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10 Ways to Do Less

When I think about doing less, sometimes my first thoughts drift to Paul Rudd and Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. “The less you do, the more you do.” I think he’s on to something. ;-)

I came across the quote below last week and it has just stuck with me!! These ideas are mostly personal to me and my own life, but I wanted to share them regardless in case they motivate you, too! Here are 10 ways to help you “do less, so you do more.” ;-)

Do Less | |

1. Don’t fill up your social calendar. Try not to make any plans, actually. Just live your life day by day, and see what feels good at any given moment. If you are at all introverted like I am, sometimes making certain plans for a future date might feel like a great idea in the moment. But then when it’s time to go make those plans happen, it might be one of those days where you would rather just curl up at home in your pajamas with a good book.

2. Re-evaluate your career. Certain career paths take a lot more doing than others. Academia was one of those for me. After I had my first son, I realized that all I wanted to do was be the best mama I could be, but my current career trajectory to earn my PhD and live a “publish or perish” lifestyle just wasn’t for me anymore. Academia, especially for PhD’s teaching at the college level, usually tends to require you to surrender quite a bit of your soul life. If you’re finding yourself being far too consumed with endless to-do lists for a career that is only marginally fulfilling and is taking time and energy away from other interests/passions/family/friends that you would rather focus on, either consider a career change or just see if there is a way to scale back your workload.

3. If you are in a creative industry, perhaps photography like I am, after you get your wiggles out and figure out exactly what genre floats your boat, focus your efforts on that specific area. I think it’s a great idea early on to try your hand at a lot of different types of photography (or other artistic mediums) because you won’t know which one you love the most until you try as many as you can. But then later on, simplify, do less, and pick one that you want to make your niche. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style (because the industry doesn’t need another ‘insert favorite photographer here‘), don’t concern yourself with buying Lightroom or Photoshop actions when you can learn how to create your own to streamline your workflow, and don’t muddy up your otherwise beautiful work with cheesy overlays that you bought on a whim (ok, stepping off soapbox now). In fact, maybe go as simple as possible and just load some good ol’ fashioned film (what!?) into an old camera, be mindful of every frame you click the shutter for, send it off for developing at a pro lab, and then just sit back and admire the art you created without further editing any of it on your computer (…challenge accepted?).

4. Don’t sign your kids (or yourself) up for a bunch of extra activities. Not only can it get expensive, but do you you really want to fill every minute of your day/week/month/life with something to do? Just enjoy your home, the nature available to you, and spending time making memories with your loved ones by simply being together and hanging out and talking (sans technology!). Keep it simple. Do less. At least wait until your children are old enough to express what interests they would like to pursue and what activities outside of the home they would like to be a part of before you go signing them up for everything.

5. This one might seem like a stretch to some, but if you’re a dual-income household, and you have children, consider having one income-earner leave their job. This will do many things for you. For one, of course it’s going to cut out part of your household income. But is that really such a bad thing? When the trade-off includes being able to spend more time with your kids, cooking healthy meals, and taking care of your home, that’s priceless. Second, with less income, you really have no choice but to do less! As we abide by our strict Dave Ramsey-inspired budget, we found that we make just enough money to pay our bills, buy the essentials, and do a couple of small outings with our children here and there on the weekends. We don’t use credit cards at all anymore, so we can only do and buy what we save up for and budgeted for. It’s been quite nice to be “forced” to live a simpler life due to having just one income. And if you decide to take the leap and become a single-income household, don’t freak out. Take a close look at your spending habits to see what you can cut out, and then do not go out of your way to find new ways to earn the money you’re no longer bringing in. That’s doing more and complicating things. Simply adjust your lifestyle and do less!

6. Stick to simple cooking! It will require less grocery shopping, less recipe hunting, less time in the kitchen, and easier-to-prepare meals. For example, try these super delicious and simple breakfast wraps!

7. Live in a small town. I frequently miss Austin like crazy, but that city has so much to offer that it makes it hard to do less! We now live in a small town (population 4,000-ish) outside of a few bigger cities. But even being just 30-45 minutes removed from them makes it easier to keep it simple and not do so much. However, big industry is trying to takeover our small town and increase the population to probably well over 50,000+ (booo!), so we’ll see how much longer we’ll stay until we decide to seek out another small town to continue our simple life.

8. Live in a small home. This term, of course, means something different to each individual. While our home is bigger than I prefer because most of the time we’re all spending time together in maybe the same 1/10th of the space we have available, I do cherish every bit of it. I’m thankful for it. We ended up in the home we did, because when we were house hunting, we had been living out of hotels for months, and we had 2 dogs, our 3-year old kiddo, and 1 baby on the way. We put in offers on other houses that fell through, and this happened to be the one that worked out! We weren’t in a position to be picky. Luckily, it’s an awesome house. But it does take quite a bit of time to upkeep, there are constant projects in the works, and even yard maintenance can be a time-consuming task. With less land and house, that much more time would be freed up!

9. Only do things you want to do. Say ‘no’ to the rest! My husband and I are “people pleasers.” And I have several friends who are the same way (you know who you are!!). ;-) People ask you to do things or attend functions or volunteer for events or committees that you just have a hard time saying ‘no’ to, even if you don’t want to do it. From now on, challenge yourself to just do the things that contribute to your own legacy and life’s purpose, no matter how big or small. If someone is trying to add unnecessary noise and busyness to your life, just say ‘no!’ (but nicely, of course). Just think about what matters most and what’s worth your time.

10. Last but not least, the absolute best way to ensure doing less, is to stop comparing yourself to others. A surefire way to start thinking you’re not doing enough to succeed in your home business, or not taking on enough Pinterest craft projects for every holiday to please your kids, or not going on enough vacations, is to compare yourself to others! This is easily done by just browsing things like Instagram and Facebook all day! Depending on who you follow on any social media platform, it can become one giant scrapbook of all the things you are NOT doing. So cut it out! Don’t mind yourself with other people’s business or lives. Focus on your own and you’ll be all the better for it.

Thrifty Tuesday: Part 5 ~ Saving Money with Green Living

Hi there! This week wraps up my 5-part creative cost-cutting series for the month of September! Thanks for joining me for the journey thus far. Our last topic includes ways to save money through green, eco-friendly living. Yes, some of it might cost a little more upfront, but it can truly save you hundreds, if not thousands, in the long run!

7 Ways to Save Money by Living Green | Lea Ciceraro | |

A Few Tips for {Green} Living (tips #64-70)

64. Buy/build/rent an eco-friendly, energy-efficient home with solar panels (sometimes you can even sell unused energy back to electric companies!) and well-water (then you don’t have to pay for city water). This will significantly cut down on your monthly utility expenses!

65. Investing into some energy efficient items for your home can save money in the long run, such as energy-saving lightbulbs, low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets, etc.

66. If you’re able, move to a city/state where the cost-of-living is on the less expensive side, taking into consideration things like property taxes, sales tax, state income tax, and even toll roads in the area.

67. Grow a garden! If you have a greenhouse or live somewhere with mild weather all year round, great! This will come in very handy. If not, you can get a jump start on your spring/summer garden by planting your seeds in small containers and keeping them inside first, giving them a chance to sprout. This also saves lots of money, because buying seedlings can be rather expensive! And use rain barrels to water your garden!

68. Compost! Not only will this cut down on your household waste, but it will be great for your garden, and it will be another thing you don’t have to buy! Plus, in some cities you can opt for a smaller trash can which ends up costing you less!

69. Move closer to your job if you’re able to. It will not only save on gas usage, but it will cut down on time spent commuting. It may even open up the possibility of commuting by foot or bike!

70. Try to become a one-car household, if possible, especially if you do not have any children of driving age yet. Carpool and utilize public transportation.  You will save money on gas, car maintenance and repairs, possibly a car payment if you didn’t buy it with cash (recommended that you do, though!), and insurance!

What else would you add to this green living list that has worked for you? Please let me know in the comments below!

Thank you again for coming along on this money saving journey with me!

5 Ways to Give Yourself the Gift of an Amazing Week

Do you ever long for the weekend because it’s a time to relax, unwind, and spend time with your loved ones? And sometimes it’s beautiful and perfect, but other times it’s one crappy run of luck or turn of fate (or constant encounters with rude people) after another? Without going into more detail for the sake of of moving forward, that was our weekend. Far from perfect. The kind that makes you dread the work week beginning again when you’d rather hit the open road and get out of town with your family to reset you mind for a while. But when that’s not an option and your routine must continue business-as-usual, there are a few things you can do for yourself to give yourself the gift of an amazing week. Why? Because you deserve it. And why call it a gift? Because you have the power to make the decisions that shape your day, your week… your life.

5 Ways to Give Yourself the Gift of an Amazing Week by Lea Ciceraro | |

Remove Toxicity

This could mean a number of things. Toxic relationships. Toxic technology. Toxic substances. You get the point. If there are things in your life that are working against your health and well-being, get rid of it (or at least reduce it). Challenge yourself to unfollow at least a dozen pages that you currently follow on Facebook, Instagram, Feedly, etc. that you feel bring nothing but stress or negativity into your day (there are a number of news sites I choose to not follow anymore because I couldn’t stand the constant influx of horrible things being reported on!). Unfriend people with whom you don’t have a solid, happy relationship with and don’t really talk to anymore anyway. As far as food and drink consumption go, have some hot tea instead of alcohol in the evening when you unwind from the day, and eat a few more vegetables instead of sweets this week. You’ll be surprised how much happier and more positive you feel when you remove toxicity.

Use Less Tech and Get Outside

For most of us, the weather is starting to turn into something beautiful, cooler, and more enjoyable than the hot, sweaty days of summer (at least for me, here in the South, I’m welcoming Fall with open arms and wish it would arrive a littttle faster!!). Turn off your computer, put your smartphone in a drawer, and go enjoy the great outdoors! Pack a picnic. Go for a walk. Shoot a manual, film camera instead of digital or using your iPhone (you may even learn something in the process of not using something totally automated!). My husband just told me that he has a friend at work who has a “no smartphone rule” when he gets together with friends. Which is brilliant! Handheld technology usage is getting out of hand and making people so impersonal (and sometimes just plain rude!). So do yourself a favor and use a little less tech this week, and just soak in the world around you. You might be surprised what you see/learn/encounter when you get off your devices and get outside.

Do Something Nice for Someone Else

I’m a big believer in altruistic actions and paying it forward. Go be the reason someone has a great day. Whether it’s handing a few bucks to that homeless vet you always drive by at the gas station corner, donating books or clothes that you no longer use, or paying for someone else’s coffee at a coffee shop. Just find something that you can do for someone else. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see how you can help them. And don’t expect praise in return. In fact, don’t even post about it to Twitter of Facebook (you “Like” seekers know who you are!). ;-) Do it because you wanted to and expect nothing in return (hence, altruism). Not because you want to show someone else how awesome you are. Go be a great person this week! And then make a habit out of it. You will start feeling like you live in a much happier world and that can’t help but lift your spirits.

Listen to Happy Music

As my husband put it, “Put on some ska and start dancing!” Of course, your choice doesn’t have to be ska music. But, it’s soooo happy! You can’t help but be in a good mood when you listen to Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, or Buck-0-Nine (a few of my personal faves!). I’m a big believer that music can have a profound effect on your mood and attitude. So, for this week, put aside the angry or sad stuff, and crank up the happy tunes! My kids even love listening and dancing to it. It puts us all in a great mood!

Slow Down

Are you one of those people with a full schedule, or one or more kids to keep up with, or multiples projects to tackle at work (or anything else that keeps you busy and on your toes for the better part of almost every day)? Take some time to consciously slow down this week. Breathe. Do some yoga. Lay down in the grass and look for cloud animals. Stop and smell some flowers. Even just walk or drive slower than usual. :-) And speaking of slow down and ska music, check out THIS song by Reel Big Fish!

Lea Ciceraro | |

I hope you found this post helpful and will go out and give yourself the give of an amazing week (and life!). Let me know in the comments below if you have anything you’d add to this list, and please do let me know if you try any of the above ideas this week and how it worked out for you!


Thrifty Tuesday Part III: Recurring Bills

This week’s post about creative cost cutting solutions is centered around those recurring bills that are a regular part of your monthly budget. With some creative thinking and a couple of phone calls, you can do wonders to reduce your living costs!

15 Tips to Save You Money on Recurring Bills | Lea Ciceraro | |

Recurring Bills (tips #26-40)

26. Refinance your home for a low if it works for your life and your current home situation.

27. Check out cheaper car and/or home/renters’ insurance. And sometimes grouping those can save you even more money. It really does pay to shop around.

28. Same goes for your cell phone plan! If you must have a smart phone, check out what your actual data and minutes usage are. You might be surprised how little you’re using in comparison to what you’re paying for each month. Downgrade your plan, if you can! And ask for discounts! A lot of cell phone companies offer discounts to certain employers and professions (i.e., nurses, teachers, etc.).

29. Compare rates with other gas and electric companies (and TV/internet/phone, if you like– although we dropped our home phone line and cable altogether). Changing to another company sometimes gives you a huge “switching incentive” that could save you from paying that bill for a few months, and just get you a lower rate overall!

30. Also, some energy companies will give you a discount if your home is green certified! Check into it!

31. And, unplug appliances and turn off lights that aren’t in use. Being extra conscious about that really adds up!

32. Set your thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. For every degree above 72°F in the summer, you’ll save up to three percent per month in energy costs.

33. In the winter, be mindful of that gas fireplace usage if you have one! We got a shocking bill last January, not realizing how expensive it was to flip that switch and enjoy the fireplace! Ouch.

34. Same goes for water usage. Be smart about not letting your shower run for too long before you hop in (even better, let a bucket collect the water while it’s warming up, and use that to water your garden!), turn off the sink faucet while you are brushing your teeth, turn down the faucet while doing dishes, etc.

35. And, don’t run your dishwasher until it’s completely full. Same thing with laundry (and use cool water).

36. Use a rain barrel to collect water for your lawn, plants, and garden.

37. Paying extra on your student loans/car payment/mortgage will save you TONS of interest down the line, and it will get paid off sooner!

38. On that note, never buy or finance a brand new car! They immediately lose value the moment you drive it off the lot. Instead, opt for a pre-owned or used vehicle and save yourself thousands. Even one that is just a year or two old but has been traded back in to the dealer for whatever reason can save you thousands. Plus, any issues or recalls have already been worked out which leads to a few less things for you to worry about right off the bat.

39. Check our favorite financial planning guru Dave Ramsey for more awesome help and ideas! Using his budget forms have been a life saver to help us live within our means and reduce our monthly spending!

40. Also using tools like is helpful to get an overall picture of your debt (if you have any) and to track your spending. It’s very eye opening. If you’ve been too scared to take a look at your current financial situation, now is as good a time as any!