Musings About Growing Up and a Social Life

My husband and I are learning to “adult” together, and that’s been fun.  I graduated three hours before I got married (crazy, I know!) and so I went from college kid without a care in the world to full on a responsible adult in about 2.5 seconds. The largest curve hasn’t been the money, I did enough research beforehand to make sure we were gonna be fine, but for me, it’s been the social life. In college, social life was easy. You sit in class with people, study together, the campus is positively teeming with people you know. Once you graduate, it’s different. My best friend moved back to her hometown, and I didn’t know a ton of the people who stuck in town. Besides, since we got married at the tail end of April, May was about us feeling out the waters together, and we weren’t really focused on social things.

June came as a welcome relief from the hermitage we had inadvertently subjected ourselves to. We were so focused on connecting with each other during May that we forgot to connect to the others around us.

The shift happened around Memorial Day Weekend, actually. Rolf and I were serving in the food line at the Greek Food Festival (It’s amazing what cool events you can attend for free if you offer to volunteer for a few hours!) when a coworker of mine asked if we had any plans for the weekend. We didn’t, just the festival. They invited us to go with them to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. Since we’re both a budget, we spent the time playing board games and splashing around by the beach.  

I’d always wanted to be the kind of person who goes crazy places on a whim. Not that Tahoe is particularly crazy, but the idea is there. As my husband and I are deciding what we want our marriage to look like, saying yes to a spontaneous trip was a step in the right direction.  We had a blast.

The next week, we met them at their house for a barbeque and games.  We also hosted our own game night, and I made dinner for everyone. The leftovers were packed into the fridge and I now have lunch for the next few days.

Learning to have a social life on a budget is great. In college, we’d go see a movie or go bowling, or some other slightly pricey, but very fun, activity with friends. Now that we’re married, and life is a little more expensive, we can’t do as many fun things.  

But we’re developing a core group of people we hang out it. It feels a little like FRIENDS. We’re not as closely knit as those six characters, but I feel connected to something. It’s new. And fun. And different. And I’m glad that our marriage is helping us develop cool moments where we get away with friends for the weekend, or bring chicken to a barbeque, or make pork chops for friends.

Food is such a huge part of my personal culture. “I’m southern; I feed people.” and “We can always have more people come over. Just put a little more water in the soup.” are two mottos I live by. And I’m happy that it’s becoming ingrained into our marriage as a social aspect of what we’re trying to build.

On a practical level, cooking once a week forces me to have some semblance of a meal plan (at least for that night), and I end up eating the leftovers throughout the week, which is a budget saver because I’m so often tempted to order takeout. So even though the meal might be more expensive than if I were just cooking for 1-2, it saves time and money in the long run. Especially since the hubby gets fed at work Wednesday-Saturday, so I eat alone most evenings and cooking for one has never been my strong suit.

This weekly night and the random trips we’ve been on since our marriage have been super exciting. Community is something that’s important to both him and me so we’re making it a priority. It’s kinda what’s making our marriage us, I guess.

Monthly Budget Recap: June

This month was our no-spend month, and I’m happy to say, we did well! So much better than May. Not perfect, but better.

Category Money Spent Budgeted
Rent 1100 1100
Travel 449 500
Automotive 80 20
Insurance 258 258
Gas 425 150
Restaurants 0 50
Groceries 148 150
Charitable Giving 0 50
Loans 0 800
Clothing 39 0
Books 0 0
Entertainment 0 25
Household Goods 30 10
Health 49 0
Fees 59 0
Total 2500 2913

I’m super thrilled with how this whole month went. We remained very under budget considering I had an academic conference I attended (see here and here to see how that came together).

Rent: This is pretty much a constant. Not much to say except we stayed in budget. 😀

Travel: I had actually saved for this before we got married, so it’s been sitting in a different account just begging to be used. I was able to get all of my airfare for less than the 500 I had budgeted. Rolf and I agreed to let the other expenses during that week fall into different categories within the budget, but if you want to hear more about my trip read here and here.

Gas: Gas killed me! It’s so high because Rolf and I both made several trips to the in-laws this month and they live about an hour away. Plus, at the beginning of the month, we took a road trip to the bay area to visit the summer camp he worked at for their open to the public day. The date was super fun, but not great on the gas mileage. And right now thanks to the California gas tax, it’s $3.30 a gallon. Those two things together suck. This month we’re trying to drive less. Not sure if it’ll work, but we want it to because $425 on gas is ridiculous.

Automotive: I spent $80 on the Buick to fix the window to help the resale value. I ended up selling it for $500, which is more than the $300 I originally was going to get at a junk shop. I’m just really happy to see the thing gone.

Insurance: As you can see, I didn’t call the insurance people last month, so we still had to pay $258. However, I called USAA (the most wonderful company in the whole world) recently and saved $100 on car insurance. So that bill is going to go significantly down.

Restaurants: Since it was a no-spend month, we didn’t eat out! Go us! Actually, each of us had one meal out (me at the conference and Rolf with a buddy), BUT since our grocery budget was lower than normal, we incorporated it there.

Groceries: I’m really proud of this one. We’re starting to get staples figured out, and I’m working on spending $60 every two weeks for food. I think that if we start doing meal plans, and spending more prep work, I might even be able to get it down to $50 every two weeks, but we’ll see.

Charitable Giving: This one is giving me issues. I’m trying to set up direct deposit, but it didn’t work, so now I need to call compassion and get it figured out. I (obviously) didn’t realize I hadn’t paid them,  so it’s a good thing I do these monthly reviews so I can get it figured out.

Loans: Because my paycheck was measly this month, we couldn’t afford to put anything towards loans. Thankfully we’re still in deferment so this doesn’t affect anything. July is going to be better because I’m making double what I made in June.

Clothing: This was our one splurge purchase of the month. My old running shoes have been giving me shin splints, so I knew I needed different ones. Normally I buy super high-end pairs (in the $200 range), but since I’m not running as seriously, and since our budget is a little different, we went to Nordstrom Rack and found a kids pair of Nike running shoes. They’re lightweight and feel similar to my other ones, and do the trick. Plus since it was Nordstrom Rack, they were last season’s, thus out of style and way discounted.

Books: Nothing to see here gentlemen (and women), moving right along. We’ve actually been using the library A LOT this month, and staying away from bookstores has helped us keep this to a minimum.

Entertainment: We usually save $25 bucks a month to go to the movies. Since we’re on a no-spend month, we didn’t go. I’m actually contemplating buying a movie pass, which would allow us to see more than one movie a month for the price we pay normally. We’ll see though. I’m kinda wary of subscription-based products because I want to make sure I get my money’s worth and stuff like that.

Household goods: Again, this category is going to be a little high since we’re still collecting household goods.

Heath: Gosh these darn doctor’s visits. We might need to actually start budgeting towards this, but I’m hoping that the last round of visits in July will be all I need.

Fees: Okay, so this one is kinda laughable. And a total error on my part. Our emergency fund is a money market account, which is supposed to be used to help protect overdrafts, but I didn’t have it set up properly so when our student loan payment went through, overdraft didn’t kick in, and we were slapped with a $30 fee, twice because Great Lakes requested the payment twice, and I didn’t notice in time.  I’ve since fixed the overdraft issue and we’re smooth sailing from here.

But overall, we stayed in our budget or just slightly over budget on our categories, and below our monthly budget. Now, part of that is because we didn’t pay student loans this month. But part of that is because we worked really, really hard to keep our expenses down. Next month, we’re going to be doing the same.

Traveling on the Cheap: Boston

Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Bruce Beck, I was able to attend Pappas Patristic Institute summer program in June on a scholarship that included room and board. However, I still needed to provide my own airfare to Massachusetts. Since it’s a no-spend month, I wanted to be as cheap as possible, but I had several flights to purchase. One of my best friends was having a bridal shower that I was surprising her at. So I needed a flight from California to Virginia. Virginia to Massachusetts, and Massachusetts back home.  

After price looking at several different airlines, I settled on Spirit. Because it’s a budget airline, I couldn’t take much luggage. But other than that, the service is fairly good. Here’s a breakdown of the flights

Leg 1: $176.

Leg 2: $69.

Leg 3: $204.

I tried to buy them as cheaply as possible by avoiding any bells and whistles. However, I didn’t notice until the second leg that you can skip purchasing a specific seat and be assigned one for free. If I had known that, Leg 1 would have been $30 cheaper.  

Flying to VA was a red-eye so I ate before I left and slept on the flight. Another friend was in cahoots about my surprise plan and picked me up from the airport. All in all, no extra money spent on traveling.

I didn’t spend any money there, either. The party was a lowkey eat tacos and watch movies affair. Pretty much the best! And they took me back to the airport (which was another 3am flight, bless their hearts).

I’m pretty good at avoiding food at airports, and the flight was short (about an hour) so I was in and out of the airport without much of a problem. Thankfully, transit away from the airport is also free. But I ran into a hitch when my purse was stolen, and I tried to go back to the airport to see if I could find it. No luck, and transit back cost $2.75. Not exactly an exciting purchase, but the bus ticket back looks cool. And thankfully, I always carry cash in places other than my purse, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

During the week, all my meals were paid for, and I ate in the cafeteria. I had the option to eat out on the town, and it would have been nice–the caf was in a vegetarian phase–but in the spirit of saving money, I ate a lot of salads that week.

As a group, we went out to ice cream twice. One of the difficulties of our culture is that it’s very food based, and I wanted to hang out with friends, but I didn’t want to spend money. It’s an act of discipline to not order something good and watch other people enjoy it. I held out though, and didn’t buy anything. I ended up splitting a shake with someone the first night though, and a kind gentleman offered to buy me a scoop the second.

We went out to eat the Friday before everyone flew out. I ate before hand and ordered water at the restaurant.

All in all, during the program, I had a week of no-spend days, and I’m really proud of myself. Saturday, however, was slightly different. We ate brunch at the caf, packed up our things, and took an uber to downtown Boston to wander around the city for the rest of the day. It was amazing. We saw Paul Revere’s grave and where Ben Franklin might have been buried, and the site of the Boston Massacre, and where they dumped tea into the harbor. And the Cheers bar, although, I have to admit, I was a little shaky on my pop culture references. As a final rendezvous, we went to a mexican restaurant and I spent $12 on tacos after tip before parting ways.

Then I needed to find my way to Framingham, MA, where I had some military connections who were going to let me stay the night. I had tried to find a cheap flight that Saturday, but alas, the only flight less than $400 was on Sunday. The uber there was $25, which isn’t bad considering it was a 40-minute drive.

However, I used Uber pool, which makes you walk a little ways to catch your uber. It only gives you cross streets and the GPS isn’t that great at locating you so I walked the wrong way, realized it, and started walking the other direction. As I was walking up, my uber drove away and the company charged me $5 for missing my uber. So the ride ended up costing me $30 instead of $25.

The next day, they dropped me off at the Logan Express, and I bought a $12 ticket to the airport. Because my purse was stolen, and thus all forms of identification, TSA pulled me aside to ask me some verification questions, give me a full pat down, and search my bag. The whole endeavor was insanely stressful, and afterwards I was famished. Normally, I don’t buy airport food because they jack up their prices, but Dunkin Donuts had a special going on so I bought two breakfast soft tacos and a coffee for $3.54, probably the cheapest meal I’ve ever eaten while travelling.

In all, travel included, the trip cost me $514.29, not bad for a week away from home. Next year, Pappas won’t be so cheap, and my husband is planning on coming with me, but I’m glad I took the trip to see just how cheap I could travel and still enjoy myself.

I Tried to Pack like a Minimalist, and It Worked… Kinda

Trying to find cheap flights for a multi-city trip isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but if you’re trying to stay on a budget, it’s necessary. Spirit Airlines is a great deal if you’re willing to ditch undercarriage luggage. My flight from CA to VA was $176, from VA to MA $69, and from MA to CA $204. Altogether it was $449, not bad. But their rules are a little strict. You can only have one free carry on, and nothing is complimentary on the plane. That being said, if you’re just hopping place to place and don’t need bags, or snacks, you’ll be just fine. Since I was flying several different places, choosing something cheap and restrictive was better for our budget than taking extra luggage. And I didn’t really need the luggage. I just wanted the extra storage space.

Instead, it forced me to really examine what I wanted to bring. Originally, I had a curated outfit for each day, several pairs of shoes, makeup, and extra hair supplies. However, not all of these would fit into my bag. Instead, I carefully chose what I was going to wear to the airport:  a t-shirt, shorts, and nice sandals that matched all my outfits. And then I packed the rest of my things: an EB White anthology, my bible, two dresses, shorts, yoga pants, toiletries, and three shirts into my small duffle. With the remaining space, I loaded up a smaller bag with my wallet, charger, headphones, another book, and toothpaste and tucked it on top of the clothes. That way I could easily access things in the terminal. The system worked out well*.

Next year, I’m nixing the books because they’re too heavy and I didn’t use them enough to justify the storage space they took up. I always have these grandiose ideas that I’m going to read on the plane, or that a vacation will suddenly make me studious, but I always end up sleeping and then I never actually read them in the evening. So next time, I’m going to accept that I will never be that kind of reader and just take what I will use.

I’m also going to replace one of the pairs of shorts with a pair of pants and add tennis shoes to my flight necessities. Massachusetts was much cooler than Cali, and several evenings when we went walking, I wanted both items. The pants to warm me up, and the tennies because walking around with no arch support for a week wreaked havoc on my knees. Not something I want to repeat.

Overall though, my first minimalist packing trip went really well. I didn’t feel like I had under packed; the items that I didn’t bring, I made a conscious choice not to bring. I didn’t realize how much people enjoyed taking walks into town, or how cool it got in the evening. So I’m changing my list to fit the needs of the event.

Each dress was worn about three times, and if I’m being honest, that’s how many times my work clothes at home get worn before a wash, so it didn’t really change all that much from my usual routine. Afterward, I’d slip into something more casual to go walk around with everyone. And then I wore yoga pants and another tee to bed each night.  

Some of it was a little weird though, a girl there told me that I was her “fashion icon” for the week because I always wore cute clothes (I mean, who says you can’t be stylish AND pack lightly). It made me worry that she would notice and judge the repeat outfits, but I don’t think she did. Or if she did, she didn’t say anything.

Despite that, it was actually quite freeing because I didn’t have to think much about what I wore. I could roll out of bed 15 minutes before breakfast, grab an outfit, run a comb through my hair and start the day. On other trips I’ve taken, I’ve waaay overpacked, and come back with clean clothes. This time, everything was worn, but not overworn. If the trip were much longer, say 10 days instead of 8, I’d have to add an outfit or two. But as it was, I didn’t mind really. I’m definitely going to incorporate this practice into my future trips.

What about y’all? How do you pack for trips?

*It worked out well until one of the bags got stolen on Massport Transit. If I had only had one bag, this wouldn’t have happened, but you live and you learn.

Does Playing Monopoly Teach Us About Our Spouse’s Spending Habits?

I got a lot of advice about marriage during our engagement. Some solicited. Some not so much. One such piece was to play monopoly with my soon-to-be spouse to see how he handles money. We didn’t ever get around to it pre-wedding because well, I had finals to study for. Such is the case when you graduate college and get married on the same day.

But we did afterward the wedding. We settled down to dinner, and I pulled out Anti-Monopoly, a twist on the standard game that more reflects society. There are competitors and monopolists. He was a monopolist; I was a competitor, and while the rules are slightly different for each character, the game playing is the same.

The hubby was rather reckless with his money, and ended up in debt most of the time. At one point, he had mortgaged all his properties and has $11 in the bank, we thought he was done for. And then he passed Go.  He ended up bouncing back, and by the time we had finished our 4-hour game (11pm is enforced bedtime around here. I need my shut-eye to deal with the kids at work come morning), he had $1274 in all his money and properties.

I had triple that in assets.

Ironically, though, while I play rather similarly to the way I manage money (I cried when I had to break my last 500 note. Goodbye emergency fund!), he does not. At all. In our financial life, my husband is classically risk avoidant. When we met for our budget meeting earlier that day, he proposed that we save $900 of our paycheck. Nine hundred dollars, ladies and gentlemen. That’s in addition to the 15% we’re putting in our 401k. The same man that went broke in Anti-Monopoly wants to save $900 a month.

Gotta say, I love that about him. He’s incredibly financially motivated, as am I. And we both have very similar financial goals. But as we played, it was kind of like his alter ego popped out. What would the hubby do if money was unlimited type of thing. He claims that it was a misunderstanding of the rules early on in the game, but I think it was his Mr. Hyde coming out. He doesn’t like Monopoly, so maybe he was sabotaging the game on purpose.

Either way, sometimes playing Monopoly (or Anti-Monopoly) is not an indicator of financial compatibility.  We really enjoyed the exercise. Correction, I really loved the exercise; he begged me to win so we could end the came. But it didn’t end with this giant revelation like all the “experts” said it was going to.

So play Monopoly, but don’t base your future off of it like so many people told me to.

One Month. One Change: May

We tied the knot April 28th, so May was more or less learning the beginner ropes of being married. I didn’t want to add any new habits/projects because well, being married is that in and of itself. So my one month, one change this month is marriage!

Week 1: The honeymoon.  That was bliss. We spent our time hiking in the redwoods, camping in Monterey, touring San Francisco. The “theme” of the honeymoon was “anything our parents had previously said no to, we did”. This meant historical boat tours in San Francisco and caricatures at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. We had dinner at Boudin’s. Desert included. We tried a different coffee shop every day to have a slow morning instead of rushing to tour some really nifty places.  We really took advantage of the time (and budget) we had. I loved it. I loved the adventure of a road trip, and the intimacy of spending a week with my best friend.

Week 2: I had wanted to use this week to move into our new place, but it wasn’t ready yet. Thankfully, the couple he rented a room from let us stay there until our place was ready. It was quite cozy. We shared a twin bed and lived out of our suitcases since there wasn’t enough room for our stuff. It was kinda insane, and a little tight but as I tell the husband, it makes for a good story. The family was really nice, and while the living situation wasn’t ideal, we made it work.

Week 3: Move in.  This week was insane.  We went from sleeping on a twin bed to a blow-up queen size mattress our pastor’s wife lent us, which is an improvement. And we’re really grateful since we haven’t gotten our real bed yet. Elsewise, It was basically nonstop unpacking. Growing up, my mom always did a great job of making sure every new duty station felt like home, and I’m very comfortable with the swift unpack. All of our stuff was unloaded within a week. Except for the stuff that we left at the mother-in-law’s place.  We decided to let that slowly trickle in to make sure we find a place for everything. Plus, we have WAY too many books, and so we need to build shelving to make sure it all fits.

Week 4: We finally started to get into a routine. Thank God! The hubby and I discovered that I turn into some kind of evil monster if I don’t have one, or if the house is too messy. So this week we focused on regulating both of those. Of course, fate has a way of being funny and this was ALSO the week my car got a flat tire, and it took us a week to fix. I kinda liked it though. We shared his car, which wasn’t great on the budget since my car gets superior gas mileage, but it gave us a lot of quality time together, and it forced us to better manage our time away from each other since we were splitting a vehicle and have very opposite schedules.

Takeaway: marriage is wonderful, yo! Wouldn’t change it for a thing.

Two Kinda Crazy Things We Embraced for Our Marriage

When I was 10, I went on a cross-country road trip with some family members, I spent the entire trip in the top bunk of an 18-wheeler. They were designing a tiny house to live in when they moved back to San Antonio. The entire lifestyle appealed to me. The ability to live in such a small space, to have everything you ever needed in a box at the edge of your bed, to get up and go wherever the wind took you, I loved all of it.

That summer was foundational in who I am today, and who I want to become in my marriage and my life. My husband and I want to own a ranch in Texas or Oklahoma, wherever my mother ends up settling. He wants to own a coffee shop set up like an after-school program with board games so kids have a safe space to interact. I want to start a refugee rehabilitation program. Minimalism is the vehicle we’re choosing to get us there.

Rolf and I want our marriage to flourish by learning how to simplify the distractions in our lives and focus on each other these first few years. We have chosen to embrace minimalism because we’ve seen the power that it has to change lives in ways we want to emulate.

Cait Flanders started her road to minimalism through finance. In her personal memoir, A Year with Less, she challenged herself to save more by spending less. What started as a challenge became a way of life that she talks about more in-depth with Carrie S. Nicholson in their podcast Honest Money Conversations. As part of my research for this project, I read her book and I listened to the podcasts, and the joy both women exuded for the way they lived life now, especially in the realm of personal finance struck me. I want that with the hubby.

While minimalism means something different to everyone–Joshua from The Minimalists says that the movement comes in many different flavors–it has general principles. To us, it means living with less so that we can live more. Our personal road to minimalism starts with a debt repayment plan and media management project.

While he’s debt free, I have 32k in student loans that we started paying off in January. My goal is to be debt free in 3 years. Mathematically, 32k of student loans into 3 years, is 10.6k a year, and 10k a year means $888 a month, factoring interest, it will probably be closer to $900 a month payment. My minimum payment is $312 a month for comparison.

Since we decided to wait to start this blog until we were married (seeing as its a blog about our marriage towards minimalism), let me catch you up to speed on what we’ve done.

Predicted Actual
January $900 $887.43
February $900 $900.81
March $900 $1000
April $900 $400
May $900 $100
Total $4500 $3288

This puts us $1211.76 behind where we thought we would be by the end of May, but still closer to our goal than we would be if we only paid the minimums. The higher payments were made while I was in school. April was our wedding month, and May took a dive because we were figuring out how to manage money together. Although it hasn’t been perfect, we’re working really hard at figuring this money stuff out. The next few months, we’re hoping to stay on top of our debt repayment.

The other change we’re making is that we’re implementing a media management program into our home. He and I both have the tendency to surf the internet endlessly for hours. I read finance and lifestyle blogs, update my twitter, and scroll Facebook. He watches people playtest board games on Youtube, watches history mini-series vlogs, and plays Minecraft. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but we want to limit our time to those to experience the joy in each other and in life itself.

In light of this, we came to the mutual decision not to have internet or cable in our home for the first year of marriage. And because it saves money that is better served towards debt repayment anyway. I told a mentor of mine who’s been married longer than I’ve been alive of our plans and she kinda balked at me. So I simply told her, “You did it, didn’t you? And you survived.” It’s amazing how much our society has changed in such a short amount of time that things normal 30 years ago aren’t normal now.

Instead, since we live on a ranch, we’re going to fill our time helping the owners with projects, riding horses, and reading. One of my goals this year is to read 50 books that weren’t assigned textbooks. So far I’ve read 18. One of Rolf’s goals is to pick the violin up. He wants to play 156 hours this year (or three hours a week). Limiting our time surfing the internet aimlessly will help us reach those goals and invest in things that really matter to us.

We realize some of the choices we’re making are unorthodox in our generation especially. But we’d like to think that we’re slightly ahead of the curve. Only slightly. But we’re excited about where the future is going to take us. And we hope you come along for the ride.

What have you embraced to help strengthen your marriage or change your lifestyle? I’d love to hear it!

How We Embraced Minimalism and Gift Registries for Our Wedding

For those of you who know me, you know that I am extremely picky about things I like. This is a blessing mostly because I generally don’t get the urge to buy everything surrounding me, and a curse, as I am also from a Southern family and thus am extremely gracious about gifts I have been given, even if I’m not particularly fond of them.

This made the registry daunting to me as the husband and I worked through it.  Months before, I had embraced minimalism after reading (cough, cough listening to) Cait Flander’s A Year of Less. The idea of having a ton of stuff we might not need freaked me out a little bit. Pair this with the fact that my husband and I agree on very little stylistically (he’s more rustic, walls of pine, cabin in the middle of nowhere, and I’m more chic, black white and grey city field), and you have an impending nightmare.

So here’s what we did to minimize relational damage:

  1. We went on a date to our local Bed Bath and Beyond and picked out different things we knew we needed: knives, pots and pans, that sort of thing. Fighting through the kitchen appliances together helped us sort out our value system. We also kept in mind that we’re planning on moving in a few years and didn’t want to haul around a lot of stuff.
  2. Individually, we went online and added everything we wanted to our gift list. This included the fun stuff, like board games, camping and running gadgets, and that sort of thing. We didn’t look at each other’s list quite yet. Or individually. We just sat and added stuff. That way we wouldn’t have preconceived arguments about why one didn’t need a nifty, electric can opener. Through this and the Bed Bath and Beyond date, we had around 350 items on the registry.
  3. We opened a honeymoon fund through theknot.com where we asked for money instead of gifts. I also put on the registry page that we would prefer cash to gifts because we recently bought a car. That way if our guests were debating which, they knew our preference.
  4. We went through our registries together and questioned every single item on the list. Did we need this? Did it fit into our value system? Would we pack this or goodwill it if we moved? After pairing down the list, we finished with around 100 items, just a third of what we originally thought we needed.  

 

It ended up working out really well, except for a few minor hiccups. We ended up with two different Settlers of Catan sets. Whoops. And we didn’t get some of the things we needed: pots and pans or knife sets. But other than that, I’m really happy with the way things worked out. Most people ended up giving us cash, and it has been stored away in our emergency fund. This puts me more at ease than any of the 250 things we decided not to ask for. Or the few things we didn’t get. Plus, now everything we own fits into our value system we didn’t fight about the registry and I don’t feel bogged down with a million extra things.

I’d love to hear what you think. How did you handle your registries when getting married?

I Want to Talk About Dreams at our Next Budget Meeting

Our next budget meeting is coming up shortly. My husband and I have these right after we get paid to make sure our money is going in the correct categories. We still don’t have a good monthly budget, and so I want to check to make sure we’re on the same page throughout the next few weeks, especially with our spending ban in place.

We also want to make sure we’re prepared for upcoming expenses we might not ordinarily budget for. For example, I have several doctor’s appointments coming up, and we need to make sure that we’re accounting for a copay, I also want to make sure that we’re saving a serious amount of money for rent in July since I don’t work as much in June as I have previously.

It’s a chance, really for us to get down and dirty with our money. For me, it’s a goal checking exercise. As a single on the first of every month, I would sit down with my goal book and review the finances for the last month. I’d track the growth in my savings account, the debt repayment, and any investments I had made. Each month was colored in with a different colored pen so I could see months where I did well, and months I could improve.

Budget meetings are kind of like that, but instead, we’re looking forward. We’re scheduling payments, tracking savings and spending, and making sure that we know what we want to do with our money.

As I prep for this one, (it’s actually our first, but we’re trying to establish a routine), I wanted to look at long-term numbers. In an article in Bloomberg, I found the following:

“I realized that money is nothing more than fuel. It is a resource that lets you have choices, but if you don’t think about what you are working for, you will die rich but not live rich.” –Joe Duran

And that hit me, hard. It’s kinda silly that it did. Because that should be obvious, we’re not accumulating wealth and hacking away at debt to look at arbitrary numbers growing and shrinking respectively. But we’re actually living.

We haven’t really sat down and created long-term financial goals together. I know that I want to be financially independent, and soon…ish. But together, we haven’t crafted our why.

So as I look towards our next budget meeting, I’m going to be thinking about the why. Why are we doing this? What is the end game?

But also, what milestones are we hoping to accomplish on the way? Part of becoming financially independent is struggling, and hard, for a little while to make sure you’re saving enough. But I also don’t want to be saving so extensively that we can’t live. This doesn’t mean grabbing a million cups of coffee. My hubby laughs and me and my latte effect (which, to my credit, I’ve toned waaay down since graduating college), but it does mean vacationing cool places, and seeing the world, and traveling, all things that are important to us, but that we haven’t put a lot of mutual though into.

I think that our upcoming budget meeting will be less about the finances, although those are exceptionally important, and geared more towards what are our long-term goals as humans and as a married couple. We haven’t really done that. And I want to dream a little.

Y’all have any financial dreams that you’re aspiring to? What are you doing on your way to financial freedom? I’d love to hear them. Tell me in the comments!

 

5 Ways I Combat Fluctuating Pay as an Independent Contractor

The husband and I have worked it out so that we take rent, savings, and debt out of my paycheck, and we live off of his. It works out because insurance, food, gas, and entertainment generally come in at fixed costs (except for May, see my latest budget report for that snafu). And then my fluctuating income takes care of the rest. I pay rent, the minimums on my student loans, and then split the rest between savings and debt repayment. We haven’t quite built our emergency fund up to what I want it to be.

It’s currently around $6,000 and I’d like it at $7,500 just to be safe. This is in part because the cost of living is so high in California and because the hubby’s car is getting old and I don’t want to be broke when we buy his like we were after we bought mine. After we get the last $1,500, everything in my paycheck will go towards student loans. Except, we might still save 100 for little things like I have a wedding I’m going to in September, and we want to fly home for the holidays in November. Everything else goes towards debt repayment.

We’re trying to get my 32k loan under 20k this year, although, that’s looking like a tall order. Especially since April we only put $400 towards it, May $100, and June isn’t looking so bright. I’m an independent contractor at a tutoring company, which for the most part, is great. However, switching over from the school year to summer clients is stressful. In the month of June, I’m scheduled to make just over $300. This will most certainly not cover rent and our loan repayment. Thankfully, I’m relying on more than one stream of income. For instance, I drive my friend around because he can’t, and I tutor on the side, but even with that money coming in, I’m only going to be making around $400 extra.

It comes in handy that June is our no spend month after May turned out to be a fiscal disaster, but we’re still stressed about it. Me more so than he is. Since I made $1200 last pay period, we’re covered with rent from June to July and won’t really be on the wire until July to August. That’s why he’s so chill. God bless my husband. He’s got this amazing cool when it comes to finances. And he says we’ll work it out, and that I’m amazing and will figure it out.

So things I’m trying this month:

  1. Freelance writing. With a degree in English, it kinda makes sense that I’ve always wanted to write. The spare time I have this month (if I’m diligent) will give me the time to work on articles, and who knows, maybe I’ll get published and start building my portfolio.
  2. Freelance editing. In a similar vein, I want to start editing projects. As a career idea, I’d love to work for one of the Big Five publishing houses, and this month would be a great place to start working on my portfolio.
  3. Babysitting. Not a huge fan of this idea, but whatever pays the bills. Am I right?  In fact, I wrote this article at a family’s house after I put their kids down for the night. The cash I earned from that goes into the “rent” jar that we keep at home. So does the cash I get from driving my friend around. That way it’s automatically allocated and can’t be touched.
  4. Yardwork/house cleaning. In college, I worked for several different cleaning companies, and I enjoyed it. While I don’t like it enough to start my own company or to do it as a regular side gig, it was fairly decent money, and I’ll be advertising and see if I get any clients.
  5. Selling things. I have several suits that have just been lying around my house waiting to be sold. They retail for about $100 apiece, and they’re in good condition, they just don’t fit me well anymore. I’m hoping to sell them at half off, and get $200 for the lot. That should help even a little bit.

 

While that’s not a huge list of ideas, I’m trying not to overstress myself. Rent is only $1100 a month (a steal in our area), and I only need to make about $600 more to make ends meet. Otherwise, we have to dip into our emergency fund, which I guess is what it’s there for, but I was hoping we wouldn’t have to touch it these first few years of marriage.

What about you guys? How do you handle it when your cash flow is low? Any ideas or suggestions? Wanna hire me, haha? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. And don’t worry, I’ll be writing a follow-up post sometime next month to tell you how my side hustle adventures went down.