Monthly Archives: February 2010

TGIFlex

Beyond being thankful for meaningful work and earning a steady paycheck, I’m eternally greatful for the “invention” of Flex Fridays. Getting every other Friday off makes getting up early and putting in long days totally worth it, especially when for the most part our kids remain in child care. Now we’ve got a double bonus, since Hubby was just approved for a Flex schedule (after six months!). And no, I’m not lounging around in a hammock, but this image does make me smile even if it is a fantasy.

Now how does our work schedule relate to family finances? On top of fewer miles to commute/pollute, there are plenty of financial implications regarding your work schedule:

  • Time to run errands = more time for family fun
  • Time to exercise = better health and wellness. fewer sick days
  • Time together as a couple = paying for a babysitter less often
  • Time for extended holiday weekends = fewer vacation leave used
  • Time to do house cleaning = not needing to hire a maid

  • Time to do laundry = constant chore made a bit easier

All this time is valuable for busy working parents, and there’s a movement afoot to shift our entire culture toward flexible scheduling. MomsRising, my favorite moms activism group, has flexible work as a top priority on their policy agenda. I couldn’t agree more and 89% of employees think that flextime or telecommuting are an important factor in evaluating a prospective position (LifeMeetsWork). 

I know that in the scope of history, we have things pretty good, but I truly believe that flex schedules are the next wave of labor policy. It’s really essential for productivity both at work and home. If you think there’s a chance your employer might be receptive, there are some good tips to requesting a a flexible schedule.

Do you have a flexible schedule?
How does it help your family and your finances?

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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Green is the New Black

Trends change, and lately they are turning a darker and darker shade of green. In college I met an environmental lecturer who said that we would know that we were reaching a sustainable society when the clothes on our backs no longer destroy local cultures and environments. Apparently the darker the dye the worse the practices, and I happened to be wearing a brand new pair of black pants and eggplant purple top; I felt chagrined.

The runway shifts may have begun with a few local “trashion” shows, like Portland’s Junk to Funk, which shows how reused materials can become fashionable. Now the hot handmade online trading site Etsy has it’s own Trashion network for crafters with a knack for upcycling. A quick search also came up with a list of the Top 50 Green Fashion and Design Blogs…I’m definitely going to have to take a peek.

This week the Seattle Times had a interesting article on how “Green is the New Black.”  Apparently even during the recession earth-friendly apparel is moving fast. I find this interesting, because despite the appeal we can’t afford Patagucci or local boutique baby clothing. I bought an overpriced bamboo shirt two years ago, and I still feel a twinge of guilt. I also have a little bit of mommy-guilt around this issue too, because my Mama sewed our clothes until we started asking for store bought in grade school. Yet, as a busy working Mama, I can barely manage to keep my kiddos in clothes that fit them, none-the-less sew them myself!

Does your family purchase eco-friendly attire?
Or would you if it were more affordable?

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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Carbon Footprint Estimate #1

Now that we’ve doubled our household members, I want to calculate my family’s carbon footprint. As promised, I’m planning to test out several calculators to make sure that I’m getting an accurate baseline to track our progress.

The first is the EPA’s Household Emissions Calculator, here are the results:


As described on the page, it was pretty quick and only took me about 15 minutes once my energy bill averages were on hand. It was really intuitive and seemed to cover all the household basics. It included our house size, number of family members, gas/electricity bills, car miles and mpg, and recycling habits. According to the calculator our household emits an average of 1,021 pounds of CO2 per person, while the average American emits 20,750.  Yet, it seemed too good to be true, and based on the info I provided it just doesn’t compute.

The calculator automatically identifies that ways for you to reduce your footprint and estimates how much money and emissions you would save per green action. In fact, when I promised to do every action suggested, it calculated that we would have negative annual carbon emissions. We may try to live green, but that’s ludicrous. Talk about bursting my green bubble! My family is a long way from living a net-zero lifestyle, certainly a trek from the off-the-grid cabin where I first grew up.

However each energy savings step was pretty interesting. It calculated that if we replaced our energy hog of a refrigerator we could save $51 annually, 479 pounds of CO2, and reduce our total emissions by 47%. If I were to manage hang drying half of our laundry we could save $40 a year, 375 pounds of CO2 and reduce our total emissions by 37%. I couldn’t think of hang drying our clothes until our Girly is potty trained from her cloth diapers (I’m barely managing to get the ironing done as it is!) But it is very helpful to see specific steps and the expected results from each actions, it makes them as simple to take as they really can be.

So, while not entirely discouraging, I’m glad that I set out with the plan to test various online calculators, hopefully we’ll find the best of all calculators. 

Have you used this carbon calculator and get accurate results?
Did it help your household habits?


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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Tax Refund Time

You may still have a month left to file your taxes, but in our household they get done as early as possible, mostly because we usually get money back. We just had the discussion again whether or not we should adjust our deductions so that fewer taxes would be taken out on a monthly basis. We both agreed that for us it feels better to get an annual “bonus” than an unbudgeted bill to pay. On a daily basis I do my best to not fret over taxes, so why would I want to stress every spring? 
Since the invention of TurboTax, my Hubby has taken the lead on our taxes. I have to say that it’s a relief to have this annual chore taken care of, plus I think Hubby secretly looks forward to accomplishing. Coming home from work last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had filed our taxes while taking care of our feverish/cranky/teething BabyGirl. Talk about multi-tasking…way to go Daddy-O!! (Yes, I did promise to thank him publicly for his chivalrous acts of parenting and tax prep.)
The better news came when he told me that we are expecting a $4k refund! I have to admit that the first thought that crossed my mind was “Denmark,” returning to my adopted homeland. Yet, Hubby promptly burst my bubble by reminding me that our first family financial goal is to increase our emergency savings fund back up to $10k. We would reach that goal if we saved our tax refund. An emergency fund doesn’t scream family fun, but financial peace of mind in times of layoffs is worth it. I also know that we pay our share of taxes, but I’m not about to balk at funding essential social services. You’ve already heard my rant on green taxes.
Is your family getting a tax return? 
How do you plan to spend/save it?

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Sustainable Family Finances 
This blog is the story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Heartfelt holiday

Call me married with children, but my heart just doesn’t pitter patter over Valentine’s Day like it did when I was a girl. It feels like the holiday is more about consumption than companionship.
Yet, I’m not entirely anti-cupid. After all I have two cherubs and a loving Hubby. I was a bit surprised when he asked me if I wanted to go out, since I can’t recall the last time we went out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Here are some suggestions for how to create a more heartfelt and finance-friendly holiday:
  • Homemade dinner – I’m planning Hubby’s favorite – Italian stuffed shells.
  • Chocolate chip cookies – the kids will have more fun baking cookies than with any heart-shaped box.
  • Fresh cut tulips – I love roses as much as the next girl, but paying for an overpriced bouquet doesn’t make me gush.
  • Nursery gift certificate – If a supermarket bouquet doesn’t cut it, try a gift certificate for a perennial that will have a lasting impact on your sights and senses. Daphne is one of my favorites, because it blooms so early and smells so sweet.
  • Library or used books – Share the story of St Valentine with your kids with library books or a some used books.
  • Classmate Valentines – We made simple heart-shaped cards with zigzag scissors, a fancy silver pen, and some stickers. I’d like to buy a rubber stamp or two when the kids get a little older, but in general I plan to take their lead on interest level and creativity.
  • Babysitter – We’ve been lucky to develop relationships with co-workers who want an occasional “grandma” fix. We exchange by inviting them to dinner before we head out. If you want quick privacy, hire a babysitter to take your kids to the park.
  • Birth Control – I’m very pro-family, but birth control can help you make decisions for your family planning. Following kids, I’m a fan of the Mirena IUD. No need to remember a pill daily.
How do you plan to celebrate your lovers’ day?
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Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.