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.

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!

{July 15, 2008}   Happiness

Even after downsizing my living space multiple times, from a large Ranch House, to various smaller apartments, I was still able to keep space for things that are special to me. I have saved the best of my papers and art work from my childhood through my current college courses. I look through all these things once every three to six months and reflect on my life. I even have one journal, from bad years in my childhood, that I scrawled on “do not read, depressing.” I sometimes read it, it is depressing. I also save books that I like or have information I might use again in them.

I don’t scrap book, I file cabinet.

One of my coworkers is a mother, and I told her I had saved my papers from my first term of paralegal courses, and that when my professor had given an identical worksheet a year later, I was able to save myself time by reusing my work. She was aghast, she said, “You will stop saving all that stuff as you get older and have some kids, you won’t have room!”

Now, I do not know if this is true. Do parents have to get rid of the things from their childhood, and even college years that they are proud of or information they might find valuable again to make way for children?

I somehow found that sad. I am somewhat attached to the memories this file cabinet of special papers and artwork. Usually when someone tells me I will do such and such or believe such and such “when I am older” or “when I have children” I get angry. But this time, it just made me sad for a moment that she has had to trash all those memories to make space.

There is a Newsweek article making the rounds about how the childless are happier than parents. There are varying levels of reaction to this article and the subsequent TV newscasts. A lot of childfree people are getting angry at how pro-natal the reaction is.

I often get angry when people tell me I will understand what happiness is when I have children. But thanks to articles and studies like the Newsweek one I realize how much happiness I truly have to look forward to in my following years. Just as my boxes of memories remind me of past happiness–Happiness shall continue for a long life. A life that promises to be happy–even without children.

{July 8, 2008}   Link Love Great job using the child-free flexibility and availability to your advantage. In a parent focused world, there is still great places that appreciate what the childfree have to offer over the average parent. Career vs Kids?  Childfree folks keep busy growing their careers.

Also there is a new issue of unscripted out, it always has a lot to offer child free folks. this post points out a few biases men don’t tend to face involving the choice to be childfree.  We need to get to a place that the choice not to have or raise children is just as powerful a choice of feminity as chosing to have or primarily raise children.

If you want to add hundreds or even a thousand or two to your monthly budget. You can cut expenses drastically, like I covered before, downsize your mortgage or lease, downsize your transportation. Another option, or even better an option to use in concert with the others, is to upsize your income. There are several ways you can do this: In this article I will cover landing a raise; either a traditional raise, promotion, or untraditional raise.

A child-free person’s life is their own to do with as they please. If you are really behind on the bills, want to fund an education, or save up for emergencies, then committing to making more money is a great option. I believe it is best to go forward on all fronts. You can spend your free-time preparing to ask for a raise and committing to get in the most possible hours at work. Take advantage of not having kids to make it into work more often and to stay off the phone with family and focus on productivity.

Firstly, how does one earn a raise? One earns a raise by getting up the guts to ask. One plans how they will ask, how they will justify that they are worth the extra money, and by following through with asking. When you are preparing to ask for a raise. Polish up your resume. Focus on accomplishments not just duties and skills, you will mention these accomplishments to your boss when asking for the raise. And if your boss says “no” to a raise, you are all ready to go looking elsewhere for that raise!

You will need to be spot on for the month while you are preparing to ask. Do your best work, don’t goof off, get to work on time and don’t miss days. Then schedule a review time with your boss. Tell your boss what you have accomplished and improved upon. Ask your boss if he or she has any recommendations for you. Unless the recommendations are crippling, ask for a raise. Your boss won’t likely fire you for asking, and they will likely actually give you a raise or consider giving you one in the near future.

Don’t take a “no” to hard. You know you are worth the money, and you might have to go elsewhere to find it. If your boss made a recommendation for improvement, make the improvement, then follow up a month or two later and ask for that raise again! I followed this plan with my boss. I emailed him after 6 months of working, I covered my accomplishments in the email, and I asked to meet with him for a review. He passed me off on my supervisor, and she talked things over with me, told me I needed to gab with my coworkers less and offered me a dollar an hour raise. For the longest time, I was the only one in my department who earned a raise. Later on, when I was promoted, I asked for a raise, and I was told “No, not yet.” However, just a few months later when I pulled through on a new pet project for the partner, he emailed me with a new raise.

I kept reading that one of the main reasons women make less money than men is because women don’t ask for raises as much and don’t negotiate as hard. I decided to look into this. My friend was doing a report on the wage disparity, and I asked her to compare child-free/childless men and women. The wage gap disappeared. Perhaps this is because we miss less work, spend less time on emergency phone calls, and perhaps because of this we have an easier time asking for raises. Use your advantages! Get that raise, childfreebie!

You can give yourself an untraditional raise by opting into benefit programs at your work that you have not been using. Health insurance, tuition reimbursement, 401K matching, and etc. You usually have to put a little bit into these benefits. For health insurance there are sometimes employee paid premiums. Tuition reimbursement requires an upfront payment from you that will be repaid if you get a good grade. Be realistic with yourself, if the class is too hard for you to keep up your grade, then drop it before you end up paying full price for it. You are trying to get a raise not throw money down the hole. You can always sign up for a more introductory course and try again. 401K matching programs require you to put in a percent of your income and then your company matches that, but you don’t get to touch that cash until you retire. It is worth it, do it! Find a way to big chunk away expenses so you can afford to contribute the maximum match percentage. If there are benefits that you cannot use because they are for parents, ask your boss to include cafeteria options for folks to pick out: higher matching on 401K, lower premiums on health care, higher tuition reimbursements, more vacation time. Parents whose spouses get duplicate benefits can appreciate a cafeteria plan too.

At my former job, I opted into Health Insurance reimbursement immediately. While most of my coworkers dragged their feet. For every month they dragged their feet, I was making $170 more than them. I used my health insurance to have a surgery, pay for medicines, and get my teeth cleaned. Money well earned and well spent. Take advantage of benefits early and often.

Another way to give yourself a raise is to work more hours. Polish up your act. If you have been missing days or coming in late, stop! Arrive to work on time and ready to get started, come into work even if you are a little bit sick, dayquil can do wonders. If you have a health issue that is keeping you from being the best worker possible, it is time to consider paying to fix that. For example, do you need new glasses? Do you have insomnia? Do you face migraines? These sort of health issues are often treatable. Save up a few hundred dollars to go to the doctor and begin therapy (or get new glasses). If your productivity ups, so does your likelyhood of getting that raise. The extra days and minutes you are at work will add up to extra pay. The few hundred you spend getting your health fixed up a little, will pay themselves back quickly when you make it to work on time everyday. If you are salaried you can use your improvements to argue for a raise, if you are hourly the results in extra income is immediate.

Give yourself a raise by finding a better paying and more satisfying job. You polished up your resume when you prepared to ask for a raise. Now you have a document that is worth money! You have listed your accomplishments that make you a great employee. So go out there and apply! If you have the flexibility, consider applying to jobs in better markets. For example: Seattle is better than Portland for legal professionals. Surf around Craigslist and see what towns are offering the most openings and the highest pay for your career. Apply to many jobs. You have to spend an hour or so a week crafting cover letters and contacting companies. I saved myself a ton of time by adding a craigstlist RSS feed to my google reader and having monster email me openings that fit my criteria. When you are getting the openings right at your google station, (or yahoo, or other email and RSS feed reader combo), you can begin applying right away. Using feeds and emails, you can be one of the first to apply to new listings.

When you get called on interviews, you will have to dress up. If you don’t want to appear suspicious at work, should you work in a casual environment, have your nicer clothes in a bag or in your car. Wear something that can easily be dressed up and down on your way in and out of your work to and from the interview. And I recently figured out that scheduling your interviews as close to lunch as possible turns your interviews from appointments that take you away from work noticeably, and into long lunches that no one notices.

Don’t forget when you are out there applying to new jobs, that your own company might have openings that would spell promotion for you. Apply to those too, and take advantage of references from within the company to get a better chance at them. Go and speak directly your friends in the department and ask them for copies of their resumes. They already successfully landed the position you want, finding out what they emphasized on their resumes could be big help to re-crafting your own. When someone gives notice that they are retiring, quitting, taking family leave or is fired, go see the boss immediately and voice your interest in growing in the company, and your interest in that department. If you already have some cross training or education in that area, mention that too. You might be promoted right away so that the prior employee can train you, and there is no gap in coverage of the position.

Getting a raise is a big chunk way to add more money to your budget. But don’t just let the extra money disappear to random expenses. Keep your goals firmly in mind. Send your extra money to savings, debt reduction or towards goals like improving your health, education, retirement account or even your lifestyle with purpose.

et cetera