Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our History of Living (Happily) On One Income

When I first met my husband I was a broke college student.  I mean broke.  To the point that I had no food in my fridge & when I got a $30 parking ticket I came completely unglued because I couldn't pay it.  From very early on in our relationship my husband, then boyfriend, & I worked as a financial team.  When I had money I put it in the communal pot, likewise, he did the same for me.  It's how we've always worked as a couple.

When I finally graduated college I subbed for a semester until I got a permanent position.  In the fall when I got a permanent teaching job we became engaged.  The majority of my first year's teaching salary went to paying my rent & paying cash for my portion of our wedding.  Once we got married we used my teaching salary to pay all of the bills, while we used my husband's graduate school stipend to finish paying off the remainder of our wedding.

Once my husband became a professor & I entered into my third year of teaching we didn't know what to do.  We had virtually been living on the same amount of money for the entirety of our relationship.  We'd never had the true luxury of two full time incomes.  At the time I was planning on entering graduate school, so we saved the entirety of my salary in the case I couldn't get a graduate stipend & we needed to pay tution.  And then my little stick said pregnant...

For those of you who only know me from this little blog, you might not know that I never intended to be a stay at home mom.  Truth be told, I never WANTED to be one.  When I was pregnant & people would tell me I would want to stay home, I would scoff & think about how wonderful it would be to accept my Ph.D. some day.  The week I was scheduled to take the GRE I prayed for a crystal clear direction of what God wanted me to do the following year.  The next day I  got diagnosed with pre-eclampsia & was put on hospitalized bed rest.  My lovely Emerson was born a week later & the rest is history. 

I say all of this because we had never planned on indefinitely living on one income, yet we made it work.  In the end, once I decided to stay home with my little lovey, we took all of the money I had saved from teaching my 3rd year & used it to pay off my college loans, our car, &  my medical bills from my hospital stay & having Emerson. 

The funny thing is once we lost my income we didn't really adjust the way we lived.  We've always tried to live modestly.  We don't have new cars, the majority of our furniture is hand-me-down or from the clearance shelves.  Our birthday & Christmas money is really the only money we spend on WANTS rather than NEEDS (aside from our ridiculous addiction to eating out, which we are trying very hard to curtail). 

We still save, we give charitably, we travel frequently, & we live a very full & comfortable life. For us, living on one income, at times a very modest income, has been made entirely possible by choosing to live a simple, frugal life.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living With Less

While thinking about moving one always contemplates everyTHING that has to be moved.  I'm ashamed to say that despite my recent attic purge, I am still a very long way from getting rid of all of our excess.  And when I think about ever having to move again I am daunted by the amount of boxes it would take. 

That being said I have recently found some people on Youtube who don't have a lot of stuff, primarily because they don't have anywhere to put it.  They intentionally live in incredibly small spaces, in order to have other opportunities.  I find it super inspiring (for the record, my husband finds it a little odd).  Whatever your take, it's certainly interesting to see what can be done with less. 

Here's a video of a family living in 320 square feet.  I have to say she is SUPER creative with their tiny space.

Here's a woman living aboard a sailboat in order to sail around the world.  If only the idea didn't freak me out...

Maybe some day we'll get out of 100 degree heat & I can get back up to the attic.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Moving on Less

This week some of our dearest friends are leaving us to move to other parts of the country.  As a result, I have moving on the brain.  Here are some ways we've saved money while moving...

Don't Pay for Boxes--This can be a huge money saver; it can also be a rather tedious task, especially because a lot of grocery stores no longer give away their boxes.  If you have advanced notice, start saving boxes immediately.  That makes collecting them much easier.  I've had my best luck saving paper boxes or boxes from book orders from schools where I taught, so ask people to save them.

If that's not an option & you can't get them at your local grocery, look to less obvious places.  Libraries, local office buildings, liquor stores, & video stores.  I was once in need of boxes & happened to go to Blockbuster on a Tuesday (the day new DVDs are released).  They were more than happy to part with the boxes & they were 100% free.  Also don't hesitate to look on Craigslist or Freecycle.

Save Newspaper--If you don't have a subscription ask around for them.  Plastic bags can also be used for extra padding, as well as towels, sheets, & other soft items.

Stock Up on Tape--Unless you have a coupon or find an amazing sale, your best bet on tape is to buy it at a big box store in bulk.  Chances are you'll need several rolls, & if you have extra clear tape always comes in handy

Truck Rental--Shop around & well in advance.  Use the same tactics you use when booking a flight.  Is moving on a week day cheaper than a weekend? Is the company running a special?  Do you get a discount for being a member of a professional organization?  If you pay in cash will they lower the fee?  When we moved from Indiana to Arkansas we used a discount from my teacher's union, paid in cash, & saved ourselves several hundred dollars. 

And most important...

Enlist Help--Let's face it, moving is a horribly stressful experience that 99% of us have gone through at least once in our lives. Everyone can commiserate & as a result, friends & family are more than willing to help out. All you have to do is ask...well & buy pizza & beer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Possum Living

Tonight I was perusing around Savvy Housekeeping & found a linkabout a woman named Dolly Freed.  In the seventies, at the ripe age of 17, Freed published a book about living self sufficently called Possum Living:  How to Live Well Without a Job & Very Little Money.   

Freed's whole philosophy revolved around raising your own food & not spending money, rather than working & living in debt.  Freed lived without a job, yet didn't need welfare or handouts; rather, she worked at growing/forraging/hunting  her own.  It's actually a rather beautiful way of life, & is quite similar to the way our grandparents & great grandparents probably lived.  I found the documentary to be extremely inspiring & I can't wait to buy the book (when I have enough Swagbucks saved...haha).  

Possum Living Documentary Part 1

Possum Living Part 2

Possum Living Part 3

For those interested, writer Paige Williams tracked Dolly Freed down last year & interviewed her.  Sounds like she is still an amazing & inspiring woman.  I can't wait to eventually get that book!  :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

On My Mind--Paper Purge

This week I'm joining Rhonda, over at Down to Earth in a Friday photo of what is on my mind. 
Yesterday I began cleaning out our attic.  Yes, I realize this is not the brightest of ideas in 107 degree weather, but I saw an opportunity, so I took it. 

To the left is the fruit of my labor--That's an overflowing 40 gallon recycle bin, plus a big box of paper, & a paper grocery sack.  Believe it or not I'm still not done, but I've made a dent. 

I ended up recycling most of my teaching materials & college notes.  I felt a little that I was throwing my college education in the bin, but I figured the likelyhood of me ever using the exact same materials again is slim.  Better off headed to to the recycle plant. 

What's on your mind this weekend?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Helping Your Books Survive Your Kids

I love books & have been collecting children's books from the moment we got married in hopes that I would raise a little reader too. Fortunately E LOVES her books, but  in no time her board books were showing some serious wear.

After watching them die a slow death I figured I needed to do something to help them last a little longer. I took a queue from the library & decided to reinforce the binding with tape.   

Simply take clear tape & tape the length of the binding.  Take your time, you don't air bubbles & you really only want to do this once, especially if your book is already battered.  Once you've applied the tape to the binding carefully smooth it down on either side. 

When it's said & done you can hardly tell the tape is there, with the exception of the end where the tape was broken.  I first tried this several months ago & the books are still going strong.  If you've got little ones at home this is a great way to get more life out of their books.  You might just love it so much you do all the books in your home. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We Don't Need No Diaper Bag (Forgive My Poor Grammar, It's All Because of Alice Cooper)

I'm not really a bag girl, I'm a shove-everything-in-my-back-pocket-girl.  I'm just not very fond of lugging a purse.   I'm even less fond of toting around a bag covered in cartoon characters in the name of diapers.  When I got pregnant, rather than spending several hundred dollars to get a diaper bag I could actually enjoy hauling, I came up with the anti-diaper bag.

I simply took  a toiletry organizer my sister was throwing out & went to town filling it with the essentials.   It holds extra food, pacis, diapers, crayons, handi-wipes, napkins, all of the essentials.  If you don't have a toiletry organizer you could use Ziplocs, the bags that wrap onesies & blankets (save these, they're great for organizing), or any other small zippered bag.  Look at whatever you have on hand.

The best part is that it ties up neatly & can easily be removed for date night.  Additionally, once you're past the diaper bag phase of life you'll still have a purse you can use, rather than something that screams, "I've held spit up rags & poop filled diapers!"  Definitely a green, fashionable, frugal solution. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Complete Life Cycle of a T-Shirt

Remember back in the day, when you were in school, & you'd study the many uses the Native Americans had for buffalo?  Nothing went to waste.  Every single bit of the buffalo was put to use.  I always found that to be the logical use of such an animal; yet, today, things get thrown away well before they have been used in entirety.  It's cheaper to buy the next model than have your current model fixed.  Lets face it, we are a throw away society.

While I wouldn't have the first clue as to how to render the most use out of a buffalo, or how to repair a broken appliance, I have figured out how to make the most use out of one thing--the t-shirt.  Imagine with me if you will...

I am so wishing this were my shirt right now...
Stage 1
You purchase your shirt.  It's beautiful, unblemished, everything you would hope a t-shirt could be. Until you drip marinara all across your stomach or rip a hole in the bottom while trying to tuck it in. In disappointment you throw it out or you could...

Stage 2
Begin wearing said shirt under sweaters or as a night shirt.  While it can't be displayed in public, it is still good for warmth or use in the privacy of your own home.   Until...

Stage 3
Said shirt is now so utterly stained, holey, shrunken, etc. that it is no longer justifiable to wear.  What to do?  Cut it into rags.  Don't forget to save the seams for tying up tomato vines and the like.  And then?

Stage 4
Your tshirt rags are now so thin/disgusting/stained that they cannot be used.  Simply throw them in the compost pile.  They'll decompose in due time & nothing is wasted.  

Feel free to skip step two if you'd like.  Either way, t-shirts really lend themselves to a long life span & I know that for most of my life I wasn't using them to their full potential. 

Not exactly the same as the buffalo...but close.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Product Review: Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner

I was recently given the opportunity by Healthy Child, Healthy World to review Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner.  We have hardwood floors in every room of our home, so this was the trial for me.

Little E & her beloved milk cup

In addition to hardwood we also have a very sweet, very rambunctious toddler who loves her milk cup, even though it tends to drip.  She also likes to try & help Mama by smearing the milk drips all over the floor & to "clean up".  These often go unnoticed until they are dried disgusting milk spots.  Not so fun for Mama.
BEFORE:  E's lovely milk splatters

Mopping the whole house has become rather impossible to do with little feet continually pitter-pattering, so spot cleaning is uber important.  I'm also always looking for environmentally friendly products, so Boma's spray bottle hardwood cleaner seemed like a great fit.  Their floor cleaner comes in a No. 2, easily recyclable spray bottle (Yay!!), & is hypoallergenic, free of scents, non-toxic & biodegradable. 

I admit when I read that it was scent free I sort of took it with proverbial eco-friendly product grain of salt.  Many, many natural products claim to be scent free & end up choking your lungs & burning your retinas until you want to scream,'Uncle!'
Truth be told I believed this wouldn't be any different. 

AFTER:  Milk free & filled with E's helpful toys
Chock full of skepticism I sprayed E's milk spots & waited for the hideous 'natural' scent.  I waited...and waited.  NOTHING.  It was unbelievable.  I literally smashed my face to the ground & couldn't smell anything.  a-MAY-zing!  BUT WAIT, THERE'S cleans!!!  One swipe of my rag over the milk spots & bam! clean floors!!  I quickly went around searching out any hidden milk spots or other schmootz & it worked.  Every time!  I didn't need to use a lot of product or elbow grease; just the ticket for a lazy house keeper like myself.

I was so in love that I used it on a  milk ring that E left on our book shelf.  I know that it's a hardwood floor cleaner, but I figured why not give it a thorough try?

Sure enough, the dried milk came clean.  I couldn't have been more pleased. 

After trying Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner I am thoroughly convinced this is the cleaner for me.  Here's my expereince in a nutshell:
  •  It doesn't smell. 
  • It actually CLEANS wood floors
  • It's fast & easy to use
  • I don't have to worry when using it around my family
  • The bottle can easily be recycled.
 It was a totally positive cleaning experience, which is a hard thing to get this lazy homemaker to say.  Seriously.   If you're in the market for an excellent hardwood floor cleaner give Bona a try. 

**On a side note, I just wanted to highlight Healthy Child, Healthy World.  They're a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about removing chemicals from the home.  I really appreciate all of their hard work & have certainly benefited for their highly informative website.

While you're there consider hosting a Healthy Home Party.  I did last year & really enjoyed it.  Simply sign up, pay $20 (tax-deductible), & receive a box FILLED with all sorts of organic & environmentally friendly samples & coupons for you & your friends to try.  It's a win for the environment & a win for your social life.  What's not to like? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Straining Homemade Yogurt

Since I began making homemade yogurt I have been making it with whole milk.  E eats it daily for breakfast & she can handle the fat content, so I saw no need to switch.  That was until I began looking at the $0.50 price difference between whole & 2 %.  I know it's not much, but seeing as we go through a lot of milk in the month I figured this was a good way to save a dollar monthly.  (Every little bit counts right?)

The yogurt turned out  well, E liked it, & I was pleased to have saved a little money.  The only difference was there was more whey.  I kept trying to pour it off, but the yogurt tended to slide off with it.  So, seeing as how I don't have any idea where to buy cheese cloth, I had to improvise.

I draped a flour sack tea cloth over a measuring cup & let the whey drain out.

Once that had drained sufficiently I lifted my little yogurt sack to allow even more whey to drain.  I also ever so gently gave it a squeezed to aid the draining process.  Side note:  I wasn't going for really thick yogurt, but if you were, put the cloth inside a strainer, inside a bowl, & let it drain overnight.  In the morning you should have Greek style yogurt. 

One unfortunate side effect from the method is the yogurt tends to stick to the cloth; however, if you use a spatula to scrape the towel you can remove most of the remnants.  It's impossible to get all of the yogurt, but this gets you pretty darn close.

 From there I funneled the yogurt into an old milk bottle.  I once worked at a market where yogurt was sold this was & it has always stuck with me.  I quite enjoy the yogurt being stored in glass & find pouring the yogurt to be much quicker than spooning it out of a tub.

In the end, I'm guessing that I really didn't save any money if you factor cost/hour.  I'm not sure I'll be using 2% again, but if you ever find yourself in this situation I wanted to show you a remedy.

If you eat a lot of yogurt & haven't tried making your own, give it a whirl.  It's easy, delicious, & quite a satisfying experience.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In the Bag--An Early Start to Environmentalism

I recently was able to recollect enough information about a childhood cartoon to locate it on Youtube.  Upon watching it for the first time in 20 years, I was struck by the lasting impact this seemingly innocuous video had on my views of environmentalism.  While it is silly, the point still hits home today, 55 years after it was written.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Green Organizing

One of the major tenants in green & frugal living is to be creative.  This does not mean that you necessarily have to be a creative person; you simply need to look at your possessions with the ingenuity to see them for ALL of their potential uses, in order to give them their fullest life possible.

I've said before that I am not the neatest person, but for some reason I LOVE to organize small spaces; I rock at cleaning our closets & cupboards.  JC always complains that my favorite things to clean are the things no one will see, which is true, but I believe it is one of my many lovable eccentricities... at least that's what I keep telling myself.

Seeing as how we don't live near a container store, nor do I have any interest in spending virgin materials or money to find things to hold my things, I've had to get creative.  Here are some ways I've recycled items in my bathroom: 

Paper clip holder turned bobby pin holder

Random oversized coffee cup turned chapstick/travel sized lotion holder (note the lotion is upside down, the ideal frugal way to store lotion).

Non- recyclable (in our area) candle turned Q-Tip holder

Childhood desk organizer turned sample organizer

Non recyclable candle turned thermometer & lose band-aid gatherer

Non-recyclable No. 5 plastic baby wipe tub ala tiny baby wash cloth wrangler

 No. 5 plastic cookie tray turned in-drawer organizer

Egg cup turned floss (these were a gift from many years ago, I wouldn't buy pick style floss myself) & Q-Tip home.   *Ok, I admit that I DID buy this one after Easter on deep clearance, but if you had one sitting around you could recycle yours for this purpose.

Sushi dip dish turned chapstick/floss/white strip fetcher.  

Before you head to the store in search of a container look through the things you have on hand.  Start with things that you can't recycle in your area & see if you can re-purpose them in your own home.  From there consider canning jars, tea cups, bowls, baskets, boxes, etc.  The recycling possibilities are endless.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Story of Bottled Water

I personally hate bottled water.  I just don't get the point of buying something that creates so much waste & comparatively costs much more than tap water.  Though I feel passionately on the subject, I know that many, many people feel quite differently, including my husband.  

That being said, I found this video went beyond the stereotypical "tree hugger" aspect & discusses some fresh ideas.   Rather than solely focusing on the environmental repercussions of the bottled water industry, the video also delves into the economic impact.  I found it incredibly insightful & definitely think it's worth a watch. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Saving Time, Money & Emissions While Traveling

We're smack dab between road trips here at the Green Goddess Household.  Little E & I just got back from our first ever mother/daughter road trip happy & unscathed & we depart again tomorrow.  Here are a few things that helped us save time, money, & emissions on our travels...

Beverages--E LOVES milk, and girlfriend gets crazy cranky when her cup runs dry.  To combat any unnecessary fussiness I keep extra milk in a Similac cooler that was free from my OBGYN & a water bottle I got for working at the Purdue Telefund.  It's a cheap & easy solution to a crabby little girl.  Also pack a refillable water bottle for yourself so you stay hydrated & don't buy drinks along the road.

Food--For the sake of saving money, getting to your destination faster, & avoiding the grumps, bring food for yourself & your little one.  For myself I'm a fan of a PB&J, but for E I bring a TON of stuff.  I've found the easiest way to keep her happy & entertained is to give her something to eat.    This time it was particularly important because I couldn't hand her toys while driving. 

  • For easy hand-this-to-your-child-while-keeping-eyes-on-the-road food we use Happy Tot pouches (they're a great snack even if you have an older child), graham crackers, cheerios, Plum Fiddlesticks, teething biscuits, raisins, or any other food item that won't spoil & can be quickly shoved at your child without making a big mess.  Trust me, food is key to a happy baby.

Bring entertainment--We have a portable DVD player (thanks to my lovely MIL) that we use in conjunction with a handful of Sesame Street DVDs.  Depending on your resources you might not have the latest smart phone/I Pad/I Pod, etc to hand to your child for hours of entertainment.  If that is the case hit the local library.  You can rent great audio books, CDs, & check out lots of new-to-your-child books.  Also don't forget old standbys like coloring books & games.

Make the most of your miles--
  • Fill up your tank the day before.  If you're trying to get your baby out of the car as quickly as possible this is definitely one to do ahead.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated so you get the best possible gas mileage.
  • Use cruise control to minimize fluctuations & maximize fuel efficiency.
  • Don't speed.  I have to be honest here & admit I struggle with this one, but fuel efficiency dramatically decreases with increased speed, so try to stick to the posted limits.  Also, not speeding means no speeding tickets or increased car insurance.  A very frugal thing indeed.  
  • Lastly, be well organized.  Know where money is for tolls, diapers are for stops, food & drink to prevent stopping, & any other necessities.   Organization can save time, fuel, & head aches.  

Happy trails!

Monday, July 4, 2011


We're here in Texas visiting with family and trying to beat the 100 degree heat.  Thank goodness for
$1 swimming pools, rubber ducks from my childhood, & a happy, happy baby. 

Happy 4th of July & a happy birthday to my beloved Gram!