Happy Independence Day Weekend!

I hope everyone has a fun (and safe!) long weekend – assuming you’re off. I’m pretty lucky that we got today off, it’s pretty nice. Our plans for the weekend are to relax, grill out, eat a lot, watch Hamilton, and just try to reset after what seems like a marathon last few months. Not quite the vacation we desperately need, but close enough.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Goals for July 2020

I cannot believe it’s already July. This year is both incredibly slow and also flying by! We’ve entered month five of stay-at-home for Covid-19. What a crazy, crazy year already. Anyway, here’s what my goals are for July:

  • Stick to grocery budget of $300. This could get complicated by the July 4th weekend, as we like to grill out and stuff, but it’ll be a good challenge as well. We got pretty close last month, so this is within sight.
  • Save 10% of take-home pay. Really need to hit this, as we’ve got some big expenses coming up in the next few months.
  • Run 70 miles. I’m a bit behind my yearly goal for 750, so 70 for July should help a bit. July is usually one of my worst months, given the heat and humidity, but I need to stick it out and get used to that. Florida won’t get any cooler in the future…
  • Read two books. My yearly goal was 20, and I’m way behind on that, so time to step up! I just started a new book and it’s going well.
  • Research side income opportunities. Time to buckle down on this as well!

Hopefully July is a productive month and I can knock these out!

What are your goals for July?

Highs and Lows for June 2020

And so we end six months of Covid-19 and the global pandemic. June really was a split month, as it started with optimism that things were improving enough to really open things back up, and ended in worse shape than back in April.

Highs of June 2020

      First true date day since the pandemic began. One Friday in the beginning of the month, we both had hair cut appointments, then went out to a yummy lunch at Wine Bar George and did some shopping around Disney Springs.
      Paid off West Elm furniture. Thanks to a three-paycheck month, I was able to pay off our West Elm card that we use to buy furniture for the house. Felt good!
      Better kept to our budget. Sure, we still went over, but we were much closer to where we should be vs. where we had been. Every little bit helps.

Lows of June 2020

      Soaring case counts. This was a huge downer. Our case counts at the beginning of the month were in the low hundreds, and our county was usually in the teens to around 30. Now, we’re usually over five thousand and our county is in the mid-hundreds. It’s led to bars being closed again, and a feeling that we squandered our chances to nip this thing in the bud.
      Still over budget. While we did better, we still went over in our main categories. And in some ancillary categories as well (hello, $380 in house stuff!). No bueno.
      No progress on Spanish. No excuses, just lazy. I live with a Spanish speaker. My in-laws all speak Spanish. I should have plenty of resources and motivation, yet I struggle. This needs to improve.

What were your June highs and lows?

Out of Control Grocery Budgets

The good part about the lockdown is that I’ve been cooking a ton. I cook dinners 4-5 times a week, using the leftovers for lunches or dinner the next night, and then we supplement some quick stuff for the other meals – usually because I can’t decide what to make. And I mean, I’m mentally incapable of making a decision. That’s when we turn to the microwave the wife cooks.

The bad part about the lockdown is that I’ve been cooking a ton. At work, I had access to a fully-stocked kitchen and pantry to cook with, and a chef who would cook lunches two times per week, plus a warm breakfast on Mondays. Yes, I know how insane that sounds. But it definitely saved me a ton of money and cooking. Now that I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, I gotta take care of all my meals again. Yes, I know this is a very first world problem.

This has the side effect of much higher grocery bills. Our bills before we went into lockdown were still much higher than we’d like (and more than two people should spend, especially given our entertainment spending. We each trade off who does the shopping (and paying), and we each budget $300 a month. That’s $150 per week in groceries, which seems high to me. Since lockdown, I’ve destroyed that budget….

BudgetedActual% Off
March$300$682.49+127%
April$300$432.90+44%
May$300$579.39+93%
June$300$365.02+22%

March is clearly the worst, but it’s at least somewhat explainable. When it became clear that we would need to essentially shelter-in-place for the time being, and with no sense of when things would feel safe again, I definitely did some panic buying. Canned goods, stuff to stock the freezer, stuff like that. I definitely over purchased by a ton; I’ve still got stuff in the freezer I haven’t touched! And since we’re not going out to eat, I’ve been cooking better date night dinners. That’s contributed quite a bit here.

It’s also not just what we’re buying, but how. We’ve been relying pretty heavily on Instacart for our shopping trips. The items are usually marked up, there are delivery fees (and alcohol surcharges, since it apparently costs $10 to check an ID on delivery), and since the shopper is taking on the risk we’ve been tipping a good amount. A $100 trip suddenly becomes $150 or so. It adds up throughout the month. At least we’ve been sticking to once a week, but that’s also led to panic if we forget something…we don’t want to place another order for like a couple of things.

I used to love grocery shopping. I’d have a list, but I’d get to pick my own produce and meats and stuff. I’d walk around and get inspired by something I find and create a menu around it. The few times we’ve gone to the actual store, you gotta have a gameplan, you can’t really backtrack, and it’s overall a pretty stressful thing. So, we end up leaning on Instacart and paying a ton.

We really need to get this under control. Our positive case counts have skyrocketed and our reopening plan has been paused, and likely will be rolled back. That means we’re likely looking at a few more months of this, so it’s time to get our grocery spending back to a reasonable level. This month wasn’t too bad, hopefully it’s a harbinger of things to come.

How have you kept your grocery budget in check?

The Quest for $1500

I’ve long since wanted to diversify my income and earn some side money. I’ve even set it as an annual goal several times; the most I ever earned was around $52 a few years ago, writing product descriptions for an outdoor furniture company. I found the job on Elance, which is now Upwork. Usually my goal is around $10k in a year, but I make laughably small progress towards that. Most years, I don’t even leave the barn.

Lately, it seems at least one article a day in my Medium daily newsletter is about someone who makes money via a blog. Here’s one. The dollar amounts vary – $50,000, $150,000, etc. – but the basic story is the same. Generate content, get people to view your content, make money either via ads or affiliate marketing. Seems so simple, no?

Of course, if it is so simple, everyone would do it. Who wouldn’t want to earn $50,000 more a year through a blog? I sure would! But is it really as easy as the articles make it seem? Let’s find out.

I’m going to set a goal for myself. Yeah, I’ve done this before. Here’s one from 2019. But those were relatively ill-defined in terms of the ‘how,’ and had bold goals (usually $10k). Let’s start easier. How about $1500 in profit by the end of the year. I need to do some more research on ad revenue vs. affiliate marketing, but that shouldn’t stop me from kicking this project off.

Why $1500 and not some other amount? I need a new laptop (this is a 2014 MacBook Pro, and that’s the price of the one I want. I figure if I can make that amount, a new laptop is a pretty nice reward. I say profit, because I imagine there will be expenses: domain name registration, hosting, maybe a logo from Fiverr, stuff like that. I’m going to come up with a budget and see what I can do.

More to come soon…