This post was originally titled “Saying No, Just For Now”. But that’s too final for what we want to talk about. We learned that there’s no shame in putting things on hold if they don’t fit in our life right now. It’s not about saying “no”, but prioritizing what is important and what is not. If we cannot commit to something 100%, maybe we will sometime in the future. Saying “not yet” leaves space for something to return when it does finally fit. There’s nothing stopping a goal or dream from returning. But for now, it must be let go.
2016 has been a year of change for Team Rustic Walks. It was our first full year of living together, which gave us a surprising insight into what was working for us and what wasn’t. Things like spending willy-nilly, letting our health decline, and filling our home with excess stuff. We saw these problems, and we made a pledge to fix them. By the end of 2016, we wanted to give ourselves space physically and mentally to figure out what’s truly important.
We’re in the homestretch of 2016, and along with the shorter days and falling temperatures comes a mountain of year-end stress. Pressure to fill our calendar with holiday gatherings, project deadlines, doctor’s appointments, and tax preparations. Attempts to throw a hail mary at our goals for the year before time runs out. As if these obligations vanish on January 1st, 2017. We’re learning that is certainly not the case.
The past three weeks have felt like a bombardment of distractions. There’s been a constant humming of noise, just in our periphery, that makes meeting our obligations that much harder. Maybe it’s the holiday season and all that goes with it, or perhaps we’re especially busy trying to juggle competing demands. So many things need our attention, but we only have so much attention to give. As a result, some things may have slipped through the cracks. We’re coming out of this fog now, but the battle against noise is far from won.
In a recent post about Minimalism vs Frugality, Ms. Rustic Walks mentioned that just under a year ago, we discovered who are likely the first two people anyone researching this stuff would come across: The Minimalists. Their message sat well with us: less is more. We found that we had a good amount of things, but they were not improving our life anymore.
For years, I have had an aversion to clutter. Keeping my life in order physically meant less work for my future self when looking for something, or needing to run out the door. Meanwhile, Ms. RW moved around a lot and had to keep her possessions to a minimum. We both already had a predisposition to curating our possessions, but we needed extra motivation to get rid of things we no longer needed.
We’ve all seen the headlines crediting the revitalization of cities to millennials. Yes, those pourover-sipping, blanket-scarf-wearing, bicycle-riding young people want easy access to jobs, culture, and community. They want walkable neighborhoods, fancy coffee shops, and boutique stores selling artisan crafts. Where’s the easiest place to find all these things? Surprisingly, it’s not where you would expect.
Nine months ago we discovered The Minimalists and fell headfirst into intentional living. The philosophy appealed to our habit of binge cleaning our apartment every few weeks. Clutter stresses us out, especially when it takes over our tiny apartment. We knew decluttering would help us confront our weak spots (like the black hole that is our closet), as well as get rid of useless junk that doesn’t bring value to our life. What we didn’t expect was the impact minimalism would have in another area: our finances.
Lately we’ve noticed something strange. At least it seems strange to us. A lot of folks seem to be staring down at their phones. Like all the time. It’s increasingly common to see people watching YouTube videos on the subway rather than reading a book or newspaper. People walk into oncoming traffic because they’re busy checking their email. Selfies and tweets get round-the-clock coverage on cable news networks.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these occurrences. Social media is an important source of communication for millions of people. But the fact that the average American spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook is rather alarming, especially since there’s hundreds of social media apps out there. Are we the only ones that think this is weird? Have we gone full-throttle minimalist?!
Take a look at your wallet. Is it packed full of cash, credit cards, business cards, I.D. cards, pictures and more? Do you have a dozen or more items on your key chain? Are your pockets stuffed when you head out for the day?
I cannot stand the feeling of reaching into my pockets and not being able to pull something out with ease. It’s cumbersome, and it makes me feel like I’m lugging around much more than I need to. Because of this, a few years back, I went through everything I was carrying with me on a daily basis and really thought about if I actually needed it, or if it had just found a home in the stuff that I throw in my pockets each morning. Eventually my wallet went from a tri-fold to a bi-fold to a sleeve, and my keychain went from fourteen items to a mere five, of which I’m currently considering dropping down to two. …
When I first started diving deep into the personal finance community, the first tenant of Personal Finance 101 that stuck with me was the importance of a budget. There’s no way to know where your money goes without keeping track of it. It’s the same as monitoring your data usage. When you get an alert that you’re about to go over your data for the month, you start hunting down all the Wi-Fi hotspots within a three mile radius so you can stay under the limit. Budgets mean nothing if you don’t keep track of your spending.
Unfortunately, my idea of budgeting was to spend whatever I wanted and hope that it stayed within my budget. Most months this strategy was a complete fail. I logged into Mint every day to check up on my progress, but as the month continued and my budgets teetered on going over I ignored the spending alerts in my inbox and carried on my merry way. Then I’d go over my budget by $100-$200 and wonder what went wrong. Mint told me that I’d gone over on groceries, shopping, and the illusive “Everything Else”, but it offered no advice on how to change my habits. Even worse, I told myself I would do better next month to make up for it, but I didn’t identify where I’d slipped up and what adjustments I should make.