Re-using coffee holders

I like to recycle and re-use things. I don’t know when it started because despite growing up with parents who re-use everything including foil, it didn’t come natural to me.

Maybe it was feeling bad about the coffee holder being chucked into the recycle bin that did it. Though recycling is good for the planet, it still requires energy and effort to be recycled, right?

I’m a regular at a café close to my toddler’s pre-school. Once I told the owner that I re-use coffee holders, she said “I love you for that!”.

Imagine if ALL take-out coffee drinkers re-use their coffee holders, a small effort could:

– save businesses money
– less use of energy and other resources to recycle paper
– keep cost down for businesses and the government, and for us coffee lovers

It was a conscious effort at first but now it comes natural to me. I keep 2 coffee holders in my bag if one of them breaks and I’m stuck with a hot cuppa.

My mom re-uses old tattered clothes as dish rags. My dad re-used wood and nails when he and mom decided to build their retirement house — a project that they managed themselves. When finished building, they gave away wood. They also bought old iron gates from a junk yard and re-designed and painted them to look different and new.

What do you re-use?


In the meantime, I’m back in reality.

I can’t believe it. After spending a week daydreaming about extended travel, I’m back to being the desk-strapped full-time worker, mother and wife. It’s like I lived in fantasy for a while and I’m back in reality again.

There was a moment in that week that brought me back. I was sitting on the steps in the backyard and imagined having nothing to do, no purpose to get me out of bed at a specific time, no specific direction for the day, and easily I felt that I deflated into reality. It’s weird.

I start thinking about saving more money for little mister’s college education, saving more for retirement, and what about the tiny house we want? It’s not good to feel that a learning experience, eg. world travel, would set us back. It’s not real, it’s just my perception!

What I’m hoping for is that, after we pay off the student loan and saved money, I would feel invigorated by world traveling again. I don’t think the feeling and want are really gone. There are a few things that I need to do and focus on at the moment that distract me.

I’m beginning to realize that not doing any purposeful work while on the road might get me bored with the lifestyle. I’m hoping to get my hands dirty in the hospitality or food industry. I didn’t work until I graduated college. I used to be envious of kids who worked at fast food chains. 🙂

Anyway, I downloaded the e-book My Exile Lifestyle by Colin Wright. That boy is cute! I’m thirdway into the e-book and have found similarities between Colin and I.

It really seems to me that I need to do extended travel with my spouse and son. I strongly believe that countless good would come out of it. All these distractions of insurance, budgets and savings are only going to build a solid foundation for the dream of traveling the world. So I guess it’s okay to be immersed in them for a while. The target is to kick it off after we pay off the student loan in less than 5 years. Timing wise, the debt payment schedule works along with a growing toddler. He’d at least be 7 years old by then. The travel experience would make for a wonderful and exciting quality time for the our little family.

Small houses and extended travel

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~Mark Twain

Since my previous post about wanting to be more physically present as a parent, I’ve mentioned to my husband plenty of ideas that have excited me. I believe that these ideas would mean more quality time with my child and husband. I just went crazy for 3 days imagining and setting goals!

1. Live in a Tumbleweed house.

He showed these tiny houses to me a few years ago, but at the time my interest was elsewhere. As I’ve solidified my minimalist principles over the years, the idea of living in a small space has attracted me. Imagine not needing a vacuum cleaner! I like sweeping anyway. Imagine life of simplicity! So delicious to think about.

I found Land Watch when we were stumped about where to park our tiny house. This set up feels so viable and attractive to us, particularly the aspect of renting it because we want to…

2. Go on extended travel.

While living as a transient during the transition from NZ to USA, I stayed in a furnished studio with only the basics and I was content. I knew that I could do that for the long haul and not crave for extravagance or affluence. I didn’t have cable, but I enjoyed renting videos for $1 each. I walked a lot, used public transport, and realized that I like living in the city than in the suburbs.

Anyway, I checked the internet for families who have done this sort of thing and I was inspired. Oh, much needed inspiration! So I talked to my husband about this idea and the outstanding concern is his career. His career path tends to be location-dependent as it requires people interaction. I work in IT and can work anywhere. I’m willing to do entry-level jobs in IT if we travel extensively. Jon mentioned that he could teach English as an option, which is not bad at all. The idea that only one of us works at any given time is ideal. We can spend more time with our kid!

I’ve found awesome blogs: Soultravelers3, Delicious Baby, and My Family Travels to name a few. All I can really do for now, other than live as a minimalist and a frugalist, is to drool.

3. Take the kid to the Galápagos Island.

Image from

We almost decided to do this for January 2012, but the goal to replenish our emergency fund won over. Our target EF of $15k is projected for November and I can’t wait! If we really want to travel for at least a year, we need to be wise with our finances now. What this brought upon was more resolved to…

4. Pay off the friggin’ student loan.

And all of its $35k glory. After we reach our target EF, we plan to double our student loan payments to $1k. Aack! I’m still nervous about putting in such a big amount to the student loan but this is the only debt that has chained him. But, it’s time to get rid of it. If there’s one thing I learned from choosing to be with someone with student loans is that I don’t want my child to have to go through the same fate at all!!!

Out of excitement, we created 2 savings accounts – one for our travel plans and another for our cave (dwelling/house/home/abode) that we are not sure what will be yet. We’re quite happily renting a friend’s house and, to be honest, I’m not interested in being a home owner again. After having lived with such flexibility, I just don’t know if I will ever want to have a mortgage again ever.

We’ve pretty much decided to wait until our kid is 5 or older to do extended travel. We want him to remember some of it and still give him the opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes. My husband and I hardly talk about taking him to Disneyland, but we will; it’s just not a priority.

You can’t have too many lamps.

That’s what I was told when I complained about having 4 lamps in the house, with the last one being given by a friend recently.


When I noticed the clamp-style lamp on my child’s white/chalk board, I wondered if my husband had gotten it off Freecycycle. It looked newish from afar. I still haven’t examined it after seeing it 4 days ago. It was given to serve as a spotlight for our kid’s puppet theater, which was also given.

I know I should be grateful that we have these really cool and nice friends that give us things, but the slow accumulation of stuff is starting to give me anxiety. We’re running out of empty corners in our 2k-sqft rental.

The person who told me I could not have too many lamps has 5 lamps in her bedroom. Isn’t that crazy? Well, she has stuff that are mostly trinkets to me. I’m not a trinket person.

My response was: I don’t like many things of the same purpose. I like multi-purpose things.

It may not be the best response but I had to take into consideration the tone and intent in her voice when she said what she said. Why can’t people just be simple about their stuff?

One goal, two goals, red goal, blue goal

While tinkering with our account on Mint, I decided to play with the Goals feature. There was already one goal–the emergency fund–that’s being tracked. We can’t track the student loan because the company is not in the list yet, but I had already requested so let’s see what happens.

I added new goals:

  1. Save for college
  2. My retirement (here in the US)
  3. Husband’s retirement (continuation)
  4. Grand Design Project

We have our Kiwisavers still in NZ that we can’t take out yet until we’ve reached one full year of living overseas. It doesn’t do us any good that it’s sitting there because the government does not contribute to accounts whose holders are living and working overseas. Kinda sucks, but it makes sense because why would they give us benefit when we’re not paying taxes, right?

So for now, what I’m doing is researching on investment companies to find one where I’m going to invest my Roth in. I would’ve chosen Traditional IRA but I don’t plan to retire and get my money when I’m 70.5 years old. I just don’t see myself working that far out in my life. I would rather be doing other things, such as traveling, cooking for a living (maybe own a café), teaching pre-school kids…the list goes on and on, but those mentioned are strongly my inclination.

I would’ve done those things now but they aren’t exactly paying much. I earn a good living, a really good one in terms of money. It’s a career but it’s not all that to me anymore. It used to be the guide in my life, but after having a child I realized that life has more to offer.

Based on our goals to retire at 55 (me) and 65 (him), about 90% of discretionary funds after paying fixed expenses MUST go towards funding retirement! That means we might not be able to fund our Grand Design Project, which was inspired by the show itself. I strongly recommend that you watch a few episodes of it before you buy a house, and even if you’re not, the show would still be good for your soul. 🙂

With very simple finances, I’m able to see the picture. Thanks for that! I wonder how others with complicated finances do it? It being many things actually–buying a large house, vacationing, shopping, sending kids to school, funding retirement, etc.

There are risks involved that some people choose to take. I know at some point my strategy will change because we would really love to build our own home someday and have our child experience living in it before he moves out and lives on his own. I know he’s only 3 but saving takes time!

So, really, what makes sense is to complete funding our emergency fund and then pay off student loan. Blech.

A Volumptuous Furniture

One of the many, many great things about the internet is giving humanity access to things that were otherwise out of reach decades ago. It would take plenty of know-how, money for traveling, or simply finding someone who knows where to get things exactly to your taste.

With the internet, sometimes you don’t even have to look. You can stumble upon it one day, even when you’re not looking.

Living as minimalists, we practice quality over quantity. Even if it means buying things on the expensive spectrum. That’s one of the joys of practicing minimalism – you can afford to splurge on the very few things you decide to buy.

Here’s one that would be lovely to get, but I’m not going to because I don’t know if I need to. My point is: I found a furniture designer that is to my liking. 🙂

To your left

A month ago, our little family had joined the push biker community of Portland. We now own our beach cruisers and a trailer. My fear of biking in busy streets are nearly gone. I don’t think it will go away quickly, but I feel much, much more confident here in Portland than I was in NZ.

Our attempt to use them to take the kid to school and back home is costing me plenty of leg muscle cramps, wasted morning shower, and a monthly bus pass that I buy at the end of each month ($77). The exercise is great, it’s always great. It just feels icky to get to work gasping a little, my scalp full of sweat and hair that’s still wet. Ew.

So today Jonno and I decided to rest from it, then back on it tomorrow for some volunteer work. I think mentally that did it because my body relaxed. Gone were the muscle cramps that I believe start before I even ride the bike.

I’m not very familiar with biking “ethics” so I learn as I ride. To your left! To your right! Raise arm up to go left? I didn’t know that. Jonno had to correct my hand signal. 😛

I also realized why many bikers would stay close to the center on roads, especially when it’s inclined. Sorry car drivers, but it’s really wobbly riding down the bike on the side where the roads aren’t flat. The flatter the better you see.

Somebody also took a photo of me riding. The driver slowed down just to do that. I wonder what I was doing, or not doing, at that moment. Look, there’s that chubby woman trying to lose some weight. Hahaha!

Yes, it’s not just my imagination. I don’t feel as fat as I did last week. I’m not fat compared to those who are, but I do have some jiggly spots. 😀 I think I have somebody else’s thighs wrapped on mine. Who knew that biking could do such wonders?

It’s different, though, riding with a mission and riding for leisure. Oh well, it is what it is. I just have to make use of my $500 bike. Or else, I’d just be another hoarder.