Bookworms Trump Boobtubes

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I have a sneaky habit of not paying for books much.

I’m not saying I steal them; heavens, no! Using frugality as my friend, I have learned creative tricks into being able to read a looooooooot.

Just this very day, I removed the flat-screen TV and DVD player from my office. I only had it on my desk taking up space and collecting dust for no reason. Over Christmas holidays, it’s pretty dead around my office. The courts are closed and I have a propensity to bring some DVD’s with me to work to play as, er….background noise.

But that’s exactly what TV has become for my generation. Background noise. I’d rather listen to my iPod while working profusely at my work desk. This is one of those minimalism examples you’ve been hearing about. For me, it’s been cutting out TV a good bit. I’m not plagued by the constant barrage of advertisements making me feel guilty for not having said products.

On the other hand, I have nerdishly been hoarding books. The state’s biggest library is just 3 miles from my office. One of my clients frequents there among all the other urban hobos who like the clean facility and cool air condition in the Deep South. I’ll use the excuse that I’m looking for my client and duck out to the library.

Currently, my husband and I have been reading some of the Dave Ramsey saga, if you will. We started with Financial Peace and now we are on  Total Money Makeover. We sit at the dining room table at night with an adult refreshment while he reads aloud and I take notes. We stop and discuss each chapter, in the hopes that Ramsey’s wisdom sinks in. Next in that set for our family to read is the book Ramsey wrote with his daughter called Smart Money, Smart Kids. Since the library check out of that one was about to expire, I made copies of the bulk of it and put it in a binder. We are going to share the insight with my son and stepsons before it’s too late!!!

I feel like with Non-Fiction, I can read about 10 books at a time and not get them confused. This used to baffle my grandmother. Out of respect for her and her demented mind in the nursing home, I only ready one fiction book at a time. I just finished The Revenant and for a western (not my favorite genre) it was pretty good! It was also a library book in which I had my local branch place a hold.

Then, when I open up my Kindle, I have an Amazon Prime Member’s Lending Library free book checked out right now. The one I’m about to start is Leah Remini’s scathing anti-Scientology autobiography My Escape From Scientology. I’m rather obsessed on the subject, especially since I just finished reading Going Clear, which was made into an HBO film.

Also on my Kindle, I have an e-book checked out from my library which expires in 14 days. I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, the follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. I own my second copy of that book, having given my first copy to a divorcing sorority sister a few years ago. I have the movie too, but as the old adage goes, “The book is better than the movie.” Even Julia Roberts couldn’t completely redeem the written page. Liz also wrote Big Magic, which I bought and read during football season. My lucky ex-sister-in-law met Liz at a book signing in TN. #jealous

On my lunch break this week, I dropped off a bucket of hardback books and old movies to sell to 2nd & Charles. While I was waiting on my store credit to accumulate, I browsed all the books. I found a new author who intrigued me named Wilkie Collins. Instead of buying his book in the store, I searched iTunes Store on my smart phone and the Amazon e-book collection. Both had his works for free, so I downloaded The Moonstone and The Haunted House for gratis.

At any given moment, I’m on a list at my local library branch for whatever book that suits my fancy. Books typically don’t take up much space, especially if you use an e-reader. My Kindle Paperwhite fits nicely in my purse and I can read outside without eyestrain.

Basically, people come into my office and notice how sparsely decorated it is. That I have a tiny desk. That I have a Lilly Pulitzer for Target lounge chair. <—It’s for reading on breaks! But I always have at least two books with me. They are universally the best entertainment.

I can literally be working on a document while on the clock and as I wait for it to download, etc., I can steal glances at whatever book I’m reading that moment.

Here is my challenge for you, reader: substitute reading a book in lieu of your next boobtube opportunity. You may be delighted at the lack of mental distraction you face with an open book instead of incessant noise and rambling of the TV.

If you’re like me and you’re hungry for books, always go to the thrift store first for the best deals. Or have a book trading party. I did that once at my house and it was very successful.

Next, check out free downloads on Amazon Kindle, iTunes for iBooks, and Nook. Check with your local library branch about available e-books too.

Finally, go to your favorite physical bookstore with a hot beverage in hand. Carefully browse the sections that speak to you. Fantasy. Erotica. History. Young Adult. Health. New Age. Whatever… then, take pictures or type a list on your smartphone of books you want to read next.

Take that list with you to the library to request titles. Ask friends if they have those books to borrow. And always check if they’re free online. If they cost money, download a sample. Usually, you can get a taste of how the author is going to navigate said-book to see if it’s worth your while to buy. I have dozens of samples on my Kindle!! Sometimes the first chapter is ENOUGH.

Happy reading!


“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

 

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Achieve Inner Peace By Simplifying Your [Yoga] Routine

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I am no stranger to yoga. I teach yoga every Monday night after my day job ends once I commute across town to my local gym. Lately, I’ve really been complicating things, feeling as though I’ve been serving two masters. Those ambivalent forces are both ego and inner peace.

In Yoga Teacher Training back in 2012, I basically learned how to teach the Primary Series of staunch Ashtanga Yoga inside and out. As militant as it can be, it’s an easy fall back pattern in which to teach a class, especially if you begin with a Sun Salutations warm-up.

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However, with my aging body, Ashtanga just pisses me off. I want to complete the majority of the poses (and teach them) when my ego is in control of my mind, body, and spirit. People, this is not a good way to be! One of the main goals of the eight-limbed yoga path is to escape one’s detrimental ego.

Instead, I have found solace in Kundalini yoga. I achieve my workouts through bicycling, hiking, running, power walking with my family, and jumping on our mini trampoline. Hell, some days at the office I run around so much I know I achieve my cardio workout. So, do I still need to come home after clocking in a 10 hour day at the office only to beat myself up on the yoga mat with Ashtanga? No!

Kundalini is more spiritual and definitely more relaxing. Some of the kriyas (mini-workout sets) can involve hard breathing and strenuous working out causing cardio to occur. But overall, Kundalini feels like a date with a spa, albeit on my yoga mat. I even have a white fur rug I put onto of my lululemon mat to stimulate that pure white energy from the great beyond. I practice my Kundalini workout in my Zen room, which is painted white and sparsely decorated.

Tonight, I was pretty tired after a long day of work training and I did not want a hard workout. I turned on my smart phone’s YouTube app and loaded my usual Tibetan Singing Bowls 9 hour “song” video. But then I realized that there was a fresh storm outside, complete with night thunder and rain pelting my window. Talk about an electrical charge from Mother Nature!

The minimalist in me turned off the electronic device and cracked the window. I soaked in the natural sound of the storm while doing my Kundalini yoga “workout” tonight. Thunder and lightning can really give the conscious yogi a natural high!

If something is not bringing you joy, simplify until you find your inner peace. For me, that comes in the form of Kundalini yoga instead of Ashtanga, Bikram, or other forms of Hatha yoga. And why play artificial sounds when I can just tune into the natural music of nature?!

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“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” -Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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Simplify Your Life With These 3 Internet Hacks

Are you stranded inside the house for a while? Do you have a hard time finding transportation to and from places in your town? Try these three internet hacks to simplify your life. The easier we make things, the quicker we become minimalists.

 

HACK NUMBER ONE

1. Check out books from libraries online to sync to your e-readers.

Last summer, I renewed my library card for the first time in about a decade. Having an incredible addiction to words, I found it cheaper to check out library books than to buy them. The only exception to this rule is finding the coveted book at a thrift store or yard sale….or borrowing it from a friend.

With my library card in tow, I have been checking out hundreds of books…and DVD’s. Just last night, I discovered how to actually download an e-book onto my Kindle from my local public library. Most libraries in this modern age of technology have adopted a co-op of online e-books. You can place holds on books if someone else has already “checked out” the books you want.

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A typical shopping venture for me would be to drive to Books-A-Million or Barnes & Noble. I would peruse the best seller or new hot books lining the shelves. Then, I would take out my smart phone and type the names of the books that interested me in a list. Later, I would swing by my local library and share this list with the librarian who reserves books. If they were in stock, I would check them out. If not, I would be placed on the waiting list. (I’m still on the waiting list for Go Set a Watchman and I’ve been waiting since it was released.)

Other than the checking out ten DVD’s at a time for my family, it doesn’t make sense to have to go back and forth listlessly to the library. Unless you just love paper books.

 

HACK NUMBER TWO

2. Do online banking and bill paying to save gasoline and time.

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I have been spending a lot of time at banks lately. The best way to do it is to align your debit card/checking account with the online bill pay. Get direct deposit from work into your account if you can.

Skeptical older people (non-Millennials) tend to distrust online banking or sharing pertinent pecuniary information online. This day in age, modern security systems have made this all safer for us to use, on reputable sites.

Being old-fashioned, I felt that a paper check in a paper envelope with a sticker stamp put in my physical mail box was the only way to pay that mortgage every month, coupon and check neatly printed. However, I “got with the program” and have set up my checking account from Bank A into my mortgage online site at Bank B. I haven’t had any problems yet. Actually, I find myself making more frequent principal payments when I crunch those numbers at my fingertips whenever I pull it up on my smartphone. There’s no excuse not to allocate extra money into that principal, that savings account, that money market, etc.

 

HACK NUMBER THREE

3. Get some of your grocery shopping for staple items done online.

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For cashing in reward points with my bank, I received some Amazon gift cards. I thought, I’m a minimalist. I don’t need any new junk around the house at this time. Oh! But we all need to eat.

Being a member of Amazon Prime, I decided to experiment with Prime Pantry. This is not a sales pitch for Amazon; I’m merely using it as an example. If you search the web, you can find many grocery type online stores for your convenience.

However, at Amazon I paid $6 in one flat shipping rate to stuff a very large box full of groceries. They have other items listed that qualify in the Pantry like toiletries, office goods, home goods, pet supplies, and medical goods. And every item you add to your literal box, Amazon tells you what percentage it occupies. I couldn’t even fill mine up all the way.

For the frugal person inside all of us, coupons are available online through the Pantry and you end up getting some things further reduced. I felt that being tax free, $6 was a lot cheaper than whatever huge grocery bill tariff I would have amassed in the physical storefront (it’s 10% where I live).

I bought Starbucks espresso, coconut water, Rice Krispy Treats, cat food, Thai noodles, coconut curry sauce, Amy’s canned soups, a giant carton of Goldfish crackers, macaroni & cheese boxes, and other pantry staples. Yes, you still need to go to the grocery store or farmer’s market for fresh fruits and veggies. Meats and dairy items will be bought in-store as well. But for everything else, online grocery shopping is easy-peasy. I used my gift cards to feed the whole family.

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“Moreover, if you are restricted in  your range by poverty, if you cannot buy books and newspapers, for instance, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

 

Mortgage Minimalism: Leaving the Pyramids to the Pharaohs

“As for the Pyramids, there is nothing to wonder at in them so much as the fact that so many men could be found degraded enough to spend their lives constructing a tomb for some ambitious booby, whom it would have been wiser and manlier to have drowned in the Nile, and then given his body to the dogs.”- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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  • Have we been spending our lives building our own pyramid, in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, which was mostly allocated to mortgage payments?

I have been to banks a lot lately, spreading my cheer around several different branches of the bank where I have my two mortgages.

Around this time in 2010, my husband and I were newly-weds, looking to buy a house. We had been renting a condo from the mutual friends who set us up on a blind date in the first place. My car had just been broken into in the condo’s shady parking lot of the Southside neighborhood and I felt violated. The tenant in the condo underneath ours had just written a scathing complaint letter about how we needed rugs on the hardwoods because he could hear me stomping in my stilettos like an elephant. Gee, thanks, man! Plus the condominium’s site felt haunted to me, with a presence of an evil spirit that even holy water couldn’t wash away.

Dave and I met up at the bank where we have the mortgage and were approved for a loan. The first home we toured with a real estate agent fell through because someone more qualified scooped it up before we could get a contract. No worries, because we found a nice 3 BR/2 BA in a fairly quiet neighborhood a few weeks later.

If you were to look back at the US economy in 2008, the highlight (low point) of the year was the crash of the real estate market! The greedy dogs at the FDIC approved financial institutions threw loans out to anyone like free Moonpies at Mardi Gras. People could no longer afford their mortgage loans and thousands were foreclosed upon.

The negative impact of the 2008 economic crash was still in disarray in 2010, two years later. The interest rate I was able to get on that home loan was about 5.3%, even with a decently-sized down payment which cut into my life savings. Nevertheless, Dave and I were proud to be homeowners together in our new marriage. We closed on the house in the first week of May and moved in the very next day. Yet, this definitely put a damper on our friendship with the people from whom we were renting, and in anger, the couple decided to never see or speak to us again. Their loss.

Moving on, my monthly mortgage payments did not feel that bad. At the time, they were about a third of my monthly income, with Dave’s money as not even a factor in the picture. Three months later, we were set to expand our brood and I fell pregnant with my son right before we even started officially trying. Okay, we took a trip to Las Vegas and I didn’t actually expect to get pregnant so quickly. Sam was just ready to be hatched in this world, I suppose!

Even with a new mouth to feed, everything was financially stable. I sold my old house with my ex-husband and collected a small fortune which I applied to buy a used Mercedes Benz station-wagon. I had to haul around so much baby stuff that it made sense…and I felt superficially that I was moving up in the world. (Deep down, I knew the car was probably a hoop-tee. And yes, it did die three years later. But this article is mainly about mortgages, not car loans. See my future article for that.)

We enjoyed living in that 3&2 house in the quiet neighborhood very much. It was about 13 miles from my office downtown, and Sam was being dropped off at my mom’s house 10 miles away while Dave and I worked.

During my off-time, I would go walking around the neighborhood where some residents had horses and chickens. A pre-Civil War cemetery was just one street over, which made for an interesting hike. Not all parts of that small town were as sylvan as our neighborhood. The downtown area had a cinematically-famous restaurant, a quaint railroad-view shopping strip, and a cute library I used to visit every summer as a child for the reading programs.

My husband Dave would pack me and an infant Sam up on Tuesday nights for the City Council Meetings of the small town. We became very involved in the political scene and he was vetted to run for City Council in our district.  I became his campaign manager and we knocked door-to-door for a grassroots trail. The first question people would ask him during these face-to-face home visits was, “Where do you go to church?” Question 2 was, “Are you a Republican or a Democrat?” and 3 was regarding college football teams, if he made it that far.

Small towns in the South really want you to belong to the First Baptist, First Methodist, or First anything big and protestant. Political affiliation is totally insignificant in small towns where the candidate is running for city council. Big deal, right? WRONG. Dave lost by only a few dozen votes because voter turn out on that Tuesday night at my precious library was very minimal. It wasn’t a presidential or a gubernatorial race, so residents didn’t care that much. I slapped on my red dress and Jackie O sunglasses and pretended to not be a sore loser’s would-be first lady’s wife. At least Dave and I both gained a tremendous amount of experience with him running for office. We met a ton of lovely townsfolk and made lasting friendships with other candidates and their families. Even his opponent, the incumbent, has remained graceful and kind at the point of this writing.

The Wednesday after the lost election, Dave, Sam, and I went out to a hibachi Japanese grill to celebrate our efforts and to mourn our losses. After enough sake, I convinced Dave to drive us around to look at houses on a whim. We explored one town over from our current residence and really became interested in moving. Maybe it was the defeat talking. Or maybe I didn’t want Sam to go to Catholic school, which he would have done had we stayed in the small town where we had our 3&2. I was ready to move! This was in the early fall of 2012.

By October of that year, there I sat in an attorney’s office, closing on yet another house with the same bank who gave me the first mortgage loan. My mother tried to warn me by saying there’s no way in hell she would’ve owed a bank for two loans, totaling way more than I ever care to share in a blog. Being the stubborn Taurus that I am, I headstronged my way into that deal anyway.

With the help of the internet, Dave had found us a 5 BR/ 3 BA in a great city with an amazing school system. The house was a deal because the current owner was in the military and on a “RELO” program where he had moved to Germany. He only wanted to make back what he owed on his loan, giving me a good $75,000 in equity in the house per tax value on signing day.

I did not have buyer’s remorse on our “mansion” but I certainly felt the impact of loss in my take-home paycheck. Now I had two mortgages with the same bank owing X amount of dollars, nearly 6 times my annual income!

Being “house poor” exists, ladies and gentlemen. Dave Ramsey refers to the situation where someone spends a majority of her income on a mortgage loan, with little left over. I wasn’t saving much money then. I had a toddler to finance AND I was keeping up with the Joneses. The new city was upper-middle class, and most denizens had a certain look, while keeping up the elite image.  I swore to my parents I would never get the “XYZ Haircut” and would not wear the same stupid shoes or carry the stupid purses the ladies of XYZ town wore.

To stimulate my rebellion, I went thrift store shopping a lot. Dave and I made it a habit to share a pitcher of beer and a meal at Logan’s Roadhouse with Sam, and then head over to the thrift store to shop. We had stuffitis (another Dave Ramsey coined term). I had to buy stuff to fill the McMansion with paintings for the walls, tchotchkes for the bookshelves, and clothes for my walk-in closets.

It makes me sick 4 years later to stroll into my basement and see all the wasted items I bought from thrift stores that I didn’t need in the first place. Wonky IKEA discards, ill-fitting clothes, uncomfortable second-hand shoes, crappy toys for Sam, wall art that’s always been ugly.

Since getting turned on to the minimalist way of life, I have purged hundreds of bags of items to the Salvation Army. I wasted thousands of dollars looking good for the Joneses in my McMansion with a bunch of crap.

I am a very careful thrift store shopper now. If I buy a used LL Bean shirt, I find two unliked shirts in my closet to purge for the needy. If I buy a thrift store book, I find two to donate to my grandma’s nursing home or I leave them at the RV Resort laundry room’s pile of community books. One in, two or more out.

I got with the Dave Ramsey program last summer and have snowballed all of my debt into non-existence except for the two mortgage loans.

I did not have to learn the hard way for very long on the 3&2 house because Dave eventually found a lovely renter who has contracted to rent our home since late 2013.

In light of the downsizing and Tiny House Movement, I have mentally planned to move back into the smaller home in the next 9-15 years or so, depending on Sam’s education. I can fit a tiny house easily in the backyard of the 3&2 or even my parents’ RV if they get sick of it at the Lake, a.k.a. Walden 2.0.

By moving back one day, I would have to purge the enormous amount of furniture/furnishings that simply will not fit if we downsize. In a little notebook, I jotted down all the furniture and wall art I actually want to keep. I can have an estate sale or sell the other crap on Craig’s List when the time comes. Also, donating items to family, friends, and the poor is the richest experience!

Basically, I’ve learned not to over-borrow ever again. Banks are only out to make money, not to be my personal charity. Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Live your own truth, despite the zip code. Strive for low interest rates if you have to borrow. Follow Dave Ramey’s Financial Peace and eschew debt once you’ve snowballed it away. Save money; plan for retirement. Live below your means. And NEVER EVER EVER make yourself house poor. Leave the pyramids and palaces to the pharoahs and kings.

Will I get a lower interest rate on that first loan? Probably not. Refinancing is going to be too retroactive to my financial picture at this time. Dave and I decided to grow our liquid assets as we simultaneously pay on the principal of the smallest loan first, staying true to the debt snowball theory.

If you have had a similar experience with home mortgages and being house greedy then poor, I truly feel for you. Calculate your debt and schedule principal payments. If I make an additional $500.00 on principal outside of my renter’s monthly dues, I can pay the 3&2 off in a little over 8 years.

Here’s ’til then!

 

 

Broken Piggybank With Dollar Notes

Does this image reflect your present financial situation?