Big Changes Around the Bend

Wow, it’s been almost a year since I’ve written here. It’s not because I’m a slacker, but because I’ve been so busy with other really good things. We are making stuff happen!  Our lives are radically different today than 1 year ago.

We’ve made some major strides toward our dream of homesteading in a peaceful, rural place.  Our budget has led us away from California where we were born and raised.  We  won’t be ready to move for another year or so, but we’re considering putting an offer on a funky off-grid hobbit-esque home on over 40 acres in the Arizona high desert. Yup!

How are we pulling this off?  Well, it’s been almost 3 years of planning, saving, paring down, and intense talks after the kids are tucked in.

Here are some ways we’re “practicing” for such a huge change, since like many HSPs, I’m not a fan of sudden, abrupt changes.  I like to ease into them with adequate preparation.

  1. Most important- Saving up a huge chunk of our income (still a mustachian) to build up our emergency fund and fatten our retirement accounts. This will buy us time to make our move, take a sabbatical from work, and possibly switch careers.
  2. Getting used to off-grid living by exercising the “muscle over motor” mentality.  We’ve started to cut down on electricity by hang-drying, getting rid of TV,  turning off the electricity at night, etc.
  3. Becoming more self-sufficient, and therefore buying less stuff.  We used to receive amazon prime packages almost every day.  Now it’s a rare occurence.  I haven’t set foot in a mall in almost a year.   I’ve had to say no to target runs.  I’m committed to shopping exclusively second hand for all our clothes this year (besides underwear!) but I’m even trying to cut down on my thrifting.  When we’re living off grid in a rural town, I won’t really need many clothes or accessories.  If it doesn’t pass the “can I wear it on our homestead?” test, then I don’t buy it.
  4. Building real life connections instead of internet connections I’m really trying to nurture real life friendships.  This can be difficult for a homebody introvert like myself.  However, cutting down on social media naturally causes me to seek out real face to face time with friends and family. I’m only on facebook (no other social media). Oh, and my computer kicks me off of facebook after 20 minutes thanks to stay focused app.
  5. Learning homesteading skills.   We’re also trying to grow more food, create our own rich dirt by composting instead of buying bags of soil, and planting from seeds or cuttings instead of buying plants from home depot.  Our small suburban backyard is looking a bit like a jungle.  I’ve also become a self-proclaimed “crazy quail lady”- we currently have a dozen quails that we hatched at home.

I wanted to share our homesteading dreams with you because finding out about my high sensitivity is what prompted these dreams. I realized it would benefit me and my mental health to carve out a  peaceful, nurturing lifestyle.  I wanted to honor my love of nature and my  desire to nature-school my kids.  These longings are leading us away from our fast-paced suburban lives to places I never dreamed of.

5 Frugal Moves in the last Year

We didn’t even budget until last summer when we started saving up for our land.  We were so mindless about our spending because we didn’t really have a goal.  Now we have a HUGE goal- to build our own home and to give Joe a few years sabbatical to do so.  After analyzing our spending that first month, our eyeballs popped out and I may have cursed.  We needed to shave off thousands annually in order to invest for the future.  While we’ve cut down on the little things (no more coffee shops, acai bowls, eating out all the time, expensive musicals and concerts, etc.)  it’s the big changes that make the most difference.

Here are 5 frugal steps we took this past year, in order of impact on our bottom line.

  1. Fired my housecleaners.  This saved us almost 1800.00 this year.  Having maids come every three weeks was a lovely post-partum gift to myself, but it had to end.  I worked up the courage to fire them last summer by a) relaxing my standards of cleanliness, and b) finding better cleaning products that make cleaning an easier habit.  Now the house isn’t ever sparkling clean, but it doesn’t get filthy the way it did 2 or 3 weeks post-maid.  As an HSP, I am my own filth-o-meter and tackle messes when they bug me. But I only clean about 15-20 minutes a day, which is totally doable.  I’ve embraced the idea of “clean enough”.  As for products, I’m loving Norwex envirocloths and glass polishing clothes. They deep clean using just water. Water is free!!!  I also purchased the e-cloth microfiber mop.  Mopping my kitchen, bathrooms, and main traffic areas takes less than 10 minutes now, so I have no excuse but to do it once in a while.   Piggybacking on this one, we also fired the gardeners to save 600.00 this year.
  2. Played the miles card game.  We’re finally in a place financially to play the miles game without racking up debt at insane interest rates.  This means paying our balances in full each month via automatic payments.  After just 3 months, we’ve scored 700.00 in travel credit, and will add 1000.00 more credit in a month or two.  That’s enough to cover our 4 flights to Oregon this summer, plus rental car.  I wish I’d started racking up miles long ago.  We used the advice in this post to get started.

    Our Oregon trip last year should have been free!
  3. Joined a homeschool charter school.  In exchange for work samples, activity logs, and meetings with a teacher each month, we are given funds to pay for books, school supplies, lessons, classes, memberships to museums, zoos,  our local mission, and more.  I pretty much don’t buy Sisi anything out of pocket anymore.  It all comes from the charter school.

    Our charter school purchased our family membership to Mission San Juan Capistrano. We bring picnics and chill in the gardens regularly.
  4. Shop used clothes.  I started this for ethical reasons, but we save a bundle on clothing shopping used (almost exclusively, barring undergarments and my husband’s clothes.)  Here’s my shopping strategy: My favorite is thredup.com for myself and the kids.  I put anything that catches my eye into my cart.  Narrow it down to my favorite 10-15 items.  Have it all sent to me (free shipping!).  Try it on, mull over it for a few days and see if it fits in with my (fairly minimal) wardrobe.  Send back what I don’t want (usually 80% of the items!) for a refund.  I’m left with a few items in great condition that have already proven they stand up to washing and normal wear.   I haven’t set foot in a mall in a long time, which is crazy because that used to be one of my favorite places to take the kids!
  5. Took up hobbies like embroidery and map-making.  These hobbies provide me with cheap entertainment, are very therapeutic, and make cute handmade gifts for friends.  I’ve also vowed never to buy cards again.  Instead I’ve stocked up on blank white cards and envelopes so I can quickly watercolor a pretty design.

    My second project ever! A very colorful H for my friend Helen on her birthday. There are lots of little symbols tucked into the design (can you spy a surfboard, sun, lavender sprigs, boat, anchor, and horseshoe?) I love embroidering for friends because I can’t help but think about them and pray for them while I stitch. So it’s truly a labor of love, although a little wonky and imperfect for sure.

I have more frugal moves in the works- switching our cell plan to twigby, getting rid of the tv and netflix (!!!) and meal planning to cut the grocery bill down even further.  Food is by far our biggest expense.