Category Archives: budgeting

Clear Choice

Monthly internet bills are one of those fixed expenses that we seemingly can’t live without these days…how else would you buy an Ecoist bag, watch the Story of Stuff, and give a micro-loan to a subsistence farmer from the comfort of your home? 

At our old house we were fortunate enough to have free internet for three years ( especially since I was working part-time as a grad student!) Comcast service cost around $50 at the time, and the same month we were moving there was a Willamette Week article about a group trying to provide free internet to Portlanders (through this new thing called wi-fi!). Serendipitously, one of the board members lived three houses away and provided free service the adjacent park from his rooftop. He graciously helped me set things up for the cost a $50 buck router, and we proceeded to get free internet for the next three years. I also gave them a $100 donation when I moved as a thank you for saving us over $1500! Check out the Personal Telco node map to see if you frequent any of their hot spots…there are plenty of parks in Portland with free wi-fi from them.

Alas, when we moved two years ago there weren’t any free hot spots in our neighborhood…still none. So we reluctantly set about buying monthly internet service. I wan’t to avoid Comcast if at all possible, mostly because they are focused on providing expensive cable packages, and that’s not really our thing.

Clear was just hitting the Portland market and had tons of advertising, so we decided to check them out. Thankfully have strong coverage in our neighborhood, and they’ll check with you right in the store to see if they cover your home. We opted for the mid-range speed at a cost of $34.99 a month. After two years of service, we’ve been really satisfied with Clear. The whole point is that you don’t want to think about where you’re getting internet service, because there are plenty of better things to do with your time online 😉

Notably…right now Clear has a deal for a free month and free set-up if you book service online!

On a side note…I think our kids will truly wonder why we couldn’t save the world quicker with the pace they’ll know by the time they are in charge 😉

Who provides your internet service? 
What’s your monthly cost?

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

Energy of Money Homework

It’s been another busy family month for us, but I’ve been trying to stay on top of our finances.  I’m three quarters through a really well written and engaging book:  The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment .

The author is a psychologist who was duped into a pyramid scam, and randomly contacted by the press to find out “why would someone invest in such a get-rich-quick scam?!” She outed herself publicly as one of the scam victims, saying “It was greed.” Suddenly everyone was coming to her with money related issues/baggage. She soon realized that the taboo subject of money pervades everyones’ lives, and people need help getting to the root of their own personal hang-ups. So, she started a course called You and Money, fast forward 15 years and thousands of participants, and that’s her hands on research for writing the book.

Nemeth goes in depth into 12 principles, and I’m on the part about identifying where you are leaking money. While I’ve been much better in the past year, I know I still have room for improvement. She’s also given me a new perspective on listening to my own internal justifications or rationalizations for spending money. So I’m looking forward to the insights I might gain from doing two of her challenges:

  1. Physically write down every thing you spend money on and note the method (cash/debit/card/check)
  2. Balance our “check book” to the penny (even though I’m keeping better tabs now, I still can’t claimed that our family finances are balanced to the penny!)

The Energy of Money is far more practical than new-agey.  But the book is right up my alley, because I would admittedly much rather a spiritual/self help than a personal finance book! (See Geography of Bliss and Infinite Possibilities) I’ll give you a full review when I’m done reading.

Have you read the book or taken the You and Money course?
I’d love to hear your experience!

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

Cash, Debit or Credit?

Perhaps the prevalent financial question I ask myself on a daily basis is “cash, debit or credit?” It’s so routine that I barely give it a thought.

For small things I wonder whether I have enough cash on hand. I go back and forth between thinking that it’s important to have cash available and knowing that if I don’t have it, I won’t spend it.

Yet, it’s far easier to hand over a debit or credit card than to unclench a fist full of cash. Cash keeps your spending in the moment, rather than thinking ahead to when your next pay date/bills are due.  Cash is hard to track in your budget though, and that’s why I limit my cash use. 

Cards are best for things you may need to reward. I’ve been guilty of losing a receipt or two before, but almost all stores can now swipe your card to get your purchase history. Yes, kind of scary!

Suze Orman has a Back to Cash challenge encouraging us to “get reconnected with your Benjamins!” Aside from my autopayments, I’m ready to take the challenge for a month to see if it impacts my spending. Now I just need to hit the ATM…since I don’t have a dollar to my name 😉

How do you make the choice? 
Would it be a challenge to live on cash?

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

Managing Mint

I’ve read lots of online stories about Mamas who turned an eco-leaf with the new role of motherhood. It’s really a no brainer that you want your kids to have a healthy environment. While it should be just as intuitive to manage your finances as protect the environment, for whatever reasons, I first started caring about our finances once we became a family.

Initially, I didn’t have the capacity think beyond budgeting basics, and I still consider myself a financial novice. The point is that I’m trying. With patience, my best effort is getting better. Some day my investment of time and energy will pay off, hopefully before the kids hit college.

I was first turned on to Mint, the online money manager a few years back when it finally dawned on me that ought to take this finance thing a bit more seriously if I want to achieve our family goals. I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship. Initially I fell madly in love, then fell out of love when I had worked to set up all of my bills to view in the online budget only to find out that my bank was not compatible. I kept checking it just to get updates regarding Hubby’s separate bank account, but now that we have merged banks I don’t have to juggle multiple accounts.

Now I am falling for lots of new goal setting features that make online budgeting simpler than ever, plus it’s works with ShoreBank Pacific .

Do you use Mint to keep an online eye on your budget?

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

Online Sales

Do you feel guilt about online shopping? As long as you are thoughtful about your purchases, and sticking to your family budget, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Actually, a Carnegie Mellon study showed that  online shopping uses a third less energy than traditional retail.

I’m really a fan of online shopping simply because I find shopping more stressful than soothing. I also try to be very mindful when shopping online so that I feel more satisfied than suckered into a deal.

My favorite place to shop for kids clothes is Children’s Place. Each season they discount 40%, and you can usually find all the basics for $3-5. Sales are better online and you’ll have the pick of the warehouse rather than one local retailer.

I have a few money-saving habits. 

  • Sign up for sales email from your favorite stores, set them to deliver directly into an online shopping folder so you won’t be bothered constantly.
  • Only shop seasonally as-needed.
  • Know your limits – make a list and budget before you shop and stick to it.
  • Make sure you have cash, but use credit. You’ll earned miles or cash back, plus you’ll  be reminded of how much you spent when you pay your monthly credit tab.
  • Search for promo-codes. I usually save 10-15% or get free shipping. It adds up and is worth the two minutes.

What are your favorite places to shop online?

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