Category Archives: Yippie

Identical twins approach finances differently

The Ghanaian symbol for twins is q Siamese twin crocodile
and means “Unity in Diversity.”

“Same, same. But different.”

This is a saying that is heard often in Ghanaian pigeon English, referring to something being both the same and different at the same time. That would be how I would best describe my twin sister, Darcy, and my experiences and relationships with money.

While we are identical twins, how we manage and deal with money is more often than not pretty different. I guess it speaks to the nature versus nurture question. I think we’d both say it is hard to pinpoint where things went differently, but would both agree on the marked differences.

To understand our differences today it is helpful to look back at our earlier influences around money. We both thought that the penny candy mini-tootsie rolls and Jolly Ranchers at the only store in our small rural town was a smokin’ deal, even if our mom wasn’t thrilled with heaps of candy. But somewhere after that we started to diverge a bit.

Even in high school I would have been pegged as the saver and Darcy as the spender. Me, unwilling to part with money for cool environmental t-shirts or CDs. My sis couldn’t get enough of either. When I did spend money it was definitely saving up and then spending it all at once.

College was definitely a defining periods around money for both of us. I opted for a more expensive liberal arts school, Lewis & Clark College, that I could barely afford. Darcy went to Oregon state schools as well as a year in Denmark. We actually both came out of undergrad with pretty close to the same amount of student loans (thanks to grants and paying tuition through on my side and a year in Denmark on Darcy’s side). However, while we were in school, Darcy got money back from her financial aid package and lived relatively cheaply while I worked two jobs to pay for a more expensive education.

Saving to spend was a trend that I kept on through college, where I worked two jobs throughout and saved during one semester to pay for the next semester of tuition. What I had leftover would go towards travel, saving and saving and saving, and then traveling until I was down to the end of what I had. All to start over again. I definitely recall returning from more than one trip running on E.

While I could go on about our various differences, I think the thing that intrigues me most is that from the outside we look pretty similar. Even if you spent some time around us, the differences would be subtle at best. It reminds me of how our underlying feelings toward money manifest themselves in our day to day approaches towards money, even if we don’t take the time to think back as to how those developed.

We are in the process of reflecting on those experiences, and will be sharing our money stories in a series of posts.


Miel (and Darcy)

Sustainable Family Finances
Growing abundance while living down-to-Earth

50th Kiva Loan!!!!!

My total Kiva “investment”

My Kiva Experiment is working…I’m excited to share that I just lent out my 50th loan through Kiva.

As you can see in the image to right, my initial deposit of just over $1k has been relent over and over to total $4,550 in value…now that’s what I like to call return on your investment!

I’ve now lent money to 50 groups of people in 26 countries. Eventually I would love to give loans to people in all 73 Kiva Countries, but the truth is that I’m called to lend more in some areas of the world, especially Africa. I’ve also decided to be rather random and spontaneous in my selection process, so it often depends on who happens to be featured first. If it’s a vocation/place that I would like to support, I’ll often lend to the first one on the list, like I did this time.

However, I do take enough time to read through the lending details, since I would rather give to lenders who have loan terms of more than 18 months. If I can find a loan that six-months, then it means that money can be lent twice in a year. That’s not my only criteria, but my aim is to keep the average loan length under a year.

When I started my experiment, I also decided to only lend out in increments of $100 dollars. I figure that keeps ten loans going at any one time, and that’s plenty to keep tabs on.

Lastly, giving this last loan really made me smile. It was a loan to the Hodari Group in the Congo. The groups buys second hand clothing in large bales that has been shipped from around the world. When I visit sis in the Peace Corps in Ghana, we went to the second hand markets…the direct translation was “Dead White Guy Market,” since they figure the person must have died to give away such nice clothes! My Twin Sis has also worked a great deal in the Congo and I have an inspiring friend in my Rotary club, so I’ve made several loans to the Congolese. It’s such a beautiful war-torn place…if you really want to help there, you can donate to my friend’s EduCongo project to build schools.

Have you started lending with 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.

Takes a Village to Throw a Wedding

When I first started this blog two and half years ago, I brainstormed at least fifty topics that I wanted to write about related to trying to raise a family with sustainable values. I came up with ideas that both immediate and more long term. One was the desire to share a special thank you on our 10th anniversary, and I’ve had this post scheduled for over a year now .

Any guest will tell you, our wedding was unique, just like us. It was an organic blend of East coast meets West coast. My tribe of family friends outnumbered Hubby’s closest family visiting “Or-re-gon” for the first time by a 5-to-1 ratio. Yet, every mingled joyfulness, and it made for an entertaining evening 🙂

When hubby and I married, we were already committed to living our sustainable family values, just minus kids. We wanted our wedding to be as eco-friendly as possible, but we also needed to have a frugal wedding. We wanted an all-out party complete with an eight piece swing band, but we didn’t have a bank to break.

As shared a bit before, I was raised by hippie parents and communal giving second nature. So when it came time to plan our wedding I didn’t hesitate to ask family and friends for favors, and by the time our wedding day came, we were both totally blown away by how many wonderful people were a part of making our day so special.

My mother did all the flowers, including an amazing bridal bouquet, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Many of the centerpiece flowers were given to her by neighbors, including buckets blooming hydrangeas. My mom also coordinated all the decorations exactly according to my vision of “simple and elegant.” My mom also bought my wedding gown, which I had fallen in love with on day-one of shopping (then drug one of my bride’s maids around for a second day of shopping, continuing to tell her about the dress I found on the first day, and at the last shop of the day, they pulled out “my” dress after I gave them a description of what I wanted 🙂

My father, Wally, really wanted it to be a party and insisted on paying for an eight-piece swing band, the Easy Valley Eight. Most of the band members were over 70, but they were classic and truly authentic. Wally also wanted to buy the beer, and we all enjoyed local Caldera Brewing. I knew one of the brewers, so that made it even better.

My parents splurged for the venue, the Schoolhouse Retreat and Cultural Center, located just outside the City of Talent (where Hubby was the city planner). It’s beautiful little school house from 1929 with Wagner Creek flowing through the grounds, in the valley below Wagner Butte. The grounds were perfectly manicured, and we loved it at first site.

Our catering was very personal and delicious: when our parents got married their reception was located at the Tiller Tavern, and the owners put on a big spread. They later moved back to the Boston area, and started a catering business (Jimmy and Betsy are now a real estate team). But they never forgot their beloved Oregon and every summer they would come back for a few weeks, and often cater a big party for friends. So my mom wondered if they might be interested in catering our wedding, and to my amazement family friends who I didn’t even really know as an adult put their hearts into creating an amazing menu, some of the dishes from recipes that I picked out. I naturally had to do a lot of coordinating to put on a dinner for 150 people with caterers from out of town, but it turned out to be fun picking up all the food from the local farmers’ market. I managed to buy the free-range chicken and wild salmon from a friend’s restaurant at cost. Our friend, Javelin, who owns Promise Natural Foods in Canyonville baked the bread and prepped the salmon. Long time friends and organic farmers, Susie and Robbie Lee, contributed fresh melons and peppers.

Our wedding cake was a homemade gift from a dear family friend, Susanna. When my sister and I had our seven birthday, she made us the most amazing carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and we both begged her to make our wedding cakes. It turned out that she really honed her decorating skills. Before the wedding, she asked me to send her an image of what I wanted the cake to look like. To my amazement, our cake was an exact replica, only I’m sure much tastier 🙂 Susanna also went on to make my Twin Sis’ wedding cake too 🙂 🙂

Our pastor was my 4th-5th-6th grade teacher, “Mr. A” who had taken up ministering to prison inmate as his form of community service.

Our music and wedding helpers were more close family friends, Mike and Ruth, my grade school music teacher and librarian/Sunday school teacher/college prep adviser.

Our photographer was the school’s sports photographer, Shelly, who was trying to build her portfolio, and who charged us just $200 for her amazing services, including the negatives.

Our rehearsal dinner was hosted by my beloved in-laws, Mary Ellen and Neil, at the beautiful Ashland Springs Hotel, where they also put us up for our wedding night.

Our honeymoon was a gift too, a work associate of Hubby’s offers us her rustic cabin on Lopez Island for a week, and we cherished every minute.

Everyone truly pitched in, and I want to give a special thanks to my Twin Sis, Miel, who worked to make everything perfect (including decorating our Subaru 🙂 We teased that “it takes a village to throw a wedding!”

Lastly, we were also passionate about keeping it local, so we had Valley View Pinot Gris, King Estate Pinot Noir, BJ’s ice cream, and Endangered Species chocolate as wedding favors.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped out in our wedding, especially by celebrating with us!

Here’s a link to a “top 10” slideshow of photos!


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

Olivia Beach Camp Cabins

I haven’t written much this year, and I have two goods reason. We’ve been working swiftly toward our dream of owning a beach rental we’re actually building two camp cabins at Olivia Beach! So, we’ve been really busy setting up deal, and I didn’t want to jinx us by writing anything before a contract was signed and our 10% down.

But before I get into the recent details, I’d like to share the back story of how this became our dream…

Not long after Hubby and I met, he shared his dream of wanting to own a beach house by age 50. It sounded like a great dream, but I was skeptical that we’d be able to pull it off in that time frame. He was still in graduate school, without a solid career, and I was piling up college loans. Regardless, I happily agreed to the goal, and have been secretly dreaming of our beach house ever since.

Early on Hubby also shared with me his passion for New Urbanism, and the concept of designing communities around people, not cars, really appealed to me. I was pretty sure that I could never see myself living in suburbia, but a New Urbanism community would be a different story altogether.

Then, a few years ago, Hubby heard about some New Urbanism communities being developed on the Oregon and Washington coast. We visited Bella Beach and Olivia Beach when they were breaking ground, even though we weren’t actually anticipating ever being able to purchase…we were secretly a little jealous.

So, when we received our family inheritance, I couldn’t help but think back to our deepest seeded dream of owning a beach house. I also knew that we still couldn’t afford it on our own, so I proposed to my Twin Sis and our Aunt that we go in on a venture together. After visiting Olivia Beach, and weighing between buying a single house or two small cabins, we eventually settled on the “camp cabins.” It turned out that our timing couldn’t have been better, and they had just proposed the option of building small 1 bedroom/1 loft cottages.

There were lots of factors that swayed us toward the cabin option (even though two was a bigger investment than a single 2 bedroom house), and one of the reasons is that there are only planned to be four cabins. Therefore, our cabins will be the most affordable rentals in the whole development. Plus, we really like the “small is beautiful” aesthetic.

We just met with the builder/realtor team this morning, and I’m still pinching myself that we’ll soon be picking out paint colors and will likely be able to stay there for our 10th anniversary this August. Setting up the business, furnishing the places, and marketing them is going to take a lot of my time in the coming months, but I do hope to write more this spring (we’ve also been working on a permaculture garden design!)

What’s your deepest dream?

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

Danish Family Budget

I’ve haven’t managed to sort/post all our photos/stories yet (these are from Legoland), but I did complete our Danish family vacation budget.

Almost a year ago I budgeted our trip (as we were steadily saving up!), and my estimate was roughly $7500. I was obviously keeping track of how much money I was withdrawing, but between kroner and cards, I really didn’t know how close we were to matching our budget. I was amazed to find the final tally matched so closely:

Family Budget:

Item                                   Estimate                       Actual
4 flights to DK                     $4-5000                          $3991 (on Icelandair)
Rental car                           $800                               $910
Lodging                               none                              $388
Gas/ferry/parking                none (whoops!)               $350 (almost a hundred for ferry)
Sightseeing (Legoland)         $500                               $220    
Meals/groceries                   $800                               $650 restaurants, $450 groceries
Trains                                 none                               $93 (just 5 days in Copenhagen!)
Souvenirs                            $200                               $193 (included anything for us)
Gifts                                                                        $150 (anything for family/friends)
Phone                                 none                               $38 
Transaction fees                  none                              $72

Total:                                $7300                              $7505

While our expenses didn’t mirror my estimate exactly (we saved on the flights and spent more on the rental car), it was pretty spot on. I was especially astonished because it’s been 12 years since I lived there and I’ve never fed a family of four. The accuracy more of a fluke than a precise calculation, but I was sure happy to see that we spent what we predicted (we had saved more just in case too!) We also spent $515 on our passports, and I spend around $250 on gifts for family and friends. 

There’s a huge caveat to our budget, and  I don’t want to give you the impression that this is the typical budget for 3 weeks in Denmark. We stayed almost entirely with my host families, which saved us a ton of kroner. We stayed in youth hostels for 4 nights, and the rest of the time we stayed with some of the most beautiful Danes you could imagine. Our groceries covered breakfasts and lunches while we were on the road or at summer houses, and we only ate out for 7 dinners. This was really lucky, because restaurant meals cost us almost $100 (although we did have several pizza nights which cost closer to $50).

While we weren’t extravagant, we were able to travel generously and without undue worry. Knowing upfront that we had saved for a few expensive meals made them more pal atable (although truly the best meals were made by my lovely host families…yummy!)

Although we saved the full budget, we also had a little wiggle room due to our typical family budget. For example, we usually spend $650-750 a month on groceries and dining out, so our vacation expenses weren’t too much higher. We also saved $900 on preschool tuition by having our Big Guy end a month early before starting Kindergarten. 

In the end, I’m most satisfied that we were able to reach our family goal. The trip brought our family even closer together and created many fun stories and beautiful memories. But the part that Hubby didn’t quite anticipate was how much he enjoyed getting to know all my host families and friends, and those relationships are worth everything!

How do you budget your family trips?
Do you account for costs that you would normally spend, like a grocery bill?

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