and the college money grows all around

After hearing an NPR program about young people and savings, I joined the “Your Money and Life” Facebook group that NPR created to provide assistance and encouragement to young adults who are venturing into investments. Though I can’t say I’ve learned much from the group yet, post notifications have been a helpful reminder to keep me investment-oriented.

For the month of December they created a pledge to open 529s by the end of the year. It happens that I was looking into my state 529 college savings plan prior to that and had planned to open accounts for my kids with the money that they received as gifts from Christmas. In fact, I had been accumulating this money in my personal savings account for my son with no place else to put it, so I finally made the move to invest it in college funds.

It seems to me (a novice) that the MN College Savings Plan has low fees and a good range of investment options. I selected managed accounts based on their ages. I have heard that managing your own accounts is the way to go to save more money, but my style is to contribute and look at it very little until it is time to make a withdrawal.

While education is a high priority for my husband and I, we don’t intend to pay for our sons’ full tuition. Saving that much is probably not even possible for us right now. Instead, I started the 529s to invest what money is gifted to them throughout their childhoods in the hopes that it will grow. Minnesota 529s were a great option for this because the minimum amount to start an account is $25 and the contribution minimum is also only $25. Plus, they make gift contributions easy, so I am hoping that their grandparents will get on board with helping them save rather than giving so many toy gifts.

And it’s now that time of year. Tax time. The suggestion on the original radio program was to take whatever return you receive and open a retirement account. While I contribute to one through my employer, my husband hasn’t started one yet. Whatever amount we get back will be going into an investment account which he will continue to contribute to monthly. Fingers crossed our return will be sizable, but even if it’s not, it’s a move in the right direction.

everything else is a ‘no’

Nothing seemed simple about last year. Full, but not simple.

With some like-minded community members, I started a Toy Library which you can read about here. Then amid my husband’s law school graduation and Bar preparation, we moved to a new town (where he now works) and awaited the arrival of our sweet second child, now five months old. In the Fall I started the last year of my graduate program in the midst of a 12-week maternity leave from my full-time job.

With the new year comes a renewed commitment to live simply and fully, and thus my mantra has become: “Say yes to what matters most, everything else is a ‘no’.”

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Blogging has become a ‘yes’ again. It was essential as I dipped my toes into the practice of minimalism that I had the support and accountability of a like-minded community. But after awhile I felt I was writing what had already been said (not very minimalist indeed), so I let it go.

A year later, here I am with a bigger family, in a bigger house, in a smaller town (though, ironically, we’re saving more money having moved out of the city). I am recommitting myself to living simply and fully. In truth, nothing narrows one’s focus to that which matters most like the cry of an infant needing to be nursed. It acts as a great check on my regularly hurried state, forcing me to sit down and settle in for a moment, to breathe, relax and enjoy my family.

While I have stuck with my minimalist mindset, some old habits have been slipping back into my routines. It shows in my expanded wardrobe, which I blame on pregnancy and nursing (but still!), and in my spacious new home which we’re trying desperately to not fill with things.

Fortunately, my buying-averse mindset stuck around through my blogging hiatus. Whew, a year of blogging about living simply did a number on my consumption habits and I am thankful for that! I dread bringing anything new into our home, and I still think extensively before buying.

So, here we go again. I am grateful to be back among friends! Looking forward to continuing our journey together!

 

unravelling the overloaded wardrobe

2014 is the time to declutter my wardrobe. No more, “But I might wear that again.” I have boxes full of but-I-might-wear-that-agains, and they need to go. This may be the singular biggest area where I get my wants and needs mixed up. I do need some clothes for work and for working out and for special occasions, etc. But how much is enough? When does “needing it for work” turn into a justification to buy whatever new article of clothing I want. And sure I want a new winter coat. We spend most of our lives in them up here in Minnesota. But I have a coat, so need is not really a word that applies here.

More to that point is that we already require clothes for several seasons. What’s worse, as a new mom I went through about four wardrobe changes in the last year. It’s not just the maternity and nursing clothes but also the major weight gains and losses. And I still don’t know where I’ll end up, so I’ve been hanging on to everything!

This has all led me to wonder… Not thinking about any of the clothes that I actually own or want to keep, how many clothes do I really require? Here’s what Livingonadime.com had to say:

7-9 work/dressy outfits
5-7 casual outfits
2-3 outfits for relaxing at home
3-4 pairs work shoes (depends on your work. Only 2 if you wear tennis shoes or similar shoes to work)
3 pairs casual shoes

Editing to fit my lifestyle it would be about:

9 shirts
7 sweaters
2 sweatshirts
9 tanks/tees
5 pairs of shoes
2 pairs of sandals
2 pairs of boots
7 pairs of pants
2 skirts
2 dresses

I wonder if I could get it down to that?! It seems reasonable. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately with my clothes anyway. I have so much in my closet and still I don’t know what to wear. This may be the perfect solution. I think I will start by picking out the outfits that I feel great in and go from there- focusing my attention on how much I like the pieces that I am going to keep rather than agonizing over the ones I am giving up. Then over to the consignment shop for an added bonus. Ah, the rewards of living simply.