Tag Archive: cheap


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This was one of the best trips we’ve taken.

We got to meet holy scrap hot springs bloggers who are living life on a whole other level. They’re currently 7 months solid traveling full time. I hope we hang with them again. Their blog/lifestyle seem so well rounded. One of the things I mentioned to them was that they are so out of the box but seem to be functioning so well. Unlike so many people I know who are on the fringe they seem to be eating good, doing book tours, traveling, leveraging their time and creative efforts, etc. Their list of creative accomplishments and self expression is something I admire. I’d say they’re one of my few examples for folks who have wealth in many avenues regardless of their (perhaps small?) income. They live in New Mexico but we hung out with them in Portland.

Before we got to Portland we spent some time in Colorado. We hiked up a mountain in Boulder with crazy amounts of camera equipment including the large format film camera. That large camera has a suitcase size carrying case.

One thing that made this trip a million times better than the many road trips we’ve taken before this was our lack of requirement for specific food & drinks. We didn’t need a cooler or ice, we didn’t need to cook grass fed beef or bring 12 gallons of spring water. <— all of our former trips. I lived mostly on vegan canned soup and chips and Mark mostly lived on canned ravioli and chips. We drank water and lemonade out of a gas station styrofoam cup that we refilled at every gas station. We showered at a truck stop and slept in cycle to the moon. godddddddd that sounds nice.

We saw Brian and meet his “twin flame”. Seeing them was another major highlight on the trip. Brian’s girlfriend pretty much is a no non-sense kind of girl EVEN when she’s talking about total non-sense. That type of personality totally is fitting the bill on what I’m connecting with in people. Dynamic! Plus she supplanted my mind with Pallas Athena… so we’ll see where that goes (it’s in my 3rd eye). I didn’t want to leave them so we hung out much later than expected which was cool cause it was Audrey’s birthday.

We spent some time in Utah which was nice. We went down to Taos, New Mexico to see Michelle’s earthship. She hosted True Taos Radio which interviewed us live (as shown in a photo above). After the interview Mark took pictures of the gorge while Michelle and I just chit chatted on the bridge. I really needed some lady-chit-chat time so thank you.

The last day of the trip we took the time to discover the podcast app on our iphones and listened to some good stuff during the drive. We had a ton of music and audio books (“shit my dad says”, 2 nora ephron books, david sedaris, etc). We were over listening to music and had quickly burned the audio books. One of the podcast we listened to was about sleep. It really pumped me up want to address how smoothly my sleep had been on the road which was in contrast to how sleep has been most of my life. When we got home I implemented a “7 pm Get Off The Internet” & a “9 pm Turn Off All Screens For The Night” to turn my problem solving mind off early instead of letting it overtake me 24/7. Now we act like it’s little house on the prairie days after 7 pm (LOTS of reading, maybe a board game or a movie) then even more reading til bedtime. The trip felt like a reset. I’m sure no one wants to hear how people I love in real life post douchey bullshit on facebook and that I pretty much has ended my interest with interacting there. I’m cool with personal messages but scrolling makes my soul want to die. 2 weeks without the internet, sleeping with the moon/sun cycles, hiking mountains, travelling, seeing good friends… it really reset something corny in me that makes me want to just do what feels good in life. It’s like this trip renewed some inner guidance, it’s hard to explain with out sounding lame. Plus being in an earthship is pretty mind blowing and makes everything next to it seem to be lacking something. Speaking of something lacking, out of nowhere I got a really clear idea that we needed to change our apartment around. When we got home it’s kind of like we reordered our living space to create creative space for us each to do our own thing. And we got a sweet vintage crushed velvet couch for the living room from the thrift store…hooray.

The large black & white pictures were all taken with the large format film camera. Mark developed the film in our bathroom then scanned them onto the computer. Mark was new to the camera and did a hell of a job setting the camera up and taking great pictures.

With all of these wonderful things said and done it’s great to remember that this was a business trip. The trip was pretty much required to help soak up some of our profits and reinvest the money back into the business (via this trip) instead of sending that money in as taxes owed. During the 2 weeks we were gone we sold $956 worth of stuff on ebay. We kept our store open but changed the handling time on the listings. I also messaged everyone who bought stuff as a reminder on what day we’ll be shipping out in case they didn’t take note of the extended handling time. While $956 gross for 2 weeks is about half of what I would hope to earn at home we made this money while “traveling the world”. To me that is amazing. The mileage for the trip was 5,144 which cost us about $500 but due to mileage reimbursement being $0.575 per mile we credited $2,957.80 in deductions. Self employment has benefits that are unseen to traditional worker. Sure you don’t have a steady paycheck but we just got paid to see the world.

The rental was free and here’s the story. After checking out our car rental options we drove off and debated if it was worth the money to rent a spacious SUV vs take our non spacious car on the road. Our car is old and junky and i was worried about it lasting on the trip. Plus we had an insane amounts of (huge) photography equipment so where the fuck would we sleep? Within 2 minutes of leaving the rental place a car backs into us which sends our car into the shop for almost 3 weeks! While it was at the shop we got a rental from the insurance company at no cost…. like magic!

Here’s a video from our first trip to an earthship in 2013

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Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section.

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DSC_11363 days ago i pissed away most of my day going down a rabbit hole on air purifiers. at first i was looking online to buy one new one then got on craigslist and decided to buy 2 used ones. the more info i looked at the more i wanted to spend a bunch of money and get really nice ones. i was leaning towards a craigslist ad where someone was selling 2 different models of a pretty expensive brand.DSC_1134

i played around on the brands website for a while and looked into the cost to replace and maintain filters and such which lead down deeper into the hole. i started looking up reviews for this craigslist brand on youtube and on the sidebar i was being enticed to watch DIY videos on how to make my own filter at home.DSC_1156

This was the first video i watched and the comments were so intelligent that i had to watch every video on DIY fan filters to see if anyone was taking the recommendations that were given in the comments.

While these filters don’t have an ionizer (which i really like) or any other bells and whistles there is one major factor that i couldn’t dismiss. a 20″ fan has more power/draw to move air so removing particles in the air is ultra efficient.  one of the reasons i’ve always like the ionic breeze air purifier is that you clean the filter instead of replace it but the air filters that were really catching my eye the other day all had proprietary filters that seemed way over priced. DSC_1134.1

for $88 (with tax) we bought everything new at home depot minus the duct tape that i think we found in the trash. 2 box fans (20″) were $17 each. The wicked fancy furnace filter that removes “Bacteria, Filters Dust, Filters Mold, Filters Pollen, Pleated, Removes Odors” each cost $20 and a 3 pack of lower rated filters for $8 total. DSC_1177

Take the fan, put on the “feet” for stability, tape one fancy high rated furnace filter to a lower rated filter then tape those to the back of the fan. Seal the filters to the fan with duct tape to capture the most particles. I’ve watch a ton of videos and some people put the filter on the front with a tiny piece of tape. Some people put the filter on the back and let the suction hold it to the fan. it appears that most people use a single filter and not necessarily the one with the highest rating because they cost more. from the comments under the video i posted above it seemed the best use of a fancy expensive filter ($20) is to extend it’s life with a cheap ($2) filter over it catching most of the junk. Sealing the fan isn’t required but it keeps the efficiency high and does not overheat the motor as explained by someone smart in the comments. DSC_1180

i’ve had a couple different purifiers over the year since hearing daniel vitalis talk about requiring support for all 4/5 elements to bring health, not just focusing on food “the earth element”. for the last 6 months we haven’t had a filter in our room. i noticed one day in the ray of sun pouring through a tiny spot in our curtains that we have insane amounts of dust. it was like a solid body of tiny little glitter dancing and whirling around that i was breathing in. i wish i had a particle counter to tell you how shit really went down but i can only say this, after the fan filter running for about 20 hours straight i looked through the light and saw a MAJOR reduction in dust. MAJOR! like instead of a solid body of dust there was just random little particles a foot apart. i’d say 95% reduction! since the fan filters are running 24 hours a day, one upstairs and one downstairs in our apartment the air quality has completely improved partly just because the air is constantly moving. i am pleased, this is good. DSC_1182

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So after a year and a half of paying rent again I’m over it. It was pretty much like I woke up one day and was just over it. and that’s apparently how i function in this world. I run my life on major amounts of repetition. Overall I prefer to do, wear, eat and move through my day doing almost the same as the day before. If you look at myfitnesspal I seriously eat the same foods over and over; pasta, bananas and chocolate are the staples of my diet. If you look at what I wear it’s the same Carnival Barker “ice cream freak” shirt 29 out of 31 days. So on and so forth. Because no ones forcing this level of repetition on me I’ll get on a quinoa kick and that will replace pasta and there’s an ebb and flow to it all. I’ll get into small pockets of enchantment where all I’m bathed in magic and feel a tingling & pulse of life everywhere and like everything else in my life it gets replaced almost of it’s own volition. Working out and (these days) dumpster diving food are the standard trying to pump myself up about it but it’s the type of chore that’s enjoyable but always excusable.

To review I’m content with a simple life but just like a light switch going on changes happens in my life often. I think the precursor to change is saying “i don’t want”. Someone asked me if I would ever do a tiny house again and I felt hella embarrassed to admit that I did not want to. For the last 1.5 years I’ve been decompressing from 17 years of work and have reasoned a “real” job isn’t for me. For many people (like my husband) life is very solid and black & white. For me everything is relative which is why I beat around the bush when trying to explain anything, all details are crucial factors.

Scavenger Life podcast (about selling on ebay) mentioned Mr Money Mustache. Mr Money Mustache’s blog really flipped the switch on many areas of my life that I had in the dark. I’ve NEVER thought about retirement and had an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude about it. I think that if something doesn’t matter then it’s fair game to look it. If you have an area of your life that you don’t want to look at because you say it doesn’t matter then talking about it should be easy. If an area of your life is challenging to look at that’s totally fine, we’re complicated humans but it’s unfair to write something off with white wash statements of unimportance because those are just not honest statements. Unimportant things shouldn’t make you clam up.

This is my absolute favorite video right now because it addresses our crazy behavior which branches out from our ideal and the reality. There’s a level of disconnect it seems we humans may always have in our lives. i want to write a blog post on cognitive dissonance.

So I didn’t want a tiny house and a job but now I do. MMM’s blog got me thinking about my future, thinking about what I wished I had given my current self and what I want to pass on to my future self. I think a job will be the fastest way to my goal and like any worth while goal there’s a timeline attached to it.

Having this last 1.5 years away from traditional work has been an eye opener. It seems that time and money are often influx. When I’ve had the most money was I was working a lot and had very little free time. When I was busy one of the main things I wanted was the freedom to go to sleep and wake up when I wanted. Now I have a lot of free time and no money. I get as much sleep as I like and wake up when ever I want but I have very limited options on how my life can play out while maintaining this ultra low income. When we had $24,000 saved we could move where we wanted and could come up with a different arrangement for our lifestyle, options we don’t have now. We don’t want a lifestyle overhaul, we don’t want to live on someones land in exchange for housing and Mark doesn’t want to live in a van. We want to live very much like we live now but smarter. Paying $550 a month for our 2 bedroom, 2 story apartment is not the end of the world but it’s also not smart. We have some of the cheapest rent in Dallas while living in a tiny apartment complex in a nice area and I’m not at all taking that for granted. I am 100% grateful! However paying rent is money we’ll never get back. If we financed a home and payed $550 a month on it then we’d get the money back if we sold the house. I’m just feeling trapped with rent and now that I have serious goals I feel constrained a bit by the trap.

   My goal is to retire in 10 years or at least be very close.

“Time or Money” seems to be the dance most of us are doing. One without the other feels unbalanced and I’m concluding that I really need both. My retirement plan is 100% about having the minimum amount money coming in while having the maximum amount of free time while maintain a lifestyle that isn’t constrained by either.

LIFESTYLE the numbers: Last night I asked Mark to spell out exactly what his lifestyle would look like if he didn’t have time or money constrains. He has one life to live and I wanted to know what his ideal life would look like. Ideally Mark wants to drink top notch coffee that he brews on a top notch machine at home daily. He wants the option to go out to eat (nothing too fancy) about 3 times a week with me if he so choices. He’s like to buy 1 really top notch pair of shoes (a couple thousand dollars) or a few slightly less nice shoes a year. He’d like a few thousand dollars to put into hobbies a year and have a larger budget for buying fancy beer. add in a nice vacation and we concluded that $17,000 a year would cover his lifestyle preferences. $17,000 in very doable! Either I’m some sort of saint or have poor persons mentality but I don’t have any real list of lifestyle wants. Maybe I’d get into permaculture (which cost money… wait, or does it save money?) Or I’d use the tools he has in his hobby budget to create art. Plus most of this shit i think about (going for bike rides, going to the gym, chit chatting with friends) is all hella cheap stuff. Well I do have entrepreneur blood but we’ll not focus on that for now.

RETIREMENT the numbers: Let’s assume that when we retire in 10 years we own (debt free) our home. Let’s say it’s a tiny home and property taxes are $1,600 a year. We build efficient in combination with alternative energy and our utility bills are ultra low.  We eat on the cheap and may grown some of our food. Gasoline, internet, insurance, etc. Maybe we could get by with $10,000 for our livelihood (remember we’d already own our home). So $17,000 for lifestyle and $10,000 for livelihood would require us to have $27,000 as our household income. If we saved $3,500 a month we’d have $615,991.86 in 10 years (8% compound interest). The $615,991.86 would produce $49,279.28 in 8% interest a year so if we just scraped 4% off of the interest that would give us $25,000 to live on while maintaining safety margins and accounting for inflation. This however doesn’t account for taxes ($5,000 a year at 15%), health insurance or unforeseen disability. While these numbers are not perfect they do create an outline on what the approximate steps would be to get from poor to retired.

SAVING for retirement: In order to save $3,500 a month (for 10 years!) or $42,000 a year I’d need to make $42,000 to save plus the cost of living $13,000 would require me to bring in $55,000 net income. While that is a bit of stretch for me to do that all on my own I do have plan. I want to get a full time waitressing job ASAP. If I could earn about $120 per shift and do 6 shifts a week then I’d bring in $37,440. The remaining $17,000 could likely come from ebay because my sellers dashboard shows that i’ve done over $15,000 (gross) this year when I was just dumpster diving and selling $10 items. Plus i’m not leaving the ice cream shop, I love carnival barkers and just making $3,000- $5,000 a year there helps out a lot! Again these numbers are not perfect or taking taxes, health insurance or unforeseen disability into account.

SAVINGS BONUS: my off the cuff savings plan is coming from the point of view that i’m doing all of the work. Marks in school so maybe I can kick some ass, do my best and save a bunch of money. Then in 4 year from now Mark will have a grown up job and we can put 100% of his money into savings. Let’s say he starts out making $45,000 after taxes and within those 4 years of his school I’ve accumulated $194,018.42. Then we add in 4 years of 100% of Marks paycheck then in 8 YEARS WE COULD RETIRE, two years early!!! say what!?! after 8 years our grand total would be $633,442.51! or if we just commit to the 10 years then those extra to years would give us a new grand total of $909,399.02…. almost a million dollars in 10 years. so Marks contributions would double my efforts! that’s a bonus!

This is where the second tiny house comes in!

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RENT the numbers: Our rent is about $6,600 a year. In ten years that’s $66,000 and that same $66,000 could actually be more like $96,798.72 if I could invest it (at 8% compounded interest) instead of giving it to our landlord. When I look at those numbers it makes me want to move in a $2,000 van and reclaim the $550 a month in order to invest it. Our first “tiny house and land” cost $8,000 for the land and about $5,000 for tiny house. <— that’s about the same amount of money we will have spent in when this second lease it up!

If you google “building costs house calculator” there are websites which will show the break down of everything (foundation, roof, plumbing, etc) as well as separating the material costs from the labor costs for whatever basic house design you have in mind. I have my heart set on building another tiny house but a bit different from our last one. Tiny houses are attainable. While they’re more expensive per sqft the overall price can be significantly less if you keep it simple, find affordable appliances and do what you can where you have the skills.

Since this post is long enough I will simply state that it’s now starting to sink in that we actually lived in 150 sqft with no plumbing in the woods for a year. holy hell! We need plumbing and more than 150 sqft, I understand that now. We don’t need it like it’s life or death but i’m no longer trying to live like life or death are my only two options. I’m also willing to admit that I no longer have a desire to move to the woods. I like cities that are under 100,000 people but I live in Dallas and honestly shit is fine out here too. It would be ideal if we could get a small city plot, have our tiny house and do urban homesteading. If we could do urban homesteading in walking distance of friends that would be epic but I’m not hearing anyone say any of that. Urban plots are expensive but right now i’m seeing the value. We’re talking about a 550 sqft floor space with a large loft. I can see us having a shed for Mark’s projects. I can see an epic amount of landscape design for beauty and function.

Besides a lack of money being an obvious derailer for this to come to fruition there’s other issues. I didn’t realize how good we had it zoning/permit wise on our last piece of land until til I started looking through permit requirements just in our area. There are so many requirement it’s hard to absorb it all. Plus “If you want to make god laugh then tell him about your plans”. right on.

 Have you seen this new tiny house TV show? I’m all over it! Mark doesn’t like it but i do.
http://www.fyi.tv/shows/tiny-house-nation

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1 I am The-Brightest-of-Stars

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so here it is, 3am and i’m already reneging on turning this 6am bedtime around to 10pm. I feel like life should NOT be a guessing game. I’ve seen many people just allow life to unfold in a mess, they don’t understand what the next step is and just wade through ‘an unknown’ in their life, waiting for the answers of unformed questions to be revealed to them (as the train wreak gets worse). the sense I make of dealing with chaotic times appears to be rooted in not being ready to understand something. do you know what i’m talking about? where you can’t even form the questions but there’s a strong feeling of wanting some guidance….

what i’m trying to say is, “i’m above confusion, I know the name of the game and the ball is in my court.” and now that I’ve got the smoke screen up i’ll take you around back and fill you in on what’s really going on.

WHATS GOING ON: Sorrentino Woodcraft   &   Sorrentino Photos   &   Tiny House And Land

these are 3 main sources in our life that we spend all day and night thinking about.

well, Tiny House And Land is more on the back burner. it’s a pdf documenting how we saved money & bought a tiny house and land. it’s pretty straight forward but when I started it in January it wasn’t. the challenge was, “how do I know what’s a fair value for it?” i asked folks for their input on what they felt the value was. everyone had a different price limit, the numbers were all over the place. in the end i settled for $30 for a 33 page pdf file with 3 short videos, instant download, no shipping. I’ve paid more money for less quality so $30 seemed fair for what i had to offer. after many rounds of my website getting traffic from other websites promoting us i felt moved to lower the price to $5. i sold about as many ebooks at $30 as i did at $5 but ended on settling with $9.99 (actually it’s now for free, donations optional) where it is today. i don’t loose sleep over. did i learn any lessons from tinkering around with the price, no. it reconfirmed my point of view which is, “people buy what they want within reason”. i wish that people who want to read my ebook but can’t afford parting with $10 would ask me for a free copy. i think the pdf is legit and anyone who wants to read it should, regardless of the money situation. zero sleep lost in this department.

Sorrentino Photos is my love. i love, love, love, capturing little sublet things. i will take pictures of everyone and everything. i started this business because how else am i going to capture the sublets of strangers AND get paid for it. again, like my ebook, it’s a service i would give for free. when we decided to start a photography business mark wrote a friend from high school who is a very successful (natural geographic’s!) photographer asking for some advice. mark was a little disheartened to hear what he had to say. the friend mentioned the lackluster of turning a passion into a job and that starting out we’d be competing with $60 headshots (where as his prices starts at $200, digital files not included). i internalized the advice and said, “fuck it, i’m in”, so the ‘war of worth’ is out the window. i will take the lowest pay, i just want to take pictures. now that we’ve been taking pictures professionally for these last few weeks I see all of the work that goes into it after the shoot is done. on average i take 300 pictures to get 20-60 good ones with 3-10 gems. now that Team Sorrentino is taking pictures together we have 600-800 pictures (per shoot) to go through, one by one, then we resize them and present the best ones. it takes hours to go through 800 pictures, “which one is better? is that one blurry even when you zoom in beyond humanly necessary?” each picture gets a handful of questions. I LOVE IT. i can’t sleep til 6am because i’m too pumped on happy chemicals to put the pictures away. no problems here, just need more clients.

Sorrentino Woodcraft is marks love… and worry. mark is very talented. ask him, “how do you know how to build a guitar” and he will laugh and say, “it’s easy”. <—- see!! natural talent. marks not a salesman, he’s a very shy woodworker. we had a booth at the farmers market in Arkansas and the sales were up and down one week to the next (in a town of 2,000 people). now that were in dallas/fort worth we’re moments away from setting up our farmers market stand again. because this is our sole focus we took the time to actually make our booth reflect the beauty of the crafts we’re selling, no more slobs here. we went to world market to get some display items to hold our woodcraft. originally we were going to handcraft the displays our self (& already bought the wood for it) but i could tell that we’re already spreading our self too thin with all the woodcraft on our to-do list. we came across olive wood spoons for $5! we’ve been selling our spoons for $18. i picked up the spoon and turned to mark, “hey, why don’t we sell these for $18, they’re already made”. that left a bad taste in my mouth. usually i think don’t say shit like that because i find it in bad taste but i was feeling a bit defensive when i saw the price tag. the joke was really bad. it’s like asking Nick Baxter to not bother expressing himself through painting his incredibly moving pieces of art and instead resell something cheaper, all ready done junk. fuck it, it’s just retail, no self expression here. FYI: mark selling his spoons is not a retail job. the craft imparts something of him that can not come out any other way. yet at $18 how does he compete with the $5 mass produced stuff? at $18 a spoon, with his current tools and skill level i bet he’s NOT even making $5/hour after cost. seeing that $5 spoon makes me want to lower our price, i haven’t talked to him about it yet but it’s all i’m thinking about at 4am.

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pricing, that’s really the struggle of where we’re at right now. mark had been making wooden guitar pics for a few years when i first helped him hand sand one smooth. within 15 minutes of sanding i got a new perspective on what it means to handcraft something. for some reason i’m willing to lay down and take minimum wage but mark struggles with maintaining a value. maybe because he’s the one putting in all the work.DSC_0004

with all that said, i hope that everyone understands that i’m talking honestly about our joys and passions. we love what we do. any insight or perspective is much appreciated. DSC_0003

TO SEE SOME RECENT PICTURES I TOOK  CHECK OUT: https://www.facebook.com/SorrentinoPhotos/