June Progress to Goals

This month had its share of wins and losses…sometimes even in the same moment. Spending $600 to repair our Xterra definitely decreased the amount we were able to save, but being able to have it repaired also prevented the much larger expense of replacing our vehicle. Similarly, we had another financial win-lose with our apartment, which I’ll explain a bit later.

Here’s how June turned out:

June Expenses

Goal #1: Live on 50% of our income
Status:
At 56%, we continue to come close but we’re still not quite achieving this goal. We did make a few changes to our accounting procedures in June. First, I moved car repairs to Flex Expenses. Gas and general maintenance remain under Absolute Expenses but car repairs (like other unexpected repairs) are not something that happens monthly (I pray!!) and they are not something, in our case, that is required for daily living. Since I work from home, the car is more of a want than an actual need.

Next, in an effort to streamline our expense tracking (ie. declutter my desk of receipts), we decided to try using cash only for groceries, household goods, and dining out. No debit, no need for a receipt. We set a budget of $340 for the month. I’m happy to say that we ended the month with $3.93 leftover. Not bad! We were able to stay within budget, even hosting 2 dinners for our out-of-town visitors; but the bigger win is the fact that we reduced our Absolute Expenses for the month by 4% simply by setting a spending limit. This also helped increase our savings by 1%.

Though it wasn’t a goal per se, we started experimenting with smartphone side hustles this month. From the few apps that we tried so far, we’ve earned a total of $55.

7% of this month’s budget went to prepaying for experiences. We’re taking a few days in July to visit Jekyll Island, GA, where we’ll be taking a dolphin excursion and a nighttime beach walk with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, among other explorations.

Goal #2: Spend more time outside the box (apartment)
Status: We added this goal back in April in an attempt to find reasons to stay in our cheap apartment when our lease came up for renewal. We have decided not to renew our lease so this is the last time this goal will appear in our report. We’re currently playing around with a few thoughts on new exercise goals as a substitute though. But back to the apartment…

Last week we were watching Netflix and enjoying a bowl of homemade ice cream when I noticed a shadow at our kitchen window. I could make out hands cupped around a face peering into the window. It freaked me out. The next day, I went to check the mail and our neighbor from next door blocked me in the stairwell. Though he didn’t do anything but talk, I still got scared.

On Friday, we went to look at another apartment in a better part of town. It is not going to be as cheap as our current apartment but it has a few perks that I feel offset the difference. It’s safe. No one can walk past our window and peer in. In fact, we can actually have the blinds open to see the sunshine. And it has a balcony! We thought we could handle the lack of outdoor space in our current apartment by going to the park but that’s just not feasible all the time, especially when you simply want to sit outside and have a cup of coffee before work. We won’t be moving until the end of August but even coming home from submitting our paperwork (and our $200 deposit), I felt a huge sense of relief.

Goal #3: Be a part-time vegetarian
Status: On track. Our CSA share continues to get bigger and better each week, allowing us to create new and interesting all-veggie meals. Our meat consumption has consisted of mostly pork this month, as we continue to clean out the freezer. Angie made BBQ for our guests. We also found a local source for uncured bacon. (I’ve decided that my part-time vegetarianism still allows for BLTs and sustainably-farmed seafood.)

Our sub-goal this month was to re-evaluate our wardrobe. Here’s how we downsized our duds:

Melody Angie
Short Sleeve Shirts 25   21 23   20
Long Sleeve Shirts/Sweaters 16   13 9     8
Hoodies or Sweatshirts 4     3 2
Jackets or Coats 3 2
Lounge Pants 3 3
Shorts 12   11 12   10
Jeans 4    3 4
Swimsuits 2 2
Hats 6 6
Shoes 7   6 5
Total Clothing 82   71 68   62

I anticipate a few more t-shirts will make their way to Goodwill after summer but for now, we were able to cut 17 items from our closet.

Our money saving focus for July will be on canning and preserving foods. We’ve already started putting squash, zucchini, and blueberries in the freezer and are expecting a bumper crop of tomatoes to come in over the next few weeks. My mom has agreed to teach us how to can tomatoes. Since we go through about a dozen cans of store-bought tomatoes a month, we’re really looking forward to that.

May Progress to Goals

Our money saving focus for May was alternative transportation. When I created our goal list back in December, I must have been thinking that May would be the perfect time to break out the bicycles and pedal our way around town. I definitely didn’t know then that it would rain almost the entire month. So, aside from walking to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday, we did very little in the way of alternative transportation this month. And that’s okay. Why? Because I didn’t realize until now just how little we spend on gas in the first place. We average spending just $2 a day and that includes taking my mom to the doctor, running errands for both households, and the occasional day trip to catch a minor league baseball game. I think I can live with $60 a month in gas.

Here’s how May turned out:

MayExpensesCorrected

Goal #1: Live on 50% of our income
Status: We came close again. Our flex expenses are still way out of line with where I want to be. That’s my fault this time. I got a traffic ticket from our friendly neighborhood red light camera. I blew through what I thought was still a yellow light going 55 MPH. I suppose I could have slammed on the brakes but with my fragile mom in the car, I thought it best not to do that. Our newly minted “experience category” saw a little action this month. We paid for our flights to New York in October, along with camping fees for our July and August trips. Our quarterly rec center membership was also due. Savings increased a bit over last month (up 5% – yay!!). I’d still like to see this closer to the 20-25% mark though. I have more student loans to pay off after all.

Goal #2: Spend more time outside the box (apartment)
Status: We had a strange turn of events in our apartment complex last week. My mom thinks it might have had something to do with the rather passionate (yet eloquent) letter that I sent the landlord regarding the mattress left outside our door. Regardless of what precipitated it, I’m happy to say that all residents received a letter outlining new policies on the cleanliness and maintenance of the building. No inside furniture can be left outside. No BBQ grills sitting permanently in the parking lot. No dogs tied to the stair railing. No smoking in the laundry room. It’s pretty sad that you need to tell people these things but sometimes they may just need a gentle reminder (like a letter from the landlord that says “remove your junk or we’ll remove it for you”).

So back to going outside…this month we only went to the rec center twice to walk or swim. With Angie gone half of the month, I opted instead to spend more time with my mom. We did go hiking twice and took an impromptu picnic to the park, where we spent the afternoon playing corn hole and watching a baby deer take its first steps. We also went letterboxing in Bowling Green, KY before watching the Hot Rods get beat (the visiting team scored 10 runs in the first inning!).

And somehow (bribery, I think it was) my mom managed to convince us to spend this past Saturday at a cookout hosted by her former coworker Diane. I had never met Diane and as a self-proclaimed introvert, I was pretty apprehensive about going. Turns out we found our tribe. Diane and her husband, Mike, are former hippies who once lived in a commune. Both are retired now and live on a mini-farm, with chickens! Mike is an artist with an art studio the size of two of our apartments. Both of their children and their families are well traveled, intelligent people, living life outside of normal. It was inspiring to meet other folks like us, on their own journey toward a better way of life. Needless to say, we had a great time.

Goal #3: Become a part-time vegetarian
Status: We didn’t purchase any meat at the grocery store this month. That’s a plus! But we still have a few pounds of pork in our freezer that we’re slowly working our way through. I think we probably ate more meat than we wanted to this month simply because we weren’t home. Angie was in Texas with her mom and I was dining every night with mine. Though we did have some all vegetable meals, my mom made a meatloaf and Angie’s parents served venison and beef a few times. At the cookout on Saturday we did really well, eating only one piece of chicken buried beneath a plate of veggies and fruit. (One of Diane’s children is a vegan, so we had grilled squash, asparagus, and a quinoa salad to fill up on.)

I do believe that joining a CSA will help us with this goal going forward. With so much fresh produce in our basket, it is hard not to be a “mostly vegetarian” (as my mom calls us). I am pretty proud of us though for making better choices in what we bring home from the store. We’re buying mostly local and almost all organic now.

In June, we’re focusing our attention toward a more minimalist wardrobe. This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while (an excuse to take another pass at our closet). In comparison to the woman who tried to give me 8 boxes of just shirts/blouses from her closet decluttering project, we have very little in the way of clothing. But to me, it still seems like a lot. Will June leave us with only a suitcase full of clothing to our name? Will I finally be able to say goodbye to my favorite (old and ragged) t-shirt? Stay tuned to find out!