Becoming a Lumberjill and Chopping Down a Tree

As we're making over our yard, we've had to learn quite a few things – starting a garden from seed, learning what poison oak, ivy, and sumac look like, and cutting back the briers.

This weekend we took on a new challenge – chopping down trees.

Chopping Trees

These two pine trees were growing right against the fence. One them was crowded in between several bushes and a mature tree while the other was shedding onto our neighbor's yard

These are fairly small trees (10 ft) so we felt comfortable taking them down ourselves. (The much larger trees are going to need a professional's touch.)

As exciting as chopping down trees sounds, it can be a little intimidating. People get injured fairly easily by not doing some prepwork and research.

It took a little longer, but the extra effort was worth it. We knocked them down, saved some money, and no one was injured. Win-win!

Do It Yourself or Call a Professional?

If you're looking to cut down some trees, here are some tips to make it easier and more safe.

Don't take on a huge tree. I'm all for doing projects myself, but there is a limit. Besides the size of the tree, you should also consider its:

  • condition– Is the tree rotting? Are there very loose branches that can come down on your head?
  • location –  If the comes down in the wrong direction, could it damage someone or thing?

If you're nervous or in doubt, please call a professional.

Safety First

First thing – make sure you at least have a helmet to protect your head from falling branches, safety glasses to protect your eyes, and gloves.

After reading some tips on safely chopping down a tree, I decided to get an ax rather than a chainsaw. I think it's the right tool for the job; we don't need to go overboard.

If you're chopping down a tree with a chainsaw, here some more stuff you'll need.

Next, you need to make sure your ax is in good working condition.You don't need any part coming off while you're chopping, so a an inspection can be a lifesaver.

Finally have a spotter with you. They can warn you of any falling branches from above and help you should something happen.

How to Chop Down a Tree

Here's the very basic process on how we chopped our pine trees. Here are some more tips on chopping down a tree if you want to read more.

  1. Cut a v-shaped notch in the direction we wanted the tree to fall (about 1/3 of the diameter).
  2. Cut another notch on the opposite side slightly above the first notch.
  3. Continue shopping that first notch.
  4. Remove tree out of area.

I should also note we also had an escape route to use should the tree fall in a different direction than expected. Neither one of us wanted to get crushed!

Thoughts on Chopping Down a Tree

As an added bonus to having less crowded yard, we got workout this weekend. Who knows, maybe I'll get some toned arms out of this makeover?

I'd love to hear from you. How many of you have some young trees that need to be chopped down?

Monthly Goal Review and Preview: March / April 2016

New month, which means it’s time to review and share some goals!

March Goal Review

As bad as March was with all the unexpected expenses, I was able to get quite a few things done.

I'm grateful that we've been able to slash or eliminate some bills, which gave a us a cushion. That said, I'm hoping this month will be fairly low key.

As reminder, here were my goals for March along with the progress made:

  • Work on my sites: It came down to the last day, but I was able to get my sites updated and cleaned up to make them more searchable and helpful for new and regular readers.
  • Fix Up and Plant Gardens: DONE! I created two spots in our yard for growing some food. We got the seeds planted and have been tending to them. Right now we're battling weeds and ivy; guess we didn't get them all as we originally thought.
  • Write 30,000 words: I can't believe I wrote this much! Becoming an early riser was a huge help. Now that's it's over, I thought I might go back to my old schedule, but this new routine has stuck and I wake up feeling refreshed.

Having achieved these goals I'm feeling good about this month.

April Goals

With things settling down, I want to start looking at giving more attention to my work (gotta pay the bills!) and enjoying our new place.

  • Do a site audit for Couple Money. I have over 800 posts written on the site and I know that some of them need to be updated so they can be useful for new readers who visit the site looking for personal finance tips.This will be an ongoing project so for April I'm shooting for 50 posts.
  • Go green at home. With all the work we have done, we have plenty of yard debris that we can use for compost. We also want to start redesigning the landscape and growing some grass so the kids can have a place to play. Not the whole yard (that wouldn't fit with our long term plans), just a chunk near the back patio area. Right now it's a mix of weeds, large bald spots, and crabgrass.
  • Pitch a podcast. I have an idea for another podcast that I would love to do. More details on it later, but this is something I'll need some support with.


Well, there you have it. I shared my goals for this month; I’d love to hear from you. What are you up to this month?

Challenge Everything: Cancelling Subscriptions

Not sure how things are where you're at, but pollen is EVERYWHERE over here. As much as I hate dealing with allergies, I'm happy that spring is here.

With a new month, it's time to share our progress with our Challenge Everything project.  Challenging our bills is helping us get closer to our goals.

It's been a while since I've written about it (sorry!), but I have been working on it. Actually this month's review was a doozy – we went through all of our subscriptions.

Why We're Simplifying Our Expenses

Simplifying our finances this year means we’re examining all of our expenses and seeing if:

  • they are necessary
  • we’re getting value from them
  • if there is a better deal out there for us

While it may look like we're just trying to cut expenses, we're seeing this as a way to make sure more of our money is going to what matters to us.

Evaluating Subscriptions

We have quite a few subscriptions pulling from our accounts:

  • Local CSA Delivery
  • Netflix
  • Lynda
  • NY Times
  • Skype
  • Amazon Subscribe and Save
  • Birchbox

Looking at this list, I was surprised at how much of our money is already allocated.

Our local CSA delivery service is awesome. Every week we get local sourced produce and some add-ons delivered to us. It's a time for sure, but I had to check if it made financially.

By comparing prices with local stores, I found things competitive UNTIL I looked at add-ons like bacon or cheese. Our local Trader Joe's has better deals on those.

From now on, we're going to cut back on the extra and just make a trip to Joe's to grab those tasty treats.

With Amazon I found that we could adjust what was on our subscription list. There are some items we can get cheaper at the local dollar store and now that our baby girl is becoming a toddler, we could also drop down on the frequency of some supplies.

I highly recommend using if you're looking to hone your technical skills. I've had gotten enormous value from the subscription which gives you access to thousands of classes.

However my schedule right now is full enough so I cancelled my subscription, at least for the time being. I'm pretty sure in the I'll sign up again when I have some more time.

As for the NY Times I went ahead and switched to a digital only subscription. I love opening up a paper and reading, but it was a waste of resources.

I'm keeping Skype as I use it frequently for work (podcast interviews) and it's the best price around.

Birchbox is  for a splurge, but we use many of the products we get so right now we're keeping it.

Go Ahead and Trim Your Expenses

I highly recommend trying this out yourself. You may be shocked at how much money you're spending.

Pressed with time? Trim finds the subscriptions on your credit card and cancels the ones you don't want. You can sign up for free.

Stash the Cash

All in all we're saving about $75/month with reviewing our subscriptions.

Since  saving isn’t really saving unless you stash it away. I’ve adjusted the monthly transfer into savings.

We like to use Capital One 360 to build our stash since they have a competitive interest rate and no maintenance fees.

I’ve also found local credit unions (like Coastal in my area) and banks tend to offer some better rates, so if you’re unhappy with where you money is at, don’t be afraid to move it.


Have you been able to knock down or out some of your bills? Which ones?

20 Easy Plants to Grow in Your Food Garden

Starting a garden this year, but don't know what to plant? Let me share 20 easy to grow plants to add!

Learning to Grow a Garden

As part of our yard makeover plans, I picked up supplies at the store.

The cashier saw all that was in my cart and mentioned how she wished she could start a food garden, but she didn't have a green thumb.

I nodded, I completely understood her feelings. I used to a person who kept a cactus because it was the only plant I felt I could keep alive.

Fast forward a few years and now I'm hunting through seed catalog picking out what we're going to grow. It didn't happen overnight, but it wasn't as hard as I had thought.

I told the cashier what helped me was building confidence and practicing gardening skills with easy to grow plants.

If you're in the same boat, I hope I can help you prepare for an awesome years of gardening without a ton of hassle.

Easy Herbs, Veggies, and Fruits to Plant

Savory Herbs

Make your meals come alive by adding fresh herbs from your garden!

It’s an incredibly easy way to boost the flavor and make your meals more interesting.

With just a few snips of herbs, you can take your ordinary dishes and turn them into something special that your family and friends will enjoy.

Pick a few of your favorites below so you can have something special to add to your cooking and make your meals pop!

  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Basil

I want to just add that we love mint, and actually have several varieties in our backyard but we keep them in spaces where we don’t mind them taking over.

With our hot sunny summers here in Raleigh, we’ve found that cilantro and basil love to have a bit of shade.

Hardy Vegetables

There are plenty of fantastic benefits to including vegetables into your garden.

First, having fresh vegetables just a few steps away from your kitchen can make it much easier to maintain a healthy diet.

Second, you have convenient access to fresh produce, save you time that would otherwise be spent on buying groceries. It also is a money saver, allowing you to put your hard earned money towards other things you enjoy.

Finally, growing your own vegetables can also be a rewarding experience, as it gives you a sense of accomplishment knowing that you are growing your own food. It can be a great way to connect with nature and enjoy the great outdoors.

  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer Squash
  • Bell Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions

When I started gardening, I focused on growing a combination of what I liked to eat and what was easy to grow, which meant leafy greens like spinach, carrots, and sweet peppers.

As I got more space and experience, I expanded my list to include tomatoes and cucumbers and the rest.

Don’t feel like you need to start a farm; just begin with what you enjoy eating and you’ll be fine!

Easy Fruits

I’m going to admit, this was tricky for me because I wasn’t really a fresh fruit person before I started gardening. I mean, I love a good smoothie, but eating fruits was something I learned to do because I garden.

Berries by far are incredibly easy to get started with and they’ll allow you to satisfy your sweet tooth. Plus there’s something special about eating fruits from your own personal patch of land.

Growing up with the garden has also meant our girls enjoy fresh fruits as a snack by themselves. They also get a kick because they helped out with getting the garden set up.

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Figs
  • Apples

There you have it – twenty or so herbs, veggies, and fruits that are pretty low maintenance and get to enjoy.

Seeds or Seedling?

I know some people have strong feelings about this, especially those who want to go all in, but I’m more along the side of getting started is more important than getting it perfect.

If this is your first garden, I say grab a few seedlings of your favorite veggies, herbs, or fruits and get seeds for the rest.

You can grab seeds for root vegetables. Tomatoes can be less stressful starting with seedlings while growing your herbs from seeds isn't much a big deal.

You also want to consider your budget. Seedlings are usually pricier, so you may want to pick and choose carefully.

If you're looking for heirloom seeds and live plants, check any of these places out.

Thoughts on Starting Your Food Garden

How many of you growing a garden this year? What do you want to grow?

Simplify Your Work: Email Templates

I first heard about using templates at a work conference years ago, but dismissed it because I thought it was too impersonal.

Why Email Templates Work

Now I realize using email templates help me in so many ways.

  • Saves Time: Since many of the emails I get are similar (meetings/guest posts/advertising), copying and pasting from my template drastically reduces my email time.
  • Makes Work More Efficient: I've been able to schedule things faster with templates.
  • Weeds Out Junk Email Quickly: My template asks like a filter so I dont have to mess around with time wasters.

With the time I save, I can connect better with others.

If you're a similar boat, here are some ways I've been able to improve my emails and I have a couple of my personal templates I use.

I hope it helps you simplify work.

Setting Up a Meeting

Between podcast interviews, online networking, and business calls, I have a ton of emails about setting up meetings.

To get the meeting scheduled sooner, I've found that giving them two times that work has cut down on the back and forth.

Sometimes, though, I need give them my schedule link so they can choose a time that's convenient for both of us.

Calendar and Scheduling Tools

For podcast interviews, I use Calendly as my scheduling tool. It's been a tremendous help. There is a free and paid version so you can try it out and upgrade if needed.

Guest Post/Article Submissions

Since I own a few sites, I get a flood of guest post requests and submissions.

I'm humble and grateful for the response, but I also want to be balanced and make sure I respect readers with sharing only great content.

Thank you for reaching out. I love connecting readers with new perspectives, ideas, and examples on how to improve their marriage and finances.

As you can imagine, I get a ton of guest post requests and I want to maintain the high quality of the Couple Money.

To make things easier for everyone, I have have a page on the site about submitting guest posts. You can check it out here.

I hope that helps. Have  wonderful day!

As you can see in the template, I've went ahead and created a guest post guideline page. While it hasn't stopped the emails, it has filtered out some follow-ups.


I work with brands and companies who are interested in advertising on the site. My goal is to connect readers with high quality companies that offer something useful and helpful.

Thank you for inquiring about advertising on Couple Money. ​​My goal is to maintain the resourcefulness of Couple Money for my readers, while introducing them to sites, products, and services which may be of interest to them.

Here are my current rates:

[Give rates]

​​​​​​​​If you have any questions about general advertising prices, please review our public page. I'd love to discuss this further.

Thoughts on Email Templates

I've found them incredibly helpful, how about you? Do you have a template that you love? Do you mind sharing it?

How to Become an Early Riser (& Enjoy It!)

Until we can find a way to extend the day, I've found that becoming an earlier riser can help you gain some extra time for your personal goals.

Benefits of Waking Up Earlier

Even waking up an hour early can make a huge impact on your day. The biggest ones I noticed personal are:

  • Productivity: Let's start with the obvious – you have an extra hour carved out to get your goals done. Having this time has given me a chance to set up and plan the day without feeling rushed.
  • Creativity: This quiet time allows me to ruminate more and I feel I can tap into my creative space easier.
  • Stress Relief: Having this extra time for myself has alleviate some stress. I read and reflect on some scriptures which has helped me be more positive.
  • Healthy Habits: While I don't exercise in the morning, I have been better with eating better, starting with breakfast. Since I'm not in a rush I can enjoy a real meal.

Finding My Path as an Early Riser

While I don't typically sleep in (little ones will make sure of that!), I struggled with getting up earlier.

It seemed like I could do it once in a blue moon, but I usually woke up feeling groggy and unfocused.

However I have finally broken through this past month and have been able to wake up early and energized (with no alarm clock needed).

5 Ways to Become an Early Riser

  • Have a purpose. Waking up early in itself isn't motivation for me. I needed to have a specific reason and for me having an extra hour for my writing gave me the push and desire to see this through.
  • Adjust slowly. I built up waking up over a week, choosing 15 minute increments. That allowed my body to accept this new change easier.
  • Create a bedtime routine. To make sure I woke feeling refreshed, I began going to bed a little earlier. I wound down by reading some fiction.
  • Make a goal for the next day. It doesn't have to be big or complicated, just have something in mind for what you want to accomplish in the morning. I found looking forward to something energized me.
  • Savor the morning. I take a short break from writing to watch the sun rise. It's a simple, but powerful way to reset yourself before the daily chaos comes in.

These tips helped me to overcome my hurdles and become an early riser. I hope they give you a way to creating productive and less stressful mornings.

Thoughts on Becoming a Early Riser

How many of you are natural early risers? How many of you had to adjust before you made the change? What helped?

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