1st Quarter Progress Toward a Better Me

The first quarter of this year is almost in the books, and though Spring is officially “sprung” and the Redbud trees outside our apartment are in full bloom, I still find it hard to believe we are already on the cusp of April. I’d ask the age old question “where does time go?” but I already know the answer. Time, like money, goes exactly where you spend it.

Though the fickle weather kept us indoors more often than we wanted, I’d like to think that we spent the first 3 months of this year at least somewhat wisely. Our goal toward being a “better me” was to Live simply. Prove that we can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life with less. To do that, we came up with a few objectives. Here’s how we progressed this quarter:

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Strive for no unplanned spending.
    • We received $2,195 in extra (unexpected) income in February so we had to adjust our original budget a bit. This income excludes side hustles, which we won’t see any profit from until April. The largest portion came from our tax refund, but another part was a surprise gift. Of this amount, $1,385 went directly to savings and retirement. The remainder paid for our annual CSA subscription ($295), a new tent ($192), and a trip to the Smoky Mountains.
    • We had four unplanned purchases: a mini greenhouse at Tractor Supply that was marked down to $11.99, $26.22 in personal care items from God’s Green Earth, $14 in gifts, and $11.44 for a lamp (needed, but still unplanned) and cake pan (for my Mom) at Goodwill.
    • In February, we added a charitable giving category to our budget. For every month that we come in under our $250 grocery budget, we’re giving the remainder to one of 3 food-related charities in our area: Society of St. Andrew, Nashville Food Project, or Presbyterian Mission. So far, we have donated a total of $40.60.
  • Buy used when possible.
    • We gave it our best shot when sourcing supplies for our rain barrel project but sadly, we couldn’t find any used gutters at the Habitat Re-Store. We did purchase our bedroom lamp at Goodwill  for $4.99.
  • Eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat.
    • We had 65 completely meatless days (out of 90) or 244 meatless meals. We prepared only 2 meals at home that contained meat (actually seafood). The remaining meats that were consumed were at dinners hosted by my Mom. In total 9% of our meals contained meat.
  • Do something active 3 times a week.
    • Depending on how liberal the definition of “active”, we may or may not have met this goal. When it was too cold to play outside in January, I knitted 3 hats. That’s active, right? Angie, of course, continued to work out several times a week. Together, we went on a couple of hikes, a few walks outside, and a whole lot of walks inside buildings (did you know you can easily walk 2 miles or more inside Walmart while doing side hustles??). We played on the gym equipment at the park once. And we’ve worked in the yard/garden at least twice a week since mid-February. As the weather improves, so will our achievement of this goal (or at least that’s the plan).

Food Waste Update

No food finds this week. Our dumpster is now hidden behind a construction fence and we don’t really want to be caught snooping around behind it. I can’t imagine trying to explain to the police that we’re only interested in the oranges, not the stacks of expensive materials and construction equipment lying about. 

  • Wasted Food this week: 0 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 50 ounces
  • Rescued Food this week:   0 US pounds
  • Total Food Rescued this year:  184.39 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.

#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?