Third Update - Living More with Less in 2015

On January 15, I declared that I was going to live a simpler and richer life by having and buying less stuff and doing more of what matters. I'd outlined three main themes as part of this plan:

  1. Don’t buy anything unless it’s urgent - yes, it’s a flexible definition.
  2. Use (and enjoy) what I have.
  3. Focus on spending time with and giving to others.

In March and May, I published my first and second updates, giving myself a "B-" and a "B+" respectively. Am I maintaining my "B" average?

Note to all my non-Canadian readers: All costs below are shown in Canadian dollars. Current exchange rate as of this writing is: $0.77 U.S.  or 0.49 British Pound for $1.00 Canadian.

Here's a summary of activity by category:

1. Don’t buy anything unless it’s urgent.

 "New" bar stools. They match the kitchen perfectly. What a great find!

"New" bar stools. They match the kitchen perfectly. What a great find!

Our purchases for May and June of 2015 were the following:

 Definitely fewer canned goods and more empty storage containers stacking up. Good trend here.

Definitely fewer canned goods and more empty storage containers stacking up. Good trend here.

 We definitely continued to make a dent in the contents of our freezer over the last two months. Slow and steady I guess.

We definitely continued to make a dent in the contents of our freezer over the last two months. Slow and steady I guess.

  • "New" kitchen counter stools ($140): I mentioned in the last update that we've been looking for new stools because our 20+ year set was falling apart and were getting downright dangerous. Not only did we find a matching set, but they were $35 each used. Was it an emergency? Not sure how long those we had were going to last...of the three, one was broken and another was 1/2-way there. Now we're good for another 20 years. I say it was a good decision. :)
  • Groceries ($2,131.91, 5% more per month than last period): Yup, big bill...again. Part of the bigger bill this month was hosting 20+ people for a few meals and stocking back up on bathroom products, which we buy in bulk. Still, that's a lot of food and drink! It needs to come down over the next period, especially since we're starting to benefit from so much coming from the garden now (berries and veggies). The saving grace is that despite these purchases, our stores are still going down, which is the goal.
  • Personal Growth and Relationships ($3111.28, more than double last period and over 55% of total spend): this includes, professional development courses and going out with friends and family. It would have been more if we included the cost of food for hosting a few big meals that's included in our grocery total.
  • Entertainment ($40.97): Netflix and a TV series from iTunes. I did not need the TV series I watched. It was a moment of weakness and I expect not to repeat the folly. Dumb move!

The groceries were a bust again this period. We do love good food and, though I'm always opportunistic and buy sale/clearance items that we will use in short order, I tend to buy the "good stuff". Let's just say we eat really well. I'll have to post more on this topic because this is a part of life that can be greatly enhanced once you don't have a house, car, etc. payment and it can be a great preventative tool that enables us to live the good life. We never skimp on quality food. Ever. Despite the purchases, we've still managed to use up many old pantry items that had been hanging around for far too long, which means things are headed in the right direction.

What I'm most pleased with is the experiential purchases we've made again this period (travel, education, health, leisure activities and time with friends). Having this category represent 55% of our total spend is right in line with our values. Money spent in this category helps us create memories that punctuate our weeks/months/years. I never begrudge that type of spending. It's an investment in getting more out of life. 

2. Use & enjoy what I have.

USE OR REUSE WHAT WE HAVE

Our gas BBQ has been falling apart. We've had it for a long time but the inside is rusting out/deteriorating and it's getting dangerous (see the state of the flame tamer on the right - yup, emergency). We weren't sure what we'd be able to do because buying a new one seemed like such a waste because the BBQ's outer shell is just fine. Luckily, Mr. F2P was able to find replacement flame tamers and will replace the bottom plate, which means we're fixing the BBQ for 15% the cost of replacing it. Excellent!

GIVE OR SELL WHAT WE DON'T USE OR NEED

Progress on getting through reading my personal book collection hasn't inched along as I'd like (the library has quite a pull on me), but at I've finished another book (The Human Zoo). I guess it's better than nothing. We'll see if I manage to get through more this coming period.

We didn't give much away/sell anything this period (more on this in the charitable giving section) though I sense another "stuff purge" coming on. 

3. Focus on spending time with and giving to others.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY

Over the past two months, we've:

  • Taken two nieces to a Cirque du Soleil production. Amazing.
  • Hosted 20 family members for a great BBQ. Fun times!
  • Had coffee/lunches and other outings with mom and step dad.
  • Celebrated a friend's 55th birthday celebration.
  • Attended a wine tasting with friends and family.
  • Had multiple small coffee dates at home and out and about with friends.  
 Sharing a flight of beer at a pub on our first night in Minneapolis. A Fun experience.

Sharing a flight of beer at a pub on our first night in Minneapolis. A Fun experience.

We've continued our focus on staying connected with others and it looks like we'll keep focusing on making more of these opportunities happen. The more time we can spend with others, the better we feel.

That said, one thing my husband and I need to do more of though is spend time with each other, and we know it. We've been meaning to go out on dates in our fair city but it seems that it's been hit and miss (two official dates in two months...abysmal). That said, we did have a chance to spend some extra time together in the evenings during a recent training trip to Minneapolis at the end of June and on a few spur-of-the-moment extended walks with the greyhounds. (Dogs are great at helping us find quality time together.)

An exciting new development in this area is that I think I might be joining a new FI group in our city. I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops. It's great to find more people with whom to share thoughts and ideas regarding FI concepts and how to reach the goal sooner than later.

CHARITABLE GIVING (TIME AND MONEY)

Lots of improvement in this category again this period! We've given food stuffs and sundries to the local shelter. We also gave up the three counter stools mentioned above to "freecycle" Saturdays. Once out on the curb, they were gone in all of 20 minutes. Amazing! 

IMG_6422.jpg

The volunteering I've been doing at a local shelter has been going well. I've been managing their gym a 1/2-day a week and that seems to be the right amount of time for me. It's been nice to help them update their equipment and offer staff and patrons a chance to get a workout in. We've decided to lend them some of our extra equipment for the duration of my work there and we've even been able to score some free weights to donate too (thanks to the freecycle community). Woohoo!

I've decided to extend my commitment with them to the end of September. I've even had a friend join me! She's been enjoying the experience and has been a great help in both offering much-needed company and a little elbow grease.

This example might sound trivial but sometimes the little things we think nothing of doing for others make all the difference: an elderly lady we visit when out walking the dogs asked if I'd take pictures of her lilac bushes with my half-decent camera and send them to her. Hey, why not. It really seemed to make her day. 

We're still fostering Beezie the grey/coyote hound. Fostering is really quite fun. We'll also be doing some dog sitting this coming July to help out a family nearby. I'm looking forward to that.

Overall score for the 3rd update?

I get a "B" this time around because I feel I've slipped. My eye's off the ball a bit.

Here's how I'm scoring my efforts:

  • I give myself a "C" for the "not buying anything unless it's urgent" category, mostly because of the large grocery purchases. Given the state of our old bar stools that were getting dangerous to sit on, I think the $35/stool replacements were a good move. Most of all though, I feel our experiential spending represents a great set of decisions. We've done a great job on investing on ourselves and our relationships. I'm pretty pleased there.
  • I give myself a "B" again for the "using what we have" category, mostly because of the BBQ upgrade. That small change will ensure we keep using the same appliance for years to come. I couldn't be happier. We'll have to up our purging though.
  • I give myself an "A" in the "giving" category again. We're maintaining our good behaviour. Yeah! Now, let's see if we can get an A+ with more giving of our time and other resources.

This makes my overall score a "B". I know I can do a better job. I need to give way more than I have so far and have a few ideas on how I can improve. We'll see if I follow through in better form. Look for an update at the end of the summer.

Are you trying to build your giving/purging/connecting muscle? How's it going?