Author Archives: Darcy Cronin

About Darcy Cronin

I'm a Mother/Coach/Blogger/Business Adventurer living in Astoria, Oregon. My family consists of my Hubby of 14 years, our 10yo Kieran, 7yo Makenna, and 3yo Teagan. We are an adventurous family, follow us on West Coast Cronin Clan. I earned a master's in Environment & Community from Antioch University Seattle, and love working toward living a sustainable lifestyle. To me, earning/investing money is about living my values. I love dreaming about a better future, and making it happen.

Welcome to Sustainable Family Finances: Vlog #1

I hope you’ll watch instead of read, but here’s the transcript from my first Sustainable Family Finance vlog:
Hello and welcome my name is Darcy Rose Cronin, I would like to welcome you to my very first vlog post for Sustainable Family Finances.
I started this blog seven years ago together with my identical twin sister, and, boy, a lot has changed in the last seven years mostly mostly for the better. But I still have my own struggles and I have a lot that I want to share with you so let me share a little bit of the back story.
Basically, I started this blog together with my sister at a time when I was working full-time for the city and I was in a career that I wanted to be in, and yet my position itself with had just
started to feel creatively stifling. I realized that I just no longer had an opportunity to write and
that I was no longer in a position where i was able to work directly with sustainability which had been my passion since I was 13. So, my sister Miel had been working successfully in her
international development career and on the side had been working with her first husband on a blog called DINKSFinance.
 
After a year-and-a-half, it was the startup heyday of blogs and so after not too long she was earning about two thousand dollars a month as a side income and had continued to tell me when we would have conversations “Oh, you need to write a blog post on that oh you need to write a blog post on that, and for a long time I very much pushed aside, and was like are you crazy on too busy and I have that two kids and a job and not in a single like
you.
 
Then finally I came to a point where I had lived in Denmark on exchange and a close friend of mine was getting married and he sent me a wedding invitation. I was just really deeply
saddened by the fact that i hadn’t been back and think at that time it was about in a decade. Most of all that my family had never, my husband and children, had never been to visit my host families and what I just considered to be my my motherland. So I just realized that I needed to do something to make that dream a possibility.
 
This blog was the kind of the vehicle that I chose to to create in order to make that happen. So, basically after about a year and a half of me working on this side, even though I didn’t actually earn any money on the site itself, I was able to save up through it and become more conscious
about our spending and to a lot of just kind of tweaks that we were able to make it so that we could afford the trip and so that was kind of my initial success with this blog.
 
But after my father died, which is now five years ago I there’s a lot to it but basically it was challenging because we were getting the family inheritance and suddenly I felt like well now that I mean I’ve written significantly about me and my struggles of paying off my student debt and just all of what those will the struggles of my finances at the time were and suddenly I was able to pay off my student loans and buy a car outright man. Before, we had been at one point when it looked like my husband might be laid off we were looking at whether we could do without a car so you know suddenly our finances were definitely changing and I felt like one of the key things with this blog had always been that I really wanted to be authentic with it with with my audience and that in and of itself with a struggle. When I first started out I actually for the first several months posted under the name of Green Mama, because i was just too afraid to put my name. But after a while, pretty much everyone that I knew that I really cared about knew that I was the one who was behind it blogging anyways. So at that point it just seemed really silly to kind of hide behind me that that alias.
 
But nonetheless it was definitely a lot for me to kind of step out of the closet to just be open about my finances. When I first shared with a friend of mine that my sister, Miel, had been posting her net worth online, she very much thought that it was bragging, and she was very critical and thought that there was a good reason why our finances should be taboo. So I listened to a lot of those fears and over the years I’ve definitely come to a place where now I have put our net worth out there online. Although it’s not something that, I don’t know, it’s kind of funny, I’ve never had a conversation in person with someone about it per se. So in some ways it kind of feels like it’s out there in cyberspace and not maybe that anyone even cares or pays attention to it. But regardless, it is out there an online, and no i’m not, and I guess what I’m what I’m saying is that I just really believe that us being conscious of our finances and being as honest with ourselves about it in the relationships that we have is that being authentic about it can make a big difference in our lives.
 
So let me check my notes… So, back to the place where I was struggling, like I said, so much has changed in my life. At the time we just felt like we were even though we both had formerly more money than we ever had, we were basically still living paycheck to paycheck. Happy with our higher level of income and lifestyle, and at the same time with struggles. I have to say that in five years later now we are lucky enough to own, and built Olivia Beach Camp Cabins in Lincoln City. We have what is now absolutely my dream home and I love all of this life that I’ve created. And, yet there are still definitely struggles, and in lots of ways I i feel like I’m still kind of just working to make ends meet.
 
I feel like in some ways that with this starting with this vlog that I am at a whole new chapter of my life and at the same time I think that we all, my sister’s net worth is maybe double mine. Yet, it’s been uncanny that at times we’ve basically have the same exact issues with our finances and so I think it doesn’t matter whether you’re living a dream house yet or whether you’re still working to manifest it, that by focusing on what you want that you’ll be able to being conscious of your finances that you’ll be in a better position to be able to help make them sustainable. L
 
On my journey here one of the things that has been a bit of a struggle with when I first started blogging about our finances my husband, who I affectionately refer to as Hubby, on the blog, he just, even though I tried to try to convince him otherwise, he thought that because I wanted to write and in the context of our finances that I wanted to be the one with a hundred percent responsibility for them. And, over the years, I ended up picking on that burden almost pretty much a hundred percent. You know, none of the mail was opened by him, none of the bills were paid by him, and when we first started out our relationship I very intentionally set up a relationship so that we would feel very equitable. Yet, after particularly with three years ago that i left my city job, and that’s another whole story in and of itself, but in that time I haven’t had a steady income for the last three years and then have this burden of trying to come to make our our finances work on a limited income.
 
So we’ve struggled with it and and definitely has been and will be more recently have gotten counseling and along with that right around the same time that we started our marriage counseling. When we started working with a financial advisor and I highly recommend Linda Moreland with Thrivent and we’re having another your session with her today. We’ve had a lot of breakthroughs with our marriage counseling, but I think that part of it has been with our finances, and even though we’re definitely not all the way back to where where I’d like to be, I’m at a place where I feel like I’m ready to talk about our finances again, and be public about the struggles.
 
I think that with so they wrote them I said so with this first vlog post, I i just want to say that I’m not here to tell you all the answers or to expect that your life will be anything it’ll mirroring mine, and at the same time I I know deep in my heart that sharing and being authentic about my family finances, and me just being here on the journey together with my sister and all my other Sisters that I’ll be able to help you, and we’ll be able to help each other. So I’m very much looking forward to this journey and as at this new year I’ve been working with Mike Dooley. If you haven’t gotten his Notes from the Universe and all sorts of other wisdom he has a Love Your Life 30 Day Project for living your best life. So, I’ve been working through the exercises of that and I just like to teach you I’m kind of the visualization that created for myself around my finances. This year my theme is manifesting miracles and transformation and this last year was absolutely about a huge awakening for me and personal transformation, so I’m hopeful that this year will be about creating those miracles out in the world. So this is what I would love to see for myself:
I feel at peace with money and creating sustainable abundance for a family. I’m grateful for our amazing home and beach cabins, and being able to earn money from sharing them. I love being an Airbnb host and Google Local Guide. I love teaching Imagination Yoga and being able to vlog as a new joy in my life. I also love essential oils and and hope to be earning an income here soon from from Young Living Essential Oils. I love having a career that supports and celebrates my lifestyle. I’m happy to earn an income that serves my community and gives me everything that I desire. Most of all, I want to be able to be generous and to be able to connect with others.
So, I hope that this vlog post feels generous, and I guess I hope that you will continue this journey with me. I appreciate you so much. 
 
Sat Nam.
 
Peace,
Darcy Rose
 
 

Bartering Criteria For Making a Fair Trade

bar·ter
ˈbärdər/
verb
  1. 1.
    exchange (goods or services) for other goods or services without using money.
    “he often bartered a meal for drawings”
    synonyms: trade, swap, exchange, sell

    “they bartered grain for salt”
noun
  1. 1.
    the action or system of exchanging goods or services without using money.
    “it will be paid for by a mixture of barter and cash”

I’m kind of torn about whether to barter. Growing up I always thought that bartering was a good thing, and you were lucky to score a trade. Yet, lately I’ve been rethinking it.

My money-guru, Denise Duffield-Thomas, aka The Lucky Bitch, firmly believes that bartering is devalues yourself. She feels that regardless of how fair the trade that bartering always makes a bad bargain.

Now that we have our beach cabins, we’ve actually have something worth a trading. And so far, we have taken advantage of this asset:

  • We’ve bartered with friends who run a side web hosting business, once for a stay at the cabins and another time for donating it the Alameda School Auction.
  • After paying for my first coaching package, my friend/coach Lou Radja was willing to take his family to the beach in exchange some extra sessions.
  • When legally forming an LLC, our lawyer Lori Beight was the one to propose bartering our cabins for her services. (She had visited once before with Rotary friends from an auction donation and knew that her husband “who is a real snob” really loved the cabins).

In each case we obviously entered into the trade with a win-win in mind. We’ve got a cabin that sits empty on some weekends and we have a need for services that friends offer.

Yet, I’ve been rethinking it lately, and feel like I need to set my own criteria for any future barters. It feels especially important since the whole point of a barter is that both parties get what they want without having to exchange money.

  1. We were already planning/needing to buy the service in the immediate future.
  2. We each make an itemized calculation of the value, and any discrepancy in either direction is paid at the time of agreement.
  3. We put it down in writing. It doesn’t have to be a legal document, probably just an email or maybe Google Docs.
  4. When either proposing a barter or being asked one, give the other person some time to think about whether it really works for them. We don’t want either party to say yes just to be nice.
  5. Set a timeline for the barter itself. When do you want the exchange to take place? Does it expire?
  6. Accept either an agreement or a polite decline with grace. Politely decline if the proposal doesn’t meet the above criteria.
  7. After the trade has happened, make sure to document it for tax purposes.

Reflecting about it, I realize that part of the challenge with bartering is that it happens with friends and family who also want to do business with you. So, you obviously want both relationships to be long term and mutually beneficial.

I don’t want to feel used, nor do I want to swindle anyone else. Hopefully, by using my own criteria, we’ll be able to continue to make friendly exchanges with good business practices in place. I think the key is to make sure no one is devalued in the process.

Have you bartered before?

How do you make sure it’s fair for both parties?

Peace,

Darcy

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My Historic Money Pit

This week marks our one year anniversary of moving to Astoria, Oregon. We bought an amazing example of Craftsman architecture with a spectacular view of the Columbia River. I’ve shared in detail about manifesting our dream home, and in many ways, it still feels like a fairy tale.

Yet, now that we’ve been living here for a year, it’s time to share about the “money pit” side of the story. While I still am in awe of our beautiful home, the realities of how much this house is going to cost us sunk in this past winter. Like the feeling of living in a money pit. It’s not quite as bad as the exaggerated 80’s movie, but it’s certainly more than we ever bargained for. While the house is cosmetically gorgeous, virtually all of the mechanicals are in desperate needs of repair/replacement.

That feeling has sunk into my stomach ever since we returned from an aloha-filled trip to Hawaii only to find combined sewer overflow flooding our basement. To be honest, this wasn’t the first time, we had a smaller flood within weeks of moving in, with our first big storm.

We had been “lucky” for several months not to deal with it, and in the mean time had spent several weekends getting the basement ready to rent out, thinking that it was an occasional issue that we could deal with. Yet, this last time it proved more than I could manage. Instead of spending hours and hours mopping up and ripping out the carpet, I called a restoration cleaner to deal with the “Level 3 contamination.” In the process, they also tore out the trim and first two feet of drywall, and what previously looked like a cute studio is now torn to shit. Between the plumber and the cleaners, I know we’re in for over six thousand, plus needing to repair the walls and flooring. I was crossing my fingers that this could be paid by our insurance, but now it appears that it isn’t covered.

Here’s the list of expenses that we’ve paid since moving in:

  • Basement “restoration” to clean up the flood: $6,203.04 plus interest.
  • Roof – Replaced the original hundred year old cedar shake roof, plus $3,600 to fix the garage enough to put a new roof on it, I’m frankly glad there wasn’t more rot: $34,024.35
  • Gutters with screens– A necessity in Astoria: $8,348
  • Appliances – Every appliance except the microwave had issues within few weeks of moving in, so we now have new fridge, dishwasher, stove, microwave, and washer/dryer: $4,225.17
  • Bedrooms painted – It technically wasn’t urgent, but needed to be done to feel like home. We did “splurge” on Benjamin Moore’s eco-friendly : $1,000 labor, $404 paint
  • Tree work – Maybe this wasn’t a must, but we had the trees pruned and cabled, soon after one limb nearly dropped on our van. It did buy us an amazing view: $6,075
  • Electrician – We actually need a whole lot more done, but this was just to get the stove installed: $119
  • Plumber – Our first plumbing call after the first CSO incident: $257.59
  • Misc. DIY fixes: $8

Total to date: $60,664.15

Here’s a list of the work we can’t afford yet:

  • New furnaces and water heaters – the house is so big that it needs two of each and the current ones are over thirty years old.
  • Insulation and weatherization – aside from great storm windows, the house leaks like a sieve.
  • Fix basement walls and floors – this frustrating because it feels like a temporary fix
  • New sewer line – The kicker is that the previous owner told us that she paid was a sewer scope that came up fine, we wasted money on a lawyer trying to see if we had any recourse.
  • New toilets – we’ve had chronic leaks – the upstairs toilet flooded to the main level Christmas – now the main level toilet is completely plugged – the basement toilet is a hideous black.
  • Fix main upstairs shower tile – this was leaking and now a “band-aide” fix of putting unmatched tile just in the basin is going to cost us
  • Fix slanting back stairs – It feels like you’re about to go off a diving board
  • New garage door – the current one is rotten and has visible holes

And our “wish list”:

  • Blinds in our bedroom
  • Built in dining nook in kitchen
  • Bathroom flooring to remove ugly carpet…

Now these lists aren’t including all the miscellaneous things that really ought to be fixed, notably the foundation needs to be replaced for the price of at least $150-200k.

The only saving grace is that we are working to refinance and the house appraised at $500k, after buying the housing for $350k just last year, so at least our $60k hasn’t gone entirely down a money pit.

Unbelievably, I still love our home and am happy we bought it, even if it is a labor of love.

Peace,

Darcy

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8 Tips to Create an Engaging Airbnb Listing

Listing your place on Airbnb is a pretty straightforward process, and you don’t need to be very tech savvy. However, an engaging listing is essential to attracting your ideal guests. Asking yourself a few key questions will make the listing flow and attract the guests you want. Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • Who is your ideal guest? Do you want just couples? Or is your place naturally set up for families? Would you prefer to meet tourists or friends/family of locals?
  • What is unique about your place? AirBnB guest aren’t looking for a bland boring hotel room. They want to stay in places with character that reflects the local culture.
  • What’s attractive about your neighborhood? Guests are looking to you to learn about the local attractions like restaurants, and want to know that there are interesting things to explore that they wouldn’t find by booking a room downtown.

Here are my top 8 tips for creating an effective and engaging listing:

  1. Create a personalized listing. Guests want to know a little about you in order to feel comfortable with booking your place and sleeping in your bed. Make sure to post your favorite travel pic (guests too…we hosts want to know what you look like!) and tell guests about why you’re hosting. Many guests respect the fact that you want to save up for a big trip or need to replace your roof (like us!).
  2. Speak to your ideal guests. Now that you know who you want to attract, speak to them. If you know foodies would love the local farmer’s market and restaurants, compel them to visit.
  3. Use your title wisely. You only have a short title to catch people’s attention. Make sure to have key search words that will get the attention of potential guests. Our current title is “Transit/Kid-friendly Yard/Patio). Initially I included something about the skyline view, but decided that even though we have a decent skyline view that guests would want to stay at our place more because it’s close to all sorts of transit than because they can see the Portland hills (plus, our view isn’t the best in town).
  4. Be completely honest. AirBnB is built on honesty and trust. Be forthright about any negative quirks your place might have. As long as you are upfront about any issues, your guests will likely be willing to overlook some typical imperfections (like at our place not all of the old windows open up, and we use fans instead of AC).
  5. Take great photos. The cliche is true, pictures do say a thousand words. Make sure they are taken in great light and with minimal clutter.
  6. Create a Welcome Book. You can create a great “guide book” through AirBnB online. It’s super easy to plug in your favorite restaurants and give a quick review to give your guests and idea of the places they can visit in your neighborhood. Our guests have really appreciated this. We combined this with a “Welcome Book” that includes info about our neighborhood and the basic house rules. Plus, it helps cut down on your back and forth communication with guests…our first several guests wanted to know several basics, like how to get to the streetcar two blocks away, and it was obvious that we needed to give our guests a little orientation.
  7. Keep your calendar up-to-date. With our location so close to downtown, we’ve been booked literally every weekend that we’ve make available to guests. But it’s a bummer to have to turn folks down because your place isn’t available. So, make it easy on both of you and make sure to keep your calendar current. With that in mind, our initial strategy was to keep three weeks in August open, knowing that we would only take a vacation for two weeks. In the end I had to turn down the guests who wanted to stay as we were returning home.
  8. Review your guests. While this step happens after your initial listing, it is essential to your first impression with potential guests. Sometimes you won’t have too many details to give, but if your guests left your place in great shape, make sure to give them a great review. We’ve been very lucky with all but one group (who seemed to use our place for a fraternity reunion…leaving us with three cases of beer and three huge bottles of booze…I don’t want to know how much they drank over the long weekend! I’ll share more in my “Lesson Learned” post).

I hope this helps get you started on your AirBnB hosting journey…let me know if you have any tips of your own or more questions. If you decide to host, please use our Airbnb host referral link.

Happy hosting!

Darcy

Family-friendly Budget Template

Try our Family Budget Template

Just as my twin sister, Miel, disentangles her finances from her recent divorce, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again with our budget.

After my family bought our dream house and Hubby got his dream job, now it’s my job to create a new budget. In hindsight I know that I should have done this months ago, but I was too busy unpacking, settling in, paying contractors, and celebrating the holidays. Now nearly six months after our move, I am finally ready to create our new family budget.

The good news is that I have an awesome budget template to start from…it’s actually one that Miel helped me create for this blog five years ago. We made the budget template specifically for families and all the expenses that come with them. It’s also easy to personalize our budget template. It’s nice to see that it’s still as valid and important of a tool.

I know that my family will benefit from the time and energy that I put into creating and consistently updating our budget. When I’ve been really “good” at updating it, we’ve been able to save more quickly than I ever imagined.

Truthfully, it’s been a source of tension lately, since we don’t have a current calculation of our exact monthly bills, which changed a fair amount when we moved. We also spent a toooon of money on home repairs when we first moved in, which I’ll save for another post soon.

Yet, I know that I also have mixed feelings, not wanting to focus on our lack of money and to plan for things that our current budget doesn’t actually allow for. That’s where I think gratitude comes in, and by acknowledging how you are currently providing for your family makes a difference. To put things in perspective, I was in the grocery store when I overheard a Dad saying to his son how he had to work for an hour to earn $10, enough to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. Even when money might seem tight, I know that practicing gratitude helps me feel abundant.

Have you used our budget template? Do you update it daily, weekly or monthly?

Happy budgeting!

Darcy

PS I’m going to post a Google Doc version for everyone else who has moved their finances to the cloud, like me.