29 August 2018

No Spend Novel

So...when Brad and I lived in Japan the first time, 10 years ago, he read an article about a family who went an entire month without spending a penny of their paychecks.

He was like, "We should try this." 
In that season of my life I might have been immature, materialistic, and definitely lacking the motivation to have my priorities in any kind of order...so I was like, "Haha. No."  We didn't have any debt, what was the point?

Fast forward two kids, some life lessons, new priorities, and the newer more mature version of me decided we could give it a go. We were still debt free, but we were a couple months out from PCSing, Hawaii to San Diego (aka losing our COLA), and wanted to pay cash for a car for Brad when we got there, as well as stay out of debt through the moving process.  #motivation #goals #allthatjazz

If you know me at all, I never just "give things a go".  I commit.  Once I decide to do anything that involves the word "challenge", it's getting done, or I am dying trying. *I might have some pride issues*

Our first no spend challenge was for the month of February 2012.  We prepared throughout December and January by buying extra bread and meat within our normal grocery budgets for those months.  This meant cutting back on Doritos and Oreo's, ice cream and ribeyes, etc, in Dec and Jan while filling our freezer and cabinets with non-luxe grocery items. Also, shopping stragecially for January AND February on January's budget.

There is some prep that needs to be done to to do a 100% no spend month.  Though, if you wanted to start tomorrow, you could always do a modified version.  I'm an ALL OR NOTHING type of girl, though, so there was no way I was touching that bank account in February...therefore: PREP.

That first one was an outstanding success.  We ate a ton of hamburger helper and Rice a Roni.  You definitely can't do any kind of Whole30 nonsense during a no spend month (Februaries are for no-spend, and Augusts are for Whole30 in this house). ;)  I blogged everything we ate and wrote little notes about how each week went, things I did with the kids, temptations, etc. Those posts can be found in the February 2012 archives on this blog.

We recycled a bunch of cans. And then would use that money to buy milk.  Fresh fruits and veg were bought with money I made sewing patches on uniforms for Brad's coworkers.  You definitely need to have a plan to avoid getting scurvy! 
We didn't have to buy gas for either vehicle the entire month because we lived in Hawaii.  I wasn't spending money, so I wasn't going anywhere, and Brad worked 3 miles away and his island beater got 40mpg.

We lived in base housing so we had no rent/utilities/etc.  Our only monthly bills were cell phones, water delivery and Netflix (if you're trying to be frugal and you still have cable...it's 2018, you gotta stop that nonsense).

Now, the conditions in Hawaii were pretty great for making that first attempt at overwhelming success.  I sewed a quilt for someone and did a couple other odd jobs, so that at the end of the month, even the phones/water/netflix were covered without having to touch either paycheck. That first one will always be the most successful due to the conditions at the time.

Just like that, an entire month's pay went into savings.  We choose February every year because it's a great time to recover from holiday spending, we don't have any family celebrations that month, we are forced to get creative for Valentine's Day instead of wasting money on what we consider to be a consumer holiday, it only has 28 days (usually), and we also get our tax return in February.  So, not only are we not touching our paychecks, but we aren't touching our tax return (which is usually a nice chunk of change #4kids).  The whole challenge is about reassessing our relationship with our money, considering what we truly value, and getting back on track to be good stewards of our financial blessings.  It's like going on a missions trip and returning home with an altered world view, but then as the weeks and months go by...you get sucked back into first world things because it's hard not to.  The altered view fades, and things go back to normal.  This no spend challenge is like going on a mission trip once a year, to keep your focus and awareness on what is really of value to you.  We do it once a year to reset,  reevaluate, and set some kind of example for our kids that sometimes "NO" can be a very powerful word in a very good way.

Anyway, moving to San Diego made the whole thing MUCH harder.  We bought a house, and had lots of bills, and we definitely couldn't go a month without putting gas in our cars... so we kind of had to modify our challenge to one that meant after XYZ were paid, we were not spending beyond that.  We did okay the first year in S.D., maybe saving 80% of one month's pay.  But we got better the next year.  Because PREPARATION!  6 months ahead of time, I started buying $10 or $20 commissary gift cards everytime I went to the commissary.  I'd buy gas cards here and there, too.  Keeping these purchases in our normal monthly budget. And hoarding them in my glove box until February, so I could get gas and bananas wihtout touching February pay.  Again., freezing bread and meat...stocking up on canned fruit and veg, box dinners, etc.  In January, you have to basically buy 2 months of food on one month's budget, so you have to get creative with meal planning.

Also, in San Diego, we kept adding to our family.  We had 4 kids now, and the older ones were getting to the age of activities (swim lessons, soccer, school supplies, birthday parties, etc).  Paying for everything with January's budget can be really difficult.  Something I always do that comes in handy during the month of February is BUY IN ADVANCE.  I am not talking just groceries...I am talking clothes, toys, etc.  I always bargain hunt for my kids clothes and buy for their next two sizes, because when the deal is there, you need to take advantage of it.  If you wait for the need to arise, you will always pay more when shopping out of necessity.  So, when I'd see bathing suits and Christmas jammies on super clearance out of season, that's when I'd buy them for $3...vs $15 in season when the need arises (see my Gymboree blog for tips on that).  Also, I always check out clearance toys...especially when the exchange (lakenheath) has the "extra 50% off already clearanced items" deal.  I buy toys for $5 that were originally $32.  Then they go in my gift locker, with all the gift wrap/bags that I got for $0.50 each.  Also, buy the $20 box of 40 generic all occasions cards to have on hand.   Now, when your child gets invited to a birthday party in February (or ANY month), you don't have to go shop for a gift.  You go to the locker and grab a $5 ($30) toy, $0.50 worth of wrapping or tissue/bag, and a $0.50 card out of the box...and you're all set for 6 bucks (that you actually spent in October or November).  Have you ever gone out and bought the gift on the way to the party?  $15 gift, $3 gift bag, $3 tissue paper, $3 card?  I have done that too many times to count.  It's ridiculous...stop doing that. *though Tesco does make it less of a blow with their £1 greeting cards and stuff...but, have you seen the prices on the greeting cards at the exchange?  Never, ever buy those.  You can buy a book for less, and write happy birthday on the inside...and the recipient won't throw it away! :)

Anyway...tangents. digressions, yada yada yada.  The hardest things to overcome during no spend month won't be to not spend $30 for a random kid's birthday present. It will be the little things you do all the time that you don't think are adding up.  Starbucks, movies at the theater with snacks, date nights, babysitting, pedicures, getting your hair done, fries and a soda from the drive through, a Krispy Kreme donut on the way home from the gym, online shopping, drinks/tea/punting/concerts/theater/etc with your girlfriends.  So many things are NOT neccesities, but we become good at convincing ourselves we need them.  I have not dyed my hair since before our first no spend challenge because I learned that month that I totally didn't value the aesthetics of my hair, like. At. All.  Each time we do this, I realize that I have been putting value in something only because society or friends also value it...but I actually don't. Peer pressure is real for adults.  When you say no to everything for a month, you will realize that some things were easier to give up than others.  In that, you can learn what you really value, and what is important enough for you to spend money on in a regular basis.  Then, you can learn to give up those other things for good!  

This whole challenge isn't just about getting through the month to say you were successful at the end (though I do like that part), it's about really getting to know yourself, what you value, and how comfortable or uncomfortable you are in your relationship with your money.  

If money is a consistent worry, this is something that can help that...not just by putting a huge chunk into savings (or paying off a huge chunk of debt) once a year, but by influencing your spending habits in a way that will effect all the other months of the year.

Then, when the end of the year rolls around. And those new, good habits start to slip, and the holidays make you go crazy?  Take a deep breath, reset and meditate in January...then in February, DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. :)

Don't forget to start your prep in Aug/Sep.  Now would be a great time to start thinking about February being your first novel spend month.

Not planning properly is a really great way to fail. Also. Telling yourself that you can't do it, and not even starting is a 100% guaranteed failure. ;)

Whether you have zero debt, or thousands in consumer or student loan debt, you can do this.  It will be hard, but guess what?


16 March 2014

I tri'd...

I ran my first ever triathlon this morning.  It was a perfectly beautiful day.

 Here is a bunch of randomness about my experience:

* Confession: I only rode my bike that one time that I posted about it on facebook.  I know I ended that post with, "I can't wait to do it again on Saturday!"  Well, I didn't.  I bought the bike over two years ago, and today was the second time I rode the dang thing.
* I am a swimmer first, runner second, and a biker never.  Is it right to say biker?  That sounds like a motorcycle dude.  Anyway, biker/cyclist/rider/peddler?  I am going to go with peddler...and I am not one. 

* Training for a bike race on a stationary bike at the YMCA, even with the resistance set at 13, is not comparable to hitting the road on a craptastic bike. Also the YMCA needs to get some head winds up in there to help prepare me better for my next race.

* 98% of participants were wearing wetsuits.  I had checked online last night for the water temperature around Coronado and the internet told me that it was 63 degrees yesterday.  I thought that didn't sound too bad, but I started to get pretty nervous about freezing in the water when I saw nearly everyone wearing one.  The water was delightful!  If it had been any warmer, I would have thought it was uncomfortable.  All those people were needlessly wearing wetsuits, in my opinion.

* I botched the swim.  I did about 800m instead of 500m.  The sprint swim was marked by a green buoy at the start, then two yellow buoys, then a red one at the finish.  The Olympic swim was marked with orange buoys between the start and finish.  After I passed yellow buoy #2 my purple tinted goggles made one of the orange buoys appear red...and I went significantly out of the way to get to it.  Some guy on a surf board had to paddle to me and say, "Where do you think you're going?  Have you not noticed there is nobody in front of you?  What do you think, you are faster than everybody?"  Yeah, I did think that I was faster than everybody...and I was moving pretty quick in the wrong direction for a couple minutes!  I felt like such a dummy!  I was really sad that I messed up the swim, because that was supposed to be my strongest leg, and I was in the front of the pack until I got lost. :(

*Okay...back to bike.  Why so serious biker/cylist/peddler people?  Looking back, I could have gone quite a bit faster during the bike portion, but I took it slow because I was afraid of burning out before the run.  There were no mile markers on the bike course, so I had no clue how far I had gone, or how far I had to go.  I amused myself by taking selfies and sending them to Brad, also offering high fives to at least half the people who passed me going in the other direction.  I got a bunch of mean looks.  I smiled at everybody going the other way, and most of them just looked down to avoid eye contact with me.  The few big smiles I got back were awesome.  I got three total people who tried to accept my high fives, but only one made contact.  Thank God for that guy because I had almost concluded that all people on bicycles were just jerks.  He really tried to make it work, and boosted my morale for the rest of the bike portion. 


*Another morale boost:  At the second bike turn around, I started belting out Total Eclipse of the Heart, and my performance was met with cheering and applause.  Yeah, I know the volunteers cheer for everyone that goes by...but this was SPECIAL cheering!  "Turn around, Bright Eyes....turn around, Bright eyes...every now and then I fall apart!"

*I met a sweet girl, Krystal, at the starting line.  This was also her first triathlon.  We chatted for a bit before our wave was up.  She made the same swim mistake as me, so I didn't feel to silly about it.  She is a much faster cyclist than I am, so even though I transitioned out of the water before she did, she caught me and passed me on the bike right after the second turn around.  We exchanged a couple quick words as she went by, then she turned around to tell me she'd wait for me at the finish...which caused her to veer into the other lane a bit.  So, OF COURSE, I started singing, "Don't turn around, cause your gonna see my heart breaking.  Don't turn around, I don't want you seeing me cry!" (Ace of base for those of you who might not know).

*I like to sing while I am on my bike...loud enough for everyone to hear.  My voice is now suffering for that.

* They write your gender and your age on the back of your right calf with fat permanent marker. I am so not in favor of this.  Like I really need know that the fat guy passing me on the left is 63 years old.  Not good for morale.

*So....the first two miles of the run were on SAND!  Lovely.  Freaking lovely.

* Somewhere after the first mile of the run I connected with a girl named Jen who looked like she was in some pain, so I asked if she was alright.  It turned out she is just a bad ass Crossfitter who did some dead lifts on Friday and was feeling the affects of that today (you all know how the second day is always worse, right?)  We finished the race together.  She is in the Air Force and works on C-17s.  She was really nice and let me tell her my life story for that last two and a half miles.  It was super great because this was the first race I have ever done by myself.  I am used to talking to someone.  It makes the time seem to pass so much faster!  And, the time didn't just seem to go faster...we were actually going pretty fast, faster than my normal pace anyway.

*Kori woke up super early to come with me.  I missed her at the finish,  but she got a couple good pictures.

*Oh, my chain on my bike must have gotten knocked off when I took it out of the van...I noticed as I was mounting my bike to start the bike leg.  Thank God Brad showed me how easy it was to fix it.  It only took me about 3 seconds.  Kori said she saw some guy trying to fix his for a couple minutes, and he had grease all over his hands when he finally got it.  That totally could have been me!

*I took Kori home and went home to get ready for church.  We walked in late, but still caught most of the sermon which was all about pressing on toward the goal and getting up every time you fall.  Pastor used at least a dozen race analogies...and it made me happy. :)


Swim   17:02  
 (This should have been closer to 13 minutes--it only takes me 9ish minutes in the pool, GRRRR)
T1     4:06 
(pretty much the longest that it took anyone to get on their bike because I had to fix my swim cap hair into bike helmet hair)
Bike 59:41
(I wasn't taking this portion seriously at all, I was singing and taking selfies/texting and such, so I know I can improve on this time quite a but one hour was my original goal, and I beat that....barely)
 T2  2:31
(also longer than most transitions.  I racked my bike and headed for the "run out" and just as I was getting to the chip mat, I realized I forgot to put on my shirt that had the bib attached to it.  Then, when I went back to get it, I couldn't find my bag)
Run  31:00
(I killed this run, especially because the first half was on sand.  It was a 6k, not a 5k...so 3.73mi.  I was expecting 35-40 minutes because I didn't know how tired I would be after the other two legs.  But, I maintained a 8:20/mile pace for nearly 4 miles after swimming and biking, and that's pretty amazing for me)

Total time:  1:54:22 
(11th out of 14 women in the F30-34 division...and 274th out of 320 overall, meh)
If I could do it again next weekend, I am sure I could make my goal of 1:45 or under if I hit the bike a little harder, cleaned up my transitions a little, and swam the correct course!

All in all, it felt really good, and I would absolutely do it again next weekend.  I feel crappy about not meeting my 1:45 goal...but okay about still making it under 2 hours (which was my original goal).   I think my goal for the Olympic distance at Bass Lake in May will be just to finish, and my goal for the 70.3 in Santa Cruz in September will be to just not die (55 miles on the bike--holy crap, how will I survive?).  I could swim 1.2 miles and run 13.1 miles right now, but the bike is not my friend....yet.

Oh, and my other goal for my next race is to look a little better in my trisuit, and be able to zip it up without feeling like I am going to break the zipper! 

Oh, and my other, other goal is to complete a minimum of three solid high fives on the bike course.  Haha!