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Inspiration Thursdays: The Problem with Perfect

Because Thurdsay’s child has far to go…

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” Anne Lamott, American best-selling author

I hate the word ‘perfect’. Ok. Hate is a strong word. I really, really don’t like it though. Many moons ago, in another galaxy far, far away, I used to sell beautiful, frothy, extraordinary wedding gowns to extremely happy, glowing, beautiful women (most ladies in love, in my opinion, have a beauty in them that is about hope and love and all things of good expectations). I loved that job. It was fun to be a small part of helping someone to have one of the most extraordinary days of their lives. But I learned something extremely important from the owner of that shop: Never, ever utter the word ‘perfect’. Especially to a bride. Why? I remember thinking this was pretty extreme the first time she mentioned it to me, but I’d worked in that business long enough to know that it could have some serious pitfalls. The longer I worked there, however, the more important that advice became. The problem with ‘perfect’ is that it is extremely relative. When you are looking for perfection it often leads to expectations that exceed reality (yes, there were conversations in our shop that actually involved the detailing of physics to some of these brides who had ideas of perfection in their heads. Even the best bridal salons and most talented seamstresses could not defy physics.) ‘Perfect’ is highly over-rated. What it often does is cause us to wait, frozen in our tracks like a deer in headlights instead of taking chances and finding perfection IN the imperfection of our lives. Perfection impedes our progress. It’s a nice idea. We can look for better, sure, and  ‘perfect’ can be a fine ideal, sometimes. But it’s a slippery slope. Sometimes it can hold you back and push you down. There will never be the perfect time to say I love you. There will never be a perfect time to have your children. There will never be a perfect time to simplify your life. There will never be a perfect house or a perfect job. There will also never be perfect frugality or a perfect budget, incidentally. There will never be perfect. So whatever it is you’ve been waiting for in the idea that ‘perfect’ will show up eventually, consider that maybe perfect will show up in the imperfections in your journey. But keep moving. Keep trying. Don’t let ‘perfect’ hold you back.

Darn This Frugal Life! ( Or How Pizza Tastes Now)

My family took me out to for dinner for my birthday last night (it was a week later than my day since our schedule hasn’t really allowed for it any sooner). We went to one of our favorite places in town to try the pizza we’d been threatening to try for a while. We don’t go out very often. When we do it usually involves special occasions for us. We shared a really nice large salad and the pizza that we’ve been meaning to check out for a while. It was good.  It was lovely to be treated to a night off from the kitchen by my husband and my boys.

As we were leaving the restaurant it hit me. This frugal life has killed pretty much all restaurant pizza for me! It was good. It wasn’t great. It didn’t hold a candle to my homemade pizza at home, which, frankly is super easy to make and really inexpensive. I’m not sure how I feel about this! I’m now too aware of how much money we spend on restaurant pizza that is a far lesser quality than what I can produce in my own kitchen.

Our pizza adventures began back when my husband left the military. In spite of all our planning, saving, and preparing, we still experienced five full months of being without an income and living off of our savings. It was a trying time and it pushed my frugal living skills to a whole new level. One night, a couple of weeks into his unemployment, our oldest son said “Mom, can we please, please have pizza? Just once? It’s been a long time.” It broke my heart to have him missing such a simple delight. It was very difficult for him to understand our financial situation since he was only four at the time. I decided to make it into a fun DIY project for us. With a little quick online research I found a great recipe for dough and pizza sauce. We were on our way. As we measured and stirred our recipes I kept telling him how this probably  wouldn’t taste like “real” pizza from a restaurant, that the important thing is how much we were having fun doing it. When it came out of the oven and onto the table, each of us bit in. We all looked up to see a look of pleasant surprise on each others faces. This wasn’t just good. This was better than restaurant pizza. Why the heck had we never tried this before? And it was so easy (granted, I own an old Kitchen Aid mixer and this helps-but really-I’d probably still do it if I didn’t have one). These days I’ve perfected my sauce to our preference by tweaking the recipes here and there. I’ve also graduated to making a double batch of dough and sauce so I can freeze one set. This give us a super easy Friday night pizza on occasion since the work is mostly done.

So, while we had a lovely night out to dinner last night and enjoyed our meal a great deal, I’ve realized our frugal life has changed our enjoyment of pizza permanently. I’ve realized I’ve ruined us for restaurant pizza for good. We all got in the car and heartily agreed on one point: Moms’ is better.

If you’ve never tried homemade pizza before, trust me. Try it. It’s fantastic. You don’t need to go out and buy a pizza pan or stone-just use an old cookie sheet for now. It’ll work fine. Be warned though: this might just ruin restaurant pizza for you too.

Homemade Pizza:

Kitchen Aid Crusty Pizza Dough Recipe (note: I prefer to use whole wheat flour with this recipe and it works great. I also sprinkle cornmeal on my pan because I like to. But that’s a personal preference thing.)

Homemade Pizza Sauce (note: I actually use only the can of crushed tomatoes in this recipe so it intensifies the flavor and makes a nice thick sauce. I figured this out when I only had a can of crushed tomato on hand. I don’t alter the other ingredients at all. If you look at the comments below the recipe you’ll see that fresh tomatoes can successfully be used as well so if you have a garden full go for it!)

The Cheese: We hand grate ours and use a combination of 2/3 mozzarella and 1/3 cheddar. I get a pound block of each and then just eyeball it to suit us. Once you’ve grated your cheese add in 1 tsp of dried Italian Herbs. It’s much better this way.

Toppings: This is up to you! Go for it!

Our first homemade pizza. We've come a long way since then!

Is Being a Naysayer Hurting Your Chance at Better?

I read a lot of blogs, a lot of books and a lot of, well, pretty much anything that comes across my path. Heck, I’m even guilty of actually reading some of my junk mail (sick, I know, right?). With so many people struggling financially and the tough state of the economy these days (don’t we constantly hear about this on the news?) I’ve seen a lot of articles and blog posts about how to save money. I’m always looking for money-saving tips myself and trying to share with you what I’ve found to be good (or not so good) for our household. I also read the comments below online articles. Readers have great insights and additional tips. I love reading them  (I also love it when people jump in and add their two cents here as well! I’m grateful for any source of wisdom!).

What I’ve noticed when I go reading lately troubles me. I’ve seen a persisting attitude of “that just won’t work for ME-therefore it’s bad advice!” For example, I recently read a blog post encouraging people to ride bikes or walk more. It had a link to a great little calculator to help determine the potential savings, and even went so far as to admit the thing might not be 100% accurate to each persons personal situation but that it might be helpful and at least interesting to check out. Then I read the comments. There were a surprising number of comments stating  reason after reason why they thought this advice was so off the mark: Can’t ride my bike to work because I live 65 miles from my job. Can’t ride my bike because it’s too hot here. Can’t walk because it takes too long. My town is not bike friendly. We don’t have sidewalks. I shook my head. And then a quote I often hear Dave Ramsey make crossed my mind:

Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.~Dale Carnegie, American author, lecturer.

I shook my head. Personally I love to bike. Our whole family does. We’re that family that you see tooling around with the kids in the bike trailer, using correct bike signals, heading to the park, or the grocery store or the library. We purposefully chose to live close to my husbands job to maximize biking and walking. We live in an environment that often shoots over the 100 mark on the thermometer. We’ve also lived in towns that aren’t bike friendly. We’ve lived in areas that lacked sidewalks. While it made it a little harder, we still managed. Because we chose to.

The thing is, it’s not really about biking or walking being some great avenue to financial savings and a more frugal life that I find to be the problem here. It’s about owning the choices we’re making. It’s about unwillingness. It’s about an attitude of reluctance to challenge yourself. I’m not saying all advice out there is good. Some of it won’t be. But don’t go throwing the baby out with the bath water. If you are happy with the state of your finances or don’t feel compelled to live a better life then by all means, stay put. No one is shoving you of the cliff of making positive changes. No one owes anyone the perfect answer or parachute, either. Sometimes you have to be willing to find the gems that work for you. Sometimes it’s one idea, heck even one sentence in an article that might speak to you. You have to find it and be inclined to see it.

Being willing to try something new or see a solution from a different angle so that it fits you better is all it takes. You have to be willing to take a chance and experience the discomfort of change or newness. And you have to take ownership of your own attitude and how it affects your personal success or failure. Check in with yourself. If you have a habit of being a naysayer-or seeing that glass as half empty-is this blinding you to the positives and the possibilities of better?  I think everyone does it at some point in our lives. But don’t let it get the best of you and be where you stay.  Some times all you have to do to succeed is to get out of your own way.

 Comment-worthy:

Have you gotten in your own way recently? What can you change your attitude about today that might open your eyes to a positive change in your life today?

Inspiration Thursdays: Even Warren Buffett Looks for the Simple Way

Because Thursday’s Child has far to go…

I like to look for simple inspirational quotes sometimes. I don’t feel the need to make a long list of them. Just to sit and consider a really good one. Today’s is this:

“I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.”

~Warren Buffett, American investor, industrialist and philanthropist

What I like best about this quote is that it reminds us that we don’t have to look for difficult things in our lives to make positive changes or achieve results. We can keep it simple and achievable. We can look for easy and do-able things to make inroads to success. Thank you Mr. Buffett. I think I’ll take this inspiring advice today!

What 1 foot bars can you step over to help you achieve a simpler or more frugal life today? Inspire others in the Comments-everyone needs inspiration on occasion.

Frugal and Cheap are Not the Same

Frugality has come a long way recently. It’s become more main stream given the challenges of the economy. Many people are searching for ways to stretch their hard earned dollars to get by. Obviously frugality is nothing new (ask anyone who survived the Great Depression). Given the challenges of current times there has been a resurgence of people embracing all things frugal.

It occurred to me recently, after a conversation with a friend, that a lot of people are a little confused by what frugality really means. Some people think frugality is about being cheap or buying cheap things. Some people cringe at the words and feel deprived by even the thought of them. Some people even feel like they are forms of cruel punishment!

But bear with me a bit here as I don my homeschool mom glasses to take a closer look at these words (I do this on occasion so please don’t let it put you off!). Words are pretty powerful stuff. So let’s take a closer look at the actual word FRUGAL as it appears in the Merriam Webster Dictionary  and to round out our definitions and for the sake of thoroughness I’m adding the definition, from the same source, of the word ECONOMY:

Definition: Frugal: characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources

Origin: Frugal: Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin frugalis virtuous, frugal, from frug-, frux fruit, value; akin to Latinfrui to enjoy

Definition: Economy: 1. archaic : the management of household or private affairs and especially expenses 2. a : thrifty and efficient use of material resources : frugality in expenditures; also : an instance or a means of

Now let’s take a look at the word CHEAP (again from the same source for consistencies’ sake):

Definition: Cheap:adj. 1 a : purchasable below the going price or the real value b:charging or obtainable at a low price <a good cheap hotel> <cheap tickets>c : depreciated in value (as by currency inflation) <cheap dollars: gained or done with little effort <a cheap victory> <talk ischeap>.3a : of inferior quality or worth :tawdry, sleazy  <cheapworkmanship>b : contemptible because of lack of any fine, lofty, or redeeming qualities <feeling cheap>c :stingy <my cheap uncle>

Looking at what these words actually mean, it becomes pretty clear that frugality is about how we use our actual resources (our income, our time, our skills, etc.). Economy is about management and efficiency. It is about how we choose to use what we have to make it most cost effective to our situation. There is nothing coarse or detrimental in the definitions of these words. They are positive words. Constructive words. But when you look at the word cheap you find some not so pleasant or constructive things in the definition. No wonder cheap seems to be a word most of us don’t want to closely associate with!

Unfortunately frugal and cheap have been, far too often, put on the same playing field when, really, they aren’t  even in the same ballpark! I think because words have power it can hold us back from some positive changes in our lives. We are a frugal family. And frugality and economy are about making wise choices with our resources not necessarily about the cheapest item we can get (though don’t get me wrong-I love a darn good bargain!!). But because frugality is about choices and resources our frugality will likely look different from yours. Our resources and needs and wants are probably different from yours! Frugality is mindset and an approach. Frugality is not the same as cheap.

So do yourself a favor and kick the word “cheap” to the curb where it belongs. Be frugal. Be cost effective. Be bargain happy. Be economical. Be resourceful. Be thrifty. Be wise. Be Rice and Beans. But you don’t need to be “cheap.”

It’s not about the food-it’s all about the mentality.

Rice and beans. It’s not about actual rice and actual beans (though you can make some mighty fine and tasty rice and beans concoctions-believe me! And I plan to post some fantastic ways to do that.). It’s about the mentality of Rice and Beans. Simple. Basic. Cost effective. Healthy. Easy. Practical. It’s not about going without. It’s about choosing more wisely. It’s about learning to love simplicity, practicality and, yes, frugality. A lot of people say life is too short why not live it up now? But, folks, when you are chained to a job you hate because you owe for something you can’t even recall buying, when you want to stay home with your babies but you can’t because you cannot figure out a way to afford it, when you want to give but you don’t know how, and as one of my favorite folks out there in the financial world says-when there is too much month left at the end of your paycheck, then life can be very….very….very long indeed. Learning to live on less and do it cheerfully and well has this crazy result-life gets packed with the right kind of happiness and joy. Life does get short because kids, when life is joyful it goes by fast in a way that you want to grab hold of. Living on less and learning some simple practicality will let you do that. You don’t have to get coupon crazy or get water from a well. You just have to get real with yourself. Get ready to kill your Golden Cow (in other words…just because it’s always been that way…doesn’t mean it’s got to stay that way). Life can be better. Really it can.

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