Every year it seems like I dread this time of year. I hate being cold. I hate buying propane and wood pellets. I hate how early it gets dark. I hate the thought of coming snow. I dream of spring.
This year, for the first time, I actually am feeling some joy heading into this time of year. Our wood pellets and propane are already purchased and paid for with cash and while I still hate being cold, I am looking forward to cozy nights at home in front of our pellet stove. I’m looking forward to apple pies, crock pot meals and all the upcoming holidays. I’m looking forward to our paid for in cash vacation.
I still don’t want the cold and snow, but I will try to embrace the positives of the seasons. I assume this is some version of maturity finally hitting me?
It’s a little bit how I am starting to feel about our debt free journey. When we started paying things off, I just wanted to be on the next step. I wanted to be totally debt free and have the freedom that comes with owing no one. I wanted the options that that promised our family. But here we are in 2018 with around $150k in debt between our truck and house and even if we are as intense as possible and chase every raise, bonus, side hustle money and I sell every extra item in our house on Poshmark, we are still looking at a few years to hit freedom.
I desperately want the debt freedom. I want our monthly budget to be small enough that we can live off of one of our salaries. I’m starting to get that I can want that and fervently work for that, while still enjoying the NOW. I can enjoy where we are in the journey, I can take pauses, I can breathe.
Life is a journey, not a destination. I get it, it sounds corny, but I’ve always understood that. It turns out though, that understanding is not the same as embracing. I’ve been hitting this debt journey will blinders on and felt like a failure every month that went by where I didn’t exceed the previous month’s progress.
So, here is my promise to myself for the rest of 2018. I will embrace where we are NOW. I will still look to the future and work to get there, but I will not sacrifice the enjoyment of now. Life isn’t going to happen when we are debt free. Life is happening now.
I love books. I have always loved books. When I was a kid, I would use my allowance every week to pick out a new paperback and I would consume it in hours. I was a voracious reader and by the time I graduated high school, I had multiple bookshelves full of books. I gave away, sold or donated none of them and considered them precious possessions.
Between my sophomore and junior year of college, my parents retired, sold their house and moved to Florida. Some of the books I took with me and then rest I made them cart with them for “someday” when I had my own place. When my parents decided Florida wasn’t for them and bought a house in Ohio, I made them bring all the books back north again. In retrospect, I probably should have let them just donate them years ago, but I was so attached.
Now I am 34. I have a house, I have a child who is learning to love books and I am realizing, slowly, that my collection of books does not bring me joy. I have probably hundreds of books that I doubt I will ever read again and holding onto them just makes my house cluttered and gives me something else to dust. If we do sell and downsize, the thought of moving them all AGAIN feels horrible.
In an attempt to find the joy of my books again, I am reviewing my collection and honing it down to my actual favorites, books I know I will read again, or books I am looking forward to sharing with my son. It is both an exhausting and freeing process. We have a small library in our town that we visit weekly and I am donating my giveaways to them.
I briefly looked at selling them, tried a couple different ways and determined there just is not a market for used paperback books. So I am finding the joy in knowing at the library, someone will get use of these books again.
It is depressing to look at this collection of books and realize how much money spent they represent. I wish my parents had directed me to libraries rather than books stores more or helped me find a balance and encouraged me to just spend a portion of my money on books, rather than everything. Between the library and hoopla (my new fav app), I know now that I can keep myself and poniesandFIREjr reading for years and never spend a penny if I don’t want to.
For a long time I was held by the feeling of “but what if” I decide I want to re-read a book I own but I had given it away? Now, I feel like, “so what?” I can borrow it and return it! Duh. I can still love the book, still enjoy the story, without it being mine.
I think I’m starting to get this minimalism thing. Own the things that bring you joy, but more things do not equal more joy.
We are not super strict on our grocery budget. We have come a long way since we started and with the opening of Aldi in our town, we are spending less than ever. That being said, we are not that firm about cutting here. Even without really trying that hard, we keep spending less and less. We are loosely keeping to around $100/week and most weeks we are under budget.
How is this possible?
1. We are utilizing everything possible from our garden. This year I actually succeeded with a bumper crop of zucchini, squash, tomatoes, onions and more. What we aren’t using, I am actually freezing. Or I was, until I ran out of freezer space.
2. We are eating all our leftovers, religiously. They either come to work with us as lunch the next day, or we have a leftover night for dinner.
3. We are planning our meals in advance and planning meals that are cost effective.
4. We are paying attention to what’s on sale!
None of this is really challenging. Sure, there are days where we get crazy and get home late and are tired, but we can plan for that! On those nights, we pop in our frozen pizza from Aldi or just do leftovers. It’s better for us and cheaper than the old days where we might order a pizza or just run for Chinese food on those nights. It is amazing what just a little pre-planning and paying attention has done for our finances surrounding our grocery bills.
Last week Mr. PoniesandFIRE was on vacation. I went to a horse show for a couple days with a client and then took a couple days off to help with home projects. Our plan was to get through a bunch of stuff and then reassess where we were at mentally with our home at the end of the week.
We ended up jumping into a kitchen renovation. Our kitchen was terrible when we bought the home. We tore out an oven in the wall that didn’t work and smelled of dead mouse when we moved in. We had an old electric cooktop in one of the counters and used just that for years.
Finally, my dad put in a new stove/oven for us last year and the cooktop became just a dirty waste of countertop. We knew this was something we needed to get rid of because it was both gross and doing nothing for our home value. The countertops themselves were an old chipped white laminate.
Now, my dream would be to hire a professional to redo EVERYTHING floor to ceiling in that kitchen, but we are cash-flowing this folks. So we went to Lowes and checked out counters. I wanted butcher block, but that was going to be over $6k installed by them, so that was a hard pass. Second choice of quartz or granite were also both a little above where we wanted to be. We decided on a solid stone surface that will be around $3k installed.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that our home is a 100 year old farmhouse, so we spent the weekend removing the old countertop, sink and super gross cooktop, and quickly came to the realization that NOTHING IS LEVEL. Nothing is level and therefore, our easy countertop project has become bigger. We need to make everything level before the countertop people will template and then install.
A quick trip back to Lowes and we are ready to go with plywood and shims and we have until Thursday to get these things level.
Current Kitchen Reno costs:
1. Countertops from Lowes - $3,000 (we are adding a row of cabinets, so the surface area is larger)
2. Plywood, shims, nails, level, wood glue, misc., - $150
3. Three new base model cabinets for the new row - $285
4. New sink and faucets - $400
I also plan to do the following, if we don’t go over budget:
1. Chalk paint kitchen cabinets
2. Redo backsplash
3. New light fixture
5. Add shelves on one empty wall
6. Redo floor somehow…?
The plan is to do everything ourselves, with the exception of installing the countertops. Neither of us is particularly handy, but we’re trying our best. Every skill learned is money saved! :)
Whether we are selling or staying, once again, nothing is decided.
In the last ten days, I have sold $44.05 worth of stuff (my cut) on Poshmark. Our year to date total on stuff we’ve sold is $329.05! It feels great to get things out of the house that we are not using (mostly outgrown by PoniesandFIREjr) and have the money hit our account.
It has me really fired up to sell more. I listed another four things last night. I have a couple bags of baby clothes that I was hanging onto for the “but what if…” factor, but I think I am ready to list all that stuff too. I think we are done with having our own kids and we’ve agreed we won’t move forward with talking about the possibility of fostering to adopt until we’ve paid off the truck and made some big progress on the mortgage. I’d rather be rid of the baby clothes and be that much closer to paying off the debt than hold on to them but put off fostering to adopt, if that makes sense?
I have some majorly crazy long and short term goals floating around in my head and selling more stuff makes them slightly less crazy.
1. I want to pay off the truck loan ($20,742 currently) by the end of January 2019.
2. I want to take the months of July and August off from my full time job to spend time with PoniesandFIREjr next year before he starts kindergarten next year.
3. I want to pay off our mortgage by the time PoniesandFIREjr finishes 1st grade ($131,795 currently)
Now, these are good goals in the sense that they have a time frame and are measurable, all the things goals should be. They’re bad goals because they are absolutely insane. $20k in 5 months, when we have a vacation, Christmas, and probably a million other things coming up in that timeframe? It sounds impossible.
But so what? Say it is impossible. Say we go insane, work extra, cut the budget, sell everything we can, and don’t hit the goal in time. If we only pay off $16k or $17k by then, we are not failures! We are still making awesome progress and we just adjust the time frame. Nothing is lost by making our goals stretch and challenge us.
I have very little extra to send to the truck in September, so I’m going to create it. Every dollar I make from selling stuff in September is going directly to the truck loan.
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.
Happy mid-August! This month is going well, but not perfectly. I found out I needed a crown at the dentist and the co-pay was $650. Ouch. We cash flowed that this week, but we are now in a strict no spend situation until we get paid again, as our mortgage also comes out this week.
I was feeling a little down about this, but how then I flipped my thinking. How amazing is it that we can cash flow a $650 co-pay?!? Pretty boss, if you ask me.
We have been under budget for the last two weeks on groceries AND I sold my flute from high school for $100. We put that money into our vacation fund. We are going to Disney after Thanksgiving and even though we are pre-paying for everything, we are going to need a little cash on hand so I’m psyched we have that money for that already.
Our latest payment on the truck cleared and we now owe $20,742. I am listing stuff like crazy on Poshmark and FB Marketplace and hoping that I can put together the money to get UNDER $20k ASAP on that.
We are also getting close to being in the $120s on our mortgage and I am going crazy keeping myself from sending extra from our emergency fund to that to make it happen. For some reason, that feels like such a big milestone. Mr. PoniesandFIRE and I agreed that we wouldn’t send extra to the mortgage until the end of 2018 and that paying off the truck would come first, so I have to keep it together. Jumping from goal to goal without completing the first one does us no good.