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A Year of Doing More With Less - Month 1

Updated on January 23, 2020
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Changes

I recently became a widow, and if that doesn't make you reevaluate your life, I don't know what will. There's the want to get away from the normal, travel like you always meant to but never got around to, and the worry about what comes next. There's a need to change your personal environment and reorganize and yet not lose what was there before. On top of it all, there is the insecurity about money.

When the ball dropped to ring in 2020, I wasn't ready to make a resolution. I didn't know how my life was changing or what I wanted to do. I am now three weeks into the year and have had a chance to mull things over. I want to live a richer life, and I want to be more financially secure. How can a single woman with a mortgage and car payment achieve that? I'm not sure, but I'm starting to lay out some goals and am blogging to track my progress, and hopefully, others can benefit from my hits and misses.

Goals

My biggest goals boil down to two huge things, paying off my mortgage and enjoying life. These may seem like two opposite ends of the spectrum, working my tail off to give another dollar to "the man" versus going out and living life, but I am seeking balance.

There is a parable of a rich man that meets a poor fisherman. The rich man looks down on the fisherman and asks why he only fishes the little he does. Why doesn't he catch more fish, make more money, and eventually own a fleet of boats? The fisherman looks at the rich man and says, "Why would I do that? I fish enough to get what I need and then come home to my beautiful wife and family." The rich man replied, "In a few years, you could sell your fleet and retire a rich man." "And what would I do then?" the fisherman asked. "Then you can spend time with your wife and family."

Strategy

I already live somewhat frugally, so I am reviewing my wants versus needs to get a baseline. For instance, I have never had paid cable television. Before the term "cord cutter" was even coined, I stuck with basic rabbit ears antennas. I have supplemented with streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, and now I am examining those to see which I really need.

I am an avid reader, and I collect books like I am preparing to be homebound for a very long time (think duration of a zombie apocalypse). In 2020, I am going to concentrate on getting through my stack of books or visit my local library if I have a yen for something newer or different.

I have always watched for sales and checked for clearance, but in reviewing my spending habits, I see that was sometimes a trap, causing me to purchase items that I wouldn't necessarily use. I am shifting my focus to review the store circulars and coupons but then ask myself what items I truly need. Will it be replacing something I currently have that is expiring or broken, will it fit a need, or will it just be adding to a collection of junk (Hello 20 bottles of lotion and beauty care items littering my bathroom; I'm looking at you!)?

For work, I am in a salaried position that is a steady 40+ hour schedule. There is no overtime to look forward to for an occasional boost. Instead, I am joining many Millenials in the search for a good gig (or gigs). Gigs (like driving Uber or Lyft or delivering food with one of the half dozen services out there) have grown in popularity to either augment income or provide flexibility. I am not the type to drive all over town, so these typical gigs are out, but I am looking at other opportunities and will have a whole article (or probably several) discussing the trials and tribulations of some of my attempts.

Who says you need money to have fun?

I am on the lookout on the community pages for exciting activities and opportunities to stretch my wings, whether it is a class or group through my local library, a movie in the park, free days at the museum or the zoo, or an event at my local gym.

Not that I won't spend money at all, I will be selective with my funds, choosing activities that really mean something and will be more memorable, like a concert of a favorite band with family or an out of town vacation to crash on a friend's couch and visit museums.

My main hurdle will be the transition to planning these things for myself, not for a couple.

Looking forward to 2020

As I sit here on my couch, three weeks into the year, looking toward an unknown future, I take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and get ready for a lot of trial and error. Here I go...

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