Better Me, Better World

During the month of December we schemed and dreamed about the kind of project we wanted to do in the upcoming year. Coming off an interesting (though less than spectacular) look at personal happiness in 2017, we knew we wanted something that was exciting, something that would make a visible difference in our lives, and something we could both get behind with enthusiasm. For a while it seemed we were on two divergent paths. We wanted to reconnect with minimalism and again the idea of a no-spend year got bantered around, as did uber-frugality and buying a tiny house. Yet at the same time, we also wanted to step up our pet project – reducing food waste – and see if we could do something more on that front. After going back and forth on the pros and cons of each, we came to the realization that the two paths are actually connected. We can do both.

And so a theme was born – Better Me, Better World.

Our recent Happiness Project really drove home the fact that for a project to be successful, it has to be specific and measurable so on each side of the equation, we set some goals.

Better Me
Goal: Live simply. Prove that we can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life with less. 

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Strive for no unplanned spending.
  • Buy used when possible.
  • Eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat.
  • Do something active 3 times a week.

Better World
Goal: Zero-food-waste. Prove that one couple can have an impact in reducing global food waste.

  • Plan meals.
  • Continue food rescue – focusing on making reduced-to-clear/quick-sale items the first point of purchase when grocery shopping.
  • Buy local foods.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Compost year-round.

For our Food Waste Project, I set up a separate page to give a little background information and outline the bigger picture of what we’re hoping to accomplish this year. If you’ve followed any of our past dumpster diving expeditions, you’ll want to check it out for sure. We tallied our dumpster finds and even we were astonished! That page lives here: 2018 Food Waste Project.

We’re definitely excited about 2018. We’re sure that it will be full of fun and adventure, lots of laughs and learning.

What’s on tap for you this year?

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Celebrating a Year of Work-free Wednesdays

One year ago this month, I reduced my work schedule to part-time. For an entire year, I’ve had every weekend and every Wednesday off and I have to say, it has been great. Want to know the crazy part? We didn’t tell a soul (in our family, that is). We did tell all of you but as far as I know, none of you spilled the beans, did you??

A few times, I thought they might have gotten wise to my work-free Wednesday routine but since nothing else in our lives changed, I think they dismissed the idea as quickly as it came. By nothing else, I mean, we didn’t change our spending habits, our travel actual increased, we pretty much paid cash for a car, and we saved money like mad – all of which might indicate we worked more, not less this year.

By cutting back to part time, we reduced our income by close to $8,000 this year. So you’re probably thinking that we side-hustled to make up the difference, right? Nope. There have been times throughout the year that we’ve hustled our way to a bit of extra income but in comparison to years past, even that was less this year. Thankfully, we didn’t need to compensate for the reduction. Our 2016 experiment of living on 50% of our income was great training and it put us in the perfect position to employ those same frugal principles going forward.

Aside from practice at living incognito, our year of part-time employment brought a few other notable changes. We were able to enjoy:

More walks in the park.

More picnic lunches (and breakfasts).

More impromptu adventures.

More family time.

More homegrown food!

There were also more books read. More freebies found in the dumpster. More experiments in the kitchen. More practice at cutting our own hair. More documentaries watched. More visits to the library. More time to help others. More creativity. More movie nights at home. More pictures taken. And more money saved. I think I could go on all day!

In other words, what seemed like it might be a difficult endeavor a year ago has turned into one of the best decisions we ever made. Though, I should probably point out that living successfully on one part-time income is not always fun and games. It requires a whole lot of budgeting and planning and there are some sacrifices to be made along the way. Simply put, you have to have your mind set to simple, otherwise it just won’t work.

If you’re wondering why we didn’t tell anyone outside of this blog that I was going part-time, here’s the unashamedly selfish answer – we wanted a day for ourselves. When you live a life of less, sometimes other people tend to see your free time as their opportunity to plan something for you to do. “Oh you’re just hanging out at home today? Reading a book? In that case, can you go to the grocery store for me, take these curtains to the dry cleaner, pick up my package at UPS, drop off the little one at day care, and if you have time, I’ve really been craving your homemade spaghetti sauce. Let’s have that for dinner. Say 6 PM?” You probably already know all too well how often that really does happen.

Throughout the year there were many Wednesdays that we spent in service to others – taking my Mom to a doctor’s appointment, babysitting for my niece, or doing yard chores – but the choice to do those things was ours. And that, I believe, really was the best part of having Wednesdays off; knowing that we could get up and choose for ourselves just how to spend our day.