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.

Affluenza

Do you know anyone with affluenza? 
Can you relate to the symptoms of affluenza?
Do you suffer the consequences? 


Here’s a preview trailer for a documentary on the epidemic:





How do you think we can shift from affluenza to sustainable abundance?


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

Free Parks!

As the summer rec season is (finally!) beginning, I was excited to be tipped off about several free park days! The National Park Service, BLM and National Wildlife Refuges will have free admission during several summer weekends, starting June 5-6! The free days are thanks to Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.” 


Hubby is a self-proclaimed “parkie”, which means our family often along for the ride. Before kiddos we visited over twenty national parks and monuments together. Before the age of three our BigGuy camped and hiked in Yosemite, Rainier, and North Cascade National Park. His new favorite blog Your Parks Go Guide from Oregon State Parks which is also offering free admission this weekend.


While many benefits are intangible, getting outdoors with your family is good for your health and your wallet. Not all parks are includes, so make sure to check your park agency.


Here are some things we typically budget for at park trips:

  • Admission
  • Food
    • A picnic and trail snacks is cheapest
    • Consider logistics of what you can bring and/or buy along the way
    • After some hikes you may want to treat yourself
  • Gear
    • You don’t need expensive gear – just make sure you have sturdy shoes, first aide needs (sunscreen), ample water, hat/sunglasses
  • Gas – most park excursions do require a tank of fuel, so budget per mile

Are you planning to visit any “free” parks this summer?
What are your favorite parks?


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

Worthy Worms

We set about making our family’s first worm bin over the weekend. Thankfully, Hubby took initiative after being motivated by an article he’d read recently that included a quick and easy how-to guide:


Wiggle Room: Set up a bin and bedding to worm your way to healthier soil.


The project didn’t take much time at all, and the only real expenses were tubs and worms. Our garden will no doubt reap the benefits with the castings. Plus, the bins are located on our back porch, which will be much nicer than dashing through the back yard during the NW’s wet weather season (which doesn’t seem to want to leave us yet!)


The instructions were straightforward, and there was plenty of opportunity for kid-help. I thought shredding newspaper was the most fun, and when I asked our BigGuy about his favorite he gave a huge smile: the worms! One of his pastimes happens to be garden worm hunting, so he will no doubt be in little boy heaven with his own worm pets. 


There’s one caveat though, we actually haven’t bought our worms yet. We figured that it would be best to actually get the bins set up so that our worms would have a home! I’ve been searching online, but haven’t quite decided which company to buy from. Do you have any you’d recommend?


On a related side note, we have composted for years, but I’ve always been really disappointed with the soil results. I researched and tried to problem solve, but we simply don’t have enough leaves to get rich abundant compost. From my initial research on worm bin composting, the maintenance is a lot less tricky.


Here are a few kid books about worms:



Wiggling Worms at Work (Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science)


Wiggly Worm: A We-Wiggle Book of Colors and Numbers


Do you have worm bins? 
Are you happy with your “return on investment”?


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

Frugal Family Fun

In our household we’re always looking for frugal (and sustainable!) family fun, so I’ve had a few posts on the topic. But on the eve of a long holiday weekend with virtually no firm plans, here are some ideas I’ve been toying with:

  • Visit local kiddie amusement park with free petting zoo
  • Create a worm bin
  • Backyard play date
  • Plant seeds in the garden
  • Take a Portland Hill Walk
  • Help out at a new CSA farm around the corner
  • Relax, follow kids’ lead and just enjoy the moment



Personally, I think we adults often over-think things. The key is to keep things simple, take it outside and enjoy some time together.


I also sign up for a weekly email that includes inexpensive events around town. I wasn’t surprised to find another great blog on Frugal Family Fun


What are your family’s favorite ways to have frugal fun?


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

Maxing Benefits


If you are fortunate enough to be employed with benefits, now is the time of year for annual enrollment. While beneficial in theory, actually making the most of your benefits can feel like a daunting propositions. There’s a bureaucratic learning curve at the very least.


First, you may have different health plans to compare…which spouse’s plan is best for your family finances? What are the co-pays and deductibles? How much will that add to your monthly expenses? What’s the minimum out-of-pocket and maximum?


Next, you have to learn the acronym lingo for tax free spending accounts: 

  • FSA – Flexible Spending Account
  • MERP – Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan
  • DCAP – Dependent Care Assistance Plan
The use-it or loose-it nature of the FSA program presents a fortune-telling conundrum of choosing how much to contribute. For families one of the big questions is, will you have a new baby in next year? This is especially challenging for family’s planning, but not yet pregnant. With our Girly, we were newly pregnant when we enrolled in benefits, and maxed them out assuming that we would have another hospital birth. When we opted to plan a home birth, it turn out that I had to find creative ways to spend almost $4k on medical needs. I was very happy to learn postpartum massages were covered!



There are a couple of new things this year. Come January, most over-the-counter drugs and medical supplies will no longer be reimbursed. This is going to be a big change for us, since we currently use this kitty for everything from diaper creme to sunscreen.

Another new change to my program got me pretty excited…you know those Windows invention commercials that show ordinary people with their super model double claiming brilliance for various ideas? Well, I’ve been saying for years that I wish there was a way to issue a FSA debit card and not have to waste a lot of time and energy submitting claims. Apparently someone listened, because I’ll soon have my very own Benefits MasterCard to use at the doctor and pharmacy. Brilliant, not that I can take any credit. 


For the dependent care plan you’ll note that it’s only “assistance” not reimbursement for child care. The maximum allowance is $5k per year, $208.33 per pay period and we can only dream of the day when we no longer need to siphon so much for our paycheck for child care. I’ve heard from Mamas with older kids to keep in mind that summer camps can get quite expensive, and as long as they aren’t overnight they can be reimbursed. Although this can be a little hard to predict a year ahead.

Have you been successful in maximizing your benefits?
What are your strategies?


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