Monthly Archives: July 2016

How I Began to Read More

Goodreads to readDisclaimer: This post is meant to encourage you if you feel you should be reading more. Everyone does not read at the same pace nor has the same amount of free time. While I believe that everyone should regularly be reading books in some form, how much and how fast will vary, and that’s okay.

I love to read. Always have. In the past decade, I’ve averaged finishing 95 books a year, including re-reads.

It would seem that I wouldn’t struggle finding time to read?

However, in the first 3 months of the year, I had only finished 3 books. One was for this blog, and the other two were read while I was flying cross-country. This was a continuation of a pattern I had been in since I stopped regularly using public transportation in late 2014.

I knew I had to find time to read in my schedule, and I knew where it was.

I was able to regularly watch 3 shows/day on a work day, and more on the weekends. I would justify to myself that it was often just on in the background, but it would still distract from reading.

Since my life plan helped me reduce how much I was saving on my DVR, I started wanting to watch less. I realized I could just watch one episode (instead of two) in the evening, then end my day spending 30-45 minutes reading a novel.

While this started out as a bit of an experiment, it has been successful. I realized that a good novel fulfills that desire for a good story that I had been filling with TV or movies. Adding on the extra reading time I have on weekends, I have been able to finish a novel a week.

After I did that, I decided to try to work in reading for spiritual growth and non-fiction, too. I get these done in the morning, either waking up early naturally for extra time in my schedule or instead of watching TV while I’m drinking my morning smoothie.

Yes, I naturally wake up 30 minutes before my alarm almost every morning. This is new for me, and almost certainly a result of eating better, being active during the day, and falling asleep faster as I’ve cut screens out of the end of the day.

When I add in my 2 hours of audiobook listening a day, I now read 3-4 books a week. At that rate I could finish my Goodreads TBR list in 3.5 years. Of course, I’d have to stop adding to it…

A Month of Moving

11415768915_83a98098aa_mIt has officially been over a month since we made the decision to move from Kansas City to Dallas.  One month of blog posts about my thoughts on moving thus far.

Can I be frank with you?

Most of the time, I feel like this move was a mistake.  The house is not selling as quickly as anyone hoped, and the prospect of some time apart while Riley starts his new position in Texas and the kids and I wait in Kansas City for the house to sell is starting to become very real.  Getting everyone out of the house–two kids and two big dogs–during showings is taking its toll on me.  Oh, and we are buying that second car, much to my dismay (but I suppose it really is needed–four years with just one car isn’t too bad, I guess).  These are but a few of the items constantly on my mind these days.

It’s a lot of change in an incredibly short amount of time, with a whole lot of unknowns.   Still, I have to trust that this move is what is best for our family–that there are benefits out there that I have yet to see–so I have to keep plugging away “with grit and gumption.”

I need to remember that this move is a gift.  It’s just pretty wrapped up right now!

Photo by Mark Moz

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.


77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

How it Works: Moving

Awhile back, Ronnica discussed how to move like a minimalist.

Originally, I intended this post to piggyback on that very topic, but as I prepared this, it occurred to me that moving a house–and a household–is a different animal than that which Ronnica discussed.  This particular move is also different in many other areas, including the ultimate destination and the reasons for the move.

To that end, here are a few tips and tricks that have proven useful to me during the past two weeks of moving preparation.  While I think many of us would like to stay where we are at, should you find yourself at the point of a major move, perhaps these tips and Ronnica’s will help you get started on your next chapter.

After a thorough purging, my tiny closet has a lot less that needs to be packed!
After a thorough purging, my tiny closet has a lot less that needs to be packed!

1.  Purge

This isn’t all that dissimilar to what Ronnica discussed in her minimalist moving post, and for good reason:  all moves have the added benefit of providing a chance at a clean, uncluttered slate.  When in doubt, throw it out (or donate it)!

2.  Consider your packing options.

For all the stress this move is causing me, I really have to say that Riley’s new employer is making things as easy on our family as one could possibly hope for.  I don’t even have to pack–in fact, it is discouraged.  How fortunate are we?!

This is obviously an anomaly in the moving world, so it is helpful to consider what moving options are available.  Are you going to pack up everything yourself, or will you have help? How will you transport your belongings?  The farther you can plan things out, the less stressful (and better budgeted) things will be.  Even if you have the benefit of packers AND movers at your disposal, it is helpful to be well-versed in the rules and protocol of how such an operation works.

3.  Prepare your current home for departure.

Although I have moved quite a bit before now, this is my first experience with selling a house.  It goes on the market today (need a house?), and is as ready as it can ever be.  It is important to take into account any extra expenses preparing a house for selling–in our case, a lot of paint and cleaning supplies were the primary expenses, but depending on your case, it may involve more or less preparation.

I would also encourage you to implement as many professionals as possible in the process, from realtors and stagers, to professional photographers and dog caretakers–all of which we have employed in this process.  The amount of home selling know-how I have can fit into a thimble, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.  Use the gifts and talents of others to give your home the best chance for quickly selling at a good price–something I hope happens in our case very soon!

4.  Prepare your new home for arrival.  

We are in the midst of this one, since 1) Riley has not yet arrived in Texas, and 2) we don’t yet know where exactly we are going to settle permanently.  That shouldn’t stop us (well, specifically me) from preparing my heart and mind for the new home.  In my case, I have been researching towns that fit all our criteria, looking at church and school options, browsing attractions, and even reading up on the history of Texas.  Knowledge is power!

What moving tips do you have?

Ronnica’s 2016 Goal Updates

Now that we’re half way through 2016 (!), it’s time to look back on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. To be honest, I haven’t really thought about them too often, as my life plan has taken over my focus, so I was a little worried.

In January, I set 2 goals as well as spending goals. My first goal was to spend 30 minutes each day to cleaning/straightening my apartment. I’ve been pretty successful with this goal, and my apartment shows it. Accompanied by getting rid of things and organizing, my apartment looks better than it ever has. I still have work that I want to do, but I feel much more comfortable at home.

My second goal was to do my Bible reading first thing in the morning. I still spend too much time on my phone (usually 15 minutes) before I get to it, but I am regularly getting to it. I would like to keep working on keeping the phone down first thing in the morning.

As for my spending goals, here’s how I’ve done through May (haven’t calculated for June yet):

2016 goal: $1,820, 2015 actual: $2,026.04
2016 YTD: $888.75

I’m currently on track to be a bit higher than last year, but as I’ve radically changed what I’m eating, that makes sense. I think this will balance out a little lower, probably on track to be the same as last year’s spending.

2016 goal: $1,400, 2015 actual: $743.35
2016 YTD: $847.35

I’m currently above my goal, but as my two plane trips were in the first half of the year, I’m really on try.

2016 goal: $260, 2015 actual: $625.93
2016 YTD: $24.99

Well below goal, yay! I am saving up right now for a backpacking pack, but will probably wait until next year to get it as I’d like to fit it to my new body, not my in-between one.

2016 gardenGarden
2016 goal: $75, 2015 actual: $319.60
2016 YTD: $68.18

This has taken a lot of self-control, but I did it! My gardening expenses are probably done for the year.

Eating Out
2016 goal: $200, 2015 actual: $281.98
2016 YTD: $37.09

I’ve eaten out twice this year (while not traveling). I was already not eating out a lot before, but making my own food from scratch goes a long way to not wanting to eat out.

2016 goal: $120, 2015 actual $179.61
2016 YTD: $62.94

I’m over my goal, and will probably end over my goal by the end of the year, but we’ll see.

2016 goal: $20, 2015 actual: $60.86
2016 YTD $4.30

Doing great so far, but I have a feeling I’m going to need to spend more than $20 this year. I do plan on buying my newer wardrobe as cheaply as possible, getting by with as little as possible and buying most of it at thrift stores.

My Spiritual Gift

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca0263Last night, we met with our realtor to get our house on the market and sold as fast as humanly possible.  (In case you missed it, we are moving!)

It went remarkably well. There’s just a couple of little hiccups (including our “sunny” kitchen, shown here), which she assured us are workable, provided that we stay flexible and proactive.

So of course, despite that advice in mind, I’m stewing.  Fixating on things that are pretty well out of my control is sort of a gift of mine.  I think Realtor is on the same wavelength, because she said, “I totally get it, Amanda.  Worrying is my spiritual gift too.”

I love that line.  Of course, nowhere in the Bible do I recall “worrying” being listed as a spiritual gift, but sometimes I feel like I am SO good at it, it really should be considered a gift I possess.  For as long as I can remember, I have been a worrier (much to the consternation of non-worrying family members and loved ones).

In many ways, I suppose being a worrywart has served me well.  I have never done anything illegal, for fear of being caught.  I fret over how people perceive me, so I very rarely get into confrontational situations.  I earned scholarships to college because I worried about my grades and extracurricular involvement.  I even worry about dental health, flossing and brushing twice daily and visiting the dentist twice a year…and because of that worry, I have never even had a cavity, and LOVE going to the dentist (seriously!).

But these are largely things that I have control over.  Once I have addressed the issues that I can control, it is as though I feel the only thing left to control is–you guessed it–anxiety over the situation.

That house electrical issue that I have addressed as much as I can, thus now largely out of my hands?  I still stew about it.

Fretting over how the stager will arrange the kids’ toys, despite getting rid of as much stuff as I can?  I still stew about it.

How will I get two kids and two gigantic dogs out of the house for two hours a showing?  Yep.  I stew about it.

Riley is quick to remind me that ruminating is not a good use of my time.  He is right.  Being a worrier and being a good steward of my time do not go hand-in-hand.  So I continue to try to reign in my “spiritual gift”, making to where it is a catalyst for good time management…not a thief.

As with so much in my life, that area is still a work in progress.  I have a feeling this move will be a good teacher though.

Spill-Over Discipline

Working on my eating habits over the last two-and-a-half months has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was saying “no” to myself in an area that I just haven’t really done to that extent before.

I’m thankful that this was an area that had some immediate effects. Even the stomach growls as I transitioned into eating half (or probably less, honestly) the calories I was previously eating was a reminder that I was on the right path.

As I continued making the right choices, the shrinking of the waist and the extra energy were also nice side effects, but the benefits of disciplined eating have gone beyond these things.

overflowing cupI’ve noticed that any time that I focus on one discipline, it has had positive ramifications on other disciplines. Since I’ve focused on eating according to what my body truly needs, I’ve had a cleaner house and have been better in how I use my time.

Part of it, I’m sure, is that it has the same root cause (focusing on my life plan), but I don’t think that is the whole story. I’ve noticed this in my past as well: If I am being “good” in one thing, I’m less tempted to be “bad” in another area. It just feels good to keep doing the things that I know will help me in the long-term.

Ultimately, that’s all discipline is: working towards long-term goals instead of for short-term pleasures. I’m by no means perfect in this. I feel like I’m no where near where I should be at the age of 33, but I’m thankful for the progress that I have made.

I probably will regress in one or more areas, as I have before. But these last couple of months have shown me that this is something that I can do.

And that is a lesson well worth learning.

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili

The Big Announcement

Time for me to take a page out of Ronnica's book!
Time for me to take a page out of Ronnica’s book!

Last week, I mentioned that I have a big announcement to share with you today.  So without further ado…

*Pauses for dramatic effect*

Ladies and gentlemen, we are moving.

Not just to a new house.  Not just a state away.  No–we are moving two states away, far from our cozy home in the Kansas City suburbs to the Dallas/Fort Worth area of TEXAS.

This was somewhat unexpected, but when a wonderful job opportunity came up for Riley, we knew it was in our family’s best interest to accept the job and all that entailed.  I never thought that 1) I’d ever leave Kansas, 2) I’d ever leave Kansas for Texas, and 3) that I’d be sort of excited at the prospect of leaving for someplace new.

Not surprisingly, I am also incredibly stressed by all that has to happen before we settle in to our new home (because moving with small children).  Having moved around quite a bit in my 31 years (eight times, if you count twice in college), this is not my first rodeo, but it is my children’s first time moving (and hopefully the last), and it is my first time moving with a family of my own.  There is a great deal to consider–looks like it may be time for me to dig through the archives to see what Ronnica did!

Expect moving updates in the weeks ahead.  Here we go!