Posts

Showing posts from September, 2020

Save Your Brain and Improve Your Life

Image
I recently had a milestone birthday, one I might normally have celebrated with a big party, friends, and family.  But with COVID-19 protocols in place, my husband and I ordered a nice takeout dinner which we ate at home, just the two of us.  The next day, my daughter, son-in-law, and my two young grandsons visited.  We all wore masks and ate at two different tables separated by more than six feet.  I almost let myself feel disappointment.  I was tempted.  Wow, it's so easy to fall into self-pity, isn't it?  An organization (and book ) called A Complaint Free World estimates that the average person complains aloud 15 to 30 times each day.  That doesn't count the negative comments we think .  (Maybe those should be counted too.  After all, isn't thinking about another person when you're married a type of cheating?) I generally think of myself as a positive, upbeat person, relatively complaint free.  Guess what happened when I started tallying each complaint I made on

Create a Zero-Based Budget

Image
A budget gives us control over where our money is going, and a zero-based budget gives us a plan for every dollar. 8 Steps to Creating a Zero-Based Budget 1.  Remember what's essential. If you're struggling to make ends meet, you need to focus on your bare essentials.  These are: Food – You need to keep food in your belly. Shelter – You need a roof over your head. Utilities – You need to keep the light and heat on and the water running. Personal maintenance – You need to keep yourself and your home clean. Transportation – You need to be able to get to work. Communication – You need to be able to keep in touch with work and loved ones. 2.  Know your priorities. Every human being has the same essential needs, but our dreams and desires differ.  For my husband and I, living on one salary so I could stay home and teach our children was a priority.  For others, retiring before age 50 might be what matters most.  Maybe you really want to keep a horse, or you've always wanted a bi

The Beauty of Budgeting

Image
"This is your money.  Stop wondering where it went and start telling it where to go." Dave Ramsey The Total Money Makeover  (paid link) To many, the idea of a budget seems restrictive, boring, and old fashioned.  But believe it or not, "budget" is not a dirty word, and a budget is not an outdated idea, but a useful tool for us today. The process of making a budget helps us focus on our needs, of course, but it also lets us find a way to afford our desires.  A budget doesn't tell us what we can't spend; it's simply a plan for how we choose to use our money.  Many of us are near-sighted about money. We pay our bills every month, and manage to afford clothes, restaurant meals, salon appointments, and our morning lattes, but we're always caught short by our annual auto registration fees or property taxes.  Lots of our entertainment requires a credit card, as does any true emergency.  We don't save much for retirement, even though it's inevitable

Rethink the American Dream

Image
My husband and I moved four times in our first four years of marriage, then bought a house and stayed there for eight years. When we moved to a larger town for a better job, we sold our first house for about 50% more than we had originally paid for it  I thought we had done well.  But after subtracting the amount we had spent on home improvements over the years, I realized we had actually made far less on the sale. We rented an apartment in our new town so we could get to know the area before deciding to buy another house.  Our rent was approximately the same as our previous house payment, but of course it didn't qualify as a tax deduction the way our mortgage interest had.  Imagine my surprise when we filed taxes the next year, took the standard deduction, and realized that it wasn't that much less than our mortgage interest had been.  We had paid thousands of dollars in interest every year in order to save a few hundred dollars in taxes. I started to wonder if owning a house

MINIMALIST TOOL KIT: Enjoy the Simple Things

Image
Don't get me wrong.  I love the occasional filet mignon dinner.  I enjoy live theater.  It's wonderful to stay at Glendeven Inn on the Mendocino coast. But my tastes are actually very simple.  I sometimes think I could live on sourdough bread, cheese, red seedless grapes, and minestrone soup.  My Starbucks order is a Cafe Misto (coffee with steamed milk).  My favorite outfit is dark wash jeans and a jewel colored, three-quarter sleeve v-neck tee shirt.  I love library books, crossword puzzles, and the classical music station .  Give me a drizzly day and a wooded path and I'm in seventh heaven. A lot of people believe that if you're not constantly striving, if you don't have an extensive bucket list, you can never be happy.  I think they've got it wrong.  If you want to be happy, you need to learn to appreciate the things around you, the things you can enjoy every day.  No one is happy who constantly fixates on what she doesn't have, while overlooking all of

A Day to Remember

Image
It's Patriot Day in the US, the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11. It's generally thought of as a day to remember the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but it's also a time to be thankful for all of the first responders who risked their lives, and the many others who pitched in to help and comfort those who were affected by the tragedy. Today is the perfect time to volunteer for an organization that improves the lives of others, spreading kindness and offering hope.  You might also give a monetary gift to such an organization, drop off a bag of groceries at your local food closet (or some food and treats at the animal shelter), or simply pick up garbage in your neighborhood or the park. Today is also a good time to write one or more thank you notes to the people who have made your life better.  Your parents, grandparents, pastor, or a friend would love to hear from you.  If you have children, I know their teachers would appreciate a n

Why a Uniform Might Work for You

Image
Say a man wears a navy or charcoal suit with a white dress shirt every day.  The only change he makes is his tie.  Former President Obama did this, explaining, "I'm trying to pare down decisions.  I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make."  To which almost everyone said, "Cool.  That makes sense."  When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears jeans, a gray tee shirt, and a gray hoodie every day, or any other man wears Levi's and a white Oxford button-down as a daily uniform, people either make no comment, or decide that the look is "iconic" and makes a lot of sense for a busy, important man. However, if a woman wears a signature outfit every day, most people write her off as unstylish and/or unfeminine.  People wonder if she's letting herself go.  When Hillary Clinton went through a period of wearing dark pant suits (the closest parallel to the outfits of her male counter

The 4x4 Wardrobe

Image
One secret to dressing stylishly and well with a smaller wardrobe is to limit colors.  This doesn't mean you need to dress all in black.  A capsule wardrobe can certainly include bright color.  The trick is to choose a base color.  A base color is a neutral that can be worn with many other hues, such as black, brown, navy, khaki, gray, or denim.   This is the color you want to use for trousers, skirts, jackets, cardigans, suits, and dresses that you wear over and over. Look in your closet and pull out the trousers, skirts, suits, or cardigans and jackets that you wear most often and feel most comfortable and attractive in.  Do they share any colors in common?  Many of us gravitate toward one or two base/neutral colors.  One person might find that she consistently likes and chooses black and charcoal for trousers and jackets; another person naturally chooses navy, while a third gravitates toward shades of brown.  I like black and dark wash denim. The color(s) that we like to put on