October Overwhelm (and expenses)

October expenses were crazy low and make it seem like we lived under a rock for the month. In fact, October was a nuttso month for us on so many fronts. I can’t even. I had no idea when we started where this mini-retirement would take us. I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my mind around how much life has changed over the last two years.

early retirement budget with big family

As a person who loves to plan, I’m almost embarrassed by how much in the last 2 years has caught me off guard. I just never saw it coming. Couldn’t have guessed it. It’s something that makes taking a mini-retirement fundamentally challenging. You just don’t know. You understand what you have now at your current 9-5, but you can’t really see into the future.

This November will be two years since we said farewell to the 9-5. Two years might not sound like a long time. But it’s felt like a few lifetimes. We have grown and changed so much in this time. I’m not sure if this mini-retirement proved to be a late coming of age story. Or an early mid-life crisis. All I know is that it’s been GOOD.

Let’s do a rapid-fire October recap:

The Mini-Retirements Mastered beta course finished and I talked with 20+ people for 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours. Amazing people who are planning to do amazing things. I cried, laughed, and cheered on these calls. I didn’t want them to end. (Hence why some ran an extra HOUR!) Then I lost my voice. Because I’m actually an introvert who almost never talks in real life.

Ok….then we celebrated 3 birthdays in our home. 3!!!! It was like we partied all month.

To including Adam turning 40!!!! It was kind of a big freaking deal. He’s in the best shape of his life. He has this amazing family. A paid off house. We have seen a good chunk of the world. Oh and we’re financially independent. And his wife is a-mazing (just saying!). I’m not sure how we can top this for his 50th birthday? Maybe he’ll get his pilots license or build a house with his bare hands. My take away from the event. When you love where you are in life, the age number is affirming, not discouraging.

My father-in-law came to visit for 2 weeks! If you remember, his wife passed away in August. And we were SO happy to have him stay with us. They went into Glacier National Park. Hiked in the state parks. Hung out at Flathead Lake. And we ate burgers and fries. A LOT of burgers and fries! (My lovely husband took exactly zero pictures!)

Oh, and I went to FinCon. Oh, geesh. It was intense. So many amazing, inspiring people doing incredible things. Despite being an introvert, apparently, I had been doing a good job building relationships with people online. Because I felt like I knew EVERYONE (not really, but 50-75 of 1700, still felt like a lot!). I took for granted just how many people I had emailed, Skyped, chatted on the phone, sent a gift or tried to help them out with something over the last 18 months. It wasn’t all roses, but even in the icky parts, I came home with even more inspiration on how to want I serve my audience and the broader community.

One of the overwhelming parts of October and FinCon, in general, was this feeling of being thrown into a world I didn’t know existed a few years back. A world where people create, produce and build things online and then make money. People who are creating change in the world via their laptops.

I think I was the only one out of 1700 from Montana. (Statically there should have been 5-6 of us) And perhaps the only person with strong ties to the Blackfeet Nation. In a lot of ways it makes sense, and also made me a little sad. Montana is a place of growing wheat, raising cattle, and hardworking jobs. Where we do the work that needs to get done and is right in front of our hands.

But we do have internet! And computers! It made me sad because the people in Montana are exceptional. Hard working, creative, full of gumption and kindness. I would have loved to see more Native American influencers, and just more Montanans in general in places like FinCon.

And Halloween. Can we just be real about this? Halloween isn’t a one-night thing. It’s like a whole week of costumes, events, parties, school activities, pumpkin carving and candy overload. I always start off loving it because my kids are so excited. And by the end, I’m lying in a heap on the floor exhausted while my kids are bouncing off the walls.


(Mini-Retirements Mastered course isn’t available right now. I’m going back in and polishing the whole thing up plus adding some cool new features! But it will be available to everyone by the end of November! It won’t be open year round. Just once or twice a year, so we can work through it as a group. Make sure you sign up for my email newsletter to be notified when it opens up again.)

This month:

Monthly Spending: $1593 Say What?

how much does a mini-retirement cost?

I often hear, “Oh, I could never live on so little income!” Well, this month I didn’t have a free minute to spend any more money. October was full to bursting, and I couldn’t have handled one more dinner out, extra shopping trip, or some Ikea item I had no time to assemble or another trip. Although I could have used an extra nap! But those are free. =)

Giving this month: $300. 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: $19,908. $2542 under our passive income for the year!

Year to date giving: $7686


Other expenses:

Extra cake candy: I bought some extra candy for our Pokemon cake!

Total Cost: $12

My boys LOVE Pokemon. So this is a Pokeball birthday cake!


“Joy” Money

We switched our cell phone plans which save us $30+ 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, supercharge your investing or in this case….add a little joy.

Octobers’s Joy Money purchase: Airline earbuds. I forgot to pack some. Normally I cheap-out on stuff like this because I don’t want to spend an extra $2 on a crappy version of something I already own. But. It was the flight home from FinCon and I was SO tired. I knew my sweet babies would want all my time, love and attention the second I got into our van. In order to have a tiny bit to offer them, I bought the headphones and watched a RomCom on the flight. Best $2 spent ever!

Total Joy Money Spent: $2


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?


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.

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. I don’t include investments into this bucket. Rentals, pensions, loan repayments, royalties or anything you have little choice if you “pull” from it or not.

We recently completed a major renovation, increasing our rental income by $200 this summer. 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.

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 to 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 in monthly 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.

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.

FinCon Costs: So far I have reinvested 100% of all my blog income into learning how to do this thing a bit better. I also spend money on “tools” like email to send my newsletter. FinCon costs were included in that. But if your wondering if you should attend here was my costs.

Ticket: $209

Flight: $330

Hotel (split 4 ways): $180

Transportation: $17.50

Earbuds: $2

I did pack all my extra food and a cup plus tea. Some food and drinks were provided but most people probably spent another $100 on food.

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

2016 Tax return: $5,500

Extra Income (year to date) : $9,798

Bucket 5: Future Passive Income

Rental Mortgage 1 payoff: + $189 a month

$38,000 balance on rental house 1. There are 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.

Conclusion: Mini-retirement on slight pause…..

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, creating, volunteering or hanging out with friends. It’s all just stuff we love. =)

I’m reworking my schedule for the next three months. Winter came early in Montana starting with a foot of snow! As soon as the flake fly, I like to switch things up. No travel. No long days at the lake. No gardening. I like to rest/hibernate. And work on inside projects. =) Project that I can drink cocoa and Irish creme while I tinker. It’s just my rhythm. So I’m going to be writing more. Creating more. And listening/talking more.  =) I’m just rolling with the October overwhelm. Oh, and Adam has big downhill ski plans for his new extra fit body. 😉


For Conversation:

How does your schedule change come winter? Any way you’d like it to change?


Join my email community for the best stuff I write each week!


Sign up and grab your FREE copy! Get started planning your next Mini-Retirement.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. 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.

28 thoughts on “October Overwhelm (and expenses)

  1. Hi Jillian,
    I’m always so inspired by all that you do and accomplish when I read these posts. My life is also somewhere I would have never know about/or knew existed a few years ago…what a rush, and so very disorienting at times. From mothering and homeschooling four girls for years and years to business owner/blogger. It does indeed feel like Alice in Wonderland sometimes…where am I, and how did I get here? Thank you for your breakdown of how you arrange your financial life. It’s something to aspire to for sure. My winter schedule will include much the same as you…being in CO with lots of cold and snow. Creating, writing, and trying to survive until the green comes back. 🙂

    • I really love the seasons. I get burned out on the summer. I love it. And yet, it’s just so much. I feel like I’m rushing all summer to try to fit in every hike, lake, festival, trip, adventure, garden time, and farmers market. Can’t miss any of it. Then winter comes and it gives me permission to rest. And work inside. I don’t feel bad for being on the computer. =)

  2. Ahhh, I hope I can go to FinCon next year. A girl can dream.
    I’m so glad October was full of so much loveliness! What a month.
    I have eleven million projects to work on, as always, and need to keep myself focused instead of falling into the trap of just watching TV when it’s dark outside. I do love me some irish cream and coffee though! That’s a great idea, I should work on that on the weekends.
    We are going to attempt (again) to go duck hunting for the upcoming long weekend; duck hunting tends to take up a lot of our fall time, though this year we both seem to have less drive for it.
    I’m taking a culinary course which is also using up my free time, in delicious ways!

    • It would be SO awesome to have you at FinCon! And Florida is right next to Canada, right? 😉 We might completely miss hunting season this year. October was crazy and now it’s 25 degrees out with a foot of snow. We still have a freezer full of meat, so it’s fine. We don’t have a garage, so when it gets this cold Adam has to hang the deer up in our laundry room! Not my favorite part! Trying to scoot past a dead animal just to change over the laundry. Geesh. Montana life, right?

    • I actually lost my voice twice! First from the calls, THEN at FinCon. By the 3rd day, I couldn’t speak at all. My vocal cords totally shut down. I met someone who instantly asked me if I was an introvert. He said that introverts rarely work their vocal cords, so are more likely to lose their voice. Makes sense, I suppose.

  3. Hey Jillian, Awesome post. This is the first time I’ve read your monthly expenses. I love how you break it all down. My knowledge isn’t great on the investing side – that’s all Chris, but you’ve got me more interested in looking at where we are at!

    I definitely go into more of a hibernation mode with the cold weather. Earlier bedtime, sleep in on the weekends, and walk around the house with a blanket. But I’m hoping to be more active this winter. I’ve never gotten into any winter sports, but I think I would like cross country skiing (down hill totally freaks me out).

    • Downhill skiing is really fun. I’ve been more hit and miss with the sport due to pregnancies/breastfeeding. But my youngest is old enough for a full day of childcare now, so I might make it out a few times. I would really like to do some cross-country as well. We have great trails around here, and it seems like a great workout and super relaxing.

      And I love to organize people’s finances into the 5 buckets. It’s an easy way to take super complicated situations and get a handle on how all the pieces are working together. When I work with other people, I always sort assets into these buckets.

    • I LOVE Montana! I grew up here and have lived/traveled all over the world, but this is still home. =) I’m excited to roll out the updated course. Although I’m not sure it will ever be “finished”. I constantly have little things I want to add. At some point, it might get too big. :/

  4. Hi Jillian,
    I also shift my habits when winter sets in. We live in a cold climate (pretty close to you actually, in fact I think we get hit with the same weather systems from time to time), and I go into hibernation mode. The strange thing is that while it’s easier to be more active in the summer, I find myself more motivated to eat well and stay in shape in the winter months. Perhaps I realize how quickly things could get out of control, with all of the comfort eating that can happen when it’s nasty and cold outside. : ) Kudos to Adam for prioritizing his fitness!

    • I actually go to the gym more. Partly because I have less outdoor activities to compete against and the kids are in school. So winter is kind of strength building season, and summer is outdoor adventures. =) I just hired a personal trainer. It’s been a strange kind of torture. =)

  5. Love reading how efficient you guys are with your resources. Sounds like October pushed you to the limit, I hope you don’t get too burned out! Bet there were 0 people from Wyoming at Fincon. Oh and Landon was seriously jealous of the Pokémon cake. That looked awesome. He had to settle for a Pokémon piñata while we were on the road.

  6. Looks like you had a great month! I’m always looking to other FI families to see how low they can get their expenses and challenge myself to do better. I’m not sure I could get my monthly expenses down to $1,500 though as I have a few sizable expenses that are fixed and more than that by themselves! I do have one question, where do you record your home insurance and property taxes? I’m not sure what these cost where you live, but my property tax and home owners insurance runs $450/mo (combined) and I actually have pretty cheap property taxes in the city where I live (I know a lot of people who pay double and live in the same city as me). We bought a “modestly priced for our city” house in order to keep the property taxes lower. But between property tax, homeowners insurance and daycare I’m already at $1500! I know part of this is just the city we’re choosing to live in, but both my husband and I work in the same city so it doesn’t really make sense to leave the area yet, but we probably will when we retire. You’re doing awesome!

    • $1500 is low for us! =) We pay our property taxes twice a year and so those months are high, and the homeowners insurance once a year. Property tax is about $1600 a year ($800 twice a year) and homeowners ins. is about $600. So between the two it would average about $200 a month. With all our fixed expenses it’s about $600 in fixed cost as a monthly average. ($30 gym, $12 Netflix, $30 phone, $55 internet, ect) Our property taxes are rather average for our area. Our rentals run $2100 and $1100 a year.

      You’re right there isn’t a ton that can be done, except being thoughtful to those costs when you relocate. I wouldn’t stress too much about it! Do the best you can, where you can move the needle. And daycare is a huge cost everywhere! But not something to go cheap on either! =) We are lucky to not need full time childcare now. Or that would be a HUGE bill. =)

      • Thanks for your response! I was allocating my costs on a monthly basis for planning/budgeting, but they will be paid monthly (daycare), twice a year (property tax) and once per year (home owners insurance). That makes sense that you are recognizing them when you pay them.

  7. I found your blog at my in-laws on dec. 30th 2016. I have checked in periodically a couple times this year.. I appreciate you sharing your journey; on the personal front, along with the financial side of things. Sounds like you guys are getting good at this lifestyle. I think it’s a lifestyle more people should consider. Your story resonates with me for a couple reasons. I have been doing finance for about 16 years. I am a firm believer that less is more. And my cousin relocated to Bozeman this year, and I plan to make it my new vacation spot as soon as he buys a house. And I made my way to Yellowstone this summer for the first time. But I experienced it like everyone else; in a hurried rush with limited time, navigating the crowds, while checking the watch. Only 8 days for vacation!!! Keep up the good work.

  8. Winter is so lovely here in Arizona that I had to quit my job. 😀 I’ve spent the last couple weeks detoxing, but I hope to use the time to explore over the next few months. I also just got approved to drive for Uber Eats so we’ll see if that’s any more lucrative than DoorDash or Postmates.

    • I bet winter is nice there! We might actually come through Arizona in May this year! =) Maybe our paths will finally cross. =) The snow kind of inspires me to settle in and get some indoor stuff done. It’s so snowy and lovely outside right now, but I’m really happy being inside. =) This is about the only time of year I feel that way.

  9. Love this, and as much fun as it sounds if you are into this sorta thing…….:) just wanted to point out a potential correction needed above…Love your writing and what you do for others!

    “Amazing people who are planning to do amazing people”

    Like I said, sounds fun but I don’t think it is what you meant…..

  10. Hi Jillian. Merry belated Christmas! My wife Sharon and I plan to attend FinCon 2018 in Orlando since we live in St. Petersburg which is 2 hours away. This will be our first time attending. I quit my banking job after 21 years with the same company so we are taking a mini-retirement in 2018 as we pursue the next phase of our lives.

    I enjoy all things personal finance and I’ve enjoyed reading the various bloggers including yourself. Plus, it’s always been a dream of mine to visit Montana and my wife and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2018 and we have talked about visiting in the near future.

    My question to you since you went to FinCon this year, did you purchase the meal plan and stay at the hotel hosting the event or did you make other arrangements? Since we a daughter that will be in school at the time we have to decide if we want to commute back and forth for those days and/or eat outside the venue to save a few bucks.

    Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

    Happy New Year to you and your family!

    Bob and Sharon

    • They didn’t offer a meal plan last year. But I have heard the food is very expensive at this hotel and it’s not very close to other food options. I mostly ate packed snacks and protien bars this year!

    • We have basic coverage from Adam’s military retirement. The first week in January, I’m going to do a 2-year expense recap and put more detailed info in there. =)

      • Thx… That always makes a difference I see in the FI community. Either a spouse is still working or military benefits.

        In reality I could go probably FI, but w/ the Non Affordable Care Act I’m screwed as a single person bc it would cost me a fortune on a yearly basis, and as a person who’s basic yearly insurance usage is a yearly physical it it’s just throwing money away, but I can’t go without it.

        • I think we probably pay more than the average early retired I know. I think we would pay less with ACA (for now at least). I know a few people who do health share ministries. They pay about $1000 a year more than us. High deductible plans are a great option too. I know folks who pay about $100 a month for those for the family, then just out of pocket for yearly physicals. Part-time work is a great option for a lot of people too. A friend of mine works 4 hours a day, every weekend/holiday off, plus 12 weeks of vacation a year and has full benefits. In my mini-retirement course, there is a whole lesson on healthcare options. Sometimes it does cost more. Then it’s just a matter of, are you willing to pay $1000 or $3000 more a year to have a year to pursue other things? Given the salary most people are walking away from, an extra few thousand dollars shouldn’t be the sticking point, but it often is.

          • They must live in states where there are lots of exchanges b/c I have run the numbers in AZ were I live, and there’s few options for the ACA and it would cost me $5,500 in yearly dues alone w/ a $6,800 deductible. And it’s only going to get more expensive as it has since it’s inception.

            Ministries would probably be my best bet. I’ve also thought about getting a job at a Costco or something like that. Pay is decent and the benefits can be great. Low stress gig which will keep cash coming in and from having to touch what I have. And I’m not going to sit around and do nothing. 3-4 days there would be fine with me.

            I can then take the trips I want to take when and where w/ a slight drawdown.

            By the way, I was in Montana last year. Loved it and it’s on my possible places to live. Really loved it up there. Two main bases were Bozeman which is getting expensive as hell w/ all the Californians buying and also Missoula.