The Oregon Tale » Our Adventure Journal

Masthead header

jeff-ma-w57xORuDd0c-unsplash

Well, the first month of our Buy Nothing New year has been eye opening … a better way of saying it might be that it was a good? slap in the face. What I initially approached as a way to simplify our life has quickly turned into an empowering experience of attempting to reach financial freedom.

Turns out, I Really Sucked: 

Before I wrote my last post, I didn’t realize how much financial literacy we were lacking. For years (yes, years), Jim has been begging me to sit down and go through our finances. He wanted to do the money snowball to knock out our debt. I’m an Avoider when it comes to money, and since my income varies, and we always seemed to have enough money, I always made an excuse to get out of the conversation. I had no idea how much we were spending each month, how much our basic overhead was, or exactly how much I was making. Quick catch-up: I own a branding & design studio … I pay myself when my clients pay me; I put a certain percentage in savings for taxes & expenses, then I get the rest. 

The day after I convinced Jim that I was ready to face our finances, I opened a spreadsheet, and documented our spending categories (bills & living expenses, groceries, gas, and extras). Seeing the bills + living expenses category (the money we need to make to just survive) made me want to cry.

But you want to know what actually made me embarrassed? We went to Taco Bell at least 51 times last year. FIFTY ONE TIMES. Taco Bell is actually heaven and they have a ton of vegan options … I’m genuinely sad that we haven’t been for over a month. We went to our favorite local brunch spot at least 31 times. I stopped looking after that (because MY GOD), but I’m guessing our total of eating outside of the house was well over $5,000. And we were still spending like $700 a month at the grocery. 

We’re on Our Way to a Budget:

I now know exactly how much money we spent in January. My spreadsheet has an area for income too, so it’s easy to see the difference in earnings and spending, which helps us with our goal of paying off debt.

I see people talking about budgeting all the time, but honestly, we couldn’t set a budget for any of our spending categories, because we had no idea where our money was going (well, Taco Bell, obviously …).

We’re going to continue tracking all of our spending for Jan, Feb, and March, then set a budget (divided into categories) based on our average spending and earning.

We’ve Figured Some Things Out: 

While I don’t want to disclose our specific financial situation (without the permission of my partner), I can say that we were paying over $200 a month in cc interest. Again, I didn’t even realize this before … We decided to put the balance on a Balance Transfer Card. The best deal right now is the Citi Bank Double Cash Card. It’s 18 months no-interest, with a 3% transfer fee. This allows us to take the interest piece off the table, and focus on paying the debt down in the most efficient way possible. Obviously, if I didn’t think we could make that payment each month, I wouldn’t have done it, but because I now see our finances in a clear way, I know we can make it work!

Within the first week, we talked about finding ways to save money with our “must haves” (cable, phone bill, Netflix, etc.), and I believe just by chatting with customer service or downgrading our plans, we immediately started saving upwards of $500 a year.

We didn’t need anything new. I’ve appreciated this challenge, because it’s opening my eyes to how much advertising and “you need this!” is in our faces each day.

We Spent Money: 

Our “extra” category wasn’t $0, and we knew it wouldn’t be. We went to the liquor store a few times, had a few expenses for outings with our family, and had some film developed that we’ve been hoarding for the past 6 years. BUT, we didn’t buy a single thing for ourselves!! I say “ourselves”, because our daughter decided she didn’t like her school rain pants, so naturally she tore them from ankle to hip. We bought her a replacement pair at the local consignment shop, and paid for 1/2 with credit I had. We went to Chipotle once, and out to eat to celebrate our baby turning 6.

New Goals for the Next Quarter: 

  • I want to reduce our grocery/food spending. We ate at home most of the month (we went out twice, I think), but I know there are ways to spend less. I’m meal planning a month at a time, really focusing on using what we have in our pantry/freezer, and we’re using coupons.
  • I’d love to budget 1-2 weekend breakfasts at our favorite spots, and dinner out (or take out) at least once a month. Mama needs a bit of a break …
  • It would be amazing if our “extra” category was a lot lower than January’s was.
  • Within the quarter, we should have enough data to create a solid budget, and I’m really excited to learn more about al that.
  • We don’t agree on every facet of this mission, but I’m hopeful that this process becomes less of a thing, and just becomes easy?
  • If that rich relative wanted to pop into the picture, now would be a great time! ;)

Wow, that was a lot to say: this is working, and this challenge has really shifted my perspective on money. If you’ve done this, I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know!!

Photo by Jeff Ma on Unsplash

share on facebooktweet this postpin an image

orlova-maria-EF6z_6R94zQ-unsplash

Happy New Year, and hello again. A little over a year ago, signed off from this space. I didn’t feel called to share our life here (I share on Instagram a few times a week, and this felt a bit redundant). I figured we’d come back when we had things to share … and I think we’re there. Jim has talked about coming back to this space to share our travels – things are pretty different while traveling with two kids.

So, while I don’t have any travel adventures to share, I do have something really big to announce: In 2020, I am doing my best to buy nothing new.

Why?

It’s simple: we are spending more money than we should be, and we have a chunk of credit card debt we want to pay off. Last year, I really focused on making our daily life a little less wasteful (like, using “family cloth” in the bathroom, and using a soap block in the kitchen – I’ll share more soon). Our home is a bit more green, but we’re still using a lot of single use plastic, and the financial aspect of a simpler home wasn’t a consideration. I’d like to do better.

I have a knitting basket full of yarn and patterns I haven’t used or finished. The girls have an overflowing storage area full of crafts we haven’t done. I was paying for a fitness app, and I’m no stronger, because I never opened it. The girls have bins and bins of clothing (mainly hand me downs waiting for Maple to grow into them). My inbox was full of “50% off!!” sales, and I bought things just because they were on sale. I would purchase things I saw on Instagram (new dishes, ceramics,  toys for the kids, underwear, etc.) … advertising is a business because it works really well. And while Amazon has an amazing way of satisfying the “need” for an item, and then getting a little thrill when it’s delivered, I’m no happier with all of the stuff I’ve purchased … in fact, all of this financial stress has proven just how toxic the click and ship culture is. The marketing trap doesn’t result in happiness.

The End Goal? 

Right now, I don’t feel like sharing specific financial details, but I will say, the difference of where we are now, and where I’d like to be (ie: credit card paid off + having additional money in savings) is about $30,000-$40,000. That number seems huge. But, when I think about what it’ll take to pay off our cc and buy a house in Portland, this aggressive financial approach will be important.

We’ll Still Spend Money:

This isn’t a matter of putting 100% of our income into savings. We obviously still have rent, health insurance, utilities, debt (student loans + cc), and tuition (lol at the cost of childcare in Portland). Our monthly overhead is a big number, and this isn’t something we can control (minus the debt, and that’s where our focus is).

There are the spending categories that we aren’t willing (or not able) to eliminate:

  • Adventures & camping: we’re a camping family, and that’s not going to change. In fact, when I think about where I want to spend my time and resources, the answer is: being outside with my family.
    • We can absolutely think about more cost-effective meals while traveling (picnics vs. stopping on the road), and we’ll be very conscious of finding no or low cost places to visit.
  • J and I will still have some date nights. We paid our sitter in advance for 10 date nights, and we still have 5 left to cash in.
    • To make this more cost-effective, we’ll likely eat at home, then walk to a local spot (we live in a great neighborhood) for drinks or dessert.
  • We will still buy groceries, household goods, and seeds/supplies for our garden.
    • I’ll be thinking about ways to reduce plastic, save money, and buy products that will last longer.
  • I make a family photo album every year, and that won’t change. I order prints and put them in simple sleeves. I always buy on sale, and it’s part of our legacy … this brings me joy.
  • I’m obsessed with audiobooks, and in the last year, I’ve listened to (and read some e-books) more titles than I did in the past 5 years combined. I don’t think I’ll be saying goodbye to this. It makes me a happier, more knowledgeable person.
    • I use the Scribd app. It’s amazing. It’s a low monthly fee for unlimited titles. If you want to check it out, here’s my referral link.
  • We have pets and kids … so vet visits and doctor visits will be a thing.
  • I am allowing myself to buy one pair of nice jeans, if needed. Right now, I don’t need them. Let’s say my fitness routine results in my clothes fitting differently … then I’ll consider this allowance.

Buy Nothing, and Especially Nothing New:

Portland is full of amazing consignment stores, and I plan on learning how to shop them (that said, I really only want to utilize these for the kids … I truly don’t need anything for myself). Additionally, we use our local Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Have you heard of the movement? It’s amazing … just in the last two weeks, I got a book about artisan bread making, and a pair of Bogs rain boots for Alba. For zero dollars. It’s all about gifting things you no longer need, and asking others if they have items to gift or let you borrow. Everything is free, and it’s an incredible resource.

Here are some questions I have:

  • We currently have subscriptions to Hulu, Netflix, Starz, and Disney+. Do we need all of these?
  • We have Amazon Prime … If I’m not shopping on Amazon (minus the girls’ vitamins that I buy on subscription), does it make sense to keep that membership?
    • We use Amazon music + our echo dot, and I don’t think I want to let that go. We listen to a lot of music.
    • We watch a lot of shows on Amazon Prime. Again, we’ll have to see if we need these things.
  • How will this work in a partnership? J is mostly on-board, but we definitely have different approaches to finances. Part of my objective is ensuring there’s communication and understanding during this project.

There’s No Easy Way:

We’ve had friends get to a place of financial freedom, but most of them have gotten large gifts of money from their family. I don’t see this happening (hi, family … if this is a thing, please let us know). We will do this the old fashion way – by limiting our spending, and really upping our saving. There’s no other way for us. I’m really excited to hit the tipping point where we go from paying off debt to really saving aggressively (we have a safety net, but I’d love to have a “Oh hey, let’s buy a house” net).

I have more to share – especially some ways that I prepped for this. I’ll be doing a series throughout the year … I promise to be honest about the process. If you’ve done this, I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know!!

Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

share on facebooktweet this postpin an image

This space has gone silent … it happened the last time around too. As it turns out, chasing two vibrant kids + working full time + living life doesn’t leave me much time to check in here. And, because I didn’t feel like I could just let it go, I wanted to officially put this space on pause for awhile.

She Saw Things Photography

Maple is 14 months old now. She’s a happy, mischievous, loving, loud baby. Sleep is getting better … she’s kind of picky … she is obsessed with mom, and has her moments with dad. She’s not quite walking yet, but is really loving her little walker. She just started preschool, and she’s adapting slowly, but having really good days, overall.

Alba is so 4.5. She’s continuing to test all boundaries, and is so full of her own energy and personality. She’s truly one of a kind. She’s so funny, stubborn, loving, and so incredibly smart. She has two settings: sleeping or talking a million miles per minute. She’s super into music and art right now, and loves sending people handwritten cards.

We (Jim and I) are good. We’re busy, but not glorifying that … we’re working hard to realize some dreams we have. We’re wondering if we want to stay in Portland. If a “9-5” is the best fit for us. What we’re working so hard for (daycare in Portland is bananas). For now, we’re keeping at it. Days are go-go-go, and evenings are usually spent catching up on TV, and eating ice cream on the couch. I really can’t complain.

Even though we won’t be checking in here for awhile, I do share a lot over on Instagram. I hope to see you there.

Cheers!

Photo is by She Saw Things Photography

share on facebooktweet this postpin an image

My sweetest girl … you are so much of my world. So much so that I haven’t had time to sit and reflect about your last few months. I think my last post was when you were 4 months old, which is kind of crazy (so much has changed). I have notes on my phone about those 4 missing months, and I’ll try my hardest to get them together before you go to college. Deal? PS, you look a whole lot like your sister right now.

Maple-8-Months-9

You are still such a dream. I absolutely love thinking about the little person you’re becoming. Your sweetness is balanced perfectly by a bit of silly. You love observing, but you’re also super vocal if things aren’t to your liking. You prefer to be held 99.45% of each day, and your preference for mama is stronggg.

We’re still sharing a room, and it’s going … ok. You haven’t been the best sleeper over the last few months, but when we share a bed (sorry, papa), we have a great night of sleep. You still wake me most mornings by stirring around and making sweet noises. We have our morning smile session, and you snuggle for milk first thing. We’re in a really, really good groove of balancing changes and feedings (well, your dad and I are … we’d encourage you to sleep more at night, thanks).

Oh, you have TEETH. When you first turned 8 months old, you just had one, so we’ll talk about that. Your bottom-right tooth came in first, and it is sharp. One of your favorite pastimes is biting me while you’re nursing, which turns out, is my least favorite thing. I’m thankful you’re mostly past it at this point.

I’m still nursing you, and there’s not too much to say about that whole deal. It’s going really well, and I’m happy that we’re still at it. I’m guessing with your love of food (more in a sec), you’ll probably nurse until you’re about 1 or 1.5, but hey, you could surprise me!

Food is going awesome. You LOVE to eat … like, you grunt and growl if we aren’t giving you food. Like with Alba, we started solids with the Baby Led Weaning approach – giving you large pieces of normal food. You’ve done great, and really only gagged on a mushroom and brussels sprouts. You love sipping water from cups, and you’d make out with my water bottle all day if I let you.

Besides boobs, Alba, food and dad, you are super into baskets full of stuff. You like hitting toys together, chewing on everything, and exploring each little toy in front of you. You can sit up like a champ now, so sitting and focusing on figuring things out has been fun for you.

I’ve loved watching how you and your sister interact. You two are such a part of each other’s hearts … you’re still a bit of a doll to her, and she would try carrying you around all day if we let her. Alba loves making you love and always offers to help us when it comes to changing/feeding/bathing/etc. She’s seriously the sweetest big sister, even though I sometimes wonder if we completely rocked her world by having another baby.

Maple, if I had to pick one word for you (and it’s relative because you are a baby), it would be “content”. You are just a little pixie of a human – a true dream of a baby. I am so, so lucky you’re ours. I forgot how much I love this age, and I’m really, really excited about this upcoming summer). We love you to the moon and back.

Maple-8-Months-3Maple-8-Months-22Maple-8-Months-16Maple-8-Months-15Maple-8-Months-14Maple-8-Months-5Maple-8-Months-19

share on facebooktweet this postpin an image

Oh, my little light, I cannot believe you’re already four months old. Time is going so fast, but at the same time, it feels like you’ve been with us for so long. Just like with your sister, your newborn days are gone – you’re turning into a baby who’s growing and changing every single day.

This month has been the biggest leap so far … we assume the reason you stopped sleeping (4 month sleep regression) is that you are developing at warp speed. I’ll get to the sleep in a second, but during your awake time, there are some big things happening. You’ve started enjoying more tummy time, and you’re really pushing yourself up and super curious about your surroundings. Yesterday, you rolled from your back to your belly for the first time, and we were all there to see it. So. Much. Joy.

While it’s not consistent just yet, you have started laughing!! So far, mama is the only one who has been able to make you laugh, but we think you’re close to doing it more. You are by far the smiliest baby we’ve ever seen. Your favorite thing is just laying down and chatting/smiling with us.

Like last time, I wanted to copy and paste a section from Alba’s 4 month update, because it applies to you too: Everyone comments on how easy going you are, and I have to agree: you’re the easiest baby in the world. At least in my world. You only fuss when you’re hungry or tired … Evenings can be a little challenging.

I totally forgot about the 4 month sleep regression, but it has hit us really hard. You were sleeping 11 hours solid, and now it usually takes over 2 hours to get you officially settled for the night. We’re going to keep hanging out with you in the evenings for a couple more months before we do some gentle sleep training.

Breastfeeding is so great. SO GREAT. I’m enjoying my last two months of exclusive nursing before we introduce your first solids. I plan to keep nursing you as long as it works for both of us. My favorite thing is when you’re nursing and you stop to smile at me.

We had your more in-depth hearing screening done … they think you have some minor low frequency hearing loss, but it shouldn’t affect much. We’ll get more testing done when you’re a little older.

I love that we’re sharing a room – mornings are so much fun … you usually wake in a cheerful mood, let out a few toots, and start chattering for me to pick you up. You sleep really well when you’re in bed with me, but we’re working on getting longer stretches in your co-sleeper. Really, I love sleeping with my babies, and since you’re my last one, I’m treasuring it.

Your favorite toys are teethers and a little crinkly dinosaur book. And, since your sister watches a little TV these days, I’ve noticed you’re obsessed with screens. Obviously we’re trying to avoid that, but it makes us laugh when we catch you looking at screens.

As we mark a 1/3 of a year that you’ve been earth side, I just count my blessings each day. I feel so very lucky to be your mama. You are the most perfect human to complete our family, and I’m so, so happy we’re doin life together.

Here you are at four months old.

share on facebooktweet this postpin an image