Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Doing More, Spending Less, Getting Happy

Guest Blogger - Kaprial Martinez

**I met Kap years ago (middle school) and find her to be just about as passionate as I am (if not more) about sooo many social issues. She is informed and has very strong opinions. I hope your find her post as informative as I!

First of all I would like to thank Nicole for giving me a place to share my thoughts and feelings. I always have a lot to say, probably why she asked me to do this, but I must admit I have been stumped since accepting.

After much thought I decided to go with a subject we have been working on as a family.

Over the past few years most of us have either been hurt by the current economic situation or we’ve watched people get hurt by it. As I listened to what people were going through and then observed how we live I became increasingly frustrated. People no longer know how to live “smart” and the only person I’ve seen putting the info. out there is Oprah, but most aren’t getting it. Of course there are exceptions, but the average Americans life focuses around buying and spending. We think we will always have/make enough money. Many are now working to buy instead of working to live and we are getting more and more depressed and in debt.

Here are a few statistics:
-Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population.
-Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants. At least four percent of preschoolers -- over a million -- are clinically depressed.
-The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23%
-15% of depressed people will commit suicide.
-Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 -- and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease.

“Depression results in more absenteeism than almost any other physical disorder and costs employers more than US$51 billion per year in absenteeism and lost productivity, not including high medical and pharmaceutical bills.”

We are considered middle class. I am a 37 yr old mother of 4, my husband is in the Air Force, and I choose to work at home. We have been consumers and charging like everyone around us. For a while I was proud of the nice stuff we had, but then something happened and I began to notice how depressed, tired and zoned-out everyone is. The more “toys” we have the more we want.

Parents get jobs they hate, put their kids in daycare, and work to buy stuff. Now, I know people also work to survive and/or have happy careers that fulfill them. It just seems the majority are miserable. All day people post on Face Book about how much they hate their jobs and how little time they have with their children. The more I looked at us the less I liked what I saw. That is when I started reviewing our life. We want to take nice vacations, travel the world, have dependable vehicles, and help our kids with college. I just don’t want to do it while being depressed, disconnected, overworked and broke. I don’t want to work just so we can buy more stuff. I don’t want an unfulfilling job to put money in someone else’s pocket. If you do more yourself, buy less junk, and make smart financial decisions you will need less money. If you love your job then a few changes can only add to your happiness and savings.

I am not trying to put anyone in a box. I think domestic responsibilities should be handled by men, women, and children. What I am talking about is making the home a priority again and taking responsibility for our most basic needs. We have to stop keeping up with the Jones’s and worry about living our best life possible, the one we can afford/own, not the one we can charge. We all have different situations and some can do more than others, but if you are struggling to pay your bills, living paycheck to paycheck, no savings, and don’t have a retirement fund or plan… you NEED to do something different.

What you DON’T need to do is set your air conditioner on 70degrees, buy your obese asthmatic kids flat screen t.v.’s and new gaming systems, because they got mad and broke theirs, and then call me to borrow money because you can’t pay your bills. All in the same week!

I have more kids than this family, we have one income and they have two, but they wanted to borrow money from us. I suggested they take back the t.v.’s/gaming systems and set the air at 78. I’ve loaned friends money for emergencies, but in this situation I would be an enabler. Using the money we saved by not wasting to pay for their dysfunction… crazy. What bothered me the most is how common this is and how they refused to “see” the problem was their behavior.

I compiled a list of ways we save money. We do more and have bigger plans, but this is a good start. These changes are not only good for the environment, but also our physical, mental, and financial health. You don’t have to be a stay at home parent to do this stuff, you just have to make it a priority and get everyone involved.

Kids often whine at first, but then they start to enjoy the time spent with you and the independence:

1. Back off the electricity: Thermostat settings, Summer: 78-80degrees with fans. Winter: 58-60. Just 5 degrees will make a difference. Buy a drying rack or clothes line. My drying rack is easily folded and stored. Fluff clothes in dryer 5-10 mins. to soften. Wash in cold water. Turn off and unplug appliances when they aren’t in use. Buy 5 yr. light bulbs and rechargeable batteries. These changes are easy and your electric bill will drop.

2. Cleaning supplies: I use 1/8th the recommended amount of detergent and spot treat with Oxy and my clothes look as clean as yours. A container of Ecos last me 5-6 months.
Sometimes, I make my own. http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes/
Baking soda will clean toilets, tubs, sinks, stoves, baking dishes, and you can mix with vinegar to unclog your sink. Vinegar is great on floors, in the wash, and to remove odors. It worked wonders on my cloth diapers and cured a friends athletes feet. Stop wasting money on those poisonous sprays that make your home smell like chemical fruit. http://www.natural-healthy-home-cleaning-tips.com/vinegar_baking_soda_cleaning_recipes.htm

3. Shop at second hand stores and yard sales. From childhood to now most of my clothes are secondhand. In fact, my mom once bought Izod socks at the Rescue mission and took off the Symbols and sewed them onto cheap knock off shirts for my brother. No one knew the difference. You can find my brother in the South West annual under “Best Dressed.” When clothes are out of season and go on sale I buy them for the next year. My kids wear name brands, but I rarely pay full price.

4. Stop pointless shopping! and rushing into purchases, sleep on it. Only buy what you truly need and can afford and don’t be afraid to buy used items or pay a little more for something that will not break in a week. Less stuff is very freeing; just watch an episode of hoarders. If you have it and don’t need it, sell it or offer it to someone that does. If you are in really bad shape, worried about paying your bills, but still have cable, internet, and caller I.D… then this is the perfect time to cancel them or chose cheaper options. Take your lunch and drinks and stop paying crazy prices for things like coffee and bottled water. Make it automatic. Write down all of your bills/expenses and see what you can change, make a plan, a budget and stick to it. Let the kids be a part of this, it is a great lesson and helps them understand your changes.

5. Buy a dependable car with good gas mileage, take care of it, pay it off, and bank the payment. Some people plan to always have a car payment. This is absurd. Enjoy a few years without a payment. So many new homes are falling apart in 5 years, research and don’t max out your payment. Things happen that aren’t in our control, but planning and buying smart puts us in a better position to deal with those situations. If you must have the mansion then plan and prepare so you can afford it and not drown your family in debt. We are correcting past mistakes, getting out of debt, and planning for our family’s future. A savings is more important than the car I drive or having rooms I never use.

6. Put some limitations on your kids and stop buying them so much junk. Limit electronic gaming time. My kids usually get 1 hour a day during the week, free day on Sat., and no screen time on Sun. The less you game the longer your games last.

 Don’t live in front of the t.v., get them out of your kid’s rooms, and take t.v. breaks. Journal your kids screen/gaming time for a week, it may shock you and while you’re at it, journal your own. Did you know Physical Therapist are going to public schools and teaching children to run, skip, hop, jump, and ride bikes because sitting all day is causing their feet to form incorrectly? Two of the therapists in my doctor’s office do this twice a week and these are not special needs children. Kids need to experience being bored, getting dirty, playing with sticks, catching bugs, and running around. Plus it’s free! I have been guilty of over-protecting my kids and now see my mistakes and we are doing the work to correct them. It weakens children and can cause social anxiety. How do you learn to be safe if you never get hurt? How do you recognize bad people if you are never allowed to speak to a stranger? We don’t let our kid’s ride their bike down the street, but many are allowed to go into their bedrooms, close the door and get on the internet. That is Dangerous!
 http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07093/774604-51.stm http://www.oxfordlearning.com/letstalk/2010/06/10/computer-time-bad-for-brain/ http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/kids-television-47102701
Give your kids a small allowance and make them save for what they want. Save big ticket items for Christmas or bdays. They will learn to plan, save, manage, and appreciate money and their toys. If you put limitations on your kids and they cry and have fits that just means they need help and you are on the right track.

 Just don’t be a tyrant, that will make them hate it. Be creative, loving, patient, and set a good example. We are their parents, not ATM’S. It is not our job to supply an endless stream of gadgets, phones, and clothes. I have an open/honest/loving relationship with my children, but I am their mother first. Over gratifying your child is one of the worse things you can do to them and everyone that has to deal with them. Sitting in front of screens is killing our manners and social skills. If I were to hire someone it would not be the rude kid/adult that can’t make eye contact, says “yeah” and is wearing earphones and texting. True Story told to me by friend in Rest. Management. If your kid can’t get a job at B.K. he/she is going to cost you a lot of money.

7. Food: The average family spends $2,671 a yr eating out. Learn to cook, organize, plan, get everyone involved and it can be fresh, quick, and easy. My 2 yr old uses a butter knife to “cut” veggies and my older sons enjoy using sharper knives;) A slow-cooker can cook dinner while you are at work. Flour is cheap and bread making is easy. Food Banks can’t give away bags of flour because no one knows what to do with them. I like to cook a whole organic chicken, use the leftovers for fried rice or chicken salad, and the bones to make broth.
We don’t need Sugar/corn syrup; it is making us fat and sick and costing us a ton of money! I am shocked at the number of toddlers I see with rotten teeth and a sippy cup full of colored sugar water. Water, water, water! We all need it and if it’s the only thing available we will drink it. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/news/20060309/gatorade-tough-on-teeth “As little as 100 years ago, it is estimated that Americans ate around one pound of sugar a year. Today, it is estimated that we (children and adults) consume around 1/4 to 1/2 pound of sugar each and every day for a total of around 90 to 180 pounds of sugar going into our bodies every year.”
So many of our kids are overactive, depressed, angry, unfocused, and cutting themselves. We could remove sugar, artificial junk, and force them outside and connect with them, but instead we remove recess and gym, pump them full of sugar/caffeine and then put them on pharmaceuticals. The schools complain about a child’s behavior and then feed them cinnamon rolls, O.J., fruit loops, and choc. milk for breakfast and lunch is just as bad. We seem to be more willing to drug our children than remove the junk food and get active with them. All of the doctor/dentist visits and pharmaceuticals are expensive. Sugar feeds cancer and high fructose corn syrup causes it to proliferate.
In a family the care of the home and cooking is everyone’s responsibility. Kids should know how to shop, prepare, and cook healthy food. If they know 5 good recipes they will be able to help with meals and when they leave home they will have the tools to take care of themselves in a healthy way and not be at the mercy of fast food restaurants, pizza and ramen noodles. It’s very easy to grow a small garden in your yard and you can shop from farmers in your area. I know we are not all going to start raising chickens and sewing, (insert chuckle) that is not my point. Small changes can have a huge impact on a family. By doing more for ourselves instead of paying others to do it for us we can: build a savings, get out of debt, plan for our future, spend quality time with our children, and improve our physical and mental health. If you don’t think our kids are in trouble you should talk to a few teens and find out how many are secret cutters and are on anti-depressants. We all deserve happiness and with some effort and change we can have more of it.
http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/gardening-for-kids.html http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/2008/03/13/pour-some-sugar-on-it-how-much-sugar-is-in-my-childs-food/


Robin said...

Thank you for taking the time to write all of this down. There are so many problems. If people would even work on one of these areas in their household, they would see an improvement!

Laura said...

Kaprial- that was excellent! I am pretty diligent in those areas already. but you gave me some more great ideas! Thank you for such a practical, informative post!

wordygirl said...

Thank you for the nice comments. Kaprial

Anonymous said...

Wow, this post was really informative. I'm surprised that I already do a lot of these things. I just need to get to the thrift shops more often...


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