Banking on a Prosperous New Year

I’d like to introduce you guys to my friend, Mike Martin.  He has a blog called DREAMER.  Isn’t he a cutie?  {You should hear him talk…one of the sexiest voices to ever grace a microphone.}

I’ve known Mike for…I guess this year it would be a decade.  Back then, he was a struggling musician just trying to get up on stage and play his heart out.  Well, that big guy ended up becoming a good friend over the years.  He was one of the founders of the not-for-profit Olive Branch Society (along with me and a few others).  We were just a group of musicians who got together and wanted to do something about creating peace in our world. 

Since I headed to the bigger lights, bigger city, OBS basically dissolved.  We took our projects elsewhere.  I became a writer…and well, Mike continued doing what he’s so passionate about doing…being that rocker, who’s a little bit country…and being that guy that is constantly trying to make a difference in this world…all the way in Muncie, Indiana (home of Ball State University).

Change always begins with yourself.  His blog aims to change people from the get go.  With that good change inside, you start to generate good works that you share with the world.  It’s basically the correct way in generating good karmic stability in the universe where everyone can prosper from its good tidings.

While reading Mike’s blog, I noticed he put up a picture of his bedroom.  Now, before I describe HIS bedroom…let me describe mine.  It’s got so much stuff in it that I am actually ordering new closets to be installed along the walls so that I can house my designer wardrobe, purses, accessories and jewelry without feeling so cluttered in (keep in mind that my closet is super tiny, so my wardrobe has kind of fallen out).  I’m making sure it’s nice enough to take with me when I move.

As for Mike’s room…his entire being is: a bed, a desk, 2 chairs and a coffee maker. 

I think I should send Mike an invitation to visit me in NYC and help me sort out my stuff before I ship it all to Morocco.  Just this last week, I acquired 5 new handbags.  Thank goodness they were all gifts…but you see where my clutter is going. 

And yes, I NEED every single one of those bags.  I might as well start renting out the ones I’m not using while I’m carrying around a different bag.

At any rate, Mike’s minimalist approach is something to think about as we go into this new year.  Practicing being frugal and not over-commercializing our homes with clutter that we just had to have…actually leads to a happier life, believe it or not.

In Morocco, I was astounded at how people needed nothing but food and water.  Like Mike says, they don’t even need shelter.  Nomads are happy just sleeping on the sand dunes, under the stars.  Some live in Berber tents or houses, but most are okay with not having a roof over their head.  They like having the stars as their ceiling.  They also need only 3-5 hours of sleep.  As Hamid told me, there’s something about the Sahara where you don’t need a lot of sleep.

They don’t need much in life.  Their focus is more on peace, happiness and soulful spirituality.  Mike may be a minimalist in Indiana, but the nomads definitely have him beat.  No bed, no chairs, no desks, and definitely no coffee maker.  Some of them have cell phones (which shocked me that the phone reception in the desert was superb).  But most…they’ve never even watched TV.

I’m not saying we, as Americans, should start a new minimalist movement, but we should start de-cluttering our worlds and filling our lives with things that are more important.  We also need to look for ways to save more, and spend less.

I just finished flipping through a book recently about how to be even more frugal than we are already.  Now, I’m a big supporter of thrift stores and libraries, especially since I love my flat screen TV (which my brother remarked last week that he was shocked that I bought a TV on my own without a man’s help…yes, I am that dumb when it comes to technology).  I love that I can check out free DVDs for a week from the library.  They always have the latest titles. 

While the author suggested various ways of saving more money, I also noticed that his way of being frugal was aimed more towards how to acquire more while saving money.  Really?  I’m a great shopper too…but let’s save more by spending less and acquiring less. 

Let’s try to bare down and get what we need out of the way first.  So my new resolution after New Year’s is to scale back, save more, de-clutter and start minimalizing my life.  After all, I’m already freaking out about how much stuff I have to pack up.

Here are a few tips to start you off this week.

1.  I’m a big fan of NO CABLE.  I haven’t had cable in years, because I prefer to watch movies and can get DVDs from the library for free.  There’s also a store in Manhattan called Book Off.  They sell used DVDs, CDs and books for next to nothing.  I picked up an armful of books and DVDs last night for only $33.  AN ARMFUL!

I also frequent the library’s seasonal book sale where members of the community donate their books/DVDs/CDs they no longer want or use (and can’t sell online).  Last time I was there, they had 2 bags of books for $1.  You can’t beat that price, especially if you bring in your own tote bag.

While GREEN websites suggest people buy the Nook or some sort of e-reader to cut back on the purchase of books, that doesn’t work for me.  I really won’t be able to use the product in Morocco.  I’d rather have the books in my hands…and what better way than to pick up castoffs from people in your community?  In a way, this is also a green initiative.  It’s recycling and reusing at its best.

As for Mike…his no cable/no TV approach was interesting.  He actually factored in how many hours you have to work just to have cable!  For some people, they have to work between 30-60 hours a year just to have cable at home.  It makes you question why you’re working to pay the cable company when you could be using that money for something else…as well as your time for something more productive and meaningful in life.

2.  FOOD.  If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you’re probably suffering from the same sticker shock that I’ve been experiencing at the cheapest place around to buy groceries.

For me, that cheap place is Target.  They are actually cheaper than Aldi.  How?  Because Target makes it their mission to make sure they are cheaper than any other food seller in the area.  If you find the product cheaper at another store, bring in the flyer or receipt to show them…they’ll not only match the price, but they’ll lower the price too.  That’s what I call a store I’ll keep coming back to.

My original go-to stores like the dollar stores…are not dollar stores anymore.  They’ve had to jack up their prices because of this economy.  Sometimes, Target is cheaper than the dollar stores. 

So for the staple items, I go to Target.  For the fresh meats and produce, I go to organic stores and markets. 

I’ve also tried the coupon route.  It’s best to use coupons at places that double or triple…or they have the product on sale.  I’ve netted a lot of stuff couponing…but I actually end up donating it to the local food pantry.

When you shop for food, try to pick up at least one extra bag of groceries to donate to your local food pantry.  Even if it’s just personal items from the drugstore…people need these items. 

I always end up with a closet full of bath soap from Christmas.  I donate this stuff because I probably go through 2-3 bottles a year.  Why keep 15 bottles?  Learn to share. 

For those asking how in the hell are they going to be able to afford buying a bag of groceries for someone else…it’s easier than you think.  You buy it when prices hit rock bottom.  When they discount canned veggies for 39 cents a can or Stove Top for 79 cents…why not just pick up an extra one for the bag.  I’m sure you have some sort of coupon, right?  If not, you could probably find one.

The rule of thumb is that when you give from your heart…that good karma that you give will also be returned to you.  Do it unselfishly as if you’re getting nothing in return…then one day it will come back to you in the most incredible ways.

3. There are also other ways to get free products, like using RecycleBank.com I actually earn points with them just to get coupons for cat food.  Surita likes that Fancy Feast…and that stuff is expensive.  The various offers they’ve had has allowed me to get a lot of free cans for her…all by clicking on various ads to learn more about how you can go green.

You can also earn more points with loyalty programs.  Since I buy a lot of Stonyfield products, you can enter in codes on their site to get free stuff, and print out coupons.

Loyalty programs are one of the best ways to earn free stuff.  BaubleBar, Disney Movie Rewards, and WB Insider Rewards are just a few places where you can earn free stuff just by buying their products…and in some instances, referring other people to buy.  They reward their customers by giving back to them and giving them a chance to earn rewards and free stuff as they go.  Trust me, it will always have you coming back.

4. Social Media.  Probably one of the smartest things I’ve ever done was follow Orbitz, the Travelocity Gnome and various airlines on Twitter and Facebook.  Why?  Well, last year, Orbitz paid for my airfare to Las Vegas, thanks to a promotion they had on Facebook and Twitter. 

I also scored a $100 travel certificate with Travelocity thanks to Twitter.  For this jetsetter, every single savings counts. 

I even scored tickets to Rebecca Minkoff’s fashion show during fashion week a few years back too…all thanks to social media.  And yeah…Minkoff gives away her most coveted purses all of the time through many of her social media contests. 

For those who weren’t using social media to their benefit…START.  You can score big by following various companies.  Like I said, I’ve won plenty thanks to Twitter and Facebook.

5. If you shop online, you better be using EBATES.  The biggest mistake any person shopping online can make is to not check on Ebates to see if you can earn cash back on your purchase.  It’s also a great spot to find additional coupon codes for the site you’re shopping.

Thanks to using Ebates in the last 6 months, I’ve netted a $10 Target gift card and $25 in cash back.  It’s not much, but I’m happy that I get a check in the mail when I’m not expecting it! 

The easiest way to do Ebates is to put everything in your cart and then head over to Ebates, log in, and find the referral link to the site you’re shopping.  After you connect back to the site where you were shopping, just checkout.  That way, you get through the shopping process faster and you know that you’re going to get cash back for your purchase. 

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As for me, I’m making a 2012 resolution I did not make on New Year’s Eve.  I’m taking Mike up on his minimalist challenge.  I’m going to start scaling back and go even more frugal than I have been.  I don’t know…I love clothes and purses and Bauble Bar…so those are 3 habits that are going to be very difficult to break.  But considering I have a bigger dream that has to be fulfilled a few months before 2013 shows up, I have to start saving every which direction I can. 

This year, I’ll be showing you how I’m going to do that. 

A lot of you that come here know that I travel a lot, so I’ll share some of my tricks of the trade with you on how I get to live that dream of traveling all of the time.  It’s a matter of learning when to splurge and when to go on the cheap…and when, how and where to get the best deals.

I leave you with this article from Real Simple: 7 Steps to De-Cluttering Your Home.

About Michelle Kenneth

Michelle Kenneth has been a member of the NHL credentialed media covering the New Jersey Devils since 2008 for Inside Hockey. She is the owner or PerfectionistWannabe.com.