Life Update

Thursday, October 5, 2017


I have literally not been in the mood to blog for weeks!   Other than my debt free updates and a few book reviews, I honestly don't know how much I'll be blogging in the next few months.  Who knows, maybe inspiration will strike soon.  For now, here is what's been going on in the last few months.

At the end of August I had some visitors.  My Mom, brother, and mom's boyfriend came for a few days.  They were here for 3 nights and we packed quite a bit of activity into those few days.  The night they got here we met at Maggies on the River for some dinner since the drive took longer tahn they thought.  The first full day we were expecting rain (which we did get) so we went early to the Thompson Park Zoo, which I'd never been too.  It's small but also inexpensive and my brother really enjoyed it.  Since we knew it was going to rain, we decided to do something super quick afterwards and went to the Burrville Cider Mill for some apple cinnamon donuts and waterfall pictures.  We spent the rest of the day at the house catching up.   The second day we did the boat tour of the Thousand Islands along with Boldt Castle.   After that we did wine tastings at Thousand Islands Winery and Coyote Moon.  Bolt LOVED having visitors and soaked up every second of extra lovin's.


At the end of September I went home to Maryland for 5 days.  The main event was my friend Laurie's wedding, but I packed so much into those five days.  Thursday I arrived around 230, got my eyebrows waxed and headed straight to Rosedale for the Rehearsal.  They had the rehearsal dinner at their house which was nice because it was super laid back.  The next day was supposed to be a relaxing day but that didn't end up happening.  I made an appointment to get new tires at 830 which was fine because the place was less than 2 minutes from my Mom's house.  I ended up walking across the street to Kohl's which wasn't open so I read outside until it did open.  Once I was done there I got some breakfast at Panera, deposited a paycheck at the bank, and walked back to NTB right as they were pulling my car out of the garage.  Talk about perfect timing!   I got home and read for a bit before going shopping for wedding and baby shower gifts with my sister.  We had spaghetti dinner with Mom before I had to head back to Rosedale to get my nails done with Laurie and the girls.  Saturday was wedding day!  It was a great day and everything went great - I'm so happy for Laurie and Rupert!  And for Bella who gained a Step-Dad.  After the wedding my sister and I went to see my Dad and then went to dinner at Applebee's with my Mom.  Sunday was another super packed day.  I started the day at Breakfast with Melissa and Nicole (my old co-workers), then my cousins baby shower (she is due in November), and ended the day at Vicky's house hanging out with her and Heather.  I also got to meet Mason, Vicky's newest little one.  It was a super packed day but I'm so glad I was able to see everyone!  Monday morning I went to see my Dad before heading back home.

Friday morning I woke up with Mom before she went to work and she told me that my Dad was in the hospital.  Once I was able to get hold of him I found out it was a heart attack.  This is his second one so if prayers are your thing, he could definitely use them.


The following weekend Rupert and Laurie came to stay for the weekend.  They didn't do a full honeymoon because they couldn't spend the whole week away from Bella.  I had offered my house to Laurie a few months back and she decided to take me up on the offer.   We did pretty much the same things I did when mom came up.  We did wine tastings, went to the castle, they did the boat tour, went to the cider mill, and ate at Maggie's and Texas Roadhouse.  We also took a short detour to Sackets Harbor so they could see Lake Ontario.   It was a great weekend and they had a good time exploring.  I also tried to give them some time to do things themselves (such as the boat tour).


Other than those three weekends my life has pretty much been nonstop work, and finally getting back to the gym.  But on the bright side, this deployment is almost over!! :)

Getting Out of Debt: Second Update

Monday, September 4, 2017


It's time for my second Debt Free update!  I still feel like quarterly updates are best for right now so that is what I'm going to continue to do throughout 2017 and I'll re-evaluate in 2018.

June Progress:  

Unfortunately, the weeks at the end of May and beginning of June were not very good for my debt snowball.  Mostly because I wasn't getting any hours at Fridays and that is where most of my snowball income comes from.  I also had a friend visit, so some of the money from the snowball went towards activities and gas while she was visiting.  We also had some Army stuff come up that we had to cover (big surprise there).  I was able to pick up a few hours here and there and put about $101 towards the debt.   Not much progress, but better than nothing ... and we didn't add any debt, so that's always a win!

July Progress: 

On July 7th, I put $530 extra towards the debt which accumulated between June 23rd and July 6th.   In July, I decided that I was being dumb and that I should go back to Dave Ramsey's original plan of ordering my debts smallest to largest.  I looked at what I put on my $6000 debt last quarter combined with what I put on my lowest debt this quarter, and I was just shaking my head.  I could have just about had my lowest debt paid off by now.  So, hopefully by next update, I can say I paid off debt #1 and made a significant dent in debt #2 (this part was written before we got our back sep pay)!   In July I also cut up all of my credit cards and closed every account accept the one I still owe on (which is the one that should be paid off soon).

On the 10th, we had what could have been a major issue.  Josh was in Budapest at an ATM and a drunk person bumped into him and he accidentally withdrew $550!  Of course, it's going to be weeks (possibly months) before he can put that money back in the account (story of my life).  Luckily I had the emergency fund and could transfer the money over to cover the bill that was set to come out the next day.  Despite that, over the course of the month I was able to put an extra $535 onto our debts this month!  $16.45 was from sales at the thrift shop (they distribute checks on the first of each month) and the rest was a mix of pay from Fridays and money left over in our budget.  I also put $200 back into our savings to help replenish our emergency fund after the Hungary debacle, just for my peace of mind.  Once he is able to put the money back, I'll take $200 of it and put it on the snowball.

August Progress: 

In August,  WE PAID OFF OUR CREDIT CARD!!!  When I decided to switch back to Dave Ramsey's original plan and go smallest to largest, we had about $1915 on our credit card.  This all accumulated during our move and we're over it.  We had so many unexpected expenses when I didn't have a job and it all went on the card. We put a washer and dryer on it, then both our registrations came due which we forgot about, and the last thing was my cell phone randomly dying - I had to pay off my old phone.  We finally got our back-pay for family separation, which was enough to pay off the credit card and then some!  I had trouble deciding what to do with the extra money and decided it was best to put it to the side for a bit since I'll have the expenses of boarding my dog in September and I had his shots and physical appointment at the end of August.  I just want to be sure everything is covered and then if we're all good, I'll throw that money back on to the snowball!

Since we paid off our credit card, our next debt is my federal student loan.  This loan is $3,778 as of August 1st.  We are hoping to have it paid off before Josh gets home or by the end of the year at the latest.   So far, we've been able to put an extra $345 towards that student loan.  That's after I saved the money I'll need to board Bolt in September, and after I paid for his checkups and shots.  I was also able to budget for my Mom's visit at the end of the month.

Goals Update

I feel really great about my goals since the last update!  We've really started working together on this (even from halfway across the globe!) and I feel really good about our chances of getting this debt paid off before we PCS in 2019, or slightly after at the latest.

Start Meal Planning// I wouldn't say I meal plan, per se but I am much more intentional with what I buy.  I've gotten myself in the mindset of "the commissary is literally 1 minute away, you can go back if you forget something".   I was in the habit of buying more than I needed "just in case" and this mindset has really helped me to get out of that.  The commissary is literally right down the road and Walmart is only a five minute drive.

Sell Things We Don't Need/Declutter//  Still majorly winning with this one! Through June and July I was definitely purging things, but I really kicked it into high gear in August when I did the 30 day minimalism game.  I was able to (just about) complete the challenge and get rid of about 465 items!  I am so happy with my progress on this.  I am also happy to say that I have made money each month from the thrift shop on post - some months more than others, but I'll take what I can get! 

Work on a Written Budget// Win!  Dave Ramsey says to do monthly budget meetings, but because my income is highly irregular, we do a budget every two weeks.  The first few times were rocky, especially since Josh has to buy food every day in Europe.  I started keeping track of his food spending and was able to work it into the budget and talk to him about trying to stay around a target amount.  I do always budget for a bit more than I think he'll need, just to be on the safe side.  Anything left over just goes towards debt, so it works out.  Now I've pretty much got it down to a science.  It only takes me a few minutes to work out the budget for two weeks.  I get paid every week, so my second paycheck in the two week budgeting period is used for unexpected expenses (like someone accidentally pulling out $550), and whatever is remaining goes right onto debts the day Josh gets his next paycheck.   I love budgeting and it's working out really well (up until the very end of the month which I don't want to talk about right now)!

Work Two Jobs// I really can't win with jobs in New York and it's frustrating AF!  I still have the new job but it's very seasonal so I know I'm hardly going to get any hours over the winter which is fine by me because the management is the worst!  I went down to 2 days per week at that job and am currently training to be a server at Fridays, which will be more money.  I took an interview for a security job, but it just wasn't for me for a lot of reasons, so I turned it down.  I am still actively searching for something in the Criminal Justice field, but after a year of searching I'm pretty close to giving up.  It's more than a little discouraging.  I am happy with the decision to start serving, even though I know it's going to be a major test of my very limited patience for people.

When We're Debt Free

Monday, August 28, 2017


One of the things that has really been motivating me in our debt free journey is thinking of what we'll be able to do once we aren't giving our money to lenders every month.  I listen to people doing their debt free screams talk about how they now can do things they never imagined and I can't wait to be at that point.  I can't imagine not having to scramble to find a job next time we move, but we're sure working hard to make that our reality!

Volunteering

There have been several volunteer positions that I applied for and "interviewed" for but they always conflicted with my work schedule.  Work at a job I really didn't like that did add any value to my life other than monetary.   I wanted to volunteer at the SPCA up here in New York but I work way too much and I can't just leave Bolt for 15 hours a day while Josh is gone.   The one that killed me the most was having to turn down an opportunity to volunteer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.   I ended up starting my old job back in MD right around when I was supposed to do orientation to volunteer.  I just couldn't work out my schedule.  It killed me to not be able to do something I really wanted to do, in order to make money to pay lenders.

Traveling

This has to be the most obvious one on the list. The first thing we're going to do when we get out of debt (besides get our emergency fund together) is save for an epic trip!  I want to be able to travel and not be stressing about money the whole time I'm planning the trip.  I want the entire trip to be paid for before we go.  I want to really enjoy each experience and not have to say no to things we really want to do just because we don't have the money.  Top on my list are a trip to the UK and Ireland or an Alaskan Cruise - where we end up moving next will determine where we travel to.

Donating

 There are so many organizations I want to donate to! Beagle Freedom Project is a big one.  To be honest, pretty much any organization that helps animals is something I want to donate to, haha!  Once we have no payments, we'll be able to allocate a percentage of our monthly budget towards donating to a worthy cause.

Taking Time to Find a Job

When we moved to Fort Drum I NEEDED to find a job, so I took the first one that was offered to me.  Don't get me wrong, most days I enjoy working at Fridays and I love my coworkers, but it's definitely not where I wanted to be working at 28 years old.  When we move, I want to be able to take the time to find a job that I enjoy and hopefully one that utilizes my degree.  As The Minimalists say, I want to find a job that adds value to my life, not a job I hate that pays good money so that I can pay lenders.

School

I really want to go back to school, like, yesterday.  After taking a few Law classes while getting my Criminal Justice degree I decided I really wanted to go into that field.  I don't want the cost or the time it takes to go to law school, so I'm going to go for a Paralegal degree.   Josh and I decided to get out of debt before I pursue a degree.  The MyCAA program will cover a good bit but we will have to cash flow some of it.  I think this is the one thing I'm most excited about, besides travel, of course.

Building Retirement

Along with Dave Ramsey's podcast, I have been listening to Chris Hogans Retire Inspired podcast.  I really can't wait to start investing in our future.  Now that I really understand the areas of investing that I want to get into, I am excited rather than nervous!  It makes me so happy to hear about people who make the same amount of money as us who have worked hard through the years and are now really enjoying their retirement!

101 in 1001: August Update

Monday, August 14, 2017


It's crazy how much can change in such a short time.  When I originally made this list, I had very little interest in our financial fitness.   Now, becoming debt free before we PCS in 2019 is our main focus in life.  I am working non-stop to make extra money, and Josh is going to be gone way more than we originally thought while we're at Fort Drum. That's OK though because we don't particularly like it here, so this is the perfect place to be hermits and focus on working our butts off.  With that being said, there are now a lot of things on this list that I don't expect to accomplish.  There are a few things that we know for sure are not happening and those are listed below.  The others I'll keep on the list and see what happens.

Completed:

Visit Ottawa: I visited on June 16th when my friend Heather came to visit.  I loved it and can't wait to go back!  It's always the places you have low expectations for that you end up loving the most!

In Progress:

Put together a financial plan and stick to it: I'm counting this as halfway done.  We have a plan, we do our monthly budgets, now we just have to stick to the plan and the budgets until we get our debts paid off.

Pay off one Student Loan: More on this one in my next financial update (coming Sept 4th), but I we are now chipping away at student loan 1 of 3.  I'm hoping to have this one paid off by time Josh gets home, or at least by the end of the year.

Do the declutter challenge: As I mentioned in my last update, I'm not exactly doing this challenge but I am still actively decluttering my house.  I've successfully downsize my closet (majorly) and I've been working on my DVD's, which has been easier than I thought.  I am currently playing the 30 Day Minimalism Game which has really helped me to stay on track with decluttering!

Inventory all of our belongings:  I am doing this as I declutter.  Once I declutter a certain area or category, I take inventory of what we have.  This is mostly for PCS purposes.  If they lose an entire box of DVD's, I want to know exactly what is missing.   This will be something I go back and do every few months due to adding and subtracting stuff from our lives.

Visit at least 10 vineyards in New York: White Heather was up we visited a place called Busted Grapes.  I'm not doing a post on it because I didn't take any photos, but it's worth visiting because the wine is delicious!   We also visited the tasting room of Otter Creek Winery in Alex Bay, but I'm not counting that yet because I want to go to the actual vineyard.   I am currently at 4/10.

Not Happening

Visit at least one new country:  We were thinking of taking a cruise to Cuba when Josh gets home from deployment, but we've made the decision to put all of the extra money towards our debts.  Getting out of debt is our number one priority right now.  Vacations paid for in cash with no stress will come after we're debt free. 

Go on another cruise, Go back to Arizona, Visit 5 new States: See above.

1000 Islands Tour

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Heather's second (and last) day in New York, was all about the St. Lawrence River.  A company called Uncle Sam's Boat Tours, located in Alexandria Bay, offers a "Two Nation Tour" of the St. Lawrence river.  You don't need a passport for this tour because even though it goes into Canada, you never get off the boat in Canada.

This two hour tour took us through the best areas of the Thousand Islands.   A guide narrates most of the tour and points out all of the historic areas and beautiful homes along the way.   A few of the highlights of the tour are millionaires row, smugglers cove, Canadian palisades and of course, Boldt Castle.   At the end of the tour, you are given the opportunity to get off the boat at Boldt Castle and take a tour of the castle.  Since Heather had never been, we opted to do this.  Once we were done, all we had to do was hop on another Uncle Sam's boat and head back to Alex Bay.

We both really enjoyed this tour and I can't wait to do it again when my Mom comes to visit at the end of the month!






















Book Reviews: July

Thursday, August 3, 2017


I have finally started reading again.  I managed to get these books for free from BookBub and they were both very easy reads, which was just what I needed.   I even managed to cross off another state for my 50 States Challenge. (linking up here)


 I have mixed feelings on this book.  On one hand it was cute and light and just what I needed to get back into the groove of reading.  However, the main character sort of ruined it for me. I mean, we can all be a little self-deprecating and clueless but this girl was just a bit too much for me.  I also felt like there wasn't much chemistry between the two main characters.  This book was just OK.  I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it, but I also wouldn't say not to read it.

I gave this book a 2/5 on my GoodReads.


I feel like this book had so much potential that it didn't quite live up to, but I also think it's got something to do with the target age group.   I feel like she could have gone way deeper into the issues being dealt with in this book and I also feel like the characters were a bit flat.  It was entertaining though and I really did like a few of the characters.  I think had this been aimed more towards adults, it could have been a bit better.

I gave this book a 3/5 on my Goodreads

30 Day Minimalism Game

Monday, July 31, 2017


Starting tomorrow, I am going to be playing the 30 Day Minimalism Game!  If you've never heard of the game, there is a straight forward explanation if you follow the link above.  Basically I will be getting rid of almost 500 items over the course of 30 days!

There are a few rules to the game and I will be following all but one rule.  You're supposed to discard each of the items by the end of that day, but I don't have time for that and the thrift shop is only open a few days a week so I can't take all the items I want to sell each day, it just wont work.  Also, if friends and family want one of the items, I wont be able to get it to them until September when I go home.  I will have a few boxes in my spare room that these items will be separated into until I can get rid of them.  Most everything will be donated or sold at the thrift shop on my days off work.

I will be sharing my entire journey on Instagram (link on the sidebar).  So feel free to follow along and see how far I can get in this game!


Why I'm Embracing Minimalism

Monday, July 17, 2017


Growing up, I lived in the same house.  In 18 years I never head to deal with packing up everything I own and moving.  Because of this, I never really felt the need to regularly go through my things and "purge".  When I moved down to VA for college I started realizing how much stuff I'd held on to, unnecessarily.   I donated a few boxes/bags to good will and purple heart, but since a good bit of my stuff was staying with my parents I still kept way too much useless crap.

Shortly after moving back from college I moved in with some friends and then about four months after that, I moved in with Josh and some other friends to the house in the country.  It was then that I began to realize just how much crap I really had and what a pain in the ass it was.  I started purging stuff during these moves, and then again when we moved into the townhouse, and again both before and after our move here to Fort Drum.

The Army and looming moves was definitely a huge motivator, but there are a few other factors that went into my decision to embrace minimalism.  When my Grandfather passed away back in 2007, my Granny wanted to move into a smaller place closer to family.  It took her, my Dad, uncle, and aunt FIVE YEARS to go through all of their stuff!  From that, you'd probably think their house was cluttered, but it wasn't, not even a little bit.   They had a huge basement, a 2 car garage, a detached 2 car garage with an upstairs storage area, and a large attic.  All this was filled with tools, the worlds most insane gun collection, and God only knows what else.  All things that they never used and a lot of which sat forgotten for years.

Then we have another family member (by marriage) ... Hoarder is an understatement.  I'm going to keep it simple to stop myself from going on a major rant.  Their house is 4,200 square feet plus a three level detached garage, and you couldn't move in that place if you tried.  Literal floor to ceiling stuff.  It's insane.  I know I'd never be like that, but damn if it isn't a motivator to minimize!

I watched the documentary, "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things" a few months ago and I was really intrigued by the idea.  I knew I'd never be quite as minimalist as the guys on the documentary, but I still liked the idea of having less stuff and consuming less.  I didn't do much about it at the time, but the documentary stuck with me.

Once I started listening to Dave Ramsey's podcasts, I decided I really liked listening to podcasts and I needed another one to listen to.  I began listening to the Minimalists (the guys from the documentary) a few weeks later.   The more I listened, the more I realized that minimalism really does align with my values (something they reference a lot on the podcast) and am really motivated to live a more minimalist lifestyle.

I began de-cluttering a few months ago and it feels great!  I can't wait to see where this minimalism journey takes me!

Rideau Canal: Ottawa, Canada

Thursday, July 13, 2017


We passed the Canal a few times during our day since it is right next to Parliament Hill.  They offer boat rides through the canal, which we didn't do because of time and the weather wasn't that great.  We did enjoy stopping and watching this smaller boat go through.  It was cool to see the water levels changing and the gates opening. 

Next time I am in Ottawa, I'd love to take one of the boat rides!  I've never been through a canal like this so it would definitely be an interesting experience.  Part of the canal is also open in the winter as a skateway (ice rink)!  I am really hoping to get to Ottawa during Winterlude this upcoming season, and skate on the Canal.









Byward Market: Ottawa, Canada

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Byward Market was by far my favorite part of Ottawa!  We had actually planned to stop here first to eat lunch but we had a hard time finding it for some reason and we were starving.  I'm sort of glad we didn't find it earlier because we probably would have just stayed here all day!   There are so many great looking bars and restaurants we wanted to try.  While we were walking around, Heather spotted this place called BeaverTails and said it looked good.  I was all about it once I saw that it was something sweet.  I didn't know until later that BeaverTails are a thing in Canada.   We both got Nutella and Banana BeaverTails, sat at a nearby table and enjoyed the guitar being played right behind us.   We probably sat there for a good 30 minutes before we had to head back to Parliament Hill for our Peace Tower tour.

Next time I find my self in Ottawa, I plan to head straight to the market and spend as much time exploring that area as possible.  I'd highly recommend heading to this area for lunch or a drink .... or a BeaverTail.








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