Author Archives: melanie

About melanie

living a small and dreaming big in an airstream trailer.

Link Love: 8

rp_Link-Love-1024x1024111.jpgAverage Student Debt by University

How to feed a family of four on $125 a week at Whole Foods

“Disposable” Household products you should use again and again

The debt risk of life
Man, I love a good infographic!

44 Cheap And Easy Ways To Organize Your RV/Camper

Caravans just got cooler

How to Winterize your Motorhome
Winter is coming! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

Solar Shingles!

So in love with this small house from Jessica Helgerson Designs
I’m swooning!

Vintage Skirt Restyle
A great way to spice up those thrifted pieces.

Have you seen anything super helpful this week? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

How Much Money Can a Garden Save You? The Cost and Benefits of a Small Veggie Garden from a Beginning Gardener

how much money can a garden save youIt’s not quite the end of the season, my pepper plants and my tomatoes are still producing (!), but I wanted to give a little update about my garden. 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)* 46 $68.77
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)* 86 $85.57
Banana Peppers ($1.59) $0.43 97 $41.71
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
Supplies
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
Tax
$5.14
Total Spent Total Produced (plus tax) Total Savings
$78.56 $280.73 $202.17

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!

love,
melanie

 

Love Weekends: Night at the Museum

pizza closeupMuch like last weekend, this weekend started out with pizza… and wine. Because this week left me (and everyone else at work) at our wit’s end.

pizza and wine

As George would say, pizza and wine pair well together.

rain

Many Saturdays we’ll head to the flea market, not because we need more stuff (we never need more stuff!) but George will often sell vintage on his Instagram Flash Sale. This particular Saturday was miserable. It started raining and both Bambi and I were hating it. I had to carry her the entire time because this little priss doesn’t like to get her paws wet.

exhibit whale natural history museum

Saturday night we went to George’s cousin’s wedding. It was at a Natural History Museum and it was so, so cool. All the kids loved it– including my niece (above.) I kind of loved it too. It felt a little like Night at the Museum with loud music.

all spiffed upWe clean up pretty good.

How was your weekend? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

Frugal Friday: The Importance of DIY

nail polishI’m usually a gung-ho DIYer. I mean, we fixed up the Airstream ourselves! And you can catch me on any given night knitting, cooking or making candles. I even tried to make all my Christmas gifts last year and plan to do so again this year! But there are some things that I just plain don’t like to do. I don’t like to clean my own car and I don’t like to give myself pedicures. I just don’t like to do it. #truestory. We’re going down to truth city today, folks.

But since I started the Spending Fast (spending only $100 per month on non-necessities) I’ve had to do many chores that I would outsource before because I didn’t like to do it. I’d like to say that it hasn’t been so bad, but I still hate doing those chores. I’m putting those things in the same category as working out— something I don’t like to do, but I have to do. (Both are in the same category as stuff that isn’t so bad once you start doing it.)

Even though I hate it, when trying to save money, DIY is at the utmost importance. There are some things I’d never DIY, like electrical stuff (it’s too scary and dangerous!), but if I can do it and feel safe doing it, I will. DIY not only saves me money, it also teaches me a new skill. DIY is empowering. Saving money is empowering.

DIY has totally changed my life. How has DIY changed your’s? Let me know in the comments.

love,
melanie

Link Love: 7

rp_Link-Love-1024x1024111.jpgReplace your impulse to spend with a more productive task

Coupons at checkout
This browser add-on finds coupon codes for you automatically and hides nicely in the background until you are ready to checkout.

How to balance fun and financial goals
The struggle is real.

Mint launches free credit scores
I’ve been using Mint for a couple of weeks now. I enjoy it, but I like it much more since they now offer free (soft) credit scores every 90 days.

Millennials are saying no to credit cards
We don’t have credit card debt, but we don’t have credit either. Lose, lose.

Starting a garden to pay off debt, really?!
I agree that you shouldn’t start a garden to pay off debt. It’s not a foolproof plan, but we’ve saved quite a bit of money gardening and we had minimal start up costs. I’m planning to post the full run down soon.

Decluttering a lifetime of belongings
Don’t wait to declutter! After my grandma passed, my mom had to go through all of her things and it was a nightmare. My sweet parents have already started their decluttering so they don’t leave my sister and I with the task.

A distraction-free iPhone? 

Flipping RVs
I was at my brother in law’s house and saw a commercial for this show on TV. I kind of hate that we didn’t think of it first.

How to make a vintage travel trailer awning
Glad I didn’t have to make one of these, but it’s good to know for the future.

Have you seen anything extra special on the web this week? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

 

How to find the best stuff at thrift shops

how to find the best stuff at thrift shopsI’ve written a little bit about thrifting before but I recently needed to break out my skillz (yes, skillz with a “z”) again and I thought it would be helpful to share some of my tips.

I’ve been trying to spend as little money as possible, but I still need to look presentable at work. It’s a Catch 22. On Friday when I tried on my last pair of clean pants and had to check the mirror (twice) to prove that yes, my pants had worn so thin that you could see my underwear right through them, I knew that it was time for some new clothes. So right after work I popped over to my local thrift store and scored some serious deals! I have so many people tell me, I never find good stuff at thrift stores, you must be lucky! Well, I’m not, friends. I strategize to find the best stuff at thrift shops. Here’s how I do it.

1. Research!
Did you know Yelp is more than just restaurant reviews? It’s true! Yelp is one of my favorite places to go for reviews of any kind. Before popping to every thrift store within a 20 mile radius, I’ll pop over to Yelp and see what the good Yelpers have to say about it. Sometimes they’ll even share information about discounts! If you can’t find anything on Yelp, Google Reviews might be helpful too.

2. Find out which days the store restocks
Thrift stores restock on different days, just ask an employee which day they restock and shop that day for the best stuff. Usually stores don’t restock on the weekends, so stuff will be more picked over then. I almost always thrift during the week. There’s less crowds and higher quality stuff!

3. Leave yourself enough time to look through everything
Often times thrift stores are stocked to the brim with merchandise. This can be overwhelming. I know. Don’t shop on a strict time limit, you’ll get frustrated. Leave yourself enough time to look through everything you need.

4. Still overwhelmed? Keep a list!
One of my favorite things to do is keep lists. One of my many lists is a running list of things I want or need. Going into a thrift store without a solid idea of what you want can lead to unnecessary purchases and buyer’s remorse. I can easily get overwhelmed in a junk shop, so I keep a list of things I’m looking for in Evernote, that way I can easily refer back to it.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset5. Looking for clothing? Try on different sizes 
Grab a cart and pull all clothing that you like within 2 sizes up or 2 sizes down from what you normally wear. Clothing at thrift stores is all different brands, therefore different brands have different sizing. I usually wear a 4 or a 6, but I tried on clothing from a size 2 to a size 8. And guess what? The sizes I ended up buying were all over the map. (And if this is discouraging, remember, your worth is not measured by your dress or pants size, my friends!)

6. Not creative? Shop with a creative friend.
Creativity can help when shopping at thrift stores. Creativity helps you to see that ugly, dull dresser repainted a crisp, bright white. If you aren’t a visionary, bring an honest and visionary friend with you to shop. I love shopping at antique malls and thrift stores with George because he can see through the dirt. He knows if something is fixable or just plain junk. I also really admire the thrifting skills of my friend, Candra. She is a total fashonista and has the keen ability to find key wardrobe pieces in piles of junk.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset7. Don’t be a brand loyal
There are some amazing finds out there for the taking. In my most recent thrifting excursion I found a pair of pair of “7 for all mankind jeans.” Those jeans are super pricey! Unfortunately they didn’t fit me properly, but I did manage to score pants from Ann Taylor, Levi’s, New York and Co. and some little known brands I’ve never heard of. Don’t be loyal to one brand, focus on the style and the fit of the item and you’ll have better luck.

8. Ask yourself this question: is the piece easily fixable?
Thrift stores will often have pieces that need a little work. There’s a missing button or the drawer pulls are loose. But the piece may have some big problems too. I have a terrible habit of biting off more than I can chew and I’ve done this with far too many thrifted things. I now like to ask myself if I could fix it in a weekend. If I can’t, I don’t buy it. If I can, I make an attainable (S.M.A.R.T.) plan for fixing it.

9. Outsource the “fixing!
If the piece just needs to be tailored slightly, I’ll usually buy it. 9 times out of 10 a thrifted blouse that you take to the tailor will be cheaper and will fit you better than buying a new blouse at the local mall. It’s more environmentally friendly too!

I saved even more money at the thrift store with discounts!

I saved even more money at the thrift store with discounts! 7 pairs of pants for $20.72!

10. Ask for discounts
Many thrift stores will offer discounts on either certain days of the week or offer discounts for educators, the military or students. Ask about those discounts! I know the clothes may only be $3, but another $1 off doesn’t hurt!

11. Shop often
I’m not condoning unnecessary spending, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t find something on your first thrifting excursion. It might take time to score the perfect pair of thrift store jeans. Relax and have a good time! The thrill of the hunt makes scoring a deal much more enjoyable!

Do you have any tips for thrift store shopping? Let me know about them in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

The Airstream Diaries: The Great Outdoors

eating outside

There are times when the Airstream feels a little cramped. Luckily George and I didn’t grow up in big houses, but when we visit friends or family and then come back to our 188 square feet, it can feel a bit cramped.

eating outside airstreamOne day we’ll have a bit more room (just a bit!). George will be able to stretch out his art stuff, Bambi can run around the house like the wild, little dog she is and I can spread out all the veggies I could ever want to chop, but until then when it feels a little cramped, we go outside. Going outside is a blessing when the weather is nice. I immediately feel better when I step outside and take a minute to just enjoy nature. But when that chill in the air comes back and the air smells like snow, there will be no more going outside for long periods of time. So I’m trying to soak it up while I still can.

Friday I was feeling a little cramped and it was so insanely pretty outside, so we ate dinner off paper plates and sat in little fold out chairs. Our setup wasn’t fancy or even very pretty, but it was enjoyable.

Whenever we do get new, small digs I hope we’re right smack dab in the middle of nature. I really think it’s the way humans were meant to live.

Viva la country life!

love,
melanie