Category Archives: Yippie

Family Camping Tradition

We’re starting July with our favorite family tradition: camping.

It’s actually a series of trips, first a fourth of July weekend trip to Dodge Park with four other families (call us crazy to take 5 two year olds, a 4 yo, and two 5 yo to the woods!). Then the kids and my Twin Sis and I are headed to the Oregon Country Fair, including a memorial service for our father. Meanwhile, Hubby will be taking another solo vacation to mentor teens on a backpacking trip in the Olympics.  

I’ve already written plenty about the logistics of family camping in previous posts:

Frugal Family Camping – Tips for planning ahead

Family Camping Gear – An earful on camp gear

Group camping is far more affordable and feasible than planning a group vacation. With our five family gathering over two nights no one has to cook more than once! Plus, there are more eyes and hands to go around, and we were truly smart this time and invited aunts/uncles without kids of their own…built-in kid entertainers 🙂 Each family will easily spend less than $100 for a full weekend including camp fees, food and gas…although gas seems to get higher and higher, good thing our destination is less than an hour from town.

Our kids truly love camping, and camping is really the best way to get out in nature. I also think its the best way to really share family time and to get together with other families. The truth is that if you have friends over for dinner/playdate, the max you’ll hang out is about three hours, which is just enough to catch up. Camping together really allows families to reconnect and bond. Growing up, we had several families who we only ever saw for annual camping trips and they are the family friends I am the closest with now. Family camping is a tradition that virtually every family can afford and the memories are priceless.

Hence, I won’t be posting until the week after next…enjoy your holiday!

Does your family save money by camping?

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.

Travel Gift Policy

As our family heads off to Denmark, on our first international family vacation with kids, I’ve started to consider the topic of gifts.  When it comes to travel, gift giving often hits you coming and going.  Unless you are headed off to a resort, in most cases of international travel you may likely have reason to provide your host with some kind of a gift.

In our case, I have beloved host families whom I’ve lived with and care for deeply.  We’ll also be staying with several families over the course of our trip, and thus obviously want to provide a thank you for our hosts.  I won’t give it away entirely, as some may be readers, but I’ve managed to find some lovely options at our local Saturday Market.  When it comes to buying outbound gifts, the main guidance is to find something that represents where you are from (hopefully locally made as well), isn’t too weighty or delicate, and shows appropriate thanks to your host.

On the flip side of travel, is to consider what works for you in terms of buying gifts for friends and family as you return from your adventures.  While clearly it is nice to share goodies from your travels, it is helpful to keep a few things in mind when souvenir purchases:

  • Don’t go over board!  It is very easy to want to buy something for everyone. From my experience, most people aren’t actually expecting something, and will respect that you would rather share stories than t-shirts.
  • Not everyone actually wants a souvenir from a place they’ve never been.  They would likely appreciate something thoughtfully selected, but to buy something just to check it off your list is likely just a waste on both sides.  Not everyone wants a wooden rhinoceros.
  • Have fun!  Shopping and finding goodies to bring home from travels is supposed to be fun, so don’t feel like you have to buy anything for anyone, including yourself.  Markets and shopping can be some of the most interesting experiences in any country, but not becomes significantly less fun if you have an agenda. 
  • Be conscious of what you buy for yourself.  Likely you’ll want to keep whatever it is that you get for a lifetime to remember your trip.  If you travel a lot, it is easy to end up with a pile of trinkets.  My sister, who travels abroad frequently, advises to find something utilitarian that will add value to your life in a useful way.  This most often ends up to be something kitchen related, or an easy buy of jewelry, which is lightweight and adds to your style.  
  • You’ll also likely appreciate the memory of shopping for the item as much as you will the item itself!

What gifts do you bring for hosts when traveling?
What are your favorite souvenirs?

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

Will & Testament: Make it your family priority

At the new year I talked about how updating our wills and creating new “last wishes” documents were a family goal , and about a month ago I wrote about questions for estate planning . I may be stating the obvious, but given the recent death of my father, I realize how essential documenting your last wishes really is for your family. I encourage you to make setting up your estate affairs a top priority for your entire family.

Ironically, Hubby and I signed our wills, advanced directives, and power of attorney when my father had already passed away and we just didn’t know yet. I was planning to have the tough talk with my father the next time we met, and I was already discussing the need for estate planning with my mother. My Twin Sis had tried to broach the subject of writing a will the last time they saw each other in January, but he kind of scoffed at her asking “Why would I need a will?!” She pressed further and told him that writing a will is the responsible thing to do, especially for someone 65 with a heart fibrillation. She insisted that it wasn’t about inheriting money, but it was more about his last wishes. Where did he want his ashes scattered? Did he have any causes he wanted to donate to? What about giving money to his “best-ex” who who was partners with for 14 years and still best friends with? How would we know anything about handling his finances? We knew that we didn’t want to be kept on life support, but that doesn’t matter without an advanced directive…

As in turns out, these questions were forced upon us much early than we anticipated. Please, I urge you to get your estate affairs in order, I promise you’ll breath a sigh of relief when they are done and your family will thank you when you are gone.

Not to keep this post entirely depressing, I want to share Brett Dennen’s new song Dancing At a Funeral from his new Loverboy album.

Do you have a will and testament? 
Does your spouse?  Do your parents?

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