Farmers Market and Manure
Planting our garden might be my very favorite weekend of the year! And buying plants from the farmers market is ABSOLUTLY my favorite way to spend money. I generally dislike shopping, and see it as a dull chore. But not for flowers, veggies and herbs! (Or books, who am I kidding!) I stroll through the farmers market with a big wade of cash and wide, greedy eyes. I want it ALL!
The only saving grace is our very fixed planting space. I was eyeing pumpkin plants and Mr. Mt gives me “the look.” Not the “that’s $2.25 look” more like the “where in the world are we going to grow that!?!” look. So I only bought one… and said “we’ll figure it out” just like I said about the 6 tomato plants and 3 squash plants or 8 hot pepper plants (those were ALL him!) Plus everything seems like a steal. $1.50 for a beautiful tomato plant? $3 for fushia flowers. Geesh… it’s not even a fair fight.
Plant Cost: $80
We have a local dairy farm here, Kalispell Creamery. We love their dairy products and I found out they also sell poo! Well, composted manure. =) And it’s a heck of a deal. $10 for a cubic yard. For $20 our little pull trailer was WAY past it’s capacity, and I had enough poo for all our planters, bushes and containers. There’s nothing that makes me feel more like a Montana girl than a few hours of shoveling manure. =)
Manure Cost: $20
After planting weekend, all I really like to do in the garden is water and eat. So we make the gardening really low maintenance and mulch the whole thing. We waited for the mulch to go on sale and bought 10 big bags for $20. It means there is almost no weeding all summer, and less watering.
Whitewater rafting Festival
There are more awesome things happening on any given Spring or Summer weekend in the Flathead Valley than we could possibly take in. Almost all of them are free or super low cost. The yearly whitewater competition is a really fun, free event. In general, I think festivals are fun, but this one is extra awesome because you get to watch crazy young folks compete in kayaks by hurling themselves down rushing whitewater. It’s an athletic feat for sure, but also a touch insane and therefor captivating to watch.
One of the competitors took the time to explain to us and the kids all the tricks and techniques. I love hearing people who are passionate about things I know almost nothing about! Plus the grown ups treated themselves to locally brewed beer, and kids got our favorite local ice cream.
Treats (beer and ice cream): $16
During my Spring “think week” I realized that my focus for the next few months needs to be my health. I had felt I only had 2 hours to spare a week to exercise. (And, I um…am 100% in control of my schedule!) I’ll chat more about the work I have been doing in figuring out our scheudual in June’s “Mentoring Question” but the short and skinny is that I needed to set aside more time for meal prep and exercise.
So we spent $30 to get unlimited childcare for our 3 youngest. And I started logging 6 hours a week. I have always loved weight lifting since I first started in Jr. High. And that love has stuck with me. Not only does it help reduce my stress and general anxiety, but I just feel strong. Like I can do stuff. Lift stuff, hike places, fix things, shovel out a whole trailer full of cow poo. I feel capable and confident when I lift. I’m already making good progress and am closing in on my personal best numbers.
Cost: Gym membership for 2: $40
Childcare for 3 kids: $30
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.
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.
May’s Joy Money purchase
This was a total impulse buy. I had spent a day digging out our strawberry patch because the weeds had kicked my a**. After 5 years of fighting them, I gave up. So I dug out 3 feet of crappy, weed infested soil from this miserable planter.
I’m always interested in different plant varieties. We have 6 kinds of raspberries in our yard. 3 kinds of blueberries. 2 apple trees. So these little bushes caught my eye at the farmers market. Jostaberry is a cross between currents and gooseberries. Hum…. Well, heart full of joy, I plopped down $20 and these two lovely bushes. And they found a new home in our yard. Our kids love eating new and weird foods. Especially if they get to pick them! So in the next year or so my joy will be shared with little kids covered in jostaberry juice, which I’m sure will stain everything they touch. =)
Total Joy Money Spent: $20.00
Verdict for May: Win. Money much better spent than on the old cell phone plans! After 2 months with the new cell phone, I’m happier than ever about the phone downgrade. I feel like I’m living the carefree 90’s again. =)
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 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?
- And can our work/volunteering actually leave 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?
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 fixed expenses would land 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) This cash buffer would cover an extra $500 a month for the next 10 years before we would have to touch our investments or need to use earned income.
Investments: $616 a month currently ($185,000 @ 4% withdrawal). We would pull from our cash buffer before using our 4% option. Ideally, we 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. We will be using some of the cash to renovate our rentals, which will increase the rents by about $200 between the two rentals in the next 6 months.
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: $2505. SOO close to under budget! I had figured out property tax would push us over, but was really surprised we still came in very close. Within $55!
Year to date: $10,857: $1393 under budget so far!
Year to date giving: $1208
Year to date Extra Income: $5563
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. We will be investing a bit of our rental fund surplus into rental renovations will increase our net worth, and rental income in the coming months.
We also got our tax return back (about $5000) which helps fill our giving fund for the year.
Conclusion: Work Optional still going strong!
I love hearing all your stories about how you are paying off your debt, reducing your expenses and building a little bit of passive income/ growing a side hustle so you have more flexibility in your future. I love the emails you all send me. “I love your blog… we are planning to…take a year off/ retire early/ take a 6 week vacation/ start a side hustle/ pay off the mortgage in 3 years..”. LOVE it! I love all of it! Selfishly, it’s one of my favorite things about doing the mentoring and consultations. I just really love getting to be friends with amazing people: who are chasing down interesting and meaningful things, who see that things can be different and better and are hustling to make that happen. I love being a small part of that. Keep up the good work!
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. =)
Hope you all had a great May!