#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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July Recap

I completely skipped recapping the month of June and in July, I set aside my bullet journal and tried not to track every little detail of our life on paper. What I learned from this experiment was that while I might not always enjoy jotting down what we ate for dinner, I miss seeing the results at the end of the month. I miss looking back at what we’ve done to see how far we’ve progressed toward where we want to be. Alas, I guess I am a goal-oriented person after all (*big sigh*).

Once upon a time, shortly after leaving my career in corporate training, I rebelled against goal-setting. I even wrote a post about the importance of not having goals. But that was then and for as much as I like the thought of embracing each day as it comes, I think it’s equally as important to have some sense of direction in one’s life. Goals do that for us – even the small ones. 

So I’m back to bullet journaling and thankfully, Angie did not take a break from her goal tracking efforts so I have some idea of how our July went.

Angie made this nifty thermometer for our fridge.
  • We removed 55 items from our home, bringing our decluttering total up to 696 items for the year.
  • We earned $62 in side-hustles, which will go toward our trip to Canada this fall. We tried a new app for side hustling this month called GigSpot. The jobs are mostly mystery shops but we found one fairly easy audit among the bunch. It’s an ongoing gig through September so we will probably do a few more over the next few weeks.
  • We enjoyed 10 completely meatless days (or 61 meatless meals).
  • We hiked 28.4 miles and walked only 13.5 miles. I’m not sure if it’s the heat or the fact that my back was out for a few days after our long hike that kept us indoors but we plan to do more walking in August.
  • Our dumpster finds have slowed down (mostly because the hot weather makes most perishable dumpster items…well, perish…before we can get to them) but we did find: 2 giant baking potatoes, a Vidalia onion, 1 can of blackeye peas, a 12 ounce bag of hazlenut coffee, an 18 ounce jar of crunchy peanut butter, a 30 ounce jar of cashews, an 8.5 ounce bag of dried tropical fruits, and 6 mini Coca-Colas. All items were unopened and in-date.

After having such a wonderful visit with our friend and former neighbor, Suzanne, this month, we decided it might be a good idea to meet some of our current neighbors. You never know when and where you’ll find those lifelong friends but one thing’s for sure, they aren’t hiding behind the couch inside your own apartment. You have to get out to meet them. So we went to our apartment’s “Summer Pool Party”. The food was awesome! I can’t rave enough about that. The games were fun too. But meeting new people…yeah, that did not happen. We spoke to lots of our neighbors but sadly, none wanted to carry on a conversation…or share a picnic table. It was pretty sad really. Folks here just don’t seem to want to mingle outside their family or clique.

Undeterred by the pool party, we’ve decided our best bet for making new friends probably lies in finding folks who share our interests. To that end, we’ve decided to kill two birds with one stone – knock out our volunteerism goal for the year and meet new like-minded folks at the same time – by joining a farm gleaning with the Society of St. Andrews. Angie is diligently monitoring Facebook for one near us and we hope to participate in August. We’re also looking at other volunteer/recreational opportunities as well, including an overnight paddle trip and a river clean-up event.

No bites = big smiles!

Speaking of being outdoors, I want to give a shout-out to my niece for her suggestion to use Baby Magic Creamy Baby Oil as mosquito repellent. Trust me, we were very skeptical. We have tried 4 different kinds of bug spray this year – 1 homemade, 2 naturals, and 1 with DEET – and we still get eaten alive by mosquitoes when we go outside. Yesterday we used only the Baby Magic and hiked 2 miles in the woods by the lake. I kid you not, neither of us has a bite today. I read that the oil in it creates a barrier that mosquitoes can’t land on or bite through very easily but I’m not sure how true this is. All I know is that it worked for us on this occasion and it smells really good too.

How was your July? Did you discover any new things? Make any new friends? Read or watch anything interesting? We’d love to hear about it.