Tuesday, September 20, 2011

30 Days!

I love TED! I mean I really love TED. Who is TED? Ted talks, if you have not seen TED Talks, you must. It's some of the brightest minds speaking on a variety of topics from science to sociology. This Ted Talk was a huge inspiration for me.
Matt Cutts speaks on trying something new for 30 days. 
Try something you have always wanted to add to your life or subtract from your life. Start a new habit or get rid of a nasty habit. I mean come on, it's only 30 days, you can do it!

Here is my current 30 day list. Like most things I always change the rules a bit. Mine are simple so I am doing  several over a thirty day period. 
1. Give everyone in the family at least one hug a day. (Pretty much do this but sometimes they escape before I can grab them.)
2. Work out ten minutes a day. Now I'm pretty good at exercise but I am trying to make sure each a.m. at 9:00 I do at least 10 minutes of exercise..because you know what happens when you commit to 10 minutes, you usually go longer. Which leads to #3.
3. Follow a schedule for the weekday. I will work until I pass out. It's hard for me to rest. I'm passionate about my work and enjoy it. The problem is I get hyper focused on one part of work and don't have much balance. So I am trying to build in some time to do things that I enjoy that are not work based. So this leads to #4.
4. Inspired by my second child, Cole. He asked me to take him to the thrift store for some clothes. I do not like to shop, but if I do shop I feel so much better about it at a thrift store because I know I'm not putting more "stuff" into our society. My goal this month is to go to three thrift stores a week, this is a lot of shopping for me. We picked up a two pairs of shoes for Cole yesterday, one pair retails over $100 and we paid $7.  * I should say I'm really good at getting rid of stuff. In my hallway there is always baskets full of stuff to give away, which keeps the house from getting clutter. 

So I have to go now...I'm getting off schedule. I'll keep you posted!

Summertime Home State Vacay

Red Apple Inn Courtyard

I failed to report on our stay-cation early due to me working all summer. We ended up not staying home but going on a short trip here in Arkansas for three days.
We visited Greers Ferry, a lake resort community about 2.5 hours from home.
We chose to stay at the Red Apple Inn, a Country Club Community in Arkansas. Due to our finances being a little tight I took advantage of the trip as a way to scout out teachers for the yoga school, this allows me to use part of our expenses for a write off, plus hopefully find more students.
The hotel was much more expensive than I expected: Lesson learned: We should have learned to camp with four kids!!!
However I am such a huge fan of Faye Jones Architecture and the hotel was either designed by Faye Jones or one of his student, sadly no one was sure and we were not able to confirm. However we know he designed several houses in this area.. It was super cool and worth the stay just for the architecture, and the pool. The pool was awesome!
Here are some of the things we did for free or low cost:

  1. Swam in the pool every day.
  2. Walked downtown
  3. Visited the fish hatchery and state park with JFK memorial.
  4. Had Subway for breakfast.
  5. Packed meals and ate at least one or two meals, and all snacks at the hotel each day.
  6. Visited a used book store and bought a stack of books for $4.50.
  7. Visited a cool little Yoga/ Eastern Indian Store and purchases some things for the yoga studio $65, but a work expense. Plus the sweet lady gave us love beads for free. 
  8. Found a neat self serve yogurt place that was very reasonable. 
  9. Worked out in the workout room and used the hot tub. 
  10. Visited one restaurant a day, kids drank water (saves a minimum of $12).
  11. We got lucky and the awesome movie theater had a Tuesday night special, movie, drink and popcorn for $4.00. We saw the new Harry Potter. It was a super nice theater and the whole family was $24.00! Unfortunately we did not know that the popcorn and soda was included until the next day when someone mentioned this to us. On the upside I guess we saved some calories. 
All in all the hotel for two rooms for two nights and one meal for Blake and I (they are famous for their restaurant, we didn't take the kids) was $525. The other expenses such as gas and food amounted to right at $300, also we had to pay a kennel fee of $60.  Not a cheap trip at $885 but not expensive considering we had four teens with us and they eat like four adults. Normally when we go on a vacation it cost us approx $2400 for five days, spending approx $150 a night on a house or hotel. 
We may be exploring camping in yurts on our next trip to North Carolina. My moms partner happens to own some R.V. campgrounds with yurts and cottages and they run about half the cost of a hotel. Fortunately they are all along our next route. 
We are saving now for a trip out east next summer in the mid summer heat. My goal is to get away from Arkansas during the 100 + days.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


My sweet neighbors were just posting about their stay-cation and it got me to thinking about our own summer vacation. We had intended to take the kids to North Carolina this summer at the end of July, but as things can go sometimes, we have had a multitude of financial issues come up. Since we are debt averse taking a vacation when you can not pay cash is not something we will be doing. So I thought how can I get four teenagers to really enjoy a "stay-cation"?  They will surely be tempted to go see friends.
I have reread over my previous post about enjoying Hot Springs and have thought about all the things to do and I am coming up with some rules and plans.
I mean we do live in a tourist town so surely I can do this! Right? Right!

1.Phones will be off (okay so this will be hard) but we will all agree to put them up during meals and family time and not to answer them. Message machine on.
2. Everyone needs to take off work for the allotted time. (Our older son has a job and I own my own business as well as work at the local YMCA.)
3. We will agree to go somewhere every day and no work will be allowed.
4. At least one meal will be eaten out each day (probably lunch to save money) and we will all pitch in to cook and clean up. Cleaning will be kept to a minimum.
5. Computer time will be scheduled as to not interfere with family time.

Things to do in or around Hot Springs:
1. Movies
2. Hollywood Park
3. Library
4.Doc Film Fest??
5. Rent a party barge on the lake for a day
6. Mid America Science Museum
7. Magic Springs for the Day
8. Mountain
10. Movies at home
11. Museums in Little Rock
12. Big Damn Bridge
13. Float a river
14. Big Movie Theater in Little Rock
15. Play time Pizza
16. Lake Degray
17. Arkadelphia Water Park
18. Hike one of our beautiful trails or visit one of our great parks.

Places to Eat
1.  Arkadelphia, Honey Bee or Honey Comb
2. Little Rock, Try something new??? Jason's, Whole Foods, Hunka Pie
3. Nom Nom's, LaHacienda
4. Pizza: Papa Murphys
5. Breakfast nearby place

So wish me luck. I will post our experience in a few weeks. We will be taking this time the end of July.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living on Nearly Nothing

Recently I picked up a magazine that advertised on the front cover "Live on Nothing!" so I bought it. Ironic, I know.
Eagerly got home and read the entire magazine only to go "Where was that article?" There were some cost cutting tips and a few no cost ideas at which I can recall only one which was "Share items." That's all. Do to the nature of my work there are times when we have more in the bank and times when things are lean. So, all in all we have had to learn how to trim the budget more at certain times of the year. Here are some ideas we use. Hope they are helpful. By the way they are also generally sustainable for our environment.
To the right you will see some of my favorite all time books for living a simple lifestyle.

1. Cut down to water, homemade lemonade, and tea.
Lemonade: 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 quarts water. Add to taste
Tea: 2 Large family size decaf tea bags in boiling water. Add 1/2 cup sugar while warm.
Arnold Palmers: 1/2 Lemonade mixed with 1/2 Tea.

2. Don't drive, and when you do run errands in a circle and do what needs to be done in the same area. Make sure to cut down on left hand turns which lead to idling and more time sitting in the car.

3. Visit your library before buying books.Then only buy the books you will use for reference that you want in your home library.  Our library is fabulous, there are all kinds of kids programs and adult programs for free.

4. Get rid of cable or satellite. If you can use your antenna, however some other options are a ROKU or a gaming system that allows streaming to your t.v. if you have wifi in your home. We
subscribe to HULU Plus for 7.99 and Netflix 9.99 for a total of $18.99 a month for more to watch than we could ever want plus no commercials on Netflix!

5. Limit going out. We live in a rich art and music community and we love to go out and support our artist friends. We save our going out for times when they are exhibiting or playing. Often it's free or only $5. We discuss before we go out how much we are going to spend.

6. Look for free or cheap things to do in your community. Public parks, free swimming areas, and free tours of landmark places.

7. Turn off the lights.

8. Turn the air up to 78* in the summer and turn the fans on. In the winter turn the air down to 67*  and sit by a fire or put on more clothing.

9. Only flush when necessary or it would be gross not to.

10. Take shorter showers or baths.

11. Eat leftovers and eat simply. My breakfast this a.m. was a banana spread with almond butter. Simple and healthy.

12. Buy in bulk, but check the per oz/lb. savings.

13. Don't use more than necessary.

14. Run appliances in off peak hours. Usually before 8a.m. and after 8p.m.

15. Grow something. Depending on your ability you can grow herbs or a huge garden.

16. It is summer so grill a bunch of meat and veggies at once and eat on this for a few days. Saves tons of energy and is so good for you.

17. Don't shop. If you do ask yourself  "Do I need this or is this a want?"

18. Clean your house. Most people sell their homes because they are to overwhelmed to clean them. Studies prove this. Clean your home and rearrange your furniture, this will make you want to be there.
Here is a daily guide I use.

Grab a trash sack and a laundry basket
  • Go to each room and make the bed or tidy up the pillows and blankets on the furniture.
  • Throw away all trash
  • Stack magazines and books neatly
  • Put all dishes in the sink.
  • Put anything that goes somewhere else in the laundry basket.
  • Put shoes on a shoe rack or in the closet
  • Pick up any laundry and put it in the basket or the hamper.
  • Straighten or put up cords and remotes.
If the place is dirty:
  • Dust
  • Windex
  • Vacuum, Sweep, or Mop
  • Wash dishes
  • Wipe counters
  • Change the trash 
  • Empty the kitty litter
I like to light incense, open the windows if weather allows, and turn on some music. 
    Often times it's not what we are actively doing to save money it's what we are not doing (spending, shopping, driving, seeking fulfillment in things to keep us distracted from our home).
    Living in a clean home and having a clean car help free our minds of stress and clutter. If you have a cozy home you will want to be there.

    Hope these are helpful tips and help you save a load of cash.


    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Weekend Feeding

    I have a routine on the weekends no matter how much time or money we have, it's something I adopted from my grandparents: Using up leftovers and what food is in the house on weekends.
    My ability to do so has been greatly increased with the cookbook "Cooking More With Less." The book has all kinds of recipes that you can tweak, make vegetarian, substitute, etc...lots of good ideas to boot.
    Often times I'll take pasta and left over veggies and make a casserole or a pasta dish.

    Here is a sampling of this weekends "put together":
    • Whole wheat hamburger buns with pizza sauce and mozzarella
    • Leftover pizza, chicken pot pie, apple pie, and black bean dip and blue chips
    • Roll out pie crust with lunch meat and sliced cheese baked Stromboli style.
    • Dried Kidney Beans with Brown Rice, topped with canned rotel (heated up) cheese and sour cream.
    • Tortilla chips, lettuce, chopped onions, kidney beans, salsa, sour cream, and cheese
    • Jello and Pudding (instant)
    • Drinks: Crystal Light, Water, Sweet Decaf Tea, Juice with Soda water
    • Oatmeal with pecans
    • Plain yogurt with plain nuts
    There was more, but the main thing is don't get caught up in thinking everyone has to eat the same thing. My son ate a Nutella and banana sandwich on a hamburger bun with a glass of milk, three of my kids had the buns made into pizza, and my husband and I had leftover Chicken Pot pie. Just because you don't have enough of one thing to feed 7 people, that's okay. Remember when feeding kids: Fair doesn't have to mean equal. Each kids gets what they will eat, feed them separately if you have to to avoid a fight of I wanted "such and such"....

    This is actually a very satisfying and nurturing thing for me to do. It reminds me of my grandparents who were raised during the Depression and made do with what they had.

    Happy Eating!

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    Renewal Time

    In the past three years I have worked and worked and am finally doing well with work that I love. However one thing hasn't happened, we haven't gotten out of debt. Our lives with all the business took some strange turns over the past five years, that maybe I thought we were immune to as frugal as we are. My husbands employer required him to get a degree in order to move up the proverbial ladder: Cost $16,500. Somehow I bought into the fact that my perfectly good eleven year old Honda needed to be upgraded to a newer model that would house all my long legged teens: $15,000. Of course Murphy knocked at the door and my husbands car broke down:$2500. Then it broke down again:$1000. Then we decided to replace it:$9,000. Our windows in our eighty year old house were literally falling apart and so we replaced them $6000. Did I mention we adopted a child a little over four years ago. So if you were to compare us to other Americans we look pretty good actually. Our home is well within our budget, actually quite low at 15% of our gross bring home with payment, taxes, and ins. Our cars are used and our payments are half of the average American. Our consumer debt and school loans are around average, but I don't want to be average. Average is not good these days. Most Americans are struggling.
    Now while we have everything we need and can usually find a way to take care of all the things our four teenagers need...it's still a struggle. Recently our son started soccer, an investment of $150. Our other son needed new clothes for a job interview $80. These things are affordable yet they add up really quickly, especially when you and a dog with an emergency vet bill at $300,the money that goes to pay down the debt gets smaller and smaller.
    Since Sept. (five months) our debt has gone down by over $6000, with us making a little extra on our payments. Our goal is to be out of debt all but the house in three years. Which brings me to Spring and renewal. Though I am not a religiously dogmatic person, I do love the season of Lent. Lent represents a season of renewal, rebirth, & cleansing. Each year we make a commitment during Lent to renew our lives in a positive way. So for the season of Lent I want to repeat last years commitment of letting go and not buying anything that isn't food,shelter, medicine, or absolute necessity. If you need or want something, such as I know we have a big commitment to a parade, we will borrow it or find it at a thrift store. This takes quite a lot of effort on my part because I have no time right now, literally I do not have a day on my calender free until the day of the parade, but I am going to commit. Each year its a powerful commitment, which always results in a renewed sense of happiness with lasting effects.

    What in your life can you commit to this year? Maybe it's your relationships with others or possibly taking care of yourself. I encourage you to give it a try, you might just find some happiness in doing so.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Free and Thrifty Fall Fun

    This is specific to me as we are trying to cut our expenses while paying off some loans before our kids go off to college. It's funny most of my favorite things are on the free list. I just need to make time to do them more.

    Free Fall Fun in Hot Springs:
    1. Walk downtown
    2. Hike the mountain or lake trails
    3. Go to the Library
    4. Go to a local fitness class where I work. (Do you work somewhere that has a free service for employees?)
    5. Go to one of the many parks
    6. Read
    7. Porch sit, swingin...
    8. Visit with friends
    9. Have friends over to watch a film
    10. Meet up for the Compact and do a swap
    11. Ride my bike
    12. Clean my house (okay so not fun, but I get great satisfaction out of a clean house).
    Thrifty Fall Fun: Under $10
    1. Take in a movie with a friend, docs are $5 at the Malco.
    2. Nom Nom's a bar is $1.50, small cup is $3.25
    3. Share Nom Nom's veg. nacho's and two drinks for $8 for two people.
    4. Have one great top shelf Margarita with a friend at Rolando's
    5. Go to the Farmer's market
    6. Gallery walk, I always buy a little something to support local artist, this can range from very inexpensive and on up, but the visiting is always free.
    7. Open a bottle of Tisdale wine, $4, and it's good.
    8. Watch a favorite episode of "Parenthood", "Simple Living", or "Modern Family" on HULU.
    9. Netflix a great movie or documentary.