Heartfelt holiday

Call me married with children, but my heart just doesn’t pitter patter over Valentine’s Day like it did when I was a girl. It feels like the holiday is more about consumption than companionship.
Yet, I’m not entirely anti-cupid. After all I have two cherubs and a loving Hubby. I was a bit surprised when he asked me if I wanted to go out, since I can’t recall the last time we went out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Here are some suggestions for how to create a more heartfelt and finance-friendly holiday:
  • Homemade dinner – I’m planning Hubby’s favorite – Italian stuffed shells.
  • Chocolate chip cookies – the kids will have more fun baking cookies than with any heart-shaped box.
  • Fresh cut tulips – I love roses as much as the next girl, but paying for an overpriced bouquet doesn’t make me gush.
  • Nursery gift certificate – If a supermarket bouquet doesn’t cut it, try a gift certificate for a perennial that will have a lasting impact on your sights and senses. Daphne is one of my favorites, because it blooms so early and smells so sweet.
  • Library or used books – Share the story of St Valentine with your kids with library books or a some used books.
  • Classmate Valentines – We made simple heart-shaped cards with zigzag scissors, a fancy silver pen, and some stickers. I’d like to buy a rubber stamp or two when the kids get a little older, but in general I plan to take their lead on interest level and creativity.
  • Babysitter – We’ve been lucky to develop relationships with co-workers who want an occasional “grandma” fix. We exchange by inviting them to dinner before we head out. If you want quick privacy, hire a babysitter to take your kids to the park.
  • Birth Control – I’m very pro-family, but birth control can help you make decisions for your family planning. Following kids, I’m a fan of the Mirena IUD. No need to remember a pill daily.
How do you plan to celebrate your lovers’ day?
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Solo family account

We are moving slow and steady toward our goal of simplifying our family finances.  We added Hubby to our local community bank account last week, and now our next step is to start the transition of all the direct debit accounts.
The beauty of automatic bill pay is obvious, but it is a hassle if you ever decide to merge accounts or switch banks. We identified six accounts linked to Hubby’s old corporate bank.
  • Paycheck deposit
  • Mortgage
  • Car payment
  • Insurance
  • Savings account
  • Netflix
Given the monthly ebb and flow via deposits and debits, I also calculated how much is being taken out by these transactions each month so that I can transfer enough funds into to our joint account to make sure everything is covered until Hubby’s paycheck deposit kicks in.
I know there is still more work ahead, but I can hardly wait until I can look into one account to find out how much we have available to meet our family needs and wants.
Are there any accounts that you choose to pay the old-fashioned way?
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Green Police

Have you been accused of being the so-called Green Police in your family?

In our household college football reigns on high, so the Super Bowl is seen as purely superficial and watched mostly for the entertaining commercials. Apparently this year they were even more sexist than usual, but I was glad that Hubby called me in to watch this one with the “Green Police.” If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s absolutely hilarious. I’ve fantasized about the potential of green police, and love the part about the compost infraction.

I’m sure that Audi’s Green Police is thrilled with the buzz it’s created, there are several more videos you can check out about how you only need one napkin per sandwich/burrito/hoggie or anteater that sniffs out environmental contraband. I’d be interested to hear some of the conversations that it’s sparked amongst the football watching crowd.

I try not to be eco-preachy with my family, and just lead by example. But I did find it intriguing that extended family members have told me that my face pops into their mind whenever they don’t/can’t recycle something, like some green guardian angel.

Do you think societal pressure plays into people’s decisions about whether or not to take green actions?

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

Clean Energy Works – Part 2

As described in yesterday’s Clean Energy Works – Part I , we are very excited about participating in Clean Energy Works  pilot program to help finance energy efficiency for old leaky houses like ours. The combined CO2 emissions saved would roughly equal our family driving from Portland to Washington D.C. and back each year. While we loved our cross-country road trip camping at national parks along the Lewis & Clark trail, I certainly wouldn’t want to emit that much pollution simply by living in our house each year.

With 5,900 cubic feet of air escaping per minute our house needs some serious retrofits. Here is a complete list of all the efficiency measures we will be taking, and the projected energy/CO2 saving:
Air Sealing – actually the most cost/carbon effective of the measures we will be taking.

  • Air Sealing Cost – $585
  • Projected Energy Savings – 168 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 2,260 pounds a year

Wall Insulation – Green Fiber insulation blown into walls from small holes in the exterior. This also helps reduce outside noise. Cost also includes a recommended kitchen range hood to vent heat (Cavaliere-Euro Z 30 Wall Mounted Range Hood.)

  • Wall Insulation Cost – $2,850
  • Projected Energy Savings – 127 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 1,710 pounds a year

Attic Insulation – includes Green Fiber insulation to R-value of R-50, and new bathroom fan (a Panasonic Whisper Green Fan for $250)

  • Attic Insulation Cost – $1,840
  • Projected Energy Savings – 100 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 1,327 pounds a year

Floor Insulation – our master bedroom is partly above the front porch and freezing!

  • Floor Insulation Cost – $1,000
  • Projected Energy Savings – 26 Therms a year
  • Project CO2 Reduction – 350 pounds a year

Rim Joist Insulation – installing rigid foam insulation in the short wall between the first floor and basement, which is currently exposed.

  • Rim Joist Insulation Cost – $500
  • Projected Energy Savings – 12 Therms a year
  • Projected CO2 Reduction – 161 pounds a year

Grand Total Cost – $7,675.00
Projected Energy Savings – 433 Therms a year
Projected CO2 Reduction – 5,828 per year

Thanks to our contractor, Marshall at EcoTech for helping convert the projected CO2 reductions! Energy Trust of Oregon is also doing all the grunt…I mean…paperwork for this project, so they deserve our kudos too.

Do you know if your home is sealed?
Do you think it would pay off to make the investment?

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

Clean Energy Works – Part 1

We love our 1904 dream home, but we knew the moment we bought that we would need to invest in significant efficiency work. We’ve done home energy audits before. With our first starter home, we diligently insulated everything and made energy-related improvements. Yet, after putting every nickel into buying our house, plus having a new baby, we knew that the home efficiency improvements would have to be put on hold.
Through a stroke of political genius we are now going to be able to afford our green dream home improvements!  We’ve been accepted into a new pilot program to help finance our efficiency improvements, called Clean Energy Works. The program is unique, because it’s the first “on-bill loan” with the payment of the loan added to our monthly utility bill. We will pay nothing up front, for $7,675 worth of insulation and home sealing work. We will repay at a rate of $50 a month (3% fixed over 20 years) on our utility bill.
A big reason why we were accepted into the pilot phase of the program is because our house is so darn drafty. We have a new efficient boiler with old-fashioned radiant heating (which apparently is really efficient, but just went out of style). When we had our home energy audit it clocked our house at loosing 5,900 cubic feet per minute (CFM), and we were told that an efficient home would test at 1,700 CFM. Obviously, we were good candidates.
Here’s a little video about how the pilot program will create 10,000 green jobs, and how the program could be replicated nationwide to help more families reduce their energy bills without having to put money up front.

Green For All – Clean Energy Work Portland video from YouTube:

Would you take advantage of the Clean Energy Works program if you could?
More tomorrow on the project’s carbon impact reductions…
Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.