The following is a staff writer post from Amanda L. Grossman at Frugal Confessions. She covers how to live a frugal decadent life where saving and living in the present are both held in high regard.
Organizations that accept donations of money, belongings, and time always see an uptick in willing givers during the holiday season at the end of the year. The end of the year gives a marked deadline for tax-deductible donations, many are feeling warm and fuzzy from the holiday season, and online and offline donation campaigns add exposure and convenience to the whole process. According to this Online Giving Study, one third of all online donations are procured in December of each year. An astounding 22% of annual giving happens in the last two days of the year alone!
The end of the year is a wonderful time to donate. But what about the rest of the year, during times when there are no natural disasters to rally our hearts and our wallets? Even if you do not have much money to spare, there are many ways that you can still donate and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Commit Random Acts of Kindness
Have you ever had a Random Act of Kindness committed to you by a complete stranger? What an easy and fun way to spread joy in this world! After seeing an episode about this on Oprah, my parents began committing Random Acts of Kindness to complete strangers during my childhood. The one I remember most was when we were at a toll booth and my parents randomly paid the fare for the car behind them.
Without knowing the person, their situation, or really anything about him/her, by committing a Random Act of Kindness you can make someone smile while they think about all of the good in this world. Some ideas are to pay for a person’s order in the car behind you at the drive-thru, pick up an extra Sunday paper and leave it at someone’s stoop with a nice message, or perhaps leave a roll of quarters with a note at the Laundromat. Can you imagine the look of surprise on your recipient’s face?
Donate by Playing Games
Do you have time and the desire to increase (or test) your vocabulary? At FreeRice.com you can play multiple-choice vocabulary quizzes. For each word that you define correctly, 10 grains of rice will be donated to the World Food Programme to help end world hunger. You start at Level 1 and can go to Level 60. There is also a wooden bowl for the rice on your right-hand side, and you can watch it fill up (I worked up to 3,080 grains of rice in the writing of this article; fortunately for me, they do not take grains of rice away for incorrect answers)!
You can also play crossword puzzles at Charitii and choose which charity you would like your wins to be donated to (charities include charity: water, Invisible Youth Network, The Nature Conservancy, The Oaktree Foundation, and Philippine Aid Society).
Donate by Pushing Buttons
CharityUSA.com is a good place to find several, legitimate, click-to-give charities on the web. For any of the charities that you find on this site, 100% of sponsor advertising is paid as a royalty to GreaterGood.org, an independent 501(c)(3) charity that makes grants to charity partners delivering services in its mission areas. As an example, in the month of April over 357,000 pounds of food were donated from people clicking on buttons. And all you have to do is click a button (there is no cost to you)! Charities include Feeding America, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., the World Land Trust-US, and Feed Our Vets.
Sometimes a donation of time can make a world of difference. You could mentor a young child through programs such as Big Brother Big Sister, you could tutor children in a nearby elementary school, or why not volunteer at the zoo? Any project, mission, or organization that you are interested probably has a volunteer position that you can fill. This is especially true if you have skills to offer, such as my aunt who used her managerial and resume-writing skills to work with an organization that helps women transition from welfare to work.
I hope that this inspires you to donate throughout the year and not just around the holidays or surrounding natural disasters. Imagine how much more of an impact there could be if everyone did this?
Before you yell at me, obviously it is possible to make enough money to live and save on. You have hopefully read one or two of my posts and know that we are good. We pay our bills, save for our future, and spend on fun along the way. But the more I talk to my friends and really listen to my husband, the more it becomes obvious that it is impossible to make enough to cover absolutely every need, want, and savings goal that we will ever have. We want too much.
Needs and Wants
Our need list is really short. We need:
- A place to live
- High speed internet (our job is 100% online)
But we want out of our needs is:
- A really nice place to live
- Food based on what we crave
- Utilities above what we really “need” since I like air conditioning and a green lawn
- Super high speed internet
Then we want a bunch of things that are really important to us too:
- Emergency fund savings since we like a ton of padding
- Retirement savings
- To pay cash for our next car
- To pay off our house in 10 years or less (6 years or less like our first house would be great)
- Biweekly housekeeping and lawn services
- Entertainment like cable and Netflix
Then we want even more stuff that is just low priority:
- I want a new laptop since mine is 6 years old and breaking down piece by piece.
- We want a new dishwasher since the builder’s one sucks.
- I want nice landscaping and an automatic sprinkler system.
- Hubby wants an awesome library chair/chaise lounge.
- We want new furniture for the living room and media room.
We Can’t Have It All
Just because we make more now than we have before doesn’t mean we get to buy or save everything we want money for…it just means we have more money to use towards our priorities. There is never going to be enough cash just sitting around to satisfy our every whim. I’m okay with that. I just have to remind myself of it when I have those days that I’m feeling like an entitled brat.
The Only Way to Be Happy
The only way any person is ever content with life is when they are honestly happy with what they have and stop basing their happiness on what they don’t have. In my experience, everyone has bad moments once in a while, but the difference between a general optimist and a general pessimist is that the optimist concentrates on the good way more often.
I have no idea what the “true” meaning if life is. Sorry, I don’t have all of the answers. But I know that I feel better when I help others. I feel better when I stay busy. And I feel better when I am making those around me happy. So my meaning of life is to be a generally good person that helps others and hopefully has some of my best feelings rub off on others.
So I try to take my own advice. I try to be grateful and happy as much as possible with the blessings I have. There are days that I mope around and get all whiny, but those are outnumbered by all of the great days. Life is too short to feel unfulfilled and crabby all of the time. And I know that I control my outlook. That’s on me. So I will continue to try to make every day a content one.
How about you? Do you ever find yourself concentrating more on what you don’t have? Or are you already pretty good on staying positive and being content with your life? Any tricks to stay positive or better a bad mood? How about any tricks to wanting less?
These last couple of days have been annoying as heck at home because of freaking fruit flies. We got the first few with some fruit I bought last week, but they didn’t really take over in full force until Tuesday night. I’m writing this Thursday afternoon.
How to Handle Fruit Flies
Apparently, you bring the eggs into your home from fruits and vegetables from the store. So first step to prevention is to immediately wash all of the fruits you bring into the house to get rid of the eggs. But if you didn’t do that (like me), you now have a whole set of different problems. Our infestation came from some old vases of water and a pot of boiled water we left out that we had used to boil corn. Ewww.
First you have to get all food off the counters and into the fridge or freezer since they need food and water to live and breed in. Plus, they die in the cold. Then you need to really clean the house so there won’t be any crumbs or standing water for them. Dump old vases, don’t leave drinks out overnight, and take out the trash every single day. This also means even taking house plants outside since they can live off of the fermenting leaves.
Then set out fruit fly traps and keep all of your food locked up until they are all dead. The traps that are working the best for us right now are bowls of syrup and a little dishwashing liquid combined with warm water that are covered with plastic wrap that I poked holes into with a fork. The Raid fly strips are also working really well. I do feel a little cruel with the fly strips since it seems meaner than drowning them in syrup, but at this point, I just need these things out of my house.
This one has killed quite a few in 12 hours.
This is a picture of the product itself before it was opened. It has only been hanging for a few hours and already has quite a few on it.
It’s only day three of the real battle, but I feel confident. I’ll let you know next week if I am still fighting the little buggers.
Have you ever been taken over by fruit flies? How did you get rid of them?
Okay, so my mom reads my blog (hi Mom!). To counteract this and get your opinion anyway, I’ll be vague.
Plans Rained Out
My younger sister and I had been planning an outdoorsy meetup with my parents and youngest sister this Sunday. But today is nothing but thunderstorms and high winds, so we’re betting our plan will be too soggy to go through with. That said, my younger sister is trying to make backup plans with my dad. She is also trying to figure out a gift idea for the woman who literally already has everything she wants.
The ongoing joke in our family is that gift giving for the “adults” is freaking hard (I am on that cusp officially, lol). My parents are retired and can/do buy the little things that make themselves happy. Right now, that is fruit trees and stuff for chickens and ducks. I think they are set there. So either we can go with the cliché flowers or take a shot in the dark with a gift that she may not want or already has, lol. Boogers.
I Like Made-Up Holidays
And before you even have to ask, I am probably one of the few personal finance bloggers that actually like the “Hallmark Holidays”. I agree that you should let your loved ones know that they are loved all of the time, but set days to really point it out works for people like me. It forces us to schedule time for special days as opposed to “visiting on a light day”. I have no idea how it is already May! Worse, it’s already May 10! What the heck?!
So, what are you doing for Mother’s Day? What would you suggest for backup plans?
Do you remember the rhyme below? It was a little chant I remember learning in elementary school while at recess. I loved it since I loved words and this was just so wrong! It boggled my mind and has stuck with me:
One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back-to-back they faced one another,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard the noise,
And came and killed those two dead boys.
(If you don’t believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man — he saw it too!)
I still smile when I chant this line-by-line. Word play is just fun.
Finding My Happy
I think this just came to mind again because I seem to surround myself with people that think out-of-the-box way more than me in most ways, but I can at least keep up when it comes to words. I am an outright extrovert and I know one of my largest weaknesses is that I want everyone to like me. As everyone knows, that isn’t possible. Especially when you talk as much as I do. Sometimes, I can get a group rolling in laughter and other times it just falls flat and people look at me like I’m weird.
I have started caring a little less when I’m not everybody’s favorite, and I think self-confidence has a lot to do with it. Most of that self-confidence has really developed because of this blog. Words give me strength and make me happy. Talking to all of you every day can make me feel vulnerable and empowered at the same time. I know that most of you enjoy my writing and that just pumps me up to write more. And opposition seems to get me fired up too. It’s like a win-win.
Finding Your Happy
If I can find an outlet like blogging that seemed to be made with me in mind, I honestly believe that there is something special for everyone. And the longer I am content with life, the more I want that for everyone else too. Each and every one of us deserve to find their happy…their strength. The trick is tracking it down. Try everything at least once. Jump into something that scares you and excites you at the same time. If writing sounds like work, try other things that make your creative juices flow. Do you like painting? Building stuff? Playing with animals? Volunteer work? Taking care of children? Just try anything that sounds even remotely interesting and you may find that one thing that makes you glow.
Have you found your happy already? What is it? Still looking? What have you tried? Seriously, everyone comment below and maybe we can at least help list out ideas to try…we all deserve to have something that fulfills us…
Hi! This week has been NUTSO and I just have run out of ideas and time, lol. So I am just going to journal-it-out right now…
Just a quick rundown:
- Newsletter - My newsletter has my income update, so if you would like to peek, feel free to sign up in the right sidebar and look at past posts like today’s.
- Dreams – Self employment seriously means that you have to work when you can and try to turn it off during the other parts of your life – I haven’t been able to really turn off that part of my brain for a couple of weeks and it is even affecting my dreams. Seriously, last week, I woke up pissed that I was going to have to pay a $250 towing fee and $75 key replacement fee after I dreamed that my husband and I were kidnapped, I talked our way out, so we were let go, but our car was towed and the kidnapper had thrown our electronic key into the swamp. Yep, in my subconscious, kidnapping is a doable obstacle but stupid-ass fees are what sets me off…
- Health – I re-joined Weight Watchers this past Monday and have already eaten my weight in bananas and broccoli (0 point foods). I’ll give you all a way better update next week or the one after. I just want to make sure I stick to it this time…I want to have the same success I did in 2011.
- Family – My grandma on my mom’s side just turned 83 and I hung out with her and family for a chunk of yesterday – we had a really good time! Great birthday, Grandma!
- Bowling – We also had our second-to-last week of our bowling league last night and lost as usual (probably why we are in last place, lol).
- Games – I’ve become addicted to an off-brand Bejeweled on my new smart phone. Has anyone seen that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the whole crew gets addicted to a stupid game of guiding a disc into something that looks like a tuba with their thoughts? An alien species is using it to get everyone sidetracked so they can take over The Enterprise and Wesley Crusher is the only one that stays clear-headed…Anyway, I feel a little like one of those victims. It hasn’t led to much procrastination, but I can feel it winning…
- Brain Freeze – And after Tuesday night, I just got an all-out case of writer’s block. I want to write personal, amazing posts that get you all to comment, like my one about guns, but I seem to only be able to hit that mark once a month or so…I need to know what sets you all off and write about that, lol.
So, what have you been up to? If you want to hear about anything specific from me next week, just fire away in the comment section! The more personal-like questions, the better since you have probably noticed that I don’t do much research for these…just shoot. I’m a pretty open book and even if I can’t come up with enough material to write a whole post, I can at least answer your question in the comment section, so check back by Monday.
Yep, I have actually had those words go through my head before. Someone asked if we had a gun in the house, I said no, and then they asked about the gun case they saw. “Gun case? Oh, that’s just a small game hunting rifle we use for target practice…that’s not a real gun.”
Yeah, I know, to most of the world, that seems ludicrous, but I grew up around half a dozen hunting rifles because we lived in the middle of the Sam Houston National Forest right outside of Houston, TX. If you didn’t have a way to kill the dangerous wild animals like feral hogs or stray, crazy dogs that wanted more than just a handout (think Cujo but smaller), you were probably going to get hurt if you lived out there for more than a few weeks.
It was normal for me to see guns like these since I grew up in the middle of a forest in the country. They are used for target practice, hunting, or for defense against wild animals.
It seems that I see a new breaking story every week about some crazy person doing something bad somewhere to groups of people. And even though they seem to use whatever they are best at to hurt others – bombs, guns, knives, gas, etc – guns seem to get harped on the most. I guess that’s natural. When people are scared, they want to eliminate threats. But I rather concentrate on finding the crazy people instead of letting them scare us into changing things for the population as a whole.
I’m specifically thinking about airports as I write this. I hate the new security stuff in place at airports mainly because it is super annoying and takes so much time. But I also hate it because crazy people and even annoyed-and-a-little-stupid people trying to prove a point keep actually proving that the excessive security measures don’t work. People who want to hurt other people seem to be able to get by any security eventually, so only those of us that are normal and just trying to get somewhere are inconvenienced. I think the same thing is trying to happen with guns. Even though the majority of gun owners aren’t nuts, they may be forced to change because we allow the nutballs too much power over our opinions.
Guns specifically are brought up a hundred times a week as things that should be cracked down on or eliminated. Here’s my personal opinion…guns have their place. Being used to terrorize the public is definitely not acceptable in any way. But being able to defend yourself against crazy animals, whether that’s a rabid dog or a dangerous person, makes sense to me.
I am not a member of the NRA. I don’t have an arsenal in my closet. I do think gun control such as giving your name and info when buying a gun makes sense AND people who start buying butt loads of guns need to be watched closely for any hinky stuff. But I don’t agree that all guns should be eliminated or aren’t justifiable.
I know this will end up being one of my most controversial posts ever. I can already hear some comments in my head. Here is my last little bit to say before I start getting hate mail. I understand that where you live can color your view on guns.
I grew up in “the country”. Everyone I ever knew that lived in the country also owned hunting rifles. That was normal to me. I now live in “the city”. A few people I know own hand guns. I used to think that owning a hand gun was dangerous because I didn’t grow up with those around. Now I am used to them, have shot them at a gun range twice, and I have even thought about owning one. But I keep putting it off since they are comparably expensive ($300-$1500+ depending on what you want) and I really don’t think I need one.
In general, if you didn’t grow up around guns at all, I could see how you wouldn’t see a use for them other than murdering people and you may hate them. I can be open-minded and understand that point of view. So if you fall in that category, please try to be open-minded and see through my eyes. I’ve seen guns – hunting rifles and hand guns – used thousands of times for target practice (which is actually really fun), providing dinner, and even for defending against a wild dog once. I’ve never seen one hurt anybody because the people I surround myself with are sane and lucky enough never to have needed to defend themselves against another human.
So in my eyes, guns are not evil. Sometimes evil people use them though. There is a difference.
Okay, open fire. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. What’s your view on guns?