Author Archives: melanie

About melanie

living a small and dreaming big in an airstream trailer.

Traveling to Charleston, South Carolina on a Budget

Charleston park I’ve been under a lot of stress at work, so when I finished up the huge conference I was planning, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go on a little weekend getaway. I’ve been on a spending fast for a while, i.e. I only spend $100 per month on unnecessary stuff. I knew this would totally blow my budget, but I did it anyway. Travel is so important to me, but I also know that if I travel too much, I’ll never save any money. It’s a Catch 22.

swamp in Charleston swamp in Charleson We did a lot of things to cut costs for this trip. Charleston is only four hours from our home so we drove there in my fuel-efficient car. I found a budget hotel and used my credit card points to book it. We packed snacks, we participated in free attractions (we found a gorgeous park and visited the beach!), we had a continental breakfast each morning at the hotel and, although we ate at restaurants several times, we also picked up dinner from a local grocery store.

George and Bambi Bambi at the beach We even took Bambi with us! That was an adventure, but places were much more accommodating than I imagined. And after she got used to the hotel and not barking every time someone shut a door, she calmed down. By the end of the trip, she was a road dog. We even took her on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city. Ha-ha. I’m sure we looked insane, but I love that little girl.

rainbow row

charleston house

How huge are these houses?!

house in charleston Charleston house george in Charleston Charleston is so pretty and I’m glad we got to share it together as a family. After the trip, I felt much more relaxed and ready to take on the world.

What are your favorite tips for budget travel? I want to hear all about it in the comments!


Frugal Friday: Be Your Own Advocate

IMG_1066 I work with a student who recently got into a car accident. He wasn’t injured, but his car was totaled. The insurance company was giving him the run-around and since English is not his first language, he was having a bit of trouble understanding what they were telling him. So, being the nosy helpful person that I am, I called the insurance company for him. I had to talk to three people before they told me that the girl who totaled his car was not insured at the time of the accident and therefore would not be covered. After I got off the phone, I explained to him that sometimes (American?) companies will give you the run-around and you might have to go through three people to get a straight answer. This was baffling to him. I explained that you have to be an advocate for yourself.

I am happy to say that my student got a lawyer and is now working out the details of the case, but I’ve still been thinking about the experience. I realized that I haven’t been an advocate for myself. I preach about being an advocate for your money and doing what is best for you financially, but I haven’t been an advocate for myself in all aspects of my life.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I’ve been having some health issues for the past couple of years. I’ve seen multiple doctors and to be honest, they’ve brushed me off. On the outside I am healthy. I eat insanely clean. I exercise. I sleep at least 8 hours a night. But I’ve had many doctors tell me that my problems weren’t real problems. This is extremely discouraging and to be honest, it had me feeling like it was my problem. I simply wasn’t trying hard enough. I wasn’t eating clean enough, I wasn’t working out enough. But I’ve come to realize that it’s not just me. I need to be an advocate for my health. If one doctor doesn’t believe me, I need to get a second opinion. I need to ask the right questions and stand up for myself because I know my body better than any outside person.

Just like own bodies, we know what is best for us. We have to be an advocate for ourselves in all aspects of our lives— our health, our financial life and our lifestyle. This might mean calling the cable company and asking for a lower rate. If you aren’t given one, it might mean dropping cable all together. This might mean losing the facade of a big, beautiful home and downsizing to a more affordable place. This might also mean seeking out healthcare providers that sit calmly beside us and truly listen to our issues.

I know this has been a round-about story, but I want to encourage you to be an advocate for yourself. If there is an aspect of your life that isn’t working, I want you to know that you can seek out the help you need and that you do have the courage to do it. You can be an advocate for yourself. I believe in you.


Link Love: 35

rp_Link-Love-1024x102411111111-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x1024-1024x10241-1024x10241-1024x1024.jpg The salary required to be middle class in every state. Such an eye-opener.

Molly tried Rent the Runway and loved it! Such a good idea for the upcoming “wedding season.”

I’m talking about boredom and stress spending over on And Then We Saved.

Watch out for these products that charge more for “Women’s Versions.” Ugh!

The many ways retailers use coupons to trick you into spending more. YES! I say this all the time and so many people are like “nuh-uh! coupons work!” Not always, crazy coupon people.

Fathers, you can’t afford a stay-at-home mom. So touching. And I love that he did a financial breakdown and everything.

Tips for traveling with pets. We just traveled to Charleston with Bambi and these tips were super helpful.

My friend, Heather is taking a cross-country trip with her parents! She’s insane, in a good way. She’s documenting her travels in a blog. Check it out here.

I love quirky houses. This one is so charming in all the best ways.

This “awful library book” teaches you how to live in a van… it’s too real.

Your Internet habits create your reality.

And similarly, What we consume determines the lives we live.

If we are not busy, are we worthy? YES, YES, YES. ALL DAY, YES.

Things that scare me. Good lord, this one resonated.

And just for fun, this dog eating yogurt is my favorite thing ever.

See you on the flip side!


Tuesday Thoughts: The Less I Needed

the less I needed When I gave up the majority of my possessions to live in an Airstream, I felt more free than I ever have. I gave up so much “stuff,” but I gained much more in return– I gained financial freedom and emotional freedom. I gained some peace of mind. I now know that I can live with less. I can thrive in 188 square feet. I can live without a hairdryer and dishwasher and a washing machine. I can live without a traditional house. I am a fighter. I can do hard things.  And that lesson, my friends, is priceless.


A Small Life Book Club: April’s Pick


Thanks for joining along for March’s book club discussion. It was fun! I appreciate everyone’s insight and I’m looking forward to doing it again. For April, I’ve picked The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential… in Business and in Life.* I love Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits. That may be obvious; I link to it almost every week! I’m excited to learn how limiting clutter can help you accomplish goals. We’ll be discussing this one on May 1st. That’s plenty of time to check it out from your local library, buy it from your local bookstore or order it from Amazon using my affiliate link above.

Let’s get to reading!


Link Love: 34


This week there’s been some great stuff on the interwebs. Here’s the best of the best:

Fast and easy Feng Shui tips.

Decorating tips for INTJs. (That’s my personality type, if you are interested in decorating for your’s, scroll to the bottom of the page.)

Learning to love living with less.

This guy built a cozy log cabin for less than $500 bucks.

Yes, you can live in a tiny house with kids.

Costa Rica is now running completely on renewable energy. Let’s go!

10 of the cheapest countries to travel to.

Avoid impulse spending with an ongoing list of fun projects.

Suze Orman recently quit her show. I just adore her. I’ll miss her, but she writes beautifully about knowing when to move on.

Remember how I was just talking about minimalist makeup? Well there’s a company who is doing it. It’s so smart! I never use up regular size makeup before it expires and it’s budget-conscious.

“I achieved the American Dream – and it was awful.”

When you’re buying things you don’t need (and how to stop).

Calculate your energy costs with this formula.

On another note, I’m doing another Whole30. I didn’t want to clog up my regular IG with food, so I created a new one. You can follow along here.

That’s it folks! Happy Thursday!


A Small Life Book Club: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


We’re opening up the book club with the #1 best seller: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing* by Marie Kondo. I’ve heard so much praise for this book. I had to find out what it was all about.

Full disclosure: I listened to the audiobook because I’m a busy lady. That may have colored my review. I didn’t love the reader’s voice. It was robotic and put me to sleep several times. Not even kidding. At one point the reader broke from the deadpan and did several different voices to represent different testimonials. It was such a 180 that I laughed for a good 10 minutes. I even backed up the audiobook to listen to that part again. So there’s that. Anyway, on to it!

Kondo’s approach to “tidying” is this: keep only items that bring you joy. Honestly, I found that idea to a bit far fetched. Do any of my socks bring me joy? No. Do my washcloths bring me joy? No. But both are necessary for life. At one point, she suggested that we throw away our sweats and women should dress elegantly for bed. I was cussing up a storm after that one.

But Kondo did present a few gems of decluttering wisdom. She suggested that we only declutter our own stuff. I love that approach and always suggest it to friends/family who want to minimize. The best way to help others declutter is to set an example. It’s dangerous and rude to throw away other people’s things. It leads to mistrust and you could really harm someone’s emotional ability to get rid of stuff in the long run. I also liked her hippy-dippy theory of thanking items for their use when getting rid of them. It takes some of the guilt away.

On the other hand, I’m not 100% sure I agree with her approach to decluttering. The “KonMarie Method” suggests that instead of moving room by room, one should declutter by item type. For example, you’ll first find all the clothes in your house, gather them in a pile on the floor, then ask if each one brings you joy. If not, the item is thanked for it’s one-time purpose and put in a bag to be thrown away. In theory this seems like a good idea, but I only live in 188 square feet and I am overwhelmed by the thought of finding every single piece of clothing I own and dumping it in a pile. She also claims that none of her clients have ever rebounded into clutter. That just seems unlikely.

We are having a canned food drive at work so I tried the KonMarie Method with all my canned goods. (That’s not one of the items on her list, but I thought I could try to see if it was applicable to other situations.) I took all the canned goods out of my pantry and put them on the floor. I asked myself if each one gave me joy. They were food, so the answer was “yes” for almost everything. I got distracted half way through and ended up leaving a pile of cans on the floor for half a day. That’s something else I didn’t love about the system, there’s no estimated time line. I know it will take a different amount of time for different people, but it could take some people months to go through all their clothes that way. I don’t know without a personal organizer standing behind them that most people could keep up that kind of momentum.

Overall, I give this one a big, fat “MEH.” Was it “life-changing magic” for me? No. Will it work for some people? Yes.

Did you read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments!


*Affiliate link.