Author Archives: Darcy Cronin

About Darcy Cronin

I'm a Mother/Coach/Blogger/Business Adventurer from Portland OR. My family consists of my Hubby of 12 years, our 8yo Kieran, 5yo Makenna, and 1yo Teagan. I love dreaming about a better future, and making it happen.

Reflections on Our 5th Year Blogiversary

Miel and Darcy Go Ducks Jan 12, 2015

Go Ducks!

Wow. I can hardly believe that we launched this blog five years ago. It frankly feels like an eternity ago. So much has happened…so many dreams have come true, as well as disappointments and recurring financial frustrations.

I blogged like a madwoman for the first several years. Miel was already a successful blogger (earning $2k per month at the time) and had convinced me when I started that I needed to write a post every day in order to be taken seriously and have any earning potential. So, I diligently cranked out twenty posts a month writing almost every evening. I was determined to prove that I could be a professional blogger, and I do think that some of my best posts were published before I ever had many readers (We have 418 posts and another 80 in draft form!)…I still need to find a way to share our archive better…here are my favorite dozen posts from the first year.

Looking back I have no idea how I managed it to create/maintain such creative stamina (blogging really does take a lot of creative juice). Especially during a time when I was out the door at seven in the morning to bus/bike to office and up on my laptop late several nights a week blogging. Kevin thought I was crazy, and his doubtfulness has been a source contention/frustration (he’s only ever read a handful of posts).

Yet, for as much as I’ve written, I feel like it’s taken me five years to truly find my voice. In my first year I blogged under the alias “Green Mama” and was honestly terrified of criticism. I started off declaring my desire to save up $7500 for a family trip to Denmark fearing that people would label me an elitist for having such a frivolous financial goal. Then we unexpectedly inherited what felt like a shitload of money and I seriously questioned whether I could continue to write for a blog where I no longer felt like my readers might not relate me once I wasn’t a so-called struggling working mama (all the struggle does continue, just in a slightly different income bracket with a few family businesses to manage on top of it all!). Next we somehow manifested our dream beach cabins, and then I planned my exodus from full time public service to become a Certified Mama Bliss Life Coach. Yet, lately we’ve gone to feeling nearly broke and sharing about our family finances has continues to require some serious “courage in action” (one of my favorite mantras that I use as I publish a post or send an important email).

In revamping our blog, Miel began writing together with me (yay!) and we went out on a limb and shared literally every Money Story we could recall in an effort to clear our subconscious from the money baggage we all carry. And yet, I’ll speak for Miel as well, we’ve both struggled to fully share our current money stories. It’s partly because our lives have been moving at such a fast pace in recent months (Miel moved across the country and landed her dream job, and I’ve been busy launching my coaching practice, and we’ve taken on fully managing our beach cabins…) Our lives seem to be happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up, let alone post blogs in a timely manner.

And, yet, Miel and I are ready to really dig deep in order to finally bring ourselves (and this blog) into our full blossoming potential. Here’s our plan:

  • Divulge Our Net Worth – Miel was one of the first financial bloggers to start sharing her net worth publicly (nine years ago). Money is still taboo in our socio-economic circles, and she was in fact very bold to publish her private finances. I remember having conversations with close friends/family who were aghast that Miel would both share her net worth and her desire to become a millionaire. In starting this blog, I had several conversations with Miel about how essentially “there was no way in hell” and Kevin and I would share our net worth publicly. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I/we need to be fully conscious of our finances in order to create our future financial dreams. So, we will both start posting our net worth every quarter.
  • Be Truly Authentic About Our Finances – Just knowing/sharing our net worth is not going to help us reach our financial dreams though. We’ve come to realize after being truly honest in sharing our money stories that it somehow feels harder to be authentic about our current financial stories. It’s partly because we each face frustrations at different levels (This past fall we dealt with fraud, Miel getting her stuff stolen, bouncing the cabin bank account, plus the expense of Miel’s maternity leave/move, trying to afford a nanny, oh and Miel’s new dream job meant a 50% pay cut). So, our lives are simply filled with blog fodder, but we’ve both felt challenged by how to share our stories when they feel so raw and personal. So far we’ve tried to be a resource to our readers, but in truth generic and impersonal advice is just that, generic and impersonal. We hope that by being truly authentic we’ll finally be able to connect at a deep level with you, our readers (Please, people can you finally show us some love and start to comment?!).
  • Hold Each Other Accountable – But we’ve come to agree that sharing our net worth and the complicated feelings is the only way to hold each other accountable. It’s really helpful to have a look-alike to mirror your desires and fears, and we indeed to push each other into full bloom.
  • Manifesting Our Dreams – We’re also going to go out on a limb and start sharing about our next financial dreams and the steps we’re each taking to manifest them. While we are starting with different lifestyles/finances, we still have very similar dreams (like retiring part time in Hawaii). Even though we may face some critics, we are excited to fully embrace our ability to create the reality we envision for ourselves.
  • Giving Back – Miel and I are both very passionate about giving back, both locally and internationally. I’ve been a Rotarian for three years now, and Miel followed suit not long after (We’re very excited now that we can attend the same weekly meetings in the Pearl). She’s now a two-time Paul Harris Fellow (which I’m admittedly a little jealous about, and plan to catch up as soon as I can…). When I was working at the City, I was donating to five organizations I think do great work: Rotary International, Friends of Trees, Oregon Environmental Council, Mackenzie River Trust, and International Medical Corps (where Miel used to work). I also started my own Kiva Experiment when we received our inheritance. Recently I gave a spare $20 to Green Empowerment, since I couldn’t help but support Miel’s new amazing work. Plus, we’ve been tithing to our church, Grace Memorial Episcopal, for several years (although in December we did suspend our donation until we can afford it again). In the end Miel and I truly believe that our work and our money will make the world a better place.
  • Divesting From Carbon & Becoming Carbon Neutral – As long time readers know, I’m actually more passionate about environmental sustainability than finances (Part of my challenge initially was that I focused more on sustainable family lifestyle post than on actual finances…but I digress again). So, for as much as I’m excited to finally embrace our finances (as a means to creating our dreams), I’m also still deeply passionate about doing everything we can to slow global warming. In first launching this blog, we did a lot of home/family sustainability projects, but I’ve kind of plateaued. Just last week the founder of 350.org came to talk to our Portland Pearl Rotary Club. While I had organized a community event (planting natives at a park that I helped create), I’ve mostly been an on/off online activist lately. So, when he talked about the need to divest from carbon, it really resonated with me as the obvious next step for me to take action on. I’ve also had the desire to become carbon neutral for a long time (I blogged early on about calculating our carbon footprint). Every time I made a pot of Portland Coffee Roasters and see the carbon neutral label, it gives me a big smile. Also, Miel’s nonprofit, Green Empowerment, made the same commitment to lead the carbon shift. I saved this goal for last, because I know it’s the most long term goal. But we are in this for the long haul. Five years has felt like a blip, and we’re excited to walk our talk by making these commitments.

So, whether this is the first post you’re reading of ours or you’ve been following us for years, we’re happy you’re here with us. We look forward to engaging our readers with truly authentic posts that will bring us all closer and closer to our financial dreams. 🙂 🙂

Happy Blogging!

Darcy (and Miel)

PS A side note: I do still feel shame around the fact that date this blog has earned very little, and was told long ago that blog that doesn’t earn money is either a hobby or a charity. Meanwhile I didn’t want to “sell my soul” by writing posts to please an advertiser. So, we are finally ready to start partnering with sponsors who resonate with our message and simply want to support us in reaching our readers.

My Holiday Spending Tracker

DSC05351First, I can barely believe that it’s already the 10th of December…the season is simply flying by…

This year I’ve been keeping extra close tabs on my holiday spending, so I’ve created a little “Spending Tracker” akin to the Santa Tracker to guide me on my way. With each expense, you’ll be able to track my spending throughout the holidays via my real time Google Doc. 😉

Plus, I’ll check in with posts about the various expenses/savings, hopefully I’ll finally get a comment or two to encourage me on my way.

I recently found a post I wrote four years ago to recap our actual Cost of Christmas. Looking back it’s interesting to see that it’s not that far off from my trimmed down budget for this year. I had been thinking that we spent a lot more on our party, but that year we only spent $230. So, cutting costs by $30 won’t feel like much of a challenge. It feels more manageable, since I know we had a fantastic season that year. It’s crazy how quickly a grand adds up though, so I’m glad to have my tracker.

How closely do you track your holiday expenses?

Darcy

My Holiday Spending Strategies

We are very fortunate to have a lovely collection of Danish ornaments from my time there, plus many from my host parents over the years.

We are very fortunate to have a lovely collection of Danish ornaments from my time there, plus many from my host parents over the years.

Miel already shared her strategies for staying out of holiday debt, so now it’s my go to add my personal ideas:

  1. Cousin Gift Exchange – This will our first year of doing a gift exchange with the cousins on both sides of our family. Previously I felt the kids were a bit too young to fully engage, but this year I’m ready to put the gift purchases in their hands (last year Makenna did make some sweet beaded necklaces in addition to the books we bought together, but previously I had opted for Powell’s gift cards for the older cousins). They each earned $25 cleaning Miel’s place before she returned from Africa and we’ll pay them the same for getting our place party perfect. They are pretty excited about being able to buy the presents themselves.
  2. Only “eat out” at holiday parties – We typically have a budget of $200 to spend at restaurants each month, but this month we are committed to not eating out at all. This will help us to afford our annual holiday bash. Even though we are tight on cash, we couldn’t think of breaking tradition after fifteen years of hosting our Danish-themed julefrokost. Plus, since we share the love, we’ve been invited to plenty of festivities that we’ll enjoy way more than any restaurant.
  3. Hostess with the Mostest – After fifteen years, I’ve got the formula down pretty well. The nice thing is that my spread can be pretty impressive without being that expensive. I make a huge potato leek soup that can feed an army, delicious open-faced sandwiches, and I keep the dessert to cookies and chocolate. Plenty of Danish Carlsberg is our biggest expense, but this year we’ll probably get a token case, since we often buy more than we need any way (we literally end up with enough beer for the rest of winter!) The truth is that we don’t need to impress our friends, since I know we’re just happy to celebrate with each other.
  4. Shop Grocery Outlet & Costco – Lately we’ve been saving a lot on our grocery bill by shopping at grocery outlet to supplement our stocked pantry from Costco. Going to Grocery Outlet instead of New Seasons/Trader Joes on a weekly basis has saved us about 50% on our grocery bill. Now that Miel is town, I’m looking forward to going to Costco together and splitting our bulk groceries for another 50% savings…at least up front, even if we’ll need to go more often.
  5. Keep My Calculator Handy – When I do need to shop, I’m going to keep my calculator handy with my gift lists. Items can add up quickly, and I don’t want to realize at the register that I’m over my spending limit. Once I’m done with the purchase, I’ll track in my holiday budget tracker.
  6. Forgo Expensive Experiences – This year we’re going to opt out of the Nutcracker, and bundle up the family for a walk along the river to look at the Christmas Ships instead. We’ll take pics in front of our own tree instead of visiting Santa (plus, Makenna freaked out when she first sat on Santa’s lap and I don’t want to put Teagan through that trauma). We’ll buy a slightly smaller tree through our church fundraiser rather than pay over a $100 for one that towers to the top of our twelve foot ceiling.
  7. Not pre-purchase for birthdays – My older two kids birthdays are both in January, so I’ve always felt it perfectly justified to buy both gifts at the same time. While it has saved me some time, I’ve often ended up overspending as a result. Instead, I’ll reevaluate after the holidays have past and decide if there’s anything they still would really love and make sure that it’s budgeted for together with any party plans.
  8. Keep Practicing Gratitude – While our holiday budget may be small compared to some, I know that we are so very lucky to have the luxury of a cozy home. We may be budget-conscious this season, but that doesn’t mean we’re destitute. We are so very fortunate to have so many blessings in our lives and we’ll continue to be as generous as possible. Our budget still includes some purchases for families in need through Grace Memorial.

What personal ways can you save money this season and feel good about it?

Darcy

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend Melody Beattie

No matter what your spiritual beliefs, the holidays can be an opportunity to refocus on what truly matters to your family. It’s also a good time to set some gift guidelines for yourself and your extended family, then practice being grateful for whatever you receive.

Create Traditions of Thanks

This year we’ll have a record number of people at our holiday gathering, and are excited to start some new family traditions. Here are some ideas we’ll be using:

  • Thanksgiving Tablecloth – Take a simple tablecloth or sheet, make a creative grid with fabric markers, then let the kids/guests sketch out their thank yous, leaving room for future years.
  • Cupboard Collage – Make a collage on the inside of your pantry to note everything for which you are thankful. You can incorporate cards you have received.
  • Community Gratitude Tree – Work with your family to make colorful gratitude cards for each other, then tie them in a streetside tree. Share your gratitude by leaving out some extra supplies for them to add their own gratitude notes. (Depending on the weather we might make one inside…)
  • Manifestation List – Rather than a wish list, create a manifestation list to note what you would like to bring into your life, whether it be money, joy, relaxation, or something you have always dreamed of.

Practice Gratitude

One of the ways we like to remind ourselves of all I have to be thankful for is by writing personal thank-yous for any occasion that warrants one. Sending your appreciation via email can do the trick, but don’t underestimate the power of personal mail. Plus, kids learn gratitude by watching us practice it.

In our experience, giving thanks on a daily basis is the best way to expand your abundance perspective. Your acts of gratitude can be big or small, personal or public, but the key is to act. A purse-sized notepad does the trick just fine, or you can log on to gratitudelog.com. We are most thankful this year that Miel’s family has recently relocated to Portland after more than a decade in Washington, DC.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Darcy

We’re Broke But Not Busted

Holger FlickrI never thought that I would need to feel broke before I could authentically write about our family finances (and hopefully help other in the process). Yet, that seems to be the case.

We’ve suddenly found ourselves in debt for the first time. Our true financial situation dawned on me when I realized that we were overdrawn. I had gone to meet Kevin in Old Town for lunch and our debit card was rejected. It shocked both us, but the truth is that we had each been in denial.

The tipping point was a check that I had written for our new nanny. We’re sharing the expense with Miel, but since she had left her check book in D.C. when she moved, it was up to me to sign off on the first two weeks of care (which I still believe is one of the best moves ever and I don’t care how badly I need to cut the budget to still afford the care…more on that topic very soon). The check obviously didn’t sync up with Hubby’s payday, and we were suddenly in trouble.

Yet, our financial situation is more complicated than a bounced check. I can only explain with three factors:

  1. Our home has drained our savings
  2. We haven’t cut costs enough since I left my City salary
  3. Life with three active kids is expensive

1) I already shared a fair amount of detail in my recent post about feeling underwater, but there’s still a “story behind that story.” When we decided to put on a new roof for $10k and spend $4k trying to make our basement dry, we agreed to take out a line of credit loan on our home to pay for it. Yet, somehow we had a misunderstanding. We had talked about it and agreed that we would spend the money that we had earned from AirBnB to pay down the loan faster. So, I took out money from that account and paid down $4k of the loan (even though I had originally hoped that it would be our vacation fund…) Then, in an inexplicable lapse in judgement, Hubby decided that we needed to pay off the the entire loan from our savings. To make matters worse, he didn’t see that I had already written the $4k check (just above in the ledger!) and so he actually overpaid the loan and overdrew our account (prior to the bounced check). Whew. Talk about a SNAFU. My only explanation is wishful thinking.

2) As extremely frustrated as I was about the situation, I didn’t have the heart to get mad though. Since I felt at fault for the random overspending that seems to plague me. Yes, we have a budget, but somehow there’s always some completely justified expense that comes up. That month we had several unplanned expenses. The truth is that I need to start earning a real income in order for us to continue our current lifestyle.

3) We love our kids pure and deep. We do our best not to spoil them or bribe them (although few parents can truly claim either). We don’t indulge in impulse spending, but even the planned stuff truly adds up. Yet we have a weak spot for the experiential expenses. At the moment, if we’re honest, we probably can’t afford all the extracurricular activities our kids are involved in (as much as it pains me to admit it). Somehow we sign them up before we’ve actually put it in the budget, and then it’s like “whoops” and we shrug, knowing how much they each grow through social learning. Plus, after all those activities, our kids get really hungry. Lately it feels like we can’t control our food/snack bill, and Teagan is just starting to truly chow down.

We have soooo much to be grateful for though, starting with the fact that we didn’t explode at each other when we realized we had drained our accounts. All our Money Honey talks have strengthened our financial resolve, even if we don’t seem to have gotten any savvier. Second, I was able to ask for a personal loan of $5k from my Aunt Carol (who initially helped us in invest in the cabins, and lent us money on one other occasion…thankfully the banks can’t compete with interest rates). Third, I feel like actually feeling the pain of being in debt is probably the best motivator for helping me adjust my spending habits. I’m also feeling more resourceful and creative than I have in a long while, and I have complete faith that I can help my family get out of debt fast.

Have you ever been broke?

What motivated you to get out of debt?

Darcy