/organic)
  • Give more to charity
  • Reflect and re-evaluate life more
  • Use the library or swap books more
  • Keep my place cleaner and less clutter
  • Help my parents plan for early retirement by understanding how they can downsize their lifestyle and achieve financial freedom

I loved that Everyday Minimalist shared how she is a normal individual with a twist.  That really resonates with how I see myself, as well!

I’m a just a normal woman who is happy with less stuff, and having more meaning in the stuff I keep. I’m not doing this because I am in debt, or because I need to cut back on spending.  I am doing this because it makes me feel lighter, happier, and it gives me financial stability  That’s all :)

A few things about me:

  • I have a 9-5 job as a young professional
  • I drive a car (my parents)
  • I live in a city
  • I wear make up
  • I like fashion and nice clothes
  • I love my bed (it’s got box spring and mattress, and bed frame)
  • I have a tv and basic cable (a Sharp 1995-ish – good quality ;) )
  • I use shampoo on a daily basis, but have tried several times to ween off of it to no avail
  • I eat meat, though I aim to eat less red meat and rarely make it at home
  • I eat out at restaurants and I enjoy it
  • I have watched the following shows religiously at one point or another: The West Wing, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, Law and Order, Modern Family, The Wire, Sailormoon, Arthur, 30-Minute Meals, Everyday Italian
  • I love to travel and will happily spend money and my precious 10 days of annual vacation exploring another city, country or continent

Your life is how you make it, and your style of minimalism is how you make it.  Maybe you’ll try it and find it’s not the thing for you, that’s OK.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and as Everyday Minimalist, Charlie and Hasina pointed out, it will probably be a fad for many.  But for those of us who are true minimalists, our values are not altered by the state of economy, and therefore, it’s not a fad. It’s a way that we chose to live.

Thanks for all who have shared their thoughts, and thanks to Mason for bringing this discussion to light.

Is Less More?

10/30/2010

(Photo source)

There has been a movement in the world of minimalism, lately.  And I thought that I would address the question, “Is living with less really more?”

Recently I received a comment from a reader, and they wrote the following:

Trendy nonsense.
This is just an attempt to make money by selling a lifestyle.

This is the new real estate scam: selling psychological ‘guilt-free’ living.

10 years from now all these ‘minimalists’ will be bcak to their old ways, just like the Boomers got square during the Reagan years. Right now, these yuppies are converting their reduced income into a ‘smugness’ account so that they can continue to feel superior to the ‘unenlightened’ down the block.

He/she has a few valid points and some points that I do not agree with.  Let’s discuss, shall we?

Yes, there is a recession or slow down in the economy, I think that we have established that much.  As people, we find ways to cope, and for many of us, we have really stopped and examined our lifestyles and our spending to better prepare for and deal with the economic situation.

I’m sure that many people were spending too much money and racking up credit card debt, and if they were out of a job – they were left with little options.  Maybe they started by selling things that they didn’t need on E-bay for money, maybe they just stop buying things on credit, or maybe they decided to really analyze their spending habits and made a change for the better.

Whatever the reason, the important thing was that people started to realize that a life on credit, is not a sustainable life.  Usually whatever we are putting on credit is stuff – a mortgage, car payments, clothes, restaurants, booze, etc.

What I disagree most with the above comment is that once this recession was over, people will go back to their “old ways” just like how “boomers got square in the Reagan years”. I’m not exactly sure what the second statement meant, but I assume that he/she meant spending like crazy.

Readers, since when is spending like crazy “normal”?  I don’t think it’s normal or the “old ways” at all.  In fact, I think the “old ways” was to save for things and then pay for them in full.  The old ways was living with what you can afford, and if you couldn’t afford it, you’d do without.  If anything, credit cards are the “new way”.  The “new way” that makes spending so much easier and within reach of more people.

Want that fancy car today?  Can’t afford to buy it?  No problemo, finance it.  Drive it now, pay for it later. That is the message that we are bombarded with as consumers, today.  Do they tell you that you can end up paying for one and a half times the price of the car after all the interests payments are accounted for?  Of course not.

Despite being bombarded with advertisements and promises of dream products, we as consumers are also not helpless. Aside from doing the proper research of total costs of purchases, we also have the freedom to decide for ourselves whether something will make our lives happier or not.  Instead of letting an ad or sexy picture tell us how we can be happier stress-free versions of ourselves, we should be making the decision of what makes us happy.

When we stop and take a minute to really evaluate our individual situations, and focus on what we have instead of what the media tells us we are lacking, we might come to the conclusion that we have shelter, we have clean water, we have food, we have government stability, we have access to education, we have family and friends who love us.   That is more than most of the world has.

If you want more, you will never have enough.  And if you are satisfied with what you have, there is nothing to want.

To me, minimalism is not about saying “no” to everything, it’s about consciously making a decision to include something in your life, because you see value in it.  There is no “smug” account, we are all here to help and support one another on our individual paths to our different dreams and goals.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think that the recession has accelerated the minimalist movement and do you think that this a fancy way of dubbing a “poor man/women’s” lifestyle?  I’d love to hear your input!

(Photo Source)

I believe that we have been told this lesson for most of our lives.

Another way to put this is, if you don’t do something about it, who will?  It could be big things, like asking for a raise.  It could be small things, like asking for a really yummy basil-mayo for your sweet potato fries (yum!).

Simply asking, can make your life a lot easier.

I re-learned this lesson, yesterday, and of course, will share with my lovely readers :)

I take route B to work, most mornings.  I head east on Road B, then I need to make a pesky left turn on to the small road (Road A) which connects to my office.   I have taken this route for at least a year and a half, and luckily there is a left turn advance where I can turn from Road B to Road A.  All is well in my little world.

A few weeks ago, the left turn advance was no longer worker.  There are a lot of office buildings in Road A, and the back up for cars waiting to turn left without the left turn advance was awful.  I would either grumpily wait my turn, or turn left at the next road (though not ideal since it didn’t have a left turn advance).   I would make a mental to call the City to complain, and of course, I would forget.

After a few weeks, I figured they must be getting tonne and tonnes of complaints from all the angry people waiting to turn left at Road A.  And I finally sat down fuming and ready to make the call into the City to give me a piece of my mind.

I left a message with the traffic signal malfunction lady, and explained to her the situation and which light was not working.  She called me back that same afternoon, and asked for some more information – such as when I was driving through, and confirmed directions and roads.  She said that she would talk to some people and get it fixed.

I figured it was a long shot, and started to fume about City workers and the plight of our City.

The following morning, I got a call back from a traffic engineer with the City, and she told me that they had sent a Contractor out that same day to fix the problem.  It turns out the timer for the left turn advance was off by an hour, and has been reset.  The left turn advance only worked during rush hours between 6:30 and 9:15 am, but since it was off by an hour, the left turn advance was not working after 8:15am – which is about the time I got there!

I thanked the engineer for their prompt response and asked if anyone else had e-mailed or called in to report this malfunction, and she said, “no”, that the City never even knew about it.

Isn’t that funny?  Of all the people who were stuck behind that malfunctioning light for the past few weeks, I am the only one to call in and report it.  Like I said, it never hurts to ask ;)

Note: I only drive this route once or twice a week.  I try to take public transit one day, or I stay at BF’s and come another route.

What are some of your stories about good things that happen when you ask?

Time

10/21/2010

(Photo Source)

First of, I’d like to thank everyone for still stopping by my site and leaving words of encouragement, even though my posting as been sporadic, at best. You guys keep me motivated and your kind words are much appreciated.

Even though I have been purging my apartment of physical things, I have not taken as many steps to unclutter my busy schedule. Just this summer, I was overwhelmed with commitments to work, school, volleyball, volunteering, blogging, seeing BF, friends, family, etc. It seemed that I was always heading to something, and it felt like I was always running late. It was exhausting.  No to mention that I wasn’t keeping tabs on my spending, and eating out because I was always in a rush.

I am slowly learning that I cannot do everything, and I certainly cannot do it all at once. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many days in a week, and a limited supply of energy. I needed to learn to prioritize my time.

Fast forward a few months, and I just scored a bunch of e-books on the minimalism from a bunch of great writers. I just finished reading Leo Babuta’s Minimalist Guide, and his chapter on “Simplifying What you Do” really struck a cord with me. Leo says, ” Once you’ve got rid of non-essential commitments, you are free to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.”

These are some changes that I have made:

  • After I finished taking my Course (which was mainly for work), I didn’t take on another part time course
  • After my “Little Sister” whom I volunteered with moved away, I decided not to volunteer with another little girl since it was too hard to juggle while working 50+ hours a week
  • I go home every other weekend to see my family, and spend every other weekend in the City with BF
  • I cook enough lunches for most of the week, and store a few meals in the fridge at work
  • I write blog entries when I feel inspired to do so
  • I write little notes or short e-mails to myself to remind myself so I don’t have to remember everything in my head
  • I keep a normal sleeping schedule – at least 8 hours a night
  • I’ve learned to say “no” to projects that I don’t think I would have the time for or enjoy

I’m still working to unclutter my schedule and make time for myself but things are looking up.

How are you doing?  How do you keep you priorities straight and your schedule unclutters?

My Spa Secret

10/10/2010

(Photo Source)
Be it a hot stone massage, a Swedish massage, or a any other massage therapy, I have one little secret that makes my experience all the more relaxing, and hence, more rewarding.

Get there 10 minutes early.

Many of us work stressful jobs, some hunched over a keyboard for more long hours during the day.  We get stressed, we get tensed, and once in a while, it’s nice to get these knots kneaded out of our bodies.  For myself, massage therapy is super relaxing, and I like to meet up with a girlfriend for a spa date, every once in a while.

Usually I am rushing in at the last minutes, and super strung out to get to my relaxing session.  Kind of silly, isn’t it?  Even though I don’t do it all the time, I make a more conscious effort to get to these appointments early.  It really relaxes me and gives me a few minutes to wind down, and transition from the work day to a moment to relax.

Applying the  idea to all events.


I am also trying to apply this concept to other parts of my life.  Last week, I went to my volleyball game early, and got to chat with some teammates before the game.  It’s nice to not have to worry about letting people down, if my team doesn’t have enough people to start.


One of the guys commented on people cutting it too close to the game, “If you don’t have 10 minutes to spare, so that you can arrive early [for an event], then you probably haven’t gotten your priorities straight.”


Do you like arriving early?  And if you are one of the people who cut it too close, where are you spending your ten minutes?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers