Earn Huge Savings with Tiny Changes

ID-100324955

There are endless amounts of small changes we can all make to lighten our environmental footprint, which you can learn a comprehensive amount of information about from Zero Waste Home, (Read the book for a definitive guide), this blog specifically focuses on those little habits that keep money in our bank account (which most often does add up to a savings in consumer waste as well). It’s a hassle sometimes to acquire the right tools to keep more money in our pocket. For some examples, it can be a pain to walk outside in the cold to compost a bowl of table scraps. It can be painful to turn down a trip to the ice cream shop. It can seem damn right counter-intuitive to sell something new for the exact same thing in an older model. But all these things are examples of small changes I’ve made, some of them were one time changes while others are daily changes.

Deciding Which Changes Will Be Worth it

A big part of the name of this blog, “The Scratch Paper Saver” comes from the idea of using scratch paper to casually predict outcomes depending on certain variables into the future. For someone who struggled with math my whole life (I swear to god it was a miracle that I passed each math class I took from Sophomore year of high school up until university), this is very doable as long as you take the few minutes to look up the variables to make sure they’re accurate.

one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig

Oftentimes a quick google search can come up with articles in which others have already done the calculations for you, such as in this case where I quickly googled k-cup vs reusable filter cost comparison and found this awesomely detailed and compelling article  by the personal finance blogger, Squawkfox toward the top of the simple google search pile. So by this article’s rather diligent explanation, one will save $0.61 per coffee by using reusable filters in the Keurig rather than the severely trashy and expensive K-Cups that are relentlessly marketed for use by Keurig owners. So with simple back of the napkin math, if you drink 2 cups of coffee a day (a rather modest estimation by stay at home mom and dad standards), that’s a savings of about $37 a month. And to magnify the savings, just multiply that amount by 12 to find out the savings in a year (Around $450)! With every change, you also have to evaluate the time/effort factor that goes into each change. This is a personal decision that depends on the amount of spare time you have and how flexible you can be with external expectations (not going out to lunch with your co-workers for instance).

Using a Compounding Interest Calculator to Estimate Long-Term Savings

To make things even more mouth wateringly juicy, use a compounding interest calculator to play with the savings amount when that yearly savings is invested in an index fund with a 7% average return. This is where you put the pedal to the metal when it comes to the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned” my friends, as we are now very  quickly and easily going from 61 cents to thousands of dollars. Now when you throw away one of those flimsy K-cups you can simultaneously imagine reaching into your wallet, pulling out several dollar bills, and tossing those in the trash too. That thought right there should be enough to get us to take the 30 seconds needed to compost those coffee grinds and rinse out our own filter in the sink with a smile!

Small Changes Worth the Effort

    • Go to the library over purchasing new books. If you do purchase new, resell them on eBay.

IMG_5622

    • Sell your unused stuff on Craigslist. Learn from my mistakes here

brass

    • Make as much home made meals as you can from scratch.
    • Prepare a to-go breakfast the night before such as soaked steel cut oats or chia seed yogurt
    • Take a sack lunch to work
    • Freeze prepared meals for the work week on Sundays
    • Use the crock pot to make dinner while you’re at out
    • Stick to the memorable slogan, “Something to Wear, Something they Need, Something they Want, Something to Read” for your child’s holiday gifts
    • Simplify or opt out of traditional family/friend gifting

IMG_1671

    • Discover even more money saving (small) change that are worth the effort in this post.

 

What other money-saving changes have you made? Please share in the comments!

Claiming A Creative Life

“Remember to stay inside the lines” said the spinsterly teacher abruptly, making me jump in my short plastic chair. Looking up, I saw the black pits of her nostrils as she peered down at my work through the  impossibly small glasses propped on the end of her nose. Sitting there under the fluorescent lights, at the woodgrain laminate table with my peeled and broken crayons scattered around my stark white Xeroxed worksheet, I felt a hot flash of anger rush straight up from my stomach to the skin of my cheeks. As I burned with the rage of an angry boar, I swallowed hard, gritted my teeth and forced my head to jerk down in a quick nod, dismissing the intruder that interfered with my artistic flow.

That was the beginning of my rebellion. I was in second grade summer school because I couldn’t pass math. I remember sobbing over my miniature primary colored counting bears as my Dad would try to demonstrate the simple concepts over and over and over. I was able to pass, and eventually went on to take all the math that was required to get into college, and miraculously, to cobble together enough algebra and statistics courses to get a bachelor’s degree. At each and every gradual level, I struggled and worried and sweated over my assignments and exams. At the end of each semester, I sighed in relief when my grades confirmed I had made it by the skin of my teeth.

Of course it isn’t remotely uncommon to struggle with math in an academic setting, but I’ve really never been cut out for any type of activity that depends on exact and precise maneuvers. When a very strict process of completion is required I become extremely tense and agitated. After second grade, I slowly began to detest school more and more as the years went on. Art class, and art activities offered a space where I found peace. I also took respite in a few other places at school- anywhere that granted me freedom- to write, to cut wood, to play music, to perform a poem, to do anything the way I wanted to do it, really.

a chalk drawing from high school.
a chalk drawing from high school.

Sierra gasps in surprise and points, shouting happily, “Look, Mooom, an American Flag!” every time she discovers one when driving through town. Our city, being home to the biggest army post in the country, is extremely patriotic, and somehow at the age of 2 she is already buying into the concept that that piece of fabric is revered and celebrated by everyone. Despite all the pitfalls of this country- my biggest gripe being over-consumption (by our citizens AND our government), I love this freedom that has been granted to us. I have an understanding and gratitude for how precious and protected this freedom is and must be. But what good is this freedom that we have if as a society we are put in a position where we aren’t encouraged, or even allowed in some cases, to use it the way we want to, the way our souls were meant to?

A little over ten years later, I found myself once again under the fluorescent lights of a public school classroom, this time standing next to a professor peering at my art work through her black frame glasses.

“The composition of your piece on the right is much better” she asserted.

“I kind of prefer the left one’s composition, myself.”

“Why are you here? Why do you come to class if you don’t want to learn?” she snapped. She continued on a diatribe about art theory that I again forced myself to nod along too. She never again approached me to critique my work.

It is extremely easy for conscious and creative people like us to stumble upon and conjure up thoughts, ideas, plans and dreams throughout our waking and sleeping hours. But how can we stake a claim outwardly in our practical lives so that these stirrings and impulses can become a full expression, a living fruition?

We do it by ignoring the critics, the naysayers, the “professionals,” the detractors, and most frequently, those who use the excuse of “having our best interest at heart.” We must block the negative energies and the poison arrows from flying into the camp of our deeper feeling. We must look out for the trojan horses- the advice that on the surface promises safety and comfort, but inside is full of all manner of chains and cages designed to cripple our creative forces. We fight for the time, the space, the resources to do our creative work- not just for a a half hour on Sundays but as a regular routine in our lives. We must consider our creative work with the same non negotiable priority that we apply to practicing personal hygiene and eating regular meals. Going to work, keeping clothes on our backs and a roof over our head allows us to survive in this world, no doubt about it. But what good is survival for the human body when the soul of the person is suppressed, banished and exiled?

Of course many of us are completely happy with the types of lifestyles and activities that can effortlessly be acquired and maintained in our society- for some of us the choices we wish to make happen to be those that are widely agreed upon by the popular culture, and we will face little to no adversity. But if you’re reading this blog, it’s more than likely that you are like me. We aren’t made to color inside the lines. We weren’t made to blindly be lead by people that happen to assume positions of authority. We were made with eyes that see beauty and light, with ears that hear to the call of the wild, with hearts that feel the pang of deep emotion, with instincts that smell the rancid breath of those that use fancy words to attempt to manipulate us into submission. I promise you that we have the power within ourselves to overcome anyone who would try and stand between us and our creative work. All that’s needed is a recognition that the power is there, and the conscious awareness to use that power.

When we begin to express our innermost soul urgings outwardly, people start to spot us from a mile away. We begin to stand out like a beet stuck in a bundle of carrots. We probably won’t fit in so well, if at all, and people will innocently start to ask us to please just maybe be a little less red, a little more orange, less rough, a little thinner, a little sweeter. It is then and there that we must immediately use that power, that trust and strength of conviction that courses through our veins. All that is left is to keep doing the work that we’re doing, the work that we’re loving- the way only we can do it, and not stop until WE are satisfied- when we know we have successfully brought our soul baby from the ovaries of our spirit into the earthly realm.

I can assure you, it won’t be easy to do. but I promise that for the artists, the musicians, the writers, the activists, the philosophers, the poets, the witches, the dancers, the builders, the designers, the gardeners, the scholars, the cooks, the adventurers that we are- it’s as essential to our soul lives as oxygen is to our physical bodies.

Not An Island: On Building Meaningful Connections

Last week I wrote about the one thing that has saved my marriage multiple times. This week I’ve been thinking more and more about my connections to those around me, and how the modern era has made us more connected in a million ways, but also threatens the very fiber of what real relationships are made from. As I think about all the people I’m related to, my friends, my professional contacts and my casual acquaintances, I can recall fondly all the things these relationships have brought me. I’m relatively introverted and this has made me very cautious on “putting myself out there”, but it’s also caused me to treasure and respect those relationships I have kindled.

I have a friend that I consider a friend because we have mutual friends, we’ve been introduced and have chatted in person on multiple occasions as well as conversed virtually- but when I introduced myself on a new online forum, of which this person was also a member, she introduced herself as if I were a total stranger. On another occasion, I attempted to make friends with a fellow army wife here at Fort Hood who was looking for friends, happened to be my age, was also a new and “crunchy” mama, vegan and also from a small town in California like me! We exchanged several long emails over the course of several weeks, but when it came time to actually meet up, she dodged my invitations. This surprised me as she was a very outspoken blogger with multiple thousand friends and followers. She frequently wrote about the problem of having dozens of internet friends but only a few “real” friends in her life, and about how she was lonely and longed for a real community.

These are two rare and outstanding women with whom I definitely could have and would have loved to have made that real genuine friendship connection with, but it their attention was just too scattered across various social media platforms for them to have the time or the energy to reciprocate that effort. This is a real problem that is plaguing our modern society. It’s a virus of being “overly connected” and “overly accessible” to the point that you are no longer available or you neglect to take that final step to form real connections with others in the form of meeting up for coffee, having them over for dinner or letting one another lament about current life dramas on the phone- person to person. This is kinda what I mean:

Of course, sometimes you’ll meet people that you just don’t jive with. Maybe they just can’t get past the fact that you don’t subscribe to their religious views or maybe you figured out over time that they caused you more problems than they were worth. That is OK. In those cases it’s best to just gracefully let them go without holding on to any grudges for your own peace. If you do meet a person that makes you laugh or that you can have a meaningful conversation with, or just find someone that you like for no particular reason, I beg you to please hold on to them! Don’t “throw people away” over a minor disagreement or because they flaked out on you once. Come to grips with the fact that they are who they are and you’ve gotta love them for the exact person they are without hoping that they’ll change or only sticking around for them when they are at their best.

Remember that it’s always a two way street. As much as you’ve got to say “yes” to hanging out once in awhile it’s important to reach out and make some plans with them as well. A call on a birthday or a special text of a picture of you that you don’t share with everyone on facebook can mean a lot to those friends that are maybe just too far away to hang out with regularly. It may seem obvious but your friendships, and also your romantic and familial relationships are the most valuable thing you have. *CLICHE WARNING* At the end of your life, when you’re taking your final breaths, are you going to think of your ten thousand followers on twitter? No. You’ll think of your daughter looking up at you saying “I love you, Mommy.” You’ll think of the Christmas you spent around the fire with your parents and siblings. You’ll think of all the people that grew old with you, the ones that showed up to your birthday party, the ones that were there to take your call when you needed to cry it out and made you feel hope again. The ones you shared moments of real connection with.

In today’s world it’s become a bit more uncommon to march over to your new neighbor’s house and introduce yourself, or to throw out an open invitation in a public forum to ride along with you to a concert or event.. It’s freakin’ SCARY to be that stranger to start talking to another mom at the park or try out to be in a band from a post on craigslist, to march up to your professor and ask for a different mentor than the one assigned you or email a total stranger to ask them about their careers. Sure as hell it takes a great deal of trust to put yourself out there. But you HAVE to do these things. These days it takes effort to find your “people” in life. Unless you live in a tiny town where you and your parents and their parents were raised, you have to build your community brick by brick. Remember that all these things I’ve mentioned are merely just ways to meet people- people that have the potential to become True Friends in your life, for life, if you let them.

Parenting Without Fear

I’m a child care provider, but I’m not just a child care provider, I’m a play based child care provider. Which makes me even more fired up about this (as you can tell from the title) than the average progressive-parenting talking head. A big part of that exasperation comes from the fact that if the worries and fears  that parents express to me were a bonus to my paycheck I’d be wealthier than Warren Buffet. Here are a few recent gems:

“If they don’t use flashcards, how will they know their animal sounds?”

“She gets her numbers, but I can’t seem to get her to start at number one.”

“He has no interest in puzzles, and I’m afraid he won’t know how to do puzzles unless I encourage him and show him how.”

These are all well-meaning parents who want their children to succeed. They want to make sure they’re doing all they can for them so that they can develop at the best rate possible. The problem is… the more parents try to control their child’s development, the less able the child is to develop naturally as they were meant to do. The more parents prod and poke toward “mastering a skill”, the more insecure and dependent the child becomes. This goes for all children- newborns to college students.

I know this concept is completely foreign and might seem borderline neglectful to some. Painting outside today, one of my most proactive daycare parents asked me if I’ve worked with my daughter on her colors. When I asked what she meant she said, “you know, like sat down and taught her what they were.”

I don’t want to blame this amazing mom for this naïve idea. Most all of us were indoctrinated with this classroom concept of the heroic teacher summoning the students to their seats so that they could distribute necessary information, as a nurse gives the proper dosage of medication to his patients. Breaking free from this paradigm was the beginning of me finding my calling in life.

So, the truth is I’ve never sat down and “taught” Sierra anything. I’ve never tried to explain anything to her unless she specifically asks me about it.

How did she learn Red, Pink, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple?

 

I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. Yes, maybe it’s because we sing songs, we read books, I ask her what color shirt she wants to wear that day. We might see a butterfly and I might exclaim, “What a beautiful orange butterfly!” But maybe it’s not. And that’s ok.

Sometimes she will say an orange object is red. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t keep a checklist of all the things she says and does perfectly. There is no such thing as a perfect body of knowledge. She is not a computer that I download software to. She’s a whole being, a universe unto herself. She has her own will and her own soul. The knowledge she gets, she acquires through her own senses, with her own methods, from real life experiences. These rich, real-world experiences are so much more meaning-FULL than flimsy pieces of cardstock with cartoon images and bold print. The truth: If you want your child to “be smart,” you are being simple.

What I want, and what I wish, is for children to be themselves. Let them fall behind. Let them jump ahead. Let them experience you caring for them, caring about them. All a child needs to grow healthy, strong and happy is plenty of fresh air, as much freedom as is practical and safe, good nutritious food, and stable, loving caregivers who are there to take care of them in the ways they cannot themselves.

Framed by my bedside is a photograph of a mother lovingly embracing her child. Written over it is the following quote:

“I honor the dignity and integrity of my child with my attention, warmth and regard.”

Lisa A. McCrohan

Remember that at the most basic level- all you need to do to do an AWESOME job as a mom or dad is take care of their basic needs, and acknowledge their feelings. You will make mistakes, and so will they. Learn to let them go. Just feel the weight of expectation lifting off your shoulders, and know that you are lifting it off their shoulders as well.

Creating a Harmonious Routine with Young Children

Are you always behind on everything on your to-do list, but you’re busy all the time? Ever wonder where your peace went? Did you leave your old hobbies and interests back in another year? Let me tell you something right now. Your child wants you to be happy, and they want to contribute to the care they receive. Believe it or not, they even want you to be cared for as well. They certainly don’t want to be a burden, and they actually don’t need to be entertained (though they will want to if that’s what they’re used to!)

The key is to plan ahead, and more specifically to design a sequence of events that occur throughout the day, every day to help the day unfold smoothly and peacefully for the whole family. It seems like a daunting task with huge stumbling blocks (and perhaps even some exasperated excuses) at first, but with forethought this simple step can create an atmosphere of tranquility and inspiration for both you and your children.

First, let me talk about the elephant in the room. The Big Letters T and V. Ours is certainly big enough and uncomfortably (for me at least) prominent in our living room to discuss. The problem with TV is that it is a drug. It just is. For more information about it, please read The Plug-In Drug. It affects the brain in the same way sugar or any other pleasurable substance does, and they more it is consumed the more strong the urge to keep consuming it becomes. The best thing of course would be getting rid of it all together. I’m such a big fan of that. But it’s so strong in our culture that I feel the unfortunate need to say, the second best thing would be to severely limit screen time (i.e. once a week for a very short time). Believe it or not, kids need time to be bored. Boredom is the precursor to creativity (by creativity I really mean child-lead imaginative play.) Just think about how every moment your child is a pacified zombie in front of a screen, is a moment your child could be spending fully engaged in REAL life with their mind, body and soul.

When you take care of the things in your life that need tending to, you’re actually showing your child what it means to be human. Everything you do is a functional model for them to follow as they grow. It’s so important that you do the things that are not only necessary, but the things that are good for you. The things that are good for the world. The things that make you happy and healthy.

At about the age of 2, children become not only able but eager to help you in your endeavors. It may take a bit of practice, but if you let them they can help you fold clothes (or maybe just throw the wet laundry into the drier). They can help you put dishes away (try wooden bowls!) and they can certainly pick up their toys (As long as they don’t have too many!). Involve your child in not only their own care routines, but the care routines of the house and yard. Let them put some of the groceries on the conveyor belt. Let them carry a few items into the house when you’re unloading the car.

sisi baking

The benefit to this is threefold. A child’s feelings of self-confidence is definitely boosted when they are helping to care for themselves, but it is boosted even more when they are helping to care for others. You are going through your day with your child, getting chores done alongside them as they need to be accomplished, instead of waiting for naptime or the end of the night. In this way you’re keeping your house peaceful and free of clutter and uncompleted tasks. You’re also allowing yourself to have the time during nap or night time to do the things you love to do, or simply to relax.

The learning and sensory experiences involved with chores are beautiful. The soil in the garden replaces play dough. Using a safe knife to cut pears replaces the toy knife. The bubbly water in the sink replaces the water table. The fine motor skills practiced to pull weeds, or the large motor skills needed to sweep up. Talking about colors while folding laundry, or letters while writing the shopping list. Another term for this is “Life as the Curriculum” and is also the Lifeways model of child care. Instead of creating a contrived life for your child full of classes and preconceived play scenarios, just allow them to be a part of your life. Give them time to play independently (in this way they will experiment and replay the real life scenarios to further assimilate the learning in their brain!)

It’s most certainly an old way of thinking and doing things, a life wrought of necessity. It’s certainly contradictory to everything we are told we need to provide our children (505 Summer Play Themes to Keep Your Toddler Busy… Pinterest, I’m looking at you…) But what a beautiful, peaceful way of life for you, your child and your family!