Category Archives: sustainable lifestyle

Drive Less. Save More.

Drive Less. Save More.” is more than a bumper sticker on our family rig, it’s a motto that we try to live by daily. I’ll share some of steps we’ve taken to transport ourselves in a frugal and low-impact way.

1) Live close to where you live/work/play
This is truly the biggest factor in our ability to keep our costs and carbon impact low. When choosing your family’s home, make sure to account for the cost associated with transporting yourself for home to work and beyond. We can run 90% of our errands within 5 miles; I can walk in less than fifteen minutes to the bank, pharmacy, post office and grocery store, plus the community center and several family-friendly restaurants. Family’s often don’t take this into account, and end up paying at the pump, not to mention quality of life. 
2) Calculate Your Costs
You’ve probably seen charts showing that the average American spends over $10,000 a year on transportation, driving an average of 12,000 miles. Metro’s “Drive Less. Save More.” campaign has a unique Driving Cost Calculator, which shows you what you spend currently, what you could save if you reduced your driving by 15% and 40%. This potential savings can be a good motivator to reduce your time behind the wheel.
3) Take Transit
Taking the bus or light-rail may not be an option for all families, but if it’s available near your home, don’t be intimidated to try it out. I’ll write more on this topic soon, since we take the bus every week day with two small ones. It can be fun and educational to take transit with your kids. If living in the suburbs is the only way to go for you, try carpooling. Most big areas offer programs or you can make connections at your workplace. Friends I’ve known who have carpooled enjoyed the camaraderie.
4) Mileage Matters
I wish I could say that our family car, a Subaru Forrester, gets great mileage, but it’s OK at best. Sadly, there are no good green family vehicles on the market yet. If you’ve got one you like, I’d like to hear about it! So, in the mean time, before a true eco-friendly family wagon exists, we’re going to have to continue to compensate by reducing our trips altogether.
5) Plan Trips Strategically
Often called “trip chaining,” planning your trips strategically can save you both time and money, which are both valuable to busy families. Make sure to plan your route to only include right hand turns, which the UPS found to be the quickest and thus most cost-effective. Simply taking a moment to plan out your trip will also help you feel more focused than frazzled, another genuine benefit.
6) Reduce your insurance costs
Insurance may be required, but there’s no need to overpay. You can quickly find low cost car insurance rates that will get reduce your monthly transportation costs. There are also some companies that offer pay-as-you-go plans, which gives incentives to driving less.
7) One Car
Owning only one car has always made sense to me. Perhaps it’s because I lived in Europe and biked everywhere before I ever got a driver’s license, but I promised myself long ago that my family would only have one car. Even when my Hubby worked in the burbs and I traveled to Seattle for grad school, we’ve always made our schedules work out. I know that those with older kids say that it gets harder, and I imagine it might. But call us wacky, we like going places as a family. If you really think you need two cars, try a ZipCar membership. Believe me, I looked into ditching our car altogether, but with car seats, camping and Doggy, it just wasn’t feasible.

8) Use Home Delivery Services
In many urban areas there are plenty of home delivery services, like grocery delivery and dry cleaning pick-up which can save you time and money.
9) Bike Places
I once biked 12 miles a day and loved it, but I have to admit that biking has taken a back seat since I became a Mama. I do know plenty of Mamas who take their kids to school and then head to work by bike. I hope to get back in gear this spring…I’ll share more once I’m back on the saddle.
10) Think Twice
More than anything, reducing your family miles relies upon reframing your thought process around what it is possible and what you really need and want. In college friends would ask me how I could afford to travel back to Europe each summer, and the answer was simple: I didn’t have the expense of a car. If it motivates you, think about the payoffs or log the savings and put it towards a vacation fund.
Getting from here to there can seem to be the bane of modern existence sometimes, especially when we feel the twofold guilt of the cost and pollution. But you can make a difference by finding ways to reduce your driving and save your family money. Which ways will you “Drive Less. Save More.”?

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

Green Taxes

Today in Oregon, we have an important vote on whether to increase taxes for household incomes of over $250,000 (affecting only 3% of Oregonians) and eliminate income taxes on unemployment benefits (affecting a whooping 270,000 jobless Oregonians). The second ballot measure would raise the minimum business tax from a 1931 rate of $10 to a sliding scale of 1/10 of 1% of Oregon sales. You may ask, why raise taxes in a recession? Exactly, this would help fill a severe funding gap due to a drastic downturn in household incomes and generated income taxes. For obvious reasons, I am in favor of funding public schools and providing basic services to those in need. 

Yet, contrary to my Republican Hubby’s belief, I am not a thoughtless “tax and spend liberal.” I’m not voting yes just because we aren’t in this tax bracket. I agree that this vote is just a Band-Aid approach. 

As a kid, I remember being happy that we didn’t have a statewide sales tax; only having to calculate it when visiting family in California. But despite the convenience, I’ve come to realize that we desperately need statewide (and national) tax reform.

  • Eliminate Income Taxes – Why tax people’s livelihoods?
  • Carbon Taxes – Let’s tax our carbon impact
  • Sliding Scale – Even FDR agreed “Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay.”
A new green tax system would help reduce environmental impacts without hindering our economic productivity. I think the deeper impact would be psychological, as more families would really contemplate the power of their wallet on the planet.

How would you like to see our taxes shift?

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

Birthing Business

Today is my Girly’s 1st Birthday! As any Mama, this day brings my mind back to place she was born. In our case, that means her bedroom. We planned a home birth, with medical support from a professional midwifery clinic.  

We had a successful hospital birth with our BigGuy, and full health insurance. So, our decision wasn’t necessarily a monetary one, but it did save us a whole lot of cash . All costs were fully covered by our health insurance, including the birth tub and birth kit bought online. I certainly don’t advocate for considering a home birth based on finances alone, but it is a safe alternative to hospitalization. Here’s an interesting article from Fit Pregnancy about Better births, lower costs.

I was inspired by the eye-opening documentary “ The Business of Being Born .”
I had considered myself to be fairly well educated, but
this film made me realize just how the obstetrics industry has been stripping mothers of our right to birth naturally . Statistically, only 1 in 100 American babies are born at home. Yet, 1 in 4 American babies now come by Cesarean surgery and the majority of mothers/babies are sedated by drugs at birth. I feel very lucky that my first hospital birth had minimal interventions and no drugs. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Before I go any further, I want to say that  hospitals are amazing places for high risk pregnancies, where  moms and babies need medical support . In an emergency, I would not have hesitated being transferred and fully appreciate modern medicine.

My top 10 reasons for having a home birth:

  1. Safe – with prenatal care, contingency plans, and professional home birth equipment
  2. Sustainable – minimal carbon footprint
  3. Inexpensive – even with insurance, our first birth cost a few thousand dollars
  4. Comfortable – the comforts of home, even if birth isn’t
  5. Family-friendly – our son announced that she was a girl; our closest family was there
  6. Thoughtful – professional midwives prepare clients with extensive knowledge
  7. Playful – music and water helps relax and energize between contractions
  8. Empowering – you make healthy decisions to benefit you and your baby
  9. Free High – you may not get drugs at home, but the birth “high” is incredible
  10. Home healing – being at home to heal with postnatal visits for baby and mom

If you or someone you know is considering home birth, I’d like to offer up these resources:

My last two cents on the subject: birth is a natural process that has been going on since our beginning; having faith in this mysterious process has helped us endure and succeed. Plus, home is where the heart is, where families grow, and dreams are born.

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

Sustainable Family

I have a very important disclaimer to share with you: my family’s life is far from being truly sustainable.
I may have typed the word “sustainable” over a hundred times in my Master’s thesis, but I know that living a sustainable life is far from easy (if even possible) in a modern urban American lifestyle. Sustainability must at least be the goal, if we want our children’s children to experience the wonder of life on Earth.

Being “green” is not a one dimensional thing, but academics analyze three aspects of life that can either create pollution and instability or create a just and viable society: social, environmental and economic decisions. Our daily economic decisions, like whether we drive or take transit impact the environment, as well as our wallet. That’s why the finance focus of this blog is so important to creating a sustainable family, and why “going green” has become an en vogue finance topic.

I am writing this blog to share about the paradoxes of living a life of abundance in a world with finite natural resources. You cannot live in an environmental bubble nor do I want to live in a way that only values dollar bills. We must each find our own path, and I believe that together we can lead the world to a better place.

I hope you will join me on this quest to create sustainable family finances.

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