Volunteer Together!

If there is one thing Hubby is most proud of, it’s his personal commitment to volunteer service. He served in the first group of AmeriCorps members, and even had the opportunity to meet President Clinton at the White House. AmeriCorps members are encouraged to become volunteers, and he’s taken that to heart.

We participate in a handful of projects each year, and have often organized events through our workplaces. Admittedly, since having kids we’re not always able to be the most efficient volunteers. But I figure that it’s the ethic and experience that makes a difference. And I know that the trash we’ve picked up and trees we’ve planted have been because we took time from our busy life to give back. Hubby and I both worked community events this weekend, so we’re going to save our family service for a few weekends from now when Friends of Trees will be planting in our neighborhood.

Here’s a great quick video on volunteerism and finding your special niche.

Here are the best national ways to find service opportunities:

All for Good
Do Something

Here are my favorite local places to volunteer:

Friends of Trees
Hands on Portland – search for Children’s Book Bank

Enjoy your day on!

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

Family Finances

While I was a natural born environmentalist as a child of the seventies, motherhood has brought out my own focus on eco-friendly finances, supporting both my family and the earth.

After a whole year of blogging, I realized that I have close to 250 posts (another 40 topics in the queue already too). I’ve tried to do my best to categorize things along the way, but that’s easier in theory…so I thought I’d compile some my favorite themes.

Frugal Family Fun
Okay, first the fun stuff.  Check out tips on frugal family fun, everything from winter kid-friendly activities,  frugal fun tipsfamily camping, family camping gear, free parksbeach clean-up, Burgerville, and  family outings.

childcare expenses, eco-healthy childcareswapping kid related stuff, practical advice for dealing with head lice, Children’s Book Bank favorite green kids’ books, Business of Being BornHealthy Child Healthy World Another part of children, is deciding how much is right for you, as we are leaning toward sticking with two kids. Plus Grandma’s gift policy and green birthdays, and saving early.

Money Honey, that’s what I call our time together to discuss our finances and goals. Making time for our partners outside of “business” or family matters, whether you are lucky enough to benefit from Flex days, or work close enough to enjoy lunch once a week together as we do.  Finding cheap getaways, though sometimes that also means opting to take solo vacations.  Also remember heartfelt ways to celebrate your marriage.

Nitty Gritty Family Finances
Integrating our finances, including choosing a community oriented bank, maximizing family healthcare coverage, managing our finances with Mint.com, money saving tips interview, middle class meaning Dealing with student loan debt, including looking at the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and applauding   new regulations in student loans . Frugal lessons.

Home Economics
EcoMaids gardening ,   extra cargo space ,   grocery shopping ,   shopping Spud opting out of cable, honing your yard sale savvy, finding alternatives to basic sack lunches, getting the most of shopping online, frugal lessons, groupon, treebate, plus other simple ways to safe money…in contrast to Affluenza.

Doggy Debt, Building a Poop Composter, and Building a Worm Bin.

Protecting Your Family
With as much as we do to support our families, it is also essential to take steps to protect our family.  While it is important for individuals, having a Just in Case Plan, including updated Wills, life insurance, and keeping an eye on your credit is essential. Last year this included developing an emergency kit and plan for our family in case of emergencies.

Consumer Culture
Conflict-free camera, Story of Electronics, Story of Bottled Water, Story of Cosmetics, Story of Stuff,  

Green Family Transport
T aking public transportation with kids ,  Baby Biking, Sunday Parkways, Bicycling Culture, and Zero Dollars Per Gallon.

Get a Financial Life by Beth Kobliner,  Living in Bliss  by Eric Weiner

More Fun Stuff
What I Am Sesame Street music video, Pop Culture by Ben Lee, We’re All in This Together by Ben Lee, Green Police, and  The Majestic Plastic Bag.

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

Carbon Footprint Average

I feel like I’ve been slackly on our carbon footprint goal. I met my initial goal of using three calculators, but then I stalled out. Mainly because the results were so wildly divergent that it was hard to know what to make of them.  I was careful about the accuracy of my figures and wrote down all our utility bill info, etc., which also made it easier to fill them all out.

Result 1 – EPA carbon calculator – 1/2 ton
Result 2 – Oregon DEQ carbon calculator  – 35 metric tons
Result 3 – Carbon Footprint Calculator – 9.7 metric tons
Result 4 –  Climate Crisis Calculator  estimated that our household emits .3 tons per person (1.2 household) 
Result 5 – The Nature Conservancy – 46 tons (average U.S. household of four emits 110 tons)
Result 6 – Bonneville Environmental Foundation calculated our house, transportation and flights to be 39,571 lbs (19.78 tons) – I would also note that they had probably the nicest calculator (pretty graphics, plus they gave you options between giving details and using averages)

Not surprisingly, it turns out that other environmental bloggers have come across the same inconsistencies. The Global Footprint Network’s calculator was the most fun and had the best graphics, but the results showed up in planet and global acres instead of tons of carbon. So I couldn’t average the result of needing 4.5 planets to sustain our family! 

Interestingly, Brighter Planet sells the service of calculating your footprint to companies with all sorts of goods and services. But I couldn’t compare my results from their page directly. On a side note, I would add that a couple of the calculators did seem most interested in selling you offsets.

Then a co-worker tech guy told me about how studies have shown that even random guesses (like how many jelly beans in a jar) turn out to be nearly accurate once they are averaged. So, it’s admittedly more arbitrary than scientific, but until I can be proven better…carbon experts: bring it on!…I’m going to track our progress from a baseline of 18.7 tons of CO2 annually.

Have you calculated your family’s carbon footprint?

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

Mortgage refinance complete

Yeah!!! Our mortgage refinance is complete

We’ve been anticipating our refinance for a month plus now, so we are very excited to have this goal completed. Refinancing has taken a lot of diligence, but it’s worth it. One interesting difference between now and our last home purchase was that the IRS is clearly auditing, our mortgage lender Home Street made the honest typo of listing our address as SE instead of NE. The mistake triggered an inquiry from the IRS, and it had to be fixed before we could sign. Personally, I didn’t mind the inconvenience and I appreciate that there is more due diligence lending taking place now.

Given the mortgage atmosphere, we were cautiously optimistic about the whole process. Hubby didn’t want me to share anything until we had locked the rate, and even then we were holding our breath to make sure that the appraisal went through.

The appraisal did turn out to be a bit of a disappointment, not surprisingly, our house is not what it was worth when we bought it two years ago. But neither of us dwelt on that fact, and decided instead to focus on the long term investment. We never expected to get rich quick; we just wanted a home to raise our family and live our lives. 

It turns out that we needed to bring $3k+ cash-to-close, but at least now we don’t have a payment until March. Like I justified to Hubby, we’ll be able to save the difference in a few months, so it’s worth dipping into our emergency fund. 

Now that it’s a reality, we’ll be able to starting planning the savings in our family finances. Once our emergency fund is repaid, we’ll create a fund for home improvement/maintenance. Then we are planning to begin saving for our dream of buying property on the coast and building small eco-friendly cottages!  

What would your family do with extra savings?

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