Why I Chose to Live a Frugal Life

Prior to the pandemic, I had made student loans my identity, hence the name of this blog. That is the reason why I initially started to live a frugal life. I figured, accepting my surmounting student debt, face-on instead of running away from it, would make it easier. I was commended many times over for being courageous and sharing my story. The truth of the matter was, I was just hoping I could reign it in and control it before it did me.

Sometimes though, when you take a part of your life and make it the definition of yourself, it could make you forget the other bits of you. I was fiery, yes, but so was it. I was fighting fire with fire, and I can’t be sure who was winning.

That’s what the pandemic gifted me. It deferred student loan repayment (it’s been almost a two year stint now) and thereby took away the identity that was eating me alive from the inside. These past two years have been a blessing. I’ve not only rediscovered the “old me” but I also was able to shed negative bits of the “new me”. It gave me the space to be able to step back (from everything) and to re-evaluate which parts I wanted to keep. It gave me options.

But the student loans gave me good things, too. And those, I chose to keep. It taught me how to live a frugal life. There are things a frugal life affords you that rich people will never find.

As Soetsu Yanagi wrote in his book, The Beauty of Everyday Things,

“Some day in the future the West will undoubtedly welcome this magnificent gift. Muji can alternatively be called simplicity. In religious terms it might be liked to the virtue of honest poverty, a poverty that is replete with riches. The beatuy of muji is the beauty of poverty. Roughness and quiet appreciation characterize this beauty.”

Soetsu Yanagi

I discovered the art of mindful living and the perks of simplicity. I learned the skill of decluttering and giving gratitude. These parts of frugal living I did not abandon.

So one of the negative things about the student loan deferral is this stagnant limbo I’ve been in these past two years. With the space I have now, it’s quite easy to forgo frugality. The pressure to pinch pennies has slackened. The success rate isn’t as high. But that’s the thing about frugal living. It has room for grace.

Frugal living does not mean deprivation. Neither is it black or white. It is a practice in reigning in it, just a bit, to make room for what matters more. Frugal living is another aspect of mindfulness, intentionality, simplicity, and minimalism. Those things go hand-in-hand and compliment one another, without the need to be extreme.

For those who are on the fence about trying it, why not take a it a step at a time? I find that Marie Kondo was on to something. The easiest thing to start with is clothes. Try to declutter your entire clothing closet, then set a challenge to not add anything back for 6 months. Trust me, after all that hard work, you won’t want to anyway! It’s a great place to start, because we all have too much clothes. It’s not something you would miss. Then challenge yourself little by little, day by day. Frugal living actually ends up being fun.

Read this for a list of frugal ideas!

How to Lower the Electricity Bill

At our household, we are always looking for ways to save money. One of the things we do is lower the electricity bill. There are many ways to cut down on the electricity bill without having to sacrifice comfort. It just takes a little planning, a little compromise, and a little mindfulness. Simple changes in daily habits really make a big difference, so never assume that one action makes too small a difference. Per usual, I would recommend setting this one up as a month-long frugal challenge. Try to adopt as many of these tips and see how low you can get your electricity bill!

Ways to Lower the Electricity Bill

Lighting

  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • When the house has holiday lights on, we keep the rest of the lights off. The soft glow of the Christmas tree is enough to read a book by.
  • Use natural light whenever possible. I throw open the blinds the minute I wake up to allow natural light in. During the day, all doors are kept open to dissipate light into areas of the home with less windows.
  • Use task lighting as much as possible. Task lights use up less electricity than turning on the ceiling lights in a room. (This one is a favorite). I also really love under-counter lights in the kitchen. You can rig a set easily under your kitchen cupboards.
  • Install dimmers on your lights. We have a dimmer on all the important lights, including the bedroom, living room, and guest room.
  • Opt for better bulbs. LED is great!
  • Use candles. I love writing and reading by candlelight. One birthday, Mike gifted me a handful of candlesticks. I love using them with this Notary Ceramics candle holder.

Temperature

  • Invest in good insulation in the doorways and windows.
  • Turn off AC/the heater when not at home.
  • Use a fan instead of an AC.
  • Layer up instead of turning on the heat.
  • Lower the thermostat. Lowering the thermostat by 2 degrees Fahrenheit can lower the electricity bill by 5%!
  • Allow daylight to warm up the house during the day. We see a difference in temperature as big as 10 degrees Fahrenheit! This is especially useful in the winter.
  • Close the drapes and blinds to prevent heat from escaping in the evenings. This will keep the house warmer during the day.
  • Keep up with replacing air filters for AC.
  • Use a programmable thermostat.

Water

  • Take a quick shower. If possible, take a shower in cold water. We have an electric water heater so any hot water uses up electricity.
  • Avoid baths.
  • Turn off the water when shaving, brushing your teeth, or lathering with soap in the shower.
  • Fix any leaky faucets.

Electronics

  • Unplug unused electronics. Use a power strip to plug in all electronics in the same area. Turn off the power strip when they are not in use. For example, we have a power strip in our media console, as well as in Mike’s office. This one is pretty AND affordable!
  • Don’t run the TV in the background. Some people love background noise. Luckily, I absolutely abhor it. I find it too distracting. While I can’t speak for the value of having a TV on in the background (some swear by it!), I can definitely say you’ll save more money if you turn the TV off.
  • The same tip goes for keeping the TV on for aesthetics. We own Samsung’s 65″ Frame TV and I love that it looks like a picture frame when you keep a still image on it. But we do NOT leave it on ALL day long. In fact, our Frame TV automatically turns off within a few minutes of not sensing movement in the room. I will turn it on to photograph the space, but even with guests around, most of the time the TV is actually off!
  • Opt for doing analog activities over digital ones. Save electricity by playing outside instead of playing video games, reading a book instead of reading on the laptop, or playing a boardgame instead of watching TV.

Cooking

  • Reduce heat in the kitchen in the summer months by grilling outdoors. This will reduce your need to use AC. Mike gifted me an Ooni Koda 16 Pizza Oven for Christmas. I will be using it on our balcony for more than just pizza all summer long. It can grill meats and veggies on a cast iron, as well as bake sourdough bread. We chose the Koda 16 because it is gas powered and for its larger size. The Koda 12 can do the same thing for cheaper, as well as take up less real estate, but the pizzas are tiny!
  • When heating up food on the stove, add a lid which will help heat it up faster.
  • Keep the oven doors closed until the last minute.
  • Avoid broiling food. Broiling is the most energy inefficient cooking method. If there is an alternative, do that instead.
  • Use the toaster oven instead of the oven. My Balmuda toaster oven pretty does everything my oven could. Since it is a smaller space, there is no need to waste time pre-heating. I use it to make individual servings of garlic bread, when I bake cookies, small servings of casserole, and more. This toaster is seriously amazing! My review on why I love the Balmuda toaster can be read here.
  • Declutter the fridge. This might sound like an odd one, but the efficiency of your fridge depends on the ability of the air inside to circulate. It may be impeded when the fridge is very full!
  • Meal prep and cook all the meals in one day. By doing so, you will have to preheat appliances less. It also makes the week way easier!

Washers

  • Wash laundry with cold water. It will be just as clean, promise!
  • Hang dry the laundry. We first came across this on our trip to New Zealand, and then again in Australia, Spain, and Mexico. The rest of the world does it, why don’t we? By the way, the California Energy Commission says that a dryer uses up 6% of a home’s electricity bill. WOW!
  • Wash full loads of laundry. I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t? Do the same with the dishwasher.
  • Skip the heat dry function on the dishwasher. I just run ours on wash, and then open the door afterward to allow the dishes to air dry.

Other

  • Install solar panels. We just moved into our new home in November and thankfully own our own roof! We are installing Tesla panels early 2021 to reduce our electricity bill as well as become more environmentally friendly.
  • Know your electric company’s Residential T.O.U. (Time of Use). Our electric company is SDG&E. They have different TOUs and charge different rates for each time period. The cheapest rate per kWh is between 12pm to 6am, when electricity use is “Super-Off Peak”. The most expensive rates occur between 4pm and 9pm, when electricity usage is “On-Peak”. Lastly, the middle ground, or “Off-Peak” Hours are from 6am to 4pm, and from 9pm to 12pm. This means that we are better off running the heat at night between 12pm and 6pm. We do our laundry and take showers during the day, between 6am and 4pm. We cook meals and meal prep before 4pm if possible. And we run the dishwasher after 9pm.
  • Participate in OhmConnect.
  • Opt for a tiny home!

This barely grazes the surface but I hope you find ideas in this post. I hope it helps you in your frugal challenge to reduce your energy bill. If you have other ideas, please share with the community!

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Wardrobe Options for a Tiny Space.

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

It has been 2.5 years since we moved into our home and we’ve finally got ourselves a closet! You read that right. There are no doors inside our home (not even to the bedroom or the bathroom) and the only closet we own lies on the first floor (which we rent out), tucked underneath a stairwell. Home projects, like all other things in my life, take time. Especially when we insist on doing upgrades ourselves. They also imbue more meaning. I remember the day we bought this space and Mike helped my cousin patch walls and remove wood flooring. I remember my 31st birthday which was spent painting our bathroom an egret white with my parents. I remember that Spring day that Mike and I laid down plastic tiles and fake grass on our balcony, not knowing how long we would be kept indoors … not knowing it would be a year later, and we’d still be wondering. All these things are not only labors of love, but considered essential work for a life of practicality, frugality, and intentionality.

I am a firm believer in the importance of going through the slog, so that we might grow. And rather than paying someone to inlay an undoubtedly beautiful custom wardrobe, we prefer to pinch our pennies and make wishes with our eyes shut tight – so as to be free from the 9-5 grind that most people call life. I mean, decisions such as these are the reasons why I was able to quit a job that I disliked without any future job in place during a pandemic, or why I can afford to work two days a week in my profession in order to pursue other interests such as baking, dog-sitting, and writing.

Despite my exuberance around its inception, it is, after all, just a closet.

All of this to say that the pride I feel from finally having a closet comes from the very days in which I held out “just a little longer” to find the solution that sat well with my values – a solution that was frugal, environmental, practical, and simple. One could never know the would-have-been but I would wager that if I hired a contractor to build me a more beautiful wardrobe inlaid into that tiny crevice behind the showerhead, I might have felt a hint of anti-climactic disappointment or regret at our hard-earned dollars being spent.

When you wait for 2.5 years for the solution that you feel is right in your heart, there is no space left for “what-ifs”. You’ve already imagined and therefore lived out in your mind the alternatives. The right things come to you at the right time. I am a believer in that, too.

This project cost me $149 – which was the cost of the Tarva dresser from Ikea. The labor was donated by me and Mike. We took out the existing built-in cabinet using hammer, screw-driver, and little force. The wall behind it was rough, and the floor was disgusting, a collection of dead bugs, cat litter, and dust bunnies. None of them were a match for my favorite cleaning tool – this vacuum, which is the most expensive and worthy appliance I have ever purchased. Now that the dresser is in place elevated by some legs, I live in peace knowing that I can vacuum the floor underneath it. Mike sanded the walls and added plaster before repainting it our beloved egret white. We had to remove a bit of baseboard, but other than that, the process was easy going and took perhaps 5 hours, including building the dresser from scratch.

In the meantime, these were some of the swoon-worthy dressers I dreamt of, but none of them ended up being the one.

  1. This White Armoire from CB2.
  2. A Vintage Cane Armoire from Anthropologie.
  3. A Cheaper Version of the Cane Armoire from UO.
  4. A Modern Wardrobe from West Elm.
  5. This Slim Minimalist Open Wardrobe from West Elm.

A word to those carving a similar path.

  • Love what you’ve got.
  • Think long and hard.
  • Be patient.
  • Believe in the one.

I live my life as follows. When it’s right, I’ll know.

Financial Advice for Young People in their 20’s

I find that financial literacy is quite low for people in their early 20’s and 30’s. This is not a fault of their own but rather, a cultural failure that presents us all with opportunity for improvement. As a society, we do not openly embrace talk about money. In our educational institutions, we do not teach young children about finance. Within our media channels, we promote a consumerist lifestyle. Culturally speaking, we value hard work, status symbols and the physical earning of money over the actual growth of financial wealth.

I was once young too. I was financially illiterate. I obliterated my savings, worked multiple jobs, and took out more than half a million dollars in debt trying to chase the American dream. Only now, in my early thirties, am I realizing that the short-comings of my financial education is the cause of my financial mistakes. We learn these things later than we should.

The success of young people greatly depend on our ability to talk about money. So I am now talking about it.

In order to combat this information gap, I wanted to share five finance tips with our young population.

Related Posts:

Top 5 Things Young People Should Do To Get Ahead in Finance

Master Budgeting Skills. It doesn’t matter how much money you make if you don’t know how to budget. You could make a million dollars but if you spend a million dollars, you aren’t any richer. In my opinion, knowing how to control the outflow of money is more important than increasing income. Mastering a budget is the first step to financial independence because you learn how to manage your cash flow. Without this control, everything else is irrelevant. Budgeting requires an awareness of your spending. It’s like losing weight. The first step to being healthier is knowing how many calories are being eaten and burned. Without monitoring what goes in and out, there is no chance for improvement. Mastering a budget is mastering your self-discipline around spending. But it takes a lot of practice and work. So start early and make the habit stick! I wrote an entire course on How to Master a Budget and published it for FREE to help others get started.

Learn how to flex those frugal muscles. Being financially savvy requires the same diligence and work as being physically strong. Just like real muscles, frugal muscles can grow – with practice. Learn how to be frugal. Realize that not everything needs to be bought. There are many alternatives to spending! For example, try skipping the spin or yoga class and run outdoors or go on a hike. Instead of dining out, try cooking a new recipe. Want to read a book? Look for it at the library. Be creative in finding ways to get what you want for free. Try making things instead of buying them. Learn the art of the trade. And when all else fails, find the beauty in living without. Remember, everything you think you need you were once without, and you were just fine. It all comes down to understanding that every clutter you own used to be money and every dollar you spend used to be free time. Here are a few frugal challenges to get the ball rolling.

Choose a social circle that will uplift you financially. Sometimes, when we tell others that we want to opt out of brunch or happy hour because we are trying to save money, we get a negative reaction. People can get defensive when you turn them down in favor of saving yourself a couple bucks. Trust me, I have been there. However, there is a saying that I love to preach. You are only as good as the five people that you spend the most time with. You will have an easier time on your financial journey if you have like-minded people around you to celebrate your wins. These are people who will motivate you to save, as well as support you when times get tough. If you have difficulty setting boundaries, perhaps this is a good place to start.

Invest in yourself before anything else. I am not entirely against spending. I believe that spending on things that add value to your life is important. However, you want to make sure you invest in yourself before anything else. When I refer to investments, I am not referring to a car or a home. I am referring to investing in things such as continuing education, management skills, mental health, physical health, relationships and personal time. After you’ve invested in yourself, you may see that informational wealth and good health can lead to financial growth. And THEN you can think about investing in other things.

Start planning for retirement now. It is best to start planning for retirement as soon as possible. Due to the exponential potential of retirement funds, early starters will have an advantage over those who wait until they are in their 30’s or 40’s. If possible, maximize your 401k and get your company match. If you have extra money, I would recommend funding a ROTH IRA on top of that. If you have additional income, you can invest it in the market, get into real estate, or for the most conservative, keep it in a high yield savings account to earn interest. Make money work for you, instead of working for your money. Those who act now will go through the difficult parts in their youth but will have an easier time as they age. And vice versa. The unwillingness to act could lead to a very difficult financial future. If you are in your 30’s or 40’s, there is no use crying over spilled milk and lost time. It is not too late for you, but start TODAY.

These are just the basics but all of these things will help create a strong foundation for the decades to come. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask, be willing to listen, keep an open mind, and constantly seek information. That, in itself, is another level of wealth.

How to Guarantee a Successful Craigslist Sale

My experience in avid de-cluttering has led me to a solution that deals with the stockpile of items that no longer add value to my life, while making money from them. HOW? I now re-sell everything I de-clutter so that instead of feeling a sense of loss, I make a financial profit. It is seriously a great motivator to get rid of stuff and allows you to say goodbye to things with a positive note. Additionally, it prolongs the life of your used and unwanted goods, keeping them out of landfills for a while longer. Lastly, I am sure that others who buy your gently used goods at a discount appreciate the financial help you provide them. With all of the good the act of re-selling does to both you, your environment, and others, I wanted to share how I guarantee a successful sale on one of my favorite platforms – Craigslist – in the hopes that some people may begin to do the same!

Where I Started

Initially, when I started the de-cluttering process, the amount of stuff that I decided I didn’t need was over-whelming. It was SO MUCH STUFF that even hauling it to the Goodwill Store was a hassle. When I realized that Goodwill wasn’t exactly making good use of my things, I started to bring it to my parent’s house so that they may be shipped to my home country. However, a few months later, I visited my parents only to find my stuff still sitting in the garage for “just-in-case”. So then there was the debacle between my parents and I and the dilemma I faced about burdening them with even more things.

Where I Am At Now

Thankfully, I eventually reached a point where I simply didn’t own much. My de-cluttering feats now result in only a handful of items at a time, which make them much easier to find homes for. These days, everything I de-clutter, I sell, sometimes on Poshmark and OfferUp, but mostly on Craigslist. I have yet to have an item that I cannot successfully sell. Over the past year, we made over $1,500 selling our stuff on Craigslist. Usually, we use that money to buy our next item, thereby essentially creating a cycle wherein we adopt new things without spending more money.

It isn’t rocket science, and I can assume most people have dealt with Craigslist by now, but here are a few of my own tips on how to have great success with this platform!

  • Start with things that hold value. We are minimalists. Which means what we buy holds value, and in my recent years, I have made an effort to buy things that retain their value, too. There are certain brands that people want. Brands such as Restoration Hardware are coveted and people are willing to pay good money for them. I once sold a broken lamp from Restoration Hardware at 50% of the buying price, which was amazing because I had originally bought it at 50% OFF whilst using a gift card someone had given us for our wedding. So in that scenario, we made money. Another example was Mike’s desk, which was also Restoration Hardware. We resold it at $1k, and used it to pay for a Herman Miller Sit-Stand Nevi Desk when it was on sale at DesignWithinReach for under $1k. We made money with that, too. Our East Fork Pottery which I rave about constantly is a product that actually gains value. Try googling East Fork on Ebay or Poshmark and see how much they sell. I bet you’d be surprised. Each item resells around $65-85! Likewise, Elizabeth Suzann clothing is ethical clothing that gains value and most people pay more for these them used than new. Both of these brands resell well because they are made in limited quantities. Both are decent buys under my book, if you really do need pottery or clothes. If you start with a good buy, you’ll end with a good sale. Regardless…
  • Clean all items you wish to sell. Making the item appear as clean and new as possible will really help your chances of selling the item. People want things that are in good condition and working order. If someone comes across two identical products, they will 100% choose the newer-looking one, not necessarily the newer one. So do take time to polish and shine, no matter how old your item is.
  • Take good photos. I know this sounds silly, but a picture is worth a thousand words and I cannot tell you how many times I quickly dismiss an item because it isn’t photographed esthetically. You may call me vain but if I am doing it, then other people are too. All the things I post are photographed in good natural lighting with a camera (not a phone). Most of the time, they are staged. I can attest to the fact that the best photographed sell the fastest. Take the time to create good photos that will sell your stuff for you. At the same time, be honest with your photography. Acknowledging the flaws of your piece will save you time (and time IS money!) because you will only attract buyers who knowingly wants your item, flaws and all. If an item has scuff marks or an article of clothing has pilling, I take photos of the defects with a note to the buyer.
  • Determine Pricing. This is the hardest part. I have discovered that most owners, myself included, tend to over-value their stuff. They remember its original cost and don’t want to be at a loss. Unfortunately, the hard truth of the matter is that once an item is used, it depreciates in value significantly. If you wish to sell on Craigslist, you need to keep an open mind on the price. A way you can combat this is to decide on a price that you wish to sell at. Then list the item at an even higher-price to increase the perceived value of the item to potential buyers. Most Craigslist buyers will haggle, so this will account for that. Do not be afraid to haggle back. Explain to them why your item is worth more. Be a salesperson and try to show them how worthy your piece is. And if all else fails…
  • Be open to reducing the price. Typically, I will hold out for at least a month before entertaining a price that is below my asking. For those who make offers below, I tell them that I will reach back out to them in the future if it doesn’t sell at my asking price. Most times, one of them will still be interested after a month. Being open to reducing the price allows you to still make the sale, which is better than holding on to something you don’t plan on using again anyway. One way I make peace with reducing the price is by using logical reasoning. Currently, my item isn’t being used and I am not making money from it. A little bit of money now is better than nothing, especially since I can invest that money in something and watch it grow. An item sitting in the back of my closet could never make money for me. Plus, I like to think that I am helping someone else by giving them the discount they are seeking. If they reached out to me, then it’s obvious they want my stuff more than I do. What’s the point of being selfish? It would just be a lose-lose scenario.
  • Categorize the item properly. The category you choose is important because it draws the correct audience. I have found that some categories sell better than others. For example, furniture and home goods sell really well on Craigslist. For clothing, I tend to sell at Poshmark instead, which is also a great resource for home accessories. Either way, if you fail to categorize correctly, you will miss out on potential buyers.
  • Use text that will attract the correct people. I always add the following in my text: the brand, the name of the product, the original price, the current price, the size (if applicable) and a description. I also write what I like about the product and why we are selling. I note its condition as honestly as possible and lastly, I use SEO words such as “vintage”, “industrial”, and “mid-century modern” to hone in on the audience that I want. The text really makes a difference. Lazy one-liner descriptions will not do well.
  • Repost, repost, repost. When you post your item, Craigslist will send an email with a link that allows you to edit or delete your posting. When you click on this link, there will be another option to repost. I repost once a week, which continually puts my listing at the top. Also, for the best results, repost on a Thursday night or Friday morning. This is when shoppers lurk Craigslist for a weekend pick-up. Time and time again, I will get a few offers after a reposting on a Friday. After the sale, make sure to delete your posting to avoid additional buyers contacting you, thus saving you from wasted time with these unwanted emails (did I mention time is money?)
  • Make the Sale. Most people are afraid to use Craigslist because of the meeting up part. I am a petite gal and I have never had trouble making a sale. A few things that help. I always tell someone when I am meeting a random stranger to sell something. If I am able to bring someone along, I will. Lastly, I make sure to only accept cash or Venmo payments, never checks. When I do get cash, I use my skills from cashiering in retail to quickly check if the bill is fake or not. Hold the bill up to the light, and look for an invisible face on the bottom left corner that is the same as the face on the bill. I have never had an issue with counterfeit money, or with anyone paying for that matter.

While this all sounds elementary at best, I hope it has provided at least one insight. As more people accumulate more things, the need to be skillful in marketing and re-selling your stuff increases. I am all for “trading-up”. Lastly, I will leave you with the following thoughts:

  • Newly bought things depreciate in value INSTANTLY.
  • All the clutter around you used to be MONEY.
  • The TIME you spend de-cluttering is more valuable than money.

It helps me to think about that the next time I wish to spend money on things. And finally, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Use this to your advantage two ways.

Sell your trash to buy your treasure, which could be another man’s trash, preventing you from wasting time and money.

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Curating Closets: Sustainable and Frugal Second-hand Shopping with Poshmark

It is no secret that I am a proponent of sustainable products and ethical consumerism. When it comes to choosing companies worth promoting in this humble space, I am definite about which ones make the cut. I am aware of the fact that doing so alienates a majority of the population because most items of the eco-conscious and socially impactful variety have a higher cost.

However, we must remember that this cost we refer to is only monetary. If we compare the true costs of alternative “cheaper” options in terms of environmental and social impact, then I would argue that the monetary number is worthwhile.

Naturally the best option, always, is to consume less in order to have the most impact. After all, the most sustainable clothing are the ones already in your closet.

Additionally, less shopping means we will be spending less of our money on cheap goods and collecting our hard-earned dollars for a few things that actually hold value.

Yet, we cannot ignore the fact that there IS a gap.
I speak with privilege.
Especially during this trying time, my promotion of certain companies could border insensitive.
I promise this is not my intention.

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Luckily, frugal sustainable options lie in second-hand shopping, made available by companies such as Poshmark. By choosing to shop used, we reduce our environmental footprint. In buying second-hand, those who cannot normally support companies doing good, can. Used products have a lower price range, which means clothing made of higher-quality materials in safe and ethical factories are more attainable to a larger population.

Additionally, by sending dollars to those wishing to de-clutter ethical goods, we are also giving money to those who have the ability to further support slow fashion. I would like to think that someone who made a conscious decision about a particular company would continue to do so next time. I would therefore be willing to support their future purchases in the slow fashion industry.

For those who are just naturally frugal, buying second-hand is a wonderful opportunity. Deals and steals can continually be found through Poshmark. Plus, the platform is free to all users. Also, the “Like” button allows shoppers to bookmark clothes while they think about their purchases (does anyone follow the 30-day rule?).

Lastly, Poshmark promotes collaboration between buyer and seller. Finding a price that works for both parties is simple. The “offer” button allows the buyer to name their price, while giving the seller the option of accepting or replying with a different fee. Likewise, the seller can create a “bundle” of items from their shop and offer a discount to the buyer for buying multiple items at one time.

Shipping is made easy, with the buyer having to pay for the shipping fee. Once the sale goes through, Poshmark e-mails the seller a shipping label, and all the seller has to do is package the product and drop it off at the nearest USPS.

I myself am a seller at Poshmark (find me @cordeliabyrant), and I have high confidence in the platform after one occasion wherein my mailed package was deemed lost. Poshmark still paid me for the product AND refunded the buyer their money. That kind of guarantee allows me to continue using Poshmark with peace of mind.

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I am frequently asked the question, “How could you write about frugality while also writing about expensively ethical products?”

I am still a frugal person. I find ways to get products that hold value using alternative ways. Below are five frugal life hacks.

  1. I have a running wish-list which I refer to during birthdays and holidays. For larger purchases, I ask multiple family members to pitch in for a single gift. This also helps me be a minimalist while solving the problem of receiving unnecessary stuff from others.
  2. I receive many products to review through this space, which is essentially part of my job. I count products as part of my income on my monthly income reports. Combined, life hack #1 and #2 make a majority of my stuff #gifted.
  3. I buy second-hand through companies such as Poshmark and Craigslist to try to close the loop. I mean, even our couch is from Craigslist! Likewise, I sell my used items on these sites too, which keeps them out of the land-fill (hopefully).
  4. I borrow my way through life. My mom is the opposite of me. She is sentimental about things, so she keeps a lot of them. I rummage through the boxes in my parents’ garage first, in search of any buried gems.
  5. Only when I’ve exhausted all my options do I buy directly from the company. If I ever buy from a company myself, I wait for a sale or discount. I avoid paying full-price for brand new items at all costs.

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45 Quarantine Activities That Save Energy AND Earn Money

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

Just a few weeks ago, I shared a little bit about a side hustle gig that allows Californians to earn money while saving energy. OhmConnect is a third party that will partner with PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E to track your particular household’s electricity usage. During their one-hour events, you are prompted to reduce your energy spending at times when average energy usage runs high. They return the favor by paying you. Yes, REAL money. In an effort to not sound redundant, I will simply link the previous post here in case you missed it.

Our house has participated in a few of these events and I want to say that it actually works! And we’ve had a ton of fun trying to brainstorm a slew of alternative activities. It’s a chance of a lifetime to go off-the-grid without really going anywhere. The challenge lies in the fact that, still in California, there is a semi-shut-down. Movie theatres and shopping malls are still closed, the schools are out, and the restaurants are to-go or outdoor seating only. So… what do we do?

Here, I collected a list of quarantine-friendly activities that do not require electricity. Some may require a phone or laptop, but you can plan ahead for those. It doesn’t say zero electronics, only zero electricity. Charge away!

  1. Learn a language with Duolingo.
  2. Do a yoga routine with Adriene.
  3. Pick up a book and catch up on your reading.
  4. Budget with YNAB.
  5. Already have a budget? Learn to master it.
  6. Plan the dream vacation.
  7. Start earning credit card points so you can travel for FREE. I would begin with Southwest.
  8. Get ahead on goal-setting with Smitten On Paper.
  9. Open a high yield savings account to start earning money passively.
  10. Go on a run outdoors using the Nike Run App.
  11. Take the kids to the park or…
  12. Release the sprinklers in the front yard.
  13. Deep clean the home.
  14. Start that renovation project you keep talking about.
  15. Have a candle-lit dinner.
  16. Soak in a bath with relaxing bath salts.
  17. De-clutter the closet.
  18. De-clutter the pantry and fridge.
  19. Watch the sunset on the porch or balcony.
  20. Write poetry.
  21. Take the dog on a walk, or earn money walking dogs on Rover.
  22. Drive a scenic route.
  23. Call your parents.
  24. Write a letter (to actually mail). Perhaps a birthday card?
  25. Drink coffee without distraction.
  26. Take a nap (A favorite!)
  27. Get a massage (from your child or a spouse).
  28. Play a boardgame.
  29. Start a puzzle.
  30. Meditate with Headspace.
  31. Get food delivered via Dashpass or make money on Dashpass.
  32. Learn a new skill or hobby on Skillshare.
  33. Learn how to monetize a blog.
  34. Make a plan to go zero-waste.
  35. Organize your paperwork and bills. Make a pile for when you can turn on that paper-shredder.
  36. Take care of the plants.
  37. Paint or draw.
  38. Sit and do nothing (also a favorite!)
  39. Build legos.
  40. Give the pet a bath.
  41. Hand wash the car.
  42. Hand wash the clothes. And dishes while you’re at it.
  43. Cuddle with the cat.
  44. Have a bonfire (on the beach or backyard).
  45. Listen to a podcast.

Doesn’t all this sound great? And you get paid to do these things. If anything, I consider these OhmEvents forced mini-stay-cations. If you use my referral link here, you will automatically get $10 credit into your account, just for your good intention. Also, if you live elsewhere, don’t think that you can’t participate. Cutting down on electricity usage also cuts down the bill.

Frugality: Celebrating Quarantine Birthdays with Freebies

Remember in March when we circulated memes about those who had to celebrate their birthdays under social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions? Joke’s on us, we who thought we would escape from such circumstances. By now a third of the population has probably experienced celebrating quarantined.

Characteristics may include gatherings of less than ten, standing awkwardly six feet apart, something that gets in the way of the hugs and kisses more than masks do. Candles on a cake anti-climactically put out by a clapping of hands – as if a child saying “ta-da” after making a wish. Also, gifts running belated as shipping companies struggle to continue working in a safe environment despite an influx of online orders.

I myself had to celebrate a restricted birthday, although how happy was I when restaurants opened up for dine-in during that week? Back to normalcy we go – I was sure of it!

So when I asked my husband a month out what he wanted to do for his July birthday, I was quite surprised when he said he wanted to sign up for rewards programs and run around town picking up freebies.

I thought to myself, “Sounds lame.”

His birthday landed prior to a four day weekend which I happened to have off from work and I was imagining a trip somewhere (local, of course). Or at least a sort of beach activity or party. Perhaps a restaurant reservation with our closest friends?

Lo and behold, when it came to the week of his birthday, all of my would-be plans went straight out the window as California was called to partially shut down once again. Due to the rising numbers of COVID positive patients and upcoming holiday, all beaches were shut down, along with dine-in options at restaurants, movie theatres, and family entertainment options. Turns out, his request to get birthday freebies proved to be the only solidly COVID-proof idea.

I thought to myself, “My husband’s a genius.”

To be honest, it turned out pretty nice. It was a sunny Friday, and we started the morning with free bagels (to-go) and coffee, which we ate at home with my brother and roomie for a late morning breakfast. We all were recovering from hiking Mt. Baldy the day before, so it was one of those restful mornings wherein one rolls around in bed, drags feet across the floor, with nary an obligation to rush you towards the next to-do. You know those mornings that feel like you’re on vacation instead of just sitting at home? Speaking of vacation, I need one of those soon.

For lunch, we headed over to a shopping center that had Jersey Mike’s and The Habit. Jersey Mike’s was giving away whatever free sub you wanted plus a 22 oz. drink, which we took away lidless and straw-less to reduce plastic waste. It is, after all, Plastic-Free July.  The Habit was giving birthday celebrants a free burger. Both were wrapped in paper. In the shopping center, there was an outdoor seating area with tables perched ‘neath umbrellas. The tables were spaced out more than six feet apart, with no more than a pair of seats at each table. We plopped ourselves down on cool metal chairs and ate our wins with the first official signs of summer.

In the evening, we had a number of friends meet us at a local park to eat pizza as we sat in a circle on lawn chairs social distancing by household, with an imaginary bonfire in our midst. Excited Santa Anians were shooting fireworks a day early, as mosquitoes bit our legs in the setting sun. It was the first time since February that we’ve seen these faces and it was nice to hear familiar laughs dangling in the night sky. When dusk settled, we packed up our lawn chairs like a bunch of soccer moms and waved our cheerful goodbyes, grabbing left-over pizza boxes and stuffing them in reusable grocery bags.

What’s amazing about the freebies is that they can all be taken to-go and the majority of them last for the rest of the month.

On paper, all of this probably sounds lame. But I can tell you that it was actually extremely fun. I just might do the same next year for the month of June.

For COVID in particular, it was a fool-proof plan to celebrating. If you’ve got a birthday coming up in the next few months, why don’t you try it? Take out and delivery have stood the test of virus and according to a Harvard study, we need to all be prepared to social distance until the end of 2021.

In order to prep for the big day, you should check out a list of Birthday Freebies and sign up for their Rewards program. On your day of birth, each place will email you a coupon or offer with the requirements and the expiring dates.

Below are a few of Mike’s favorites:

  • Denny’s – Free Grand Slam on the birthday month
  • Chili’s – Free dessert for the birthday week
  • Red Robin – Free burger
  • Sprinkles – Free cupcake, redeemable until the month after your birthday
  • Auntie Annie’s – Free pretzel, redeemable until two months after your birthday
  • Wetzel’s Pretzel’s – Free pretzel for downloading the app, and another free pretzel on your birthday
  • Baja Fresh – Free Burrito (with purchase of beverage) , valid until the month after your birthday
  • The Habit – Free Charburger, valid for two weeks
  • Jersey Mike’s – Free Sub and 22 oz. drink
  • Baskin Robbins – Free ice cream scoop
  • Ben N Jerry – Free ice cream scoop
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – Free birthday wings valid until end of the month
  • BJs – Free Pizookie for signing up for rewards and also for your birthday
  • Breugger’s Bagels – Free bagel with cream cheese for signing up and also on your birthday
  • Einstein Bagels – Free bagel egg sandwich with purchase on your birthday
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes – Free Bundtlet valid for one week

It may not be much to celebrate, these free wins, but it sure is a silver lining. There are some things they still haven’t taken away.