June Challenge wrap-up: "Essentials only month"

Saturday, June 29, 2013

My challenge this month was an adaptation of the Essentials Only Month that I did last year, where we had a strict budget (all cash) to spend on everything for a month that was "essential" and nothing to spend on things that were not essential. This was a good challenge to do his month since we will be closing on our house July 22 and moving a week before that (still don't have house to move to yet, but that's another story). This gave us the chance to eat the food we already had in our pantry and freezer so we didn't have to move it or worse, waste it when we move.

My budget for grocery shopping this month was $75, and I'm happy to report that I only managed two trips to Publix (which is hard for me, because I LOVE Publix...) and spent about $45. I would call that a success!

Meanwhile, our fridge looks like this:

We're getting there, people!

It feels so good to use what you have a clean everything out (even if you're not moving). A fresh start is always welcome!

My bestie turned 30 this week...how is this possible??

Last weekend, I flew down to Gainesville for one night (and one night only) to celebrate my best friend Lindsey's 30th birthday (which was actually on Monday).

Birthday girl!
I have known Lindsey (and her sister, my other bestie, Lesley) since their family moved to FL from NY state in middle school. It's scary when you've known someone for 17 years - just saying that makes me feel old, ha!
Old friends are the best friends

I am not sure how the years have passed so quickly: it feels like yesterday that Lindsey got her driver's license and became mine and Lesley's ride around town. And then there were the other biggies: 18, 21, 25. I have celebrated them all with this girl. But where did our 20s go? I still have a year+ until I'm 30, but it's just insane to think that it wasn't that long ago that we were celebrating 21st birthdays...and now, BAM, the 30s are here.

Sisters: Les and Lin

All I know is I am so blessed to have her for a best friend, and that I have been able to celebrate so many birthdays with her. Cheers to 30, Lin - this is going to be your best decade yet!

Photo booth fun at the birthday party

Under contract (and under pressure)

Monday, June 17, 2013

My hiatus over the last 10 days has been for a very good reason, I assure you. Mainly - stuff is happening. Like major life stuff. I wrote a few weeks back about Alex's career move and the great opportunity he has been given at USC. Well just a mere 3 weeks after finding out that he got the job, our house in Greenville is under contract! We are closing on it July 22! WOW!

So yeah...WOW...we will be homeless in a few weeks since we don't have a place in Columbia yet.

But it will come.

This place won't be ours come July 22!

So far, God has provided every step of the way, and I know He has great plans for the rest of it (mainly finding a home and me finding a job). I have officially told my current job that my last day will be August 2, so I still have some time to find a new job, but the pressure is starting to kick in.

Speaking of, I was feeling a little overwhelmed last week. We officially went under contract on Tuesday, and Wednesday and Friday I had moving companies over to assess the situation (i.e. how much junk we own) and give us moving and packing estimates. As I took them through every nook and cranny of our home and looked in every cabinet, linen closet, and dresser, I began to realize just how much stuff we have. And most of it we don't even use. And the reality of packing it all up and moving it set in.

And then on Friday, a dear friend (and former boss) of mine lost everything she owned when her beautiful 9-year-old house burned to the ground. She and her family, thank the Lord, were not home at the time and they are all okay. A neighbor saved their dog. But they lost their cat, her car, and all of their earthly possessions in a matter of minutes when their lives went up in flames.

It really put things into perspective for me.

I felt like such a spoiled brat for being overwhelmed because I have too much. We are too blessed.

We were house hunting in Columbia on Friday (before I found out about my friend's home) and of course, we scrutinized every detail of the houses we toured (as you should when you house hunt). Too small. Not enough closet space. No formal dining room. And on and on.

And I joked about how we will be homeless come July 22 if we don't get our act together and find a house or a rental for the immediate future.

But my friend is actually homeless. She, her husband and 2 kids will be "living" in a Residence Inn until they can find a more suitable long-term situation or, worst-case, until their house has been rebuilt.

It's terrible that it takes a tragedy to realize the blessings that are all around. I am so guilty of this. 

Anyway - not to be a downer on this Monday...

The point is: we are blessed. We have too much. Yes, we have to move it and yes, moving stinks. But I have stuff to move. I have a house now and we will have some sort of living situation lined up in a few weeks. It's all good.

One day at a time, in the best of times and the worst of times.

Happy 9th Birthday to my Penny Anne!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This little cute face had a birthday on Sunday! I can't believe she's NINE! That makes me really sad. Can't even think about it.

Is this not the cutest puppy face ever??? (2004)
Hers a big girl now! (2013)

Anyway, she was a birthday present to me from my Mom for my 20th Birthday (which yes, means that my 29th is just around the corner). Mom bought this sweet baby for me as a bribe: see, I wanted to take "my" dog, Tucker, with me to college my sophomore year when I had an apartment off campus. But Mom had grown too attached to Tucker, and knew she needed a way to divert my attention from the fact that she was stealing my dog. Enter Penny, or "Stinky" as she was originally dubbed by the breeder.

Penny and I got off to a rough start. For a pup that weighed right at one pound for the first few weeks I had her, she was a naughty, destructive little thing. I blame myself for a lot of her antics. I should have crate trained her (or trained her at all...), but I was barely 20 years old, a college student...I had never raised a puppy on my own. So Penny was left to do as she wanted during the day, which included anything from ripping the wallpaper off the kitchen wall in my apartment to chewing up sandals. At night, I caved and let her sleep with me when she cried, so she still to this day has to sleep in the bed with us.

But after a few tough months of puppyhood, we were inseparable. 

Penny has been there with me through all of life's major milestones, with the exception of high school graduation (she was born exactly one year after I graduated). She even met Alex at the same moment that I did! She is my very best little furry friend and the puppy love of my life! Happy 9th birthday, cute face!
On her 9th Birthday (2013)

The day I got baby Penn (2004)

Update: 28 things to do while I'm 28

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Today is June 4 (obviously), which means yesterday was my "quarter birthday" - meaning I only have 3 months until the big 2-9! And only 3 months to get stuff crossed off this list. Yikes.

Here's the update on my progress!
  1. Go apple picking for the first time ever - DONE!
  2. Start baking for fun on a regular basis again  - and share with my neighbors and work peeps - some success - but I need to do it more!
  3. Discover a new TV show that Alex and I both love - Done! We've gotten into Revolution and Nashville. Can't wait for them to return in the fall!
  4. Send at least one "just because" snail mail note per month - my new stationery did not help. I really need to up the ante on this!
  5. Make my goal weight in time for my reunion (Oct. 27!!) ...and maintain it - Well this was "done" - but I gained some back. But I'm back at it again and hope to be at my goal weight again soon!
  6. Have a great time at my 10 Year High School Reunion :) - DONE!
  7. Start planning and saving for a big vacation with Alex (we're thinking Italy in 2013!) - we are leaving for Italy June 30!! CANNOT WAIT!
  8. Go on a weekend getaway to a place we've never been - we went to DC in September - even though we'd both been, we'd never been together. I'd like to go somewhere neither of us have been, though!
  9. Start and finish our engagement and wedding showers/parties/bach party/etc scrapbook - still haven't started it. I need to get on it!
  10. Send out more Christmas cards than last year - Done!
  11. Create a Household Budget and stick to it - since Alex changed jobs more than once (technically 3 times) since September, this has been next to impossible. And I will be changing jobs before my birthday because of the move. But who knows - maybe we will finally be able to draft one and commit to it. 
  12. Update my Passport with my married name - and then USE IT! -the update is DONE and I'll be using it in a few weeks when we go to Italy!
  13. Paint the Study and attach the bookcases to the wall (safety first) - since our house is For Sale, this is not going to happen! But maybe when we move into a new house??
  14. Have a Pinterest Party - Not yet but I really want to do this!
  15. Plant bulbs in the winter and watch them bloom in spring - DONE! I planted lilies :)
  16. Host more than one dinner party throughout the year - DONE! Hosted several formal and informal get-togethers (December, Easter, Memorial Day)
  17. Get rid of one piece of clothing for every one new piece purchased - Sort of doing this. Trying to be more strategic when I buy new clothes.
  18. Use our wedding china - DONE! Used at our dinner party in December and at Easter. 
  19. Organize the Golf/Work-out room and make it more usable - DONE!
  20. Run a 5K (scary - I hate running) - I officially started the Couch to 5k training program in March, but it's been tough to keep up with. Not sure if I will be really ready by September 3!
  21. Get serious about our savings - we have paid down a lot of debt and have contributed to our savings. Our tax refund helped, too!
  22. Host a big, old-fashioned summer cook-out - DONE! Memorial Day with our neighbors
  23. Learn how to play golf - Alex has promised to teach me...but still no progress (or time!)
  24. Attend a dressy/fancy event with the hubs and get all gussied up - DONE! We went to the JLG's Big Night Out in February
  25. Have a true girls' weekend - need to plan one!
  26. Build regularly scheduled massages into the budget (it's for my health, I swear. I SWEAR.) - I need to do this. For so many reasons.
  27. Be more spontaneous and try not to sweat the small stuff. Life is too short! - I'm trying! I'm such a planner that this is a hard one for me :)

June is Essentials Only Month!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Last year, I got the great idea from SmallNotebook.org to do a "No Spend Month," which I dubbed "Essentials Only Month" for my purposes because it's basically impossible not to spend anything for an entire month. You can read about that adventure here.

Since I am challenging myself to something different every month this year, I knew Essentials Only Month would be making a comeback. Basically, what I did last year was to give our household a budget of $200 for an entire month. This included groceries, eating out, gas (that's a big one), toiletries, clothing, random shopping, and household items. It did not include medical or health-related expenses like co-pays or prescriptions, gifts for other people, or our normal monthly bills The key was to pay cash for everything so we weren't tempted to just put it on the card. And it worked: we saved a lot of money, cleaned out our fridge, and realized we could really pinch pennies when we needed to.

Enter June 2013, our EOM for the year. However, I am mixing things up a little bit this year due to a few circumstances:
1. We are putting our house on the market ASAP in anticipation of our move
2. For the next 3 weeks, we have a total of 4 weddings out of town and my best friend Lindsey's 30th birthday party in Florida
3. We are Italy bound on June 30 (can I get a heck yesssssss?!) and will be there through July 8

For all of these reasons, I am allotting myself and our household a total of $75 for groceries, toiletries, household items and misc. shopping for the month of June. I am not including gas in our budget this year because Alex will be between Columbia and Greenville all month (today is his first day as Coach!), and we are traveling out of town every weekend. I am also not including eating out, which might appear to be cheating, but we really only eat out about twice a week anyway, and I don't want to deprive us of our favorite Greenville eateries while we're still here to enjoy them. I think $75 will cut it because we have a freezer full of meat and a pantry full of dry goods, so we'll just need to buy fresh produce and dairy and that's about it. And we need to clean out our pantry and freezer before we make the big move anyway (I am hoping, praying, and crossing fingers that our house will sell quickly!).

The only "misc. shopping" things that are not included in the $75 budget are things we need to purchase for our trip: a new camera, possibly a new suitcase, and comfy shoes for all the walking we'll be doing. Just putting that out there as a disclaimer!

This EOM will definitely be different than last year's: in some ways, it will be easier, and in others, tougher. If you're looking for a good challenge, join me in sticking to a strict budget and saving tons of money in the process. You'll be shocked at how good you'll feel at the end of the month!

May Challenge: Floss every.single.day.

Another month and another challenge has come and gone, my friends! In May, I challenged myself to floss every day, no matter what. Not that I have bad dental hygiene or anything, but flossing isn't something I love to do and I often just forget to do it. So for the month of May, I busted out the Crest ProGlide and got to work.

I am super proud to say that I did, in fact, floss every day in May! And you know what? It felt amazing! My teeth feel so nice and I actually feel healthier. And I think my dentist is going to be pretty impressed when I go for my 6 month cleaning in 2 weeks.

Bottom line: it's kinda a pain, and it's tough to remember, but I think I might have successfully made it part of my routine. And I highly recommend it. 

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