Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Money? What Money?! {#CarNatPar}

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Photo by Aaron Patterson
I’ve learned that being “poor” is the easiest way to go green. Really, it is. Now, I’ve always leaned toward living naturally. Heck, I was the only person in my high school to celebrate Earth Day – and by “celebrate” I mean that I walked around the town I lived in and picked up trash for a couple of hours. I really didn’t know much else about it. I was raised in an upper middle-class family. We consumed and wasted a lot of stuff. Even when I was in my twenties and worked as a waitress, I didn’t really think about my lifestyle. I lived in Los Angeles, had The Oldest there, and was on a very tight budget. I guess it wasn’t tight enough – if I wanted something, I bought it. I didn’t think twice about the environment or the effects it had on my child. Then…
In early 2008, just weeks after hubby and I were married, I learned that we were expecting Little Guy. I was working third shift as a baker at a coffee shop. Just a month after finding out I was pregnant, hubby had an accident that totaled our minivan (thankfully, no one was hurt.) The next day, I found out that I couldn’t keep working at a job that had me on my feet & lifting heavy things for 8 – 10 hours a day. I had started bleeding and an ultrasound revealed that I had placenta previa. OK, no big deal. We talked it over and decided not to replace the van. Since I didn’t need to get to work at hours that the buses didn’t run anymore, we really had no need for a vehicle. It would save us a ton on gas money, insurance, and repairs (I swear, that thing cost us exactly $500 every time anything went wrong.) Hubby worked days and the buses ran right on schedule for him. So, #1 way to “afford” living more naturally:

I decided to get back to school while I wasn’t working, so I started an online program that would have resulted in earning a Bachelor’s degree. I applied for financial aid and obtained a Pell Grant and a couple of student loans. Twice a year, I received a stipend check that helped pay for our utilities and rent (a.k.a. “room and board”), leaving some extra money out of hubby’s checks to pay for baby things, maternity clothes, little extras for The Oldest, etc. It was great – we were actually doing better with me home and not having a car than when I was working and driving!
We were even looking for a larger apartment. Our place was a one-bedroom, 625 sq. ft. apartment that we called “The House that Herb Built” (Herb being our landlord.) The angles of the walls, floors, and ceilings are wonky – you can never hang a picture and make it look straight because all of the angles are so crazy. The insulation (if there is any) in the walls is so thin that a gust of wind can be felt through the entire place. My Oldest had the bedroom and we were sleeping on a twin mattress in the living room. What were we going to do when Baby came?
Then, hubby was injured at work. It wasn’t a workman’s comp. type of situation, he had some medical problems that caused the accident and, as a result, was unable to work any longer. He filed for SSI in July of 2008. It was a good thing that I was at home because he needed care and someone to be around all of the time. Some of his medications had him walking around outside our apartment at 3am not knowing where he was. For a while there, I had one of those alarms on the door that beep loudly whenever it was opened so I knew if he had gotten lost on the five-foot walk from the living room to the bathroom and made his way outside. Without his income, we just couldn’t afford to move. We learned to make our small apartment work.
It can be hard, especially in the winter, with all of us in this little apartment. When cabin fever strikes, we do two things: purge our belongings and watch a TV show or DVD about how others live around the world. We receive all kinds of hand-me-down stuff from people. Rather than donating to the Salvation Army, people bring their useless junk to us instead. Then there’s hubby, who can’t go past a dumpster without peeking inside. Therefore, the place fills up rather quickly and a good purge helps. I read Momma Jorje’s Monday Minimalist posts to help get myself in the mood for this! And, because you just don’t know how good you have it until you see how other people live, I try to find some kind of show that features a family of 10 living in a hut the size of Oldest’s bedroom. We’ll all sit on the twin bed in the living room, passing around popcorn, and remind ourselves that we have it really, really good! There you have the #2 way to “afford” living more naturally:  

Money started to get really tight with only my stipends to live on – they totaled only $8,000 a year. Our rent took nearly half of that, and utilities took the rest. We had to apply for food stamps – no choice. I also started going to WIC for milk, cereal, juice, etc. WIC even had a great program called Project Fresh that allotted me $50 a month to spend at the farmer’s market! We stopped eating out altogether – it was just way too expensive. We used to order pizza twice a month. I decided to make it from scratch, instead. It cost roughly $4 to make the same amount of pizza that we paid $25 to have someone deliver. (When I think about spending a whopping FIFTY DOLLARS on pizza – just two meals – every month, I want to kick myself!) I also started to make my own bread, froze as much farmer’s market produce as I could fit into the freezer, and stopped buying pop and junk food. Tortilla chips and shredded cheese, for instance, replaced chips. This was healthier AND the fact that we actually had to make nachos rather than grab a handful of chips when we were hungry made us all think twice about why we wanted to eat in the first place. Was it to fuel our bodies, or “just because”? I had also been reading a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. She and her family agreed to eat only locally-grown food (I think it was within 50 miles of their home?) for one year. As she describes how the family met their challenge, some disturbing facts about fuel consumption, pesticides, and many other food-related eco-unfriendly truths are revealed. Yeah, our eating habits definitely changed and the #3 way to “afford” living more naturally was born:  

Little Guy was born and I learned that there’s a huge difference between “want” and “need”. We did not need the things that you always see on those lists from baby registries: bottles, swing, wipes warmer, monitor, crib, changing table… I had breasts (well, actually, I still have them!) that held his food at the right temperature and didn’t cost anything, I held him all of the time, we made our own wipes on an as-needed basis so the water was always warm, um – don’t need a monitor if you’re in the vicinity of baby all of the time, we co-sleep, a blanket on the floor or bed works perfectly as a changing table. I can go on and on about how all of those “must have” items are a waste of money, space, and resources. The only thing that we really had to worry about was laundry and diapers. I never had the full amount needed to invest in cloth and, just three years ago, the availability of affordable cloth diapers was limited (or I just didn’t know where to look.) Clothing, toys, etc. were easy to come by – we either received hand-me-downs or I hit up the local thrift stores. When he started eating food, I just made my own from farmer’s market finds. Rather than buying all kinds of little freezer bowls and special baby food making equipment, I just used the blender and asked on Freecycle.com for some baby food jars. Hence, #4 of how to “afford” living more naturally:

Since this is getting very long, I’m going to make this the last one (yay!)* One thing I worry about is my Oldest son. He is growing up with friends whose families are still stuck in consumer mode. Even though we live closer to the low-socioeconomic side of town, his friends still get new shoes & clothing, video games, junk food, etc. And here’s my kid, trying to be cool in last year’s styles from the thrift store, trying to keep up on the newest video games so he can talk about them without actually having ever seen them, and eating an apple for a snack rather than a bag of Cheeto's. He doesn’t complain, but I know it’s hard. Now that he’s in high school, it’s even harder. Other kids judge. And, while it’s all well and good to keep telling him that they’re just being stupid teens and one day they’ll realize that the style of shirt you’re wearing doesn’t define who you are – it doesn’t make today any easier for him.
So, without a lot of money and attempting to live green, I started to enter blog giveaways and take surveys that offer Amazon.com gift cards and PayPal payments. I use these to get gifts and “cool” stuff for the kids, especially my Oldest. Last week, he gave me his Christmas list. Yeah, I know… BEFORE October even started! You know why? “Because I know that if you win something, it can take a while for it to get here.” He made up a very modest list of things he’d like because he knows that I can attempt to enter giveaways or check out Amazon for sales of these items. Some of the things I win or buy aren’t 100% green, but I have to remember what I felt like when I was his age. I want him to feel good about himself and have the self-esteem that I didn’t. This year, he will be wearing his very first non-homemade costume for Halloween thanks to a giveaway I won (kinda cool since it'll be his last year trick-or-treating!) I know that he understands my lifestyle choices and he knows why I made the decisions I have made. He and I have had numerous conversations about why such-and-such is bad (for him, for people, for the earth…) and I see him making eco-friendly decisions more and more. However, it’s important to note that I made these choices for me. I cannot deprive him of the things he wants or make him feel bad for wanting them just because of my opinions. The final thing to remember if you want to “afford” to live more naturally is:

So, how do you live more naturally and still make ends meet? We’ve gone without and learned how to live comfortably, but there’s always room for improvement!
Any suggestions?

*I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I wanted to keep it at a readable length. :)


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life... — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth - Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family's realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the "real cost" of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here's why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she's made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget - and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma's Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen's monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she's lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children's financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family's lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she's willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me ... a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old's learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It's Not a Baby Crisis. It's Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • "Making" Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters... But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive...Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living - and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo' Money, Mo' Problems — Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family's finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn't always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family's approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I completely sympathize with your son - it's so hard to be different! Good for you mom for being as understanding as possible in the situation :) And it sounds like you are doing an amazing job being frugal - and making the best of the circumstances life hands you!

Jen Crum said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I love this entire article. I want to keep reading. You inspire me to look around and see what more we can do to live naturally. We're working on it but we're not there. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for sharing.

Elizabeth said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I want to know the rest of the ways! We're definitely doing a lot better at being both more frugal AND more green than we had been, somewhat out of necessity and somewhat because the lifestyle just seems healthier on so many fronts! Thanks for sharing your family's story!

(I'm a new GFC follower from http://mythisnthatlife.blogspot.com. If you're not already a follower, I'd love to have you!)

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Well done for making the best of your situation, it sounds like you are doing an amazing job at being frugal. I totally feel the same about knowing the difference between needs and wants - I have to constantly remind myself of this! And I haven't even heard of a wipes warmer - goodness :)

Momma Jorje said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You are doing such an awesome job! I hope my teen eventually understands my choices and I definitely see where choosing to live with less in less space affects her.

She is already a fan of thrift stores, but I'm having a little trouble getting her into the Minimalist mindset. She also vacillates whether she is on board for living in an RV or not. We have a long road ahead...

Also, thanks for the shout out!! :-D

Lauren Wayne said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Ugh, we had the same problem with our old car — we'd bring it in for an "oil change" and walk out $700 poorer. :-/ Unfortunately, our solution was to buy a new (slightly less used) car, but I like your choice!

I really love all your points. We live in a small space and go back and forth in our minds over whether moving to a larger place would be better. It's not financially possible at all, but we wonder! And we come back to the point that this small space is actually better — that it forces us to live the way we want and cut down on stuff we don't want, rather than just having room to spread it out more. But it is challenging, I don't deny!

I really love the way you're honoring your oldest's needs to feel part of his crowd. That's a great use of giveaway wins.

And if it's an issue for the future, one way to score cheap/free cloth diapers is by asking around for hand-me-downs (maybe a local API or LLL or church parents' group) or checking out consignment stores and eBay. It helps to shop in advance, because then you can snag the best deals and let the not-so-good ones pass you by. I often find on eBay that bulk lots go for the least in terms of price-per-diaper. Plus, since you're a giveaway queen, there are a ton of CD giveaways now!

Lisa C said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Sounds like such a challenging situation you have. But you are making it work!

I seriously feel so rich when I think of families that live in one-room homes and have so little...suddenly it feels like I have so much stuff. The sad thing is that so much of it is just fluff--how much of it do we actually NEED???

By the way, it is totally possible to come from a well-off family and still feel completely uncool and out-of-style as a preteen and teenager...speaking from personal experience here. I'll have to say it didn't mean a THING once I hit college. If I could go back in time and be "cool" in high school, I'm not even sure if I would do it. But it's definitely nice to have a few "cool" things and feel like you fit in a little bit. It's nice that you are sensitive to that and great you found an affordable way to do it.

Emily Reviews said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

LOVE this post. I'm still struggling with society's expectations vs what me & ryan want. Ryan works at home but is pulling in about 650 dollars a month right now and I make maybe 200 a month between my blog and online surveys, etc. So we live on around 850 a month. We share a 2 bedroom apartment with a close friend, so rent is 250 a month, and we pay 30 a month for internet, 40 for our phones, and 25 or so for electricity. We have 1 car, but we basically just go to the grocery store and maybe twice a month we drive out to my dads, ryans moms or ryans dads which are all 30-60 minutes away. so we don't use much gas. I use coupons so we spend 100-150 a month in food for both of us. We use handtowels instead of papertowels, and reusable containers to store leftover food instead of buying ziploc bags or sandwich bags. I use reusable menstrual pads, lots of little things like that. We live very simply, but we both really like being home and just - together. Before, we had more money but Ryan was working 50 hours a week so even though the money was there we had no time together to even spend it and we weren't happy. But, I struggle with feeling 'judged' by our family because of it. We want to have kids (i'm 20 - so not for a few years at least!), but I know that in the future we will need to make more money than we do now, but my blog has been improving each month for several months now and I think that in the future I'll have more earning potential on it than I do now. He also has some internet-based ideas that he'll be unrolling within a few weeks that should bring in more money as well. But even once we have kids, I don't ever want to rely on credit cards or to live like "normal" people do. I love being home with Ryan and to me it's worth sacrificing things like an extra car, paper towels, name brands, etc so that I can spend my time the way I want to. I just wish the world didn't think I was crazy. lol!

I'm a full-time mummy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow, you're the example of how to get through difficulties and obstacles and in fact you did great now!

I too go by the 'want' and 'need' theory, if I do happen to go out and saw something nice, I'll ask myself 'Do I want it? or do I need it?' If it's a want, I walk away, else I ask myself again 'Do I need it now or I can wait?'.

Btw, thanks for dropping by my blog earlier!

~ Jenny ( http://www.imafulltimemummy.com/ )

Adrienne said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Awesome, awesome, awesome. This post is FANTASTIC! I'm sharing!!! We live pretty minimally, but I'm interested in learning about doing even more to pinch pennies and go green, resulting in a healthier life for my family.

Kelly said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Throughout this whole post I could not stop thinking: Wow!

You are so amazing Alicia...I love reading about everything you've done/are doing - it's such an inspiration for me to do better.

I also love the insight about your teen and how you're making it all work for him...

I really, really need to take all of your points and just like, glue them to the inside of my brain! I don't think my hubs will go along with getting rid of our car, but everything else should be a lot more doable for us than we make it right now. Thank you for sharing!

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wonderful, wonderful post. Thanks so much for sharing your challenges and solutions! It's really helpful to hear how you are honoring your teens feelings and perspective. So great that you are able to earn or win some cool things online to supplement your income (though I am sure it's a lot of work sometimes, too!) Your kids are going to really benefit from having such a smart, conscientious mama!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I still struggle with wants and needs. I grew up in a family where I always got what I wanted, even if we couldn't afford it at all. It's better for your son to be learning this stuff early on. You value the things you have more if you don't have as many of them.

Also, have you looked into Swagbucks? I've been doing that for the last few months and I've already gotten about $50 in amazon gift cards. :-D

Phoebe said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think what you've managed to achieve is incredible. I'm in utter admiration of the way you have handled your situation. Thank you for sharing this.

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Emily Reviews YES! People think I'm nuts, too. Why wouldn't I want to put my little guy into day care and go to work so I can afford to buy whatever I want? Why wouldn't I want a car (especially in Michigan!)? Don't get me wrong - I'd love to have the money to do whatever I want to, but I think that after living like this for so long, I'd stay with my frugal ways. I do not think I could ever see the point in paying more than $5 for a sweater, for instance. LOL

It is so hard to explain to people that it's LIFE TODAY that counts. One of my favorite quotes is from John Lennon's song, Beautiful Boy: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." It's so true and some of us just know this and aren't willing to waste our lives making plans. :)

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