I have some fun little stories for you.

On Valentine’s Day I went to a Maasai wedding for two adventurous Americans. I got to watch the bride have milk spit on her feet and grass tucked into her sandals, and I listened to the debate over how many cows the groom owes her family. (Isn’t that a fun question – how many cows are YOU worth?) Here they are in their wedding attire:

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To prepare for the wedding feast, I watched a sheep be slaughtered and helped skin a goat. Seriously. I have evidence, but I don’t want to make anyone vomit, so here is the least gross picture I have of that.

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Its only not gross because the critter was still alive. You’re welcome.

Let’s talk about something cute for a second. I entertained this kid with selfies. It was a pretty adorable.

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What is not so adorable is learning that kids here, at least the ones in the slums and in the bush, don’t exactly wear diapers. The boy above was soaked all over. I held him for about an hour and just mentally told myself it was water. A cute 4 month old near the Mara peed while sitting on my lap. There is literally baby urine on every pair of pants I brought right now. I’m waiting for a sunny day so I can wash them. You’re jealous, aren’t you? It is what I get for always wanting to hold the munchkins. You would think I would learn my lesson.

See the guy on the far right in the wedding photo? His name is Victor, and he came back from the Maasai Mara to Nairobi with us. Yesterday we went shopping at a fancy mall. It felt like America, and I was a little in awe. So was Victor, but for very different reasons. We went up an escalator, me first and Victor behind. I turned around when I got off the top to see him LEAPING over the last few steps. His eyes were huge, and he asked me if those things ever eat peoples’ legs. After that reaction, I took him in a glass elevator just for fun. He was very brave, but when we got home he told me it was a very long and tiring day full of things that could kill him. It’s pretty ironic since he grew up with lions, leopards, cheetas, buffalo, and black mambas. It’s all about perspective I guess.

I felt a little guilty for how scared he was, so I bought us an American lunch. It was my first pizza in a month! It’s even from Pizza Inn. It definitely didn’t taste as good as it does at home, but any pizza is delicious after a month without it.

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That is Pato with Victor in the photo. Pato has had pizza before because he is almost always with the white people in Nairobi, and at some point those white people usually want pizza. He says we can eat a lot of it. It’s true. I am unashamed to say I ate more than either of the guys. They thought it was good but very heavy on the stomach and were still not hungry at dinner last night. They said if they ate like that every day they would be very fat. I said welcome to America.

I have two more weeks of adventures to go!

Hello from Kenya!

I have been here for over two weeks, and I have lots to share. This post is going to be a bundle of random. Enjoy!

So far I have been mostly staying in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi. The house is decent – high living with a toilet and a shower – but we are in the slums. It’s like walking around in one of those commercials where they show sad kids playing in trash and tell you that you can feed them for less than a dollar a day. The difference is those kids always have puppy eyes. The kids here are always laughing and playing happily.

The first time I walked through the slums, I fell in a hole. I won’t tell you what was in the hole. Honestly I didn’t want to investigate that too thoroughly myself. I’ll let you use your imagination. The hole was lined with metal sheeting, so I bruised my knee really bad and got a nice scratch on my leg. Evidence:

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Basically I am an idiot. The bruise is still there, but the scratch is finally healed. There was a moment where it got puffy and red, and I got a little panicky about what bacteria was making its new home in my leg… but all is well now.

To me, the most interesting part of the story is the reaction of those around me. I was with a local outside of a house I had just visited. I was just embarrassed for being so clumsy, but they all sprang into action to take care of me. One guy fished my shoe out of the, uh, muck and took it to a woman washing clothes to be cleaned. Another brought me a wet rag to clean off my leg. Someone else stood there to help me stand on one foot. I was so well taken care of. Maybe it was just because i’m white, and they were frightened. I don’t know. I would love to know what they secretly thought of this idiot white girl who doesn’t know to look at the ground when she walks!

I went to the Maasai Mara for just a few days, which is officially one of my new favorite places. It is gorgeous. Evidence:

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I saw some awesome birds, a poisonous lizard, a dikdik, and some zebras, but you’ll have to wait on photos of that. What I can show you know is this – bones!

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I felt like Simba exploring an elephant graveyard, only instead of being chased by hyenas I had a little crowd of Maasai kids running after me. They loved my camera and really wanted
to touch my skin, but they wouldn't do it when I was looking at them even if I held out my hand. They would only do it when I wasn't looking because, you know, obviously I can't feel that. It was cute. This is some of them.

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For those wondering what work I’m actually doing, one of the things I did was play photographer a bit for these photos to protest the trophy hunt for the black rhino in Namibia. I think they look pretty awesome. Example:

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And I have another story for you about work I tried to do. I am a little nervous about telling it because I don’t want to offend anyone, but it’s important to me. Listen openly, please.

I went to a room in the slums yesterday where a woman runs a daycare. She calls it an orphanage, but in the Western sense of the word that’s not true. She takes care of children during the day so their mothers can work. Daycare. The room was about the size of maybe two cubicle offices. When I was there she had 15 kids that were from baby to toddler range – too young to be in school. They were dirty and adorable and at first I was really excited to be there.

I sat down and the bravest kid, a little boy about two, climbed onto my lap. I was trying to play with him, but she wouldn’t stop talking to me about all the wonderful things she’s done. She wanted me to see photos of kids she’s helped over the years that are now at university. She wanted me to look at how many names were in a notebook of children she helps. She wanted me to see how she uses her purse as an office. She wanted to complain about their tiny space and tell the story of how she has no money for a bigger one. She wanted me to praise her and feel sorry for her and open up my wallet.

Maybe she deserves those things, but while I was there, that boy I was holding got bored and got down out of my lap. And he fell on that concrete floor and bumped his head. And when I tried to get to him to love on him (walking in a tiny room with 15 toddlers takes some navigational skills), she stopped me and got frustrated that I wasn’t paying attention to her photos! She physically tuned me away from him – a child crying in pain – to look at her.

Before I left, I was told a story about how on Judgement Day everyone will be asked what they’ve done with their life and God will need an answer. I was told to consider my legacy and what I wanted it to be if I died tomorrow. I was literally told to remember Mother Theresa and try to be like her. I can not fully describe how much it sickened me. I want to help kids, but telling me to help you so God will love me is a really ineffective way to gain my trust.

I left there feeling so nauseous. When I got home I ate some of my cracker stash meant for when I’m carsick to get the bad taste out of my mouth and read Harry Potter (my comfort object for homesick days) to escape my angry thoughts.

Here’s the thing: I have been in a few slum houses now, and although they DO make me sad, it does not occur to their owners that it would be weird for me to be in a little room with four sets of bunk beds with walls of sticks and mud and metal sheeting for the roof. That’s how they live. They aren’t expecting my sympathy. This woman, though, has learned to play the pity card, and it felt inauthentic, rude, and annoying.

There are other places I can go, and I will. I hope that’s the last time I get that kind of attention. It probably won’t be, but let a girl dream.

Thanks for listening. Most of my experiences here have been so positive, but that was the one I needed to get off my chest!

It is officially mid-January, and I can not believe the Spending Freeze is over!

I can’t believe it so much, it took me seven days into January before I could talk myself into buying anything. I even went shopping, but I left the stores (MULTIPLE stores) empty-handed. In the end, the first thing I purchased was a delicious breakfast for myself and a friend starting her own spending freeze. I could not have planned that to be more perfect.

Since then, I’ve let myself eat out a whole whole lot compared to all of last year, mostly because January involved a trip home where all my favorite restaurants are located. Mid City, Amigos, and Pal’s are all required, even if that means eating more than three meals a day. Other than food, though, I really have not spent much in 2014, and I find myself walking away from so many items in stores that I would have bought without question a year ago. It is weird and wonderful.

I spent a lot of time this past year thinking about money, learning how to make use of budgeting software, reading finance books, and searching for ways to cut corners in my expenses. The biggest thing I noticed is that we have a giant taboo over talking about money. The first time I tallied my total savings for the whole year, I was really proud of myself. Shortly afterward, I started to wonder how much other people manage to save in a year. Had I done enough? Should I justify my total savings by showing how much I made last year? (Trust me, it wasn’t much.) They were silly thoughts, I know. I finally came to my senses. But I stand by my point.  We should not be so hesitant to talk about money and learn from each other.

In November, I had a few car setbacks, but managed to save $250.

In December, I only put one person on my Christmas list, and combining that with some extra holiday pay, I saved $424.

That means that my total savings for the year (even including that one month I had to dip into savings) is: $4,441.

I am blown away. I did not know it was possible to put back that much money in one year on my income. This year is going to be full of excitement and adventure, but it will still be full of savings too. I may not do a full out spending freeze, but I will never spend money the same way again.

I am leaving for Kenya today – TODAY! – and I am leaving you with this selfie I took while giving blood in order to get two free movie tickets, sticking to my Spending Freeze ways.

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I mentioned last time that I’ve started a second job, and I believe I told you it was the best job in the world.

It is.

I get to spend my mornings hanging out with this little stud, and he’s awesome.

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Did you see those dimples? Swoon. It is legitimately difficult to tell him goodbye when he smiles like that.

One thing this job means, though, is that four days a week I am working with that adorable bundle of awesomeness for five hours, then going to my regular job where I hang out with more kids, for a grand total of 15 hours out of the house. Working that much requires a lot of preparation. My off days now HAVE to involve cleaning the house, running any necessary errands, laundry, and all that stuff I would rather pretend didn’t exist. I’ve told you how I don’t buy any fast food (or any food/drinks) out and about. Well, I now pack breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in advance on Sunday. I also pick out my outfits and have them ready to go for the week. If that’s normal for you, I stand in awe of your amazing organization. It is not normal for me, but I am doing it. Every time I do, I feel like I deserve a gold medal. Seriously, where’s my medal?

Can this schedule be really tiring? Heck yes. However, so is being a mom 24 hours a day, and I like to think of this these few months as my ultra training for motherhood. I should be magnificent by the time I have my own little ones, right? That’s what I tell myself. Don’t correct me.

I have forgotten my Dr.Pepper pick-me-up once though, and that was a loooong day. I’ve also forgotten salad dressing and had a really disappointing dinner of mostly spinach. I’ve left my breakfast sitting on the counter twice. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying!

The hardest part of the Spending Freeze the whole time has been deciding what is a need and what is a want. Sometimes I get it wrong, like when I felt I should buy the $15 bottle of shampoo over the $3 one. Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself to stick to the principles of not buying drinks at a gas station when you work a 15 hour day and forgot your Dr.Pepper at home. And then sometimes you have the time to drive to Pensacola for an important night in a friend’s life, and you decide to go because it will be relatively cheap, the only “vacation” you’ve had all year, and fun. Maybe it shouldn’t be considered a need, but you do it anyway. You don’t regret it. You have a blast, and you get a picture of your best tourist self:

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So that trip ate into my September savings a little, but I do not regret that decision. It was so much fun.

I’ve been asking people for help on how to reign in my spending even more, and my darling sister told me I should limit my shower time. Standing in a hot shower, especially on a cold morning, is one of life’s little luxuries that I do not take for granted. I appreciate it daily by standing in the shower for as long as possible. My cue to get out of the shower is when the hot water starts to run out. I’m only partially exaggerating.

I looked it up, and (according to a site with absolutely no scientific credibility) the average American showers for 7.5 minutes. I started recording my shower times, and my average for the week was 7min 8s. Logan beat me easily with an average of 5min 16s. My goal now is to get my showers down to 5 minutes and beat Logan. Competition makes torturing myself with shorter showers almost worth it. Almost.

I’m also looking into getting one of those blankets for the hot water heater to save on the electric bill. I need to figure out if there’s a way to turn down the temperature on that thing, too. I would be more enthusiastic about these tasks if the laundry room didn’t have a cave cricket infestation. It’s a terrifying place, people. Do you know what cave crickets are? Demon crickets. Jiminy Cricket’s evil twin. I would post a picture here to educate you, but frankly I don’t want to creep myself out by googling their image. I’ll let you do that yourself.

We also need to take the time asap to winterize this ancient house. Have you ever put that cling wrap stuff on windows? I have not, but I’ll be learning soon. Anything else we should be doing to save money?

I’m going to go ahead and make a little holiday announcement: please, please, please, PLEASE, do not get me a birthday/Christmas gift. I would love to hang out with you! I’d love to drink hot chocolate with you in my living room. I’d love to go on a walk with you. We could drive around and look at Christmas lights! If you’re far away, write me a letter! Call me! Can we pretty please make a little quality time our gifts to each other instead? Definitely for this year, and perhaps every year? I assure you, one thing I have learned this year is that I have everything I need.

Now for the savings!
In September, which included a quick trip to Florida, I managed to save: $522
And in October: $838

Even more exciting than the savings, I finally have a plane ticket!
I leave for Kenya on January 20th for six weeks.

Wish me luck!
And if you’re feeling generous, help me get there! That would be way better than any gift.

Eight months down, four to go! I GOT THIS.

(Just in case you’re new, the whole idea here is that I’m spending the year only purchasing essentials: groceries, rent, gas, etc. I have now done this for eight months and sometimes think I deserve a medal for being so awesome. Other times I think maybe I shouldn’t consider my one Dr.Pepper can a day habit to be “essential”…)

August was a really interesting month. I did a few odd jobs to make a little extra cash. I did a little pet sitting and one afternoon of babysitting. It added to my schedule and required a higher level of organization than I am used to, but I enjoyed all of it. Hanging out with adorable cats and funny dogs and well-behaved children (not necessarily at the same time) while getting paid? Yes, please! Easy on me, fun, and great for my bank account. Those are the best kind of jobs. And, as it turns out, it was very much needed this month.

Why did I need extra monies?

Logan’s truck, which for reasons unknown he loves like most people love their first-born, was breaking in half. Literally. I do not mean literally in the new grammatically incorrect sense that somehow actually means figuratively, a habit I find repulsive even though I have been guilty. I mean literally. The frame was rusting in two. The bed was starting to rest against the cab, and it was in danger of falling off. Nobody really wanted to fix it either. They weren’t even sure it was possible, and if it was possible they said the rust will return and kill his truck eventually. Here’s photo evidence so you can see the impending death of this hunk of metal:

This would be the frame nicely cracking in half.

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Is it better on the other side of the frame? Why, no! It’s almost entirely rust.

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We finally found a gentleman who would fix it. He was a saint. I would have asked for his picture if that wouldn’t have seemed creepy. He cut us a deal and gave the truck a little longer life while we save up to replace her. Fun fact: I learned during this process that Logan’s truck is a girl even though her name is Oliver. Who knew?

That repair cost all the extra money I made this month plus a little dip into savings. It was a good lesson for me in having a healthy emergency fund, and I’m thankful we were able to fix this with cash on short notice. No credit cards for us! But it means my savings for August was $0. Disappointing, but I’m grateful too. It would have been so much worse if we would have had to charge the fix or not been able to pay for it at all!

In other August news, I am realizing how lucky I am to live in a place where there’s something interesting and FREE to do every single weekend. At least, that’s how it’s worked out so far! I never feel stuck in my house. There is always something going on (farmer’s market, random little festivals, free music, etc.) or some new place to explore. This little beauty was taken at a local wildlife refuge that we wandered around one afternoon!

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We’ve somehow occupied every free day up to this point, and we haven’t even made it to the mountains yet. With fall coming, it’s moving higher and higher on our to-do list. Anybody know any great places to go?

For the sake of honesty, Logan bought me food at a real live restaurant this month. Twice. I will have to admit, we were like relapsing addicts and may have done it again once in September. Falling off the wagon is so easy! I don’t think he regrets it, though. I can’t say I blame him considering he pretty much cooks all of our (edible) meals. I am the one that actually goes to the store, though. Since neither of us like that chore, I consider us to be even.

Eight months into this little Spending Freeze, and I have started to feel a little stuck. I am still saving, but not as much as I was before thanks to taking a pay cut to move. I have cut out everything I know to cut. I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t eat out (unless someone else buys). I pack my lunch and snacks for work every single day. I have learned to avoid shopping malls and the fun sections of Target. I don’t buy gifts. I run errands logically to save on gas. I’m learning to buy groceries based on sales and promotions. What else can I do?

A friend sent me a link to a website called Mr.MoneyMustache. He is my financial guru hero. Seriously, that little gray underline on his name is a link and you should click it. I put it there because I love you and think you should read everything he has to say. If you are interested in all things frugal and like someone with a little more zest and fewer kitchy catch-phrases than Dave Ramsey, you should seriously spend some time checking him out. I have been reading through all his blog posts for the past month or so, thinking about my financial goals, and realizing that this Spending Freeze has turned into a lifestyle for me as opposed to a year long experiment. (Did I just admit that this project has changed how I look at money? It has. We should talk about that sometime.)

I am trying to soak up what he has to say and am still reading through it, but I did take one itsy bitsy teeny tiny step this month recommended by MMM. (He refers to himself as MMM for short. Since we’re friends because he’s my new idol, I call him that too.) I set up a clothesline in my backyard! I would show you a picture for proof, but it feels weird to literally put my laundry on the internet. Plus it’s dark outside. I built in myself from stuff we had lying around, hung my very first load of laundry, and proudly texted my mother. She promptly killed all my joy by telling me the one and only time she used a clothesline, her laundry came back in the house with infested with spiders. (shudders) My laundry was fine, thank goodness. Assuming I can figure out how to hang a line in the house this winter without damaging the hardwood floors, I’m excited about this money saving domestic habit. Do you have any other ideas? Big or small, it’s crunch time on this Spending Freeze, and I’m willing to try anything!

Next month the savings is going to go up for sure because (drumroll!), I’ve got a second job! An insanely adorable, you’re going to be super jealous job. You’ll have to check back for the September recap for news on that!

P.S. I’m over 50% to my goal! Check it out! :)

I drafted a June recap all by itself, and then… life happened. Sorry folks. I have no good excuse. So here I am, writing about two months in one!

First of all, let me remind you that I am OVER HALFWAY THROUGH THIS SPENDING FREEZE! Holy Hades, who would have ever thought that would happen? In February, I just knew this was going to be the slowest year of my life.

It’s not.

It may be the fastest.

To help keep my head on straight about my wants/needs for the house, I made a list of them to help me prioritize where my money ought to go. At the top of my list: futon/pull-out couch. We really want people to be able to stay with us now that we actually have a little space.

The list has been really helpful. It keeps me focused if I decide to browse Craigslist or stop in an antique store. If I get distracted by pretty dishes or an awesome old crate, I have something physical to look at to remind me where my money needs to be spent. What I’ve allowed myself to classify as a need and not just a want. (Although, pretty dishes might ought to make my needs list. Right now we only own two plates…)

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Our only two plates. His & hers! You would not believe how many times I can wash these in one day.

But in other ways, the list is kind of terrible. It’s this written reminder I glance at ALL THE TIME of things I feel like I need but can’t afford. It taunts me. Oh, you want to buy me? Haha! Too bad. It makes me feel awful. It makes me want to buy a lottery ticket. It makes me want to break out the credit card.

I look at that sneaky little list and feel like I deserve everything on it. I deserve dining room chairs, right? I did buy this chair at an antique store in Clinton, TN. Now Logan and I both have a place to sit at the dining room table! Not that we ever sit at the dining room table. Our two chairs are on the porch 99% of the time. You know, because we’re southern. And people in the South do this thing called porch sittin’ while they drink sweet tea. It’s awesome, ya’ll.

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But back to feeling like I deserve things. My income is tiny right now, and I’m putting it where I really want it to go. First it’s going to pay my bills and put food in my mouth. Then it’s going straight to savings to help fund my volunteer adventure in Kenya. And when I can remember that clearly, I know it’s more important than patio furniture and extra plates. It’s really hard to remember, though.

That’s why I’m working on my “deserve” language. Not to go all Physch 101 on you, but it makes a big difference for me. When I see cute sandals on sale or a sundress on clearance, I stop myself from having a little pity party. I try to stop myself from thinking, “I work hard, and I deserve these sandals” and remind myself, “I deserve to go on this trip”. A little reframing works wonders.

I’m not saying I’m great at it or that I never, ever sink into the “pity mes!”, but I’m getting better.

When things start to get a little rough, something always comes along to help. I’d stopped looking at futon options because I was never finding something I wanted. I would get discouraged, look at what the big box stores offered, cringe at what they cost, and get frustrated. So I gave myself a break. I stopped checking everyday on Craigslist. I would rather not look for a futon and not have one than look daily and feel discouraged. Then, one day, when I was having a good day and not being the queen of my own pity party, I searched Craigslist. I’ve learned not to browse right now – I see too many things I want, and that’s a fast way to throw on my pity party hat.

And I found this:

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I am in love. Does it smell like it’s been in your great-grandmother’s basement for the past several decades? Yes. Yes it does. It smells even after we let it air out in the back of Logan’s truck for a day. If you have tips on how to get rid of the antique store smell, I’ll take them. Otherwise, it’s perfect. (To be fair to the futon, I should mention Logan likes the smell.)

The beginning of June also brought our two year anniversary. We decided the best present for each of us would just be to have a real date where we didn’t have to be all creative and think of something free to do besides sit on the couch and stare at each other. We went classic: dinner and a movie. I bought dinner. He bought the movie. Those were the only gifts exchanged, and it was wonderful. A dinner where we don’t have to wash our two plates? A movie that’s not on our tv screen? It’s not hard to please us these days.

See? This is us being super pleased by a normal date.

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Now, on to the actual savings. The move has really set me back. By February of the Spending Freeze, the money I made one month went to pay the next month’s bills. I was not living paycheck to paycheck for the first time ever. I’ve gotten behind on that, and my savings isn’t growing as fast as it once was.

But I haven’t quit.

In June, I put back $188.

In July, thanks largely in part to an overnight extremely generous babysitting job, I put back $366.

It’s discouraging to not see the big numbers I was seeing at the beginning of the year. That was the risk I took though, moving cities, moving into a house, taking a lower paying job. It sucks sometimes, but I am happier now than I have ever been. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s worth it.

Five more months to go.

Do you remember how, in February, I liked looking at my bank account and daydreaming about how much money I’d be able to move into savings at the end of the month? Let’s just say that did not happen in May. I avoided looking at my bank account almost the entire month.

May involved renting a U-Haul and paying rent at two places. May had us trying to eat healthy meals in the house when we were simultaneously trying to clear out the refrigerator but didn’t want to eat out… which we failed at once. It also had us trying to make healthy meals after the move when we couldn’t locate the kitchen utensils required to eat said food. We ate out once again.

So I don’t need a drumroll for my May savings. The truth is I saved $0. Or at least, I haven’t moved any money into savings yet, and I’m pretty sure everything there (and a little I haven’t earned yet) will be used for June’s bills.

And I am ok with that.

Why? Because except for those two meals out, and maybe even those, all the money I spent was necessary. We moved. Moves are expensive. I did not have to bust into my savings to do it, and at the very least, I am proud of that.

Now, however, I’m venturing into the realm of needs vs. wants for the new house. Our new house is awesome. We have a front porch, something all people who’ve lived in a one bedroom apartment for two years absolutely crave. I love hanging out there. See?

Why yes, that is me sitting on the porch cappin’ strawberries! Why am I sitting on the ground? Because Logan had our one and only chair to stand on and pick mulberries beside the house. But a little thing like lack of furniture isn’t going to keep me from enjoying the sunshine on my new porch! So… does that make porch furniture a want  versus a need if I don’t require furniture to sit there?

Example: I felt like we needed a coffee table. We eat all our meals in the living room (more on that later), so the coffee table is kind of THE table. However, we didn’t want to pay for one. Right now we’re making do with this:

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Why, yes, that is a window pane sitting on two old metal milk crates, thanks for noticing. It works just fine.

Green chair needed a side table where I could sit my Dr.Peppers, so I made up this:

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It’s kind of hard to see… but it’s just a pile of books with an old metal card catalog on top. I bet you’re jealous of my decoratin’ skillz.

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I could still use a side table for my side of the bed though, and we desperately want/need (which is it?!) a futon for the “office” because we want to be able to semi-comfortably host friends and family. Remember how I said we eat all our meals in the living room? Well, that’s partly because we habitually watch King of the Hill on Netflix while we eat, but it’s also because we don’t own dining room chairs. We have the table though! That has to count for something!

That chair I mentioned earlier is actually the only chair we own, and therefore it gets moved around a lot. I love it. I have an excessive fondness for furniture that once lived in a classroom. So far it’s sat on the front porch, in the back patio-ish area, in the kitchen, and in the dining room, depending on where I feel like sitting. Also, it was free, which gives it an even more special place in my heart.

I have curtains for the bedroom, but I have been putting off buying curtain rods because I keep thinking these would be so much cheaper…

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Photo/Idea by AshleyAnn Campbell

Yes, those are tree limbs. Cut, sanded, and spray painted. Frankly, I think it’s genius.

Then one day I got a migraine and needed a blacked out room, so Logan hung up our curtains with thumbtacks. Is it pretty? No. Is it functional? Yes. So I’ve put off buying curtain rods and/or scrounging for sticks in the yard, and I’m still debating between needs and wants for this place.

I’m so determined to save some money in June – pay cut, furniture shopping, moving expenses and all.  So I’m focusing hard on making do with what I have and not buying things unless they are a legitimate need, and I’m trying to make a little extra money. (Need a babysitter? Ask me!) June is going to be a good month!

April recap at almost the end of May! Better late than never, right?

April was hard. Some parts of being on month four of the Spending Freeze made it easier. I’m very used to packing my lunch every day and searching my cabinets for food rather than going out – in that way I feel confident. However, not buying clothes in wonderful warm spring time is not easy. My closet is about 75% spring/summer clothing and 25% winter clothing – I don’t like winter clothes, so I own less of them and don’t like shopping for them. Springy clothes are different. They’re fun and pretty and call to me from the racks. Seriously, they yell at me when I walk by. I also own a lot of them and don’t need anymore, regardless of my Spending Freeze. So when Logan and I went shopping because he needed new shorts, I made us walk a weird and long route to the men’s section just to avoid the sundresses. And swim suits. And skirts. And tank tops.

April was also hard in terms of unexpected expenses. I got a speeding ticket ($105). I needed to take a few surprise road trips that ate up a LOT of gas. I put in a deposit on a new place to live (!!!) that took up a sizable chunk of what would have ordinarily gone to savings, and I haven’t yet received my deposit back from my former residence.

What? you say. You moved? YES, WE DID. I am a new resident of Knoxville, and I love it!

And this leads me to the best thing I’ve learned from the Spending Freeze so far: I can live on less. I had been wanting to move for a while, and then I was offered a position that does not pay as much as where I was. While the pay is not appealing, the position is, and I knew I could live on that salary. So I took it. Freedom!

The move took place the first full week of May, so most of the moving expenses are in glaring red pen bleeding all over my May budget. I’m a little nervous about how that is going to turn out. In the meantime though, back to April savings!

Despite the hefty deposit and all that driving to Knoxville and back to figure out work and living arrangements, I managed to save $435! [Insert ca-ching cash register noise here, please.]

The hard part now is resisting going out to all of my favorite Knoxville/Maryville restaurants and bars. Wish me luck on that one. The other hard part is not buying a ton of stuff for our new place. Anybody have some old patio furniture to donate to the good cause of Rebekah-wants-to-sit-outside-on-her-new-porch? :) Sure, it’ll be tough, but I am oh so excited!

Goodbye March! You were fun and all, but I’m excited to have you done and move onto (hopefully) Spring. I am thinking that not buying things will be a little easier when I can go outside for entertainment.

I’VE GOT CABIN FEVER.

(If you click that link and don’t know what it is, I am sorry for you and your childhood.)

I had a couple of goals for March. I got a little distracted on the first one of finding two ways to make extra money, but it was a worthwhile-in-the-long-run distraction. Hopefully I’ll get to tell you about it soon. My second goal was to celebrate the boyfriend’s birthday cheaply. I did bake him brownies, buuut I think I ate more of them than he did. And I gave him a gift card to Amazon that I EARNED (not bought) by filling out surveys/answering questions/etc. on Swagbucks. BUT I didn’t really enjoy giving it. I really like giving gifts, not giftcards. I especially love finding that perfect item that just makes someone happy. In the end I felt so guilty, I set a budget for a night out celebrating his birthday, which turned out to be a lot of fun. (However, my nieces have already been informed they’re getting nothing but hugs for their birthdays. I am trusting to my siblings portrayal of me as their “super weird, liberal, tree hugging, makes us all recycle aunt” to cover for me. Thanks, siblings. Who knew it would ever be useful for them to think I’m so odd?) My third goal was to resist a haircut, and I’m happy to say I was successful. My short hair is starting to get those weird flip out hairs on the side and in the back, though, so I don’t know if I can last much longer.

So, let’s get to the savings! Reminder: In January, I saved $208. In February, I saved $345 – which, just to brag, was almost a quarter of my income for the month. Who knew that was even possible? Not me! (Also, if you do that math, you’ll realize I don’t make a whole lot for a girl working two jobs.) Well, for March, I kinda blew that out of the water. I would really like to brag about it too, but the truth is March is one of those strange but exciting months where I got three paychecks even though I’m budgeted on two. So the third went straight to savings. (This happens twice a year on my biweekly paycheck schedule, but somehow in the past it never felt like extra because I just spent all my money until I got more of it.)

Drumroll, please:

I saved $865 in March!

I’m not usually one for multiple exclamation points, so please excuse this.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I’m done now.

I’m a quarter way through this thing, and some things have changed these past three months. I will never go back to buying my lunch out every day. I miss Pal’s french fries, but not enough to go back to paying for them. I imagine post-spending freeze me might pick them up as a treat once in a while but not every day. Packing and planning for lunch is now a part of my morning routine that I will keep. I’m really working on cutting down the excess in my life (starting with my closet) and have been reading minimalist blogs and books and articles. I’m thinking about doing Project 333 soon. (Google it.) My favorite, though, is learning how much less I can live on without really feeling like I’m missing out on anything. Cheesy? Yes. But it’s true.

One thing I still consider a bit of a splurge is my Dr.Pepper one-can-a-day habit. It’s my coffee, people, my Starbucks, my sanity. I’m not giving it up just yet, although I have a bad feeling I’ll decide to at some point this year. I did stand next to the end cap full of cases debating whether I wanted the one with the $1 off coupon for the Dr.Pepper or the one with the free Redbox rental code. One the one hand, I need to keep my grocery bill down. On the other, renting movies is a “want”, and I could finally rent “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (which was a great book but I’m not sold it’ll be a great movie). I had a little internal struggle in front of that end cap before making the responsible choice, only to have the cashier inform me a short time later that the coupon was only for Orange Crush.

She wasn’t going to accept the coupon directly on the case of Dr.Pepper that said “$1 off now” that I peeled off and handed to her.

Remember how I said couponers are often rude and that needs to be avoided at all costs? I had an inner battle right there in front of her. I stuttered and felt like the little angel and devil were waging war on my shoulders. I believe this gave me a glazed look because she started rambling. She talked about how the “guys in the back went coupon crazy and slapped them on everything”. In what was actually a nice voice, I told her the Snapple group owns Orange Crush and Dr.Pepper. I love Dr.Pepper enough to actually know that fact thanks to a powerpoint I made on the drink in a computer class in high school. Dedication to my beverage. Pretty sure she really thought I was insane after that, and together we must have looked awkward enough for her manager to approach — who told her to accept the coupon. She actually said, “Don’t you ever listen to anything I say? I told you when your shift started we were accepting these. You never listen to anything.” I’m not even exaggerating. The situation went from awkward to highly tense. However, I got my coupon without breaking my own moral code! Success.

I more than doubled what I saved in March!

I’ve done this for three months and am doing well!

Now onto April!

I find myself talking about my Spending Freeze a lot. I don’t mean to be THAT girl, but if you ask me what’s going on, I end up rambling about it because that’s where my brain and energy and everything is. I’m working, saving money, and fundraising. And it almost never fails that people respond by telling me, “I could never do that” or “I do not have that self-control”.

For all of those people, I am here today to make you feel better.

I give you a list of things I CANNOT do:

  • hang up my clothes/put them in the hamper immediately
  • stick to an exercise routine… or exercise period
  • cook meals that don’t come in a box or frozen
  • send food back in a restaurant when it’s obviously undercooked or not my order
  • be on time
  • remember to wear deodorant (but don’t worry, I carry a travel size stick of it in my purse)

I am stubborn, but I do not have amazing self-control or discipline. I make deals with myself all the time to try to improve. Last spring, when new sundresses hit the stores, I made a “hang-up-your-clothes-for-30-days-in-a-row-and-you-can-buy-a-new-dress” deal. I managed to do it (and still love that dress), but clothes started piling up again on day 31. I’ve made similar bargains with myself about exercise with less success. Much less.

I’m slowly, s l o w l y, trying to learn to cook. (The one meal I can claim with success in in the slow cooker right now! And if you tell me throwing things in a slow cooker doesn’t really count as cooking, I’ll punch you in the face. Give me my little victory!) In February, I chopped my first onion. Seriously, first time ever. I don’t own a cutting board. Or a good knife. And, while we’re on the subject, thank you to the person that sits around and writes articles like “How to Dice an Onion”. I love whoever you are.

The not-sending-my-food-back is part of a larger I don’t like to inconvenience people thing that makes me the best group project partner and very worst delegator. I’ll never be on time to anything ever. And I don’t know why it’s so hard to remember deodorant. It just is. I think because I’m still an awkward pre-teen at heart.

So I am not amazing or have special powers or crazy self-control. (Send me those little Reese’s Cup eggs that are only out at Easter or a case of Dr.Pepper, and I’ll prove it.) I’m able to do this Spending Freeze because I really, really want it.

I’m saving up for KENYA, and I want to go so bad that it’s completely worth not eating out or buying a new shirt even if it is on sale and super cute. I am fundraising for my time there, but I don’t want to use the money from my friends and family for things other than getting to Kenya and being there for three months. So that means that while I’m gone, I need to be able to pay my bills for those three months myself. That’s not cheap. And since I’m probably going to have to quit my job to go, I need a little cushion for when I get back too.

So far I have my $1000 emergency fund and most of one month’s bills! I’m getting there, slowly. Some days it’s no fun, but for the most part… it’s totally worth it.