Save Money Without Willpower

August 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm (Happiness, Money, Tips)

There was a time when money in my pocket was never safe. Young and restless, I would drive all over the place, my wallet purging at small impulse buys that added up fast. In two hours, I could lose $40 to Starbucks drinks, Taco Bell, and random trips to Wal-Mart. I would go in, intending to buy maybe $10 worth of food and come out with 50 dollars’ worth of stuff. I hated having my money slip through my fingers so easily.

I tried countless times to refrain from spending money but it was always a strain. I wanted to spend money on new art supplies or books or TV boxsets or cute little finds at the thrift store (surprisingly, I never blew money on clothes). I eventually read ThinkSimpleNow’s article on the hidden side of what you own and it hit me at last that I was becoming extremely materialistic. I had always thought of materialistic types as those who aspire to gobble up money and indulge in Porsches and mansions but my little $5 purchases were still things. And it hit me that I didn’t need 70% of that stuff.

Trying to allieve myself of materialism made saving money a whole lot easier. Of course, this realization comes to people at different point sin their life; that article outlined my hudden reasons for buying stuff so specifically that it just made sense to me. I understand that saving money can still be difficult to do.

If a rock in placed in front of you, don’t try to climb over it: just walk around.

I’ve found three tips to save money without having to battle temptation. It takes a couple of days to implement them but over the past two months, they’ve saved me literally hundreds of dollars:

  1. Stay at home. Obviously, if you’re not out, you won’t be around temptation. Examine the stuff you already have and stay at home to use them. That bath collection you bought a week ago? Pamper yourself for a day. The unread books on your bookshelf? Curl up and get lost in them. Right now, I’m wanting to go out and buy scrapbooking papers for a couple of projects but I’m telling myself to stay at home and use the papers I already have. 😉
  2. Lock your card up. I literally lock my debit card up in a lockbox when I go out. Darling has adopted the same tip and he’s found himself saving so much money already. We try to buy something and then think, “Damn it, I don’t have my card…” Couple hours later, we realize that we probably didn’t need it after all. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. Bring snacks with you. I think the biggest money drain throughout the day is probably food. Keep a small bag in your purse or car with pretzels, nuts, popcorn, dried fruit, etc. Keep a bottle of water on you too!

I’ve also found ways to save money if you are out and about, particularly if you’re hanging out with a friend.

  • If you’re going out to coffee, buy yourself tea. At Starbucks, I choose either an ice tea (with Sweet and Low) or an iced tea lemonade. It’s healthier and cheaper. ^_^
  • At restaurants, opt to split an entree and share an appetizer. Restaurant portions are huge! Darling and I split a Chinese dish last week and we couldn’t even finish it.
  • If you’re going to be at a store, make sure you don’t bring your card with you! Just carry cash if you must bring money. Take note of clothes you are interested in and give yourself time to think about it. Do you really need those jeans? Will that shirt match with any other shirt you have? Is there an inexpensive place to buy something similar?

It’s not just about saving money. Striving to become less materialistic in general has brought me peace and clarity of mind. I also suddenly free up time to engage in my more creative hobbies too! ^-^

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Best & Simplest Relationship Advice Ever: Be Humble & Make Out

August 19, 2008 at 2:32 pm (Relationships, Tips)

photo by carlo_nicora via flickr

photo by carlo_nicora via flickr

The secret to relationships is 1.) being humble and 2.) making out.

I’ve been engaged to Darling for three years now. Sometimes, people ask me if it bums me out to know that I’m bound to a promise that I can’t see anyone anymore. Some say I am lucky to be with someone and others say they just can’t believe it. Actually, I don’t think there’s ever been a moment where I seriously considered being with anyone else. Even when I try, I cringe at the thought of being with someone who would be remotely less perfect for me than he. He fills the contours of all my little quirks. I honestly can’t imagine life without him.

Before I leave everyone with cavities with this post, I jump to say that our relationship was anything other than “smooth sailing.” It was a lot of hard work. Ever heard Dane Cook’s piece on “Nothing Fights“? I nodded throughout the whole thing! We’ve had our fair share of fights and some of those fights were downright brutal. I’m sure our neighbors raised an eyebrow during a couple of our arguments. Many times, we were pushing each other to the verge of shattering the relationship and be done with it. I even wonder how we managed to pull through some of those times yet the other night, we went out to a sweet, dim-lit Italian restaurant, had a vibrant conversation, and flirted and cuddled with each other.

In fact,  we haven’t had a fight for the past several months.

The Secret To It All

“What’s your secret?” people ask me, incredulously. Many come up with their own answers, some very true and insightful. My friend, Devon, said to me one night, “You and Shef have the best relationship not because you don’t fight but because when you do fight, you guys actually fix your problems.”

I’m not sure about Darling, but all the things we’ve apparently been “doing right” boils down to a simple piece of advice: be humble.

Why do we fight? We fight because we think we’re right and our partner is wrong. “She never gets ready in time.” “He never does his share of the housework.” “She is an embarrassment when we’re around people.” “He never pays attention to me and doesn’t care about the relationship.”

There was a time when Darling felt that I had been ignoring him for a long time. He kept it bottled up inside and then one day, when we were arguing about something else, he spat, “You never spend any time with me!” I scoffed, absolutely frustrated, and retorted, “I ate lunch with you a couple days ago! I call you like every night! I asked you if you wanted to get dinner tomorrow night!”

I felt like my efforts were vastly under appreciated, especially in the midst of a totally chaotic school schedule at the time. I had work, I had school, I wanted to keep up with friends and family, and I was stressed. Even when I thought about it and decided that perhaps I had bumped him down my list of priorities, I still had a stubbornness that refused to stop justifying myself. No one wants to admit they are wrong, even when they are. And surely no one wants to admit they are wrong if they are being aggressively criticized about it.

photo by dollipoptart via flickr

photo by dollipoptart via flickr

Our Perspectives are Our Realities

But even when I felt justified about it and I had a long list of reasons why I was right, it didn’t make him any less hurt or angry about it. In fact, it could have frustrated him further: I was neglecting his feelings. Even if I felt justified, it didn’t matter because he felt ignored. In his reality, I was indeed shoving him to the back burner.

I stopped trying to prove him wrong and actively bumped him up on my to-do list ( No pervy jokes, please. 😉 ). My ego kept telling me, “You’re giving in to his demands! You have more pride than that! He WAS wrong, this is why: blahblahblah.” When I quietly started to do more of what he felt was lacking, our relationship seemed to fix itself and we suddenly had fun again. At first, it was strained, the two of us trying hard to act like a couple. But we were happy once again.

Susan Page writes in How One of You Can Bring the Two of You Together,

“… one problem with insisting that you are right is that, often, there ar eseveral ‘right’ ways to look at a situation, and your right way is only one of them. Being right may be keeping you from expanding your vision.

But there is an even worse problem associated with being right: It makes you helpless.

Usually, your ‘right’ view of the situation is that the problem is your spouse’s fault … if the only solution to the problem is that your spouse need to make a change, this puts you in a terribly weak position. because if you can’t induce your spouse to change, there is nothing left for you to do … Here is the bad news: Your partner won’t change. Give up on that.

But here is the good news: There’s plenty you can do to help yourself anyway.”

This also reminds me of something Mystery (seduction guru) said, and I paraphrase: “When a girl is not responding the way you want, it’s always your fault. It’s always something you’re doing wrong. But that’s a good thing, because that means you can change it.”

Be humble:

  1. Let go of “being right” because in the end, the prize of being right is being right. The problem is still there but you’ve convinced yourself that you’re right and s/he’s wrong. Big whoop.
  2. Imagine if what your partner was totally right in his or her criticism. What if you are being negligent? Rude? Quiet? Selfish? If this is a concern, certainly something you are doing is leading your partner to feel and think that way.
  3. Restrain defensiveness. Don’t jerk back with “I never do that!” Even if you believe them to be wrong, let them rant and be wrong. If they say, “You never get ready on time!” Tell them, “I’m sorry I seem to be taking so long; I’m worried about being late too.” (Another tip from Ms. Page. Buy her book, btw, it’s wonderful.)
  4. Do whatever will make your spouse feel loved, even if you currently feel unloved. It does feel unnatural at first, blindly giving into him/her when you feel that they’re wrong. An example: getting up early to make him/her breakfast before work though you feel s/he is a workaholic and is ignoring the family. In similar case studies from Susan Page’s consultations, the partner was usually overwhelmed by the gestures of love & support and actually changed themselves!

Thou Shalt Make Out

The second best piece of advice? Make out. Just randomly, no cues, no “leading up to it.” Of course, you don’t want to jump off the bat and play tonsil hockey voraciously. Randomly surprise your partner with a sudden bout of light kissing and just let it escalate. No interruptions. No reason. Why?

  1. The first sign of downfall in a relationship is when it starts to not feel like relationship anymore. You can’t summon those butterflies in your stomach at whim, but you can summon up a random kiss.
  2. It is spontaneous and romantic and makes you unpredictable. It can be a refreshing break from routine.
  3. It makes your partner feel attractive. Happiness bestows happiness. When you can see how you can totally liven up your partner’s day and change how s/he feels about his/herself, you feel great too.
  4. Neurolinguistic Programming. When you change your physiology, you change how you feel, think,and act. If you feel neglected or stale in a relationship, randomly taking your partner for a kiss and letting it escalate can usually whip you into a more excited, romantic mood.

So let go of being right. It’s not worth running in circular arguments all night with your partner. It’s not worth the guilt, the anger, the sense of unrequited justice. It’s not worth making your partner feel crappy. It’s not worth trashing a relationship over. The only prize in being right is stroking your ego by yourself. Just give boundless, unselfish love.

Photo by ardentphoto via flickr

Photo by ardentphoto via flickr

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Low-Maintenance Tips for Going Green

August 13, 2008 at 12:41 am (Green, Tips) (, , )

photo by victor_nuno (flickr)

photo by victor_nuno (flickr)

Over the summer, I developed a newfound urge and interest in trying to be as frugal and as green as I can. Pursuing this lifestyle was intended not only to save money and the environment (but definitely great bonuses!) but to stop myself from producing so much waste.

Er … let me rephrase that.

We live in a society where resources are taken for granted. Going green is more than some treehugging movement, it can also be quite the mental refreshment. Retreating to a minimalist, conscious lifestyle has bestowed in me a sense of mental clarity and peace to alow me to focus on more important things. It also empowers me to know that I am doing things to reduce polluting our air, water, and land.

The thing that made me hesitate to go green as first (even though I was always worried about thestate of the environment) was that it seemed to be expensive and it seemed to be a hassle. It’s actually nowhere near as tedious as I’d thought.

So I thought that I would give you guys some tips on how to be less wasteful:

The Lazy List: Requiring little to no effort

  • Staying at home. This is probably the best tip because I save gas, saved money *on* gas, saved money on impulse Starbucks drinks, and became more creative at home.
  • Turning off the shower when you are not using it. I try my best to take “navy showers”– get in, wash hair, soap up, and get out. While I am leaving the hair conditioner in my hair,  turn off the water and soap myself up and shave my legs, etc. You’ll be surprised at how much water you save!
  • Buy Clorox GreenWorks Cleaners. It’s biodegradeable, it smells great, and it actually works extremely well. I was afraid it wasn’t going to be as potent as other chemical cleaners but I was proven quite wrong! 🙂
  • Reusing paper towels. Don’t be gross, of course. I’m not taking about wiping up a Kool-Aid spill and then reusing it later; whenever I wash my hands or wipe off condensation from my water bottle or whatnot with paper towels, I hang it up to dry for a second use. Sometimes, I use them three or four times, even! This tip probably makes me happiest because I can see it prolong the life of a roll of paper towels and that I am thorughly utilizing them.
  • Use vinegar & baking soda. Pardon me if this makes me sound like Miss Suzie Homemaker but vinegar and baking soda are amazingly useful for countless things and will replace the need for chemical cleaners, deoderizers, and disinfectant.
  • Buy lots of underwear. An obvious way to conserve water and energy is to wait until you have a full load to do your laundry. You may be able to wear a shirt twice or thrice before washing it (Again, be reasonable; don’t be gross!), but there is no way you can re-wear a pair of underwear. Even if you still have clothes to wear, if you run out of underwear, you’re going to need to take a trip to the washing machine. Buy a lot of underwear so you can delay laundry day until you really need it!
  • BYOB: Bring your own bag. In France and Germany, stores don’t have plastic bags at all! Seeing shopping carts overflowing with globs of plastic bags makes me twitch; its only purpose is to transport things home and when it’s over, they flood landfills and take a long time to biodegrade.  Stores now sell these reuseable bags for cheap and carry three times more stuff, yet people still don’t advantage of this. the only bit of effort required is actually remembering to bring these bags along. I keep mine in the car! 🙂
  • Germ-X for the win! Place a bottle of hand sanitizer at the sink to use after the bathroom. It takes less time and it wastes less water.
  • Wash and re-use ziploc bags. I’m not sure why people are so resistant to this idea but it saves the bags and it saves money. People are weird, I guess! (check out this cute, quick DIY ziploc bag dryer!)

It’s Not *So* Bad: Requiring moderate effort

  • Recycle! Obvious tip but important nonetheless. I don’t have a recycling service but I toss my paper, aluminum, and plastic products into my recycling bins under my workstation and when I pass by my school, I take it in and toss it into their recycling bins. If you don’t want to pay for a service, find out where you can recycle your stuff. Or find a friend who has a service and see if they wouldn’t mind sharing. If it’s still difficult, just collect paper to recycle. Recycle bins for paper are easier to find; try Kinko’s or your school or even your workplace.
  • Take your clothes outside. Hang up a clothesline or buy a drying rack for your clothes and air-dry them! if you are worried about getting wrinkles, follow this tip from Frugal Dad and dry them until they are just damp enough for a quick tumble-dry cycle in the dryer. Toss in a dryer sheet for that fresh smell. ❤
  • Transform your stuff. There are so many DIY, craft, and homemaking sites out there with ideas on how to reuse household items. Some ideas? Use an unused CD as a coaster. Use empty paper towel rolls to store extension cables. Use a tissue box as a plastic bag dispenser. For starters, check out the magazine Real Simple. Each issue, they feature “New Uses for Old Things.” there are always some awesome ideas in there. Plus, it’s an incredible creativity challenge.

Going green isn’t just good for the environment but it’s good for your well-being. being more conscious of how to use your resources most effectively will help you save money, be creative, and be less materialistic and wasteful. 😀

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