Travel: Guide to Ojai, CA

Ojai is a beautiful, quaint town tucked away in a valley between mountain and sea. We first discovered it a year ago and it has since become one of our favorite local get-away destinations. Only a three hour drive up the coast of California, this hidden gem is accessible and holds all that we love to do. Good food, beautiful shops, and plenty of hiking trails and outdoor activities. Boutique hotels hold the charm of a pioneer-town, with garden patios and ranch-vibe inns. Our favorite times to visit are sunny California winters or in the Spring. I would recommend avoiding the Summer months when bugs like to come and visit the valley floor and snakes litter the hiking trails. That’s just my personal preference! Regardless, Ojai deserves a travel guide. Here are some of our favorite eats and shops in downtown!


♦◊◊◊
Not worth the time.

♦♦◊◊
Good, but ordinary.

♦♦♦◊
Great. Worth a visit.

♦♦♦♦
Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Pinyon

♦♦♦♦
423 E Ojai Ave Ste 101,

Ojai, CA 93023
$$

Pinyon is a great spot to grab sandwiches and pizza! Even though it’s on the main street of downtown, it’s an easy spot to miss. I am here to tell you to make sure you don’t just drive by. They serve pastries and coffee for breakfast. For lunch they serve amazing hoagies. Mike and I split a lamb hoagie with confit for dipping.

The server behind the register was so excited to talk about how they sourced the meet. Pinyon partners with local farmers who raise sheep. The sheep help to keep grass levels down which reduces fires on the mountains of Ojai, which used to be way more frequent. We couldn’t help but feel like purchasing our sandwich helped protect the land! Pinyon also makes pizzas in a wood-fire oven. All their dough is made in-house and I just have to say the seeded hoagie bun was out of this world. We also got a pretzel on the side, which we used to lap up the left-over confit.

The Dutchess

♦♦♦♦
457 E Ojai Ave,

Ojai, CA 93023
$$

First and foremost, the first time we went to Ojai, we missed going to The Dutchess. But on our most recent trip, we found ourselves at their door all three days of our vacation. Our wedding party had a welcome ceremony there, and the bartenders were allegedly serving some of the best cocktails that night. Being pregnant, all I can attest to as far as drinks go was the merry composition of the guests. They also had the rehearsal dinner there and Mike’s grandmother could not stop talking about the chicken.

A Burmese-French inspired spot, delicious desserts such as passionfruit chiffon cakes, rye chocolate sables, and shortbread linzer cookies were served. Every morning thereafter, I begged to go back for breakfast. We wolfed down ham croissants, samosas, berry danishes, bagel sandwiches, cheese croissant twists, and scones. It’s good I don’t live there because my wallet would not be able to take it. As an avid baker, I would highly recommend this place! Next time, we will stop by for dinner.

Farmer and the Cook

♦♦♦♦
339 W El Roblar Dr,

Ojai, CA 93023
$$

Farmer and the Cook is further away from the main downtown road. It is, however, worth the drive. The farmer owns 12 acres of CCOF certified land producing organic foods. It’s part Mexican-cafe, part grocery store, and part pizza shop. They serve delicious smoothies and granola bowls. We also tried their vegetarian tacos and classic burrito. The day we went, we were with eight other friends who all enjoyed their food. It’s a great option for vegetarians! You can really tell the ingredients were fresh and in season.

Topa Topa Brewery

♦♦♦♦
345 E Ojai Ave A,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

We love Topa Topa Brewery. There’s a Santa Barbara location as well, one I am sure gaucho grads are familiar with. The Ojai location is in the heart of downtown. With an outdoor patio, it is perfect for sunny afternoons. A group of gals went with me and we spent a few hours away from the boys drinking good beer and chit-chatting away. Within the establishment is Little Sama, a delicious asian-inspired restaurant that serves food to-go from a tiny window. See my review on Little Sama below.

Revel Kombucha

♦♦♦♦
307 E Matilija St c,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

If beer isn’t your thing, then you may want to swing by Revel for some on-tap kombucha that’s sure to raise your spirits. They also serve fully organic acai bowls for the entire family. The colorful decor and foods really set the vibe here. A teenager’s dream hang-out spot, there are a few patio chairs outside however I recommend bringing your bowls to eat at the central garden not to far from the shop!

Little Sama

♦♦♦♦
345 E Ojai Ave A,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

This small establishment lies within the Topa Topa Brewery. We ordered our food to-go and ate at home, although you can also eat at the brewery itself. Southeast-asian fair pairs really well with Topa Topa’s extensive beer menu. All the dishes were tasty! Favorites included the signature chicken wings, lemongrass beef donburi bowls and seared tofu. We also enjoyed the Vietnamese noodle salad and Okonomiyaki tots. Perfect for a lazy night in after a full day of hiking!

Ojai Rotie

♦♦♦◊
469 E Ojai Ave,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

Delicious Lebanese-French rotisserie chicken is being served in this outdoor patio area under twinkling lights. Picnic style is the vibe, with the wooden picnic tables and family style packages. A picnic for four is purchasable, with options to get chicken in half or full sizes. Accompaniments include sides such as potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and slaw. Sprinkled in the menu are dishes such as kafta, lebne, hummus and freshly grilled manouch. Plus, freshly baked sourdough line their shelves every day!

Papa Lennon’s

♦♦◊◊
515 W El Roblar Dr,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

We got take-out on a busy Friday night booked with wedding preparation and celebration. It was a local recommendation to try Papa Lennon’s pizza. They say it’s one of the best, but to be frank, it was mediocre. I’m alright with being called a pizza snob, but the take-out fell short of my expectations. The toppings were sparse and the dough was tough to chew. It did, however, save us on an extremely busy night. It’s just, for what you pay for, I think we could have gotten something better.

The Nest

♦♦♦♦
401 E Ojai Ave,

Ojai, CA 93023
$$

Delicious pub-fare, with an outdoor patio and late-night hours. We headed over here with a group of ten friends as they were closing. Their food was super tasty and so were the drinks. I tried the chicken wings and the vegetarian tacos. Our friends gorged on sandwiches and burgers. Everyone was happy with their orders. The Nest also has a small shop where they sell kitchen products, pet accessories, and fun trinkets. I love swinging by to peruse the shelves and have walked away on multiple occasions with a trinket or other. Definitely would return here!

Osteria Monte Grappa

♦♦♦◊
401 E Ojai Ave,

Ojai, CA 93023
$$$

We had a reservation for 12 at this Italian restaurant in the center of downtown. You can’t miss it as it’s a beautiful establishment facing the main street. The food was delicious! Pasta was amazing, as well as all appetizers and dessert. Organic and farm-based, this restaurant makes their doughs from scratch as well. The restaurant itself has a cozy interior, perfect for a cold winter soiree. What could be cozier than carbs and homemade pasta sauce?

Sanders and Sons

♦♦♦◊
334 E Ojai Ave,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

Sanders and Sons feature a rotating array of gelato flavors, which change seasonally based on Mr. Sanders’ whim and fancy. You’ll never know what you’ll find on the menu. We tried a delicious mimosa flavor before landing on the Guava Bella and the Chocolate Covered Strawberries. Pair with a number of cone options, including Blue Corn Tortilla, Orange Creamsicle, Birthday Cake or Matcha. It’s the perfect treat on a warm, sunny California day.

Ojai Ice Cream Company

♦♦♦◊
210 E Ojai Ave,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

Ojai Ice Cream Company is at the end of the downtown area cross from the park and post. They serve both traditional ice cream flavors as well as wilder scoops. Whereas Sanders & Sons house the hip teens and twenty-year olds, young kids and senior couples can be found at Ojai Ice Cream Company. Look, good old-fashioned ice cream may not be trendy, but it is classic. And honestly, there are enough unique flavors here to make it Instagrammable. If you’re debating between Sanders and this place, I say try this spot first. Walk across the street to the park, sit on a bench, and divulge before the ice cream melts.

Bart’s Books

♦♦◊◊
302 W Matilija St,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

A bookworm’s dream, and a minimalist’s nightmare. I had mixed feelings about this spot. It was endearing, walking amongst endless shelves lined with all sorts of books and novels. The sun lit up beautiful corners, though there weren’t any reading nooks to speak of. However, from an organizational standpoint, it was quite over-whelming. Sections were broadly categorized based on topics, but the range they offered was so wide and the books sometimes out of alphabetical order. It was nice to peruse, but not for long. There were dusty corners to avoid, and I much prefer perusing a small, independently-owned book shop with personal anecdotes written on index cards on a limited number of books.

Noted

♦♦♦♦
423 E Ojai Ave #102,

Ojai, CA 93023
$

A paper aficionado’s dream store. Noted has everything from yearly planners to task pads. Little notebooks for travel and Japanese stickers line the tables. Coloring books for children and cookbooks or adults line the walls. In the back of the store lies a wall full of greeting cards, which my sister-in-law had a blast perusing. There were even desk brushes and fancy pencils and pens. It’s hard not to find something that speaks to you.

Dekor

♦♦♦♦
105 S Montgomery St,

Ojai, CA 93023
$$$

I always stop in this store, despite the high price point. Quality home goods can be found here. Elite fragrances, body oils, and beauty products abound. I personally love buying the body oils and fragrances from Rowsie Vain. There are coffee table books and jewelry, as long as locally made mugs and linens. It isn’t for shallow pockets, though!

This travel guide to Ojai only skims the surface. Definitely there are other things to love, like the Biking Trail, the kid park in the middle of downtown, the weekly Farmer’s Market, and the summer concerts in their auditorium. Places to stay include Emerald Iguana Inn, Ojai Rancho Inn, or the Capri Hotel. You can also book the super glam Ojai Valley Inn, a must-stop for all golfers. If you want to glam, check out the Caravan Outpost too! Or do what we did with our group of 12 friends and rent an AirBNB. You can’t really go wrong.

Photo by Brandon DesJarlais on Unsplash

Less Waste: Cloth Diapering with Esembly

This post is in partnership with Esembly, an organic and sustainable company dedicated to making cloth diapering accessible to all families. As a beginner parent, I found the notion of using reusable diapers as both endearing and scary. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure we could navigate this new world of child-rearing while holding onto our ideals of less waste. However, Esembly has put those worries to rest with their easy cloth-diapering system. I wanted to take a few moments to share with my audience what they have to offer. We now look forward to our diapering days with excitement and I hope you do too. If you wish to try Esembly, make sure to check out the 20% discount code at the end of the post (valid until January 30, 2023).

We have decided to take on the challenge of cloth diapering. Pursuing a life of less waste, we teeter-tottered between convenient and conscientious and decided on the latter. When I researched options for cloth diapering, I was dismayed to find that services available to big-city dwellers in New York are not readily so in our remote area. Luckily, Esembly has created a cloth diapering system that would work well, as long as we took to the laundering ourselves.

I figured, my two siblings and I were cloth diapered 100%, back when linen loincloths were the only option and our parents had to hand-wash whites in a drum. Paddles were used to slap the cloths clean and bleach was occasionally called upon to keep them white. Fast forward 33 years to automatic washers and innovation. Cloth diapering has come a long way! I am excited to give Esembly’s Try-It Kit a go. And to share with you guys what their well-thought-out system has to offer.

The Impact of Cloth Diapering

First and foremost, let’s talk impact. There are 11.4 million babies in the United States according to a 2022 census. An average infant uses 55 diapers a week. This amounts to 627 billion diapers entering the landfills per week. This also equates to 2,860 diapers per infant per year. Compare that to 48 Esembly diapers for an infant’s entire diapering saga.

Even if environmental impact wasn’t enough to make poopy diapers enticing, there are also dollars savings to be considered. If you purchased the cheaper brands on Amazon, it would still cost thousands of dollars to get your baby through to potty training. Shall you choose to purchase Earth-saving bamboo diapers or healthier, chemical-free alternatives, the price you’d be paying can so much as double or triple. Lastly, cloth-diapering isn’t as scary as it seems!

Esembly’s Cloth Diapering System

Esembly’s cloth diapering system is organic and sustainable. It was designed with parents in mind. The company wanted to take the edge off of cloth-diapering in general, which is stigmatized as being a hassle and downright gross. However, by simplifying the steps, Esembly has managed to make it fun and stress-free. Arming parents with the right products to turn this venture into a wild success story, Esembly has lowered the bar to access cloth diapering for people who live outside of big cities and who have had zero experience with cloth diapering in the past.

Pre-prepared bundles make purchasing easier for those wishing to cloth-diaper full-time, part-time, or simply give it an experimental whirl. Or you can take the Esembly quiz if you want a custom-fit solution. A subscription model also allows products to magically appear on your doorstep as you need them.

Additional Cloth Diapering Accessories

Multiple accessories make the laundering process more manageable. A diaper pail by way of a bag can hang from the back of a door, in the laundry room, or go directly into a sturdier option such as this Dekor Pail. A pail deoderant keep smells at bay until laundry day. Esembly users swear by the detergent and agitators that turn poopy diapers into unsoiled reusable cloths. And if you breastfeed like we plan to, the clean up is even easier as breastfed babies make biodegradable poop. However, poops must be thrown own before soiled diapers enter the pail once formula and solids are introduced.

Another thing I love about Esembly is that they are organic. Esembly diapers have less reactions than other disposable brands which may contain chemicals. Esembly also provides an array of skincare products for your babe such as rash relief cream and everyday balm. Reusable, sturdy cloth wipes are available to wipe away messes with ease.

Less Stress with Esembly

There is an argument to be had for cloth diapering, and that is one that relates to a life of less stress. With the right system in place, cloth diapering shouldn’t be too different from using disposable nappies. For fully breastfed babies, there is no need to clean the diaper at all. Simply remove and store in the diaper pail until laundry day. Wipe bums with their foaming cleanser and reusable wipes, and place a new inner. Wash all used inners, outers, wipes and diaper pail on laundry day. Just throw everything in the drum!

Another thing cloth diapering does is lower the cost of child-rearing. Forty-eight reusable diapers until potty training is all one needs. Cost reduction of child-rearing goes a long way in reducing overall stress in a growing family. Any opportunity wherein we can cut costs further enables us to work less and spend more time at home. And with Esembly’s subscription system, there is no need to run to the mart for detergent, wipes, or additional diapers!

Of course, all of this with the caveat that we are still awaiting the arrival of our newborn. But with excitement and gusto! Like all other things in life, we embrace the challenge of navigating cloth diapering. I feel much better and well-equipped with Esembly. And truly, Esembly aligns with our family’s values of intentional living, less waste, and simple living. I’ll be sure to circle around with a final evaluation in a few month’s time.

In the meantime, my audience with newborns or expecting family growth can start cloth diapering with Esembly today. Esembly is gifting my audience 20% off with the code THEDEBTIST on Esembly products purchased via my affiliate link until January 30, 2023. If unsure of your commitment, I highly recommend starting with the Try-It kit.

Spend Nothing When Having a Baby

When we found out that our family was growing, I immediately thought about our finances. We had heard projections on how much it costs to raise a child. But my first musing was, is it possible to rear children for less? Blasphemy, amiright? Nonetheless, I quietly set a personal goal to spend nothing when having a baby. It was such a daunting task that it took me a few days to voice the idea to my husband. Aside from hospital bills, I wanted to spend $0 buying the consumerist stuff. And it has been a wild success so far!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not so delusional as to think that this endeavor will be entirely free. (It sounds endearing, though!) We are already projected to spend $8-10k on the birthing itself, even with the help of PPO insurance coverage which covers 80% of the costs of childbirth in the state of California. But with a lot of intention, I think it can be made more affordable. As in, MUCH more affordable.

My personal goal is to spend close to nothing on getting ready for the babe. I’ve been able to stick to my budget, but three months is still a long way to go. I may get cold feet. FOMO might set in. Or the guilt that I am not being a good provider. For now, those thoughts are at bay. I truly believe that children learn through our actions, and this is my first lesson. Do with less, be with less, keep more to spare.

How to Spend Nothing When Having A Baby

Be intentional about what you need.

The internet is full of kid-items ready to sell to anxious moms and dads. As parents, we have a job to do for our children – to provide for and take care of. But we are also the gatekeepers of their worlds, the guardians of their lives and homes. And sellers, they have their goals too – to sell what they make as best they can.

What helps me stay grounded is to think back on me and Mike’s childhoods. We grew up with very little. I grew up in a third-world country and Mike lived in an apartment his entire life, sharing a bedroom with his dad until junior year of high-school. Our happiest joys were the simple moments – both in childhood and in adulthood. I remember collecting lady bugs in the backyard with my sister, catching mussels by a lake, and going to the playground behind the church. I like to think that we’ve already provided enough by situating our family in a beautiful community filled with amenities and outdoor activities.

In exchange for all the toys, Mike’s dad never missed a track meet or soccer game and my mother quit her job and cooked dinner every night. That’s my second motivating thought to being intentional: the less we spend, the less we have to work. The more we can be around for the important stuff. I can keep my part-time job. Mike can work from home whenever I go into the dental office. We hope to have at least one of us home with our kid every single day. In essence, my ability to not spend on non-essential items is my second source of income. AND it’s not taxed!

Be Open to Hand-Me-Downs

Hand-me-downs for most baby items are perfectly fine. They don’t have to be brand new, especially when newborns outgrow things in 3 months time. Baby stuff costs way too much these days. Rompers and footsies cost $20 each. That is a LOT of money. You could feed a family of three a decent meal with that! Cuter outfits cost twice as much. Remember, little ones aren’t even conscious of what they look like.

Embracing hand-me-downs also reduces waste. So many parents throw out their old stuff – toys, books, plastic dinner utensils, Tupperware, clothes – these could have lots of life left! Not to mention, it’s a bit of a pain trying to decide what to do with old stuff. Old parents may appreciate you offering to take things off their hands. It would spare them the guilt of throwing things away and give them the comfort that their items are going to be of use to someone else.

Already, we have a large number of items being handed down by aunties, co-workers, and friends!

Which brings me to my third point…

Rely On Your Community

In 2019, when we returned from New Zealand, I wrote a post lamenting the lack of community in California. I yearned for what Kiwis had – a rural, farm-life type of dependence amongst neighbors in small towns. I joined a bakery team BECAUSE I was looking for a community. I wanted to be a part of a group, instead of working in isolation as a dentist and writing in isolation as a blogger. Slowly, I learned that community was what you made of it.

I’ve come a long way since then. Despite a pandemic, I developed a community at both dental offices I work at. I connected with people in my area by volunteering at the farms. My work-out crew is the most motivating group of people I have. And I met a lot of dog-owners and cat-parents who have become dear friends.

Most importantly, we moved out of the city. I loved our live-work loft and the convenience of downtown living but we knew it wasn’t a place to raise a family. It also was a more solitary life. At the time, it was fine since we had a roommate living with us. We formed a mini-faux-family. But when we lost our roommate, it was “just us” in a world recovering from a pandemic. So we transported ourselves to the mountains, in a suburban area filled with multi-generational families. We live down the street from my parents, about five miles from where I lived since my teen years. And it was the best decision we made.

Make Use of Your Local Buy Nothing Group

I am really grateful to live in a community filled with families because it makes for a great buy-nothing group. Reminiscent of how moms in the past relied on each other for things such as spare eggs or a loaf of bread, the Facebook Buy Nothing group is filled with graciously gifted goods. We have turned to our Buy Nothing group to get a lot of things we need for our newborn. It is the #1 tool we have to spending $0 when having a baby. We have saved thousands of dollars because of our Buy Nothing community!

So far, we have received the following baby items from the Local Buy Nothing Group:

  • Two boppy pillows for nursing
  • Coterie Diapers for Newborns
  • A Graco High Chair
  • A Graco Baby Swing
  • Clothing 0-3 months
  • Clothing 3-6 months
  • Clothing 6-9 months
  • Clothing 9-12 mos
  • Baby shoes
  • A wooden crib

List the Must-Haves on the Baby Registry and Wait for the Baby Shower

My mom is throwing us a baby shower a month and a half before the baby arrives. We are constantly updating and evaluating the baby registry. As we collect more FREE stuff from relatives and the Buy Nothing Group, we remove items that would otherwise be doubled. In this way, we save the resources of our loved ones and focus in on the necessities. I refuse to purchase anything until after the baby shower. It could be that we receive everything we need!

Have tough conversations with your immediate family.

There are going to be many tough conversations with family members. For us, we started discussing expectations from the get-go. While they want what is best, sometimes, it helps to share what IS best for your family. I had to reiterate our hope to not accumulate a lot of stuff by way of books, toys, and clothes. We hope for our family members to save their hard-earned dollars and avoid buying children’s books (which we can borrow from the library down the street at a moment’s notice) and baby toys (which could be substituted by every day items). Our baby doesn’t need fancy clothes, and hand-me-downs will more than make do. If they could substitute STUFF with baby-sitting help, home-cooked meals, or free advice, we would be happy. These are tough conversations for grandparents, aunties and uncles who want to give your child the world and more. Telling them you don’t want what they wish to buy you may come off as being ungrateful. But it is necessary in order to foster a healthy relationship between you and your baby’s most important community.

Work for It

Lastly, you can do as I do and work for it. I created this blog space to share my story. But I also consider blogging a job. Here, I partner with brands that I believe in and exchange product for reviews, blog posts, creative content, or social media exposure. I think it’s a great gig for expecting mothers who don’t mind sharing their experiences with products! It is flexible, creative, fun, and totally in your control.

If you are interested in growing a blog, check out these posts I have written to get started!

As I said before, I am not so foolish as to think this will be the most frugal venture yet. But just like we’ve travel-hacked our way around the world, leveraged house-hacking to save money to buy our home, and paid my student debt down working part-time through frugal living, I think there are many CREATIVE ways to avoid over-spending when raising children. I believe parenting has gotten away from us. I fear companies and corporations have hijacked our anxious minds and convinced us of our need for yet more stuff. I am curious to see how much of it is truly necessary and am willing to challenge some of today’s assumptions.

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Intentional Living: Christmas Returns

I wanted to share the story of the Christmas gift that I purchased for Mikey last month. It was a fairly expensive piece of coffee equipment called the Ratio 6 (affiliate link should you choose to try it). It has been raved about by coffee addicts for being a drip machine that produces pour-over-quality coffee. We’ve been dying to try it for ages, but the high price point prevented us from buying it. Finally, I decided a joint Christmas/Anniversary gift would justify the splurge. However, the purchase did not go as planned.

We tried the Ratio 6 the week after Christmas. It looked gorgeous on our countertop. Easy to use, we thought this would be the perfect coffee maker for when the baby arrives. As we hope to have help in the form of grandparents, we figured that our community would involve a lot of people needing caffeine. It was a gift that we hoped would give to others.

And it made stellar coffee. Just as people said it would. However, the one part we didn’t like about it is the way the kettle poured the coffee. It splashed and gurgled due to an odd interior design. The anatomy of the spout had a lip that caused a bump during the pour. It was a mess to serve coffee from. Because of that one flaw, we decided to return it.

I don’t share this story to promote a snobbish sense of character. But the machine cost an arm and a leg, and the value just wasn’t there. In terms of functionality, it didn’t deliver the ease of use we wanted. So, we ended up trading it in for a standard Mr. Coffee machine that cost a tenth of the price. We figured that the purpose was to make big batches of joe that would sustain our community of baby helpers. We compromise by using quality coffee and water to begin with, and settle with less than pour-over standards for the sake of convenience. Plus, we saved a lot of money.

There was a time when I would have kept the machine. It would have photographed well. It would have made good coffee. People would have oohed and aahed. And I’ve been wanting it for a while. Previous me would use my want as justification enough to keep it. But I have since moved on to a more intentional lifestyle.

The power of intentionality requires that we make decisions based on value. We did not keep the machine because of a singular flaw. But for me, if it isn’t 100%, it isn’t anything at all. Some would overlook a short-coming so “minor”. I mean, it made dang good coffee at the push of a button. I give it cred. However, I saw the “minor flaw” as a reminder, as well as a relearning of a lesson. We can choose to spend our money on things other people convince us is “worth it”. But if you yourself don’t believe it to be true, have the courage to walk away. The media will sell. The group will convince you otherwise. Remember this: don’t waste your time on things that fall short. Life will not wait.

Unembarrasing Tips for Decluttering Christmas Gifts

  • Return for cash or credit.
  • Regift to others.
  • Resell on Poshmark or Craisglist.
  • List on your local Buy Nothing Group

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

How to Lower Gas Bill and Save Money

I just received an email from my gas company regarding the increase in home gas prices for January 2023. The cause was attributed to a nationally unprecedented cold snap. The effect? An expectation for this month’s gas bill to double in price. During a time of inflation, this isn’t necessarily the news home owners want to receive for the new year. Here, I wish to share a few thoughts on how to lower the gas bill in your household.

First and foremost, I should acknowledge that not all these tips might apply to your particular situation. Take what you wish and leave the rest behind. We are lucky enough to live in Southern California, which avoids the frigid temps of winter. Ignore my call to keep the heat off. I don’t mean harm to anyone’s health! But perhaps alter the thermostat. Lowering a thermostat setting by 2 degrees will do wonders for your bill. This is because your home will lose heat at a slower rate when set to a lower temperature. If you continually heat your home to a higher temperature, it will lose heat at a faster rate due to a higher difference between interior and exterior temperature. Enjoy these simple savings tips!

How to Lower Gas Bill

  • Turn the thermostat down. Lower the heat setting to the lowest temperature you can tolerate. Heaters are the biggest gas guzzlers in the winter. Opt to cuddle under blankets for warmth. Bundle up in sweaters and fuzzy socks. Sidle next to cats, dogs, kids, or significant others. In a similar vein, hang out with all your family members in one room. The more body heat in a closed environment, the lower you can keep your thermostat. When I was young, my siblings and parents always spent evenings in the living room together – playing games, solving puzzles, reading books, or even watching a movie. It’s easier to warm a small space rather than a large one.
  • Turn the thermostat off when you are away. Of course this doesn’t apply if you have pets that need to stay warm. But if your thermostat is pre-set for a certain temperature and you don’t have pets, do not forget to turn it off when you step out, go to work, or go on vacation. A really easy way to do this is to get a thermostat that you can control with an app on your phone! We’ve owned the Google Nest and loved it!
  • Be mindful of the laundry. Only wash clothes when they really need washing. I am not embarrassed to share that I reuse pajama pants and sweaters throughout the week. Actually, I literally own one pair of pajama pants, which I wear only to bed, for the entirety of a week. It’s a habit my mom created and one that works well for my minimal lifestyle. And when you do run the washer, opt for the cold cycle when possible.
  • Hang dry clothes instead of using the dryer. Or at least do a combination. I get that clothes don’t feel the same when hang-dried. For people who aren’t used to the starchier feel of the fabric, I recommend half-drying clothes to save on gas. Set the timer for 15 minutes of drying time, to soften up the clothes, and then hang up to dry completely. This will save you so much money, as the dryer is probably the second source of gas usage in the home.
  • Skip the dryer setting on the dishwasher. We run our dishwasher every night, but open the door and pull out the racks to allow the dishes to air-dry. This saves electricity as well as gas! And in case you missed it, I have a long list of ways to save electricity here!
  • Utilize window treatments. Opening the blinds and drawing back the curtains during the day allows maximum sunlight to naturally heat up our homes. Likewise, in the evenings we draw in the curtains to reduce the amount of heat escaping our home. It also helps block out the chill from cold window panes.
  • Improve sealing around doors and windows. Making sure all doors and windows are properly treated with caulk will help to keep temperatures stable within a home. Caulking is an easy sealing process that you can do on your own! We just recently caulked a shower faucet after replacing it. The tube of sealer cost us less than $10!
  • Turn off kitchen and bath exhaust fans within 10 minutes of cooking or bathing. This will reduce the amount of warm air sucked out of your home.
  • Upgrade to an electric water heater. We have a tankless, electric water heater in the garage. Combined with the installation of solar panels, this can lead to huge savings!
  • Track your usage. Last but not least, track your gas usage. Log into your account and view how much you’ve used in the billing cycle thus far. Set a budget for gas usage and try to hit that goal! Be creative in how you do it, too.

I hope this list was useful to you. If saving money is one of your New Year’s Resolutions, sign up to learn how to set up a budgeting tool that works! My readers have found great success in reaching their savings goals by setting up a budget. This could be your year to do the same!

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

New Year Changes and Expectations

I spent much of the end of 2022 hibernating. It was an intentional choice to focus on family and self during the busiest season of the year. One that paid off! Instead of feeling haggard, my eyes are well-rested and my heart feels grounded. It wasn’t easy. I said no to many occasions in order to reserve my energy. But this is kind of how it’ll go moving forward, as we are expecting changes in 2023.

In April, we have a stork scheduled to deliver us a babe. Hopefully one that’s healthy and happy, pretty and petite (for my sake!). But whatever ends up arriving at our doorstep will be well-loved by us. In lieu of New Year Goals, I instead pondered, wrestled with, and tweaked my expectations. I know it’ll be a practice, just like everything else.

As with most mothers, I suspect the focus will shift away from the “me” to the “we”. In an effort to mentally prepare, I have been repeating to myself the following mantra: “Que sera, sera”. Not entirely ready to give up goals just yet, I have made them open-ended instead. In fielding other people’s inquiries about when I will return to work and what I plan to do with raising a wee one, I’ve responded with “We’ll see”. I have hopes to breast-feed and cloth-diaper, but am open to the possibility that either or neither may work out. Down goes all my walls of structure. Up goes my fastidiousness. Cling loosely to all expectations. We have yet to choose the name.

I guess the biggest change of all (if not my pants size and my body weight), is the fact that I must let go of who I once thought I was. The defining parts of myself that exist because of my accomplishments, my career, my past … Instead I myself am reborn into the most base part of me. When the world stops spinning, you are only left with yourself. And that’s kind of what happens when a baby is born, isn’t it? The world just stops.

2023 will change our lives, that much we know. I’m just grateful to have good people around me for support.

Simple Things: Miniature Baking Tins

This year, I have made it a personal goal to try more baking recipes. And whilst I don’t need more baking items in my pantry, I did end up buying this miniature loaf pan set that I’ve been pining over for years. It has taken me this long to pull the trigger because I felt guilty about adding another item to our kitchen. But after having them, I just think these miniature baking tins from Williams Sonoma (aff link) are as jazzed up as I thought they would be. Zero regrets! So I figure I’d dedicate a post to their wonderfulness.

My sister-in-law has had a set of four miniature baking tins since her twenties. Her aunt gifted them to her for her apartment. Space-saving, these tins are stackable and store nicely in a tiny space. They are non-stick, making them hassle-free to clean, and easy to turn out. And they don’t get locked up when stacked upright.

Conveniently, one loaf pan recipe divvies up neatly into the four tins. As someone who hopes to bake more in 2023, I love that I can try new recipes without committing to eating all my sweets. Baking for two tends to yield excess, so we are constantly walking pastry down the block to my parent’s house. But now, I can have entire mini loaves, giftable to friends, neighbors, and even my dental staff. It will also keep me from ingesting too much sugar 🙂

After baking my first item in these (Tartine’s Banana-Date Loaf!), I have found that reducing the bake time to 3/4 the amount to accommodate for the smaller pans worked well. Of course, keep an eye the first time you try every recipe. The best way to test for doneness is to stick a wood stick in the middle and see if it comes out clean.

I found these tins at Williams-Sonoma (aff link). At under $35 for the set, they were a real treat for me! I mean, I have trouble spending that much on dining out. Knowing they’ve been on my mind for a while, my husband convinced me to get them. I already know that they will be of great use! I was actually debating on decluttering my bigger loaf pans after getting these to clear up kitchen space. Regardless, these will inspire me to try new recipes. I’ll make an effort to post the successful ones throughout the year here too, so do check back in!

Buy Nothing

My sister and I grew up resourceful. Having less means than those around us, we’ve mastered the art of getting things for free. Not in any sort of illegal sense, but by inheriting from others who are better off and less grateful for what they own. I remember the joy we used to get collecting freebies from school events. I ended up marrying someone obsessed with optimizing freebies on his birthday. And in our friend group, I am known to accept hand-me-down clothes. Currently, fifty percent of my minimalist closet is made up of second-hand items gifted by gal pals. Truth be told, I once dug out perfectly good food (still packaged in plastic!) from the trash when my roommate threw out unwanted pantry items. Needless to say, scrappy sis and I try our best to buy nothing.

But the phrase “Buy Nothing” is not just an act of non-doing. It is a group title as well. And one I am proud to be part of. Joining a local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook is worth a try. A community formed around the act of giving is rare but lovely. To be on the receiving end inspires one to donate items in return. Having trust that the community will provide in the future is refreshing. Respite from the individualism we’ve cultivated in our modern world.

Prior to this year, we only had enough holiday ornaments to count on our fingers. They fit nicely into a child’s shoe box. However, two days ago, a kind neighbor donated 90% of our current ornaments via our Buy Nothing Group. I was so grateful to unveil the goods I stowed away in my frunk. Red and gold globes glittered back at me, as if to say Hullo. I didn’t mind that a few were missing hanging clips, as I have twine in the kitchen cupboard to makeshift a dangle out of.

The best thing about Buy Nothing is that it goes in-hand with waste nothing. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Well I’ve always treasured the unwanted and unpopular. Depending on your local Buy Nothing group, you may find a plethora of well-to-do items. We are lucky to live in such a neighborhood. I joke that it’s a way to off-set our HOA fees.

Equally as useful, it’s a place to give to others. Rehoming things is quite the task, especially if you have a penchant for reducing waste. I’ve sold items on Poshmark and Craiglist, but there are some things not worth selling. I refer to the time it takes to post, the gas it takes to pick up, and the hassle of arranging a meet-up. But the Buy Nothing Project gives me a space to give guilt-free. I just set it out on my porch for pick-up at whatever time is convenient for the receiver.

And for those who are in a pinch, throw a call out to the universe. Post with the title ISO (“in search of”) and hope that a friendly neighbor would answer back. I’ve seen moms ask for costume props or event decor with the promises of returning if the borrower so wishes. Ripe bananas for the taking have been snatched up by someone hoping to make bread. Left-over zucchini avoids meeting the garbage man. Used baby items and dog beds run amok.

Anywho, for someone who writes about saving money this holiday season, I thought this was worth a mention. By now, Buy Nothing has taken off and become popularized by many financial independents. Perhaps you’ll find a gently used toy for gifting to a child to a need. Or a new duvet cover to replace a tattered one for a college student. I just snagged some puzzles for the winter season, with the hopes of slowing it down. It’s on the advent calendar somewhere. For those looking for a frugal life hack, this is certainly one of the best.