February Budget and Debt Repayment Progress

And just like that, another one bites the dust!

Another month, that is. Sadly I can’t say we dropped another loan in February. Rather, we gained one.

At the end of January and beginning of February, Mr. E finally found a new (to us) car that was in our budget and checked all of our boxes (all wheel drive, under 50k miles, etc.). We put 25% down and are financing the rest at a very good interest rate (it’s better than mine! We’re looking to switch my car over very soon). The first payment is due this month, and I’ve loaded the loan into our Mint account, where it stares me down every time I log in, which is every day.

I had wanted to add a graph to this post to illustrate the changes to our debt this month (since we did pay down a bit) but I realized as I was editing that I also added Mr. E’s student loan to our Mint account this month, which caused¬†my nice, descending columns to spike up…way up. Maybe I’ll add a graph next month when things even out a bit more ūüôā

Budget wise, here’s how we did for February:


 

Once again, our landlord has not cashed our rent check yet, but we did pay it! We were slightly over on eating out, and I broke down and purchased a few items I needed for work that I couldn’t put off any longer.¬†I increased the budget for gas and we still went over, so I’ll have to allocate more money to that area for March. I was banking on not needing as much since I was off of work for the February break, and not driving as much as I usually do during the week. I am very pleased to announce that I came in under budget for groceries!! That was definitely something I worked at over the course of February, because I was determined to make it happen. Now I just need to continue this into March.

You’ll notice it looks like we spent a ton on travel this month (37% of our monthly spending). That right there is my girls’ weekend in Boston. Before everyone panics that I dropped that much money on a five day vacation, I should explain that more than half of that is the cost of our hotel rooms. I made the reservations with a friends and family rate and put it on my travel rewards card to get double points. Everyone reimbursed me in Boston, but of course Mint doesn’t know that.

I did remove Mr. E’s car purchase from our Mint budgets and trends, as it was making it difficult to see how February’s spending compares to January’s spending. We put a significant amount of money down on the car and financed the rest, but to get more points we charged it to our travel rewards card and then Mr. E paid it off right away with the cash we had on hand.

Everything else in the budget looks good. I had some impulse shopping a week before my vacation, but since I barely wore any of it in Boston it all went back to the store when I got home. It’s nice to see that even though I struggled with my spending freeze I still managed to stay close to where we should be. I did take the first weekend (okay, 2/28-3/6) to spend and purchase some items that I’ve been wanting or had run out of during the freeze, and I should be set now that I’m restarting it for the rest of March. I do have a few beauty items I need to replenish (dry shampoo immediately comes to mind…) but I have the cash to pay for it already. I’ve stopped using the rewards card for my personal purchases; I stopped after Boston. I was getting too used to the weight of that card in my hands (it is quite solid) and old feelings of living beyond my means were creeping back in. Since March is a three paycheck month for me, it seemed like the perfect time to reset my spending habits knowing that I’ll have a little wiggle room this month in case things don’t go to plan. I paid cash for my hair at the salon last week and still have money for the gas I’ll need for this next week, and then I get paid again on Friday. We will still put most joint purchases on the rewards card, as we pay out of our joint account for those items and we generally (with the exception of Christmastime, which was a spectacular fail) pay that off each month. I’m hopeful that my budget update at the end of March is a bit more positive!

 

 

 

 

 

Spending Freeze Wrap Up–February 2017

Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned.

I don’t even want to get into how many days I went without spending, because it wasn’t many. I had a long weekend vacation planned, and thought I would be okay if I (obviously) spent money on those days. I’m not even concerned about that spending. It’s all of the other incidental purchases that added up quickly.

Attempting a two month spending freeze for the first time isn’t easy. I did very well in January, and in February I started to lose steam. I was too comfortable and too confident. I left my planner in my car and stopped filling in the boxes when I didn’t spend money. Without that visual aid I lost motivation. I started to run out of items I needed, like moisturizers and ink cartridges. Once I walked into the store to purchase that item, magically other items appeared in my hands. Or, I decided that “just this once” I could grab a snack while I was driving for work. Twice I went to use a gift card at a coffee shop, only to find I had less than the total balance left, meaning I had to pay with my credit card.

And then, of course, going away meant purchasing new clothes. And a Kate Spade bag I’d been lusting after, because it was (finally!) on sale. And grabbing lunch while at the mall, because why not?

Although February’s freeze was a fail, I did learn quite a bit about my spending habits. I learned what I wouldn’t spend money on (speech supplies, Dollar Spot, home goods) and what I was actually more likely to spend money on (food). I knew I loved buying food out, but I didn’t realize how often I got food on my own (Mr. E and I continue to limit our eating out, but that’s a discussion for another day). This is definitely an area of my spending that I need to work on. While I did buy a couple of clothing items, I returned the ones I didn’t wear in Boston. ¬† I was also able to finish saving the money I need for the summer, even despite spending more than I really wanted to this month. I feel relieved knowing that I can pay my bills for July and August and don’t have to worry about having less income for those months. Now I can use that summer income for other things, like summer vacation or paying down some debt.

So would I ever attempt a spending freeze again? Of course I would. While I’d love to start one right away for the upcoming Lenten season (which starts, conveniently, on March 1) I don’t think I have the stamina to continue another 40 days. I was starting to feel deprived, and I think that led to my failure during February. So I’m giving myself a grace period.

Another spending freeze starts March 6.

If at first you don’t succeed…keep going until you do.

A Long Weekend in Boston

What fabulous weather we¬†had last week! It hardly seems like we’ve had winter at all this year, with the lack of snow and single digit temperatures. I’ve been on February break this week and it feels more like Spring outside. I always tell Mr. E that it’s all downhill once you get to Valentine’s Day, but it seems like Spring is coming even quicker this year.

Winter weather always makes me a bit nervous, particularly when travel is involved. So when my dear sorority sisters decided to plan a girls’ weekend in Boston, I hesitated. Boston in February conjures up images of cold winds and snow piled as high as your head. I envisioned covering up adorable outfits in giant parkas and airport delays.

Thankfully, all my worrying was for naught, because our President’s Day long weekend was full of sunshine and blue skies from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. ¬†I didn’t even need my parka, just my wool coat (and even then, I was often warm). We couldn’t have asked for better weather for a fabulous weekend.

The objectives of our weekend were as follows: history, beer, and lobster. I’d say we accomplished all three. Sadly, due to the beer (or cider for me), I don’t have as many pictures of my adventures as I usually do when I travel with Mr. E. That’s okay. This won’t be my only trip to Boston.

Since we’ve already addressed the drinking, can we just¬†talk about the¬†fabulous cocktail I enjoyed at WARD 8? Called the “Hang Ten,” it arrived in a copper pineapple and had to be shared by two people. Paired with a lobster roll, it was a wonderful first meal in Boston.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express right across the street from Boston Garden and less than a fifteen minute walk to Quincy Market. We upgraded to to suites and the amount of space was perfect for 8 women. Unfortunately, the room I was in had large windows on two exterior walls, which while beautiful meant that it could be very loud from outside noise. I think the girls staying in the suite down the hall had a much quieter time. Conveniently, there was a Dunkin Donuts right under the hotel, so coffee was never more than a few minutes away.

After a relaxing first night a few of us woke up early to get ready for a chocolate brunch at Cafe Fleuri, which is located inside the Langham hotel. The hotel was stunning, and the chocolate brunch was everything I imagined it would be. It was almost too much chocolate for me, which is something I never thought I’d say.

 

 

 

 

After eating so much, we met up with the rest of our group and decided to walk the Freedom Trail to burn off some calories. We started at Boston Commons and followed all the way to Faneuil Hall. We didn’t spend the money to go into the locations that weren’t free, but it was nice to admire them from the outside. It can be a bit jarring to be looking at an eighteenth century building surrounded by buildings from the modern era!

 

Boston State House

 

Marker for the Freedom Trail

 

The Old South Meeting House, also the site of the Boston Massacre

 

Faneuil Hall and a statue of Samuel Adams

 

Saturday night meant a brewery tour. As someone who has never liked the taste of beer, ¬†I was apprehensive that I’d have a good time. Sadly, none of the stops on our tour were to cideries (I had been hoping at least one would be) but we did get to go to a distillery, where we sampled rum and gin. That, I could do. The beer, not so much. My friends drank it for me.

 

Unsure about all of that beer!

 

I much preferred the Boston Crawling tour we did the next day, where we went to local bars and pubs and enjoyed a history lesson of colonial Boston at each stop. I drank cider to my heart’s content, and learned quite a bit (such as, did you know the person on the Sam Adam’s logo is more than likely Paul Revere? Or that colonial beer was less alcoholic?) We had dinner at Koy Sunday night, which was right in Quincy Market and I enjoyed my Korean dinner very much.

 

The Bell in Hand, the oldest continually run tavern in Boston

 

Our party had dwindled to six by Monday morning, and after a quick breakfast at our hotel we set off on our trip to Salem. The train station was conveniently located across from our hotel, and with Dunkin in hand we set off on a quick 20 minute train ride. We were there before we knew it.

I have been to Salem many times over the years, and I still never tire of it. Given that we also wanted to visit a cidery and possibly a brewery while we were there, we didn’t do much of the historical activities (and also, many were closed due to the off-season). But I did get a chance to wander down this beautiful cobblestone street. I think I could live here and be very happy.

 

 

An oldie but a goodie, the Salem Witch Museum is always a treat

 

I think I could live here…

 

Bewitched statue

 

 

After a delightful visit to the always cheesy Salem Witch Museum, we took advantage of the warm sun to wander down to the Far From the Tree cidery. I had been waiting all weekend for this moment: a flight of ciders. Another group of tourists had brought board games with them to their tasting and were playing Uno and Guess Who. I thought that sounded quite fun. We’ll have to remember for our next tour.

 

 

Delicious ciders…my favorite was that pinkish one on the left

 

 

At our farewell dinner back at the Bostonia Public House, we dined on lobster (what else!) and drank fancy cocktails while congratulating ourselves on a successful girls’ weekend, hopefully the first of many. My only hope is that, if we choose to go in the winter again, we pick someplace a bit warmer than Massachusetts. I don’t think we’ll get lucky with the weather again!

Have you been to Boston? What should I do next time?

 

Recycled Crayon Stars

It¬†was a tough transition back to work ¬†after the long holiday break.¬†¬†I love my job, but I loathe that alarm, especially at six in the morning! January is typically a crazy¬†month,¬†as it’s the start of the busiest time of year and my to-do list increases exponentially. I’m thankful for the two four-day work weeks this month that will allow me to get some work done and still leave a little time for relaxation.

I’m also thankful for my Christmas break, as it enabled me to rest and get organized for the next few months. I was able to tackle a few projects, such as laminating a stack of papers (although I have yet to cut them) and organizing some of my materials. I was thrilled, however, to finally repurpose something that has been taking up space on my desk for over a year: the box of broken crayons.

Continue reading