Monthly Archives: December 2015

Year End Giving

Year End GivingAnybody who has ever worked for a non-profit organization knows that the last quarter of the year makes all the difference in an annual budget. As someone who started giving philanthropically early on, I also take time to reflect at this time of year and consider what causes are most important to me that I may not have had a chance to give to thus far this year.

Everyone’s giving looks different, but I find it personally interesting to see how and why people choose where they give (or don’t give). Here is an overview at what my giving looks like this year, and why.

Rotary International Foundation – As anyone who is an avid reader knows, I’m a big Rotarian and highly support the great work that Rotary does around the world. I started doing a $25 monthly contribution last year, ironically when I was first on maternity leave and without a consistent income in the future. I did it in part to manifest wealth and giving in my life. At the end of the year I also contributed extra to make use of a matching that was offered by our club. My total giving for the year will be $400, plus additional credit will be matched.

InStove.org – I am also now on the Board of Directors for InStove.org, which makes the cleanest, safest, most fuel efficient stove in the world. As a new board member I have chosen to stretch myself and give an initial donation of $1000, along with my time and volunteer hours to leverage that funding even further. I realize that my grant making capacity makes a monetary contribution minimal in comparison, but I feel that it helps to show faith in the mission and support this incredible work.

Lewis & Clark College – I have also contributed to Lewis & Clark College for a number of years. Since I initially had a difficult time paying my way through LC, I feel particularly indebted to the institution that changed my life in so many ways for the better. I typically give $100 per year to LC. Perhaps one day I will increase this.

Kiva.org – I haven’t gone to the same level of commitment as my sister has, with her experiment giving $1000 through loans with Kiva. I figured I should at least top off my current account and be inspired to give a bit more. I just gave to a women’s group in Burkina Faso. It is only hard to choose between so many worthy folks wanting a little help.

EduCongo – Another great cause that I support and just gave a to. My dear friend Lou Radja is a fellow Rotarian and does tremendous work with a school that he and his father built in DRCongo. For now I’m giving enough to pay for a year of school fees for a student ($60), but I will be attending a fundraiser for EduCongo in the spring and plan to give more then. I also hope to make it out to visit the school at some point as well.

While I may not feel as flush without a steady paycheck coming in, as I have most often enjoyed, I still feel that it is important to give. It creates a virtuous cycle and keeps the giving going.

Cheers,

Miel

Ladies Night

ladies nightLadies nights are such a treat. On Monday I was lucky enough to have a dear friend organize a fun ladies night with dinner at Nel Centro and see a performance of The Moth Radio at The Schnitz.

It was a lovely evening and also a real reminder of how much my life has changed in the past couple of years. The decade I spent living in Washington was punctuated with sometimes frequent get togetherness with ladies, whether it be brunch, lunch, or an occasional night out.

We joked about being “ladies that lunch”, but I realize now that we blissfully were. I say this in all the best ways. I enjoyed it immensely. I like the ritual of getting together with someone for a good meal or a coffee. It feels good. We need to find ways to connect and share.

Though I often demonstrated some kind of restraint, I was used to spending what, even I, would consider to be a fair amount of money eating out. I remember realizing that I would often spend as much as my entire family would eating out in the 80s. Times have changed, and the dollar doesn’t go as far as it did back in rural Oregon, but it still feels helpful to keep such comparisons in mind.

Nel Centro is the best of Portland cuisine. It reminds me of meals I’ve had in DC or NYC, but feels very Pacific NW as well. I had already been there for breakfast and lunch meetings in the last year, but ladies night dinner was definitely a treat with a few extras. The whole package of a cocktail, pasta, and dessert will set you back around $40. Breakfast is more on the affordable luxury scale.

Since I was most often eating out solo, this also made it easier to splurge than with a family. Now the family makes a splurge without trying.

I’m reminded of how much I enjoy meals out with friends and that it is well worth it to prioritize what makes you feel great. Everyone has their own splurges. What are yours?

Cheers,

Miel

Manifesting My Dream Home


Manifesting our dream home has taken us 15 years, but only because we had to believe in our dream before it came true…then it happened very quickly.

Early in our relationship, Hubby and I went to two parties at beautiful Craftsman homes (at his professor’s and a fundraiser…not exactly grad school housing ;-). All these years later, I remember the feeling of falling in love with the spectacular woodwork and charming details. I vividly remember looking at each other with the earnest hope that we would some day be able to live in such an amazing home. Now we do. My jaw still drops into a gaping smile when I pass my own threshold. (Check out my virtual home tour…it really doesn’t do the place justice with the narrow lens, but it gives you an idea).

I shared recently about how I manifested our first dream homes, but it’s been truly amazing to manifest our current home. It feels like nothing short of a miracle, but I know that it happened because I was methodical in my manifesting and took action to make it a reality. It’s similar to what I’ve read in books like Notes from the Universe, but these are my personal notes.

1)  Daydream from a place of security, rather than scarcity. I loved our home in inner NE Portland, and at the time when we moved in six years ago, I honestly couldn’t have imagined any place better suited for our growing family. Yet, after we had grown by two daughters, it came to mind that there would come a day when a one shower would be a challenge (and yes, I do think about how many people don’t even have plumbing or amazing water flowing from the tap, but I don’t recommend focusing on this too much while manifesting, unless you are ready and willing to manifest some real world change…so far, I’ve mostly left that job to my twin sister ;-). My point is that I came to the decision that we should move from a place of pondering the possibilities and building faith, rather than panic and doubt.

2) As soon I/we had make up my mind that we should move, I also declared my love for our home. Feeling the abundance is the best way to create more. When we shared our plans with our kids, I made a point to let the kids know that we should still feel blessed to live in our home. Our home would still make a lovely home for someone else and that stage of their lives. I made a point of mentally thanking and blessing our home as we steadily prepared it for sale.

3) From that place of feeling secure and blessed, I moved to expressing my gratitude. I made a full list of all the things I love(d) about our San Rafael home:

  • Charming & historic (1904 Farmhouse Victorian built by a former city councilor)
  • Beautiful and flowing layout (every inch of the space was well planned and spacious)
  • Nice size, big enough but not too big
  • Close-in in location – next to streetcar/MAX/bus, walkable to the Pearl and downtown
  • Shops and restaurants nearby…more every year
  • Huge backyard, shed, sand pit & fire pit, nice patio
  • Front and back porches
  • 3 bedrooms upstairs
  • Colorful and cheery
  • High ceilings and nice light

4) Next, I enlisted my family to write a list together of all the things we wanted in a home (I would hate to manifest something that didn’t work for all of us!) The trick with manifesting is to dream big and write a very detailed list (or visual collage if you want to get creative).

So, our family wrote out a “Wish List to the Universe.”

  • Historic charm, modern updates
  • Chimney for Santa & cozy fires, with a beautiful mantle
  • Space for an outdoor fire pit
  • 4 bedrooms (Kieran requested that his be “wide open for a queen bed”)
  • 2 bathroom, one with a bath tub, one with a nice tiled shower
  • Lots of light, lovely colors
  • Tall ceilings
  • Front porch
  • Room for picnic table, BBQ, hammock, garden pots and growing veggies
  • Finished basement – room for ping pong and playing
  • Close to the park, Miel, school, restaurants and shops
  • Insulated and efficient
  • Beautiful and peaceful
  • No need to fix much or remodel (I actually added the word “much” in the line after, thinking to myself that I couldn’t imagine being able to afford a house that wouldn’t need any work…now I wish that I hadn’t added that caveat…)

5) Immediately after coming up with our gratitude and wish lists, we came up with a list of actions we would need to take in order to sell our home. Everything from hire a real estate agent to stage our home. We prioritized what we needed to get done with a time line of about six tasks each month and a five month timeline to get our house ready for sell. We had made a similar list when selling our first home and with both where able to pace ourselves while somewhat smaller tasks while reaching a pretty huge goal. We posted this five month timeline on our refrigerator and checked off at least a task week until suddenly we had reached our initial goal of putting our place on the market by Memorial Day. The only radical change in our plan was that Kevin was offered his dream job in Astoria in early May, so we took a road trip to find our dream home. Yet, I know that his job offer wasn’t a fluke, but fate, manifesting our deepest dreams. The fact that we were able to sell our home in just a weekend for $51k above asking may seem like just a lucky market, but it was really a combination between believing in our dream home and taking consistent action.

Have you ever intentionally visualized and manifested your home?

Cheers!

Darcy

Finding a New Tax Accountant

 

keep-calm-im-the-best-accountant-sustainable-family-financesI lost my tax accountant in our recent divorce. I’m taking it as a reminder of the value of starting fresh and getting my finances in order. Besides, there are some advantages to having a tax accountant more locally (ours was still out in DC). While I never actually met our accountant face to face, Nancy Tao with Tax Masters, was extremely good about scheduling at flexible times and giving us guidance around various tax situations. If you are looking for an accountant in the DC area, I would highly recommend her. Our lowest tax year was paying just under 5% in federal taxes (while both in grad school and having business income as writeoffs).

I’ve been working with a tax accountant for the last thirteen years and think that tax accountants are money well spent. In fact, my first time filing taxes as an 18-year-old resulted in getting an expected tax refund (that I hadn’t calculated properly), because I didn’t think that I could possibly get that much back (turns out that I was just working my arse off at Crater Lake Lodge for the summer between high school and college). I lived off that refund as I saved money for the next semester at Lewis & Clark College.

Now I am in search of a new tax accountant, for both my personal taxes and those of our Olivia Beach Camp Cabins.

If you are a regular reader of Sustainable Family Finances, you know that we are all about manifesting what we want in life. Here is what I’m looking for in an accountant. If you have anyone that you would recommend, please drop us a comment.

  1. Great to work with (after all, you are dealing with less than fun subjects)
  2. Savvy with tax benefits of small business ownership and juggling multiple LLCs
  3. Knowledgeable in real estate (i.e. 1031 exchanges, vacation and rental properties, etc.)
  4. Experience with blogging or online publishing
  5. Willing to give helpful advice throughout the year for planning taxes
  6. High level of integrity and attention to details
  7. Aggressive approach to writing off legitimate expenses
  8. Preferably located in Portland, Oregon

We’d love to hear if you have a tax accountant that you love, and what tips you’ve learned over the years.

Cheers,

Miel