Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Living Cheap and Green at the Beach

Well it's summertime and that means a visit to the beach! Here's how we stay cheap and green when going on vacation.

1) Take the car that gets the best gas mileage. We have always taken the minivan because of all the stuff...and my son's stuff has always taken a lot of room. Since he's been getting older, the things he wants to take are different. A few years ago it was Thomas trains and track, now it's a Nintendo DS. Much easier to pack! So this year, we're taking our small car.

2) Find out your recycling options. If you're like my family, you use more individually packaged drinks (cans, bottles, etc) on vacation. The house we rent does not have recycling pick up. In previous years (with the minivan) we just bagged the cans and bottles and recycled them at home. This year, no minivan means to transporting the cans. I looked online and found a recycling drop off 2.4 miles from where we are staying.

3) Find another family to vacation with. It's considerably cheaper to share the cost of renting a vacation house when the cost is split. We've been doing this with my cousin and his family for a few years now. Not only can we get a nicer and bigger house since we share the cost, but we have a great time with them and their kids.

4) Eat in. It's very tempting to eat out every day when you're on vacation. And very expensive. The house we rent has a kitchen, so we've always planned meals out ahead of time. We usually eat out once for dinner and maybe once for lunch, but the rest of the meals for the week are made at the house. Some of the dinners we pre-make and freeze and bring down.

5) Keep the kids on a budget. My son has his own money that he takes to the beach. If he wants to buy some little trinket, it's his money. When he has to buy souvenirs himself, it makes him think twice about it.

6) Keep the packing as light as you can. If you are lucky enough to stay somewhere that you are able to wash your clothes, you can probably pack half the amount and just wash mid-week. The lighter you pack, the better mileage you will get.

Do you have any other tips for cheap and green vacations?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Revisiting the topic of Reusing

I read a book recently called "Going Green" that has me really thinking about reusing. I checked the book out from the library, not really reading the description and just figuring it was a new "green" book I hadn't seen before.

When I got home, I realized this wasn't really a "how-to" sort of book. It was a book of essays. I was a little put off...sometimes environmental essays get preachy, and I can't stand that. But I was pleasantly surprised. The essays were about how different people reused things (or "gleaned" as they say in the book). The writers of the essays intertwine their own philosophy of recycling, reusing and life in general in the essays. I found myself really enjoying the book.

Many of the essays discuss "dumpster diving", and while I can't say I've ever gone through an actual dumpster, I do have a couple of pieces of furniture that had once been sitting out with someone else's trash. I figure I'm cutting the middle step out of Freecycling.

Now I will say there were one or two essays that I didn't relate to. Call me squeamish, but I draw my reusing habits when it comes to roadkill. Yes, one essay discusses a man out west who cooks roadkill. No thanks. But overall the book focuses on how much Americans buy and throw out...things that are perfectly usable. I think the popularity of Freecycle has really helped eliminate a lot of this waste.

So, after reading this book, I was really motivated. I was excited when my mother suggested going to the Goodwill store with her. I've always loved the Goodwill Store. While you're not getting used items for free, they're cheap, and you're helping a charity. So what did I get there?

I found some great things. A pair of boys' Old Navy Jeans for $2, an Abercrombie & Fitch shirt for $1.25, a pair of Doc Marten boots for $10, and my son got numerous VHS movies and books. Besides feeling good about reusing something, I love the feeling of hunting for and finding treasure.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer fun

This is officially the first day of summer for my son. We try to find fun (and inexpensive) things to do during the summer. On the agenda for this week:

Signing up for the summer reading program at our local library and Barnes and Noble. Both of these programs reward kids with a free book at the end of the summer.

Our local library has a lot of events over the summer for kids that are also free, from animal and environmental programs, to magic shows and Harry Potter "parties". Today we're registering for "Wild Tales" which is a program that uses live animals to teach children about wildlife and the environment.
Tomorrow we're off to see a free movie. Regal Theatres does this every summer. On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10am they show a G and a PG movie for free! But get there EARLY! They fill up fast. Although we aren't close to AMC Theatres, they run a similar summer program that charges $1 for charity.

Local parks also have many free or inexpensive programs, like Otter Creek Park, which is near us. Lots of fun, outdoor activities where kids can also learn about wildlife and the environment.

And later this summer we're headed to the Walters Art Museum (my personal favorite) which is ALWAYS free! Plus, they have Drop-in Art Activities for kids, which are also free. Museums are great summer day trips, especially when it's hot outside, and many are free, so you may want to check out museums in your area.

We're off to the library!

Yard Sale Success!

We are done with the annual yard sale and it was a success! We actually didn't have as much stuff as we had in previous years...but that's a good thing! We had minimal knick-knacks and more of old toys and clothes my son had outgrown, along with some old furniture pieces and small kitchen appliances. Most of it sold and the rest went to Goodwill (we opted to bypass a freecycle free-for-all this year since we wanted to get the driveway cleared off!)

We made $109...a nice little chunk of change that can be spending money for our vacation in a few weeks.

Sometimes I wonder how well we'd do if we were closer to the main road (we're at the end of a court), but it seems like the two signs we put up got enough people to us. It was a nice, not too hot, day and we had fun!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thoughts of the Day

In preparation for the yard sale on Saturday:

"Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify."
Henry David Thoreau

"That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest."
Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Annual Yard Sale Fun!

Look at all that junk! It's almost time for our community's annual yard sale. Next Saturday is the big day. I love yard sales- both going to them and having yard sales. It's a great time to go through the house and declutter, get rid of thing I no longer need or use, weed out kid toys that my son has outgrown and make some extra money. Every year, I am always surprised how much money we make. I have a few tips that have worked for us:

-We use little labels and price everything. You'd be surprised how many people pass over items because they don't want to ask the price or assume it's too much.

-We make sure everything is CLEAN. The things you don't want anymore have probably collected dust while they were in the back of the closet. It may not matter to you but you'll have a much better shot at selling things if they aren't dirty. Sounds obvious, but we've all seen some scary looking things at yard sales.

-Set things out organized nicely. Again, sounds like a no-brainer, but when you have things displayed neatly and with similar items, they sell.

-Make sure you have plenty of change. That way you won't have to turn anyone away if they only have a ten dollar bill.

-If you have plastic grocery bags, a good way to re-use is to give them to your "customers" for their purchases. People in the past have really liked that we've done this since our whole neighborhood participates in the yard sale and it makes it convenient for people to walk from yard sale to yard sale with their things in a bag.

We also only have the yard sale from 8am to noon. I know most yard sales around here run longer, but in my experience, most people come early. Once noon hits, we post on Freecycle that we're having a "free for all" for the next hour. (I posted earlier about Freecycle here.) Anything that's left at the end of that hour gets packed up and taken to the Goodwill a few miles away.

I like yard sales because everyone benefits. People get your old stuff at cheap prices (or free), you make a little extra money, and old things don't end up in a landfill. It's also fun to spend the day outside with your family and visiting with neighbors. So I'll let you all know how we do next Saturday afternoon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Here comes summer!

Summer is almost here and hopefully with that will be more time to blog. So this is just a little "I'm still here" note so you'll check back soon.

Also, I'm looking for a recipe for an all purpose cleaner that does NOT use vinegar (can't stand the smell of it!)...any suggestions?

I'll be back soon!