I needed April. The tulips coming up. The sunshine. The festivities of Easter. And weekends out of the house.
One of my favorite things about being “Work Optional” is when a day with truly amazing weather comes along, we can drop everything and go enjoy it! After weeks of rain, we had the perfect Saturday in April. So we headed out to spend the day at Flathead Lake. Spring was in full force, and after sharing how I was lacking energy, I soaked this up.
My sweet Montana kids love some good climbing rocks!
Have I mentioned that I used to work 9-10 hours EVERY Saturday. Well, I thought about that fact a FEW times while we were out hiking at the lake. =)
Cost: $3 in gas
I had keep things really simple for Valentines Day this year, but decided to spend more cash for the Easter holiday. We had scored these super cute baskets 75% off after Halloween and hid them for the last 6 months to use as Easter baskets. We held on to these to be “treat buckets” that the kids get to pick a treat out of each night. They are actually sturdy, and I imagine will last at least a year.
I filled about 75 plastic eggs with candy and hide them in the yard (reusing the plastic eggs left over from the last few years). We had extra egg coloring supplies bought 75% off after holiday over the last few years. But I spent about $20 on candy and a few coloring books from the dollar store.
I have fun holiday pancakes for EVERY occasion! I think when my kids reflect on their childhood, fun pancakes will be a standout memory. =) For these Easter egg pancakes I cut up jelly beans and added them to the batter, then decorated with sprinkles. I’ll admit I attempted some Easter bunnies as well. With a round face, and 2 big floppy ears. But almost every time one of the ears would break off. Those were R rated pancakes, folks! Thankfully the kids didn’t seem to notice. =)
Easter celebration: $22
The thing I LOVE about having low fixed expenses is that I felt like we spent a lot in every category this month (built cabinet doors for our bathroom, built a lean-to for our firewood, 2 dental cleanings, family photos, TONS of groceries, Oh, and I spent $100 for 260 coffee pods: a year’s supply!) And we STILL came in $100 under budget!
We switched our cell phone plans which is saving us a bit of cash each month. I wanted to be intentional about finding little things to spend that extra money on that add a TON of value for the price. It’s been a fun mental exercise to focus on finding stuff to buy that I might have passed on otherwise.
I’m naturally frugal. I see something I would enjoy and have no trouble passing it by. I feel no sadness in my heart or bitterness that I “can’t have it.” I don’t feel like I am doing without. I have a hard time imagining how spending more money could actually make life any better.
So I am experimenting with this idea. I call it my “Joy Money.” One of the awesome things about going frugal on fixed expenses ( like our cell phones) is each month there is all this extra money. You can use it to pay down debt, super charge your investing or in this case….add a little joy.
April’s Joy Money purchases
2 8×10 prints. $25
We had some new family photos taken, and I opted to buy 2 large prints (which I’ve never done!) to fill picture frames I had. The kids have loved it, and it does give the house a more personal feel. We have lived in this home almost 5 years, and never hung a family photo on the wall. It was time!
Ice cream and donuts. $2.28
We had been out hiking that day and I thought about heading straight home, but then thought about the extra money and decided to make a pit stop at our favorite treat place. It’s tough to beat .25 cones and a “monster” donut big enough for all of us to share that costs $1.28!
Cut Flowers: $2
I saw these flowers on sale for $2. At first I just shrugged it off because the tulips in front of my house were in full bloom. But the joy money changed my mind. I have to admit, they were darn lovely, and I was SO happy to have them around for a week.
Awesome new mug: $8
I love a good cup. Coffee cups, tea cups, mugs. Love them! It’s a weakness. I have to have a strict one-in-one-out rule or our entire kitchen would be overrun with cups. But this one was worth trading out an old one. I would have passed it by, but my “joy” money was the encouragement I needed.
Total Joy Money Spent: $37.28
Verdict for April: Win. Money much better spent than on the old cell phone plans!
Work Optional Status
I wanted to start a new category in our monthly expenses to see how we are doing on our “work optional” situation.
- Can we really just do work that we love, instead of going back to the 9-5 grind?
- Can we focus on things we find interesting and best leverages our skills or passion instead of just things that pay the most?
- And can our work/hobbies/volunteering actually accommodate the rest of our life, like family time, travel and long days at the lake?
- If people don’t have 1.5 million net worth, how do average folks piece this thing together?
If you are just tuning in around here, here is the lay out of our financial land:
Passive Income Sources
Rentals: $1000 a month after all expenses
Military Retirement Pension: $1450 a month
Ideally our monthly spending would come in close to this number. If our expenses for the year are higher, we have 2 back up sources before counting on earned income.
Cash buffer: About $60,000 (this includes our Giving Fund, which funds our charitable giving each month)
Investments: $616 a month currently ($185,000 @ 4% withdrawal). We would pull from our cash buffer before using our 4% option. We hope to let it continue to grow for another few years.
Rental Mortgage 1 payoff: $38,000 balance/$189 monthly payment (future passive income)
We have enough cash to pay this off and increase our passive income, but the interest rate is very low, and I’d rather have the extra cash on hand in case of emergency.
Rental Mortgage 2 payoff: $97,000 balance/ $512 monthly payment (future passive income)
The rents completely cover these amounts for now and they are set on 30 year mortgages (25 years/ 27 year remaining). At some point we might decide to pay them off early to increase our monthly passive income.
Monthly Spending: $2350. 4th month in a row to come in under budget!
Year to date: $8328: $1472 under budget so far!
Year to date giving: $967
Year to date Extra Income: $5350.
Mr. Mt and I have each done a bit of freelance work and pulled in some extra cash this year. We have a bunch of renovations on the docket for this summer, so we probably won’t be taking on much new work until Fall. Although the renovations will greatly improve our net worth, and increase our rental income.
This year has been a good process of finding the best use of our time. About half of our non-family time are things that we do without direct pay. Honestly, we are really picky about the things we take on. Not only the type of work, but the clients. If it seems to be an amazing fit, and something we are really excited to do, we will say yes. If not, we just have too many other plates spinning to take on something just for a bit of income.
Even without 9-5 jobs, if we lack one thing: it would still be time, not money.
We also got our tax return back (about $5000) which helps fill our giving fund for the year.
Conclusion: Work Optional still going strong!
This month marked 18 months away from the 9-5 grind. Personally and financially, it seems to be going great. Our expenses are really consistent. Even if the stock market tanks for a few years, our $60k cash buffer would cover an extra $500 a month in expenses for 10 years without earning a dime of income!
We could always take on a bit of extra freelance work if we wanted, but right now we are picking the amount that gives us the best balance between the joys of parenting and talking with other adults. =) I’ll totally admit that after a 14 hour day with all 5 kids, not one little piece of me is sad about heading to the coffee shop the next day for a few quiet hours of writing or jumping on a Skype mentoring call for an hour. Not. One. Tiny. Bit. (And all the stay-at-home parents said “Amen!”) Actually it feels like a tiny vacation. =)
That has been our moving target: doing exactly the right amount of all the stuff we love. No matter if it’s family time, traveling, writing, mentoring, gardening, renovations, hiking, volunteering or hanging out with friends. It’s all just stuff we love. =)
Hope you all had a great April!
If you could custom design your ideal week, what would it look like?
Are you naturally super frugal? What do you think of my “joy” money?
What do you think of our new “Work Optional” section? Does it help make sense of our crazy piece meal life?