Category Archives: Conscious Spending

What is Conscious Spending?

What is conscious spending?

The Frugal Portland philosophy, in bullet form, looks like this:

  • Save more
  • Spend consciously
  • Take control

And it really is that simple. Order matters, here, too, because you must save more before you can spend consciously. We’ll talk about saving more in upcoming posts, because that topic is very popular, but by now you should be aware that more means a lot more. Shoot for 50%, and if you don’t get there, you’ve still saved more than the average Joe. (Heh, not that Average Joe, he’s a big time saver!)

But what do we mean when we say to spend consciously?

A Working Definition of Conscious Spending

Conscious spending is being mindful of where your money is going. It only happens after you’ve hit your savings goals for the month, but it can happen.

To me, conscious spending is understanding that treats and splurges are part of a frugal life.

That’s right, I said splurges.

Living a frugal life is not all about deprivation. It might be to some, but not me. Living a frugal life is much more about taking control of money, instead of letting money control your life.

In my world, that means the following are allowed in my frugal life:

  • Enjoying the occasional fancy dinner (with friends, when we can) in a restaurant
  • Buying a nice bottle of wine at home
  • Going on vacation, either near or far from home. Expanding horizons gives a different perspective on the way we live our lives, and helps us reevaluate our priorities
  • Having an expensive gym membership
  • Paying for a great haircut (curly haired girls in Portland, go see Michelle at Bouffant Salon)
  • Compromising with my sports-loving husband by agreeing to a cable package
  • Buying real food at the grocery store or farmers market

How do the above fit in a frugal life?

Well, when you start with saving, you have a more limited pool of money to work with. So, necessarily, your available pool of spending money is necessarily more limited.

That means there’s no room for mindless spending.

Mindless Spending

Your definition of mindless might be different than mine, but mindless spending is where money leaks out of your account without you noticing.

To me, that includes:

  • Drive-through food (the very definition of mindless is something you eat while driving!)
  • Daily coffee in a coffee shop
  • Going out to lunch because you didn’t bring leftovers from the night before
  • Not eating leftovers ever
  • Ordering drinks in restaurants (we’ve found that our dinner bills are half (!!) of what they were when we ordered drinks)
  • Buying clothes at the mall
  • Take out when you’re too lazy to go to the store

Or any other of a zillion ways you spend money without noticing, and especially without even enjoying it.

So, if you eat out all the time, you end up eating out just because that’s what you do — not because you like it. We notice this when we’re on vacation. “We’re sick of eating out!” we say after five or six days of restaurant food. But you know what? Restaurant food is not priced on a sliding scale, where it’s cheaper when you don’t feel like eating it.

Restaurant food costs what it costs, period.

So you might as well sprinkle it in your life as a treat. You’ll enjoy it more.

How You Can Spend Consciously

Take a look at Mint.

Where are the leaks in your account?

Now, take those leaks, and turn them into rules.

If, on Wednesdays, you always drive through for dinner because you have a Wednesday night meeting, make a rule that you’ll cook at home. Maybe even a double portion on Tuesday, so you can eat leftovers.

If you slip, then, it’s a treat, not a habit.

If you typically order dessert, restrict it. The cheesecake will taste better if you don’t eat it all the time.

Now, here’s the real plan:

Every time you take your credit card out of your wallet, think about what you’re doing. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want what I’m about to buy?
  • Or am I buying out of habit?
  • Will I really enjoy this?
  • Is it a treat?

Don’t judge. Just think.

That’s what being conscious is all about.

The Bouqs Review: Fresh Flowers in the Mail

I got an email from The Bouqs a week or so ago, asking if I wanted to check out their website, and get a bouquet of flowers to review. Just another day in the life of a blogger. Disclaimer: I did not pay for these flowers, and I am an affiliate of this company, but they didn’t buy my opinion.

I thought, sure, I’ll send Brent flowers. I’ll be home to sign for them, this will be great! So I picked some flowers out, and promptly forgot about them until the doorbell rang on Wednesday. Thinking it was someone I knew, I stepped out of the house in my bathrobe. Note: showering is not high on the morning priority list for those who work from home.

Sorry/You’re Welcome, FedEx Guy.

The Bouqs Review


First Impressions

Their website is really nice. Just gorgeous. In fact, you can pick out your theme! What version of their website do you want to look at? Corporate? Rustic Thunder? Light and Bright? That’s a very silly feature, but given the number of times I’ve changed the theme here on Frugal Portland, it appealed to me. Finding a bouquet (or a ‘bouq, because we’re cool now) was easy — narrowing it down to just one was the hard part! Read more

What to Include in a Minimalist Wedding Registry


Note: there are affiliate links below.

What to put in a minimalist wedding registry

One of the things I struggled with the most while planning the wedding of the century was registering for gifts. I mean, I don’t like the idea that only married people get to have neat kitchen things. And furthermore, we’re both past 30. We have a stocked kitchen. Our home lacks for nothing, really. Then there’s the issue of space. We’re already living in as small of a space as Brent wants to live in, ever. Where are we going to put all this new stuff? So really, the question is, what do we include in a minimalist wedding registry?

There are cash registries. Pay for horseback riding on our honeymoon! Upgrade us to a different sized room! But asking our nearest and dearest for money felt even worse than registering for stuff. I wanted to ask for restaurant gift cards. You know, put a list of our favorite places on our website and ask people to buy our date nights for the next year? That would be awesome! But Brent said that was exactly like asking for cash, and he wasn’t comfortable with that.

My future mother-in-law is a frugal kindred spirit, and understood my dilemma. But she picked up the phone several months ago and administered a little tough love. “People want to buy you things. They’ve been waiting years for this. You have to have a registry.”

Anne, who is the expert on all things gifty, agreed. She even put together a whole post of what to register for when you already have everything.

So, I reluctantly agreed. We registered with Amazon, which is amazing, because I didn’t actually have to go to Target with one of those gun things (which I bet I could get into, but sounds really awful).

Then, a funny thing happened. Brent made margaritas, which was a really splendid idea. That loosened us up a bit, and we used Anne’s list as a guide, and got to work.

It wasn’t long before we were shouting things back and forth at each other. “Get the fanciest can opener they have!” “Sort by price high to low!”

I can’t be the only one with this problem. We had to register for stuff. Well, that’s not true, we can do anything we want! But I decided not to start my married life by picking this battle. Wedding guests give presents, that’s how it goes. Okay.

First, let’s agree on a working definition of minimalism.

I like this one:

My interpretation of this rule: have the very best things in your home. The best things don’t need to be replaced often (if ever, for some things), and they’re perfect registry items because they’re the kind of thing we wouldn’t buy on our own.

Next, let’s talk about one of the cardinal rules of minimalism: one for one.

Every time we get something in the mail, we promise to take out something it’s replacing, or if it’s not replacing anything, we have to find something to get rid of anyway. We’re aiming to decrease the amount of stuff in our home, not increase. So we’re doing this gradually, though we recognize that we’ll have our work cut out for us when the wedding gets closer.

Getting gifts ahead of the wedding is wonderful, and it’s a practice I will carry forward for every single one of the weddings I’m invited to in the future. We’re able to thank people right away, and play our one-for-one game several times a week.

Now for the registry. Everything we registered for falls into one of four categories: nicer versions of things we already own, things we’d like to own but haven’t gotten around to buying for ourselves, things that will help us organize our small space, and things we’re “supposed to” register for.

Below is a sample from our list.

Category One: Nicer versions of things we already own


Chef’s knife, paring knife, cleaver… and a place to put them in the drawer.


Le Creuset hotness

We had a Dutch oven, but it wasn’t Le Creuset, and the enamel had chipped, revealing rust. Also the ramekins are just adorable. And the crock replaces a vase we currently use to hold wooden spoons.


All-Clad amazingness

This line replaces almost all of our pots and pans.

Included: an awesome steamer, a saucepan that sits under the steamer, big stainless steel frying pan with lid, little stainless steel frying pan, a teeny tiny saucepan, and a 3-quart simmering saucepan.


A wok, and lid

We’re getting into Thai cooking, and a wok, and its corresponding lid are essential for cooking the way Thais cook.

Kettles for Coffee — both electric and stove-top

Ours leaked, and needed to be replaced. Now it is gone, and we have two new ways (electric AND stovetop) to heat water quickly. They’re so hip, too, that our kitchen looks like Portland’s smallest coffee shop.


The world’s most beautiful cutting board

Seriously. This thing is amazing. It lives on our island (take that, mail!) and is one of those pieces we will have for our whole lives. It is not just a cutting board. It is a statement.

Fancy wine glasses

Sure, we had wine glasses. But not these. These are lovely.


Don’t Buy Amazon Kindle Unlimited


I’m a regular reader. I go through periods where I’m polishing off a book a week, and periods where I  stroll through the words of an enjoyable read over the course of a month. So it got my attention when Amazon recently Amazon announced a new subscription plan that allows you to read “unlimited” books for $9.99.

On the surface, it sounds like a good enough deal. Download and read as much as you want from over 600,000 titles, I mean, what’s not to love?

The answer, unfortunately, is: everything.

I own a Kindle, but I don’t buy a ton of content. I’d say, in an average year, I buy one or two e-books and maybe a hardcover from time to time. But it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay $9.59 for a copy of Kafka on the Shore when there are about 20 copies circulating in my local library system.

Most Books You Want Aren’t Available

Don’t get too excited, the “Big Five” publishing houses aren’t on board with this deal. Of the current available Kindle Unlimited library, half a million of them are from Amazon’s self-published library. So, if you’re expecting to get unfettered access to the hottest bestsellers, prepare to be surprised. You’re still going to have to plunk down the cash to buy the e-book from Amazon.

You Don’t Need To Spend Money on Books

Some flashy titles Amazon is pushing to sell Kindle Unlimited: Harry PotterThe Hunger GamesLord of the Rings. Uh, not for nothing, but I can read every single one of those books for free. I have access to millions of titles through my local library. Even the hot new titles become available eventually. If you can’t find something interesting to read from the near-unlimited selection of books available at the library, then you’re probably not enough of a reader to justify paying a subscription fee for Kindle Unlimited, anyway.

But Even if You Do Spend Money on Books

Okay, so let’s fast-forward to a future where the Big Five agree to allow their titles on Kindle Unlimited (doubtful, but let’s pretend), just how many of those hot bestsellers do you read in a given year? If you buy and read every bestseller on the shelf, then I guess Kindle Unlimited saves you some money in this scenario. But realistically, it’s probably the occasional new title that interests you. So, in a single year, you’d have to buy eight new books at $14.99 a piece to match the cost of a year of Kindle Unlimited. $120 is your break even point.

I understand buying the occasional book. I have some that I like to have perched on my shelf on a permanent basis. But if you’re spending a lot on books that you can check out at the library for free, you’re just wasting money.

All Hail the Public Library

Going to the Beaverton City Library to browse the aisles on a cold and rainy winter day is one of my favorite things to do. Impulsively checking out six books costs absolutely nothing. I can bring home a miniature personal library of my own and rotate books based on whatever mood I happen to be in.

The library is grossly underused, and the idea that Kindle Unlimited is somehow a value add to the public library is asinine. Huffington Post ranted that Amazon is trying to convince you into paying $120 for a glorified (and crappier) library card, and, yeah. That’s about how I see it.

The library is amazing. You can read almost any book you’ve ever wanted to read. You can probably track down that obscure movie or TV show that’s readily available for streaming (like a personal favorite of mine: Seasons 2-11 of Survivor). They even have music and, yes, even e-books.

Look, you already pay for the library whether you use it or not. Just save the $120 and get yourself a subscription to Netflix or Hulu, instead. Way better values. Way better products.



Hydro Flask is the Best Water Bottle I’ve Ever Had


Next up on our “let’s spend our money consciously on things we care about” list is the world’s most perfect water bottle.

Have you heard of Hydro Flask? It’s so great. (That’s an affiliate link, so if you buy yourself one, you’ll be supporting my business — thank you!)

I would buy one for everyone I know, except who buys water bottles for other people?

Pssssht. I did. I bought one for Brent, and he was… how shall I say… not all that impressed.

Double Walled Stainless Steel Amazingness

“Look! My water bottle still has ice in it after a whole day!” I exclaimed.

“Congratulations,” he deadpanned. “Now you understand insulation.”

Then, we went to Austin (which was a lovely place, filled with lovely people, most especially my friends). I insisted we bring the new fancy water bottles, even though when we left Portland the water was scary and dangerous and needed to be boiled so we weren’t allowed to fill them up at the airport.

Every morning while we were there, I stole water out of my friend’s Brita pitcher. I filled it back up, of course, but I always got the coldest water of the morning. Then, I put the bottles in my messenger bag, and we’d go off on our Austin adventures.

Our friends showed us a lot of what Austin has to offer. From parks to food trucks, from barbecue places to swimming in the creek (they haven’t lived there long enough to call it a crick yet, but they may someday!) to everything in between, we had a fun-filled (packed!) weekend.

And dang if the water didn’t stay cold! The entire time! The bag was left in the hot car when we went swimming, and the water inside the water bottles still tasted like it had come fresh out of the pitcher.

They come in a bajillion colors. I bought ours from a distillery (of all places to buy a water bottle — maybe they were hoping we’d fill it with 18 ounces of gin?) so they have a logo etched on them, but they were also significantly more expensive than the ones listed here.

Buy a Hydro Flask For:

  • Your dad, for Father’s Day
  • Your mom
  • Your sister
  • MY sister
  • Anyone who should be hydrating more than they already do
  • People who mix cocktails inside a water bottle to take to a park (those sneaky boys and girls!)
  • My friends in Austin
  • People who end up buying bottles of water when they’re out because that’s the only option that doesn’t suck
  • Anyone who likes a cool drink on a hot day
  • Those who like fun (I’m looking at you, Brittany)

Things Not to do With a Hydro Flask:

Contrary to what the label says, do not put hot beverages in this unless you’re transporting the hot beverage to a new location (one with coffee cups). It does its job too well, so if you pour coffee into it then try to take your dog Stanley on a morning walk a) he’ll pull you, and b) you’ll be carrying around coffee you can’t drink.

Okay, that’s quite enough nerding out over a water bottle. Even for me.

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