My Minimalist Life

Faithful readers may recall a series of columns, Mary’s Big Remodel, where I kept you up to date on my husband’s long and agonizing remodel of our home. What you may not know is that no sooner had the paint dried, we put the house on the market for sale. To our utter amazement it sold in about 3 hours. Yikes! We were only testing the water. But the offer was something we could not refuse.

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And now for the rest of the story …

We had 30 days to pack up 27 years of our lives, which we put into storage pending a decision on where we would eventually relocate. 

We kept out a few bare necessities and moved into a tiny apartment, where we will live for about 18 months. Did you get that … a “few”? Clearly, I was not in my right mind when I decided what I would need in this microscopic kitchen. 

We’re talking a spatula, a wooden spoon, and a rubber scraper. That’s about it in my tiny utensil drawer. And that spatula? It’s 44 years old. I know because it was a wedding gift. It works better than ever and makes me laugh every single day.

But that’s not all. I had to put my slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker and 99% of my kitchen into storage. That’s how small this place is. 

The Do-It-Yourself, Consumer-Protected, No-Fee, Hassle-Free, Totally Brilliant “Debit Card”

Debit cards are by far my least favorite type of plastic. The fraud protection is, at best, shaky. But beyond that, there is the temptation to use a debit card with a certain level of abandon–to purchase everything under the sun by swiping instead of writing a check or paying with cash. 

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It becomes far too easy to empty your bank account using a debit card than if you actually had to write out the checks and think about what you’re doing.

I would rather see you use a credit card. 

What if I told you there is a way you can have a fully functional debit card without any of the problems and hassles that come with running up a credit card balance you cannot pay off in a single month. You’d say, “Mary, this is brilliant!” Well, get ready because that’s exactly what I have for you.

Would a Boatload of Money Help?

If you’re holding out for the life you love to magically appear once a boatload of money gets dumped into your lap, don’t count on it. 

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You may believe in your heart that winning the lottery or getting an unexpected inheritance will make your life perfect. Perhaps you’re convinced that getting in on the ground floor of the latest and greatest multilevel marketing opportunity or stock offering will make you rich overnight. That won’t happen.

If you can figure a way to get that kind of money, good for you. But if you think money alone–and plenty of it–will give you the life you love, forget it. Money alone, no matter how much of it flows through your life, will not automatically materialize into the life you love. 

More money will only magnify your current situation because you will continue to manage it the way you’re handling it now. If you’re in debt now, more money will put you deeper into debt. If there’s never any money left at the end of the month, more money is not going to change that because your spending habits will simply escalate to accommodate the greater income. How can that be? Because you will use it as a down payment on something bigger and better and even more opulent. Or you’ll spend your brains out even faster than you do now. Money will not change your behavior. Only you can do that.

Got Debt? Do Something About It!

Doing something about consumer debt is good for your finances—and just about every other area of your life, too.  

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Health. Experts say there’s no question that carrying a lot of debt can be stressful–causing all kinds of health issues. It can result in worry, sleeplessness, communication breakdown, depression and anxiety. Credit-card debt takes a terrible toll on human health. Our bodies bear the consequences of the heavy loads our minds carry when we place our lives in financial jeopardy. Do something about your debt and you’ll be doing something good for your health, too.

Job. Being in a job you hate is an awful place to be. Every time you think about leaving, you realize you can’t afford to right now because you have too much debt to pay off. Get started today doing something about your debt to get unstuck from your unhappy situation. 

Muffins: The Perfect Solution

Mom was right. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You cannot afford to miss it for many reasons, but here are three which come from recent medical research:

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1. People who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off are faithful members of the “breakfast club.” 

2. People who eat breakfast may be better equipped to fight off colds and flu. An impressive study found that those who developed more than one illness over the 10-week study were less likely to be breakfasters. The reasons why breakfast might be a protective factor are not entirely clear.

Grab a Can of This to Get Out Ink Stains

Dear Mary: HELP! I just pulled a load of dried, white clothes out of my dryer and discovered a blue ink pen was in that load. How do I get blue ink out of already dryed white clothes? Thank you, Jenny

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Dear Jenny: Go to the drug store and buy the cheapest can of hairspray you can find. Cheap is the operative word because the cheaper it is the more acetone it will contain. That’s what you want here. Aqua Net is one example of a very cheap hairspray product. Saturate the ink stains with that cheap hairspray. If those stains can be removed, you will see the ink begin to dissolve and run. Great. Let it sit and soak for a bit then hit the stains with your regular laundry detergent, and launder as usual. 

On a personal note, I was ready to walk on stage to speak at a large convention many years ago, wearing a pale blue wool blazer. I didn’t realize the Sharpie pen handed to me did not have a lid attached and you guessed it–somehow I laid a big black permanent-ink mark right across the lapel. 

Do It Yourself and Keep the Change

One of the best ways to cut the cost of living is to learn how to do things you’re presently paying others to do for you. That could be anything from pool cleaning to landscape maintenance and pest control. Just be wise. Research first, and learn from the best possible sources.

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DIY flea treatment. Advantage flea products are made with fipronil and imadocloprid. Both available cheap from DoMyOwnPestControl.com. You buy a gallon of the stuff and mix it according to instructions. Compared to the little vials that you break open, you get a thousand percent more product for about half the price of one of the expensive packages that lasts for three months. Or if you just want the convenience, you can buy the ready-to-use version, and pay about half the price of prescription Advantage or Frontline.  I have a farm and keeping fleas and ticks off my farm dogs is what prompted me to search out this resource. Julie

Bargains on Stuff Kids Need for School

Most people aren’t paying attention in the middle of summer when stores like Office Depot and Staples go crazy nearly giving away school supplies with their one-cent sales. How can they do it? They’re willing to bet that most customers will grab up the bargains and then add a few full-priced items as well before they get to the checkout. 

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The way to really save on all of your kids’ back-to-school needs is to start early so you can cherry pick all the stores. Load up as you can to last the entire school year because you won’t see these kind of bargains again until this time next year.

School supplies. The Grocery Game has added a school supplies category to its lineup. Check it out: First log in at TheGroceryGame.com (you can get a 4-week free trial, and you should), then in the upper left select all stores in your area. Above the list items, click your mouse in the “Search” box, which will open up a “Category” box with drop down menu. Select “School Supplies.” Just look at the bargains! New items and deals constantly change, so log in each week and pick up the deals as you do your regular shopping.