I am over at Canadian Budget Binder today with a guest post on Minimalism, and how it gave us freedom. Go check it out!
Welcome Canadian Budget Binder readers!
If you are expecting this post to be about time management, you are about to be mistaken.
Consider this well-known phrase: “time is money.” While that may be true to an extent, I believe a more accurate phrase is “money is time.”
How many hours of your life were spent at a job you dislike just so you could afford the car you drive?
How many hours do you spend away from your home in order to afford to live there?
I think this is a serious problem that more people need to think about. When you suddenly realize that you are making purchases with hours of your life your debt situation seems a little more dire, doesn’t it?
I want to issue you a challenge: Before making your next purchase, calculate how many hours of your life that purchase is taking.
This challenge is not meant to be depressing. Some purchases are necessary; we must have roofs over our heads, transportation to our jobs, and some form of entertainment in our lives if we are to enjoy life safely. But what about frivolous items that you really don’t need, like the Playstation 4 I have had my eye on for a while? What about that new brand-name jacket you want? Is it worth the extra cost, or would a lightly-used thrift store version fit your need for warmth?
If you are already paying for prior purchases in the form of loans and credit cards, there are a few things you can do to ease the burden of this time debt:
Ideally, if you could double what you make in an hour you could work half as much. That’s not feasible for most people, of course. Could you ask for a small raise, though? Could you move to a higher paying job? Even an extra $50 in your paycheck will make a dent in your time debt.
I love the idea of the minimalist movement. The idea is to surround yourself only with what is useful to you, beautiful in some way, and makes you happy. For example, I essentially have three outfits I wear to work: jeans, a tunic and leggings, or khakis. I rotate through 4-6 shirts that I feel comfortable and professional in. Because I can wear these outfits when I go out with friends there is actually no reason for many of the outfits I have in my closet. I have used Tradesy* before to downsize my closet and sell some of the items I no longer wear.
The point of using minimalism is to eliminate cheap things from your life. Instead of buying many shirts for a low price, a minimalist may spend more money on a shirt that will last longer. In the end, you have more closet space, spend less time dressing (read: getting dressed 3-4 times and ultimately being late for work), and get to embrace the $0 balance on your Victoria’s Secret card because you haven’t had to go shopping in two months.
This goes beyond telling you to move into a yurt in the middle of nowhere to save on expenses. I imagine you are living in your home for a reason, and I know that our locations are often stagnant because of work, family, our children, or other life circumstances. But you can make some cuts to downsize your lifestyle.
Choose when to go out. If eating out isn’t a priority, you will save money on dining expenses as well as saving gas.
Work out at a local YMCA instead of a fancy gym. Often a year-long membership at a YMCA will cost as much as two months at one of the higher-end gyms, and you have many more benefits through the YMCA.
While we’re on the topic of fitness, is personal training really necessary? Partner up with an intense friend and motivate each other. Look on fitness websites for workout tips and tricks from experts who won’t charge you $80 per hour.
Can you find some free entertainment? Libraries are now going beyond simple books (although, as an English teacher, I encourage you to read!). There are many free events, movie nights, clubs, and activities that you can join. Movie rentals are usually free, although I just had a nasty surprise when a local library charged me $1 just to take out a movie.
The point of financial stability, at least for me, is to have time. While stacks of money are fantastic, and I would not argue if they started flowing into my life, I want time to spend with loved ones. I want time to spend doing things I enjoy. Join me in getting rid of your time debt.
*Disclaimer: if you sign up at Tradesy through this link you will earn a $25 credit. If you make a $100 purchase (which goes completely against the point of this article!) I will receive a small cash bonus.
If you are visiting from Canadian Budget Binder, welcome!
Today I have been fortunate enough to be mentioned in the Canadian Budget Binder’s Making A Difference (MAD) feature! I am thrilled to be a part of this program — Mr. CBB was one of the first few PF bloggers I found when I started Real Simple Finances, and I am excited to be a part of his program.
The MAD feature showcases personal finance bloggers who are trying to make a difference with their blogs. If you believe you should be featured, send Mr. CBB an email!
I want to make a difference to my readers by inspiring them to pay off their debt. As you may know if you have been visiting RSF for a while, I am sitting on a little over $50,000 in student loan debt. This is outrageous! My goal is to pay it off very quickly — my original goal was July 4th of this year, but due to financial setbacks I needed to push the goal back.
Regardless, my hope is to let people know that they are not alone in their struggles against debt. I hope to be an inspiration to someone beginning a financial freedom plan.
As I mentioned earlier this week, I found out that I need to change my eating habits for the sake of my health. Because I am used to eating badly on a budget (“$1 for pasta meal mixes, and all I have to do is add milk? SOLD!”), N and I upped our grocery budget to accommodate for our learning curve. Instead of $200 per month, we are allowing ourselves approximately $300 for a month’s worth of groceries.
Before you jump on me for spending so much, remember a few things: I live in one of the most expensive areas of the USA; fruit and vegetables are not in season, and therefore more expensive; and that this is a trial period in which we first change our tastes, then learn to be more frugal in our shopping.
Because I have an endocrine disorder I want to eliminate any products that might have hormone-altering pesticides and additives. In order to stay within our grocery budget, I have to follow a few guidelines that you might find helpful when you are learning to eat healthy and still trying to stay within a reasonable budget.
Eating all organic food can be very, very expensive. It doesn’t always have to be, but where I live in the US I find that buying organic food can more than double my total at the checkout counter. Doing your research about where your favorite foods fall on the pesticide list can be helpful (check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables).
My husband and I also have different diets: I am a vegetarian, and he is not. Luckily, this lowers the cost of our meat purchases — I am comfortable buying him organic, free-range, happy meat because, even though it is very expensive, it is worth the extra money and we only eat half as much as a normal dual-omnivore family.
There were a lot of items I thought I needed even as early as the beginning of this year, before my diagnosis. We have completely eliminated soda from our shopping list — in fact, it is banned from the house. Coffee creamer is also banished, because it is much more cost efficient to use my almond milk for multiple purposes. These items only made up about $5 of our weekly shopping list, but now I have another $5 to spend on organic spinach.
In the not-so-distant past, N and I would head to the store for a few items, and end up doing a large shopping trip of mismatched items. We could make a meal or two from these things, but we would often head back to the store a day or two later to complete a meal. That was just silly.
Now, I decide what we are eating for the week and try to use some of the same ingredients across the board. For example, we will be having spinach in our tacos and with our pasta dish later this week. I can also make spinach as a fantastic side, or use it as a salad base. The avocados I purchased will make an appearance in the tacos as well, in addition to our sushi tonight and some lunch sandwiches. The cucumbers and carrots I will be using as snacks throughout the week are also guest staring in my vegetarian sushi rolls.
As I said earlier, I do not want to consume any hormone-altering products. Many pre-made packets (my $1 pasta meals, for example) and canned goods contain ingredients that are unhealthy for you, or are packed in BPA-laden containers. Instead of stocking up on canned goods, I have begun purchasing dried, bagged goods such as beans and lentils, and plain boxed pasta — whole wheat, of course! These are hearty foods that can be a great side, or even make up a whole dish. The dried beans are slightly inconvenient in comparison to their canned counterparts, but this is something that I will learn to handle.
What tips do you have for eating healthy foods and living within a reasonable budget?
This is a guest post by Ryan Bonaparte. Ryan is the founder of the site TheNewTutor.com, which has resources (guides, personal training sessions, and more) to help people get started as a private tutor or grow their existing tutoring business. Readers of Real Simple Finances can get a copy of his guide or work with him directly for 20% off using the coupon code RSF20 at checkout.
After I graduated grad school, I thought I had made it. I just needed to find a job and all of those student loans would get wiped out within a matter of years. And that credit card debt I had picked up from years of buying electronic gadgets and clothes? That would just take a few months to tackle.
Fast-forward 18 months. I still had pretty much the same amount of student loan debt, and lifestyle inflation had not only prevented me from paying off my credit cards, but had actually increased it even more. A had bought a new car, a bigger TV, and countless other things I didn’t need. Squeaky mattress is slightly uncomfortable? Time to buy a new one! Frying pan isn’t quite non-stick anymore? New set from Bed Bath and Beyond here I come!
I was making ends meet, but just barely. After a medical bill stretched me even further, I knew I had to make some changes.
I cut back on shopping, started to cook more at home, and moved to a less expensive apartment. Small steps, but they made a difference.
However, even with all of the cutbacks I made, it was still a long way to paying off everything. I still needed my car to get to work, and the student loans were still just as large. I could only cut back but so much.
I needed to make more money.
In the past I had tutored a few students, and it helped pay for a new gadget or two, but I knew I that if I spent a bit more time tutoring, that pocket change would grow dramatically. There were plenty of schools around, so I knew there must be someone looking for help.
I used a tutoring matchup service to find students, but like Alexandra said, they did take a bit of a cut. However, I decided that I liked the idea of working with students who had their information already in the system, for both safety and ease of payment reasons. After contacting a few people looking for a tutor, I was up and running within a few weeks.
I set my schedule based on my work hours, so primarily late evenings. One of the big things I wanted to ensure was that neither my day job nor tutoring suffered, so I made sure to leave enough time between the end of the work day and when I started tutoring. I also met a few students on the weekend, but since I liked to take weekend trips to see my family, I tried to limit that as much as possible.
I also taught what I already knew so that I didn’t have to spend time studying. Because of my engineering background, most math and science classes were fairly familiar to me. I also bought a few SAT study guides to brush up on what had changed in the years since I had taken the test. Depending on the time of year, SAT preparation was in high demand, and although I didn’t try it out, I saw a few tutors actually charged more during those times. Instead, in the beginning I started out with a lower rate, but steadily increased it for new students as my schedule started to fill up. Eventually, I reached the point where I had to start turning students down because I couldn’t work any additional hours and not sacrifice the work at my day job.
Over the last few years I spent over 400 hours tutoring students of all ages. From helping young children learn to read, to adult learners taking their first chemistry class in 20 years. It has been an exciting opportunity, and it helped me reach my goal of paying off my credit card debt in less than half the time it would have taken otherwise.
If you’re stuck with debt you want to get rid of, or want to kick start a savings plan, tutoring is an excellent option. Between the high pay, the flexible schedule, and the rewarding experience, tutoring is the top activity I recommend to my friends when they want to start earning more money right away.
This weekend I cleaned out my pantry. It’s always good to take an inventory of what you have — I had more expired goods than I care to admit! — because a stockpile is only good if you’re going to eat it!
N and I are changing our entire diet around, so this pantry clean-up was much needed. Among expired goods, I also tossed (or donated, depending on whether or not they were open already) mix packets, snack foods, a box of cheesecake mix, white rice, high-sugar cereals, and a few jars of pasta sauce we bought on sale, but that were not to our tastes and had been sitting for a while.
My pantry is now full of
- whole wheat pasta: bought on sale for $.59 per box — $21.24 for my entire year’s supply!
- brown rice.
- dried beans, chickpeas and lentils: under $1.50 each — one bag should take us through the week, or more with the lentils.
- couscous: I splurged and bought organic at around $8, but this will last us well over a month or possibly two!
I used up the remaining cans of crushed tomatoes to make pasta sauce for about 10-15 meals. We bought these cans last year at the stock up sale, and spent around .88 per can.
I am also down to my last 6 canned goods. After these run out, we will no longer be buying cans. I want to get as far away from foods that may be packaged in containers with BPA, and I would like to eat more whole foods.
The reason for this sudden change is that I have recently been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). In my research, I have found that women with PCOS are at a higher risk for many conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and more. PCOS can be helped, if not reversed, with proper diet and exercise.
Because of this, N and I have upped our grocery budget for the next few weeks. We want to practice eating healthy foods first, and then move on to finding cheaper ways to eat healthy. So, looking forward….
Next week I will post about finding deals on healthy, whole foods, and what we’re doing with our grocery budget.
I will also follow up on last week’s tutoring as a side-hustle post, with a special guest post from someone who has made tutoring successful (and has a deal for Real Simple Finance readers!).
What are your plans this week?
Tutoring is my favorite side hustle of all time. I enjoy doing it, which is excellent, but I am also good at it. Going to work and feeling like you are good at what you do is a great feeling.
If you believe that you would be a good tutor, there are a few things you need to consider in order to make yourself successful.
Measure your qualifications against your hourly rate.
I use my MA in English and college teaching experience to advertise my expertise in the field. From what I have seen, I could probably charge slightly more than my current $35 per hour, but I enjoy the type of clients I find at that price point. Often they are both easygoing and serious about learning.
What is the competition like?
Take a look at some tutoring offers in your area. What are other tutors charging? What are their claims to fame? Measure yourself against them. If you can find something about yourself that sets you apart, you will be in good shape! For instance, you might note that you are a lifetime resident of the town you would like to tutor in, or that you have worked with children of a specific age for a certain number of years. All of these things add to your list of qualifications, and help parents choose you over other tutors.
You will also want to consider what subjects are overdone in your geographical area. There are a lot of English tutors in my area, but I have still managed to be successful in securing students because I tailor my presentation of myself in a way that appeals to parents and college students alike.
How limiting will you be?
Being very specialized in this field is not a bad thing. If you only want to tutor children in grades 1-5, say so. If you only work with adults, say so. Being very specialized makes you attractive to a smaller group of people, but you will still be very marketable within that age group.
I have recently opened myself up to one-on-one tutoring with children; I did group tutoring in this age range previously, and have taught dance classes to children for a long time, so even though it is a very different experience than working with highschoolers and college students, it is refreshing. I enjoy working with children because they are more open to games and silly analogies during learning, and they also help me learn to break down more complex writing ideas into bite sized pieces.
Because I am open to nearly all ages, I need to be very specific about how I am qualified to teach each specific age group. Giving a general tutoring statement will never help you be hired; people want to know exactly how you are trained and qualified for the age and subject you want to teach.
Consider a tutoring match-up service carefully.
I have done both self-employed tutoring, as well as tutoring through a service that connects you to clients. I did not enjoy the latter. From the portion of my paycheck that was taken each session to the huge list of policies, I felt that there was too much work involved for too little reward. While starting with a tutoring service can be beneficial in the beginning, particularly if you do not have access to productive ways to reach potential students, you also need to read the fine print very carefully.
Make the commute easy on yourself.
I do not tutor in peoples’ homes unless I have known the person for a while. I am simply not comfortable doing this, and most families are more than happy to meet at a library for tutoring sessions. This makes it very easy to have other students come to you at times that are convenient to you. Work smarter, not harder! I often tutored back-to-back at a local library, which saved me gas money, lowered the time I spent commuting, and I had peace of mind knowing I only had to be in one place for multiple students.
Reach out to specialty groups.
Find groups that could benefit from your services. I have a lot of luck reaching out to homeschoolers in this area. I have worked with homeschoolers as a group tutor for years, and really enjoy the community. The best part about this specific group is that homeschoolers are open to bringing in tutors for many different groups; I have taught dance, Italian and writing courses, while my brother has taught chess and another friend offered yoga. Practically any subject you offer could be of interest.
You may also want to look for 4H or Scout groups if you want to teach something crafty like woodworking or jewelery making, or if you offer classes in showmanship, public speaking, or animal training.
Do you tutor, or have you considered tutoring? Have you been successful?
If you’re the type of person to snap “what’s so good about it?!” when someone wishes you a good morning, you might want to keep reading.
Last week I talked about a few types of jobs that you might consider having if you like to stay up late and work into the night. Many of you chimed in to tell me about how you work very well in the mornings as well!
I am not naturally a morning person, but during the semester I teach morning classes. The ease of finding a parking space and the joy of knowing that I’m finished working by 10 am on a Friday is incredible motivation for me to teach these early classes. That being said, it has taken me a while to develop a successful morning routine. As you will see below, I still make morning bloopers that waste my time and energy, and prevent me from being completely effective in the morning.
People tell you a lot of crap about what makes a good morning.
If I listened to Pinterest, I’d stretch in the morning before leaving my bed, get up and make the bed, exercise for an hour, make a protein smoothie after harvesting my own fruit and milking the cow, walk my dog, shower, do my hair, put on makeup, read a novel, cook myself and my husband a bountiful breakfast, do yoga, and somehow still manage to sit down with a cup of coffee and get to work on time looking flawless.
These are all wonderful things to do, and possibly only a little embellished. But be let’s be real. I have found that the best mornings are made when they are simplified, not complicated. Let’s talk about some of the ways you are hurting yourself in the morning.
You didn’t start the night before.
If you’re like me pre-teaching days, you will squeeze every possible second of extra sleep out of your snooze button. Getting enough sleep actually starts the night before. Do you really have to watch another show on Netflix? Maybe 30 minutes of extra TV time doesn’t seem like it’s hurting your sleep, but many studies have shown that you should turn off the television, computer and cell phones at least 30 minutes before going to bed — some even recommend having two hours of electronic-free time before you try to sleep.
You play the Wardrobe Game.
This would be a terrible game show, but it is one I participate in on a daily basis. The multiple-outfits-strewn-across-the-bed game may seem more annoying than anything, but in reality getting dressed multiple times is a massive time waster. Get into your closet and clear out the junk and the clothes that don’t fit, then select your outfit the night before so that there is no question about what you will wear.
No lie — I spent 20 minutes getting dressed on Monday. That’s a gigantic waste of time!
You think you’ll exercise.
I have heard that exercising in the morning is effective and sets your body up for the day. I counter this argument by saying that the most effective type of exercise is the kind that you actually do. If I tell myself I will exercise in the morning but run out of time to do so, I have a 100% success rate of not doing exercise later in the day. Because I want to keep my mornings simple and hassle-free, I schedule fitness time later in the day, after teaching my morning classes. This gives me a better opportunity to follow through on my commitments to my health.
If you do exercise in the morning, I am seriously envious. This is one of my biggest struggles, because I would love to be a morning exerciser. It might happen for me one day, but for now I need to content myself with lunchtime workouts.
You’re not prioritizing.
Every morning there are a few things that I need to do in order to ensure I have a good morning.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. If I don’t, I will go to Dunkin’ Donuts, get a sugary coffee, probably order a donut or muffin, and send myself into a day full of bad eating. Making the right choice for breakfast makes me feel healthy.
- Make myself presentable. I don’t always wear makeup, but when I know I look good I feel good.
- Pack my bag. I like to have everything organized and ready to go the night before, but I feel at ease when I know I have put everything I need into my bag as I am heading out the door. Doing so gives me one last chance to check everything.
What sorts of things stand in your way of having a good morning? If you are a morning person, what does your successful routine look like?
Back when I was blogging more regularly, before I had an unsuccessful attempt at transferring my data from the old Real Simple Finances to the new web host, I used to do a weekly wrap-up and summarize what I did last week. While learning from the past is always a good idea, I want to spend 2015 looking forward each week.
This week the semester starts at one of the three schools I am teaching at. I am always slightly nervous before each semester, because every class has a different set of personalities. I am also starting a new bi-weekly class for middle and early high school-aged homeschooled students this week. This should keep me very busy throughout the semester!
Looking forward for these topics: next week will bring a blog post on morning routines and starting a successful side hustle as a tutor.
I went grocery shopping yesterday, and scored an excellent deal on whole wheat pasta — .59 cents per box! Whole wheat pasta is rarely as cheap as the normal white variety, so this was a great deal. I got 36 boxes, enough to last the two of us through this entire year (and then some!) for $21.24. I estimate that this will break down to .30 cents per meal.
Looking forward on this topic: next week I will talk about how I am reorganizing and restocking my pantry, inspired by Femme Frugality’s post on Shelf Scouter, while changing my diet around for the better!
Finally, my goal this week is for peacefulness. Easing into a new semester is not always … well, easy. I want to organize my mornings so that my days can be peaceful and stress-free.
Have a wonderful week!
Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Or so they say.
I recently came across an article at Elite Daily, which argued that intelligent people are night owls and stay up later than less intelligent people. This post is from June 2014, but showed up on my news feed — one can always trust Facebook users to resurface old articles. Nevertheless, I’m glad they did this time.
What struck me about this article is that it referred to people staying up late as being more proactive than those who wake up early. The author argued that people who stay up late get more done than those who wake up early, which made me wonder: do your sleep habits define the type of work you should do?
Staying up late ensures quiet time.
Quiet time, in turn, often leads to increased creativity and more time to be one with your thoughts. Personally, I get my best writing done late at night, when there are no distractions and everything seems peaceful.
- Jobs that require reflection seem to benefit from this evening solitude. You might find writing, painting or making crafts good side hustles if you are a night owl who likes staying up late for the silence and peacefulness it brings.
A later bedtime gives you extra hours to prepare for the next day.
I was never the type to get out of bed at 5am to prepare myself for a big presentation, or to do homework for my 8am courses. Some people can cram a lot of thinking into a small span of time, but I am not one of those people. Instead, I always preferred to stay up later and prepare. Looking at 8am from twelve hours away makes it seem less daunting, and gives me the confidence to work on my project without panic.
- Those who hold jobs that demand a lot in the early morning hours may benefit from extending their bedtime slightly. It will prevent those “Oh *bleep*, I shut off my alarm and the project is due in 20 minutes!” moments, and will give you more peace of mind so you can sleep easy, knowing your project is complete.
- Bloggers may also like to stay up late; I am currently typing this post at 9am, but I prefer to write my posts ahead of time and set them to self-publish in the early morning. That makes it easy for my blog to show up on reader’s morning feeds, and makes my blog more accessible to those who do follow a 9-5 schedule and want some morning reading.
We’re connected to the whole world at all times through the internet.
If you have access to customers in Australia, Europe, Alaska, and Jamaica all at once, a later bedtime might help you succeed in your career. While a 9-5 job works fine when you’re working with customers in your own timezone, those of us trying to reach outside of our town or state might need to stay up until 1am to speak with a client at 6pm his time.
- Jobs that require contact with people across the globe would benefit from unconventional sleep times. The self-employed may also benefit from going to sleep later, to work with clients outside of the typical 9-5 hours.
I am sure the case for early rising can be made just as easily as the case for staying up late. But now, I turn the floor to you: Do you do your best work late at night? Does a non-traditional sleep cycle benefit you and your business?