2019 Goal Check-In (Part 1 – The Fun Stuff)

As we are quickly approaching June – the midpoint of the year – I thought now would be a good time to check on where we are with the goals we set at the beginning of 2019. First for the fun stuff…

We are in week 21 of our 48 Really Great Dates project and so far, we’ve managed to go on 20 dates. You won’t find any expensive dinners or theater outings, no opera nights or wine tastings on our list. Hello, we’re frugal minimalists! Our dates were so cheap that some were even free. Book signings, berry picking, waterfall hikes, and sharing a free chocolate croissant…that’s what you’ll find on our list.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Admittedly, we got off to a rocky start with dating. At first, I thought it was because we were out of sync – we’ve been together nearly a decade, after all – but I soon realized that wasn’t the case. We’re so used to doing what we want when we want that the concept of a structured weekly date was just so foreign to us that we almost failed. For the first few weeks, we found ourselves saving up the fun stuff so that we could execute one “epic” date. But the dates weren’t even that epic. In fact, a lot of the planned dates didn’t even go as planned and we ended up just doing something to “fill in the slot”. To fix it, we threw the rules out the window and started having fun again. A lot of our recent dates were planned on the fly and they, by far, have been the best ones yet.

Though it wasn’t one of our written goals for the year, we are always striving to be more frugal, self-sufficient, and minimalist. Though we failed at cutting our home internet service, we succeeded in not turning on the central heat at all this winter. We saved $91.12 (over the previous year) by operating only 2 electric heaters when necessary. February is our coldest month here. In 2018, our February electric bill was $177. This year, it was $102. I would love to say that we’re going without A/C this summer but that’s not happening. The dynamics that help make our home warm in the winter (east-facing windows and being the middle apartment in a 3-story building) also help make it hot in the summer.

Sadly, the farmer who has hosted our CSA for the past 3 years decided not to do a CSA this year. We thought about joining another CSA out of Kentucky. Though they are less than an hour away, we felt we weren’t really supporting our local farmers. We have so many wonderful folks who show up to sell at the Saturday market that it seemed a shame not to shop there first. Our previous CSA cost $25/week so we added that amount to our budget for the Saturday market. So far, we’ve enjoyed a variety of lettuces, onions, radishes, tomatoes and many, many delicious strawberries!

We also planted our “tiny” garden again this year. We have yellow squash, eggplant, okra, cow peas, onions, radishes, watermelon, sunflowers, and 3 different kinds of tomatoes. Inside our apartment, we’re even trying microgreens, along with a new crop of herbs. So far, things are looking good…well, except for the pesky mole that keeps running through the onions. We’ve already harvested a few radishes and our squash are in bloom.

Our other goal for 2019 was to work on defining our relationship with money so that we might peaceable coexist. When I first started writing this update, my intention was to talk about our progress here as well, but as I started typing (aka letting my thoughts ramble onto the page), I realized that this is a post all unto itself. Since we’re heading off on our first camping trip of the season today, I’ll save the money talk for next week. Until then, have a great week!

What goals did you set for 2019? Where are you with those goals?

Pennies For Produce

Our Farmer’s Market opened late last month, and my mouth immediately started watering for homegrown produce like you would not believe! We were among the first to arrive on a rainy Saturday morning and it was more than an hour later before we left with 3 bags of microgreens, sunflower sprouts, and spinach; a bunch of radishes, a gallon of strawberries, a loaf of bread, a jar of sugar-free blackberry jam, and an aloe plant. We spent $46.50 (nearly a quarter of the “market money” we had saved over the winter).

Though we love our Farmer’s Market and could talk for hours about the benefits of buying local, the story of how we came into our “market money” is what I really want to talk about today. You see, it never ceases to amaze me how much valuable stuff people throw away – including actual money sometimes.

Last October, when our Farmer’s Market ended for the season, Angie and I came up with the idea to save our change over the winter to spend at the market next season. We thought we’d end up with maybe $20 – $30 at most but, pretty soon, we started finding change all over the place, from pennies at the car wash to quarters in the parking lot of our apartment. Then there were the carts at Aldi. We live next door and often walk through the parking lot on our outings. Despite having to pay a quarter to use a cart, there are still a lot of folks who leave them in the lot (or in the grass). We returned nearly $8.00 worth of carts. (That’s 2 quarts of fresh, juicy blueberries or 4 bags of spinach, by the way.)

Another thing that we passed on our walks was the dumpster – 5 of them to be exact. In or near a typical apartment dumpster, you can find all sorts of stuff. We’ve been rescuing a lot of these items and taking them to Goodwill for years. This time, we started listing some of them on Marketplace. Though it was often a pain in the rear to meet up with people, we managed to make $38 on a couple of items that we found. And speaking of found – on several occasions we stumbled upon $1 and $5 bills at the park. We racked up another $12 this way.

Then one random day in February, we decided to declutter the hall closet. There’s not much in the hall closet of two people who have been minimalists for the better part of the last 7 years, but we did manage to scrounge up some puzzles, a couple pairs of bowling shoes and a tiny space heater to add to our Marketplace listings. We also threw in the money we made from ditching our microwave, for a total of $55.

On the night before the Farmer’s Market opened, we sat down in the living room floor, dumped all our change on the carpet, and started rolling. When we ran out of rollers, we were at $67 – and we hadn’t even touched the pennies! I would venture to guess that we left at least $20 – $30 in the jar for next time – the very same amount we thought we’d have in total in the first place.

Our actual “market money” total was $180, enough to fund our trips to the Farmer’s Market for at least 6-8 weeks (even including our over-exuberance on week one). We’re pretty proud of that, but detailing our good fortune is not the only reason I started this post.

In this world, there are two types of people – the ones who throw pennies away and the ones who pick them up. The penny tossers are also usually the same folks who throw away their dollars without much thought. How many times have you heard someone say (or have said yourself) – “It’s only a dollar (or $5 or $20)”- when contemplating some random purchase? The penny tossers don’t see the bigger picture. Small amounts of money don’t matter, they will never make you rich, so there’s no logical reason not to buy the candy bar, the mocha latte, or the lottery ticket. I mean, there’s a real chance that ticket could be worth a million dollars, right??

The penny pickers on the other hand, they know the real score. They know that all denominations of money spend exactly the same – and they all save the same too. We pick up pennies because they add up, maybe not to enough to make you “rich” but then again, what is the definition of rich anyway? When we take our $180 in mostly found money to the Farmer’s Market this season and trade it for delicious tomatoes, squash, melons, and berries – I’m pretty sure we’re going to feel like we hit the jackpot.

But, if that’s not enough to inspire you not to walk past unwanted change on the ground, this ingenious math from FI Tradesguy might:

Let’s assume that picking up a coin off the ground and putting it in your pocket takes two seconds (it does, I do it all the time!) That means you can pick up 30 coins per minute and 1,800 coins per hour. Here is the simple table showing the hourly rate of picking up coins at two seconds each.

1,800 coins X $.01 = $18/hour

1,800 coins X $.05 = $90/hour

1,800 coins X $.10 = $180/hour

1,800 coins X $.25 = $450/hour

I pick up change because of the mindset behind the action, but I also pick up change because I don’t want to pass by a couple seconds of really high paying wages. Every time you find a penny and pick it up, you can tell yourself that you just made $18/hour. Find a quarter and make $450/hour! Granted, you only worked for two seconds, but who wants to pass up $18 or $450 per hour? No matter how long you can work that gig.

Honestly, I’d never really thought of it that way but the excited feeling I get when find a quarter says that there’s some truth to that logic. $450/hour is some serious cash. Who wouldn’t be happy to find a quarter??