Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Planning My Minimalist Vacation: Booking Hotels

Hello, everyone! I know it's been awhile and you'll have to forgive my absence! We've had A LOT going on lately (of which I am sure you'll hear about in the not-so-distant future). However, as you might've noticed in our trusty sidebar graph, we are reaching the end of our Minimalist Vacation Challenge and only have $102 of our $1000 goal to go. So...that means, it's time to plan our vacation!!

And the location is....


Myrtle Beach, South Carolina!!!!  I'm so excited! My husband and I went for our first anniversary and loved it. It's within just about a 7-hour drive from our home in Knoxville, so transportation would be cheap and easy. With a $1000, we want to make sure we have plenty of spending money for food and activities.

We have chosen The Breakers Resort for our lodging and got an Oceanfront Delux Suite! With taxes and fees, it'll come out to $444.53 for 5 days and 4 nights of tropical bliss!

I wanted to give you a rundown of how we picked our lodging.

1.) Determine your MUSTS

There were a few things I knew I had to have. Here are MY musts:

     **Must be an oceanfront room (not to be confused with oceanview) so all we see is ocean.
     **Must have a queen sized bed or larger.
     **Must have a balcony.
     **Must have a kitchen (we like to make our own breakfast and eat on the balcony).
     **Hotel must have a Starbucks (yes, I'm serious. I love me some Starbucks on the beach).

2.) Determine your budget and compare.

I like to use Priceline and Hotels.com. To find the hotels with Starbucks, I used my Starbucks app to locate all the Starbucks stores along the shoreline in Myrtle Beach. There were about 3 plus one that I knew of that wasn't an official Starbucks but served Starbucks coffee. I compared each of the 4 places by price and whether they checked all the boxes on my list of musts plus their prices.  The Breakers Resort won it! Then, I looked at both websites to determine which one had the lowest listing price. Hotels.com won that race.

3.) Be mindful of dates.

We're around the season of Memorial Day and it turns out lots of hotels jack their prices up on holiday weeks. So, check the dates before or after major travel holidays and you're likely to find some great hotels at really awesome prices.

4.) Look for coupons.

Both Priceline and Hotels.com use coupons at times. In this case, I searched google for valid coupons for Hotels.com, found one and used it and ended up saving an additional $30.

So folks, that's where we're going. Dates and activities to be determined!

Have you been to Myrtle Beach? What was your favorite hotels, restaurants or activities?

Monday, April 17, 2017

5 Tips for a Successful Garage Sale

If you've been following along with me, you'll know that my Minimalist Vacation project is in full swing and I'm becoming a minimalist and selling the things I'm getting rid of to fund a vacation next month! My husband and I decided that this Saturday would be a great day for our first of two yard sales. Mostly because we had stacks of boxes of things to get rid of and I was ready to see it leave our bubble! I have to say that this is probably one of the very best yard sales I've ever personally had. We made $333 on all small items! If you look in the sidebar on the right of the screen you will see that I've now made over half of my goal of $1000! I'm so pumped about that I can practically hear the waves crashing already!

There are a few things we did to make this sale a success and I wanted to share with you what worked for us that helped us get such a large amount of money on smaller household items and clothing.

1.) Signage
This is probably the biggest one. You can't sell a whole lot if you don't have enough people show up. The key is to make sure the signs are legible and clearly state the facts. We used a full poster board for the main road leading into the subdivision and put "Yard Sale" in big letters along with the address and the times along with an arrow pointing in the right direction. At every turn, we had another sign that was about the size of half a posterboard with the same information. At one point, one of the shoppers complimented us on our excellent signs and told us it made it so much easier to find us! My husband is to thank for this and we stayed busy ALL DAY! We did share the event on the local Facebook yard sale group, but that's about all the marketing we did. Some put it in the local papers and Craigslist, so I couldn't imagine what would've happened had we done all of that.

2.) Organization

People don't know if they want something if they can't see it. So, making things easy to spot is key. I organized the sale into areas: clothes, accessories, office, kitchen, home decor, technology, books, movies, and music along with a small box for kids items (we didn't have much in that area). When people picked through the areas, we would go and rearrange the items so they were all easy to see. Because of this, I noticed people who were looking for specific items knew exactly where to go and usually found something they wanted.

3.) Variety

Along with organization, we had so many different things. It didn't matter who showed up, there was something for everyone!  Since we're significantly pairing down all our stuff, this made it easy to have a variety for the sale. But if you find yourself only having only a few groups of things, perhaps find a friend who would be willing to work together to do a sale. Multi-family sales are great at having a variety!

4.) Price

Sometimes when we value something, the price we ask for it ends up being a little more than the average person would want to pay for the used item. Understanding the original price of the items is great, but also understanding what people are willing to pay for it is important. If you search for garage sale price lists on Pinterest, you'll find several very helpful guides about how to price items. Keep in mind that some people may also try to negotiate a lower price. In that case, use wisdom.

At the beginning of our sale, a man came by and offered me $20 for a box of over 50 DVDs. Knowing I could get that amount by selling them online, I turned him down. He acted like I was crazy. However, over the rest of the day, I made about $20 off that box selling them off one by one. At the end of the sale another man came by and offered me $20 for the rest. I accepted his offer. Had I jumped the gun too soon, I would've only gotten half of the total I made off that box of DVDs!

5.) Day and Time

I don't know a whole lot of Friday yard sales that work well. Most people are working. I find Saturdays are the best. Also, people who frequent yard sales come out early and are done by mid-afternoon. We elected to have ours between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Yet, people were still showing up well after 1. I think the next one, we may try staying open until 3 p.m.

Another important factor is weather; if it's hot, you may not have a whole lot of people show up in the afternoon (which is the hottest part of the day). If there's rain, you can just forget about it! A partly cloudy day in the 70's and 80's is best with a light breeze. Saturday gave us the perfect weather and we succeeded because of it.

What about you? What are some things that have helped you have great yard sales in the past?

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Minimalist Library: "The Mountain Between Us" by Charles Martin

So if you've been following along with me and my journey, you'll realize I've come to rediscover my love for the library. A little-known fact is, I worked in a library in high school. Before that, I always had my nose in a book. But, after shelf reading and reshelving books, I lost my draw to books for awhile. Then, I wanted to get back into reading again. I just could never find the time. Part of my goal in this journey towards minimalism is to read for leisure more. My first post came after reading "7" by Jen Hatmaker. After that, I decided to tackle something fiction (that's my favorite).

Enter the joy of OverDrive from my library. I can download any available books or audio books I want on my Kindle app! The best part is, it is free if you're a member of a library that uses it. That means no spending money on books to fill my shelves that I only read once! Sometimes, you have to wait in a hold queue if it's a popular book. However, I filled up my queue and read them as they become available. And...the one that came available was "The Mountain Between Us" by Charles Martin.

I was pleasantly surprised by this read. The two main characters, Ashley Knox and Dr. Ben Payne, are involved in a horrific plane crash in the middle of nowhere in their attempt to get back to their respective homes; Ashley to her upcoming wedding and Ben to his scheduled surgeries. The story becomes one of survival as Ben and Ashley fight to stay alive in the middle of a vast, frozen expanse in Utah. Will they make it out alive? And if they do, how will life change for them after the experience?

The story has a lot of twists and turns that keep you needing to read more. If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself staying up till 2 a,m. to read it until you can't keep your eyes open anymore. I can't say this story ended as I expected. Once I got into it, I thought I had an idea of how things would go until the author decides to throw in a couple unexpected surprises. However, they were surprises that left my heart feeling a little warmer (and my mind not certain of how badly I'd like to fly again...ha).

The best part? This is being made into a movie! It is currently in post-production and will star Idris Elba (as Ben Payne) and Kate Winslet (as Ashley Knox). Along with, we'll see Dermot Mulroney and Beau Bridges. I'm pretty excited about this!

Give it a read and let me know what you think!

Monday, April 3, 2017

My Minimalist Journey: How to Minimize Your Medical Bills

Last week I talked about being multi-passionate. Well, one of my passions is my business KHC Medical Billing Advocates. To give you a little history of my professional background, I spent more than a decade as an office manager as well as a medical billing manager. I helped doctors make money. For so long, I was on the side that most people hate. However, I became very passionate about educating people about how to deal with their medical bills (I'm actually prepping an ebook on the very topic). Not only that, but I tried to do my best to go to bat for patients with insurance companies to get their claims paid.

When I knew it was time to transition out of that particular position, I decided to start the business helping the patient. I use my expertise in the field to look over medical bills and pinpoint if there are any billing, coding or processing errors. This is a service I offer for free. Then, if there do seem to be errors, I offer correction and negotiation services. If a person opts in for those services, I get to work on getting their bill eradicated or lowered. My fee is only a percentage of cost savings (25% for first-time clients and 35% after first-time use). That means, if I don't save my clients money, they don't owe me a cent!

I started this business in August 2016 and have since saved my clients over $56,000 in medical expenses! I'm very excited by this figure and it really motivates me to make that number even higher!

With that said, the best way to minimize medical bills is by first staying healthy and, when that is not possible (because sometimes it's just out of our control), then hiring an advocate (like myself) to either help if you are uninsured or if your insurance is just not cutting it. Many times, medical bills are littered in errors. My goal is to keep people from paying for those costly errors and make health care more affordable. My plan is to do just that one client at a time.

If you need help with your medical bills or want more information on the services I provide, feel free to visit my website at www.khcmedicalbillingadvocates.com or email me at info@khcmedicalbillingadvocates.com.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Being a Multi-Passionate Minimalist

I've always been a "jack of all trades" in terms of knowing and experiencing a wide array of things. I love dabbling in things that interest me and sometimes that dabbling turns into a passion. I also love sharing my knowledge and experiences with others if I feel they'd benefit from them. A few years ago, I made the cutest cupcakes and sold them as a side business. I was passionate about it for awhile, but the truth was I hated dishes and I dirtied a lot. Before you knew it, I burned out and really haven't done much cupcake making sense (other than for personal friends and family members' special events). That was at the same time I was very deep into this blog and also working a full-time job I loved and being a children's and youth pastor.

For awhile, I think people thought I was wishy-washy. I'd start something and find out a little ways into it, it wasn't something I wanted to do long term. I was over it and moved on to the next thing. People focused on this and highlighted it as a negative which always made me feel bad about myself. I enjoyed trying new things, though. So while I regretted that people thought I didn't finish what I started, I loved being able to experience different things that interested me (even if it was for a short period of time).
A past creation...

Wedding cupcakes I made back in the day...
Flash to a few months into my marriage and my husband got to experience this side of me firsthand. Though, instead of harping on me for not continuing certain projects or highlighting it as a negative, he introduced me to the term "multi-passionate". He sees this part of me to be a positive and loves my sense of adventure and desire to try things other people may not take the opportunity to try. That does mean I keep plates spinning a lot. I started a business last summer (KHC Medical Billing Advocates), I've continued making clothes for coffee (Dress Up Your Cup), I love anything crafting related and typically gift people something I've made, I'm really into this blog and chronicling the present phase of life I'm in, my husband and I are both very active in ministry, I love to travel and am constantly planning my next trip and now I'm taking a journey towards minimalism.  Add to that the fact that I'm a very devoted wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend. I love that I get to experience all of this!

One of my passions now...Dress Up Your Cup!

Most people would think being multi-passionate doesn't fit well into the minimalist lifestyle. I'm learning the opposite. I'm getting rid of all the "noise" (anything left over from passions that have died out or anything I was never really passionate about to begin with). Now, more than ever, I can focus on the smattering of passions I have without having them drowned out by needless distractions and obligations. Minimalism looks different for everyone and I'm sure there would be many people who see this life I've chosen as chaotic. But to me it's really living and if that doesn't make me a minimalist, then you can just call me a "decluttered, multi-passionate enjoyer of life."