Childfreelife’s Weblog











{April 5, 2010}   Contrast

I have been working with a group of other artists to run a boudoir gallery. At one of the gallery openings, I made conversation with one of our members, the only one who has had children, though she is an empty nester. She mentioned how now that her children are raised and gone she has freedom to return to making art. I said, yeah kids get in the way of making art, that’s why I am not having any. She made one of those remarks, like, well you never know what might change, etc… And I said, no, I am not having kids, and I pointed to another female artist, the same age as the empty nester but childfree. I said, I want to be just like her when I grow up, a fabulous artist without any kids. It was amazing and shut up the empty nester on that topic, I hope for good.



{December 15, 2009}   Free Time

I was enjoying a post by Brit Girl about how childfree people spend their time. A year ago, I was very very busy. I was in school part time, worked full time, participated in religious activities, and played weekly theater games. Contrasted to now, I am unemployed, quit the theater games, and I finished school? I seem to have a lot of free time, and yet I feel no compulsion to have children to fill it.

I have been painting pictures and selling them with my free time. I have been going to cultural events, I have been taking temporary contract jobs in the legal field, and I have been looking for work. I think it is true that looking for work is a full time job in itself. I have interviews, I write cover letters and customize my resume, and I contract painting sales. In addition, I continue to be involved in religious activities, I volunteer my time mentoring a child, and am a good friend.

Child free people are unlikely to wale away the hours doing nothing.  Most child free people I know do keep very busy. Some of my favorite artists never had children: Georgia O’Keefe and Mary Cassett for example.

If you are a child free person who doesn’t have a lot to do: consider the following:

Volunteer your time. Do you have a skill that you could share with a non-profit agency? I am a good listener and I am good with teenagers. It was a perfect fit for me to mentor a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Some of my friends in the legal profession have gotten very involved in Pro Bono/Free legal service clinics. Giving back is a great way to spend your time.

However, when childed people ask me what I do with my free time, sometimes I think of free time as only time that is not committed to something in particular. I sometimes struggle to answer, because I barely think of myself as having free time, I have many full slots in my schedule. But I realize when I think about it, what free time might mean to a childed person is: time without children. I have lots of that time–most of the time, unless I am hanging out with someone elses kid(s).

Perhaps I am off base here, but thinking back, every-time a parent has asked me about my free time,  to them free time was time with a babysitter or daycare. And that time is rarely free, it is often bought and paid for. This isn’t always true. I do know some parents who spend free time with their children. Free time to some parents is time playing in the back yard, watching cartoons, and cuddling or napping. But those types of parents aren’t usually the ones that grill me about my free time.

This was a rather rambly post, but I realized I hadn’t stopped in here for awhile and I wanted to write something.



Well, this is a common theme for me these days, and the main reason I don’t post very often. I am still unemployed. You would think since I have more time home I would post more often, but actually I don’t have as many topic ideas as when I am surrounded at work by other childfree and childed professionals.

However, I did realize, that while I am unemployed, and while my childed neighbor is unemployed, we are spending our time rather differently. He had to take his kids out of daycare. He still spends time doing things he likes: repairing computers, cooking healthy dinners, chatting with the neighbors. I hope he gets the best out of this time home with his kids.

Meantime, I am spending a lot of time reading, gardening, hiking, trying to make myself clean, writing poetry, and going back to school. I also spend time working out our food budget and collecting charity food baskets. I am really looking forward to the fresh produce from my garden that will supplement the cans and dry foods diet we are on right now. Of course, I spend time looking for jobs. I can sure tell you that when the job advertisement pages are as short as they are right now, it doesn’t take very much of my time.

My new adventure is to volunteer for non-profits in my field. I work in the legal field, and I am going to do an internship at a courthouse and volunteer for a environmental non-profit agency fighting to protect wild areas in my region. This will help keep my resume fresh and me busy and feeling good about myself.



{February 4, 2009}   Winning Blog Contests!

I have had considerable luck entering blog contests. Usually a blogger has something they can give away, a book, a computer program, or some article of clothing. The product given is dependent on the type of website. Blogs usually have small readerships, and usually the blogger chooses the winner either based on the quality of the comment entry, or randomly out of a hat. Either way, if you are competing against less than a hundred folks, your chances of winning are pretty high.

Recently I won free tax software from poorer than you And I wanted to send out a big shout out of thanks! This will help put more money in my pocket faster, as well as into the pockets of my two roommates. Cheers, let the money flow in.

I think one of my roommates had planned on going to a tax preparer to have his simple federal taxes done. He is single, with no mortgage or medical bills, and he only had one job per year. These tax preparation places charge upwards of a hundred dollars to prepare taxes. Now of course if you feel over your head and have lots of special deductions, than I understand using a service. Great thing is, this free tax software seems to be the same software some of the tax preparers use. Double win!

Childfree folks have some disadvantages doing taxes, less deductions because no dependents or children. However, don’t short yourself, a lot of the tax breaks that seem like they are for kids only apply to adults too. Do you care for an elderly relative by providing for the majority of their expenses? Are you going to college and paying for it yourself? In both cases, you should investigate possible credits and deductions that might apply to childfree families. Folks making less than 15K a year also might be eligible for earn income credits–although its a benefit usually reserved for childed families, you might be eligible, its worth looking into.

One of my friends survival mamaoften wins these sorts of contests and receives craft products.

I suggest only entering contests for things you really want, for example, often I see contests for finance books, but I only enter the contest if I actually want the book. What is the point of winning something I can’t use? I would rather stay out of it and increase the chances for someone else.

I am currently looking into having one of these sorts of contests myself, I will let you know when I find something appropriate to give away.



{January 12, 2009}   What to do with left overs

Lets face it, most recipes yield more than one or two servings. A childfree folk or partnership is likely to end up with extras. You can halve all your recipes, you can only buy cookbooks designed for singles or couples, you can always eat out. But if you don’t do one of those things, you are going to have leftovers!

Mostly make things that can make new meals with the leftovers. Today I am enjoying a delicious meatloaf sandwich. Last night of course, I ate the meatloaf. Honestly, I think the sandwich is better! If you eat spinach salads, cook main meat dishes, and keep your sauces separate from your noodles, you can make the salad into cooked spinach, the main meat dishes into sandwiches, soups and casseroles, and the sauces can go onto a completely different type of meal the next day.

Freeze leftovers. As soon as you are finished making the dinner, estimate how much you are going to eat, and take the rest and begin cooling it and package it to go into the freezer. I recommend doing this before you eat dinner, because you are less tired at that point and less likely to forget.

Eat them for lunch the next day. Similarly to the freezing method, before you sit down to eat your dinner, package some of it up as a lunch. If it was burritos, make a few extra burritos and put them into a sandwich bag in the fridge. If do this while everything is still out and while you are preparing your dinner, it will be a lot more likely to have all the ingredients in it (before you run out of salsa and olives).

Get roommates. Having a roommate or two will ease the cost of your rent, and you can share your meals with them. You won’t have as many leftovers and you can take turns cooking.

Organize a left overs club at work. If most of the folks at work cook dinner at home too, you can trade left over lunches, that way you aren’t eating the same thing two days in a row, but your food gets appreciated. (I realize this is really unlikely to occur, but hey, brainstorming!)

Kids in China will cry, but you can just throw your left overs out. This is especially good if you hate eating left overs. And none of the other ideas work. Should you really feel guilty for throwing food out? My argument is “no.” If you had bought smaller quantities of food like a smaller brick of cheese, meat in individual containers, the smaller sour cream and milks, you end up spending near as much as the larger ones. Also, for the most part, food is cheap. You’ve already made the food and either you are going to eat it and waste it into the toilet, or you are going to throw it out. I think being healthy and happy is a better deal than saving a few cents on left over foods. Furthermore, making food at home will still be cheaper than eating out and way healthier, so if throwing out your left overs keeps you cooking at home, than I am all for it.



{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.



{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.



et cetera