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Personal finances and voluntary simplicity are both great passions of mine and interests that have greatly informed my general life philosophy. To a certain extent, these two topics are one and the same, intersecting often, but in other instances being different enough to be two separate areas. Both demand a careful expenditure of money but only the topic of voluntary simplicity begs one to ask questions about their values and what life's meaning is, in a way that can allow self-control to flourish and good decisions be made irregardless of income level. Voluntary simplicity is about something richer and greater than the bottom line or what's in the bank account but through asking the questions, greater riches in life generally, and finances in particular, can be had.

Over the years, my interests in frugality, investments, and living wisely have compelled me to read a great number of books; many of which have impacted the way I look at the world and how I allocate my time and money. Some of the most influential books include Plenitude, Your Money or Your Life, Voluntary Simplicity, The Millionaire Next Door, and Radical Homemakers. Through these books, I have made many changes in my life, uncovered new interests, and have been challenged to grown into the woman I am today. One of the most fundamental challenges has been that of answering tough questions, digging deep to ponder what it is I want our of my life, what vision I have, together with my husband, for our family, our future, and our child's life. I gave up on paid employment to care for my child, manage my home, and now to home educate as well. We said no to many luxuries to pay off debt and assure better financial prospects for the future. When the future arrived, we remained mindful, saying yes to a few niceties but remaining true to the many principles of the voluntary simplicity lifestyle that served us well through leaner years. And in so doing, I found myself applying a new idea to my life, one I like to call the Pleasure-Per-Dollar Principle (PPDP).

The PPDP demands a consumer ask the same questions of simple living and apply the answers to how "fun funds" are allocated. The ways to spend money are near endless in our consumer-capitalist society but only a few will bring too pleasure. In fact, psychologists suggest that too many choices may even harm us. The PPDP allows choices to be limited, carefully considered, so that joy can be found and satisfaction had in how money leaves the wallet.

How do I value spending my time? What ethical and moral issues do I wish to support with my pocketbook? What sort of entertainment brings me the most joy? When do I feel most alive? How can I find the most pleasure in this one dollar? These five questions are just the beginning to PPDP spending but open up the door to a beautiful life.

One of the areas most impacted by PPDP in my family's life is that of entertainment. It seems the norm for most young families to have a television with a cable package. We did not own a television, nor have cable service during the lean years and had become so used to the situation that the purchase of such treats did little to elevate our happiness once the money was available for these luxuries. We cancelled our cable package and sold our television, utilizing the funds to buy a Dobsonian telescope to provide starry night amusement in the hours most families enjoy television programming. For us, hobbyist astronomy provides greater joy than a TV.

With our cable package cancelled, we suddenly had these extra funds to invest in an area we have always enjoyed but could seldom enjoy in years prior: live entertainment. In years past, we had forgone trips to the movie theater to instead see at least one play and the Nutcracker every year. These forms of entertainment were not only enjoyable but also enriching as they provided a glimpse into different art forms for our daughter. The cost of a year's expenditure on cable can fund three Broadway in BigCityHere shows, including tickets, hotel, and a dinner at a fine dining establishment before the show. As you can see, to us the shows are about far more than just entertainment; they are a special experience. All three of us have agreed this is a treasure worth far more than several hours of what is to us mediocre entertainment on a random evening.

Saying no to most unnecessary shopping has also enriched our lives. I once calculated how much one of my rare shopping extravaganzas cost and was shocked to learn that even at a modest amount of spending, I could travel for a day trip or overnight trip on a weekend to a museum exhibit or cultural event of some sort--complete with Priceline bid hotel room and one nice meal out! The memories my family has made on these trips and the numerous topics we have learned about our immense and valuable beyond words.

I understand that voluntary simplicity or the PPDP are not for everybody and in no way am I trying to make blanket judgments or condemn others with my writing. My motivation is only to showcase a different way, to question the paradigm of what we must have, and to encourage others to reach for their joys and utilize their funds accordingly. I seldom come across a personal finance blog or simple living website that addresses this area where the two ideals may meet. Asking how does one live well with a decent income is as fair a question as any raised on these blogs, for the tunnel of life as a mindful consumer does not end once the debt is gone and other frugal goals have been met. Ethical considerations and savings goal still exist and new challenges overcome. For me, the PPDP has been instrumental in rising to fight the good fight in this next chapter and I hope in sharing others might find this principle useful too.

Is it harder for children to find inspiration without a sibling, partner in crime to bounce ideas off of, collaborate together, etc. Are you experiencing this at all?

where inspiration can come fromCollapse )

Some of her projects and activities over the past week:

  • This afternoon S spent several hours turning a simple cardboard box into a fruit vending machine. At first she was simply working on the box with her wooden play tools but eventually took out her real tools and markers and drew spaces she desired to be cut out with adult assistance. After the spaces were cut out, she spent a considerable amount of time decorating the machine with buttons, advertisements, and prices. S then decided to utilize metal cooking spoons, a bungee cord, and some other items to craft a mechanism for distributing the fruit to vending machine customers. After completing the device, she realized she would need an opening to get inside the machine to serve as the motor and requested help with cutting a door on the side of the machine. Just as we thought she was done, two more boxes were added to the project to serve as security devices because the last time S used a vending machine was at the airport past the security checkpoint. I believe the entire process took four hours from start to grand opening and then another hour of playing with customers and procuring fruit from the "supply store" set up on the bakers rack in the kitchen
  • On Wednesday, S wrote a book titled "Out of Gas" which was about a family on a road trip whose plans changed dramatically when they found themselves in the middle of nowhere Midwest USA with no gas in the tank and no gas station in sight. They were forced to hitchhike for help and then had to wait in an odd little motel until their car could be roadworthy again. Not only did she write the story and make illustrations, but included copyright, dedication, author bio, and publishers logo demonstrating she has been devouring more than just the content of her favorite picture books
  • Thursday evening found u out & about to pick up a few groceries. While there S noticed boxes of pączkis in the bakery and asked what they were. I explained that pączkis are a Polish pastry often served in the late winter as part of Fat Tuesday celebrations. I also shared with her some of my memorie of eating pączkis which were quite plentiful growing up not too far from a Polish community. We purchased a box and S added 'research Poland and Fat Tuesday foods" to our to do list for the next day.  Not too long after the bakery discovery, we passed the pineapples causing S to recall a picture she had seen on one of my homeschooling Pinterest boards featuring a winter root view garden for winter nature study. The blogger took the top of a pineapple and placed it in water and grew the bitty beginnings of a pineapple plant. S helped me choose a pineapple and then added another project to the Friday to do list. She also requested we look up videos about how pineapples grow
  • For the entire week S was focused on a science project about the water cycle, including conducting two experiments--a water cycle in a bowl from Pinterest and one she designed herself to see what sort of water would evaporate the quickest. We took a trip to the library where S asked the librarion to help her find some good books on the water cycle, clouds, and all topics related to weather. Lucky for S, the weather was weird this week which meant she had an opportunity to observe all forms of precipitation firsthand, in addition to the observations inside from her two ongoing experiments
  • S's greatest passion in life right now is film-making. On an average week she'll produce two or three films complete with script and casting. This week was no exception with the big movie subjects being surprise birthday parties planned by dolls for other dolls. S then showed her creations to another filmmaking girl and her mother who we met through an unschooling website. The girls typically share and discuss their work either via email or skype on a weekly basis

This is just a tiny glimpse of her work and inspirations for a week. She is always busy-busy-busy which keeps me on my toes answering questions, helping her locate the items she needs for this or that, running errands for more books, helping her research online, and on and on. I also take a plethora of pictures and keep an in-depth journal to document her work and discoveries

My experience thus far has demonstrated to me that inspiration is inherent in the mind of a child and that many people can be partners in learning. I don't know if my (long-winded) response reassures you or adequately answers your question but I do hope it might help with some of your concerns. if you have any more questions, I am all ears...or eyes as the case may be. :)

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