Friday, May 30, 2008

Suburban Gardening

My oldest son decided he wanted a garden this year and honestly, I probably wouldn't have done anything had he not insisted despite the fact that I designed our backyard to have a very small plot for the express purpose of a garden. When you have two young children and work almost full-time, planting a garden is lower on the list than say, getting some rest. But, I want my boys to appreciate Mother Earth and I also want some fresh produce and who knows, maybe I'll save some money but already my watering bill has gone up so I doubt it. I'm rambling. I've included a photo of said garden and you might be wondering where the vegetables are. If you can't see them, then that's perfect! I'm trying to keep it hidden from the rabbits who are proliferating like, yes, rabbits. The weeds currently perfectly obscure the vegetables. We're growing corn, beans, tomatoes, and, if I remember to get some, basil. It would perfect if I could grow a mozzarella bush! I can just taste the promise of Caprese salad this summer. Yum!

Life in the Fab Lane

So I was channel surfing and chanced upon Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, the ex-model turned high-fashion billionairess, on the Style channel. She decided to see about reducing her carbon footprint by consulting with a Green Coach. It turns out that Kimora's carbon footprint is around 27 whereas the average is 7. So her house is so large she probably gets lost and she has a fleet of cars and planes. Perhaps this is why she's above the average??? Anyway, I had to laugh. All of us trying to do the frugal thing are so outweighed by her excess. And, I've been reading the story of Stoneyfield Yogurt and how they've made it their mission to be Carbon Neutral so that their carbon footprint is at least mitigated by alternative pro-earth choices. I'm impressed that their green ways have been profitable and beneficial. It seems that going green and being frugal go hand in hand.

I've been considering how to make our business more green. We can do a lot to help people reduce their expenses and carbon footprint but giving them the tools to work remotely and go paperless.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Price of Taking Care of Our Children

So, how do you put a price on childcare? My friend (the one whom I've been trying to help) revealed that she's paying a woman who speaks barely any English and doesn't drive, $15/hr for watching her kids, cleaning the house and doing the laundry! She defended this amount by saying it's hard to find people who really care about her children and whom she trusts. I feel this is too high--hello! I'll do this for her! Anyway, she was adamant that this was standard pay for nannies/caregivers in her area. And, of course, this woman's not paying taxes on this money. She didn't buy my suggestion that she talk to her and say that because of the number of hours involved, she was going to lower her hourly rate for fear that she'd leave.

I send my 3 year old to a private daycare/pre-school and pay about $690/mo. which equates to about $4.70/hr. There are 3 teachers in his class of 20 children, and about 16-18 are there on any given day. So, this is what works for me. Thank goodness my oldest child is now in kindergarten because I was paying twice that monthly amount last year!

OK, enough of that. On to my visit to the children's consignment store which I felt was very unproductive. They didn't take many of the clothes so after waiting 3 months for my drop off appointment, I received $10 for about 6 items. Won't be doing that again!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Healing Your Financial Soul

I promised I'd be thinking of ways to help my friend who is frustrated by what she sees as an endless road of debt. And, in the past week, I've sent her an email mentioning a few blogs such as Get Rich Slowly, Finally Frugal, and Being Frugal . I also sent her the link to Twenty Ways to Spend Less and Earn More by Digerati Life. And, I also mentioned the Dave Ramsey method which The Simple Mom is reviewing in parts. I've heard nothing back from my friend as yet but she's not very good about checking email. I won't take it personally since I think she's in a place where she knows she has a problem but isn't quite sure how to proceed. And, if she acknowledges this issue, then she might also have to take some pro-active steps to change her spending behavior. (And, that's always hard!) For example, she was saying that a "dream house" that she's been eying for the past two years is in foreclosure and she'd love buy that house. But, in the next sentence she says she's thinking of downsizing. So, until she decides which path she takes, it's not going to be easy. She's read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and likes the premise but I can see her mind is not yet in tune with her actions. It's funny, too, that I think I know what she should do, that it's all so clear to me! But, in my own situations, I don't always have that clarity! Do you?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Spa Confessions

For Mother's Day, two of my friends and I went to a day spa for some pampering and then had lunch at The Corner Bakery. It's always fun to get together with the girls. We all work and we each have two boys. We've known each other since high school. As usual, we ended up talking about our work, our boys, the upcoming election and personal finances. My friend who's the family physician whose husband is a teacher who definitely makes more than me seems to be facing tough financial times since they've refinanced their current home to pay off other debt so their mortgage is upside down and the other house they own is also in the same position so they feel completely tied to a difficult situation. I really sympathize with her. It's funny because I wish I had her large current home of over 2300SF and a rental property but, obviously, there are challenges. And, the cost to heat and cool such a large house! I mentioned that there are blogs aplenty about personal finance and frugal living so perhaps she'll look at some. She's a wonderful photographer, too. I imagine she'd be able to start doing small jobs and get a lot of referrals quickly. I want to help her and will continue to think of ways.

How have you helped your friends in tough financial situations?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo for the Frugal-Minded

The good news for those with light wallets or the desire to keep their money in their wallets is that there's great Mexican food to be had all over LA whether from taco trucks, little stands, or restaurants. I'm going to try to impress myself by listing as many Mexican restaurants by memory as I can. Most will be from the SFV as that's my stomping ground but here goes:

El Taco Llama - multiple locations
King Taco - multiple locations; they get better the closer they are to East L.A.
Tacos Mexico - multiple locations
El Cabanita - Glendale/Montrose
La Fuentes - Reseda
Melodee's - Reseda
Mission Taco - Canoga Park
El Coyote - Hollywood/LA
Casa Vega - Sherman Oaks
Mexicali - Studio City (stick to appetizers for lower priced fare)
Los Toros - Chatsworth

So, there you have it. Some restaurants worth checking out if you're in the area!

I'd love to hear about your favorite cheap Mexican eats!

We'll be at home with the boys making our own Cinco de Mayo feast with fajita chicken tacos, guac and dip, corn, refried beans and margaritas (maybe!)

Hasta la vista!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Women's Small Business Expo - LA

Since the kids were born, I haven't had much time to go to conferences and seminars like I used to. I also haven't had as much sleep, gone on vacation, or spent time refining my gourmet culinary skills! But, I digress.

Anyway, I decided that a business expo/day-long conference might energize and revive my spirits. Indeed it did! Linda Hollander, the Wealthy Bag Lady, put on a great day-long conference on April 30 at the Ayres Hotel in Hawthorne (close by LAX). It was a super line-up of speakers including Susan Solovic, the keynote speaker and Founder of (Internet TV for Small Business) as well as many others. It was great! I got to spent time with fellow women business owners from NAWBO-Ventura County when we drove down and back through rush hour LA traffic. (That's a blast! Actually, it was really fun and traffic isn't a problem when you have nice companions!)

We had speakers on marketing, sales techniques, networking, making money off the Internet, and becoming a media celebrity. (The last isn't going to happen--I don't even post a picture on my blog!) But, they were all great and had wonderful information to share. There was an exhibit going on as well throughout the day.

Go to the Women's Small Business Exp to find out more. And, the date has been set for next year--April 29! Same location.