challenge update: june and mid-year review

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.

the numbers

Rent (Dorm Room) $350.00 $3,880.00
Transportation $0.00 $29.40
Cell Phone/Internet $73.45 $443.58
Insurance $7.20 $43.20
Laundry $8.00 $30.16
Meals $173.47 $964.23
Snacks $18.29 $118.26
In Home Entertaining $0.00 $30.00
Supplies $47.07 $165.51
Equipment $8.08 $206.94
Grooming $52.32 $211.87
Books $0.00 $31.96
Coffee Shops $36.22 $212.60
Eating Out $26.30 $171.72
Magazines $0.00 $6.77
Movies $7.00 $46.15
Gifts $27.06 $165.70
Yoga $0.00 $92.47
Baby Shower $0.00 $419.12
Blog/Writing $0.00 $47.93
Electronics $34.75 $217.79
Administration/Office Supplies $0.00 $20.77
Hobbies $0.00 $17.45
Clothing $159.32 $294.90
Courses/Lessons $0.00 $95.00
Giving Fund $15.00 $50.00
Travel $325.71 $460.21
TOTAL $1,369.24 $8,473.69

categories explained

There were no new categories added this month. See past challenge updates for an explanation of the other categories.

I’ve decided to amalgamate the former Toronto Trips category with the Travel category.

This is the last month that I’ll be breaking down some categories into sub-categories. I may show sub-categories for the final end of year review.

observations and insights

Here are my thoughts on this month’s expenditures:

  • June was my birthday month. Ever since I wrote this post, I think people are afraid to buy me stuff (success!). Instead, I was treated to brunch, lattes, a movie and Starbucks gift cards. This explains why my Coffee Shops expense wasn’t as high as last month.
  • I made actual clothing purchases this month that weren’t just shoes! I bought a swimsuit (which I’ve already broken in) and a top from a consignment store. I also bought Crocs. I know, I know. I never thought I’d see the day. They have new varieties that are much more fashionable. Initially, they were really comfortable, but they’ve since expanded somehow and are now kind of hurting my little toe. I don’t think it’s the shoes, so much as my feet. For now, I’ll keep wearing them, but if this persists, I’ll have to find an alternative or just make do with my other shoes. And finally, I bought a sun hat! There isn’t that much shade when I’m walking around Waterloo, so this is one way to keep me cool in the summer heat, as well as offering protection from the sun.
  • Initially, I wasn’t going to do any traveling until later in the year, but then an opportunity presented itself that I couldn’t pass up. My friend was going to London for a few weeks, so I asked if I could stay in her Toronto condo while she was away. I offered her $100 in exchange. She didn’t want to take the money, but I insisted as I’d be using her utilities and it’s just the fair thing to do since she wouldn’t be there for me to treat her to a meal out or something similar. I ended up staying 9 days. I called it my “refriendcation” as I spent most of the time reconnecting with friends. How did I spend my $325? 10 percent went to transportation (my friend left me her MetroPass – nice girl!), 30 percent went to accommodation and 60 percent went to groceries, eating out and coffee shops. It was a nice break from dorm life.
  • I also donated money to the Canadian Red Cross to assist with the extensive flooding that occurred in the province of Alberta.

tips of the month

Here are this month’s tips:

  • Use your feet. Try to walk as much as possible. It’s the cheapest form of transportation (free!) and you get a workout as well. A win-win!
  • Consider going without refrigeration. Hear me out! Let’s say your fridge breaks down and you aren’t in the position to replace it immediately. Why not try seeing if you can go without it until you have the funds to pay for a new one? It sounds crazy until you actually put it into practice. This line of thinking can also be applied to almost any item you own that fails on you.
  • Use materials you already own to create something that you want to buy. I had the makings of a quilt, but what I really wanted was a picnic blanket, so I reinvented it.

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

I finally read an actual Jane Austen novel instead of just watching the movie version! The obvious choice for me would’ve been to read Pride and Prejudice given my affection for the A&E mini-series I first saw many moons ago starring Colin Firth <<< so dreamy . . . sigh. However, I wanted to read one of her novels that I’ve never seen an adaptation of in film or television.

I chose Persuasion, mostly because the main character was “older” at the grand old age of 27. I had a hard time getting into this novel at the beginning, but then I couldn’t put it down. It’s amazing how a book published in 1818 is still so relatable today. People haven’t really changed that much I suppose. I especially thought that the character of Mary, who was constantly complaining, would fit right in to present day life.

I’ve felt a certain kinship with Miss Austen ever since visiting her namesake museum in Bath. I think we would’ve been friends. I’m sorry it’s taken me 36 years to read one of her books.

For my living well on less selection, I chose Living the Savvy Life: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living by Melissa Tosetti and Kevin Gibbons. This has been the most “traditional” of my living well on less choices. I think it’s a great book for someone starting out with decluttering and organizing their finances.

I especially liked the tip of having a spending book to keep track of things that you want to buy. I do this already in the Notes app on my iPhone. By having a list, you can be on the lookout to get the best price on items and also to prioritize your spending based on your budget.

They also recommend having a full-length mirror to make sure that your clothes fit you correctly. Even though I’m not a fan of owning a lot of things, I like to have a full-length mirror wherever I live. I don’t have one at the dorm and it’s been missed. Standing on my bed and looking in the mirror is just not the same.

What I didn’t like about the book were the references to getting deals on meat and cooking meat. I’m not a meat-eater, so these tips didn’t apply to me. I also didn’t think the suggestion to see a dermatologist to develop a skin routine was something I’d recommend based on my personal experiences. All the dermatologists I’ve seen have wanted to put me on prescription drugs and none of them felt there was any correlation between diet and healthy skin. Maybe I just went to the wrong dermatologists, but I would tread carefully with this tip.

I actually purchased the ebook version of this book since I couldn’t find it at my local library. I don’t know that I’d buy it again. There were plenty of good tips in the book, but many of them didn’t really apply to me and my current lifestyle.

movies of the month

I went to the theatre twice this month. My friend Michelle treated me to a birthday movie while I was in Toronto. As there were limited choices, we settled on World War Z starring Brad Pitt. It wasn’t bad. I feel a little more prepared now for the zombie apocalypse. Though truth be told, I’m okay with becoming a zombie. The effort to stay alive in these type of movies just seems like too much trouble.

I also saw Before Midnight starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. This is the third installment in the “Before” trilogy. I’ve never seen Before Sunset and I vaguely remember Before Sunrise. I may watch them in reverse order for fun. I like this style of movie because there’s lots of thought-provoking dialogue and they just feel real to me. I think anyone who has ever been in a relationship can relate to this film.

And finally, a friend recommended that I watch The Way as I’m planning to walk the Camino de Santiago next year. The movie stars father and son, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. I thought the storyline was great, but the writing a little weak at times. But I loved – loved! – getting a glimpse of the Camino! I’ll be borrowing this movie from the library again before I depart on my own journey.

song of the month

As mentioned, June was my birthday month so I wanted my song selection to be extra special. I chose the song Zou Bisou Bisou. I love this song! I picked the Jessica Paré version since I first heard the song when I had a Mad Men: Season 5 marathon in February. It’s such a happy song. Perhaps one day I’ll even be able to sing all the words instead of just zou bisou bisou and un, deux, trois, quatre!

mind, body & spirit

I’m still working away on my novella. I’m half-way there! Part of the reason why I chose to spend some time in Toronto was so that I could do research for the book. It’s been over a year since I’ve lived in Toronto and I’ve started to forget certain things about living there. It was great to be back in the action – even though I didn’t get as much writing done as I’d of liked.

Earlier in the month, I spent a morning volunteering for an Autism Speaks walk, along with my friend Pam and her 7 year old daughter (and my BFF) Loren. I’m not the best at volunteering on a continuous basis, but I enjoy helping out at one-time events. Last year I donated money to this cause, but this year, I donated my time instead.

I also donated blood to mark the 8th year anniversary of my mom’s passing. I know that she required quite a bit of blood during her hospital stay, so this is my way of giving back. My dad passed away in the month of July and I’d like to do the same for him. But I’ll wait to donate in his birthday month of December in order to build up my supply.

favorite experience of the month

Before I tell you what my favorite experience of the month was, I’d like to tell you about my strangest experience of the month, possibly year, and maybe even decade. I was walking along a wooded path when out of nowhere a bird attacked my hair. I felt claws people. There wasn’t any blood drawn, but I believe I suffered a very minor heart attack. It was that freaky. Needless to say, I’ve never run so fast in my life. I wonder if this is a sign that I need to toughen up before I walk the Camino. I love being in nature . . . but I still haven’t acquired a love for the things living in nature.

And now for my favorite experience of the month . . . drum roll please . . . my trip to Toronto of course! I walked, I ate and I hung out with my peeps. It was a grand time all together! I actually think a refriendcation is an excellent idea for people like me that have moved to a different city. It’s a great way to get back in touch with all your friends in one go!

mid-year review

I’m half-way there! So far, I’m under budget by quite a bit. At the start of the year, I thought I’d have a job by now. But, being the scanner that I am, I decided to focus on writing instead – at least until the end of summer. I’ve chosen to scale back on my rent expense, so that I can continue to do the things that bring me the most satisfaction, such as writing in coffee shops, eating out and going to the movies.

I’ve also had a few unexpected expenses, such as having to buy an iPhone charger that only lasted three months and then upgrading my iPhone earlier than expected in May.

I’ve made a few bad purchases along the way, including buying some expensive stevia that I’m just not going to use as I find it too bitter, so I gave it to a friend. And now my recent Crocs purchase may not work out as they’re kind of hurting my feet. I also bought a Moontime menstrual pad to try out. I think Lunapads are a better option for me since the liner sits on top. They’re a bit of an investment and I’m not entirely sure I’m mentally on board yet with the whole idea. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my organic cotton pantyliners and tampons. Okay, enough talk of periods. Some of us are starting to blush.

Every now and again, I get the urge to spend money for no reason at all. When I do, I indulge in a little luxury. The urge mostly goes away. I can honestly say that I haven’t denied myself anything that I’ve truly wanted yet this year. For me, that means this challenge is proving to be a success.

Thank you for following my progress. I know these posts are long, but a lot happens in the course of a month – even though it feels like it just flew by at the end.

If you want to see what I’m up to in “real-time,” you can follow my adventures on Instagram or just stop by when the mood strikes.

Let’s see how the other half of 2010+3 goes!