Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Your Debt

If your financial goal this year is to get out of debt, you’ll first need to figure out what your debt is. We knew we were ready to face the music when we felt the weight of our debt. We knew it was probably going to be a lot, but soon found out that it was a lot plus another $10,000.

If you’re ready to rid the burden and weight that is debt, follow these simple steps to help you identify your debt and then we can start looking at ways to attack it.

calculate debt

 

How to Determine How Much you Owe 

Make a List of Everyone You Owe: Gather up your statements and print off a copy of your credit report. Listed on your credit report will be all companies that you have credit with and how much you owe as of the last time it was reported (this may not be updated every month, so it’s always good to check the latest balance on the statements or online).

It is a good idea to check it on an annual basis anyway to make sure that the information is up to date and there aren’t any errors or possible fraud. You can obtain a free credit report here .

credit report credit score

Find out Everything You Can About Your Debts: You’ll want to find out the following about each of your debts:

  • The total amount owed
  • The minimum payment for each of your debts
  • The interest rate
  • When each payment due (monthly, quarterly, annually)
  • If it is an installment loan, the date when that debt is scheduled to be paid off.

 

Assess Your Situation:  Although this may seem scary, remember that this is just the starting point and it’s only going to get better from here.

  • First, add up the total amount of debt you owe. This may number may seem scary and overwhelming, but remember it won’t be that number for long because we were going to be knocking it down.

buried under a pile of debt

  • Next, take the amount of all of your minimum payments and add them up. This the minimum amount of money that you owe on your debt every month. Again, this can be overwhelming depending on the amount of debt that you have, but those payments will seem more manageable once you start eliminating those bills.

 

The other thing I realized about myself when I added up all of the debt was the amount of money spent to keep up with the Jones’. None of our debt was the result of a medical or financial crisis. It was all just stuff, items purchased to impress. After reading this blog post though, I was happy to know I wasn’t alone.

Now that we have faced the music, let’s look at some different plans of attack and figure out which one will work for you. 

Your Turn! 

  • What would having no more debt payments mean to you?

How Minimalism Can Improve Your Life

Before I discovered minimalism, my life was a mess. I was in debt, my house was full and cluttered, and I was the most unhappy I’d ever been. I had a dead-end job and I was in a relationship that was going nowhere. I could not believe this was my life at the ripe age of 26. Now, as a minimalist, I am traveling the world and living with less stuff than I’ve ever owned. I am living my life on my own terms, largely because I found minimalism.

Minimalism has improved so many areas of my life, and can benefit you as well. Let’s look at the areas of my life that have improved since finding minimalism:

1. Work/Money

Pre-minimalism, I was working at a dead end job that paid me well, but was not satisfying. I was making more than enough money to get by, but I wasn’t saving anything. The weird thing was that I didn’t even know what I was spending money on. When I ran the numbers, I was shocked at how much was going out each month on things like clothes (even though I never had anything to wear), coffees out, snacks, drinks, etc. I wasn’t living extravagantly, but I wasn’t living frugally either.

Post-minimalism, I was debt-free and saving a very large portion of my take-home pay. I was saving sort of on accident, but I soon realized that with this money I could take some time and decide what kind of job I wanted to do. I became financially free, and it was an amazing feeling.

How to start: start keeping track of where your money is going – write it all down. At the end of the week, review your list to see what was necessary and what wasn’t. Cut out those non-necessities!

2. Home

Pre-minimalism, I was living in a very cluttered home with another person. I just dealt with the clutter, or tried to organize it a bit. I constantly had piles of laundry to do on the weekends, and I spent at least one full day every weekend doing chores like cleaning the house, washing the car, and trying to get through some of that laundry.

Post-minimalism, I am traveling the world and living out of a backpack. I have visited over 20 countries and have never felt more free.

How to start: declutter! Tackle a small area each day, and soon you won’t have any non-necessities left.

3. Time

Pre-minimalism, my calendar was always packed full. When I wasn’t cleaning on the weekends, I was attending someone’s birthday party, bridal shower, etc. Some of the events I went to were for people I never even spoke with; they were just friends of family. Post-minimalism, I have reclaimed my time. I now only go to events that I want to go to. I manage my calendar based on how I want it to look, not what I got invited to.

How To Start: decline invitations to events that you don’t want to go to.

 

4. Relationships

Pre-minimalism, I used to go out with friends and be on my phone, waiting for a text from someone or a message to come through. I was always preoccupied and never  truly there.

Post-minimalism, I’ve become a much better listener and friend, and I’ve learned to appreciate the time I spend with others and truly be in the moment. Life is so much better when you aren’t stressed about getting to your next meeting.

How to start: give yourself time between meetings. This way, you can put your phone away when you’re spending quality time with others and enjoy the moment.

These are just four of the many ways that minimalism can impact someone’s life. Minimalism has had such a positive impact on my life and I can’t wait to hear how it’s affected yours!

Your Turn!

  • How has minimalism changed your life?
  • Have you noticed any unexpected changes since going minimalist?

 

Guide to Raising Chicks and How to Set Up a Brooder

You can’t stop looking at pictures of chickens, the sound of their cluck melts your heart, and you catch yourself daydreaming about cooking breakfast with freshly-gathered, blue and brown eggs. It is time for you to get some chickens! How do you get started? Do they sell chickens at the pet store?

I suggest starting with chicks. They grow up quickly and are such a joy to raise. You need to start by setting up a chick nursery called a brooder. My favorite brooder set up is a big, clear-plastic storage bin. The sides are nice and tall and it is easy to clean out.

chick brooder set-up

Setting up a Brooder

  • Storage Bin: Start with a clear plastic storage bin. Make sure the sides are tall. If you are getting several chicks then get the biggest one you can find. You will be surprised by how fast they grow.
  • Bedding: It is very important that chicks are kept dry and warm. I like to lay down several layers of newspaper with a good thick layer of wood chips on top of that. You can use shredded paper or sand as well. Just make sure that whatever you lay down stays dry.
  • Heat source: Chicks are very easily raised on their own, but without a mother hen to keep them warm they need a heat source. You can hang a heat lamp above the bin or buy an electric chick warmer to place down in the brooder.
  • Feed: Chicks grow very fast so they need a good, high-protein chick starter feed. Adding in some dry sand is also important. Chickens don’t chew their food. They need some grit or sand in their gizzard to help “chew” their food.
  • Water: Chicks love to scratch and peck right from day one but can be so messy. Placing a few small bricks (not taller than a couple inches) under the water will help keep their water clean. Make sure to watch them all get up and get water before you walk away. If they can’t get up on the bricks then place on the floor of your brooder until they are a few days old.

chick waterer raised

Now you need chicks

Chicks can be purchased locally at the feed store or ordered from a hatchery and come to you by mail. I prefer to buy locally because the feed store will only have breeds that do well in your climate. If you have a specific breed in mind then ordering from a hatchery is a great way to go.

Keep them warm

When chicks are comfortable they have a sweet little peep that is soft and pleasant. If they are noisy then something is not right. Usually they are cold or their bedding is wet. Keeping a thermometer in the brooder is an easy way to help regulate the temperature. You are aiming for 85-90 degrees under the lamp.

Another way to “read” the temperature is to watch their behavior. If they are all huddled under the lamp and not scratching and pecking then it is too cold. Lowering the heat lamp usually is all it takes to solve that problem. If they are all on the opposite side of the brooder and no one is under the heat lamp then the temperature is too warm. Raise the heat lamp a little. What you are looking to accomplish is the chicks milling around happily, some under the light and some not.

chick brooder set-up

Keep them clean

Aside from keeping chicks warm and dry with plenty of good food and clean water there is not much else a chick needs. In the first couple days you do need to watch out for pasty butt. That is where their poop is runny and sticks to their feathers instead of well formed droppings. If left uncared for it can build up and block their vent which can make them ill.

The good news is that it is super easy to take care of. Just make sure they are kept clean. Use a nice, soft cloth to clean the poop from their feathers. Be very careful to not pull the poop off. Pasty butt is only a problem in the first couple days and can be almost completely eliminated by making sure that they have grit available.

chicks outside

Move them to their coop

As the chicks grow you can slowly raise the lamp. Just watch their behavior and don’t let them get cold. When the chicks can handle 70 degree temps without being cold or crying then they are ready to be moved to their coop. Use common sense at this point. If it is February and 30 degrees outside then it is too cold outside for the chicks.

Eggs!farm fresh eggs

Now just love on those chicks and in five months you will be gifted beautiful, fresh, home grown eggs. When your hens are five months old that is when you will switch their feed from starter/grower feed to layer feed. Starter/grower feed has high protein to support growth and the layer feed has the calcium they need when they have started to lay eggs.

Chickens are one of the easiest farm animals to raise. Keep them warm, fed and watered and they will reward you with constant entertainment and fresh eggs. If I was allowed only one animal I would pick chickens every day of the week.

Your Turn!

  • What most excites you about backyard chickens?
  • Which baby animals have you raised?

Determining What You Actually Spend

In 2015, when my husband and I decided that enough was enough and we were ready to take control of our finances, one of our first steps was to determine what we were actually spending. I knew this was going to be scary. We had been spending more than we were earning and because of it, our debt had been increasing.”

What we didn’t know was where that money was going and how much we were actually spending. So it was time to do what I refer to as a “Spending Analysis”.

money leaving hand

 

I gathered up 6 months worth of bank, credit card, and line of credit statements, a few different colors of highlighters, a calculator, and a tall glass of wine and got to work.

How to do a Spending Analysis

  1. Pick Your Color: I first had to determine which highlighter color would represent a different category of my spending. For example, yellow was any food related purchases including dining out, groceries, and those quick trips to the store for a snack or coffee. Blue was designated for fuel purchases. Pink was clothing and kid related expenses (since most of the clothes purchased were for our growing girls), and green was for any miscellaneous purchases (a.k.a. Target, where you are never able to leave with just one thing).

highlight budget

 

  1.  Start Coloring: I carefully went through each statement, highlighting the purchases and debit transactions according to the categories that I had selected initially. As you go through, you may find that there are more categories than you anticipated in which case you add another highlighter or two.
  1. Time to Start Adding It Up: Once my statements were categorized, it was time to begin adding up all of the expenses. For this I would total up all of my food costs (yellow) and divide by that number by 6 (since I was looking at 6 months worth of statements) to determine what my monthly average was. I repeated this for all of my spending categories.

calculate expenses

 

  1. Letting Reality Sink In: When I sat back and stared at the numbers, I quickly realized where the leaks were. We were spending nearly $1000 a month on food for a family of four which seemed higher than it needed to be. More surprising (although not really if I was honest with myself), was the amount that was being spent at Target (darn you Target Dollar Spot!).

Determining where our money was going helped me to see just how much was being wasted by spending $10 here or $20 there. Although they those smaller purchases don’t feel like much at the time, when you add it all up and see in fact how much money is slipping through your fingers, it is an eye-opening experience.

money slipping through fingers

 

This whole process allowed me to see that we really needed to look for ways to cut our spending and consumption.

Your Turn!

  • What are some of your spending weaknesses?
  • What areas of your spending could you cut back on?

 

What Defines A Minimalist

What is a minimalist? The tricky thing about minimalism is that there isn’t an exact definition. I consider myself a minimalist, but you may not consider me a minimalist. I live out of a backpack, but I don’t own less than 100 things. There is a lot of confusion around what it takes to be considered a minimalist. To help clarify the term, I’ve come up with a few common values that most minimalists have in common.

1. They don’t prioritize things

Minimalists prioritize values over things. This means that they might choose to spend their day working on something they love (for me, it would be photography or hiking) over a day spent mindlessly shopping or engaging in some kind of consumer-related event.  When I began the journey to minimalism, I stopped focusing on buying a new Audi and started focusing on my passions and what I want in life.

2. They live intentionally

Minimalists use their time wisely and intentionally, focusing on what brings the most joy and happiness. Before I discovered minimalism, I would spend my weekends catching up on laundry and dreading the coming work week.

Once I started the journey to minimalism, I began focusing my schedule around doing things that I enjoy fully, instead of just trying to fill my time with something to do. I became so much happier and more fulfilled.

3. They are focused on freedom

A core value of minimalism is the ability to be free. This can mean something different to everyone, but to me it meant getting out of my dead end 9-5 job. Becoming minimalist helped me save enough money to quit my job and pursue my dreams of traveling. I now feel completely free, and I know that if I ever do have to work a typical job again, it will only be temporary. I no longer have to work to live, I now live to work.

4. They invest in quality

Living a minimalist lifestyle means choosing quality over quantity, every time. I would rather have one black tank top that is good quality and will last me years than five black tank tops which will get holes in a few months. Purchasing quality items means that you will need less, and will create a more minimalist and simple wardrobe.

Minimalists don’t just value quality in physical items. Focusing your time and energy on creating quality work, nurturing quality friendships, and preparing high quality, healthful foods are all an important part of the minimalist lifestyle.

5. They are accidental savers

Before minimalism, I was never able to save money, no matter how hard I tried. I missed out on so many trips throughout the years because I was unable to save money. I made enough money to put at least a little aside each paycheck, but without fail, every time I got paid, my last paycheck had already been fully spent. I usually couldn’t even tell you where the money went. I was spending money unintentionally – just picking up things here and there, mostly on impulse.

After my transition to minimalism, I had saved about $15k in five months. I was just living according to my priorities – I was spending my time hiking outside, writing, spending quality time with my family. I wasn’t focused on my bank account, and I wasn’t spending time at the shopping mall or out to expensive dinners anymore. My life became so much more simple, and it felt amazing.

Whether you call yourself a minimalist or not, it’s impossible to deny the benefits of living a more simple lifestyle. Focusing on your passions, concentrating on relationships and activities that bring value to your life; this is what defines a minimalist to me.

Your Turn!

  • How would you define a minimalist?
  • Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
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