The ERE book giveaway has been a huge success. The original intent was to give back to this great community and to further share what I’ve learned in reading books like ERE and YMOYL.
I was bombarded with far more comments than I expected, but it turned out to be a helluva brainstorming session. I encourage you all to go back and read all the actions people have taken to decouple their needs from money. I’ve compiled a personal list of ideas that I’m going to adopt – which does not include living with in-laws like Tabatha – that’s just crazy. 😉
Here are the winners:
Blog Post Winner
This was an easy one. Only one person entered the competition (that I know of) by writing their own blog post on what they’ve done. She didn’t actually tell me she wrote it, but fortunately for her I noticed some traffic coming from the post and went to check it out. This first prize goes to Deb and her post here. Great list, Deb.
The rules I set for the twitter award were that I’d choose a tweet at random. There were 6 entries, so using my trusty Excel formula “=RANDBETWEEN(1,6)” the winner was chosen… And the free book goes to @MichaelFoster26 for his tweet:
I stopped seeing myself as a consumer and started seeing myself as a human being.
I was especially impressed that this is Michael’s first and only tweet. Well done MichaelFoster26, well done. It really is a worthy winner. Unplugging yourself from the Consumerist matrix is everyone’s first step.
Man, this was a tough one. There were 26 entries filled with over 100 great ideas. I said I would award the prize based on 3 characteristics: significance, creativity, and quantity. Based on those items, I was striuggling between 2 entries that really displayed all 3 of these characteristics….
And as I debated with myself, I looked up to the top right corner of my screen and noticed that my subscriber count was up over 200. What?!? But this giveaway was to celebrate getting over 100 subscribers. What should I do, another giveaway?? Nah, too much work. BUT – I could give away a 4th book, thus ending my predicament of choosing between these two great comments.
And so it is, I will give out 2 books for blog comments. The first goes to the very first commenter: duncan. Duncan just graduated, but already he displays the attitude that will ensure he doesn’t just seek frugality (which is how I started), but instead that he is capable of completely decoupling money from happiness, friendship and physical needs. This took me nearly a decade to figure out. Here’s duncan’s complete post:
So, after graduating earlier this year, I finally had to come to terms with the idea of a life that is not my own. Forty hours a week sounded terrifying. Sixty hours a week, which my dad pulls on a regular basis? Plus a commute? Impossible.
I’ve found a decent 40-hour job since then. The main thing that lets me face it is knowing that I won’t have to do it forever.
Here are a few things helping me get there:
1. I decided to look for a job close to home so I could live with my parents. There’s no shame in it. It lets me cut out transportation, housing, and food costs out of my life almost entirely. I do have to help my parents around the house and cook for them–instead of paying for a car and for rent, I get to hone my cooking skills and bike to work. This isn’t realistic for everyone, but use the options you have!
2. Food: I’m a vegan, and I don’t go out to eat or drink. I *need* food, but I don’t need to pay extra money for status food. Even people who will never agree with ethical veganism can appreciate that cutting down on meat and dairy would fulfill the same needs (nutrition) and wants (food! yum!)–so if you’re eating meat, you’re paying extra. (Any vegans *must* visit http://www.veganhealth.org/ though)
3. After being an Amazon addict for years, I learned to love my local library! Free is better: when I’ve read a library book, I can return it, and don’t have to deal with more clutter or the hassle of selling.
4. freecycle.org. People are always giving away great stuff, and always ready to take your dusty treasures off your hand. I got the bike that I use to ride to work from there, and found a home for my old bass.
5. Frugal exercising. I strongly believe that going to the gym is a waste of money–you can fulfill the same want/need by bodyweight exercises you can do at home. I’ve been doing “Convict Conditioning” (a great exercise program and book) for the last 3 months. The author argues that bodyweight exercises are healthier, too–doing proper pull-ups and pushups won’t lead to rotator cuff injuries. This isn’t antisocial, either–I’ve partnered up with a friend who’s doing the program, and we’re keeping each other in line.
6. In general, I’ve learned to appreciate the things I already have instead of looking for ways to pay for them. I have friends. I don’t need to pay a bartender for that friendship. *So much* of our world is geared towards selling the things we already have back to us–think bottled water.
I’ve been doing my best to separate money from my desires and necessities recently… and am learning that freedom and “free” things aren’t so unrelated.
Cool blog, by the way!
The second winner of the contest showed the best display of the interconnect between frugality and sustainability. She grows and raises much of her own food, forages in the woods for food, sells at the local farmers market, and makes most of her own food from scratch. Here is Ashley’s complete post:
I became interested in self sufficiency when I met Jim Merkel (http://radicalsimplicity.org/) in college. I learned a lot about satisfying my own needs simply, and spending time, not money, to live the life I wanted.
I worked several jobs through college, and when I graduated I had saved up enough for the down payment on a house. I didn’t want to put money into the black hole of “rent”, but at 22 I’ll admit I really had no idea what a black hole home ownership of a 160 year hold house could be if you’re not educated on doing your own repairs…I’ve learned a lot about in the past 4 years.
My penchant for self sufficiency relied mostly on producing as much of my own needs myself. I grow a large garden and raise my own ducks & goats for meat/eggs/etc. I love food, but because of that I know how to cook just about anything from the simple to the elaborate to keep my habit frugal.
When I found my life partner, I found someone who looked at self sufficiency from a more economic perspective, and focused on saving, investing and calculating for early retirement. He really opened my eyes and introduced me to ERE.
We’re working towards renting out the house we currently live in to cover costs, and building a small cost effective house on 2 acres we just purchased without a mortgage. If we can build it ourselves from our savings we can bring our monthly costs down substantially by eliminating the roughly $1000 per month mortgage payment we’d otherwise be paying.
The land we’ve chosen is excellent for farming, and we already have a spot picked out for our root cellar and greenhouse, and sources for supplies that we can get second hand for free or next to nothing.
How do we get there though? How do we reduce our expenses enough to save enough to get there?
–Reduce our food expenses to $300 per month while still eating extravagantly. There’s Thai coconut pumpkin soup going in the crock pot right now that’s less than a dollar per serving. Last night’s home made ravioli were similarly priced. Make your food from scratch at home. We originally thought we could get away with $150 per month, but food prices have really risen since we did our original research, and the CPI for food is almost doubled. Now to get 2000 calories for 2 people for a month, it costs more than $150 in just beans and rice. (Work it our yourself, beans are roughly $1.89 per pound in bulk, rice is $2.39) We found this helpful calculator to get us more in the ballpark of where we need to be (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/plan/foodspendingplan/) and then took 1/3 off of the total it gave us.
–Find good deals. When produce is in season a local farm here always has too much. They sell basil for making pesto for $5 for a TRASH BAG FULL. It goes normally for $16 per pound in the store. Right now in fall, a 30 pound box of winter squash is $18. They’re selling for $1.89 per pound in the store. Both of these things will be prepared and frozen and enjoyed all year long. Buy in bulk when things are in season.
–Find a hobby that’s free or that makes money. We love hiking and foraging for wild food. Not only is it mostly free beyond a backpack and the basics, but if we are successful foraging, it’s actually a net gain. I also love cooking, and I’ve made quite a bit of money selling baked goods at local farmers markets.
–Get things for free. Our local dump has a shack build in the center where people can drop off things that still have useful life left in them. We get most of our books from here, as well as dishes, appliances, etc. Wherever you are, there’s likely somewhere you can shop for free, even if it’s just online through freecycle.org
–Get rid of your TV. I haven’t had a TV in close to 10 years, so it’s not that I “got rid of it” it’s more that I just never had one when I began living on my own. Sitting there you’re just letting life pass you by. “Unwinding” from your stressful job, you’re letting your job follow you home and paralyze you on your own couch. Watching commercials and reinforcing the consumerist cycle that keeps you in that job you hate. Break free. Read a book. Go for a walk.
–Throw pot luck parties, persevere swaps (jam, pickles, etc) or clothing swaps to get social time with your friends, rather than going out. Today happens to be my birthday and I have ~18 people coming over to hand out, each bringing pot luck food. What did this cost me? Only a few hours cleaning up, and I’ll have friends and food. What more could I want?
It’s two fold though. Reduction in expenses AND increase in income. In “Your Money Or Your Life” they talk about leveraging your skills and recognizing your worth to negotiate for better pay. I’ll use myself as an example. Out of college I began a job paying $12 an hour doing administrative work. Within 3 months I showed myself to be competent, diligent, confident and articulate. Honestly, just being computer literate in an office of people that had been working there since before the advent of computers really helped, as I instantly became everyone’s tech support. So, 3 months in I applied for a job that was two steps up from the one I started in, and came with my own assistant and substantial company paid training. I got it!
I did research on the job before it was offered to me, and learned what others were making. They offered me $16 to start. That seemed like a huge jump in pay to me, and I was excited, but I knew from my research that no one else was making less than $20 per hour and the “minimum” salary range HR had set for that job was $18. I told them this, and was re-offered $18, and told that would then be raised to $20 after 90 days if I was preforming well. Sweet! One 5 minute conversation and a bit of research won me an extra $4 per hour.
A year or so later I was doing well, and they offered me “more responsibility and training” to do a job that was significantly harder than what I was doing. I told them I was excited about the challenge and would love to accept, but if I was going to be asked to do significantly harder work, I’d need to be compensated. They for some reason didn’t see this coming? None the less, they valued my work, so they worked with HR to get my pay increased to $25 per hour. Knowing your worth and placing a value on your time can really pay off towards your early retirement.
I’ll be compiling a list of all the ideas that were shared, and posting it in the coming days. There were too many great ideas not to share.
To the winners, email me at [tj AT bravenewlife D0T com] with your preferred email address to receive your copy of ERE. I’ll purchase and send via Amazon. If you already have the book and want to gift it to someone else, send me their preferred email address. If you already have it and don’t have anyone to gift it to, let me know and I’ll choose another winner. One way or another, I’m giving away 4 books!
(Also note: The Kindle edition of ERE can be loaned one time last I checked, so you’ll be able to send it to at least one other person for a 2 week loan).