challenge update: april

This is a monthly update on a personal challenge I set for myself in 2013. My goal: living lagom on $20,000 a year. See past challenge updates here. Please note that these posts will be loooong.

but first an announcement

This month I became an AUNTIE!!! My sister had a baby girl! So instead of calling her Baby Coo-Ci Coo-Ci Coo, she’ll now be known on the blog as Buttercup – an ode to one of the greatest movies of all time (in my humble opinion), The Princess Bride. I’ll be making references to Buttercup throughout this post, so I wanted to let you know beforehand to avoid confusion. Okay, carry on.

the numbers

Rent $795.00 $3,180.00
Transportation $2.10 $21.00
Cell Phone/Internet $73.45 $296.68
Insurance $7.20 $28.80
Laundry $0.00 $14.16
Meals $122.76 $607.13
Snacks $26.00 $78.99
In Home Entertaining* $10.00 $30.00
Supplies $8.30 $75.73
Equipment $15.18 $143.59
Grooming $6.73 $70.93
Books $28.97 $31.96
Coffee Shops $41.45 $112.54
Eating Out $40.56 $81.39
Magazines $0.00 $6.77
Movies $14.00 $39.15
Gifts $76.41 $126.59
Yoga $0.00 $92.47
Baby Shower $0.00 $419.12
Toronto Trips $0.00 $84.50
Blog/Writing $7.29 $39.47
Electronics $0.00 $9.03
Administration/Office Supplies $2.75 $20.77
Hobbies $7.91 $17.45
Clothing $0.00 $28.24
Courses/Lessons $95.00 $95.00
Giving Fund $21.96 $21.96
TOTAL $1,403.02 $5,773.42

* Estimated portion of meals amount.

categories explained

Below are the new categories added this month. See past challenge updates for an explanation of the other categories.

Courses/Lessons: Includes any classes or lessons that I take.

Giving Fund: Includes any donations to charity or otherwise as part of my 1 percent to giving pledge.

observations and insights

Here are my thoughts on this month’s expenditures:

  • My food spending was a little thrown off by the arrival of Buttercup. I had more snacks than I should’ve had, especially given the progress I made during Lent. But overall, I didn’t spend as much money as I normally do since I stayed over at my sister’s place to “help” several days this month. And though I contributed some groceries, we used up a lot of food she had on hand.
  • I purchased a few ebooks this month. I discussed two of them here and here. I also bought an ebook that wasn’t available at my local library on living well with less money that will be featured in a future book of the month.
  • I took a First Aid and CPR course. I’m a bit nervous around babies – I always think I’m going to break them. So to make myself more comfortable with Buttercup, I took this course. I’m the kind of person that would rather know what to do in the event of an emergency, than just hope that it’ll never happen.
  • I contributed to my giving fund for the first time this year! I gave money to a family in the US that was dealing with the medical expenses of their young daughter Gracyn, who was badly burned during the Easter weekend. It feels good to donate directly to someone who will benefit from your support.

tips of the month

This month’s tips are all related to clothing:

  • Consign, consign, consign. Whether you’re looking for something “new” or to make a little pocket money by selling your old duds, consider consigning. This includes taking a second look at your local thrift shops as well. Remember: Just because something isn’t new, doesn’t mean it isn’t any good.
  • Buy easy to care for clothes. If you’re like me and don’t believe in irons, this is the way to go. You save both time and money.
  • Learn some basic sewing skills. I may not have inherited my mother’s amazing sewing skills, but I still know how to do minor repairs. When in doubt, YouTube or Google it!
  • Have a dress custom made. This isn’t something that I’ve done (though I did have dresses handmade for me as a child). But I’m seriously considering it since I seem to like certain styles of dresses. This would give me the ultimate choice in color and fabric, plus alleviate some of my ethical concerns. Stay tuned!

the living lagom part of the equation

Below is my own personal interpretation of how I’m living well on less.

books of the month

This month I read George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four. This is another one of those books that I have always wanted to read, but never got around to reading. I also wanted to read it shortly after reading Brave New World, in order to compare the two novels.

My favorite line in the book is when Winston Smith writes in his diary:

Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

That could very well be said today. Let’s hope neither of these “futures” are ever realized. Though I believe I would fare better in one with soma than one with victory gin. The Thought Police would capture me in no time. I don’t have a very good poker face.

My living well on less book choice was Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. I wrote more about it here. This book is chock full of tips to get us started on our way to living with less waste, while saving money in the process.

As Bea says, the key is to ALWAYS apply the FIVE (not three) Rs in this order: REFUSE, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. If we don’t bring it into our lives, we don’t have to worry about getting it out of our lives.

movies of the month

I saw a special presentation of the classic film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, at the theatre this month. Even though I’ve seen this movie countless times at home, I was more than happy to pay to see it for the first time on the big screen (my preferred method of watching movies). Plus, I’m an Audrey Hepburn fan. For years, I had the movie poster for this film hanging on my wall, so this was a special treat. And I noticed things that I hadn’t ever noticed before. Like the fact that Holly’s couch was made from a bathtub. How did I miss that?! The only thing I don’t like about this movie, is the Yunioshi character played by Mickey Rooney. I guess that was (sadly) funny in the 1960s.

On Earth Day, I went to see the documentary Trashed. I like watching films like this. I like learning about how my decisions in North American, affect some little kiddies on the other side of the world. I like finding out that the fish I sometimes eat, has a diet of broken-down plastic bags so small, that hey, I’ll get to sample them too!

I like getting informed and then doing something about it. No grand gestures mind you. I just want to show (by example) that you can still live a fabulous life, while treading a little lighter on the Earth. I’d rather carry a reusable water bottle, than a plastic one any way. I’d choose taking a yearly trip abroad over owning a car any day of the week. Foregoing water-hogging meat (except for those lovely plastic fish), so that I can take bubble baths to my heart’s content – hardly seems like a sacrifice. Each day I make progress. It might be slower than I’d like, but I’m making progress.

I don’t want to be the type of person that pretends that these problems don’t exist. That’s not how I want to live. I want to be conscious.

song of the month

In honor of the birth of Buttercup, I chose to add the remake of Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole to my granny’s playlist. My sister played this song to my niece throughout her pregnancy because her dream was coming true.

mind, body & spirit

I volunteered for the first time this month. I picked up litter at my local park over the Earth Day weekend. I walk through that park all the time, so I wanted to help clean it up. Guess what the most “popular” garbage was? The aforementioned plastic shopping bags and everyone’s favorite, disposable cups. I’m going to take extra efforts to avoid these. I hope you will too.

I mentioned before that I start each day with affirmations. At first, it felt a little silly, but I really like saying them now. I’ve recently added a new one. I reworded an affirmation that comes from A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman (which I’ve never read). Here’s my version:

As I am certain of the outcome, I can afford to wait and wait with patience.

This affirmation comforts me in knowing that I’ll eventually see the fruits of my labor in regards to pursuing my passions.

Speaking of which, I submitted a children’s picture book idea I had to a publisher this month. I have a few more ideas that I’ll also be submitting in the very near future.

favorite experience of the month

Obviously, without a shadow of a doubt, there could be no other possible answer: The birth of Buttercup! Okay, maybe not exactly the birth part – though I was in the room. I saw some things I didn’t need to see. But finally meeting her after all these months . . . and giving her, her first high five!

She’s adorable and also smart. She can already count to 10 (in her head). I can’t tell yet if she’s funny, but I’m 87.5 percent sure she’s left-handed.

I’m so very happy for my sister. She’s always longed to have a baby. And even though our deepest wishes aren’t always realized in the way we imagined, it’s still magical to think that the dreams that we dare to dream really do come true.

Not only did April bring us plenty of showers, it also brought us a cute little baby too!