I will freely admit that we are not great at being consistent about trying to reduce our electric bill. I have really good intentions to ONLY LINE DRY and keep everything unplugged, but then life happens and I need dry pants and am days behind on laundry and forget to unplug PoniesandFIREjr's nightlight in a rush to get out the door in the mornings. Le sigh.
That being said, I received an email from our electric company today on our quarterly energy usage and they included a cool chart that shows our usage over June, July and August of 2017 versus the same months in 2018. We are actually down about 20%!
I am actually shocked by this. I know we are doing slightly better, but I really would not have guessed that much better. How is this possible?
1. We replaced four windows. Our house is mad old and some of the windows are just old and terrible. While we still have a ton of windows left to replace, these four windows were the worst of the worse and I think they are actually doing something to improve our home's efficiency.
2. With the new windows, we are only using 1 window AC unit this summer, versus 2 last year.
3. While I am not exactly killing the unplugging game, the times I do remember must be helping.
4. We switched out a light fixture to a new one with efficient bulbs.
5. I am trying to air dry our laundry, but I really do still have a long way to go on this front.
These small changes are snowballing into a good sized improvement. Over the course of years, a 20% savings is not insignificant. I'm proud of us! We aren't perfect, but we're improving!
This is our meal plan this week:
Sunday dinner – Whole chicken in crockpot ($4.50 at Aldi), green beans (FREE), corn (FREE), zucchini bread ($1 or less in baking supplies)
Monday lunch – Leftover chicken sandwiches
Monday dinner – Mac & Cheese ($1.39) and hot dogs ($2)
Tuesday lunch – Leftover chicken sandwiches
Tuesday dinner – Tacos (about $7)
Wednesday lunch – Leftover chicken sandwiches
Wednesday dinner – Egg wraps/breakfast for dinner ($2.50)
Thursday lunch – Rice ($1.39) and Beans ($0.69)
Thursday dinner – Pasta ($1.09), meatballs ($3.49) and veggies from garden (FREE)
Friday lunch – Leftover pasta for me, Mr. PoniesandFIRE is getting lunch provided by work this day
Friday dinner – Frozen pizza ($3)
Saturday lunch – Egg wraps ($2.50)
Saturday dinner – Go out to dinner ($35)
This week we are killing it on the meal plan for two reasons. The first is that our garden and our neighbor’s garden are going crazy right now, so that means we’re buying next to nothing for produce. The second is that whole chickens were on sale and that has turned into FOUR meals for us!
We used ALL the chicken and I even made my first batch of chicken stock from the bones. I’ve also been freezing a bunch of quartered tomatoes to use in pasta sauce and chili this fall and winter.
My first attempt at zucchini bread came out fantastic and was way easier than I expected. I think I’ll do another few batches Sunday, since I have about eleventy billion zucchini left from the garden and a few more still growing. The apples on our trees are close to ready. I think I am about a week away from starting to bake some pies!
I was inspired by debtfreeplusbabies on Instagram to give Poshmark a try. I’ve listed a few of PoniesandFIREjr’s outgrown clothes and then added a couple kid’s toys. I was feeling like nothing would ever sell, but I finally got a bundle offer yesterday on two toys. They offered $10, I counteroffered at $15 and they accepted. I’ve printed my label and will put it in the mail tonight. Go me!
I have no idea how I get paid or how long the process takes, but so far this has been pretty straightforward, so I assume the payment process will be as well.
This weekend Mr. PoniesandFIRE is out of town, so I am planning to spend a bunch of time Saturday night listing items on Poshmark. I think I have another 15 items I could get listed. We have some big expenses coming up (propane, wood pellets, new tires, etc), which we have budgeted for, but will be a little tight, so any extra I can get in will bring us some peace and breathing room.
I also set a personal goal of getting the truck down to $16,000 by the end of the year, which is a reduction of $4,742 from where we are today on it. My plan is to send $1,200 for the next payment in September. Truck loan, we are coming for you…
Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I are not surrounded by a plethora of frugal individuals. I have one co-worker who is pretty financially savvy and we both casually joke about our 5 year retirement plans, but we don’t talk too many details. Other than that, sometimes it feels like us against the consumer driven world.
It gets tiring to say no to spending all the time when surrounded by people saying yes. Sometimes, I feel jealous of their carefree attitudes. More often, I feel anxiety for their futures.
It is amazingly helpful for me to feel connected to the #debtfreecommunity and the Mr. Moustache forums to help keep the focus. I am on my PoniesandFIRE Instagram account more than my “real life” account at this point. Between all these online communities and writing in this blog, I feel encouraged and more content in our choices. It feels like we aren’t so weird to focus so heavily on creating a solid financial foundation over buying the latest gadgets and gear.
It is more than the frugal tips and new ideas I am gathering by reading and seeing all these posts. I find myself becoming caught up in other people’s journeys. I am excited for their wins and successes. I feel disappointed for people when they are struggling. A simple like or comment on a post gives me a boost on a hard day.
If you are new to trying to improve your finances, I strongly suggest diving in deep to the online communities and being an active instagrammer during your journey. In the crazy and sometimes cruel world of the internet, the #debtfreecommunity and Mr. Money Moustache forums are amazingly filled with good people ready to give some honest support as you change your life for the better.
I fell down the personal finance rabbit hole after we bought our house and I looked at how long 30 years was! I panicked and found myself googling “how to get out of debt faster,” which brought me to the world of Dave Ramsey.
If you are new to trying to take control of your finances or looking for some new motivation, here are my 5 favorites!
1. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey (www.amazon.com/Total-Money-Makeover-Classic-Financial/dp/1595555277/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533906756&sr=8-1&keywords=total+money+makeover)
This book started us on our journey and I loved it. We are not super religious, so we glossed over those references, but it really does have common sense suggestions. If you feel overwhelmed, read this and follow it. It is a great game plan to get started and feel the power of making progress. Commit to follow it for six months and see how much your life can change!
2. Retire Inspired by Chris Hogan (www.amazon.com/Retire-Inspired-Its-Financial-Number/dp/1937077810/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533907192&sr=1-1&keywords=retire+inspired+chris+hogan)
Mr. Hogan is under the Dave Ramsey umbrella, so a good part of this book echoes the words of Dave Ramsey, but takes it to the why and what of retirement. I loved the sentiment that retirement is not related to age, but instead your financial position and this steered me towards looking not only at our current budget, but what our budget will look like in 10, 15, 20 years.
3. The Simple Path to Weath by JL Collins (www.amazon.com/Simple-Path-Wealth-financial-independence/dp/1533667926/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1533907254&sr=1-1&keywords=the+simple+path+to+wealth+by+j.l.+Collins)
After falling down the Dave Ramsey rabbit hole for a few years, I started to branch out and become interested in other ideas. This book was the KEY to creating a plan for our investing finances beyond “put 15% in your 401k.” I wanted more, I wanted to optimize and I wanted the security of financial independence and this book laid it out for me.
4. Mr. Money Moustache’s blog (www.mrmoneymustache.com/)
Not a book, but a blog with more information than I knew what to do with. I think if I hadn’t started with Dave Ramsey, I would have been overwhelmed and turned off by the extreme ideas there, but following the Dave Ramsey plan was a little extreme and I saw the success from that so taking it a step further seemed reasonable at this point. This blog truly helped me understand the 4% rule and get a handle on what our real “FI” number is.
5. The Frugalwoods blog (www.frugalwoods.com/)
Again, not a book, but a blog, but she also has a book which I also loved (Meet the Frugalwoods). Her story is inspiring and being the same age as me and the fact that she moved about 30 minutes from where I grew up, really is relatable for me. The message of frugality putting them in the position to choose what brings them joy in life and chase that, rather than materialistic goods is fantastic. It has helped me reframe my thoughts on when and how I spend money and what items I need in my house/life.
Dave Ramsey is an advocate for the emergency fund and presses listeners to build up savings when a potential storm is on the horizon. Although we have a nice amount in our baby step 3 pile, I think Mr.PoniesandFIRE and I will be following this advice and boosting our emergency fund.
Mr.PoniesandFIRE works in the railroad industry and his company has had a series of situations that make us a little concerned about possible changes in the company, including annulments and possible layoffs. There are rumors of pink slips and some coworkers below him on the roster are sending out resumes to other railroads. He has enough seniority that we aren’t super concerned, but his company may be facing some EPA fines and/or lawsuits, so we foresee some belt tightening on their end for sure.
If Mr.PoniesandFIRE were to be out of work, we could survive on my income and my business income, but we would need to be more diligent, as it would be very tight. This little bit of fear is pushing me to review the budget and see what we can adjust NOW in order to put ourselves in a more prepared situation.
1. Groceries – we’ve been a little lax about sticking to the budget here and things like beer or a bottle of wine cause us to creep over. Time to stick to under $100/week!
2. Cell phone bill – mine is paid by my work, but Mr.PoniesandFIRE’s could certainly be reduced. Time to investigate!
3. What else can we sell? I have someone interested in my old flute from high school through FB Marketplace. I am supposed to meet them tomorrow, so hopefully that will be gone by the weekend and an extra $100 in our pockets.
Mr.PoniesandFIRE currently has a 40 hour guarantee, even if he’s annulled, so I really am not too worried for the short term, but this is definitely a reminder that even with three stable incomes in our household, there is always reason to keep a good emergency fund and extra incentive to reach FIRE ASAP.
I saw a quote on Instagram this morning about how you don’t pay for things with money, you pay for them with hours of your life. Whoa, what a way to think about purchases.
I’m sitting during my lunch thinking about how many weeks at work of my life my truck purchase was. The answer is way more than I am comfortable with for sure. Then I’m thinking through how many weeks of my life are going to be spent before it’s finally paid off. I love my truck, but I don’t think this is a mistake I will ever repeat. I intend to drive this truck until it falls apart and then my next truck will be paid for in cash and absolutely used.
We are seven years away from our FIRE goal and it just feels like the progress we are making is so slow. The truck feels like a logjam holding back our progress. I’ve been ignoring this debt because of the low interest rate and the fact that we had two important home repairs to make (windows and garage roof), but now that those are done, I WANT IT GONE.
Our current plan is to bank as much cash as we can between now and the end of the year. In the New Year, once we have an idea what we will owe in taxes, we pay it off in full. Worst case scenario, April 2019, no more truck payment.
Then, December 2021, no more house payment.
Then, December 2025, FIRE.
Because I want my hours more than I want more things.
1. Family hike. We try to do a couple family hikes each spring, summer and fall. PoniesandFIREjr calls it “going exploring.” We bring the dogs, pack snacks and go have an adventure. If we’re not feeling super motivated, we have a ton of walking trails local to us that aren’t too overly difficult. PoniesandFIREjr is also super into maps for some reason, so as he gets a little older, I think we will implement some sort of map in the house where we can mark the hikes we’ve done.
2. Day at the lake. We have a free waterfront area at the lake here in town. PoniesandFIREjr can waste away hours playing in the water and sand. We bring a bucket and some shovels, pack a picnic lunch and we’re good to go.
3. Library time. Our library is super fun. It is dog friendly (seriously, there are dog beds and treats for all visiting pups!) and it’s cool in the summer heat. We will go spend an afternoon or evening picking out a dvd, puzzle or game and two new books for the week. Sometimes we’ll hang out for a while and read. Our librarian lets PoniesandFIREjr use the scanner to check everything out, which he loves.
4. Hit up all the school playgrounds. With school out, we have a couple nice school playgrounds near us that are sitting empty. Since PoniesandFIREjr isn’t in elementary school yet, they’re exciting and new to him! It’s free, it’s easy and when we get bored with one, we try another.
In 2011, Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I bought a house while newly engaged, in every wrong way possible. It was a foreclosure that needed some major work. We barely put down a down payment and what we did put down was mostly from a 401k loan that we took out. We rolled closing costs into our mortgage and actually mortgaged more than the purchase price.
We took out a 30 year mortgage with a 4.75% interest rate. We dropped probably another $8k the first few months living there, when we found we had burst pipes from them being improperly winterized and that we needed a pellet stove to heat the place, plus a variety of other expenses to make the home livable (read, NOT nice).
It was probably two months later that I found myself in front of a computer googling “how to get out of debt,” and came across Dave Ramsey. That was our real entry in personal finance and we then cash flowed a wedding, paid off credit cards, student loans, the 401k loan, vehicles and more. We had PoniesandFIREjr. We figured out daycare costs. We eventually got to the point where we were able to pay extra on our mortgage.
Things were cruising along financially, but it felt like some funds were slipping through our fingers. We weren’t as tight on our budget as we had originally been and while cash flowing some expenses, it felt like weren’t making any progress on our house.
Mr. PoniesandFIRE suggested a refinance, but I was against it as, on paper, we should be able to make big progress on the mortgage and pay it off soon, so why go through the hassle of a refi? I dug my heels in a bit on this, but when I realized we could reduce our interest rate and that there would be very minimal closing costs, I was swayed.
In October 2017, we refinanced from our 30 year 4.75% to a 10 year at 3.25% with our local credit union. At that point into our 30 year mortgage, a regular payment was only reducing our principal by around $370 a month. Our first payment on the 10 year reduced our principal by $1,000!
If we don’t pay ANY extra between now and the loan’s maturity, just by making this refinance, we will save ourselves over $50,000 in interest!
I know there is strife over paying off mortgages early in the FIRE versus Dave Ramsey worlds, but for us, we still plan to shoot for being mortgage free as soon as possible. Once our mortgage is gone, I could get rid of my side hustle with zero negative financial effects to our lifestyle and make huge improvements in our quality of life.
For us, the 10 year was such an improvement in our interest rate, as well as being the kick in the pants we needed to stay on budget. Rather than our extra payments dwindling like last year, they are built in now, but it’s not so tight that a bad month financially would be hard to make the payment. Even if we go through with selling next year and downsizing, the progress we will have made in the 18 months on the 10 year will be hugely helpful!
If you haven’t considered it before, I definitely suggest checking out a 10 or 15 year mortgage refinance and don’t forget to check your local credit union! Our credit union could beat every other bank we tried by at least ½ a percent!
My side hustle is running my own horse training business and last week I was at a competition with 6 of my students from Wednesday through Sunday. I used vacation time from my regular job and Mr. PoniesandFIRE planned a week of vacation at the same time, to get some stuff done around the house and be home with PoniesandFIREjr.
I was dreading going a little bit, mostly because it’s a long time away from home and long hard days. I always enjoy it when I’m there, I love working with my students and seeing them and their horses progress, but the days before I always feel like not going.
Funny enough, it seemed like I blinked and was already back on the road home. Today I’m working on my billing and, while it’s not a lot of money if I were to break it down hourly, I’ll be about $1,000 richer once my clients pay. Sometimes it’s hard, but I have to keep reminding myself that the long days of extra hours of work do go by so fast.
I have three more weekends of horse shows before another day off, which is a little rough, but the nice weather and possibility of making some extra payments on the truck by the end of June has me pretty pumped up. I’m feeling like there’s going to be good progress made in June!