What your savings is NOT

Your savings is not EXTRA money! I’m very fond of the concept of a “paradigm shift” – a fundamental change in our underlying belief about the way things work. I love the way a slightly shifted perspective can make a huge difference in the way we see the “reality” around us. This, in part, is what makes life such an interesting puzzle.

Shifting your perspective on the famous drawing to the left is a perfect illustration of what can happen just by looking at something from a different vantage point. Do you see the young woman? Can you also see the old woman?

Too often, we get “set in our ways” – especially our ways of thinking. This can be the result of what we’ve been taught to think, or what we’ve just assumed to be true for a long time, or what we’ve found to work for us most of the time. And sometimes we believe a paradigm to be true even when it doesn’t work for us.

For instance, if you are waiting to start a savings account when you have some “extra” money that you can set aside without missing it, you will probably never have any savings at all. Extra money is like extra time: there’s no such thing. That’s because there is no end to the things we can purchase, and human beings have unlimited wants.

The trick is to shift our paradigm and think of savings not as extra money, but as one of our most important purchases – and we should “buy” some savings at every opportunity. Just like any other purchase, it will require giving up the purchase of something else. Always.

Instead of buying a brand new car, buy an adequate used car and put the difference away. All you really need is to get from point A to point B safely! Take the difference and buy yourself some savings.

Instead of spending $85 on a pair of designer jeans at the mall, check out your local thrift and consignment stores. The very same jeans will be there at some point, and they’ll probably be about 90% cheaper. And you’ll know they’re not going to shrink anymore! Then buy yourself some savings.

Instead of forking out $10 for lunch, brown-bag it with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some cookies. They made you happy in the third grade, and they can make you happy now! Take the $10 and buy yourself some savings.

Put the savings aside and leave them there! If you save money on one purchase only to spend it on something else, you haven’t “saved” anything at all. You’ve only spent the same amount of money and gotten more stuff for it. You have to purchase only the “stuff” that’s absolutely necessary – and the rest of your money should be used to purchase savings.

You’ll be buying peace of mind, security, insurance, and – most importantly – choices in your future. You can work all your life if you want to, and if that “stuff” is really that important to you. Or you can invest in yourself and your future freedom from the 9-to-5 grind by buying some savings – as much as you can as often as you can.

And one day, you will find that you are really rich – because you will own the rest of your life, and have the freedom to live it exactly as you want.

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Sometimes less is …not more

The word minimal is an adjective, describing a small amount, quantity, or degree of something. It can be defined as the least amount possible (yourdictionary.com).

In the current minimalist movement, the term minimalism is usually assumed to refer to a minimal amount of “stuff.” But minimal can refer to amounts of anything. You may, for instance, prefer to strive for minimal spending, minimal working hours, minimal interaction with other people, minimal physical exertion, minimal environmental damage, minimal stress, or minimal time away from your family.

These examples show the intersection of minimalism with other important lifestyle practices that also focus on downsizing, streamlining, and reducing consumption.

• Environmentalists hope to minimize the carbon footprints of humans on the earth.
• Advocates of frugality try to minimize the amount of cash they need/spend.
• Followers of Voluntary Simplicity attempt to minimize the quantity of their unfulfilling life demands in order to maximize life’s quality.

What is your goal?

Continue reading Sometimes less is …not more

A “Small” Ray of Hope

I spent the better part of my childhood with my mom, dad, and two younger sisters in a 3-bedroom, 1-bath, 1,040 sq. ft. rambler on a quarter-acre lot in a great neighborhood of similar houses. My parents paid about $11,000 for it in 1963. The mortgage payment was a little over $80 a month – so affordable that my mother never had to work outside the home even though my dad was just an enlisted aviation electrician in the Coast Guard.

As I recall, we were quite happy in that little house.

But over the years, the demand for houses that small dropped so low that builders stopped building them altogether. From an average of 983 square feet in the 1950s to over 2,500 square feet in the 2000s, houses got increasingly bigger despite the fact that families, on average, got smaller.

So what caused this McMansion craze? (Check all that apply.)

Americans have always stubbornly clung to the mantra “Bigger Is Better” – and a big house, along with being a desirable status symbol, was also touted as the safest and most lucrative investment we could make.
A bigger house enables everyone living in it to avoid excessive face-time with all the other pesky family members.
Banks force-fed us hefty mortgage loans even when our credit was “sub-prime” because they were able to palm off the high-risk mortgages in the securities market with the best credit ratings money could (and did) buy.
Housecleaning was officially recognized as an Olympic sport and women everywhere needed bigger houses with lots of stairs to get the most effective training workouts.
Shopping was our major source of entertainment before we had facebook and pinterest, and we accumulated so much stuff that a “normal”-sized house couldn’t hold it all.
When every member of the household was compelled to join the work force, getting all of them ready to leave the house in the morning became impossible with just one bathroom.
Reducing our carbon footprint was … what’s a carbon footprint?
Movies and television shows commonly give characters unrealistically large living quarters (think Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail, Kramer in Seinfeld, and all 6 friends on Friends).

But the trend is finally reversing! The real estate meltdown of 2008 seems to have come with a silver lining: people have realized that smaller houses are cheaper to buy, more efficient to heat and cool, easier to maintain, better for the environment, and more conducive to family intimacy. (And – BONUS! – they will be easier to maneuver around in as we get older!)

smaller-houses

According to the above infographic, the average house size is expected to fall to around 2,152 sq. ft. in 2015. That’s still twice as big as the house I grew up in, but the trend is going in the right direction. The small house movement gains in popularity every day.

And now that we can entertain ourselves by surfing the web rather than cruising the mall, the proliferation of cr@p in our homes should begin to diminish as well! So take heart, fellow simplicity and minimalism advocates …

There’s a “small” ray of hope coming over the horizon at last!