This post deviates from our normal stories about life on the road. It’s also a bit of a meandering stream of consciousness. But I’m sure our dedicated readers will bare with me. With Ike back in the States to attend Grandpa Don’s memorial celebration, I’ve had a lot of time to myself to sit and ponder and, well, become inspired!
It’s funny how one link shared from a friend (thanks, Heather!) can spark your imagination and ignite your passions. And that is what happened to me yesterday. One minute I was looking at this amazing, expandable truck home, and the next I was immersing myself deep in the knowledge of “tiny houses.” I mean, look at this kitchen porn!
- Small(ish) apartment
Our entire time in Madison we lived in the one bedroom apartment that I had as a graduate student. While we were paying $720/month in rent, we had plenty of friends and coworkers shelling out $1000+/month in rent for their luxury/large/prime location housing. And many of them were doing this on a single income, sans roommates. That is a perfectly fine way to spend your money, but for us this was a no brainer. We were able to stash away so much extra money simply by paying less for rent, and for us that was well worth the slightly smaller, slightly frumpier, slightly less prime location. Everything is a trade-off, remember. Bonus: we also avoided the hassle (and expense) of moving!
- Stop buying “stuff”
This was a big one for me, especially. While growing up, going shopping with my mom was one of our favorite ways to spend a “girls day” together. I have many fond memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything and of course my closet was full of spiffy clothing. And, honestly, I still enjoy going shopping with my mom to this day! But as I grew up and was out on my own (and with gentle prodding from friends and Ike), I realized that I had a lot of clothes. More than I could possibly wear. I gradually weeded out items to donate and reduced my trips to the mall. Once Ike and I decided to take a big trip, I cut way back on my purchases of clothing and items that cluttered up our home and our lives. The entire last year before we left on our trip, we only purchased items that we needed for our trip.
Unexpected bonus: a “no purchase” rule is extremely liberating. It really is crazy how much background brain power is used up by constantly trying to make decisions about what to buy.
This was around the time that news of a Bangladesh clothing sweatshop collapse, killing 100+ workers and injuring more than a thousand more. This incident really hit home for me. I was partially responsible for the deaths and injuries! Me, with my demand for cheap, plentiful clothing. Although by this time I had practically ceased purchasing clothing, I vowed to try my best to never purchase new clothing items that had been made by workers in sub-par safety conditions. When we return, I know I will have to purchase a few clothing items and I really hope I am able to stick with my goal of purchasing only used or fairly made clothing. The last time I researched fair trade clothing, there really weren’t many options, so it looks like I will have to rely primarily on used items. Which, hey, that’s better for our savings plan anyway!
Are you intimidated by your overflowing closet? I’ll share some great advice I received from a friend when I was just starting my closet purge: Once you’ve identified all the items that you want to get rid of (because you no longer wear them, they don’t fit, they aren’t your style, etc.), put them in a big plastic bag and set them somewhere out of the way in your home. They are still there if you need them. Wait a couple of weeks and if you miss an item that you decided to part with, just go grab it from the bag. But after a couple of weeks (put a reminder on your calendar!), everything still in the bag’s gotta go. If you’re like me, you won’t miss a single item that you chose to donate. This is a good way to combat the fear that stems from our attachment to material items. Baby steps, people.
- No cable TV
This was another no brainer for us, and likely for many others in our generation. With youtube, Hulu, networks streaming their shows online, and services like Netflix and Redbox, you certainly don’t need a cable TV subscription. And at $50-$100 per month, your bank account doesn’t need it either!
- Home-cooked meals
Luckily for us we enjoy cooking (and in my case, I really, really enjoy it), so this one is easy for us. But, it probably won’t be for some of you! We both grew up in homes where the majority of our meals were home cooked. We enjoy spending time together in the kitchen. And, quite frankly, we are damn good cooks! Many times our homemade food is more delicious than anything you could find at a mid-priced restaurant, not to mention much, much cheaper. If you can read and follow directions, you can cook. Trust me. Want some recipe recommendations? Send us an email. We have continued to cook the majority of our meals, and they continue to be delicious, even though we are living out of a car. So what’s your excuse?
- One car family
To city dwellers or non-Americans, this probably doesn’t seem like we were cutting back. And I agree! Owning a car is a luxury; an expensive luxury! But in most of America, families have 2, 3, or even more cars. Everyone who is old enough to drive should have their own car, right? Nah, not really. We technically could have gotten by without a car at all, but life would have been much harder. Instead, we kept one vehicle (well, and then added Sweetcakes to the family when the time came, but she’s more appropriately placed in the “vacation home” category, right?). I’m not going to lie, sometimes even with a car, life wasn’t easy. Ike traveled a lot for work, and on days when he was not traveling we carpooled to work. This meant we had to plan ahead (who drops off who?), be flexible (ugh, you have another 7am meeting?), and sometimes beg our friends and coworkers to let us hitch a ride with them. We also frequently rode our bikes when the weather was decent and made use of Madison’s public bus system. When we return to Madison we are hoping to be located in a more walkable part of the city, which will cut down on our transportation costs even further.
- Use less energy
Having worked in the energy efficiency industry, reducing our energy usage is obviously one of my passions. But we did it to save money, too! Although, if you ask me, electricity and gas are so cheap in the US that all of our energy-saving efforts probably didn’t add up to significant dollar savings. Still, the environmental benefits made it worth it to us. We rarely used our AC, kept our apartment on the cold side in winter (we had electric heat, ouch$!), plugged all (and I mean all) of our electronics into power strips and switched them off at night to combat vampire load, and line dried all our laundry. We had a nice, new dryer in our apartment unit, but I think we literally only used it 5 times during the 5 years we lived there. Extra bonus: your clothes last longer when they aren’t subjected the the extreme conditions within your dryer!