Monday, February 24, 2014

Why I Can't Spend Money

My son is 17 years old and a senior in high school. He graduates in June. I remember back when he was a toddler, and my husband started a few mutual fund accounts for college. It really seemed silly to start saving for college when my son was only 2, but boy am I glad we did. He has applied to several schools, none of which is a state school, which tends to be cheaper. He wants to be a U.S. Marine, preferably a pilot, so in order to do that, we needed to look at military type schools with strong engineering programs.

He has applied to the Naval Academy, which will be free if he gets accepted, but considering it's the third hardest school to get into in the country, we weren't very hopeful. However, he got much further than we thought, and now we're just waiting for the decision to be handed out at the end of March.

In the meantime, he has applied to a few military schools, one of which is a junior college that is 10 minutes from where I work. However, it is a private institution and the tuition is $43,000/ year. Seems like a lot to pay for a junior college, but the class size is about 10-14 students per teacher, and we feel that would be a good fit for him. He has already been accepted there and received a scholarship of $13,000 per year, but that wouldn't be enough for him to go there without taking out a lot of money in loans, and my husband refuses to do that. So my son is applying for a scholarship through our state representative, who can award him up to $18,000/year. Because it is a new program, my son is the only one who applied this way, so he stands a good chance of getting some money. However, if it's not the full $18K, then we're still looking at paying a substantial portion of his tuition.

Because we've been saving for 15 years, we have about $60,000 that we can put toward his college education without having to take any money from our immediate earnings. But as you can see, at $42,000/year ($35,000/year for his third choice school), that might only pay for a year or two without financial aid. After filing the forms for governmental financial aid, we're not going to get much, so I think we'll be on the hook for whatever we can't get directly from the school.

My husband has been worrying about college costs since my boys were babies, and while we seem to have prepared, the cost of college is still ridiculous. We do not want our boys to graduate owing $100,000 in student loans, so we will have to sacrifice for the next 8 years so that we can get them through college and keep them out of debt.

This is where minimalism has been really helpful, but also sometimes kind of frustrating. Helpful in that I really don't want to spend money on clothes or even household items as much as I used to. We are looking to have our bathroom upgraded this summer, but if it doesn't happen, I really don't care. As long as I have hot water, a shower stall, and a working toilet, I'm good.

And it's frustrating in that when you read minimalist blogs (not all, but many), these people are selling off everything they own and travelling the world. Well bully for them, but what about those of us with families? Maybe I got into minimalism too late, but I am where I am, and I can't change that. So I need to make it work for me, which means that I still NEED to work at my regular job, and so does my husband, who I desperately wish could retire in the next few years. We need to be able to feed our kids and to put them through college, although I suspect a mimimalist's argument might be that they don't really NEED to go to college. That may be true, but I'm not going to deprive them of that experience because I'm trying to be a minimalist. That's not fair to them. Granted, I am doing my best to teach them that things won't make them happy, and I think they are getting the message, but they still need to eat and have clothes and do activities and be prepared for a carreer, and all of this costs money.

Anyway, all of this to say that it's very difficult because I really want to be able to travel more and do things, but we just can't. Now, if my son does get accepted into the Naval Academy, we may give him some money when he graduates or maybe buy him a car if he needs it, but we'll save the rest for our younger son. Although the tempation would be to spend the $60K on something else, like a great vacation and maybe a new kitchen.

And so I look at my job and my life and try to be content with just today. We can't stop living, so we do allow ourselves the occasional weekend away, but money is always looming in the background. 

So, this is why it's been easier than expected to let go of my spending ways. All I know is, my kids had better be prepared to change my diapers when I'm 80 years old...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Project 333 Update

I believe I gave myself about 48 clothing items for this first round of P333. Here I am 1-1/2 months into it, and I haven’t worn quite a few of those items. I am finding myself wearing the same things over and over but not really repeating outfits. Here’s my roundup:
7 button down – 3 worn only once, 1 of them several times (my trusty black cardigan), and the other 3 not at all. I decided that one of the sweaters was a little too lightweight and therefore it has been moved back to my closet and will come out in the spring. I had a second black sweater and the opportunity to wear it just never materialized. The last one is ¾ sleeves and I just haven’t been inclined to wear it. It’s also quite bright, so I think it will work better in the spring.

4 pullover – I’ve worn all of these several times. Two are lightweight and work well over a blouse and the others are a bit heavier and are worn on their own.
1 open front cardigan – worn two or three times. I can wear this with so many things; I just don’t know why I haven’t.

1 black, 1 geometric pattern, 1 wool cowl neck. I wore the cowl neck for the second time yesterday and almost died of heatstroke in the office. Last night I washed it and it is now in the giveaway pile. It was one of those dirt cheap, name brand, final sale bargain buys that I never really loved. The geometric pattern dress has been a staple and has been worn several times. The black dress was worn a few times, but the last time I washed it my husband unknowingly threw it in the dryer. I haven’t tried it on again to see if it still fits. I’m a little afraid.
1 gray, 1 brown, 3 denim, 2 black – I wore the gray and the brown earlier on. They were also Talbots final sale bargain pants of good quality. I was never happy though with how they fit so decided I could live without them. They’re in the giveaway pile. I’ve worn the denim several times, and the black ones got the most wear.
1 black, 1 gray, 1 taupe, 2 multicolored, 1 polka dot – I’ve worn the black, gray and polka dotted several times. The taupe is fairly new so I’ve worn it once. Wore one of the multicolored ones twice and the other one I decided is more spring like so it went back into the closet.
2 white button downs, 1 red, 1 animal print, 1 silver – Have not worn the white cotton blouse at all. I’m not entirely sure why; maybe because it’s not a good layering blouse. The other white, the red, and the animal print were new purchases. Red and white are great for layering as they are silky and lightweight. The animal print is kind of long; I wore it once but am having a hard time styling it. It will work into spring though, so I’m holding on to it. Wore the silver blouse a couple of times.
3 striped tees (black/gray, black/white, white/black), 1 polka dot, 1 solid royal blue, 2 black – have worn all of these (minus the polka dot) several times. They continue to work as great base layers with my sweaters. The polka dot is a new purchase. It’s a bit big but since it’s black and white, it will go with a lot and can transition into spring.
3 black, 1 denim – wore 2 black and the denim a few times. The other one is a bit heavy so I’ll end up wearing it more as an outer layer when the weather warms up.
I did not include outerwear, shoes, purses, scarves or jewelry in my 33-50 items because I did not want to limit myself. However, as to be expected, I ended up wearing the same shoes/jewelry/ outerwear and carrying the same purse all winter.

1 pair rain boots, 1 pair black Uggs, 1 pair black pumps, 1 pair black flats, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair black walking shoes, 2 pairs of black leater boots. Clearly many of these won't be on the spring list, but I am not sick of them yet. I've had no desire to purchase another pair of shoes because these have all suited me just fine.

1 almost knee length black wool coat, 1 black shorter coat, 1 black down coat, 1 shorter ski jacket – wore all of these, but the down coat has seen the most wear because of all the snow. It is functional and warm, but I’m tired of looking like a grizzly bear. I have two more winter coats that I need to just give away as I am unlikely to wear them again. I tried making the argument to myself that they are wool, warm, good quality, and I will wear them next year, but who am I kidding. I haven't worn them in about 5 years, so it's time to pass them on to someone who will use them.  

1 light tan satchel with a detachable shoulder strap, 1 small green square bag that fits my laptop perfectly. I’ve gotten compliments on my purse from everyone. I picked it up at a discount store for $50. It’s not real leather, but I really wish it was. The size, shape, and color are perfect, and in the future, I may splurge on one that is real leather. The laptop bag was a super lucky find. I saw it in the same discount store for $20 hidden behind some more expensive bags. It’s colorful and matches nothing, but that is okay because I only bring it home some of the time. It’s the perfect size and I am thrilled with it. 

I have been either throwing away super cheap jewelry that I never wear or colleting the stuff that is still salvageable to give away. I feel like I have a lot of jewelry, but probably not as much as others. Many of my pieces were gifts from my husband, so they stay. As for the other stuff, well, if it doesn't look classic/timeless, I'm probably going to get rid of it as I go along.

I've gotten rid of a few but I still have a lot more. Because I don't feel that they take up much room, I will keep them for now. However, I have not bought any new scarves at all this winter, nor have I had the desire to do so. 

What I Have Learned:

1. I am not yet tired of any of the clothes that I’ve already worn. I can still come up with a lot of different combinations.
2. The number of pieces I wear can probably be reduced next winter because I find that I wear them to work and then come home and change into yoga pants anyway due to the cold weather. I should probably stock up on those instead.
3. Many of my clothes will transition over to the next season because it will still be chilly in April. Also, because I work in an office, many articles are all weather pieces.
4. I need a new pair of rain/snow boots. I'd like to get a really good pair this spring duruing a sale, but I'm not sure it's in the budget this year,   
5. Real Uggs are the most fabulous things in the world. (Will share an interesting story on real vs. fake Uggs in an upcoming post.)
6. I will try to include shoes in my next selection. I'm making no promises, but I do think I could limit myself to a few pair and not feel shoe deprived.
7. I really need to go through my purses, but I am finding that this is the one thing that I tend to get bored with faster than everything else. I like carrying different purses, but I don't switch them out enough to get sufficient use from them. I need to further examine my feelings on purses as the year progresses.  
Finally, our winter here has been brutal, but I'm not dying to get into spring clothes like I usually am. I'm not even thinking about a "new" wardrobe for spring. Instead, I am really satisfied so far with my clothing choices and how this project has been going. I have become so much more selective about spending money on clothes. On the rare occasion that I have actually been in a store and see something that I might like, I immediately think, “If it’s not EXACTLY what I’m looking for, then I’m not wasting my money on it.” This has carried over to other things as well, such as items for my home. I absolutely refuse to have buyer’s remorse anymore, even if I just spend $10.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Scrap Corner After

Hi Folks!

It's been awhile since I've posted, but we've been hit with storm after storm after storm here on the East Coast U.S., and I spent the better part of last week shoveling, watching dogs that don't like snow/ice, and keeping the water out of the finished part of the basement. And now they're calling for another storm in a few days which may or may not include ice. It's been a lousy couple of months here weatherwise.

Yesterday I found myself with a few hours to finally tackle the scrapbooking stuff. I did not get rid of as much as I wanted, but I was still able to part with a bunch of stamps and punches, which can take up a lot of space. I also found a couple of small projects that I started and never finished, which I can easily do in the evenings in the kitchen or dining room. The basement is unheated so it can be quite chilly, even though we have a space heater. And my work area gets a cold draft because of the window in the corner.

Anyway, here are the "after" pictures.

The picture above still looks a bit cluttered, but I tried to organize as much as possible. It doesn't leave a whole lot of room to actually scrap, but since I plan to do it upstairs in the winter months, I'm not too concerned.

This picture shows under the desk. In the big blue bin on the left are my scrapbooks that are either in the works or just brand new books that I haven't filled yet. The white bag in the back is actually empty. That's what I use to transport my stuff on scrapbooking weekends and I just never bothered to fold it up and put it away. I think I need to do that so I can have some more leg room. The other blue container with the scizzors is holding most of my paper. And I actually have one empty container as well. I think I can use it for some stuff in other parts of the basement, so I'm hanging on to it for now. Also? It disturbs me that I am falling into the trap of organizing stuff instead of getting rid of it, but not everything in the basement belongs to me, so I do have to be careful and not discard everyting.

I am hoping to get into the habit of going through this stuff a few times a year to decide if I still need everything I've saved. Decluttering/minimizing is an ongoing process, no?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stuff's Gotta Go

I recently got back from a weekend of scrapbooking with a few friends. It is one of my hobbies (with the others being reading, decluttering, and now blogging), and it is not pretty. The finished pages are pretty, but the supplies and the STUFF, well, that's just a plain old mess, is what it is.

This is the rear of my basement:

It's hard to see, but there's sort of a desk in the left corner that is supposed to be my scrapping area. However, stuff has moved from there onto the extra bed and is slowly creeping across the room. (To be fair, not all of this stuff is mine. My husband has a bookcase behind that bed that contains only his stuff. I mean to work on getting him to go through it one of these days.)

It's easy to ignore this area. I haven't scrapped in a year and I don't go into this area of the basement that much. My boys play video games down there, but they don't care what it looks like. And it's not heated, so it's cold. But I don't want it to be another year before I scrap again, so I must fix this mess.

My goal for this area is twofold: 1) I need to reduce the amount of scrapbooking stuff that I have because I NEVER USE IT, and 2) I want to make the corner desk area workable again.

I plan to start working on this as my next project. I need to schedule with a local charity to make a pickup because if I don't, then it may stay that way until the spring thaw.