Saturday, January 31, 2009

Feeding what pig?

On my way to work yesterday, I heard a story to NPR about anti-saving commercials that have been airing in Finland. The basic premise of these commercials which feature a demonic looking piggy bank (go ahead, click through to the NPR blog and look, it's worth it. I'll wait.) and the tagline "Don't feed the recession." The basic premise is that by saving more money, frugal folks are essentially hurting the economy and furthering the recession.

I'm not an economist, but that sounds to me like a lot of bunk. Sure, spending less means fewer retail jobs available, but how many of those jobs are already taken by people who buy so much crap that they can't get by on one job? If we all just stopped spending so much, we could all work less, and there would be plenty of jobs to go around. What's more, putting money in the bank will help the banks, which I'm pretty sure have been having some trouble lately. Since congress seems to have avowed that saving the financial industry is crucial to saving our economy, maybe that's a pig that needs to be fed.

I don't know, maybe I'm totally off base with this. Are frugal folks bad for the economy? Should we feed the pig?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Simplifying again

I don't know how it happens, but somehow around the middle of the academic year, my life always ends up full of junk. Some of it is physical junk (piles and piles on my desk, stuff on every shelf of my closet), some of it is time commitment "junk" (I've had to be somewhere every night this week), and some of it is psychological junk (worries, anxieties, anger). No matter how clearly I try to set goals, priorities, and expectations, I never seem to make progress because I am always putting out fires. Even when I have a moment to myself, I just feel so overwhelmed that all I want to do is crash and vegetate. I can't see through all the junk.

I remember in my last life, in my last move, I only worked part time and we lived on almost no money. I baked bread, we never went out to eat, our furniture was all from Kmart and Ikea (okay, so most of it still is). There were a lot of things that I didn't like: I didn't really have any friends, I wasn't putting away any extra money. But there was a lot about it that I remember fondly. There was quiet in my life . I went to the library, and read actual books for pleasure. I had time to write, to walk, to breathe.

I don't think that that's a life I can really completely get back to, and in a way I probably wouldn't want to. But I do want to clear out some of the junk that is between me and some kind of peace. I want to stop the flow of stuff into my life, even if I can't get rid of some of the stuff I have. I need to find ways to carve out moments of peace for myself.

I don't want to set any more goals or requirements for myself because, in the end, I think that will just bring me even less peace. What I do want to do is give myself permission to say no, and to accept that sometimes I am going to have to or want to say yes and not to beat myself up about that either. I want to use the things I have (lotions, candles), give away some of the things I don't want, and let go of some of the things I do that don't add significantly to my life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

No more newspaper

I cancelled my newspaper subscription this week.

The truth is, I don't really read the newspaper. Most of my news I get from the Internet. The newspapers would just pile up and every couple weeks I'd have to take them to the recycle center without even reading them.

A few months ago, I cut back to just weekends, but I kept getting the newspaper mostly for the grocery coupons. With a good grocery couponing strategy, I know I can save a huge chunk of money on my grocery bill. The truth is, though, that between using up my stockpile and my CSA baskets, I haven't been buying as much food lately anyway. I don't use more than 2 or 3 different coupons. So, instead of having to sort through a whole newspaper, I'll just buy multiples of the few coupons I use from a clipping service or trade for them on a message board.

By cancelling my newspaper subscription, I'm saving $50 over the next three months, as well as saving time, stress, clutter, and waste. Woo hoo! I feel freer already.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New carnival!

This week's Carnival of Personal Finance is up and running, and Pecuniarities did a great and creative job of hosting.

My favorite articles of the week:

Live frugal but in moderation

What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?

What's in my pantry?

Lots of great stuff, check it out!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Year, new goals

I know I'm a little late to the party with the goal setting for 2009, but I thought it a worthwhile endeavor anyway. 2009 is going to be a very strange year for me. My husband will (will!) be finishing grad school this year, which means we will be moving and will both be changing jobs some time mid-year. This affects my goals a lot. Our income will definitely increase a lot, but there is a chance I will be without a job temporarily (although his new income may be higher than our current combined income). I also have to consider short term cash flow issues involved with moving and save accordingly. With all that in mind, in 2009 I hope to:

1. Increase my savings to cover 3-6 months of expenses, plus an extra cushion for moving expenses.

2. Pay off at least one of hubby's smaller student loans. While it may not be our highest interest loan, it will make a much more immediate difference when his loans finally go into repayment and we get those first few bills.

3. Cook more from my stockpile. Since we'll be moving in six months or so, I need to start using things up and stop buying more.

4. Find new ways to generate passive income.

5. Continue to find at least one new way every week to help charities that fit into my time and budget.

Please feel free to share your own goals!