Last week my BFF’s & I attended the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a GNO event. Traffic was blocked at several locations for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I had heard this happening in NYC, ATL, & now it was in my home town. I have to admit, I was completely ignorant as to why this was going on. As we passed the protesters, I read their signs & watched their passionate attempts to have their voices heard. The Dallas PD was doing a great job as well with traffic, crowd control, etc.
In the next few days I Googled the term, 99% and found this site that helped me understand some of the reasons for the protesting. As I scrolled through reading the comments one caught my attention. I guess the reason it did was because the writer resonated many of my similar beliefs. I realized at that point, I too, was a protester. However, quite different from the ones that stand on the corners of Wall Street or other government buildings across the nation. I believe the type of protesting I support is the fiber of what will truly make a difference in our nation. Let me explain.
Many of the comments made in the referenced web site complained about missed opportunities, loss of jobs, inability to purchase homes, unfair treatment from the government, bank bailouts, capitalism, the rich getting richer & etc. As I read, I realized years ago I used to chime in on such convos, but today I will not entertain being a part of them. Instead of being part of the problem, I am becoming a part of the solution. Following men such as Orrin Woodward & Chris Brady, who develop leaders globally, I have learned many of the problems we tend to blame on the government are self-inflicted. In reading & listening to the audio, “The Creature from Jekyll Island,” I understand historical beginnings of government control on money. Gaining new information from credible sources have helped me learn how to alleviate my position as a “victim” of society & become a catalyst for change. I am a protester against why our nation is disseminating before our eyes.
How can such change occur? Simple. Everyday practices done in small increments over time compound into affecting a person, community, generation & nation. Slight edge mentality develops long-term results in every area of our lives. How much more do you think these changes will make a difference as opposed to public protesting? A closer look at this quote reveals how:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.
Imagine, if you will, a small group of committed people practicing these methods stamping out the ignorance of how to live sensibly.
A. Live within your means & begin to eliminate debt-all of it! Sit down & write out all of your monthly expenses paying attention to all purchases made within a three-month period. There are little “foxes” that spoil the vine when it comes to sucking the life out of your income. Such “foxes” that virtually go unnoticed are vending machines, coffee shops, convenience stores, unreturned video rentals, purchases that allow a year or more to begin payment toward the balance, credit cards of any kind, eating out for breakfast, lunch & dinner during the week, smoking, alcohol, & other vices. Mint.com, a free service, keeps me posted on purchases dividing them into categories. Once you discover all the areas you spend money, begin targeting what you can carve away. If 50% of all marriages that end in divorce are largely because of financial stress & differences, what percentage can be eliminated when we resolve debt?
1. Bring your lunch to work. Stop the fast food frenzy! Your wallet, health & waistline will love you for it! If you must stop & purchase coffee, I suggest McDonald’s. Great coffee, great prices. This is the ONLY thing I purchase from there! When eating out in a restaurant, drink water instead of tea or coke (I’m from the south where everything is coke first, & then you say what kind!) Share a meal with a friend. Did you know it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full? Do you realize how much food you can consume before that happens? Seriously…..portion control helps your body & wallet!
2. When you stop to get gas, don’t go inside. Pay at the pump to avoid purchasing the junk causing your total to creep beyond the necessary. You stopped for gas!
3. If you need furniture, appliances or other major purchases, save & pay cash for it. We live in a micro-wave, self-entitlement dispensation of time & this mentality has caused people to falter in their basic responsibilities of food, clothing & shelter. There are terrific places where I live that offer the same exact furniture at half price or less than that found at those “wholesale to the public” places offering extended credit terms. When it comes to major purchases, I’m a research shopper. This has paid off for me tremendously. If you can’t pay your rent, chances are when that payment comes due, you won’t make it either. Go even deeper than this….do you really need it?
4. Vices can include smoking, drinking, nails, hair, spas, etc. I have a business partner that realized he could have purchased a ticket to one of our leadership conventions with the money he spent on cigarettes. I admire him so much for making the choice to stop smoking. His lungs, heart, body & bank account will reveal the harvest of doing so. Local beauty schools offer hair cuts at reduced prices. Learning how to color your own hair or having a friend to help will benefit all involved. Set goals for other things once you have paid debt down or carved some of the other areas out of your budget if there are “must haves” in your life.
5. Purchase used vehicles. Vehicles depreciate the second you drive off the lot. Reading the book, The Millionaire Next Door, enlightens us on how first generation millionaires live. It was amazing what I realized when I read that book. Having to have the appearance of being rich has caused us to become broke. The wealthy don’t care about appearance. In paying cash for used vehicles, you also save on insurance which can be applied to other areas of debt. Please be careful of the kind of used car you buy because as parts need to be replaced, you don’t want that to be a “fox.” Mentor with someone before purchasing.
6. Utilities can be a tremendous area of savings. Go wind! Use smart meters when available. If you live in a power vacuum, MOVE! I live in a well insulated loft & never once used my heat during the winter. Even when we were shut in due to the snow, I never used it. There were 2 months that I actually had a credit on my utility account. Sweet right? I have to admit, I was the woman who would never, ever adjust the thermostat when I left for the day. During the heat wave this summer, I complied with the request from our loft manager concerning adjusting thermostats to 85 when we left for work. You know what happened? Every time I got home, my thermostat was never above 76 degrees. It was comfortable & I lowered it only when I went to bed. I also unplug everything I can reach. This has made a huge difference. These are the type of adjustments you make & put the extra money toward other debt & maybe you can squeeze in something you can’t live without. Not both, either –or!
7. Commute to work. I never rode on public transportation until I worked a nursing strike assignment in San Francisco. On the few days I was off, during the month there, I rode the BART. My friends in La were very concerned for me, but when I saw elementary school children & the elderly riding it daily, I felt safe. The first time gas prices spiked to almost $4/gallon, I asked if our workplace offered reduced bus passes. Several of us decided to partake & it changed my daily commute costs. Instead of being stuck in Dallas traffic, I could relax & leave the driving to someone else. Many apartment complexes are on the public transportation lines. Save gas, contribute to lowering the carbon footprint, resist road rage & take a nap if you want. It is also the greatest harvest field to encourage hurting people.
8. Cable, dish network, etc. Get rid of it all! How much do you currently pay in these areas? How much are you short each month once all bills are paid? This is a huge “fox” stealing not only money from your budget, but precious family time. The average father spends 38 seconds a day looking into his child’s eyes yet how many hours does he spend looking at TV? So you think you can dance is more popular than so you think you know what your children faced at school today. There is a serious epidemic of ignoring the most important things in our lives…..the only thing we are able to bring to heaven….our family. Replace this time with reading great books on finances, relationships, history & see how your life will change for the best! Read with your kids. Instill this habit at an early age. Unplug the TV & plug into your real life, not reality portrayed by someone else. If people are so far in debt, they should start a home based business or get a second job. Either way, nightly entertainment from T V isn’t the answer just like blaming Wall Street isn’t the answer.
9. Out of town travel costs can be cut tremendously by using services such as Priceline.com & bidding on flights, hotels & rental cars. I have radically saved in this area as I never pay full price.
B. Shelter is an essential part of our budget. There is controversy whether or not it is better to own or rent. I have done both & for this season in my life there is no way I would own anything unless I paid cash for it. Unless your house creates an income or is paid for, it is a liability. I am a design & landscape freak. Admittance is the beginning of overcoming right? As an empty nester, I choose to live in a loft. I have a wonderful maintenance man who replaces my light bulbs, replaces my air filters & fixes anything that breaks (which is a tiny savings in itself right?). I don’t pay water, trash or sewage which is at least a $60/ month savings. There is a fabulous lawn management group that keeps our property manicured year round. I live 8-10 minutes from work saving even more money on transportation & it is located on the DART line, within walking distance to my beloved AA Center & the popular Katy Trail for walking / biking. I do not pay HOA fees, property taxes, high insurance prices, or other expenses included in being a homeowner. You may not believe you could move your family into an apartment complex, but there are alternate choices. Either way, I would suggest looking at where you currently live & decide if it is the best place or if it is the source of your frustration. Are you fighting over the lawn? Garbage? Neighborhood situations? When you work 60-80 hours per week to make ends meet, when are you actually enjoying your oasis? If you must purchase a home, consider an unconventional way of doing so & use NACA.com. Not only do they offer no down payments programs, low-interest rates, but also utilize a strict budget management program which assures you buy what you can afford.
C. Clothing is a subject some people will argue over. I speak to people on a regular basis who place this above many other areas of living importance. Really? Why? Appearances right? I used to sew for myself & my kids & I know what goes into clothes. In my area there are fabulous thrift stores, outlets & other choices where I find fashionable clothing at amazing prices. It is my choice to shop thrift stores as a point of actually giving back to my community. Numerous times I have found pieces of clothing with the price tag still on them. I have also met vintage store owners shopping at the same thrift store I frequent to purchase items to sell in their shops, at an increased price of course. I buy what I like & am not a label girl at all. Interestingly enough, my closet contains designer clothing purchased at thrift store prices. Buying seasonally is a great choice as well as holding clothing swaps between friends especially when small kids are involved.
D. Food, primarily grocery purchases, soars with the increasing costs of fuel necessary for distribution. Many cities have instituted farmers markets. This not only provides healthy alternatives, but supports local businesses. I shop at a small, neighborhood, local, market that features all natural / organic foods primarily from local farmers. It costs me much less than the big box stores because it is their specialty. I purchase smaller quantities that prevent spoilage which prevents waste. There are many wonderful ways to cut the grocery budget. Do inventories of what you purchase versus what you never use & eliminate the difference. Again, stop the fast food frenzy. Allocate this cost back into your grocery budget & watch the savings add up.
I realize this has been a long blog, but after reading the reasons for the Occupy Wall Street Protesting, it has been on my heart to write. By gaining control of our expenses, eliminating debt, taking a risk for successful entrepreneurial opportunities & making contributions to our communities, we will be the percentage of people who provide the answer our nation needs to thrive. Just as our forefathers left the tyranny of an evil king to establish a new nation, it’s our responsibility, not our government, to establish personal change. We can’t continue to blame the wealthy simply because they choose to sacrifice & risk what it takes to succeed, while we choose to rack up debt & complain. Imagine a group of people who practice the things outlined above. We will impact our economy in a positive way increasing capacity. In becoming economically independent, we will provide the stimulus instead of needing one.
If these suggestions are elementary to you, please consider taking the time to mentor someone who is struggling.