Monthly Archives: June 2010

Simple Savings

While the best savings advice is to simply direct money from each paycheck into your retirement and savings accounts, what about saving up money for fun stuff like travel?

After spending a year in Denmark after high school (Rotary Exchange program where I earned the program fee through community fundraisers), I continued to travel each summer in college. Friends would always ask me how I managed to travel while working just part-time in a low-wage job. My answer was that I simply made travel my financial priority. At the time my heart longed to travel so much that there was little to distract me from saving. Plus, I didn’t have kids to cloth or a house to fix up, but here are some fun and easy saving tips that I put into practice:

  • Be critical of your commute. It may cost you more than you think. In college I wrote my bike everywhere and didn’t own a car, this practically paid for my trips (if I would have been earning enough!) If you have two cars, think about how you could cut down to one. ZipCar is a great urban option for reducing your commuting bill.
  • Mind the bar tab. I don’t recommend not having a social life in the name of saving cash, but when you go out consider whether you really an extra drink. Saving $5-10 each time you go out adds up over time, over $500 in a year without that much effort. Plus, you might enjoy other things more than getting a buzz.
  • Save the change. When my Mom saved up for our first trip to Europe, she managed to save up enough for her and I to visit my Twin Sis in Finland after just a year of saving on a teacher salary. One of her best tricks was only pay in cash. Then each time she broke a $20 bill she would save all the change, dollars actually. It made her think twice before spending and the cash savings did add up.
  • Picture It. I just heard this idea recently, and I’m trying it myself. Print a photo of what you’re saving for and stash it in your wallet so you see it each time you’re ready to spend.

What simple ways do you save money?

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

Denmark or Bust

With any luck, and a bit of fiscal discipline, our family will be in Denmark this time next year. It’s actually been a goal of ours for some time now, but we’ve been busy with a young family. Even though we are year away, it finally feels like a reality now that I am sharing this goal with you.

Thankfully, I have plenty of host families and friends who are eager to share their homes with us. One of my host sisters has even offered her Copenhagen apartment with views of the Baltic! Another close friend lives about a half hour away from Legoland and has a son just a month younger than our Girly.

I’m obviously excited about this trip and reconnecting with family and friends. I am also looking forward to sharing the adventure with you. I am planning to write about once a month on trip planning and strategies for saving money for family vacations. While we are there I will share about the Danish culture, which is about a generation ahead of the U.S. in terms of sustainable living. If you’re interested in following this topic, just check out the “Denmark” category.

My first travel tip is to use Travel Math to plan your next vacation. It quickly calculates the cost driving in a place like Denmark where gasoline costs $6.92. It also calculates your travel emissions and lots of other handy features.

Do you have a big trip you’re dreaming of?
How you plan to afford it?

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

Green Giving

I don’t know about you, but I always find it a challenge to buy gifts for adults. T here are lots of great green gifts out there for grads and dads, but honestly I’m not sure if they really need any of them.   What do you give someone who has everything?

This year I decided to give my Dad and Father each a micro-loan through Kiva. You can give true gift certificates, but I wanted to be thoughtful about it so I chose.

For my Father, I found a woman in El Salvador, Ana Vilma Gomez, who needs funds to support her kitchen that serves traditional meals. I was actually looking for someone with a bee-keeper business since my Grandfather kept bees, but she came up when I searched for honey and seemed like the right recipient for my Father since he traveled through Central America before I was born.

For my Dad I found a mechanic from Bolivia named Luis who is building his business with his wife. I liked is hard-working profile and how he poised to prosper if he can secure a relatively small loan.

I wrote about Kiva and posted a video that you can check out too.

Have you given a loan/gift of Kiva?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!

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

Green News

My Hubby happens to be a news hound, and the Sunday paper is sacred in our household. He religiously culls the ads and shares the comics with our BigGuy. Sadly, anyones who reads the news knows that the atrocious gulf oil spew and need for climate legislation top the headlines.

We are like many “sustainable” families, and  opt to only get the Sunday news in paper form. The rest of the news we read online.

Here are my two favorite places to get green news:

  • Sightline Daily – I’ve received this daily digest in my inbox for almost a decade, and it’s a great quick way to keep up on environmental news from a regional perspective.
  • Grist – They provide a nationally focused environmental news digest, but with a satirical twist. All the news titles have clever/humorous (or really not so funny) titles.
While technically not news, I’m also a fan of several green news blog, like Green from the New York Times and the Huffington Post I find that the fact of the news is most interesting when captured in a cultural context.

Here’s my short personal commentary on recent news: My only hope is that in calamity there can be found opportunity and political will to finally pass national climate legislation. Fiscally conservative skeptics claim that climate policy will have steep economic costs. Yet, the EPA estimates that the climate bill will cost families than than a postage stamp The real question is whether we want to pay the tab today or pass the bill to the next generation at the expense of species, cultures and global stability. 

How do you prefer your news? 
How green do you like it?

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

Mowing a Lawn

Now I hate to seem sexist here, but in all households there needs to be a division of labor to managing it all (bless you single Mamas/Dads!). Mowing the lawn is a responsibility that my Hubby seems to relish, and the instant gratification cannot be denied. How can you make the task more sustainable and save your family money?

  • Get Reel – Reel lawnmowers have made a real comeback for households without acres of lawn. This is the best option for not relying on smelly/spendy/polluting fuel, the biggest downside is that you have to be willing to mow more often or face an exponential task.
  • Go Electric – While not the cheapest up front, you’ll save money in the long run. I’ve been intrigued by the Neuton mower and secretly hope to get one when our mower finally dies.
  • Share – For several years we shared a mower with our neighbor with a simple agreement that included us always filling up the tank.
  • Old Fixer – Our mower was refurbished by my mechanically-minded Dad, but works like a charm. There are plenty of old mowers out there and any decent repair shop should be able to get/keep yours running for less than the cost of a new one.

Is mowing the lawn a “Dad” job in your family? 
Do you pay teenagers to tackle the task?
What’s the greenest choice for you?

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