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The Power of Contentment

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“We may not have a lot, but we have plenty.”

This has been my mantra for a few months now. As predicted by some BAD readers, Princess has definitely been exposed to the “rich and fancy” lifestyle some of the kids at her private school experience on a day to day basis. Thankfully, she has a good head on her shoulders and we have had lots of money and priority talks over the last few years that it hasn’t turned her head too much. But there are definitely occasions where I can tell it gets to her.

I am learning that the key to my “financial freedom” is contentment. In creating and living a life I love and truly enjoy, I am far less suspect to be so focused on the next…

By that I mean, in the past, I was always focused and working towards the next experience, the next trip, the next big thing…all which is entailed spending money, sometimes lots of it.

And by being content and present in a life I love, I don’t feel the draw of so many of the pitfalls I dealt with, or failed to deal with before. I do not feel the need to “shop” or “compete” or “keep up.”

Life Update

I am happy with our rental house and the home we have made out of it. It’s not fancy or in a great neighborhood, but it’s solid and reliable, warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We have privacy and a yard. And have just enough room for us.

I love my job. And especially on cold winter days, getting to work in my recliner, under a blanket with my warm fuzzy socks on. My clients’ work and lives are fascinating and varied. And as much as I miss all our travel, I am getting to help them plan some amazing trips, so maybe someday, I will be in that place again. But for now, can live vicariously through them and get the satisfaction of a job well done.

The Kids

The kids are happy and thriving. History Buff has finally completed high school and is preparing to begin college while continuing to work part time. It sounds like he will be following in Sea Cadet’s footsteps and spending a year with Americorp. (Not writing that in stone as he seems to change his plans every couple of days, but he is making plans.)

Princess is doing amazing at her new school. Captain of the volleyball team, now a cheerleader and headed to her first dance this weekend. She is chomping at the bit and continuing to prove trustworthy and what a good she has on her shoulders.

Gymnast has decided to come for Christmas after all and will land Christmas night. I haven’t seen him since the end of the July, so his week and a half visit is much needed. But he seems to be thriving with his dad and is now wrestling on the high school team.

Sea Cadet is loving his experience with Americorps and has truly gotten to do some amazing things. He’s made noises about doing a second year. But again, who knows what he will decide when it comes to the end of his commitment (in May-ish.)

All This Leads To

Maybe it’s that the kids are older and more independent. Perhaps it’s the significant change in our activity levels. Maybe it’s that I’m cooking more and enjoying trying new recipes. Maybe it’s just finally getting tired of all the stress that financial mess gave me, and finally making big changes and learning to say no.

But the contentment I feel in my life now, well, it’s had the biggest affect on my money. And my ability to hold on to it longer. Save it. Make better long term choices.

In business, I’ve always been told to work a job, you don’t need a vacation from. That is what I’m doing. And the same principle applies to life. And that’s what I’m doing there too. It’s been life altering, more than any budget or game or challenge that I’ve done before.

 


Controlling My Christmas Shopping

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Christmas shopping bags

I read today that consumers plan to spend an average of $1047.83 this year on Christmas shopping and holiday purchases. My first thought is what a ton of money to spend in one month! But then I realized I usually have no idea how much we’re spending each Christmas or where our money is going.

We’ve never saved for or created a clear Christmas budget. I just try to keep things low and hope it turns out okay. I start early, I use sales, and I’m skilled at convincing my kids they still want the toy they told me about in November and that I already bought. So far this year I’ve just been using our budget’s gift category to the max these past few months, and then supplementing with earnings from my freelance work. It sounds sloppy because it is.

We can’t keep this up. Luckily there’s still time to control my Christmas shopping. Here are some things I’m trying:

1. Limiting the Number of Gifts We Give

For our kids we’re doing the trendy-though-controversial gift-giving concept of “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” Then they’ll get a board game for the whole family.

My husband and I decided to just do small stocking stuffers for each other, nothing more. But we also pondered if some other gifts could be omitted. We both come from large families that do gift exchanges, and as our families keep growing and moving far apart, this has started to cause stress, overwhelm, and loss of the true spirit of giving and receiving. At the risk of sounding like a Scrooge, I proposed to each side of the family the idea of no longer exchanging gifts. It was… not popular. But it did start a good conversation, and I think next year we may just say no thank you and bow out entirely.

2. Planning Ahead and Looking for Sales and Freebies

I always look for deals, but now I’m sticking only to the things on the list (no emotional, “come on, it’s Christmas” shopping). I’m also making better use of free items, like a cousin’s hand-me-down plane my son will love. I was even able to score a free 21-pound turkey when I spent $100 at our grocery store the week before Thanksgiving. Booya.

3. Consolidating and Simplifying

I love the chance to connect with a few close neighbors and friends at Christmas, but I’m keeping it simple and giving everyone the same thing—Christmas potpourri. I made it last year, and it was a hit. It’s easy to assemble, I have leftover supplies from last December, and I only need to buy oranges and cranberries.

4. Using Gift Cards and Store Credit

Close to $1 billion of gift cards went unredeemed in 2015. I plan to use the stash of random cards in my purse for gifts. Our local bookstore also offers store credit when you sell them used books, so I have some unused credit I’ll put towards the kids (“Darth Vader and Son” books here we come).

Controlling our Christmas shopping is changing our behavior and it hurts sometimes. My husband and I had a moment of truth standing in Target on the afternoon of Black Friday. We had gone there for something specific for the business, but the displays of DVDs on sale sucked my movie-loving husband in. As he showed me a stack of of movies we could buy, we had to look each other in the eye and accept they just weren’t in the budget. It was a buzzkill, but it frees us up for the purchases we really do want to make this time of year.

How do you save on gift-giving during the holidays?


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