Day #30 of the January Money Diet – Trim Monthly Expenses

Mow your own lawn

Keeping our monthly overhead as low as possible is an important savings strategy. The expenses we pay month after month, year after year, can really add up. Companies love to commit us to automatic monthly payments, so we need to be vigilant about evaluating our ongoing expenses.

Look at each of your regular monthly expenses and ask yourself whether you’re truly getting your money’s worth from your hard-earned dollars. Could you eliminate something and pocket the savings each month?

Utilities and Other Monopolies

By now you probably know many people who have cancelled their home telephone service, and simply use their mobile phone for calls. How much do you spend each month for a land line? How many quality calls do you receive, and how many telemarketing calls do you receive? Can you still justify the cost?

Are you happy with your cable or satellite TV bill? Break down your monthly bill and divide it by the number of shows you watch. Is it worth it? Some people don’t pay a nickle for cable TV yet still enjoy dozens of free stations. Forbes writer Amadou Diallo explains various ways to eliminate cable and save a bundle.

Many of your favorite programs are probably available online via the network’s website, and YouTube often features clips or full programs of popular shows. You might also be able to connect your laptop or mobile device to your TV and watch shows from your favorite networks right on the big screen. Tom’s Guide has straightforward advice about streaming video from common devices to your TV, either using a cord or doing so wirelessly.

Other Ways to Save

Speaking of entertainment, do you subscribe to Netflix or another service with a monthly fee? Could you get movies from the library or pay an occasional small fee to Redbox instead? And what about subscriptions to periodicals? If you find you’re regularly recycling publications without reading them, perhaps it’s time to do your reading online or check out publications free from the library.

Does your dog go to the groomer regularly? Learn how to do it yourself, and save both time and money.

Could you cut your own lawn and let the lawn service go? (What about eliminating your lawn altogether and replacing it with hardy clover, xeriscaping — or edible plants?)

If you belong to a gym, are you going often enough to justify the expense? Could you jog, walk and work out at home?

Spend an hour doing the math with your health insurance plan’s various offerings. The true cost for the convenience of a small co-pay for doctor’s visits can often be quite expensive. If you’re healthy and generally only go to the doctor a couple of times a year, you might save hundreds of dollars by increasing the co-pay on doctor’s visits and prescriptions.

How About You?

Today’s challenge is to go through your regular monthly expenses with a ruthless eye, and see if you can find anything to trim or cancel. If you’ve recently found a monthly expense to eliminate, be sure to let us know about it!

As our no-spending month winds down, I feel deeply grateful for each one of you — for your commitment, enthusiasm, ideas and comments.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day #28 of the January Money Diet – Nurture Your Health

Take care of your health

All the money in the world won’t buy good health.

For any of us who have ever experienced an injury, pain, or sickness, we know how it feels to wake up unwell and think we’d give anything — anything — for a normal, healthy, pain-free day.

Many of us are juggling a million things right now, and taking care of ourselves can fall to the bottom of the list. But really, self-care deserves to be one of our very top priorities. The good news is that most of the ways we can nurture our health are absolutely free.

10 ways to care for your one-and-only precious body

1. Get a good night’s sleep. Here are my 7 natural ways to enjoy better slumber.

2. Exercise each day. I try to alternate each day between upper body, lower body and cardio. Some days are better than others, but I keep trying. In the morning while I’m waiting for the coffee to heat, I do stretches. We walk the dog as often as possible, and I use small hand weights to build muscle strength. Exercising doesn’t need to be complicated.

3. Eat nutrient-rich foods, for a strong immune system and healthy bones. The fewer processed foods, preservatives and chemicals we consume, the better our bodies will feel. We owe it to ourselves to eat as many good foods as possible.

4. Drink water. Staying hydrated helps us look and feel better, and reduces headaches and fatigue. Why don’t we all drink a few more glasses of water today? I think I’ll go pour one right now.

5. Floss your teeth. Dental problems are no fun, and flossing is an easy way to care for our teeth and gums. This simple act has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which might even reduce rates of cancer and other diseases. Let’s floss our teeth today — I challenge you!

6. Have some down time, every day. Meditate. Take a warm bath. Pray. Read. Think. Listen to music. Watch the grass grow.

7. Limit time interacting with digital devices. We all can feel it in our brains when we’ve been online too much, don’t you agree? Push away from the computer. Power off the TV. Unplug from social media for a while. Engage with the real world.

8. Stimulate your brain. Practice your favorite hobby. Write a poem. Do a crossword puzzle. Learn something new.

9. Go outside. Take a walk. Get fresh air. Enjoy whatever today’s weather brings. Notice the world around you.

10. Seek balance. Have you ever gotten sick at the worst possible time? For several years I woke up sick every Christmas morning, because I’d been trying to do too much. Our bodies will complain, and sometimes even shut down, when things are out of whack. A more balanced life will ultimately give us the energy to do the things we really want to.

Let’s agree to honor our health, and make caring for ourselves a higher priority.

How about you?

Time’s a wastin’! What can you do today to better care for yourself? Do you have things to add to my list above? I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies for living a healthier life.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 Photo: Villa Amor

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #27: Reduce Food Waste

Grapes

 

What if we could easily save hundreds of dollars from our food budgets each year, without making a single sacrifice or doing any additional work?

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy, costing the average family between $1,365 and $2,275 each year.

Nothing makes me feel sicker than throwing away food we didn’t eat. Do you feel the same way?

On the positive side, preparing and using only what we need can be a wonderful way to stretch money and honor the earth’s resources.

How To Reduce Food Waste

What if 2015 was the year we all stopped wasting even one morsel? Let’s do this! Here are some strategies:

* Cook the right amount for your family. If you regularly throw away uneaten portions, recalculate your favorite recipes. Better to eat every bite and occasionally give Junior an apple if he’s still hungry after a meal, than constantly discard leftovers.

* Take leftovers to work the following day for lunch, and save money on meals out.

* Reinvent your leftovers in another meal (casserole, stir fry, soup) within a day or two.

* Freeze leftover meat, veggies, juices, milk, etc. for soups and stews. Do this within a day or two of cooking to preserve quality.

* Save and freeze the cooking water from vegetables, and use it as a flavor-enhancing base for soups and sauces. Spaghetti sauce freezes well, too.

* Be aware of small waste. Do you routinely throw away a third cup of coffee from the pot every day? Measure out exactly how much you need and experiment until you find the exact amount that eliminates waste.

* Save the carcass from a roast chicken or turkey and use it to make a batch of homemade stock.

* American restaurants are notorious for serving too-large portions. Don’t be shy about asking for a doggie bag at a restaurant. Or consider sharing a meal to eliminate food waste.

* If they’re too far gone, compost fruits and vegetables that are past their prime.

For additional inspiration, you might enjoy these tips from Zero Waste Home.

How About You?

Is yours a zero-waste home, or is this an area you want to work on? If you’ve adopted any strategies for using food wisely, will you share them with us?

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Liz West

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #26 – Plan Your Garden

Plan your garden during the January Money Diet

Don’t you love to daydream in January about planting a garden in the spring? Now is the perfect time to begin making plans and sketching out some ideas for your ideal plot. Even if you have a small yard or a balcony for containers, you can grow a surprising amount of food by choosing plants that grow well in your climate and exploring innovative ways to stretch space. My friend Jerry grows cherry tomatoes year ’round from a pot in a sunny window in his downtown Denver apartment. You may want to check out the book “Square Foot Gardening” for more ideas about maximizing your yield from a small space.

I love perusing the new seed catalogs each year to see what new varieties have been introduced, and these are some of my favorite companies:

The site MicroEcoFarming.com has a wealth of information about growing your own food — including tips for how to sell what you grow as an extra revenue source. You may also want to check out the Happy Simple Gardening Pinterest board, where I collect photos and ideas for growing good food and flowers (with a minimum amount of labor, naturally).

This week’s challenge is to start planning your garden. Peruse some gardening sites, sketch out ideas, and make a list of the seed varieties you want to plant this year. If you don’t have a garden, daydream about what you’d like to grow someday.

How About You?

Will you be growing any vegetables this summer? What are some varieties you’ve grown successfully in the past? If you have favorite gardening sites and sources, we’d love to hear about those, too.

Happy daydreaming,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

P.S.  You could win a deluxe Happy Simple Living gift box by participating in the January Money Diet. The box includes a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and much more.

At the end of January I’ll choose one winner from among everyone who comments–someone who has participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results. Good luck!

Photo:   Elspeth Briscoe

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #23 – Take a New Look at Your Library

Nashville Public Library

Nashville Public Library, Grand Reading Room

As you may know, libraries have evolved into places that do so much more than lend books. We live just a few blocks from a wonderful public library, and even though I go there at least two times a week I keep finding new offerings. Your neighborhood library can be a rich source of entertainment and education…and best of all, everything is free.

Just the basic process of checking out a book has evolved. If I’m interested in a book, I don’t even need to change out of my pajamas. I simply visit my library’s website and search the book title. Often, I can check out and instantly download an eBook. Otherwise, I can reserve a hard copy of the book and my library e-mails me when the book is ready to be picked up.  I also borrow movies, CDs and current magazines from my library.

From High Tech to Home Tech

A couple months ago, my son and I had the opportunity to experience the dizzying wonder of Google Glass firsthand, when a librarian had a pair of the smart eyeglasses for patrons to try. Currently, the library has a 3-D printer set up so that people can try making their own three-dimensional plastic objects. Our library also loans other high-tech gizmos like Nooks and Go-Pro cameras.

When my computer died a few years ago, I went to the library and used one of their free computers until mine was fixed. When my daughter was shopping for a used car, she borrowed Consumer Reports magazine and researched the most reliable makes and models. Our library offers a delightful kids’ library and a summer reading program that my son loves, free talks on a variety of subjects, meeting and study rooms, and regular art exhibits.

Last year our library partnered with our local power company to loan out portable power meters. We were able to borrow a meter to plug into home appliances and learn how much energy we’re using. You may want to check with your utility company or library to see if a similar lending program is in place.

Free Seeds to Grow Food

Some libraries even “lend” seeds to grow fruits and vegetables! Patrons borrow a packet of seeds, and at harvest time gather the seeds from the most robust produce and return those seeds so the library can lend them out to others.

The Basalt Library here in Colorado is doing such a program, and users report much success with the seeds they’re planting because they’ve already proved hardy in the mountain town’s short growing season. Some libraries are even lending gardening spades and shovels; the Oakland Public Library has 3500 tools for loan.

How About You?

Your challenge this weekend is to explore your public library and see what’s new. You could also visit your library district’s website and check out the online offerings. Be sure to let us know if discover something new and surprising at your library!

If you’re participating in Monday’s challenge to Give Stuff Away and Win a Money Book, be sure to list the stuff you give away by midnight Saturday night, 1/24/15!

Happy Friday and enjoy the weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S.  You could win a deluxe Happy Simple Living gift box by participating in the January Money Diet. The box includes a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, $25 cash, pantry staples like bean soup mix and organic quinoa, signed copies of three of my cookbooks, homesteading supplies like soap, candles and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and much more.

At the end of January I’ll choose one winner from among everyone who comments–someone who has participated in this 31-day challenge with heart and soul and achieved good results. Good luck!

 

Photo:   Robert Claypool

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day #21 – Less is the New More

JENNIFER HOEY INTERIOR DESIGN

Photo copyright: JENNIFER HOEY INTERIOR DESIGN

Many of you know that I’m a full-time, self employed writer. One of my favorite side jobs is writing articles for home design magazines. Studying the beautiful rooms created by talented designers always inspires me.

Let’s look at the lovely living room vignette above, designed by Jennifer Hoey Interior Design. I fell in love with Jennifer’s work in 2012, when I wrote about her for Western Art & Architecture magazine.

We see that the room above does not include a lot of stuff. There are no Tuscany-themed throw rugs or gyro snack bowls or Brookstone TV remote pillows. Jennifer moved the furniture away from the walls in this beautiful, serene space, and kept the emphasis on just a few well-chosen pieces.

Most of the top designers I talk to invest in clean-lined, classic furniture of good quality and scale appropriate for the size of the room. They accessorize sparingly.

Are we ready?

In ten short days we’ll be reaching the official end of the January Money Diet, and we’ll be re-entering the world of shopping malls and impulse buys.

Much like addicts in rehab, we need to start preparing now for how we will deal with the inevitable temptations.

Many of you expressed joy after undertaking Monday’s challenge to clear stuff out and give it away. Let’s join our hands and pledge to honor those happy feelings and not crowd our homes with More. Doesn’t it feel good to have Less?

When I am at Target and I’m tempted to buy, say, a Tuscany-themed throw rug, I need only to remember the serene, simple rooms I love. Our home is a happier place with more space — and less stuff.

How about you?

What is the one area in your home that you’d like to edit and clear, so it’s a place of order and calm? (For me, it’s the basement. No, it’s actually the garage. No, wait — it’s my office closet.)

Your challenge is to take one step toward that vision of Less, and organize one space — one drawer, or one shelf, or one square foot — in that too-full place. Take one step, and tell us about it in the Comments section.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. WELCOME to those of you just joining the January Money Diet, and feel free to jump right in with today’s challenge! You can also visit the main blog page and scroll down to read the previous posts.

P.P.S. I was so inspired by all of your comments from Monday’s post about taking unwanted items to a charity, I’m loading up another batch today! If you donate more this week, be sure to post a comment so it counts in the contest. The person who gives away the most stuff by midnight this Saturday will win an inspirational money book.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.