Monthly Archives: August 2015

Why it Matters

It’s really easy in my day-to-day life–and on this blog–to get caught up in all the things that I want to do. I can easily focus my mind on budgeting or gardening and spend lots of time making things from scratch or finding ways to do without.

But I think it’s important to remember what drives these interests. After all, it’s very easy to lose sight of what really matters and why I started to make these life choices in the first place.

Motivation can be different from person to person. The following are my two primary motivations for living green financially and environmentally:

1. My life is not about me. As a follower of Christ, I believe that my life is not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19). Though I frequently fail, I want to make God the center of attention in all that I do.

How this motivates me to live green is that I honor God when I honor his creation, not using more than I need. By using my money wisely, I also have money to give back.

The recent smoke/haze from fires hundreds of miles away was a reminder of how we are all connected.
The recent smoke/haze from fires hundreds of miles away was a reminder of how we are all connected.

2. I should put others above myself. This is a hard one. While it’s not easy to put God first, at least it’s easy to see why he deserves it. But in my self-importance and arrogance, I often don’t believe that I should put others above myself.

But all I have to do is remember what Christ did for me when I didn’t deserve it, to change my attitude around.

This motivates me to make green decisions because the less resources I use, the more are left for other people: both now and in the future. By not buying as many goods produced in polluting factories where under-paid workers work in poor conditions, I’m loving others.

That’s it: those are the two things that I hope are the motivation behind everything that I do and everything I share on this blog.

Living the Laundromat Life

You may recall from awhile back a brief mention regarding the sorry shape our washing machine was in.  To fix it at that point would have been more expensive than to just replace it, so we kept working it until we could work it no more.

I regret to inform you that, that night, our washing machine officially died.

And we haven’t gotten another one yet.

There are a few reasons we haven’t gotten a replacement, but the two big reasons center around finances (because even a used one will cost money), and the wiring in our house is ill-equipped to handle a new washer (versus a used one like the one we just used up–we’d have to pay for an electrician AND a new washer).

A third reason has also become our (temporary) solution:  we live in a very walkable neighborhood…that happens to have a laundromat just down the street.

So no, we haven’t been spending the last three-and-a-half months wearing unwashed clothing–the laundromat has become our friend (along with some playdates with friends doubling as “borrowing your washing machine” time!).  I wash the laundry once a week, and bring it home to dry; our dryer still works, and of course we have our outdoor clothesline.

Had someone told me a few months ago I’d be hauling our dirty laundry to a laundromat at the crack of dawn once a week, I’d have laughed.  But you know something?  It’s actually turned out to be something of a blessing, albeit a temporary one.

Sure, it is an inconvenience to either make change there, or track down enough quarters around the house.  Over the long-term, I’d imagine it would be a rather costly choice.  It’s hard for me to get up and drive over there to wash clothes. It’s not an ideal situation, and one we’d like to avoid making permanent, but it’s been fantastic in two regards.

First, getting laundry completely done (as in washing, drying, folding/hanging, and putting away) has been a struggle for me since I started doing my own washing.  Doing our laundry at the laundromat has completely changed how I do this…in that, I actually DO it.  The wash gets done in a little over thirty minutes, and I fold at home as the clothes dry.  Voila!  Our laundry is done in just a couple of hours a week, instead of being in a heap on the spare bed, getting wrinkled, for weeks (yes, weeks) at a time.

Second, clothes washing time has proven to be a surprisingly great mother-daughter activity.  Bean loves getting up early to go with Mama (although this may also be attributed to the fact that one of her favorite books takes place in a laundromat, as well).  She enjoys helping me sort clothes, and chatting with me while we wait, occasionally wandering around looking in random empty dryers:

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Of course, I enjoy the time with her, too. (Maybe someday Peanut can go, but for now, he sleeps when we go “do clothes.”)

While not directly a stewardship “thing”, using the laundromat has turned out to be beneficial to other areas of my stewardship journey:  time management, and time spent with my first baby.

Hiking

This post wasn’t originally intended to piggyback on Amanda’s post on Monday about productive hobbies, but it’s going to.

When I first saw “productive hobbies” on the blog schedule (under Amanda’s name), I thought I wrote it there accidentally, because it was already something I had been thinking about.

A part of my pursuit of all things green is to cultivate hobbies that are in line with those desires. Hiking has become one of those hobbies for me.

So how does hiking promote green living and frugality?

1. It’s cheap. Yes, you can benefit from some gear, but you don’t need it to get started. Most parks for hiking are free (and thankfully for me, close).

2. You must slow down. It’s not possible to hike at the speed we tend to want to do everything else.

3. It helps you recognize how small you are. Being in nature helps me recognize that it’s not all about me.

4. It’s a great exercise. Hiking is more than walking: there are obstacles and hills (this Kansas-born girl is still growing to love that second thing).

5. It’s free of electronics. At least you can choose to forgo them. I recommend not listening to music and putting your phone on silent (though take it, for emergencies). Without earbuds in, you’ll realize that there

6. It’s a means of contemplation. I can think and pray at home, but I tend to get distracted by just about anything. For me, a hike in the hills is like a vacation from the everyday.

Do you hike? What benefit do you find in it?

Having Hobbies

I have to admit something:  a little part of me is laughing as I write this post, because as a mom of two young children, my time for hobbies (that is, activities I enjoy doing on my own personal time) is limited in the extreme.  Can any of you relate at all?

However, since (re)learning that time management/time stewardship is all about priorities, I have discovered there are two properties that my hobbies must have to be considered “worthwhile” uses of my time.

My hobbies must be free (or nearly so), and they must serve a purpose in larger goals.

Naturally, these criterion are going to change as I grow and life circumstances evolve, but for right now, my hobbies include the following:

An excerpt of a recent library haul...the movies are for family movie night, although I AM a fan of classic animated films!
An excerpt of a recent library haul…the movies are for family movie night, although I AM a fan of classic animated films!

1.  Reading.  I think this post says it all.  At any given point, I am reading an average of three books, ranging from memoir to how-to to novels.  I find reading to be a worthwhile use of my time in that it is free (thank you, library!) and, especially where minimalist literature is concerned, it aids in my quest toward a simpler lifestyle.

2.  Cooking.  Looking back on this blog, food is something I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing…likely because I spend quite a bit of time working to prepare inexpensive, healthy, tasty meals for my family each day.  While not free, I enjoy the challenge of making a dollar stretch as far as possible.  It’s something I find increasingly enjoyable too–despite the sourdough disaster!

3.  Singing.  Little-known fact:  Amanda fancies herself a diva!  In all seriousness though, I do enjoy singing in a venue different from our kitchen, with tunes more variable than, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (although that one IS pretty catchy, if our son has anything to say about it!).  As such, each fall and each spring, I spend just under $100 for a “continuing education” course at a local community college, singing in a community choir.  It’s worth every cent, and while not free, all things considered it’s pretty inexpensive, and allows me to use my talent…and get out of the house a few hours a week.

What hobbies do you take part in…and why?

Ronnica’s Splurges

Last month, Amanda shared the things she splurges on. While I want to be frugal in order to help me reach my long-term goal of having my own urban homestead, I think it’s helpful to allow myself to meet smaller wants along the way that will help me keep focused on the larger goal.

So what are my splurges?

1. Diet Dr Pepper

Well, this won’t be a splurge for much longer, but it has been. I’ve been hooked on this stuff (well, it was regular not diet until 10 years ago).

I really wish I knew how much it’s cost me. But when I quit next month, I’m going to use the savings towards a special fun. More on that when it happens.

2. Hiking equipment

Hiking has become one of my favorite hobbies. I’ll talk more about it next week, but I love how I can get away from everything and get closer to nature.

Thankfully, hiking can be a cheap hobby. Until recently, I hadn’t bought anything for it. But this summer I saved up and bought hiking sandals and hiking poles.

I save $20-60 a month towards these type of things.

My first hiking sandals. Can’t wait to try them out! #hiking

A photo posted by Ronnica Rothe (@ronnicaz) on

3. Travel

This is a hard one for me, but a splurge that I want to plan for. Since moving to Colorado, I haven’t traveled as much as I’d like. Recently, I’ve upped how much I’m saving towards this goal so that I’ll have money to make a few trips.

I’d love to travel overseas again, but I’ll probably wait a few years before I save up for that.

4. Gardening equipment

It’s no secret that I love my garden. One day, my gardening will break even moneywise, but it’s not there yet (especially after this year’s poor growing season). But it’s a challenge I love and will continue investing time in (and a little money, too).

What do you splurge on?

Joint Book Review: You Can Buy Happiness by Tammy Strobel

download (2)Tammy Strobel’s book, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap):  How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too, states the message of the book pretty succinctly in the title:  Strobel relays tips and stories of her own and those of others to demonstrate that simplifying one’s life is both doable and gratifying.

Amanda’s Take

Overall, I enjoyed You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap).  It is “more of the same” as far as books I choose to read–many of the themes found in other minimalist texts are also found in this book.

The only aspect of the text that I struggled with was the fact that, for me, as a wife and mother of two young children, the way that Strobel went about her own minimalist “transformation” is completely beyond my realm (at least for now).  I’d love to live in a tiny house, but for various reasons, this just isn’t feasible at the moment.  I found this aspect of the book to be less than relatable.  If anything, it was a bit extreme.

But perhaps Strobel anticipated this reaction from her readers, because she spends a surprising amount of time providing anecdotes of how others made “the transformation” (to debt-free life, downsizing, etc.).  I appreciated this, because it reminded me that normal folks like me can start and/or continue their stewardship journey without making completely radical changes.  The unspoken message was, “If you want to do this, here is a good place to start.”

Ronnica’s Take

I was very intrigued when I picked up this book. Of course, with a title like You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap), I’m going to be curious.

Ultimately, I found the subtitle, “How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too” misleading. Strobel’s story sounds interesting, but she didn’t really spend a lot of time on it. I had anticipated the decision to move into her 128-square-foot house on wheels would be the height of the story, but that decision was glossed over. Strobel seems much more comfortable telling other’s stories than her own (which is fine, just not what I expected).

If I set aside the promises of the title and subtitle, I struggled with the focus on “happiness.” I just don’t find happiness to be a decent motivator as it can be a hollow emotion and is ultimately fleeting. I’d rather focus on deeper things (purpose, contentment and the greater good, for example).

I think this book is decently motivating to live with less, but there are others that I’d recommend first.

Knowing Your Foundational Habits

Not my actual sink or dishes. Because I've never taken a picture when they're bad...but you get the idea.
Not my actual sink or dishes. Because I’ve never taken a picture when they’re bad…but you get the idea.

I feel like my apartment’s neatness comes and goes in waves. Right now, I’m on the upward swing towards neatness.

I have found that there are a few things that I can do to increase the likelihood that my apartment will be clean.

I call these my foundational habits for tidiness.

I think that we all have foundational habits, though they likely vary from person to person. Foundational habits are the things, when done, that drive us to take an extra few seconds and walk something back to it’s proper resting place or to throw something away rather than piling it on the table.

These are my foundational habits:

1. Emptying the dishwasher of clean dishes. If I don’t remove the clean dishes from the dishwasher, then I have to pile dirty dishes in the sink. When the sink gets full, I have to pile them on the counter or table. Any new dirty dishes don’t get rinsed, as the sink is full, so they require more work before they even make it into the dishwasher.

When I see the dishes piled on every kitchen surface, I’m also less likely to put away groceries or anything else that might have found its way to my dining room table. Finally, when I see my table piled high, I’m less likely to allow books and papers to pile at my “spot” in the living room.

2. Taking out the recycling. I don’t struggle with taking out the trash: it gets smelly before it gets full. But the recycling is another thing. My kitchen recycling bin can fill with recyclables in less than a week. Additional recyclables then are piled on the recycling can, table, chairs or on the floor. This adds to the clutter from above and makes me not want to do anything about straightening up.

3. Putting away clean laundry. I grew up in a house where laundry was done in an orderly fashion. It was collected regularly, sorted in the laundry room, promptly done, then folded/hung immediately out of the dryer and stacked in piles for each person in our house.

When I first started doing my own laundry in college, I was equally orderly in my laundry. But somehow in the last few years, I got in the habit of piling my laundry instead of folding it. This got worse when I hung it to dry instead of using the dryer: now it tends to hang on the line in my bedroom until I wear it or I have more laundry to hang two weeks later.

If my laundry is hanging in my bedroom, what drive to have to put away anything else in there?

These are the three habits I’ve found to be foundational, so they are the things I work on first when I tidy up (ideally 10 minutes a day). What habits are foundational for you? Are there any changes you can make to make these less of a bottleneck?

In a couple of weeks I’ll share one way I’ve learn to make laundry less of a hindrance to tidiness.

August Project Check-In

6757849129_54c4f1ab10_mAlthough this post is set to be published on August 14, I am writing my first Amanda’s August Project Check-in on Tuesday, August 4.

The reason:  holy smokes, y’all, I’m learning a lot about where our money goes.

Some highlights thus far:

1.  I spent all of my “fun money” for August by Day Three.  Husband and I both get a few bucks each month to spend (or save) on whatever we want.  This isn’t a huge amount of money, but I learned it can go up in smoke pretty quickly.  I chose to spend mine on morning coffees and treats, and before I knew it, poof!  There went my money for 31 days…on the third day of the month.

Lesson learned:  Taking a few minutes to plan where I want my money to go can result in less impulse purchases.  Or I can quit coffee, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.  I can also make my own coffee at home for a lot less…and still get caffeinated.

2.  Communication with others in the household is crucial.  This one is more of a reminder than a lesson learned, but it was great to get a refresher.  If only one person in the household knows where the money is going, or spends without consulting the other people in the house first, then it can be all too easy to 1) be left in the dark, and 2) see your bank account dwindle rapidly.

3.  Budget.  You had to know this was coming, right?  Also more of a reminder, but if you don’t tell your money where to go, then it will be gone before you know it (see Highlight #1).

Stay tuned for more take-away lessons from AAP!

Photo by http://401kcalculator.org

Calculating My Net Worth

I’m a trained credit counselor, so the concept of “net worth” is not new to me.

For your review net worth is simply:

all assets – all debts = net worth

In my credit counseling days, I was too scared to calculate my net worth. I really didn’t want to know what it would say. I think I knew that it would be negative.

Sidenote: Let me pause right here. I know that “net worth” makes sense as a financial term, but it kinda bugs me. I don’t believe that true worth has anything to do with the number of zeroes in your bank account or how much you own.

I decided to calculate my actual net worth (financially speaking, of course) a few months ago. Thanks to the ease of mobile banking, I was able to go back and calculate my net worth at a few points over the past year as well.

While I’m not comfortable speaking about my net worth in raw dollar numbers, I will share my results as a percent of my current (annual) base salary.

 

Net Worth

 

My net worth just before I moved from North Carolina in April 2014 was almost 54% of my current salary. I’m sure that was the highest it had ever been at that time. Of course, it was greatly hindered by my $12,000 in student loans I still had at that time.

For most of the next 6 months, I was living on my savings, thus the huge trough in the graph.  But since then, I’ve been able to get my net worth above where it was before I moved. I’m happy that it took just over a year after my move to get it back to that point. And since then, it keeps growing. As of my last calculation a few weeks ago, by net worth is at 63% of my annual salary.

While net worth isn’t everything, it is a measure of financial health that I will keep track of. I don’t have a goal net worth size: I don’t intend to be rich. I only want enough to support myself, own a urban homestead one day and to give generously as I go.

Trying Terracycle

If you are the parent of a young child, chances are good you have encountered baby food pouches at some point.  This handy pouches  are also great for the busy adult who wants a quick bite to eat on-the-go.

But they aren’t so great for the environment.

There are ways around the environmental impact, of course; there are devices that let you whip up some homemade food and put it in reusable pouches, and while more economical (certain pouch brands can get a bit pricey), for various reasons, this may not be the most practical or feasible for your situation.

It seems like Terracycle was made for just a time as this.

I finally took the time to find out what this little green label is all about!
I finally took the time to find out what this little green label is all about!

While I have not had an opportunity to take part in the Terracycle program fully yet–I am still “collecting waste” (pouches my son consumes)–this seems like a win-win for all involved.  After signing up for a “Brigade” (or several, if you wish–because they don’t just collect pouches!), you collect the items you intend to send in to Terracycle; ultimately, these items will be upcyled into any number of awesome products.

When ready to send in, you print off a shipping label (most Brigades have free shipping, but there is a cost for some), drop it off, and within a few days, points are awarded to your Terracycle account, which can in turn be donated to various charities and nonprofits.  Sounds pretty easy, right?  Anything to reduce the load on our planet, especially when it is relatively simple, seems like a good stewardship move to me!

Have you done Terracycle before?  Any hints, tips, or tricks you would recommend to this Terracycle newbie?