Childfreelife’s Weblog











{December 6, 2008}   Catch and Release

I like to shop with my brother at weird stores and we look at weird stuff. My brother does this without me and actually buys me some pretty interesting stuff. We both love the hunt of roaming a store packed seemingly with junk and then find the coolest weirdest thing in there. The difference between my brother and I is that he goes ahead and buys that super weird little gizmo as a gift to unload on a friend or to put in his room. I however, look at the thing, carry it around for a bit and put it back usually.

Why do this? Well part of the hobby and fun of shopping is looking at cool stuff. It is like going to a museum or a zoo. Another fun part of shopping is finding a treasure in the junk. However, sometimes actually having that object in your house and paying for it isn’t the funnest part. First off, then you have less money for even cooler stuff, or more important stuff. Secondly, you have to find a place for the new object in an already packed house. I like to find something in a store, carry it around and look at it. Perhaps a green pottery lion, or a bottle shaped like a Greek goddess caught my eye. I pick it up think about how cool it is, enjoy the object and then put it back.

I don’t really think of this as frugality, although it is. I am not sacrificing anything with this practice, because really my favorite part of shopping is doing it lazily with lots of time and looking at and touching unusual things. I already have lots of unusual things at home I can enjoy, so I don’t need more, because that would make it harder for me to spend time with the things I already have. Cleaning is also a past time I like to take lazy hours doing as I look at my stuff and do interesting things with it. I tend to make new artistic arrangements around my house. Another thing I do while cleaning is reorganize my shelves until I see a present a friend gave me and then I relive memories of the person who gave me a gift. The more things I have the longer that process can take. I don’t want cleaning to be overwhelming.

The point of this post, is to consider what you like about each of your hobbies, really get at the root of it, and figure out if you are getting the most out of the hobby for you–and if you have to spend more money to enjoy it.

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{December 1, 2008}   Hard Candy Christmas

And its been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I cant remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
– Counting Crows, A Long December

Trent at The Simple Dollar made an emotionally stunning post this morning on A Long December

Two things touched me about this post. I lost my job on Wednesday, before Thanksgiving this week. I am feeling this song and his post very personally. My husband has been out of work for 9 months now. We are quickly looking at even more ways to cut back. I am going to apply for unemployment and beat the pavement to find both he and I new jobs. I wrote up two applications this weekend. But I am tired. I was working a long commute with no car for the last 5 months at a job I wasn’t getting or fitting in at. But I do have reason to believe next year will be better.

And the second point that touched me was his recommendations for spending the holidays. I would like to share with you one of my holiday traditions.

Storytelling

Sit down with your family and friends and give them a special gift. Either learn a story about the season–there are some in various holy books, folklore, and even popular books from your childhood. I like Irish and Welsh folklore, for example King Arthur and Finn McCool stories are popular with my friends and family. I get really excited about learning the stories and retelling them in my own style.
Or you can make a story up that fits your family or friends. A special treasured story my mother loved was when I told her what magical gift I would make for her if I could: A magical book that could hold all her catalogs so she could always go back and look at what she wanted to buy without having to keep piles of catalogs by her couch and a magic door at the entrance to the garage that would prevent my father from taking the treasures she purchased from said catalogs into the attic. She laughed so hard and she really loved that story. My mother later asked me to type it up on colored paper so she could frame it.

This year money is truly so tight that the presents I give will have to be free or nearly free. I can give things from my own collections, I can make some food cooked with love and attention, and I can give time spent together with loved ones.

One of my favorite songs to sing at times like these is “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Singing together is another way to have some special times. And just so I don’t appear so stingy as to not give any physical gifts, perhaps I will give hard candy as a present to my loved ones and print this song on the tags:


“We’ll be find and dandy
Lord, it’s like a hard candy Christmas
We’re barely getting through tomorrow
But still we won’t let sorrow bring us way down.”



The dress-up holiday season started at Halloween and it won’t end until New Years or even Valentine’s day. If you follow the hype and are very self-conscious, you might decide you have to wear a different outfit every year to every holiday. Even at thriftstore prices this is an unnecessary expense. We are adults, we don’t grow that much from year to year, and we have enough self confidence to pull off making our own unpopular decisions. I read in a personal finance blog and a friends homelife blog the crisis of children’s halloween costumes. These little tykes are really hyped up to dress up as something in particular and if they don’t it is heartbreaking for them. Adults around them might take a part in setting the expectation because every year they also make a big deal about what do dress up as. We are adults, we don’t have kids, do we have to act like that? no!

But adults carry this out to every holiday party and event–to the point that at least 4 new outfits are needed per year. Is this necessary? The holidays are all at the least a week apart. Couldn’t you get one nice outfit and wear it to Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and even Valentines day? A woman looks stunning in a dress with the right fit and a flattering color. My husband has a favorite dress of mine (I like it too) and I can keep wearing it for several holidays and it even doubles as a witch’s dress on Halloween (I bought a nice witch hat and I wear a similar outfit every year, I just change up the socks, shoes and makeup). I have had this dress for a few years and it only gets worn once every month or two. I can dress it up with other clothes I have–boots, high heels, jackets that I wear for work or other holidays. I am not saying I only have one dress, but I am suggesting that you don’t need a new dress every month over the holidays to look great and enjoy the holidays.

If you spent even $5 dollars per outfit for the holiday season, that would be $20.00-$25.00 per year on one use clothing. Consider cutting back and having one or two outfits you can wear year to year and for several holidays. Also look to clothes you already have to compliment your outfit. Perhaps you can wear one of your dress shirts for work with your holiday suit instead of getting a new shirt. Perhaps you can wear the exact same base outfit you wore last on Thanksgiving to Yuletide parties with a different tie or scarf from your collection to make it stand out differently.

Good luck and be creative!



Some people spend more money than others on entertainment materials.  Trent at the simple dollar used to spend a ton on books and dvds.  Some folks go crazy on CDs or magazines.   I spend some money on books, not a lot, likely less than $50.00 a month, and even less on movies, magazines and CDs. But with my husband out of work, even the odd used book is more than I really should spend.  I consider this tip neither a little chunk savings nor a big chunk savings because it could be either on a sliding scale based on how much you spend in these catagories.

But I get excited, I am growing unusual plants as a hobby, (a fairly cheap hobby if you start from seed), and I saw a book I wanted.  I decided to be a good personal finance blogger and check to see if it was at my local library first, before I pushed buy.  I am glad I did!  The local downtown library has it, and I took a simple train ride down there at lunch, signed up for a library card and viola! I have my book–and a few more I spotted along the way, no guilt, they are free to read 🙂  If I had taken this many books home from the bookstore, we would be broke!

How to use the library:

Start with a book you want to read, you saw a review, your friend mentioned it, you were researching unusual plants and the book title came up.  Then check your libraries online catalog to see if they have it.  Browse the library catalog for a few more books by that author or in that subject area.  But don’t stop there.  Go to the sections of the library your favorite subjects kept turning up in.  Even if they didn’t have your book, there are so many other interesting books in that section!  I was looking at the book about the unusual plants, and on the same shelf was a book about werewolves (I was in the folklore area).  I had to grab it!  Next time I visit the library I am going to visit that area again to see what else catches my eye.

What libraries offer:

The public library carries CDs, DVDs, Books, Magazines, and Newspapers.  Take advantage of your local library to save whatever amount of money you tend to spend on these things per month. The library has internet access–great when yours goes down!  That means you can read childfreelife’s weblog at the library!  word

Libraries offer seperate sections for children.  Up on the top floor in the science and business section, there is an abundance of peace and quiet.  While libraries are not child-free areas, some areas of libraries end up being so.  If you want to find a quiet place, and don’t mind that you may not be allowed to check out the books, I can highly recommend academic libraries, the likely hood of noisy children is even lower at a higher institution.

If one of your local libaries is air conditioned, consider it a great place to spend a quiet summer afternoon, without having to run your air conditioner.  A lot of libraries have padded chairs you can curl up in, bright lighting for reading, and an endless supply of books and magazines for your reading pleasure!

But I have to have it in my collection!

Ownership is over-rated.  Unless you use the same book or dvd everyday or every week (like a bible or a school text book), you don’t have to own it.  The Frankenstein movie will be there next month when you want to watch it again, and if it is checked out you can put it on hold.   If you use books for research writing, use a cheap at home scanner to scan particular pages you will need to reference again.  I have a cheap scanner about the size of a fall vogue issue and it is great for making quick records of pages, photos, and such for reference purposes.  (you don’t need a state of the art scanner unless you are archiving photos, scanning your artwork for prints, or using scans for advertising purposes).

I do have some books I do have to own, I reference them very regularly.  But for the most part, I can borrow a book and get more value out of the library than a bookstore.

Downsizing:

Do you have too many books, dvds and cds?  Could you downsize your library by selling what you don’t need because the local library has a copy already?  Sure you might want to watch Rambo again someday, but you can sell it with a feeling of security that should you ever wish to see it again, you can borrow it from the library.  When weeding through your home collection for books and movies to part with, have the library online catalog open on your computer.  Then you can make a pile of, “I might want it somedays” that you can cross reference to the library collection.  If your local library doesn’t have a copy, but you are unlikely to need the item again soon (and depending on how your library manages things–my library is just as likely to sell the donated items to get funds), you can donate your books and movies to the library directly, and come borrow them again when you want to.



{October 28, 2008}   Getting the buy in from a partner

Saving money like crazy isn’t worth a lot if your life partner is getting deeper in debt. Getting buy in from your partner to work towards financial freedom has its obstacles if you are on different money wave lengths. How do you get on the same foot about budgeting, saving, investing, wise spending, sacrifices in one area to save for another?

Goal Matching:
First off you and your partner have to be going towards mutual goals or working on separate goals together. Sit down together and map out goals. Any common goals you have, start to work out the details, on separate goals find win win solutions. How can one partner go to graduate school while the other becomes an exhibiting artist? Get creative. Finding ways for both partners to win is way better than compromising. And unless the partners want opposite things (like one wants kids and the other doesn’t) win wins should be possible.

If one partner doesn’t seem to have any defined goals, allow them space and time to develop some. Going forward on some of the following steps might allow your partner to begin to dream. Your partner might be holding back on dreams due to a feeling of helplessness or unsuccessful-ness. Some child-free folks don’t develop traditional goals like home-ownership because an advantage of being child-free is the possibility of being more mobile. Be willing to listen to unconventional goals and see yourself living them.

Remove feelings of helplessness about money:

Find a way to remove any helpless feelings about money: I believe one of the largest barriers to financial security is helpless feelings about finances. For example, if every time you have saved up money for a fun goal, something came along that took the money away, a car broke down, a cat got sick, or someone lost their job, then saving starts to lose its luster. One way to combat that barrier is to begin with an emergency fund and pay to that first and have smaller fun fund going at the same time.

Forgiving missteps:

If your partner makes a misstep and spends money on something–goes out for an expensive dinner, buys a new video game, or charges a hundred dollars on the credit card.  Don’t get very mad.  Forgive your partner and ask them to commit again to trying to save and both of you can put the mistake behind you.  Nothing is harder than being punished by your partner.  A parental type relationship over your partner is un-fun and can become unhealthy.

Living the good life without spending:

Think with your partner about what the two of you enjoy.  My husband and I enjoy playing games with other adults.  Some of those games cost more to play than others.  For example trading card games like Pokemon can become expensive fast.  However board games and single set card games can be cheaper.  Hours of fun can be had with one deck of Lunch Money or Uno.   If you two love to see movies, see about borrowing them from the library instead of going to the theater or video rental.  You might experiment with some classic films you have never seen instead of always seeing the new movies (that might not be as good as some of the older ones).  Think together, try new things, and don’t force something that doesn’t work.  This is for your enjoyment, you might discover something you really love to replace an expensive pasttime, but don’t keep playing Uno (when you don’t like it) just because you can’t afford Magic anymore–you might try ways of reducing the costs of Magic by just buying the cards you want instead of getting lots of packets and boxes of cards you don’t end up wanting–and actually trade cool but unneeded cards for other ones you want with friends.

Keep up the romance.  Simple activities you enjoyed as young lovers, kissing in the park, making out during a tv movie, laying on the grass and looking at the stars, and just plain making whoopee, are all free activities you can revive in your life, that are satisfying and free!

Mark successes:

Ultimately, if you enjoy a few sucesses after getting a bit of buy in from your partner, it will become easier and easier to take new “risks” into trying new things to save money.  A successful simple homemade bean soup will go a long way towards getting your spouse to stay home for dinner than a failed complex meal like a baked alaska.  Paying off the smallest credit card and celebrating with a big kiss and some lovin is going to go a lot further than, trudging away at your biggest debt and not really seeing marked progress.

If all else fails:

These are just strategies for helping a hesitant partner buy in to financial responsibility.  If your partner doesn’t want to be a part of increasing your wealth, spending less, and saving–then you might have to figure out a way to go it on your own financially to ensure for your own safe future.  Childfree men and women know how to make hard choices, you may have had to work out the choice not to have children with a past or current partner.  You can face the independence and resolve it takes to reach financial independence with a partner who won’t buy in.



{October 15, 2008}   I Love Gala Darling

Best survey answer ever:

16. What would​you do if you got pregnant?​
Put the midget in a basket & send it down the river. Very biblical.

GalaDarling



{September 23, 2008}   Beyond the Emergency Fund

I think everyone should have an emergency fund. Mine is small right now, but it is enough to cover us if something happened–but not if absolute catastrophe hit. I know for some people finding the money to save several thousand or even several hundred is unimaginable. For people who have an emergency fund and want to stretch it as far as it can go and those who don’t have one, look into alternative and supplemental emergency “banks”.

I think you can build an emergency network, you can prepare for emergencies, and you can prevent them. All of those things supplement your emergency fund.

EMERGENCY NETWORK

Find ways to deal with emergencies in a cheaper manner. Maybe you don’t know how to fix a car, but if a friend or family member does, offer to help them fix their cars in return for training in how to fix yours when it breaks down.

One of my friends had cancer and was struggling to clean her home. I went over with another friend and we made that place spic and span. Why? She had always been there for us, and is just an all around good friend. And her boyfriend had even given us his old car once when we had nothing to drive. My friends obviously built a good network, and we will continue to help them when we can.

In preparation for job loss, always have a networking plan, I use a networking website, I know the names of some good temp and placement firms, and we even have worst case scenario backups, a friend manages a subway, in a real emergency one of us might be invited to work there.

Give freely to friends when you have abundance, extra food, unneeded items, a listening ear, help with a skill, and when you need help you will have a large network of people who appreciate you to fall back on. It is not fool proof, some people will always be fairweather friends, but I have found most people are gems!

PREPARE

Plan for specific things in your monthly budget–if the car tends to break down a few times a year, buy towing insurance and save a some money each month towards your average maintenance costs. The AAA bill came a few months ago, and my husband wanted to drop the service, and I looked at him, are you crazy? What will it cost us if we get stranded somewhere in the middle of the night? For sure more than the AAA membership! We spent the money and it means getting us and the car home in a breakdown, I am all for it. We have used it our fair share in the past.

A house tends to need repairs on one thing or another every year, save a little bit of money towards home maintenance every month. Also try fixing small things yourself instead of calling in help each time. With a book from a library and some borrowed tools you might save a lot of money on emergencies. More important than towing insurance is homeowners or renters insurance. If despite your best efforts to keep your space in order, something bad happens: a fire, theft, flooding. These insurances have your back. But even more importantly if someone else gets hurt on your property: slips and falls in your drive way, gets caught in a blackberry bush, or falls in a pit. (okay I am being dramatic), homeowners or renters insurance can pay out their personal injury claim, rather than the injured going directly at your assets. The 12-50 bucks a month it costs is worth that peace of mind.

PREVENT

Furthermore, prevent emergencies by being easier on your stuff and keeping up with to dos. For example, regular car maintenance is good, but even better do more, lighten your car’s load, drive it less, don’t overload it with stuff and too many people. Read the manual, I didn’t read mine and I hurt my car by having way too much weight in it way too often!

Take good care of your house by keeping everything in top shape. If the caulking starts to lift around your bathtub replace it before you have to replace your floor!

Eat well, exercise, get your sleep and just generally take good care of yourself, do the same for your pets. A cat that eats top of the line food gets sick less than one who eats the cheapo stuff. Make sure your pet gets enough exercise, has a clean bathroom area, and plenty of love, rubs and attention.

CONCLUSION

Emergencies don’t hit me as often or as hard as folks with children and so often I can solve problems in interesting ways that might be more time consuming, or might rely heavily on a network of friends. I have lots of other childfree friends and we have developed a sort of family network. Often people with kids that are in a bad place only have time to take and not much ability to give back. Even in my worst situations I can lend a hand to help a friend move or give them advice on how to get food. This sort reciprocity is necessary to a solid emergency network. Even if I am in a really bad place, I can’t always have my hand out. Some of my friends might have it worse and I make sure to help them out too.



So, someone today was warning me that in my mid and late thirties my biological clock would start ticking and I would reconsider having children. I informed her that my body has urges quite often and I allow my brain and my well thought out goals to supersede. There was this beautiful man hitting on me the other night for example–did I screw him? no, I am married and my goals and plans in marriage supersede my animal urge to jump the hottie. I assume, that like any other animal urge I have, the ticking biological clock will be something I can overcome when the time comes. I wonder if perhaps people who become overcome by their biological urges are people without well thought out goals. If your choice is between I am not that interested mentally and my body wants it physically, body might have a better chance of winning out. If the choice is between a goal to travel the world, be a great artist, or a successful lawyer and following a biological urge. If the goal is for a faithful happy loving marriage and a biological urge. If the goal is between an exciting nightlife and a biological urge. I am sure those choices the well thought out plan is easier to follow and the biological urge to reproduce.

Basically, remaining childfree isn’t that hard when you have good reasons for it.



I have a radical notion: your car is not an asset it is a bill. The worth of your car is not its sale value, but whether it gets you to work and play and looks nice enough to help your career along if need be.

So lets say in my career having a nice car is unnecessary. And my (piece of s**t) pos car breaks down and needs a $500 repair. Should I finance a newer car since my old car isn’t worth more than a thousand dollars? No, because its a pretty good bet that the $500 repair will keep my car going for 2-6 more months without needing new repairs, and monthly payments on a financed car will equal or exceed that amount over that time. I am saving money on new car payments by repairing the car I own outright.

However, if part of the value of my car is to look swank, then buying a car for its “asset” value might not even be wise. A car is a bill, and if what I am purchasing with this bill is swankness and transportation, then leasing a car for 2 years and then upgrading to a new car is a better deal for me than buying a swank car and paying it off over 5 years, but trading it in after two and running the loan into the next car (minus the reduced value of my trade in which is less than I paid into it). If I buy a new car every two years and trade it in, the loans on the next cars just keep getting bigger. Also if the car I bought was say a (ahem) hummer and the value went way down in the last two years, trading it in sucks! But if I leased it for two years, the dealership just takes it back, they get stuck with its crappy value not me. Then I can lease a Prius or a Mini next and look swank and smart this time around! And isn’t it nice that I can switch down to a smaller car and not worry if the kids’ car seats will fit in it? Or if my kids will destroy the inside of my car costing me cleaning fees on my lease? I don’t have kids, sweet!

Financing new cars is a debt, leasing a new car is a bill. If you are trying to avoid debt, a lease or repairing your pos car might be more your style.



{August 6, 2008}   Childfree stay at home partner

My husband has been unemployed since April, and like the husbands in this article, I have some perks.  no kids, no jobs wives. Yesterday, I had a hard day at work. I reported some unethical conduct in my department. Immediately after work I called my husband and ranted about it. He listened to me attentively and cared about every word I was saying. I had to go to class right after work, and I forgot to eat a snack since I was upset at the end of day at work. I was in such a daze that I gave my change to a homeless man; not realizing I would be hungry later. I got through class, and came home to do my last minute homework. When I walked in the door, my roommate and my husband had pizza ready for me to eat! And they both were happy to listen to my work issues and say, “you go woman, you did what is right and it will pay off!”

I have several cf couple friends, that live on one income and the other partner goes to school, pursues an interest like writing, or just plain keeps house. Some couples switch off, one works and supports the other, and then later they switch. These people seem happy to me. Sure money might be a little tight, but the house is clean, a home cooked meal is often ready when the worker gets home, and there is less stress. Sure one partner is working hard and might take on stress, but the other partner is more able to absorb it and listen and help out since they don’t have their own stress plate full.

Though this story is about stay at home childfree wives, I have seen the lifestyle be quite successful both ways round. The linch pin, is that the stay at home partner does pursues his or her goals with the extra time and also keeps the household together. The stay at home partner needs to take frugal actions: cooking, bike riding for transport instead of driving, clipping coupons, and so on. The stay at home partner needs to be doing something to make the working partner feel like they are giving something to their partner, time to pursue an education, to write or make art. Without these standards being met, the system would not be worth it, and has not been worth it for me in the past when my partner stayed home, made more of a mess, and seemed to be getting nowhere with his personal goals.



et cetera