Bonus Income

While I have discovered that by simply minimizing my spending habits have delivered the wonderful opportunity of paying down my debts, I have also discovered little techniques to increase my income. None of these are extreme income earners, but if every dollar earned has the potential to get me to my goal that much sooner then they are worth my time spent doing them.

We have a program here in Oregon called Bottle Drop. For each bottle or can that I deliver to the nearest facility I earn ten cents. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of money but I don’t know anyone who spots a dime lying on the sidewalk doesn’t stop and pick it up. Each Saturday I deliver a bag or two of bottles and cans to the facility and the dimes are added to my account. After that I simply forget about them and wait until the end of the year to cash out. This is the first year I started doing this so come the end of this year I will cash out the account and deposit the amount into my savings account.

I have a Bank of America credit card which I use to make purchases when I need to and earn points that turn into cash. I usually wait until the points add up to 100.00 dollars then have a check sent to my house and deposit this amount into my savings account. As I make purchases with my credit card I am also strict about paying the credit card bill off each month in full as to not incur any interest. So last year I made a few hundred dollars as we made a few large purchases for airfare and hotel costs on trips that we had to make.

With just these small tasks I figure that over the span of 10 years it can quickly add up to a few thousand dollars and who couldn’t use a few thousand dollars, especially when you are working to pay down debt.

I know that in the world of frugality there are many others who have discovered ways to add a little Bonus Income to there lives and I would love to here about them all.

Posted in aging, debt, family, finances, frugal, growing up, life, mindfulness, minimalist, Oregon, simple living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Is it OK to Eat Out when you are a Minimalist?

One of the great things living in the Pacific Northwest is the many varieties of foods that are professionally created and served at our local restaurants. We take great pride in attracting some of the best chef’s to the area where we all have the opportunity to taste and appreciate the fine delicacies in which they artfully created. For many people they feel that this type of dining is slightly out of their budget.

One of the statistics that was reported recently was the fact that the average citizen in our area spends a whopping 10% of there budget on eating out. I find this totally amazing as one who has always enjoyed preparing food at home. Don’t get me wrong, I like to go out to eat just as much as anyone else here, but only do it on a special occasion or when my budget has the room for it. For my wife and I we may go out to eat once, or at times the most twice each month. Because we are frugal with our dollars we can usually make the decision to go somewhere local where specialty items are the main items on a menu. Yes, it does cost a little more than going to a fast food restaurant, but I have to say that there simply is no comparison. And the truth is that the cost is usually just slightly higher than eating mass produced foods.

So yes, for those of us who are minimalist or living a simpler way of life there is certainly room to celebrate life with splurging on the fine art of dining.

I dare you to take the 30 day challenge and write down every dollars you spend on eating out. This off course includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and Oh Yea, don’t forget about those Latte’s. When you add up your total amount for the month ask yourself if there is a more affordable way to replace this spending by preparing foods at home. Once you do I am sure you will find yourself in a place where enjoying a fine meal at a local restaurant will become an affordable option. I am sure that both your wallet and your health will thank you.

Posted in aging, debt, family, finances, food, life, mindfulness, minimalist, Oregon, simple living, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Time Well Spent

What is this life I lead all about? I wonder how many generations over thousands of years have asked themselves the same question. Somehow I always picture life being a little simpler for those who lived their lives in the many generations before me.

I don’t truly believe that life was easy for any one generation compared to another. Yesterday I spent 6 hours building a Google Chrome computer system. I have pretty much mastered Windows and Mac systems but the Chrome system had a big learning curve and I ended up doing more studying than actual building. I know that just one generation before mine didn’t have to deal with such things, but there were always other things that needed to learned before mastering. Many things change over time, but the one thing that doesn’t change is the fact that we have all had to deal with the difficulties of our times.

That cycle of life starts off so slowly then time seems to move increasingly faster as the years go by. Question now arise as things I have never thought about when I was a younger man. What legacy am I leaving behind and is it even that important to leave behind a legacy? The dreams I have lived with in my soul, have they been fulfilled? Am I living a life well lived where most days have brought me to the point of feeling that passion so deep down inside of me? Have I made the right decisions to help out other people here on planet earth?

Although I am just 56 years and plan on living many more years, there is still those thoughts of death as I see so many friends and loved one’s passing without a clue as to why. So the big question is – Am I living a life worth living? Yes, I believe that I am.

There are so many things I still have planned for the future and my dreams are still alive and I am discovering ways to fulfill those dreams. Yes, life can certainly be challenging, but it can also be all so wonderful. It really is about the small things and not the major events. It is never about the things we own, but rather the time we spend. Yea, I choose to always spend more on time than on things. Time well spent brings about the true treasures that I hold so dear.

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Retirement Visions

With just 9 more years of the working life I find that my mind is constantly focused on my visions of retirement. What will retirement look like for me when I hit the age of 65 and can lock in on a lifetime medical plan that I have been contributing to all of my working life?

Like most Americans I am worried after listening to all of the so called experts who constantly remind me that I will not have enough in retirement savings to allow me to retire at age 65. I certainly do not agree with most of their advice due to the fact that they base their advice on the beliefs that I want to maintain my current lifestyle. The truth of the matter is that as comfortable as I am right now, I certainly do not see myself maintaining a lifestyle that is fit for a rat who is busy running a race at a pace which is exhausting, but at times also exhilarating.

I see myself living a life of quiet solitude in a small retirement village for half a year while taking to the road in a small motorhome the other half. With grandchildren all over the country and so many sites to see and visit it sounds like a grand plan for retirement.

The plan itself sound pretty straight forward and affordable, but it also comes with several rules that I must obey to reach such a goal.

  1. The small retirement home I choose to purchase must be paid for. In other words there can be no mortgage payment.
  2. The motorhome too must be paid for in full with no monthly payments.
  3. Between a social security check and a few small pension checks and an annuity check from investments must be able to support this type of lifestyle.
  4. I must be healthy enough to maintain this type of lifestyle for many years.

To make such a dream an actual reality in just nine small years I must stay true to maintaining this minimalist lifestyle. I must continue to contribute and concentrate every living and breathing dollar to paying this house off in it’s entirety. Once the house is paid off I must then use those same dollars towards a Roth IRA based on an index fund.

I know that these visions of a promising future are simple in the form of visions can actually become less promising one day if all of the steps to prepare are not tended to.

No, I do not need 1.5 million dollars in the bank to retire, but I do need a plan in place to maintain a lifestyle during retirement that would allow for both the security of a small home and the excitement of traveling.

Who knows, nine years from now my wife and I may feel differently, but we both know that the sacrifices we make today will provide us with a whatever lifestyle we choose.

 

 

Posted in adventures, aging, camping, debt, family, finances, fitness, fun, growing up, health, hiking, life, marriage, minimalist, prepared, simple living, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

The Cheapskates guide to living beneath your means – re-blogged.

While many people advocate living within your means, I don’t think that’s enough. I’m a proponent of living beneath your means. Within is great – it signifies a lack of debt and only spending what you can afford. But beneath is even better, because it signifies that you have quite a bit left over for […]

via The Cheapskate’s Guide to Living Beneath Your Means — Astute News

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Thoughts of Re-Invention and Recovery of the Debt Elimination Mission

I just finished a book called “Walden on Wheels” by author Ken Ilgunas. For me it was a wonderful read of both adventure and the principles of frugality to take on debt. Of course I will not elaborate on the details as to ruin the plot of the story for those who have not read it.

What I took away from this is the deep seeding thoughts of my own situation. I have climbed tall mountain and swam long rivers to reach a point where I am just about a year away from paying off my final debt, my home. Thus, so far this journey has been moving in a positive direction for almost 7 years and includes many setbacks along the way.

When we made the decision of selling the house in New Jersey at a lose to seek a new home in Oregon 5 years ago we didn’t realize that because we were both over the age of 50 it would not be easy to find a job. Being both highly qualified in our respective fields we thought it would be a no brainer. We originally settled in a small City called Bend which we visited several times and fell in love with. We rented a small house and settled in with just a quarter of what we owned in New Jersey. Yes, we got rid of 3/4’s of our stuff before we moved. Anyway, this seemed like the dream spot where we could settle down into and become a part off. We started looking for work almost immediately. After sending out over 100 resumes attached to applications over the internet we quickly realized that something may be wrong as no answers were coming our way. The only company that was interesting in my job qualifications as a retired law enforcement officer were in the field of Security. I was offered 1 position for working a night shift from 12:00 AM – 4:00 AM for 3 nights per week at a salary of 12.00 per hour. Are you kidding me? My wife on the other hand who was a Nurse Practitioner learned that her position which is one of the most sought out positions in the country was pretty much eliminated from the area as many doctors moving from California were filling those spots.

After several months although we were taking in all of the natural attractions of the area and did much hiking, we decided that it just wasn’t working out for us. We packed a U-Haul truck and headed to the big city. We found a small apartment in Portland, settled in and resumed our job search. Again it took several months and much worry but eventually I found a job in the security industry and her a position with a local doctors office.

During these many months and months ahead we practiced a determined and aggressive habit of extreme frugality. Although I had half of my retirement check, (the other half going to an ex who I was married too for more than 10 years) a pay check from both our jobs we still felt compelled to keep a close eye on every single dollar we spent. We did this for another year until we could put together enough money for a down payment for a home. Even after purchasing the home we continued our scheme of frugality. I started making large payments to pay off both of the vehicles we still drive today, similar to what we did back in New Jersey to tackle all of small loans and credit card balances we had.

We are still living this way as I push forward towards paying of that final bill – The Beast, The mortgage. Once this final task is completed we can say that we are finally free of debt and begin to build what will be our financial future in retirement.

Over the last two years or so I have noticed that I have been falling into a comfort zone where the extreme frugality is turning more less extreme. I am still practicing most of the things that have fueled my desires to become debt free but have fallen short on several things that I question. I have a Netflix account for one and more often I like to make small purchases on Amazon for things that I really don’t need. I don’t always bring my own lunch to work and sometimes buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Where we always cooked at home we now find ourselves feeling a little more comfortable about going out eat on occasions. I continue to monitor every single dollar that comes into our lives and carefully place them where they need to go, but it seems like since I moved from the Security Industry into a position in local government where I doubled my income I feel more comfortable about spending money rather than targeting towards the mission of paying off debt.

So for me, reading Ken’s book was a real eye opener. I will have more time to think on this subject later in the day while I am tending to my raised bed gardens but I highly suspect that it will end up with thoughts of a new mission of recovering those same actions that fueled the fire to eliminate debt.

Posted in adventures, aging, debt, family, finances, food, fun, gardening, growing up, life, meditation, mindfulness, minimalist, nature, Oregon, prepared, primal, simple living, stress, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Working Week, Weekend, Repeat

It’s funny how the years pass so quickly before us as we get just a little bit older. Each work day is pushed through with the anticipation of the weekend arriving. Those two lovely days each week where we can actually make the choice on our own about how we should spend our time. We can choose the time we want to get up in the morning, and when we do arise from bed we know we have the luxury of taking our time before we decide to do anything.

My weekends are filled with the typical start of the day that of the workday. I choose to wake up early and get those things done that I need to get done. I tend to like to get chores out of the way early so I feel even more of a sense of freedom the rest of my weekend.

But no matter what we choose, the weekend is about freedom. Those two days a week where I don’t have to go through the morning routine of preparing for work, driving to work, working all day and then driving home once again.

We repeat this work week, weekend routine week after week, month after month and year after year all with the anticipation of one day experiencing the ultimate freedom of retirement. It seems that all things I do these days, as I live my life through my mid to upper 50’s is geared towards my dreams of the not too distant future. A future where I will no longer have to be part of the working world. It’s a world of working and saving, living frugal and paying off debt all while managing to still discover joy in each day while on my course. I do all of these things with just the one thought always on my mind, “freedom”.

As a younger man I didn’t have to think about these things because I already felt a sense of freedom as a new man setting himself out into the discovery of a world where everything seemed so new and fresh. Those same things today feel old and worn out.

I often think about the thought of the ability to receive information from my older self when I was younger. This thought is actually quite ridiculous as I know that even if it were possible, I probably wouldn’t listen to it. No, back then I could never had pictured myself being 56 years old.

I suppose I made quite a few mistakes throughout my life, but I know that if it weren’t for the lessons I learned from those mistakes I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I know that I could of learned a great deal from reading certain books, and for the most part I have, but it is only through the lessons we learn from experience that constantly move and shake us into the direction we must go.

So many working weeks and weekends have passed before me to reach this very day. Many of those weekends were not Saturday and Sunday. Many of those workweeks were filled with so many different types of work.

I would love to sit here and ponder more on this subject and write a little bit more about these thoughts, but being that it is just Tuesday I must get ready for work.

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Being the 55+ Working Man

As we cross over the 50 year old line of our lives I am certain that many feel the same calling that I have felt. It’s is that urge to make our lives a little simpler. That list of tasks we have created to maintain all the things we own and commitments we have made is getting as old as we are.

We wake up one morning and realize that life is passing before us and many of the dreams we once had are being wiped away with something we call the daily grind. Five days out of our week are committed to work, which we all know includes a whole list of other things we need to do and money we need to spend to accomplish our daily grind each day. Our weekends are filled with a list of things we must do that couldn’t be accomplished during the week because we were just too busy working.

Throwing in something special like spending time with family or friends sometimes puts a wrinkle in the schedule we utilize to get things done and we find ourselves falling behind and becoming frustrated over it all.

All across America we have these villages of older folks called 55+ Communities. I don’t know where this idea started, but I find it to be a terrific idea for those of us who are ready to find a simpler way of life. The houses there are much smaller and we need to learn how to let go of many of the things we currently own to make the change into the smaller home. Folks there learn to gather for recreation or social times as they find that there is more time for fun things now that they no longer need to weed the garden, cut the lawn or trim the hedges on the weekend. I heard that small pockets of people actually form daily community events like cooking where one home cooks for another 7 homes just once a week and rest of the week someone else is cooking for us. Small buses are provided for transportation on those days we just don’t want to deal with the stress of driving ourselves.

It sound all so wonderful, but the only problem I find is the location of these communities is usually for out of the City limits we work in. This causes even more of a struggle for those of us still in the work field. I am certainly not willing to spend over 2 hours driving to work in the morning, or dedicated 4 hours of my day being on the road stuck in traffic.

Thoughts of early retirement we ponder only to discover that the cost of health insurance before we reach the age of 65 would break our dreams and chances of living an affordable life. The more we try to find a way the more we discover that some doors are simply closed and only time will be the key that opens those locks.

We realize that our current responsibilities are not going away anytime soon, but is there a way to just reduce the things we own, and the commitments we make? Can we start to prepare now for those things we see in the future?

We could do something totally crazy like start our own business. Yea, that seems to be the answer. We look at the costs of putting a plan like this in motion and the time we would have to dedicate to this task for at least the first 5 years and quickly discover that maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Even the best of intentions could end up in failure and much money could be simply lost. With no job, no health insurance and being close to 60 years old just might be a situation we want to end up in.

No, none of this makes too much sense as we continue to feel so many pressures bestowed upon us and each day it becomes a little more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. We must simply march forward and continue to do all of the little things each day to prepare us for the day to come. This is the rollercoaster of the life of a working person which most of us have purchased our tickets for and willfully gotten onto. We must finish this ride and come off of it in the best physical and mental condition we can.

We must find each day a day of discovery as we work towards creating a simpler life for ourselves. It is not an easy task, but I have found no other alternative. For now I will simply be grateful for the things I do have that bring me joy and continue to rid my life of those things that are not filling my heart with joy. Tomorrow will come as it always does, but for today even in this busy life that I lead there are little discoveries that will lighten my load and bring a smile to my face.

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No Turn Signal Zombies

 

It is not unusual several times each day to be driving and notice someone making a turn without using a turn signal. To most people this is not something that would typically send them over the edge, but I see through the eyes of the driver committing the offense as one who cares very little about others around him or her. To simply reach over with a finger to turn on a right or left turn signal to let people behind them know they are turning is both a simple curtesy and actually a law. So what is it that exists in the hearts of these driving zombies that compels them to not think about others sharing the road with them. They took the same driving test that all of us have taken and know that they must signal when turning yet they refuse to do it. This should be an automatic reaction when preparing to turn either right or left. If one is not capable of this simple act they are simply assholes.

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Becoming the Elder

Reaching a certain plateau in my 50’s is quickly leading to new thoughts on a bright future. I am noticing more grey hairs and the difficulty of maintaining a youthful appearance. Certainly the realization that I am getting too old to do the same things I did just 10 years ago can be disheartening, but it also makes me realize that I am slowly becoming the elder. Yes, as the Elder it is more acceptable to do things like slowing down or taking a nap in the middle of the day. In the eyes of the youth who search for inspiration, the elder has the opportunity to create enthusiasm through the telling of just one life story.

The elder should be the wise sage of the small circle of existence we currently live in.

As a new realized elder I anticipate good days to come as I near closer to a point where I will no longer be in the work field and will be given the opportunity to discover a new found freedom. I’ve worked hard and continue to work hard towards a means to an end of the daily grind and anticipate a life of more simplicity and comfort. Many envision retirement as a life of luxury, but for me luxury means something completely different. Life is very precious and it is always the small things that we take for granted. The truth is that it is the small things that become our most guarded treasures and times that we will come to live over and over again in both our thoughts and dreams.

I can imagine a time not too distant in the future where I am spending more time tending to the needs of my garden or taking a walk without time constrictions. I walk to simply walk rather than walk to fit in a workout before going to work. I can visit a special place or camp at a place deep in the womb of nature without the time constriction of knowing I must return by a specific date or time.

These thoughts and many others move through my mind this morning as I sit here and ponder the future. Getting older is not the end, no my friends, it is just the beginning.

 

Posted in aging, camping, family, finances, health, hiking, life, meditation, mindfulness, minimalist, nature, Oregon, simple living, stress, walking, work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments