Tag Archives: car

Giving Yourself Grace

With the moving process well underway, I wanted to share some ways that my minimalist/stewardship practices have changed.

unnamed (3)1.  The kids spend quite a bit more time with screens.  I am not thrilled that we have already exceeded Bean’s two hour per week screen time limit for this week, but the need to clean the house before showings, and the fact that we are stuck in the air conditioned car during the showings (due to the two 90 pound dogs that have to get out of the house and the heat outside), means the kids get to indulge a bit in their screen time habits.  It isn’t perfect, but we try to compensate with outside time and reading time.

04f11a8c-94b6-4eec-b3ca-25ba4fca02632.  I spend less time on elaborate meals.  I love to bake and cook, but depending on the time a showing happens, I am not always able to prepare anything elaborate.  There have been times in the past three weeks (the time since the house first went on the market) where our suppers have been YOYO (You’re On Your Own) nights, and other nights when we have gone with something to-go.  The family gets fed though, albeit not with all organic/local/carefully crafted ingredients.

ad30d24f-c63b-466d-baca-b555b048b25b3.  We got a second car.  I wrote about this last week.  It’s still sort of a touchy subject with me, but we had to do what we had to do.  Hopefully it is temporary!

In a nutshell:  we are in survival mode.  My non-moving, minimalist self cringes each time I have to compromise a bit on my ideals (see:  cloth diapers and other things that are too green for me), but that’s where I am at right now.  And I have to remind myself almost hourly that this is temporary.

I want to continue to strive to be the best stewardess I can be. However, I am learning that one of the lessons of this move is the fact that we need to give ourselves grace, especially when it comes to working through major life changes.

A New Addition

I’d like to introduce you to our newest family member:

ad30d24f-c63b-466d-baca-b555b048b25b

(Admittedly not the best picture, but you can see that our newest addition is a second car.)

I have been very proud of our family for being a one-car household for over four years, but with the big move to Texas fast approaching, and Riley getting there before the rest of us do, the time had come for a second car.

I am not at all thrilled by this change (however, change is never an easy thing for me!), although it feels as though everyone around me thinks I should be.  I am viewing this second car as a necessary–and hopefully temporary–evil. We were very content with just one car, and made it work for far longer than anyone said we could.  Were it not for this move, I am confident that we could have made a go of it indefinitely.

However, this move IS happening, and fast!  So, I am going to embrace the new car as much as I can.  For example, this morning the kids and I were able to sleep in a bit, because we did not have to take Riley to work.

I’d call that an unexpected bonus! Who knows–maybe more bonuses will make themselves known!

Ronnica’s 101 Tips for Living on Less and Loving it

The idea for this blog is taken directly from Your Money or Your Life. In the updated version, Vicki Robin removed the tips section she had previously and advised writing your own…so I am.

Here are my tips for living on less and loving it:

Attitude
1. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know how much debt they had to go into to buy that house/car/wardrobe/vacation.
2. Focus on being thankful for what you have instead of what you do not have.
3. Open your eyes to those in other situations than you are (at home and abroad). Much of what we think of as “needs” is culturally influenced.
4. Be more concerned about what you think about yourself than what others think about you.
5. Make friends who are like-minded and can inspire and encourage you.
6. Seek advice from those who are better than you in the areas you want to improve.
7. Avoid ads whenever possible.
8. Avoid visiting places where you will be tempted to shop without forethought.
9. When you’re tempted to splurge, remind yourself of your long-term goals.
10. Unfollow Facebook friends whom you are tempted to be envious of.

Groceries/food 
11. Buy fruit when in season and on sale and freeze or can it for later for use throughout the year.
12. Freeze unused yogurt before it goes bad and stick it in smoothies.
13. Freeze unused milk before it goes back and use it for baking.
14. Make your own dressing…better for you, and you make it for your own tastes.
15. Make your own spice mixes (ranch packet, Italian seasoning, chili powder, etc.).
16. Make sweets from scratch. Cheaper, and you’ll eat them less often.
17. Make your own ice, saving in Ziploc bags if you need to take it with you.
18. Make your own pizza crust and freeze it in appropriate-sized dough balls (wrapped in saran wrap placed in a Ziploc bag).
19. Eat more like a vegetarian.
20. Replace ground beef with black beans in your favorite casseroles.
21. Bake a week’s worth of goods in one day.
22. Know where to buy what to get the most value.
23. Freeze any unused bread before it goes bad, then use it to make your own croutons.
24. Save eating out for special occasions…
25. But be sure to tip generously when you do.

Health/beauty
26. Find beauty products that you can use for more than one purpose.
27. Wear less makeup.
28. Wear makeup less.
29. Cut your own hair.
30. Spend less time on your outward beauty and more time on your inward beauty.

Utilities
31. Turn off your electronics when you leave your house. I have my TV, DVD player and modem on a power strip that I can easily flip off when I leave the house.
32. Use a window fan to cool your bedroom instead of A/C.
33. Research the cheapest cell plan that meets your needs (StraightTalk has been great for me).
34. Pay for your cell phone by the year to save money (I pay for 11 months and get the 12th free).
35. Buy a highly-rated phone and keep it for several years.
36. Save waste water (like from unfinished cups or pasta water) and use to water your garden.

Housekeeping
37. Make your own laundry detergent.
38. …and your own dishwasher detergent.
39. Hang up your clothes to dry after washing, even if you have to hang a line inside.
40. Clean your kitchen with vinegar and water.
41. Clean your toilet with vinegar and baking soda.
42. Use handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

Clothes
43. Buy clothes that you are comfortable and you look good in. For me, that’s skirts.
44. Hang up clothes at the end of the day where they can breathe. If they don’t have visible dirt or stink by morning, hang them back in your closet.
45. Simplify your wardrobe so that everything matches just 1 or 2 pairs of shoes.
46. Pare down your underwear down to a week’s worth, and wash by hand between machine washes if needed.
47. When buying new tops, try getting 3/4 length sleeves, as they’re wearable almost year-round.

Garden
drying oregano48. Take advantage of any sunny area to plant a container garden.
49. Starting with easy veggies that are your favorites.
50. Grow your own herbs. Much cheaper and tastier than what you can get at the store.
51. Make friends with people who grow different things in their garden than you do and trade.
52. Companion plant in a way to attract the right kinds of bugs (ex: nasturtium with tomatoes).
53. Invest a little more in non-hybrid seeds, and save the seeds the plants produce for the next year.
54. Add cleaned egg shells to your tomato soil to fight blossom end rot.
55. Fight powdery mildew with watered-down milk.

Transportation
56. Be generous in the space you give between you and the driver in front of you. Saves stress as well as gas/brakes.
57. Turn off your car’s A/C if you are driving under 45 MPH.
58. Use public transportation when traveling to high travel areas (like downtown). Cheaper than parking and less stressful.
59. Instead of buying a car with payments, save each month what you would spend on a car payment and buy your next car with cash.
60. When shopping for a car, shop according to your needs, not what others will think or how the car makes you feel.
61. Buy transit passes through work, which allows you to buy them with pre-tax money.

Shopping
62. Before buying anything, find out if someone has something that you can borrow to meet that need, or if you can repurpose something else.
63. Buy to last: it’s okay to spend a little more in the short term to get something that will last your lifetime.
64. Don’t browse catalogs or websites.
65. Research electronics so you get exactly what meets your needs.
66. Focus on buying items that can meet more than one need.
67. Comparison shop online before hitting up the store.
68. Avoid the mall, unless you have a specific purpose for being there.
69. Use reusable bags. (Store in the car so you don’t forget.)
70. Save your splurging for the library.

Travel
71. Pack your own snacks and entertainment. You’ll spend half as much at a drug store than at the airport for the same items.
72. Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at a water fountain on the other side.
73. Download ebooks from your library to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
74. If traveling over holidays, research flights on the holidays themselves, as they are usually significantly cheaper.
75. Save regularly for your travel goals, and don’t let less significant trips get in the way of budgeting for the ones you’ve always wanted to take.
76. Pack as few pants/skirts and shoes as is reasonable.

Moving 

77. Before deciding to move, come up with a budget and save up so that you’re not moving a credit card bill, too.
78. Find someone who recently moved and ask them for their boxes when they are finished.
79. Price the various moving options and determine what is the best value for you, money and time-wise.
80. Don’t forget to budget for all the little things you always seem to need when you move to a new place: trashcan, rugs, curtains, etc…
81. But also think through what you can reasonably do without.
82. If moving long distance, consider which possessions it may be reasonable to get rid of and replace when you get to your new home.
83. After you move, don’t visit any local fast food places, so you never get into that habit.

Hobby/Entertainment
colorado trail fall colors84. Find hobbies that costs no money. Mine are reading and hiking.
85. Use the library liberally to get as many as your entertainment selections as bbpossible.
86. Instead of going to the movies, make note of movies you want to see, to watch them on Netflix or borrow from the library later.
87. Exercise for free: outdoors or using frugally-acquired equipment at home.
88. Be a tourist in your own city, seeing (free or cheap!) sights you’ve never seen.
89. Cancel your Netflix or Hulu subscriptions regularly, saving up what you want to see for single 30-day windows, paying just for one month.
90. Use Pandora or Spotify instead of buying your own music.
91. When meeting up with friends, do activities that are free. Eat in together (even if it’s leftovers!) instead of out.

Holidays/Giving
92. Don’t give obligation gifts. Give according to your heart.
93. Buy a pack of blank cards, instead of holiday-specific cards. Write your own message.
94. Be intentional in your giving to charities, researching the organizations that you are giving to.
95. Pare down your holiday decorations to your absolute favorites.
96. Wrap gifts in usable or reusable wrappings (such as a reusable grocery bag in a fun color).

Time Management
97. Order your to-do list from most important to least, then work from the top.
98. Review your life plan regularly so that your to-do list aligns with it.
99. Make shopping lists on your phone (I use Evernote), saving paper and making it harder to leave behind.
100. Run your errands in one day, mapping your route to save gas and time.
101. If something has been on your to-do list for a few weeks, either do it or mark it off undone.

Frugal Victories

6988272680_97102f42c6_zI’ve been spending quite a bit of time on here lately commenting on reducing our grocery bill, perhaps at the detriment of discussing financial victories we have experienced.

You know me (and Ronnica too)–improving our stewardship of money is a constant quest! I wanted to take a post and share what I’ve been proud of recently, as far as our finances are concerned.

We have been a one-car family for over three years. Darn right I’m proud of this.  We have been a one-car household (remember:  four people and two big dogs comprise our family) for over half of our marriage now.  People said it couldn’t be done, but thanks to careful planning, priorities aligning, and a walkable neighborhood, this has been a noteworthy accomplishment.

I don’t know how long we will be able to swing this, but we have no plans of adding a car any time soon, so as long as we can make one car work for us, we will.  It’s saved us a large amount of money!

We have been without student loan debt for over two years.  I wish we could say “completely debt-free” but the mortgage alone precludes this.  We’ll get there–in the meantime, let me say that not paying a student loan bill has been pretty awesome (as Ronnica can attest to!).

We continue to be on-track for savings–including retirement and college.  Without delving into specific numbers, I will say that I am pleased with our progress in saving for our emergency fund (we’ve needed it more than once!), retirement, and college for the kiddies.  There are times where I wish we had more funds to play with right now, but knowing we won’t have to worry about the future as much (because, as a worrywart, I worry no matter what) is a relief.

What victories have you celebrated lately?

Photo by Phillip Taylor at ptmoney.com

Make It Do, Amanda’s Take

In preparation for the next phrase in our “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” series I brainstormed what I “make do” with…and was sort of amazed at what all we manage to make work in our household.

The two that top the list, though, are our kitchen and our car.

First, let’s go through a brief tour of our “vintage” kitchen, because in this case, a picture truly is worth a thousand words:

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The other side of the kitchen isn’t noteworthy–it houses a “peninsula” (not an island) and a few cupboards and the microwave.  You get the idea.

It’s safe to assume our yellow counters, orange flooring that’s coming off, and the mismatched purple backsplash isn’t going to win us many design awards.

But this kitchen, dated though it may be, is functional.  Do I want to gut it?  You bet.  But right now, it is simply not in our budget; we’d rather spend our money on other things, like experiences.  So for right now…we make do.

On to our car.  I’ve written on here before how we have made one small car work for our family, but it is becoming more of a challenge, especially now that both dogs are full-grown, and lengthy summer vacations are on the horizon.

But as with the kitchen, while our car situation may not be ideal and can be downright uncomfortable, the car still does what we need it to do, and a bigger car is not practical for us on many fronts, including (but not limited to) the financial front.

We make do with what we have.

Tomorrow Ronnica will share what she makes do.  Stay tuned!

Updates on the Striving Stewardess

Since the Striving Stewardess has been around for a few months, we wanted to take a few minutes today to update a few of the previous blog posts we’ve done. After all, we’re constantly learning and adjusting.

Ronnica’s Updates

The Art of Sabbathing
My schedule has changed since I wrote the post on Sabbathing. I now have Sundays and Mondays off, so I’ve moved my weekly Sabbath from Saturday and Sunday.

I’m still figuring it out, though, as I don’t find purposeful rest natural. I still find it a useful practice to be purposeful in work and in rest (even if that purpose is to remember that I’m limited).

debt thermometerDebt Loss Motivation
My thermometer is filling up! I’ve been blessed with extra income opportunities which has helped me pay down my debt faster than I had hoped possible.

My Buy Little Month has also helped,  allowing me to put an extra $200 towards my loans, but more on that on Monday.

At this point, I’m trying to stretch myself to have the debt paid off by August. The thermometer continues to be a great visual to excite me towards my goal of being debt-free in six months.

How It Works: Going No ‘Poo
Ironically, shortly after I posted this, I shampooed my hair a couple of times. Even shampooing it once throws it off a lot, so it takes a while to get the natural oils in balance. I’m still getting used to the dry Colorado climate, too, but I’m still pretty happy with my hair routine.

I plan on giving up conditioner as well (replacing it with vinegar) in the next months. I just want to simplify even more.

Amanda’s Updates

More Thoughts on a New Year

I chose to make some New Year’s Resolutions, some of which I shared here with you. January was a challenging month for the “Reduce expenses by 5%” goal; since we get paid every other week, that extra paycheck was super tempting.  Fortunately, there are eleven more months to work on this!  The others are progressing nicely—especially the “Mama Time-Outs.”  I find I’m better able to do all I need to do if I can take a step back and approach a challenging situation anew.

The Fall Purge

What can I say?  Christmas happened, as did a third birthday for Bean.  We are back to clutter central, especially in the upstairs portion of the house, where the bedrooms are.  The good news:  the fall purge will help make the spring purge go much smoother!

How it Works:  One Car

Since starting this blog in early November, we have added to our family—an 85 pound 10404208_10102487618250049_7789266923233122086_n“teacup mastiff” who answers (most of the time) to Wally.  This addition has made extended journeys involving all six of us something of a packing challenge, to say nothing of a smidge uncomfortable.  Looking at what our future may hold (kiddos in school and activities, for starters), we have discussed getting a bigger car more seriously.

We have also toyed with the idea of getting a second car, though that’s certainly not in the short-term plan, and is definitely a last resort.  Right now, priorities being what they are, we make do with our family of six in a Honda Civic just fine—so long as no cross-country trips are in the future!

The takeaway:  Flexibility is key not only in making a one-car household work, but also in making plans for the future.  Stay tuned to see how we continue to “manage the gifts we’ve been given with grit and gumption”!

Joint Review: This Land by Anthony Flint

downloadLand use.  Suburban development and sprawl. American development. While these don’t necessarily conjure up the most positive of images, they are absolutely worthy of discussion.

Enter This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America by Anthony Flint.  This book gives a thorough review and commentary of the problem of sprawl in America.  Beginning with the 20th century and moving into present day, Flint discusses the history of this issue and offers up ideas for how best to address it.  Although it does not provide much in the way of ideas for how individuals can combat the issue of population sprawl in America, it does offer good insight into how complex the issue of development actually is.

Amanda’s Take

This book was preaching to the choir.  Despite living in the suburbs myself (or perhaps, because I do), this book spoke to me–I see the issues that Flint brings up on a regular basis:  longer commutes, less sense of community, and encroachment on wild areas, to name just a few.

Sprawl is a complicated issue for many reasons (not least of which is the fact that Americans value personal freedoms, which Flint alludes to).  As a result, This Land can be a bit overwhelming to read at times; as Ronnica notes in her review, it can be a challenge to read because of how large the problem is.

Despite this, I recommend this book to those who are interested in learning more about the scope of the problem of suburban sprawl.  It makes a better book for research and information than it does for problem solving.

Ronnica’s Take

When I was moving to Denver, I thought a lot about the type of area that I wanted to live in. While of course I cared about my safety, I was more interested in living in an area that was anti-suburban: I wanted to walk and take public transportation.

This Land goes into detail as to the extent of sprawl here in America and why it’s a problem. I agree, but I struggled when reading this because it is hard to think concretely about how I as an individual can fight it. I hope to buy my own place in the next few years (after paying off debt and building up my savings) and I hope to use some of the thoughts from this book when I make that decision.

I think my biggest takeaway from reading This Land is that the issue of sprawl is much more complicated than I realized. We Americans like our “freedoms” and tend to buck against anyone or any suggestion that we should give them up for the greater good.

How It Works: One Car

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Most days, the kids and I use this as our main mode of transportation.

In case you missed it, our family tends to go against societal norms in an effort to be better stewards of our time, talents, and environment.

We take this commitment pretty seriously, as evidenced by the fact that,for a family of six (two adults, two children, and two huge dogs), we have one car:  a 2009 Honda Civic.

I have written about our foray into being a one-car household elsewhere, but it is high time for an update, since the last time I wrote about it, we were only a family of three; now we have four humans and two big dogs!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a stay-at-home parent in a suburb.  My husband works five or more days a week approximately fifteen minutes from our home and has the ability to work from home as needed.

We have been a one car household since the summer of 2012, and have no intention of going back to two cars any time soon (though with our growing family and small car, we may be upsizing to a minivan soon!); doing our part to save the environment has also saved us thousands of dollars in maintenance, insurance and gas, to say nothing of having no car payments (we paid for our car in cash).

We are proof positive that going against the three-car garage, gas-guzzling SUV American lifestyle does work.  Here are some tricks that have worked for us.

Plan ahead.  The family calendar helps keep our schedules straight.  If the kids and I need the car  (on average, a couple of times a week), then we take Riley to work and pick him up on that particular day.  This means I have to consolidate our errands and tasks into that “car day”…which means we have to communicate and plan well.

Make it a priority.  For our family, the benefits of a one car life far outweigh any drawbacks.  We have great neighbors in case of emergencies and stores and other frequented locations (even a hospital!) are within walking distance, but are really not a concern for us.  Plus, the health, environmental and financial bonuses further cement this lifestyle as a definite priority for our family.  It’s challenging at times, but because this is a very tangible way we can live out our values, we make it work.

Explore alternatives.  As alluded to, we walk to where we need to go…a lot.  Our jogging stroller and dog leashes have been great worthwhile investments in this pursuit.  Riley has been known to bike to work. Our area does not have the greatest public transit opportunities, but they are available in a pinch.  Carpooling options are also available in many areas.  Naturally, if we lived in a rural area, a one-car lifestyle could pose more challenges than benefits, but here (and many other locations in the nation) there are definitely options out there that permit folks to go where they need to go, without the use of a car.

Ronnica will write about her aspirations to lose her car entirely tomorrow–be sure to check it out!