One Step Closer!

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california-34We did it! I just sent in my very last mortgage payment ever! What a rush. I can’t even tell you how amazing this feels.

When we set a goal of paying off our mortgage in one year, I thought we were nuts. I looked at the enormous number of dollars we had left to pay and silently wept. I thought it was impossible. I thought I would be paying a mortgage for the rest of my life. I thought it was a pipe dream. But no more! We are free!!!!!

This really feels like a tipping point. Not only do we not have to pay a mortgage any longer, but we can put the money that we would have spent on the mortgage into our investments which will help us get to our magical FI number all the sooner.

Is this the smartest use of our money? Should we have invested that money in the market instead of our mortgage? Who knows. Only time will tell, but what I do know is that in the crazy housing market of Seattle, I don’t have to worry about a landlord raising my rent by hundreds of dollars a month. I don’t have to worry about buying a home with multiple offers. I get to simply enjoy the peace of living rent and mortgage free in a home I love.

So, I encourage everyone to set crazy high goals – to strive for what is impossible and celebrate your success! I know I will 🙂

Ack! Is it September already?

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africa-3So, its September…not quite sure how that happened.

I left for Africa on August 21st in the middle of the summer and when I got back September 1st it was solidly fall – with crisp air and turning leaves. I am not one of those people who lives for fall. Don’t get me wrong. I like it – pumpkins, apple cider and cooler air. What’s not to like? But its no summer. Fall is like the consolation prize you get when you have to say good bye to summer.

Ah well – I digress (or rather, I didn’t mean to start talking about the changing seasons when what i really want to talk about is…): our financial update!

August was, without a doubt, the busiest month financially for us. We sold two of our rental houses (woo hoo!!!!) and used that money to pay off the mortgage on our current house (again, I say, woo hoo!!!). As of tomorrow, we will officially be debt free…unless you are counting our vacation rental property…which I don’t count because it is like its own self contained business. I leave that property alone – let the vacation rental managers take care of everything – and collect a check every month. Easy peasy. Eventually, we will pay off the mortgage on that account too and then the checks we collect each month will be bigger 🙂

We changed our spending habits a bit in August as well. Rather than keep ourselves on a strict “no eating out” plan, we ate out four of five times and surprisingly, our food spending actually went down! I think the reason was that when I know we are not eating out, I plan these elaborate meals every night and we end up spending quite a bit on groceries. When we kinda play it by ear, we end up eating a lot of leftovers mixed with a few meals out. It works for us.

I also signed up for one of those meal delivery in a box things again. While definitely NOT a frugal option, it keeps us in the habit of eating at home which ultimately does save us money – especially if I bulk up the recipes so we have leftovers. Plus, it removes the worst part of my day: 4pm when I am trying to wrangle my child and I suddenly realize that I have no idea what is for dinner and all we have in the house is peanut butter crackers. Come one, we’ve all been there…right?…right?….

In other news, I went to Africa. NBD. Africa! I stepped up my photography skills, learned a ton, cried a lot (don’t feel sorry for me – I cry at everything), made some amazing friends and changed my life. Like I said, NBD.

August Financial Recap:

(Everything got very messy because we were putting money into selling the houses and then getting money back from selling the houses so I’ve only got one number for you):

Percentage of the way towards our goal of financial independence: 46%

I’m going to try to update this blog more regularly for you three people who actually read my ramblings (hi mom!). You’re welcome.

July Wrap-Up

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beach-3July is a month for going to the beach. A month for eating Slurpees and swimming. It is not a month that I want to spend in front of my computer counting pennies. Add to that the stress of selling not one but two houses and all of the time, energy, and money that goes into that particular endeavor, and you get the perfect storm of, “I just don’t care about anything anymore! I’m eating out!”

First, we’ll start with the challenges:

While our first house was happily pending a sale (woo hoo), we began July with the arduous task of fixing up our second house to get it on the market. This included a day of fix-up, hiring a painter, hiring carpet cleaners and freaking out when the first day on the market, the house reeked from the smell of the still wet carpets! Despite this setback, we got an offer and are happily pending the sale of the second house. Gotta love the Seattle housing market.

Maybe it was because of the stress of selling two houses, or maybe it was the sun and the call of the beach, but whatever the reason, we found it hard to be in our home at dinnertime and consequentially ate out a lot. What a luxury! A very expensive luxury.

To get back on track, I decided to restart a meal delivery service. Not the most frugal option – especially since the one we chose uses only organic ingredients and caters to our GF/DF lifestyle – but it reminded me how much I love cooking with fresh beautiful ingredients in the kitchen. It was like a jump start to my home cooking skills. After two weeks, I cancelled the delivery – ready to tackle cooking once again.

Now, onto the successes!

While I sat calculating my end of the month expenses, I realized that even though I felt like we went crazy with our spending, we actually didn’t do that bad. If you eliminate the spending on the houses, our savings rate was 64%.

64%

That is an amazing savings rate. Our goal is 72%, but 64% is noting to scoff at. That means that we saved 64% of our income this month!

Along with this amazing savings rate, the market did exceptionally well this month which puts us at 50% of the way towards our goal of financial independence. Keep in mind, the 50% does not take into account the money we will get from selling our houses. I am so so so excited to pay off our current mortgage with the money we make from the sales, and I’m even more excited to see what that does to our goal of financial independence. How should we celebrate? I need ideas people!

Kitchen Remodel on the Cheap

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kitchen

july-4Yep – this is an actual picture of my actual kitchen when we moved into our house. One person could fit comfortably and two people could fit as long as one person was holding his breath.

It was completely enclosed except for that teeny tiny window above the sink. It was dark. And closed in. And generally not a place that I wanted to spend much time – which sucked since we end up spending a lot of time in our kitchen.

So, being the impulsive – “I can do this remodel on the cheap” – person that I am, I decided to start pulling down cabinets and walls. My husband just shook his head. He’s a planner. He wanted a plan, but that’s not how I roll. I just jump right in with both feet, armed only with a general vision and my completely unfounded faith that I can do anything I set my mind to.

july-7As I began the demolition, I was amazed by all the hidden treasures in my kitchen – like this random fan hidden above the cabinets over the fridge. The most frustrating find though, was when I realized that that lip above the cabinets was not just a lip – it was the ACTUAL CEILING! Which meant that I quickly learned how to tear out the ceiling…and clean up all the insulation and random bird’s nest that fell down with it.

The best hidden treasure was the window. Whomever put in the cabinets had basically boarded up that teeny tiny window which meant that when I took the cabinets out, I now had a HUGE window already there! Woo Hoo! It almost made tearing out the ceiling worth it.

The next step was taking out the drywall. I NEVER want to even look at drywall again. I hate that stuff. Its heavy and awkward and despite its simplicity, it makes a mess.

july-8Here is my sexy sexy husband ripping into the ceiling while the drywall crumbled everywhere!

Once I got the new drywall up and mudded, I stopped. My energy for this project ran out completely.

My brother was horrified that our outlets were just dangling there (he probably had a point) and my husband and daughter were annoyed that all of our dishes were in the living room.

Don’t get me wrong. I was desperate to finish this thing, but I could not force myself to do one more thing to it. I was totally spent. So, I hired a handyman and I don’t regret that decision at all. It took him three days to finish my hack job and that included the time he spent politely fixing the parts I had already completed.

I put in the counters and the back splash (don’t be too impressed – the counters are contact paper and the back splash is just peel and stick. Totally ghetto but NOBODY WOULD KNOW…until now. Now I guess everyone knows. The point being: you cannot tell unless you look really closely).

I painted the bottom cabinets and replaced the hardware with some fancy hardware my mom gave me. Bought and put in the shelves. Replaced the big fridge with two little ones (one for food and one for drinks which we keep in a different room).

Ready for the reveal?

july-11It feels like its 10 times bigger! I love the light that comes in through the bigger window and the range hood (which we bought but had our handyman install). I also replaced the lighting with track lighting to light the corners.

july-9july-12july-10Now for the fun part! The cost breakdown. Forgive me – I was really diligent about recording expenses at the beginning and got less and less so as the project progressed.

crowbar: $20

counter tops: $40 – white marble never looked so good…just don’t look too close

drywall: $120 – included the mud, sanding and all the other things needed

truck: $20 – to drive the drywall home

electrical stuff: $12 – new outlet covers and boxes

haul away: $275 – I could have rented a truck and taken the stuff to the dump myself, but I wouldn’t have saved very much and the extra money was totally worth the hassle I saved.

shelves: $50

new plates: $20 – if you are going to do open shelves, you have to have nice dishes

handyman and all the supplies he bought: $1300

backs splash: $88

fridge: $50

hood: $200

paint: $30

hardware: free – thanks mom

light fixture: free – thanks buy nothing group

TOTAL: $2225

Not too bad for a complete kitchen remodel.

Should You Rent Or Buy?

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downloadMy husband and I bought our first house when we were 25. “How smart we are!” We thought. “How cleaver and good with money we are!” We’d basically made it, right? Here we were: young, with our own house. We had basically succeeded at life and were most likely going to be millionaires. Our parents praised us. Our friends were in awe. Life was good.

Our first house had made us feel so successful, why not buy a second? So, we did. Instead of selling our first house, we bought a second house and rented out our first. Unfortunately, we bought this second house in 2007 (right before that giant housing crash that happened). “Oh well,” we thought. “We are still ridiculously cleaver. As long as we don’t sell until the market recovers, we’ll be fine.” Again, our parents and friends were impressed. Now, we not only owned our own home, but we were landlords! Winning at life again!

The market crashed, and being ever on the lookout for a good deal on real estate, we bought three homes between the years of 2008 – 2011. Now, there was no denying it (not that we were): we were the most clever people on the planet. We were going to be rich any day. As soon as the market recovered, we’d sell and bring in bank!

Fast forward to the recovery of the market. We sold one property at a profit of 55k! Woo Hoo! Our plan was working. We just put two of our other properties on the market for a substantial profit – patting ourselves on the back and doing the happy dance.

UNTIL…..

Until I sat down with the numbers and calculated exactly how much we stood to make. After all the repairs, maintenance, taxes, dues, fees etc… our actual profit was really small…and it got even smaller once I calculated capital gains tax. But, hey, we were still going to make a profit so that’s good, right?

I then calculated how much we would have made had we invested that money in the market rather than in real estate and I was floored.

Assumptions about this comparison:

  • The money I’m comparing is the down payment, taxes, dues, insurance and repairs. NOT the mortgage or interest since I figured that money would be spent regardless on having a roof over our head.
  • Being extremely conservative, I took an extra 10K a year off of our “investment” money to account for having to pay a higher rent than just the amount we payed for our mortgage and interest.

After taxes, our Shoreline property will provide us with: $45,000

Had we invested that money instead, we would have: $114,000

OUCH.

After taxes, our Pinehurst property will provide us with: $80,000

Had we invested that money instead, we would have: $208,000

Yes – I calculated paying taxes on the invested money as well. What I did not take into account was the following:

  • The stress involved in buying/selling a house
  • The time spent driving to the rental homes
  • The time spent managing the rental properties
  • The inconvenience of having to deal with renters and their problems (and we had great renters) at all hours.

I can hear you now: “Well, you obviously didn’t wait until the market was high enough. You must not have sold for that much higher than you bought.”

Wrong.

Each property is selling for around 90K more than we bought it. The problem is that that money gets eaten up in fees and taxes and repairs.

“Well, you must have put too much into repairs.”

Nope.

We purposely bought newer houses so that we wouldn’t have to fix them too much.

Please don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons to own your own home that have nothing to do with finances. It is for these reasons that I do NOT regret owning my own home now.

  1. You can do whatever you want to your house and garden. No one can dictate what color the walls have to be or how the garden looks (unless you live with a strict HOA in which case, I do not envy you at all).
  2. You are secure…ish. As I’ve watched the housing prices soar in Seattle, the rental prices are keeping up. I have many friends who were forced to move because their landlord raised the price of their rent by hundreds of dollars a month. I can’t imagine having to leave my neighborhood, my daughter’s school and my friends because my landlord wanted to make more rent.
  3. When something goes wrong, you fix it. This may not seam like a positive, but when I was renting, I really hated having to call and wait on my landlord to fix things that were broken. Sometimes they wouldn’t fix it, and if they did, who knows how long it would take. I much prefer to be in control of how my home works.
  4. You don’t have to worry every time you spill something or scratch the wall. When I was renting, I lived in constant fear that I wouldn’t get my security deposit back which meant that I would get really nervous every time a glass of wine spilled or a wall got dinged. Owning my own home has allowed me to chill out a bit and not stress the occasional sharpie on the wall masterpiece.

In short, if I could go back in time and do things differently, I absolutely would. I would have rented until buying the house that we currently live in. If I wasn’t that smart, I would have at least sold my houses instead of turning them into rentals. Do I regret my decisions? Not at all. I learned so much by going through this process of buying, renting and selling. More information is always better. I just wish I had thought to collect this information before buying five houses!

 

 

Spending Money Like We Just Don’t Care

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downloadJuly 1st was a day on our calendar that we had circled in big red sharpie…Or, at least we would have if we still used a physical calendar. On our Google Calendar it looked like a giant list of meetings and to do items. It was a day when all the chaos of our lives converged into one 24 hour period.

I mentioned that we were selling both of our rental houses (the housing market in Seattle is on fire and while we think that it will continue to go up, we are quite happy with where it is now and plan on jumping ship while buyers compete for the privilege of buying from us) and it just so happened that both tenants gave notice at the same time.

In order to reduce vacancy loss, we needed to get the houses fixed up as quickly as possible and ready for the market.

Have you seen a rental house after the tenants move out? Everyone is messy, but there is something about living in a rental property that gives people the freedom to be just a little bit more messy. I really wish I had taken a before picture of our houses. One of them was piled high with stuff everywhere and puddles of dog pee all over the ground. The other was a patch work of miss matched painted walls and childhood graffiti. This is not a dis on our tenants at all! We had amazing tenants who were kind and always paid the rent on time, but people are messy.

So, we had one day to meet the contractors and fix up all the little things to get the houses ready for the market….and of course I was working all day that day.

I have the best job in the world in that most of the time, I get to choose my hours and make my job fit with the rest of my life, but there are times when that just isn’t possible and Friday the 1st was one of those times. I was shooting an 11 hour wedding. I thought about asking the couple to reschedule but figured they would probably say no.

This left Adam and Ilya to take care of all that house stuff while I was taking care of my work stuff.

We were dishing out money right and left: new floors, new paint, wall repair, tile repair, cleaning and staging. I felt like that person in movies with a giant wad of cash who haphazardly peals $100 bills from the top and tosses them around. Except I don’t carry cash. And it actually looked more like handing over a credit card every five minutes, but you get the idea.

A ton of time and energy went into the preparation of July 1st. I had to call flooring people, call painters, call contractors, call the stager, and coordinate with them and the renters to set aside times for them to come give me a quote. Then I had to drive all the way up to the properties. Not a big deal, you might think, but then you obviously don’t live in Seattle. It was at least an hour drive each way and that was if I was lucky! Then, most of the contractors never even got back to me or if they did, they charged way too much so I had to do it all again. It took a solid month of coordinating people to get everyone lined up and ready to go.

We even ate out several times this month because we were both working so much. All of this meant that I was dreading actually looking at our finances.

Could we have done things even cheaper than we did? Absolutely. Would it have been worth the utter exhaustion and misery it would have put us through. Nope. Being frugal is a balance. Your health and well being are valuable. I hired a contractor to repair a wall and tile entry way for $250. It took him all day and he used all sorts of fancy equipment that I don’t have. When he was finished it looked like new (something that would NOT have been the case had I attempted this project myself). Worth. Every. Cent. Same goes for the new floors and the painting of our incredibly high ceilings and the staging.

I sat down to look at our finances for June with a heavy heart and was floored when I got the results. For all the thousands and thousands of dollars we spent on rental properties for the month we only had to dip into our savings to cover $1500. Our regular monthly income covered the rest of it. I can’t even image what this would have done to us if we lived paycheck to paycheck. We would have gone into huge amounts of debt and spent years paying it off, but because of how we live, we were able to cover the entire cost of fixing up both houses using just our monthly income (and $1500 which we will pay ourselves back next month).

If there was any doubt in my mind that living simply and focusing on our saving rate was the way for us, they have been obliterated. Once we sell these two rental properties, we will hopefully be able to pay off our mortgage and be debt free! One step closer to financial independence!

How Do You Define Success?

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successRecently, I discovered that someone whom I thought of as a close friend has secretly been judging me for quite some time. Now, we all have opinions about our friends from time to time that we keep to ourselves such as: “I’m not lovin the new haircut,” and “I don’t think that ‘blackened’ chicken means burnt to a crisp.” Our friends are not us and we will therefore probably not agree with every decision they ever make. This is normal.

This “friend” of mine, however, told my husband that he should divorce me because I am a “user.” After the shock, sadness and feelings of utter betrayal calmed down, I started to think about what he was talking about. He clearly viewed our relationship as inequitable. Having maybe spent a total of 10 hours with him over the past year, I quickly realized that his opinion had nothing to do with fact or even observation but was purely based on what he knew about us.

My husband works a typical 9-5 job. In a cubical. In computers. Downtown. He makes a decent amount of money and is the primary breadwinner for our family.

I run a part time photography business from my home which brings in a reasonable part time income. This allows me the time to take care of the things around the house. More importantly, I am the one who volunteers at my daughter’s school, attends the meetings, picks her up when she is sick and after school, takes her on outings after school and plans learning opportunities for her.

I tried to put myself in this “friend’s” shoes. What does he see? He sees my husband going to work every day and me staying home. To him, success is having a 9-5 job. In a cubical. Downtown. While failure is working from home spending time with your family.

That is so messed up and backwards.

But the really scary thing is: he is not alone. We are trained to believe as a society that success is working 40+ hours a week while getting paid well. This is what we all work towards achieving through years of school. It is typically the first thing asked at a party (“what do you do?”) and your response can instantly change someone’s opinion of you (“I am a doctor” vs “I am a mom”). The respect you receive correlates with the amount of money your said profession makes.

When I had Tiny Eivy and became a mom, I chose to stop my career in teaching. It didn’t make financial sense. In other words – the cost of raising a family, caring for a home and all the messy details that go along with that surpassed my teaching salary almost ten fold. Seriously. I – in my infinite love of spreadsheets – actually took the time to calculate it all out. Part of that included learning to do things myself which I have talked about in previous posts, and the hidden benefits of learning new skills while saving money – but part of it was just everyday stuff like watching our kid and transporting her to activities.

But – blah blah blah – I am not the first person to talk about the financial sense of having a parent work from home part time or simply stay at home. There are so many studies out there about the actual cost of running a family. None of it matters though because we, as a society, do not value work that is not paid directly. My friend’s silent judgement of me is proof enough of this. I’m sure that once we are retired these same people will no longer consider even my husband successful.

Even though we will never have to work for anyone else.

Even though we will travel the world.

Even though we will get to spend all the time we want together as a family.

Even though we will have all the time in the world to pursue our personal passions and follow our personal inspirations.

SHHHHH – don’t tell anyone but I’ve got a plan to combat this consumerist backwards view of success. From henceforth when asked, I will no longer tell people that I am a part time photographer and mom, instead I will cycle through the following titles as I see fit:

  • Chief Financial Officer for Eivy Household and Shadowpuppet LLC
  • Accountant and tax advisor
  • General Contractor specializing in kitchen remodels
  • Teacher
  • Landscape Architect
  • Personal Chef specializing in dietary restrictions
  • Personal shopper
  • International Photographer
  • UX Designer
  • Therapist
  • Project Manager

This is fun. I could go on, but the point is this: the more titles I accumulate the less I have to pay other people to do these things. The more I am independent – financially, personally, environmentally… Independent is the key word there. I don’t relay on anybody or anything to live a life full of passion and joy and that is my definition of success. What’s yours?

Getting Inspired

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muscleWhen I first heard about this whole minimalist lifestyle, I laughed it off as something that might work just fine for others thank you very much but was not for me. Who wants to spend their life counting their pennies and stressing over every purchase?

Then again, who wants to live their life working a 9-5 job in an office cubical?

Being a firm believer that it never hurts to gather more information (after all – you don’t have to actually DO anything with that information if you don’t want to), I sat down and started to make some spreadsheets with projections.

“What if we stopped eating out?”

“What if we stopped buying new things?”

“What if we tried walking everywhere rather than driving?”

With each question, I watched our DATE OF FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE get closer and closer. Then the really hard questions started:

“Would it hurt to give it a try?”

“Would our lives suck if we cut down on expenses?”

“Would this lifestyle put a strain on our lives? On our marriage? On our family?”

I’m not gonna lie. At first it was HARD. I wanted to eat out constantly. I kept thinking about things that I wanted to buy, and I really missed my Starbucks coffee!

I didn’t think this whole minimalist thing was for us. It just wasn’t going to work, but I promised myself I’d give it a month. That was January. January was “buy nothing” month and let me tell you, I was counting down the hours until February 1st.

But then the craziest thing happened. February rolled around and I realized that I was so happy that I hadn’t bought that stuff that I didn’t actually need or really want. I was thrilled that I had all the money that I would have spent eating out safely invested making me more money. The biggest realization though, was that instead of driving my family apart, we ended up spending more quality time together – doing fun things as a family.

I hate the word “frugal” since it brings up images of being cheap and tight, but for lack of a better word I realized that being frugal was like building a muscle. At first, it feels like your arm is going to fall off and you can’t wait until you can get out of the gym and eat some ice cream, but slowly it gets easier and easier. Then, one day you realize that it is too easy so you start to give yourself more challenges and you actually enjoy those challenges.

Just like a muscle though, if you neglect the frugal lifestyle, your frugal muscle starts to atrophy and you start to forget all the reasons why you wanted to build that muscle in the first place.

Six months into this frugal lifestyle and I realized that I had stopped menu planning which had started to lead to, “lets just get take out tonight.” Driving to the supermarket seamed so much easier than walking. Plus it was raining (yep – not a great excuse when you live in Seattle). In other words, my frugal muscle was started to decay. Our accounts hadn’t really taken the hit yet but it was only a matter of time.

This is the point where you groan and realize that you had better get your ass back to the gym. My gym is other people who are living this way. People who are retired and traveling the world. Enjoying the simple pleasures of spending time together on a long after dinner walk. I think about the poor people who get trapped in the debt trap and I feel so grateful that my life never took that turn.

Here is a great article about living minimally. I disagree that it is a millennial thing, but everything else he talks about it right on. There are so many other people who inspire me and I know once we pay off our home I’ll feel so much better.

Six months ago, if you had told me that I was going to pay off my home by September, I would have laughed in your face, but with the housing market the way it is, things are looking good. So, there is a silver lining.

May Wrap-Up

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downloadIts my favorite time of the month! The time when I get to sit down and calculate how much progress we made towards our goal of financial independence!

May was the first month this year where we have not had some major appliance fail on us which meant that our savings rate was finally where we wanted it to be. That along with some particularly low utility payments (we are in that perfect zone of not needing heat or cool in the house) has left us with a savings rate of….wait for it….80%!!!

You read that right, folks. 80%! This includes having to shell out $200 for a new vacuum after the one that I got for free from my neighborhood buy nothing group didn’t work….surprisingly…

I’m doing my little happy dance.

The truly surprising thing about an 80% savings rate is not that we were able to save so much of our income but rather how easy it is to do this. I never feel like I’m depriving myself. I’m not stuck at home every night afraid to go out. I’m living my life exactly as I want to, doing exactly what I want to do. Living a simple, frugal life is not something that only a few special people can accomplish. It is something that everyone can do. Its like a muscle. At first it is hard to live your life this way but after awhile you don’t even think about it.

I find I have more fun and connect more with my child when I am wandering through the woods than when I am shopping. Getting free plants for our garden has led us to make connections with our community. Doing things myself has improved my skill set and given me a sense of accomplishment that I wouldn’t get hiring the job out.

How was your month?

 

 

Birthday’s and other observations

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downloadTiny Eivy has not, shall we say, embraced our frugal ideals. And, honestly, who can blame her? Her little seven year old self doesn’t really see the difference between a fancy dinner out and a make your own sushi night at home. She will casually decided that she wants an American Girl doll in the same breath that she declares that she also wants a stuffie from Goodwill. The world is full of wonderful things and she wants them all.

She turned 8 yesterday and when the dust settled, she ended up with an American Girl doll from her grandmother. Holy cow, y’all, those things are over $100! Someone did some great marketing with that one.

Since it was her birthday, we did several things that we never do:

  1. We drove almost an hour to go to THE MALL because that is where the American Girl Doll Store is.

It has been years since I have set foot in a mall and I am not ashamed to say that I was a bit overwhelmed. Everything that I dislike about consumer American can be summed up in THE MALL. From the shiny displays of $100 tee-shirts to the copious amounts of STUFF that is so cleverly presented that even I, in my frugal state, am drawn to. THE MALL is so very good at convincing you to buy things you don’t need for money that you probably don’t have.

2. We bought Tiny Eivy a dress for her American Girl Doll.

This dress cost more than my entire outfit. Probably more than my entire wardrobe. Not that I begrudge this gift at all, but I am still floored by what they charge for a dress. For a doll.

3. We ate lunch out at Blue C Sushi.

You know the place – with the sushi train track that is timed perfectly to allow you enough time to grab your food but not enough time to check and see how much the plate is that you are grabbing. Maybe I’m being cynical, but I was so disappointed by the whole experience. The food was sub-par and after each of us eating the equivalent of one roll, our bill came out to $30. I think I was disappointed because it was supposed to be such a treat. We NEVER eat out anymore and I was really looking forward to the experience. I probably put too much expectation onto the poor restaurant, but clearly I need to be more picky in the future.

It really was a good day, and Tiny Eivy loved it, but the entire experience reminded me why I am embarking on this crazy path of saving 65% of our income to retire early. It is about so much more than saving a few dollars. It is about finding meaning in the experiences that we have by connecting with other people rather than with things. Its about valuing quality over gimmicks, but mostly its about spending time with the people you love.

My favorite part of the day was that I got to spend it with my big 8 year old girl and my husband who took the day off of work. In the evening, we invited our old community to celebrate with us and everything just felt right in the world.