Author Archives: rachel

What I’ve Been Reading: Simplicity, Money, Holiday Prep, and more…

I have been collecting links to share with you, and the list has grown so huge I am going to break it down by section. These posts basically represent the types of reading I do in addition to photography and design related books and sites.






Enjoy! Hope you find something here useful.

what I’m reading

I gotta be honest, I see the new Bank of America debit-related fees in direct correlation with airlines charging for luggage. I don’t understand why people don’t immediately bail on BofA for better organizations. I’m happy with my experiences with the local credit union for my business accounts, and Ali and I use ING direct for our personal finances. Recommend!

Here’s some of what I am reading this week:

Don’t duck new debit card fees by grabbing your credit card (the Oregonian, Brent Hunsberger)

Is Bank of America’s $5 Monthly Debit Card Fee Just the Beginning? (Wisebread, Paul Michael)

Avoiding the Poverty Tax (Wisebread, Philip Brewer)

Use These Printable Money Envelopes to Switch to Cash and Stay on Budget (Today’s Nest, via Lifehacker)

You don’t need the new iPhone (mnmlist) ‘Men have become tools of their tools.’ ~Henry David Thoreau

The Benefits of Buying Virtually Everything Used (TIME, J.D. Roth)

9 Ways to Earn Extra Cash When Money Is Tight (Wisebread, Mikey Rox)

hello October

For those of you who are interested (or currently residing) in tiny houses, here’s an article about organization:
Staying Organized in Small Spaces (Kent Griswold, Tiny House Blog)
Ali and I have a storage unit where most of our household basics are stored while we live in our little furnished cottage, and this helps us keep things under control.

One of the ways I kept balance during our months of extreme frugality was by occasionally indulging in little luxuries. Now that we’re done with our first major financial goal, we’ve freed up some cash to indulge in slightly larger luxuries like travel, eating out, and less excruciating decision making when out shopping.

Living a Simple Life While Adding a Few Luxuries (Jeff Nickles, My Supercharged Life)


a couple of links

Hi Everyone! In the past month we’ve been basking in the freedom of being debt free, and enjoying sharing our story with friends and family. It’s powerful to know that choices we made in the past year so drastically influenced our life and will help shape a new financial story for our family.

I haven’t yet announced in this forum that we’re now parents! We’re starting our family life debt free, which feels wonderful. Everything feels timed to perfection.

On the less positive side, around the same time I realized I was pregnant I also realized that I hadn’t been keeping up with my business accounting very well this year. I discovered a huge gap in my photography income to expense ratio, having spent much more than I thought toward re-establishing my little photography business. It looks like I was so busy micromanaging personal expenses that I neglected to watch my professional expenses and ended up getting “death by paper cut” in a lot of little expenses that added up to quite a sum. It was a rookie mistake to miss the bigger picture snapshot of my business accounting. I’m still reeling from that wake up call, and trying to figure out whether I will be able to close the gap, or should consider the difference lost “start up” expenses for the year. Whether people are generous in their portrait followup sales will make a big difference to this outcome, because I have not been able to charge what I “should” be charging in session fees this year, rather hoping for the followup sales. (Another bad idea.)

I’ll leave you with a couple of interesting links I’ve had in open tabs for a week now.

Buying with plastic not good for impulse control, or obesity (Published: Saturday, September 17, 2011) Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian

A Comprehensive Guide to the Envelope System by Matt Bell (Wisebread)

Megan Clark on successful self-employment

This guest post is written by Megan Clark, a successful entrepreneur in Vancouver, Washington. Megan and I clicked when we realized that we were both working on similarly aggressive financial goals for the year, and that we both have many opinions in the discussion of what is means to have the consistency of a 8-to-5 job  versus living in the autonomy of running your own freelance business. Megan is the Owner and Designer of Clark & Company, Founder of The Exceptional Creative and Co-Founder and Partner of hi, friend.

Photo: Jordan Philips


Being self-employed was something I always knew I would do; I assumed I would ease into it while working a full-time job elsewhere. Maybe over the course of five or ten years I would ramp up my own studio and finally take the leap, with a large stash of cash in the bank and tons of relevant design experience under my belt. As it turns out, the entire going-out-on-my-own process was majorly abbreviated and happened much sooner than anticipated. From the time there was any hint of something amiss at the ad agency I was working for as Junior Art Director to my last day and termination letter was a mere three weeks. I had only been out of school for two and a half years at that time.

Once I got over my immediate shock, the logistics of being laid off were the most overwhelming component by far. Where would I set up my office? How could I afford a new computer? What about a printer? Fax machine? Business cards? Health insurance? My investment accounts? Should I be collecting unemployment?

Drumming up business wasn’t easy either, but I considered it easier than answering all of the previously stated questions. While working at the ad agency, I worked nights and weekends with other clients; many small start-up companies who couldn’t afford a full-blown studio to do their work came to me. When I suddenly had a full-time schedule to fill I let them know I was available and word spread quickly. Many of them sent me more work and several passed my information along to others who needed my help.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until about six months later that I made the leap to commit 100% of my efforts to myself rather than sort of working for myself and sort of trying to find a “real job”, too. At that turning point I chose myself and I knew that the path ahead would be tumultuous, but equally rewarding.

Lesson Learned: Choose yourself.

About six months after that pivotal moment, a copy of The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey landed in my hands. I devoured it like a hungry, hungry hippo (or rhino, perhaps?). My husband and I have been working our way toward financial freedom since. We listed our debts smallest to largest and have paid off five of the six initially shown our our chart.

Our chart isn’t nearly as tidy as Spencer, but it does the trick. This thing’s already more than two years old. We might just frame it once we’re done. The smiley face stickers mean we’ve completed that particular debt. Five down, one to go!

Recently, I had the realization that for many the supposed security of a full-time gig working for someone else is actually a limitation in disguise. Yes, the check may auto-deposit into your account twice a month, but literally one-third of your time is consumed by your commitment. The other third is spent sleeping and that doesn’t leave much room for making money elsewhere.

Lesson Learned: Security = Limitation

By no means have I over-earned what I was making on salary at the agency every month, but over the course of a year I absolutely do. Generally speaking, when you work for yourself, the harder and longer you work the more you make. Not all hours are billable, obviously, but the rate at which one can bill when one is self-employed and an expert in one’s field is typically high enough that it compensates for the time spent on administrative duties, business planning, sales, and so forth. Free agent paychecks may be more sporadic and varying in amount than a regular payroll check, but they pay the bills just as well… and sometimes better.

Over the last three years I have started three different companies. (I’m planning to slow down in 2012, I think…) Each of these companies uses a different method for making money, but all fall into a overall model I’d like to develop. That model is illustrated by a quadrant. The “Revenue Quadrant” comes from The Free Agent Formula, a kit that’s a must-have for any free agent. Here’s what it looks like:

The Revenue Quadrant can be found in Chapter 3 of The Free Agent Formula, available here. Copyright Reach Group LLC.

Lesson Learned: Diversify your income streams.

A secondary tool my husband and I have worked with through our Total Money Makeover is called Whiteboard Accounting. This concept was introduced to me by Frank Chimero, a renowned illustrator and design thinker in Portland, Oregon.

The Whiteboard Accounting process is as follows (from Frank’s blog):
•    Buy a whiteboard. Any size you want. I’d say maybe something about 11×14”
•    Split it into 12 sections. These are months.
•    Figure out how much dough you need to make each month to meet costs. Don’t forget to set aside a bit of cash for retirement, savings, an emergency fund, money for buying the occasional cup of coffee out. If you’re super lazy and don’t feel like exerting effort, take your rent and multiply it by 5.
•    Have that number for each month? OK. Let’s say it’s $1,000. (Just for the sake of example.) In the box you’ve drawn for each month, you’d write $100 ten times. (One hundred bucks multiplied by ten is a thousand bucks. Get it? We’re visualizing our income!)
•    As you land jobs and as checks come in, you erase $100s from the board. I get an illustration gig. It pays $400. I erase 4 $100 off the board. Repeat ad nauseam.

The thing is, once you erase all the $100 in the month of January, you’re done. Stupid job comes into your inbox, but January is cleared out? Say no! Land a job on January 20th that you really want to take, but you’ve already cleared out the month? Start erasing 100s in February!

Frank described this on his blog (which you can read more of here), but I took it and made it my own. The original idea is to be implemented so you know when you can afford to say “NO” to work. In our case, Whiteboard Accounting is used so we can visualize our income goals and cross off our progress each month. If we over-earn our goals, first we say, “Hallelujah!” and draw a smiley face, then we take whatever is above and beyond and throw it toward the debt we’re on in our debt snowball.

Smiley faces are good. They mean that we over-earned our monthly income goal. Hallelujah!

My job has enabled us to get out of debt at an accelerated rate, but I love it for more reasons than that. I always say I’m ruined because I’ll never be able to work for anyone else… unless it’s an utterly perfect job. As it stands, I have the freedom, flexibility and control to make my job exactly what I’d like it to be. Decision-making is a breeze, relatively speaking. There are no meetings, committees or ballots necessary. Whatever I do, it’s something that I said “yes” to, not what I was volunteered for my someone above me.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but it’s pretty darn good. The days I feel like a lone ranger, need to make a tough decision to delegate work, face budgeting challenges or realize I may never again enjoy a paid vacation or holiday, I remember why I chose myself all those years ago. That thought never fails to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step. I am doing what I love and it’s allowing my husband and I to achieve financial freedom.

Lesson Learned: If you love what you do, it will love you back.


Guest post written by Megan Clark.

Megan is the Owner and Designer of Clark & Company, Founder of The Exceptional Creative and Co-Founder and Partner of hi, friend. You can follow Megan on twitter: @clarkandcompany. Megan and her husband Bryce live in Vancouver, Washington.

Meg and Bryce Clark

Photo: Melissa Tomeoni

try using only half

Early in my time in Portland (before we hit our debt payment plan hard), I was exploring different ways to maintain quality of life, while living clean and healthy with less waste. Our little cottage is fully furnished but didn’t have much in the way of cleaning supplies. Since we were living out of our car for most of 2010, we didn’t have things like big bottles of shampoo or detergent sitting around, and were determined not to mindlessly clutter up our shelves with big plastic bottles full of chemicals. ((This was the time I discovered the wonders of Dr. Bronner’s, a nature-friendly soap that can be used for everything from doing laundry to personal hygiene. It’s kind of spendy when you first get the bottle, but a refill only costs about $3.))

One of the ideas that has been the most useful to me over the past year is a simple guideline: use only half. Whether it’s toothpaste or laundry soap or a sheet of paper, if you use half of something, you won’t need to refill or replace it as soon. You have doubled its value and shelf life. The easiest is with dryer sheets. I just take kitchen shears and cut all of the sheets in half or thirds and the results are just as fine, maybe better. There are certainly variations on this, and sometimes using half the recommended amount is not enough (start with half and then add to that amount a little until you reach desired end result). I was surprised at how many things in life, such as the daily dollop of shampoo, that I had defaulted into using as much as DOUBLE the recommended amount.

I don’t remember where I picked up this simple guideline; it was probably someplace like – but I have thoroughly enjoyed working that principle into the fabric of my life as we worked out our debt snowball and our struggle with materialism/consumerism in the past year.

It’s less about money and more about philosophy and habit.
Try using only half. It’s just a little thing but it can change your relationship with substances forever.

iphone or millionaire?

When the iphone first came out, I was not attracted to it at all. A lot of my colleagues – I was surrounded by photographers at the time – were really excited that they would take their “business” with them (and being able to immediately respond to wedding inquiries might mean the difference between getting a chance at a job and losing out to someone else). After going through initial curiosity stage, I began to see the iphone craze as just another expensive luxury that was being marketed as necessary to our overcaffeinated generation. And I was suspicious about the ability to check email from anywhere, because I already feel that I overcheck email as it is. I believe it is healthy to have some parts of life (vacations, car trips, and waiting in line) excluded from being plugged in.

As newer! faster! sleeker! generations of the iphone came out, more and more of my peers were sucked in. You could hear people calling into the Dave Ramsey show asking for advice to file for bankruptcy who had just spent a bonus check to purchase the entire family matching iphones instead of putting money toward paying off the credit cards or mortgage or putting food on the table. I shake my head, judgmentally, as friends who I know don’t have any extra money sign up for $40/month data plans and justify it with explanations about saving money because they put other family members on the same plan (what?).

I have to admit, I am still sometimes judgmental of iphone users.

I don’t want to be this way, and I have to recognize that most of the people I respect in life use these clever little devices. I admit that I too would check my twitter stream while waiting in the never-ending line at the Piedmont post office if I had a data plan in my pocket. I admit that I would feel a lot better if I had GPS with me at any time or could check a flight status in transit. And, if used properly, the device just might allow some of us to vacation better, leaving laptops at home.

But… iphone or millionaire, people? I choose millionaire.


I know it’s not perfect, but it makes you think, doesn’t it?

One little lifehack that has allowed me to have many of the benefits of the iphone but virtually none of the expense is the ipod touch. In the past four years, I’ve worn one ipod to death, and am dangerously close to wearing out a second. I use this daily to check in on blog feeds, twitter streams, and facebook in a noninvasive way, and also to reference my calendar and contact information on the go. The ability to access music, audiobooks, contacts, calendars, and photos anywhere, plus the ability to access internet, email and streaming pandora wherever there’s wifi available means that I can still travel light if I don’t need to access my photo editing software or write long email responses which encourages me to leave work at home. Note: suspicious of the “koolade” factor, I tried the ipad when it first came out but couldn’t justify the expense and the size versus the relative benefit against the simple little ipod touch.

So, I don’t mean to be judgmental about this, but I’m really glad I decided against the iphone and subsequent data plan charges back in 2008. There have been moments of weakness and data plan envy – especially when I am stuck somewhere and could really benefit from being able to access Yelp reviews or check for an important email notification… but I keep coming back to that idea expressed in the comic… iphone or millionaire? DELAYED GRATIFICATION!

Full disclosure: Ali does have a hand-me-down jailbroken iphone he hacks with a $10/mo data plan.

So, readers. I know I might have alienated about 80% of you with this manifesto. Do you love your iphone? Does it help you do life better? I won’t judge you if you share (unless you really can’t feed your kids this month).