February Progress to Goals

Our overall goal for the year is to live on 50% of our income. To help us reach this goal, we chose a different money-saving focus for every month of the year, with each month’s focus building on the month prior. In January we cut grocery spending. For February, we concentrated on saving money by being more self-reliant, making and/or doing more things for ourselves.

Here’s how things went:

  • Our grocery spending remained roughly the same but our household spending was up in February. We purchased a used freezer on Craigslist ($50), seeds for our garden from Baker Heirloom Seeds ($28.50), and other gardening supplies, including a wheelbarrow, garden hose, and gloves ($77.77).
  • We took our first mini-trip of the year to the Great Smoky Mountains. Total cost for 3 nights lodging, meals, transportation, and entertainment was $342.26.
  • We achieved almost a zero-sum budget this month, carrying over only $22.78 in cash. Every other dollar in the budget had a name and a purpose.
  • We saved 45% of our income, allocated 7% to travel, and lived off of the remaining 48%.

February Expenses

**February was also an atypical month for us. We received a tax refund, which was counted as income.

On the DIY front:

  • We got reacquainted with homemade household cleaners and even added a new one to our repertoire: daily shower spray.
  • We started cutting our own hair again.
  • I helped Angie create a better home gym and we started taking more walks.
  • I mounted a small 18W 14V solar charging panel in our bedroom window to attempt to charge our cell phones, Kindles, and laptops during peak sunshine. This project is a work in progress but overall, it seems promising. I was able to charge my phone by 20% yesterday. (We bought this charger a year ago to use while camping and have never had it out of the box.)

solar charger

  • We reconnected with recycling. In addition to the new indoor compost bin, we set up new stations for general recycling and found a place to take them in our community. We even got my mom started on composting.
  • We broke ground on the new garden – an 8′ x 8′ plot that will hopefully grow enough veggies to provide for 3 people this summer.

2106Garden

One of my other projects for this month was to rearrange our kitchen area to make it more user-friendly and less cluttered. Though I managed to collect a few things from the kitchen to go in our upcoming “decluttering for cash” pile, the vast majority of items in my way were things that we use every day. I just didn’t like the way I had them arranged. To fix the problem, I brought out a few underutilized storage drawers from the closet and reorganized the pantry shelf for easier access to our most used items – like tea bags, seasonings, and freezer bags. I also relocated the microwave (which we decided to keep until it dies and then not replace). The top shelf is serving as a temporary home to our garden seedlings. So far this configuration seems to be working better.

20160229_132736

Missing Our Daily Routines

The word “routine” gets a really bad rap these days. We just don’t like routines. They’re boring, confining, and so very inside-the-box. If you consider yourself a free spirt, like I do, then just the mere thought of having a routine makes you shudder. But we all have them (even though some of us now affectionately call them “rhythms”) and I have to say, I really miss some of mine.

Our new home
Our new home

It’s been almost 5 weeks since we moved into our 22-foot travel trailer in pursuit of a simpler way of life and I’m finding it very hard to maintain some of the good routines that we had established back at home. Recycling is a big one.  At our apartment, we recycled everything. In fact, we had a 55 gallon wicker basket for paper products and a 13 gallon container for plastics and metals in our dining room. For a while, we even composted. All of our aluminum cans went to support the local wildlife center and dumpster diving for donations for Goodwill was almost like a second hobby.

While not impossible, recycling is more of a challenge on the road. We’ve stayed at 3 campgrounds thus far and our current one is the only one with a recycling bin. None of the rest have had even so much as an aluminum can collection box next to their vending machines. Once we even tried taking our recyclables to a facility but were turned away because we’re from out of state. And unlike some areas where grocery stores have recycling dumpsters in their parking lots, there are no such things here. It would be real easy to toss everything out in one garbage bag but we’re trying very hard not to do that.

Mealtimes are another routine that I’m struggling with. No matter what kind of crazy day we had before, I knew I could count on sitting down at night to a home cooked dinner with my sweetheart. We always prided ourselves on eating at home and eating a lot of fresh produce. Being on the road has tossed a monkey-wrench into mealtime. It’s more of a challenge to find fresh local produce (without driving all over creation) and in our cantankerous fridge, harder to keep it fresh.

Angie bakes our first pizza in the tiny oven.
Angie bakes our first pizza in the tiny oven.

It has also been more difficult to eat at home (in the camper) because our days don’t flow like they did before. Some days are full of work, some are full of fun. Full being the operative word here. It’s harder to plan, prepare, and sit down to meals when you’re always doing something. I think we’ve eaten more restaurant food in the past month than we ate all of last year, and that’s something I really want to fix.

Angie does the dishes in our improvised outdoor "dish station".
Angie does the dishes in our outdoor “dish station”.

But it’s not just the meal itself. In our apartment, we ate from real dinnerware – a set my grandmother saved for me when I was a child. We washed dishes by hand (most of the time) and even picnicked with real cutlery. It was a feel-good thing knowing that we weren’t adding any disposable dinnerware to the landfill. Granny’s plates were too heavy and fragile for travel so we bought a cheap set of reusable plates. All around us though, we see folks using foam or paper plates and I admit, it has been tempting to join them. Washing dishes in a tiny sink is no small feat by itself. Washing dishes when your hot water heater doesn’t work and you have to heat water in a tea kettle, makes for an even bigger challenge…especially when you’re exhausted and facing a whole day’s worth of dishes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m setting my frustrations free so that I can hold myself accountable for fixing them. Every new adventure brings with it positive and negative changes and sometimes those negatives scream the loudest for attention. But I love a good challenge and the challenge here is figure out what works best in our tiny traveling home to allow us to carry forward the good routines that are essential to our minimalist lifestyle (and our happiness) – even if that means riding around with a car full of recyclables until we get to a greener location.