update: garage sale

Hi reader,

Quick update here. Including the amount in the original post, and by selling the remainder of items on Facebook Marketplace, we sold right around $400 worth of baby items. I have some things left, which I will gift to a friend or two, and then donate the rest. It feels great to be nearly at the end of this endeavor. I am tired of answering messages and having people drop by the house. I am ready to be done, and quite happy with what we made.

We’ve had some family in town for a few days, which has been great! But it’s back to the grind as I get settled back in. What’s new with you, reader?

Cheers,
Mel

food costs challenge – end of may (mini report)

Check out the first post in the food cost challenge.

Well, reader, May is over. Remember how I said that I intended to be authentic in talking about the good and the bad in this blog? I also said I was going to start these reports with a check-in around mid-June, but I decided to go ahead and post for May.

I am pretty horrified, but not surprised, at the amount we spent on food this month. We travelled the most we ever have with (and without) Bo, which was for approximately half the month. And on those trips, we never stayed in a single location for more than 4 nights, so we ate at restaurants (including fast food) a whole lot in May. And we spent the most that we’ve spent on restaurants in the last 12 months.

We went to 29 restaurants/fast food establishments for a grand total of $810.21.

We did not establish our restaurant goal until later in the month, which is to spend no more than $350/month on restaurants. Our previous average over the last 12 months was around $520/month. As you can see, we have a lot of lifestyle decisions to make going forward.

Here are a few things I’ve thought about in regard to this food costs challenge:

  • What can we do with the difference (~$170) between our typical restaurant spending and our goal? Invest in our retirement? Contribute to Bo’s newly-opened 529? Save for home improvement projects?
  • Restaurants no longer feel like a novelty to me. But, when I was a kid my family went out to fast food no more than once/week, and if we ate at a restaurant in addition to that, it was very inexpensive. It always felt like a treat because every other meal was eaten at home.
  • I don’t want Bo to have restaurants as her baseline for nutritional and “ease of access” expectations. Luckily, right now she is so picky that she eats very little food from restaurants. But when she’s older, I want her to expect that we’ll cook and eat at home with healthy ingredients. My intuition tells me that is right for our family… and sometimes you’ve gotta’ listen to your gut (pun intended).
  • Goodness knows what’s in most restaurant food, but we cook relatively healthy at home. And this year (since January 4, 2019), by tracking our calories on the Lose It app, my husband and I have lost a combined total of 30lbs! I’d love to keep on our healthy trajectory. I’m feeling quite inspired by our garden right now, which will hopefully yield us a ton of veggies by the end of the summer!

So, reader, what would you do with an “extra” $170 per month? Do you budget for your restaurant (or other food) spending? How tight of a grip do you have on your food costs? Have any tips you’d like to share?

Cheers,
Mel

thrifting

Hi reader,

I typically get pretty overwhelmed by shopping in actual stores, but I’ve had a hard time with quality and fit while shopping online (duh). After the garage sale, I wanted to try to get a few pieces to add to my wardrobe at a thrift boutique. I cannot say that I filled very many holes, but having a few more things for summer will be awesome! The items are brands that I am familiar/comfortable with (J. Crew, Loft, and Lou & Grey), while not breaking the bank. With a $10 off coupon, I spent $32 total (incl. tax) on 3 clothing items, which is not bad at all!

I also found a tray for my dining table, which can either stand up on legs or will lay flat. This is not at all a necessity, but I’ve been looking for one that fit (to hold my plants) for a long while! It was $22 total.

Overall, I’m counting it as a success! I’m loving the colorful shorts especially.. Stretchy waistband with pockets? Count me in! I’m excited to go back in the future, since they add new items every weekday.

Where do you go for deals, reader? What have you scored lately?

Cheers,
Mel

more about ‘retire’

Hi reader,

I want to talk more about the 4th ‘R’. I started at the GovJob in my 20’s, which was a startling experience. After my previous non-GovJob where the oldest person was in their 50’s, but most people (in the 20-something person company) were in their 20’s, fresh out of college. I was very aware that I was young and inexperienced, but also knew that I had climbed the ladder quickly at my old company. I intended to do the same at the GovJob.

A couple years after I started the GovJob I got a promotion into a different division. And this division’s average age was much, much older. It was a very noticeable change as I was the youngest person in my area by more than 10 years. It was during the time in that position that the GovJob sent out an article that gave some statistics about my agency: 55% of employees were eligible to retire in 5 or less years. Whoa, that’s more than half of the people I see around me every day! I started imagining a ton of opportunity ahead, due to vacant positions.

And then I started noticing the retirements… one, after another, after another. And I really started noticing the people retiring. They talked about their career and their friends, who felt like family, because they have spent so much time with them. One gentleman from my team retired at 72 with 47 years at his GovJobs. I started being bothered by the fact that, at that time, I would have to more than double my whole life to retire. And it was not uncommon for those who were retiring to be old, exhausted, and plagued with physical issues. Some people limping, people in chronic pain, and people who had taken long stretches of unpaid time off (delaying their retirement) to take care of their medical issues or their family’s medical issues.

And now I am 31. My goal to reach financial independence and to retire is between 45 and 55. Because if I were to retire when I was set to, I would retire in exactly twice my current age. And I already have some (minor, thankfully) chronic health issues. Issues that the doctor’s aren’t able to diagnose. And I think about where Bo will be in 15-20 years. Going to college? Starting a family? I want to be able to be there with her for these things! And our major retirement goal is to go to every major college football stadium and rivalry that we can. I want to do that in my 40’s or 50’s, not my mid-60’s.

So now, reader, you see how the retirement seed was planted. And why it sprouted when I found the FIRE community.

What is your motivation for making financial changes?

Cheers,
Mel

money in the attic

Reader, guess how much money I had sitting in my attic for 2+ years? $140!

Every year our community has a garage sale. Which is awesome, because it draws out more people, and because I get to chat with my neighbors (which, admittedly, I don’t do often enough).

Clothes galore!

I don’t always have stuff to sell, but since Al and I decided for 99% sure that we are one & done on the children, it was time to get rid of Bo’s baby clothes. It wasn’t really easy for me, if I’m being honest. There were a lot of sentimental items in there.. a lot of really sweet times happened while she was wearing those clothes. But ultimately, it was time. Whereas I am not normally a very sentimental person with regards to tangibles, I did save just a few sentimentals (such as the first onesie and first shoes, but not much more than that).

Garage sales hit primarily on the “reuse” and “recycle” aspects of the 4R blog. I am so thrilled that people will use the (literally) hundred+ items we sold. We didn’t have many big ticket items (the most expensive was around $10), and most things sold for $0.50 or 3 for $1, so it’s a great feeling that these items that were sitting in my attic are going to be used by others… and people paid me money for these things!

These haven’t sold yet; look at the sheer quantity.

There are many items that didn’t sell (yet). My last ditch effort for these is listing them on Facebook Marketplace at a much more reduced price, in hopes that someone who needs them can use them. If they don’t sell there, they’re going to Goodwill. These clothes are in mostly great condition, used by (primarily) a single child in a clean, non-smoking home, who only spit up a handful of times. I even made a box that could clothe a single child (for a whole year!) from newborn to one year old and listed it for around $50. Imagine how much I would have saved if I didn’t buy a single item for her full first year outside of a $50 box of clothing! It would have been hundreds.

…and even more

There was one container of things that I took straight to Goodwill. Just a bunch of little odds & ends, not worth trying to sell. I also had a bunch of baby items that were not clothing… bottles, baby carriers/wraps, etc. Some sold, some didn’t. The things that didn’t got listed online.

I felt very productive with the sales that I made today. I’m planning on using the money that I got to go to a second-hand boutique to see what I can find that might fill some blank spots that are left in my wardrobe after I purged so many items. If anything’s left over, the remainder will be used towards hosting family that we have coming to town, or to cover other primary expenses.

Tell me, reader, what good deals have you come into? What items have you sold that have gotten a second life with another family?

Cheers,
Mel

the power of community

Hi reader!

Pacific Northwesterners are not known for their warmth and friendliness but for being polite, yet cold, to others. People say it’s hard to make friends and many feel isolated. And while I can see that mentality occasionally, such as in a crowded public place, I have made wonderful friends as an adult.

I often see people help each other out, and as I get older and adult friendships become more established, I increasingly see the value beyond the emotional. I see friends help each other move, people bring in food to share at work (the GovJobs are especially terrible for the waistline), and I often see the exchange of goods between friends. When someone doesn’t need something that someone else does, I see a ton of hand-me-downs.

For example, I recently went through my bathroom products to get rid of excess and reorganize. I am a notorious product hoarder, and it got really bad after I had Bo (I have genetically and chronically dry skin and my hair was falling out… I was trying everything but nothing was working!). I’ve been wanting to combat the urge to keep things I don’t use. Since all of the products were open and not brand new, I knew I couldn’t return them. I asked a friend who works with the women’s shelter, and she said that they would not take them because they were open. But, if I didn’t want them, she would take them and share them with her daughter! So I just handed them off! Some of them had barely been used, so I’m sure there was quite a bit of value in there:

And just this week, I have a different friend who is moving. Her kids are teens and she’s getting rid of Leogs. LEGOS! I asked how much she wanted for them, and she said nothing and offered them to me. With a kiddo who is getting close to the building age, I took her up on that in a heartbeat.

It’s a great feeling to be building community around me. I enjoy having friends, coworkers, and family (such as my MIL) that actively find opportunities to help each other out.

Tell me about opportunities that your community has taken to help each other out? Do you feel that you have a large and broad community? Close and tight-knit?

Cheers!
Mel

reducing expenses – small changes

Happy Tuesday, readers!

In the personal finance realm, I often read that people should reduce their expenses. Obviously that means spend less money. Especially on things that are not important to you. I’ve been looking for ways to reduce recurring expenses (in addition to reducing my food costs, of course). I like seeing real examples so here are three small changes we made recently that will reduce our spending.

  1. Downsized our garbage service: Saving $20/mo. When we started garbage service after we moved in to our house, we got the second smallest garbage can, a standard huge recycle bin, and a yard waste bin. After we had Bo, we needed to increase the size of the garbage can. Now, we rarely fill it up, and almost never fill up our yard waste. Downsizing our garbage can and stopping yard waste service all together is saving us quite a bit of money for making pretty much no change in our lives. Our yard waste goes into the compost bin anyway, and if it doesn’t belong in there, we can take it to the dump or, better yet, see if a neighbor has space in their bin!
  2. Stopped getting my eyebrows done: Saving $20 every other month. I used to get my (very unruly) brows done every other week, but when I got my GovJob (6+ years ago), the brow salon proved too far to go regularly so I was down to once every couple months. Last time I went I thought to myself “I could have done them better anyway”, which would save time AND money. So I did, and they look great and from now on I will spend $0 getting my brows shaped.
  3. Bought cloth napkins: Will start saving us money if we use them for more than a year (and then will save about $20/year). We buy the $9.99 Costco 4-pack of 260 napkins (1,040 napkins total) and since there are 4 of us in the house, we probably go through them pretty fast by using more than 1 per day (we do have a toddler, after all). The cloth napkins were right around $20 on Amazon. We used to use cloth napkins but for a couple years, we’ve been buying paper/disposable napkins. The environmental guilt definitely got to me more than the money on this one.

Those are my examples of small ways that we’ve reduced expenses lately. What other small changes have you made that lower your expenses or impact on the environment?

Cheers,
Mel