Strides: Update 4, part 1

It has been a year.

A YEAR, since Strides: Update 3, part 2.

10 MONTHS since Kool-Aid Money, Champlain Taste.

How quickly time flies! Given it has been a while, I will summarize my update in three separate posts: 1. Budgeting (6/21), 2. Learning (6/28), and 3. Looking [Ahead] (7/5)*. Saving is a waiting game, but I can still be active in these three ways. Doing so, I position myself to receive or to act on any opportunities that may present themselves.

Let’s get it.

Budgeting 2020

THEN

In my August 2019 post, Kool-Aid Money, Champlain taste + Dirrty Details of Budgeting I shared that I was already well over-budget for the year. I would need to practice personal austerity measure to get back on track with saving for homeownership in the future.

I learned a major lesson from that racked-up debt: Exercising self-control and [prioritizing] in the short-term are imperative for realizing long-term aspirations.

I asked myself the major question:How can I… consider my future as readily as I consider the needs and desires of my present?

I found saving with sights on homeownership to be challenging.

NOW: HOW HAVE I DONE?

December 2019, just before Christmas, I paid off my credit card! Over the difficult four months of trying to live within my means, I was encouraged by watching my credit card balance decrease, by watching my savings recover, by watching my lifestyle simplify and by welcoming my friends and family along for the ride.

I have maintained good self-control with my spending since December, but not without help and generosity of loved ones along the way.

FOOD

My most consistent overspending trap in 2019 was dining out.

Shifting away from dining out meant spending more time in my home or in my friends’ homes when we met over a meal. I welcomed friends to my home for dinner or, I dined at their home. At their home, I brought my own meal to eat, brought a dish to contribute, or simply brought myself and helped them cook. It was nice and much more intimate than meeting at a cafe, a dining hall, or a fast food establishment. I also remember meetings for breakfast; I’d buy a bagel, a donut, or hearty muffin, each of which were less expensive purchases than a full lunch or dinner. Sometimes, a friend would treat me. 🙂

At the beginning of the COVID stay home order, my parents helped with food as well. In March, I had a persistent low fever and other symptoms that were not readily acknowledged or discussed as relating to COVID at the time. They ordered me two shipments of frozen proteins like beef patties or battered cod, with frozen servings of sides and apple tarts for dessert mixed in. Their order was timely as I still felt ill and had already finished my two-week grocery supply. Their order bought me more time to recover before getting an all-clear from my doctor to re-enter public space and buy grocereies again.

During the pandemic, my greater self-discipline with grocery planning and food prep–developed during Fall 2019–has really had a chance to shine. I now grocery shop once every two weeks. I need to meal plan two weeks out, and my meal plan must take into account how much weight I can carry on my walk home from the store. Thankfully, investment in physical therapy pre-COVID and regular cardio and strength exercises during COVID have enabled me to carry quite a bit: 5 bags at once in fact! I feel super strong :)!

Pandemic Grocery Haul: No ride share nor delivery necessary! I enjoy how the process is mentally and physically engaging. I have a strategy.

At the start of COVID, my grocery budget ran at $130-$140 every two weeks. When meal planning, I sought out recipes that I hoped would last 4-5 days. Here are some recipes that have kept me full and satisfied while living within my means during quarantine.

TRAVEL

As I shared in August, Travel Savings are 10% of my budget.

In 2019, my eyes were bigger than my pocketbook in this area as well. While I did end up on the back cover of Appalachain Mountain Club’s most recent issue (Am I famous or what?! Lol):

In my case: “Be responsible with your income today, Be outdoors tomorrow.”
Original photo by Visual Storyteller, Paula Champagne

…I had no clue how much outdoor gear could cost for a multi-day hiking trip in late winter/early spring; in total, the trip cost $600-$700. With two summer trips to Vermont that followed shortly thereafter, and a trip to Texas also lined up in the queue, that is how 2019 travel spending blurred well beyond my means.

Tangent: In Texas, I was happy to spend some time in nature away from the city. I especially enjoyed walking a short trail with family after I convinced them to walk the trail with me. Here are some pictures from that trip.

By October, progress with paying expenses permitted a spontaneous day trip to Portland, Maine. It was my first time visiting the city despite all my years in the Northeast. My personal austerity measures had born an unexpected reward two months before Christmas.

By January, just-my-luck discounts permitted a second spontaneous trip to… Vermont! I got to try cross country skiing for the first time ever, my family got to try snow shoeing for the first time ever, and we enjoyed our first horse-drawn sleigh ride together. We also savored a light brunch at The Skinny Pancake, a Vermont creperie chain, along the way.

“TRAVEL” & The Pandemic

Over this past year, by God’s grace and help, I’ve improved in considering my future hopes as readily as I consider the needs and desires of my present. The pandemic has amplified that consideration: future hopes vs. present circumstances.

I have not traveled since March 2020, and I do not have plans to travel much for the rest of 2020. However, I still save 10% of my income for Travel. In lieu of traveling, I spent some of those funds on adapting to new life rhythms during COVID. Here are some photos both of adaptive purchases and adaptions inspired by a free spirit of curiosity for what this new reality–with new limits!–holds.

I am finding that much of what I now enjoy in my surroundings during COVID was there all along prior to COVID; I had been moving too quickly to see it. May the gifts of the present provide encouragement and patience for the future.

*In case you are wondering, current events around racial justice and economic justice have re-affirmed my conviction about my vision. More about that in part 3, “Looking Ahead”.

Copyright © 2020 A.M. Wilsonne

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