August Adventures, Animals and Expenses

early retirement budget with big family

After a month of renovation on one of our rentals, we planned a Week of FUN! Every day we did different fun things and little adventures. My kids, who are not at all accustomed to us “working” out of the house 20 hours a week, almost started a revolt during the renovation. So the week of fun was a great way to play catch up on all the adventures on our summer bucket list.

We picked cherries. Swam in Flathead Lake (twice!). Went hiking. And did a full day in Glacier National Park. Plus we met up with some awesome blog readers and got to hang out with their families. =)


Hidden Lake hike in Glacier National Park

Just sitting on the trail…

Everyone’s favorite hiking buddy!

After the relaxing/beach vacation month of June and renovation month of July, I had planned on August being a blog revamping month. Ha! Well, we did a good 5 days of work on the site.

Then we found out that Mr. Montana’s mom didn’t have long to live. So we packed up and set off for Nebraska. Having the flexibility to travel there as a family, spend that time with extended family and slow travel back was a huge blessing. We were able to say our goodbyes before she passed. On the way back we made stops in Fort Collins, CO and Yellowstone. We spent 2 weeks away from home altogether. Despite the circumstance, we were able to have a great time traveling and spending time with extended family. Another win for mini-retirements! I can guarantee it would have looked far different if we were still at our old 9-5 jobs.


 2 Weeks of Travel and Family

Wall Drug: splash park, mini-rushmore and random attractions galore!


Awesome parenting on display at Soiux Falls

Awesome parenting on display at Soiux Falls


travel the us with small kids


best museum pass for traveling with kids


Other expenses:

School Supplies: $116

Heaven help me. The lists. Oh my goodness, The Lists. They almost kill me. I should get some sort of parenting award for just getting the right stuff in the right backpack. I’ll admit. I’ve complained about this for years. So when we had to leave town quickly, my mom offered to do the shopping. “Yes! Yes! YES!! Here’s a $100. Good luck!” Yeah, I’m rather confident she won’t ever sign up for that again!

Bug Bites Supplies: $8

Nebraska bugs loved me and my body ended up having a horrible reaction to the 50+ bug bites I ended up with. The bites ended up like raised welts. Mr. Montana wanted to take me to a clinic. But a pill and cream form of antihistamine plus calamine lotion seemed to do the trick. (I could post a pic, but really, you don’t want to see this!)

Gas Station Coffee and soda: $25

Yippie for campsites with pools!

“Joy” Money

We switched our cell phone plans which save us $30+ cash each month (From $66 to $27 for both phones). 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.

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.

August’s Joy Money purchase.

Joy money was a 50% fail in August. Not just a fail in my lack of frivolous spending. But I failed to pay attention to small ways to add joy. And to be honest we could have used a few more reminders of joy. There were a couple things we upgraded on. Like slushies for the kids while in Nebraska. We made sure the camp grounds had pools or splash pads. And adding fun stops and museums to each day (another win for the science museum pass!).

My goal with our family spending is intentionality. It’s not just spending the lowest amount or the biggest amount. But thoughtfulness, in line with our goals, and helping take ground on things that matter to us.

While I am a huge fan of slow travel. Fast travel isn’t my cup of tea. Add in the stress of family loss, and it was hard for me to keep my zen focus with our spending. “Push through and get it done” edged out some of the “thoughtful and intentional.” August was about 50/50. It’s not perfect. But if we had dealt with this emergency a few years ago, it would have been more like 90/10. 90% “We just need to get this done.” And 10% “Let’s be thoughtful and enjoy the time we have.”

For this trip, I actually wish we would have spent a little more money. Thoughtfully and intentionally found ways to use cash to smooth over and enrich the experience. I wasn’t trying to be cheap, but I ended up distracted.

We did a few ice cream stops, so not a total bust! Sweet baby loves some soft serve. =)


Total Joy Money Spent: I wish it would have been more

This month:

Monthly Spending: $2,429

Giving this month: $226 Being as our giving comes from its own Giving Fund, instead of our passive income, I decided to start showing it here instead of in our pie chart to make that easier to read.

Year to date expenses: $18,078 vs $19,800.  $1722 under our passive income so far!

Year to date giving: $7160

Mini-Retirement Status

I started a new category in our monthly expenses to see how we are doing on our “work optional” life as we continue with our mini-retirement.

  • Can we really just do a bit of 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?
  • Can we work/volunteer and actually still have space for the rest of our life, like family time, travel and long days at the lake?
  • If people don’t have 1 million + net worth, how do average folks piece this thing together to create their most meaningful life?

Big Horn Sheep we saw along side the road outside of Yellowstone. It was a first for us and AMAZING!

5 Bucket Method

If you are just tuning in around here, here is the lay of our financial land. We use a 5 bucket system. It’s extremely useful for anyone trying to custom design their life. It’s perfect if you want to take a year off to travel, try to launch a side hustle into a full business, go part time at work for a few years, or retire early. It’s a great method for any financial transition where you are trying to create a life more in line with your goals and values.

Depending on your situation and goals, you would customize these buckets to meet your needs.

Bucket 1: Fixed Passive Income

Rentals: $1200 a month after all expenses

Military Retirement Pension: $1450 a month

Total: $2650 

We use bucket 1 to cover all our basic living expenses. It provides most of these costs. I don’t include investments into this bucket, but instead, just things that pay out a specific amount each month. Rentals, pensions, loan repayments, royalties or anything you have little choice if you “pull” from it or not.

The housing/rental market has been going crazy here. Between that fact and the major renovation we just completed, this amount increase by $200 this month. Over the next few years, we will continue to invest in this rental to position it as a “mid-priced or premium” rental. Our total budget is $10,000 for the updates.

Bucket 2: Cash Buffer

Cash buffer: About $55,000 (this includes our Giving Fund, which funds our charitable giving each month and our Rental Fund.)

  • We use this bucket to fill the gap in our basic expenses if needed.
  • We give donations from this bucket.
  • We also use it for one-time large purchases or emergencies.

Watching Old Faithful while sitting in the shade

Bucket 3: Investments

Our investments don’t go into our passive income bucket because when you are creating a flexible lifestyle early on, these buckets might function very differently.

Investments: $190,000

Because we don’t need to tap this bucket yet, we will continue to let compound interest do its thing. We might also fill it with some extra money from bucket 4 (side hustle).

$633 a month right now with 4% withdrawal.

Untouched for another 6 years it would provide about $1,000 a month income, growing at 8% to $295,000 with a 4% withdrawal.

That isn’t to say that we will use it in that way. Investments provide a host of options because it’s one of many buckets.

  • We might pull a lump sum to purchase other rentals.
  • We might use 2% in 6 years as our expenses grow (bigger kids, bigger food bills).
  • If we use it for “extras” instead of basic living expenses, we might pull 5-6%, knowing that in low market years we wouldn’t pull any money from it or only 1-2%. For example, when it grows to $300,000, we might pull $15,000 (5%) one year to take a 3 month trip to Europe. If the next year, a big market drop happens, we might pull $3,000 (1%) to take a 6 week US camping trip.

Our honey badger in a tree!

Bucket 4: Side Hustle/Extra Income

This bucket would include any extra income you produce. If you are growing a business, that income would go here. As would a profitable hobby, income producing passion project, or side hustle.

Because the first 3 buckets cover all our needs and wants, we currently use this bucket as “extra.” Extra money for investments to help those grow faster (bucket 3). Extra money for giving. Right now, I reinvest most of this income into business expenses plus classes, mentors, and information products.

Because ours is just ear marked for giving or business expenses, we get to be really picky about what kinds of projects we take on and how much we do. (Just stuff we love, 3 hours a day.)

Our tax returns also go into this bucket earmarked to fill our giving fund.

2016 Tax return: $5,500

Extra Income (year to date) : $7,498

Bucket 5: Future Passive Income

Rental Mortgage 1 payoff: + $189 a month

$38,000 balance on rental house 1. There is 25 years left on this mortgage. The interest rate is 2.85%.

Rental Mortgage 2 payoff: +$512 a month 

$96,000 balance on rental house 2. There are 27 years left on this mortgage. The interest rate is 4.35%.

We might pay these off earlier to increase our monthly passive income.

Social Security: Who knows?

My current assumption is that there will be a small amount of money that will start around age 70. I’ll start more carefully considering this in about 20 years. Right now I have it earmarked as extra money for health care costs or vacations with grandkids.

I dress fancy when we camp!


Conclusion: Mini-retirement still going strong!

Our moving target: doing exactly the right amount of all the stuff we love and is important to us. 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. =)


Grand Tetons and the kids run wild

Grand Tetons and the kids run wild

Hope you all had a great August!


For Conversation: Are you ready to switch gears for fall?

Are you ready to switch gears for fall?

Did you summer go according to plan?

Because Montana has a small population, it often doesn’t get much news coverage. Our lovely state is burning. As my garden and yard can attest, it’s been a hot, dry summer here. Almost 800,000 acres have burned. People have lost their lives, homes, and livestock. Firefighters have been working around the clock for the last 6 weeks to no avail. The air quality is getting worse. Honestly, we need help, federal support, and rain. At this point, we would just skip Fall if we could get a foot of snow to help slow the destruction.

Fires on Aug 18th outside of Missoula, Montana


Get My 5 Most Popular PDF's to Your Inbox

  • Build Your Financial Freedom
  • Create Your Ideal Lifestyle
  • Grow Your Passion + Passive Income
Unsubscribe at any time if the emails aren't awesome! Powered by ConvertKit

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Add to the conversation! Community is built in the comments section.

7 thoughts on “August Adventures, Animals and Expenses

  1. I, for one, am ready for Fall! I love summer, but there’s nothing like boots, button downs, and s’mores by a fire pit!!
    Y’all seemed to have an awesome summer though! We’ve had a great summer, although life caught me and we didn’t get to do quite as much as i would have liked.

    I like your term for the joy money. And how you’re working to use it. As frugal people, it’s so easy to throw that into savings and move on. It definitely takes a whole lot more work to figure out how to spend it in a way that is enjoyable and almost a luxury.

    • I am excited about breaking out some sweaters! And it is tough to find things that really move the needle and add value to spend money on. It’s easy to fritter it away, but finding small ways to add some richness takes a bit of thoughtfulness for me.

  2. Fall can’t come soon enough for me. I’ll be glad to see this humidity disappear.

    You had large things issues on your mind that took your attention away from finding small ways to add joy. Besides, from the looks of the soft-serve photo, you managed pretty well on that front!

    That photo of the sheep us unbelievable! It looks like he’s intentionally posing for you.

    • When all else fails, add ice cream! Our sweet baby is to the point, where he wants his own treat of everything. No more slipping things past him. =)

      And that SHEEP! He was so beautiful. And he knew it. He was like a runway model just slowly posing at every angle to be admired. He was right alongside the road, and we stayed in our van. He didn’t mind one bit posing for a few photos. =) It’s the first time I’ve seen one in the wild and it was a real treat!

  3. I actually think you did really well for the circumstances of the month. My mom passed in April & my MIL is in Hospice care currently….I think I was doing the 90/10. I’m trying to get back to mindful spending for the last quarter of the year but, I am learning to give my self grave during this season of my life.

  4. Just curious, what carrier are you going through for your cell phone? My husband and I live in the Helena area and have only had luck with Verizon which is extremely expensive… We looked into AT&T and Tmobile but their plans were only slightly cheaper and the coverage was worse.

    • Hey Jen, we use Red Dot with Radio Active a local provider here. But I just called them and they can offer service to anyone in the US. I’ll use the email you provided in your comment and email you the flyer they sent me with all the info!