journeytominimalism

Tossing the clutter to have a more meaningful life!

Great start to April – small victories count!

Throughout this initial piece of the journey, one of my goals has been to eliminate certain credit cards. While I have never been one to have many credit cards, I have held 2 different ones the past 4-5 years now. One is the visa credit card I have with my current bank and the other is a MasterCard.

At one point, after leaving the ex and moving out on my own, I ended up maxing out my visa credit card with my bank just to make ends meet. As I started paying that down, I realized that if I had an emergency expense, I had no way to cover it. That initiated the application for the MasterCard. The past 1-2 years, I have done a really good job immediately paying off anything that I charge to either card, and I have been planning to close out the MasterCard. However, I always had that fear of closing it out due to the fact that the Visa has a low max rate on it in addition to a pretty hefty rate in general. Not to say that the rate on the MasterCard is any better…

Could I request a higher limit on the Visa? Absolutely! However, the interest is atrocious and I haven’t been too happy with my bank for a while….therefore, I’ve been keeping my options open.

A few weeks ago, I moved some of my savings into another bank, to see how I liked it. So far, I’m really impressed. By using this bank, I can ditch my excel spreadsheet I have been using to track all of my expenses – this bank has a program that does all of that for me (HUGE TIMESAVER)! This bank also has a really good credit card with cash rewards, and low interest rate – much better than either of the 2 credit cards I have had.

So, I am going to begin the process of moving all savings and checking to the new bank of choice, closing out my current bank account once all pending payments have been processed.

Now…to get to the point – otherwise, it sounds like I just have 3 credit cards and 2 different banks right now. NOT THE CASE!
I just closed out the MasterCard, SHREDDING the card and doing a happy dance!

Next step – pay off the $10.79 balance on the old Visa credit card and close that out as well, limiting myself to 1 credit card for emergencies only.

I know I know….my fellow minimalist buddies out there will gasp in horror at my joy over having a credit card at all. For now, since I own a house and a car, it’s a safety net for me in case any unforeseen emergencies come up that I can’t handle alone from my savings.

The overall plan is to have no credit cards, but for now, this is a small victory for me. And hey…if I’m not racking up scores of charges on the card and I am paying it off quickly, what’s the harm? I’m still contributing to that great credit score that I have, which by the way is better than 79% of consumers in the good ol’ USA. 🙂

Thanks for hanging in there with me through this journey and for all of the support and encouraging words. I am still making progress paying down the college loan, car loan, and de-cluttering. Next week – a new update!

I hope you all have a great week!

-Julia

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A brief break from cold weather…

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend!

Glad to see some warmer weather for a couple of days. This has been the coldest March I can remember and it was so nice to have temps in the 60’s yesterday and today.
Hopefully, April will bring nicer weather better opportunities for me to continue cleaning out the clutter and paying off the debt. Each day is a struggle, but I’m focused and determined to keep plugging away.

I realized after looking at my spending for the month of March that I am spending entirely too much on groceries, as this was my largest expense for the month (minus the mortgage and the double / triple payments towards the college and car loans). My goal for April is to focus on bringing the grocery expenses down.

I think one of the things that is hurting me is frequent / unplanned / unthought-of trips to Costco. While it is worthwhile to purchase a few items there, I tend to get drawn in and bewitched by the needless items I stumble across there. Also, due to poor planning on my part, I’ve had to make 2 – 3 trips there this month after forgetting certain items on the list.

My focus regarding spending in April is to limit myself to only 1 trip to Costco this month, only purchasing items on the list and not deviating from that. The rest of the grocery shopping will be done at the local grocery store, where I typically do well with sticking to the list and buying only the “needs” versus the “wants”.
Limiting myself to Costco only once a month will also help reduce the amount I’m spending on gas. Trips to the big city to shop around aimlessly in Costco are a gas guzzler and pointless.

After all – all of that money could be going towards debt payoff!

If you are at all interested in saving some cash or working to pay off debt, I definitely recommend that you list everything that you are spending each month – even the little things like buying a pack of gum at the gas station or purchasing a sub for lunch. It all adds up and it has truly been an eye-opener for me.

As always, thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!

– Julia

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Setting Goals to Reaching your Dreams

If you’re a dreamer like I am, it’s important that you continue to reach for your dreams, but also set realistic goals that will help you get to where you want to be. One of my dreams is to be rid of all of the debt and unnecessary items I have acquired during my life journey so far.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote an e-book on how he achieved his dream of living in the Florida Keys. In this book, he outlines the goals that he set for himself prior to making the ultimate move, as well as the key things to keep in mind when dreaming and planning to move to Key West.  Many of these things should be thought of when thinking about making any sort of big move / change – not only to Key West, but other idealistic locations.

I am currently reading the book now and so far, have found it to be very insightful and helpful regarding my own minimalist goals, and my ultimate dream of living aboard a boat in the islands.

Check out his book online and read along with me!

http://manateefritters.com/moving-to-the-florida-keys/

Until next time – keep on dreamin!

Julia

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My dog Lucky

WARNING – LONG post all about my best friend and my dog.  If you are not a dog lover – skip this one!

My dog is truly my best friend.  Lucky has been here for me through some tough times and always knows just how to cheer me up. 

Many people, after hearing Lucky’s name think Lucky is a “he”.  Not so – this Lucky dog is a “she”.  Lucky is commonly a male dog name, but it’s the only name my little dog knows, so Lucky she is!

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I found and rescued Lucky at the animal shelter in February 2008.  She was 7 years old at the time, already house broken, and knew how to sit and shake.  Poor Lucky went through a tough time before I picked her up at the shelter. 

It appears her original owners did care about her, as they left a hand written note about Lucky – the type of food she liked, that she never had an accident in the house, that she loved people and was a very good dog over all.  They made note that if no one took Lucky, they wanted to take her back before being put to sleep.  Lucky kept running away and the owner was unable to take care of her anymore. 

Now – this is where it gets rough for Lucky dog.  After her original owner dropped her off at the shelter, someone else picked her up and took her home.  That person had another dog.  Lucky does not play well with other dogs – this is because she is a Shiba Inu mix and that breed of dog has a very strong predator / prey instinct.  While Lucky is very timid and sweet with people, she thinks she is a ferocious Rottweiler when she meets another dog, regardless the size of the other dog. 

The person that took Lucky home had to take her back to the shelter because she didn’t get along with her other dog.  That’s when I came along and figured that since she was everything that would work for me at the time (housebroken, older and calmer, etc), I would give her a chance and take her on home with me.

Once I got Lucky home, I noticed she was very skittish.  Every time I went to pet her, she seemed to think I was going to hit her and she would run into a corner and hide, shaking.  I truly do not believe this was from any treatment from her original owners, but I think the first owner who took her from the shelter must have hollered and hit her to try and get her to stop acting mean to the other dog.  Poor Lucky was scared to death and traumatized. 

She made no noises or sounds for the first several months I had her.  Then, one day, when the doorbell rang, she barked a couple of times and growled.  To this day, the only time she barks is if the doorbell rings or she hears a car door close outside in front of the house. 

She occasionally makes a strange squeaky toy sound when she gets excited – that was a good long laugh when she first made that noise.  It honestly sounds like a squeaky toy.  Again, another trait of the Shiba Inu.

Also, another trait of the Shiba Inu is a horrifying sound which is a called the “Shiba Scream”.  You Tube it – you will see what I mean.  I have only heard this sound from Lucky two times since I’ve had her.  Both were times when her leg was hurt.  It sounded like a child screaming and was quite terrifying for me. 

Now, earlier I mentioned that her original owner said that she kept running away.  I have heard people say that dogs only do that when they are not happy.  I strongly disagree.  Lucky has gotten away from me twice – you give her a chance – a second of opportunity and she BOLTS.  You can call her, whistle, try to get her to come back for a treat and she will have none of that.  Once again, another trait of the Shiba Inu.  Run, run, run and total ignoring of what anyone is saying to them!  I quickly learned that Lucky is a leash dog and always will be.  Even letting her out in a fenced in back yard is risky – she is somewhat of an escape artist and if there is a way out, she will find it!

Other than those slightly annoying traits, Lucky is really a great dog.  I have taught her how to beg and play dead.  Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?  She truly is such a sweet dog and loves to be petted all the time.  When you aren’t petting her, she lies down and goes to sleep (snoring very loudly). 

She’s been sleeping a lot lately and has slowed down quite a bit as she’s gotten older.  She isn’t able to go on long walks anymore and recently has been having trouble getting up.  For this reason, I was not able to take my Lucky dog with me this weekend when I went to visit my parents at their beach house for my Dad’s birthday.  Their house is on pilings and has very tall steps to get inside.  I do not think Lucky can handle the steps anymore and she doesn’t like for anyone to pick her up and carry her (she weighs about 36 lbs). 

I boarded Lucky at the vet Saturday morning and I go to pick her up tomorrow on my lunch break. I’m looking forward to it, because I’ve been very lonely without her. 

Because Lucky is such a big and important part of my life, I wanted to share her with you by introducing you.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures of Lucky below.  

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This is from Christmas.  Lucky was not too enthused about the reindeer antlers and did not want to lift her head off the floor.  She slowly raised her head after some coaxing for a quick picture, then was very glad to take the antlers off!

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Lucky caught in the middle of a yawn out on the patio last summer.

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Sweet dog.

 

Thanks for reading – sorry I ranted on and on about Lucky.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures and that they brought a small smile to your face. 

Julia

 

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Grocery Store Rant

Paper or plastic?  NEITHER, thank you very much!

I feel the need to take a moment and express the frustration I felt when I went to the grocery store today.

This year began with several resolutions to do a better job of taking care of the environment.  One of those resolutions was to use eco-friendly canvas bags each trip to the grocery store, in order to eliminate the use of the wasteful plastic bags.

I have been doing very good meeting this resolution so far and I must say, I have found many advantages to using my canvas bags versus the plastic bags.  For one thing, it’s easier to carry – no worries of the bag breaking / busting while walking to the car or into the house.  Also, I can fit more items into my canvas bag.  What typically uses 4-5 flimsy plastic bags (not including if double bagging is required) takes only 1-2 of my canvas bags.  I love these benefits and it makes me feel even better to know that I’m doing something good for the environment.

Today, I walked up to the register and placed my canvas bag on the conveyor belt first and my groceries next.  The young girl working the register looked at my canvas bag, rolled her eyes, snatched the bag up, and began throwing my groceries in it – totally careless with the produce.  I asked her to please be careful with the produce and she started doing a little better.

Now – why on earth was it so difficult for her to place my groceries in that canvas bag?  It actually looked easier than for her to have to deal with 5 different plastic bags, which never want to separate and open up easily.  Also – not only am I contributing to saving the environment, but I’m also saving the grocery store a little bit of money each time I use my own bags when I shop – they don’t have to invest money in the flimsy plastic bags for me!

Oh well, I still feel good about keeping my resolution and living a little more “green”.  I just wish there were more people who understood and appreciated this fact.

What about you – do you prefer paper, plastic, or your own bags when you grocery shop?

– Julia

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Product Review: Ninja Master Prep Pro

Two weeks ago, I invested in the purchase of a Ninja Master Prep Professional blender.  This little blender is packed full of power and makes for an easy cleanup.   So far, I have been very pleased with the product.

http://www.lowes.com/pd_332976-35389-QB1004_0__?productId=3265769&Ntt=ninja+blender&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dninja%2Bblender&facetInfo=

This nifty little blender comes as pictured, with a 48 oz pitcher, a 40 oz pitcher, and a 16 oz food processer.  Each container has a lid so that you can cover and store in the fridge for later use.  There is a set of blades for each container, but you have to be careful when cleaning or handling the blades, as they are very sharp.

The small blender attachment sits on top of each container and you mustn’t let its size fool you!  The blender is extremely powerful and pulverizes anything from ice to the toughest of veggies.

All parts, with the exception of the blender attachment, are microwaveable and dishwasher safe.  Also, because the blender attachment sits on top of the containers, there is not a concern of food or liquid dripping into the motor.

For the past two weeks, I have put this little blender to the test.  Every morning, I have used the Ninja to blend up a breakfast smoothie with frozen fruit, juice, and yogurt.  Most days for lunch I also used it to fix a smoothie for lunch, also with frozen fruit, almond milk, and sometimes adding a handful of spinach, which wasn’t too bad.  The fruit hides the taste of the spinach – you just have to get past the touch of green in the smoothie first.  It blends smoothies completely in a matter of seconds and there is no need to stir in between pulses.  Since blades are placed at the bottom and closer to the top, this allows for the smooth and accurate blending of pretty much anything.

I have also used the Ninja to chop veggies for my salad on several occasions and it handles well – good controlled chops, without mushing or juicing the veggies.

Overall, I’m very happy with the Ninja and believe it to be an excellent investment!  If you are searching for a good, solid little blender that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, I can highly recommend this one!

Julia

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Walled in by Possessions

One of my favorite blogs! If you are a minimalist or in your way towards minimalism, this is a great one to follow!

Walled in by Possession

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Stop Office Snacking!

I have to admit – I’m definitely guilty of office snacking. I am working at doing better and last week I made it without any unhealthy snacks in the office, even though there were plenty of opportunities! Keeping my fingers crossed I can keep it up!

Stop Office Snacking!.

 

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Minor setback…

This morning, I took my car to get the oil changed and tires looked at.  I had a feeling that they would tell me I needed new tires, since I noticed excessive wear on the tires and it’s just that time.  Of course, my feeling was correct.  However, I did not realize how bad the tires really are.  Apparently, they are pretty worn down and there is a chip in one of the tires and you can see steel.  My trusted auto mechanic advised me not to travel outside of the local area this weekend, especially with the rainy weather we are having.  He ordered new tires which will come in Monday, so I will get that taken care of and out of the way.

Until then, I’m hanging out at home with my Lucky dog and taking care of things around the house that I’ve been putting off for a while.

The sad thing is that with the cost of the tires, it puts a small setback with being able to double up on the car loan and college loans this month.  But that’s ok – I’m not too worried about it.  I’m not in dire straits or anything and next month I should be back on track and knocking those loans down in record speed time again!

Next weekend’s post – a product review on the Ninja Master Prep Professional Blender!  Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Julia

 

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Is that a ray of light I see?

First off, I want to start with apologizing to my readers (if I even still have readers at this point) for neglecting the blog for so long! However, I think my fellow minimalists and health gurus will appreciate and forgive my excuses.

Since my last post, I have been diligently weeding through possessions I accumulated over the years and deciding what is needed and what must go. So far, I have made a huge dent, with many trips to Goodwill and donations to others.

In addition to weeding through the material items, I have also been working very hard on paying off the debt. If you remember, about 8 months or so back, I was looking at a total debt of $132k and some change (note that this includes EVERYTHING – mortgage too).  Since then, I have knocked that down by about $10k and I’m hovering around $122k and some change right now (still including the mortgage).

I’m feeling pretty good about this progress!  Without the mortgage, I’m at around $20k and that’s with a few hundred on a credit card which I will pay off next week, plus the college loan and car loan.

I fared well over the holidays – I did invest in gift giving, adding to the credit card balance for a month or so, but so far I have been able to pay most, if not all of the credit charges right at due date.  This has allowed me to keep the card balance down.

With all of this said, I feel like doing a happy dance right about now! 🙂

Now, I made mention earlier of my health guru followers and my guess at their coolness with my absenteeism.  Let me just say, that over the summer and fall – I was a bicycling fool!  Every weekend I was at the new bike trail (pictures in a previous post) cycling about 15 – 20 miles overall.  Then….the holidays hit….the weather turned cooler….things were busy with work and holiday hubbub…..the exercise regime gradually faded away.  After Christmas, I was determined to get back on the health wagon and started going to the gym.  I have been going to the gym anywhere from 3 – 5 times a week for 45 minutes to an hour each time.  The “dreadmill”, elliptical, and stationary bike have all become my new friends while the weather has been cooler and darkness sets in earlier.

Not only have I been exercising religiously, but I have also changed my eating habits.  Gone are the bachelorette days of frozen pizza, cans of ravioli, and take out.  This bachelorette has actually been COOKING believe it or not!  Tuna cakes, salmon cakes, crab cakes, baked sun dried tomato chicken, baked Italian chicken, turkey tacos, turkey spaghetti, wild rice, veggies – the list goes on!

Also, I have just invested in a Ninja Master Prep Pro Blender this weekend and made my first (somewhat) green smoothie last night.  My replacement breakfast meal this morning was a fruit / protein / flaxseed smoothie and it was awesome and filling, which was surprising to me.

I will let you know how the Ninja continues to hold up, but so far it appears to be a GREAT buy and ranks high on Consumer Reports ratings.

Now, I hope you can all forgive me for crawling under a rock the past 8 months…I promise I will do better and keep you updated on my journey to minimalism as well as my quest for healthy living!

Thanks for reading and keep on peddlin’!

Julia

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