I’m Proud That I Don’t Have A Credit Card.

IMG_7793I’m proud that I don’t have a credit card. There, I said it. I’ve never been in debt. I’ve paid for everything I’ve ever owned with cash. I’m proud that I’ve been in control. I’m proud that I have to save and wait and work a little harder for the things I have in life.
I am not saying this to put down anyone that does have a credit card or debt. I am saying this as a middle finger to the government. To the credit unions. To the banks. To anyone who thinks credit cards are the only way to pay for anything. I’ve made the choice not to have them and have no regrets.

Now, some of you may roll your eyes at me and think my parents paid for everything. Yes, they did — until college. Aside from assisting me with college room & tuition (after my scholarships) and most of our wedding, they don’t pay for anything. I am incredibly grateful for the values that my parents have instilled in me from an early age regarding finances. They worked their butts off and saved. I worked and I saved. I am working and saving.

When I turned eighteen, I received junk mail offers to apply for student credit cards. I pleaded with my parents to let me apply and they consistently told me, “No.” A few years went by and then the economy suffered. Around this time, I was searching for an apartment. I was unaware that having a good credit score was necessary for an apartment, and kept getting declined because I had no score. Due to the poor economy, having no score was just as bad, or even worse, than having a bad credit score. I thought I was screwed. But I managed to find an apartment (the company was very lenient). My next two apartments were through the company that my other half worked for and we didn’t have a hard time securing a place. Perfect! I still had no credit score, though, and started applying for cards because I thought that was what I had to do. Fortunately for me, credit card companies were declining me. Another year or so went by and I realized, I don’t want a credit card. I’m doing just fine without one – why get one? The only thing a credit card would do is rack up my debt.

So what’s the one secret to getting by without a credit card?

Don’t spend more than you earn.

If you can’t afford it, don’t get it. It’s as simple as that.

I don’t have a fancy new laptop. I don’t have a new car with payments (I paid cash several years ago for a very nice used car). I don’t go on vacation (we did go to Cancun last year with my husband’s tax return – but I didn’t want to use it that way). I haven’t bought a new camera in years. (I am sorely in need of a new lens — anyone?) I’ve snatched up things at thrift stores. I used my grandmother’s dishes and furniture as long as I could until I was able to acquire a few newer things. I stopped buying DVDs when I discovered that the library was a wonderful resource of media along with its books. I probably won’t buy a book, DVD, or CD again.

Not having a credit cards forces my husband and I to be wiser about our financial choices. Instead of wondering whether or not we’ll be able to pay something off, we ask ourselves, “Do we have enough money for this right now?” If we don’t, then we don’t get it. We somehow always have enough to pay for extra expenses that come up because we thought ahead and saved, rather than depended on a credit card. When people tell me I need to get a credit card, build up my credit, and/or anything along those lines, I feel like I have to defend myself. We plan. We reuse. We are frugal and thrifty. And we are fine.

I feel like I have way more than I need. My life is full of luxury. If you stepped into my apartment and looked around, you wouldn’t think so: cheap IKEA furniture, few possessions, only one cabinet filled with food. Yet, compared to 99% of the world’s population, I am rich.

You are too.

That’s the thing that blows my mind about all of this.

Most of us are blessed with so much. Most of us do have enough money. We just don’t realize it. We squander our money and time on temporary pleasures. We fail to realize what we have, we don’t put things into perspective, and we kind of forget about the future. We are impatient. We want more. And this is what has fueled our credit-card driven debt-loaded society.

As for a home? That’s our next obstacle. We may not be able to go about it the traditional way, but we will work a little bit harder. It’s funny how people who have worked for years with no debt are denied certain items because they don’t have a silly credit trail while others with debt are allowed to get cards that rack up more debt. What kind of system is this? I admit, it does make me angry. It frustrates me. But it also pushes me to work even harder. To cherish what I already have. To focus on what really matters for me. That is why I’m proud that I don’t have a credit card.

Simply Living: Avoiding Plastic Baggies and Bottles.

no plastics
Today’s challenge deals with plastic.

Plastic bags and I don’t get along. Same with plastic bottles. I just can’t stand them.

Many people have already embraced carrying their own water bottles and cloth bags around, but what about other forms of plastic waste, like the little plastic sandwich baggies? And how much do you really pay attention to your consumption of plastic bags and bottles? Even writing this post made me think about the few plastic bags that have somehow made their way into my kitchen. (Yikes!)

They contribute to so much waste. That alone is a reason to avoid them.

After volunteering at a Green Festival nearly five years ago and stumbling across Eco Lunch Gear, I decided to stop buying and using plastic baggies. I had stopped using plastic groceries bags shortly before that. My cabinet is filled with cloth bags of different sizes, mesh produce bags, cloth sandwich wraps, a few cloth snack bags, and assorted jars/containers. I also have a cute pink shopping tote that can be reduced to a little ball (very similar to this one) that says, “I have multiple organics” on it. Cashiers are bewildered when I pull cloth out of my pocket and unravel it into a bag. (Sometimes it is used as the bag to hold my clothes after the gym, too.) With so many stores and businesses now encouraging use of cloth bags, buying bulk foods, and glass containers, it is much easier to find alternate ways to carry and store things.

Kick the plastic bottle habit by:

  • investing in a water filter for your kitchen sink instead of buying purified water.
  • drinking straight tap water.
  • having a couple reusable water bottles on hand. have one bottle in each place if needed — one at work, one at home, one in the car. it’s better than throwing out plastic bottles all the time.
  • stop drinking soda and other beverages sold in plastic bottles. they’re probably not good for you anyway.
  • in the case that you do wind up with a plastic bottle, refill it over and over until you just can’t use it anymore.

Avoid using plastic bags and baggies by:

  • bringing reusable cloth bags with you to the store
  • using glass jars and storage containers
  • storing sandwiches and similar foods in cloth wraps
  • buying or making snack bags for loose snacks like nuts, etc.
  • keeping some of these bags and containers in your vehicle/bag in case you need to make a last-minute purchase and left everything at home
  • being creative with storage solutions
  • putting purchased items in your purse or carrying them in your hands (if possible) instead of in a bag. oftentimes, I tell cashiers that I don’t need a bag.

Unfortunately, plastic bags still make their way into my home. What to do with them?

  • reuse, reuse, reuse! use the same bags over and over until you can’t anymore.
  • give them to a dog owner. many people with dogs go through dozens of bags.
  • use them to line smaller garbage cans.
  • recycle them! visit plastic bag recycling to find some drop-off locations near you. many store chains will also accept clean plastic bags into their own specified recycling areas.

How do you avoid using plastic bags and bottles?

Simply Living: Cooking Without A Microwave.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the progress I’ve made in the past couple years towards this happier, lighter life. Back when I consciously started making choices to align with these values, it seemed like a huge task. So much to get rid of! So much to change! So much to do! But I did it. And I’m still doing it. And I still have a lot more to go. It’s just been one step at a time. Another goal to cross off. One more day. Then days go by and boom – life has changed. Life will change again tomorrow. I love it!
I wanted to create a blog series of challenges with these steps called “simply living.” Each post will offer a challenging step that you can take to move towards a simpler, happier life. You can find all the challenges in the simply living page. The process is slow, and might be difficult, but the results are great.

Today, I’m focusing on microwaves.

I haven’t had a microwave for about three years now. Although I always knew there wasn’t something right about radio waves heating up food unevenly over the years, I didn’t think twice about it. Everyone I knew had one growing up and no one seemed to blame the microwave for anything. Bagged popcorn was delicious, TV dinners were consumed regularly, and warming up leftovers was a snap. Then I read something about how microwaves change the chemical structure of your food and is overall, pretty darn unhealthy and unsafe. (Want to know more? Check out this article.) I decided to chuck the microwave and pursue other forms of eating and cooking food. I haven’t looked back since.

If you haven’t already considered breaking up with your microwave, I strongly urge you to do so. Now. Get rid of it. If it’s the kind that’s built-in to the kitchen, cover it up with a lot of duct-tape or a curtain or your children’s art. Hide it somehow.

Nowadays, I consume more whole foods than I used to but I made this guide friendly for people who are transitioning from a diet filled with fast food and/or regular microwave use. Ready to eat healthier? Here we go. These are some tips I have for you based on my own experience in a microwave-free kitchen. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments!!

1. Find alternate ways to heat your food.

stove

When I first started living without a microwave, I still had a couple TV dinners sitting in my fridge. I hate letting food go to waste (although TV dinners don’t really feel like real food), so I looked at the box and discovered cooking directions for a conventional oven! The oven took a little longer, but the food tasted so much better. Who knew!?

  • Use a pot or pan on the stove. If I need to reheat anything, that’s mainly what I use. Add a little water inside the pot if needed to loosen up food and avoid having it stick and burn to the pan. Dried out food doesn’t re-heat well. I repeat: add water!
  • Use the oven. Invest in a small baking sheet and place items (leftover pizzas, etc.) that you want to heat up on them. Put in the oven for a few minutes. Enjoy. I toast bread by placing them directly on the racks and watching until it’s toasted the way I like it.
  • Toaster ovens are good too. I don’t like toaster ovens because I believe it’s not necessary when a regular oven can do the same thing. But hey, it’s smaller than an oven and better than a microwave!
  • Use a kettle. Don’t heat up your water for coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. in a microwave. Boil water in a kettle and get hot water in minutes. If your drink becomes cold after you’ve left it sitting out for too long (I’ve had too many people tell me they need to re-heat their coffees in the microwave), just pour in a little more hot water to bring to desired temperature.

Some suggestions of alternate ways to heat popular food:

  • melting butter: melt butter in a small pot on the stove.
  • popping popcorn: pop kernels in a pot on the stove! it’s pretty amazing.
  • TV dinners: follow the box directions for using a conventional oven.
  • heating up milk/water/drinks: heat up in a kettle or in a pot on the stove.
  • defrosting food: place in the fridge hours before cooking. submerge in cold water.
  • baked potatoes: use the oven! they called baked potatoes.
  • ramen noodles: boil water in a kettle and add to noodles.

2. Eat cold food.

Ever had cold leftover pizza? It’s pretty good, isn’t it? Cold spaghetti? Not a problem — drizzle some Italian dressing on top and you’ve got a quick meal. Cold leftover veggies? Throw them in a smoothie and drink them down. OK, I’m kidding about that last one. But, really — sometimes you can eat previously-cooked food cold and it’s still delicious.

3. Incorporate menu planning into your life.

Think about what you eat. How often do you use a microwave? Why? Is there another meal you can eat instead that can be cooked in a short amount of time? Or how about something that doesn’t need to be heated up? You don’t have to plan elaborate meals, but having spaghetti for dinner every day is still better than throwing something in the microwave. (I really hope you are eating things other than spaghetti, though!) Planning ahead also allows you to consider adding healthier meals in your diet. Throwing together a salad takes very little time and your body loves it so much more than frozen crap heated up with radio waves. Check out The Simple Guide To Meal Planning for some more tips.

4. Cook smaller portions.

By cooking only the recommended servings of food, the chances of leftovers are pretty slim. Not only do you save uncooked food for future use, but you eliminate the potential necessity of heating up leftovers that can’t really be eaten cold.

5. Cook larger portions.

Wait, what? Yes. If you’re making something that can be served cold or heated up on the stove easily, make a bigger batch! Cooking something new every day and washing dishes all the time can become tiresome, so give yourself a break and make something that lasts a couple days. It’s always nice to have something already prepared when you’re in a hurry.

6. Experiment!

Play with your food. See what works. Be creative with the items in your pantry. Just try it out. You may hate it, or you may love it. But you never know until you try.

How’s your relationship with your microwave?