Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
–St. Francis de Sales
It seems that the world has gone absolutely mad, and there is no longer a place that we can be completely safe. After the events that transpired in Pensacola at the Navy base, I was beside myself, as my own son is about to commission as an officer in the Navy and will be going to train in January. Three young men, who wanted to serve this country … gone.
Today, I received an email in the “just one yes” campaign from The Arlington Diocese (one which I signed up to receive). In it was the quote above. Was it perfect timing or an answer to the never ending questions I had for God all weekend? I believe it was the latter. I’m grateful to receive it.
Worry can suck the life out of you. However, faith will allow you to realize that someone else really is in charge. You can be vigiliant, of course, and you must be. But worry won’t change what will be. A lesson I will need to remember.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” – Buddha
I’m grateful for:
My soon-to-be Navy Ensign son being home for a whole week.
I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of the season. I don’t like all the shopping, spending and decorating. (Nor do I like the shorter days and cold weather.) However, over the years, I’ve learned how to re-create the holiday for myself — making it truly a season of love and joy. I thought I would share the ways I’ve changed it up for myself, and perhaps they may inspire you as well.
7 ways (I’m making) the Christmas truly a season of joy and love.
1. STICK to a budget. I used to spend more money than I had on Christmas that debt was always inevitable in January, February & March. My love for my kids was enormous, and so was my spending. However, spending more money than you have is never a good plan, as the pain of the bills in the following year can attest.
2. STAY out of stores. Online shopping and wish lists actually help me stick to a dollar amount. I’m not swayed by all the goodies that line the aisles in stores this time of year. And there are plenty. I’m not like my husband who can just walk by them. I see them, and suddenly I believe someone on my list needs them. I’ve already done 90% of my shopping online, and I’m UNDER budget. Woot!!
3. USE up what I already have. This one should be a no brainer for me, but every year I buy more wrapping supplies. Why would I want to store so much Christmas wrapping paper when it only comes once a year? Wrapping paper can fade over the years, and then it is unusable. Yesterday I pulled out everything I have and it appears I have enough to use for the next two years. No purchasing of new wrapping supplies this year. 🙂
4. DECORATE simply. Clutter causes anxiety for me. I like clean surfaces and non-cluttered spaces. I used to decorate every nook and cranny of my house. I spent more money than I would like to admit on garlands, wreaths, lights. By December 26th I was at my wits end, and needed to get it all down. It was that stressful for me. I used to think it was Christmas itself that caused the anxiety, but it was actually all the stuff. I now decorate using the KonMarie method. Does the decoration spark joy? If yes = Keep. If No = Get rid of. My decorations consist of one artificial pencil tree with all of my special ornaments, one decorated mantle with Christmas Vacation houses and characters, three wreaths, a tall snowman and a Nativity display. It’s the perfect amount for me.
5. CREATE traditions. We have several traditions that we keep alive and well every Christmas season. The one I love the most is Christmas Eve, where we all gather for a delicious meal, (pasta, shrimp and scallops, cannolis), and open one gift. Of course, there have been others when my kids were young, such as baking cookies, driving through a Festival of Lights display, watching Christmas Vacation and hunting for the perfect Christmas tree. Traditions, more so than gifts, are what makes Christmas so very special.
6. MANAGE expectations. I created my kids’ expectations for LOTS of gifts on Christmas morning. And honestly, they didn’t expect or ask for it. It was all ME. BUT the reality was that I couldn’t afford it. Those were high expectations, and ones I couldn’t sustain. Sometime in the middle of their childhood, when I was slowly changing the way I ‘did’ Christmas, I changed it up to giving each kid just 5 gifts: 1. Something you want, 2. something you need, 3. something wear and 4. something to read. PLUS, a Santa gift. They LOVED it. And for the first time, I stayed within my budget. Who knew it could be that easy?
“Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change.” – Tony Robbins
Which brings me to my last way, and perhaps the most important.
7. CULTIVATE daily gratitude. Remembering the reason for the season is very helpful in getting me through it with love and grace. Being grateful for everything I already have, will leave room in my heart for a peaceful, joyful holiday.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
If you are overwhelmed with the season, I hope these ideas helped you. If you have any other ways you like to celebrate, please share!
How does one save a bunch of money really fast? Don’t spend any!
I’ve been revisiting the idea of a spending freeze. I did a successful one for the month of February several years ago. And I saved a bit of money. But as I was perusing the internet, I found one person doing an arbitrary 4-month spending freeze. Hmmm. If I want to save a lotof money fast, why not do more than a month, perhaps a 3-month spending freeze?
We are about to enter my least favorite months of the year Jan/Feb/Mar- which I affectionately call winter suck. Why not do something productive to get ready for spring?
This spending freeze will be about giving up wants. After all, I’m already living with abundance and more than enough. I certainly can go for 90 days without purchasing any more.
The following items are off limits for 90 days: (Every one of these items is a trigger for me.)
Books, cds, dvds
Wine (I may or may not stock up in December)
Planners, stickers, pens (yes, they are a thing)
Trips (other than NY to see my parents)
No online spending (unless it can’t be purchased in a brick/mortar store)
Things I can spend money on:
Groceries (within a budget of $100/week)
Anything that Ben (my sweet, sweet boy) needs
Replacement products (i.e. toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, make up) * Find the cheapest way to replace through coupons, sales
Bills (utilities, mortgage, etc.)
Gasoline (but only one fill up a month for me)
EZ Pass for my husband to go to work
Date night (2x) No need to punish my sweet husband. 🙂
Travel to my parents in NY (a necessity)
Gifts (3 to be exact – 2 birthdays and an anniversary)
Hair cut and color 1x (absolutely, positively necessary.)
If anything else should come up that I didn’t account for, I will update this list. In the meantime, I will work on coming up with at least 100 things to do for free to keep me from spending.
This freeze will officially start January 1st.
I’m actually excited. A challenge that will bear fruit at the end. Money fruit, that is. 😉
After posting about our expenses, the next retirement nut to crack is savings. Do we have enough?
Ah. The million dollar question. Literally.
We used NewRetirement, a free retirement planning tool to figure out if we were on the right track for retirement. After inputting all of our financial information, and with the assumption that we will continue to contribute the maximum to our retirement account over the next four years, we come out with a ‘great’ score for retirement in 4 years.
Our net worth includes retirement accounts, home equity and cash savings. This program also included our mortgage and healthcare expenses, so if we wanted to, based on the above, we could stay in our home.
Thankfully, we have weathered the stormy markets and have come out ahead. We are more conservative investors, and have rarely averaged a 12% return in a years’ time. Our average is closer to 8%. But we still managed to hit the $1M mark. After 35 years of saving in our retirement accounts, we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. 😉
What I LOVE so much about the New Retirement site and the chart they provide, is that it lets you know when your social security starts and when you need to take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from your retirement accounts. It also assumes a 2-3% investment growth, which, to me, is very realistic.
So, do we have enough to cover our expenses and retire in 4 years? I believe we do.
I will follow this post up with a future post on how we managed to accumulate $1.7M in net worth. But for now, know that it took hard work, steady investing and a bit of luck. No inheritance. No rich relatives.
Sometimes I forget to be grateful for all the blessings that have come into my life. Research shows that having a grateful heart improves many aspects of your life. Practicing gratitude is on my ‘to do’ list nearly every day, but sometimes I let that slip.
Here is this space, where I’m documenting my life and money, I thought I would add in something just as important, if not more. My weekly gratitude.
Here’s what comes to mind for this week (not in any order).
I’m grateful for….
The sunshine that streams in my kitchen each morning.
The hot coffee that warms me up.
The warm bed that I awake from each morning.
The soft sheets that I straighten out to make my bed.
Friends who meet me for my morning walk, and of course, the ability to walk. I never want to take that for granted.
My husband, who leaves before the crack of dawn to go to work to support me.
My sweet boy Ben, a dog who is as loyal as they come.
My children and their children.
Crisp fall weather.
Another trip to get excited over.
Your turn. What are you grateful for this week? Please share.