Friday, November 5, 2010


Budgets are fun! Budgets are playful! Budgeting can be a challenge, but not necessarily a chore.

Here is a challenge for you. Write down everything that you spend money on for 1 week.  Find a notebook hanging around the house somewhere, preferably one with ledger lines.  Just enter every receipt for a week. A pain, yes. But I must say I found it to be a very revealing one. I lumped my groceries all together for this chore. But there were also coffee, lattes, gas, a trip to the drug store, and a couple of nights of take-out.

I found that take-out (though I loooove it!) put a big dent in my budget at between $20-30 each.  (I live in the Bay Area--food is expensive) I was spending between $80-$120 a month on pizza, burritos and Chinese take-out.

The next day, I went to the local used book store and bought a couple of exotic cookbooks. I decided to try cuisine that I liked but had never tried cooking. So I choose a middle-eastern cookbook and a rustic Italian cookbook.  Each book cost me a dollar.

I tend to cook pasta and love it, but am always short on sauces after the traditional marinara sauce.  I found a wonderful olive oil, garlic and basil sauce. I harvested squash from the garden and tossed it with eggplant in olive oil.

I found that I loved garbanzo bean (chick peas) in all kinds of permutations. I learned how to make the rice stuffing in cold dolmas and stuff artichokes with it. (Pretty yummy by the way.)  I have had a blast exploring some new cuisine.  And best of all, the tab for my take-out bill dropped in half this last month.

So, I took that extra and applied half to a credit card and half to savings.

Eat hearty! Eat healthy! And save!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gratitude and Prosperity: the New Mantra in Hard Times

"Ask  and you shall receive." How many of us still ask for things we want or need from the universe?  When times are hard it is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to lose faith in ourselves, in our skills, in our relationships with others. When we lose faith in our lives, we lose a part of ourselves.

There is no doubt in my mind that times are hard. I have a mountain of debt that I must handle. I have retirement looming in another 10-15 years and have saved very little toward that eventuality. I have a daughter still in college and we are taking out student loans to pay for her education: 2 years left of school, 20 years more of loan payments.  Sometimes I run to the bank with checks to deposit so that our account won't be overdrawn.

Somewhere along the way I got tired of worrying about it all. I was losing sleep over bills and I was cranky every time I had to write out a check to pay a bill.  I realized that I can make things work, even when times are hard.

More importantly for me, I discovered gratitude again. Instead of worrying and focusing on what I didn't have, I decided to focus on what I did have and on what I wanted from the rest of my life.  I started waking up in the morning and taking a moment to be grateful for the promise of another day.  That little practice has started to bleed over into other parts of my life.  I now do more with less and feel grateful for the love I feel toward my husband and family.

Finally, I have stated to ask the universe for what I want again. And little by little, hope returns.

Copyright. July 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Credit Cards, Only the Beginning

I love credit and I hate it. I am sure that most people feel the same way. We have become a credit society. We spend, banking on the fact that we can pay back in the future.  And that was true for many of us for a long time. I am not at all sure that is true for us anymore.

Our parents recall when we were a cash-based society.  If we didn't have it at the moment, we didn't spend it.  I am not necessarily advocating a return to a cash based society, but I wonder where we will end up if we maintain our present course of spending, both individually and as a nation.

I am not a pundit, nor am I an economist.  But I am looking at hard numbers in my case and trying to figure out what to do as I increasingly feel the absence of our governmental safety net.  Too many people are in debt. The country is in an amazing amount of debt. It is estimated that in 2010, the debt will be 94.27% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  That seems amazing to me.

As bad as my personal monetary issues are, the country's monetary issues are worse in some ways. At present, my debt amount doesn't equal 94% of my income.

However, we have almost $20,000 in credit card debt, a mortgage, and a large, and I do mean large student loan.  So, within the next 5 years, my goal is to pay off the credit card debt.  The student loan amount is an issue for another blog or two.

So, the plan is to stop charging at least for now, to make more than the minimum payment due, each month, on time.  This month was good. I got the bills out on time and paid more than the minimum on all of them.

Did I forget to say that we graduated one child from college in May and the other child is half-way through?  Yes, congratulations are in order, perhaps to everyone concerned. 

Now it is time to catch up!

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What is prosperity?

Prosperity can be defined as a successful, flourishing or thriving condition. Notice money is not a necessary component of prosperity. Nonetheless, prosperity connotes the presence of money. So how can we experience prosperity during times when we have little or no money? Can we flourish? Can we make money during hard times? Can we live frugally? And can we thrive when we have little?

I think we can and I hope to explore ways in my own life to thrive while I get out under the mountain of debt that I owe.