I am pleased to have the opportunity to interview Christy King from Simple White Rabbit for this week’s Simple Inspiration interview.
She began to blog at The Simple White Rabbit after speaking with friends and acquaintances, she discovered she wasn’t the only one overwhelmed by the idea of simplifying. She wanted to share what she learned, and began to blog about gradual minimalism.
Some posts are directly related to financial issues, but most relate to the overall topic of simplifying our lives. She focuses on simplifying gradually, both so busy people can fit simplifying into their schedules and to help prevent that overwhelmed feeling so many of us get when thinking about a big project.
She believes that by spending more mindfully, we can save money to work less now or retire earlier. Or both, which is her goal.
What event led you to simplify your finances and your life?
There was no single event leading to my decision to simplify my life. Gradually, I realized that having a lot of stuff is a trap. The more we have, the more it costs to care for and store all that stuff, and, having become accustomed to those things, we begin to feel luxuries are actually needs. This traps us in a lifestyle of working to maintain all this stuff, and usually, to acquire more.
What area of your financial life needed the most simplification?
I’m a bit of Luddite by nature, so I wanted to receive and retain everything on paper. This wasn’t such a big deal when I was single, but the paperwork multiplied fast as my family grew, and I realized I’d need to learn to live without hard copies of everything.
Where did you begin to simplify your financial life?
I started simplifying in small ways several years ago, but I became more serious about it in early 2012.
What was your biggest challenge or roadblock when it came simplifying?
I had this crazy idea that if I couldn’t scrap everything and fit all I own into a compact car, or at least a tiny house, there wasn’t much point in even trying to simplify.
I also felt the job was too big. As a working mother, how could I find the time?
What app or tool helped you the most when it came to simplifying?
I mentioned that I’m a bit of a Luddite. I think I may be the only person around who still balances a checkbook with a pencil and calculator. So I don’t use any financial “apps.”
Where possible, I arrange to autopay bills and receive statements via email. I also have automatic withdrawals for payments to my savings, mutual fund and 529 Plan accounts, as well as for charitable donations. This saves not only paper, but also time and mental energy.
Obviously, there’s still some paper coming in to the house, but if I need to save the information, I do that by either scanning the document or by typing up a few important points. For instance, if I take the dogs to the vet, I’m sent home with several pages of information. All I really care about remembering is what day we went in and what happened, so I keep a Word document to type a line or two about each visit.
There are exceptions of course, like certificates of vaccination, which I do retain in paper.
How has simplifying changed your life?
I know this sounds melodramatic, but I feel like a different person. Freer, more flexible, happier. Like the world is wide open to me and I have options I didn’t have before.
Are there any areas of your finances that you still need to simplify?
We’re a blended family. My husband has three kids from his first marriage, one in college, one with special needs and one working full time but not yet supporting himself. I have a 14-year old I adopted when I was single. Since we both work, we’ve kept our finances separate, and we have three checking accounts: one each and a joint account. One of these days, as the children become self-supporting, we’ll change that, because I find it a tremendous hassle. For now, though, it works best for us.
What advice or tips would you give to others who want to simplify their finances?
Try to get all of your statements online instead of in the mailbox. If you want to save statements, just download them to an appropriately labeled folder. Make sure the year is in the name, so it will be easy to delete the whole folder after the retention period you’ve chosen.
Where possible, set up autopay. If you can’t, pay bills online through your bank or through the creditor’s website inside of mailing in a check. Also arrange for auto-withdrawals to investment accounts and charities if you can.
Not only is it faster to deal with finances this way, but stopping the stream of paper entering your home is key to simplifying.
Without this step, it’s nearly impossible to keep paperwork from spiraling out of control.
How long did it take you to simplify?
It’s only been in the last couple of months that I look around and think “Wow, things are so easy to find and keep clean,” so I guess it took about 3 years.
A few weeks ago, I thought I had misplaced a bill (one that I can’t receive electronically) and I went through all my papers looking for it, anywhere it could possibly be. It took five minutes. Until this incident, I hadn’t realized just how simple my life had become.
What are your current financial goals?
My husband will be eligible for retirement long before me, but I’m hoping to be able to retire when he does. We’re saving to make that happen (it’s a little tricky, since my son will be in college then), as well as becoming accustomed to living with less now so we won’t feel deprived with a simpler, less expensive lifestyle in retirement.
As part of that plan, we’re moving from a 2,200 square foot house to a 1,250 square foot townhouse. Luckily, we’ve gotten rid of so much stuff over the past few years that downsizing this much isn’t a challenge.
All of us (even the 14-year old, amazingly enough) are looking forward to the move. We’ll spend a lot less time on chores and a lot more time enjoying ourselves.
Thanks Christy. I appreciate you taking your time to sharing how you have simplified your finances and offering some tips on how others can simplify as well. If you would like to read more articles from Christy, visit her blog The Simple White Rabbit or follow her on Twitter @simplewhiterab. She also has several interviews from others who have simplified their lives if you are interested.
To read previous interviews in the series click Simple Inspiration Interviews.
If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you. Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.