Why You Should Sell Your Car & Hire Uber | You Might SAVE Money

Living in downtown Grand Rapids, many times we can walk to meetings, photo sessions and other cultural activities that friends of ours have to drive 30 minutes to enjoy. It's a great perk of being in the downtown neighborhood.

One of the questions we get asked over and over again is, "Where do you park?"

Our answer to the question is always ready:

"We only have 1 car for the two of us and we pay to park in a city ramp next to our building. If we have to be in 2 places at once, we simply use Uber for transportation."

The next question is usually something like:

"Doesn't that get expensive, using Uber all the time?"

So I thought I'd share what 2016 looked like for us using Uber as our second car.

To be fair, my wife and I do live right in downtown Grand Rapids. We have been used to being a 1 car family for almost all of our marriage AND I work from home much of the time (but not always). 

In 2016, we spent a total of $784.46 on 101 Uber rides. 

That averages out to 2 Uber rides a week and our driving/riding playbook usually looks something like this. 

I have to be somewhere for a photo shoot at 3pm but my wife has a 3:30pm meeting somewhere else in Grand Rapids. She drops me off for my 3pm photo session and then when I'm done, I simply Uber home. 

If you average the cost out per month, our average monthly spend for 2016 was $65.38 and our "per trip" cost was $7.77.

Compare that to the total cost of owning a car, which in 2015 was $725 per month according to AAA.  

The cost of owning a car is not just the monthly payment. If you've owned a car you know there is more to it than that. Things such as fuel, tires, maintenance and repairs, taxes, license and registration fees, insurance premiums and interest all factor in to the cost of ownership.

In 2015, the average monthly payment on a car in the USA was $482. That means car owners are spending $243 a month on all the other things that go along with a car payment even when you don't have a payment.

So what does all this say about selling your car and riding daily with Uber?

Let's compare the current average spend of $725 a month in ownership with using Uber on a regular basis.

Perhaps in the next 12 months you think you will use Uber more than our 101 times in a year. Ok, fair enough.

Let's not just 2x your trips, let's 4X your trips and see how the math works out. 

If you needed 404 rides in a year and it was an average of $8 per ride, that would total $3,232 for the next 12 months. 

Does that seem like a lot to you? It's the same as 4.5 months of car ownership. 

That means if you got rid of your $725 cost per month to own the car, you would have 7.5 months of EXTRA money in your life.

If each of those months was $725, you would keep $5,437.50 in your pocket (and not put it in your gas tank).

Many people we meet would love to travel more, save for retirement, save for kids college education, pay off debt, etc. 

Imagine if you had an extra $5,000+ every year to do just that? 

How much FASTER could you pay off the last $18,000 in student loans you have? How about the $3,000 credit card bill that built up last Christmas? 

Another scenario: say you don't have a car payment and out of pocket cost is only $243 a month. That means you are spending $2,916 a year on total cost of car ownership. 

Even though you'd be paying an extra $316 over the course of 12 months ($27 a month), you would never visit the mechanic again. You'd never have to stop and get gas. You never have to change your cars tires or get an oil change. 

If you value your time, you might consider giving up owning a car altogether to have your own personal driver with Uber. 

You call them, they show up with a clean car knowing exactly where you want to go. Sometimes providing you with a bottle of water or a small snack. Always eager to hear about your day and find out who you are and what you're interested in.

I know our situation may be unique and I know what you're thinking: 

"But Russ, my situation is different. I go one way to work, my wife goes another way. She drops the kids off and I pick them up..."

I know how you feel. During her previous career, my wife commuted 75 miles to work, one way. She did this everyday for 6 years. 

Yes, this takes a little planning and communication. But what we've found is that even if we change the scenario for a case like yours, the scales may tip toward having Uber as your personal driver.

And in the end do you really care about the car that much if it makes financial sense? 

If you can take your wife to Hawaii every year because of a $5,000 swing in your finances because of this article, then you really shouldn't care.

Trust me.

And just because we like you so much (and because you got through this entire article), we thought we'd give you a little something. 

Click the link below and you can get try Uber for no cost. Just click the link and get your first ride for free. 

 

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

How to Book A Hawaiian Honeymoon For Almost Free (or any other destination)

Over the past year we have learned about a new way to travel and one that will hopefully help you have an amazing honeymoon experience.

Why not use airline points and miles to pay for some of (if not all of your trip)? 

We were introduced to Bryce Conway of 10xTravel. 

He has created an entire system around using credit cards to earn large airline or hotel bonuses that can equal a free trip for you and your spouse. 

Just some of the articles he has posted on his site are the following: 

  • $24,000 Honeymoon in London and Paris for $1,200

  • How I Booked a $28,000 Trip to Thailand for $326.42 - Step by Step

  • $10,659 Worth of Airfare (to Bora Bora) for $320

As I began looking into his stories of travel, I was blown away at how simple this entire process really is.

My wife and I were both hit with the travel bug early in our lives.

I had the opportunity in high school to be a Rotary Exchange student and lived in Germany for a full year. During that year I visited 14 countries. 

Then while in college at Michigan State University, Rebecca and I searched for a study abroad program in Spain that would allow us to live together and provided the right credits to finish our degrees (we were already married, yes we know, crazy). 

Since then we have realized many others love traveling as well, but one of two things usually gets in their way. 

Lack of time or lack of money prevent us from traveling.

While planning your honeymoon, most times the first issue, time off of work, can be arranged ahead of time. 

Most couples realize they don't want to get married on Saturday and go back to work the next day (if they don't have to). 

That being said, many couples who have time off for their honeymoon may simply lack money for the exotic honeymoon they've dreamed of. 

This is where our experience and knowledge come to the rescue.

(you can thank us after your trip). 

In the past few years we've traveled to Egypt, Costa Rica, South Africa and many places in the USA and many times we were able to find inexpensive airfare through searching online.

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I do want to make a note that for some folks, credit cards are just about the worst thing they could add to their daily financial lives. 

If you fall into this category, stop reading right here. Forget this option even exists, it's better to have a sound financial picture than to rack up $25,000 on credit simply because you want some "free" points.

However, if you see value in this way of taking advantage of the banks, please continue to read. 

There are all kinds of ways to earn points, but at the end of the day, I want to give you a simple introduction to the world of points and then feel free to dive as deep into the pool as you'd like.

Bryce and his team have been very helpful in navigating the world of points and I though I could post article after article that has helped us travel more for less, I won't. 

I'll simply refer you to the 10xTravel website to get started! 

And if you're still not sure if you can get to Hawaii for your honeymoon for free (almost), check out this story about Paul and Taryn's honeymoon in Hawaii (for almost nothing)

(and we know, the photo below is not us, it's Paul & Taryn)

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

20 Most Surprising Things about South Africa | Travel to South Africa

In July 2016 Rebecca and I found some great flight deals to South Africa. We had been looking for a while. 

We tossed out the idea of going on safari to a few friends who had expressed interest in traveling with us in the past.

(If you're interested in traveling with us, join our Facebook group "Adventure is Calling")

We found 4 others that said they were interested and committed to going on the trip. 

It was all self planned with the help of Gavin in Cape Town, owner of Extreme Scene who helped book some of our excursions (and who we would highly recommend).

So what did this group of travelers experience and learn about South Africa? 

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1) The Expanse of Wild and Unsettled Land

Arriving in South Africa, we really didn’t know what to expect. We thought we knew what we were in for, but quickly we realized how “wild” and unsettled the majority of the land is. If you love open spaces with different types of topography, South Africa is for you.

2) How BIG South Africa really is...

The distance from our second safari camp in the northeast corner of South Africa to our hotel in Cape town, when driven is 2,045 km or about the same distance as Grand Rapids to Orlando. We see the bottom of the African continent and think “oh, it can’t be that far…” but yes, yes it is and therefore it’s impossible to see everything in one trip.

3) Safaris are POSH

We stayed at two different safari camps over the course of 6 days. Our first was a private game reserve called Itaga Private Game Lodge, which is on a 30,000 private acre (45 sq miles) reserve that is fenced in. There were only 8 rooms on the property and the staff is there to take care of your needs. Food was some of the best we’ve ever had and staff went above and beyond (and yes, that is an elephant at the lodge while we ate dinner).

The second location was at Return Africa Pafuri Camp, located about as far northeast in the country as you can go. The camp has 19 designer tents with en-suite bathrooms located directly on the Luvuvhu River. The camp has no fences but is built like a treehouse, above the ground with large trees coming through the main walkways.

We were taken care of by both camps in ways we never expected. Dinner by candlelight where you get to set the menu. Coffee and snacks on safari in the morning while out seeing animals. Your favorite drinks and snacks for “sundowners” while on viewing animals in the late afternoon and early evening.

The experience is everything you see in the movies and more!

4) Extreme Sport Country because stuff there can kill you

GoPro ads are everywhere in South Africa. It may be because thrill seekers visit the country for it’s extreme sports.

They are mainly extreme thought because stuff in South Africa can kill you.

It’s not just a snake, it’s a black mamba, also known as the “one step” because that’s all the further you’ll get if you are bitten by one.

It’s not just a shark, it’s a great white shark that since it doesn’t have hands to find out what you are has to use a mouth of razor sharp teeth to “taste” you.

5) An Elephant Can Outrun a Lion and Are Apex Animals

We were able to observe a male elephant eating not too far away from our safari vehicle. As he was feeding, our guide recognized some unusual behavior. Well his hunch was right as the elephant stumbled across a lion laying in the grass. Since it was a male lion, the elephant began trumpeting and charged the lion.

Eventually the lion was able to sneak away from the elephant, but we realized the elephant is the apex animal of the bush. There is only record of one pack of lions hunting elephants in Botswana as a pride, otherwise the only threat to elephants are humans.

6) Your Guide Becomes Family (And For Us, A Younger Brother)

As we said, safaris are posh. Your needs are taken care of while out in the bush.

We were taken care of by a couple of specific individuals while on safari. All three were young men who made sure we had breakfast, our favorite snacks, drinks and then were responsible for making sure we experienced the wild animals of South Africa.

At Itaga, we were taken care of by Richard and Carl. Both were under 22 years old, had been guiding for just under a year, but both had experience outside of the world of guiding and eco-tourism.

At Pafuri, our master of ceremony was Calvin.

Upon arrival we were introduced and told he would be making sure we enjoyed our time at camp. This meant that instead of an alarm clock waking us up, he would come near our tent at 5am and say “Good Morning…” until we were awake.

He introduced us to the “choclachino ”, a half cappuccino and half hot chocolate coffee drink while out on safari. When we visited some of the gorges or other spots, he would carry snacks and drinks with him and make sure to serve us.

Throughout the trip, guides do not carry guns of any sort. The vehicle is the safest place for any person out in the wild. However, if we were to take a walking tour (which they offer in the winter months), there are two guides with you and one of the guides carries a rifle at all times.

We were amazed at how young the guides were, but over the course of our trip, we realized the tourism game is a young person's game. Getting up at 4am every day you have guests, taking them on multiple safaris, maintaining roads and vehicles, expanding your knowledge about wildlife, serving guests, etc, seems to burn people out after a while.

7) Cheetahs are Big House Cats That Purrrrrr

One of our excursions on the first day was to go visit with cheetahs. What we discovered is cheetahs are just large cats that are very thin. If you notice, cheetahs are very slim. That is to help them run, which is their only form of defense in the wild - running toward their prey or away from an enemy.

Even their tails are skinny. It is tall top to bottom, but is very thin as it matches their bodies.

And to pet cheetahs, you pet them like a house cat, from head to toe making sure to not put your hand near their mouth.

8) Great Whites Really Are That Scary and Big

Great white sharks are amazing creatures. It was one of the things we’ve been dreaming about for 10 years, going to see white sharks in their natural habitat.

So we found a guide in Cape Town that helped us book a tour with the guy who is hired by Discovery for Shark Week. When you see all the great white sharks jumping out of the water, that is where we went, Gansbaai and Dyer Island better known as Shark Alley.

The cage was in the water, the tuna head was out and the crew was chumming the water. When the first white shark breached the water and hit the bait, WOW, talk about power and adrenaline!

9) Wildlife was amazing: hippos at night, Nyalas under our hut playing, warthogs running through camp

If you love viewing animals, a safari is what you need!

Through the course of our stay we saw all kinds of animals, but what was crazy was how close we were to them.

Just at Pafuri lodge, we had hippos outside our door at night feeding on the grass. We also had a bachelor herd of male nyalas (spiraled horned antelope) under our deck playing and fighting with each other. Their horns scraped across the bottom of our room. We also had warthogs running through camp as well as baboons.

People go to see the “big 5” of elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhino. We saw elephants, lions and buffalo but in the areas we went the leopard and rhino are evasive and not always seen.

10) Trees as old as Jesus (Baobabs)

Have you seen the “Tree of Life” at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom? If you have, then you’ve seen a Baobab tree.

Baobabs are not even really trees. They are succulents, which means they don’t only use their bark to transport nutrients throughout the tree.

This helps because elephants are famous for eating the bark off the trees.

Baobabs are known to be as old as 2000 years in parts of the world, including Pafuri.

11) Tall Grass and The Amazing "Green"

January in South Africa means summer.

It means hot temperatures and rainfall. In fact, in Kruger, most parts receive rain only 90 days out of the year.

That means during our visit, animals had an abundance of water to drink and food to eat.

Grasses grow as high as a 6 foot man, which is why it’s never safe to simply “go for a run” in the bushveld. Imagine stumbling on a lion, buffalo or elephant?

12) Sunrise is The Best View

One of the things we wanted to see was sunrise on the savannah. We know animals usually bed down for the night, but sunrise begins their daily cycles all over again.

So one day our guide, Calvin, woke us up at 4am and we were in the car by 4:45am for the sunrise.

We didn’t see another person as we were the only people in Pafuri camp for the night (yes, we had the entire place to ourselves).

Watching sunrise for an hour was indescribable.

13) Springbok is delicious (as were all the meals we ate)

We didn’t know what type of cuisine we would be eating in South Africa. It’s just something that we didn’t look into prior to leaving.

While there we discovered the Dutch and English heritage of settlers means the diet is very European-esque, with a flair for South African finishes.

One of the meals we ate was Springbok, which is similar to an antelope. It was prepared like a traditional rib roast, was tender and falling off the bone.

South Africa was the best “food” vacation we’ve had as prices are low and food quality is high.

14) Topography of Cape Town and Cape Pointe are stunning

When you think of Cape Town, what do you think of?

I thought of extreme sports and the Cape of Good Hope.

Never did I realize the spectacular views and topography of the area.

Who would have thought that Table Mountain would rise over 3,000 feet from the sea floor to dominate views?

Who would have thought Chapman’s Peak and Hout Bay would provide some of the most memorable views on a drive we’ve been on.

Cape Town itself has Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lion’s Head all within the city limits, which means the city is broken into different districts.

Cape Point has not only the Cape of Good Hope, but also the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian ocean currents as a sight (yes, there really is a line you can see where the two meet).

15) Gunshot Sound is Required to Get Baboons Out of The Van

During our visit to the Cape of Good Hope (which was a zoo), our guide, Stan, made sure to teach us about baboons and how they are not the most friendly of animals

While there, we needed to make sure doors to the van were closed at all times as baboons are scavengers and opportunists, getting into whatever they can.

So we made sure to follow his instructions. However, the van next to us did not.

After leaving doors open while viewing the area, they discovered a male baboon inside their vehicle upon return. It was rummaging through all the bags and items in the van.

Stan, a veteran of the tourism world for 20+ years, told us to “watch this”.

He knew that the back doors to the van, along with the side sliding doors needed to be open. He then stood outside the side door with his belt, smacking it on the ground, making a “gun shot” like sound.

The baboon scurried out the back of the van but not without leaving his mark.

The mark of baboon poop throughout the van (because he was scared) and making off wearing a mans hat and carrying a ladies hand bag.

16) Small Things Can Be The Most Beautiful (and memorable)

Throughout the safaris our guides would be driving along and stop to show us something that we would have never noticed without their expertise.

We were introduced to wild basil, trees that animals eat the bark from and the Yellow Mouse Whiskers flower. Something so small can be the most memorable.

17) Places in the world with no address, need GPS coordinates

We decided to visit the Return Africa Pafuri Camp because it was listed as “one of the most true safari experiences” by several publications (including TripAdvisor).

Most people fly into the area, but we decided to drive (as there were 6 of us). Flying would have been easier as it was a 7 hour drive from Johannesburg to Pafuri.

But it was so remote, our GPS didn’t even recognize it.

Our final turn off the main highway, the N1 (which is a 2 lane road at this point) was a right hand turn that took us another 151 km straight ahead with only a few places to stop along the way.

18) Get Full Insurance On The Car (don’t get too close to animals)

There are all kinds of videos and stories of people doing stupid things while on safari. Getting too close to the animals is one of them.

The Avis staff member asked if I wanted “full insurance” on our van and I asked him, “do people say no to that question?”

His response was, “Yes, some people don’t want the insurance and end up getting sat on by an elephant. Don’t get TOO close to the animals, they are still wild.”

Yes, and we almost hit a giraffe while driving...

19) The Gap of Rich vs Poor

A shanty town with a million residents.

Compared with high rise apartments on the ocean, kids attending private tennis lessons and having dinner at the best restaurants in Cape Town.

South Africa is a country with a gap between rich and poor that continues to widen.

It was amazing to think about how shanty towns actually get started. A small group of people squat on an undeveloped piece of land. Then a few more join them. Then a few more.

Land owners appeal to the state to have people removed but police don’t do anything about it.

More people come and build homes out of whatever material they can find.

Any pretty soon you have 1 million people living these areas.

So to meet the needs of the people, the government builds an electrical grid inside the shanty town and gives access to clean water as well.

Compare that to Sea Point or Camps Bay in Cape Town, only 10 miles away, where infinity pools and high end gated communities dominate the landscape.

As one person stated while there, “The end of apartheid came in the 1990s but it didn’t change everything. It only delayed a revolution of oppressed people throughout South Africa.”

20) It’s Cheaper to Safari Than You Think It Is (exchange rate is in our favor)

We have talked with folks that have spent $5,000, $8,000, or $15,000+ going on safari in South Africa. While there are always to spend more money to do something, we found going on safari was very, very reasonable.

Since 2010 the buying power of the US Dollar has basically doubled against the South African Rand.

That means a hotel room that cost 1300 RND in Cape Town would have cost an American visitor $170 USD a night (approx). But today, with the exchange rate the way it is, that same 1300 RND hotel costs the same American visitor $100 USD.

The same can be said for finding a safari lodge to meet your needs.

We used the power of the internet (TripAdvisor and other review sites) to connect directly with lodges across the world and make arrangements for our group of 6 people.

From food to excursions to real estate, the US Dollar, like many other places, is dominating and it means you can have a great experience for less money.

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

Save Time + Money with Groceries Delivered To Your Door | How Doorganics Gives Us More Freedom

One of the questions we're asked most often is "Where do you grocery shop?"

After a few months of living downtown, the solution came to us! 

We met Mike Hughes, owner of Doorganics, several years ago when he first began as a startup in 2011. His company is a locally sourced, grocery service that delivers fresh produce right to your home or office, with no commitments, pay-as-you-go, and custom scheduling and menus. 

After moving downtown, we decided that if we can systematize something and free up more time, we wanted to do it. 

Enter Doorganics fruits, veggies and other groceries delivered to our home. 

We did have some hesitations before starting our subscription. First, "Will the fruits and veggies be good?", second "Will they last as long as store bought produce" and finally, "Is it worth the price for fruits and veggies?"

Let me be the first to tell you the fruits and veggies delivered to our door every other week ARE BETTER than what we could purchase in the store. Flavor, freshness, etc, you name it, the food just tastes better.

We found out that because we are purchasing organic fruits and veggies, the food LASTS LONGER. This means apples don't go bad in a couple of days. Kiwi that is delivered lasts a couple of weeks. 

An additional concern we had was "What if there is bad produce, like an apple or something? What do we do about that?" 

After subscribing to their services for over a year now we have only had 2 pieces of bad anything in our deliveries. Both times we sent off an email to the office about what we found to be wrong (or bad) and they immediately apologized and took corrected the problem.

Great customer service is what you'll get with Doorganics! 

Finally, we realized that our every other week subscription to Doorganics is the best way we could spend our grocery dollars every month. Fresh fruits and veggies have become the base of many of our favorite meals in our home is a great investment of our money.

If we are able to save just 4 hours a month with their delivery service, the time and freedom savings alone is worth the dollars we spend. If you want to eat clean(er) and purchase organic fruits and veggies, DOORGANICS IS THE BEST VALUE FOR YOUR MONEY.

We have tried going to the store and purchasing organic (or natural) fruits and veggies in the quantity that is delivered to us every other week and we cannot purchase the same amount of food for what we spend with Doorganics.

It's rather amazing what Mike and his team have done in such a short amount of time with their home delivery model at Doorganics

Now that Doorganics has become a staple of our monthly shopping life, we would like to give you $10 OFF YOUR FIRST DELIVERY.

To claim $10 off your first delivery, simply visit the Doorganics link below and see how fresh produce right to your home or office, with no commitments, pay-as-you-go, and custom scheduling and menus can help you improve your life! 

If you have any specific questions, please let us know, we are here to help! 

Our Tiny House Journey | PechaKucha Grand Rapids V15

PechaKucha is a simple: 20 images, each for 20 seconds. 

We were asked by PechaKucha Grand Rapids organizers Dan and Michelle Terpstra if we would be interested in talking about the tiny house journey we've been on over the past year. 

Well of course we were interested and you can watch our talk below!

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. By 2012 PechaKucha Night grew to over 470 cities. PechaKucha Night Grand Rapids launched in October 2011 as the 428th city worldwide, gathering four times per year.

We are excited for the next PechaKucha night during LaughFest 2017 in Grand Rapids and if you're interested in learning more about the format or different cities that participate, visit www.pechakucha.org
 

Friends Don't Let Friends Go To Men's Wearhouse | Men's Wedding Attire

For most couples planning their wedding day, what the groom's attire falls WAAAAYYY down the wedding planning to-do list. I understand, it happened to me many years ago and it happened again this year as my brother Dan planned his wedding at Rivers Edge Bed & Breakfast in Lowell, Michigan. What did I learn from the process?

Friends don't let friends go to Men's Wearhouse. Friends go to Jurgens and Holtvluwer in Grandville

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That's not to say Men's Wearhouse doesn't do a good job. The fact is they are the largest men's clothing retailer in the United States, so they must be doing something right, right? I can't tell you the number of times I've seen their logo on wedding days. Most of the time things fit right. Sometimes they do not.

But after my brother's wedding this year I now know that if you're renting suits or tuxedos from Men's Wearhouse, you paid twice as much as you should have. 

How do I know this? Experience and a little bit of leg work earlier this year with my brother.

Here is a quick overview of my clothing education.

Initially Dan wanted to buy a suit for his wedding. Knowing his bride found bridesmaid dresses at David's Bridal (who has an exclusive agreement to supply men's attire to David's guests), he decided to visit his local store and see if he could get matching suits for the guys.

So he strolled in, told the staff what he needed and was shuffled over to the wedding section where staff eagerly took notes and listened to what he told them. After describing what he wanted, he was offered the choice of 4 suits he could purchase.

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Yes, you read that right, 4 suits. That's what Men's Wearhouse offers guys who want to buy suits for their wedding day.

"But can't I simply choose from one of the suits off your racks? You do have a few thousand options to pick from..." asked my brother.  "We can only guarantee having these 4 options available in everyone's size..." said the sales person at Men's Wearhouse.

So he chose the gray suit option with vest, jacket and pants. After tailoring and his "groom discount", the total for the suit was well over $400. Now I'm not saying $400 for a suit is expensive, because it's not. There are many options that could have cost more.

However, when he told his groomsmen suits were over $400 plus cost of the shirt, tie,  and shoes (if they were needed), the reception from the groomsmen wasn't all that great.

So back he went to Men's Wearhouse asking about him keeping his suit, but having the guys rent the gray suits rather than buying (less expensive option, right?)

Here is the interesting part. The suits would no longer match. The gray patterns in the fabric were different.

So he was now stuck.

Either have the guys buy suits for $400+ or return his suit and rent a different gray suit for about $240.

At the urging of his groomsmen, he decided to return his suit and have everyone rent instead.

Now enter myself and a little research. I suggested we check out a couple of other stores, one specifically in Grandville called Jurgens and Holtvluwer. They have been in business over 100 years and have taken care of multiple generations of men in the Grand Rapids area.

As we told Heath Jurgens, the owner, what we were looking for when it came to suit rental, he told us suits rent for about $100-140 each, which included everything we would need.

When we asked about the gray suits at Men's Wearhouse, we were told that the fabric is so similar we wouldn't notice.

So we decided to test it out.

We went and purchased a fabric square from Men's Wearhouse for the suit color and took it back to Jurgens and wouldn't you know it, it was the same exact fabric color and pattern!

Now, because Jurgens has an offer when renting 6 suits or tuxedos or more, the groom's suite or tux is free. My brother simply paid for his suit and passed the savings on to all of the guys renting for the wedding.

The exact same suit at Jurgens and Holtvluwer ended up costing me $126 to rent! 

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Imagine you have 10 people renting suits (groom, 5 groomsmen, 2 ushers, 2 dads) you are now saving $1,140 on suit or tuxedo rentals alone! Talk about making everyone happy that is involved in your wedding party!

So what should you take away from my experience? 

If you're planning a Grand Rapids wedding sometime soon, you have to stop by Jurgens and Holtvluwer in Grandville.

At least give them a call.

I know it's so tempting to go to Men's Wearhouse because your friends are around the country and it seems like the best solution. Jurgens can walk you through how to not worry about it!

Or, if you want to use the Walmart of men's clothing, Men's Wearhouse (they are the largest in the country, right), you're welcome to continue doing so.

But remember, consider yourself educated when it comes to men's attire for your upcoming wedding.

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs brides and businesses. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

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Dan + Kelley | River's Edge Wedding in Lowell

What is a guy to do when his brother asks him to be his best man? Say YES of course! And that's exactly what I did for my youngest brother, Dan, when he asked me to be his best man on his wedding day.

A few years ago Dan fell in love. Like WAY in love. In love with a young woman who I now get to call my sister.

Kelley is a woman with a heart for people. She shows her heart through her work, with her friends, but most of all with my brother.

And what else could I possibly want for my own brother than a woman that loves him and that he loves in return.

They held their wedding day at River's Edge Bed and Breakfast in Lowell, which is a great venue for folks looking for a ceremony and reception venue all at one location.

Though they did not see each other before the ceremony, we planned time for both the guys and the girls around the property before the ceremony. Following their short ceremony and announcement as husband and wife, extended family photos were taken and then the wedding party was on deck. We used a couple of locations for portraits, but for Dan and Kelley, their wedding day was all about the reception.

Great food and dancing were high on their priority list!

Martha's Catering did a wonderful job and Dan worked with a friend of his to put together the dance playlist. Though the temperatures reached into the high 80s throughout the afternoon and early evening, it didn't stop Dan and Kelley (along with their friends) from tearing up the dance floor.

I was privileged to stand next to my youngest brother as he committed his life to Kelley.

All the photos you see below were taken by our good friend Jason of Dove Light Photography who is also an associate photographer for our photo team when help is needed.

If you love what you see, be sure to leave a comment below and let Dan and Kelley know which photos are your favorite. Or you can visit their complete wedding gallery online by clicking here

If you’re wondering who took care of the wedding day details you see, here is a brief recap:

Ceremony & Reception Venue: River's Edge Bed and Breakfast Catering: Martha's Vineyard Catering Guys Wardrobe: Jurgens and Holtvluwer - I'll never go back to Men's Wearhouse Bridal Dress: BHLDN Chicago Hair Stylist: Francie VanHoven, Avant Garde Salon and Spa Flowers: J's Fresh Flower Market Wedding Cupcakes (gluten free): Ella's Gourmet Baked Goods

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Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

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Improve Your Business | CreativeLive 30 Days of Genius

Logo-98 Final Know anyone who is trying to improve their business, make more money or become a better all-around person?

In a world where everyone seems to be selling their version of "the magic bullet for your business", I have become skeptical of many different programs.

However, one that I have continued to engage with more and more is an online learning organization called CreativeLive.

CreativeLive is an online education platform that broadcasts live classes to an international audience for free. It is the brainchild of photographer Chase Jarvis who wanted to bring the "Best Creatives In the World" to you using the internet as his platform.

One of my favorite programs he's recently completed is called "30 Days of Genius" which you can get ABSOLUTELY FREE!

In the series you'll receive 30 different interviews from the worlds top creative minds. People such as Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Jared Leto, Tim Ferriss, Arianna Huffington and many, many more!

You'll learn about the big thinking and breakthroughs that allowed these geniuses to break the mold. They'll share their successes and failures, and turn them into actionable insights for you.

Personally, some of the best interviews have been with the people I had not heard of before: Brené Brown, Gretchen Rubin and others.

I bring this to you simply as my way of sharing with you, the loyal reader, what has helped me increase my creativity and thinking over the past few months.

30-days-of-genius

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

VIEW OUR WEDDING IMAGES  | CONTACT US ABOUT YOUR WEDDING OR EVENT

Things to Do in Downtown Grand Rapids

We have been living in downtown Grand Rapids for 9 months and now consider the downtown area our own personal "backyard". Living in our tiny house means many of our experiences are outside the walls of our apartment at The Morton.

This summer will prove to be an EPIC experience as there are so many events and attractions in the downtown area.

Not sure what there is to do in Grand Rapids?

There are a few things you've already missed in the downtown area including Festival of the Arts, Local First Street Party and Founders Fest. Those are just a few of the events that have happened over the past few weeks.

Wondering how to find events and what's going on in downtown Grand Rapids?

downtown-gr-orgsGrand Rapids City Twist Choose your type of adventure and find out what's going on

Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc  Group responsible for city building in the urban core of the city

Experience Grand Rapids  Tourism hub for both locals and out of town guests

GRNOW.COM Grassroots Grand Rapids site about all things Grand Rapids.

Here is a short list of some specific events we are excited about:

Movies in the Park by Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. A League of Their Own, Mask of Zorro, Edward Scissorhands and Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Grand Rapids Restaurant Week  Taste the City in August

4th of July Celebration in Downtown  July 2 will have entertainment and fireworks in Ah-nab-awen Park

Dolly Parton at Van Andel Arena The legend comes to Grand Rapids

Polish Festival and Hispanic Festival at Rosa Parks Circle and Calder Plaza

ArtPrize 8 - Radically open international art competition decided by public vote and expert jury

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

VIEW OUR WEDDING IMAGES  | CONTACT US ABOUT YOUR WEDDING OR EVENT

Final Service Before Renovation at Calvary Church | Panoramic Photography in Grand Rapids

Calvary Church in Grand Rapids is currently undergoing a large construction project on their campus. The construction project includes a renovation of the main sanctuary which means through the end of the year, Calvary will be worshiping at Calvin College's Van Noord Arena. The staff at Calvary contacted me about taking one last "family photo" of the Sunday morning congregation. This meant creating a panoramic photo of the Grand Rapids church as a memento as the new sanctuary will no longer have the balcony area and the pews will not be incorporated into the design.

This past Sunday, I was able to take panoramic photos during the first part of each service for the church and what turned out was a great image of Calvary Church in April 2016.

I hope these images show the diversity of folks that come to Calvary and tell the story of where Calvary has been in the past, but also where Calvary is going in the future.

Below you will see each service and you can move the image left and right, zoom in and out and make the image full screen to get a better look at Calvary's congregation from last Sunday.

Feel free to use the "sharing" buttons on the side of the page to share the interactive panoramic photos with your friends and family and show them what Calvary Church looked like before the construction of the sanctuary began.

1st Service - 8:10am

2nd Service - 9:40am

3rd Service - 11:15am

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

LEARN ABOUT OUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE  | CONTACT US ABOUT YOUR WEDDING OR EVENT

How To Choose Your Favorite Travel Photos

Don't let your travel photos sit somewhere in the digital world never to see the light of day once you're back in the grind of your day to day life. The reason you took that trip was to have a great experience and make memories, isn't it?

Most photos taken today (over 95%) are never printed or looked at again.

Most images end up in the digital void of a cell phone photo stream or, at best, filed away in a computer somewhere.

Imagine how different the world is today in 2016 compared to 1996 where film was the only option and you had it developed at your neighborhood drug store.

The fact is the vast majority of photos never see the light of day.

Being photographers, it's only natural that photos dominated our trip to Egypt. In fact, I became the 'official photographer' of the trip after a few days. (It was an honorary title obviously, but if you're ever in need of an 'official photographer' for your next trip, we would be happy to come along).

We have received many messages asking further questions about the trip, the highlights and our favorite parts. If you haven't read our post about The 20 Most Surprising Things about Traveling to Egypt or How We Found at Great Travel Deal To Egypt, those two posts may be of interest to you as well.

Here are my top 3 tips on how to choose your favorite travel photos.

1) Make Sure You Can View the Entire Gallery at One Time

What I mean by this is be sure to take a few minutes to sit down and look through the complete gallery of images you've taken during your travels.

From beginning to end look through your photos.

Perhaps you do this on a computer (like I do) or perhaps right on your mobile device. Go back through them. You did take them so you could remember the trip, right?

2) Delete Images That Are Obviously Bad

As you are going through your gallery, know that you're only going to keep the best images.

In the photo world, we call this "editing in". This means that we start from a position of "I want to allow as FEW photos as possible into this gallery."

As you go through the photos, delete the ones that are obviously bad.

Don't fret or event think twice about photos with closed eyes or where someone is looking awful.

3) Keep Your Top 25 Favorites and Do Something With Them

The number 25 doesn't have any specific meaning, but to me, 25 images can tell a story from beginning to end. A roll of film used to have 24 images on it and people could use one roll for an entire vacation.

So as you're going through, somehow highlight, favorite or star your top images.

More than likely your first pass will yield anywhere from 50 to 100 images and you'll have to keep going back through your favorites to narrow down your selection to only 25.

This allows you to look through the photos, as I did with images of the pyramids below, and ask the question, which one of these should I keep because it tells the best story? That's how you are able to continue narrowing down your selection to only 25 images.

Now that you have your favorite 25 photos, now do something with them.

Print them. Put them in a book. Post them online.

Just make sure you do something with them so the rest of the world can see what you saw while traveling.

Don't let your photos fall into the digital void only to be lost forever!

 

How To Find A Great Travel Deal | How We Went to Egypt

A few weeks ago we posted our biggest surprises while traveling to Egypt. If you haven't gone through and looked at some of the photos from our travels, I would definitely suggest checking out one of the oldest places on the planet. It really is that spectacular! Since our return, many have asked "How did you end up deciding on Egypt?" Our response has been two things: First, it has been top on Rebecca's bucket list for a long, long time (she was a ancient classics minor in college) and second, we found a really great deal.

It's the second one that I want to help you understand because if you're anything like us, you would probably like a really great travel deal as well.

Our journey to Egypt was in December 2015. However, deciding on a trip started much earlier, back in April 2015. Rebecca had first thought about going to New York City for Christmas, so we began looking for deals to NYC.

After looking for deals to NYC, she was turned on to a deal to Bogotá and Cartagena, Columbia in South America. It was a deal for 6 days, including airfare from Ft. Lauderdale for $599 per person. We began looking into the "What is there to do in Columbia? and Is it safe?" questions. The deal we were considering was on Groupon, so we decided to check a few other "deal sites" as well.

While at a meeting one morning, I received a text from Rebecca saying "We can go to Egypt for 10 days for $1350! Should we book it?!? I found it on Living Social!" 

I took the stance, "That's WAY to good to be true! If it's that cheap, it won't be good!".

So here is what I did next. I used TripAdvisor to search for the travel company offering the tour. In our case it was Encounters Travel.

I took to reading reviews like crazy and all of them said the trip was out of this world! I've since started doing the same with other vendors on the Living Social site. living-social-2

After finding the trip to be a "legit" travel deal, we found an amazing promotion within Living Social which is why I'm even writing this post today. They have a promotion called "Me+3", which means if you purchase your trip and 3 other individuals use your referral code to purchase the same trip, YOUR TRIP IS FREE!

I quickly realized that even though our trip was $1350, if we found 2 other friends to go with us, the trip would soon not be $1350, but just over $1000 per person! 

If you do the math, $1350 x 3 = $4050, which when divided by 4 travelers, is $1013 per person including air out of Chicago!

So the next decision we had to make was who would become our "Boondoggle Buddies"? One of our friends, Shaun, I knew would be my "Yes, Man!" guy, so that meant we needed to find one more person to go (a guy preferably to room with Shaun). We found that in another friend, Jeremy, who was able to break away from his wife, kids and work for 11 days to travel with us.

During our time in Egypt, we found that others had used the Living Social deal as well. When we asked if anyone had taken advantage of other Living Social deals in the past, several said they had purchased them and they were all great experiences.

living-social-3

So how do you find a great travel deal? 

First, we will visit Living Social's website to see what is available on their site.

Second, we will think through who else would be interested in going on our next boondoggle with us?

Third, we will use the "Me+3" promotion for a free trip, divide that refund between 4 people traveling and discount our travel an additional 25%!

And just for a little taste of what riding camels near the pyramids is like, here is our group with Encounters Travel.

672_IMG_7865

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

LEARN ABOUT OUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE  | CONTACT US ABOUT YOUR WEDDING OR EVENT

20 Most Surprising Things about Egypt | Travel to Egypt

Booking a journey to an iconic location, like Egypt, can be an interesting process to say the least. Prior to traveling, we heard "Be Careful" or "Are you sure it's SAFE to go there?" from nearly everyone. But what we found in this ancient culture was more beautiful than a few words can describe. We feel privileged to have seen it and cannot wait to go back! We were surprised by so many things. Pharaohs, hieroglyphics and ancient stories of the might of the Middle East will never be after our travels to Egypt. Here are the 20 Most Surprising Things we learned on our 10 day trip across the country:

1) The People are Kind From the moment we landed in Cairo, the people of Egypt were helpful and excited we were visiting.

2) Safety Concerns are WAY Overblown by Americans Not once did we not feel safe in Egypt. That being said, we realize that there are people who do stupid things. As seasoned travelers, we try not to. Throughout our tour we were transported by private bus and always had an armed member of the Egyptian Tourism Police on hand.

3) Blonde Westerners are Celebrities Rebecca was definitely a celebrity for a week. 99% of the Egyptian women cover their hair. Rebecca did this at many sights, but not all, so her blonde hair and 6 foot stature made her hard to miss. Most Egyptians only see western culture on TV, so selfie requests with us were abundant.

4) The Desert is Empty Egypt's 100 million residents live on about 5% of the land within their borders. That means there is 95% of the land that is uninhabited and is sand and desert. It just keeps going and going and going. The desert sunrises are beautiful and mirages really do exist!

5) Moses and Alexander the Great Walked Here We visited Luxor (the ancient city of Thebes) which was the capital of Egypt for both Moses and Alexander the Great. The two main temples in Luxor, Luxor and Karnack are 3 km apart. Standing on the Avenue of the Sphinx, that connects the two temples, we knew were standing where Moses dared to confront Pharaoh and where Alexander ruled.

6) The Pyramids Are REALLY BIG There are 3 main pyramids still standing in Giza and they really are immense! The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the largest and most photogenic. All built without machines and still standing, the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World's 7 Wonders.

7) Cairo = Teaming Mass of People Home to over 25 million people, that is roughly 25% of the country's population. The city has a heartbeat all its own.

8) Egyptians Don't Follow Traffic Laws (or patterns-ever!) In Cairo, only 40% of people own vehicles and the percentage is even smaller outside of the city. Of those people that do have a car, very few follow any type of traffic laws. Lines are drawn on the road, but no one uses them. Traffic lights, crosswalk signs or speed limits really don't exist. Drivers honk and flash their headlights constantly when passing. What's a turn signal? But we only saw 1 accident the entire time!

9) Egyptian People Dream of Peace, not Conquest and Conversion As a Muslim country, American's assume Egyptians fall to their knees 5 times a day, seek conquest and conversion. Our experience was just the opposite. Similar to the U.S., not everyone goes to church or prays! Shocking, we know. We found more Egyptians praying for peace and prosperity than of conquest or domination (including in their houses of worship).

10) Antiquities are Available for Touching, 98% of the Time Every museum you ever tour in America will display artifacts behind bullet proof glass, with a no-touching sign, driving my husband crazy with the desire to do just that. Egypt was his paradise. Hands, and glass free. The only exception was in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where many of the most important discoveries of Egypt are housed.

11) The Army is Self Funded The army of Egypt owns grocery stores, gas stations, road construction companies, hospitals, factories and many other business we would perceive to be "traditionally private enterprise". Through its ownership, it generates revenue and is self-sustaining.

12) The Temples are Massive Touring  Karnack Temple in Luxor was a shocker! The 2nd largest religious site in the world behind Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia, this temple is home to 134 massive columns in 16 rows. It takes a minimum of 9 adults, fully extended, holding hands to fully encircle ONE of the columns.

13) Ramses II Could be the Answer If you've ever wondered if Moses was real and who the "Pharaoh" of the Bible is, Ramses II just might be your guy and his mummy has something to tell us: A look of terror on his face, hands and arms pushing something off of him. This man was terrified of death. If you ask our opinion, he drowned in the Red Sea as it coursed over him during his pursuit of the Israelite's and it this fear still shows today.

14) The Nile is a Gift Development along the Nile River is immense, but the area outside the floodplain is desolate. The river really is the "life blood of Egypt".

15) Agriculture, History and Industry all Stuffed Together Never had we seen the close mix of oxen yoked together plowing on a subsistence farm (the way they have for thousands of years), massive historical sites like the Valley of the Kings (among others) and industry within a city few blocks.

16) Imperialism Exists Everywhere American children learn about the destruction of Native American culture, their land stolen for westward expansion. But imperialism exists everywhere. In Egypt, the 1950s and 1960s brought the development of the High Dam (near Aswan), and Lake Nassar was created, destroying hundreds of Nubian temples, holy sites and cities. The Nubians had their land taken. They have tried integrating into Egyptian culture, but are still seen as a separate people group. They have the saddest eyes you have ever seen, longing for their land, which they can never reclaim.

17) Egyptians Have Great Food More than once during the trip we were food comatose. The pita in Egypt is mixed in the morning and rises in the sun, giving it the name "sun bread". Meat is a staple, but we definitely got "falafel drunk" a few times by gorging on some of the best vegetarian street food we've ever had.

18) New Historical Discoveries Are Made Everyday This happens all the time! A possible new passage in Khufu's great pyramid, new rooms behind those already excavated in Tut's tomb, the Tower of Memnon:

A farmer was plowing his field outside the Valley of the King's 4 years ago. He found a stone while turning the soil, and then another and then more. They fit together. Specialists were called and the field was purchased by the government, discovering a new temple dating back to over 1000 BC, lost for centuries under the soil. The work will continue for years and the statues are the gate.

19) Egyptian Upgrades are Abundant Tourism in Egypt is down 90% right now. So anyone touring receives 5 star treatment for significantly less. And no lines to see anything. Now is the time to go!

20) Exceeded Expectations in Every Way 30 minutes in, we knew that we had just stumbled upon a time of a lifetime! Thanks to Encounter's Travel and Living Social! Your tour rocked our world! But don't take our word for it, see for yourself. We hope this has inspired your "Wander Lust". Never quit exploring, it is the spice of life.

If you would like more details about our specific trip and Egyptian tour company, Encounters Travel, please contact us and we can provide more details on who to request for guides, where to stay and other helpful details!

Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

LEARN ABOUT OUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE  | CONTACT US ABOUT YOUR WEDDING OR EVENT

Tiny House Becomes A Tiny Hell | Being Sick in a Tiny House

We've officially been in our tiny house in downtown Grand Rapids for 3 months. We moved in on September 22, just before ArtPrize and we are now settling into a rhythm in our small space. However, we recently had an experience that we did not foresee happening.

For some reason, we never considered what it would be like getting sick in our tiny house.

We recently traveled to Egypt (yes to see the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and all things ancient Egypt) and on the way back, my wife caught a bad stomach bug. It didn't hit until a couple of days after our return, but she ended up in the emergency room for several hours. Thankfully we live less than 1 mile from the nearest hospital, so great care was available.

She was treated for a stomach bacteria that put her in bed for the following 5 days. She didn't eat during that time, was able to keep fluids down, but the only reason for her to get out of bed was to use the bathroom.

Now here is a question for you: do you have that person in the family that has one volume, which is LOUD?

Well, if you do, that is me.

I do not have a quiet mode. I'm either sleeping and happily resting, or I'm up and going. My wife is constantly amused that somehow I even eat loud.

So, after 48 hours of confinement, taking care of her and wanting to get some end of the year work done, she kicked me out. It basically came to the point of, "Either get in bed, be quiet and fall asleep or leave and go do something for a few hours  so I can rest..."

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Now I'm obviously thankful that my wife, even when sick, is independent enough to care for herself, but the crazy part is, we didn't consider what it would be like for one of us to be sick and bedridden in our tiny house.

Fast forward 10 days and my wife is back to her normal self. She's excited about Christmas this week and this past weekend was out shopping as much as she could.

As soon as she got excited about Christmas again, I knew she was feeling better.

The moral of the story is, as a married couple in a tiny house, you probably won't have your own "space".

Thankfully we love spending time with each other and have lived and worked together for years. However, there will always be situations that come up that will test the limits of what we are prepared for.

We did not realize that for a short time our tiny house would become a tiny hell as Rebecca recovered from her stomach bug.

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Radde Family | Grand Rapids Fall Family Photos

Many families have the hope and dream of family portraits every year with their children. Some families make that a reality while many do not. The Radde family is one of those families that has made that dream of yearly family photos a reality. We are somewhat biased toward the Radde family, as they are our sister and brother-in-law and we are crazy about spending time with our 3 nieces.

On a yearly basis we discuss what mom and dad are considering when it comes to a photo location for this year's 'fall family photos'. The decision this year was for a casual session at a local school that has walking trails. The afternoon light was wonderful when combined with the fall leaves changing color.

We know many will say "we just don't have time to think about family photos" or "we just don't have money to think about family photos".

We know how you feel and have met many families that have felt the same way.

At the end of the day though, are those obstacles really going to prevent you from attaining the dream of family photos every year with your children?

For the Radde family, it hasn't stopped them.

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Tiberius Images is a Grand Rapids photographer that photographs people, places and events. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they serve clients throughout the world and are available for travel.

LEARN ABOUT OUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE  | CONTACT US ABOUT YOUR WEDDING OR EVENT

Grand Rapids Tiny House | URBANEER Design

https://youtu.be/OvUxKyC_AyY Folks are asking us what our Grand Rapids tiny house is like at The Morton. We try describing what it's like, but it's rather hard to describe without seeing it.

URBANEER, the design company who created the layout in our home, has put together a animation of the latest design concepts they are working on. The designs include movable walls, guests beds and many other cool amenities.

URBANEER is definitely onto something when it comes to great space design.

Stay tuned for more details about the tiny house movement in urban Grand Rapids.

Chrismas Cards, Paper & More | 6.25 Paper Studio

When we moved downtown, we realized our shopping patterns would change. One of the most frequent questions we get is "where do you buy groceries at?"  To be honest, our shopping habits for food haven't changed much (Trader Joe's, Costco & Meijer), but our shopping habits for gifts and other items have changed quite a bit. Recently I heard supporting local businesses described as "create an economic island for your community and then help that island flourish and grow."

After hearing that description, I realized prior to moving downtown I did not have a good way to describe how I like to shop. However, after hearing that description, I realized that's what we've always tried shopping in Grand Rapids.

Now that we are downtown, our island has changed significantly.

One of the first places we discovered is a boutique store called 6.25 Paper Studio. It's owned by Abbey Fowler and operated by her wonderful staff. Her company began in 2008 when after attending a stationary trade show, she fell in love with all things paper and began by designing wedding invitations. Her background in design and photography helped get her company going and since 2011 has been able to double the size of her company and now has a wonderful retail location right on Monroe Center in downtown Grand Rapids.

The reason for all this background is to tell you about one of the best options for Christmas Cards I've seen yet either from a local or online vendor.

Yes, her card options are better than what you will find online! 

Her card prices start around $1.35 per card (for 100) and that includes the envelope as well! I know Meijer and Costco offer 'photo cards' in their stores and online, but they are less than fantastic quality and design. In addition, you're supporting a local business, who uses local businesses to print cards and deliver them back to you.

Not only do you get a great price on card printing, but each and every card that she prints also includes CUSTOM DESIGN, which is pretty much unheard of in the printing world.

If you're interested in more details about cards, simple contact Abbey via email (hello(a)625paper.com) to let her know you're interested in card design and printing.

From there she will ask you for a photo (or two), your card size preference and if you have any language you'd specifically like on the card. From there she creates several custom designs for you to choose from.

Once you've approved a design and the cards are paid for, they will be printed and sent directly to you!

It's such a simple process, I can't wait to have our cards done by Abbey this year!

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Artwork in a Tiny Space

When you are in a tiny space, how do you go about deciding on artwork for your walls? We thought it would be wise to take the hallway we have (about 9 feet long) and utilize the space to put up something fairly large. Since July, our biggest inspiration has been the phrase "Geronimo!", the phrase made famous by the 82nd Airborne as they learned to jump out of airplanes ahead of their main mission, jumping behind enemy lines the night prior to the D-Day invasion.

Though we had tried selling our home previously, though we had tried moving downtown previously, it wasn't until a July event where "Geronimo!" was the theme, that Rebecca and I looked at one another and said, "Let's sell the house! Geronimo!". Just a few weeks later, our home had an offer on in and within 60 days we were living in our new tiny space at The Morton.

The lettering is about 5 feet wide and at eye level for everyone to see as they enter our apartment.

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The wonderful staff at Icon Sign on the west side of Grand Rapids printed the lettering for us and installed it in our home in about 20 minutes. They asked if I wanted to install it or if someone should come out to put it up. Let's just say had I tried to install the lettering, it would have been a disaster.

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And just for a little Wednesday inspiration that goes along with Geronimo!, enjoy a little music from Shepard:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL_EXAyGCkw

Recycle or Trash It?

I realized today we've been in our Grand Rapids tiny house for almost 6 weeks and we love it! After our first post about The Morton and what life is like in downtown Grand Rapids, we thought it might be fun to continue posting about happenings as our year here continues. One of the bigger changes we've noticed is how much PACKAGING MATERIAL there is in the world. How we had not noticed, I'm not sure. But now that we only have a small trash receptacle under our sink (aka "Dutch Trash"), the amount of items we throw away has gone down dramatically.

We are now recycling as much as we can.

trash_size(Notice the box of recyled material verse the small container under the sink)

By no means are we a "tree hugging" family, but obviously we want to be the best stewards of the world around us.

It makes me wonder, how many items in the past year have I thrown away that could have been recycled?

Grand Rapids does have a great program if you're interested in recycling by the way. It's called MyGRCityPoints. How it works is the city of Grand Rapids will drop off a recycle container at your home and for every pound of recycled material you have, you receive points. Those points are then redeemable at area businesses. We just redeemed a $10 off coupon at 6.25 Paper Studio right around the corner, saving us 20%.

Our Move to The Morton | Grand Rapids Urban Living

Update: We have continued our Grand Rapids tiny house and urban living journey on our website through our Instagram account and a new section on our website.

If you haven't seen them at all, be sure to check them out! 

Rebecca and I returned to Grand Rapids in late 2004 after a few years away at Michigan State, living in Spain and then Petoskey. Both our families were in Grand Rapids and we wanted to make it our permanent home. We rented for a while and just before the housing crash, we purchased a home on the west side of Grand Rapids. We thought we would have a few kids, have a wonderful home to raise them in and continue in our career paths.

Over the past decade though, things have changed. The housing market fell apart just after we purchased our home and we were upside down in our home's value, unable to sell. We still have no children, that has not changed. However, we have realized that many of our favorite times in the past decade have been spent while working or visiting urban neighborhoods. We first figured this out a couple of years ago while visiting a high rise condo complex in the heart of downtown Chicago. As we walked through the property, we decided that urban life was something we wanted to try.

Fast forward a couple of years, we tried selling our home (which obviously didn't sell that time). Our businesses continued to grow as we dreamed of being in downtown Grand Rapids, somehow. Then one day we had an unknown realtor contact us. It was amazing how God worked out the introduction to Kevin Lee, which happened because of my wonderful in-laws. Kevin contacted us and we had several discussions about selling the home. But because of the soft housing market, we decided to hold off for the moment as we didn't think we would sell for our asking price and didn't have anywhere to move to.

Enter The Morton.

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Rebecca originally walked through the property during ArtPrize 2014 when Rockford Construction showed Grand Rapids what it was doing with the former hotel property. She fell in love, but realized we probably couldn't sell our home because of the higher sale price in a less than stellar housing market.

This past July, once again God stepped in and put Rebecca in contact with Rockford Development for another project where she inquired about The Morton. They said it was going great and they were scheduled to open during ArtPrize 2015. We called to setup an appointment and were one of the first to walk through the property when non-construction tours were available. This was mid-July.

Then Kevin contacted us again (out of nowhere), letting us know how the market continued to climb from the spring and now into the summer. He suggested we meet and talk about our plans for selling and moving downtown.

After lots of prayer and a "Geronimo!" moment (spurred on by a marriage message at Matt and Lily's wedding in July 2015 as well), we decided to get the house ready to sell. Paperwork was drawn up, photos were taken, our home was listed and we had offers within the first two weeks! We officially closed on the home sale today!

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We have since packed up our home, sold our furniture, moved into one of the "Urbaneer" units at The Morton, which is a fully furnished, ready to move into space. It's very similar to a tiny house design, where storage units are built in and hidden, space is designed with specific intent and even our bed is an efficient 'Murphy bed'. We are now residing in downtown Grand Rapids, experiencing the true meaning of city life.

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We have enjoyed sharing this journey with you and would obviously welcome you to our new home if you're interested in seeing what the urban lifestyle in Grand Rapids is all about. We are sure there are more great things to come from this new adventure and we simply praise God for His guidance and direction in bringing this all together in such a short amount of time!