Health + Wellness Enhancing Things To Buy With Your Tax Refund

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

healthy tax refund ideas

Okay, it is that time of year. Tax time! You may be thinking (or agonizing) about how you have to do your taxes or maybe you already have them done. Either way, if you are expecting a refund from the government then you have already started dreaming about what you will do with it. Same here.

So…what to do with the moola? Well, big or small there are probably a few purchases that you can make that will be beneficial in the long run…helping you a new level of wellness. I understand the tendency to want to blow the money on a trampoline for the kids or a down payment on a newer (but really unneeded car). Part of our personal refund is in fact allotted to purely fun stuff. Hello, DisneyWorld! But now is also the time to make smart purchases that will pay all year long and even for years to come. Investing in your future is always good. Here are a few ideas:

Start Using Essential Oils – I am a HUGE fan of essential oils and have been for about 20 years. Last year I started using Young Living essential oils and fell in love all over again. I discovered quality that I never dreamed of and my family has been benefiting greatly. I use them every single day and I have not been sick in ages. Plus my three kids haven’t seen the inside of a doctor’s office in years. That is an amazing savings.

Save about $40-$150 of that tax money, sign up as a wholesale member (distributor) and get a starter kit. Plus as a wholesale member you get 24% off any future oil purchases and you can even make money when you help others get started with oils too. This small investment can have a big impact on your life in multiple ways.

Join a Herdshare or CSA – Health begins with healthy food but it can be hard to manage on a modest income. Use the extra cash from tax time to invest in healthy food for a big portion of the year. A CSA share requires a larger one time investment and then you get a bag/box of fresh fruits and veggies all throughout the growing season. A herdshare is a great way to buy grassfed or pastured meats in bulk and save money. Fill your freezer with a quarter cow and half pig and you will be set with healthy meats for a long time.

Grow Your Own Garden – Take charge and start growing your own healthy, organic foods. Look into raised beds, a rain barrel, a compost bin, garden tools, heirloom seeds, and even some fruit bushes and trees. Once you get the garden going you will benefit for years to come.

Alternatively you could also buy a plot at a community garden.

Take Cooking Classes – If healthy eating and cooking is a struggle for you then take some classes! Learn how to cook from scratch, bake your own bread, can and preserve food from the garden and farmer’s market, and generally be more self sufficient in the kitchen.

Join a Gym or Hire a Personal Trainer – With a little money in your pocket you might want to prepay for some CrossFit classes or sessions with a personal trainer. Investing in fitness is a win win.

Buy A Bike – Bicycle riding is great exercise and it is great or the planet. Get a good bike and promise to pedal more instead of using your car.

Invest in Healthy Sleep – A great green mattress is wonderful way to reduce toxins in your sleep environment and give you a health boost. If that is too much money then try a good wool mattress cover, some eco friendly pillows, and organic sheets.

How will YOU use tax money to enhance your health?


Back to School Shopping for all Seasons

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

Back to School Shopping for all Seasons

It’s that time.  Time to go back to school and get all of the supplies you will need for the coming school year. It might be tempting to buy clothes for all weather scenarios that might arise during the school year. If you did that, though, it would probably be a mistake. You’ll just end up spending more money than you need to. In fact if you wait until the back to school season to do most or all of your school related shopping then you ARE spending too much money. I know, I know everyone is having back-to-school sales right? This is the best time for shopping according to store adverts and media but is it really?

If you have already finished your school shopping no worries, you can pick up a tip or two for next year. Try these tips to effectively buy back to school clothing.

How to Shop for Back to School Clothes

1. Think about what you NEED. Take an inventory of what still fits, what is stained/distressed, and what you actually need for each child. Then once you have that base information you can fill in gaps. Also only get one or two special outfits for the first day/week of school. Kids just don’t need a new outfit for each day of school.

2. Make a clothing buying calendar. Use the aforementioned inventory to figure out what is absolutely necessary for clothing and figure out the best times to buy. Sweaters and coats are best purchased after the season because they’ll be cheaper that way. You can split up your purchases to use them as gifts for birthdays and holidays. This way it will help fill out your gift giving and you’ll also save money by not buying everything all at once.

3. Utilize consignment shops for buying and even selling clothing that your children have outgrown. Consignment credits can go a long way towards buying newer clothing for your kids.

4. Remember, the kids are going to keep growing. Buying for the whole year could leave you with clothes never worn because your child had a growth spurt you were not anticipating.

5. Swap clothes. If you have friends with kids a little older and a little younger than your own, then work out a clothing swap with them. You can do this at the change of each season even, to keep rotating the clothes out of the house. The more families that participate the more choices you have. Have a clothing swap party.

6. Wait until after Labor Day to shop. Those back to school sales aren’t as great as they might seem. It’s great for school supplies, if you need to stock up on glue and crayons, but clothing, not so much. So wait until after Labor Day to get the savings.

7. Buy clothes that can be worn during many seasons…think layers. A nice polo shirt can be worn over a long sleeve shirt in the colder months. A summer dress or jean skirt paired with some leggings will get extra wears.

8. Check into online deals with places like Zulily. They have great gear at low prices, the catch is that you have to follow what they have available because it changes weekly. Not only can you get clothing for great prices you can even get them free if you refer others. Share deals via email or social media (like Facebook and Pinterest) and when other click through and purchase you get $15 in credit. I personally have found that it is actually pretty easy to rack up lots of money in credit and thus get lots of free clothing, shoes, sporting goods, kitchen items etc for the whole family.

9. Shop those clearance racks. Snatch up that out-of-season sweater in a size up from what your child is currently wearing to make sure you get extra wears out of it.

10. Don’t forget about the thrift shops. You can get some nice high end items very cheaply, to help fill in any wardrobe to make it through the entire year in style. If your kids wear uniforms or have a dress code such as polos and khakis then thrift stores can be a real jackpot for you. If the schools in your areas have strict dress codes then the donations at area thrift stores will be rich in this type of clothing all year long. Make sure to check them out frequently in December when families are donating more often to get last minute tax write-offs. Also make sure to shop half price days!

Back to school shopping is often a cause for anxiety. I recently heard that the average family spends $700 per child per year for back to school stuff. Yikes! That can really break the bank so a little planning can go a long way. If you plan things out and shop sales and shop the seasons instead of buying all at once, then you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and a lot of money.

Below is a picture of two of my cuties on their first day. I only spent $130 for the year on back to school stuff and most of that was supplies, for three kids. They are set for the entire school year but I will have an eye on the next school year very soon…

How do you save money on back to school purchases?



A Giveaway To Celebrate the All-New 100% Electric Mitsubishi i

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

Well, if you happened by thinking I am giving away a car you will be disappointed. Of course I kept that prize all to myself… muahaha!!!

Well, it’s nice to dream right?

Up until a few months ago, when I went to the North American international Auto Show with one of the major auto companies, I was clueless about what green cars were on the market. The green cars have always seemed out of my budget and truthfully they still are. BUT they are coming down in price which is good news for all of us. Soon enough it won’t cost us more than we pay monthly for our home mortgage to have a great hybrid/electric or all electric vehicle. I am drooling at the prospect because the cars I saw at the NAIAS were GORGEOUS! But then again I am so far removed from the new car scene (I have a 2000 and a 1995 model) that I felt the new cars resembled futuristic space ships. Anyway the Mitsubishi i is going to be released soon and in honor of that the company has arranged a giveaway here. The prize details are below but here are some stats on the car…

The Mitsubishi i is a very affordable 100% electric-powered mass-market production vehicle available in North America very, very soon. The starting MSRP IS $29,125 and the net MSRP* after a federal tax credit is a very affordable $21,625 for the standard ES model and only $23,625 for the upgrade SE version, making the starting price for the all-new Mitsubishi i several thousand less than other comparable electric vehicles available in the market. I was at the NAIAS checking all prices and comparing all the green cars and I can tell you that this price rocks!!

Powered by Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle (MiEV) technology, the rear-wheel drive vehicle’s drive system includes a 49 kW (66 bhp) AC synchronous electric motor; an 88 cell, 330V lithium-ion battery pack for a peak storage of 16 kWh; and a single fixed-reduction gear transmission. This electric motor is capable of producing its peak torque of 145 lb.-ft. almost instantaneously when accelerating from a standstill; the vehicle has a top speed of approximately 80 mph.

The driving range of the Mitsubishi i is a very robust EPA certified “real world” rating of 62 miles/charge. That would be perfect for many commuters and certainly for stay at home moms who need it for kiddie transfers and errands. The car can be recharged using three advantageous methods: A 240V/15A Level 2 home EVSE Eaton charging system (estimated charge time from completely empty battery to fully charged – 7 hours; charging method recommended by Mitsubishi), a CHAdeMO Level 3 public quick charging station (estimated charge time from very low battery to 80% full – 30 minutes; requires optional DC charging port available as an option), and through the conventional 120V/8A Level 1 portable charging cable that plugs into a standard wall outlet (estimated charge time from very low battery to full charge – 22.5 hours; included on all Mitsubishi i models).

The Mitsubishi i is a compact car for sure but the design make for very roomy and comfortable accommodations for four adult-size passengers. Sadly, it is too small for us but for many a family this car would a great ride. The rear seats fold flat, allowing the cargo capacity to expands greatly, perfect for a couples weekend or for bulkier items at Costco or Lowes.

The cars will begin shipping in early 2012 to select markets, and will be available in the Northeast by April 2012 and nationwide by January 2013. You can reserve your i now though and Mitsubishi will cover the cost of the electrical inspection by Best Buy’s Geek Squad to make sure your home can efficiently charge an EV: http://i.mitsubishicars.com/reserve. Very cool!

If you are reading this Mitsubishi I am totally willing to test drive this baby and review it extensively for as long as you desire! No seriously, I am willing to undertake that hardship for the sake of green research.

For more on the Mitsubishi i, visit Mitsubishi Cars and their Facebook page.

The Giveaway is CLOSED. The winner is comment #5 Good Girl Gone Green, Thanks for entering!

*Includes federal tax credit of up to $7500. Retail MSRP of ES starts $29,125 and SE starts at $31,125

Giveaway sponsored by Mitsubishi.


Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream

by Tiffany in Book Reviews, Frugal Green

Luxury Home

This weekend I had a chance to read The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome – Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream by John F. Wasik.

It was a timely read as it has much to so with the current economic situation and what got us here but it is short on political blame and deals more with the attitudes and ideals that have permeated within the American mindset and how that has caused a lot of trouble for us.

It talks quite a bit in the early chapters about the housing bubble and it was incredibly interesting. Especially since I was living in Arizona during the boom and I saw first hand how completely outrageous it was. We wanted to buy a new tract home in Phoenix during the boom but thank goodness we had enough common sense to recognize how unsustainable the market was.  To get a house at the time you had to put your name in a lottery drawing. Every week the builders would draw 5- 10 names and those people would get houses. Our names were not getting picked right away and every week that your name was not picked the price went up about $10,000-$20,000 dollars. In the end this meant that many people were paying $50-$100,000 or more than some of their neighbors for the exact same home model. My husband and I refused to play that game.

The people who got the houses for the initial price were elated because now they were told their homes had went up in value by $100 grand in the first year alone but that did not make sense to me. Instead of thinking their homes were going up they should have just realized that their neighbors paid way to much. Some of them sold right away and did manage to make a good amount of money but we all know how the story ended for most of the country… the bubble burst big time.

In Phoenix people started losing their homes left and right because they couldn’t refinance the bad interest rates they got in their hurry to buy a house. They found that they owed more on their house then it was worth.

Another issue that is highlighted in the book is that few people could even afford to buy these upgraded homes. Instead of being content to see a marble floor at a bank or a museum the average Joe decided he need marble in his bathroom. What changed the American mindset that hard work and time was no longer needed to secure what you wanted? When and why did we decide that we all deserved luxury home regardless of income or circumstances? Remember the story of the immigrant crop picker with an annual income of 15K who managed to get a home for $720K?? The American Dream has morphed into something reckless and dangerous and something VERY unsustainable.

It seems we have gotten too big for our britches and classify what used to be “wants” as “needs”. We somehow “need” a big house, a nice car or two, big screen TVs, our kids attending private schools or the ones in the best areas (which require high property taxes to sustain them), and all the luxuries life has to offer. We don’t save and we don’t delay gratification anymore. We want it all now. This coupled with the fixed costs we obligate ourselves too as outlined in The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke is why we are in the situation we are today.

Of course is not to say that greedy corporations and banks as well as lax government oversight are not equally responsible for this mess… it is just that greedy corporations and banks only capitalized on a trend they saw. They couldn’t make people behave recklessly if they didn’t want to ya know? ;)

So, what is the solution? Well, this book outlines a need for a move to New Urbanism to prevent suburban sprawl. You cannot change people but we can change the way cities are designed and the way homes and cities are built. We can make cities more walkable and less drivable instead of the reverse. There are also numerous other ideas that I felt were awesome.

One of the ideas in the book is to un-link property taxes and local development to school funding. By making schools rely on local, state, and federal funding that would effectively keep people from moving further away from central cities to suburban areas where housing costs give schools mammoth budgets. If everyone is on an even playing field the schools would then be forced to be responsible with the money they get AND it would keep people in cities. Cities are greener and cheaper.

Other ideas include spending more money on transportation and infrastutcture instead of sprawl. Creating communities that seek to be self sufficient and even generate their own energy. Funding a smart grid, trim real estate tax breaks, create private incentives for affordable housing, and heck yes… give the citizens of this country universal healthcare. I am a BIG supporter of that. I want to stop seeing hard working families go bankrupt because of health issues and greedy insurance companies. And for the economic conservatives it has ideas for what we can cut to defray costs for what we need to spend. Although I would not classify this book as liberal or conservative… I just know some people’s hair stands on end when they hear talk about government spending.

It is a good book with lots of good ideas. If you like books on economics and new urbanism then check this one out. Also if it interests you, make sure to stop by the blog of my friend Sharon at New Urban Mom who has been involved with promoting new urbanism for years.


How Green is My Ride?

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

My Car

Yesterday I was driving to pick my son up from school and I was sitting at a light behind an aging, maroon colored car. I could see from their temporary plates and dealer plate holder that they had just bought the car and at that moment I realized that I have changed so much on this green journey of mine. I have always been something of a car snob I guess. I liked new cars with that new car smell and every car I have had was fresh from the factory with that stylish car payment that says “I am so successful that I can afford to waste money on something that will depreciate significantly just by driving it off the lot.”

It only took about a year before I was upside down on car worth versus loan amount still due but hey it was a NEW car. When the car started to look not so new it was time to trade in and when I got married of course both hubby and I both had to have our own cars. Then we started trying to live with a lighter eco footprint and we bought a used vehicle. About two years after that we decided we needed something with better gas mileage even if meant downgrading to a car once again… like we had pre-kids.

Since hubby’s vehicle was a company owned 18 wheeler I got to choose my new-to-me car and I chose the one above. It was an 8 year old car in great condition with only 40,000 miles. It had a sun roof, a remote starter, lots of trunk space, and it cost half of what I would usually spend on a new car. I did initially get a loan on it but I paid it off after only a couple months. I love this car and I plan to keep it until it tanks out on me. Just this week I had to put out $500 for a new tie rod, internal maintenance, and four new tires but considering I have no car payment and good gas mileage I am happy as a clam…I just passed 100,000 miles.

When I saw that rather ugly maroon car in front of me yesterday my first thought was COOL. I wondered if it ran well and how many miles it had. I realized that I now have a used car mentality. Gone are the days when I see a new car and get a twinge of jealousy. Now I just smile to myself and remember that I have a car that meets my needs and no car payment. I also have a more affordable car insurance premium from buying used, though I know this can vary by car model. I am not throwing away my money on bank interest or higher insurance rates, and by buying used I am recycling. That feeling is so liberating I can’t even describe it.

Another good feeling comes from deciding to only have one vehicle. When my hubby quit his trucking job we had a little problem…two people, one car. But we really didn’t want to buy another car so we found some work arounds. Hubby got a night job so we both had the car when we needed it. I found that at first I was irritated about not having a car from 4:30 PM to 8:00 the next morning but quickly I realized that it was saving me money. I stopped making quick shopping trips to pick up “one” item that quickly turned into a shopping cart full of crap I didn’t need. I also couldn’t get lazy and decide to take the kids out to eat if I didn’t feel like making food. It turned out to be a blessing.

But then the economy tanked and my hubby was switched to day shifts. This was very bad for us since we now had two children in two different schools that did not have bus service. It wasn’t feasible to drive my husband to work since I would have to get the kids up at 4:30 in the morning so they could ride along. We were going to be forced to buy a new car and I was really bummed. But we got creative and borrowed a car for 3-4 days a week until he got switched back to the night shift (this week). I did end up buying a used motorcyle as a backup for good weather days too. The gas mileage on it will be a big money saver for us in the summer months.

At some point we may decide to become a two car household again but I am confident that we will do it only if it becomes necessary and not because it is merely convenient. I am also confident that we will not get sucked back into the new car consumer trap until the time comes when green car technology really does make a new car the more eco friendly option. As it is now, it is just more eco friendly to buy used.

But it is very nice to catch yourself mid thought and realize…I am not the same person anymore… in a good way. ;)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

10 Comments on How Green is My Ride?