Kiva Lending Experiment

I’ve written several times about Kiva’s micro-finance lending, and how it gives money a whole new meaning for hard working people around the globe. With my recent inheritance, I’ve decided that I can afford to do more.

So, on new year’s eve I found 10 entrepreneurs, farmers and hopeful home-buyers who were gracefully requesting loans to help raise their family fortunes and lent them each $100, for a total of $1,000 in loans (plus another $100 as a donation to Kiva). Now our money is helping people in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Tajikistan, Palestine, and previously in El Salvador, Senegal, Peru, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

It feels amazing to be able to lend a hand to help people reach their family financial goals around the world. Even if I never personally see the impact, I have no doubt that my generosity is making a difference.

I also contacted Kiva and asked about whether they can find more partners for environmental projects (tree planting, renewable energy…). They replied the same day and have been working on developing more loan partners with green goals, so I look forward to supporting those in the future.

Oh, and BTW, I just had my second blogoversary (1/10/10)! It personally feels like I’ve been writing for much longer, but in other ways, it feels like I’m just beginning. In my first year it felt like I really was able to voice my goals and achieve many of them. Our dream of saving to travel to Denmark was worth all the effort, and I know this wouldn’t have been possible without this blog. Yet, this second year has been more personally challenging to stay motivated, but I really did miss writing during the fall and it feels good to get back to “tip tapping” as Hubby likes to call it 😉 

On a related note, while I initially intended to earn some extra money from this blog, it honestly hasn’t happened yet. I’ve earned less than $200 in two years, which doesn’t even cover my wi-fi bill. I’m not planning to spend a ton of time trying to get advertisers, but I have decided that anything I earn will go toward Kiva loans.

Lastly, a word of thanks to my friends and readers. I know many of you don’t comment online, but I’ve appreciated your personal encouragement throughout my blog writing. It means a lot to me. 

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.

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Fridays “Free”

I wrote a while ago about our Flex Friday schedule and how it saves us both time and money. It means long days (7:30-5), but it gives us every other Friday off.

So, when I started considering how money could improve my life, my first thought was more free time. During the fall I reduced my schedule to 36 hours per week, which is still technically full time, but means that I now have every Friday off. It’s meant that I now drop off and pick up our Big Guy on Fridays (Hubby does so almost all the time otherwise.) I’m also able to get some exercise, and a hodge podge of family tasks and errands.

I couldn’t agree more with Huffington Post editor Laura Rowley, “The company that can  create jobs where a woman can work from 8:30 to 2:30  is going to win and win really big.”   The  Huffington Post article  also discussed a  study finds that being happy at   work becomes less important to women’s overall well-being when they have pre-school children , possibly because this changes working mothers’ priorities.”

While I enjoy my current position and am committed to my career, I also feel like creating more of an equal balance for my family is essential. Now that I have a 4 days on and 3 days off I feel like I’m really able to make the most of my time in both places and give more of myself.

Do you have a flexible schedule?
Is it worth it?

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

Portland Hill Walks

Happy 2012!!!

Our new year’s celebration was pretty mellow, Bailey’s and decaf in bed talking about our family schedule for the east coast new year. A fter having survived the flu, it was wonderful to have beautiful winter weather for a long family walk .

One of our favorite family activities is talking long walks together, self-narrated by Laura Foster’s book Portland Hill Walks . She developed a series of walks to guide you to the best vista, learn about the local history, and enjoy previously unexplored areas of Portland. It’s taken us a few years, but we’ve almost completed every walk in the book.

We started doing our hill walks when our Big Guy could fit in a Kelty pack. Now, at almost 6, he can regularly walk 5 fairly hilly miles (with lots of water and snacks). Girly still uses her chariot, our faded and beloved Zooper stroller, which we’ve put at least a hundred miles on. She’ll walk for stretches, but it’s honestly still easier to cart all our water bottles, extra layers, dollies…

While getting some fresh air outdoors is our main objective, I’ve found that it has given us a deeper sense of place. We remember the quirky history Foster has researched and it has certainly gotten us away from doing the same repetitive park trip weekend after weekend. And there are often parks along the way to take a play break. Usually our walks end up taking us 3-4 hours, and sometimes we’ll grab a bite to eat at a local place, which Foster often includes in her guide tips too.

I bought Foster’s Portland City Walks book for Hubby for Christmas, and I imagine we’ll have just as much fun on those adventures…

Have you discovered Laura Foster’s walks?
Which one is your favorite?

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

Inheritance Changes Things…

Sahalie Falls at headwaters of McKenzie River

Hello again and seasons greetings from Darcy at Sustainable Family Finances!

I hope you’ve had a joyous and restful holiday season. I’ve certainly enjoyed the time to play with my family and celebrate all the season’s traditions together (I started to write this on the 26th and now both my Twin Sis and I have been down with the flu for three days now…starting to feel a little less miserable).

It seems like ages since I’ve written for SFF, and it has actually been a few months. I needed a break to reflect on our next financial goals, and  I have honestly been at a tough place in relation to writing about some big financial changes. I don’t want to appear like I’m bragging, but also don’t think I should be ashamed either.  But I’ve come to a point where I’m ready to take our goals to the next level and continue writing about our journey.

I recently received an inheritance from my father Wally, who passed away this last May. Most of the money was actually from my grandparents, and my grandmother’s estate hadn’t yet even settled when he passed away. Naturally, receiving money in such a way is bittersweet and it’s taken me a while to come to terms with it. I feel like I have a new personal decision-making metric to evaluate whether they would have been happy with my choices.   Thankfully, I had a loving relationship with all of them, and it makes me feel like my decisions are making them proud.  

Moments ago I pushed the “confirm” button to make the final payment for my student loans, all $43k worth. I was elated, despite the fact that it ate up almost half my inheritance. I will be thrilled to no longer have $300 siphoned from my account monthly (I’d been paying for 11 years already…which means that I’ve paid $40k already…most of it interest!) I feel like I have a huge burden lifted and we’ll finally be able to start saving for our kids’ college tuition.

Our next big family financial decision was to finally buy a minivan. Our thoughts of going carless have vanished, but we are still considering renting our car through Get Around, the new private car lending program that just launched in Portland. We ended up buying a 2012 Toyota Sienna. We still owed $6k, and managed to get $15k for trading in our Subaru Forrester (2008 with just under 30k miles). But instead of going into debt again, we were able to pay the remainder in full. This was a huge financial relief, and we are thrilled to no longer have a $400 monthly car payment.

We are also now 1/4 owners of a post office, which will generate a monthly rental income. My aunt, sister and I have developed an LLC to run the business, and named it after the waterfalls where our family’s ashes are scattered, Sahalie and Koosah Adventures. The “adventures” part is because we want to make sure that any venture we take together should be fun too. 

Obviously, these changes have changed our financial outlook significantly. Like my aunt said, we are now officially “ahead of the game, which is a place most people never reach.” It feels very good indeed.

I’m also still trying to get my head around what our next financial goals will be, but I feel strongly that having more money hasn’t changed who we are. We still have the same values, and despite succumbing to a low mileage vehicle for the duration of having young kids, we will continue to do our best to decrease our negative impact and invest in ways that bring us true joy. 

Wishing your family abundance in 2012!

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

Story of Broke

I’ve been a not-so-secret admirer of Annie Leonard “Story of…” series since just after I started my blog. Her latest “Story of Broke” really makes me motivated to take action. 

After watching it, I kept thinking about how outraged I was when I first learned how much the government spends on warfare compared to education. There was a graph that made it appallingly easy to under that our 
national budget was completely ill-prioritized. The thing that makes me sadder today is that was almost exactly 20 years ago (I vividly remember being at the Eugene Celebration and visiting all the environmental and social justice booths. I soaked it in like a sponge.) I also somehow naively thought that once I was old enough to start voting that things would get better…

Watching Annie’s latest video in the midst of an Occupy movement that will likely be moving to a different level (at least past the emcampment here in Portland) makes me finally believe that we may be gaining enough momentum to transform the economy. It’s time to move more than the deck chairs on the Titanic. I still feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole situation, but I certainly am not willing to wait until my kids start asking me why we spend our common money on all the wrong things.

Most of all, I love Annie’s message that we aren’t broke!! It’s really the kind of mental shift we need to make in order to realize that we do have the power to fix our situation. It’s both very simple and very complex, but I also believe that it’s very much worth us all doing what we can to take action. Watch the quick video, and I think you’ll agree.

“The United States isn’t broke ; we’re the richest country on the planet and a country in which the richest among us are doing exceptionally well. But the truth is,  our economy is broken.”

Story of Stuff
Story of Citizens
Story of Cosmetics
Story of Bottled Water
Story of Electronics
Meeting Annie Leonard

What action does Annie inspire you to take?

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