Weekly Update: Week 20

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

I went to another free concert with my husband this week. This week’s concert was free due to the Ticketmaster settlement.  I was one of those lucky people who was part of the settlement and got free ticket voucher codes. A concert I actually really wanted to see finally came up in our area (well, within driving distance to a neighboring city). The myriad restrictions on using the codes had rendered them unusable up until this point so I was really excited to get to use at least one of the codes before their 2020 expiration. We spent way too much money on “premiere parking” and a $6(!!!!) lemonade. It was 80 degrees, even after the sun went down and we had been sitting in the lawn section, uncovered for hours at that point. I was hot and drinks were not allowed in the venue–Trust me, I considered bringing a bottle of water from home. I was glad I didn’t, though, as there were groups of people standing by the entrance, chugging drinks from their bag after security told them they were not allowed inside with them. I consoled myself that at least we didn’t pay for tickets, and I chose a $6 lemonade instead of a $15 cocktail. Despite being a fan of this band since before puberty, I didn’t even look at merch, which I was proud of myself for. I know I would have been too tempted to buy a shirt I would have worn once or twice.

This weekend, we prioritized relationships.  We had an impromptu Netflix-and-chill movie night at home with close friends (another married couple) and on Saturday we went to a friends’ son’s birthday party and caught up with people we haven’t seen for awhile.  We did give a physical gift, but skipped the card (kids hate those anyway…)

On Saturday, I also prioritized health and had a 90 minute massage. When I previously signed up for the membership, they gave me a coupon for $10 off an upgrade for my next massage, with upgrade options of aromatherapy, foot exfoliation, scalp massage or extended time. I chose to extend the time from 60 to 90 minutes.  This normally would have been $30, but with the coupon it was $20. I spent $20 on the additional time, plus a tip for the massage therapist.

I was informed by a mechanic friend when he heard of the recurring issues with the windows in my car that this has to do with the heat causing the rubber around the windows to stick to it, causing the window mechanism to break. This can be resolved by using a silicone spray to keep the rubber lubricated and keep it from sticking. I finally bought some from Amazon, in addition to some new windshield wipers (the heat also causes windshield wipers to wear out faster this time of year.)

Also, we replaced lightbulbs in the living room and a nightlight in the bathroom, which both happened to burn out in the last week. (Mercury is in retrograde, for those who believe in those types of things.)

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

Love 41 came out with limited edition rose gold leather items, including a set of rose gold leather pouches. I wanted them, but they were pricey due to their “limited edition” status and sold out fairly quickly. This made me reconsider the Koch Leather pouches I had previously talked myself out of buying. I managed to talk myself out of buying them again. I use a pouch daily to transport work essentials in my work bag. Using pouches keeps the bags organized and makes it easy to switch between bags. The pouch holds my notary stamp, a few pens, eyeglass wipes, a mini stapler, my bluetooth headset and my headphones. The $10 fabric pouch I got from an Aeropostale store closing sale about a year ago is starting to fray and the zipper is starting to stick. The cheap, plastic-y fake leather handle won’t last long, either. I can hold out on replacing it, though.

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $0

Running Total: $2582

Minimalism and Mindfulness

As you may know, I am a yoga teacher in addition to being a lawyer.  While I preach mindfulness to my students, I do not always embody the mindfulness and presence I ask my students to practice.  Not even the Dalai Lama himself would claim to be mindful 100% of the time.  That’s why we call it a “practice” – it is not something we can become or a goal we can obtain.  There is no end to it; it is a constant practice.  Some days, it is easier and other days it is harder to be undistracted and mindful.  In our busy modern lives, it is almost impossible to remain mindful all of the time.  The human brain is not even made to function that way.

I have been to a few concerts recently, and it got me thinking about mindfulness and presence.  One of the concerts, an evening concert in a neighboring city, took us longer than anticipated to get to with the rush hour traffic.  I had taken a supplement that induces calm and reduces my anxiety before leaving, not realizing at that point that we would end up an hour late for the concert.  Well into the drive, I mentioned to my husband that I had taken the supplement.  He responded, “I’m not surprised.”  When I asked him why he responded that way, he pointed out that I am much calmer than I would normally be in such a situation, stating accurately that I “have anxiety when we’re going to be on time.”  It’s true: I plan to be a minimum of 5-10 minutes early for everything.  That way if traffic is bad, or I can’t find a place to park, or I have trouble finding the location, I will not be late.  I don’t remember the last time I was late for anything.  Even as the rain started to come down, HARD, I remained calm.

Somehow, without this anxiety, I was able to see the truth as we fought rush hour to get to our destination: we will get there when we get there, and there’s not much I can do at this point to get us there any faster.  We ended up being an hour late to the concert.  People who plan concerts obviously anticipate a large crowd that might take awhile to arrive, park, get through security, find their seats, get concessions and/or merch, etc.  I kid you not: we staked out a spot on the lawn and, as we sat down on our blanket, the crowd went wild as the first band took the stage and began to play.  We didn’t miss a thing.  Somehow, the rain had missed the area and the grass was dry and the weather could not have been more perfect.  As the sun set over the amphitheater and the sky turned gorgeous colors accompanied by the music, I could not have imagined a more perfect evening.

Had I spent the entire drive tense and miserable, anticipating when we would arrive at the concert, that wouldn’t have changed a thing other than me spending that time in a bad mood instead of an okay mood.  Minimalism is about recognizing what serves us and removing everything that doesn’t to better concentrate on what does.  Worrying if we were going to miss anything or if we would find parking or a spot to sit when we got there wouldn’t change a thing; it wouldn’t make parking more abundant or create a space for us to sit.  That anxiety and worry does not serve any purpose and, like anything we don’t find useful, we should let it go.

As the night went on, I sang along with the songs and watched the lead singer dance and jump and generally entertain us, as lead singers tend to do.  My mellow mood gave way to beautiful moments of total clarity and presence.  The slightly prickly feeling of grass under me, the sounds of the music and the crowd cheering, the smell of…well, I’ll let you imagine what it smelled like.  In between these mindful and present moments, I was also on my phone way more than I wanted to be.  I was taking photos and posting them on social media; checking to see if the photos had any more “likes” or comments; and texting the pictures to my parents, who don’t follow my social media postings that closely.

I wasn’t the only one on the phone more than I should have been.  At one point, the lead singer noticed a fan in the front row recording with her phone.  He motioned for her to hand him the phone, which she did, and he began to sing into it for the next two verses, taking the video of himself as if taking a selfie.  I had to point this out to my husband, who missed it because he was on his phone…

Weekly Update: Week 19

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

I ended up getting free tickets for a concert this week.  Friday night my hubby and I had a much-needed date night that cost nothing more than $5 to park at the concert venue. We ate dinner before we left and didn’t even get drinks from the bar!

On Saturday, we spent the day out with friends.  We went to a nearby town to shop and eat in their downtown area.  I found a local metaphysical shop and bought myself a vial of an essential oil blend (unique to the store and mixed by the store owner) and a small amazonite crystal.  (I know, I know, I have so many crystals, but it is pretty, it cost $1.50 for the small stone, which fits in the bowl with my others.)  I nearly bought a new teacup as well, but talked myself out of it long enough that the antique shop had closed when I went back.  We also had a late lunch/early dinner out.  You might consider it a year of buying nothing fail, dear readers, but the stone looks similar to the larimar I’ve been coveting without the hefty price tag.  Cut me some slack?

On Sunday, we spent time with my sister-in-law and had dinner out afterwards, as it had been a long week and we didn’t feel like cooking.  We ate every other meal at home all week besides dinner on Saturday and Sunday.  We even ate at home before going out on Friday night to the concert. I think we did pretty good, though I would rather not have eaten out 2 nights in a row.

A great thing about this experiment is that it has helped me identify my spending triggers. Emotional spending is a thing for me and I’m more likely to spend money when I am feeling strong emotions–retail therapy for strong negative emotions or reward/celebration when feeling strong positive emotions about something.  When I have extra money due to taking on extra work, it burns a hole in my pocket.  It feels like I deserve to spend it.  I’ve been learning how to resist these triggers.  My mood has been pretty low since my husband’s financial infidelity was revealed, and it is evident in my shopping behaviors.  (See how much more than normal I “would have bought” this week and last week!)

This experiment has also shown me the power of minimalism–Being with friends and family this weekend helped my low mood immeasurably.  Just goes to show what is possible when we make time for our highest priorities.  There are many other ways minimalism has improved my life as well, making more time and money for the important things and allowing me to afford unexpected expenses, like the recent car repair, without stressing.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

  1. Empress watch.  Yes, this is from Rue La La.  (I should definitely get around to deleting that app.)  This is a unique watch and somewhat of a statement piece–it definitely makes people take notice.  It doesn’t look anything like my other watches and the brand seems to enjoy a good reputation.  Unlike my other watches, which require batteries, this is powered by the automatic movement of the wearer’s wrist.

New watch

2.  Tahari Black suit.  (Also Rue La La).  $100 is a good price for a decent 2-piece suit.  Black suit

3.  Tahari Navy suit.  The buttons and slits in the front of the skirt add a modern twist and adds interest to the standard navy suit.  I think I could pull this piece off.

Blue jacketBlue skirt

4.  White blouse.  A standard white blouse is a safe bet for office/professional dress.  Can be paired with pencil skirt, pants, or suit for no-brainer outfit selection.

White blouse tie

5.  Gavin DeGraw tank.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan.  His Facebook page recently announced new merch for the new tour and this tank is gorgeous.  It would probably be very flattering on me as well.

Gavin Degraw tank

6.  CD from concert.  Instead, I am going to get a few of his older albums from the local library to listen to.

7.  Ring upgrade.  To be honest, after learning of my husband’s financial infidelity last week, I have not been my best self.  Faced with the reality of the scrimping and saving we will both have to do to pay off his secret debt, my mind turned to payback and I considered some revenge debt.  While he was (unbeknownst to me) racking up significant credit card debt, my husband talked me out of an engagement ring upgrade that would have been less than 1/4 the amount of debt he was in the process of racking up.  30 months interest free financing right now as well, plus they will cover 2 payments!!!!!  Why shouldn’t I get something nice, too? We could (probably) pay it off within 30 months. Maybe a diamond tennis bracelet to go with that ring upgrade as well. Don’t mind if I do.  (I didn’t really.  Unlike him, I couldn’t do something so selfish.)

Idc interest free

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $430 (not including contemplated jewelry purchases)

Running Total: $2852 

Minimalist Yoga Practice

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I am a firm believer that a philosophy like minimalism applies to every aspect of our lives.  From the clothes we wear, to what we eat, to how we decorate, minimalism can influence it all.

Of all things, I find that minimalism has influenced my yoga practice.  A certain amount of “I don’t care what you think” is present in pretty much anyone who would identify as a minimalist.  Nowhere is this more evident in my life than in my yoga practice.  As someone who does not look like the “average yogi,” it can be intimidating to step into a yoga studio, even as the teacher.  It’s hard not to feel judged.  I used to strain and push myself into poses I was not ready for.  I would feel like a failure for not taking the most advanced version of every pose.  I would refuse props and modifications.

As I progressed in my practice, I realized that the most advanced yogis weren’t huffing and puffing or holding their breath, straining to make themselves do what the teacher is doing.  The advanced yogis didn’t take the most advanced version of every pose.  They didn’t judge themselves and force themselves into the pose because they could do it last week.  They are mindful of their body and only do what feels good.  They recognize what feels good and works in their body this week might not work next week, and that’s ok.  They realize there are lots of reasons for this—maybe that pose was later in the sequence last week and they were more warmed up; maybe for whatever reason, they are not mentally or physically 100% today.  The lack of comparison that is so essential to practice minimalism also serves me well in my yoga practice.

I, like so many other people, love the gorgeous, well-curated highlight reel of a famous yogi’s Instagram page.  Perfect bodies contorted into perfect poses with perfect scenery.  I understand why people envy those yogis and want to be able to do the pose they saw on Instagram.  I have very little use for most “advanced” poses.  There are very few out there that do not have a more “basic” pose with nearly identical benefits and less risk of injury.  Keep it simple.

Having been involved in multiple car accidents in the past, there are limits to what I can ask my neck and shoulders to do.  Shoulderstand in particular, but many inversions are not part of my practice.  I used to be embarrassed when a teacher would offer several inversion options and I would stay in “waterfall” pose, simply laying with legs lifted towards the ceiling, or maybe “sleeping tiger,” with both arms and legs lifted.  I wasn’t the only one, but as other yogis around me would effortlessly press up into a headstand or shoulderstand, I would close my eyes and judge myself harshly.

Now, I have no problem modifying if I need a modification (or even if the modification just makes it more comfortable).  I am unashamed to take a break when I need it; stay where I feel comfortable, even if that’s not the most advanced version of the pose; skip a vinyasa if I need to/want to; reject poses altogether if they have the potential to aggravate old injuries.

Keeping things simple is key advice for all aspects of life.  When you break it down, that’s really what minimalism is all about; keeping it simple.  Eliminating the excess to concentrate on the important stuff.  That applies to everything.  Even Yoga.

Weekly Update: Week 18

Last month, I accepted another side job and have additional income.  I thought now that there’s some more breathing room in our budget, it might be a good time to have a budget discussion with my husband.  We pay bills out of our joint account, but maintain separate accounts to pay personal expenses.  My husband has always talked about owning property as a goal.  I am quite happy to continue renting and allowing a landlord to take care of repairs, but have adopted property ownership as a goal because it is a goal my husband has had since we moved in together.  Following a period of unemployment, I have been underemployed until recently.  With our combined incomes now having even more breathing room over and above our necessary bills, I sat down and drew up a budget.  It was at this point that my husband revealed to me that our financial situation is not as I thought.

Despite having an understanding that neither of us would carry a balance on our credit cards, he has violated this and actually owes a significant sum spread over multiple credit cards. With his credit card payments, plus my student loans, we don’t actually have much breathing room at all.  This puts the goal of owning property off for at least 3-5 years, rather than the 1-2 years I had been anticipating. This is why minimalism can be so helpful. Keeping goals in mind, minimalism helps us keep our eyes on the prize, financially and otherwise.  My husband lost sight of his goal of property ownership and got distracted by stuff and this is the devastating result. This puts a huge damper on our upcoming vacation to Los Angeles, as I planned it assuming we had no debt other than my student loans.  In light of this new information about our financial situation, an expensive vacation seems so irresponsible and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to enjoy it now.

It was pretty painful to uncover this financial infidelity, but we are working through it. All of his new purchases lately annoyed me enough when I assumed he was just wasting his paycheck on all of the new things he has bought in recent months.  Knowing now that he has gone into debt for these things, most of which I tried to dissuade him from buying, or didn’t really bother him about in the first place because he assured me he would pay for it himself is painful.  I would suggest that any couples definitely talk about money on a regular basis.  Up until this point, we hadn’t talked much about money.  There was enough in the joint account to pay our bills, and I didn’t really question too much where the rest of it was going as he makes the majority of the money right now.  He is a decade into his tech/finance career and I am just starting out, making entry level salaries at my various legal and non legal jobs, trying to cobble together a living in a tough legal job market.  Learn from my mistakes and talk about money with your partner.  Now.  Seriously.  Don’t wait.

On a lighter note, I made an eBay sale! Haven’t sold anything in awhile, so that felt good. It was only a small thing, but it is no longer cluttering up my closet. I also discovered this week that people sometimes sell “mystery boxes” on eBay, in which sellers include a bunch of random items, usually for $30 or less. This may be a good solution for all those random odds and ends that aren’t valuable enough to sell on their own.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, DID I SPEND MONEY ON THIS WEEK?

Last weekend, we went to a wedding of an acquaintance of my husband.  We gifted the couple a good bottle of bourbon.  (Consumables, ftw!).  We were supposed to celebrate the birthday of my husband’s coworker at a pricey hibachi, Benihana-type restaurant, but I asked him to cancel in light of the financial infidelity he had revealed to me earlier that day.

WHAT ELSE WOULD I HAVE BOUGHT?

This week, I wanted EVERYTHING that was on sale on Rue La La (Somebody PLEASE take my phone and delete the app from it!)

  1. Prada sunglasses.  I have 2 pairs of sunglasses, but my favorite pair is getting a little long in the tooth. (2 pairs may seem like quite a lot, but I have one black and one brown pair, and I wear sunglasses year-round in this climate.)  The other pair I’ve honestly never been crazy about, and I think I might list on eBay.

Prada sunglasses

2. Shorts.  I liked these shorts; particularly, the sizable pockets.  With very few exceptions, women’s pants either come without pockets or with pockets that are so small, they are not really functional.

Rue shorts

3. Blouses.  In particular, a white collared shirt is extremely useful in my profession and many of my blouses will have to be replaced when the year of buying nothing is over, but it can wait.

Total amount I saved that I would have spent this week: $469

Running Total: $2422

The Importance of Defining Priorities

Becoming a minimalist starts by getting really honest about your priorities and values. When we define what our priorities are, we can focus any available resources on those priorities.  For example, if health is a high priority, defining it as such will assist in providing the motivation necessary to allocate extra resources to this priority.  Write them down in an easily accessible place.  When there is extra time, for example, we are much likelier to spend that time getting some exercise or preparing healthful foods than watching television and ordering pizza again if we have defined health as a priority.

We should consult this list of priorities every time we have free time or disposable income.  If relationships are a priority, rather than wasting another weekend away not doing much of anything, perhaps calling a parent or sibling, inviting a friend over or planning a trip to see family members might take precedence.  Let’s not fool ourselves; we have time, we may just have to use our time differently.  Those things we “don’t have time for” we’re usually just not prioritzing.  Instead of saying “I don’t have time for x,” let’s try saying “x isn’t a priority.”  If that doesn’t feel good, change it.  Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists often says, “show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities.”  Often, it’s not that we truly don’t have enough time, it’s that we prioritize the wrong things.

Every time we consider making a purchase, consider whether it contributes to any of the top priorities.  If not, why would we want it?  Do we actually really want it, or do we just think it would impress people if they see us with it?  If we’re honest, we’re often spending money in a futile attempt to impress other people.  When we have free time, we might ask ourselves what we can do that might advance one of those priorities.

Considering the stories I told in my previous entry about the people who made rude comments about possessions of mine, who wouldn’t feel pressured to impress?  I still feel a twinge of shame thinking about those stories.  They were hard to share.  I wonder how many other people notice my ring and think negative things about my ring, my husband or our relationship.  I wonder how many people see me drive around in my nearly 10 -year-old vehicle and think less of me or my abilities as a lawyer.  (Thinking, for example, that because I don’t drive a fancy car, I must not have much money and, therefore must not be very successful or a very good lawyer.)  This line of thought is so toxic.  It is inconceivable to many in our society that one might be able to afford a new car and choose not to in order to focus on other priorities.  Just because I don’t have a newer car, it’s assumed I can’t afford one, which in turn reflects poorly on my perceived “success”. That just comes down to a faulty definition of “success”.  My husband and I get our bills paid, have enriching and memorable experiences together, and generally enjoy the hell out of our lives.  I consider that successful.

We tend to be impressed by ostentatious displays of wealth because we don’t know other people’s financial situation.  But why do we assume that people can afford everything they own – and even if they can, what does it matter?  Perhaps they scrimped and saved for a long time to buy that Rolex–maybe they just put it on the credit card they still haven’t paid off.  Many of those people who seem to have the latest and greatest of everything are often very deeply in debt. Why would we follow that example? What are we trying to prove?

That’s where priorities come in.  Making my car last for as long as it makes financial and practical sense to keep it on the road will allow me to allocate those resources to paying off debt and going on the vacations my husband and I have planned over the next few years without the added burden of a car payment.

When we put our priorities at the forefront, it is harder to get distracted by the rest.  I don’t care if someone thinks I need a newer car.  When I have in mind what I’m saving for and how trying to live up to other people’s expectations could prevent me from reaching my financial and other goals, it’s easy to reject other people’s criticism—even if it is so direct and blunt as the rude people in my stories.  Being overly concerned with what other people think of us is just wasted energy.  At the end of the day, we are the only ones that need to be satisfied with our decisions.  Those people won’t help us make the payments after shaming us into getting “a car that isn’t old.”

I don’t need to “upgrade” my engagement ring so people think I’m more successful.  Owning expensive things was never my measure of success anyway.  I don’t need to buy a newer or more expensive car so people so people think I’m powerful.  There’s no need for me to justify my financial and other priorities to them or anyone other than myself and my husband.  Why do I care what I they think?  If you take one thing away from this blog, dear reader, let it be this: The type of people who would make such comments are not the type of people we really need in our lives.