#5TF: August Recap

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 10 – August 26 – September 1, 2017

This is the final week of my Five Thought Friday Challenge. Having a writing prompt has definitely helped me make sure I post something at least once a week and it’s been a great way for me to really think about my everyday life, those little things that we sometimes forget on the way to life’s bigger adventures. It has been fun so who knows, maybe this winter will bring with it some other writing theme. For now though, it’s time to gear up for travel season.

But first, our August recap…

We made progress on our walking/hiking goal by adding 48.2 more miles to the total. We also completed our goal to find 100 letterboxes this year. For the month as a whole, we decluttered 11 more items, giving us a total of 707 items this year. We earned $223.90 in side hustles. $65 of that was from selling 2 items on OfferUp. We enjoyed 61 meatless meals (or 20 completely meat free days) and picked up 50 of our 62 free bagels from Panera this month. (I love bagels but I sincerely hope they pick someone else for a free month of bagels for the rest of this year. We’re a bit bageled out!)

Though we’re no longer tracking “no spend days”, we do still try to stay within our budget each month. For August, we saved 15% of our income toward retirement and investments. 48% went to essential living expenses (rent, utilities, and insurance). 10% was allocated to paying off my student loan. 21% was spent on groceries, household goods, and transportation (not including a car repair). 6% went to gifts and entertainment.

I don’t know about you but zero-sum budgeting sometimes makes me feel broke (since there’s no dollar floating around out there without a dedicated purpose – no mad money, if you will, beyond what’s been designated as such) but it’s also the best way I know to ensure we stay on track with our financial goals. I have 2 student loans to pay off before the end of this year and I intend to get there. To do that though, we need to revisit the amount of money we spend enabling others. Or rather, we simply need to revisit the whole “enabling others” scenario. We spent $120 this month on gas and groceries for other people. For some that may not seem like a lot but for us, it represents about 5% of our overall budget.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was visiting Rock Island State Park. With the exception of getting eaten alive by chiggers (again!), we had a great time picnicking, hiking, letterboxing, and taking in the views of 3 stunning waterfalls. The best part though – our cell phones had no service for most of the day, which gave us a chance to really unplug and enjoy our time away. I wish we could have taken a dip in one of the swimming holes but it started to rain and we didn’t want to chance slipping on the steep trail leading down to the river. You can read more about our adventure here.

I am grateful for good neighbors. Judy has been my mom’s neighbor and friend for 20 years now. She’s a great person who has helped my mom a lot over the years, from watching her cat, Daisy, to bringing her medicine when she was sick. Last weekend, she let us borrow her lawnmower to cut the grass. Thank goodness, because it has rained almost every day since then! She also connected us with someone who could repair our mower on-site at a reasonable price. (Sadly this means we did not get to ride the mower uptown dressed in costumes on Saturday.)

Speaking of repairs…

I need to let go of the fear of failure or rather, the fear of messing things up if you make a mistake. We like to pride ourselves in being hands-on DIYers. We’ve tackled toilets, installed floors, and once even renovated a 30-year-old camping trailer, including the wiring! So why did I second guess myself this week in repairing our car? Because it’s new(ish) and I didn’t want to mess it up if I was wrong. So we took it to the shop and as it turns out – I was right. There was a crack in the coolant reservoir tank. To fix it ourselves would have been $60 for the parts and about an hour of our time. To have Firestone fix it – $299 – and they had to keep it overnight. Let’s just say – this was an expensive lesson learned!

Ticky’s hula shorts

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky came over on Monday with her little friend Gracie. Having two 2-year-olds running around the apartment was entertaining enough but watching them play dress-up with my night clothes and a basket of shoes would have made even a stone statue crack a smile. Ticky found a pair of striped shorts that I’d laid out and asked Angie to put them on her (which she did). For a while, she paraded around with her “hula skirt” on, managing not to trip on the length. When she discarded the shorts and ran off to other things, I thought it would be okay for me to put them on. Oh no! Ticky grabbed the hem and tried to pull the shorts down and then tried pulling them from the waistband. “My pants,” she said. “Can I borrow them?” I asked. She answered with that simple little word made famous by all 2-year-olds – NO – so needless to say, I had to change clothes. (Photographing children is like photographing wildlife. They move so fast, you often get just a blur. This is the best photo I could get of Ticky wearing my shorts.)

As I mentioned above, travel season is about to begin. The garden is coming to an end and our lawn chores are slowing down so it’s time to go out and have some fun. In addition to our road trip and cruise in October, we are planning a few Fall camp-outs, another visit to the beach, several meetups with family throughout the country, and we’ll be at the Tennessee Tiny House Festival next weekend. It sounds busy but it’s not. Every trip is an opportunity to relax, unwind, and enjoy the great company of friends. We’re looking forward to every adventure we have planned for Fall.

How was your August? Were you able to cross any items off your happiness bucket list?

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#5TF: Maintenance Woes

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 9 – August 19 – 25, 2017

You might say that this week’s theme was “home repairs” or rather “how many times can you call maintenance in one week??”. It all started with the strange circle that appeared on our bedroom ceiling (definitely evidence of a leak) and progressed to our fire alarm going off for (what seemed like) no reason at all. Turns out the two were related. When maintenance replaced the HVAC unit upstairs earlier in the week, the drain line wasn’t properly installed and it began leaking into our ceiling and consequently, into the smoke alarm. It’s always fun to twist off a screaming smoke detector only to get a face full of water!

To add insult in injury, we opened our water bill for the month only to find that it was nearly triple what it usually is. We pay a set rate for water, sewer, trash and pest control each month – usually $33.68 for up to 1,800 gallons of water. This bill was $82.23. The kicker of this part of the story is that we were making a conscious effort to be more conservative with water this month! We used the dishwasher only 6 times and washed only 9 loads of laundry in a month, and that doesn’t even include our shortened shower times, so we knew there was no way we’d used 8,800 gallons of water. Prior to our conservation effort, we only ever went over the 1,800 gallon mark once and that was when we had guests.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was planning a weekend getaway with my mom and Angie. Next month we are all going to the Tiny House Festival in Chattanooga, TN. It was fun to sit around together talking about what we wanted to see and do and where we wanted to stay. We haven’t been on a trip together since May when we went camping in Kentucky so we are all looking forward to the getaway. And who knows, we may find that tiny “dream house” (on wheels!) that we’ve talked about for years now.

I am grateful for the farmers who provided our great CSA baskets this season. We picked up our last Wednesday basket earlier this week and we’ll pick up our last Saturday basket tomorrow. We’ve gotten some really great fruits and veggies, in addition to getting to know some great folks at the Farmer’s Market. We’re very grateful to have a freezer stuffed full of goodies for the winter – corn, yellow squash, zucchini, okra, blueberries, blackberries, carrots, peppers of all sizes, tomatoes, and even a few bags of cauliflower rice.

I need to let go of checking on my niece and the baby every five minutes. Okay, so maybe it’s more like every few hours, but still, it is something I need to stop doing. They are still homeless, couchsurfing at the moment from friend to friend, and my niece has made it pretty clear that they do not want our help. I would admire the “can do” attitude if it were actually there but at this point it’s more about her just not wanting to get a job or live by the rules of our home than it is about her actually wanting to make it on her own. So, I need to let that go of that and focus on things I can change for a while.

We made progress on side hustles and trying new things this week. We surpassed our October vacation savings goal by $10 but have decided to keep working a few easy side hustles to save for other trips down the road. In fact, Angie is off right now doing an Easy Shift. As for trying new things, we downloaded a yoga app to Roku and gave that a shot on Monday. Though this particular video wasn’t for me, I agreed to try another one tomorrow. Angie has been using the app regularly all week (but then again, she does enjoy exercise more than I do…probably more than most people do).

The funniest thing that happened this week involved yet another repair job. We were on our way to mow Mom’s yard yesterday when we passed by a new shop that repairs mowers. I offhandedly joked that since we sold the Xterra and couldn’t tow a trailer anymore, it would probably be easier to just ride the mower up to this shop if we needed to have it repaired. For the rest of the drive to Mom’s house, we laughed and joked about how we’d wear costumes and wave at passersby as we made our way through town on the mower. Angie even suggested we toss out candy or hand out bottles of water. When we got to Mom’s, I hopped on the mower and what do know…the cable that engages the blades broke when I moved the lever! So I guess sometime tomorrow you should look for two superheroes riding a Murray lawnmower through the streets of Gallatin, TN.

On another note, a friend of ours was inspired by my post on redesigning our dining room and decided to do something different with hers this week. Our friend has two sons (ages 11 and 14). The boys have been complaining about sharing a room so my friend decided to convert her dining room into a bedroom for her youngest son, who happens to be a Yankees fan as you’ll see. Since they live in an apartment and can’t put up an actual wall, she purchased two utility shelves to separate the space from the living room and backed those with curtains. She says the shelves will serve as storage for her husbands work and play gear. I don’t have a “before” photo but picture a typical dining room with a large farmhouse table. I think it turned out rather well!

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