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. 

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.

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. 

What You Must Know if You Insist on Using a Debit Card

How do you pay for stuff? Do you hand over cash? Write a check? Pay with a credit card? Or do you  use a debit card because the payment is automatically deducted from your bank account?

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Most people use a combination of paper, plastic and electronic payments. However, debit cards have now surpassed cash, checks and credit cards for the way people pay at the point of sale. Personally, I do not have a debit card, never have and never will. I have an ATM card.

Simply having a debit card tied to your bank account is an invitation for trouble. I would love for you to get rid of yours, but if I cannot convince you to do that, do not become complacent. Get proactive. The odds are stacked against you which means you will become a victim of fraud. Determine right now to know your risk then create every safety net you can think of, such as:

How to Buy a New Car with All Cash

I wouldn’t walk across hot coals for the fun of it. But if I could be shown how a short, painful walk would do away with a lifetime of worry, frustration and the fear that comes with constantly being broke, I’d do it.

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While the method that follows isn’t exactly hot coals, it does represent a short-term sacrifice to achieve something amazing that few people will ever achieve in their lifetimes: paying all cash for a car, and perhaps, if you choose, even a brand-new car. Eventually. 

Let’s say that tomorrow morning your car is destroyed beyond repair. You must have a car, and because you have no money saved and the insurance check is pathetically small, you opt to buy a brand-new car. Realistically, how much can you afford to pay each month for a car payment? $200? $350 $600? 

Okay, back to reality. Your car isn’t destroyed, and you’ll keep driving it for a while. But remember the amount you believe you could afford to pay for a car payment each month if you absolutely had to and keep reading.

Six Silly Gadgets That Make Life Easier

I am nothing if not a gadget lover. Ingenious items that make my life easier are great, but when I find something that’s cool and has the potential to save money? Well, that’s cause for some kind of tiny celebration. Here are my current fun finds.

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814k5YuHz9L._SL1500_Sugru. I don’t know where this stuff has been hiding (maybe I’m the one who’s been missing?), but my recent discovery has me giddy with joy. It’s called Sugru, or perhaps a better name would be Miracle in a Package. Think: silly putty without the silly part. Sugru is self-setting rubber for fixing, modifying and making stuff. You apply it, shape it and watch it transform into a durable, waterproof rubber with amazing properties. It comes in a bevy of colors, which makes it a crafter’s dream come true. I have so many DIY projects crying out for Sugru, I just don’t know where to start.  

Everything is Negotiable

What I know about the art and science of negotiating I learned as a matter of survival. Driven to save myself and my family from financial ruin, I jumped into the deep end of the real estate industry. I knew nothing about negotiating. All I knew was that I had to find a way to bring interested parties together, get them to agree and see that everyone walked away a winner.

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While I no longer sell and lease industrial properties, I still rely heavily on the negotiating skills I learned. Every day I use them in one way or another. Sometimes it’s a complex issue, but most of the time it’s just a series of one-minute negotiations.

You are a negotiator, too. You negotiate with kids, spouse, boss, co-workers, employees, creditors, vendors, friends, clerks and salespeople. You negotiate with telemarketers, credit-card issuers, mobile-phone providers, repair people, teachers and neighbors. You negotiate using your words, your tone, your body language—even your silence. 

Negotiating is the way you get what you want, whether it’s a roof, a new car or your teenage son to put the seat down. 

How I Stopped the M.A.C. Attacks

My frugality philosophy is that I scrimp like crazy on things that don’t matter to have the money for things that do. Makeup is important to me. I’ll forego other things that aren’t that important to me so I can afford quality makeup.

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For years, my makeup of choice has been M.A.C., sold online, at cosmetics counters in high-end department stores and in exclusive M.A.C. stores, worldwide.

My big news is that M.A.C. and I have parted company and for one reason only: the ever increasing cost was enough to give me a heart attack. It’s taken awhile, but with considerable research and many trials (and errors), I have now replaced each of my M.A.C. items with a drugstore product. My criteria was that the replacement had to be cheaper, but of an equal or better quality.