21-Day Challenge: Start Living A Fabulous Life On Less

welcome

I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to any new people visiting and enjoying the blog.  We’d love for you to say hello in the comments!

It’s no secret that I’m finally getting married this month!  Yay!  However, before I met Mr. Right, soon-to-be known as Mr. Mad Money Monster, I was living a single life as a parent with a full-time, professional job, and two houses.  So, before one trick-or-treater rings our doorbell this year, we will be hitched!  I’ll be known as *ahem* Mrs. Mad Money Monster 🙂  I’ll also still be a parent with a full-time job and two houses.  I just won’t be trying to do everything alone anymore.  I can’t tell you how much of a relief that will be.  But, I’d like to make something clear; it wasn’t the single part that led me down a road of financial missteps.  It was my lack of specific planning and thinking I was immortal.  Do you remember being 20?  From my point of view, I was never going to get older.  I had an indefinite amount of time to save and plan.  I was going to get to it after I straightened everything else out.  Uh huh.  To my credit, I focused more than half of my twenties on getting a college education and a good job.  My thirties were a huge financial setback…but that’s a story in another post.  Let’s focus on the here and now.

It’s Fall, Do You Know Where Your Happiness Is?

Do you know that you don’t need to spend money to have a fabulous life?  All the designer clothes and high-end cars on the planet won’t make you more popular; if you think they do, you might need to evaluate the people in your circle.  I would really like to challenge you to live a fabulous life on less.

walk downtown

Today In Downtown Lancaster

Have you enjoyed an Autumn walk yet this year?  Today, my family and I had a wonderful time without spending a dime.  We cooked a great breakfast together, cleaned up our house, then ventured downtown to the Lancaster ArtWalk to paint a pumpkin at a featured gallery.  Despite the rain from Hurricane Joaquin putting a quite literal damper on some of the festivities, my daughter still got to paint a fabulous little pumpkin and was uber excited that she was able to bring it home!  It now adorns a piece of prime real estate in our family room.

After The ArtWalk

After the ArtWalk we enjoyed some sandwiches at home, then I took off for a jog while Mr. Mad Money Monster and our daughter drew little Halloween monsters on paper plates.  She couldn’t wait to show them to me when I walked in the door.

To make our Fall day complete, we all snuggled on the couch with some popcorn and watched The Monster Squad on Netflix.  Streaming Netflix is one of our not-so-guilty pleasures since we cut the cable cord a few months ago.  I must tell you that I haven’t missed it one bit.  I was concerned about watching things like the political debates and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but my plan is to stream those things from my computer.  So far, so good!

painting pumpkin

Painting Her Pumpkin

Ways I Have Saved Without Feeling The Pinch

There are many ways I have saved a substantial amount of money over the years without ever really feeling the pinch.  I will share two short stories about my Mini Monster and my ‘bu.

Chevy Malibu (AKA The ‘bu) – Like a Rock!

In 2004 I was working in my field for a company that was closing its doors.  Fortunately, I was so afraid of having to go without my accustomed income (even though, at that point, I didn’t really need a high income) that I started to pound the pavement long before I needed to.  I found another job within my industry, immediately.  I started the week after I was severed and didn’t take any time off between jobs.  Dear Hindsight, please feel free to march into my life sooner next time.  At any rate, my new job was 55 miles (one way) from my home.  Since I was unable and unwilling to move, I decided to dump my 8-cylinder, all-wheel drive, Jeep Grand Cherokee to purchase a commuter vehicle to get me back and forth.  That vehicle ended up being a 1999 Chevy Malibu.  It was such a generic car, but it was clean and had been maintained.  No bells, no whistles, no fun.  It was tan on the inside and out.  Interestingly, a funny thing happened after I started driving it.  I started to like it.  It felt solid.  It was comfortable.  I enjoyed my 1 hour and 15 minute drive (each way) every day.  I truly did!  I would check out books on CD and listen to the classics that I should’ve read but never did, like Oliver Twist.  I also listened to career advancement stuff (because I was into that sorta thing back then) like Who Moved My Cheese.  My co-workers and friends started joking around and started calling it my little old lady car.  It even earned a nickname:  The ‘bu!  Needless to say, I kept The ‘bu until the wheels fell off.  I purchased it with severance cash for $4,000 with 60,000 miles.  Ten years later, it had 207,000 miles clocked when I traded it in on another pre-owned, affordable (and somewhat stylish) Mazda3.  Not only did my Malibu never let me down, but it was easy to drive and it afforded my friends and I a good laugh every now and then.  I never owned a new car and I never plan on it.  The “benefits” do not justify the cost.

My Mini Monster

Contrary to popular belief, kids are only as expensive as you want them to be.  One huge expense that seems to hold people hostage is childcare, but even that can be managed in a frugal manner with a little determination.

After having my Mini Monster, and even before, I realized that a lot of the things that “baby authorities” push as “must-haves” simply are not that at all.  Who really needs a baby wipes warmer?  Don’t they just dry out the wipes?  That’s a real question by the way.  I really have no clue how they can remain wet if they’re being warmed.

Here’s a list of a few items that I never had…and never missed:

Changing Table – I found it extremely easy and convenient to use the couch, bed, or floor.

Wipes Warmer – Again, I don’t know how this really works.

Diaper Genie – I used grocery store bags, tied them closed, and tossed them in the regular trash.  Done.

Two Bases for the Car Seat – It is really easy to save $100 and just switch this thing between cars, as needed.

A Bottle Drying Rack – They dry anywhere.  Unless you’re using a new, sterile bottle each time, there WILL be bacteria.

Professional Pictures (*GASP*) – Having professional pictures done every 3 months is simply not necessary.  You know all the standard poses.  Trust me, you have the ability to take these on your own.  And, let’s be honest, aren’t candid shots usually the best anyway?

Toys Galore – Mini Monster was born in May.  I typically buy her new fun stuff on her birthday and for Christmas.  The rest of the year she has things showered upon her from other people.  Ironically, this child has so much STUFF (I think it multiplies in the basement when everyone is asleep) that I really make it a conscious effort, whenever possible, to teach her how to be smart with her money and how our household expenses work.  My daughter knew that mommy had to pay for the hot water in her tubby when she was 3 years old.  She also knew that the more water she wasted in the tubby meant less money for the fun stuff.

21-Day Challenge

Yes, I’ve made financial missteps; we all have.  I have also made some decent, pat-myself-on-the-back money moves, as well.  I’m betting you can say the same thing.  Let’s resolve to make more of the good moves starting today and continuing into the future!  The sooner you stop concerning yourself with your past and focus on your financial future, the sooner you’ll reach your goals.

They say it takes an average of 21 days to form a new habit.  Go ahead, pick something, big or small, that you want to change in your life that will allow you to keep more of the money you work so hard to earn.  One frugal step at a time you can shake the shackles of consumerism and start living a more authentic YOU!

What Do You Plan On Changing?

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