Frugal Portland http://frugalportland.com Save 50%. Spend Consciously. Take Control. Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:25:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How One Couple Used Home Equity to Pay for Travel http://frugalportland.com/one-couple-used-home-equity-pay-travel/ http://frugalportland.com/one-couple-used-home-equity-pay-travel/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:25:00 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6291 The following is a post by a new friend who reached out to talk about traveling the world and being able to afford it via some unusual methods. I asked for a post with details, and he delivered. Now I have the travel bug (thanks, a lot, dude!) and a new fascinating blog to follow....

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The following is a post by a new friend who reached out to talk about traveling the world and being able to afford it via some unusual methods. I asked for a post with details, and he delivered. Now I have the travel bug (thanks, a lot, dude!) and a new fascinating blog to follow.

Some of this post is controversial (I mean, he talks about “good debt” sheesh!) but I love his idea of a shift in focus. He and his wife sound like the kind of people who look at a situation and figure out how to make it work. They moved into their garage, then they took off on an adventure, and they are using their mortgage (and equity) to pay for travel.

Take it away, Bryan!

My wife and I spent years reducing our debt, minimizing expenses and finding ways to live more simply. They all worked (slowly) and gradually were taking us to a slightly better place than we were before. While the change was all for the better, we still felt stuck and the path ahead still daunting. It was only when we found a way to escape our mortgage that things truly took a turn, and we learned to truly live free.

After reducing our debt substantially we quit our jobs and ran away to reinvent ourselves. We enjoyed a year on the road finding ourselves while driving through Mexico and Central America, and became completely different people. But eventually it happened – we missed home and longed for the life and comforts of urban living in Portland. We were faced with the question of whether to get another job or stay homeless and happy as long as possible.

We analyzed our lifestyle and eventually found a third option. We didn’t need the immense space of our 3br home. We converted our garage into a Portland ADU that was more comfortable than the house itself, and we moved in. Within months, we found ourselves living in our perfect home and with someone else paying our mortgage each month. We had tasted freedom!

Below are nine ways you can use your home and mortgage as centerpiece to your frugal life through a “creative home use” plan:

1. Downsize

packed

Take a step back and look at your life and how it fits into the home you’re living in. When we took a deep introspective view of our home and living habits we realized we had two rooms that almost never got used (but still needed furniture/stuff to fill them and still had to be cleaned (at least occasionally). We didn’t commit right way, but eventually, we rented out our house and moved into a smaller home as an experiment and found we were far happier without the expense, overhead and cleaning that came with the larger house. Over the years we moved into smaller and smaller homes until we finally found the perfect square footage “number” for us.

2. Ask Yourself the “Home vs. Lifestyle” Question

pier

I bought our first home thinking that it was the end goal…that I was finally successful. I had made it and things would get easy from there. In truth, it was just the beginning. After the house came buying the stuff to fill all five rooms inside it (plus the attic and garage), the car loan, the equity line, the investment, and the debt that inevitably follows all those things. It’s truly amazing how much we can expand to fill the space available to us. How easy society makes it for us to “need” that stuff to fill our spaces. The debt that my first mortgage (and all that followed) brought felt more like an anchor around my neck than success.

3. Get out of Debt

rp_debt-is-for-the-birds_c6bjje.png

We all know there is good debt and bad debt. Most of us also know we have too much of both. When we really started paying attention to how much debt we had accumulated (and how little of it we were paying off each month) we saw how stuck we really were. How far from the freedom we actually were. That’s when we engaged in the deep savings plan. With our goal in mind, we downsized and changed our living, eating and spending habits. We paid off credit card debt, car loan debt, student loan debt and equity lines, and each time we paid off one loan the newfound “extra” money would go straight toward the next one. Eventually, we paid down a substantial portion of our debt, sold everything, quit our jobs, and took off to fulfill a dream of long-term travel.

Note from Kathleen: Debt is not forever. At least it doesn’t have to be. My friend Jackie is pulling together some of the best minds this month to remind you that your debt does not define you, and it doesn’t have to be with you forever.

4. Admit Your Primary Home is NOT an Investment

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

I read this years ago…but it took a while to sink in. Most of us look at our home as our biggest investment. Sadly in a “traditional” home ownership example, it’s the worst (at least for the first 30 years). If you look at your home in regards to passive income that allows you to live freely, it’s impossible to see it as anything other than an expense.

Luckily (especially in Portland) it is now possible to disprove this theory, but not by continuing to spend most of each paycheck on your mortgage payment.

5. Create your own “Creative Home Use Plan

Portland ADU zenbox

Our mortgage was the one bill that always seemed to shift conversations back to not being able to survive without full-time jobs. We finally found the loophole. A way to have our cake and eat it too. To live in the neighborhood we want to be in, but to allow someone else to pay (or help pay) the mortgage while still living there. At first we discussed living with roommates, but that was never ideal in the past and it certainly didn’t sound “free.” Then it finally hit us. We have a two-car garage that sits empty most of the time! We were used to living in a van and our empty garage was almost 480 sq ft; it would make a perfect home for us while we continued renting the main house.

6. Build/Convert to an ADU

transforming table

The city of Portland is one of the few urban areas in North America that allows each lot to have an Accessory Dwelling Unit built in addition to the primary home. This structure can be used in whatever flexible manner best fits the homeowner and can be changed over time. For example, the owner could choose initially to rent out the ADU to help offset the mortgage. Later in life could move into the ADU so that a renter is paying the entire mortgage. And later still find themselves moving back into the primary house so that the ADU is available as a studio/office, or for an aging parent or adult child returning home to live in.

Often converting an existing attic/basement or garage into an affordable separate living space creates an ADU. In our case, the expense of our garage conversion will be paid off in about 2 years as we live rent/mortgage free in one of Portland’s best neighborhoods. For more info, check out this Portland ADU Guide

7. Get Involved in AirBnB and the Sharing Community

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The world around us is changing rapidly as it embraces the sharing community. Portland recently became the first city to legalize short-term rentals of our homes or ADUs. This means that the average homeowner can legally rent out their entire home (or any room within it) on a short-term basis. While you may not immediately think that you want to share your home with strangers, it is a fact that many of your neighbors are making terrific money (or at least helping to significantly offset their mortgage payments) using AirBnB.

Many people in Portland are now building ADUs specifically to rent out short term (all the financial benefits without having to share your home with strangers). For us, once our ADU was completed we found ourselves traveling more often because people kept requesting to stay in our ADU. Suddenly we had someone watching our home while we were away and paying us to do so. Suddenly we were getting paid to travel, and our entire world had changed.

8. Get another Mortgage

6

I know…that seems less than frugal, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money. If you think mortgage prices have gone sky high, just look at the cost of renting! We happen to live in one of the cities where it can be as cheap to own as it is to rent. Sadly, not everyone can afford the down payment or has the credit history to buy a home. That means that they will inevitably pay rent to someone and help pay off a mortgage that isn’t theirs. Why not yours?

9. Travel More

pier

Seriously. Once you have embraced the idea of your home as a short-term rental, you may soon realize that you make more money when you aren’t home (depending on how frugal your travel habits are). In our case, we have discovered that we actually make more money renting our home for a night than we typically spend a night traveling. That…is a mental shift that takes some getting used to, but depending on your desire for travel can be a complete game-changer.

We are sharing these ideas because we are amazed at how much flexibility and freedom our own creative home use plan has afforded us. We are not experts and certainly don’t have all the answers, but we are passionate about the conversation and happy to talk with anyone looking for ways to find or create a path to their own freedom.

Bryan and Jen (aka the Dangerz)

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Learning About My New Neighborhood http://frugalportland.com/learning-new-neighborhood/ http://frugalportland.com/learning-new-neighborhood/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 22:25:08 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=6279 Moving sucks. I’ve moved too many times in my adult life, which is funny, because as a kid, my parents moved exactly once, when I was three, to the house where my dad still lives. There’s the packing, which I kind of like, actually, because it allows me to declutter, and when moving, I’m much...

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Moving sucks.

I’ve moved too many times in my adult life, which is funny, because as a kid, my parents moved exactly once, when I was three, to the house where my dad still lives.

There’s the packing, which I kind of like, actually, because it allows me to declutter, and when moving, I’m much more ruthless than usual, because I don’t want to go to the effort of moving things I’m not going to love. Plus, putting things in boxes creates order among chaos.

Then, there’s the actual moving itself. This time, I didn’t hesitate to hire movers. Because it was New Year’s Eve and we were pretty much out of friend credit because all of our friends helped ensure the wedding was a success just three months before, we simply decided to make a phone call.

Unpacking is somewhat satisfying because there’s a visual account of your progress. “Look at that pile of boxes,” you can say to yourself. “I did something valuable!”

The part that sucks? Readjusting after you’ve moved. Redefining normal, when there are tasks that inevitably pile up, making every night a “just one more project” night, which means you’re doing little else other than eating, sleeping, and settling in.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not. Because I’m done settling. I moved across town and already have new haunts: there’s a gym less than a block away (I can almost see it from my house) with no-excuses times that’ll help ensure I exercise daily. I already have a favorite coffee shop. And a least-favorite coffee shop (but if you have babies, that’s where we’ll go).

This weekend was full of “global warming is real” weather, so we took a walk around the neighborhood and had brunch. I got a chance to play with my new camera (an awesome Christmas present from Brent).

Here’s what a weekend walk in January looks like in my new neighborhood:

2015-01-24 13.26.39

cool fence

 

the ice cream sandwich of my dreams: 2 gf chocolate chip cookies + goat cheese and roasted orange ice cream #pantsdontfit

the ice cream sandwich of my dreams: 2 gf chocolate chip cookies + goat cheese and roasted orange ice cream #pantsdontfit

where's thank park? new construction runs from whimsical to modern.

where’s thank park? new construction runs from whimsical to modern.

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Giveaway: Wood Watch by Jord! http://frugalportland.com/giveaway-wood-watch-jord/ http://frugalportland.com/giveaway-wood-watch-jord/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 20:44:47 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5966 Review and Giveaway: Wood Watches by Jord In the spirit of conscious spending, you might find yourself in need of a new timepiece. Jord reached out to me over the holidays and asked if I’d like to give away one of their wood watches to a reader. I said yes. If you’re not wearing watches...

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Review and Giveaway: Wood Watches by Jord

jord-watch-casual-clothes

In the spirit of conscious spending, you might find yourself in need of a new timepiece.

Jord reached out to me over the holidays and asked if I’d like to give away one of their wood watches to a reader.

I said yes. If you’re not wearing watches anymore because you’re so hip to the digital era, I invite you to step back in time (though not so far back that you start carrying pocket watches, because you’ll have to also carry a monocle, which, let’s face it, you should have kept in your buggy).

See, the wood watch goes as nicely with a fancy dress as it does with a shirt that I wore all day long, before stepping into the bathroom at the end of the day and realizing it was completely see-through (which, you’re welcome, Phoenix… hope you enjoyed my white bra!).

jord-watch-fancy-dress

These wood watches are well made, and look actually quite nice. I realized they’re not exactly my style, though, which helped me appreciate that I can say things like that (“my style”) confidently. I wear a bigger, more metallic watch because that’s what I prefer.

But I really love the look of these watches, and I showed mine to my sister, who fell in love with it.

Once she forgets that she saw it, I’ll gift it to her. :)

You want to win?

Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will be announced at the end of the month. Good luck!

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30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015 http://frugalportland.com/30-personal-finance-resolutions-2015/ http://frugalportland.com/30-personal-finance-resolutions-2015/#comments Tue, 30 Dec 2014 16:08:52 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5905 I love this time of year. We just celebrated with our friends and family. The wrapping paper is in the recycle bin. The gifts were well received (or if they weren’t, we’ll never know the difference because our loved ones are good at acting) and there’s still a few days before we go back to...

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30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

I love this time of year. We just celebrated with our friends and family. The wrapping paper is in the recycle bin. The gifts were well received (or if they weren’t, we’ll never know the difference because our loved ones are good at acting) and there’s still a few days before we go back to work.

Then, soon, before we know it, it’ll be 2015. A year filled with newness and possibility. A year to do the things you wanted to do in 2014 but never could get around to. A year to accomplish great things.

It’s this gauzy dream time before January 1st that makes it all seem possible. We’re not going to be lazy! We’re not going to find excuses! No, not next year. No sir, no ma’am. We’re going to floss our teeth, make our appointments, and do it all. In the back of our minds is that voice telling us that we don’t get to plan it all, that life will throw precisely whatever it wants to in our general direction, and the only thing we can do is to keep swimming, but if you’re anything like me, you plan anyway.

That’s why we’re friends.

That’s also why I’m giving you some ideas for your financial resolutions. If you’re stuck, take a look at this list and get inspired.

Here are 30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015:

1. Get Out of Credit Card Debt

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Make this the year you’ll get out of credit card debt. Once and for all. Cut the cards if you have to, but you probably won’t have to. You got this. There are all sorts of resources on how to get out of credit card debt (some are even here!) but it’s pretty simple. Stop spending with your credit cards right now! Then, start paying off your credit cards in any manner you choose. One at a time? Highest interest first? Whatever! You can do it. If I could do it, you can do it.

2. Adjust Your Retirement Contributions

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

If you’re contributing to a Target Date Retirement fund, quit it. My sister saw a huge improvement simply by switching from a target date fund to the Vanguard 500, which is about as diversified a mutual fund as you can get. It is a combination of 500 stocks and bonds and it mimics the market. You can go that route, or if you want to be more active, you can try Jemstep.

3. Max Out Your IRA

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

The question isn’t whether you can afford to max out your IRA this year. The question is, can your future self forgive your current self if you don’t? It will take $5,500 to max out your IRA this year, which works out to $458/mo, or a car payment on a very expensive car (or a short loan). Throw bonuses this direction. Add any additional monies. Get to it. The alternative might just be eating cat food in your golden years.

4. Start a Side Hustle

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Do the hustle! The side hustle, that is. Depending on your needs and goals, your side hustle can be anything from a traditional part-time job to capitalizing on any number of skills and interests you have in the hobby part of your brain. If you’re in debt, aim for a side hustle with a clear payout: every paycheck, every time you earn a tip, every single dollar can go toward the debt of highest pain. If you’re out of debt, you can futz more. Start a blog, take videos of your cat and post them on YouTube, evaluate your craft skills, and find a market for your talents.

5. Negotiate a Raise

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

The idea of negotiating a raise makes me uncomfortable, and I know I’m not alone. But the key to negotiating a raise is to take emotion completely out of it (and entitlement, while we’re at it) and show what you’ve accomplished over the period of time since your last raise (or if it’s been that long, since you were hired). Make your case, and ask for a specific increase. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know, and contrary to the voice inside your head, if you ask, and they say no, you’re not in hot water. You simply know where you stand, and if the conversation takes an odd turn, maybe 2015 is the year to start looking for another job.

6. Consider a Spending Ban

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Spending bans are awesome, and you can take the idea as big or as little as you want. You can say, “I’m not spending money outside of basic needs until I hit goal X,” or you can say, “no new haircuts until goal Y,” depending on what you want to accomplish. My favorites are month-long goals, since it seems like it takes that long to establish new habits. If you are someone who always goes and gets a tasty treat on your way to the office, decide not to do that anymore in January, and by the end of the month, you’ll have figured out a replacement habit (delicious coffee in a fun to-go mug?) that will save you money.

7. Audit Your Bank Accounts

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

You won’t know how much you’re spending, or how many fees are coming in, until you take a long look at your bank accounts. Are there money leaks in your boat? Look for charges, look for places where you spend without thinking, and see if you can plug those leaks. Take a long look at your monthly services. Sure, $8 a month for Netflix is no big deal, but if you’re not using it, it’s a waste of money. Same goes for the gym. Don’t keep paying your gym membership just because you know you should go to the gym.

8. Cancel Recurring Fees

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Speaking of those leaks, are there any recurring fees you need to cancel? I remember looking at this when I was getting out of credit card debt, and finding that I was paying Bank of America a whopping $89 a month (!) for something like job-loss protection. Well, I beat myself up after seeing how many months I kept paying for that “convenience” (which, even when I did lose my job, I did not use because I didn’t even know I had it!) then I canceled it immediately. Does your bank charge for bill-pay? Do you USE it? Those fees can really add up. While we’re here, do you have cable? Call your cable company — their rates are exceedingly flexible. Threaten to leave. Or downsize your plan. They hate that.

9. Understand Your Taxes

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Your taxable income determines your tax bracket. The lower your income, the lower your tax bracket. With me so far? There are ways to reduce your taxable income, and sometimes reduce it enough to drop your tax bracket down to the one below it, and that can make a huge difference in what you end up paying the IRS in April. Here are the tables for this upcoming year, from Bankrate. Contributing to your retirement lowers your taxable income. So does contributing to your HSA, if you have one of those. Mortgage interest, donating to charity, anything you do at work pre-tax, all can help get you into the bracket below the one you’re in. Use math to help build your dreams.

10. Set Long-Term Goals

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

What’s the end goal? Brent and I couldn’t answer that for a while, but now that we know the long-term goal (which is perhaps another post for another day!), we can more easily figure out our plans on a daily basis. “Does this help or hinder our end game?” is a question that takes emotion out of the questions that come up, and knowing where we’re headed (even though we also know how the world changes, goals change, and that the path won’t be linear) guides our savings, investments, and spending.

11. Set Short-Term Goals

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

How do you eat an elephant? The right answer is, “I don’t… why would I want to eat an elephant?” but the answer we’re looking for today is, “one bite at a time.” If you know where you’re going (in the next 15 years, say), then you can figure out what you need to do next year to build systems to make your long-term dreams come true. Let’s say you want to have $1M saved in 15 years. That means in 2015, you need to save $66K (without factoring interest or inflation). That sounds hard, and it is darn near impossible without having an income that is, how shall we say, quite a bit higher than that, but it can be done. The combination of short- and long-term goals help keep you motivated in the day-to-day and help you see where you’re going. In 15 years you can say you are a millionaire (which might end up being less “Richy Rich” than you think, but that’s okay).

12. Review Your Insurance

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

How much are you paying in insurance? Does your ten-year-old Corolla need comprehensive insurance? Mine certainly doesn’t. Are you carrying enough insurance? Too much? Bundling can save you money if you’re paying one company for home/renter’s insurance and another for your car insurance, get a quote from both companies and see if it makes sense to bundle.

13. Consider Life Insurance

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Did you get married this year? Congratulations! Now, it might make sense to look into life insurance. Do you get insurance through work? Does your spouse? Before you talk to an insurance salesperson (who, remember, does not have your best interests at heart) decide how much money you’d need to keep your house and keep food in the refrigerator if the worst-case scenario actually comes true. Go for more than the bare minimum, but less than a “putting a hit out on your spouse” amount.

14. Decide to Save

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

As much as you can. You know I’m all for 50%, and so is our group (join us!). If you read “save half your income” and think, “oh, I can’t do that because xyz,” stop it right now. You can save more than you’re already saving, and you know it. Excuses don’t help you get ahead in this world. Saving money does. Having money in the bank buys you peace of mind and gives you more options. Prioritize savings, make it a habit, and watch your accounts grow.

15. Re-Evaluate the Emergency Fund

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

On the other hand, you do not need a huge emergency fund. Parking your money in your checking account, or your 0.1% savings account doesn’t help you one bit. Open a non-retirement Vanguard account, put your money in the Vanguard 500, and watch it grow. Sure, it’s more volatile than the “sure thing” of your checking account, but it’s not much more risky, and you can earn up to 10% if you park it there. Plus, you can get it out of Vanguard in three to five business days if you need it. That won’t help you for the quick emergencies that inevitably appear, but it will help you for the emergencies you can foresee. So, keep $1000 in checking, but not much more. Move the emergency fund to an index fund and let it grow.

16. Check Your Credit

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Hey baby, what’s your score? You should know it, because it’s an indicator of how attractive you are to lenders, and while that’s not the most important thing unless you’re shopping for something major, knowing your score is considered a fantastic idea. Check your credit for free using Credit Sesame or Experian, which just released FICO scores as part of the credit check. Credit Sesame is free, but Experian costs $1, which is probably the best dollar you’ll spend, unless you’re also in a situation to buy Sour Patch Kids, in which case, it’s a draw.

17. Understand How Much Home You Can Afford

30 Personal Finance Resolutions for 2015

Do not let the loan officer at the bank tell you how much house you can afford! That’s worse than getting sucked in to a six-year car lease. You shouldn’t use your gut either, unless you have the kind of gut that says, “sure, yes, you totally can afford some fraction of a million dollars for a house,” and if you have that kind of gut? Teach me how you do it! But here again, math wins out. What are you paying in rent right now? Would you be comfortable if your payment went up $400 a month? $500? Figure that out, while still hitting your savings goals, and use a calculator to determine your monthly payment whenever you’re looking at Redfin or Zillow. Before you fall in love with something.

18. Really Think About Retirement

Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

What does retirement look like? Are you interested in mostly a life of leisure, or are you simply looking for a way to opt out of the traditional 9-5? There is no right answer. Or rather, there’s not one right answer. You can go as extreme as you’d like — there are plenty of early retirement blogs out there — or you can work until you’re 65 or older. Whatever you like! If you don’t like the extreme early retirement people, then don’t join them. Plain and simple. But even if your age starts with a 2, you would be doing yourself a major favor by actually thinking about your whole life (especially the part where you’re no longer young and hot). It might be difficult to imagine, but hey, growing old is the best case scenario for your life. Give it some thought. Plan for it.

19. Calculate Monthly Expenditures

Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

If I asked you how much money you were spending each month, could you answer? If you’re anything like me, the answer is no. I could guess, but I’m probably too forgiving when I guess. I’ll leave out major things, or assume I’m spending less than I am. This is one of my resolutions for 2015. No excuses next year. None. We aren’t throwing a major party (that I’m aware of), we’re just moving across town and settling in. No need to expensively feather our nest. Starting in January, I’ll be able to say with certainty how much money we typically spend in a given month.

20. Stop Wasting Money on Food

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

Food is a major component of spending (after housing and transportation). There are a myriad of ways we waste money on food: eating out too often, buying groceries only to let them rot in the refrigerator, neglecting to plan our meals. The list goes on and on. Resolve to stop wasting money on food this year. I’m working on an ebook that will help. Release date is early next year. Keep you posted!

21. Simplify Your Accounts

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

How many checking accounts do you have? Savings? What about credit cards? Make this the year you simplify. Move everything. Close accounts (just keep the credit card that’s been open the longest). It’s easier when you have fewer things to check in on. Even the most diligent can miss an annual payment on a credit card they don’t use (just ask Brent). Unless you’re a conspiracy theorist and you have reasons only you understand for keeping money spread around, close some, automate the rest, and get on with your day.

22. Get Healthy

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

What’s the point of all of this if we’re too unhealthy to enjoy it? Let’s make 2015 the year we dedicate to our health, while we still have most of it. If we don’t, the Universe will let us know sooner or later (probably sooner) that it’s too late. Before you get to that point, slim down. Eat more vegetables. Move your body. Use the time away from the computer to think about life. You’ll come up with ideas you never thought you had. I’m dedicating myself to more exercise, more greens, and more health in 2015, and I’d love for you to join me. Let’s live as long as we can with the health we have!

23. Start Using Mint

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

You know what will help with at least three of these personal finance resolutions? Using a robot that will track all of your accounts for you! You’ll be able to track spending, see how many accounts you have open, and check your credit, all in the same place! Make sure to log in to Mint at least once a week so you can categorize your spending. It’ll help you along the way. Mint is smart, but just a robot, so you need to tell it how to categorize. Do this every time you make a PayPal purchase, too, because if you’re anything like me, PayPal is like cash, and it’s easy to forget what you bought.

24. Don’t Spend “Found Money”

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

Bonuses, tax refunds, money from grandma, anything you weren’t expecting to get is found money. You know who spends found money? Poor people. Reset your thinking. Don’t spend found money. Use it for your goals, fold it into your life. If this is hard for you, ask for gift cards. Put found money to work. You didn’t expect it, so you don’t get to spend it. Instead, buff up the IRA, or the savings account, or something else. Not the mall, though.

25. Consider Downsizing

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

Do you have more house than you need? How much money could you save by moving into a smaller space? It’s worth considering, because with a smaller space comes a smaller footprint on everything financial. If you have rooms in your house that are always closed, you could be a good candidate for downsizing.

26. Decide How Many Times You’ll Eat Out This Year, and Stick to It

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

How many times did you eat out in 2014? Ask Mint. Now set a number, smaller than last year. Include going out for birthdays, and any other time you don’t cook at home. Now, keep track. If you are only eating out ten times in a year, make them count. Definitely don’t go get tacos or something else you can make at home. Make a plan, make it special. Do not deviate.

27. Drive Less

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

I work from home, so I drive so infrequently that I’m filling up my gas tank every six weeks or so. I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting rid of the car altogether, but since it doesn’t cost much to keep it around, I’ll keep it for now. Heck, at this rate, the car will last another decade or so, costing about $30 a month in insurance and $40 every six weeks in gas. If you can turn your car on less and get out on your bike more, you’re doing two things for the price of one. You’re getting healthy and you’re driving less. Your car will last longer, your legs will start looking great, and you’ll be set.

28. Get Rid of 20% of Your Stuff

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

Nothing beats minimalism. The less you have, the less you need. I’m confident that you could go through your home today and fill your car with things to bring to the charity shop of your choice. Do this the easy way. Do you have boxes in your house that are still packed from when you moved in three years ago? Unless they contain financial paperwork, take the boxes to the car. Now. Henry, I’m talking to you. You’ll find that once you start eliminating, you’ll get on a roll, and before you know it, you’re not attached to anything anymore. Except clean lines and blank surfaces. You won’t miss that 20%. Pinky swear.

29. Get an Accountability Partner

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

It’s all fun and games until you hit a snag. Then it’s easy to give up. That’s where your accountability partner comes in. Make sure you pick the right one, or a group, because you want accountability, not enabling. Someone to pick you up when you’ve fallen, and to be picked up when they’ve fallen. Someone who knows your goals and who will not encourage you to “just buy that sweater it looks great on you!”. Someone who will check in with you. If you want a public forum, send me a note. I’ll publish your goals, and our whole audience will check on you. How’s that sound?

30. Give Away Some to Remind Yourself How Good You Have It

30 Personal Finance Resolutions Frugal Portland

Yo, I know how hard it is to hit financial goals. But when life feels hard, give money away to someone who surely needs it more than you. I’m a big fan of giving money directly (especially in the cold months when you know there’s a need, otherwise why be outside at all?), but if you don’t like that idea, just give $20 to your choice of recipients, whether they’re organizations or individuals. It’s the best way to get a little perspective. You’ll understand that you have it pretty good if you’re always sleeping inside and always have enough to eat, even if you’re not hitting your $1M savings goal.

 

What are you changing this year?

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Frugal Portland Sunday Deals: Year End Sales http://frugalportland.com/frugal-portland-sunday-deals-year-end-sales/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-portland-sunday-deals-year-end-sales/#respond Sun, 28 Dec 2014 16:10:12 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5899 Pamela from WikiPamela.com here again with another set of Sunday deals for you! I hope everyone had an amazing holiday and got to spend lots of time with loved ones. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but did anyone else get the urge to return a gift just so that you could use a...

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FrugalSunday Deals

Pamela from WikiPamela.com here again with another set of Sunday deals for you! I hope everyone had an amazing holiday and got to spend lots of time with loved ones. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but did anyone else get the urge to return a gift just so that you could use a coupon and get a better deal on the item? Because that thought totally crossed my mind! Definitely a “you know your frugal when” moment! If you have a funny moment like that feel free to share with us in the comments below.

OK… on with the deals for this week. My goal after every major holiday is to take advantage of all the holiday overstock that goes on sale immediately after the big day. So today, I’ve got a couple of post-Christmas sales and deals for you to take advantage of.

Gadgets galore

Mini in the Box is having a boxing day sale. If there are any gadgets that you wanted for Christmas but didn’t get, now is the time! Or perhaps you got your gadget but need some extra chargers and accessories. There are two ways to save. Get $6 OFF $55 with code: Boxhappym or click this link to get 20% off any order over $25.

Christmas tree blowout

Christmas Tree Market is clearing out their stock of Christmas trees for the year, so if you’ve been needing a new tree, you can get up to 70% off a new one for next year. They also have wreaths, garlands, and storage solutions for your Christmas gear.

Christmas Tree Market

Custom printing

MixBook.com is offering up to 50% off everything until 12/29 (that’s tomorrow, so hurry!). This is the perfect opportunity to put together an end of year family photo album of all the great photos taken over the last year, or maybe you got engaged over the holiday and need to send out some announcements. Whatever your need, this deal is too good to pass up! 

Dinnerware deals

Did some of your dishes and glasses not make it through the holidays? Jay Import Co. is offering 25% off plus free shipping. Now’s the time to replace those broken pieces, or even just get a whole new set. They offer both formal and casual dinnerware, so whatever your style… they have you covered.

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Frugal Portland Sunday Deals: Extra Cash for the Holidays Part 2 http://frugalportland.com/frugal-portland-sunday-deals-extra-cash-holidays-part-2/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-portland-sunday-deals-extra-cash-holidays-part-2/#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:00:57 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5726 Hi there, it’s Pamela from WikiPamela.com again with this week’s Frugal Portland Sunday Deals for you! Hello December! Wow the year is flying by. If you’re still looking for ways to earn some extra cash before Christmas, you’re in luck! Today I have part 2 of Extra Cash for the Holidays for you. (see part 1...

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Extra cash for the holidays part two Frugal Portland Sunday Deals

Hi there, it’s Pamela from WikiPamela.com again with this week’s Frugal Portland Sunday Deals for you! Hello December! Wow the year is flying by. If you’re still looking for ways to earn some extra cash before Christmas, you’re in luck! Today I have part 2 of Extra Cash for the Holidays for you. (see part 1 here)

SendEarnings will give you $5 just for signing up with them!

Complete offers and earn money with CashCrate.

MySurvey will pay you for your opinions.

Springboard pays you money for taking surveys.

SwagBucks allows you to earn rewards that you can redeem towards gift cards and other merchandise just for doing what you already do online!

Toluna lets you earn rewards for taking surveys and polls.

Inbox Dollars pays members to read emails, take surveys online, play games, and go shopping. Plus, you get a $5 bonus just for signing up!

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Frugal Gift Guide 2014 http://frugalportland.com/frugal-gift-guide-2014/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-gift-guide-2014/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:45:28 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5829 Hi friends! Next week is Christmas, and after that, we’re going to have to figure out what else we’ll talk about on Frugal Portland, because holy smokes, it’s like I’ve gone to all the extra effort online and (ahem) simply hung stockings at home. It’s been a bit busy over here (yes, I know, we all...

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Frugal Gift Guide: How to gift frugally + what to give people working on their money goals.

Hi friends! Next week is Christmas, and after that, we’re going to have to figure out what else we’ll talk about on Frugal Portland, because holy smokes, it’s like I’ve gone to all the extra effort online and (ahem) simply hung stockings at home.

It’s been a bit busy over here (yes, I know, we all have the same hours as Beyonce or whatever) and I’ll tell you more later, but let’s just say it involves moving (and no, Tricia, it does not involve nurseries, thank you very much!) across town.

I was thinking about the kinds of gifts to give when you’re frugal, and what to give to people who are frugal (and not necessarily by choice). The former category is my wheelhouse — I do homemade gifts every year, which, sorry friends who do not live within my own town or Phoenix, Santa’s going to be a little late this year — and the latter category is really fun, since you can splurge a bit on someone who really appreciates a splurge. Read on for the best frugal gift guide I’ve ever put together!

If You Are Frugal

Frugal has a wide variety of definitions, but in this case, let’s agree that it refers to having a small amount of money in your holiday budget, but not a small amount of love for the people in your life. If money is tight, and you’re actively working toward your goals, you do not need to let Christmas take over.

Think Outside the (Perfectly Wrapped) Box

Hand holding Retro style alarm clock, isolated on white

Listen up, buttercup, you have two things: time and love. Don’t think because you don’t have a lot of money that you can’t give someone something they need. Spend time with people! Let them relax. Don’t worry about not having enough. That’s not what Christmas is about. Give your stressed out friend something he needs more of: time.

Clean House

Cleaning Tap

How awesome would it be to have a friend or relative say, “you know what? Take yourself out to lunch next Saturday, and leave me the key. Come back a few hours later,” and you take them up on it and come home to a blissful clean house? All the way awesome, that’s right. If you have more time than money, consider doing that for someone you love.

Make Cookies

Ginger Christmas Cookies Stars in the jar

Or caramel sauce, if that’s your thing. Probably just me, though, yeah? Everyone loves a tasty treat this time of year.

Take it to the Car Wash (Yeah!)

iStock_000001135153_Small

My dad does this for us when he’s in town. He’ll take our cars to the car wash and drive them through. But not only that, he goes the extra mile, with a pocket full of quarters, and vacuums out the interior. He even takes the spray bottle to the insides of the car! I love this tradition, and it feels like he’s spoiling us (which he is!) but all in, he’s spending less money than he does when he takes us out to dinner. Dad’s not frugal, but even if you are, this is an awesome gift.

If the Recipient is Frugal

This is the fun part. The short answer is, anything she’s not buying for herself. Or, better versions of what he’s buying right now. Below are some ideas, but just think about “upgrades” and you’ll be fine.

Or things the recipient actually needs.

ClipSee

My sister does not exactly follow the rules when it comes to where to hold the phone when she’s driving. Even though her car has bluetooth, she still fumbles with her phone more than she needs to. Enter Clipsee, the seatbelt phone holder!

Sheets

Mom always got us sheets for Christmas. Now that she’s not with us, I thought it would be cute to carry on this tradition.

Coffee

Specifically, Starbucks Christmas blend. Don’t hate. It’s delicious. And, right now, if you buy two bags, you get a free $5 gift card, which will pay for an Americano and a rice krispie treat (or so I’ve heard). When looking for an image of this, I realized it is now called Holiday Blend, as if they’re somehow being more culturally sensitive by not having the word Christmas in the name. Political corectness will be the end of us.

Trip to the Spa

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 8.15.33 AM

Regardless of gender, a trip to the spa is always special. It’s always a treat. And, there are ALWAYS Groupon discounts at various spas around my town (yours too, probably). So, unless you’re so fancy that you have your “normal spa” where you’re a regular and everyone knows your name (in that case, what on earth are you doing here? Are you lost?), at least take a cursory glance to see what Groupon has to offer

Art

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 8.27.13 AM

Here’s where I’m hoping my sister really doesn’t read this site, as she claims she doesn’t. I bought this gorgeous map of Portland after seeing it on a Facebook ad (so good job, Minted!). It’s so so so pretty, and I’m a little worried I bought something I like instead of something I know she’ll like. But who am I kidding. It’s gold, and it’s Portland. It’s awesome.

Tickets to the Movies

Things I did not know you could buy on Amazon include movie tickets, but you can, and they’re cheaper than the box office, that’s for sure. If you end up going that route, your tickets might arrive after Christmas, so you’ll have to do something crafty like make your own ticket that your recipient can redeem for a trip to the movies.

Pay for Something on Their “No No” List

If your friend is a personal finance blogger, or has somehow restricted her shopping while working toward a goal, buy something she’s not buying. Buy Cait a coffee, for example. You know she isn’t buying her own. Buy the getting-out-of-debt version of me a haircut, since that was one thing I restricted when the end was in sight. Buy a restaurant gift card. Something special.

 

And have a really wonderful Christmas! If you’re offended by that, then have a really wonderful week next week, and don’t be offended so easily!

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Frugal Portland Sunday Deals: For the New Mom http://frugalportland.com/frugal-portland-sunday-deals-new-mom/ http://frugalportland.com/frugal-portland-sunday-deals-new-mom/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 17:00:50 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5722 Hi there, it’s Pamela from WikiPamela.com again with this week’s Frugal Portland Sunday Deals for you! Today’s deals are all about new moms and new babies! If you are a new mom, or know a new mom take a look at all these freebies. These would make amazing holiday gifts (for yourself or a friend). Get...

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Sunday deals for new Moms Frugal Portland

Hi there, it’s Pamela from WikiPamela.com again with this week’s Frugal Portland Sunday Deals for you! Today’s deals are all about new moms and new babies! If you are a new mom, or know a new mom take a look at all these freebies. These would make amazing holiday gifts (for yourself or a friend).

Get two free Belly Button Bands (just pay shipping). I have actually been using these throughout my pregnancy and can tell you that they are a life saver! I am 8 months pregnant now and was never able to find a pair of maternity jeans that I liked, so I’ve just been wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans and using these Belly Button Bands to convert them into maternity jeans! They’re amazing!

Get 5 free baby leggings. I’ve ordered these too and can tell you that they are amazingly cute! While I haven’t used them yet (remember I’m only 8 months pregnant) I have washed them and so far they seem durable and cozy. These are essential for winter babies and can also be used as arm warmers!

Get 2 years of Parents magazine for just $0.33 an issue plus a free gift! Makes a great gift, or get a subscription for yourself (or both at this price!). Parenting is hard and we could all use some advice. Parents magazine is perfect!

These next three offers would make an amazing baby shower or holiday gift for the mom who plans on nursing!

Get a free nursing pillow (just pay shipping). New babies nurse a lot which can mean a serious arm workout for mom holding baby in just the right position. A nursing pillow can help keep mom’s arms from getting tired. Plus as a bonus this pillow can also be used for tummy time for baby later on!

Get 10 pairs of breast pads for free (just pay shipping). Don’t let leaks ruin your shirt. These reusable and washable breast pads are not only comfy but cute too.

Get a free nursing cover from Udder Covers (just pay shipping). For moms that like a little more cover while they’re nursing, the Udder Cover gets great reviews from moms that have used them.

And for the mom on the go, these next two offers would also make an amazing baby shower or holiday gift.

Get a free carseat cover (just pay shipping). A carseat cover is perfect to make sure baby stays warm and doesn’t wake up when being carried around.

Free baby sling from Seven Slings (just pay shipping). Ever tried grocery shopping with a baby? It can be hard because you don’t want to leave your baby unattended in the cart while you go to get something off the shelf. A baby carrier can be a life saver!

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Shop for a Worthy Cause and Win! http://frugalportland.com/women-save-money/ http://frugalportland.com/women-save-money/#respond Fri, 12 Dec 2014 14:48:44 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5859 If you live in Portland, and you are a woman, and you need more business casual clothing, you should not miss this sale. Clothing costs between five dollars and $15 and it’s all in wonderful shape, very gently used, and the kind of brands that you pay a lot more money for anywhere else. If you...

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acey's

If you live in Portland, and you are a woman, and you need more business casual clothing, you should not miss this sale. Clothing costs between five dollars and $15 and it’s all in wonderful shape, very gently used, and the kind of brands that you pay a lot more money for anywhere else. If you need another reason to come to the sale, you know that the organization, is outstanding. They provide interview outfits for women transitioning back into the workforce, support for women who are in their first 90 days of employment (which are traditionally the hardest), and job skills to help break the cycle of generational poverty.

Below is their email blast:

Amazing deals on new and gently used women’s designer clothing, shoes and accessories (All starting at $5!) ***Featuring designers like: Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Eileen Fisher, Georgio Armani, St. John’s and more! 

Accessory grab bags and raffles tickets available for purchase!

Where: 1532 NE 37th Avenue, Portland, OR 97232 – Dress for Success Oregon. Between Broadway and Sandy in NE Portland.

Parking: Available on the street or in the parking lot at the Banfield Motel.

Contact: Dress for Success Oregon at 503.249.7300
Cash and credit cards only (sorry, no checks).
Due to limited space, adults only please.
All sales final.
I’ll be there when the doors open at 10 AM, then I’ll be there again from 1 PM to 4 PM. If you see me, say hello!
I was just there this week (my usual time to volunteer is the HOPE program, which meets every other Tuesday and helps support women in their first 90 days on the job), and I came away moved. See, sometimes, especially for me, it’s easy to get locked up in my own little world (I say especially for me because working from home means I have to make an effort to be out of the house) and get caught up in, for lack of a better word, first world problems.
The HOPE attendees, though, do not have first world problems. They’re struggling. Some of them haven’t worked in months… for others, it’s been years. The odds are not in their favor. And yet? They keep coming. I sat at the front desk, checking people in, handing out grocery gift cards and gas gift cards (not much, but everyone was really appreciative) and looked at the sheets they were filling out.
Overwhelmingly, the women in this group who were stepping out of poverty and in general trying to get it together have jobs where they are helping people worse off than they are.
Think about that for a second. Tell me it’s not inspiring you to do better. To do more for others.
If someone who is not yet making enough money to stop qualifying for food assistance is taking a job counseling people on parole, or working with the homeless population so they don’t freeze over the winter, surely you and I can do more. Whether you feel it or not, if you’re surfing the internet from your home computer, you are privileged. Sure, you might have more credit card debt than you want (no judgement here, I’ve been there!), but if you have the funds for home internet, you’re not receiving public assistance, and therefore, you are doing really quite well. Kudos.
Look, it doesn’t matter whether you give to charity or not. I just want you to read this today, then pause, just for a second, and remember how good you have it.
Then, be nice to people. Everyone is fighting their own battle.
If you do feel compelled to give, Dress for Success is a worthy organization. The meeting I attended last night proved to me that this organization works. They provide a helping hand, not handouts. They empower women to use the tools at their disposal to make a good life for themselves.
Donate here if you want.
Put my name in the comment field (Kathleen Celmins) if you can’t come to the shopping trip. But if you’re local, you really should come shopping. I saw the stuff. It looks good.

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10 Free Things to do to Get Into the Holiday Spirit http://frugalportland.com/10-free-things-get-holiday-spirit/ http://frugalportland.com/10-free-things-get-holiday-spirit/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 16:57:32 +0000 http://frugalportland.com/?p=5845 Get into the spirit of the holidays without spending a dime (other than gas money to get places). Here are TK free things to do to get into the holiday spirit (some are Portland-centric, but I bet there are similar things in your fair city): 1. Go See the Big Christmas Tree You know, the big...

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10 Free Things to do to Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Get into the spirit of the holidays without spending a dime (other than gas money to get places). Here are TK free things to do to get into the holiday spirit (some are Portland-centric, but I bet there are similar things in your fair city):

1. Go See the Big Christmas Tree

pioneer courthouse square christmas treeYou know, the big one. In the town square. Wherever that is for you. For me, it’s the middle of the city, and it’s lovely. I can enjoy the scenery as I drive past, or I can enjoy it for longer, if I happen to be downtown past dark (which, as cool as I am, let’s not mince words here, does not happen very often).

 

 

2. See Gingerbread Palaces

In Portland, step into the Benson Hotel and see this year’s amazing, enormous, gingerbread palace:

Frugal Portland free holiday things

I love this tradition. One, as a local, I never go to the hotels here, so it’s fun to step in and be surrounded by wood-paneled swanky hotel lobby. Two, it’s decorated so nicely, and three, holy smokes what a gingerbread house! My past attempts at glueing graham crackers together with powdered sugar and water pale in comparison to actual gingerbread palace with a church that has stained glass windows! See if there are gingerbread house competitions in your area.

3. See Crazy Light Displays

peacock lane

There’s a place in Portland… a neighborhood, really… with some odd rules in their homeowners’ association. If you buy a house on Peacock Lane, you must go all out in your Christmas lights. No, really. The best way to enjoy this little stretch of Portland is to park outside the neighborhood and walk. Driving through is ridiculous (and there’s another reason I won’t be living on Peacock Lane).

4. Watch Elf

Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit than watching Elf. My tradition is to watch it over Thanksgiving weekend, and I’ve done that for five or so years now. It’s sweet, it’s silly, and even my dad got into it. He started by asking, “What are you watching?” but then got roped in, and by the end of the movie was chuckling. I even heard him say later that weekend, “must be a south pole elf.” If you’ve never seen it, it’s on Netflix. If you don’t have Netflix, surely someone you know has a copy.

5. Take Pictures of Pretty Christmas Displays

Portland Oregon - White Stag sign.  Photo by Steve Morgan.I have a fancy camera with a lot of fancy accessories, and I like to take it on photo adventures. It’s really fun to head downtown and take pictures of lobbies. Hotels, restaurants, banks, even the streetlights, get into it with wreaths, evergreen boughs, lights, and twinkles. Our “Welcome to Portland” sign becomes Rudolph this time of year.

6. Write Emails to People You Miss

Stamps are expensive, but emails aren’t. Get fancy with your fonts and backgrounds on Word, then PDF that and send a non-traditional Christmas letter. Talk about your year. The highs, the lows, anything in between. Or send one-off emails. “Dear Grandma, I love you oh so much. Happy Christmas.”

7. Find Christmas Bazaars

This might sound counter intuitive, since we’re talking about free stuff, but I adore holiday bazaars, and have been to more than 100 in my life, and have probably spent money three of those times (not counting something warm to drink if the bazaar happened to be outside). They are SO FUN though, even if you don’t buy anything. It’s fun to see the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in the holiday space. Plus, it’s a place where people wear Christmas sweaters un-ironically, even in Portland, which makes my heart happy.

8. Watch the Lighted Boat Parade

lighted-boat-parades-mDo you live on a body of water? I always have. Growing up, we would get reservations at a fancy restaurant, and we’d get them early so we could have a window seat to watch the boats go by while learning how to behave while eating seafood. We’d dress up, make it a thing, and it was always so fun. After my sister and I left home, my parents still made reservations for a while to watch the boats. Here in Portland, the water is more of an every-person thing, given that there’s a river that cuts right through the middle of the city. That’s great for those of us who don’t want to go spend money in a fancy waterfront restaurant but still want to see boats with lights on them. There are all kinds of places to go watch the sparkly boats go by. My favorite happens to be J.D. and Kim’s place, because it’s inside, but you could bundle up and walk along the waterfront. Go tonight! Or Thursday! More info at ChristmasShips.org.

9. Attend Open Houses in Downtown Stores

Macy's_Holiday_WindowsGrowing up, my mom sometimes took us to Seattle to do holiday things because Seattle was so big and cosmopolitan compared to Olympia. One of our favorite things to do was walk around the outside of department stores and see the amazing displays. They were always so fun and different! This memory may explain why adult Kathleen still thinks of Seattle as a magical place around the holiday season.

10. Go for a Holiday Hike

PiestewaPeak-brittlebushThis one is new to me, because I am afraid of the cold, but last year at Thanksgiving, I was in Arizona. “Do you want to go on a hike?” asked Brent’s dad, the morning of Thanksgiving. Sure! Paying in advance for all the things I was planning on eating later sounded like an odd, but awesome, thing to do. I thought it would be a great idea, and the path wouldn’t be crowded since, after all, it was Thanksgiving. I was 100% wrong about that last part. It was a great idea, but we had to park so far away from the trailhead that we got an extra little hike in addition to climbing a little mountain! Exercise, it turns out, is the thing to do in Phoenix on Thanksgiving. I’m guessing Christmas, too. It’s a fun tradition: gets us out of the house, our blood pumping, and being outside when most of the country stays inside.

What do you do to get into the holiday spirit?

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