July Progress to Goals

Our money saving focus for July was on canning and preserving foods. Our CSA basket has been great this summer. Between it and the little bit we got from our garden and our Farmer’s Market finds, we were able to put away:

  • 12 quarts of squash & zucchini (mixed bags)
  • 5 quarts & 2 pints of tomatoes
  • 2 quarts of okra
  • 5 quarts of blueberries
  • 3 quarts of blackberries
  • 4 quarts of strawberries
  • 2 quarts of apples
  • 18 ears of corn
  • 4 whole (cored) bell peppers & 1 pint of pepper pieces
  • 12 jalapeno peppers

We still have about 2 months to go in the growing season here in Tennessee, which should add more corn, tomatoes, apples, and pears to our inventory. Not only will we get to enjoy homegrown goodies during the off-season but we should continue to save on our grocery bill as well.

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Aside from stocking away food, we did a few other things in July. We took a trip to Jekyll Island, GA where we began brainstorming ways to add more fun into our everyday life. We started a new blog, Going Sightseeing, as a result of that brainstorming. Going Sightseeing is more of an experience journal than a true travel blog; kind of a place to showcase the fun stuff we do outside the topic of minimalism. We’re hoping it will re-inspire us (and others) to get out and do things again.

On the financial front, we continue to work toward our main goal to live on 50% of our income. We came in at 61% this month. Our electric bill went up nearly 40% (it was either that or live in a sauna). Transportation costs were up $25. That’s one of the consequences of venturing out more in a sprawling suburban town that lacks public transportation. I’m okay with that trade. We saved 16% again and reduced our Flex Expenses by 14%. Yay!!

JulyExpenses

We have also started thinking about how our budget will be impacted next month when we move to an apartment with a higher rent. I plan to talk more about this in a different post later this week but for now, we’re looking into ways to cut some of our remaining expenses, increase our side-hustle income, or get a better grip on tracking where our money goes. My Excel spreadsheet serves us well but it’s a manual process and sometimes I accidentally leave things out, so we’re considering an app like YNAB or Mint.

I haven’t shelved the idea of semi-retirement. Owning more of my own time is on my mind almost all the time. To get to a place where I feel comfortable leaving my full-time job though, we need to first accomplish two things: 1) pay off my student loan and 2) fully fund our “escape” account. The escape account is something we set up a few years ago. The original purpose was to fund a gap year. Now we’re thinking that we would use the funds to facilitate a move to semi-retirement. Knowing that all of our bills would be paid for a year gives us plenty of time to secure a new revenue stream, whether that’s a part-time job, starting our own business, or something else altogether. We have lots of ideas! Stay tuned for updates 🙂

It’s Only Money

It’s not often that I’m asked by a complete stranger to read a book but it just so happens that this is exactly how I came to read It Is Only Money and It Grows on Trees by Cara MacMillan. I have to admit, when I first started the book, I was skeptical. It is written in a colloquial style, as the teacher, Catherine, is speaking with a group of international students on the topic of money. Not too many books on money are written this way. After reading it though, I’m thinking perhaps more should be.

The conversations between the students and Catherine pack a pretty powerful information punch. I really feel that I learned a few thing from this book, especially with respect to the different religious and cultural views of money. I have friends of different faiths and from different cultures but we’ve never had a real conversation about money. I suppose I just took for granted that they held the same Americanized beliefs about money that I (once) had. Maybe they do but more likely they don’t, since I’m sitting here  right now thinking about how successful each of their lives are.

The Jewish parable of the 6 jars was probably the most interesting concept that I read about. Those who practice this allocation method have to live on 50% of their income. It’s not an option to do otherwise, since the remaining 50% is allocated to other specific areas, like giving, investing, and saving. (I did Google “6 jars” after reading the book, only to find that I’m once again out of the loop. Apparently this method of money management is more common than I thought.)

It Is Only Money isn’t necessarily a book about minimalism but it does speak to minimalist principles, like differentiating wants from needs and avoiding unnecessary purchases (and high pressure sales). The book also talks a lot about living on less than you make, regardless of your income, and using your talents to create income (rather than simply accepting a soul-sucking job that you hate).

The big takeaway from the book is this – money is a just a resource. You trade your time for it. You trade it for other things. And it is solely your choice of trades that determines money’s value in your life. As I’m beginning to think towards early retirement, I’ve become keenly aware of just how very little of my time I want to trade for money and how many things I’m willing to do without to make that happen.

If you visit Cara’s website at caramacmillan.com, you can download a free copy of the It is Only Money Workbook, which is also included in the back of the book and contains practical tips and exercises. The exercises have been particularly helpful in jump starting my creative thinking about our financial future.