Frugal Tuesday: Lend a Hand!

Here at the Little Hippie House, we believe that frugality isn’t just about saving ourselves money… We’re part of a growing community of like-minded folks who want to live lightly on the planet, eschew indebtedness, and have fun doing it! So when a friend of ours bought a 40-year-old travel trailer to restore and convert into a mobile eco-boutique, we were happy to go pitch in with the work. We love helping our friends save time and money while keeping things out of the landfill, and pitching in on other people’s projects lets us practice skills and try out tools we can use for our own endeavors (like our upcoming school bus renovation) later. We never help out as a transactional thing– we do it for fun and for free (and maybe an occasional cold beer)– but being the kind of people who show up and help makes it more likely that our friends will want to come lend a hand when we need it, which is also nice.

Plus, being helpful just feels good! There are all sorts of studies showing that doing good for others benefits our mental health and self-esteem more than doing things just for ourselves, so it’s really a win-win situation. And if you’re really looking for the saving money angle, we got to spend a whole day yesterday hanging out with friends and we didn’t spend a dime!

Have you helped a friend with a project lately? Did you enjoy the time you spent?



Yard Day

Mr. Vega and I are the type of people who are happy to show up and help our friends with their projects, but for some reason, I’ve always been reticent to ask for help. All that changed this weekend, when I sent a few text messages to some of our friends “Y’all feel like coming over to get a little dirty? Weeding & planting, would love some company! Snacks & cold beverages aplenty!”

A few friends took us up on it, and were happy to spend a weekend day helping us accomplish nearly everything on our list. I’ve heard it said that the way to make a friend is by letting someone do you a favor, and if that’s true, then we’ve got some friends for life, now! Having six people working meant that we could accomplish in one day what would have taken the pair of us three days or more. It was wonderful to see the place improve so dramatically in such a short time!

Community-building is one of the guiding principles at the Little Hippie House. It’s important to us that our home be a welcoming place for friends and family, and we know from experience that helping to create and maintain a space provides a sense of ownership to the people who do it. We want our loved ones to genuinely feel like our home is their home, as well… City life is very isolating, and we’re doing our best to change that for ourselves and for our friends.

We’re looking forward to many more weekends spent working alongside our friends, both on our projects and on theirs. It’s the same amount of work, and it needs to get done no matter how many people do it, but there’s just something wonderful–and much more fun!– about coming together to get things done.

What community projects have you participated in lately? How did you like it?




Spring is Coming…


The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings we started a few weeks ago are doing well, and the bigger, outside garden is in sight! Our first real attempt at growing in Central Texas was a Fall/Winter garden, and it’s done pretty well. We’ve got plans to build a couple more raised beds and see what the Spring brings us. In a couple of weeks we hope to be sowing carrots, cucumber, kale, beets, bok choy, and summer squash directly into the planters, in addition to transplanting these little guys.

It feels fairly ambitious for us: 50+ square feet of raised beds…. we’re planning to expand well beyond that eventually, but after years of apartment living, we’ve never had that much space to  grow food in! It’s exciting to walk outside and grab kale for a salad, or herbs for a recipe… I’m dreaming of the day I can make a whole meal out of what we’ve grown!

Ironically, we’ve had some difficulty harvesting: I’m working 45+ hours each week, rarely getting home before dark, and Mr. Vega’s full-time school schedule and home-improvement projects keep him hopping. I’m not a fan of Daylight Saving Time, as a modern concept, but I sure am looking forward to it this year! Meanwhile, my husband finally found time to grab the plants that had begun to bolt and make them into a fresh vegetable juice for us…he even juiced the carrot and beet tops, and it’s delicious!

I’m looking forward to longer daylight hours, time spent both in the garden, in the kitchen making some proper meals out of these beautiful plants, and out on the newly screened-in porch my handsome husband has worked so hard to create.

What are you looking forward to this season?


Frugal Tuesday: Make a Casserole!


One of our favorite things to do with leftover meats or hearty vegetables on a lazy weekend morning is to sautee them in a cast iron pan and then throw in a can of diced tomatoes and a can of cream-of-something soup. We top the whole mess with tots and throw it in the oven for the recommended cooking time, add some cheese, and pop it back in until the cheese melts. It’s super-easy, super-Southern, and super-delicious. Last weekend, we did it with some leftover lemon chicken, and we were so sad when it was all gone.

What are some of your go-to meals that use up leftovers?


How We Did: Our January Budget Review

Yeah, it basically went as planned…

I was expecting some kind of thrilling follow-up, but after writing it all out, it was essentially a copy of our planned budget, and I was bored reading it!

So, to recap, what happened was, we planned out all our spending before it happened, and then we followed the plan. 

If you are new to budgeting, it’s going to take several months or  even a couple of years before this starts happening for you. You will forget to include occasional expenses, like car registration. You will not know how much you usually spend when you go to festivals or other events where there are lots of vendors. You will not have begun the practice of checking your calendar to see whose birthdays are coming up, so that you can plan to give them a gift. Your tire will go flat, and your emergency fund might not be ready for it.

But then next time you will remember. Each month, I take a few minutes to look at our calendar for the month ahead, and also, at our expenditures for the same month the year before, to see if I may have missed anything. For our second year attending Austin City Limits, I noted what we had spent the previous year, and budgeted the same amount. We ended up spending less the second year, probably because it wasn’t nearly as hot and we drank a lot less beer! So now I know: plan to spend a little more if the weather forecast is hot! And I’ve learned to pay attention to the tires on our cars, to fill them and get them rotated regularly, to ask the technicians (or my car-guy husband) how much life they seem to have left, and to start researching and saving up well before we need them!

But I only learned that through years of record-keeping, which means, if you didn’t get it perfect the first time, if you ended up coloring outside the lines, or throwing it all away and starting with a fresh page, you don’t get to beat yourself up, and you don’t get to quit.If things feel constricted, remember that you won’t have to do this forever. Things will get better if you don’t give up.”Done” is better than “perfect,” and you can do this!

Now go make your budget!




New Year, New Website:

Happy New Year!

I started and named our blog when we were still in Los Angeles, preparing to make our big move to Austin, uncertain of what our lives might become. Since buying our home last July, we have started calling it our Little Hippie House, which represents well our intention of smaller-space, simple, natural living. We want our home to be as self-sufficient as possible, a welcoming center for the creative and community-minded group of friends we are lucky enough to be meeting in our new home city of Austin, Texas, and an environment supporting our own healing and personal growth as well as offering encouragement to all who visit (either in person or online).

In the year ahead, I’ll continue to share our personal finance journey, how we are fixing up our home and making the house and property more self-sustaining, and what we are doing to live the healthy, happy, socially responsible lives we aspire to as individuals. You can also find me on Twitter: @lilhippiehouse.  Please feel free to comment, share, and link to your own blogs or sites throughout the year… the more the merrier!


Frugal Tuesday: Create Less Trash


Our new, smaller trash can was delivered today. After the initial mess of moving in calmed down, we noticed that we weren’t filling up the city-provided can that was here when we bought the house.  If we forgot to take it out to the curb for a week– or even two– it was no big deal. We’re fortunate to live in a city that provide curbside recycling and even composting, and we also make an effort to buy used, and buy items with less (or at least recyclable) packaging. While we’re far from perfect, we think our new 24-gallon can will accommodate our landfill trash needs perfectly. The best part? Making the switch to a smaller can will save us about $8/month on our trash pickup bill, as compared with the 64-gallon can we had before. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do with $96 a year than spend it on garbage. Plus, all the coolest neighbors on our block have the smallest can… peer pressure works, y’all!

If you are living in an apartment, or somewhere you don’t pay for trash pickup, focusing on generating less landfill trash might not seem like a money-saving activity, but it still is. You might be able to save your bottles and cans to recycle for return for cash. You might try starting a worm composting bin on your patio or balcony, which is an easy way to turn your daily food scraps into nutrient-rich compost that your potted plants will love. Your efforts at reducing your trash production may find you buying from the bulk bins and farmers markets, buying used, or going for out-of-the-box floor models at deep discounts. You probably already shop at stores that gives you a nickel or a dime off your grocery bill when you bring your own bags. The more lightly we can live on the planet, the more money we can keep in our pockets!