One Month of Less – April 2018

2 May

As you know, if you’ve read my post/review of The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, that I read the book and thought it was an amazing idea.  So how did I do during my first month of attempting to buy less?  Lets take a look.

One thing that really skewed my numbers this month (not that you have anything to compare it to) was that I got my tax refund back which I did enter in my Spending Tracker app as income.  I promptly transferred both refunds into my savings account, at least for now.  I seriously thought on how to handle my refund and figured I had at least two smart options.  One option would be to leave it in my account until the end of the month and divide it into my normal three categories (savings, investments, and extra house payment) for my “leftover” money.  The second option, which I chose, was to just throw it all into savings for now.  So, my savings percentage is crazy high for April…not that I’m complaining.  It definitely helped to replenish what I spent on my upcoming vacation and more so that was nice.

Ok, so here’s where I spent my money (in percentages):

  • Savings 53.36%
  • Mortgage 14.46%
  • Extra House Payment 7.55%
  • Investments 7.55%
  • Food 2.64%
  • Eating Out 2.42%
  • Crafts 1.84%
  • Yarn 1.35%
  • Water/Sewer/Garbage 1.31%
  • Dog/Vet 1.25%
  • Work 1.00%
  • Internet Service 0.74%
  • Car Insurance 0.71%
  • Knitting 0.61%
  • Natural Gas 0.59%
  • Gym 0.59%
  • Fuel 0.58%
  • Phone 0.58%
  • Electricity 0.43%
  • Home 0.12%
  • Contacts 0.10%
  • Medication 0.09%
  • Fitbit 0.07%
  • Coffee 0.06%

I’m super happy about the fact that I saved and/or invested a total of 68.46% of my “income” for April but I know that this number is not achievable for me every month.  Too bad I don’t get tax returns every month.  That would be amazing.

Ok, so you’ve heard the good, lets take a look at some of the less than good.  As you can see, I spent just about as much money eating out as I did on buying food to prepare at home.  I have been much better about eating and cooking at home than eating out this past month but I think I can do better.  

Another thing that I tend to struggle with is the amount of money I spend on my crafty hobbies.  I will say that being crafty is what helps me stay sane and I enjoy it so it’s never going to go away, but I did spend more than I normally would have on supplies in April.  Part of that is due to the fact that I started a new hobby/craft in April and that was learning how to spin fiber into yarn.  So, I obviously needed some supplies which included a drop spindle and some fiber for spinning.  I did go a bit overboard with fiber and am realizing I’m having a hard time taking a step back from buying all the pretty things after letting myself get a bit out of hand.  I really need to stop and spin what I have and decide if it’s something I want to keep doing before I go and buy a bunch, and see if I’m any good at it.  There’s not much sense in keeping spinning if I’m making something I can’t use to knit/crochet with.  In the back of my mind I’m already thinking about the fact that I want to buy a spinning wheel but that is a decision for another day.  They run easily $1,000 and that doesn’t include all of the accessories I would need.  Sounds like my tax refund will come in handy if that’s what I decide to do in the future.

Another thing I have not done at all is to get rid of belongings.  Is it bad that I think if I just don’t buy more I’ll be ok?  I know deep down that this isn’t right but I just don’t feel up to the task of going through all of my crap…yet.  It will happen I’m sure.  One thing I need to go through, like last week, is the kitchen cupboard that has all of my cookware in it.  I open the doors and pots and pans literally jump out at me and it drives me crazy.  

So my goals for May are to still save as much as possible and to rein in my spending on crafting because I have a lot of supplies already.

Have you started your journey to less?  What steps did you take in April to change the way you spend money?

In case you missed it here is a link to my review of The Year of Less and also my post about the Spending Tracker I use.

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How I Track My Spending

16 Apr

Hello readers!  I’ve been wanting to type this up ever since I did my review on The Year of Less but I just haven’t taken the time to do it.

I personally started tracking every penny I spent in January of 2017.  Actually I started before that but I was entering everything into my home computer in Excel and I was lucky to get to it once a week, it was a pain in the butt and definitely didn’t show me a real-time picture of my finances.

Knowing that tracking my spending only once a week or so was not going to cut it for me I set out to find a good spending tracker app.  I read a lot of reviews and people were recommending the App Mint, because it does a lot of the work for you.  I’ve tried Mint years ago and didn’t have much luck.  My accounts were difficult to sync, and I don’t honestly love an app that will connect to all of my bank/credit accounts.  It’s too invasive.

I ended up downloading an app called Spending Tracker for iOS (yes I do use an iPhone) but it appears to also be available on Android devices as well.  The icon looks like a little brown wallet.

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There is both a free and a paid for version of this app.  I was happy to use the free version for the whole first year I used it and then finally upgraded in January to the paid version because I knew I was going to continue to use this app nearly every day (sometimes more than once day) for a long time to come.  The free version worked great for me, I just had to deal with an ad every so often.

What I love about this app is that it goes with me wherever I am because I always have my phone.  When I’m in the checkout line I enter my expense immediately and I get a real-time insight to my current monthly balance.  I do have auto-pays set up on some bills which means I do have to check my bank balances and enter those when I see them come in but this has been by far the easiest way I have ever kept track of my money.

Here’s an example of what you would see when you open the app with data entered in (no this is not my data).  You can click on the February link and change your options to “Weekly”, “Monthly”, and “Yearly” which is a great option.  Personally I have mine set up for monthly because I get paid monthly.

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If you want to see the details of every transaction you’ve entered you click the “Transactions” button and it takes you to everything you’ve entered.  You can edit these entries if you need to.

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And this is what it looks like to actually enter a transaction.  It literally takes seconds to do which is why it’s so easy to do it right when you’re in the check-out line at the store.  I especially like that you can enter your own personal notes which has been helpful when buying gifts so I can know which gift it was and who it was for.

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At the end of every month I take my leftover balance and divide it three ways (because this works for me).  I take 1/3rd and place it into my savings, 1/3rd into investments, and 1/3rd towards an extra house payment.  The nice thing is that I made these as actual entries into the Spending app so I can see my percentages (turn your device sideways and it shows you percentages in either a pie graph or a bar graph) for the month.

This tool has been so valuable to me.  It has made me stop in my tracks when I’ve been ready to buy something because it is much more impactful to see the balance go down right before your eyes and to stop and think if this is really a purchase you want to make or not.

I suppose I should say that I am in no way endorsed by the company who has made this app, I just know I like using it and it works!  I hope this tool will help you to reach your financial goals too!

The Year of Less

1 Apr

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You guys….I’m back and I actually have a book to review!  It’s been so long since I’ve blogged or even read a book.  There have been a few but not many that have wanted me to change my life.

The book is actually called The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store and it’s written by Cait Flanders.

I don’t know if I have ever had a book make such an impact on me personally.  This isn’t the first time in my life that I’ve gotten rid of things I didn’t need or even attempted to spend less money, but it definitely is a different way of looking at this same topic.  When Marie Kondo came out with her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up I read it and dove right in to changing things.  I got rid of a lot of clothes and other things in my home too.  The problem with this is that you are supposed to keep things that bring you “joy”.  What does that even mean?  I ended up keeping things I shouldn’t have and getting rid of, just a few, things I shouldn’t have.  All-in-all it was a good thing though.

For my life right now I, unfortunately, have to keep some things in my life that don’t bring me joy because they are necessary for work.  My work wardrobe isn’t joyful, but at this point in time it’s not supposed to be.  Things are oversized and baggy but that’s what I need them to be.  The Year of Less has a much more practical approach: have you used the item in the last six months to a year? Do you plan on using it soon?  If the answer is no then you probably don’t need it.

I also really like Cait’s approach to current “needs”.  If you feel you need something today think about if you also needed it yesterday.  If you need it today but didn’t need it yesterday wait for a month and see if you still need it, then think about buying it.

She also has a practical approach to “stockpiling” which is huge for me.  I’ve been much better in the past few years but I used to purchase lots of lotions or other body care products because they were on sale if you purchased several.  I still have lotion from god knows when that I haven’t even touched.  I guess I’ve had it in the back of my mind that if I didn’t have these things available and I NEEDED them then I wouldn’t be able to get them.  News Flash: everything is available all of the time.  In this day and age where Amazon Prime gets here in two days and I have a store less than five minutes away there is no such thing as an emergency I can’t fix at the touch of a button or a quick drive.  There is no reason to have a bunch of back-ups on hand.  From here forward I will be using what I have and replacing it only when and if I am about to run out and have no other alternatives.

Cait makes it a point to track all of her spending and has goals on the percentage she wants to save each month.  I already track all of my spending, which I’ve been doing for the past year using an app for my iPhone called Spending.  It’s an awesome app that shows you percentages and categorizes your spending into as many categories as you could possibly want.  It also allows you to make notes about each purchase if you want to.  I’ve been doing this for over a year and managed to pay my car off a couple years early by applying every penny I had leftover each month to my car payment.  Now I split my monthly leftovers into thirds and apply one third each to savings, my house payment, and investments.  That being said I know I could be doing better.

I’m ready for some simple, mindful living!

Whole30 – Day 61

10 Dec

Whew!  I’ve just completed my second Whole30 in a row.  Granted I did have wine twice and about a 1/4 inch square piece of a smores poptart, but other than that I’ve been totally, 100% compliant, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

I’m still loving the food and still not so much loving the cooking but I get it done week after week because I know that’s what needs to happen.  I did get a new kitchen gadget that I’m loving and that is helping me cook healthy and quick.  It’s called an Instant Pot, or InstaPot, and it’s a 7 in 1 device that acts as a crock pot, pressure cooker, and other features I haven’t used yet.  I love the pressure cooker setting!  I made the most tender amazing beef roast in it tonight and also an entire chicken.  It’s really good for making bone broth too, which is really good for helping to heal the gut.  I also made some chicken hash with shredded sweet potatoes, granny smith apples, and chicken thighs as well as some spaghetti squash chow mien.  Hopefully it’s all good because this is what I’m eating this week.

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Now for the bummer part of my post.  I’m really not making any progress 😦  I continue to eat real, whole, not processed foods because I know that is what my body needs but I’m still super tired and not seeing any changes to my body (outside or inside).  I’ve been on my current medications for a month now and really thought I’d start to see some improvements.  My weight has stayed roughly the same as where it was after my first 30 days (within a pound or two either lower or higher depending on the day) and my clothes fit the same.  I really feel like until I get on thyroid medications I’m not going to see the changes I’m looking to see.

I’m really trying not to be too down on myself because I know I’m doing everything I can.  I also know I didn’t make myself sick overnight so I can’t expect to be healed overnight either.  I just have a hard time being patient when I know there are other things that can be done and it’s not me holding back the progress.  Yep, I still have another month to go before I see my doctor again.  I even called the office today hoping to get a call back but I haven’t heard anything yet.  They decided to close their doors for two months so I’m just on stand-still and that really bothers me.

I haven’t been as good on the exercise front as I had meant to be.  I posted two weeks ago that I was going to start lifting and that hasn’t happened.  I know it’s an excuse of sorts but they day I had planned on going after work I ended up having to stay four extra hours and I’ve just been exhausted with some really long, really wet and windy, work days.  I have been doing yoga 3-4 times a week though and I really am enjoying that.  I feel like it doesn’t exhaust me as bad as a hard workout does and for now I think that’s what my body needs.

Here’s to another 30 days and hopefully some new improvements.  I think I’m going to go pour myself a glass of wine….because I can 🙂

Whole 30 – Day 50

29 Nov

I think it’s about time for a Whole30 update!  I’m officially half way through my second Whole30.  It pretty much just feels normal at this point to eat this way.  I still miss some things but only when they are right in front of my face.  Otherwise I’m happy to eat my “real” food.

I haven’t been measuring myself at all but the scale is pretty much hanging right where it’s been for weeks.  I feel like until my thyroid issue gets treated with medication that isn’t going to change and as much as I may dislike my fluffier body I’ve learned to live with it for now.  No sense in hating yourself over something you can’t control.  Obviously I’m doing everything I can to change it food/diet wise and it’s just not happening.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been on vacation (days off really, I didn’t go anywhere) for the last 10 days.  Tonight I’m back to work.  I feel like I have slightly more energy than I have had, but I think a lot of that is due to not being at work and being stressed out at work.  I’ve also been sleeping at night for the most part and that really does make a difference. Hopefully I can keep this energy level up!

I feel like I’m ready to start working out now.  I’m not sure how my body is going to react but I’m going to give it a try.  I started doing some YouTube yoga which I’ve really like.  It seriously kicks my butt though.  I’ve been doing the 30 Days of Yoga on the Yoga with Adriene channel.  I haven’t done it every day but I have enjoyed it when I have done it.  It’s nothing crazy and is for beginners for sure.

What I’m really excited to start is the New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess workout.  It’s a seven phase workout for lifting heavy.  I know building muscle on my body will help ramp up my metabolism and will help shed some excess fat.  You can find the book on Amazon here.  I’ve read that some people get bored with the workouts but I like that it’s all written down exactly what I need to do and I don’t have to be creative about it.  I could change my mind but for now this is what I’m going to try.  I have to do my best to make it to the gym three times a week which is a struggle for me, but they say even twice when you start out is okay.

The other crazy thing I’ve done is to cut out caffeine, like completely.  I never thought that would be something I would do.  I love my morning coffee.  I don’t even think it was the caffeine doing anything for me but I just like the way it tastes.  I decided to stop drinking caffeine because I’ve done so much reading on how it can negatively impact your body and pretty much everything I have wrong with me caffeine makes worse.  So it was a hard decision but an obvious one to make in my mind.  It’s been 12 days so far and I have to say I don’t feel any different, no better or worse.  I didn’t even notice caffeine withdrawals which I thought was weird because I did drink at least one large cup of coffee a day and usually several cups of caffeinated tea.

My morning just wouldn’t be complete without having something warm to drink though.  I’ve been listening to The Nourished Podcast by Meg Doll and Shawn Mynar.  I love these ladies!  They have both been through things similar to what I’m dealing with, and probably even worse than me.  They are both certified holistic nutritionists and they have a lot of really good info on your body (especially for women).  I just love listening to them.  Anyway, Meg talks about what she drinks in the morning which is half a lemon squeezed into your mug, sea salt, and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar (Braggs or anything with the mother still in it) and hot water.  I think the sour kick of the drink wakes me up as much as the caffeine used to.  It’s also supposed to help create more stomach acid, which most people are lacking with the way we eat now (processed foods).  Symptoms of low stomach acid include the following:

  • Bloating, belching, and flatulence immediately after meals
  • Heartburn (often thought to be caused by too much stomach acid)
  • Indigestion, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Undigested food in stools
  • Acne
  • Rectal itching
  • Chronic candida
  • Hair loss in women
  • Multiple food allergies
  • Iron deficiency
  • Weak, peeling, or cracked fingernails
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Various autoimmune diseases

I was shocked when I learned this because I have about eight of the things on the list.  What’s really crazy to me is that I don’t have heartburn, I’ve never had it in my life.  But I guess you don’t always have that with low stomach acid.  By not having enough stomach acid your body doesn’t process proteins well nor does it absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat.  It’s amazing to me because I’ve found so many possible answers to the problems I have.  When they say everything in your body is tied together they aren’t kidding.

So I know that was a long update.  If you’ve made it this far, congratulations!  This is what happens when I don’t write every day.  I have a lot to say apparently!

I’m still working on making myself better.  No new doctor’s appointments until January.  I’m really hoping for the most amazing 2016.

Whole30 – Thanksgiving

28 Nov

I had a very quiet Thanksgiving this year, just G and I.  Normally I wouldn’t have bothered to cook an actual Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us.  Neither of us are huge on holidays because usually at least one of us is working.  This year we actually both had the day off.  Even with the day off I really hadn’t planned on cooking turkey and all the trimmings until I came across the Whole30 compliant recipes on whole30recipes Instagram which were created by pretend_its_a_donut also on Instagram.

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I made a turkey breast rather than an entire turkey and I chose to cook it in my crock pot so that I could make gravy similar to Nom Nom Paleo’s Gravy and Chicken which I’ve posted in the past.  First I dry brined the turkey breast using salt and other herbs and let it set for two days.  Just before getting ready to put the turkey into the crock pot I smothered it with ghee (butter with the milk solids removed).  I placed the turkey breast down which helped keep the breast nice and juicy!

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The cranberry sauce was my favorite thing I made I think, although it was all good.  Usually I made the most delicious brandied cranberries for Thanksgiving.  While this recipe does not take the place of my brandied cranberries it was still really good.  This is coming from a  girl who refused to eat cranberry sauce as a kid.  It was nice and tart and turned out nice and thick too.  I’d make it again in a heartbeat!

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Bacon wrapped green beans!  These were so good.  It was a challenge to find compliant bacon (no nitrates or added sugars) but once I did this recipe was actually really easy.  G even smoked the bacon for me before I wrapped it on the green beans so it had a nice smokey flavor!

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Balsamic brussels and persimmons.  This was good but I found the balsamic to be a bit overpowering.  Luckily I like balsamic vinegar so it was still good for me.  It did cover the flavor of the persimmons though.

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I also made some basic mashed potatoes.  I usually add milk to make the potatoes creamy.  I thought by adding a ton of ghee that I could accomplish the same thing but that didn’t happen.  My mashed potatoes didn’t look too nice but they tasted fine, especially topped with my gravy which was AMAZING!

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The only thing missing was the pumpkin pie, which I could have found a substitute for I’m sure.  I’m used to not eating sweets by now though so I really didn’t miss it. I sure wasn’t hungry after dinner!

 

Whole30 – Reintroduction: Wine

16 Nov

I made it 35 days on my first Whole30!  On November 14th I had a planned reintroduction because I actually got a date night off with G and the semi-annual wine walk was happening which we really like to go to.  I’ve known since before I started Whole30 that I’d be going to this wine walk.  At first I thought nothing of it but as it grew closer I was actually nervous to see how my body would react to alcohol/wine.

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G and I wine walking in the rain!  It’s a little blurry and I guess maybe I was too.

When doing the Whole30 the reintroduction phase is where you reincorporate foods that you have eliminated for the past 30 (or however long you’ve done the program) days.  The objective is to only reintroduce one thing at a time so you can truly judge your bodies reaction to that one particular food group.

This one reintroduction at a time was such a hard challenge but I set off with the right mindset.  So many times with alcohol it is easy to forget about your health and diet goals because the alcohol lowers your inhibitions and can make you really just not care.  During the wine walk we went to several businesses, even a candy store.  Oh. My. God.  The sugar smelled like heaven!  My sense of smell has really improved over this time because no way I would have smelled it so strongly before.  I went from place to place trying to find one hors d’oeuvres that I could actually eat and I found none.  I was HUNGRY, and also a bit tipsy.  But, I didn’t eat anything that I shouldn’t have (which meant I ate nothing) and just stuck to wine.  I was proud of myself for not giving in because I really wanted to, but I also really wanted to know if wine was something I could drink in the future because it’s something I do enjoy.

I really lost track of how many wine samples I had but I’m going to guess maybe 20oz.  It wasn’t a small amount by any means and surely enough to get an idea of how it would impact my body.  The weird thing was, for how much I did drink I didn’t feel too intoxicated.  I thought this would actually be the opposite since I hadn’t drank in at least 35 days, maybe my body processed it more efficiently?  I don’t really know the reason but it was fine by me.

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A shameless plug for our favorite winery every year!  If you haven’t tried the Cougar yet you’re missing out.  So yum!

The night of wine walk I had no ill side effects.  No stomach aches, headaches, or other body pains!  That night and the next day I didn’t get a headache and no hangover!  I call this a total win!  I’m so happy that when I’m ready to start eating more foods that I can also include wine from time to time.

After the wine walk G and I went out to dinner.  I had the most fantastic prime rib, sweet potato fries, and vegetables (and another glass of wine!).  Food definitely tastes more fantastic now after eating whole foods.

I’m back on the Whole30 way of eating again.  I’m just not ready to reincorporate the other foods yet.  As of this writing I’m technically on day 2 of my second Whole30.  I’m still looking for that tiger blood energy that’s talked about in the book.  My body may take longer to get there but I do believe it will happen.  I’m really loving this way of eating.  To me this is food freedom, even if you may think it looks really restrictive.  For me I can eat Whole30 foods and not track my calories/macros and obsess over if I’m eating enough or too much of any one thing.  I feel like my body is working and not causing a lot of side effects from what I’m feeding it as fuel and I like that.