Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Category: Goal (page 1 of 2)

New Year, New Goal: Happy Anniversary to my Minimalist Project!

One year ago this week, I set out to achieve a goal:

By September 22, 2015, I will “earn” $25K by reducing spending, getting rid of things we don’t need, or earning a little extra doing something I love.

That date was last Tuesday, so how did I do against that goal?!

I earned $10,330.51!!

Do I feel bad about missing the larger $25K goal? Absolutely not. This has been one of the best, most enlightening projects I’ve ever done! I also realized halfway through that tying this journey to a dollar amount was a pretty terrible idea.

#1 Lesson Learned

Why? Because it’s not the money that matters, the real reason to embrace having less “stuff” is that it leads directly to having more time.

Time to spend with the people you love

Time to travel

Time to learn a new hobby

Time to try a new recipe

Time to relax

Time to read

Time to learn

Time to be you.

Time is the only thing that matters and this year I’ve given myself a lot more time.

How I Saved $10,000

I also ended up saving a substantial amount of money that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Who wouldn’t want an extra $10,000? That’s huge! Where did that come from?

  • $1288.67: We refinanced into a lower cost mortgage in March and since then have saved over $1000.
  • $4219.77: This is the amount we’ve saved simply by not buying extra stuff we don’t need for the house (furniture, knick knacks, etc). It’s amazing to see this amount consolidated into one number. That’s a lot of money that I’m happy I still have.
  • $1410: We paid off our car with our tax return and have been saving the extra funds.
  • $3412.07: This is miscellaneous savings. Extra funds from coming in under budget on groceries, bills, and other budget categories. We saved most of the money from raises we were lucky enough to get this year, I sold a few things, and saved all of the interest earned on various accounts.

If I’d had more motivation to make money, I also would have tried harder to sell some of the items we de-owned. I have a huge pile downstairs of the things I’ve earmarked through the KonMari Method. The only reason this stuff is still around is – quite frankly – because I’m being a bit lazy. However, I like to think of my laziness simply as prioritizing time spent with the kids in the evening over making progress on this goal. It will be donated or sold by the end of the year.

Stuff We're Getting Rid Of

Stuff We’re Getting Rid Of This Year

New Goal

I loved this project so much that, for the next year, I’ve decided to continue it, but with a slightly different goal:

Over the next year (by Sept 30, 2016), I will finish organizing using the KonMari Method and then concentrate on finding at least two hours a day to work toward long-term goals such as starting my own business and writing a book.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and joined me in the past year! Especially my husband, Nathan, our two daughters and my friend, Jossie, who have all gone above and beyond in their support this year.

Here’s to another great year!

How I Saved $975 in Five Months

savingI’ve been putting off blogging about how much we’ve saved because I am woefully, horribly behind my $25K goal and I’m a little embarrassed about it. If I were saving $25K in a linear fashion, at just under five months, we should have $10,417 saved. In reality, I have saved just $975.11. Now, that’s not counting what’s going into retirement accounts, but it was never my intention to count that money since saving it is non-negotiable. I’m really trying to create a $25K buffer in the money left for spending.

I’m behind, but I’m optimistic and so I’ll choose to concentrate on the fact that I HAVE saved $975 so far! That’s nearly $1000 that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t set myself an amazingly high goal at the start.

Here’s How I’ve Saved $975 in Five Months

Below are the various ways I’ve saved or made money so far. Perhaps a couple of these ideas would work for you too!

  1. $65.39: I saved all interest earned in our checking and savings accounts through Ally Bank and dividends from a small amount of stock.
  2. $60: I won money in Vegas on a business trip! I could have easily spent it, but I saved it instead and it probably contributed to a tiny bit of that interest. To be fair, I won this before I started my minimalist journey, but I decided to use it to give me a jump-start on my goal.
  3. $100: I received two Amazon Gift Cards and I shifted the money from our “Household Items” budget category, the category that Amazon purchases most likely would come out of, into my $25K savings account.
  4. $38.42: I saved the extra money from eating out less. We didn’t try hard to change these habits because having one meal a week out is one of the highlights of our week, but instead of just rolling the unspent money over to the next month like usual, I saved it.
  5. $35.72: Funds left over from paying the mortgage used to be spent immediately on buying stuff for our house. Now I save them.
  6. $21.25: I sold 5 books using Bookscouter.com.
  7. $54.53: Our savings category has been notoriously used to pay for things we probably don’t need. I was able to save a bit from it each month instead of just spending it right away.
  8. $390: We moved some retirement funds into a pre-tax 401(k), so we would have more cash on hand for emergencies. Luckily, there have been no such emergencies yet and so all of this goes into savings.
  9. $60: Gas prices have fallen over a dollar since I started this challenge and my budget is reaping the rewards.
  10. $63.40: Miscellaneous cash gifts. Our families are very generous and I’ve been able to save a bit from the cash gifts they’ve given us (after doing whatever they suggested with a bit of it – you have you enjoy your gifts too)!
  11. $86.40: Nathan got a bonus at work. This is what was left after I paid off some traveling debt.

I really should have examined this sooner because writing this post has completely inspired me to try harder. I think I’ll take up more regular accounting from now on.

Do you have other ideas for saving money? Share them!

Make Your Password Your Goal (Quick Tip)

make your password your goalAre you forced to change your login password at work every 90 days? That annoying password that you dutifully type an average of 8 times a day could help you meet your New Year’s resolution and life goals.

I learned this tip from Mauricio Estrella, who wrote a viral blog post about how he used his passwords to change his life in big ways. He got over an ex-wife, saved for vacation, and quit smoking simply by using passwords that reminded him of his current goals.

Make Your Password Your Goal

Think about it. Each time you type your password, you say it silently in your head. It becomes so automatic that typing it and thinking about it is a semi-subconscious, frequent reminder of that thing that is your password.

In the past, when password change time arrived, I would quickly pick something big going on in my life, shorten it to 8-12 characters and add some numbers and symbols. When my youngest daughter was born, I typed M4d3l1n3 all day long and perhaps that was part of the reason I missed the real Madeline so much! I couldn’t get a break. Use that constant reminder to your advantage!

I’m currently using this trick to help me get to my $25K goal. I can’t say it’s actually pushed me to save the money, but I haven’t forgotten about it. Not one day goes by without me thinking about this project. Who can ignore the thing you type once an hour every single day? It’s a great trick.

November Food Challenge Accomplishments

My November Food Challenge was so fun, I wish it lasted longer. There is a lot more I had planned, but never got too, like finding more ways to eat healthier and diving into the The Minimalist Cooks Dinner: More Than 100 Recipes for Fast Weeknight Meals and Casual Entertaining. I never even cracked it open. Why? Because as I was organizing my existing recipes, I realized that I have more than enough delicious, easy recipes right now.  Plus, I just plain ran out of time and this wasn’t a high priority.  Realizing that you’ll never get to everything on your to do list and letting the lower priority things go takes practice and this project gives me a lot of practice.

There are a couple things I’m really happy I did accomplish during November’s food challenge:

  1. Analyzed and fixed my grocery budget (parts I, II, and III).  Ever since I cut back on meat and dairy, my weekly bills have come in an average of $20 under budget.
  2. Explored other ways and places to shop for groceries and realized that shopping online (which I was already doing) was the best option for me.
  3. Cut back on disposables, I use far fewer paper towels and switched one kid to cloth diapers this month!
  4. Revisited a couple of sane dieting methods and read up on the diabetic diet. I didn’t write about this, but I gave up sugar for most of November (something I do periodically because it makes me feel GREAT). Now, I usually drink water instead of soda when we go out to eat.
  5. Remembered a sneaky way to cook for two nights at a time and get people to eat reasonable portions.
  6. Took the time to be thankful. This was by far the blog post that made me happiest.
  7. Organized all my recipes (and shared some)!

As far as accomplishing my original goals goes, I give myself a B.

My four original goals

Original Food Month Challenge

I accomplished #1 & #4. I started work on #2 (I’m not being too hard on myself, because this is a lifelong process). For #3, I thought about eating out a bit and decided not to change anything.  We go out once a week as a family and try to stay under $25.  It’s a wonderful time for us to do something together and, while eating out less would be healthier and cheaper, this is a part of my life that I love and want to keep.

So, here’s to food and how wonderful it can make our lives.  In December, I’ll be concentrating on our monthly bills and how to reduce those.

Two Months of Minimalism

 Nightstand Minimalism

I’m really enjoying my minimalism project and find that the more excess stuff I clear away from my life, the more focused and better all parts of it are. For example, I decluttered my bedroom last weekend, which included cleaning up a six-inch-tall stack of papers, notes, magazines and books from my nightstand. Now, my nightstand has only a lamp and the current book I’m reading (which is Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte). Whereas when the pile was there, I would never read before getting some sleep, now I’m inspired to read every night.

While I know I’m making amazing strides toward the lifestyle that I want, the strides toward my $25K goal are not as big. In the past month I’ve saved only $81.56 for a total of $271.94. What I realized is that while clearing away the clutter is a wonderful place to start (it gives you energy and a great sense of accomplishment), I’ve been ignoring the benefits of compound interest. That is, the earlier I can strip away the excess money we’re spending, the faster it will add up to my $25K goal. Therefore, December’s challenge will be all about money. More specifically, I’m going to look at all of our recurring bills and see if there are ways to save money. I haven’t examined my Netflix options or gotten a quote from another insurance company in years. It’s time I knew I’m not spending more than I should for what our family needs.

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