Simplicity in Season
A personal finance journey is lifelong, and I love to stay motivated by setting monthly or quarterly themes. It makes money management a fun challenge rather than a tedious adult chore. For September, my theme is simplicity. It's all about keeping shit simple and focusing on the basics.
The Road to Debt Freedom
One of my goals for 2023 is to become consumer debt-free. Like many, I got my first credit card in college, and since then, I've been in a cycle of credit card debt. I've hopped from one balance transfer to another, making slow progress, stepping back, and so on—a story that's all too familiar.
I decided this year would be the last year I allowed this cycle to continue. All of the 0% promotional periods expired at some point in 2023, and I did not want to move the balances again.
Officially, there's just one credit card left, which can be paid off by the end of the year. I met with my Financial Trainer, who ran the numbers and confirmed, but it will take some focus. I need to find an extra $75 a week. Just $75 a week through the end of the year to finally be free from my credit card debt.
The Challenge of Change
Thanks to my trusty spreadsheet, I have a clear idea of where my money goes, but knowing the numbers doesn't always make it easy to shift my spending habits. For example, I can acknowledge that I'm spending more than I'd like on food and have intentions to do better, but I still find myself overspending. It's a common struggle.
Back to September and the concept of simplicity: How can this theme help me with this goal? How can I find that extra $75 per week in my budget? How can I be mindful in my day-to-day life and break spending patterns to achieve this financial goal?
The first weekend of September was a delight as two friends visited NYC. It was the first time I'd saved money months in advance to enjoy their visit. There will be a post about everything we did soon, but we walked about twenty miles in three days. It was a blast!
Typically, aside from food, books, and deli treats, I don't spend a lot of money. Opening my wallet and letting the money I'd saved fuel our fun time was refreshing. Embracing simplicity for the next few weeks will be about resting my legs and wallet from the adventures.
Where to find $75 per week?
Get My Noodle On:
I've identified three variable spending categories where I can cut back, taking inspiration from Tiffany Aliche's "Noodle Budget" concept.
First, I'm shopping for meals in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. It's amazing how many hidden treasures we can find when we look closer at what's already stocked in our kitchen. Doing this reduces food waste and saves money on unnecessary grocery runs.
Another simple but effective step is to buy only what I need for the meals I cook that day. When shopping, I tend to pick up random things, even when they're not on my list, because they're on sale or I'm thinking about breakfast tomorrow. This prevents overbuying and ensures that everything I purchase gets used promptly, minimizing waste and stretching my budget further.
My full-time job is consistent, but I've also got hourly side hustles! Some side gigs translate directly to income, while others are more passion projects. I'll turn up the income spigot and enjoy the passion projects, trying not to stress about making anything big happen.
Other simple focuses:
In the spirit of financial mindfulness, I'm committing to practicing 2-3 no-spend days per week. On these days, I'll challenge myself to find joy in what I already have, whether it's reading a book from my collection, trying out a new recipe with ingredients on hand, taking a walk in the park, or simply enjoying quality time with loved ones without spending money.
And speaking of mindful spending, I'll cut back on my visits to my favorite coffee shop. My apartment doesn't have an outside space where I can sit outside, drink coffee, and read a book, so I spend an hour each day doing this at the coffee shop. It's a small way I can treat myself, chat with others in my neighborhood, and enjoy a book before I open my computer for the day.
Instead of my usual 4-5 days a week, I'll treat myself to coffee only twice a week. When I don't go to the coffee shop, I'll make my coffee at home and read a book in the park. It's a minor adjustment that reduces my expenses and allows me to sit somewhere different while the weather is still lovely.
Lastly, I'll take advantage of the pleasant September weather by taking long walks. It's a simple and free way to enjoy the outdoors, clear my mind, and get some exercise. These walks benefit my physical and mental well-being and remind me that sometimes the most valuable experiences in life are the simplest ones. I use this time to listen to Quran, podcasts, or audiobooks.
Embracing simplicity in September isn't just about saving money; it's about cultivating a mindset of mindfulness and contentment. It's about appreciating what we have, using our resources wisely, and making choices that align with our financial goals. As I embark on this journey of financial simplicity, I invite you to join me in finding joy in the basics and discovering that simplicity can lead to financial success.
Thank you for sharing this part of my financial journey with me, and I look forward to the lessons and insights September has in store. Let's make simplicity a stepping stone toward a brighter financial future together. I would love to hear some of your favorite simple pleasures in this transition to fall period. Leave a comment or send an email to email@example.com