This month, we’re participating in the Super Lean Spending Challenge with our friends at Decluttering the Stuff. As we approach the middle of the month, I thought I’d post our progress so far.
Total spending month to date = $258.26
We spent $19 on entertainment for our February Freebie Fun Date and $16.81 for dining out (2 trips to Jersey Mike’s). Of the $40 we budgeted for gifts this month, we spent $32.66 (one birthday, one housewarming gift). We do one large grocery shopping trip per month (this time it was on the 4th). We’ve spent $144.88 on groceries for the month so far, which included a quart of local honey ($17.39). Honey is a staple around our house. Spending on household goods ($44.91) included the purchase of seeds from Seed Needs and Tractor Supply for our garden, 2 spools of thread for a sewing project, cat litter and new toothbrushes.
Our total grocery, household, and entertainment spending for February 2016 was $613.75 (or about 13% of our income). Using that as a baseline comparison, I think we’re on track to have a Super Lean Spending Month.
It’s that time of year – time to do a quick check of our overall progress toward our goals. If I had to give us a mid-year grade, I’d say we hit a solid B or maybe even an A-. Here’s how:
Mission 2016 launched on January 1st with the bold goal to live on 50% of our income. Our absolute expenses have managed to stay around 54%. Of this, we’re pretty proud!
The remaining chunk of our income has gone toward the following:
Flex Expenses: 2 car repairs, a new washer, landscaping and gardening materials
Experiences: Getaways to the Smoky Mountains (TN), Northern KY and Cincinnati, and Golden Isles, GA; tickets to 6 minor league baseball games; 2 hammocks; 2 fishing licenses, membership to our local community center and pool; Netflix and miscellaneous movie rentals.
Savings: including contributions to our IRA and paying off of one student loan
Business Expenses: post office box rental (which we can get rid of next month), Microsoft Office online, WordPress annual fee
In previous posts I’ve always shown just the percentages, never the actual amounts we spent or saved. I’m definitely not trying to hide that info but until recently, I didn’t think it mattered. In my current job, I write a lot of grant proposals to request funding for low-to-moderate income populations. I guess it never dawned on me that we might actually fall into that population ourselves. In fact, when I looked it up today, we just barely beat the low-income benchmark for our county (by a mere $150). At $44,000 per year, we’re a moderate-income couple! Woohoo!!
I suppose you could say that when it comes to personal finance, we’re playing in the minor leagues. And that’s okay. Chances are good that most of the folks reading this blog play there too, since 71% of Americans earn less than $50,000 per year.
Quick random fact: The salary of a Class A minor league baseball player is somewhere between $1,100 and $1,500 a month before taxes.
So what do I hope to achieve by all this data sharing? First, laying out these numbers in black and white is helpful to me as I think about semi-retirement. It lets me know where we need to cut expenses and exactly how much we need to earn to maintain our current standard of living. Second, and more importantly, I’m hoping you’ll be inspired. If two random chicks in TN can save money and still live a pretty cool life (if I do say so myself) on a moderate income, I’m betting you can too.
Financial success isn’t based on the amount of money you make, it’s based on your attitude toward that money. And that’s where minimalism comes in. Minimalism taught us to focus on only what was essential. Food, shelter, clothing, good health, and a way to get from place to place are pretty much all that we find essential. The rest is just a want (and yes, we do indulge in more than a few of those). My point is, when you simplify your life, you simplify your need for money and the money you do earn becomes a lot easier to control.
Back to the check-up.
To reach our larger goal of living on 50% of our income, we set monthly focus areas. Here’s a summary of each month’s progress:
January – The Grocery Game – Since this was written, we’ve eliminated almost all meat from our diet and are receiving most of our produce from our CSA share and weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market. Occasionally we still shop sales at Kroger or Food Lion but for the most part, we shop at ALDI.
February – DIY Household – We’re still using the compost bin that we made, as well as the “home gym” that I made for Angie, and all of our cleaning products are still made from vinegar.
March – Decluttering for Cash – We made about $180 in March, which promptly went toward paying for a car repair. As we prepare to move next month, I’m still decluttering for cash. Only this time the money is going toward vacation.
April – Cheap Travel – Though we’re not going as many places as we once did, when we do travel, it’s pretty cheap. Our recent trip to Golden Isles, GA cost less than $350 for lodging, transportation, meals, and 3 excursions (including a dolphin tour, a turtle walk with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and a day trip to Cumberland Island via the ferry).
May – Alternative Transportation – The thing that I learned in May was that I don’t like bicycling. I love to walk. I would take a bus if we had one but for some reason, I hate to bike. It might be the lack of bike lanes here or it just may be that it makes my butt sore. Regardless of the reason, we sold the bikes to someone who would enjoy them.
June – The Minimalist Wardrobe – We added 2 shirts and a bathing suit after our last tally but plan to weed though the remaining old T-shirts when we pack for our move.
In the second half of this year we want to continue our goal of living on half of our income (so long as I maintain my current employment). We also want to pay off another student loan and look into some ways to get those paid off even quicker. We have plans to travel to NY in October and if my mom’s up for it, we’ll be taking her to NC to visit family sometime before then.
So why the B grade? I deducted points for our failed attempt at gardening. We spent way more money on gardening supplies (a wheelbarrow, garden implements, watering hoses, organic seeds, trellises, and posts) than our garden has produced. Our cucumbers died after giving us only 3 pickles. Our squash was on a roll until the squash bugs killed it. And our poor tomatoes! All of the big ones became infected with cucumber virus and died. So for a handful of carrots, a bucket of cherry tomatoes, 2 potatoes, 15 squash, and 3 cucumbers, we paid more about $400. Sad 😦