Author Archives: melanie

About melanie

living a small and dreaming big in an airstream trailer.

Link Love: 14

rp_Link-Love-1024x102411111111-1024x1024.jpg A 1950s gets a stylish overhaul

Into the wild: an urban campground in Berlin

Home Organization Advice: “Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.”

How to escape the death spiral of consumption

How to move abroad and save money

Painless ways to save money

Is living without credit cards the best way to stay out of debt?

Consider filing taxes separately when married with student loans

Frugal birthday: An app that helps you find all those birthday discounts.

Is financial ability intrinsic or learned?

I try not to spend money on clothes at all, but there comes a time when the thrift store doesn’t cut it. I’m loving this new online secondhand store, Twice. You can buy clothes at a fraction of the costs of retail AND if you don’t like them, just send them back for a small fee. I recently bought a few things (I spent $57.85) and ended up saving $383.00 off the retail price!

How to get through resistance and take action!

It’s almost the weekend! Let’s do this!



A Technical Update

via Death to Stock Photo

via Death to Stock Photo

Hey ya’ll! I’m just dropping in on this happy hump day to let you know that things are changing a bit around here. You might not notice it too much, but if you’ve been reading the blog at, you might need to change your bookmark. I’m going to be blogging from now to more accurately reflect where this blog is going. The old pins should work too, but if you find any broken links, let me know! asmalllifemelanie at gmail dot com.

Thanks for your support. I truly appreciate each and every one of you!!


The $100 Holiday Challenge: Can you spend just $100 on gifts this holiday season?

The $100 holiday challenge: Can you spend just $100 on gifts this holiday season?

The $100 holiday challenge: Can you spend just $100 on gifts this holiday season?

With Halloween over, the daylight hours getting shorter and a crisp cool in the air, I’m suddenly hyper-aware that the holidays are just around the corner. If you could see my face it would look like the “scream” emoji. I know that pretty soon the Christmas carols will be blaring from every shop in town and my fellow type-As and I will be in full panic mode.

Last year I tried a $100 handmade holiday challenge. I tried (and failed) to handmade everyone’s holiday gift for just 100 buck-a-roos. I failed the challenge for a few reasons– the biggest reason was that my grandmother passed away last December and really, hand making gifts seemed less important than spending time with my mom. I also didn’t allow myself enough time to MAKE ALL THE GIFTS! This year I’m taking a healthier approach. I’m still limiting myself to just $100 dollars, but I’m giving myself more time and I’m allowing myself to simply buy gifts too.

So how am I going to make or buy almost 20 gifts for just $100? Strategy, people. Strategy. I know that if I divide the money equally I will have a little over 5 dollars per person (or pet) to spend. That’s not a lot to work with. (It’s a stunningly small number when compared to the average estimated $781 dollars that Americans will spend on holiday gifts this year.) I also know that some gifts will be completely free, while others will go over the $5 estimate.

For the challenge I won’t count supplies that I already own. The $100 includes anything purchased. I will be using coupons and George (my husband) and I have agreed to not get each other anything this year. (A tad boring, yes, but we’d rather put that money toward our ultimate goal of home ownership.) For people, like my co-workers, I plan on simply making some sort of baked goods which will cost significantly less than purchasing something.

My holiday gift list consists of:

  1. Mom
  2. Dad
  3. Dog
  4. Sister
  5. Sister’s cat
  6. Sister’s boyfriend
  7. Mother-in-law
  8. Father-in-law
  9. Brother-in-law
  10. Sister-in-law
  11. Niece
  12. Kid Cousin
  13. Kid Cousin
  14. Gift exchange
  15. Friend
  16. Friend
  17. Friend’s kid
  18. Co-workers

Can I do it? I don’t know, but I am sure as hell going to try. It’s going to be a challenge. I’ll update you along the way, of course. Will you join me in the $100 holiday challenge?!


How Much Money Can a Small Garden Save You? An Update

How much money can a garden save you

This is an update on a post I published over a month ago when I thought my plants were done producing. Guess what? They weren’t done! And I’ve saved more than I thought initially! I’ve updated all the prices to reflex my bumper crop ;) 

Remember when I thought I couldn’t grow anything. Remember?! REMEMBER?! Well, I am beyond excited to report that my brown thumb has turned green, ya’ll. And today is your lucky day because I have a run down of the costs of my garden and, AND the cost if I simply went out and purchased the food. I am on fire.

Price of Seeds Cost at CSA* or Harris Teeter Amount Produced Price if purchased
Heirloom Tomatoes ($1.79) $2.99 (for 2)* 53 $79.24
Squash ($1.35) $2.99 (for 2)* 0 $0.00
Zucchini ($1.19) $2.99 (for 2)* 16 $23.92
Bell Peppers ($1.59) $1.99 (for 2)* 133 $132.34
Banana Peppers ($1.59) $0.43 151 $64.93
Onions ($1.59) $1.27 2 $2.54
Pumpkins ($1.43) $6.99 3 $20.97
Cucumbers ($1.35) $0.79 21 $16.59
Sunflowers ($1.35) $2.29 7 (about 2 cups) $2.29
Brussels Sprouts ($1.59) $3.49 0 $0.00
Potting Soil (used sparingly to start seeds, previously purchased) $0.00
Gloves and a trowel (given as birthday gift) $0.00
Plow (borrowed) $0.00
Fencing to keep out critters ($34.97)
Garden Safe Insect Killer  ($5.79)
Garden Safe Fungicide ($5.47)
Miracle-Gro Shake ‘n Feed Fruits and Vegetables Granules ($12.47)
A cucumber plant when my other cucumber plants died (gifted from my FIL) $0.00
Total Spent Total Produced (plus tax) Total Savings
$78.56 $366.82 $288.26

Additional Notes:

Garden Start Up Costs
I kept my start up costs very low. I didn’t create raised beds and my garden was by no means
“pretty.” I can’t keep up with Martha here. This isn’t rural New England!

Quite a few people around the blogosphere make a big deal about the start up costs of gardens. There’s very low start up costs if you keep it low. And yes, there is no guarantee that anything will sprout (just look at my squash!), but if you are successful, growing a garden can be a fun way to save on grocery costs.

Store Pricing
I used my CSA’s veggie pricing when available because I think it more accurately reflects the pricing of local produce. When not available, I used the pricing of a local grocer, Harris Teeter. (Yes, I know veggies might be cheaper somewhere else, this is just a good estimate, ya’ll!)

Novice Gardener
I think it’s also important to note that I am totally a beginning gardener. This is my first time keeping anything alive– including houseplants! I know there will be bad years and good years, but I believe with experience my vegetable gains will increase, thus increasing my savings.

The time factor
Yes, growing a garden (even a small one, like mine) takes time. Most weekends I was out there pulling weeds. I watered the plants almost every day (unless it rained). P.S. We have well water, so there was no cost for the water. But growing something, ANYTHING, keeping it alive, then eating something I grew with my own two hands has been one of the most rewarding things that I have ever done. EVER! And that includes getting my Master’s degree.

Have you ever planted a garden? If so, were you successful? Do you think it saved you money? Did you make an insane chart like I did? Let me know in the comments!


Cheap and Easy Halloween Costumes for Dogs

Dobby Dog Costume

Since this is our first Halloween with Bambi, I wanted to make it special. I had planned to make her three costumes for her first Halloween. I am an unstable dog-mamma, obviously. I didn’t have time to make her three costumes, because, well, mama has a job, but I did manage to make her one costume and find a bunch of super cheap and easy Halloween costumes for dogs.

Easy dog costume - Dobby from Harry Potter! Bambi as Dobby
This year I made a simple Dobby costume. Dobby is a house elf from Harry Potter, in case you aren’t a huge HP geek like me. With her ears, I think she looks just like him! I took an old t-shirt, dyed it with coffee, let it dry, then cut up the neck and sewed up the sides to fit her. Easy peasy.

Here’s my favorite cheap and easy dog costumes from the web-o-sphere! I picked them with the my fellow procrastinators in mind :)

It’s raining cats and dogs!

Dying over this one– it’s Lamb Chop!

A Hostess Cupcake! 

Cotton Candy!

A M&M! Make this one even easier by using hot glue instead of sewing.

This is too damn cute! A chia pet!

Clowns can be creepy or insanely cute.

There’s no bones about it, this dog is adorable (and warm!) as a skeleton! 

A bat! This one is great for those dogs who don’t like wearing something on their heads.

A lovely ladybug!

Are you dressing up your dog this Halloween? I’d love to hear your costume ideas in the comments!


Link Love: 14

rp_Link-Love-1024x10241111111.jpg This week’s Link Love is a little early because I have a super special post scheduled tomorrow. (Say that 3 times fast!)

Strategies for cultivating a mindset of financial independence.

10 habits of high net-worth women.

Should we get married sooner to lower our taxes? I was surprised anyone said “no!”

I like country life, but if you’re a city mouse… The top 10 most affordable big cities in the U.S.

An old interview, but a goodie. Ramit has such an interesting take on money. Don’t sweat your daily latte.

Meet this family that built a tiny house for just $12,000! 

These tiny houses featured on Country Living are impressive.

This bus-home is killer.

How to secure your RV.

Mental health is so, so important. I don’t often talk about it here, but I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression in the past. I love Kyla’s honesty in this post: How I live (mostly happily) with depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

And because it’s almost Halloween…

28 stupid-easy costume ideas.

Apple snap cocktails!

Try a green, Slimer smoothie for a healthier Halloween treat.

I don’t know if I’m going to do much for Halloween this year. I’m kind of wiped out, but here’s some of my costumes from Halloween’s past.


The Small Life: Travis and Jenna of The Eco Travelers

The Eco Travelers, Travis and Jenna For the next installment in The Small Life, we’ve got Travis and Jenna of The Eco Travelers. Travis and Jenna bought and moved into their Airstream in July 2014. They aren’t traveling yet, but they leave for Minnesota on November 28th and will be on the road for at least a year. I’m so excited to follow their journey. Take it away, Travis and Jenna…

Airstream Santa Barbara 2 We owned a house for three years and loved making it our own. But we didn’t like the ongoing battle of what appliance will break next or who’s going to mow this jungle we call a yard. So we decided to sell and go tiny. We sold all of our furniture, got rid of the majority of our belongings, and bought a 1967 Airstream Globetrotter.

The Eco Traveler's Airstream We went small because there was less stress, more time, and way more freedom. We are taking our Airstream, Luna on the road to see the country and experience all she has to offer.

Airstream Buffalo Living small for us is about living with intention. When we buy things they have a real purpose, or many purposes. We called ourselves The Eco Travelers because we live it: we buy organic and local food, we shop consignment, and we live in less than 125 square feet.

Luna interior Thanks, Eco Travelers! If you want to hear more about Travis and Jenna’s adventures, you can follow them through a host of services: