Category Archives: money

Telling the recession to stick it

What at first brought a sense of quiet panic has turned out, like most things we think will suck, to be a fun opportunity. The Sioux Falls Green Project, where I’ve been the Executive Director for just over a year now, is scaling back from one full time staff to none. We’re shifting things to be run by volunteers and contractors. The Green Project will still be inspiring and educating the community to build that sustainable future, it’ll just be doing it without full time staff. I’ve been playing it pretty cool, but the paper put it out there over the weekend.

So I’m being “phased out.” Well, not exactly of course, but it would be true to say I’ve been unemployed officially now for about six weeks. It’s just that I decided not to participate in this recession. In fact, I’ve been busier than ever and doing just fine.

I’ve been running a company called Ignite Workshop since summer 2004, in one way or another. My company helps groups of people who are shaping their communities–I help them get started, or re-ignite the fire, and I sometimes actually take on management and leadership of the organization for a while. Sometimes over the past few years, the method that made the most sense was to actually become an employee. That’s been the case for a while with the Green Project, and with the Rural Learning Center before that. For both organizations, I spent part of my time as a consultant, and part as an employee embedded in the everyday work.

So my point here is not to tell you about Ignite Workshop, or about being unemployed. It’s just a late night reminder that we’re all in this together. And, if you want to pout about it, go ahead. But if you want to get out there and do something about it, go do it. It will never be cheaper to start a business, and if you can make a go of it now, you’ll be in great shape to kill it when things bounce back. Yes, it will bounce back. Will you be ready?

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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in money, Work


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How Wise Are You? (stupid money, brain un-drain, school factories, and coco)


Dave Ramsey usually answers people’s questions about life and money. And sometimes he goes off on a rant of some sort, sharing a valuable sermon from his radio pulpit. One particular rant I listened to on his podcast while doing the dishes the other day has been sticking with me. He was talking about wisdom with money, but the concept applies in all sorts of ways to living this life.

His premise was this: being wise is eliminating the knowing and doing gap. See, when you’re wise, that means you know the right thing, and you do the right thing. You can be educated and still do stupid, just like you can do dumb things with good intentions if you’re uneducated about something. So, the chart looks something like this:

So being wise is learning so you know, and practicing what you do. When you do stupid things, usually it’s not about ignorance. It’s about that knowing and doing gap. I know hunching over a computer all day will give me a sore neck, and that burning more oil to drive my lazy butt around will contribute to climate change, and that borrowing money will cripple my freedom. But I do those things anyway. That lands me at unwise. Unwise is stupid, but boy do I practice it well.

The wonderful in it is we get to choose to be stupid. Or wise. If you feel guilty or foolish, you can change your behavior.

So many of us choose stupid too much of the time.

(Find Dave’s radio show in Sioux Falls on 1140 KSOO, or listen on his website. He inspired us to quit being so stupid with money.)


Courtney Lowell Cowgill, a Montana farmer, is mega-wise. She writes about how she finally realized going back home to the farm doesn’t mean going backward. I just love to hear about flipping the brain drain funnel around. You should really read her story. (I think I know someone else who vowed to never marry a farmer, then did. Love you sis.)


Ken Robinson is a witty Brit. Come to think of it, every Brit I know is witty. That’s not really very fair, is it? Anyway, Sir Robinson is also a genius about how our schools (yes–OUR schools) are killing creativity each and every day. Please watch the video. It will probably make you laugh, sulk, and hope.

And if you want to read some terribly wise stuff about the mess that is schools and creativity, I’ll be happy to give you a copy of Seth Godin‘s new book “Linchpin.” Just a bit of it is about that bummer stuff–most of it is about how you can change the world. Yes you. Just holler if you want the book (but you must be first–I have one extra copy Seth asked me to give to you).

Oh, and Seth cranked out wisest, and most simple, blog post ever this week on why questions are more powerful than answers.


Team Coco thinks you-know-who is wise. I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t mind swapping severance checks with him these days.

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Posted by on September 22, 2010 in education, farming, money


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Saving money in the dirt

photo on Flickr by Harpo42

The wifey is making some changes at work. She’s set to end maternity leave in about a week, and when she heads back to the office, it will be on a smaller scale. So, part time work means part time income, which lead us to talk some turkey this weekend about what we’ll change in our life with a smaller budget. Let’s call it our “happy up, money down” plan.

One line on the old Dave Ramsey-inspired budget that needs some polishing is food. We spend a lot on it. So the obvious part is cutting out the lunches at Wild Sage, Parker’s and Uno Zoni, and brown bagging it. The other part is cutting on the grocery bill. We decided a few years ago to pay more for our groceries. Why? Because real food generally costs more money than fake food. We want to feed our kids goodness from the Earth, not crap, so we pay more. Not saying we never buy any high-fructose-in-a-box, but we try to cook well-rounded meals with ingredients that our grandmothers might have actually fed to our parents as often as we can. It’s a journey.

So, back to the budget. We need to grow our own food. We got way behind nature’s eight ball this year with our garden. Our house was pretty busy this spring, you know? So, the garden pretty much sucks right now. We’ll be leaning heavily on the Farmer’s Market, community garden and the Co-op. And Denny’s extra garden bounty for sure. But, we figure, it’ll save us big bucks if we don’t have to buy so much. We’re even planning to learn the art of canning.

Synchronistically, I ran across an article on the topic today on Mother Nature Network’s blog about a couple who actually kept track of the money they put into their garden, and what it would have cost them to eat the same food from a grocery store.  Read “How Much is Your Vegetable Garden Worth” here.

For this Maine couple, over one year it came to 834 pounds of veggies from their garden, that would have set them back $2,200 at the store. Wowsers.

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Posted by on July 6, 2010 in Food, garden, money


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Pronounced Freeeeeedoooommm!!! Screaming like William Wallace in Braveheart (you remember, before Mel went psycho off screen and tanked his reputation…).


Jaim and I have been wearing war paint for four years now. You don’t see it, unless you go shopping with us, or listen to us budget every month (and hold emergency budget meetings once a week or so), or listen to either one of us when the other (or one of the kids) comes up with some silly spending idea… We’re debt free today.

Yes, except for our home mortgage, we owe nothing. No more student loans, credit cards, car loans, or hospital bills. Not even any couches or TVs on “no payments or interest for 36 months!” Not one red cent owed to anyone. It took us four years on the Dave Ramsey plan, budgeting and saving and scrounging, and the last payment to XLS Student Loans went out of the bank today.

How much did we pay off? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 19, 2009 in money


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The Bartblog Challenge (make ’em proud Montrose)

I was at a conference on the future of Rural communities last week in Sioux Falls, where I co-hosted a session with a friend of mine. The session went pretty well, and it was in large part because my pal Jerry came up with a really powerful question for the crowd to dialogue on. He asked “What will our grandchildren praise us for having started today?”

I’ve been thinking about that question a while now, and how it relates to my own life. One of the things I hope our grandchildren are proud of one day is the Montrose Area Foundation. OK, so this sounds like a shameless plug. Because it is. But, I really feel it’s that important for our little village. Montrose has made a big turnaround over the past several years while taking part in the Horizons program. It’s made a difference because so many people have pitched in to keep the momentum and excitement going (thank you for that, y’all). What kind of excitement? People are jacked about the idea that we can create our own future here–we don’t have to sit back and let our little town and our rural way of life disappear if we don’t want to.

There are all kinds of good projects going on, and we’ve been blessed with a little funding to pay for them  (thanks, Northwest Area Foundation). The Montrose Area Foundation provides a way for all of us to pitch in what we can to be sure neat little projects can take place in our community every year. Forever. It’s much like a savings account for our community. We all put in some money, that money gets invested on our behalf by the smart folks at SD Community Foundation, and we use the interest we gain to make small grants to worthy causes each year. The grants will always be selected by a group of local volunteers, and will always be used for good projects in and around Montrose. Our money, our decisions, our future.

Let me say that again: every single dollar you put in will make a difference for Montrose’s grandchildren, and their grandchildren. It’s a pretty sweet project.

So, we (I am on the founding board of the Foundation) are in the middle of a funding campaign for the Foundation. Our courageous goal is to raise $100,000. If we hit that goal, the SDCF will give us a matching grant of another $25,000. So, we’d then have $125,000 and counting in our account, which would turn into more than $6,000 in local grants every year, and grow from there.

We’ll have a booth at the Irish SpudFest this weekend. If you’re in town, please stop by and make a donation. If you won’t be here for the big community bash, that’s OK. You can send a check or make a pledge over time. You could even donate a wagon of corn, some land, a house or car, or include the Montrose Area Foundation in your will. All the usual ways to leave something behind for the next generations.

You can mail a check or make a pledge to:

Montrose Area Foundation
PO Box 182
Montrose, SD 57048

If you have any questions, just shoot me an email and I’ll get you the details. By the way, this isn’t about asking everyone for big bucks. Just give whatever you can, wether that’s twenty bucks or twenty thousand. Every dollar counts. In fact, Jaim and I have been saving up for this. We’d like to challenge you to make a donation. Every dollar that goes to the Montrose Area Foundation between now and the end of 2009 from Bartblog readers will be matched by us, up to $1000. You heard me.

So, here’s your chance to make me give away some money. It’s simple:

  1. Make a donation or pledge to the Foundation before December 31, 2009
  2. Email me to let me know how much you’ve pledged or donated
  3. Jaimie and I match it up to a total of $1000 (maybe more if others want to play too)
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Posted by on August 19, 2009 in Celebrations, etc., money, Montrose


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Trying to Ditch Your Clunker?

Here’s the best info I’ve seen so far on the cash-for-clunkers stimulus program. A nice, simple diagram/decision tree that helps you figure out if your car qualifies to get smooshed for 4500 bucks. Makes me wish I still had Old Yeller…


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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in money


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Coupon Ninja Mommy (and Team Wonderbike)


My, wife the newly christened coupon clipper. We’ve been careful with our moola for a while now. Some might even say frugal. Or cheap. I like to think of it as thrifty and wise.We’re knocking out our stupid debt, you know. (On the FINAL debt in the snowball now! )

But, beleive it or not, we’ve never been couponers. Until now. Blame Jaim’s new-found coupon craze on Oprah, SiouxFallsMoms, or something. So, in honor of our next coupon sorting, cloth bag hauling, organic buying trip to the grocery, Jaimie’s giving you a coupon for a free 100% recycled roll of aluminum foil. Wrap something delicious, and recycle it again. Or, better than that, skip the foil and just make something great and eat it without having to throw anything away…


New Belgium is coming! To Sioux Falls, May 11. New Belgium Brewing is a great, wind powered brewery in Fort Collins, CO. They make Fat Tire Ale, and other such wonders. Have fun with this bike, and join Team Wonderbike

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Posted by on April 24, 2009 in going green, money, Raves, reduce reuse recycle


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