Author Archives: melanie

About melanie

living a small and dreaming big in an airstream trailer.

Link Love: 17

rp_Link-Love-1024x102411111111-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x10241-1024x1024.jpg Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll! I hope everyone is at home resting, spending q.t. with family and eating all the baked brie. (Because really, it’s better than turkey!) And maybe in all the madness, you need a little relaxation. I’ve got it under control with this week’s links. Let’s do this thing.

An Airstream hotel on top of a building in Cape Town!

The “New Minimalism.” This apartment is a cute 340 square feet.

10 ways to furnish and lay out 100 square feet.

This coffee table turns into a bed. Genius!

Can a cash grocery budget save you money?

Free printables! These prints are gorgeous. I might print one (or two!) for my office. They’d also make a nice gift!

34 cheap and easy Christmas ideas with free printables!

The best Black Friday fashion deals.

30+ camping and dutch oven recipes.

This story from StoryCorp had me in tears. Plus, StoryCorp travels around in an Airstream!

And it’s always important to give back during the holiday season and throughout the year. Here’s my tips for charitable giving.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll! I am thankful for each and every one of you.


The Small Life: The Peterson Family

livinlightly-on-the-road I am so pumped about this post! I love to see how families make living small work for them. Today we’ve got Nick Peterson from Livin’ Lightly. Nick, his wife, and two young children live, travel and work from an Airstream! Take it away, Nick…

livinlightly-morning-cuddles Hello! We are the Peterson family! My wife and two kids (daughter 3 years and son 5 months) live, travel and work in our 1966 Airstream Overlander. We’ve been living small full-time for the past two years.

For us tiny living was never about the space. (At least not entirely.) We chose to live small so that we can live large in other areas of our life. Life’s all about trade-offs.

livinlightly-exploring-map Pre-Airstream the daily grind consisted of work, paying bills then we tried to squeeze in some family, friends and fun. After the birth of our daughter we began to rethink our existence and intentionally plan our life.

livinlightly-stoy-time For us this meant trading a steady income + benefits, larger living space for portability, time with family and pursing work we love.

In preparation for this transition we buckled down and cut all unnecessary spending, got on a strict budget, paid off our debt and saved. We purged and sold all our stuff, bought a vintage Airstream and a big truck to pull it. We worked to build versatile and largely passive income streams to pay the bills.

livinlightly-parked-in-woods Now we have the time, and ironically space to share life as a family, the freedom to travel and explore and pursue what matters to us most.

Here’s to living the small space large life dream!

Aren’t they just the cutest?! You can read more about Nick and his family on their blog, Livin’ Lightly or on IG: livinlightlyAnd remember, If you want to submit your own Small Life, email me asmalllifemelanie @ gmail dot com.




Frugal Friday: Laugh it off

schmidt quotes

Just going to leave this quote from New Girl here. Because sometimes we need to laugh at our terrible/wonderful/ugly/beautiful/amazing lives.

Happy weekend!


Link Love: 16

rp_Link-Love-1024x102411111111-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x1024.jpg This Airstream is gorgeous. I was particularly impressed with the kitchen.

Really wish my bed raised up like this one. (Check out picture 7)

37 RV hacks

10 things to look for when buying a vintage trailer. Good things to be aware of, although many of the issues referenced can be fixed.

A basic guide to retirement plans when your employer doesn’t provide one

8 grocery essentials for a frugal winter

Loved this article from Anna. 7 advantages introverts have regarding money

And on a related note, a hilarious article about my fellow introverts. Sorry I murdered everyone, I’m an introvert. (“I’m an INTJ!” had me rolling.) (I’m actually an ISTJ, if you were curious.)

How to get a free Thanksgiving turkey

How the new healthcare law changes maternity care

17 texting hacks for mobile banking

A six figure income and you’re still paying off debt? 

8 ways to change the “I’m too poor to travel” mindset

One of my favorite food bloggers shares her favorite (Paleo) Thanksgiving recipes.

And Elise made 29 hand knitted blankets. This woman is insane and I love it.

Happy almost Friday!



12 Ways to Save Money on Holiday Gifts

12 ways to save money on holiday gifts Photo c/o FutUndBeidl on Flickr
Have I beat this topic to death yet? No? Great! Because today we’re going to talk about ways to save money on holiday gifts. You know I’m doing the $100 holiday challenge which means this holiday I’m only spending $100 on gifts. But how?! Well, I’m employing all of the strategies I’m sharing today and I’m part elf. Just kidding. Here goes…

  1. Set a limit!
    A budget for holiday gifts is essential. Without a budget and a strict limit, it’s way too simple to overspend or just buy something because it’s “easy.” I like to spend cash only when I’m holiday shopping, that way I know exactly how much I have left to spend without having to do much math.
  2. Make a list and check it twice!
    I sound like I live at the North Pole here, but making a list is important in the money saving process. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve totally spaced and forgot to buy someone a gift, then I’ll have to run out the night before their holiday party (or whatever) and pick up something I did not plan to buy. Bonus tip: If you have room, it’s a good idea to pick up a few extra inexpensive and impersonal gifts like nice candies or wine. You never know when you’re going to need an extra gift.
  3. Use your points or promotions
    Do you have credit cards with points or promotions? This is the time to use them. In many cases you can cash in those points for products or even transfer those points to someone else. For my birthday last year, my in-laws let me use their points to pick out whatever I wanted from their credit card’s product catalog. I picked out a gift card for gasoline and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
    If you’ve signed up for something like Swag Bucks this would also be the time to use those. If you aren’t hip to Swag Bucks, it’s an online program where you earn Swag Bucks (or redeemable points) for your online activity.
  4. Coupons
    Ya’ll know I’m not into grocery coupons. If I have a coupon for food, I’ll use it, but I don’t go out of my way looking for food coupons. Since the holidays only happen once a year, I will coupon for gifts. A couple of my favorite places to shop are Kohl’s and JC Penny. Both often offer $10 off coupons and in some cases will let you combine coupons and offers. I always check Retail Me Not and the local circular before I go shopping.
  5. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on wrapping
    It’s easy to forget about actually making the presents look presentable (puns!) when your so focused on sticking within your holiday budget. But gift wrap costs can add up. Challenge yourself to spend as little money as possible on wrapping. I love to wrap presents in brown paper. It’s classic! You can purchase a whole roll at a dollar store and tie presents up with colorful yarn or string. If you want to get extra creative, you could stamp or draw on the paper first. And brown paper works for all seasons, holidays and special occasions! Score!
  6. If you’re crafty, make a gift (but do the math first!)
    Crafting a gift can save you big bucks in some cases. But make sure you do the math first. It isn’t always cheaper to craft gifts. If you’re an avid crafter it might be cheaper to make the gift, but if you’re a supply-less Sally, it might be cheaper to buy a gift. The one time crafting has really saved me money is when I make gifts in batches. For example, you could buy the supplies to make beeswax candles for everyone on your list. (Check out all the gifts I made last year here.)
  7. If you’re a good cook, make a gift (again, do the math!)
    Usually cooking supplies are cheaper than crafting supplies, but it still might be cheaper (and easier, and a time saver) to just buy a pack of cookies and place them into pretty jars. Let’s get real, folks.
  8. Shop early!
    If you are reading this, stop what you’re doing and start shopping now! Just kidding, keep reading this, but then make your list, check for coupons and go shopping. Yes, stores offer more deals around the holidays, but there’s too much pressure to shop under a tight deadline. You’ll be tempted to grab whatever and overspend. I know a few people who even shop year-round for Christmas, that way there is no pressure and they spread out their spending over many months.
  9. Online offers
    I know that having a smart phone is a total luxury, but it helps me save money too! Whenever I’m about to buy something, I’ll do a quick check on my phone to see if I can find it cheaper online. If I can, I’ll either ask the store if it does price matching or I’ll put it back on the shelf and order it online. Ain’t technology grand?!
  10. Useful presents
    Sometimes useful presents are the best. Useful presents don’t have to be the latest kitchen gizmo either. When I was a poor grad student, I told my mom I really didn’t need anything. So instead of going out and buying another thing I didn’t need, she went out and bought me groceries and then wrapped them. It was so nice to get boxes of cereal, canned goods and things I needed, but didn’t have to pay for!
  11. Give your time
    Honestly, I would much rather someone give me their time than any gift out there. Please come over to my house and help me do one of those crazy “Make 56 freezer meals!” things. Please come over to my house and help me clean out my closet (or just talk to me while I do it!) Imagine how nice it would be to give the gift of clean floors to a new mom or the gift of clean gutters to your elderly parents. Truly, time is the greatest gift.
  12. No-gift pacts
    This isn’t for the faint of heart and no, it’s not really “fun” either, but here’s a secret: you don’t have to give a gift to everyone. I know, I know, it’s a nice gesture! It’s the thought that counts and all that jazz, but for some people gift-giving can truly be a financial burden. If you think that gifts will be a financial burden on yourself or on your friends and family, I suggest rationally discussing no-gift packs. And make it clear that no judgments will be made on either behalf.
    My husband and I don’t exchange gifts for most holidays. We have a pact and we’d much rather save the money to go on a trip or to eventually buy a house. An alternative to a no-gift pack, if you have a large family, could be a White Elephant party or a Secret Santa gift-giving scheme.

Remember, it’s all about staying sane this holiday season and not ending the year in budgetary regret!

How do you save money on holiday gifts? Let me know in the comments!


Link Love: 15

rp_Link-Love-1024x102411111111-1024x10241-1024x1024.jpg This cartoon dog tells you what to do with that 401k from your last job. 

This fun Chrome browser extension shows you how much time it takes to buy things when online shopping.

This interactive checklist shows you how to manage your money at any major life stage. 

How to stock your medicine cabinet for less. 

18 gifts for kids that aren’t toys. 

This tiny house is awesome! They’ve got a tiny bath, a real toilet and a washing machine! It’s also at Kitty Hawk. Score!

Clever remodeling ideas. This has some great ideas for small home livin’.

Haters and Critics: How to Deal with People Judging You and Your Work. Everyone’s a critic.

The disease of being busy. A beautiful, heartfelt piece that made me want to slow down, take a walk and just enjoy.

And one from the archives if you’re like me and trying to fully take in fall before the holiday rush begins… 10, 10 minute harvest crafts.

Happy Friday eve!


The Best 2-in-1 Products for Living Small

The best 2-in-1 products for living small Ya’ll know I’m all about minimalism. I love living with less. It’s a great lifestyle, but I also know that I’m a human being and we human beings do need some stuff to live. It’s unavoidable. My favorite products are the products that have more than one use. You know, those things that can shine your hair, shine your shoes and help you make an omelet. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite and the best 2-in-1 (or 20-in-1) products for living small.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap, 18-in-1 Hemp Lavender, 32-Ounce
I adore this soap! It replaces both my soap and shampoo. I can wash the dishes with it and I’ve even given Bambi a bath with it! The lavender scent is my favorite– it’s super calming. (For those times when cleaning puts me in a fit of rage!) You can see all the 18 uses here.

Nature’s Way Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil, 32-Ounce
Coconut oil is my favorite oil to cook with. It has a high smoke point and it adds a touch of sweetness to whatever I’m cooking. I also use coconut oil on my hair, skin and nails. It’s kind of a wonder product.

YS Organic Bee Farms CERTIFIED ORGANIC RAW HONEY 100% CERTIFIED ORGANIC HONEY Raw, Unprocessed, Unpasteurized – Kosher 32oz
Honey is another one of those essential kitchen beautician tools. Honey tastes great, obviously, but you can also use it to condition dry hair and as a natural antiseptic. I also love to substitute honey for sugar in baked goods– it makes banana bread super soft and delicious.

Heinz White Vinegar Distilled, 128 oz
Vinegar has a million uses. I use it to clean my bathroom, to make pickles, to get out stains and so much more. (For more vinegar uses check out this link.) And it’s so, so cheap!

Johnson and Johnson Baby Oil, 20 Ounce
I know I’ve professed my love for baby oil before but, seriously, there’s nothing like it. Baby oil is the only thing that locks in moisture on my dry alligator skin and it also shines my shoes. (And it’s not even made of babies!)

Blendtec TB-621-20 Total Blender, Black
I’ll be the first to admit that this blender is not cheap. (Although I’ve seen some great coupons and deals out there for it.) But when my last blender and food processor broke at the same time, I said “NO MORE!” I plan to never buy another blender or food processor because this blender is a wonder. It chops, purees and smoothies like no blender I’ve ever had. It also serves as a food processor and markets itself as “the last blender you’ll ever own.” I’m planning on it, buddy.

Fire HD 6, 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB – Includes Special Offers, Black
When I was first downsizing, I lamented my physical book collection. “Reading on a screen just isn’t the same!” I wined. But I’ve since come over to the dark side. Amazon Prime eligible books have been the main reason for my change in mindset. The selection is vast and with Amazon Prime, the books are free on my Kindle. Don’t tell my public library this, but I almost like it better than the library’s e-books because there’s no wait and I don’t have to finish the book in 2 weeks!

Prime Instant Video
Cable was easy for us to give up when we were downsizing. Movies and the occasional TV series (hello, RuPaul’s Drag race!) was much harder. Sometimes I just need some escapism, okay?! After I got Amazon Prime, I even dumped Netflix because the Prime selection was that great. I really can’t recommend Amazon Prime more.

Pandora is one of my favorite free services. Their streaming radio service has replaced the need to carry a binder full of CDs around in my car. (Really, I used to do that.) It’s also helped me to discover a lot of new music serendipitously– which is the best way to find things. Pandora One is their upgraded service which allows for ad free listening. It would be a great Christmas present for any small space dweller. Hint, hint!

What’s your favorite 2-in-1 products for living small? Let me know in the comments!


Please note, the above post contains affiliate links. By clicking on the links and buying the product, I receive a small commission. The opinions about the products are my own. Programs like this help to keep my blog running. Thank you for your support!