Author Archives: rachel

on being frugal

A quick check-in over here, I am blogging in other places these days now that we have a kid. I was hoping it would be easy to keep to a budget with a baby (“they’re little and they don’t need much!”) but it is really, really difficult not to spend a lot on this little project…  and our house is now full of plastic and single-purpose baby specific furniture. Eeek!


Just found this piece over at wisebread – on being frugal. I think it is solidly written.

A Step-by-Step Guide for When Friends Ask for Help Being Frugal (Mikey Rox, Wisebread)


“We’re doing it wrong.”

It’s our joke as a couple

The thing we say

When what we really mean is

“Debt has left us black-eyed and bleeding.”


It’s not really keeping up with the Joneses.

It isn’t about your vacations or your fancy houses – yes, plural?!

Your new cars or your HDTVs.

(Though we make our secret faces

When we read about them in your Christmas letters.)


When we lean together and whisper

- oh, we can be so snarky –

It comes out “We’re doing it wrong”

But what we’re really saying is

“We’re trying to do it right.”


$90,000 to pay off, and we’re only

Two people working hard with four hands

And eight (closed) credit cards and

Just as many part-time jobs

And only 24 hours in a day.


So we crack our jokes, share our secret battle cry.

We’re strong enough to be debt-free for good,

And if “doing it wrong” looks an awful lot

Like wearing dollar shirts and watching Redbox,

Then I guess you can keep your Hollister.


When debt’s gone

 – we’re still learning to drop the “if” -

We both know it’s not the things we crave.

It’s the freedom we envy.

To do it wrong ourselves if we want.


Or to do it right.



no spend month 2012

It’s been a year since we declared being debt free, and in that time we have had a baby, quadrupled our rented house footage, and have been able to stop scrutinizing and questioning every penny spent. Although we currently have a fully funded emergency fund, we find ourselves running short on cash after furnishing a larger place (our previous cottage was tiny and lovely and fully furnished with built-ins) and paying for all the baby stuff we never thought we would want to have around.

Every year or so Ali and I find ourselves in a place of wanting to break bad habits and re-evaluate our life decisions by putting a freeze on spending activity. This is not difficult for Ali who is the typical dude who will question (for example) why he needs new clothes when the soles are falling off his old shoes. I’m the kind of gal who is like “oh, I’m bored? how about a trip to TARGET?!”

Sooooooo, since late August we have declared a spending freeze on everything except the necessaries (groceries, toiletries, gas, etc) with a nod to the idea that we should be using things up before buying new.

This has been extremely difficult for me! I laughed when I bought the cup of fresh squeezed lemonade from the girls at their family’s yard sale for $0.25, but I didn’t laugh when I spent $200 on furniture. I’m annoyed and freshly aware of how retailers use sales and email coupon codes that expire “tomorrow!” to try to entice impulse purchases with the justification that it “might not go on sale again.”

Action steps: I’m taking a deep breath and stepping back… unsubscribing from email lists and daily deal sites and RSS feeds from those who focus on deals, because it encourages me to want to spend money on something just because it is a good price. Our checking account balance is low enough right now that I risk fees if I use the cards again so that is warning enough to keep the purchases at bay. We’re carrying cash for groceries and stopping to let each transaction hurt a little rather than provide the dopamine rush of swiping the plastic for the magic free money tree.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this yet, but I will admit that I have lost the frugal budgeteer edge I had gained during our project – we are back to old consumption habits and impulse purchases that are impeding our timeline for putting together a down payment on a house (presumably our next big financial move). I don’t mind renting but I would like the option to buy when the time is right.

“When you start FEELING money, you handle it differently than when you’re just doing a transaction to get some stuff.”

The Oregonian article has opened up some new discussion with our friends and family who are thinking again about their own relationship to debt. I have enjoyed clarifying some of the more confusing points of our project, and debating some of the more controversial aspects of the feature with people. What it boils down to for me is that even though we were able to pay down an unusually large amount of debt in a relatively short amount of time, the principals we applied can make a difference in any person’s life, scaled to the right amount for each situation.

Using cash and getting rid of credit cards is a big part of the Financial Peace formula, and although I don’t want to get preachy about it, I agree with Dave Ramsey’s take on why cash-based transactions are an incredibly important part of the equation.

“Here’s the problem: when you don’t pay cash for things, you do not feel money. You do not emotionally, spiritually, relationally register the transaction. You’ve got to learn to feel money again, because when you do not feel money, you do stupid things with money. When it doesn’t register in your spirit that the money is leaving you… ” -03/15/2012 podcast at 12:12

“Personal finance is about 80% behavior. It’s only about 20% head knowledge. Until you learn to do things that modify your behaviors and cause you to control your behaviors… until you learn to do that, you WILL struggle with money. Lots of studies have been done that show that when you pay with cash, you will spend considerably less than when you pay with plastic of any kind.” -03/15/2012 podcast at 13:48

March 15, 2012 Podcast of the Dave Ramsey Show
skip to 11:04-19:55 for a listener question abut using a debit card versus cash for purchases such as gas

We have friends who want to use credit cards to keep their credit score up, to gain points and perks, and to feel safe in the case of emergency. Every situation is different. Using cash is a lot more difficult (consider buying a house, for example) and seemingly brings more risk, but with a reasonable emergency fund in place and delayed gratification on some larger purchases until you have the cash to pay for them, it has a big payoff value. Without plastic, you can’t spend money you don’t have. OUCH!

If you’re interested in hearing more everyday advice about finances, I recommend* the Dave Ramsey Show podcast. On Fridays they take calls from real life families who have paid off their debt – and discuss specifics on salary, lifestyle choices, and advice to others who want to become debt free.

*Dave Ramsey’s on-air communication style (and politics) are not for everyone, but in the end he delivers a much needed direct challenge to the excuses many of us use to justify a lifestyle of convenience over freedom. Sometimes he comes off as a real jerk!

We’re in The Oregonian!

The Oregonian Newspaper

Our Q&A with Kelly House appeared in today’s print version of The Oregonian newspaper. Here’s a link to the online story, some interesting reader reactions.

Although our situation isn’t/wasn’t necessarily typical in the details, carrying around a large burden of debt is unfortunately VERY much the norm.

We welcome you to click around this site’s archives to find out more about what the journey looked like for us, and hope that you will find some inspiration for your own life and situation. We’re cheerleaders for the freedom that comes from being debt-free.

what I’m reading… March 22, 2012

  • 5 Reasons Why I Don’t Clip Coupons (Kentin Waits | Wisebread)
    This article succinctly summarizes my complaint with couponing. I’ve been trying out it out a bit in the past month since signing up to receive weekend delivery of the Oregonian. I’m disappointed to find that I have accumulated a lot more processed food in the pantry that I don’t enjoy eating, simply because a $1 coupon brings it down to ‘reasonable’ cost. My shopping energy has turned toward hunting down the exact type of item the coupon requires (not to mention the coupon sorting energy) and I am no longer as well stocked with fresh and healthy produce.

If you are into couponing, here are two local sites that basically have the exact same content (I can’t figure out who is copying who) and obsess over online and local NW shopping deals and coupon strategy.

“Combine spring cleaning, recycling, and fun – It’s an upscale FREE garage sale! Your outgrown stuff will be loved by someone else, your house will be less cluttered, you’ll find new-to-you items you CAN use…plus, you’ll be helping positive organizations in our community!”
“Clean out your house, garage, and shed of all the STUFF you no longer need want or love, wash it up, make sure all the parts are there and everything is in working order, and bring it to the Spring Stuff Swap!”


  • SPEND OUT (Gretchen Rubin | The Happiness Project)
  • 6 Crucial Job Searching Steps Most People Skip (Julie Rains | Wisebread)
    Good basics refresher; As someone who was an Office Manager receiving end, I feel meh about the thank you note followup part and personally think that step is a little on the cheesy / desperate side.
  • Balancing Technology (Valerie Plowman | Babywise)
    This piece brings up some good points about the balance between technology, life, parenting. We’re thinking a lot about our media consumption and the amount of time we want to spend face-to-face with our son in these upcoming months.

Free Events in Portland, Oregon

When you’re working on eliminating debt, it’s important to keep your entertainment options open. Luckily, Portland is full of incredible opportunities on a very regular basis.

Here are some resources to find free events in Portland, Oregon.

Minimalist Holiday: White Friday

Source article here. by Miss Minimalist

As you might guess, I’m not a fan of Black Friday. I don’t like crowds, shopping, excess consumerism, or stores that make their employees work late night, early morning, or—worst of all—Thanksgiving hours in service to corporate profits.

That lovely little Friday, so wonderfully placed between a holiday and weekend, deserves better. And so, in the spirit ofminsumerism and consumer disobedience, I propose we turn Black Friday on its head and embrace the opposite of everything it represents: please join me in celebrating White Friday instead.

Rather than a day of consumer frenzy, White Friday will be a day of clarity, peace, and reflection. (Think of the calm, contemplative effect of a white-walled room, versus one stacked top-to-bottom with shelves of mass-produced goods.) We’ll buy nothing, and continue our Thanksgiving gratitude for the abundance already in our lives.

Here’s some other ways to turn a Black day of consumerism into a White day of serenity:

Clear the clutter. Instead of bringing more stuff into your home, clear stuff out. Take the day to tackle a decluttering project, like your closet, basement, or attic. It feels a lot better to send a carload to charity, than stash away a carload of shopping.

Clear the dirt. Do a deep house-cleaning in preparation for the holidays. Get into those dusty corners you ignore during the year, and scrub them spotless. Such a top-to-bottom cleansing is an important purification rite in many cultures, and is good for the spirit as well as the home.

Clear your schedule. Instead of getting up at the crack of dawn to jostle crowds for bargains, sleep in, slow down, and spend the day with loved ones. Alternatively, free up your day to volunteer for a good cause.

Clear your debts. Rather than increase your credit card balance, take steps to pay it off. Review your finances, and plan how you can start the new year on more fiscally-sound footing. Propose a no-gift holiday to your friends and family, and emphasize spending time together over spending money.

Clear your mind. Instead of stressing about the upcoming holiday season, take a long bath or leisurely walk to clear your mind. Turn off the TV, skip the newspaper, don’t go online—anything to avoid being bombarded with advertisements and marketing.

Clear your soul. Reconnect with your spiritual side: meditate, attend a religious service, enjoy the gifts of nature. Spend the day not in pursuit of discounts, but in pursuit of truth, beauty, and meaning.

This Friday, let’s forget about keeping corporations in the black. Rather than go down the dark road of debt, delusion, and environmental destruction that goes hand-in-hand with consumerism, let’s do the opposite. Let’s make it a day to live lightly, act serenely, and make the world a little brighter for ourselves and others.

-Miss Minimalist

Source article here.