Nan's Common Cents

Moving Forward


It’s been quite some time since the last post.  There’s been some discussion about changing the name of this blog to something more catchy, but after some careful thought, the result was to stay true to the intention of this blog: the teachings of my grandmother who raised a family during The Great Depression.  It was during my early teen years that my Nan impressed upon me the lesson of enjoying life while being thrifty. It has had such a lasting impact upon my life,  that it has become a passion and (sometimes) obsession. In following this lifestyle, there have been many times when I was mocked and misunderstood.  I was often times described as weird, but that’s okay. Weird is good. So good in fact, that it led to my husband and I paying off all debt to include our mortgage in just under 3 years! No small accomplishment by any means. I have since retired from my full-time job and can now stay at home and work on my already established part-time business while diving back into this blog. There are future goals to be achieved: writing an e-book, learning more about investing, travel, and maybe an on-line business. These are blessings and I don’t take them for granted. It is this gratitude that serves as a foundation for this blog.  I am always willing to share her and my story, encouragement and advice. I think my Nan would be proud. And you know what? At the end of the day, that’s what matters the most.

Being True to Thyself – Dollars and Common Cents

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”  – Virginia Woolf

The past two weeks have brought about some significant self-reflection. The above quote is a culmination of where this well-spent time has landed in my life. Realizing that the noise that we produce in life, wanted and unwanted, is sometimes better tempered with a little more solitude in the formula. We’ve become used to the noises around us; kids, work, school, pets, spouses, family, friends, emergencies, other people’s drama, our own drama and the media, that we forget that the answers still reside within us. There’s an answer to the clattering that’s going on. I say this because the noise of economic distress is prevalent these days. We can’t escape it. It’s become part of our daily lives, entwining itself almost without us realizing it and yet largely affecting those around us. Businesses are cutting back or shutting down, families are having to find creative ways to make that paycheck stretch further, taxes and gas prices keep rising and our stress levels are quietly creeping upward.  There’s more worry than ever about current events and where our culture is headed. The answer I have come to find out is to just simply sit quietly and ruminate on what’s important. Some call this meditating, some call it introspection, but to me it’s becoming a matter of priority to just disconnect from the overwhelming people-pleasing (yes, you read that correctly) that is overtaking our biggest asset: time. We already have such limited amounts of it, that to let it so loosely be controlled by others and circumstances is not always productive.

So you are probably asking, what does this have to do with pinching pennies and stretching dollars? Well, it seems to me that each of us needs to assess where we are with our values and budgets and how they are connected. The path that we choose for debt-free living and what brings us to our own formula for making that happen is individual.  Collectively there’s no one way that’s best for all of us. What this brings to mind is how my Nan used to say “Just get on with it, gal”. That helped me choose better solutions over the years. Right now more than ever, it means dropping the external and internal noise and moving forward with what each of us is here to do: take care of ourselves. This does include family, don’t get me wrong. But we can’t move forward in any of our self care as well as for those we love, if we don’t find that quiet place even if for a few moments each day, to collect ourselves and appreciate what has been given to us: our connection to silence and what it offers us. It is a frontier that we ignore. And yet it is one that serves us. Silence is a gift. Its only expectation is that we use it with reckless abandon.

So, here I sit with all this newly acquired awareness and also the consequences of not adhering to it that has brought me thus far in life. This is a good thing. My Nan’s words are ringing in my ears again, “Get on with it, gal”. It is with this knowledge that I press on with unfinished chapters in my life. Yes, this includes continuing to strive to live debt free and to etch out a comfortable future. But what the biggest gain will be is the accomplishments that are still possible. Who knew this gift of silence, the one that sits quietly waiting to be seen and acknowledged, is so wonderfully liberating? And better yet, it doesn’t cost a thing and it never runs out. You gotta love that!

A Year Without Spending

Lately, I’ve been thinking of spending – how much comes in and how much goes out on. There’s a blog I read occasionally by Angela Barton, a well known blogger that joined The Compact and writes about her own personal year without spending. My thoughts go from the extreme concepts of taking that vacation of a lifetime or just selling everything that pretty much doesn’t move in the house and banking the money. My hubster and I are pretty fortunate in this economic downturn to have two really secure jobs.  It amazes me that we’ll both be retiring from the military and “transitioning” to civilian life within the next 7 years; luckily not at the same time. With our savings plan already in motion and our goals set before us, it still leaves me feeling like we need to de-clutter our minds, attitudes, bodies and living spaces.  Enter The Compact – the concept of not spending for an entire year.

I personally tried it at the beginning of 2011 and didn’t get past the first couple of months.  But lately life is starting to feel like it’s getting shorter and shorter and there’s an awareness of how much we really need during our journey here on this planet. Maybe it has something to do with my birthday this month or maybe it’s because the holidays are here; not sure. Either way, most folks I speak to about this subject agree that they too, want to de-clutter their homes and save more money.

My challenge to you is to consider setting up some form of The Compact for yourself and/or your families. It’s not an easy challenge. It doesn’t have to encompass the entire pact. You can create your own version whether it be for a week, month or year. The idea is to reuse, reorganize and re-purpose.  It’s more about appreciating what you have before you buy more. Good concept, right?

Let me know your thought on a year of no spending…

What to do, what to do….guess we’ll have to see what the New Year brings in.  :0)

If you want to know more about Angela’s blog, here it is:



Thankful for 2011

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, it’s normally a time for one to reflect on all of our “blessons” from the past year.  I use “blessons” because a friend of mine and I used to talk about not only being thankful for all of the blessings we’ve had over each year, but also lessons we’ve learned along the way.

What comes to mind first of all, is the lessons I learned (and continue to learn) from both my grandmothers who gave me all the time in the world to cry upon their shoulders and solve all the “world’s problems” when I needed to most. They listened more than anything and then shared their wisdom.  Hardships endured in their lifetimes did not get lost in translation during our long talks. Frugal living, but living well, continues to be imparted among the older and younger generations in my family. I am watching my 20 year old find his way in the world now, weaving those lessons into his financial and personal future. It brings tears to my eyes to see him transforming into such a wise and wonderful young man.

I am thankful for my husband. He is by far the best cheerleader and best friend I have ever had.  He never skips a beat to be there when needed and is my rock. I never thought it possible to have met a person with all of the qualities that keep someone solid while letting me be the (quirky) gal God intended. He inspires me with his kindness in hundreds of ways he’ll never know about. Love that hubster of mine!

My family also thankfully mirrors lifelong lessons for me to see myself as I really am and to learn forgiveness and compassion (when I least feel like it). :0)  You can’t peel back the layers of self-reflection without seeing your loved ones as being an integral part of who you are.  At the same time, it frees a large part of yourself that you hopefully do share with the world. That’s a blessing to others.

Lastly, I am thankful for all of my hardships. Good and bad, they have brought me to this place where I can through this wonderful cathartic process, attempt to share with you some of life’s daily content. That being said, I hope you can reflect upon your day of Thanksgiving and have similar thoughts and hopes for the upcoming year. As my Nan Beall used to say “Life is not a dress rehearsal”. Find your “blessons” and enjoy!


The A to Z Guide to Me

For fun, here’s a quick list of A to Z that I copied (sort of) from over at  Check out her link if you get a chance, she’s got some good info on all kinds of eco-friendly products and topics.


Age: 43, but it never seems to amaze me that each year it’s 29 that gets celebrated.  Hmm, funny about that.
Bed size: Queen size, but have always wanted to go King.  Still and all, Queen is pretty cozy with the hubster.
Chore I hate: Putting away laundry. Not sure why.  Just do.
Dogs: Henri, a mini-dashund, aka “the Pupster” and the newest love of my life.
Essential start to my day: Coffee and a hot shower. Not necessarily in that order.
Favorite color: Most shades of purple or green.
Gold or silver: Does white gold count?
Height: 5’5” and ½”.  And every bit “a good ole-fashioned broad”.
Instruments I play: Voice mostly, but played violin for 4 years and cello for 12.
Job title:  Aspiring entrepreneur. Oh yea and military veteran of 25 years with 3 more to go.
Kids: Two – Son and stepson. 20 years old and 6 years old, respectively.
Live: Rhode Island, Texas, Florida and Japan. Cool, huh?
Mother’s name: Andrea. Andy.
Nicknames: G, Georgie, Jorgygirl, George.
Overnight hospital stays: Only during labor and delivery.  I try to avoid that place for any other reason!
Pet Peeve: Selfish people, people who aren’t “shower fresh”, bad drivers, and people that don’t pick up their phones at work, but answer emails right away.

Quote from a movie: “Sparta!”
Right or left handed: Left mostly, but catch, use scissors and knives with my right. OH yea, I shoot right handed too. Yes, guns.
Siblings: Two younger brothers.
Time I wake up: 5:40. But don’t get out of bed until 6 a.m. NOT a morning person!
Underwear: Yep.  Daily.
Vegetable I hate: Eggplant and mushrooms.
What makes me run late: Daydreaming about working at home each day.
X-rays I’ve had: Dental, Mammograms and an MRI on my lower back.
Yummy food I make: I make a pretty mean pasta sauce and stir-fry, or so my hubster says so.
Zoo animal: No faves here but, if it’s cute, I’m a sucker for wanting to take one home.

Knowing When to Listen

Today, I thought I was going to learn a very valuable lesson, but come to find out it was one I already knew. I listened to some so called “experts”.  They flashed their know-how, waived the American flag and imparted all their hard-won “wisdom” upon the crowd.  But as I was listening to these experts it dawned on me – that the answers I thought I would get in the way of their wisdom, ended up being my Nan’s.

What worked for the crowd may have been the answers that the masses needed.  But what this down-to-earth girl learned was my Nan’s voice, even now gone over 10 years, ended up out-silencing the loud, flashy, politically-correct wisdom that they were selling at a feverish pitch. They preached about success and good traits to have such as kindness, loyalty and integrity – all good traits to embody. But by the time we left, the lesson that resounded in my heart and mind, was that we need to be true to ourselves. At the end of the day, you can mirror, copy and exemplify all the successful traits you can muster, but when you lay your head down on your pillow at night, you better be following your own conscience and following your own “plan of attack”.

Ya know, my old’ nan was a very wise woman. This piece of wisdom is nothing new. Her advice through all of my years with her came down to one sentence, “Do what you want to do in life and get on with it ‘gal!”.  NO amount of other people’s wisdom can map out your life. It just simply takes doing it.

Very simple.  Very humbling.  Very timely.  Nan, I miss you ‘gal.  :0)   

End of Summer

Ok…it’s not officially the end of summer, but I took some pictures of our garden that definitely are showing the signs of it. I LOVE this time of year! The smell of pumpkins, apple crisp, crunchy leaves and cool days is in the air. There’s a sadness that gets stirred up, evoking the feeling that the year is going by too quickly and that the holidays will soon be upon us. Now is the time to slow down – enjoying quality time with the “fam” and finishing up all of your projects that need to be done before all the hustle and bustle of shopping for Halloween candy, turkeys, and Christmas gifts starts. Did I mention that I LOVE this time of year??? What are your thoughts about Autumn?


Dollar Store Dinner

So today’s post is going to be simple. I’d like to just say that whoever says that you can’t eat well on a budget is full of “you know what”!  Here are some pictures of last night’s chicken dinner with vodka sauce, quinoa noodles with asparagus and peach iced tea (real peaches by the way).  This dinner was comprised entirely from dollar store finds, discounted food stores and our garden. Shut the front door! This meal came to about $2 for each of us, (maybe less) and it was as good as if not better than most meals we’ve eaten out. Post comments if you would like to know more about how we did this or email at NO reason at all to keep this kind of good news under one’s hat!

Which way to go? (A short rant.)

Alright, so now that we’ve entered the wild, wild world of blogging, my hubster and I have been discussing which way to go – meaning who’s going to be the target audience for this blog?  Ideally when you blog, you should probably write for your own amusement or cathartic release, but because there is so much out on the web about frugal living, frugal lifestyles, tips, advise and tons of budget how-to’s, the question really is, “What persona will this blog have?”.

The long and short of it is that I am a mostly conservative, practical, and down-to-earth kinda gal – most would think. But when you really come down to living the day-to-day existence that requires saving a little here, spending a little there, and saving even more in the not-so-distant future, then what I find is, well…people tend to think you are a little bit weird.  This shouldn’t come as a shock. We all know that we just can’t spend wildly, especially when every one is concerned with making ends meet these days. So why the side glances or whisperings of “she’s a little bit odd”? Hey, don’t we all want a nice little bank roll to whip out when we want to splurge on a rainy day or a vacation we’ve been wanting to take?  Hell, what about the little emergencies that happen sometimes a little too often that we aren’t quite prepared for? 

What I find is that the issue of frugal living (when it’s spoken about in “normal” circles of folks) kinda hits on a nerve about our consumer habits.  No one wants to be reminded that they are living a bit beyond their means. It strikes directly to our core that we aren’t living the proverbial “American Dream” quite as well as we think. But the fact of the matter is this: life happens.  You can have it all, but only when you take a step back, assess what you have and appreciate it without having to add to it like it’s an addiction.

Each person knows intimately what they have for debt. I’ve been there tons of times like everyone else. What this blog is about is slowing getting out from under it by appreciating what you have, taking care of the things you own and being creative sometimes when it’s either called for or wanted. Debt isn’t insurmountable. Shocking…I know. It just sometimes seems as if it is.

If someone sees an idea here that gets them a little bit closer to getting that debt paid down, or paid off, and has fun in the process, then that is a success to me. I’ve been in debt and also debt free. I’ve been totally broke and trying to live on a meager income and I’ve worked my behind off to finally see my family get a bit ahead in our finances.  It’s appreciating the ride and sharing the knowledge so someone else can get through today a little bit easier and maybe with a little more hope than they had yesterday, knowing that they will be financially “ok” in the end.  I’m not an extremist, but I certainly know that sometimes situations call for “discipline”.  That’s where my upbringing and military background joyfully merge. Ok, it helps that I’m a bit geeky too and enjoy all this penny pinchin’!

So, that’s my rant for today.  Sorry if the soapbox came out….I just get passionate about always moving towards the goals we’ve set for ourselves. Here’s hoping there are more “weird”, frugal folks out there too that like tons of ideas about saving money. By the way…Nice to meetcha’!  :0)


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Cait Flanders

Author of The Year of Less and Adventures in Opting Out

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Early Retirement through Badassity

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