April Recap

April should have come with a warning label. At best, you could say it was an unfortunate month. At worst, I’d call it a downright disaster!

We shot out of the gate, armed with good intentions, and for a few days we were on a roll. We went to a festival, ate tacos from our favorite food truck, had a picnic, went letterboxing, and walked/hiked 31.6 miles – all within the first five days of the month. Then things went downhill fast. My niece was admitted to the hospital with a severe kidney infection. The doctor said that if she had gone just a few days longer she might have done irreparable harm. Most of that week we had the baby. She’s a wonderfully sweet 22-month-old ball of energy and we love her to pieces but she will wear you out. Needless to say, it took several down days afterwards for us to recover. Then the little one got sick too. She was in the ER twice in a 12-hour period before being diagnosed with Strep.

In the midst of all this, we celebrated Angie’s birthday. I use the term “celebrated” very loosely here. The eggplant lasagna that I made for dinner turned out to be largely inedible. I’m not sure what went wrong but I’m thinking the eggplant itself must have been bad (though it looked and felt fine to me). Our plans to go for a nice long walk were thwarted and we found ourselves at the mall instead. Note: when you try on every hiking sandal in 3 stores and still can’t find what you’re looking for, chances are very good that you don’t need hiking sandals.  And by being at the mall, we missed my mom dropping by to deliver a slice of strawberry cake from Chef’s Market, the most delicious bakery in all of Middle Tennessee. (We later went to her house to retrieve said cake.)

Despite our setbacks we managed to eek out a few small victories though.

  • We removed 112 items from our home and shed. This brings our decluttering total up to 329 item for the year.
  • We both read 3 books. You can check out my page or Angie’s page on Goodreads for more details.
  • We had 11 no-spend days again. I’m beginning to wonder if counting no-spend days is even an accurate measure of success though. When I know that we’re going to spend money, I simply try to combine all spending into that one day so the next is a no-spend day. But $50 spent in one day is still the same as $25 spent on two consecutive days. And when you’re actually working within your budget, isn’t miscellaneous spending already accounted for anyway – no matter how many days that spending is spread over?? What are your thoughts on no-spend days?
  • We made $155.30 in side-hustles, almost all of it from selling clutter on OfferUp.
  • Angie scored another month of free bagels from Panera, of which we only missed 3 days of picking up our newest obsession – Sprouted Grain Bagel Flats.
  • Our meat consumption was up just a bit but we still managed 9 entirely meatless days (64 meatless meals). This was due in large to part to rescuing 9 pounds of unopened, in-date, deli-sliced turkey and ham just as they were being tossed out (for reasons unknown).
  • We hiked 24.4 miles and walked 56.6.
  • We went on our first official camping trip of the year, during which time we completed our letterboxing goal. We found 24 boxes in Murfreesboro, Manchester, and McMinnville (TN) bringing our total to 56 for the year.

Today is the 2nd day of a brand new month and we plan on making a few changes to the way we’re tracking our progress toward our happiness goals. We also plan to make a few changes to the way we approach this whole pursuit of happiness. After reading Erin Loechner’s book Chasing Slow, I’ve come to realize that chasing anything, be it happiness, a career path, sustainable living, better relationships, or early retirement, is counterproductive. To chase is to run after and to run full tilt toward anything, no matter how noble, almost always guarantees you miss the scenery along the way. I, for one, feel like it’s time to just slow down.

How was your April? What one thing would you change to make May a better month?

January Recap

January is always one of my favorite months of the year. It’s a time of new beginnings and birthdays – mine, my mom’s, Angie’s mom’s, and a lot of our very good friends.

After focusing only on our finances for an entire year, it’s kind of refreshing to talk about something else in our recap for a change. Improving happiness – that’s our goal this year – and to do that we’re working our Happiness Project Bucket List. Here are some of the highlights of our first month.

The Good

  • Bullet journaling is going great. I love it!
  • Our decluttering efforts have really paid off. We’ve removed 150 items from our home. Some we gave to the kids, who are moving into their new house next week, some we sold on Ebay (resulting in $55 to put toward our upcoming vacation), and the rest we donated to charity.
  • We each read 3 books. Check out my page or Angie’s page on Goodreads for more details.
  • I posted 10 articles to the blog and kept up with our Instagram and Facebook pages.
  • We walked 59.6 miles and hiked 3.6 miles.
  • We came up with Work-Free Wednesdays and Freebie Fun Dates as a way to focus on taking time out for ourselves and each other. We spent a total of $21.58 on 4 weekly dates that each included lunch at a restaurant and an activity like bowling, hiking, or playing board games.
  • We watched 2 documentaries this month: Minimalism: A Documentary and Food Choices.
  • csa-basketAngie tried sweet potato fries for the first time (she didn’t like them) and I tried dried kiwi (I wasn’t a fan). Together we enjoyed 15.5 totally meatless days. We also signed up for our Spring/Summer CSA share, which we’re really excited about. One of my high-school classmates and her husband operate a small family farm nearby. They are offering their first CSA this year, with pick-up at the Farmer’s Market. Though we loved our CSA partner last year, this one is nearly 1/2 the price for the same amount of produce. And we already know that we love their veggies. They were our back-up supplier last year.
  • We planned our first trip of the year – a week in Florida in March to visit our friends and take in a Tampa Bay Rays Spring Training game. This trip will be almost completely funded by reward points and easy side hustles…but more on that later.
  • Speaking of side hustles, we gave up our regular merchandising hustle this month. We decided it was one of the things interfering with our happiness so we bid them adieu. Instead, we completed a few Easy Shifts and Field Agent assignments at our leisure, earning $98.95.
  • I reinstated the Mom-velope and managed to stay within budget ($20) for those one-off grocery trips for my mom.

The Not-so-Good

  • Learning to say “no” is still a very active process and we’ve had a lot of practice this month. To help, I took some steps to make it harder for me to just give money to certain family members when they ask, including cancelling the card we were using for transfers and printing out a list of free services in our area where they could turn for help. However, we said “yes” on one occasion where we both felt the better answer was “no” and we had a pretty rough evening because of it.
  • The ground was too wet and muddy for most of the month so we didn’t get to go on as many hikes as we would have liked.

The Budget 

We went back to basics with our budget this month. As I mentioned in a post last week, we didn’t try to give every dollar a name or a job this time around. Instead, we took out our grocery money and cash on the first and, with the exception of 2 gas purchases, left our account alone for the next 30 days. Our bills, savings, and investments are all automatically withdrawn. The results were phenomenal. We came in $192 under budget!

We also enjoyed 19 “no spend days”. In looking at our spending for January though, we only had 2 purchases that were not groceries or experiences. Because of this, I may rethink how we’re counting our “no spend days” for the coming months. Those 2 non-essential purchases – a board game for our newly instituted “game night” ($14.68) and a 16-pack of gel pens for bullet journaling ($4.94).

How was your January?