It seems we live in an age of extremes. Extreme sports. Extreme political views. Extreme fiscal challenges. Extreme incivility.
As a public employee, I find myself a scapegoat for the apparent evil befalling our country. Too much government. The message has been loud and clear. I don’t deserve my salary. I don’t deserve my benefits. I have it too easy.
I attended a meeting today in which I was told I may see a 10% reduction in my salary next year (on top of the 5.8% reduction I experienced this past year) or I could work more hours (a total of 19 days) to make the same salary. I gotta tell you I am a positive person, but this is getting pretty heavy.
So, what does a public employee do when faced with these challenges? I choose to embrace extreme minimalist living.
What have I given up this past year? Here’s my top 10:
- Starbucks, Caribou Coffee and all other Coffee Houses
- Purchasing books and magazines- I use OverDrive, Freading and walk to my public library to loan books and magazines for my reading habit
- Travel – it is nice to just stay home
- Paid apps – free apps are plentiful
- New clothes – I downloaded the free Nike Training Club app, gave up sugar and am losing weight because I need to look good in the clothes I already own rather than purchasing clothes that (I think) make me look good
- Trips to stores. If I don’t browse, I don’t purchase.
- Eating out
- Purchasing gifts – now I make my gifts from items in my home
- Trying to get anywhere fast – if I accelerate slowly and coast (a lot) I get better gas mileage… and better yet, if I just walk or bike
- Entertainment that costs money
What have I embraced in the past year? Here’s my top 10:
- Paying off my home mortgage faster by paying more each month
- Über Budgeting
- Extreme Couponing and designing meals around local grocery store weekly deals
- Repurposing items in my home
- Shopping my closet
- Goodwill – who knew you could purchase a J.Crew sweater for $4.99?
- Pinterest – free recipes and a million DIY ideas
- Staying connected with family, friends and news through email, Flipboard, Facebook and Twitter
- Vinegar – Did you know that vinegar is an inexpensive alternative to weed killers and drain cleaners?
- Water – The free drink of choice
And this lifestyle change is paying off. We recently had our lowest credit card statement since the 1980s. My husband was astounded and I was presented with a new challenge. To beat that low number. I am on pace this month to spend even less. I can’t wait to see our next bill.
Extreme minimalist living has been a change but very rewarding. With a reduced income, life becomes very simple. Time with family, using your talents, depending on yourself. Reminds me of lessons from my grandparents who lived on the prairies of North Dakota. Stuff is stuff but family and friends are not only priceless, they are free.
Scott Stapp’s song, The Great Divide, is one of my favorites. Enjoy the music and may you also be set ‘free’ to live your life…