Clean Slate?

10/04/2010

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I admit that I have fallen off the bandwagon.

It’s one of the reasons, I haven’t been writing.

I’ve been feeling guilty.

Guilty for not tracking my expenses.

Guilty for going out to buy a jacket and 2 pairs of shoes in the past month.

Guilty for eating out too much and cooking too little.

Guilty for not having time to volunteer.

Guilty for seeing my family less.

I spent many hours this weekend and tonight trying to work backwards on my budget, and figure out where my money has been going.  It was long, tedious, and very depressing.  I was on a roll last year, for getting my expenses under control – and I thought that I could wing it.  I automatically deducted my retirement and savings – almost half of each paycheck – and I thought I was sure to stay on track.

Wrong.

Having an idea of what my goals are (in my head) is very different than writing them down (in this case, in a form of a budget), and keeping track of progress (in this case, tracking my expenses).

Long story short – even in my feeble attempt to back track my spending, it’s quite clear that I’ve pretty overspent in almost every category.  The worst being Eating Out.  I thought that I had groceries under control, but, boy was I ever wrong.  I’ve also been paying bank fee’s, since my balance is below the $2000 that waives the fee.  Transportation looks bad, but I do get reimbursed for mileage – which I found too difficult to account for in my budget.

On the bright side of things, my percentage of spending has only increased slightly in Eating Out.  I’ve given more to charity, and I saved more than I spent every month this year.   Having said that, my salary has also increased this year, so the amounts in each category is more.

So, I am proposing to start a clean slate this October.

This is my proposed budget not including rent.

Groceries:$100
Telephone: $60
Transportation: $100
Entertainment: $100  (Updated to include $85 volleyball league fee’s)
Medical: $25
Eating Out: $100
Charity: $40
Gifts: $50

TOTAL:  $525 (Updated)

In my budgets, I try not to deprive myself of the things that I enjoy – such as, eating out.  But rather, make it a conscientious decision (ie., dinner with a friend) as opposed to just being not prepared (ie., getting take out).  Will have a spending report for you at the end of the month.

My minimalist goal this month, is to also go through my closet and get rid of any items that I don’t absolutely love.  This is going to be a big task, so I may break it up and tackle my spring/summer wardrobe first, then do fall/winter in November.

How are you coming along with your goals?

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I recently picked up Tim Gunn’s book at a second hand book shop, and I am finding it very interesting.

In fact, I am already stuck because there are action items in this book.  Chapter Three: Diagnosing the Common Closet – Page 62.  He asks his readers to go through their closets and sort the items into four piles.

The Soul Stirring Pile - for clothes that are fantastic and make you feel fantastic.

The Repair Pile – for clothes that you love but need attention  (he gives you 5 days only to get the job done!)

The Give-Away Pile and Throw Out Pile – are hairier situations, and he gives out some pointers/guidance

Tim brought up a very good point –  don’t keep anything that doesn’t make you feel fabulous in.  This could be that dress that you bought for way-too-much-but-doesn’t-fit-quite-right-but-it’s-so-expensive-i-am-going-to-keep-it, it could be the pants a size or two too tight but-one-day-might-fit, or it could be the awful gifts that you get and feel obligated to keep.  The point is, it doesn’t matter – if it doesn’t make you feel fabulous, then these are “closet-based sources of unhappiness” that need to be rid of.  On the other hand, even if it is a simple cotton t-shirt that you feel fabulous in – then you should keep it!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have gone through my closet many times over the last year.  But, I haven’t gone through it with this new mentality, before, and I am not sure I am ready to be so ruthless with my clothes.  I guess I still have this fear of “what if…”

I have a new challenge on my hands.

How do you define what stays and what goes in your closet purges/re-org?

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Something that I haven’t talked about much here is Personal Finance.

I first discovered minimalism through my personal finance journey!

I was a fresh grad out of school with little money and my first full time gig.  I was making more money than I had at any point in my life, and I had no idea where it was all going.

So, I tracked my spending for year (I tried to track every single purchase).  Then, as the end of the year, I analyzed the data.  That’s when I realized that my spending was not in line with my priorities.

I was spending money on things that weren’t adding value to my life.

That’s when my journey on minimalism started.  I wanted every purchase to be a conscious decision to add value to my life, instead of purchases just because.  When I saw something that I thought was a great bargain, I would go home and think about it.   Usually, I ended up not going back because I realized that I didn’t really need it.

It wasn’t that I wanted to be a scrooge and deprive myself from spending, it was in fact, the exact opposite.  I wanted to spend money on the things that added value to  my life, and cut off spending to things that didn’t.   One of the simplest ways to do that was to control my accumulation of stuff.

I stopped associating money with happiness

I stopped buying things to make me feel better (ie., clothes shopping), and I started to really think about what my priorities were in life.  Spending time with my family and friends, cooking, reading, traveling, relaxing – all of those things did not require a lot of stuff, and they brought me infinite amount of joy.

I found that when I stayed focus on my priorities, minimalism was a tool and life style to help me reach my goals.

Today, I think my spending is definitely more in line with my values, my priorities and my long term goals.

How?

After each pay check, I always pay myself first.  I put a portion of each paycheck in a special savings account dedicated to my travel fund, or education fund, or another priority fund.  I put a portion towards RRSP’s and general savings, and the left over goes into my checking account.

This method works really well for me because I don’t have to think about it.  These amounts were pre-calculated based on my financial goals, and I just recalculate the portions after an adjustment in income.  I’m lazy like that.

I usually ask myself a set of questions before I decide to purchase something.

Questions I like to ask for a new purchase:

Does this add value to my life?

Will this make my life more efficient and functional?

Can I use/hack something that I already have instead?

How do you choose how you spend your money?  What are some questions that you ask yourself when making a purchase?

Simple Joys: Summer

08/23/2010

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Summers are so short in Canada, you really have to savour every second of it.

It’s a cycle that I’ve come to love and hate, and love again.

As the days get longer and longer, warmer and warmer, my imagination just goes wild with all the things I want to do.  It’s lovely to walk outside at 10 o’clock and still see sunlight.  And yet, the days get shorter and shorter, and fall starts to slowly sneak in.  Dusk is at 9 o’clock instead of 10.   The evenings are nippier.

But for now, I will just try to squeeze out every last drop (despite the crazy work weeks).

My favourite summer activities include: hitting the volleyball court, drinks/food on a patio, long walks in the city, ice cream and freezies, wearing dresses and sandals, and picnics.

My favourite summer memory, is going to the park when I was little.  My mom would pack my sisters, and I, and the 4 kids she babysat (she was a stay-at-home mom/babysitter/super mom), and some sandwiches for a day at the park.  We’d wade in the splash pool, play house at the park, feed the geese and visit the animal farm.

What are your favourite activities and memories about summer?

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Is that possible?

I had my girlfriends over the other night, as we were excitedly discussed prospects of starting up a fashion blog together.  More to come on that later… ;)

One of the things that we did was go through every article of clothing/accessory in my closet.  I felt like I was on TLC’s “What Not to Wear” as I show them article after article of clothing – explaining what I like or dislike for each item.  Fun times.

My friends couldn’t believe that I had such a limited amount of clothing (I took that as a compliment! ;)).  Which re-affirms my belief that having a minimalist wardrobe can still be fun!

Now, I always call myself an aspiring minimalist because I think of it as a journey.   By no means, do I call myself a “full minimalist” since I do not own 500 items, 100 items, or 50 items.  Nor do I plan on counting the number of items I own, any time soon.

In fact, I easily have over 100 items in my wardrobe alone, and it’s not the end of the world.   I am working on making my wardrobe more efficient and functional.  I do this by donating/gifting clothes that I no longer use, and limiting my purchases.

My Guidelines for a (more) Minimalist Wardrobe:

  • I no longer wander malls/stores for “fun”.
  • I don’t buy stuff just because it’s on sale anymore.
  • I make sure that if I buy something, I have to love it.

PS.  I actually don’t own a dresser, and I do store my clothes in a cube-shelf similar to that in the photo above.  This wasn’t any minimalist decision, but just me being cheap and then I never went back. :P

What are your thoughts on a minimalist wardrobe?  How do you determine what makes the cut in your wardrobe?

Work Life Balance

08/14/2010

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Is there really such a thing?

At times of craziness in the office (such has been the last two months), and it always creeps up on me, I really question this concept, and how people achieve it.  This may sound crazy, but the more I try to achieve this balance, the more I stressed I feel.  I feel like I’m catching up to relax.

Take this week, for example.

Monday – I worked 9 – 6, and then I have volleyball at 6:30 – 8:30pm.  After volleyball, the bf and I head home and watch an episode of our latest obsession – The West Wing.

Tuesday – I worked 9 – 7 and then I have dinner with a girlfriend.  Roll in at 10:30pm, talk to the bf and pass out.

Wednesday – I worked 9 – 6, then come home to make dinner and take an evening stroll.

Thursday – I will be working 9 – very late? and probably pass out when I get home.

Friday – Working 8 – noon (hopefully) and heading out for an afternoon with the ladies of my office to enjoy summer.

Now, it doesn’t sound so bad.  Really.  But I just feel so pooped at the end of the week.

I’m not sure how to go about simplifying this schedule/life style that I have.  Do I work less?  Do I schedule less things?  I already feel like I don’t see my friends enough, and I love playing volleyball, every week – despite the arduous task of leaving work on time to make it there.

How do you deal with your work life balance?  What are some of the tricks or words of wisdom that you have learned over the years?  I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this topic :)

Note: BF was away on business for much of this year, and now that he’s back (for an extended amount of time), I do spend a lot of my spare time with him, as well.  So maybe I need to work on that balance, as well. :P

Doing More

08/11/2010

(My dining set – I got it second hand for $50! :) )

I’m a dreamer and planner.  I am spontaneous and easy going, but when it comes to big things and serious decisions in my life, I like to do all my research and get all my facts straight prior to taking the plunge.  So, sometimes, things don’t get done.  Many times, I don’t get started.  Because I haven’t researched it all, yet.

What I’ve learned over the years, is that it is very hard to get ALL the research done and ALL the fact straight.  That’s what a Ph.D. is for, no? :P  Just kidding!

What I mean to say is that, I’ve learned that I should research and dig up as many facts as I can.  And instead of taking a plunge, I should dip my toes in.  Continue learning, and continue to move forward.  Then, slowly work my way to the deep end.

I’ve been writing about my journey to a more minimalistic lifestyle, and yet I haven’t been doing that much.

Sure, I’ve cleaned our my washroom a few times, but what about that green eye shadow that I last used 2 years ago?  What about that bin of clothes that I was going to donate to Goodwill that’s remained in the same position since March?  What about the dining table set that I hardly ever use?  What about the empty boxes that only serve as decor to my tv stand?

Last night, I decided to do something instead of waiting for the perfect time and perfect plan.  I just executed.

I put up my dining table set and tv stand for sale on Craigslist.  Packed up my clothes and stuffed animals in bags to be donated.  Cleaned out my bathroom storage drawers.  Removed the books that I read and no longer want on my book shelf, to be donated to the library.  Packed up my PS2 that I haven’t played with since forever with games to be donated to Goodwill.

I will call this Minimization Phase I :)

Like Hasina wrote in her blog post, I stopped theorizing and started living my dream.

Next Phases to tackle in no particular order:

*Re-organize closet

*Re-paint walls white (it’s white now, but there are patches of paint missing everywhere!)

*Re-paint kitchen cabinets

*Hang photographs and mirror

*Install bookshelf

What are some of your recent projects?  Or any projects you are planning in the near future?

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