Monthly Archives: June 2011

Service Magic

Maybe it’s just because our home is over a hundred years old, but there always seems to be one home repair project or another. 

Just this past weekend, our exterior water spigot sprang a constant leak. We were actually kind of lucky that it lasted as long as it did, when we moved in three summers ago the turnoff valve didn’t work, but the on/off Y valve for the two hoses managed just fine, so we never bothered to fix it. Unfortunately, such a tenuous set up couldn’t stand the test of a five year old’s enthusiastic hose/horse play.

Since neither of us are handy beyond very basics (at least Hubby quickly found the water source to turn off!), we’ve relied on Service Magic to find small project handy-workers. Service Magic is kind of like Angie’s List, but it’s free and they do the screening for you. We used them several times to get multiple quick bids for small projects (drywall repair, window installations, chimney repair…well that was a spendy little project.)

I really like Service Magic, because it helps me feel like it gives us enough quality bids to make an informed decision. On top of being professionally screened, they are customer-rated, so you know if they ever really screwed anyone this info would be included. I also like how they help speed up the bid gathering process, because that’s not how I want to spend my time.

I’ve only ever used them for home repair, but apparently they’ve expanded to other service areas like senior care, wedding services, photography…

Have you used Service Magic for a home repair project?

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

With My Own Two Hands

Been busy planning a memorial service for my father at the Oregon Country Fair , so I don’t really have time to write…plus we finally managed to spread the last of our organic mulch , so I dead tired. 

When I need a little inspiration I turn to music. Nothing can get me past my own helplessness and insecurity like listening to Ben Harper. I quickly realize that “With My Own Two Hands” I can do anything. Abundance is all about perspective :

Who inspires you?

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

Clean Energy Works – Evaluation

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been over a year since we finished our home energy efficiency upgrades through the Clean Energy Works pilot program. Since I’ve written on our experience pretty extensively, I want to evaluate the true energy and cost savings of the program now that I have a full year of bills to compare. 

(See previous posts: Part 1Part 2Part 3Initial EvaluationPoster Family)

For our natural gas use, from May to May, we used 54.56 Therms per month, compared to 70.49 Therms in the previous 13 months, which is a 22.6% reduction in energy use. This is despite the fact that we nearly froze here this May…truly I don’t remember ever keeping the heat on that long! While I’m pretty satisfied with those results, I am a bit perplexed by how the estimate of Therms saved in the bid is so much less in real life…they had projected 433 Therms saved, but in the first year it was only 207 Therms…I’ll have to check with our contractor to see if he knows why it’s lower.

As mentioned in the “initial evaluation” post, our previous natural gas bill had been $97. After the Clean Energy Works loan, it went up to $146.24. We are still on the even bill pay, so it’s taking a bit to catch up, but our new average for the past 14 months is $105, which includes the loan fee of $49.24. For the comfort factor alone, the $8 extra would be worth it. In the long run, we can expect to see our natural gas bill drop to $55 for an annual savings of about $500 a year.

Have you increased your energy efficiency and reduced your utility bills?

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

Doggy Update

Alas, it’s time to give an update on our doggy decision…it’s a tough topic for me.

I wrote about our decision regarding Kiki’s knee injury in the context of our finances, but in reality its much more of a personal/family decision than a pure money matter. The fact is that we’ve been challenged to keep Kiki altogether. Here’s the brief back story:

We adopted Kiki two summers ago when Girly was just five months…we adopted him on a bit of whim and I teased close friends that it was my way of distracting our desire for a third child (we had previously agreed we wanted a dog after having kids).  The kids quickly fell in love with him, especially Girly (see video her lounging on him last summer), and now she walks him with me every weekend morning. Hubby and I had a steeper learning curve as new dog owners, and within the first months we had repeated trash incidents, compost digging, food nabbing, he ran away two times, plus loud barking any time he was left outside without us (which the neighbors wrote us notes about…) Ironically, we were baby-proofing our house at the same time as doggy-proofing, and I came to think of them as the same thing: provide a safe environment and everyone will be happy/healthy!

However, the fact is that Kiki’s dog ways can drive Hubby mad, and he admitted after a few weeks of having him that he brought out some OCD tendencies and that his threshold for misbehavior was way lower than mine. But don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a happy camper when Kiki tore my stuff: two camelbacks, a sherpani work bag, our Ergo baby carrier, our Kelty baby hiker backpack, our new luggage…plus three leashes and two harnesses…yes, we’ve gotten the hint that he likes gnawing on straps/bags! Now that I think back, I wonder how I could tolerate it all…but despite his natural dog-tendencies, Kiki is truly a great dog and wonderful with the kids. 

Hubby had been threatening for months under his breath to give away Kiki, and it made me cringe each time.  But it was Kiki destroying a new homebrew kit that Hubby excitingly purchased that was the last straw for Hubby.  That was in March.  I thought long and hard, and realized that despite his sometimes destructive dog ways, Kiki is part of our family, and I wasn’t ready to give up. Since then I’ve taken over all dog duties (including poop patrol, which I vowed to never do…), and I now get up at 5:30 to walk him (nearly) every morning.

My bond to Kiki has certainly strengthened, and even with the hard family lessons, I’m glad to have him in our life.

But with more reflection, I can see that I was willing to pay the thousand dollar vet fee in part because I felt like it’s our obligation as responsible pet owners and because I feel  guilty for ever considering giving him away. I know in my heart that having him in our family isn’t something you can put a price tag on, and we can’t even imagine the long term value his playful presence will have for our children. As you can see from the “dress up” photo, they love him.

As for the knee surgery, I’ve decided that with his arthritis and age, he’s not a good candidate. I also feel like expense and effort would be too much of a sacrifice on our family, but we will continue to give him the best care and love we can. Thankfully, his limp is gone for now and his full old-age vet scan came back gleaming. As I paid another $25 to renew his tags a few weeks ago, I felt like I’ve made the best decision for our entire family.

Have you ever had family pet tribulations?

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

Kiva Credits

Last year at Father’s Day I wrote about my “Green Dads”. I also wrote about  giving them both $25 in Kiva loans for Father’s Day.

This year my father has passed, but his Kiva credits remain. In fact, the El Salvadoran cook I sponsored in his honor has repaid the loan entirely. (The Bolivian mechanic is 71% repaid). Plus, somewhere in the middle of the year when the first loan was repaid, I committed to two more loans, a farmer from Tajikistan has already repaid his loan and a women’s co-op from Senegal is currently investing in cattle with the funds from this original loan. 

Now I have $32 in credit to re-lend, and I’ve decided to support Tres Esquinas Group, a 34 year old woman from Peru who decorates events with cloth. Since I happen to be turning 34 on Saturday and love hosting parties, it seems like the perfect match.

It’s pretty awesome for an initial gift of just $50…imagine the impact around the world!

In case you aren’t familiar micro-lending, here’s a great video on  Kiva micro-lending. If you want something more in depth and inspiring, here’s a video on  Investing in Women.

Here are the basics from Kiva’s website:

We are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Learn more about how it works.
Since Kiva was founded in 2005:
  • 592,634 Kiva lenders
  • $221 million in loans
  • 98.79% Repayment rate
We work with:
  • 133 Field Partners
  • 450 volunteers around the world
  • 59 different countries

Do you give the gift of Kiva loans?
Use this link to lend your first $25 for free!

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