Ten years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, I only imagined myself taking on the Forces of Evil, working uphill against the MAN, trying to make the world a better place, questioning the status quo, raising hell and making unfair entities accountable for their actions.
I have a family now, though. I can’t go around poking bears who could take my kids, blacklist me and/or my husband, take my house, etc. I have to be careful, I have to be sneaky.
But the activist inside me is not happy being sneaky. She wants to be loud and heard. Then again, she also wants to blow up the gas refinery, so it’s not like she’s high up on the priority list with “good ideas”. At the same time, I feel like I should be doing more to help the world through what is, no doubt, going to be a hell of a year.
Worried about food quality? Plant an organic garden. It’s not hard, and it’s less expensive than you might think.
Worried about the craptastic health care the U.S. system provides? Find yourself a Naturopathic Doctor – often less than half your insurance premium, and better results.
Worried about the interest rate hikes? Tighten the belt, get rid of extras, limit your spending, and pay off loans and credit cards. Make sure you have as many things automatically paid per month as you can so that you don’t fall behind.
Live beneath your means.
Prioritize your purchases.
Make lists of only things you NEED and stick to them.
(A “need” is defined as something crucial to survival. A “want” is a desire that is not necessarily crucial to survival. A “need” is NOT that video game you’ve been waiting for years to get released and you have to have it or zomg you’re going to die. If that’s the case, please off yourself and let the rest of us use your survival-critical resources on someone with proper priorities. That’s the aisle on the left.)
These are all common sense things that people just don’t do. It’s rough, it sucks, but after a while, people start realizing how addicted they’ve become to convenience and, more importantly, what the price for that convenience really is.
Joe and I are going to start a few practice months of No Buying. We’re not going to pick up that new movie that just came out, we’re not going to spend extra money at the book store for books we could get at the library, and we’re not going to eat out. We may squeeze in a date night (which consists of leaving the house and having a beer each) because that’s just good mental health.
We’re also going to put every extra penny we can towards paying down the loans we had to get in order to redo the dangerously fallen-apart kitchen. We’re going to pay off the credit cards and then lock them in the fire box. We’re going to see what we can do additionally about paying off the second mortgage a little faster, and maybe sending a little extra per month to our first mortgage.
In the last year or so, I got lazy about keeping the budget spreadsheet. I used to be able to tell you where every single penny was at any given moment, and I was pretty proud of that. However, a lot of spending meant that keeping up the spreadsheet was nearly a full-time job. One of my determinations for the new year (because it starts in January, not because it’s a “noo yeers revolshun”) is to start it up again. I crunched the numbers and for the life of me cannot figure out how the hell we run out of money every month. We should have a significant surplus, but it’s just not there.
So, whips are crackin’, belts are tightening, and grocery lists are being made. We will still spend the apparent extra money on organic and natural food because that saves us thousands of dollars in the long run – and we don’t eat as much of it. Our bodies get the nourishment that they need. We will keep our Netflix and GameTap accounts because less than $30 a month for entertainment is better than four or five $15 to $20 DVDs. Our biggest expense, right behind the mortgage, is debt, and that is something that I never even conceived of having until I met Joe. I’ve never had a credit card, never gotten a loan – all of this is in his name – but I relaxed my standard so that we could buy a house. Okay, the house is bought, now let’s get back to being debt free.
The hardest parts for me are going to be: Walking past the $1 aisle in Target without buying anything; not buying any new yarn and instead finding the two or three missing tubs of stash I have somewhere around here; saving up to buy a new laptop in cash (I probably need to get one within the next few months); saving up to buy laptops for the kids’ schooling; paying for the kids’ schooling programs; putting aside extra money to pay off the mortgages faster; limiting gas and cig expenses for non-critical excursions. (Yes, I still smoke – almost three ciggies a day. If I spend $20 on it a month, it’s a miracle. I’ll reduce that, too, but I’m not ready to quit just yet.)
I’m looking forward to getting back to that simpler lifetime – to fixing things ourselves, to paying in cash or living without, to having money when we need it. I miss it. I want it back.
It’s not easy, but I’m going to do it.