[Monthly Journeys is a series of check-ins to review my progress on the path to a life of fulfillment through financial independence, a healthy lifestyle, inner peace, happiness, and community.]
August started out with a bang and rolled out with a whimper. My finances took some unexpected hits, but that was counterbalanced by sliding into a smaller pair of jeans. Yea! So here’s how the month played out.
Doing Whole30 in Philadelphia…Mostly
Work took me to Philadelphia the first week in August. I managed the 7-hour tedious drive without incident, thankful that I had downloaded an intriguing John Sandford audio mystery from the library before heading out. Generally, I like road trips and there are some advantages to driving. First, I am reimbursed for mileage and those extra dollars have come in handy on more than one occasion. Second, driving gives me greater control over my schedule and my food.
The Travel Cooler
I travel a fair amount and if I shelved the Whole30 lifestyle for travel I’d be doomed. So I plan ahead. Here’s what I packed in my cooler for the road trip to Philly:
- Coconut nutty flax granola
- Unsweetened coconut milk
- Carrot sticks
- Trader Joe’s lemon ginger water
- Spindrift raspberry lime sparkling water
- Rx bars
- Individual packets of coconut oil
I am a HUGE FAN of Trader Joe’s, which was the source of all these goodies. Once again, the Rx bars rescued me from a carb-filled conference lunch. And each morning I avoided the hotel sweet rolls in favor of homemade flax granola smothered in coconut milk and blueberries. What a great start to each day! I added something new to my routine – coconut oil that I swirled into my tea each morning. Why? Organic coconut oil (or you can try MCT oil) is a healthy fat that appears to boost energy and increase metabolism. While I’m not so sure about the energy claims, the coconut oil made me feel full and less tempted by mid-morning treats. I think I’ll stick with this new trick.
Less than Perfection
As you may have guessed, I was not perfectly disciplined on this trip. And while Whole30 is my base, perfection is not my goal. On the final evening of my stay, I enjoyed a friend’s company and celebrated her birthday with a few drinks and tastings of tiramisu cake. Did I feel guilty? Not at all! The next day I changed my eating plan to consist of only one meal. And just like that, I was back on track!
Much Delayed Doctor Visit, Labs, and Procedures
While one of my goals is to build a healthy lifestyle, I don’t always follow my own advice. Shocking, I know! I’m going to admit upfront that I’ve been a VERY BAD patient. I finally visited my primary care physician and it turns out, the last time I saw him was over three years ago. And I had delayed and delayed other procedures, like getting a mammogram. I know…I know. Shame on me! So I reintroduced myself to the doctor, had blood drawn, (I am no longer prediabetic YIPPEE), and had a mammogram and colonoscopy (not all at once mind you)!
Why put these things off? Honestly, after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in the late 1990s and experiencing every barbaric intestinal exam possible (barium enema anyone?), I got tired of visiting specialists and taking my pants down! And since then I’ve had a hysterectomy, back surgery, and a mysterious neurological episode that just tired me of doctor visits. Yep, I delayed these preventative procedures for far too long. DO NOT follow my example! Take care of your health every chance you get.
Sliding into a Smaller Size
I weigh myself on the first day of every month, and boy did I hit the jackpot on my September weigh-in. How could I go wrong since my colonoscopy took place on August 31? Great strategy! And really, does ice cream count if you eat it the night before you begin prepping for the procedure? I think NOT! Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough can’t possibly have an impact on the scale if it’s followed by a fast and laxatives. But even with the colonoscopy, my weight loss was pretty average – about five pounds per month. Since April 1, I have lost 34 pounds. Here’s a before and current photo. I’ve got plenty more weight to drop in the coming months, but I sure felt good buying a smaller size of jeans.
An Odd and Ugly Month on the Money Front
August was an unusually strange – and expensive – month. Everything was going well until the middle of the month, when my 19 year-old daughter called from the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Now that’s never a good sign! Indeed, she managed to connect my beautiful new car’s bumper with the side of another car. Ouch! I guided her on the appropriate next steps, which included a call to the insurance company. That, my friends, was my first auto claim. The repair work was not major, but it cost me $488 out of pocket and I’m afraid that the next insurance policy will include an increase in the premium. If it happens again, the money will come out of my kid’s pocket.
Later that week, I received emails that “Keisha” had somehow bestowed on a friend ten $50 digital gift cards, using my eBay and linked PayPal account. Within the same hour, Amazon notified me of a pending transaction for four $100 PlayStation gift cards. Wow, “Keisha” was pulling out all the stops to spread her gifts around. Not good!
So what happened? While I can’t be sure, this is my hypothesis. I had an eBay account that had been dormant for years. In other words, I paid no attention to it. Apparently, the account was linked to my PayPal account, which had also been established years ago. I’ll bet you know where I’m going with this story: OLD PASSWORDS and FORGOTTEN ACCOUNTS! Careless me..I KNOW…and my Amazon account used the same userid and password combination. Yep, Dr. Smarty Pants had the pleasure of being hacked twice within a single hour! You can bet all my passwords have been changed, my card destroyed, and my PayPal credit account fixed. Take a lesson from me – change your passwords periodically, get rid of unused accounts, and take swift action.
And if that weren’t enough bad luck, I discovered a giant crack on the screen of my laptop. Combined with the fact that the laptop jingled every time I moved it, the time was right to buy a replacement. And there goes another chunk of change! Altogether, I spent $926 on my new Lenovo with Microsoft 2016 package. Thank goodness for savings accounts!
I purchased The Five Journeys domain on July 7, so that’s my official blogging start date. At 8 weeks old, it’s just a baby blog. In July, I spent $463 getting the blog set up. I went on a bit of a spending spree the last week in August, spending another $543. I made two big purchases – a multi-year contract for a premium version of Wordfence to provide an extra layer of security to the website, and a high-end recorder kit that will allow me to turn in-the-field interviews into a podcast – a feature I plan to add in the coming months.
As if that weren’t enough, my insurance company cancelled my homeowner’s policy! I’ve had Traveler’s insurance since I moved into my house in 2001. I filed my first claim – for water damage from an upstairs toilet leak – in May 2015. Then last November the hot water heater, which local home builders stupidly place in the attic, sprung a big leak that caused more water damage. If you did the math, that’s 14 years without even one claim, and now my record is blemished after two water incidents in two years. And for that inconvenience, Traveler’s cancelled my policy. Wow! Seems rather drastic to me, especially since the payout was quite small. So now I’m researching insurance companies and policies…hmm, sounds like a new blog post.
The Beauty of Savings and Forecasting
Financially, it was not a good month at all! But you know what, these extra expenses are not going to set me back. The fact is, I have a lot more disposable income since I paid off my mortgage in record time. Here’s the sum of these extra August expenses: $488 for car ding + $926 for laptop + $543 for blog = $1,957. So where’s the money coming from?
- I’ll dip into my Langley Federal Credit Union account to pay the $488 car ding expense. I run all my business expenses through the credit union. So remember the trip to Philadelphia at the beginning of the month? That netted over $300 in mileage reimbursement. The accumulation of mileage reimbursement over several trips has left a surplus in my credit union account that easily covers the $488 car ding expense.
- Every month I tuck $150 into a Capitol One account – $75 into a Fun Account and $75 into a Gift Account. Together, the balance of those accounts is $1,700. I’ve got the laptop covered!
- I track my credit card balances almost daily and enter anticipated/budgeted balances into my handy dandy forecasting tool, the Excel electronic checkbook register. When I plug in the $543 blogging expenses, I can see that things are going to be tight. In fact, my balance dips into the red in October. If I can cut my spending and trim $140 of expenses between now and then, I can cover the blog expenses from my regular checking account. Worse case scenario is I dip into my Emigrant Direct savings account. Again, I can recover from these expenses without too much trouble. And hopefully, the blog will one day turn a profit.
Having Some Fun Kayaking and Blogging
August was more than diets and money as I snuck in some time for fun. I spent a couple of days on the water, kayaking and exploring new regions. A friend and I skipped out of work to drive across the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, where we joined a strenuous kayak tour that found us paddling through the wetlands and crossing the Intracoastal Highway, to finally bounce our way through the Atlantic waves. How cool was that!
Better yet, I was able to combine my outdoor fun with my blog after meeting a couple of very interesting people who were passionate about their work. August was consumed with building content for The Five Journeys – I posted seven new articles and am busily creating a Master Recipe Spreadsheet of all the best Whole30 recipes available online. I’ll use the spreadsheet to create the Healthy 7 Menus, which debut September 27. I’m enjoying writing and learning everything I can about blogging.
What’s in Store for September?
Starting mid-September, I’m going to do something I’ve never done before – take a month of vacation from the office! I’ll check in on occasion to manage emails and urgent requests, but my plan is to avoid going into the office. My September vacation starts with a long weekend at the Virginia Master Naturalist conference in the Shenandoah Mountains and ends with a week learning how to embellish wood at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. And of course, I’ll be busy blogging, working on the Healthy 7 menus, and crafting Daily Gems. I can’t wait!