When It All Came Down Around Me

D is for Doozy

Divorce is a doozy, but somehow we made it through still good friends and supportive of each other in countless ways. The warning you hear sometimes is about your finances. We were never huge savers when together but C was in charge of the money and I tried not to spend too much of it. And often I would hear the words, “we are on the credit card” because we’d run out of money. This happened before we went bankrupt and eliminated $40,000 of debt, none of which were my $60,000 in student loans. We then got new credit cards afterwards (do people never learn?) and slowly the balances crept up.

Post divorce, the debt I had personally collected was my own and the balances were not tiny. Then there was my personal student loan debt. And so I started out on my own, not really having a system in place, no real budget. I paid my bills, mostly on time, most of the time and started to feel the stress crawling it’s way up my neck. A few weeks ago, I tried to use my credit card and was denied because my auto-payment no longer covered the minimum balance. I then had a panic attack on the way to work when I realized I had no control of what was happening to me financially.

So there I was. A new car with an unknown fortune still owed, $60,000 in student loan debt, $6,000 in credit card debt, $3000 owed to my teacher training program and all this on an assistant teachers salary and child support.  No wonder I had a panic attack.

Ground zero.

This bring us to the bottom right? Where the hell to start? Well here’s the thing. I love simplicity. I love simple living. I love making food from scratch and making the most of what I have. I love living for long baths, playing with my kids and reading books from the library. So where did I go so far wrong?

The good.

Here’s the good. I already downsized from $1400/mo rent to $890. I reduced my health insurance payment from $200 to $80. I reduced my internet from $60 to $30. But these were things that were pretty easy for me. I was still driving through P.Terrys and Starbucks on the regular.

Entitlement

I feel that many of us share this feeling of entitlement. We are entitled to an iphone, nice car, big space to live in, good quality coffee, organic food from nicer stores (my children need it!)… I loved simplicity but I also loved lattes. I had also spent a long time not looking at real alternatives. I reduced my Starbucks order from $4 to $2.87 instead of NOT going there.

Hope

And this weekend, I had my aha moment.  At the end of this long financial journey, at the bottom of this deep hole, after everything in pandora’s box emerged, I found that last sliver. I found hope. I found my fuel for this fire. I really started using mint (that had been there untouched all along) to look at how much I spent on eating out last month ($150.) I actually figured out how much I owe on my car and then took my beautiful, very expensive car to carmax to see if there was a more affordable option there for me. Turns out I owe $3000 more than they offered me for my car, so I’ll have to figure that one out in a few months. I had a friend take a look at my finances and we made a whole spreadsheet with income and expenses. I went to the grocery store and bought simple ingredients for half a week of groceries for $12. Did you know dried beans are $0.88 for a 1lb bag which is 10 servings?? And a 1lb or brown rice is under a dollar too. THEN! I went home and my kids helped me chop veggies for our healthy dinner and we ate together, not at a drive-thru. Hot damn, this was amazing. And hilarious. and made me feel pretty dumb.

Head, meet sand

There was a time where I thought if I didn’t look at it, it wasn’t there. Object permanence is something most 6 months olds figure out. Why I didn’t know it at 30 is beyond me. So I finally took my head out of that sandy place and reached out to my Facebook friends and got a few good references, Dave Ramsey and Mr. Money Mustache. I started reading, listening to anything involving debt reduction and found so much good.

So simplicity.

So simplicity. My blog is called “The Little Things” because that is truly what I believe makes you happy. It’s the relationships you build. The love you give, the small pleasures in creating something yourself. So if you need me, I’ll be cooking or baking, taking pictures,drinking tea, or taking a walk with my kids. If I need something, I’ll be at my favorite thrift stores. And I’ll be here. Writing about my successes and my failures, hoping you take this journey with me.

Advertisements

Nifty 50 Minimalist Wardrobe

I am imagining a 5 minute getting dressed routine that always has enough variety. I am imagining a clean clear closet with inspiring pieces in it. I imagine looking in the mirror and being happy with what I see, every day. This is the goal of this wardrobe. If you only own things 1) you love, 2) flatter your shape, and 3) match everything else in your wardrobe, life in the dressing realm gets a whole lot easier. Fewer items overall contributes significantly to a faster selection time.

I’ve been thinking/planning/obsessing over this concept for months. The main goal is to obtain a sense of peace with what I wear, to value what I put on my body, to fill in holes that make getting dressed stressful (I need pants! I never have any clean pants!) and to avoid buying emotionally. (I really don’t need another cardigan, ever.)

What is not included in the 50: Shoes*, tanks and under shirts, bras and undies, outerwear, pjs and workout clothes.

Nifty 50 Minimalist Wardrobe

Bottoms – 10 – 3 jeans, 3 black pants, 2 colored pants, 2 skirts
Dresses – 5 – 3 casual/work, 2 dress up/down
Tops- 25- 5 short sleeve, 5 long sleeve 5 dressy, 10 cardigans/sweaters
Accessories – 10 – 3 scarves, 3 necklaces, 3 earrings, 1 bracelet. 

(Feel free to change the breakdown in each category to your personal choice. i.e. More black pants, fewer skirts, no scarves, etc.)

Challenge: Go count the items in your closet and dresser. I’ll bet it’s much over 100 and you only like maybe half of it.
Let me know what you have!

*For shoes, I am working on the nifty 15. (Post coming!)

Make Your Own DIY Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate (French Press Method)

20131001-091017.jpg

French press coffee is absolutely, positively wonderful. It requires no electricity and the flavors of the coffee are really brought out by the steeping method. I love it hot, but have found it maybe even more enjoyable (personally) cold. Cold brewed french press is the best of all worlds, it’s easy, cheap and yummy. If you’re in the habit of buying a Toddy or iced coffee daily, this will save you tons of cash. I buy costco beans for about $4 a pound, fair trade is a bit more, maybe $5. A pound of coffee makes about 100 cups of regular strength coffee and that’s $.05 per cup for fair trade. If you like your coffee strong, it’s $0.10. Purchasing an 32oz french press should run you $15-$20. And then you can sell your $150 Kuerig on craigslist and say good riddance.

Cold Brewed French Press Coffee Concentrate
Yield: 16 regular strength or 8 strong cups of coffee


Gather
1 cup whole coffee beans
Coffee grinder
32 oz French press

Make
Grind coffee on the course setting and add it to the press
Add filtered water to almost fill, leaving enough for the plunger to rest on top, un-plunged.
Stir the coffee with a wooden spoon. Don’t use metal, it can effect the taste.
Place it in the fridge 8-12 hours.
Stir one last time, then slowly push the plunger down to press the beans.
Add 2 oz to a glass, then add milk or water and preferred sweetener
Taste for strength and add more coffee if desired.
Enjoy your fancy coffee!

Make Your Own Coffee Concentrate or Espresso (Moka Pot Method)

20130930-133503.jpg
Cold brew and coffee concentrate are not the same method of making coffee, but at times they are both included in one product. Cold brew implies no heat being added and coffee concentrate is a very strong coffee to be used in a multitude of ways. I love cameleon cold brew, but four servings costs $6.25 and that’s almost as much as I pay at the local cofee shop. So I started thinking about making my own. Coffee concentrate needs very little water and I realized that it is very similar to espresso. To be precise, espresso uses steam pressed through coffee beans and with coffee, water soaks the beans.
So I dusted off my little 6 serving stovetop “moka pot” espresso maker (I got mine for around $25 online, but they go for less used) and made espresso with costco coffee that was $4 a pound. I then chilled it overnight and used it for an iced latte this morning. Iced coffee would have been adding 4-6 oz of water instead. One pound of coffee will last weeks to a month using this method. Grab an affordable moka pot here or here if you want to see the magic for yourself. If you are interested in cold brewing in a french press, I will post tomorrow on that process.

Gather
Coffee beans ground on medium coarseness (Fair trade is nice)
8 oz filtered Water
6 serving Moka Pot

Make

  1. Add 1/2 c coffee beans to a coffee grinder and grind on medium
  2. Add distilled water to bottom of moka pot, making sure it doesn’t exceed the steam valve.
  3. Scoop in the coffee and level off with a butter knife and screw on the top piece of the pot gently.
  4. Set moka pot onto the stove on low and watch it work it’s magic. It’ll take 10-15 minutes usually. It is complete when no more espresso is percolating out of the spout.
  5. Pour the espresso into a sealed container and chill overnight. Use any way you’d use coffee or espresso!