Garage Sale Gift Shopping

Last week you read about our adventures in green birthday party planning–but that’s only half the story. Our quest for quality gifts started long before the birthday festivities when I declared that we could buy all Roscoe’s birthday presents used.

My husband was a bit skeptical, especially because we had a very specific birthday list for our son.  It was short, but we knew he’d enjoy his presents and they wouldn’t crowd our small house:

  • A tricycle
  • A collapsible play tent
  • A wooden city bus (He’s obsessed with public transport)
  • A book

After weeks of searching online for a used trike, my husband started pricing new tricycles at around $50-$100 each.  My tightwad soul couldn’t bear spending that much on one gift.  So with a purse full of small bills, I hit the garage sale circuit to see if we could find everything we needed. 

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Green Spotlight: Eco-Heroine Eileen Provides a Planet Saving Pep-Talk

Eileen Spillman is a single mom who works full time as a middle school teacher, raises two children, and saves the Earth in her spare time.   As you’ll see, Eileen is very humble about managing her hectic lifestyle, but she has lots of down-to-earth wisdom to share. Her online interview will be broken down into a four-part Sunday series, so stay tuned!

How (on Earth!) do you juggle a full time job, raising two children, and keeping the planet in mind?  

Ha!  I don’t.  Everything doesn’t get done perfectly, or even close…..I’m really fortunate to have wonderful family and friends who pitch in for me, a lot.  The other thing about being a single mom is that I don’t have to expend any energy in negotiations – it’s my way or the highway.  I have also realized that watching TV was a couple thing and since I’m not half of a couple, I don’t watch it at all anymore. ….Oh, and sometimes I tear my hair out and cry like a baby.   

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Green Birthday Parties for Kids

This year I found myself apathetic about throwing a traditional party for my two year old.  While I could have selected coordinating décor and unique party favors, I was determined to keep it simple.  Am I an unfit mother?  I hope not.  The truth is that throwing a big birthday shindig often ends up being expensive, exhausting and very disposable.  

Luckily I knew my son would be thrilled to run through a park with his friends and receive a few presents. We added blueberry muffins to the mix and he was in utter bliss. 

Plus, I had to wonder, would I be doing all that extra stuff for him and his friends, or for the other adults? Before I got wrapped up in other people’s potential judgments of his very simple celebration, I realized that the people in Roscoe’s life are unpretentious, kind and very connected to him.  They forgave me for my un-Martha Stewart festivities. 

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Saving Money and Emissions with a “Staycation”

Ever return from holiday travel only to find yourself more exhausted than when you left? When we felt stressed out just contemplating a vacation with a two-year-old, we knew we needed other options.  Suddenly, my husband blurted out, “Let’s have a staycation!”  Immediately our heart rates leveled out and we began breathing more deeply.  

You might assume that my husband and I have a tiny comfort zone—or a case of agoraphobia.  Actually, we’ve lived and traveled in several countries, but at this point in our lives we have no desire to leave town.  Our son sleeps horribly even on short trips, hates being immobile in the car seat, and often seems out of sorts while we’re away.  It ends up being rather grueling for all of us—so we were excited about the option of staying home for a week and purposely relaxing.

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Savoring the Last Weeks of Summer: Carbon-Free, Low-Cost Entertainment for Kids

As a child, I remember being thrilled to escape school in mid June—but by August, I was bored to tears. Now as a mom I realize how tough it is to find quality entertainment for kids without spending money or driving all over town. This week we’ll revisit a few of our best posts on entertaining your brood for less.

For toddlers:

  • Homemade Finger Paint: These days we just head outside with Roscoe and avoid worrying about the ensuing mess. We use the back sides of household papers and just hose Roscoe down when he’s done! You can find a link to Rebecca’s post on fingerpainting here.
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Building Green Communities with Like-minded Parents

Green parenting requires thought, innovation, and courage—none of which come easy on limited sleep.  Having a community of like-minded parents is wonderful, but it can be challenging depending on a person’s geographic location or work schedule.  Still, if you hook up with a few families who are at least willing to try green living, it can be tremendously helpful. 

Here are a few places where you could start finding eco-friendly buddies:

Parenting groups: Usually by joining a parenting group you can find a few families who are interested in eco-friendly tips.  We loved our experience with Birth to Three here in Eugene and have made friendships that will last all through Roscoe’s childhood.

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Using Economic Offsetting to Afford Green Products


Thrifty Green Thursday is the perfect place to consider a whole new version of sustainability that involves both your wallet and your green values.  If cost wasn’t an issue, many Americans would love to eat organic food and use expensive eco-friendly cleaning products.

Since our economy is struggling and prices are soaring, it sometimes feels as though green products will only reach those that can afford them. That’s where economic offsetting can come in very handy. 

Here’s how it works: make frugal choices to reduce your household costs and then apply that extra money to spendier eco-friendly items.  For example, using hand-me-downs for baby can provide hundreds of dollars for organic strawberries and eco-friendly detergent.  (Hint: Rebecca discovered that eco-friendly detergent is actually cheaper than mainstream brands!)  Switching from prepared green cleaning products to homemade versions can possibly even offset the cost of a high quality wooden toy—especially when you find that toy used at a consignment shop.

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Using a Drying Rack to Fight Global Warming


Do you own a solar powered dryer? If not, they’re available for under twenty bucks and can save loads of emissions in their lifetime. Yes, I am talking about the humble drying rack.

Whether you live in an urban apartment or sprawling acreage, anyone can handle erecting a drying rack and letting nature do the rest. You won’t need dozens of clothespins to hang each sock, baby t-shirt, or undergarment.  Just flop the clothing on the rack in the morning and take it off later in the day.

In the summer I bask in the glory of sun dried clothing.  I hang the sheets, towels and adult clothing on the line while my toddler helps (somewhat sloppily) by arranging dishtowels and diaper covers on our drying rack.  

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Tightwad Tips for Raising Baby from Frugal Zealot, Amy Dacyczyn

Last week we reviewed Amy Dacyczyn’s Tightwad Gazette, the ultimate guide to creative frugality.  We could ooze on for hours about her innovative outlook on reusing and reducing, but instead we’ll give you some concrete examples of how she made budget friendly, eco-friendly choices with her twin babies. 

Since Dacyczyn thought her fourth child would be her last, she had given away all of her baby things, only to find out that she was having a surprise set of twins.  She spent less than $100 on their first year of life by employing some zany acts of simplicity.  These are just some of the items she skipped with her babies:

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Book Review: The Tightwad Gazette

For those of us who love creativity, hate waste, and enjoy watching our savings accounts grow, The Tightwad Gazette is a thrill a minute.  The author, Amy Dacyczyn, was termed the “frugal zealot” for her efforts to “promote thrift as a viable lifestyle.” The Tightwad Gazette was published back in the late ‘90s, but it’s still just as applicable today.  Her grocery costs of just $38.00 a week for a family of eight are still astounding, even if you take inflation into account.

Although The Tightwad Gazette emphasizes frugality rather than environmentalism, Dacyczyn, points out that most of her cost-savings efforts are eco-friendly. Her family rarely buys anything new, grows most of their produce, and limits their meat intake. 

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