Why Downsizing To A Smaller Home Can Make You Happier

As the current lease on our rented condo rolls towards the end of the contracted dates, some of our friends are asking us, once again, when we plan to stop renting and buy our next home. When I share my findings that renting is still cheaper than owning in our town, some suggest we “should” move into a larger home. When I ask, “Why should we move to a larger home?”, responses usually include a quick shrug of the shoulders, a time-stalling “uhhhh,” then perhaps something like “your daughter will need more space as she gets older,” or “don’t you want to grow a larger garden?”

I’ve learned that everything you own owns you. Several years ago, we chose to free ourselves from the handcuffs of STUFF. We downsized our lifestyle almost 50% by moving from a 2450 square foot home into a condo with about half as much floor space. In doing so, our housing and utility bills dropped dramatically. We sold half of our belongings and made over $13,000 in cash. Decreasing our monthly expenses caused our net worth to grow exponentially.

More importantly, our minds are more at peace, and we live a more culturally rich life. We have more time and energy to consume experiences rather than things. We play more with our child, talk more with each other, and enjoy more of life.

Less space gives us more of everything we value most.

According to David Wann, bestselling author of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, many of today’s three-car garages occupy 900 square feet, which is about the average size an entire home was during the 1950’s. Today, most people use the extra garage space to store things they own but seldom use.

The number of “very happy” people peaked in 1957, and has remained fairly stable or declined ever since. Even though we consume twice as much as we did in the 1950s, people were just as happy when they had less! 86% of Americans who voluntarily cut back their consumption feel happier as a result.

This recession is putting the squeeze on many families. Perhaps it’s time to consider downsizing your biggest budget buster– your housing expense.

Renting is NOT throwing your money away

Whether you pay mortgage payments to the bank or rent payments to your landlord, you are paying for SHELTER. Contrary to what most people used to believe (but now we know better, right?), homes do NOT always go up in value. Your home is your shelter — not an investment. Often it is less expensive to rent a home than to buy one. Consider renting and investing your down payment savings and your monthly savings into income-producing real estate, businesses, stocks and bonds, or your education instead. You will often come out ahead financially in the long run.

And you might find yourself happier for it, too.

How To Find A Job, Despite The Recession!

With 13.2 million people currently unemployed in the United States, ABC’s television program, The View, aired a themed show this week on jobs: where to find one, how to get one, what to do if you become unemployed, job ideas for stay-at-home moms, and how to start a “job club”.

Because this is such a timely topic (everyone knows at least one person who has lost a job during this recession), I took notes to share with you. Please share this post with the people in your life who are needing some encouraging, constructive support right now. This post is LOADED with helpful links and resources!

Andrew Serwer, managing editor of Fortune magazine, reports that the lowest unemployment rates are in the farming and ranching industries, ranking states like Wyoming and South Dakota lowest in unemployment.

Ah, but you’re not a farmer or a cowboy? Serwer reports that the following industries are also fairing relatively well right now:

  • retail trade
  • health care
  • finance, insurance
  • professional and business services
  • state and local government
  • accommodations and food services

Jobs that should grow with the President’s stimulus programs include:

  • technology
  • education

What industries are NOT likely to be hiring now?

  • construction
  • manufacturing
  • mining
  • real estate
  • arts, entertainment
  • transportation
  • warehousing
  • utilities

Here are two specific companies that ARE hiring today:

  • Wal-Mart is opening 150 new stores across the country and is hiring store managers, human resource personnel, sales clerks, and more. They are willing to train people who have a strong work ethic.
  • HCA Healthcare reports 9,000 available job openings for nursing, x-ray technicians, physical therapists, secretaries, administrative and more.

Marcus Buckingham, career expert and author of The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success, reports that it is taking 120 days on average to land a job. He offers his top ten things to do if you become unemployed:

1) Financial assessment: Do a thorough review of your current financial situation. What costs can you eliminate or reduce starting today? Cancel your cable package, eat at home, stop buying things — or buy them used. Hoard your cash.

2) Self-assessment: Re-evaluate what your strengths, interests and passions are and how you can best contribute to a company. Discuss your ideas with someone who is objective, such as an open-minded friend, a coach, or a counselor.

3) Update your resume: Customize it for each specific job that you are applying for. Keep it simple — filling your resume with irrelevant details is distracting. Highlight relevant experiences and describe your strengths using quantifiable verbs (“organized, saved”). Be specific about the results you have achieved and the contributions you have made to the business. Contact the people you intend to use as references. Only include those references you are confident will give you a favorable review.

4) Hire yourself as a headhunter: Treat FINDING a job AS a job, with a 9 to 5 structure. Establish daily and weekly goals. If you are rejected for a job position, ask the interviewer for feedback. Their feedback can help you improve your job hunting skills.

5) Network: Tell the people you know that you are looking for a new job. But phrase it in a positive way like, “I am looking for a career that will allow me to use my strengths to improve a business” rather than whining, “I lost my job. Do you know anyone who is hiring?” Stay in touch with colleagues (especially your previous manager) so you are on their mind if re-hire opportunities come up.

6) Get your mindset right: It isn’t just about thinking positively, it’s about acting positively. Tackle the things you’ve been putting off in other areas of your life. Act, feel productive, and your stress will be reduced.

7) Expand your skills: Finish your degree, apprentice, hone your strengths. This will make you more appealing to future employers.

8 ) Take a platform job: Go ahead a take a job that you are over-qualified for. Do what it takes to feed you and your family. Look at it not as a step down, but as an opportunity to network with new people while you continue to search for your ultimate job. Or wow your employer so much that they promote you.

9) Volunteer: Show future employers concrete activities you’ve performed during your lay-off that demonstrate initiative and skill-building. Be an awesome volunteer and you might impress someone at the organization so much that they will offer you a paying job. (Note: if you are receiving unemployment benefits, check to see whether volunteering impacts your eligibility.)

10) Start your business: Now that you have the time to investigate this option, utilize the many free resources available for those who are interested in starting a business.

Tory Johnson, CEO for Women For Hire and author of Will Work from Home: Earn the Cash–Without the Commute, shared her “job club” tips. A job club is a group that motivates one another, networks, supports, and helps each other keep accountable. Click here to learn more about forming a job club.

Johnson also suggests:

  • expand your search – create different resumes targeting your different skills
  • create a LinkedIn profile and ask people to write recommendations for you
  • update your resume and make it look like you are doing things rather than waiting around for a job to come to you
  • freelance

Resume Mistakes:

  • One size fits all – you should customize for each job application
  • rehashes your experience – highlight your successes instead
  • outdated and overblown – your resume needs to be current and concise
  • unexplained gaps – address employment gaps using volunteerism, education, etc.
  • submit and wait – you need to submit and HUSTLE!

Johnson also discussed stay-at-home mom jobs that allow women to take care of their kids while earning an income. Here are some of the online resources she suggested:

Direct sales (through established companies, like Tupperware parties):

Promote your expertise:

Soft Skills / Care giving:

Hard Skills:

Online Selling (convert your clutter like designer clothing, old cell phones, and movies into cash):

Craft sales:

  • Creative Etsy.com users sell $12 million dollars worth of their hand-crafted products!

I hope you find my notes and these resources helpful. Please leave additional ideas in the comment section below. For more money making and saving ideas, please head on over to the recent Carnival of Personal Finance!

The World’s Shortest Guide On How To Be Thin and Rich

Much has been written about how to lose weight, but it all boils down to just two things:

  1. Eat less
  2. Exercise more

Similarly, much has been written about getting wealthy, and again, the “secret” boils down to only two things:

  1. Spend less money than you earn (or to put it another way, make more money than you spend)
  2. Invest in your future

Imagine, if you do these four things, you’ll be thin and rich!

But if it’s this simple, why isn’t everyone svelte and wealthy? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Please visit the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights 2, Saving Money Edition hosted by Wisebread.

Plan A and Plan B

In response to my recent post, Will your parents’ financial decisions leave you holding the bag?, Steve wrote,

I agree with the premise that a person’s retirement should be taken care of before saving for a child’s education, but saving enough for one’s own future seems to be a moving target.

When does a person ‘have enough for retirement’? I am 27, with a 6 month old baby. Besides $15,000 in student loans (@ 2.6% interest rate), and a mortgage, my wife and I are debt free. We contribute to our 401k’s up to the match, and we contribute $100 a month to a Roth IRA. Since we are so young, we feel secure in our ability to save enough for retirement, so we also contribute to a 529 plan for our child.

Even though we feel secure, anything could happen at any time. Maybe one of us gets injured, and we can not work anymore. Maybe this happens to both of us. We never know, therefore I am inclined to save more. But when is it enough? If I max out my 401k, is that enough? I am 27…I may have 60 years of life left…$15,000 will not be enough if something happens next year.

I struggle with the concept of taking care of myself first, then take care of others, when there exists so many potentially negative unknowns. If I am not saving for my daughter’s education…should I not be giving money to charity? Take care myself first, right???

What is the sweet spot for annual saving for yourself, vs saving/giving to others?

Yes, the future holds many unknowns, making it difficult to be completely accurate with long-term financial planning. This deep recession, for instance, has all but destroyed many well-laid plans. The key, however, is to plan for the best while preparing for the worst. In other words, create Plan A and Plan B.

Plan A is what you hope to have happen. You hope that you’ll remain healthy and able-bodied, fully employed, happily married, able to donate money to charity, and able to save for your child’s future as well as your own.

Are you saving enough? It all depends on how much you spend now and what you anticipate spending in the future. Plug your financial considerations and planned life events into a Lifetime Financial Planner software or an Excel spreadsheet and tweak it until the numbers work.

Plan B considers what could happen; the what-ifs. You, your wife, or your child might become ill or disabled. Your marriage might not last and your assets and income could be divided in half. You might join the growing ranks of the unemployed. You might hurt someone in a car accident, get sued and lose all of your savings and everything you own.

How can you protect your finances from catastrophic incident? Buy high-deductible insurance policies, namely disability insurance, term life insurance, personal liability insurance, health insurance. Maintain and improve your job skills. Run a sideline business from your home. Consult with an attorney for additional “what-if” planning.

Additionally, save as much as you can today while you are young. Use your youth to exploit the power of compounding growth. And stay far, far, far away from consumer debt so that if something bad were to happen, you and your family could afford to live on little income.

Where does charity come into play? This is a very personal choice. Until I knew that our financial future was firmly on solid ground, I chose to donate my time rather than my money. I’ve always served as a volunteer in one way or another and not only does this help others, but it improves my set of skills, introduces me to a network of new people, and makes me feel great. This crazy busy world needs more of the gift of time from volunteers.

Should you contribute to your child’s 529 Plan? Most of us have heard a flight attendant recite these words as part of their safety spiel prior to departure:  “Please secure your own oxygen mask prior to assisting children or others”…