Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The WHY behind Our Decision to Sell it All and Hit the Road

I have been talking for months about a huge lifestyle change Todd and I are planning to adopt by selling all of our possessions (including our home),purchasing a Class A and traveling all over the United States.  Since coming out with our future goals, we have been met with several different reactions (and many questions!). 

I decided to write a post about why we decided on this lifestyle change and what keeps us motivated to continue to work toward our goal.

I would say the number one reason for this change is freedom.   We are tired of being tied down to the house and the maintenance it requires as well as keeping jobs we don’t necessarily enjoy to help pay for said home and upkeep.  We want the freedom to do as we please, where, when and how we please.

We have really been focusing on trying to simplify our life as much as possible and a move into an RV would be the epitome of simplicity.  You cannot fit much into a 330 sq. ft. space and are forced to live with only what is truly needed.  The amount of stuff that we’ve accumulated over the years has taken a toll on us physically and mentally.  Having the realization that within a few years, we will be living in an RV has really helped us to consume less.  When I go out shopping with my mom (she is a browser), I find items that I like and would tend to buy.  Now, I know that what we are taking in the RV will be minimal, and there is no room (or purpose) for such tchatzkies.  We have definitely been more mindful of our purchases to ensure that the item will fit into our lifestyle.  We are looking at quality and usability over quantity for the items we are purchasing.

Todd and I enjoy adventure.  We like to see new places, experience new things, and what could be more adventurous than traveling the United States and Canada.  We honeymooned in Alaska back in 2007 and we look forward to driving across Canada to stay in Alaska for a couple of months before coming back to the contiguous US!  We have a long list of places we would like to visit, and by making this commitment, we are hoping to witness all of these landmarks before we get too old to truly enjoy them! 

Even though I am always trying to stretch a penny, this is not the main reason we decided to live in an RV.  Moving from a 1,890 sq. ft. home to living in a 330 sq. ft. camper will require far fewer resources and therefore {theoretically} cost less than owning a home.  I have always had a dream of living a self-sufficient life and though this is not 100% possible in an RV (can you say gas guzzler?), it is one step closer to being self-sufficient.  We have plans on installing a 250W solar panel on the RV and supporting local farmers with fresh {in season} produce while on the road.  The goal is to sell our primary residence and make a “home base” for a few months every summer on the ½ acre property we own next door.  This will allow us to grow and preserve our own vegetables and to harvest all the fruits we have been attempting to establish since moving into the house 7 years ago!

I am sure there will be many challenging times between now and when we hit the road (as well as when we are on the road!)  Todd and I have never spent more than a week and a half underfoot, in tight living quarters and with two 75+ lb dogs in tow!  Even though we have been met with some doubts, we are still as excited about our adventure today as we were over six months ago when we originally talked about the possibility of selling it all and moving into an RV.  If all else fails, we will have a paid for home and RV and we can continue doing what we’ve been doing.

What are your thoughts on this adventure? 
Do you think we will actually go through with it?

Have you ever considered living in an RV?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shameless Plug

Late last month, I decided to become an Independent Consultant for a company called Paparazzi Accessories.  I found them by mistake online, and when I learned more about the company, I was extremely excited to jump on board with them!

Paparazzi Accessories is a jewelry and accessories company that was started in 2008 by two sisters who loved jewelry and sold it at parties.  In 2011, they decided to take on consultants, and that is where I am today.  Paparazzi Accessories are fun, fashionable and most importantly of all...AFFORDABLE!  All jewelry is $5/each for necklace/earring sets, earrings, bracelets and headbands.  They offer a children's line called Starlet Shimmer and those pieces sell for $1.00/each!

I decided to join the Paparazzi Accessories team because I thought this would be a great opportunity for something to do while we are on the road, not to mention to help make up for the recent decrease in my income.  I like jewelry but I rarely ever buy myself anything because I am infamous for losing it!

When I received my starter kit from Paparazzi that included 100 pieces of jewelry, I was amazed at the quality of the product.  Paparazzi is able to sell their product at $5/piece because there is no overhead!  Similar pieces sell at Kohl's for quadruple what Paparazzi charges.  I will admit, some of the jewelry is a bit big and blingy for me, but it looks great on others.

I am writing this post to inform those of you who have never heard about Paparazzi Accessories about the product, and if you are interested, please feel free to contact me about the inventory that I have available!  Right now, I have over 200 pieces of jewelry and over 50 pieces of children's accessories in stock.

If you are interested in keeping up with the new product I have available, please feel free to "like" my FaceBook page, All Occasions Jewelry.  To view photos of the jewelry that came in my starter kit, please click on my photo albums.

Also, this Saturday, April 5th at 7:00PM EST, I am hosting my first FaceBook Party!  To join the party, please click here and select "join."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Downside of Debt

In January, we took a loan out for the RV we purchased.  I justified the purchase at the time (we always do when we really want something, don’t we?) but when the first payment of over $1,000 was due in February, I was reminded of how much I hate debt

The day we signed the loan papers on the RV was the day that my husband was let go from his job of over 8 years and therefore we went without a paycheck for nearly 3 weeks until he was on payroll with his new position.  The very next week after his first paycheck I was informed that my hours (and therefore pay) would be cut by25%!  

It has been over a month, and we are still juggling our income and expenses to get on some sort of regularity, but the budget has really been kattywampus.  Part of the reason is that extra $1000 payment that is being sent out each and every month on top of a decrease in income.

I mentioned in the post about our RV that we will be paying off the house by October.  I have changed my mind about that.  I want the RV to be paid off – AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! I do not like the uncertainty that this $1000+ payment brings to our lives.     

To me, debt feels like I am trapped, suffocating and out of control with uncertainty peaking its head around every corner.  Debt has made our 6 month emergency fund a 3 month emergency fund and this is unsettling.

My new goal for this year is to have the RV paid off by October and I never want to be in debt every again (except for a (very small) mortgage if we choose to settle down in one spot again in the future).  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Bartlett Soap Company

This time last year, I decided to try to take on a “No ‘Poo” challenge.  After a couple of months shampooing my hair with the baking soda and water paste solely, I decided to go back to using shampoo.  Late last year, I started using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (Lavender Hemp) and though I enjoyed the scent, it left my hair feeling greasy even though my hair was styling just fine. I thought maybe it was because of our well water.  I decided to stick it out because after all, I had a lot more to use until the bottle was empty!  I was perfectly content in keeping up with using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap until afriend of mine told me about a local woman who makes her own soap, lotion and shampoo. 

I looked at the Bartlett Soap Company’s website and loved the scents listed.  At the time, we were trying to save some money so I didn’t place the order right away.  It wasn’t until several weeks later that I emailed Jennifer to ask her some questions and placed my first order.

Jennifer, the owner of Bartlett Soap Company, is the nicest person you will ever meet: helpful, accommodating and an inspiration.  Jennifer started Bartlett Soap Company in her home October 2013 and was so successful she opened up a storefront in January because she spent most of her days delivering soaps locally!  As soon as I received my order, I found out exactly why her soaps, lotions and shampoo bars were doing so well in Tennessee.  The product is amazing!

About the product:
 Each bar is organically made using plant based oils like coconut, palm, avocado, olive, caster and shea giving the bars the rich soothing and cleansing properties needed to give your skin the pleasurable experience of fluffy lather, moisturizing, and the smoothing qualities that it deserves.

As soon as I opened the mailbox, the scent of the soaps came pummeling out.  It smelled soooo goooood!  I am sure the mail lady loved delivering this package! I used the shampoo bar a few days later and was pleasantly surprised at how clean my hair felt after just one use!  The greasy feeling from Dr. Bronner’s Soap was gone instantly and the light scent the soap left on my hair was very pleasant to get a whiff of throughout the day.  My hair styled no different than ever.  I was impressed from the very first time I used the shampoo!

My first order with Bartlett Soap Company
(Left to Right) Lotion Stick, Mens All-In-One and 3 Shampoo Bars
The sliver on top is the shampoo bar I have been using since the beginning of January!
They last a long time!!

The soap is the same way.  I purchased the men’s all-in-one soap to use as shampoo, soap and shaving…for myself!  I like masculine scents and this all-in-one definitely has a pleasant aroma.  The lotion stick is really thick and lasts a long time!  I use it as chapstick as well as on a dry patch I get behind my knees in the winter and it works wonderfully.

Now to the fun part: the giveaway!
I am so impressed with Jennifer and her product that I wanted to let everyone know about my new favorite soap and shampoo as well as give away one of her shampoo bars to one lucky follower.

Please note that her shampoo bars sell FAST!  I have been waiting for several weeks for more to be available, and they are available this very moment - but only 5 are left!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner to be chosen March 23rd at 12:00AM EST and announced on FB and Twitter shortly thereafter.

Good luck!!

DISCLAIMER:  I was in no way compensated for this review or giveaway.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Planning the 2014 Garden

Each year I say I’m done with gardening but when spring rolls around, I am ready to start planning for the year’s garden.  In years past, I have gone crazy with the amount I have tried to grow and it lead to me feeling overwhelmed and eventually I give upand let the weeds take over.  This year, we are keeping it simple!

Todd despises spring because he knows I will have requests for the upcoming garden.  He stated that the best part of last year’s garden was when he got to mow it down!  So while having dinner in early February, I sprung it on him that I wanted to try pallet gardening.  He immediately rolled his eyes and sighed.  “But wait,” I told him.  “Hear me out!  I only want to grow 4 vegetables this year.”  That got his attention.  After thinking about it for a couple of minutes and my promising that he wont have to do too much work to prepare for the garden this year, he was on board.

So, what does pallet gardening look like?
You can go to one of my favorite blogs, One Hundred Dollars A Month and take a look for yourself.  Mavis is an awesome gardener!

PHOTO CREDIT: One Hundred Dollars A Month
Please check out this website to learn exactly how to pallet garden!

What we are planting this year:

We are planting only 4 varieties of vegetables this year.
  1. Squash (zucchini and yellow squash) by seed
  2. Yard Long Green Beans by seed
  3. Cucumbers by seed
  4. Tomatoes by seedling

Supplies Needed:

  • Pallets
  • Compost/Soil
  • Seeds/Seedlings
  • Trellis

The only expenses we will have this year for the garden will be a half cubic yard of  soil (approximately 1,000 lbs) and the seeds/seedlings.  I expect to pay no more than $50 for the garden this year.  We have pallets that we got for free last year from Todd's place of employment.  We have also been composting, so we have some great compost to add to the soil we will purchase.  For our climbing vegetables (green beans and cukes), we will be using pallets!


Please note: the pallet garden is great for vegetables with shallow root systems.  For tomatoes, we will be stacking 3 or 4 pallets on top of one another to create a taller raised bed for their root system.

One great thing about the four items we are growing this year is that these vegetables (yes, I know tomatoes are not considered a vegetable!) are prolific.  I have a hard time sticking with something that I cannot see results quickly.  With this produce, we will start to see results fast and a lot of them!  The first garden Todd and I ever had was a raised garden and it was the best garden we have ever had.  I am hoping that we can duplicate those results this year with the pallet garden while keeping the weeds away!

Plans for the Established Fruit
We have several fruit trees, bushes and grape vines.  My goal this year is to begin transplanting the fruit to the house next door so that when we are at our home base in the RV, we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.  This will include transplanting blueberry bushes (right now, they are just twigs!), red raspberries, blackberries, and cultivating concord grape vines from clippings off our established vines.

This year, I really want to focus on providing our fruits and vegetables with the nutrients they need to grow well and provide us with an abundance of produce!

What are your plans for the garden this year?
What vegetables are you going to grow?
Are there any fruits you will add to your garden?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Saving Money: Pet Care

Since the beginning of November, Todd and I have been scrutinizing our expenses.  We realize that our dream of full time RVing will not be possible if we are frivolous with how we spend money.  I am almost positive that my mother is rolling her eyes right now as she’s reading this (I love you, mom!) because she already feels that we go above and beyond frugality.  For us, we believe there is always room for improvement and we have found a way to cut down the expenses on one of our largest expenses: the animals!

Presently, we live amongst 7 animals.  Please do not report us to pet hoarders!  It’s not like that at all, though sometimes at night when we are all in bed (oh yes, we fit in a queen sized bed with two large dogs and 5 cats) it feels like we may have taken in one or two (or 5!) too many strays.  I believe that when we decided to take in all of these animals, we chose to take on the responsibility of feeding and caring for these animals to the best of our ability.

Recently, we have found ways to save money on caring for our critters.

Prices for spay/neutering can vary.  We have paid over $250 for one of our kittens to be spayed whereas we have paid less than that amount to have 3 kittens spayed/neutered at a no-kill shelter.  After being unhappy with our local vet, we decided to look elsewhere and found a place that spays/neuters cats for $35 (boys) to $45 (girls)!  They have a program that if you have more than one cat, you buy one spay/neuter and you get one free.  We have had 6 of our animals spayed/neutered at this no-kill shelter and have been very pleased with the results and how our animals bounced back after their surgeries.

Kitten Kaleidoscope!

We purchase very high-quality food for our dogs that is formulated for their breed to help keep their joints healthy and to maintain a healthy weight.  We could buy the food at a pet store for $55+/bag; however, Amazon carries the same brand for $44/bag! We also found that our cat food is $8/bag less expensive at BJ’s versus the same exact brand at WalMart.  In other words: shop around!

Our vet charges an arm and a leg to vaccinate our pups; however, there are clinics that are offered at Pet Supplies Plus that come around every few weeks to vaccinate dogs and cats starting at $10!  By doing this, you avoid the fee that the vet charges just to see your pet, and it helps your pocketbook!  Also, the no-kill shelter offers these vaccinations for a fraction of the price as well.

Flea Treatments
Flea treatments for the dogs are extremely expensive at $10/dog per month and we have been purchasing product from WalMart for the cats.  I found that Fipronil has the same ingredients as Frontline and Advantage flea and tick control.  This can be used for both dogs and the cats.  We purchase this product in bulk (30cc’s) from a seller on eBay at $52.97 delivered to our door and administer it ourselves.  The treatments last us 5 months for all 7 critters to be free of fleas and ticks.

Buddy and Lana on Christmas Morning

Cat De-wormer Treatment
Our cats are great hunters and because of this, they tend to get worms from their prey a couple times a year.  We have tried the $8/bottle over-the-counter product from WalMart and Tractor Supply with no luck until we take the cats to the vet to get treated.  After doing some research, I found that Praziquantel is a generic form of de-wormer that kills tapeworm and is used in many vet clinics and shelters to help cut costs.  We now purchase 20 capsules of Praziquantel a year from a seller on eBay to keep on hand and administer to our cats when they have worms.  The cost is $19.99 and each of our 5 cats can be treated 4 times!

Being Labs, our dogs do not need groomed; however, they need their nails trimmed.  Lana has black nails so it very difficult to cut her nails without having a bleeder.  Buddy’s nails are easier to trim because you can see the quick; however, he cannot stand to have them done.  I wait until he is zonked out before I can cut his nails.  We didn’t purchase any fancy schmancy nail-clippers, just regular ones that can be found at the dollar store or WalMart. 

I have yet to find an alternative for the dogs for their heartworm medication: if you know of anything, please let me know!

I want to make it clear that even though we save money on flea treatments and de-wormers, we take our dogs to the vet twice a year (for their heartworm shots and general checkup) and cats when needed.  I believe that when we took these strays in, it became our responsibility to care for them and to keep them healthy!

DISCLOSURE:  These items have been provided for informational purposes only.  Please note that I am not a veterinarian.  Please consult your veterinarian before administering these items to your pets.

What do you do to save money on your pets?