Friday, July 26, 2013

When money is tight

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when money was T.I.G.H.T. I mean, on the floor of the car, reaching under the seats, trying to find a dollar in change to get enough gas to get me home or to work. (That’s when gas was cheap!) ;)

I learned a few BIG things over those years – one, not having money is one of the scariest, most unsettling feelings ever. It makes you feel completely out of control of your life. But I realized there were certain things I could do that would make me feel like I had control again and doing those things would help tremendously.

Although things are different for me now, there are certainly still times when cash is low – we are adjusting to a definite change since my hubby has retired from teaching. We planned for it and know things will even out so it’s not a scary situation, but it’s easy for those feelings of fear creep back in. It’s silly because my situation is completely different from years ago, but when the bank account goes low and the budget is spent for the month, I can’t help but feel that again, just a little. I will for as long as I live – you just don’t forget that feeling. :)

There are a few things that I’ve always done at times like that – and each of them gives me a sense of having control over my life. The first one may sound a little unusual – but it’s always worked for me.

I clean my car. :)

Now, my car is the thorn in my organizational side. It is just a space that easily gets messy and full of STUFF and I let it get out of control all. the. time. My husband does too. Maybe it’s the creative side of us? ;)

car disaster

Back in the day it was my mom’s car that I would do this with, but I would gather up change from around the house (or the car!) and drive to the car wash place and use their vacuum. I know you can do this at home and save a couple bucks, but for me it’s always getting out and driving there that helps too. When you don’t have any cash you’re not getting out as much so the drive was usually much needed.

I did this the other day and it ALWAYS makes me feel better – just throwing trash away, vacuuming the whole thing – it seriously works! If you are extra ambitious you can get even more detailed with it and maybe clean the outside (at home with the hose). But I’m rarely that good. ;)

It’s just a little thing but to this day it makes me feel better!

Depending on the state of your car, the next one goes hand in hand, and it’s to purge. Or decrapify as I like to say. If you’re like me you’re not always totally on top of stuff around the house when you’re feeling down about something. And again…I think what’s most important when money is tight is to feel like you have control over your home and life.

Going through the closets, the cabinets, the clothes and losing a few pounds of stuff feels SO GOOD. I cannot stress how amazing it feels when you see a pile ready to go out the door:

purging stuff out of the house

Maybe this is just me? All I know is it makes me feel so accomplished, so light and ready to conquer the world.

I wrote a post years ago about what to do with all that stuff too – you may just make some cash from that pile! I break it down into a few different areas – consignment, donation and recycling.

And finally, one that goes hand in hand with purging – organizing what’s left. Like decluttering, it won’t cost you anything! I mean, of course you can always add pretty baskets or organization, but most of the time just reassessing what you already have is enough: 

messy coat closet organized coat closet 

You can get creative with scrap wood, shoe or diaper boxes – whatever! Make labels with your printer or paint chips or scrapbook paper – it doesn’t have to be fancy!

Next month my plan is to get the house decluttered once again! I want to get it done before school gets going in full gear and before the birthdays and holidays later this year. I’m so motivated right now – I don’t know why but I feel like it’s spring instead of late(ish) summer. I have this desire to clean out and organize the whole house!

So what do you do when funds are low? Do you have any go to projects like my car clean out? Like I mentioned, I learned over the years that, for me, the way to fight the fear that comes with financial stress is to figure out something that makes me feel like I have power over my life – and all of these things do that for me, whether money is tight or not!

Have a GREAT weekend!!

64 comments:

  1. Oh girl...I know that feeling. I'm living that life! I stay home with the three kids (4,2, 3 months) and we live off of one--not very big income. I'm so thankful that this blogging hobby has been able to bring in money. It isn't a ton and it isn't consistent, but it has saved our butts more times then I care to count. In fact, the only thing sitting in our bank account right now is my google adsense check! And I promise you, my adsense check looks nothing like yours ;). I definitely think feeling in control of something helps. You may not be able to fix your bank account but you sure can organize the heck out of your closet!

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  2. I so agree with your idea. Money is tight around my house a lot and when I cant get out and go somewhere or dont have the money to start a project I want to do it helps to clean/clean out/ organize. I guess it is the power thing,,at least one thing i can control, but I've never thought about it like that. I just used it as a way to get my mind off of being broke.

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    1. hi debilou! as you can see i am a "mississippi mama",too! with our heat sometimes you DON'T want to get out of the house!! LOL so cleaning and organizing is a very good way to keep busy AND keep your mind off money you don't have to spend!

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  3. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who does this! When I worked outside our home, any sudden realization of a financial uncertainty would compel me to leave ASAP for home so I could clean and organize!!

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  4. i also find things around the house to do! there is always something due to my CODD - compulsive obsessive decorating disorder! LOL when i have spent way too much money and don't need a thing but still have the itch to buy - i head to my local dollar tree and buy a buggy full of things and that gives me my "fix" without having made a big splurge! ITA with you about just getting out of the house will do it - being a SAHM sometimes you just want to look at other things. my favorite cheap thrill is drive around to new developments and tour the open houses. it's free and it inspires me with so many new ideas and after a couple hours i have worked off the spending need!

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    1. The dollar tree or store is such a great suggestion! I get the itch sometimes (like I have right now) and have to force myself to stay clear of HomeGoods and Target! But, we have a Big Lots, 5 Below and some other discount stores than can equally fill that void! :)

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    2. Apart from cleaning and organising as well, when I am DESPERATE for a retail fix I head to my local thrift stores. Unearthing a $3 treasure gives me a thrill and then I can happily stay away from Target!

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  5. Thank you so much just for writing about being in that situation. There are times where my husband and I feel like we are the ONLY ones that have to scramble at the end of each month to make it work. You are so right that it is such an unsettling feeling, and it is so so helpful hearing from others. Things will be looking up for us pretty soon, too and it's so nice to see the light at the end of the long tunnel we've been in. But again -- just wanted to say thank you for putting it out there.

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  6. Since I just recently resigned from my job to stay at home, money is definitely tighter around here. I have been de-cluttering and orgainizing all summer - never really related the two, but it has definitely brought me some peace!! I always like to organize our home at this time of the year - getting ready for the routine to start, makes sense to me :). Thanks for sharing, transitions in life are fun aren't they?!?

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  7. Great suggestions, especially cleaning the car. A clean car is a happy car and a happy place to be! Thanks for the reminder, and although cash is not low these days, I STILL need to get out there and clean my car! xox

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  8. Thanks for posting this. My hubby and I are both teachers, and in our county we get all of our summer money at the beginning of the summer. The end of the summer (now!) gets scary. I always find comfort in being frugal and finding new uses for stuff I already have to meet needs. Make a meal out of what's in the cupboards, repurpose something or just purge. I am currently taking a break from mowing the lawn. Production helps me not spend that time worrying about things I can't change at the moment. I wish that there was a way to program myself to be this frugal when I DO have money, but I haven't figured that one out yet.

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  9. I sooooo struggle with this. Being lifetime diyers, we save EVERYTHING. Scraps of wood, nails, pallets, fabric, buttons....the list is endless. I could seriously build something big with all the leftover stuff I have from projects. Having a lot of tools also comes with diy. Our garage is full of saws (miter saw, tile saw, jig, table saw,reciprocating, etc.) drills, painting tools, gardening tools...etc. We have a 3 car garage and I constantly have to slide things over so I can get my little car in one slot. We also have a 2,000 sq foot basement with a huge storage room that is full of stuff we might need. Regarding finding money....I just take back things I bought for my last project and didn't use!

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  10. This is something I already have done through the years, but I always just saw it as keeping myself busy to keep my mind off it. I remember thinking if I kept myself busy cleaning, I was too busy to be out spending money or making excuses to. Not only that, but I would clean the pantry and freezer and we ate through things that way until payday. My excuse for any family complaints about dinner was "I got too busy cleaning today and there was no time to make it to the store." ;)

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  11. Getting unnecessary weight out of your car will also help with gas mileage, thereby saving money while leaving more room to breathe, as well!

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  12. Wow..that is exactly what is being done by me at this moment! We just moved last week. UGH...stressful...wonderful...never want to do it again. We gained about 1000 square feet. Packing up I unloaded about 3 car loads full for a donation. Now that I am unpacking...another car load with more I am sure. We haven't even started the garage! It does feel great. I just am confused where all this stuff was at the old home??? lol I mean really how many dishes does one person really need????

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  13. One thing I do when funds are low are "hodgepodge" meals. I take whats in the house and make something of it. It always makes me feel so good. And I think it is that feeling of control. Like, I was nervous, but look! I made something tasty for my family and I didn't spend a dime. All will be well. And I am also just like you in that I feel like a million pound weight has been lifted off my shoulders everytime I drop a carload off at Goodwill.

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  14. I do the same thing! Actually, we're doing that right now because we're trying to spend (much) money on house projects for awhile. I've been organizing stuff on my computer, in our office, in closets, and we did a good clean of our house last week. I actually have several things I found that I decided to sell, so that can go towards those pending projects :)

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  15. Oh I go through the pantry and cook what we have, not going to the store makes me feel like I am saving tons and definitely in control of my life. I also wash and iron clothes we havn't worn in a while and then I feel like we have something new. Hugs, Marty

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  16. Great recommendations to do. I love your blog and enjoy it so much. Thank you for sharing with us all and inspiring us. Hugs, Bobbi Jo -AZ

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  17. When I am stressed or feeling nervous about a situation, I vacuum. It's mindless work but I always feel like I have accomplished something and also getting up and moving when I am stressed really helps calm me. My husband used to tell me that he could tell how I was feeling just by seeing the vacuum paths on the carpet in the living room. If they were really fresh, trouble was afoot!

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  18. When I am low on dough, I try not to leave the house until its time to work, which is in the evenings, and I clean! Nothing like a clean and sparkly home to make you thankful for what you have, not what you think you need. Also, its easy to get into the task, which takes your mind off whatever is troubling. Thanks for this post, I love how you always keep it real!

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  19. This could not have come at a better time. Not five minutes after reading this I found out my husband got laid off. So glad to have this to read and to give me some ways to stay positive and in control. My car is clean so I think I'll attack the garage instead! Thank you!

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  20. Great post! One of the things I try and do and I show it on my blog, is to re-use materials and re-purpose a lot of things I have collected or already own for crafts, home decor etc. It's one of the reasons I joke about people seeing the same fabric over and over in 5 different project but it's honestly b/c I can't afford to go out and constantly buy new materials for things.

    So when you get creative with how to reuse them with craft projects, in turn that helps you to get more creative with using it as home decor. For example we just used old floorboard trim to make panel cover instead of going out and buying new wood. Just thinking outside the box instead of always going to buy new helps save money.

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  21. I too have had my share of years scrapping for penny's to eat, and thankful not any longer. However, we still like to watch our spending and those moments of "I have no money" creep in. I find it amazing deep cleaning your home really does help. I think it is because it gives you a sense of control and accomplishment at a time when we feel vulnerable.

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    1. " I think it is because it gives you a sense of control and accomplishment at a time when we feel vulnerable."

      I think this nails it for me.

      Laura
      Harvest Lane Cottage

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  22. We are living paycheck to paycheck right now and I hate it. It's so bad that a couple of times we've run into some extra money (e.g. an escrow refund check) that helped us make things work just before a big bill was due, and it makes me think, Lord, what would we have done if that extra money didn't come in? I shudder at the thought. But anyway, like others have said, I raid our freezer and cupboards to see what kinds of meals I can make with what we already have. I also like to make a detailed meal plan so that I am not staring blankly into the fridge, which may lead to going to the store to pick up a few things and putting in on a credit card :/

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  23. I do the same. I guess it is the feeling of control over something, anything, and it does help. The other thing I do is bake. I usually have all the ingredients on hand to bake something, and having something tasty and homemade shows me and my family, that even thought we may not have it all, we can still enjoy the good things in life, even if they are made with our own hands. Great post. Thank you!

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  24. Our motto was "too much month at the end of the money" I can recall many times taking empty soda bottles back to the store to get that much needed refund.

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  25. When I'm trying to cut back on spending I always, always, ALWAYS head for the library. It's such a calm, wonderful place (our library rocks!). I can check out books, magazines, DVDs, CDs, or just sit down and read. The staff is so helpful and friendly, and the patrons are too. I love seeing the parents at story hour or other programs with their children...in contrast to the unease I feel at the mall when large groups of loud/wild people pass me, awful language and pants hanging low.

    The truth is, the library is an awesome place to go no matter what your bank account is. Of course my tax money goes to support our libraries, so in a way, I've already paid, I'm just taking advantage of it.

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  26. OMGoodness....I totally agree on the decluttering/organizing!! In fact I am decluttering my entire house this summer!! I'm halfway done...maybe even more, but it just feels SO good to get it done! We are at that "money is tight" stage, and this does make me feel more on top of things when I accomplish simple and easy tasks like cleaning out my pantry!!! I did that today and I am over the top happy with the outcome! Is that pathetic?!! Haha!!

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  27. organizing can really save you money. When I organize, I see what I have and put it where it should be. Then when I need something, I probably have it and don't have to spend time and gas and money to go the store to buy it- when I already have it!
    it just makes me happy and more content when my house and closets and drawers are in order.

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  28. I love this post! Very real! I'm totally purging today too! Best feeling until I get mad at myself for giving away something I loved...or maybe I am just a hoarder : )

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  29. This is a great post! Hubby & I both were on unemployment a couple of yrs ago. We'd scour Craigslist for furniture to re-do, but to no avail. Then I came up with an idea - I found the map of our city's bulk trash pickup schedule. We started checking each neighborhood on Sundays prior to the Monday pickup. We found lots of hidden treasures we could fix, then re-sell to local thrift, vintage and consignment stores. Luckily we had bought a small truck before we lost our jobs and this "hobby" helped us supplement our unemployment income until I found a new job. Hubby decided to make this his own small business and even though it's not bringing in that much money, it's something for him to do and makes him feel productive.

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  30. We have consigned things in the past and have held garage sales as well. Always good to declutter (frees the mind as well), and the extra cash is always welcome. A couple other things to keep in mind. Plan date nights at home-put the kids to bed early, light some candles, put on some music, and even a can of chef boyardee looks better! For the kiddos-it is easy to make homemade bubbles, playdoh and such, build forts, take baths in your garden tub with their favorite water toys, go to the park or the library. For girlfriend time-plan a swap day...as the saying goes another man's trash is another man's treasure, have lunch together-everyone bring a dish to share or back together and share the goodies, start a book club-you can get a copy at the library. There are a lot of free events that community's hold as well. Our local park has free concerts and movie nights throughout the summer.

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  31. OMG...I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I feel the exact same way. The second stress about money creeps in an overwhelming feeling takes over and I suddenly clean, organize and declutter my life too. It's funny though...I don't think I quite made the exact connection until I read your post.

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  32. Totally unrelated to money, i've been in a decluttering and organizing frenzy this week! I did my bathroom, my closet (so scary and intimidating), my 6 year old's room (with her help!), toys, art supplies... it feels amazing, and like I've accomplished more in 30 minutes than in weeks of same-old parenting.

    See you at Haven soon!

    Jessica

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  33. I like the idea of cleaning to take your mind off money problems. I hate doing housework, and it honestly is the last thing I would turn to in times of stress. I guess if my house was cleaner I would generally feel less stressed anyway. i deep clean twice a year and get rid of anything we haven't used in the last six months. You would be amazed what you can live without!

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  34. Being in this situation, is very difficult. Being a SAHM now and living on one income forces me to be super creative, with meals and well, everything!When I get discouraged, (Can't go back to work with three sn kids)I work on a project I had previously bought and not had time to work on. This invariably makes me feel better:)

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  35. Sarah, great post! I find that financial struggles just come and go.. one minute everything is looking good, and then before you know it, you're smacked with a low bank account and no clue when money is rollin back in! I remember a few years ago, we had to shut down our cabinet business and I was given a baby carrier from a friend and I sold it for eight dollars to buy some milk and bread. It was a hard time, but it sure humbled me and I will never forget that as well. I am SO with you on the cleaning car and getting rid of clutter! You know how everyone does that after the Holidays and when the new year starts? Maybe it's because we all just spent every dime to our name to try and buy gifts and we revert to the cleaning mode??! lol I don't know.. Great post though Sarah, and I hope money isn't an issue for you much longer.. just know that this too shall pass, and you'll be blessed! Take care :)

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  36. I feel like cleaning my car is one thing I can always manage. It is totally doable to complete "project clean car" in an afternoon and I feel like I have really been successful. I also love the drive to the car wash vacuums. My husband and I were just talking about this the other night. When I was bored as a teen, I guess broke, too, I washed my car in the driveway and then drove to the car wash to vacuum. My high school boyfriend taught me to use baking soda to remove bugs and I love to do that to this day! This post made me smile - I totally get it.
    Amanda

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  37. I'm totally on board with this! And according to feng shui principles it's a way to create a vacumn so good can show up in your life. It seems I always bake something like cookies or muffins and/or buy a bouquet of fresh flowers when the budget is tight. It might sound counter intuitive yet it gives me the feeling of having some little luxuries :)

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  39. Love your openness. Finance is such a touchy subject. I just did the same thing for the first time! De-cluttered all my baby stuff. Made myself a few hundred $ to put towards new decor:) My garage looks so much better just being that little bit emptier. I'm ready for another purge to make a little more money for more decor updates.

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  40. Thanks for being open. Everyone goes through this, but not many connect with expressing it. Im like you with the car. If my house and car are out of hand... well, lets get it together! And in control! Feels so much better, right? Feels like things can move forward again.

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  41. Amen sister! I could not agree more, there have been times that have been long dry patches in the income area and being clean is one thing that kept me sane. It doesn't cost anything to be clean, and it sure does make you feel good. Thank you for being real, and sharing your heart :)

    xo, Tanya

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  42. Good morning!. This is Victoria, from Valencia (Spain). By reading your comments I realice that we women think very much alike, I also clean the house or put things I don't want in bags to give to charity or to other people. Why do we all feel better when we do that? that would be an interesting question to think about that. All my life I have been living in a very tight Budget so unfortunately (or fortunately, who knows?) I know very well what you are talking about in your post. Many thanks for it and for showing your thoughts and feelings about it. Love!!

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  43. There is something about decluttering/organizing that makes you feel so in control of life and on top of things. When my boys stress me out and I feel like I'm losing my grip on things, a clean and organized house does make it better.

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  44. I am in this situation right at this very moment! While we do have enough room in the budget to do small repairs and updates like light fixtures, new door handles, etc, we are not able to do the things we REALLY want to do, like update our awful 90's builder grade kitchen (we're talking bisque colored laminate cabinets and fluorescent lighting). Pinterest to the rescue! Just yesterday I was a little restless and really wanting to hit up HomeGoods and Lowe's, but instead I went to my "Managing the Household" board and started actually trying the things I had pinned. Novel idea, I know! I soaked paper towels in vinegar and wrapped them around the faucet and this morning 15 years of hard water deposits and other lovely stuff wipe right off! Today I'm going to clean the cabinets with WD-40. Crazy, right?! I may not love my kitchen, but it sure is a lot easier to live with when it's sparkling clean. It helps me to be a little more content until the day I'm able to REALLY do what I want in there! Thanks for this great post!

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  45. Singin' the song of my people..we have held the 'looking for change in the strangest places' days, and even weeks. Make do I say! I also clean and purge when that happens, and I find Kijiji/craigslist a great source of income for those items I purge. Some days its flush, some days its to get to work. Either way, its good!

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  46. I am a stress pantry-cleaner. Clutter control = stress control for sure!

    xo
    Maggie
    CrunchyDiva.com

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  47. Oh, I totally feel you on this one! Our most financially tight times were when our boys were little and I was a SAHM. I can remember looking for extra coins/spare change under couch cushions, the car, etc. just to be able to buy the Sunday newspaper. We're once again "feeling the crunch" as our youngest son is now going off to college and we not only are paying his tuition, but his house rental as well. (He will be working a PT job to pay for gas for his car, groceries, and other day-to-day living expenses.) I'm also at home once again, so we're living on just my husband's salary. Purging and organizing makes me feel more in control, too!

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  48. I completely agree! We had a car boot sale last weekend and took bags and bags to the charity shop today. I feel much more in control now the house is decluttered and we can enjoy the school holidays with the kids :) x

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  49. Decluttering while broke never fails to remind me how NOT to buy random things that will cost money that could've been put to better use. So. Less crap to get rid of. More money to save. But I always have to go through that cycle to stop stupid impulse buying (at least for a while).

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  50. I tend to clean/purge (the house, not me!) when I'm angry or stressed out. Like everyone else has said, there is something cathartic and empowering about getting rid of the baggage so to speak ; )I recently did our kitchen, pantry, hall closet and coat closet when we found out we cannot list our house for sale for at least another year b/c we are under...I might tackle the bathroom closet tonight ; )

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  51. Having just moved out of a house we have owned/lived in for 19 years, I can say cleaning out feels great. I think I sold or gave away 75% of what we had. It is definitely incentive to buy less, especially being in a 2 bedroom condo after a 6 bedroom house.
    Another way to feel rich is to invite friends over for a simple meal. The best things in life are relationships and the joy they bring. When I am feeling stressed about finances I try to refocus on the things that really matter.

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  52. Like many of those who commented on this post, I think perhaps the secret is knowing that some task or busy-work helps take the mind off of whatever is bothering you. There is that side-benefit you mentioned of establishing a little control over whatever situation is causing the uncertainty or fear. It is nice to be able to accomplish something satisfying at the same time!

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  53. I've never tried that kind of therapy before, but I'll bet it works. Anything to get out of the doldrums that accompany being cash poor. ~smile~

    Laura
    Harvest Lane Cottage

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  54. I totally relate to you on this post, I was a clean freak when growing up and my mom was not, so I would go cleaning the house for her because it made me feel happier when the house was clean and organized. Its just my mom worked and she did not have the time! It made me organized for my home. Your right! it does make one feel more secure and happier!
    Thanks maria from www.simplesoutherndecor.com

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  55. Thank you so much for writing this. I think our tightest months are the summer months. There's just so much to do with the kids. And it gets really hard to keep saying no. There's camp, water parks, vacation and the list goes on. We don't have much extra at the moment and I constantly have to remind myself that all of our bills are paid on time, we have food in the kitchen, clothes on our back and shoes on our feet. As a poor kid, I can say without doubt my family is doing soooo much better!

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  57. I agree. When my family lived in the L.A. area money was very tight and we had very little. When I felt down because we didn't have nice furniture and other wants I would just clean. I thought maybe I can't have the nice couch right now but I can have a clean home. In the end I felt better about myself and the need for a new couch went away.

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  58. So many great ideas here! My husband is a civilian Dept of Defense employee (and reservist) and is furloughed one day a week for 11 weeks. While I am grateful he HAS a job, there is really no room in our budget to cut hundreds and hundreds of dollars each month. We already live pretty basic...I even wax my own eyebrows! My daughter and I get cheap haircuts (with coupons of course!). When I'm feeling down about money, I go to Dave Ramsey's website and listen to the radio archives. It's free, inspirational, and lets me know we aren't alone!

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