Well now I’m back…from outerspace it seems. Life has sure gotten busy and took my attention far from my blog. But here I am to tell you all what’s going on with me and what to expect to see here moving forward.
In March 2020 our whole world changed. Yes, we all went into quarantine as COVID-19 ravaged the world and especially here in Louisiana. But also in March 2020 our son was born! The rest of 2020 was a whirlwind of pandemic fear, newborn snuggles, exhaustion, postpartum anxiety and rage, and immense joy. I was juggling a quarantined maternity leave with my husband, a 3 year old, a newborn, and two dogs ALWAYS home. Then I started back at work teleworking and my daughter began virtual pre-kindergarten for a few months before converting to in-person school. My son and daughter stayed home with my husband while I went back into the office later in the year.
Financially, we actually walked through 2020 pretty unscathed, or even in a better position than we thought we would be. My husband’s work dried up for many months due to the pandemic but we offset that financial setback by saving on not paying for daycare for a year and a half for our son while my husband was rocking being a stay at home dad. We saved money on gas and not eating out or going anywhere. I mean, we don’t usually eat out much anyway but every little bit adds up.
My husband’s federal student loans were put on automatic deferment due to the pandemic and stopped accruing interest which really helped us make some forward progress on them finally. We were able to skip a couple of payments while I was on maternity leave and had little money coming in (I had no paid maternity leave and had to use a mix of saved annual leave, sick leave, and unpaid days). After I was back to work we kept making the regular payments and could finally see the balance go down each month instead of watching the interest accrue higher than the minimum payment amount. The interest accrual rate vs. our monthly payment is usually working against us so this was a welcome respite from that mountain of interest.
2021 continued much the same way as 2020. We are incredibly grateful that none of us contracted COVID-19 and most of our friends and family members stayed healthy. My husband and I got vaccinated as soon as we could in the spring of 2021 and our daughter got hers as soon as it was approved in November 2021. Sadly, one of our neighbors and a friend who I served with on our HOA board died from COVID-19 in late 2021 which was just gutting, especially since by then vaccines were widely available. Also very sadly, our dog Julius passed away in his sleep on his 16th birthday over the summer. We miss him terribly.
We were grateful to have been able to still do some carefully orchestrated travel to visit our family despite the pandemic. In the summer of 2020 my parents and sister’s family all quarantined and drove in an RV down to Gulf Shores, AL and my family also quarantined and joined them so we could have a quarantined-together beach trip and our son could meet some of his grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins. Later that summer his other grandmother was able to travel down to Louisiana to meet him and he met his other grandfather and another aunt and uncle when he was a year old when we traveled to Tennessee for a family wedding. We followed as many CDC guidelines as possible and kept masked, distanced, and sanitized, and kept our interactions with strangers and unvaccinated folks to a minimum, which of course caused some ruffles occasionally when we had to set safety protocols or ask questions to be able to visit with people. We traveled in the summer of 2021 to visit both sets of grandparents again and say bon voyage to my sister and her husband as they packed up to move to Germany for work. In November we traveled to Germany and France to have Thanksgiving with my folks and my sister’s family which was an amazing gift generously funded by my parents (who are my retirement role models). It was an amazing trip and we are grateful to all have been able to safely travel and see the world despite a worldwide pandemic. Vaccines are amazing folks. Get them. They save lives. Also, they are literally your ticket to traveling and going to museums in Paris, for example
Blog wise and money wise, a lot has changed for me. I feel like the pandemic and addition of another kid to our family made me shift my priorities. I no longer am obsessed with making a any possible extra dollars to pay off debt. Sure, I want to get out of debt, that hasn’t changed. But my drive to make money has diminished, possibly because my mental bandwidth for side hustles has diminished. All mystery shopping dried up during the height of the pandemic and I didn’t have any time with juggling work and two little kiddos anyway. I was so overwhelmed that I had to drop my freelance blogging client because I was just exhausted and couldn’t get the work done on time and without burning myself out by trying to squeeze out one more thing from me.
So, I gave myself grace and stepped back and said to myself that it’s ok to not side hustle, blog, or do anything like that for a while. I stopped and refocused and thought about my priorities. First and foremost, my family is my priority and protecting their health and well-being includes caring for my own health and well-being and taking some time to relax and enjoy my life rather than just running through it.
Being home all the time and adding another small person to our crew made me overwhelmed and realize how unhappy I was with our home and our systems. Not that there is anything wrong with our home, it’s just not working for us and we need to declutter and organize to make what we have work better for how we live.
I don’t want to live forever in stress and overwhelm and I really wanted to simplify.
So I started by dropping things like mystery shopping and freelance writing because I couldn’t handle the time commitment.
I started trying to simplify our finances and signed up for You Need A Budget. I had been trying to avoid paying for budget software for years but found that this software saved me so much in terms of time AND money by allowing me to keep up with my spending and budgeting with a lot less time and effort, leading me to not ignore my budget for a month at a time and accidentally overspending. Also, I started using sinking funds thanks to YNAB and it’s been amazing. Total game changer. Having the money set aside to pay for an annual expense is mind-blowing and so much less stress than scrambling when that bill comes due.
I saw that I was spending hours upon hours each month cutting the grass and stressing about when I would be able to cut the grass because it rains so often in Southeast Louisiana. I enjoy cutting the grass and listening to podcasts while I do it, but the time commitment was too much. I was constantly interrupted by a baby who woke from their nap and needed to nurse, a hungry preschooler, or just really would prefer not to spend such a large chunk of my Saturday getting sweaty and covered in grass clippings and bug bites (again, yay South Louisiana). So, I ran the numbers and weighed whether we should get a riding mower, a robot mower, or pay someone to cut the grass. I figured out the costs for each machine, maintenance costs, and how to store it (we would have to build some kind of shed for a large mower), and figured in the time it would take to cut the grass, even with a faster, more efficient mower. Ultimately, it was substantially cheaper and more time efficient to pay someone else to do it and that decision really lifted that weight right off my shoulders. I’m helping support a local small business in my town and getting a much needed service that I appreciate SO MUCH after 6 years of cutting the grass myself in the Louisiana heat, sometimes pregnant no less. No more stressing about when it will rain or grumbling that the grass is a half foot high and the kids can’t play in the backyard. My weekends are substantially more relaxing, I’m not embarrassed by my yard (not are my neighbors), and I get to actually enjoy the large yard that we pay a mortgage on. So the cost is WELL worth it. I’m worth it. My family is worth it.
I’m all for frugal living and hate spending money paying someone to do something I can do myself, but I realized that during this season of my life, spending $100 a month to pay a grass cutter to come is a very worthwhile investment in my time and sanity.
Frugal living is not just about spending as little as possible, it’s about being intentional about your spending. Frugal living is about being simple, minimal, and not excessive. It’s about being grateful for and enjoying what you have rather than constantly being driven to buy and consume. It’s thinking about it something is a want or a need and choosing wisely. It’s also about understanding that wants are totally ok to have and want and that making intentional purchases to make our life better matters, whether that is donating to a charity to fight climate change or paying for a babysitter or a guy to cut the grass.
I’ve started embarking on a journey to declutter and simplify my life. That includes my finances, mental space, physical space, everything. I have been slowly making decisions on things in my house (including huge decisions like selling baby clothes and closing that chapter of my life) and selling everything that I can online or in person. I’m using that money to throw extra money at debts and that seems like a much better use of my time for right now because it kills two birds with one stone that is leaving my house.
I’m starting to pick back up a little bit of mystery shopping and am even back here writing on my blog after a long hiatus. I signed up for Allie Casazza’s Your Uncluttered Home course (it was on super discount for $99 on black Friday and my Mom bought it for me for an early Christmas present). I’ve started working through it and will share future posts about my decluttering experience and a detailed review. I’ve also been reading/listening to other books and podcasts about decluttering, money, frugal living, minimalism, and parenting. I feel like the more I learn and grow the better I am doing.
Join me as I share my journey decluttering, working to get out of debt, live frugally, and live a simpler, happier life. Yes, I still will have plenty of money saving tips, plenty of side hustle and mystery shopping tips, and lots of frugal living posts, but I will also be chronicling my decluttering journey since it makes a big impact on my financial and physical life as well. Let’s get this money and this house/life under control!