Photo Credit: Tangled Bank Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Tangled Bank Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Something I’ve been trying to do in the last year is to find more small businesses that I can support instead of just going to a big box retail store. The only problem with small businesses is that sometimes the price of the goods is so much more than at a big box store that can get better discounts on everything! It’s pretty hard to compare a place like Costco to a small business in terms of buying power. The sheet amount of buying power that Costco has is enormous! I have a place in my heart for Costco, but I really want to support the small businesses too. Places run by a small group of people with usually great customer service and a lot of heart.

There’s a huge fight of small vs big right now and all too often the big wins out. It is definitely easier for me to hop on over to Costco and target and basically get everything I will ever need all in just one stop. But then there’s the small mom and pop store around the corner that’s been there for years and is a cornerstone of the community. In order to survive, they need loyal customers to go there and spend their money! At the end of the day it’s all about where the money goes.

Finding the right places
Last year I was lucky to find a local natural health goods market in the neighborhood that wasn’t too crazily priced. This was at a point when I was trying to clean up my health and personal care items to be less chemical laden and better for my health. I loved the little store and the people who owned the place. It was this small cute place that had a decent variety of items. Today I just visited a small market with higher quality meats! I don’t know if it’s going to me go to meat market place but so far I bought something to try it out. It’s all going to be a big search and find until I find the right places that fit my lifestyle and budget. A lot of smaller businesses in LA also tend to be in trendier higher end neighborhoods and the price of the goods just is too high for me.

Sacrificing convenience
All these smaller places definitely don’t have everything I need in one stop, but the workers are more invested in their goods and definitely care about what goods they have. Each one will have a different set of goods that they feel fits their store the best but might not necessarily always be what I’m looking for. Target indeed does have the widest variety of say for example, shampoos. But the small store will have the best of the best shampoos that they think re worth it rather than everything possible. If I trust the store, then it’s a much quicker way for me to find an item than trying to wade through 30 types of one item.

A local toy store I was able to find is now my intended go to place for any gifts for kids, babies, and maybe adults too. I love the curation they did with the different eco-friendly and educational toys. I’ve even found the prices of some items to be lower than what I could find online!

Actually going there
I was extremely saddened to realize that the natural health market I loved had gone out of business near the end of last year! I always thought of it, but I never went there enough. Yes, myself alone probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the store closing, but if ten of me had gone there more often then that wouldn’t helped! Making the effort (and kicking myself in the butt to not be lazy) to go frequent these places is what I need to do.

It’s just a way better experience
Big box stores honestly can be extremely stressful to get in and out of in LA. There’s a ton of people in the big city and since I work normal weekday hours I have to run all my errands on the weekend when everyone else is out too. Holidays especially are hard times for me to go out because of the crowds. I’m a Midwest girl at heart and crowds are just not my thing. Being able to stop into a smaller place that’s not crowded elbow to elbow is just a much nicer shopping experience. Also being able to easily talk to someone who works there for advice or help. It’s a lot friendlier environment and everyone in the store isn’t super stressed out trying to get out of there!

 

The best part about being careful with my money is that I have more control about what I can do with it! It’s a nice luxury that I have now that I don’t live paycheck to paycheck and instead get to choose to make my money count. Supporting smaller businesses is definitely something I think is worth doing. Maybe one day I’ll have a small business myself! Who knows right?

Do you have a small business that you love supporting?


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When it comes to growing food in my own yard to eat, I dabble here and there but mostly I’ve been lucky enough to have a house where the previous owner nurtured fruit trees. I have 6 fruit trees that have mostly been bearing fruit each year and the yield keeps growing! I just cleaned up and picked my last lemons and cleaned up the bad rotten ones. I’ve also always wanted to grow my own vegetables and am trying my hand at that.

I absolutely do not have a green thumb at all! Not a brown thumb either but somewhere in between. I have okay skills when it comes to plants and mostly I’m just searching the internet for how to take care of plants. I dream of a day when I can grow all my own vegetables and just eat a full meal from that. It takes a ton more work than just simply watering and planting seeds though!!!! There are so many tings that can happen, and have happened that I never could foresee or had no idea of what to do. It’s been an interesting year as I try my hand at new plants and growing new foods.

The peaches got eaten…again
Technically this peach tree has been here this whole time but I’ve never gotten peaches because they always get eaten by animals before when they are still green and only 2 inches big. This year I decided to try harder to protect the tree and get some peaches for myself! I put up a bird net to ward off birds and squirrels, and I even hung up some old cd’s to try to scare off birds. I have no idea if cd’s really work, but there’s not too much use for them now anyhow. Might as well try. Well…I watched a few peaches start turning color….promising…then next thing I knew they were eaten! even the peach that was sitting in the middle of the tree was half gone! I have no idea how this even happened. Guess this year the animals win again.

All my herbs are dead except the straggly parsley
I had some herbs growing before but since we’ve put a cage around the tomato plant pretty much I just have a straggly parsley plant that looks very pitiful. Oops…I guess the cage cut off the sunlight a bit.

I keep finding caterpillars eating my tomato plant
Just the other day I found the fattest green caterpillar on my tomato plant. I was pointing at it with my finger and my husband couldn’t even see it initially. I’ve probably picked off at least 10 caterpillars (some pretty darn fat) off that plant by now. There’s some tomatoes growing (yay!) but I keep having to look for creepy crawlies. Not my idea of the funnest pastime.

There’s a bird nest in my orange tree
Luckily the orange tree won’t have mature fruit until the end of the year so hopefully the baby birds will be grown up by then!!! Just this weekend I noticed what looked like a bunch of twigs. I didn’t think much of it until my husband saw it too and recognized it as a nest. He’s significantly taller than me and could peek into the nest and saw three eggs! We’ve seen at least one of the parents sitting in the nest and suspect that we have a mockingbird family.

 

This definitely makes me appreciate farmers who grow food for a living! I can barely handle a few fruit trees and a tomato plant! I just got a bonsai tree kit for a gift too…another plant challenge coming up.

Have you ever tried growing your own food before? Were you successful or did it flop?

 


yosemitefalls_smallIt’s the first year that I actually have Memorial Day off since I work for a smaller business. My husband got Friday off too though so I decided to take my floating personal day (cause no one has to work on their birthday) early and have a 4 day weekend too! What better way to celebrate than to check out some national parks?

Admittedly I haven’t really visited a lot of national parks. From LA I am within a day’s drive of quite a few of them actually. Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Zion are just a few examples. This weekend wasn’t the best time to go as it was busy everywhere, but what’s a working woman to do? I don’t have a lot of 3 day weekends! It’s also not the best time to try to be budget friendly as we didn’t plan this vacation far enough in advance and it wouldn’t matter because everything is pricier. I still tried my best though!

The Plan
I had 4 days to go wherever I want. Of course I want to maximize my time but relax at the same time. We headed out Friday morning to Yosemite first since it’s farther away. Then on Saturday afternoon we headed down to Sequoia. Monday we headed home in the afternoon after one leisurely late breakfast. We did our due diligence by researching things we want to do, and also buying any tickets we needed before we go. Yosemite was absolutely insane and Sequoia was pretty busy too. We lucked out on finding parking spots before they closed off the lots but it was still tough getting through all the people. Apparently there was one distraught woman who was hitting the shuttle bus at Yosemite because the bus driver wouldn’t let her get on the crowded bus.

Food Stuffs
Grand Canyon was such a beautiful place to visit, but the food was pretty horrible. It’s pretty much the same thing for all of these places. It was crowded, touristy, overpriced food all around. Instead of stocking up at an overpriced last stop shop at the parks, we did some grocery shopping and hauled it there. This saved us when we didn’t have time to go find food at Sequoia when we were trying to make a cave tour reservation. It wasn’t real food, but it was something to fill our tummies until we could get somewhere else.

Places to Sleep
This could’ve been the biggest money saver. We could’ve camped at Yosemite for $12 a night. Well, we stayed in hotels. Definitely more than I would like to spend but it’s worth it for me! After running around all day I definitely appreciated my comforts even more. A good night of rest was essential to keep my energy up through the busy weekend. For three nights of hotel stay we’re at about $450 because of the holiday weekend. It’s pretty cold in Yosemite and Sequoia at lows of 30 degrees though so there’s no way I would even consider camping. The hotel at Yosemite is much pricier though so we decided to only stay one night there at least. At both parks we ended up staying about an hour outside of the parks to save a bit of mula too. It was insanely expensive closer to the park! That meant we had to drive quite a bit to get to where we wanted to go though.

Year Pass for all National Parks
It’s $30 per park for a pass that’s valid for 7 days. For 2 parks that’s $60 already. Luckily my husband went on an all guys road trip to Zion a week ago and had the foresight to spring for the $80 year pass! It’s unlimited to any national park whereas the week pass is only to that specific park. His friends chipped in $20 so the price of this pass is already at $60 for us. Of course to take full advantage of this we’re going to try to use it at other parks too.

 

Overall this was a decently pricey trip because of the hotel accommodations. It was pretty insane at Yosemite and it kinda felt like home with crazy drivers there! You’d think on a national holiday like Memorial weekend that people would be nicer, but alas no. I still had a great time though and we made the best of it. Today we were debating on going back to Sequoia in the morning but with the crazy winding roads and how tired we are of crazy people, we just took our time to get home. It’s good to be home for sure!

What did you do for this Memorial Weekend?


CottonPlantSweatshop-free, American-made, earth-friendly, and inexpensive clothing? Is there such a thing? As I try more and more to make my money mean more with what I buy this seems to be the next step. Turns out it’s pretty hard finding clothing that fits all of parameters above! I’ve researched a ton of companies to see if I could find clothing that fits all that and I’ve had to scale back my expectations. Now if I can find clothing that fits at least one of those first three then I’m good to go.

Okay, so first of all why am I even doing this? I’ve never been one to care much about fashion so my clothes are pretty basic and some of them are pretty old. I don’t spend a ton of money on clothes and while I don’t wear them until they fall off, I do patch them up as needed to make them last longer. It’s a pretty big industry though and where we spend our money has an impact on how that clothing is produced.

Sweat-shop free
Many clothing companies use sweatshops in order to crank out cheap clothing. Workers are paid very little and often are women and children working in horrible environments. Sweatshops are in the news all the time with fires breaking out in a factory and killing everyone because fire exits were blocked. Or unsafe work conditions that caused a building to collapse killing everyone inside. I definitely don’t want to be wearing clothing that someone risked their life to make and were paid next to nothing for. By supporting companies that are sweatshop free it helps those companies trying to do the right thing. Treat people well and pay them a fair wage for their hard work.

American-made
So far this has been the hardest thing to find! American Apparel is definitely the first place that comes to mind when thinking American made but their clothing isn’t the best quality and can be pricey. Unfortunately it’s much less expensive to manufacture goods out of the country. It would be nice to support American companies to boost our economy! Overall American-made goods are also higher quality that could justify the higher price point too.

Organic Cotton
Tons and tons of chemicals are used for cotton farming which obviously isn’t so good for the earth. It pollutes land and water and affects the health of the farm workers. If I’m going to go organic with the food I eat, then why not with the clothes I wear? Organic cotton goods are harder to find, and pricier usually, but if I at least buy a few items every now and then hopefully it makes an impact!

Some companies doing the right thing
If you’re looking for fashion then it’s pretty hard to find if you also want it to be all of the above. Most companies that fit those only manufacture basics actually. So far I’ve been frequenting a few places that have pretty good clothing for the price point and quality.

Buck Mason
American made clothing for men

Wear Pact
Los Angeles based company with organic cotton and sweatshop-free clothing

Alternative Apparel
Eco-friendly clothing with some organic cotton

H&M
I know this is a big company but they’ve come out with many organic cotton clothing items that are pretty affordable. Not my first choice but they’re trying at least!

 

I don’t always buy consciously every single time I shop. In fact I just bought a few items that definitely weren’t, but were too cute to pass up. It’s good to use my money in a more meaningful way for sure!

Are you into buying more conscious clothing?


7468313382_01dca95e64When it comes to pointing out who is the most frugal in the relationship, it’s a no brainer that it’s me and not my husband! My brain is always constantly searching for ways I can greenify life and save money at the same time. I introduced budget sheets into our relationship (yowza maybe that’s why he married me?) and I wouldn’t spring for the extra $300 to get the pearlescent white paint for the Prius. He recycles now because of me too hehe. I still have my weak points though…I’m such a sucker for personal stories.

Mostly what gets me lately is local goods. Striving to make a bigger difference with my money by buying local face-to-face with the people who grew the food or made the goods opened up the floodgates a bit to spend more if it’s locally based. When I find someone who is trying to do something good I also can’t resist wanting to help them too!

The reel in: I can’t resist an earnest face as they tell me their personal story
Just today I was walking through a festival area with lots of little shops. I snagged a free lemonade (yay!) and then happened upon a stand selling handmade soaps. There was a father standing there with his little girl. He told me his story of how he started making soaps for his daughter because she couldn’t use commercial soaps due to psoriasis. It didn’t help that his wife was also there. It was a family business! The soaps smelled really quite nice made from essential oils but they were pricier than I would normally ever buy soap for. The most I had ever spent on soap bars were $5 and these were $8 apiece. I got sucked in first through that little story.

Pushing me over the edge: I can’t resist helping if it’s charitable
Already more than halfway there I then found out that they donate 15% of their profits to charity! They sponsor kids in third world countries and actually go to visit them too! So not only would I be helping out this family if I bought something, I would also be helping out these kids who need it too. That definitely put my over the edge and I was definitely buying something at this point. A company that tries to do good by using fair trade and natural ingredients is awesome, but if they give back then even better! It’s how Tom’s got so big with their buy one give one concept. They certainly weren’t the first to do that but it made Tom’s look really good.

The kicker: Appeal to my money saving side
Still my frugal side was pretty strong. These soap bars were pretty pricey so I was thinking of maybe just buying one at least. That’s when I noticed the sampler packs! Four smaller sized bars for $18. Perfect! Bundling items always makes people feel like they’re getting a better deal. Ding ding! I was sold. If only I had ice encasing my heart…instead I walked away with some new soap and a pouch loofah.

 

Either this family was really just a good ole family trying to do something right and make some money, or they are master salespersons! They certainly sucked me in and I felt good about buying something from them! Haha. I definitely don’t regret it at all though.

And if anyone else wants to buy some soap check it out here: Morning Blossom Studio

What are you a sucker for?