Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Recession is Over...So Why are All the Cheap Living Articles Still Out?

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the "Great Recession" has been over since June 2009. Hmmph. Wish they'd let everyone know. The NEBR warns that although the recession is over, the economy's sluggish metabolism is not going to speed up overnight. Well, ya think? Elementary, my dear NBER, elementary.

Actually, I think it's good that the economy recovers slowly. It'll give us more time to think about what happened and how we got there. It cheers me to see articles titled "Save with scratch-and-dent food", "Jackson-area residents revert to traditional ways to save money", and "Are you misplacing hundreds of dollars?". The more our population strives to stretch pennies in one area, the more individuals can free some up for important items like savings accounts, emergency accounts, and IRAs (all of which are usually considered "frivolous" in times of economic hardship).

When we realize our personal buying on credit has turned our debt-based economy into a bi-partisan mess, we can clean up our spending, start saving, and get educated on the politicians who want to represent us. So many of us vote for the here and now solutions without bothering to consider what impact they'll have on tomorrow. Let's force our politicians to offer us viable solutions that have a realistic look at tomorrow by only voting for those who are socially and environmentally responsible for today and tomorrow.

Additionally, let's get educated on where exactly all of our stuff comes from and what impact that has on us as Americans and as Earth-dwellers. For example, do you have any idea how your jumbo-sized chicken breast got to your table or why tons of inner-aisle grocery products have corn-based ingredients? How does our constant need for meat and sugar affect our economy, environment, and health? Watch Food, Inc. to get a few of these answers. Check out to see what you can do to be a more responsible shopper.

Finally, let's all live cheaply. What's wrong with frugality becoming a lifestyle instead of emergency habit? Proverbs 13: 7 says "One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth." I'd rather be the person pretending to be poor instead of actually being poor. Forgive me if that sounds callous, but it's true. There are very few people in this world who would chose to struggle financially.

Here are some cheap living ideas:
  • Planting an herb, vegetable, and/or fruit garden in your backyard is one of the greenest things you can do that will pay for itself.
  • Reuse or upcycle your stuff.
  • Buy used stuff (especially cars-just do your research first).
  • Be your own personal dishwasher.
  • Line dry your clothing.
  • Walk, run, or cycle in your neighborhood and buy some (used) weights to make your own at-home gym.
  • Start a co-op for things you need: baby-sitting, meals, cleaning, etc. You'd be amazed what people will do to avoid paying for something they'd be doing for themselves anyway.
There are a ton of great options for being cheap and green.

Take the challenge: Find one thing you're willing to change in order to be more frugal and/or greener. Once that becomes a habit, find something else. Slow and steady makes for lasting change. Think about how your actions today impact tomorrow. That's change we can all believe in! ;)

-Domestic Goddess out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Underwear for Christmas!

According to this article, WallyWorld is predicting we Americans will spend lots of money on toys for our kids but only buy each other underwear or some other "practical" item for Christmas. Wow. Apparently, this downturn in the economy has taught us to be practical only when it comes to inter-adult gift giving. Why should we use this difficult time to teach our kids to always be practical when it comes to gift giving-or to [buying] anything else, for that matter? Ugh.

Sure, I love getting gifts as much as any other Average Jane does. Who doesn't like unwrapping the surprise that may lay within? But in all honesty, once you watch Advent Conspiracy's video, you kind of have to reevaluate the whole idea of excessive giving at Christmas, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. Although Advent Conspiracy is a religious-based organization, it's easy to see the AC team is working to do great things for humanity in general.

If you're not the religious type, watch Annie Leonard's "The Story of Stuff" video. Reducing Christmas giving would have a huge impact on the state of the health of our Earth. Plus, once you realize how big companies are playing us for our money, you may not want to buy as much any more.

As for me, I'm not going to completely give up gifts. I'm resolving to be a responsible gift-giver this Christmas. Check out this great idea from called "Debt Free Christmas." You have the opportunity to volunteer for the organization by committing to celebrating the season without incurring any debt and then doing one of the following: organizing a personal debt education rally; placing educational signs around your workplace, housing area, school, etc.; providing convincing reasons to stay away from debt (e.g., via a blog); or giving up some of your gifts for charity.

I've decided to commit to staying debt free this season, and I'm going to blog about staying away from debt and ask people to donate to charities instead of giving me gifts. You may be surprised, though. Even though I asked for donations in my name instead of gifts last year, I still got gifts. Lots of them. It was a little discouraging, but I did get two family members to donate instead of buy me stuff. As time passes, I'm sure people will get used to not giving me things. It'll just take some time to break certain people (like my parents) of the habit. :)

And if someone does decide they absolutely have to buy me something, I'm going to ask for new underwear. Goodness knows, we can always put a new pair of those to good use!

-Domestic Goddess out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Yet Another Diet? Not Quite!

Some of the ladies in the baby-sitting co-op on our (military) installation’s gym have started a weight loss challenge. We’re still not sure what the grand prize will be or even what the time frame is, but we’re dedicated to working out and improving our eating habits so we can look better on the outside. All this just before the holiday seasons-great timing!

Our first meeting and weigh in was this morning. As I stepped onto the scale, I went to that happy place that detaches my brain from the number flashing back at me...and that’s when I realized: there are other areas of my life that need some serious tweaking.

Although our family is debt-free (THANK GOD!!!), we still do our very best to be responsible consumers and to shop responsibly. If I’m a responsible shopper, why am I using my debit card almost every day of the week? Even though I’m pretty strict about not shopping on Sunday (to promote a day of rest and to give companies less profit, which is the only reason they’re open on Sundays), every other day of the week produces a gross amount of receipts.

I (finally) took over as the primary Quicken data input person early last month. As a result, I became all too well aware of how often I pull out my debit card. I produce at least thirteen receipts on my own in just one week! Ack! And that’s despite knowing exactly what my budgetary constraints are!!!

So, I’m going on a new type of diet. I’m going to dedicate two days a week as “no spending days.” Sunday is already taken care of, so I have to plan carefully on what the other day should be. I’m thinking Thursday is the other. I’m also aiming to “only “have twelve receipts: two gas receipts, three grocery receipts (we spread it out over three stores to maximize the cheapness), one medical receipt, and six miscellaneous.So far this week (read: today, Monday), I’ve already produced five receipts: one gasoline, one medical, one out to eat, and one class-related (I’m taking a cake decorating class and had to get some supplies), and one auto (annual inspection) We’ll see how this goes!

I figure this: if I’m controlling the amount of times I go out to buy something, I’m doing lots of good. First, it helps me stay in our family’s budget. Second, it reduces the amount of driving I do, which leads to all sorts of good things: less wear and tear on the car, less gasoline used, less nasties emitted into the atmosphere, less road rage (almost always a by-product of driving in the Northern Virginia area), and more time to actually hang out with the kids or do homemaker stuff. Third, it forces me to really think about whether I need something. Stopping to think about a purchase is an excellent way of staying within my financial diet.

Therefore, this little experiment (I’ll try it for a month) should do my family, the environment, and me lots of good. I’ll do my best to remember to update! Please support me or challenge yourself to do something similar!

-Domestic Goddess out.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Banking Costs-What?!

I am having another of my insomniac-type nights. They typically happen once or twice a month. I use the wee waking hours to goof off a little: I catch a show online or on Netflix's instant play, I read a really good book, or I mess around online. Tonight, I've been messing around online, and you know what? I didn't really find a whole lot I liked when I typed "frugal lifestyle", "frugal blog", or "green living" into the GoodSearch (selected charity: toolbar.

Then I remembered I needed to update some beneficiary information in my bank account, so I logged in, adjusted the information, and voila! It was done. As I explored my bank's website, I got curious about other banks, so I started doing bank searches to do a little side-by-side comparison. WOW.

Banking with the nation's "name brand banks" is an expensive venture! I couldn't believe how many fees some of these banks charge. It's ridiculous, and yet, I see lots of people whip out these banks' credit cards when I'm out shopping for groceries. Seriously, if you want to ease up on your wallet, find a small, local bank or credit union that offers all the bells and whistles of a big bank (e.g., great online services) without all the fees (start-up fees, checking fees, online bill paying fees, ATM fees).

Be smart and be willing to search around a little. My bank offers very low-interest rates on its credit cards (we have a debit card but use it as credit so we can collect the cash-back rewards), and it refunds us up to ten ATM transactions per month. Talk about customer support! It also offers free (albeit boring and uncool) checks and the ability to deposit checks by scanning and with a smartphone app.

Do your homework-it usually pays off in the end. Use your savings (and some discipline) to finally top off your emergency fund or to pay off outstanding debt. Make good use of that money you were losing previously. For good ideas on how to use your money well, check out's Run Route. You'll be glad to get on the road to financial wellness!

-Domestic Goddess out.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Play Dates Aren't Just for Kids Anymore!

What are people really looking for when they want to “go out” with friends? A great experience? Check. Good food? Check. Nice atmosphere? Check. But can’t we do without those things just as easily and still have a fabulous time together?

I’ve been researching “things to do” for our family of five (three kids aged 3 and under), and the more I look for places to go in Northern Virginia, the more I realize that what my kids really want to do it play with other kids. When I look for adult-only activities, I realize all I really want is to enjoy my friends and husband.

The cheapest “thing to do” is simply to invite people over. Sure, we have to go out and find friends first (we are recent transplants to the area) at the park, church, or my eldest’s preschool, but once we get past the “I’m just making sure you and your kids aren’t really annoying or psycho” stage, the easiest thing is just to go over to each other’s house. It’s great for me because I don’t have to worry about paying an entrance fee or for food and, domestic goddess that I am, it motivates me to actually deep-clean the house. It’s a win-win situation for everyone! Going over to friends’ houses or having them come over is probably a lot better for the environment, too. No need to pay for or use extra carbon-footprint increasing stuff like restaurant A/C and bathrooms. If you’re having take-out, the delivery guy won’t always drive a hybrid, but you can make your own meal/snack if you want to get greener.

This translates just as easily for us adults. I love celebrating birthdays. I love making a big to-do about things and making people the super-center of attention. Last week, for my husband’s birthday, I invited a couple of friends over. We ordered an awesome mix of Asian foods, and I made my husband’s favorite dessert. Between us all, we had four kids and no worries about a tantrum or potty/diaper incident in a restaurant. We were able to drink wine without getting evil glares from people without kids. It was great. The only part I pseudo-missed was getting dressed up, and that’s really over-rated when you’ve got a [cute] baby who should have been named Slimer.

Girls’ nights out at home just got popular, too. Check out The ladies who came up with this site are all about getting together in the comfort of someone’s home. Book clubs are another popular at-home/have fun venture. Guys have been getting together for sports and cards forever, it seems, so maybe they can be credited with being the greener sex. Who cares? Just figure out something fun to do, invite some people over, and have at it!

Why go through all the trouble of buying a McMansion, or at least a home that you’re happy to live in if you’re not going to: a.) use it or b.) show it off. We’re surrounded by stuff that we don’t use or even really need for anything but decor. If you’ve got it, put it to some use! Let your friends see your eclectic collection of Star Wars stuff (junk, my family calls it, but I love it!) or your collection of crosses from around the globe. Pull out that espresso machine you swore would take Starbucks’ place three years ago and learn how to make capuccinos for a fraction of the cafe price. Throw a monthly crafting party so you can learn a new skill or get caught up on stuff you started before your kids were born (like my middle child’s baby book). Watch a great flick on your awesome, ginormous TV with its wall-shaking sound system with $4/box (not $4/bag) popcorn and not-allowed-in-the-theater wine. You liked it enough to spend your hard-earned money on it, so use it! (That being said, please don’t run off and buy something new to entertain your friends with-be creative and use something you already have, or ask someone if you guys can use their thing.)

As adults, we spend lots of money on toys we think will help us kick back or give us some self-perceived status. However, we rarely or never use them! Why the waste? We have lots of people who we consider friends but who we only see a few times outside of work/school/what have you. Get to know someone better! Reach out! In a land where very few of us live close to our blood relations, we have to seize every opportunity to make a “friend who loves at all times” (Prov 17:17). Take the challenge-find ways to play at home with people besides your family.

-Domestic Goddess out.