Friday, 28 June 2013

Smile This Weekend...

The work week is nearly over and I don't have anything much to say, so I will share instead.  The excerpts below are again from the Marc and Angel hack life website, fantastic words and something to aspire to this weekend.  Note the last sentence, what a powerful statement and fantastic challenge!!

"4. Compliment others and help them smile.

The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion, compassion, humor, generosity and kindness, and using these tools to make the world a happier place. When we think negatively about ourselves, we typically project these feelings on to others in the form of insults, gossip and incidental neglect. To break this cycle of negativity, get in the habit of praising other people. If someone looks nice, tell them. If someone does a good job, applaud them. Refuse to engage in backstabbing gossip and make an effort to compliment those around you. In the process, you’ll help these people smile, which will help you feel good about yourself.  By looking for the best in others, you indirectly bring out the best in yourself.

6. Ignore what most people think of you.

How would your life be different if you stopped allowing people who don’t matter to poison your mind with their opinions? Do you have 5K Facebook friends and 20K Twitter follows? Good for you. Do you have a professional and personal social network of hundreds or even thousands? That’s great. Just don’t forget that this massive network of acquaintances pales in comparison to the importance of earning and maintaining the trust and respect of the few people in your life who actually matter – your close family members and real friends. When you earn the trust and respect of these special people, no matter where you go or what you attempt to do, you will do it with a sense of confidence, because you will know the people who truly matter are truly behind you.  Let today be the day you stand strong in the limelight of your own truth, without seeking needless external validation. Accept no one’s definition of your life except your own, and seek approval only from the people who truly matter in your life." -
Marc Chernoff

Freecycle, Your Weekend Clean out.

Clean out the rubbish.
I would like to throw you a challenge for the weekend, I do the same thing on a regular basis.
Take some time either Saturday or Sunday and pick one or two rooms in your house.
In each room collect any old rubbish and take it to the dump.
After you have cleaned out any worthless rubbish go back to the same rooms and identify anything you have that has not been used in the last three years.  If the items are non essential and you feel comfortable parting with them you should give them the BOOT.  Last time I did this I ended up selling my boat, sure I love boating but it had been three years since my last fishing trip, just didn't seem worth keeping it anymore, plus the $7000 I got for it helped me through a tight financial time.  I don't even miss the boat now.  Sometimes we hold onto things simply because we can, adding to our clutter and distraction levels.
If you are not quite at the point where you want to take this step, just begin with items you identify as rubbish.  Remember however if you do want to have a serious clean out the items you don't or can't sell will be happily received by charity organisations or on Freecycle.  The link below is to my local Freecycle network, I can not recommend this site more highly, good people giving away perfectly good items.  If you have not signed up already make sure you do, it's all free and offers a great community service.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Show Love Don't Just Take It.

Here I go again, putting my head on the chopping block.  I don't care if I am being politically incorrect, I don't care if I am being sexist, and I care even less if every single person in the world does not agree with me.... Men you have an obligation to your wives and Ladies you have an obligation to your Husbands..... If you don't totally agree you should not be married.  Full stop.

We choose our life partners out of love and we must allow this same emotion to guide us on a daily basis.  It's your obligation to support, encourage and love your wife or husband, isn't that why we get married.  In this crazy dystopian world, love can create a Utopian haven for your family.  If I can't have Utopia on a world wide scale I am going to make damn sure that my family experience it within our home.  The only way I know how to do this is to give of myself, every single day, to the ones I love.  The amazing thing is that when I do this my cup always "overfloweth" and I become a better person towards everyone I deal with.  It's like the snow ball I referred to in a previous post, the more you live this life the bigger your resolve to continue becomes and the greater the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  I always get back twice the love I give, how can this be anything other than my Utopia here on earth.

I have to be totally honest, I have in the past been very remiss in this regard.  It was not that I didn't express my love, but rather that I didn't back my words up with actions.  Sure, I made a fuss over birthdays and anniversaries but I often let the little things slip my attention.  When I became a minimalist I very quickly began to appreciate the small things in life, in fact I realised that it is the small things that are actually the most important.  Obviously I had heard this before in the form of a cliche, but now I was able to see just how important it actually is.  As family and relationship focused minimalism became more of a life style and less of an ethereal concept I understood that showing love daily in as many ways as you can creatively think of is far more important than infrequent singular displays of affection.  As minimalism stripped the rubbish and distractions from my life, the importance of doing this came to light.
It was a win / win for me, I wanted to be closer and more connected to my beautiful wife and the simple process of "thinking up" new ways to show I love her meant she was at the forefront of my mind every single day.  In the end I became addicted to doing this and for me the rewards were worth more than anything I had ever done in my life.  I love my wife and I will do my best to let her know this every single day of my life.  Minimalism taught me it is the little things that matter the most, but living my convictions proved to me that words should always be backed by action. 
"Love without action is dead" - James Miller
Love without action only ticks half the boxes on your template to an awesome relationship, and action without love does the same.  Love and actions are synergistic and must go hand in hand.  You love with your heart and you cement this by the things you do, it's that simple!!
Below is an excerpt from an article that has some great ideas on spicing up your relationships.  You can see the entire article by clicking the link.  Please have a read, leave the author some comments, I found it very interesting reading and got some great ideas.

"Show your love through thoughtful actions. They can be simple things, like drawing a bath, giving a massage, doing the dishes, or writing a poem. Choose an action that you know your partner will appreciate. Remember, denying yourself never means doing things begrudgingly. If you show affection, but drag your feet along the way, you may as well not be doing it.

Breakfast In Bed.
  • Buy something for him/her when you know that they specifically want it. If he wants a Craftsman set of tools, or she wants a Fendi handbag, they might be upset at your well-meaning attempts to get them or make them something similar.
  • Make something for them when you're trying to show effort. It doesn't take much effort to buy your spouse what you know they want, but it sure takes effort thinking of a poem, writing it down, and setting it in a frame. This shows real commitment.
  • Numerous small gestures are easier than one big one. In case you thought you could wing it and make up for all your normal neglect, sorry: It's much easier to do small things for your spouse at regular intervals than it is busting out a grand gesture every blue moon. Practice small and steady."

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Don't Be Afraid.....

“I used to desire many, many things,
but now I have just one desire,
and that's to get rid of all my other desires.”
- John Cleese.

“Being deeply loved by someone
gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply
gives you courage.”
- Lao Tzu

“At least three times every day
take a moment and ask yourself
what is really important.
Have the wisdom and the courage
to build your life around your answer.”
- Lee Jampolsky
How many times in your life have you wanted to just give up?  The task seemed too big or too technically/physically overwhelming.  Sometimes turning the page and starting a new chapter in life is the best thing you could do for yourself.  So when should I persevere and when should I quit.  This question really boils down to a matter of personal priorities, the answer will therefore be different for everyone.  When I am faced with a challenge or situation that I am not handling well and I want to quit I ask myself a few simple questions.
  • Am I thinking of quitting because I am inexperienced and still learning?  Can I get help or guidance ?
  • Do I have the support to continue, is the endeavour in accordance with my personal credo?
  • Am I enjoying what I am doing, do my actions impact others?
  • Am I doing this for selfish reasons ?
  • Am I achieving my goals or just treading water?
For our family, most of our goals are joint ones and ones that we collectively tasked through and ratified as important for us to achieve.  If you jointly decide on a goal many of the usual obstacles won't ever be an issue.  With a joint decision comes joint effort, enthusiasm, and knowledge.  Many hands make light work and two heads are better than one.  Choose your endeavours and see how they fit your families life template, if they are honourable and worth collectively pursuing then it's full steam ahead.  Draw from each others strengths, support each other and chase your dreams with passion and gusto.  The point I am trying to make here is if you choose your goals sensibly then you are less likely to face the situation where you feel you have to quit.  Don't set yourself up to fail, keep your goals modest, there is no point thinking you can build a space shuttle alone, it just ain't going to happen.  A little ambition and boundary pushing is great but biting off way more than you can chew will just cause you stress and rob you of your time, it's all about priorities.

As usual I have included a couple of pertinent quotes, they encapsulate my thoughts on this subject perfectly.  Basically I interpret them in this way, if you limit your personal desires and keep your goals sensible, if you do everything based on love, and if you constantly remind yourself of what's important in your life - then the goals you choose will be enjoyable, jointly important, and for the most part achievable.  Sure life may toss you a curve ball from time to time but with collective focus comes collective strength.

~~~ James Miller ~~~

Monday, 24 June 2013

Minimalism & Seeing Past The Superficial.

"Since discovering minimalism, my life has changed significantly. The process of promoting values and removing distractions has forced new intentionality in life. As a result, many of my habits have changed. I spend money differently. I spend time more efficiently. I exercise more. I wake earlier." -- Joshua Becker
"In an era of public booty-bouncing and other ubiquitous in-your-face expressions of sensuality, it’s about time we had a new standard of sexy.

Real sexiness is so much more than physical shape and form. It’s more than style and wardrobe, attitude and visible swag. And it’s certainly more than the lopsided exposed skin to covered skin ratio depicted on today’s popular media channels.

We are increasingly in desperate need of a more enduring standard, one that includes more than face and body – one that includes the shape and form of internal qualities, those that add joy and passion to life, those of heart, mind and soul."
- Ken Wert
Real love
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres...... Love never fails." - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
You might be wondering what the first two excerpts above have in common, both written by expert writers and both very concise and germane, however both are different topics... or are they ??  Why did I also quote the platitude from Corinthians?  Everyone has heard this quote, just about every wedding and funeral service these days uses it.  I refer to it as a platitude not because I feel the verse is fallacious (I actually believe it's perfect), but rather because it has become so overused and misunderstood in today's society.  Increasing moral decline and focus on worldly pleasures mean people have forgotten this is actually how love was meant to be, yet they still toss the quote around in an banal fashion as if they embrace it's essence.  Divorce, abortion, failed relationships, homeless children, debt, drugs, and the like all prove to me that the world is slowly but surely forgetting how to LOVE.
It was no mistake that I placed Joshua's quote before Ken's, I am not saying that one article is better than the other, or one writer more relevant, I am saying however that one process enhances the next.  Joshua Becker in his article talks about how minimalism promotes values and removes distractions (what a fantastic concise sentence), and Ken talks about the superficial ubiquitous promotion of sexuality minus the heart, mind and soul.  God help our children and their future relationships if they are allowed to succumb to this form of indoctrination.
Let's merge the two quotes James Miller style.

"Minimalism has changed my life and enriched my relationships. I have found new direction and intentionality in all I do and think. The process of promoting values and removing distractions has allowed me to shun indoctrination and peer pressure and find freedom in my life. My relationship with my spouse has never been deeper or more meaningful. I have learned to see the book, when before all I saw was it's cover.  In an era of public booty-bouncing and other ubiquitous in-your-face expressions of sensuality, it’s about time we had a new standard of sexy.

Real sexiness is so much more than physical shape and form. It’s more than style and wardrobe, attitude and visible swag. And it’s certainly more than the lopsided exposed skin to covered skin ratio depicted on today’s popular media channels.

We are increasingly in desperate need of a more enduring standard, one that includes more than face and body – one that includes the shape and form of internal qualities, those that add joy and passion to life, those of heart, mind and soul.
Minimalism has given me a new way to see myself, the world, and other people.  Once I saw the superficial now I look for the meaningful, once I looked only for "sexy" now I seek inner beauty,  once I sought self pleasure now I seek to please. " - James Miller et alii.

Many of the problems that relationships face today result from an increasing trend of Independence within the relationship. It's no longer savvy to be in a co-dependant relationship, couples should be able to stand on their own two feet and thus be free to bail when the going gets tough. While a level of independence is healthy, isn't a relationship about caring for each other and being co-dependant?  I just don't see the point in being in a relationship where you live more like bed sharing flat mates. We all know the term for this increasing trend, F... Buddies, which by it's own definition infers that the priority focus is physical with as few strings attached as possible.

In the English vocabulary we use the single word "love" to describe many types of feelings, it's interesting to note that biblical Greek had more than one definition for our singular umbrella word "love".  I Have a another quote below for you to peruse, it explains five different Greek meanings for love.  The problem today is we focus more on the selfish demarcations of the word when we should be, at the least, more holistic and the best totally selfless.  Minimalism has helped me to see love in all it's forms and to experience the same in return.  Don't be put off by the biblical content, this post is not about religion, I used it only as a reference to explain the different forms of love.
"Think about this: the word ‘LOVE’ is a loosely used term in the English language. I love God, I love my wife, I love my Dad, I love spicy curry, I love writing, I love cooking and I love football. Surely these are not all the same type and degree of love yet we use the same word to describe all.

Do I love spicy curry in the same way that I love football? Do I love Dad in the same way that I love writing or cooking? Do I love my wife in the same way that I love God?

To begin to better understand LOVE let us consult the Greek and C.S. Lewis‘ book The Four Loves, Harcourt, Brace 1960. The Ancient & Modern Greek languages have many different words for love. Here are four (4) that I know of, that describe different aspects of LOVE.

NOTE: There are five (5) words below but we cannot include the first as akin to love for obvious reasons.

1. PATHOS (Strong’s G3806)
This may also be called “lust”. This is a depraved vile passion that includes inordinate sexual appetites. It is described as ‘inordinate affection‘ in Colossians 3 and Christians are urged to KILL it.

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:” (v.5 KJV)

Many people mistake this for love and are held captive by it’s enticing grasp. PATHOS is an affection but it is NOT love.

This may also be called “romance”. It is a passionate emotion, with a major focus on sensual connection and a minor focus on sexual desire and longing. This Greek word is not found in the Holy Bible but is described by Lewis. He says:

“A man in this state really hasn’t leisure to think of sex. He is too busy thinking of a person. The fact that she is a woman is far less important than the fact that she is herself. He is full of desire, but the desire may not be sexually toned. If you asked him what he wanted, the true reply would often be, “To go on thinking of her.”" [pg. 133]

While EROS may not focus on sex it does not exclude sex. Lewis himself admits that “at a later stage the explicitly sexual awakens” in this type of man. EROS is an emotion but is not true love.

This may also be called “affection”. According to Lewis, it is the most natural, sensitive, and wide spread type of ‘love’. He says:

“The Greeks called this love storge (two syllables and the g is “hard”). I shall here call it simply Affection. My Greek Lexicon defines storge as “affection, especially of parents to offspring”; but also of offspring to parents. And that, I have no doubt, is the original form of the thing as well as the central meaning of the word. The image we must start with is that of a mother nursing a baby…” [pg. 53]

Lewis explains:

“The importance of this image is that it presents us at the very outset with a certain paradox. The Need and Need-love of the young is obvious; so is the Gift-love of the mother. She gives birth, gives suck, gives protection. On the other hand, she must give birth or die. She must give suck or suffer. That way, her Affection too is a Need-love. There is the paradox. It is a Need-love but what it needs is to give. It is a Gift-love
but it needs to be needed.” [pg. 54]

Even though STORGE exists without coercion it exhibits a GIFT-NEED / NEED-NEED relationship. For it to become true love NEED must be eliminated and another element added. STORGE is affection but it is not true love in and of itself.

4. PHILOS (Strong’s G5384)
This may also be called “friendship”. According to Lewis this expression of love, or true friendship, is the same as the love that David and Jonathan shared and is almost non-existent now.

“…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1 KJV)

“I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:26 KJV)

Lewis says very few modern people equate this type of friendship with love. Is it that mankind has grown so cold that the ability to love in this way has diminished? Has PATHOS become prevalent and in it’s prevalence corrupted PHILOS?

PHILOS is used throughout the New testament. One such example is the conversation Jesus had with Peter in John 21:15-17.

Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. The first two times, in verses 15 and 16 Jesus used the word AGAPAO, which refers to that LOVE which Christ himself has for mankind. Peter used the word PHILEO in his response to Jesus. PHILEO derives from PHILOS and refers simply to friendship. The third time Jesus asked the question, verse 17, Jesus used the word PHILEO and Peter felt sorrowful.

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Twice Jesus asked: Peter, do you love me the way that I love you? Peter’s answer was: I love you as a friend. Then the third time Jesus asked: Peter, do you love me as a friend? Peter was hurt and sorrowful because it was the truth, he only loved Jesus as a friend and not unconditionally. This may explain why he eventually went on to deny Jesus three times.

How many of us love in this way and need to examine ourselves? PHILOS is a lovely affection but it is not unconditional love.

5. AGAPE (Strong’s G26)
This may also be called “charity” or “unconditional love“. It is described in the Holy Bible as the greatest virtue.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 KJV)

The word charity is translated from the Greek word AGAPE, pronounced ä-gä’-pā. It is very different from our modern word
charity, which refers merely to kindness.

Biblical CHARITY (true love) denotes affection, good will, love, benevolence and brotherly love. Most importantly, TRUE LOVE: suffers long, is kind, does not envy, is not boastful, and is not prideful (v.4). TRUE LOVE does not behave disgracefully, is not self-seeking, is not provoked easily and does not calculate evil (v.5). TRUE LOVE does not rejoice in acts of injustice or unrighteousness but rejoices in truth (v.6). TRUE LOVE protects from imminent danger, has confidence in truth, hopefully trusts, and endures until rewarded (v.7). TRUE LOVE is never without power or effect (v.8).

We see here that AGAPE is the epitome of LOVE and that GOD is love’s ultimate personification since He IS love. Anyone who does not love does not know God.

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 KJV)

It stands to reason that once we
FIND GOD, we find true love and become vessels of LOVE (God). We can expect that vessels of this true LOVE will automatically demonstrate LOVE and will gravitate towards each other. The search for anything other than AGAPE is futile.

Be LOVE (agape) and be LOVED!" -

To conclude can I encourage you to ponder the above article then in light of what you read have a look at Marc and Angels link, check it through and see how many boxes you can tick.  Take this opportunity to ask yourself if you see past the superficial and appreciate inner true beauty. 
~~~ James Miller ~~~


Saving Money - The Money Tin Challenge.

The Money Tin Challenge.

Today's challenge is to begin making your savings grow.  I understand that putting a few coins into a tin probably does not enliven you like the thought of a lotto win, but with a little patience you can save a considerable amount of money.Previously I mentioned how I was able to save $8000 doing this and install a solar power system on the roof of my house, thus lowering my power bill by around 70 percent (summer). 
You can view the entire article here  MONEY SAVING IDEAS >>

Today I would like to challenge you to do the same thing.  Find yourself a money tin and begin the process, I know it may not sound all that inspiring but over time you will save enough money to undertake something fairly significant.  I set the rule that only 50 cents and above were to go into the tin, so here in Australia that meant $0.50, $1.00, $2.00 coins, plus I poked in the occasional $5 note when I had a spare one.  During the day while away from home I stash my coins in the ash tray of my car and when I get home into the tin they went.  Everyone in the house can add to the tin for joint projects or have your own tin for personal savings.  This method is slow, but it works and after 12 months of doing it you will be amazed how much money you have saved.  I know another minimalist family who all contribute to what they call their "Holiday Tin".  Every family member adds to the tin and then during the summer holidays they tally their savings and jointly decide on a small vacation together.  The more they save the greater the scope for holiday destinations.  This works perfect for them as they have basically no debt and can use the money to enjoy time together without it having been a time robbing exercise to save.

Getting your life and your finances back on track is your responsibility, small steps like this one can really help you become debt free much faster, but don't waste the money you save!!

~~~ James Miller ~~~

Friday, 21 June 2013

Stress and Minimalism


One of the greatest benefits of Minimalism is stress reduction. Stress is a silent killer, responsible for a variety of illnesses..... I know that sounds really cliche, but it is the total truth. When I get really stressed it's not long before I start to get sick, usually this manifests as a cold / flu or more often an inability to stomach food. I get head aches, tense sore muscles and generally feel like I have lost my Fizz, but the worst thing is how stress impacts my mental focus and decision making. When I get stressed I seem to make all the wrong decisions, I am grumpy, and reactive rather than proactive. Stress also turns me into the pessimist from hell, everything becomes doom and gloom and someone switches off that bloody light at the end of my tunnel.
Of course practising minimalism won't guarantee you a completely stress free existence, sometimes shit just happens, but living this way certainly reduces it significantly. More importantly for me minimalism has offered the tools to cope better and the focus to see things optimistically. I do on occasion revert to Mr Hyde (that's human - we all melt down from time to time in our own way), but for the most part the way I live now is peaceful and purpose driven, bumps on the road are now just that, bumps not mountains like they once were. I have another article to share with you, I am a great one for not re-inventing the wheel plus I like to direct you to other minimalist blogs as I feel a broad opinion base will help you find your niche in minimalism. Check out the link below, I think point 4 is one that will make the men out there smile, I certainly mentioned to my wife that point 4 seemed to be the most interesting of them all :-)

Living a life with a minimalistic foundation, and a focus on relationships and family, has got me as close to stress free as I have ever been. Minimalist families share life's burdens and draw strength and unity from their common focus. Years ago I would never have believed that living like this could be So freeing, but here I am now and so you could be too - Take the step!!

Below is an article on stress from WebMD, you can view the entire article by clicking the link below. It is an American article so don't hold their bad spelling against me :-) Take your time and read the link on how music can help with stress, I truly believe my instruments saved my life at one point. There have been times in my past where stress and depression had me on the verge of suicide, if it were not for the times when I could retreat and play I doubt I would be writing this article now.
"Stress affects us all. You may notice symptoms of stress when disciplining your kids, during busy times at work, when managing your finances, or when coping with a challenging relationship. Stress is everywhere. And while a little stress is OK -- some stress is actually beneficial -- too much stress can wear you down and make you sick, both mentally and physically.
The first step to controlling stress is to know the symptoms of stress. But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think. Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don't know we are stressed until we are at the breaking point.
Recommended Related to Stress Management
When she needs relief from the grind of delivering major proposals, Dana Marlowe, 33, of Washington, D.C., makes some noise. "I cruise right into my toddler’s playroom, and I just jam out with his toys -- the xylophone, the baby piano. I almost have 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' down," says Marlowe, a technology accessibility consultant. This kind of casual music-making can short-circuit the stress response, research shows, and keep it from becoming chronic. Stress starts in the brain and then...
What Is Stress?
Stress is the body's reaction to harmful situations -- whether they’re real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as "fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During stress response, your heart begins to race, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You’ve gotten ready to act. It is how you protect yourself.
Stress means different things to different people. What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another. Some people are better able to handle stress than others. And, not all stress is bad. In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt. For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you. That's a good thing.
Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.
What Are the Symptoms of Stress?
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. So it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You may experience any of the following symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
·        Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
·        Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
·        Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
·        Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
·        Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
·        Low energy
·        Headaches
·        Upset stomach, including diarrhea constipation, and nausea
·        Aches, pains, and tense muscles
·        Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
·        Insomnia
·        Frequent colds and infections
·        Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
·        Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
·        Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
·        Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
·        Constant worrying
·        Racing thoughts
·        Forgetfulness and disorganization
·        Inability to focus
·        Poor judgment
·        Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
·        Changes in appetite -- either not eating or eating too much
·        Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
·        Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
·        Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
What Are the Consequences of Long-Term Stress?
A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:
·         Mental health problems, such as hepression, anxiety, and personality disorders
·        Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
·        Obesity and other eating disorders
·        Menstrual problems
·        Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
·        Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
·        Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
Help Is Available for Stress
Stress is a part of life. What matters most is how you handle it. The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that come with it is to know your stress symptoms.
If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed by stress, talk to your doctor. Many symptoms of stress can also be signs of other health problems. Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and rule out other conditions. If stress is to blame, your doctor can recommend a therapist or counselor to help you better handle your stress."
~~~ James Miller ~~~

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Money Saver Ideas.

Today lets examine some very basic money saving ideas.  Try these simple techniques and you WILL see your savings grow. 

1.  Give Up Bad Habits.

We all have bad habits, the problem is many of these are very enjoyable and therefore can be difficult to curb. If you have a BAD habit that has you reaching into your pocket on a regular basis then take WHAT EVER STEPS YOU NEED to get it under control / quit.  For me it was the old choofers,  giving up smoking saved me $140 every week and I felt so much better for doing so.  Make sure you redirect the saved income back off other debts or bills.  It's easy just to enjoy the monetary savings from giving up a bad habit, but if you redirect that money off other debt then you will be back in the black much sooner.  If you would rather you could split the savings, direct debit half of it every pay period into a term deposit savings account, the rest pay off any debt you may have.  You will need to decide what habits need culling, as yours are probably different to mine, but doing so will save you money, time, and free you from another worldly restraint.

2.  The Piggy Bank.

Get yourself a good piggy bank, or secure coin tin.  Something that is not so easy to get into.  Religiously make sure that when ever you get a coin, 50 cents and above,  it goes straight into the money tin.  When it is full use the savings to pay off debt or bills.  You could also do this for home improvements that will save you money.  I saved my coins for three years and had more than enough to install a solar power system on our roof, this in turn saved us considerable money off our electricity bill.  Win Win... Don't be tempted to bust into the tin early, set yourself a time period for which you will wait before you use the money, remember the more you save the bigger the project you can embark upon.  Solar power cost us around $8000 to install and it was all paid for using pocket change.

3.  Direct Debit - Money You Don't See You Can't Spend.

Direct debit whenever you can.  Most bills these days can be paid via direct debit, so why not take advantage of that fact.  It will save you time and petrol, not to mention it can all be done from home.  If you direct debit money as soon as it graces your bank account then you never get a chance to spend it, this can help to prevent impulse buys and in the long run will save you money.  If you don't like getting a big power or phone bill then direct debit funds every pay period into your account so when you do get a bill it is mostly paid for already.  This helps us considerably and means we don't ever have to find the full amount for these sorts of bills.  Doing this also means you avoid ATM fees, don't forget every little bit helps.

4.  Build Your Savings Account.

Go into your bank and open a term deposit account, or a similar account that makes it more difficult to access your money.  Set up a direct debit into this account.  Ten percent of your wage should be direct deposited into this account.  Set the withdrawal to occur the same day you are paid so there is less chance you will spend it.  If ten percent is a little high, then make it 5 percent.  Anything is better than nothing and over time you will begin to save money.  As your financial situation alleviates redirect more money into your savings.  If you stick to this regime it is one of the most efficient ways to ensure you begin to accumulate some cash.

5.  Reduce Your Debt.

Debt is one of the biggest issues we face as minimalists, therefore eliminating it should be a top priority.  Everyone's debt level will be different, as will be the institutions to which you owe money.  It is very hard to eliminate all debt but you have to do whatever needs to be done to get rid of it.  I can't begin to explain how important this goal should be in your long term plan, or short term plan if your debt is not so high.  The feeling of freedom when you are debt free is simply amazing.  It is magical to know that your hard earned dollars are not getting chewed up by credit cards, hire purchase, personal loans and the like, and in most cases all we manage to do is pay off the interest not the capital.  Sometimes, in the short term, this will mean working more or even a second job.  Doing that however should be a temporary arrangement, minimalism is about freeing your time not tying more of it up.  However, the unfortunate necessities of life mean that you may have to make this short term sacrifice for long term gain, this one was the hardest point for me to personally overcome.  I had in excess of $80K in credit card / personal loan debt and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life working to pay it off.  For a period of 12 months I worked two jobs, I sold everything excess to my needs (personal items) and I constantly looked for new ways to save some money.  I even did some online paid surveys and eBay became my best friend while selling off things I decided I didn't need.  This process, although very difficult, turned out to be a real blessing as it helped me declutter therefore achieving two goals at the same time.  In a way it was very cathartic, the more I cleared my personal rubbish the more free I started to feel.  Unfortunately, for some, your debt will simply be too big to achieve this in the short term, this is where you will need to seek professional advice.  Many companies in Australia offer government regulated debt agreements, this means you can consolidate any unsecured debt into one repayment.  The flip side is that you probably won't be able to have a credit card after you have paid off what you owe.  If, after you get debt free, you still need to have a credit card get a Visa debit card or similar.  They work the same as a credit card however you top them up with your own cash and you can only spend what you put onto the card.  This provides all the benefits of a credit card minus the ability to run it into the red.  Click the article links below to view some great suggestions on how to begin this process.

6.  Live Below Your Means.

Try and live below your means a little, this really helps when those unexpected bills happen.  For us it seems like a daily event that something will break or need replacing, if you live a little below your means it is easier to assimilate these costs without significant impact on your life.  Don't put things on credit, be happy with what you have and live a modest existence.

7.  Shopping Online.

There are now so many cyber space based retailers that offer goods at substantially reduced costs.  These companies sell at bargain prices because they are basically a closed warehouse and do not operate as a walk in retail outlet.  This means they keep their overheads very low and require much less staff to run their business.  Establishments like this also frequently offer discontinued lines or factory seconds.  We recently purchased 100 tins of pet food (super coat - a good brand) for eighty nine cents a tin, they retail at Woolies for around $3.50 a tin....No brainer.  At risk of sounding disingenuous, as I have previously mentioned limiting too much online activity, I want to thoroughly recommend this form of shopping as it saves our family many dollars every year.  Most online retailers offer Paypal as a payment option, this adds security and traceability but may also require a credit card.

8.  Coupons, Frequent Shopper and Flyer cards, Any Type of Voucher.

Look for these whenever you can, you can save up to 15 cents per litre off fuel, better in your pocket than theirs.  If you eat out on occasion look for supermarket docket two for one deals at your local eatery.  Always use shopper cards where possible, I prefer Woolworths as they send you cash vouchers that you can use at the checkout.





9.  Re-evaluate EVERYTHING.

Most of us have outgoing expenses for home insurance, health, life insurance, income protection and so on.  These industries are becoming more and more competitive and will often equal or better a competitors quote.  Re-evaluate all your out going expenses to firstly see if they are necessary and secondly to see if you can get a better price from a competitor.  Recently I saved $60 per month on my life insurance simply by submitting my current policy to an online middle man.  They pointed me in the direction of a better provider and wham, for five minutes work I saved $720 every year.  Redirect any such savings into debt repayment or term deposit savings.  Cut things like cable TV and Internet usage.  Make sure you are not paying for an Internet plan with 50GB download when you are only using 10GB, downsize where possible don't up size.  Basically anytime we get a bill we have a look at how we can make savings on that bill, be it changing a provider or simply being more efficient around the home.  Let your bills become the trigger point to begin a process of investigating a cheaper/better way to do things, analyse each individual bill and see if savings can be made somewhere.  An example is your power bill, can you run electrical appliances (like cloths dryers) at night when the tariff is lower.  Phone bills are another, call your provider and ask if a plan can be tailored based on your current usage data, or maybe you could change to a cheaper provider.  Most of the bills we have can be reduced if you sit down and analyse them.

10.  Watch Power Consumption.

Turn appliances off at the power point to avoid vampire power leakage.  Switch off lights and only use electric heating (excluding heat pump type systems) while you are in the room.  Don't have half hour showers, close curtains at night, hack and slash where you can but always remember to first considers others in the home.  Every little bit helps, my Grandmother when she was alive told me that if I look after the pennies the pounds will take care of them selves.  In conclusion I would like to recommend you have a look at the links in this post and put your thinking cap on, take steps today toward being financially free and begin living life.

~~ James Miller ~~