The Weekender, Episode One

The weekender, by Kathleen Celmins. Episode One.

It’s 7:30 on Saturday morning, and I’ve been awake for over two hours. Ergo, the birth (or rebirth, if you’ve been reading long enough) of the weekender, where, sometimes, on the weekends, I’ll post inspirations and thoughts from around the internet. Grab a cup of coffee, and sit a spell.

Stock Images Are Fun

We have a giant stock image package through work, where we’re allowed 750 downloads a month, and we use about 150. So, I get to use one or five for my own blogs! It’s through iStock, and I can honestly say that finding just the right stock image for company blog posts is one of my very favorite parts of my job. The best one this week was an image for a post about shore excursions, and how they’re dangerous. I’m not sure they’ll use it, but I loved it:

Stock images are awesome

Why am I bringing up stock images? I mean, aside from the obvious point to demonstrate how cool I am. Read more

Embracing the Change: Fall Goals

2014 Fall Goals -- Frugal PortlandSummer was the season of weddings, specifically mine. Now, the honeymoon is (quite literally) over, the present delivery has slowed, and our house is more or less put back together.

The wedding was fun. One of the best days of my life, up to this point. The sun shined, the ceremony was great, the day went by in less than 20 minutes (how is that even possible?), and I even got to eat the food!

Now I’m “just regular married,” and honestly? I prefer it. It’s like being engaged, but now we’re not planning anything. Just this weekend, we got to do things we wanted to do, not things we had to do for the wedding.

Now it’s fall, and it’s time for new projects. The air is slightly crisper, we’ve had a few days of rain, and the trees are starting to turn from green to red. I have a lot of things on my to-do list for the fall, and in the spirit of “posting things publicly might be the kick in the pants I need to get things done,” I’ll list them here. Anyone want to be in charge of kicking me in the pants? ;)

2014 Fall Goals


We are so lucky to have friends and family that helped us feather our nest. Now it’s time to keep only the truly lovely and useful items in our home. I love our home, but we live in a small space, and in order to keep things clean, we have to keep things orderly. Aside from the dog hair all over everything, we’ll have to pare down.

Specifically, I want to eliminate things and create more space in:

  • The linen closet
  • The office/second bedroom in general, and the closet in particular
  • The regular closet
  • Both chests of drawers
  • The bookcase
  • The kitchen cabinets, including the island

This goes beyond the 1:1 rule, where for each thing we bring in, we have to send one out. This is about streamlining our space. I’ll keep track of how we’re doing this, including before and after pictures, and how we’re creating more space.

Health: Skinny Dogs Live Longer

“Skinny dogs live longer,” said my vet, when I took Stanley in to check on an ear infection. I asked if he thought Stanley was too skinny, and that was his response. “By about two years,” he added.

Well, I’ll keep him skinny, then. And while we’re at it, I’m going to work toward getting skinnier too. How will I do this?

  • Start running again with Brent
  • Work out at the least frugal gym I know (but I love it, and I’m going consistently, and insert justifications here) four times a week. Join me on Saturday! It’s free! If I’m in town, I’ll be there.
  • 10,000 steps a day (many with Stanley)
  • Eat fewer treats, and more crunchy veggies

Also, it’s time to make a doctor’s appointment. I need an annual exam, and I sure would like a professional to tell me what on earth is the matter with my stomach. Am I a celiac?

Time to find out.


Write more! I’m publishing once a week here, and three times a week on For Profit Blogging. (By the way, it’s the first of the month, have you updated your stats in the blog stats tracker yet?) and I’d like to keep that up. For the last two weeks, I’ve spent “football Sundays” writing my blog content for the week. That helps with the 80/20 rule of blogging, which states you should only spend 20% of your time blogging, and 80% of your time connecting with others.

Speaking of connecting, I’m working on two collaborative writing projects. I’ll definitely keep you posted when these are more complete, but I think the answer to “how can you be as productive working for yourself as you are working at a company?” is collaboration. I don’t want to let my partners down, so in essence, I’m thinking of them as my boss. I’ll have much, much more to say, soon.


This year, I’ll host Thanksgiving for the first time ever. Dad will come down, Caitlin will come over, and we’ll have a feast in our home. It’s the first holiday we’ll host as a married couple, and I’m excited. I’ll be even more excited if I can convince Caitlin we should eat something other than turkey, but I don’t have my hopes up.

I also want to create a wedding book that includes our whole ceremony, so I can look at it whenever I want.

The first year of marriage is the hardest, says conventional wisdom, so especially now, when we’re establishing “the new normal,” I’ll work to make our marriage a loving one, even if it means I have to spend the afternoon at the DMV. That’s love, Brent. :)

There’s something about the beginning of a school season that allows for a refresh, and a reset. I’m ready. I have all the tools I need: my virtual Trapper Keeper with Lisa Frank separators, virtual protractor, which I still don’t understand, and all the virtual gel pens I could possibly need.

I’m ready, fall. Let’s do this.

What are your goals for this season?

Is it Even Possible to Have a Frugal Wedding for 150 Guests?

Is it even possible to have a frugal  wedding when your guest list is 150?

It wouldn’t be out of line if you called me a “control freak.” In some situations, at least. There are plenty of times when I’m perfectly happy to go with the flow, but put me in charge of planning something? Well, that’s when the little shovels inside by body start digging a pit in my stomach.

When Kathleen and I started to plan our frugal wedding, my stomach traded in the shovels for an industrial backhoe. Like in most planning situations, the stress I experienced was totally self-applied. I even had my (very wise) mother telling me: “Brent, just hire somebody to deal with this,” when she first caught wind of my grand plan for the the wedding. “Ah,” I replied, “But coordinators are expensive, and we are trying to come in under $15,000 for the wedding.” I figured I could save money, maybe even come in under budget, if I managed the details myself. More fool I.

Let’s be clear about something I am completely aware of: our wedding is not a frugal affair. There are any number of things we could be using that money for. $15,000 is a  staggering amount of money to spend on an event that takes less than five hours (I say this knowing full well that the “average” American wedding runs in the neighborhood of $30,000, which, let’s be honest here: WHAT?!). However, if you want to throw a party for 150 people, there aren’t a lot of ways to save on money without costing yourself an exorbitant amount of time.

So, Kathleen and I agreed that we would do most of the work ourselves, except for on the actual day of, when we would hire somebody to pull the levers while we were, you know, getting married.

If throw in the entire ball of wax, including rings, wedding outfits, rehearsal dinner, we ended up going  way over budget, with our wedding clocking in closer to $25,000 than $15,000.

Here are the decisions we ended up making that we thought would save us money:

Picnic in the Park

Is it Even Possible to Have a Frugal Wedding for 150 Guests?

We didn’t want our wedding to be all that formal. Partially due to the fact that Kathleen and I aren’t particularly fancy people. Partially due to the fact that we felt it would put a different stamp on our wedding. But in the front of our minds, we figured if we kept the event more casual then we could save money just by conforming to the general theme. The park permit for the day was about $600, we’d provide our own beer and wine, thereby spending less on alcohol for 150 people than some weddings spend on the cake. A local food truck that is one of our favorite places to eat in all of Portland caters for under $15 a head.

The $5 Wedding DJ

weddings are expensive, yo

Did you know Pandora has a Wedding Music station? Not interested? How about just throwing on a Classical Guitar station? Or a Golden Oldies station? Or… or… or… You name it. We’re not having a dance floor in the park, why bother to spend the money on a DJ or a band? Just pay the $4.99 for a month of commercial-free Pandora. This way, you can be absolutely certain “Electric Slide” never gets played.

Handcrafted Favors

we made treats for out of towners

Our out of town contingent is receiving a gift bag with homemade treats. A little handcrafted love goes a long way.

 Dressing Down

no suits at this wedding

Khakis, button down shirt (with the sleeves rolled up), and Adidas Rayado sneakers. I bought the entire outfit new and it still came out to about half the cost of a tux rental. Plus, my groomsmen and I can actually wear the stuff again. Kathleen’s dress was more expensive, but she came in under $750 which, for a wedding dress, is bordering on unheard of.

It’s In the Details

I think we probably would have spent the same amount of money (possibly less) by hiring a full-time coordinator as we did by trying to go it alone. By the time the last two weeks rolled around, we got lazy and started throwing money at problems to make them go away. I imagine a professional would have anticipated these things in advance, making up the extra costs with simple foresight. Even so, it would have easily been worth it if I had to spend $1,500 for somebody to take over in the last month leading up to the event. I had many sleepless nights because I didn’t have anybody to focus on the things that ended up eating the last four weeks of our time, including:

  • Setting up the venue
  • Cleaning up the venue
  • How to transport things to and from the venue
  • How to keep drinks cold. On a 95-degree day. In Portland. In September. This is freakishly hot.
  • How to deal with tables and chairs when your ceremony and reception venue happen to be the same space

That’s to say nothing of the time it takes to orchestrate all of this. The time, the worry, the money, none of it was worth the ethereal “pride” of doing it ourselves.

So if you’re planning a wedding, even if you’re looking save money in the process, do you and your future spouse a favor and hire a full-time wedding coordinator that can help you through the process. I wish we had.

Did you have any “frugal fails” when you planned your wedding?

5 Habits You Can Drop Completely to Save Money Right Away

5 habits to drop completely to start saving money right away

The following post is from Anne, who lives in my computer, and is covering for me while I’m kind of busy. She just launched a new site — Money Propeller! Read the habits you can drop, then tell her why you’re not giving up coffee on Twitter (she’s @moneypropeller). Please note, she is Canadian, and cannot help herself from adding additional vowels to words. She’s not even apologizing for it!

There are a lot of things that cost a dollar here or a dollar there that we don’t really think about at all. Frequently, they are tied to our habits, a decent number of which aren’t all that great for us in the first place.

Bad habits?

Who? Me?

Of course not!

I kid, just because I am suggesting these things does not mean that I have necessarily succeeded in eliminating them, they are, however, all definitely habits you can drop completely to save money. If you find yourself in a situation where you are in debt, you probably shouldn’t be doing any of these things, at least not on your own dime, because you don’t have your own dime. All of your dimes belong to the bank!

Without further ado, here are five habits you can drop completely to save money right away:

1. Chewing Gum or Eating Mints

It has been ages since I chewed gum with any regularity. That said, it is still ever present at the grocery store check-out, and there are even fancy packages next to the till at Starbucks. Likewise, with mints.

Whenever I get mints, usually they are free swag from somewhere, I have a tendency to eat them all in the space of a few days. If regular mint eaters even come close to that rate, they are dropping much too much money on something that is totally unnecessary. If you want them for your breath, carry one of those super tiny toothbrushes, instead. Your dentist, your waistline, and your pocket book, will thank you.

2. Drinking Coffee

Believe it or not, it is possible to entirely stop consuming coffee. There are tens of thousands of people in Utah who will tell you it is possible. You probably even know some people who don’t drink coffee at all.

I am almost one of those people. My doctor told me to cut the caffeine, so that I felt better. The first two or three weeks were very hard, I won’t lie. But, once I made it through, I did feel better. Plus, I spend a lot less on coffee now. I just don’t buy it much anymore. Less in terms of groceries, less in terms of restaurants and coffee shops. Your body doesn’t need it and will be better off without it, even. Your pocketbook doesn’t need it either.

Give it a shot. No coffee. At all.

3. Drinking Pop/Soda/Juice

Empty calories. All of them. That coconut water or kombucha that you love? Superfluous. Just stop drinking all of these things. Just like with the coffee, your body won’t miss them and neither will your pocket book. Do you know what else will benefit? The planet. The transportation, garbage and recycling of all of these things takes a horrendous toll on the earth.

Buying groceries will be easier when you aren’t lugging that stuff all around, either. Plus, you can always eat an actual orange, and enjoy the fibre, if you want that delicious citrus flavour.

4. Drinking Alcohol

This is a hard one to give up. I don’t even try, myself, but thankfully I am in a financial position to not need to. Alcohol is extremely expensive, not very good for you, and a luxury. Cut it out, or cut it down.

5. Buying Take Out

Buying take out is usually due to our own laziness. Most of it is awful for you, and expensive. Stock up on some grab-and-go meals, especially home-made ones. You can even resort to a collection of clif and luna bars, or cans of chili. Pop in to a 7-11 and borrow their microwave. Shhh.

They will have a lot less sodium and unpronounceable things in them, which your body will appreciate. They’ll also cost a lot less. You can survive without any take out at all. Trust me, I know. There is virtually nothing that I can eat from take-out anymore, due to food sensitivities, and I manage to survive. Funny, that. It’s just a change in habits, that’s all.

There you have it, habits you can drop completely to save money, and to save your body!

Anne writes about her oscillations between penny pinching and splurging on her blog Money Propeller. She also talks about gift giving, ranging from super cheap gift ideas to expensive, at her other blog Unique Gifter. If you want to chat or ask her a question, follow her on twitter @moneypropeller, she spends a bit too much time there.

When You Have Credit Card Debt, You Can’t Afford Anything

When You Have Credit Card Debt, You Can't Afford Anything

Let’s talk about credit card debt for a second.

I know about credit card debt. It was my companion for over six years. At its peak, I owed more than $20,000 on a credit card. I ignored it for a long time (that’s how it stayed with me so long!) but once I got serious, it was time to break up with the credit card.

I paid off the credit card somewhere in 2012, and just kept trucking. In fact, I can more easily remember the feeling of paying off all my consumer debt than I can recall what it felt like to pay off my credit cards. A little less stupid, I think. But as Joe always says, paying off credit card debt is not a goal. It’s just the first step toward getting your stuff together and acting like an adult.

When You’re In Credit Card Debt, The Bank Owns You

After I got out of credit card debt, there was no going back. In fact, I remember thinking I couldn’t even give financial advice until I’d gotten myself out of credit card debt. Credit card debt is evil. That’s strong, sure, but true. If your finances are determined by how much you owe rather than how much you can save, you will never, I repeat, never, get ahead.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying, either to you, or at the very least, to themselves.

It’s interesting. I’ve seen several personal finance bloggers write about credit card debt lately. But not in the “credit card debt is evil and must be eradicated as soon as humanly possible” way. In the “I still carry credit card debt because I’m working on other financial goals” way. I know that personal finance is personal, and we’re in America, or Canada, where everyone gets to do what they want, but I am left scratching my head.

I honestly thought, “high-interest credit card debt” was the category of debt that fell firmly into the “Bad Debt” category. Because if there is such a thing as Bad Debt, it’s the kind that charges double-digit interest on things you’ve already bought. How is this not a universal thought?

What Paying Off a Credit Card is Like

If you have credit card debt, let’s play a game. How much is your interest? Mine, at the highest, was 25%. Once I called and got it negotiated (after three “transfers to my manager”) all the way down to 23% interest.

Would you invest in a fund that guaranteed a return of 10-15% (or whatever yours is — are they still 25%?)? I know the answer, because who wouldn’t want a guaranteed return of double digits?

Here’s the thing, though. There are no investments that can guarantee that kind of return.

No investments, that is, except your credit card.

See, by paying down your credit card, you’re essentially earning that interest because every month you pay over the minimum is a month of your life you get back at the end of the debt payoff process. So why not do it?

Here’s the thing. If you have credit card debt, absolutely every purchase you make is something you can’t afford. Buying something while in credit card debt is not always irresponsible, because even those of us in debt have to eat, but when you’re already in the negatives, you can’t afford anything. Not groceries. Not rent. Definitely not those shoes.

Paying Off Credit Card Debt is Step Zero

Don’t buy anything until you’ve proven to yourself that you can live in a world where you spend less than you earn. Don’t overextend yourself. You want take out? YOU CAN’T HAVE TAKEOUT. You want to buy a car? Forget it. You can’t afford it.

I’ve seen other people talk about buying a house while they still have credit card debt.

Don’t do that.

Get your financial house in order before buying a house.

Before aggressively paying down other loans.

Before building a huge emergency fund.

Before having a baby.

Before getting married.

Do You Still Have Credit Card Debt?

If so, why?

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