5 June 2009

Dump debt - own your own life

Simple life is usually about the little things - small steps, tracking small amounts of money spent during the day, taking time for yourself, cooking from scratch, cutting back, recycling instead of buying new, saying no to wasting time. It's all those small things adding up that will make or break you. So let's focus on small money matters today to help us with our budgeting and hopefully those small steps will add up to make a real difference in your life.

All graphics from allposters.com

Most of us think budgeting is a real pain. I know I used to. A good way to get around that is to set some financial goals for yourself. Doing that will give you a real reason to cut back on your spending. It doesn't take the pain out of it but it will be the light at the end of the tunnel. So what is it you need to do? Will your goal be to pay off your mortgage faster that you initially agreed to? Do you want to pay off your credit cards? Does the thought of reducing your grocery/electricity/water bill in half appeal to you? Do you want to save an extra $200 a month to go into a vacation fund? You really want chooks, don't you? You'll need a couple of hundred dollars to build a coop and to buy your girls. Whatever it is, decide on a firm goal, write it down, think about it and then make a plan to change your spending habits to achieve your goal.

Here is a list of things that have worked well for us. See if you can use a few of these ideas, and read the comments on this post because I know the smart cookies who read this blog will have a lot of good ideas for you. Sharing our ideas not only affirms what we are doing it also shows others that they are not alone in this quest to reduce debt.

I've already mentioned money tracking. This is an amazingly helpful way of showing you just how much money you spend during the month. You may think you know what you spend but until you track your money, you're only guessing. I have written a post about how to track money here. It's a small thing and you'll be tracking small amounts, but all those small amounts add up and they may be what is pushing you outside your comfort zone when it comes to money.

Stockpiling. This is a great way to save money and time. Once you've built a stockpile cupboard you'll be able to 'shop' at your little convenience store, right there in your home, and most of your stock items will have been bought at a reduced price. My main posts on stockpiling are here and here.

Make the decision today to change the way you spend and teach yourself to save. I have written a post about that here.

Make your own cleaners, the recipes are here and they will cost you a lot less than the chemical bombs that are sold at the supermarket. You win on two levels here - you save money and you have fewer chemicals in your home.

If you have the space and a bit of time, start growing some of the vegetables you eat. Vegetable gardening is a really enriching pastime and it will help build your independence. If you have an excess, see if you can barter for some of your other needs with your neighbours - eggs for honey, tomatoes for cabbages, cheese for fresh organic bread etc. Click on the 'organic vegetables' button above to find information about how to.

Stop using disposables - invest in cloth nappies/diapers, menstrual pads or a cup. (Check my sponsor buttons for suppliers - a cloth nappy/diaper sponsor will be up next week) Don't buy water in plastic bottles, fill a bottle at home and take it with you. Refuse plastic shopping bags, make yourself some tote bags and take them with you when you go shopping. Make cloth napkins and knit some dishcloths. All these little actions will save you money, will reduce the amount of plastic you have around you and will help cut your carbon emissions. I have written a post about disposables here.

Write up a budget and stick to it. This is difficult to start with but when you settle into it, it gets easier. Stop spending on items not in your budget and get rid of a few things you want but don't need - like a cell phone, second car or cable TV. If you can stop buying a few things that you used to buy every month, you'll be on the road to good savings.

These are just a few things you could be doing to save money for your goal, there are many more. The most important thing for you to recognise is that unless you change your spending behaviour, you'll stay the same. I know we all work hard and often buy things to reward ourselves for that, but although you might deserve those little rewards along the way, I believe you deserve to live a life free of debt, or at the very least, debt that is reducing. The first step here might be difficult, recognising that you need to change will be hard too, but if you can change and make that first step, if you can reduce your spending and spend your hard earned money on needs instead of wants, you'll be on your way to a life that is less pressured, you will have more time to do what you want and you won't have to work your entire life to pay off debt.

I invite you to share how you budget and pay off your debts. I think these comments will be very interesting and helpful and I am looking forward to reading what you do - both your spending and your budgeting.

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