Year of Less – Week 3 Life without cable TV

I’m embarking on my third week of less and have made some significant improvements. I still have purchased nothing (oops I did rent a movie) from my favorite online retailer. There are still items sitting in my cart, and I consider that a win!  I did go grocery shopping and blew my budget completely. I forgot that my mother would be here, and I bought extras for her that I normally wouldn’t have, and at that point, I gave in and threw some extras in there for me!  I still did NOT purchase any soft drinks. That makes two weeks without a soda of any kind. I was hoping I’d feel better and lose some weight, but, nope, all the same. Normally, I’d give up and give in because I did not get instant results, but this year of less is also a time of more so I’m giving it more time, 3 months.  Lastly, I purchased more fuel for my car; $20 this time and got a half a tank. Even with appointments every day last week, I still have fuel.  Even with blowing the grocery budget and renting the movie, I still feel like it was a positive week.  I still have not purchased anything new that isn’t consumable big 👍🏻 in my opinion. 

This idea of less was brought on by necessity but wasn’t just implemented in a few days. I had been wanting to do it for a while and realized a new year would be a great time to start. However, I cut the cable cord about 3 months ago.  I have 5 televisions and each had a cable box and a whole home DVR.  I used to love TV.  I scheduled my life around it, and on occasion, I will still do that.  But I found myself watching the same things or not watching until bedtime because I was working so much or I’d have it on in the background while I was reading or listening to a book. I had stopped watching the news months prior because the election stuff was making me ill (all sides), and truthfully, I have enough sadness in my life. I don’t need to watch the news to feel worse about things I can’t change. I still get local news notifications on my phone and look up the weather regularly. But I was paying $130 a month to watch about 3 or 4 channels that I wouldn’t be able to get over an antenna and it really seemed ridiculous. However, I greatly enjoyed watching “my shows” when I wanted to through the DVR and not having to watch them live or to watch the commercials (which are so stupid or raunchy or both) so I started looking for an independent DVR. I found a few options, like TiVo, but it required a monthly subscription. I didn’t want to trade the cable bill for just another bill. I decided on the Channel Master DVR. It cost about $300, but I figured a few months of no cable would pay for it. I also continued my Amazon Prime membership, which allows me to watch lots of things for free, and Netflix , which I had anyway. In addition, I also had an outdoor antenna.  Hooking things up was relatively straightforward and the Channel Master is intuitive as well. However, I’ve found a couple of things I don’t like about it. There is a lag on the DVR playback due to the wireless network. I often have to fast forward through the show and then rewind so it can “catch up.”  This is really annoying and faster internet and router have not solved this problem. The other downside (odd thing) is that I cannot catch all of my channels through the DVR.  PBS is completely missing, the signal from a couple of channels come in and out at times as if the wind affects the antenna. However, if I change the input to just TV, things work much better, except still no PBS. On all other TVs in the house I can catch everything. I have changed out cables and even switched the antenna input to the old cable lines because I knew those all worked in every room.  These appear to be quirks I have to live with, at least for now.  I tried SlingTV for a month. It actually would have let me get those few channels I used to watch, but they spanned two packages so I would have been paying more again to watch just a few channels. It did not have a contract so you could watch a month and then not, which I have considered. However, not having cable I’ve begun to watch even less TV. I watch a 30-minute game show at lunch and then an episode or two of something on the DVR, Netflix or Amazon in the evening and that’s not even every night, usually just with dinner, and then I turn the TV off and do something else. 

Overall, I’m very satisfied with life without cable. I get more done most days.  I spend my mornings on the porch experiencing nature, my dog, the quiet instead of in front of a screen getting all the bad news locally, nationally as well as worldly.   All of these screens in our lives are such distractions. We no longer take the time to just be with our own thoughts that might help us find solutions to our problems, experience the positive and especially negative emotions we have or if nothing else, just get to know ourselves and what we really want, not what someone on a screen tells us to want.  If you are considering cutting that cord yourself, I say DO IT!  You can always add it back and they’ll probably give you a deal for a while to come back – but I bet you won’t. 

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Year of Less – Week 2

Well, I completed my first week of my year of less successfully — sorta, kinda, okay not perfectly, but I still think it was a success.  As a reminder, the point was to have a week of NO spending.  Well, I knew that wasn’t going to happen because I had a grooming appointment for my dog scheduled, and I had planned to kennel her that night so that I could have a day where no one needed anything from me. I also knew I would need some fuel in my car as well.  Now, other than those expenses, I had planned to spend nothing else, eat what I had in the house already.  My first struggle was to prevent myself from online shopping. You know that company that you can have your stuff here in a couple of days, we are really close!  The UPS guy and mail lady feel like personal friends.  So when I thought of something I needed, I hopped online to put it in my cart, and then I had to stop myself from finishing the transaction.  This happened multiple times during the week, but I never hit buy. So pat on the back for me — although I did put some things in save for later and a couple of other things are sitting there waiting for the week to be over, which I need to reconsider as this is also not inline with the spirit of the year of less.  

Also, I have a soft drink addiction. I didn’t plan very well as I had only one left on my first day of the year.  I have a refund from an overpayment of a bill on a credit card with $5 on it, and I thought I’ll just use that, and I won’t be spending money, right. Well, the damn thing didn’t work.  I totally thought about just buying some, but figured I’d only be cheating myself so I’ve had zero soft drinks for a week!  And, it hasn’t been terrible. I did have a few carbonated waters, which probably helped, and I need to go to the grocery store today and plan on buying no soft drinks at all!  I don’t physically feel different yet, but I do feel proud of myself and that’s a good feeling. 
I tried to use that same credit card to put just a little gas in my car, but again, it did not work, so I decided to put in $10 only (takes $40-$50 for a full tank). I work from home so I don’t need much in fuel, and by having a no spend week, I haven’t gone anywhere else after picking up the dog at the groomer’s because I couldn’t spend and didn’t want to waste fuel. By the way, I did spend another unanticipated $5 when the groomer mentioned a special upgrade, and I said yes before even THINKING!

I ate from my pantry and refrigerator. I had sandwiches and soups and even found some frozen spaghetti I had completely forgotten about. When I ran out of chips, I had crackers. When I ran out of bread, I had soup. Did I have gourmet meals? No, but I had more than enough and could probably do at least another week that way with what I still have in the freezer. However, it would be easier if I had just a few other items like veggies and salad.  I did drink more coffee to supplement the lack of soft drinks, but I definitely drank a ton of more water than I have in a week’s time in decades. 

The only epic fail I had this week was a $23 expense for a computer software bundle that I tried to justify to myself was a business expense. It totally is a business expense, but I didn’t really have to buy it this week; the special didn’t end for another week at least. I believe I was having spending withdrawals and also didn’t want to forget that I needed that. Did you hear that??  “Didn’t want to forget that I needed that.”  I think that is a clear sign that I didn’t actually need that because if I did ACTUALLY NEED it then I wouldn’t have forgotten that I needed it!  Clear signal of error in judgment I can use the rest of the year!  Surely, that insight equals success for the first week.

Week 2 will be no spending on nonessentials. I can spend on food, fuel, household supplies. I don’t want to spend more than $60 at the grocery store for the week. I will allow myself to eat out twice at most.  I’d typically eat out about 4 times minimum in a week, especially a week when my mother is here, which will be next week.  So we’ll see how it goes.

My Year of Less – Week 1

It is January 1, 2017; the first day of my year of spending less.  I have been awake for about 2 hours and have already had to stop myself from spending twice. The first was if I should go to the donut shop for breakfast and the second was to see if there was a book on blogging I could order from Audible or Amazon.  Wow!  I was surprised by how quickly I had to implement my new lifestyle. This is going to be harder than I thought. 

The point of this year of less is to rein in my finances, to learn to live more modestly and to enforce some delayed gratification.   It is NOT, however, about cutting every luxury out of my life.  I hope to break it down to the essentials of contentment – the items needed in life to be satisfied the majority of the time. Happiness cannot be sustained, nor can sadness. Contentment has always been my goal in life, and I’ve kept looking for it in more things, even when I knew it was to be found within me and not outside of me.  I plan to pair down until I find that sweet spot where my contentment lies.

The goal of the first month is to trim most unnecessary expenses. I have been living without cable for 3 months now and will write a future post about that, what I replaced it with and how it’s going.  My next steps are to not buy anything that is not essential in maintaining the house, my health or my dog’s health.   As I’ve stated in the previous post, my house is full of STUFF!  Stuff to entertain, stuff to read, stuff to watch, stuff to eat, stuff to make things to eat, stuff for home improvement projects, stuff to make things to sell, stuff and more stuff.  So this first week is to utilize the stuff I already have to entertain myself, to feed myself, to get through the first week of my year of less by not spending anything, except on fuel for my car, if needed, and that means not filling up the tank.   There are plenty of leftovers put in the freezer from the holidays, and I have sandwich makings as well so food should be covered.  Entertainment with television, books, movies, old magazines and other hobbies should be covered. I can’t think of anything else I should NEED this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

My Year of Less – and Maybe More

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions.  I never keep them.  I’ve been losing the same 40 pounds for the last three years so I’m not sure why I think I can take on a whole year of less – less spending, less eating, less anger, less complaining, more fun, more experiences and less stuff!  However, I’m at the point in my life where I financially must spend less and mentally in a place where I must be responsible for less, make room for other things, surround myself with things I truly enjoy, that bring me pleasure.  I’ve been fortunate to have had several years to not have to worry about my finances after my husband’s death, but the time has come to be the sole provider of me again.  The biggest obstacle to that is that I’m not good at managing money alone (and the other is I don’t make much money).  In a couple, I was really good at it.  If I did something stupid financially, it would have affected us both.  I didn’t want to be responsible for that.  However, when it’s just me, I say, “It’s just money.  I’ll make some more.  I’ve never made much anyway.”  All of these are true, but I’ve experienced life from both sides now; that side where the debt is higher than you can ever image paying off and the side where you really have little to no debt and enough to splurge.   To those people who say money can’t buy happiness, I say you’ve never been really broke!  Money can buy a lot of happiness, and what it mainly buys is security!

Security is what we all really want.  To be free of the worry – the worry of how to pay for the house, the car, school, Christmas, the latest cell phone – the worry of what if I lose my job that pays for the house, the car, school, Christmas, the latest cell phone – the worry of what if I get hurt or sick and can’t work – the worry of how to pay for that family trip or worse how to pay for gas to work, food for the week, a trip to the doctor.  Financial security alleviates all of this worry.  Life does run much smoother and easier when you don’t have these worries.  However, you should all know that financial security does NOT solve all your problems (surely you know this, right?).  It doesn’t prevent disasters or tragedies from happening to you.  It doesn’t make your addictions disappear.  It doesn’t make your family get along with each other.  It is not a magical shield.  Many times, it brings it’s own separate problems, but I promise those are problems you would prefer to have over the broke problems.

So – since I don’t make much money, how do I find financial security?  I realized the only other way of possibly reaching it again is by cutting back, i.e., living with less.  I will continue to try and increase my income, of course, but my main focus is going to be on spending less.  Like really, seriously, trying dramatically to spend less.  What I need to survive is not much, relatively.  I’m very fortunate to have a great house (with a small note – but needs ongoing repairs), a paid-for car that is 6 years old (and starting to need repairs), little in the way of credit card debt (but I want this gone soon), no children, one dog.  It’s just me.  No kids to pay for.  No spouse to pay for.  No ex or spouse to supplement my income either (nor do I want one, but that’s another story).  My expenses include the house note (with flood insurance and homeowners included, but not taxes), property taxes, self-employment taxes, electricity, water, home phone/internet, car/life insurance, cell phone (which does include a parent on the account), credit card bills, medical bills, gas, food, dog food and vet bills, entertainment, and some work-related expenses such as website fee and supplies for jobs.  Then there are the clothes that I love to buy (but I don’t really go anywhere), the food that I have delivered (I don’t cook and don’t really plan to), the Amazon Prime get-it-here-in-2-days fever, audio-book addiction, the outrageous amount of toys for a dog – A DOG (that I love as if she were a child)!  And there’s more, I know there is more because this house is full of STUFF!  So that is the main focus of my year, to stop the surplus spending and learn to live modestly. 

I know many of you can’t relate to me because I have more than you or maybe I have way less than you.  I have no kids, no spouse.  I don’t go to a 9-5 job every day – but the truth is this is not about what we have compared to the other.  It is about what we really need in life, including what we need to make us happy.  Not what the neighbor needs to make them happy or your brother or your college roommate or parents.  This is about what you and I actually, really need to be happy and how I think that modest spending may help us find it. I hope you will follow this experience and see if I’m right.  Wish me luck because I know I will need it.  I will fail along the way – I just really hope I don’t give up!  

To come in the new year:  Cutting the cord – Life without cable; Surely Someone Will Buy This Crap?; Can’t I Do That Myself?; No Complaining This Week and How I Will Fail Miserably; I Probably Shouldn’t Eat That; Do I Rent Out the Shop?

Quick Grammar/Spelling Rant

The incorrect word usage and misspellings over the last two days on DIY blogs and things people repost on Facebook are killing me!  No need to expect quality or standards anymore because people don’t care, and if I expect them to care then I’m sure I am somehow bullying them into appearing to be an educated individual who has credible information I want to hear when obviously they are not and don’t want to be because their mother did their homework for them because it was faster and just easier on everyone that way. Ughhh!!! 

I can’t get it together today 

I can’t seem to get it together today. I hate days like this. I want to be productive. I have to be productive. There are so many things that need to get done, and I am the only one here to do them; plus, the perfectionist in me wouldn’t allow anyone else to do it anyway. I have friends coming this weekend and the house is a wreck, Christmas decorating is not finished and the decorations are strewn everywhere. I still need to finish several projects for people that I promised would be done this week. I was supposed to work this morning and didn’t. My funds are very low, and I cannot afford to not work. So what did I do instead? Cried for hours. Felt sorry for myself. Begged for my husband to come back from the dead. Ate more than was normal. Watched a few episodes of a series hoping it would empower me to help myself. Wished that money would fall from the sky and then it wouldn’t be so bad on days like this when I can’t work.  
And did any of that help? Not really. Just made we waste a half a day that I don’t have to waste. I am still a widow, still fat, still broke, still need to clean the house and finish those projects! The only real positive of this depressing, useless morning was that I did cry. I did more than that. I wailed. I need to wail sometimes. Sometimes I can’t fake another minute and my grief has to escape! Then my dog whines at me. I don’t know if she is doing it to comfort me, to distract me or simply to tell me to shut up, but thanks to her I get off my butt, take her outside to play some ball and decide I need to write. Get some of this off my chest.  

I discovered a while ago that writing is my therapy. Once it is on paper or the screen, I can breathe a little easier. The depression isn’t gone. It is just abated for the time being, but I have then purchased myself a window of productivity. I never know how long it will be opened, but I know I have to take advantage of it before it closes.  
Depression won for a little while today, but I am going to make a second-half comeback!  

Videos of Dummies

I have recently seen two videos of absurdly stupid women spouting their views on issues of gun control and languages (the latter I only watched less than a minute of).  I pray to God, the Universe, or whoever is in charge that these people and their like are not actually what they appear to be.  Let me begin by saying, if they truly believe the farce coming out of their mouths, I am terribly worried about any offspring they produce and the idiocy they will inflict on others for many generations.  The gun control blonde, big-boobed buffoon (can you say stereotype) goes to a gun store wanting a “protection gun” not a “murder gun.”  Umm, mouth open, jaw on floor.  She is not serious?  It is not possible?  A gun can be used for protection or murder, but it doesn’t say on the gun which it is.  I know, I checked mine.  It didn’t say.  Stupid bimbo, people kill people.  Sometimes they do it with guns, sometimes they do it with knives, sometimes they do it with their fists, sometimes they do it with their cars, sometimes they do it slowly by exposing us to little bits of their asininity in videos on the internet.   Can we get a rating system for these so I can protect myself?  SOIL – Signs of Intelligent Life.  MA – Mildly Absurd.  NYKR – No, You’re Kidding, Right. ISPDR – Insanely Stupid, Please Don’t Reproduce.  I do know my only real protection from these is to not click on them.  May the force guide my choices.

The other idiot is some scarcely 20-something who likely sadly barely graduated from some public high school in America (I graduated from one of these too but not barely, btw) who wants there to be just one English language, the American one; not the British one, the Hawaiian one, or dear Lord I can’t even remember because I had to hit stop before I went out to buy a murder gun!  Please, tell me this is not true!  They made these videos just for the attention!  No one is really this stupid!!!  Really, it is not possible that someone is actually this stupid but smart enough to work a video camera and then upload it to the internet?

Now, if they actually did make these videos just to see how many likes they could get, how many shares and/or how far reaching they would go, that exposes another problem in our society.  They believe that any attention, even negative, is better than no attention.  Can you say child of divorce begging for a parent to pay attention to them and not their third new love of their life in a year?  Somebody pay attention to me please!  Being proud of the success of their video for looking like an incompetent fool is the highlight of their lives.  The highlight of their lives is not inventing some game-changing device to help the physically challenged or writing an entertaining book or a beautiful poem or helping a neighbor in a time of struggle or even simply raising responsible, well-rounded, decent, productive human beings.  The highlight is to look like an idiot in the hopes it will make them famous.  Fame is the ultimate goal.  Fame for fame’s sake.  Not fame for doing something truly spectacular.  Not fame for doing something heroic.  Not fame for being a decent human being.  Fame for being the stupidest person this week on the Internet.  Since their parents likely don’t remember they exist, I am sure their grandparents would be so proud (that is sarcasm in case you are ISPDR).  It is just pathetic – just pathetic in British English, Hawaiian English or even American English.