Frugal Estate Planning

One of the joys of getting married and having kids is that you then must face your own demise.  The poet Donald Hall wrote about this in his poem, “My Son, My Executioner” stating, as a man and his wife look down on their newborn son, “We twenty two and twenty five/who seemed to live forever/observe enduring life in you/and start to die together.”

Cheery, thought, eh?

Estate Planning Isn’t for the Faint of Heart

Yet, if you have children, you must plan for their future should you die while they’re still young.  I know, no one wants to do this.  In fact, 4.5 years ago when I was pregnant with my last child, I sat down to do a will and trust kit that I got online.  I only got about three questions in, before, in my wild hormonal state, I broke down crying when I started facing the questions about when I would want the cord pulled.

It took me another four years to feel ready to have our will written.

I know.  Irresponsible.  Yet, it took me that long to accept that yes, I will die at some point, and yes, I need to plan for it now, while I’m still healthy and (relatively) young.

It Takes a Strong Wallet, Too

However, facing my own mortality was only part of the problem.  Once I was ready to have a will written, I had to face the fact that it was unbelievably expensive!

We live in the suburbs of a large city, so I don’t know if that’s the problem, but the first lawyer we contacted quoted us $2,500 to set up our will.  When I told him that we are living on a smallish income and paying down student loan debt, he generously agreed to put us on a payment plan without charging interest.  While I appreciate the generosity, we still couldn’t afford $2,500, even on a payment plan!

Next, I contacted a lawyer from my small hometown, but he still was expensive, quoting $1,200 to $1,500.  As Dave Ramsey would say, “It’s not in the budget.”

A Frugal Estate Planning Option

Frugal Estate PlanningIn the end, we made a compromise.  My husband and I both knew we needed a will in place, but we didn’t have the kind of money lawyers were asking for.  Instead, we turned to LegalZoom.

For less than $250 total, my husband and I each had our wills drawn up.  We each answered a few simple questions online, and each will took less than 30 minutes to create.  Then we paid and waited for the lawyers at LegalZoom to look over the document.

Less than a week later, the wills came through the mail and were in our hands.

When we don’t have so much debt and have a larger income, we plan to get a will and trust set up in person with a lawyer.  However, for now, on our budget, LegalZoom works perfectly.  We have a will in place should anything happen.

Have you used LegalZoom for a will?  Would you consider it?  Does $1,200 to $2,500 for a will created by a lawyer seem outrageous or normal to you?

Declutter Your House Like You’re Moving and Make Some Cash

It’s been a long, hard winter.  In Chicago, this winter ranks as the third snowiest on record, and the temperatures have been bitterly cold.  Of course, we’re not alone; much of the country has felt the same pain.

Finally getting some warm, sunny days and watching all the snow melt has put me in the mood to spring clean.  I’m not someone who cleans just for the sake of cleaning.  No, I clean for two main reasons–to feel better about our home and how we feel in it and to make some cash.

To me, spring cleaning and decluttering mean raking in some extra cash selling the crap stuff we no longer use, love, or need.

A New Way to Think about Decluttering

But this year, I’m looking at decluttering and spring cleaning in a different light.  My husband’s mentor has accepted a job in Florida, and he asked my husband to come with him.  For a few weeks, we thought about going before we decided it wasn’t the best move for our family.

Still, during those few weeks a move was on the table, I panicked a bit looking at all the stuff we would need to either move, sell, or donate before moving 1,000 miles.  Suddenly decluttering became less about the mantra, “Only keep what you love and use”, and more about, “Would I pay to move this item 16 hours away?”  It wasn’t a pretty picture.

Declutter your houseHow Much Money Can You Make Decluttering?

You make think of decluttering primarily as tossing or donating, but there’s also good money to be made in decluttering.

Things to Trash

Of course, we have our fair share of trash.  One of our daughter’s is a prolific artist.  She’s only 5, but she creates artistic masterpieces every day.  I’m perfectly okay with just keeping a few of these and trashing the rest, but my husband can’t yet bear to let them go.  We have three shelves filled with her work.  Seriously!  Almost none of those drawings would make a 1,000 mile move, so it’s time to purge.

Things to Donate

Right away, I saw plenty of stuff that we just don’t need and that have no resale value.  Clothes that we don’t wear, clothes that the kids have outgrown, baby blankets we no longer use, books and more books that we no longer read.  The list goes on and on.  Those items would easily make the donate pile.  (Remember if you itemize on your tax return to get a receipt for your donations so you can get a tax deduction.)

Things to Sell

But then I looked with a keen eye at the dollars we’re sitting on.

  • My husband has a jigsaw tool that he used once and never used again that could be sold for perhaps $50.
  • I have a good stash of canning jars, many of which I will never use and would not want to move 1,000 miles which could be sold for another $40 or so.
  • We have a foreign language program that we bought for homeschooling that was never opened because we were able to get a different program for free.  That is worth another $250 to $300.

The more I looked around, the more I realized I was just holding on to stuff that easily tallied $1,000 or more!

Is decluttering worth it?  For a cleaner house and an extra $1,000, I’d say yes!

What’s the most you’ve made when decluttering?

How Avoiding Vanity Has Saved Me Thousands of Dollars

Facebook is certainly a time suck, but it can also be a fun way to catch up with old friends and even high school acquaintances.  Just yesterday, I followed a rabbit hole of people I had known in high school, which ultimately led to Kimmie’s page.

Where Beauty and Fashion Meet

I’m sure you had a Kimmie in your high school.  She is pretty–perhaps beautiful.  She wears stylish clothes and is one of the most popular girls in high school.  Her parents have a lot of money and are happy to spend that money on their kids.

The Kimmie I went to school with married her high school sweetheart, who was a popular prep himself.  Thanks to their Facebook pages, I see that they now have three equally beautiful children.

What struck me most, though, was how pretty Kimmie still is.  Some popular,  pretty high school girls don’t age well, but at 42, Kimmie is just as pretty, if not prettier, than she was in high school.  She looks like she could be a model for a fashionable clothing line.  Not just because of her face, but because of the stylish, chic way she dressed.

For a moment, a part of me was a bit envious of her put together, stylish look.  But that thought quickly disappeared because I have neither the time nor the inclination to be a fashion plate like Kimmie.  (Besides, there’s no way I could pull that look off as well as she does!)

Avoiding Vanity Saved Me ThousandsHow Not Being Vain Has Saved Me Thousands of Dollars

Women like Kimmie make looking beautiful easy, but I know a lot of time goes into picking just the right clothes, make up, and hair styles.  I also know it can be very expensive.

Thanks to my lack of vanity and acceptance that I will never be one of the Kimmie’s of the world, I estimate I’ve saved thousands of dollars.

Here are some of the ways:

Embrace the Features I Have

I would love, love, love to have naturally straight hair, but I was born with naturally curly hair that has become curlier after each pregnancy.  Rather than spending time and money straightening my hair regularly, I instead bought a bottle of hair gel to tame the curls and make them more manageable.  This one bottle lasts forever!

Take Advantage of DIY

My hair began to go grey when I was 23, long before I had children.  By 25, I had to have it dyed for the first time to cover up the grey.  I had my hair dyed professionally for about six years.  However, for the last ten years, my husband has dyed it for me at home.  Every time he does so, we easily save $40 to $60.

Avoid Being a Trend Follower

I tend to rely on the same classic clothes and colors.  I don’t follow trends.  This allows me to wear the same clothes for years without looking particularly in or out of style at any moment.  This also allows me to buy classic pieces at garage sales and second hand stores for a fraction of the retail price.

A Kimmie I will never be, nor do I want to.  Instead, I rely on practicality, and doing so has saved me thousands of dollars.

How do you cut costs on personal appearance, care, and grooming?  If you like to follow fashion trends, how do you keep it affordable?