Cleaning Out

We have been whirl-winding through our​ house, getting rid of stuff we don’t need. Recently there has been a focus in the garage, which is mostly my stuff. I fix cars out there a lot and it is a source of income, so I do have a lot of equipment. It’s really hard for me to let go of tools knowing that at some point I was stuck and needed to buy a tool to finish the job. 

I was able to let go of a lot recently though and consolidated several tool boxes into one big one.  There are times when we will spend money in order to consolidate. Clutter is the enemy. It results in wasted time cleaning and reorganizing with a result of trying to make it look like you don’t have the stuff, so why have it?  

Many times you can get rid of a few items that serve the same purpose and replace them with one that you do really like. You can probably sell the old items and get some money for that new one. 

Do not fool yourself into trying to justify why you don’t want to sell something because of how much you paid for it originally. If it was a piece of electronics like a computer, you certainly paid a lot more than it’s worth now if you bought it new. If you aren’t doing anything with whatever the item is, don’t worry about how much you bought it for or how much you will lose on the sale, just get rid of it. It’s just adding to the clutter and stress that you don’t need. 

Remember that your health is priority one. When you die, your euligy isn’t going to include any kind words about your AMG Mercedes or your MK purse. Nobody really cares about that shit. 

So try to focus on what will improve the quality of your life, not what will make you more lazy. This is all about weighing your needs and wants, and if you do want to downsize in some areas, you’ll have to decide whether spending some money will actually make you feel better outside of that original purchase buzz. 

You Don’t Have to Pay To Play

I had a great win on the ol’ eBay the other night.  I meantioned at one point that I downsized all of my photography gear a few years ago and have been using the Canon G15 for a while now. I really love​ that camera but don’t like that it is missing an external mic port and a real viewfinder. 

I didn’t want to buy another camera with detachable lenses so I did a little research and found that the Nikon P7800 had a usable view finder and a mic port. This was the one to have, so I fired up my thinking mill and planned what it would take to own that camera. 

Step one, find out how much it is new and used to get an idea of what is considered a deal. Done. 

New, it was over $600 and we already know I’m not looking for a new one.  Used price was $400, consistently.  So I wanted to find one for under that. But I couldn’t. 

I went to Amazon and paid the $390 to be done with it. Then, just for the hell of it I went back on eBay and happened to see an auction ending soon near $300. I though that if I could win this one for anything less than $400, I’d be saving, so I threw down $316.90 and was immediately outbid. Like a squirrel trying to get out of a garbage can I tried to flip in another bid. I was too slow and lost the auction, at a final price of like $320. I was pissed that I missed that chance to save $80, but just for the hell of it, I looked to see if there were any other auctions going on. I happened to look at the right time, because a guy had just posted his camera for $200,  buy-it-now style, which man’s no auction, you just get it. I thoufht, it must have been for parts or something? That was half the price of what they had been going for. 

Fast forward three seconds and I bought it.  It is home now and doing just fine. We actually recorded a video on it this morning for mother’s day. 

Now my G15 is listed on eBay and has 10 bids on it and two days left at $158. I’m expecting that one to go for around $200, which would mean that I was able to slip right into the camera I wanted, for nothing but a little time and research. I got lucky on this one though. 

I ended up cancelling the amazon order of course. 

The point is to make sure you shop around thoroughly before making a purchase. 

What DO We Spend $ On?

Aside from the basic needs, we usually will spend some extra money on footwear. It’s not that I’ll go seeking out a specific brand, it’s just that the really cheap stuff just never seems to fit right or be very comfortable.

I do tend to hang on to shoes and boots for several years, usually until they start falling apart or begin to take on water.

Something I’m having a hard time letting go of are my coats and jackets. I have a black wool dressier coat that is my main winter coat, a light rain coat wind breaker thing I wear a lot, a waterproof winter coat, a Dickey’s work coat, and this green army looking coat. I considered buying one coat that has a fleece jacket inside to get the two in one deal, but I never did it.

I don’t spend extra money on tools, car parts, clothes in general, furniture, electronics, anything really. I think I’ve gotten along just fine not going top shelf. Well, there are a few consumables that we do spend money on. Those are beer, wine, and I have some nice bottles of scotch in the cupboard. I have a plan to cut back on the beer spending because the craft stuff is so damn expensive. I will be saving those for special occasions rather than making it a weekly expense. As for the wine, my wife has been getting boxed wine and it lasts way longer, so you don’t have to pound the bottle in a couple of days. Don’t judge the box, it’s becoming more popular and there is good stuff you can now buy in the box. If it tastes good to you, then it’s good.

We did recently sell all gas powered lawn equipment and replaced it with electric. We started with the snowblower. It was big and heavy, sucked to store, and it seemed like everytime I needed to use it, we were out of gas.  Not to mention, you smelled like an asshole after you used it and it was loud as hell. Well, not anymore!  The Greenworks 80v snowblower only weighs 30lbs and had enough juice to clear our driveway out after a big storm this year. I can fold it up or hang it on the wall too.  Here is Darth Vader and I doing a little demo of it.

The same goes for gas mowers. They suck. We will be getting the Greenworks 80v mower this week that will share the battery with the snowblower.

With this technology being somewhat new, finding used units is very hard. I haven’t found any near me at all, so this time it will have to be new.

Earlier I said I don’t spend extra money tools. Let me clarify that. I have spend a shit load of money on tools, just not more than I needed to. I buy anything I can from Harbor Freight, as long as the online reviews are good. If not there, I’ll look at Amazon. If you were going to bring your car to get the brakes replaced, you’d probably be looking at between $300 and $1000 to get them changed. Why not put that money toward the equipment needed to do it yourself?  Everytime something comes up where I don’t have what it takes to get a job done myself, I make that investment. It is always wayyyy cheaper than paying someone else to do it and you also have the option of recouping some of that money if you decide to sell the item when you’re done with it.

Remember that a lot of outsourcing isn’t necessary with the internet around. Look at it as a task before sending the work off to a “professional.” You might find that it’s not as tough as you think. Have some confidence in yourself and have a back up plan if you do get stuck. This is a huge area of savings that could even turn profitable for you if you end up liking to do the work.

Our biggest money sapper is still food.  We go out more than we should and we could probably cut back on groceries although we have gotten better about buying less and wasting less by going more than once a week.  We get the bare essentials one day then just make trips while were out and about if we end up needing more later in the week.

We will continue to learn from our mistakes. That’s one of the only things setting us apart from the vast majority of the general population.  You don’t really ever “learn your lesson” if you don’t modify your behavior before the next incident occurs.  Learn and improve.

Your Clothes

I’m going to get fired up while writing this one, I know it, because I know me. 

I rarely buy clothes. I am wearing a belt right now that I got in 1999. I wore pants to work yesterday that I got in the mid 2000s. Why?  Because there is nothing wrong with them. I’m not trying to impress anyone with fancy duds. If my wife is ok with it, then so am I. She happens to be ok with it. 

I own less than 50 articles of clothing right now. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not. I have undies, socks, a few solid color t-shirts, a Beatles t-shirt, a Fender t-shirt, an MS bike tour t-shirt, a pasta sauce t-shirt, two jeans, three sweatpants, a hoodie, five dressy shirts, three dress pants, some undershirts, a couple of sweaters, and three flannel shirts. Even that seems excessive. I think I am going to get rid of all of my socks and just get one color because you can’t really see them, I don’t care, and sorting them sucks. I have a pair of boots, brown and black dress pants (I can probably downgrade here too if I ditch brown related dress outfits), and a couple of coats. 

I got rid of a ton of clothes recently. A ton. People who I work with know I wear the same stuff all the time. Having less makes decisions easier when getting ready for the day. Wash loads are more frequent, but smaller and easier to manage. 

When I do buy clothes, which I don’t, they are from second hand stores or bargain basket sale deals from Walmart or Kohl’s.  I’m not a kid jumping around on my knees worrying about wearing them out. I sit at a freaking desk at work most of the time, so quality means very little to me. You aren’t going to sell me on the “feel” of a $1000 suit. Comfort is super important to me, but so is price. I would wear sweatpants and t-shirts or hoodies every day if I could. And why can’t I?  A few months ago while browsing a Goodwill, I found about ten fleeces in excellent condition by brands such as L.L. Bean, Landsend, and Columbia, all for less than $5. My wife even got a Mountain Hardware jacket for $5 a few years ago!

Rant time – dress to impress, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. BS. Dress me up, I do less work. I’m unconformable. It does nothing to my mind to improve my performance. Stop it. 

I went to a Louis Vuitton store in Phoenix years ago and it turned my stomach. I curiously asked the guy working there how much for the golf bag and he said, “eight.” I laughed and said, “eight hundred dollars for a golf bag?” He did not laugh, but replied, “eight thousand dollars.” I don’t know if it should or not, but that just pissed me off.  I feel like I wouldn’t have much in common with the kind of person who would buy something like that, but who knows?  Wrong. I know, I wouldn’t. Bath towels were $200 and they weren’t spun from unicorns tails. They felt like the ones I’ve been using, since, I don’t know if I’ve ever bought new ones?  I have not personally ever purchased a towel. I think I stole a few from my parents when I first moved out and my wife might have bought some, but they work great!  I can even dry myself off with them after a shower. I wonder if anyone has checked the tags to see if they were designer while they were hanging on the backs of the door?  Probably not. 

I mean, what are you really paying for here?  It’s like you just want to pay the people at the top of a particular company when you overspend on things like this. We KNOW that the cotton in them isn’t magical. So why is it so expensive?  We KNOW that the people who actually made them are not earning great wages or even using some special skill to make them. Where the hell do you think your money is going?  Designer fashion easily makes it to my top lists of useless industries. 

Using your cost-value knowledge, how much “better” are Versace socks at covering your feet than the Berkley-Jensens I got from BJs?  Hmm. You think about that one. 

Summary, get rid of clothes you rarely wear and spend less on the ones you do buy.  

Do I have to Go Without?

No!  You just want to take the big picture into consideration. 

If you are passionate about playing the piano and want to keep taking lessons to get better, then do it. Consider if what you are putting your money toward brings you some happiness. Not brief gratification, but something lasting that your really enjoy. 

Maybe you collect trinkets and this is also tied to your social life, keep doing it. You’ll be allocating funds from other areas you’ve saved to apply here and this should also be part of your budget so that the spending doesn’t get out of control. 

Something I’ve had to do a few times is scale back on my hobbies and what I’ve bought for them. I meantioned before that I used to have four guitars and a lot of photography equipment, but realized I could sell most of that stuff since I didn’t really need it. My basic needs in the hobbies were still satisfied with the basic gear I held on to. 

Just keep the end goal in mind and ask yourself if this spending will get in the way of what you want your future to look like. Ask yourself what is more important to you?

Starting to Declutter

Being surrounded can be stressful, even when what is surrounding you is your own stuff.  What a mess.  You feel like you’re always cleaning up and organizing.  The problem is that there is too much to begin with.  You can keep reorganizing as much as you want but that stuff will not stay where you want it.

If you think it feels good to organize, I can say that it feels better to get rid of that crap you keep on having to mess with.

A great place to start is your junk drawer.  Have you used anything in there in the past six months?  What is that stuff?  Bring the trash can right over to it and start getting rid of things from inside.

Next, move to your night stand or where ever you put things before bed.  That stand might also have drawers on it full of junk you haven’t used in  years.

That’s honestly a good start.  Forcing yourself to really decide if you need to hang on to those chincy trinkets you’ve kept “just in case.”

You might even find something that you get to list on craigslist or eBay and make a few bucks out of it.

Start with the small and easier decisions.  It will feel pretty good.

The Easiest Way to Earn More Money

Really, the easiest way is to give yourself a raise by saving instead of spending.  Again, you knew this, but you might not be taking advantage of it.  I’ll get to actual ways to increase earnings shortly, but look at how much you could gain by reading the posts on Your Cell Phone, Shaving, Your Cable/Satellite Service, and if you do the simple math, it’s potentially hundreds per month on your basic human needs spending.  That’s one way to give yourself a raise.

The other is to actually make more money.  You can try asking for more from your employer, but that’s only worked for me once, and it was like 15 years ago.  You could always get another job that pays more too, but that’s not the focus here.  Something that I guarantee will make you extra money right now is to take a look around at your junk and sell what you don’t need.  You’re going to have to go back and read about Your Needs to help you determine what you really need to have.  The Minimalists have a fantastic movie and podcast that addresses this topic perfectly.  They even have games you can play to help you get rid of your clutter. This is a win-win because you clean house and make money.

Craiglist is free and is where I put most items.  I don’t try to get top dollar on my sales since I don’t want to wait long to get rid of it.  I’ll price it lower than most others for that quick sale and move on to the next one.  If you have a smart phone, the app lets you take pictures and post the ad right from your phone.

eBay does the same thing but has a larger audience.  I’m not going to get into the details of how to sell your crap; the take away here is that you are sitting on a gold mine, you just have to start listing things to start earning.

Do not underestimate the power of this technique.  It is crippling to debt.  Debt is defenseless against it!  Throw that extra cash right down on the principle of your payments.

Consider downgrading on bigger ticket items too.  Maybe you made a large purchase a few years ago and it turns out you don’t really use that thing as much as you thought.  Either sell it and don’t replace it, or replace it with a cheaper model and pocket the difference.  I did this when I was into photography, a few times actually.  I went from having a few thousand dollars worth of gear down to a couple hundred and I don’t regret it at all.  I did the same thing with some guitars I had.  I had four of them, but why did I need four?

Parting with your belongings can be tough.  Just remember that they aren’t what makes you happy and they are replaceable.  One thing The Minimalists say, that I love, is if you can replace it for less than $20, in less than 20 minutes, and you haven’t used it in a while, get rid of it.  They call it the 20/20 rule.  Don’t hang on to things because you might use it someday.  This is how you become a packrat and waste your hard earned money.  “Oh, this would be nice to have when we have a party.”  That is the WRONG mentality if you are trying to escape the grips of consumerism.  Wait until you have the party, then decide if you need it.  I’m sure the party would have been just as fun without that gizmo anyway.

Remind yourself that you care about your freedom more than your things and you’d rather have the luxury of doing whatever the hell you want in life than the luxury items.