Work With What You Have

This month, as I strive to not buy unnecessary things, I’m trying to be content with what I already have. I have started to see greater potential in things currently in my home, finding ways to get creative and repurpose items that have been overlooked or underutilized. This way, I can change things up when I want to while avoiding big hits to my wallet.

As my sister and I are hoping to find a new place to live, we’re taking this transition as an opportunity to look through the things we currently have and create a space that better reflects our personalities and what we want our home to look and feel like. We’ve both collected various items over the years that don’t necessarily represent who we are or how we want our space to function. We have picked these things up at thrift stores because they were cheap, gotten them as well-intentioned gifts, or even purchased them because we liked them at the time, but have since grown out of them. The result is an apartment full of mis-matched things that we’re not so crazy about. So begins yet another pile of items to be donated.

Hoping we’ll have a new home to call our own and decorate in whatever way we wish gives us a blank slate, an opportunity to start over in a way.As twenty-somethings, we don’t have much dispensable income (especially considering the fact that we’re looking to move), so we’re getting creative with what we have. Knowing there are some treasures hidden in the clutter we’ve accumulated, we are also brainstorming ways to create a space that does suit us better. My sister is really good at repurposing things, and I’m working on channeling her creativity and artistic eye in transforming old, ignored pieces into true treasures.

I began by taking a look around my room and my apartment to see what could use a little sprucing up. I also took inventory of what supplies I had on hand, both so that I can make sure I use them up in an effort to not accumulate too much, and to save money when possible by using what I already have. I knew I didn’t need to go out and buy all-new decor for my home to make it look and feel the way I wanted to; there certainly were things I wanted to change, and I set about trying to do it creatively.

When I purchased a new bed and bedding set a month ago, I told myself I was going to work to create a more cohesive color palette and decor theme. Instead of seeing such a wide array of miscellaneous things that don’t go together, I wanted to work to make things feel like they really fit and belong in the space.

I drew inspiration from Pinterest, of course, to find some DIY projects that wouldn’t break the bank, and my sister and I quickly put together a board full of fabulous ideas for our next home! Some things will have to wait until we have a new space, but there are others that I can try my hand at now to get a head-start on creating a unified, relaxing, calming space of things that I love and things that really fit well together.

 

I recently re-made my jewelry board that I didn’t want IMG_0577 (1)to get rid of but kept thinking was a bit of an eyesore. So I began by painting the frame of my jewelry board (just an old bulletin board) and recovering it with fabric that actually matches my room instead of the purple floral linen I had used when I made it a few years ago. I had the new fabric and paint already, so I didn’t have to spend any money on the project, and it fits much better with the other things in my room now (including a large picture frame that I updated with new scrapbook paper to mat the photo, tying it in to the other pieces I have in my room).

Of course, this little one-evening project got my wheels turning about what else I can do to transform my space. I have already come up with a list of small changes I can make,IMG_0580 and I look forward to slowly seeing my room come together as I cross them off the list. There’s a special feeling of accomplishment when you see your hard work pay off, and I think handmade items add a certain touch that store-bought pieces just can’t measure up to.

What kinds of things have you repurposed? When have you used your creative talents to transform a space? Do you have any suggestions for making your house feel like a home on a tight budget? I’d love to hear them!

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Intentionally Investing

“In order to make purchases that support our values, we must be willing to be conscious, thoughtful consumers—even if it means spending more on quality items…It’s about investing in products that are a reflection of what we really value.”-Jesse Carey, Relevant Magazine

Saving money is good. Finding deals is good. Shopping sales and second-hand stores is good. But so is investing in quality, even when it comes at a higher monetary cost.

The question we must ask ourselves is “what matters more to me?” Do we want the bottom-of-the-barrel price and subsequently lower-quality product, or are we willing to pay a premium for organic, locally grown, sustainably resourced, environmentally friendly, well-made, longer-lasting alternatives instead of cheap imitations? If we truly value the quality of something and want it to last, we might have to be willing to pay more for it.

There is no shame in paying a higher cost for something when you have thought about it and decided that quality is something you place a high value on. At first glance, these might seem like splurges or unnecessary expenses, especially for people without much disposable income. But if we budget and plan for it, we might be able to incorporate more higher-quality products into our lives, even if we can’t buy everything that we would like to right away.

If we invest more in these products, we’re more likely to take better care of them and make them last as long as possible. For instance, if we pay more for expensive foods, we’re more apt to make sure we store them properly to keep them fresh as long as possible, and ensure we use it all instead of throwing any away like we might if we knew we hadn’t spent much money on it. In terms of things like cars, furniture, technology, or other high-ticket items, we treat them with greater care and respect when we had to save and shell out a great deal of money to buy them. Just think about how you felt when you bought your first car– it was your cherished baby, not just your parents’ car on loan.

I’m all about finding good deals and shopping second-hand stores when it comes to some things, although I have been more careful about taking my time to search for hidden treasures in those places– pieces that are of good quality and sold at a lower price. It takes a lot of time, and sometimes I have to be willing to walk away empty-handed if I don’t find exactly what I’m looking for, but in the long run, I know it’s better than compromising and getting something that’s not quite right, thinking it’s “close enough,” and ultimately being dissatisfied with it because I don’t really love it.

For me, it’s well worth it to bide my time and wait for the right piece instead of settling for something less. That way, I end up with fewer pieces over all, but I like them more and get more use out of them. It’s a win-win. I have less clutter by way of unwanted stuff, and I’m getting more use out of the things I have, surrounding myself with the things I love.

When are you willing to spend more to get products of higher quality?

 

Further reading:

The Power of Buying Less by Buying Better by Elizabeth Cline, The Atlantic

The Case for Thoughtfully Buying Expensive Things by Jesse Carey, Relevant Magazine

 

Image source: www.distributiondirect.com

Project 7: Spending

In my aim to revisit specific areas of my life through Project 7, focus intentionally on them for a month, and see what changes I can make to better align my daily life with my long-term goals, I now turn to my spending.

I’ve written before about budgeting, cutting out shopping, and getting rid of debt, but I am once again motivated to think about how I spend my money for a different reason: my sister and I are househunting! We have barely begun the process, but I know it’s going to be an expensive one.

In light of the inevitably huge expenses we will face, I’m setting aside July as my month to closely monitor my spending. After thinking so much about my possessions last month, I know I don’t need to fill my home with more and more stuff to be happy. But I also know that unless I’m really careful about what I buy on a regular basis, it’s easy to look back at the end of the month and be surprised about where my money went.

I am committing to taking a good, hard look at my budget and revising it as necessary to allow me to save the money I need for our new home. I don’t know for sure what we’ll need yet, but unexpected repairs could come up at any time, and I want to be prepared to handle them. Of course, I also want to allow room for buying more fun things like paint or furnishings.

There are some things that I obviously can’t cut out of my budget this month– things like groceries, gasoline, rent, utilities, and tithing. However, I do plan to stick to those categories and not make impulse buys. I have far more than I need, and I know being able to have more money saved for a future goal is going to be well worth the tightened purse strings.

One thing I have begun to do is create a long-term shopping list of things I’d eventually like to buy when I have the money (mostly bigger-ticket items, but not always). Creating a shopping list might sound counter-intuitive in trying to save money, but by creating this list, I’m forced to prioritize my spending. I know that if I want to be able to buy the items on my list, I have to be willing to say “no” to buying other things.

This way, I’m not refusing to buy the things I could really make use of, but I’m also not emptying my bank account by going on huge shopping sprees. It gives me breathing room and ample time to evaluate whether I really do want a particular item enough to pay for it. By putting something on a long-term list, I’m essentially forcing myself to hold off on buying it for a while, and giving myself the opportunity to wait it out and see if my desire for it was a passing thing or if I still want it down the road.

Do you have any tips for keeping your spending in check? I’d love to hear them!

Finding Food Savings

Food can get expensive quickly, as many of us know. Eating out and buying groceries while trying to save money can seem incredibly challenging, so I thought I would share some tips that have helped me out.

  1. If you want to eat out, go out for lunch instead of dinner; it’s usually cheaper
  2. Share a meal with a friend or take your leftovers home so you get twice as much out of one entrée
  3. Set a budget for grocery and eating out expenses and stick to it
  4. Create a grocery list and stick to it; impulse buys add up quickly!
  5. Make more of your own food; convenience foods are surprisingly easy to replicate, cheaper when you buy the ingredients that can be stretched further or used for other dishes, and are healthier when you can control what goes in them
  6. Look for coupons & sign up for restaurants’ email lists if you go there frequently
  7. Eat seasonally– foods taste best and are cheaper when they’re in season
  8. Pack lunch during the week; buying lunch quickly adds up, and can easily become a bad habit. Pack food the night before and you’ll be all set!
  9. Buy groceries with meals in mind; if you haphazardly buy what sounds good without a plan for what to make with what you purchase, you might end up with a whole cart full of mismatched things and no real meals
  10. Check unit prices– different sizes can be confusing when you’re trying to find the best deal; do the math to compare prices per ounce or gram
  11. Buy in bulk when it’s practical– if you have room to store a larger package that has a lower unit price and will use it before it goes bad, then go for it! If you won’t use that much in a reasonable amount of time or don’t have room to store it, opt for the smaller package to reduce waste and save space.
  12. Compare prices at different stores. It may seem labor-intensive, but it could be really rewarding to save money by shopping for the right items at the right places. This doesn’t mean you have to run to four different stores every week; you can create menu plans and grocery lists based on one or two stores, and simply rotate as needed. And remember to stock up on dry goods when you visit your less-frequented stores if you find them on sale and know you are saving yourself a trip you’d have to make later anyway.

What are some of your favorite money-saving tips? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Dropping Debt

In my desire to pay down my debt as fast as I possibly can, I let my parents talk me into taking Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace University class at their church. I will admit I was less than enthusiastic about the idea of giving up my only free weeknight to listen to talks about financial planning, but it turned out far better than I expected.

Not only did I learn about creating a budget, investing, paying off debt, and insurance, but I enjoyed the experience (gasp!). The things I learned in that class changed my approach to managing money, and I am grateful to have learned how to manage money well at a young age.

As I recently graduated from college, I entered the class with a substantial amount of wdhcvvxx-1365477788student loan debt. On top of that, I had a car loan. Even though I had been diligent about paying on my student loans while in school, and paying as much as I could above the minimum payments every month, progress was slow. It seemed like I was never going to be able to pay off my debts. They were hanging over my head, weighing down on my shoulders.

One of the first things we did in the class was create a budget. This was hard for me initially, but has since become a source of comfort. Once I knew how much money I planned to spend in each category for the next month, I could relax. I knew all of my bills will be paid because I allocated the appropriate amount of money to them. I was then able to decide that the bulk of what remained was going to go toward my loans. Once the necessities were taken care of (tithing, rent, utilities, gasoline, food), any remaining portion of my paycheck was directed toward my loans. Sticking to a budget allowed me to funnel more of my money toward paying off my debt because I no longer had money being siphoned out of my bank account into little odds and ends I wasn’t accounting for before.

Taking this class was the catalyst I needed to get in gear and really be intentional about paying off my debt as soon as possible. When you set your mind on something, you are willing to go to great lengths to make it happen. I started dreaming about what life would be like without debt, and it looked pretty great. I decided I would fight to make it happen.

During the 10 weeks of the class, I paid off nearly $5000 of debt, which was a huge accomplishment for me. And it only motivated me to keep going. It was as if I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I completely paid off one loan, so I was only left with one school loan and my car loan, lightening the load I was carrying.

Illustration depicting a roadsign with a debt concept. White background.I just paid off my remaining student loan last week, and am on track to have my car loan paid off by the end of the summer. I can’t explain to you how elated I am at the idea of being free of debt. Knowing that I will be free to save for things I want to do or invest in things I support brings a huge smile to my face. I know it will be a freedom I have never known, as I have only known life with debt since I became an adult.

Will you join me in dumping debt?

Chopping Shopping Challenge

If you know me very well at all, you know I tend to be a pretty frugal person. I shop the clearance racks, even at second-hand stores. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying gently used items, and in fact, I have a hard time paying full price for things when I know I could get them somewhere else for less money.

Because I am working hard to pay off debt, my budget is fairly tight. In looking for practical ways to cut costs, there were only so many areas I could scale back. Personal purchases was an easy choice for me.

In the midst of my journey into greater simplicity, coupled with my commitment to dropping my debt, I challenged myself to an even stricter shopping lifestyle. I decided in March to not buy any clothing, accessories, home decor, music, movies, or books for the remainder of 2015. This, of course, was only restricted to buying things for myself; gifts for others don’t count.coupons-scissors-380

Why such an extensive list, you wonder? In taking a more objective look at what I already own, I could confidently say that I have far more than I need. I really, truly, don’t need any more clothing or entertainment. I have roommates I can borrow things from if I feel the need to change up my wardrobe. Between all of us, we have a vast library of books and movies, and there’s always the library and internet. I essentially limited myself to buying consumables– food and paper products (although I’m working to reduce those, too).

Although I’m less than three full months into this challenge, I feel good about my progress. I have been tempted at times to buy things, but have been able to walk away content that I have enough. It actually hasn’t been as hard as I expected it to be. I have chosen to not frequent stores that make it difficult for me to stick to my convictions, and I regularly remind myself why I have chosen to commit myself to this challenge– so that I can pay off my debt and be free from it.

I want to encourage you to consider your own shopping habits. Are you more prone to buy things when you’re upset? Do you participate in retail therapy? Do you stare at a full closet and feel like you have nothing to wear? I challenge you to rethink your tendencies and consider finding other ways to express yourself.

Here are some suggestions of things I have done to make this process easier:

1. Get more creative with your clothing, putting things together in ways you haven’t before. It will give you more options without requiring any new pieces.

2. Borrow things from friends or family members, especially if you wouldn’t use it regularly enough to own it yourself.

3. Shop at stores that don’t tempt you to defy your new standards. I have chosen to go to a small grocery store that has very little besides food because it doesn’t allow me to wander into other departments and buy things I didn’t go to the store for.

4. Keep your reason for reducing your shopping at the front of your mind; don’t focus on what you aren’t getting. Remind yourself instead that you are choosing things you want more– freedom, debt-free living, less clutter, more space, room to breathe, a more organized home.

Will you join the challenge?

Interested in a money-saving challenge, but don’t think this is the one for you? Check out my sister’s $5 Piggy Bank Challenge.