March Adventures and Expenses

March felt like a jam packed month, in the best possible way! Our spending average in 2016 was $2500 a month, so any month we come in below that feels like a win! We don’t really need to spend less, but I feel like the year to year months are in a competition. The month that can pack the most fun stuff in for the least amount of money is crowned the champion. March 2017 won this time! Sometimes I wonder how two people without 9-5 jobs can have so many things on their plate!

early retirement budget with big family

March had a slightly unfair advantage. We used two gift cards!

Hotel Stay: We had a hotel gift card that was about to expire so we decided to kick off Spring Break with a local hotel stay, complete with indoor pool, a very generous complimentary breakfast and fresh baked cookies. The kids had a blast! Between hours of swimming, cable TV in the room and those fresh baked cookies, I think they would move in! I prefer camping to hanging out in hotels, but even I had fun.

Cost: Hotel (free) Take out food for Mr. Mt and me: $13 (We packed sandwiches and snacks for the kids!)

Family photos: Did you notice the lovely new photos on the site? We had some family photos taken in March! It had been on my to-do list for quite a while but the weather never seemed to cooperate until March. We also had a gift certificate that covered the sitting fee plus 5 digital prints. It was our favorite family photos yet party because we took them at our favorite state park on Flathead Lake, and partly because the kids could run around the whole time.

Ms. Montana Mr. Montana personal finance bloggers

Ski Day: Mr Montana took our oldest kid out skiing. It was his first time skiing the big hill!  Whitefish Mountain has a fantastic ski hill plus they offer a 50% military discount. Mr. Mt loves having a new ski partner. They both had an amazing time. It will be a few years before all the kids are ready to hit the hill, but we are cherishing the one-on-one time for now.

Cost: $97

Public Speaking: I was so happy to be able to share Grow the Gap: Guard the Gap with a group of families in March! I had some great conversations after the talk with people who were very excited about creating some financial freedom. One of the coolest things about not going back to the 9-5 right away has been having the time to invest in our community.

Chatting with you all!: Between having two new mentoring partners, sending out a private Skype request to my email community, doing a drawing for a free consult from my email community and some money consultations, I felt like I got to chat with at least 1 person almost every day! It was really fun….and kind of crazy! But it was amazing to get to know you all more, hear your stories, and all the amazing insights I glean from you all every time we chat. (I have 2 mentoring spots left, but will only be taking on new partners till the middle of May, you know…because summer is almost here!!!)

All the other good stuff!:

March is a funny month for weather. We started the month a pile of snow for skiing, sledding and snowy hikes.

snowy hikes with small kidsfun affordable winter activities for kids

March ended with a week long Spring break complete with sunny hiking, playing in the yard, flowers in bloom and smores in our fire pit. Montana has 4 very distinct seasons, and while I was signing the praises of winter and cold back in January, I’m on tiptoes waiting for warmer weather now! Every few months brings a whole new swirl of activity and we race around to soak it all up.

low cost fun family activities

We also finished up the trim in our new master bath, did car/motorcycle tune ups ($180) and had some family come into town. We treated them to our $3 ice cream and donut excursion. We almost never take the whole family out to dinner, but ice cream and donuts are at least a monthly trip! It’s probably my kids favorite way to spend $3! (OK, mine as well.)

Winter coats: I don’t frequent used clothing stores very often, but we made a pit spot to check out the winter coat selection. We found 7 that will work nicely for next year. Having good quality winter coats is important in Montana, spending $40-$60 per coat for new ones, is not. Lands End was kind enough to send me a catalog with their half priced coats, which still were $30-$50 per coat! For 5 kids that would have run at least $150. Instead we hauled home this rather nice selection of 7 coats for $28 in total. (One of which happened to be Lands End!) They averaged $4 per coat, which means that when one of the kids loses it on the playground (that only happens 10 times a year!), I won’t be too stressed about it. Either they find it, or the lost and found donates the coats back to the Salvation Army. It’s the winter coat circle of life. =) (Baby’s coat not shown)

Cost: $28

Kids Sports:

We also signed our boys up for soccer this spring. We gave up year round sports a while back because the schedule was a hassle and we wanted to free up more time and money for travel while the kids are little. But every so often we will put them in 6 week sport camps. They have a blast and get to test out a new sport for a week weeks. It’s the kid version of being a Committed Quitter. =) The best part…it will be over before we start our summer camping trips.

Cost: $80

Monthly Spending Target: $2,450 vs actual $1925

Year to date Spending Target: $6,850 vs actual $5979

Yearly Giving Target: $3,000 vs Year to Date $667

All around, March was a great month and rounded out a really exciting first quarter for us! It was 18 months ago that Mr. Mt left his 9-5 job and it’s been a crazy whirlwind for us. Every month feels a bit like a “Choose your own adventure” book. It’s been a qualified adventure for sure!

For Conversation:

How was your March?

Would you opt for 6 week sports or year round?

Do you have any bulbs coming up? These are some of my favorites!

ps This guy just melts my heart!

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28 thoughts on “March Adventures and Expenses

  1. Hmmm… your picture of your pie chart expenses is blurry. The words can’t be distinguished ( by me at least). I’m on mobile, but I’ve never had that problem before with these posts. FYI!

  2. That sure looks like a top month! And the proof that frugal does not mean boring.
    Great that you had public speaking and chat sessions. Meeting others on share FIRE stories is so great.

    • I’m naturally an introvert, but I love talking to people when we have a great topic! =) Honestly, I don’t think we have time to spend any more money! There were SO many cool (and free) things we had to miss because there was too much going on. It’s a good problem to have. =)

  3. great job staying on track. We had a rough start to the year but should be hitting our stride this month! Thanks for sharing, I loved seeing the pictures of snow, its been a very mild winter for us so far.

  4. Love reading about your month, Ms. Montana! It’s looks beautiful there in Montana! We had a good March. Expenses were average, but savings were high. The weather was dreary and chilly, but now I think Spring has finally arrived in Iowa. The grass is green (and needs mowed), the rhubarb and strawberries are up, as well as the lilies and other flowers. Can’t wait to get out there and dig in the dirt!

    P.S. I vote for more baby pictures. 🙂

    • Oh my goodness, isn’t he the sweetest thing! Be still my heart. And our strawberries and rhubarb are up too! I feel like I’m excited about each and every season. But Spring is extra special. =) Our herb garden is going crazy as well. I love planting, but that is probably still 6 weeks away. =( I scrapped enough frost off my car this morning to make a snow cone!

    • We have insurance through Mr. Mt’s military retirement. It’s 80/20 coverage with a deductible, but there aren’t any monthly payments. So if we don’t need to go to the doctor that month, we don’t have a charge. That number includes my dental insurance, at $60 a month (which I might drop, because I almost never come out ahead vs just paying cash), our life insurance and medications. With all the upheaval of the healthcare system lately, I am super thankful that the military has a somewhat stable system in place. =) It’s doesn’t cover everything, but it’s decent. Everything else we just pay out of pocket.

  5. $4 coats? That’s impressive! I dont’ think they’re that affordable at our consignment and thrift stores. That helps a lot when your kids have that habit of donating them to the playground.
    It sounds like you had an absolutely fabulous March 🙂

    • “donating them to the playground” Yup! After a long winter, the weather hits 45 degrees and the kids just abandon their coats. Nothing I say has any effect! But if it’s only $4 and I have a spare in the closet, at least I don’t lose my cool. I might freak out if it were a 2 week old $60 coat. =( So really the used coats are in the kids best interest. =)

  6. Oh I am absolutely not a fan of year-round sports. I do – however – love the idea of sports camps. I’m always amazed at the upheaval on our family life from sports. Presently we do just 1 sport a year and then are open to a short-term camp in the summer or break time. And I totally get the winter coat donation thing… We haven’t ‘donated’ yet – but I’m sure our time is coming! I do pay more for coats – but then I plan to get 3 years out of them. You’ve got a killer system there!

    • The kids have a lot of fun with the camps! And at the end of 6 or 8 weeks, we all are ready to move on. =) We did year round for a while, but it was pricey ($150 a month) and I felt bad about missing classes, meaning that was just money lost. I found us rearranging our life around the classes. And my kids were 5 and 6! Maybe later, but not in this season of life! =)

  7. My wife and I drove along Flathead lake on our way to visit friends in Kalispell a couple years ago. We went to Bowman Lake in Glacier park and IT BLEW MY MIND! Y’all live in a beautiful place. Oh, and congrats on the spending this month.

    • I love it here SO much! It’s kind of embarrassing but I am actually a bit afraid of water. Mostly the creepy things that live in water. If the water isn’t perfectly clear, I’m probably not getting in. It’s one of the many reason I love Flathead lake! 15, 20 feet down the water is perfectly clear. Like you can make out each individual rock at the bottom. That way is something super creep is swimming towards me, I have a 20 foot warning and can get out fast! No sneak attacks by fish! But don’t tell anyone. =)

    • I definitely try to leverage unfriendly weather to a work advantage. Partly because I know once it’s super nice outside, I’m not going to be able to get myself to stay indoors and work. =)

  8. I love ALL the photos, especially the group one. I feel like I’m climbing right over those rocks with you.

    I’m very happy to hear about your public speaking gigs. Are you thinking about applying to do a session at FinCon? (We’re not attending but we should be in your neck of the woods a few weeks before.)

    • Really, you will be in Montana?!?!! Yippie!!!!! =) Ok, when it gets closer email me all the info! I want to make sure we are here. Although you could use our house if we are gone. 😉 Or the sweet pop up camper if it’s not to chilly by then.

      I’ve really been liking being able to do more public speaking. It such a great way to connect with people. I haven’t apply to speak at FinCon, but mostly because I don’t know what I would share. How to build an email list of 700 in 12 months? Ha! Not inspiring. =) I thought about talking about vulnerability and honesty in writing and creating community. But there are people much better at it than I am, and I’m not sure the FinCon crowd would dig it.

  9. The family pics are terrific. Looks like fun taking them, and the shots are great.

    We lost 2 jackets this year…fortunately, they were both purchased second hand. Yes, it’s easier to deal with when the cost was $6 instead of $60.

  10. I’m glad that you had such a nice March with your family. It’s always nice to read about how others spend time together, but without racking up lots of expenses. The pictures look awesome – we’ve never done family pictures before, but I would really like to do them after the twins get here (and I have a little bit of time to regain my normal shape). Also, awesome job with all of the speaking/consulting, etc.!!!!

    • I love family photos. It’s one area that we really try to make happen. Mostly because when I try to get photos of the kids it’s a hot mess! It’s nice to at least have a few good images once a year. We did pictures right after the baby was born (2 weeks), I wasn’t my normal lovely self (a different version of my lovely self perhaps), but it was great to capture that moment. He has changed SO much since then! I use to take newborn photos for all my friends (a frugal and super helpful baby gift!) and there are ways to get some great images. =)