30 December 2008

Welcome to (the new!) Grati-Tuesday!



I wish I could take credit for it, but Gratituesday is hosted by Laura at Heavenly Homemakers. I stumbled upon her brilliance via a Tell All Tuesday link from The Happy Housewife which was in a Mr. Linky on a post at The Lazy Organizer. Whew! Quite the rabbit hole, eh? As a blogger that loveloveLOVES the concept of living with gratitude, I feel like I have come out from under a rock in the discovery of Laura's Gratituesday.

(SIDE BAR: I finally got my in text links to work rather than trying to just post the pure (and aesthetically unpleasing) link ... I hope. Blogger and I are not always friends, so keep your fingers crossed that it keeps working.)

Soooooo, let me be the first (obviously) to welcome you to the new Tuesday feature here at GSF. I was going to hold the new features until after the new year, but I got so blasted excited about this concept that I had to run over and post about it right.this.second. I've never so much been a plan ahead blogger, so why start now? It's 2am! What better time to be grateful?!

Gratituesday: Great in 2008!
I would be remiss if I tried to tell you all about how amazing 2008 was. It was not our best year, by far, which makes it difficult to be grateful for on face. We spent a fair amount of time trying to tame the chaos, and less time than I'd like laughing about it. 2008 was good to us in one most specific and crucial way, though. It has served to teach us a handful of life lessons, 8 of them in fact. For that, I am grateful.

January and February taught me patience.

March was spent reinforcing the real meaning of loyalty.

April and May were all about humility.

June taught me to value integrity and character.

July and August reinforced the need for persistence in doing good works, persistence in doing the right thing, and persistence in making right the things we do not always do right the first time around.

September and October were largely an examination of privilege ... mine, yours, ours, and otherwise.

November helped me see the importance of compromise, most especially in long term partnerships.

December has been entirely about being flexible. Life changes, whether we prefer it to or not, and being inflexible leads to heartbreak and disappointment in those circumstances that you can't change. Hand it over, and let those with higher pay grades take care of it.

Until next year, I am ...



29 December 2008

Attitude is Simply Everything.

The Saturday before the holiday, we were doing laundry and preparing some snacks for a handful of friends intending to brave the blizzard to hang out in our basement for the annual gathering of our friends from college. Less than 10 minutes after rebooting the laundry (read: switching loads, for those non-household productivity nerds out there), the mud room grew intensely quiet. The washer was still running, but the dryer stood silent. I figured perhaps someone had set the timer to the air dry or fluff cycle mistakenly, but of course no such luck. Be fiddled with it for awhile, but without a brand new motor, there likely isn't hope for the old beast.

This is not the end of the world. Sure, we had a washer full of clothes that needed to be dried. Sure, Be was leaving in 2 days for a week of holiday festivities 4 states from here. Sure, we have 5 people's worth of laundry to do every week, but still ... not at all the end of the world. The easy solution would be to put the washer through an extra spin cycle and then hang the damp clothes on the line in the bathroom. (Yes, really, we have a clothesline in our bathroom ... it's kind of huge ... I love it.) Easy peasy, really. We have another dryer in the basement of the garage which needs a part from the appliance store to convert it from natural gas to propane, but that's easy enough to order. Be is mechanically inclined, and I wouldn't even have to call the appliance company. Easy enough, right?

Right. The story should be over. Girl's dryer breaks, boy orders part, girl hangs laundry on the already established laundry line in interim, boy replaces part, girl resumes using dryer. That's not so complicated is it? Or, in my world, it could go something like girl's dryer breaks, girl's family has giant fit, boy neglects to order part, girl continues to suggest hanging laundry on line, girl's family throws tantrum about stiff jeans and scratchy towels and high tails it to the laundromat to PAY for both washing AND drying.

Ugh. I, in turn, am protesting. I live with all adults. They make adult decisions, no matter how I try to influence them. 3/5 of them are at this very moment at the laundromat pumping what will likely equal a wee fortune in quarters into the machines because they insist that line drying is either impossible, impractical, or the root cause of several contagious diseases (work and effort are on the list). Add that pile of quarters to the cost of snacks and sodas that inevitably comes with sitting bored in a laundromat attached to a gas station watching your clothes spin around, and my frustration only grows.


I, the grateful, simple, and frugal blogger will not profess to perfection. I have not always been all three of those things. I will confess to crimes of ingratitude, intense complexity, and frivolity with both money and resources in my past (and occasionally my present ... but I'm trying, I swear!). What I don't understand, though, is throwing away money when there are easy, simple, and FREE options available. Sure, line dried clothes are not Snuggle-brand soft, but neither are the clothes that come out of our regular dryer. Today, although I am ever grateful for the people that make up my family, I am having a hard time understanding them.

Why is it so impossible to consider just making do with what you have?

Likely because we no longer live in a society that values making do, thriftiness, or resource ingenuity. They are products (as am I, really) of a "right-now-I-must-have-everything-I-want-and-more" generation full of clutter, unending advertisement, and ever faster standards of production and efficiency. Can I blame them, then, for wanting to continue using the modern conveniences they're so used to? Sure I can. The environment one is a product of may well be an influence, but it is not the only one. The attitude with which one approaches life, and the things that make it life (inconveniences, curves in the road, stumbling blocks all come to mind) is really the key.

That attitude is what makes automatic and unconditional gratitude different than ingratitude. It's what makes simplicity different from clutter and chaos. That attitude is what makes frugality different from wastefulness, and what breeds contentment from the have rather than the have not. I am more committed to that attitude than ever as we begin this new year, and you can look forward to GSF continuing to be a haven for the like-minded.

In the meantime, I'm going to be grateful I'm not sitting on some hard formica benches paying money to watch my clothes dry. Until next time, I'm ...



27 December 2008

Instant Gratitude ... just add water.

I am not a fan of snow, never have been and likely never will be. It's cold and slickery. It keeps me bound up in the house for months at a time, it drives away the sunshine, and it makes me keep all the windows shut (thus preventing fresh breezes ... one of my favorite things). Never, really, are you likely to hear me say that I'm grateful for snow (no, not even for a white xmas ... bah humbug).

Today, is different.

After 7+ hours spent in the basement mopping up bucket upon bucket of water as the 50 degree temperatures melted the 4 foot drifts of snow in front of our house, I am on the brink of a change of heart. Our basement (where I keep my shelves and shelves of stockpiles by the way), has been attacked by the puddling and pooling liquid horror that is an unseasonal (and massive) snow melt. We have a tiny pump sunken in a hole under the floor that attempts to prevent the water from spilling out into the main room, but it's not so much doing the trick today with 2 months worth of snow melting like magic in a matter of hours.

Today, I would be very grateful if it were to snow ... or freeze ... subarctic style freezing, please. I am grateful for a (mostly) willing family of moppers, and for the water problem being in the basement rather than say ... falling from the ceiling.

I sure wish it would snow, though ...



25 December 2008

It's Beginning to Look Like a Link-tastic Xmas ...

Still recovering from my automotive disaster a few weeks ago, I have not spent more than a few minutes at a time online in the last 3 or so weeks. Today I'm feeling pretty 'ok', and with a super quiet house to (nearly) myself, I thought I would share some of the gems from my reader in recent weeks (and a few random links I've acquired along the way). I am hoping to be back to regular blogging soon, as my brain (the thing I hurt the most in said automotive disaster) heals and allows. Oh, and happy holidays!

If you're looking to boost your income in the new year, check out 5 Cent Nickel's top 36 suggestions for adding some extra cash to your budget at ... http://www.fivecentnickel.com/2008/12/15/33-money-making-ideas-ways-how-to-earn-extra-money/.

A really solid 12 step program can be good for anyone. If your vice is debt or overspending or even just paying less attention to your finances than you'd like to, then the 12 step written @ Being Frugal is for you. You can find it at ... http://beingfrugal.net/2008/12/12/finances-in-the-new-year/.

As the tuition bills arrive for yet another semester of college, I was particularly struck by the article at Tough Money Love about the part US colleges and universities play in the student loan/debt load racket. It points to a number of problems I see first hand at my own university, and likely links to some discussion about university corporatization that could be had. I like it, and anyone with or thinking of getting student loans should give it a read at ... http://toughmoneylove.com/2008/12/08/the-college-student-debt-machine-a-national-disgrace/#comment-1884.

I am a list maker by nature. I make lists about lists sometimes, and only those who are naturally compulsed to do the same will really understand that kind of organizational insanity. Since the recent demise of my favorite-est (not a word, for shame) technologically saavy list-o-matic, I have been searching for a new one. I've not reviewed this new possibility in its entirity, but it is showing some potential for sure. It's a new year soon ... don't you want to make a list about it? If so, check out Spring Pad at ... http://www.springpadit.com/.

Also for the list maker at heart, a few months ago the No Credit Needed Network posted a sweet list of free resources for financial planning and debt management. Having your debts, goals, budgets (and whatever else) on paper can be helpful for keeping everything on track. It is also quite motivating to check things off or strike through them as you complete them. If you haven't created your own personal finance materials yet, check out these freebies at ... http://www.ncnblog.com/2008/10/14/free-spreadsheets-tools-and-resources-for-managing-finances/

This time of year always inspires people to charitable giving. I won't fault anyone for being moved to charitable giving, but I will suggest that there is more room for generosity throughout the remainder of the year. Times are rough in our national economy, and I know that, but there is likely room to give something (if not money, time or skills or the like) regardless. Trent at the Simple Dollar has some solid ideas at ... http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/10/23/giving-outside-the-box-generosity-on-a-limited-budget/. Check it out.

On a similar note, JD at Get Rich Slowly did a piece in October about world poverty. Take a look and then try to convince me you aren't feeling ready to save the world ... or at least carve out a little more of your resources to do good for others. If nothing else, take it as a chance to reflect on your own privilege this holiday season. The piece can be seen at ... http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2008/10/15/faces-of-world-poverty-20-arresting-photographs/.

In the new year, I am going to try to improve my menu planning follow through. I make menus (sometimes ... well, a lot of the time), but they often fall by the way side because of poor planning or food-related moodiness amongst my family. We have this fancy schmancy 'smart' crockpot that I'm hoping will help remedy the menu failings we have been experiencing, and the fabulously creative blogging over at A Year of Crockpotting will hopefully help. You should check it out at ... http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/.

There are more fabulous articles and web resources to post about, not to mention all of the wonderful things I have fallen in love with on Etsy, but they will have to wait for another link-tastic post. I wish you and your families a happy, healthy, simple, frugal, and most wonderfully grateful holiday season. Check back for new features in the new year.



02 December 2008

Top 'O The Month: The End of a Long Hiatus Edition.

Two months.

It has been nearly 2 full months without a new post, and for that I apologize. I have had 8 weeks worth of long and complicated to do lists, and between staying up all night writing 15 page papers on theoretical frameworking while reading 300+ pages every week, and trying to find time to sleep I've simply had my hands full. Until last week, I hadn't grocery shopped for more than a loaf or two of bread since early October. It's a good thing we have a stockpile of food and household goods that allows for such laxity, eh? While I'm not out of the paper-writing woods quite yet, I've missed blogging here and am going to try to fit in more time to post in the coming weeks. I do apologize for leaving you hanging, and appreciate all of you that are still here reading along. You rock!

Now, for the numbers ...

EFund ... $1000. We used to have 2 EFunds, one in each of our accounts ... at least for a little while we did. We're back down to one, but we're still holding strong at $1000. We used the other one to pay some things down rather than keeping it in an account that was barely making any interest.

Dream Savings ... $400. That's less than it was earlier in this year, but more than it was 2 months ago. This savings account is in a bit of limbo because of the no income situation we're currently dealing with. I would reallyreallyreallyreally like to keep saving, but not at the cost of keeping the lights on so we'll see what happens in the coming months.

Jeep ... $235! That's right, just ONE payment left (I think, haha). Really, there's the next payment and then another one that will be smaller to clear the end balance of the loan since it didn't break up perfectly into equal monthly payments. I don't know how much that payment will be since I can't see the balance for this one online, but I am S.T.O.K.E.D. (!!!) that it's almost gone. Hooray!

GP ... 4731.63.

C1 ... $387.13. This one just never seems to move, which is not all that motivating. The good news, though, is that they recently cut my interest rate 3% so hopefully I'll get to see some more change in the near future.

AV ... $0! PAID OFF! Yay!

VSA ... $0! PAID OFF! Yay!

So the good news, during my time away, is that we still made progress on our debt totals. The bad news is that when I get busy I tend to pay less attention to the budget. That is possibly the exacty opposite of what someone should do. The budget is supposed to be there so that the thinking is done for you, so that your money goes where it is supposed to go without any effort. This doesn't work when your willpower is compromised by exhaustion or paper writing delirium, unfortunately. I have been letting the strictness of our budget slide because I have been too distracted to put up much of a protest against slip ups. *sigh* The road to debt freedom is never easy or perfect. We just have to tighten the reigns a little bit going forward.

Has your road to debt freedom has a couple bumps and bobbles along the way? How do you stay on track? More importantly, how do you recover from the slip ups? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section.

Simply (good to be back),