Category Archives: budgeting

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.

Paternity Leave Finances

Figuring out your family finances during paternity can be complex and highly personal. Often it can make you question whether you are financially prepared for a child, and all the pressure that comes with parenthood.

With my first pregnancy I was working for a small non-profit, and quickly realized I was not guaranteed any leave under the FMLA policy (not even unpaid with workplace under 50 employees).  Yes,  U.S. maternity leave ranks the same Ghana, Swaziland, and Zambia . As a result I opted to leave my job, and hope to find a position that would work with motherhood.

The next big question was,  “How the hell were we going to manage an unpaid maternity leave?”   So, I remember creating a spreadsheet of various timelines and how much we could manage to scrape by on. Perhaps our saving grace was that I had been making very little in my part-time non-profit gig through grad school, so we were used to paying the bulk of our bills on Hubby’s paycheck. Sadly and honestly, the only way I managed to stay home to raise our Big Guy for his first four months was with a small inheritance of a few thousand dollars. As it was, Hubby only managed to take a week of vacation time off.

Fortunately, our financial circumstances improved substantially between our first and second children, so at least I didn’t have to wonder whether we could afford our mortgage and groceries.  I still had to figure our finances out to see how long we could manage on a single income, turns out that I started working part-time from home when Girly was six weeks and returned to full-time when she was eight months when I drained every last hour of unpaid leave.  Hard to believe that this wouldn’t have been possible if our family wasn’t covered by Hubby’s employer paid health insurance.

How did you manage your finances during your family leave?

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


I am super excited about the debut of the new supportland local rewards card, and hope the Mercury was correct in announcing the official launch today . Since I already try to shop mostly local, I’m really looking forward to trying it out. 

The basic gist is that you earn reward points by shopping local, and local shops will offer ways to “spend” the points you earned by shopping locally with freebies! Sounds ingenious to me.

Even if you’re not from p-town, you should be excited, because they have plans to support buying local across the nation. Who knows maybe the idea will globalize local, wouldn’t that be ironic?!

Here’s a quick video that explains how the program will help you save money while supporting local businesses:

Tell me your stories about using supportland!

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

“Spring” cleaning

So I know it’s June already, but the rainy Portland weather has me “spring” cleaning into what ought to be summer. Plus, as a working Mama, it really does take me the whole season to get through the basics and by the time I’m “done” it’s almost time to start again…

My dirty secret is that up until last year, I used a disposable “Swifter” mop and duster. While it probably wasn’t the most toxic habit out there, it sure was wasteful and costly! 

I’m happy to share that I have found two alternatives that actually do a much better job cleaning:

  • Shark – I was tipped off about the “Shark” steam mop system by my Grand-mama who swore by it. I love the fact that it simply heats water, and uses micro-fibers to lift off sticky messes. No cleaning residue or smell.  I’ve been really impressed by how well it works on different surfaces, and our home is almost all hardwoods.
  • Mystic Maid  – My favorite reusable microfiber duster is by a Portland-area company, bought at another local store, Kitchen Kaboodle. It does a terrific job picking up dust and when it’s freshly washed, our Girly loves dusty the baseboards and radiators.

When I add our new beloved Simplicity vacuum to the mix, it makes cleaning in the rain a little less of a dreary task. 

There are a ton of green cleaning tips on the Green and Clean Mom blog, but I hope my “secrets” will inspire you to make the switch. 

What are your green cleaning secrets? 
How do they save you money?

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?

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