All You Need Is Less: An Earth Day #Giveaway

Happy Earth Day, everyone! Today I’m absolutely thrilled to talk to you about All You Need Is Less, a new book by Madeleine Somerville.  A while ago Kylie Ofiu hosted a guest post of mine about my quest to be greener on a grandiose scale.  Disappointingly, my big dream didn’t fit in to our small budget.  And I resigned to smaller steps towards an eco-friendly lifestyle, but sometimes they just seem so small that it doesn’t matter at all.  And I get consumed with this guilt.  Like I should be doing something bigger.

Which is why I loved Madeleine’s book.  There is very little guilt mongering in it, and she’s very persuasive about our small choices making a big difference. She doesn’t bully her audience into making a complete 180, but instead encourages them to make small choices progressively.  Because the latter is almost always the more successful route.

Holy, moly, I’ve been doing some things right.

As I started reading, I was surprised at some of the things we were already doing in our household that are actually supportive of our environment.  A lot of them I was doing to save money, but they have another effect:  saving the planet little bits at a time.  There’s a major stress on the “reduce” aspect of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”  Which can not only save a tree, but be pocketbook friendly, as well.

So here are some of the things we’ve already been doing:

  • Not using dryer sheets.  We ran out a couple of years ago, and it was just never a priority to buy them again.  We haven’t even missed them.
  • Buying my kids’ clothes at consignment/resale stores.  Kids grow out of clothing so quickly.  Why pay full price?  We also accept all hand-me-downs, passing along the ones that don’t fit or are the wrong season to others who need them.  (I’m sure both of these practices will be contested once they’re in those middle school years.)
  • Cleaning the toilet with baking soda and vinegar.  This didn’t start because of those nasty chemicals in household cleaners.  No, this started because the bathroom was disgusting, we were out of toilet bowl cleaner, and I was too lazy to go to the store.  I had just seen a show that’s not really my favorite:  Extreme Cheapskates.  But the guy they were highlighting gave a how-to on toilet bowl cleaning using those two ingredients.  Our toilet has never been cleaner.
  • TRY to garden.  The past couple of years I’ve tried to garden.  Last year was the first time I’ve done vegetables.  It was going great until some powdery mildew killed it all.  But we still got to eat some home-grown veggies before all that happened.  (We don’t even have a yard!) The kids and I have picked out some seeds for an ambitious attempt this year.  I’m not sure when we’ll plant…it freaking snowed here last week so I might way until further into May.  But Madeleine doesn’t judge black thumbs.  She admits hers isn’t the greenest.  So I was happy that I got credit for even trying.
  • Trying to eliminate food waste and cooking with what’s in my cabinet.
  • Getting my dining room table from the thrift store.  Years ago I scored a sweet deal on our dining room table, new in box, assembly required, from the thrift store.  It was originally from Target, 50% less than what they charged, and in perfect, unopened condition.  I’m not sure how it ended up there, but it did.  And then came home with me.  If I don’t get points for this one because it wasn’t technically used, there’s always that dresser we refurbished.
  • Gifting experiences over stuff.  I’ve been doing this more and more each year over the past couple of years, but could definitely trade out more trinkets for memories.

Things I’ve done since reading the book.

In the week since finishing my biblio-endeavor, I’ve been pretty motivated to start making some more of those small changes.  Since reading I’ve:

  • Made my own body scrub.  I’ve seen this on other blogs before.  But there’s always some crazy ingredient I don’t have.  So I don’t make it.  And I buy stuff off a store shelf, instead, because I don’t know where to get said crazy ingredient.  Madeleine makes the recipe super easy with a list of acceptable gentle abrasives, binding substances, and optional spices/oils to make everything smell awesome.  I ended up using brown sugar, clover honey, and cinnamon, because that’s what I had in my cupboard.  And my skin is so. so. soft.  I’ll never go shopping for this item again.  And those baby jars I’ve been holding onto because I know I should recycle them but don’t know how finally have a purpose.
  • Cleaned my shower door with vinegar.  A while ago, before I stopped buying those dryer sheets, I wrote about cleaning the shower door with said dryer sheets.  It did work really well, but lately we’ve just been using chemicals.  And this time I used hot vinegar and a spray bottle.  And it worked awesome.
shower doorrrrrr

Left is before. Right is after. The difference isn’t as dramatic in these pictures as it is in real life as it’s frosted glass…you’re not supposed to be able to see ALL the way through it. But you can actually see that our shower has contents in it now, which is a big difference from before our vinegar scrub down.

  •  Recycled at work.  I threw my ramen noodle cup wrapper into the trash after lunch.  (I’m grown and sometimes ramen is my lunch…I get looks sometimes.)  It’s very thin cardboard.  I saw some other very thin cardboard in the recycling bin right next to it.  So I literally took it out of the trash (which was empty except for my ramen litter!) and switched bins.  I was feeling awesome about myself until I realized that the cup itself is made out of styrofoam.    FAIL.
  • Saved up some bottles etc for Terracycle.  I’m not even sure if they take all this stuff.  But while I was cleaning out my bathroom I found all these empty bottles and other random things that were destined for the trash. I’m holding onto them until I figure out what they take and how many I need to save to send in.  (Terracycle takes empty/old household products, recycles them, and rewards you with points for turning them in.  When you get enough points you can get green products off their website.)

bathroom recycling

 

  • Been acutely aware of how much plastic we use.  I loved the book because Madeleine didn’t attack.  But she did make you aware.  Now, every time I open a food product, pull it out of the packaging, and throw it away all in less than 10 seconds I want to cry because I know that plastic is going to go to a landfill and just sit there for time and all eternity.  It’s overwhelming, but a big motivator to change how I consume and learn how to make things better.

Things I think are reasonable goals for change in our household.

  • Buy my own clothes consignment/resale.  I used to do this, but then moved away from my favorite resale store and never bothered to find a new one.  Seriously, I had a similar if not smaller clothing budget and got such better quality when I bought used.  (These places can’t resell crap, so they don’t buy crap to put on their shelves.)
  • Get more adventurous with greening my beauty regimen.  Things like washing my hair with baking soda and using a home-made conditioner.  I’m going to wait until a long weekend to start trying this out, though.  I’m a little nervous, but think it could work.
  • Clean my house with more home made cleaning products.  They’re cheaper, not that hard to make, and better not only for the environment ,but my family’s health.
  • Dry our clothing outside on a clothesline.  Once we have a house.  Or even a yard.  Saves a ton on your utilities and natural resources.
  • Get organized with our recycling and actually take it in.  This will take some research and education on my part.
  • Reevaluate our attitudes towards food spending.  It’s expensive to buy organic and green and clean and whatever they tell you is evil in Food Inc.  (I’ve actually only ever heard the movie…not seen it….long story.)  Which is why we haven’t been.  I walked into Whole Foods one time and walked out crying.  While this is the one area in the book where doing the environmentally sound and healthy thing actually costs more, Somerville makes a strong argument for it.  For reevaluating our choices.

There’s TON of other info in there, too.  Health.  Babies.  Dogs.  All gone green.  And by the way, she’s hilarious.  This isn’t just a list of green living concoctions and tips.  There’s anecdotes from her own life. Struggles to get her husband to see her point of view.  Struggles within herself at certain points.  There wasn’t a page that I flipped where I wasn’t entertained.

And now you can be entertained, too.  And hopefully find a few small things that you feel comfortable integrating into your own life.  Because enough people deciding that those small things do matter can add up to have a huge effect.

Use the widget below to win your own copy of All You Need Is Less.  This giveaway is in conjunction with Viva Editions, and they will be fulfilling the prize.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Didn’t win the book or just can’t wait?  You can get it here.
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Financially Savvy Saturdays: Thirty-Fourth Edition

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, a blog hop created specifically for personal finance writers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you’ve written anything from landing the job to what to do with your salary, you’re invited to link-up. If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it!

Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

Feature of the Week

This week’s super-star co-host, Mel from brokeGIRLrich, has selected her favorite post from last week’s blog hop. This week’s feature is “In Your 40′s and Don’t Have Enough Saved for Retirement? Moms on Money Follow Up” from Done By Forty, Save.Spend.Splurge, Joe Saul-Sehy, and Barbara Friedberg.   I don’t usually put posts from my own blog in the running, but when Mel selected it we decided this one week it would be okay.  It’s written by the bloggers listed above more so than myself.  My  hope is that their knowledge will help you, and also that you’ll click through to their websites where you can tap into their wisdom even further.  Click on the image to read this post!

Moms-on-Money

If you submit a link this week, your post could be highlighted in next week’s party!

 

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don’t follow the rules will have their link taken down.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days and not be a giveaway or otherwise sponsored.

2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link.

3. Follow your hosts. You can follow Femme Frugality on Google+, Twitter OR by subscribing to her RSS feed via email. Also follow Mel at brokeGIRLrich on Facebook, Google+Twitter OR Pinterest.

4. Comment on at least two other posts that have joined the party.

5. HAVE FUN!

 

brokeGIRLrich

OR grab the text link here!

 <em>*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on <a href="http://wp.me/p3TJm1-lm">Femme Frugality</a> and <a href="http://brokegirlrich.com/?p=914">brokeGIRLrich</a>*</em>


Growing Slowly

slow growth

Most apropos fortune cookie ever.

I don’t know that financial literacy is something that always springs up on people out of the blue.  I know for some people, there’s a light that switches on after hitting rock bottom or finally reaping the results of following someone older and wiser’s advice.

But I’m not one of those people.  For me, financial literacy was something that I learned slowly over time.  Most of it I learned in the incubation of my own home before I reached adulthood.  My first money lesson was more of a slap in the face after being conned than an “A-HA!” moment.  I learned both from intentional lessons my parents set out for me and from observing their financial successes and failures.  (That’s not a jab at them; we all make mistakes from time to time.  I just think children are more acutely aware of their parents’.)

I’ve had a few missteps since I’ve become an adult.  Small mistakes; nothing truly tragic.  But I have always taken an active interest in my finances, being responsible and learning new things as I go along.  There’s always a lot left to learn with anything we do in life, and I know I have some more growing to do in my own world of personal finance.  But I’m overall happy with my progress so far.

I don’t have a money “A-HA!” moment.  Instead, I have a lot of little moments that have added up to a degree of confidence over the years.  And I’m really happy with that.  Slow growth is healthy growth.  And, at least in this situation, it has served me well.

Financial Literacy Awareness Month

3 Creative DIY Wedding Decor Ideas on a Budget

1. Use Lots of Candles

What could be more romantic than a candle-lit dinner?  For not a lot of money, you can get a bunch of candlesticks or votives that can up the ambiance.  Using them as centerpieces (either one big one or several smaller ones) and then adding smaller flower arrangements or even just petals can save you a ton of money at the florists without looking cheap.  Need creative ideas?  Martha Stewart’s wedding page has a whole slideshow of them.  Or you could just check out Pinterest.  (Lots of people seem to like using mason jars with candles.  Which is great.  But in my experience mason jars are not all that cheap. I’d check out other containers first.)

wedding christmas lights

2. Use Lots of Christmas Lights

Christmas lights can be a dramatic addition to a wedding.  If you’re outdoors, you can wrap one tree or more near the reception or dance floor.  Inside, you can light the underneath of your tables by lining the inside of your table cloth with a string of lights.  Icicle lights can be used indoors or out to transform the ceiling.  They also make a beautiful backdrop for ceremonies or just an accent wall during the reception.  And if you’re a traditional bride getting married around the traditional time (summer,) you can score them at a discounted rate.  For example, right now ChristmasLightsEtc.com has them at 40% off with sales all the way through September.  Yay for off-seasons!

3. Use Lots of Origami

This one is a bit labor intensive, but can turn out really pretty.  Those origami cranes you learned to make in elementary school can be strung to hang over guest tables as referenced above at Burnetts Boards.  Or you can use them for your arch/backdrop during your ceremony like The Craft Caboodle did at her wedding.  Or hang them pretty much anywhere else.  They’re a nice mix of dramatic and delicate, though your hands may be aching afterwards.  If you decide to go this route, I’d enlist some family and/or friends to help!

 

Did you DIY any decor at your wedding?

 

This post has been compensated by Christmas Lights Etc.

 

Financially Savvy Saturdays: Thirty-Third Edition

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, a blog hop created specifically for personal finance writers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you’ve written anything from budgeting to spending, you’re invited to link-up. If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it!

Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

Feature of the Week

This week’s motivational co-host, Nell from The Million Dollar Diva, has selected her favorite post from last week’s blog hop. This week’s feature is “Should You Hire a CPA to Do Your Taxes?” from Savvy Working Gal.   Click on the image to read her great post!

blog

If you submit a link this week, your post could be highlighted in next week’s party!

 

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don’t follow the rules will have their link taken down.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days and not be a giveaway or otherwise sponsored.

2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link.

3. Follow your hosts. You can follow Femme Frugality on Google+, Twitter OR by subscribing to her RSS feed via email. Also follow The Million Dollar Diva on Facebook, LinkedinTwitter OR Pinterest.

4. Comment on at least two other posts that have joined the party.

5. HAVE FUN!

 

The Million Dollar Diva

OR grab the text link here!

 <em>*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on <a href="http://wp.me/p3TJm1-kE">Femme Frugality</a> and <a href="http://themilliondollardiva.com/financially-savvy-saturday/">The Million Dollar Diva</a>*</em>


In Your 40′s and Don’t Have Enough Saved For Retirement? Moms On Money Follow-Up

Moms-on-Money

Last month’s Moms On Money question was about how to manage your retirement savings.  There was some great advice, and some great questions.  This one comes from Michelle at A Dish of Daily Life:

 ”This is great information! What do you suggest though for those that are in their 40s and don’t have the savings they need?”

Back to answer her question are some of our panelists!  First up, Done By Forty:

My first piece of advice is to try hard not to beat yourself up over the past. So you might not have enough savings right now: no big deal. The past is done and gone, and it’s much better to be working on retirement savings today than ten years from now.

As for how to start saving more, I think it starts with the monthly budget. If you don’t yet have a system for tracking your spending regularly, find one that works for you (we use a simple spreadsheet, but others like Mint). And once you find out where your money is going every month, you can build a strategy to optimize your spending. In my opinion, the best place to find money for retirement is in the income you already have, by cutting out spending on things that aren’t that all that beneficial for you anyway. In our house, that was meals and drinks out: they killed our monthly budget and didn’t do any favors for our waistlines, either. Then we started trimming our spending on clothes, household stuff, and other things that, honestly, were just retail therapy. It took months and years, and we got there one small decision at a time. But now we’ve found hundreds & thousands of extra dollars every month that we can put towards our retirement savings.

Next up is Joe Saul-Sehy from Stacking Benjamins:

If you’re in your 40’s and don’t have enough savings, here are a few quick tips:

 
1) Make your goals concrete. It’s hard to save because all of us have LOTS of pressing needs RIGHT NOW. By making your goal more specific you’ll create more urgency in your mind and stay motivated.
 
(I know that first point sounds Pollyanna, but it isn’t. I saw so many people fail when I was a financial planner only because they couldn’t stay on the savings wagon. You have to trick yourself into saving.)
 
2) Hold family budget meetings and every meeting try to put more on autopilot. Find money to save and add it to automatic savings. Boom! More cash saved!
 
3) Look for opportunities to earn more money. Are there things around the house you can sell to make your Roth IRA contribution? Can you work more hours at your job? Is there a hobby you can turn into cash? By thinking of this “extra” money as your “savings plan” you’ll fill up your savings accounts without pinching pennies so hard Lincoln screams.

Barbara Friedberg lays out some specific numbers and investment vehicles:

 If you are in your 40′s, you still have 25 years left to grow your investment nest egg. And, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Start investing as much as you can every month in a diversified stock index mutual fund and bond index fund. You can choose your workplace retirement account, a Roth IRA, and/or an account at a discount broker.

If you invest $5,500 per year (the maximum allowed by law) into a Roth IRA for 25 years and earn 7% annualized, then in 25 years your nest egg will be worth $372,220. That’s an investment of $5,500 * 25, or $137,500 growing to almost $400,000.

For more detail on investing with index funds, check out How to Invest and Outperform Most Active Fund Managers.

And to sum it all up we have Save.Spend.Splurge.:

There are only three options if you are in your 40s and nearing retirement without the savings required:

1. Make more money
2. Cut back and save
3. Work longer

There is no easy answer and no magic pill.

To make more money, pick up a part-time job tutoring, babysitting, or even one on the weekends (don’t laugh, there are people who have done this!) and start saving that money for retirement.

Otherwise, if you make a decent income which is to say you can cover your living expenses and then some, start cutting back on things you previously thought were necessities, or were luxuries in your budget such as vacations (spend less!).

The last option is to not retire at 65 and to work longer. This is a fairly unpopular choice but a necessary one if you are unable to sustain your lifestyle at the age of 65 based on your lack of savings.

 

A big thank you to all of our panelists!  I hope this information was helpful, Michelle!  If you’re a mom, or anyone else, and have a finance question, submit it by leaving a comment below, or tweeting @femmefrugality or @MoreThanMommies.  Your question could be featured in a future post!

Buy This Get That Free

A little while ago we finally got a new bed.  A wonderful, glorious new bed.  It was bigger than our last one, so we needed new sheets.  We had spent most of our budget on the mattress itself, so we headed to Wal-Mart for the bedding.  While the price is right there, trying to find something that’s even a cotton/polyester MIX is a test in patience.

But we finally did.  And it came with a free Better Homes and Gardens subscription.  One of our little ones loves reading magazines, so we were all too happy to get some more free reading material.  As I was prepping the card to mail to redeem our subscription, I saw this:

freebies

 

Pretty much it says that if you don’t want the magazine, they will give you $6 instead.  Which I thought was pretty cool.  If we hadn’t already gotten excited for a magazine it would be okay for the little one to leaf through, bend, and otherwise maim (after I’ve ripped all the good pages out of it, of course,) we could have gotten $6 off of our already pretty cheap sheets.

I’m willing to bet they had to put that in there because of some legality.  I also tend to think that if they had to do it, other companies do, too.  So the next time someone offers to give me a free “x” when I buy “y,” I’ll explicitly ask if they offer this option.  Because if it’s something with a half-decent value, it may be worth the essential refund.

Oh, and P.S., we are perfectly happy with our cheapy sheets.  Egyptian cotton is pretty low down our priority list.

Financially Savvy Saturdays: Thirty-Second Edition

Welcome to Financially Savvy Saturdays, a blog hop created specifically for personal finance writers! We welcome all things money here. Whether you’ve written anything from throwing a frugal birthday party to preparing for entry into a new career, you’re invited to link-up. If it ties into personal finance, we want to read it!

Tweet about it. You can use #finsavsat when tweeting about the party!

Feature of the Week

This week’s magnificent co-host, Rebecca from Stapler Confessions, has selected her favorite post from last week’s blog hop. This week’s feature is “A Tale of Two Hairdressers” from brokeGIRLrich. In Rebecca’s words, “It’s very entertaining, and instructive!”  I loved it, too!  Click on the image to read her great post!

two hairdressers

If you submit a link this week, your post could be highlighted in next week’s party!

 

We do have a couple of rules for participation. Those who don’t follow the rules will have their link taken down.

1. Your post must be written in the past seven days and not be a giveaway or otherwise sponsored.

2. Be sure to include a link to one of your hosts by copying and pasting the html in one of the boxes below into your linked up post. You have the option of the button or a text link.

3. Follow your hosts. You can follow Femme Frugality on Google+, Twitter OR by subscribing to her RSS feed via email. Also follow Stapler Confessions on Facebook, Google+Twitter OR subscribe to her RSS feed.

4. Comment on at least two other posts that have joined the party.

5. HAVE FUN!

 

Stapler Confessions

OR grab the text link here!

 <em>*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on <a href="http://wp.me/p3TJm1-kE">Femme Frugality</a> and <a href="http://staplerconfessions.com/index.php/financially-savvy-saturdays-32nd-edition">Stapler Confessions</a>*</em>


Women in Accounting

This post, which contains valuable food-for-thought for those interested in the field of accounting, is compensated by Robertson College.

As the ability of women to advance through the ranks of finance and accounting improves, more women are considering careers in these growing fields. Considering that than half of new accounting graduates are women, this is one “boy’s club” that is changing to reflect modern attitudes.

To be a successful Accounting Professional, you need a few basic skills to build on including:

Problem solving skills- When faced with a difficult problem, you can analyze and interpret information to find the solution. This might require researching and comparing information.

Technology skills- You should be comfortable with using new technology, in order to keep up with changing industry standards and to understand how different technologies impact your clients.

Personal skills- An Accounting Specialist needs to be able to work well with others, and handle sensitive situations with tact.

Communication skills- Accounting Professionals must be able to make themselves accurately understood, and be a good listener. You will regularly be faced with issues and questions that you must be able to understand and respond to quickly.

Math skills- This one is a bit more obvious, and very important. To be a successful Accounting Professional, you should be comfortable with numbers, with the ability to see relationships and patterns.

A great accountant is also reliable, detail-oriented, and honest, with high ethical standards.

Accounting is a stable career, with job opportunities available in a huge variety of industries all across the world. Accounting professionals can work in all sorts of settings, from looking after the finances of a small business to being part of a team at a large corporation. They also enjoy comfortable salaries and job security. Women are still outnumbered in leadership roles within accounting firms, but with more firms realizing that diversity is crucial to their success, women’s opportunities for advancement are improving. If you’re looking for a career with a wide range of opportunities, consider taking a college Accounting program.

Accounting might seem like a demanding field to start a new career in, but the possibilities are worth the effort.

How to Recycle Old Candle Wax into New Candles

RECYCLING CANDLES

 

This happens to me a lot.  I have old candles that I love that end up burning weird so that there’s a lot of actual wax left, but not enough wick to burn it.   In the past I’ve just sadly thrown them away.  NEVER AGAIN!

This round’s victim was my Chocolate Aunt Sadie’s candle.  Burned in the past mostly around Valentine’s day, it would have me salivating within seconds.

Aunt Sadie's Chocolate Candle

 

The first step is to get a spoon and chip the wax out of your container.  The metal circle that holds the wick in the bottom will probably be stuck.  Just use a spoon to pull it out from the bottom once you get there.  Then break up the wax into meltable, even chunks.  I was going to reuse the container, but mine ended up looking like this:

Unusable

 

So it was off to the recycle store with that mess.  I had a couple of votive containers I have been using over the years.  I originally got them at the dollar store.  So I just used a couple of them as my new candle containers.  Before I melted the wax, I prepped the containers by lining up the wick to the bottom center, and wrapping the wick around a pencil that would hold it in place while I poured:

prepping wick

 

Then I actually melted the wax.  You could use a double broiler, but I have nothing that fancy.  I just filled a pot with a couple of inches of water, brought it to a boil, and then stuck a tin can with the wax chunks in it so it would melt without ruining my pot.  I bent the can so that when I poured the wax out it would act as a spout.

IMAG1277

 

After the wax was melted, I poured it into two of my containers, almost as full as I wanted them.  I then let them cool completely (which took overnight in my case, but will vary with the original candle you used.)  Then I melted down a little bit of the wax I had saved to top them off so they would burn right.  I let that cool, trimmed the wick, and I was done!

homemade candle

 

I got two new candles out of something I would have previously thrown away.  I’m keeping one, and I haven’t decided yet whether to keep the other or gift it.  I was surprised at how easy the entire process was:  the longest part was waiting for the first cooling.

I’m never throwing another candle away again.

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