Valuing Progress

One of my strategies for creating abundance is to put things in perspective, and give myself some credit. While we haven’t reached all of our goals just yet, we have begun to take action and make progress. Here’s the progress we’ve made in three months.

We are not the patron saints of family finances or sustainability, but at least we are giving our best effort to put our priorities in line with our values. I’ve also been really enjoying the connections that I’ve made with friends and family and new readers through this blog. 

If you’ve enjoyed following our journey, could you share this with just one friend?

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

4 yrs from now?

I felt the calling to start this blog not because of some new revelation, but because I feel like this is the time to up the ante, share ideas and connect. I can’t afford to wait until my children are older and life is “easier.”
All parents know how quickly kiddos grow and we suddenly our internal clock is measured by their growth. In the daily hubbub, we don’t often take the time to reflect on what type of a world they will inherit.

My co-worker shared two inspiring activism groups: 
mothersactingup on behalf of the children
They were writing about a new convergence of worldwide action called  Four Years. Go.  This short video says everything I’m feeling and want to express.

I hope you’ll join the call to action.

How old will your kids be four years from now?

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

Transit w/ Kids

I find that the best choices for the planet and your wallet are made on a daily basis. True green decisions become so routine that you don’t even think about how much you’re saving or reducing your carbon footprint.

Taking the bus together is our daily testament to trying to be a  sustainable family Whether rain, snow or sweat, we head out the door to catch the bus together. For us that means a three block walk with 2 parents, 1 preschooler, 1 toddler (still in a front carrier), 2 work bags, 1 cloth diaper bag, clean/dirty sheets on Mondays and Fridays. It is a decent schlepp, and we get quite a few double takes en route. It’s truly worth the effort though, and we experience social, economic and environmental benefits every day.

Taking the bus does save us money too. We save on a monthly parking pass, which would run around $150. We also save on gas, wear/tear, tickets, etc. It’s hard to put a real price on the savings. But since we both have employer subsidized bus passes, paying $60 together, it’s certainly a bargain.

By taking the bus, we save at least 1500 miles per year. This save roughly 1,275 pounds of carbon annually, which is the equivalent of planting 25 trees. Occasionally we also ride the lightrail MAX, which gives us a 15 minute walk.

Typically in the morning we’re all still a little sleepy, so we mostly people watch. This involves Girly flirting with other passengers. When BigGuy was a baby we called the women on the bus his harem and now Girly has her court. We also have our fare share of “transit friends,” who we chat with when we wait or ride together. I find that people are much more outgoing when I have kids in tow, and I truly enjoy the social interactions and friendly atmosphere. The bus drivers are usually very friendly too, and last week one had me laughing to tears with a flashback of a Cheech and Chong impersonation. 
After school/work is a different mood, as we are all a bit tired and ready to be home. As a veteran transit family, we are usually come prepared:
  • Hand puppets, board books
  • Lots of healthy snacks and water (not bottled!)
  • Lots of smiles, songs, and smooches
The real long term social benefit is among our family, as riding the bus together we have plenty of adventures, memories, and life lessons. Beyond humor and entertainment value, riding the bus as a family also shows us the full spectrum of humanity and humility.

Does your family ride the transit, daily or occasionally?

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

New era for family finances

Call me a green socialist (or a tax and spend liberal like my Hubby likes to tease), but I couldn’t be more thrilled by the signing of the health care bill. I’m still in disbelief about how contentious its been…doesn’t everyone get sick, Democrats and Republicans alike?! Perhaps its because I lived in Denmark, but universal health care seems like a simple solution, especially when it could cost less for everyone and provide a societal safety net thats hard to put a price tag on.  I consider my family to be very lucky to have employer covered health insurance. Even though I know that we work hard to earn it, I believe that health care should be a human right, not an employer based privilege. Stories about families struggling due to health care costs are heart breaking, and I am hopeful that the new health care bill will improve the lives of many families.

The passage of the new student loan program is exciting too, both for myself and our kids. I was among the first in my family to graduate from college and while emotionally supportive, my parents couldn’t financially put my Sis and I through school. Between college and grad school I took out significant student loans, $66k total for six years of schooling, while working part-time throughout.
I been making payments for ten years now, and it really feels like I’m trapped in a sanctioned bank racket.  My loan has a 3.25% fixed interest, and last year I paid $3,456, but $3,051.74 was paid in interest, so only $404.26 was paid on my principle. Yet, even after a decade of consistent $288 monthly auto-payments, my loan still amounts to $46k. In all honesty, I was expecting that I may still be paying off my student loans when my children start college. This has been a challenge, because I want to start saving for college, but need to pay off my own debt first.

Thankfully student loan forgiveness is now available to hard working college grads. Moreover, families won’t have to incur the same level of debt to begin with larger tax credits and more Pell grants.  I am so thrilled that the next generation will not face the same insurmountable student debt. Thanks to my fellow “green socialists” who voted, spoke up and worked to make these significant policies possible.

Will your family benefit from the health care bill?
Are you saddled with student loans?

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

Middle Class – what’s that really?

I was intrigued to come across two references about the definition and creation of a so-called middle class.  What does being “middle class” really mean?

According to U.S. Todaythe income range is actually quite wide, from $51k – $123k annually. The size of average middle class homes has risen 40% in the past thirty years, but that’s likely to change again in the decade to come. They also assume that all middle class have two cars, not “just” one. Interestingly, the article mentioned a Pew poll among the middle class where 68% said that free time was their top priority, 12% said that being wealthy was the top priority. I’m all for abundance, but with young children family time reigns high. 

I n my own blog bio I describe our family as “middle class,” but they doesn’t really give the full story. I grew up in rural southern Oregon during the 80’s spotted-owl recession, and I always thought of my family as working class. Comparing myself with friends I always felt fortunate though and never thought of myself as “poor.” It was first when I applied for students loans that I realized my family was actually on the lower tier of the class strata. 

Next I met Hubby, actually my last year of college while he was in grad school. While so-called middle class, his family really hovers toward to top end of this vague social bracket. Thankfully, class level doesn’t determine your soul mate and life partner. While we occasionally have lively discussions about our different life perspectives, for the most part its not something that influences our relationship on a daily basis. I can only hope that as we raise our kids, we’ll teach them the value of doing what you love, giving back to society and sharing the abundance.

Yet, I’m not naive to think that class doesn’t play an intrinsic role in American society. Paul Krugman shares a history lesson about how the middle class society evolved rather quickly due to government policies, and how they have continued to change through political control of the classes. Check out his video:

New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman,  talks about Income Inequality and the Middle Class:

How does class play out in your family?
Do consider yourself to be middle class?

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