February 2019 – End of Month Review

  • $1037.51 on credit card #10
  • Major Decluttering
  • Work on this site
  • Cook More
  • Health and Dental

We paid the $1,037.51 on our credit card. We have $1,500 left until it is paid off. I’m so excited to be done with this!

This month was very weird. I was starting to feel a little burned out with life. I was at that point where I was working harder and getting less out of it. I felt like I was always going, going, going and not reaching my destination. I was being pulled in so many directions all the time. I’m a mother of three, a wife, a nurse, and a blogger. We are on our debt-free journey and we are preparing for long-term travel starting in 2020. I felt like I had too many balls in the air. I decided I needed a mental break from everything I could avoid. I wasn’t on social media much. I didn’t blog. I didn’t think about anything in the future past dinner each day. I didn’t work on anything that I didn’t have to. I used our basic budget and didn’t update anything. I set aside travel planning and the endless to do list that is my life right now. We did continue to work on the house this month. We didn’t do nearly as much as we had originally planned. We did what we wanted to when the energy struck. Honestly, I spent most of this month hanging out with my kids, playing video games (mostly Skyrim), reading books, drinking coffee, cooking, and lounging on the sofa way too much. I didn’t work on this site. I did cook a lot more.

Michael has a follow-up for his back in a couple of weeks. He is starting to feel better but still has trouble sitting for more than a half an hour or so. We are hopeful that he will continue to get better. He has lost almost 30 pounds in the last couple months which has really helped.

The girls had their dental checkups and everything went great.

I am hoping to find more balance going forward. I need to give myself more time to relax and set a time of day that I need to stop working on everything everyday. The problem with blogging and social media is that you could be working on something 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The problem with being a planner and having something as massive as long-term travel with three kids ahead of you is that you have a million small decisions to make. The research alone was a large part of that mental burnout. I am trying to decide on so many things. Where do we want to go? Do we want to travel in an RV? Camper? SUV? Van? What vaccinations do we need? When should we get our passports in order? International driver license? What does the dog need? Where can we take him? What about school? Homeschool? Online? Roadschooling? There are homeschooling styles? Which one is which? We need to massively declutter our belongings. What do I do with all this stuff? Where should we rent a storage unit? Safety deposit box? P.O. box or mail service? How do we store our photos? Should we scan them? Which scanner should we buy? Should we do suitcases or backpacks? What should we take with us? One thing will lead to another and another and another until my head is spinning with the amount of decisions I have to make. I have set a few boundaries going forward that I hope will keep me from burning myself out again. Hopefully, y’all will see a whole lot more of me.

Our Very Long Check List: Preparing for Long-Term Family Travel with Three Kids

We are currently preparing for long-term family travel. We plan to begin our trip in 2020. Many people have been asking for a list of exactly what we’re working on right now. I want to say upfront that not all of these things would be necessary for every family and most of it could be done much faster. There are parts of this that we could (and very well still may) completely do on the fly. There are parts of our plan that require time to complete and that is why we are able to take our time with other things that could be done quicker. Having ample time to research and prepare has made this whole endeavor much less stressful. Now on to our checklist.

1.) Paying off Debt – We had a lot of debt when we decided that we wanted to go on this adventure. We didn’t want to have all of that debt and crazy amounts of payments hanging over us when we left. Also, we felt like saving for a trip and spending excessive amounts of money while traveling would be irresponsible knowing we had loads of debt. We made out our “Hit List” for the first debts that we would tackle. We started by paying off one credit card and loan at a time. After we paid off a few things, we made out our priority list that we are still working our way through. It was like we needed to pay off a couple of things and know we were serious before we were willing to make out that whole list. If you are interested in our priority list, you can find it here.

2.) Education – Education and homeschool research has been a huge focus for me right now. We have three daughters, all in different age groups. The main reason for our timeframe is that our oldest daughter, Ivy, will graduate from high school in 2020. Since she was in high school, we decided it was best for her to finish. She plans to take a gap year to go with us and to think about what she wants to do. If she wants to take any college classes while we are gone there are many online options.

Our middle daughter, Isabella, will be starting fifth grade when we leave. I’ve been reading everything I can about homeschooling. I looked into the laws. I’m researching curriculum, reading lists, online programs, historical places we could visit, and homeschool record keeping. There is so much available that it can be a little overwhelming. I just wanted to get a good overview so I didn’t feel completely unprepared when the time came. We are trying to decide between her staying in her school for the fourth grade or doing a year of homeschooling before we leave. Our youngest, Octavia, will be four when we leave. Our state doesn’t require children to be officially enrolled as a homeschooler until age six. We plan to begin preschool at home before we leave and continue on the road.

I have found out from my research that we are “relaxed, eclectic” homeschoolers. This seems fitting because we are pretty relaxed people. Our middle daughter is very independent and self-directed. Having the time to fully research this has been very helpful. It has given me the opportunity to think about what I want to cover and how best to cover it. I feel much more comfortable than I did when I first started looking into it.

3.) Medical/Dental We had a few things that we wanted and needed to get taken care of before we leave. Our oldest had oral surgery to have her wisdom teeth taken out. She needs to do a set of x-rays and a check-up on her back before we leave. Our middle daughter has food allergies to seafood and shellfish. She was diagnosed when she was three. She had a reaction to shrimp but the others were found on a scratch test and with blood work. We were told that most young kids grow out of their allergies. She has an appointment soon to find out if and what allergies remain. I’m very hopeful that she has outgrown it for multiple reasons. It would make traveling much easier. I’m terrified that we will be somewhere that we don’t understand the language and accidentally feed her shrimp.

We have to visit a travel clinic closer to when we leave so we can receive any needed vaccinations and medications for our trip. We have been getting anything we can from our regular doctors that our insurance will cover. I work in healthcare so there are some extra things that I have been lucky enough to have covered by employee health services. We have found a travel clinic and looked into the process. 

4.) Preparing our Kids – We are talking about traveling, reading books, and watching videos. They are working on needed skills like swimming and hiking. We have been introducing them to new foods. We know this is going to be a huge transition and we are doing everything we can to make it easier for them.

5.) Our Belongings – We have been slowly decluttering and using up our belongings. We have been narrowing down what is truly important to us. We plan to rent a small storage bin for the sentimental items and to store off-season things while traveling. We have decided to find a place near my mom so that she can check on things for us and put stuff in if we ship anything home. I will be scanning all of our photos and taking pictures of sentimental items just in case anything is ruined in the storage bin. I plan to put everything on a portable hard drive. We will store this and a small number of valuable keepsakes in a safe deposit box.

6.) Packing/What are we taking – We have been researching suitcases/backpacks, suggested packing lists, reviews for various travel gear, and looking at the weather in areas that we want to go to. We have been looking at our current favorite items to see how best to accommodate our personal styles into our travel wardrobes. We will be spending part of our trip working and slow traveling in the United States. We will have a large vehicle during that time and be taking considerably more with us. We will have kitchen stuff and clothing for multiple seasons. We have been discussing how much stuff we will need to homeschool. We will have very little with us when we are flying. We plan to take a milk crate sized box with us for homeschooling items when we are in the US. We plan to allow one small bag for toys when flying and a bigger bag or box when driving.

7.)  Blogging/Vlogging I plan to continue blogging when we leave. I hope to inspire others to live their dreams, especially families. We are considering doing Vlogs on Youtube but we’re not sure if this is for us. We are going to make a few and see how it goes. We want to at least try filming and editing before we leave to see if it’s something that we would enjoy doing.

8.) Trip Planning/Travel Research – Where are we going? We don’t know exactly but we have been researching areas and getting together our bucket-lists. We looked at the best times of year to visit, must see places, and estimated daily budgets. This is really helping us to prioritize.

9.) Work I plan to work as a travel nurse. I’m not sure if we will travel for a while before I do a travel nurse contract or if I will do a contract first to get a feel for it. I’ve been looking into different companies and talking to people who do this. My husband doesn’t know if he wants to continue with what he does now or if he’s going to try a new line of work. He has considered temporary work and online options too.

10.) Physical – We are working on being in good shape so that we don’t feel like we’re going to die when we leave. We still will not be used to walking all day, every day. I want to finish losing the weight I gained with Octavia. I am walking and hiking more with the kids so that they are better prepared for what’s coming. My husband, Michael, has a very sedentary job currently. He is working out and trying to eat better. He is considering taking a more active job again before we leave. Unfortunately, he is still smoking occasionally and really needs to quit. He has tried many times but he hasn’t had the willpower to make it stick. 

11.) Spending Time with Family and Friends We are spending as much time as possible with friends and family. Also, we are trying to help them understand why we are doing what we are doing, that we will miss them, and that we do plan to visit.

12.) Passports & Visas – We need to get all of our passports in order when we get closer to leaving. We have been looking into Visas and any rules that we need to know for visiting different countries.

13.) Banking and Credit Cards – We need to figure out which bank we want to use when we leave and which credit cards offer the best perks. We need to make sure that we are able to access our money regardless of where we are. We will likely have multiple different accounts including checking, savings, and credit cards.

14.) Insurance We will need medical, travel, and car insurance. 

15.) Cell Phone and Internet We will want/need cell phones and internet access while on the road. These will both change based on where we are and where we plan to go. 

16.) Post Office Box – We will likely set up a post office box before we leave so we know where our mail will go. I have been switching everything possible over to email.

17.) Kindle – We will need one of these for both homeschool and reading for enjoyment. Isabella (9) and I are avid readers. We both prefer paper books but we have to take weight and space into account. We have decided to purchase one Kindle to share and see if we need another later. 

18.) Laptops, Chromebook, TabletWe are trying to decide which options best fit our needs. We will be working a little online. I plan to continue with the blog. We will be homeschooling our youngest two girls. Our oldest does digital art. We will be taking our two current laptops (Ivy’s and mine) with us while we are in the United States. They are way too big to fly with so we may get a smaller laptop to take with us. Isabella has a fire tablet now that we’ll take because we already own it.

19.) Photography I am continuing to improve my photography and videography skills. I am learning how to best use my cameras and equipment. I’m figuring out which items I will take with me and picking out the best tech/camera bag options for that equipment.

20.) Money/Budget – We are trying to decide on a daily budget and an app or way to track it. I’m a total nerd and enjoy doing this kind of stuff. It can make all the difference in keeping us on the road longer and allowing us to enjoy our trip without constantly worrying about money. 

It’s quite a list! I’m very thankful that I have the time to do it all at my own pace and even more thankful that we will be able to take this trip. Do you have any suggestions about anything on this list? Did we miss anything that you think we need to consider? Please leave us a comment below.

Save Money While Decluttering

We are currently on the path to becoming debt-free and working on minimizing our belongings in preparation for long-term family travel with our three children. When I first started to go through our belongings I noted that we had an excess of many things. We are also working towards becoming debt-free so simply throwing things out or giving things away that we would eventually use felt like a waste. This left me in a weird spot and I just sat those items aside to deal with later.

After starting the Pantry Challenge, I began to look into other areas of our home in the same manner. I started to go through things before I bought anything. I used to buy craft items, beauty supplies, and cleaning products on a whim. We often bought things that were very similar or identical to things that we already owned. After I began to go through everything, I realized that we had a major excess of certain items.

I would like to start this by stating that we didn’t have an intentional stockpile of goods. We just had a habit of overbuying and things would get shoved to the back of closets and cabinets. We have a linen closet that was hiding most of the bath and beauty products that we had inadvertently acquired. It was always so full that you could never find what you were looking for. I didn’t expect to find as much stuff as I did. We had over 20 bottles of lotion and tubes of hand creams. We had loads of bars of soap. We had extra bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Our back-up items had their own back-up items for things like toothpaste and toothbrushes.

We have a large closet in our laundry room that we used for board games, toys, cleaning supply overflow, kitchen overflow, and art/craft supplies. We had an entire plastic shoebox sized bin of crayons once we consolidated all of the boxes. We had about 80 pencils and even more pens. We had enough cleaning supplies to last us six months or more. This was a complete waste of space.

We decided to gather all of our nail polish into one area. Ivy and I both had decent sized collections.  We had many colors that were almost identical. We found additional bottles in the linen closet. Isabella had a few bottles. We were shocked to find that we had more than 150 bottles of nail polish in the house. If we painted our nails twice a week for the next year and a half, we still would have loads left.

Now, we check to see if we already have an item before buying it. I set up bins and boxes for different types of things so that we could find what we need easier. We have a bin for bath products. Instead of keeping our nail polish separately in our rooms, we consolidated them into two containers that are in the linen closet so that we can find the color we want and stop buying extras. I have decided that keeping more than one back-up for each item is unnecessary even in a family of our size. Now, I will add those items to my shopping list when we open the last one. We put a full spending freeze on nail polish, lotion, and hair products because we had so many of those items.

When it was back-to-school time, we “shopped” for supplies at home first. I have vowed not to buy any more kits or art supplies for us to use at home until we use up what we already have. I plan the girl’s quiet activities and rainy/cold day projects based on what we have on hand. Octavia is now home with me during the week so I need to find her stuff to do. She is only two and is quite entertained with a couple of markers and a coloring page. The girls did receive some things for Christmas that we added to the collection. They really do enjoy art, crafts, and science experiments so I know most of this will be used up by summer. We are just getting into our bad weather season. January to May is full of snow and rain in the Cincinnati area. A craft or science kit can be a real sanity saver during snow days or seemingly endless days of rain.

This whole experience has been quite eye-opening. It’s amazing how much stuff we had managed to obtain over the years. By making an effort to use up items before buying new, we are reducing the number of items in our home and saving money to be used on more important things. I was a little embarrassed by the amount of money that we had spent on these items over the years so that they could just sit in our closets unused. What do you have a ridiculous amount of? Have you done something like this? Tell me about it below.

Minimalist Christmas – ways to celebrate the Christmas season without accumulating more stuff

Being a minimalist with kids can be difficult at times. Trying to celebrate the Christmas season without accumulating more stuff can be hard, especially for those new to this lifestyle, but it is completely possible. We began this journey toward minimalism for a couple reasons. The top three were to lower the amount of stress in our home, to prepare for long-term travel, and we were just starting our debt-free journey. All of those reasons are still true today and they all affect our celebrations during the Christmas season. We have found many ways to join in on the holiday festivities while still honoring our journey and I wanted to share some of them with you.

  1. Small seasonal arts and crafts are great. I bought two Christmas kits at the Dollar Tree and a Christmas themed coloring book. The kits each came with a very small coloring book, 4 crayons, and a sheet of stickers. The girls had fun playing with these. Once they had finished with them, they left the house. No need to hold onto them forever to have a day of entertainment. The coloring book will be used as a daily activity for our toddler while her sisters are in school. We normally do 1-2 coloring pages per day. She is able to display her work for the day and then she replaces it with the next thing she makes. By coloring Christmas pictures, her display becomes part of our Christmas decorations.
  2. Make Christmas cards or crafts to give as gifts to extended family. We will be making up our cards soon. We do this every year and everybody seems to really enjoy it.
  3. Go on a holiday outing. There are so many fun things going on around the holidays. We try to enjoy at least a few festivities every year. We always go to see Santa Claus somewhere. We like to go to at least one place with Christmas light displays. We have been to quite a few different ones over the years and it’s always a good time. The walking and driving ones are both fun. If you are short on cash, look up free fun in your area. Christmas tree lightings are a good time. Walking around the neighborhood to look at everyone’s Christmas displays is a great way to have a fun, free evening.
  4. Take the time to beautifully wrap gifts. Make it a family affair. Make pretty bows. You could even make your own wrapping. We made stamped paper and painted newspaper one year when our oldest was a toddler. It was free and a lot of fun.
  5. Use/Make disposable Christmas decorations. We like to make construction paper chains and hang candy canes on our tree every year. The kids love to eat the candy canes off the tree.
  6. Watch a Christmas movie with your kids. There are so many amazing holiday movies. Why not share some of your favorites with your kids?
  7. Listen to Christmas music. We love to jam out to our Christmas playlist. You can find a list here: Favorite Christmas Songs
  8. Donate to Charity. This is a great way to get into the spirit of the holidays and teach your kids what it’s really about.
  9. Read a Christmas story. Our favorite is “The Night Before Christmas.”
  10. Spend some time in the kitchen. It’s the perfect time of year to bake some cookies or make fudge. It even makes a great gift. Hot chocolate is definitely the thing to do when it’s cold outside.

I hope these ideas help you to enjoy the season while holding true to your beliefs. Happy Holidays!

October End of Month Review

October Goals

  • Pay off Credit Card #8
  • Save Money and Just Survive
  • Research the Best Time of Year to Visit Our Top Locations
  • Continue Decluttering
  • List Some Stuff for Sale on Facebook
  • Start a List of Christmas/Birthday Presents

We started off the month owing $2,527.43 on credit card #8. I didn’t think there was any possible way that we could pay it off in one month. A year ago we wouldn’t have stood a chance. This month was a game changer for us. This month was the moment that we figured out not only how far we have come but also far we can go. We crushed this goal. We completely paid off every cent and it wasn’t even that hard. It was difficult, yes, but not the way that trying to come up with a large sum of money used to be hard. This was the month that we found out how much this year has changed us. We have been training ourselves to do hard things without even realizing it. We worked hard to save enough money and we did manage to survive.

We put the list of places we want to visit in order of importance and then looked up the best times of the year to visit our top picks. I looked at the weather, prices, amount of tourists, and any holidays that could impact our trip. My husband and I discussed the pros and cons of all this information. We decided on what times would be best and which times we should avoid for our top locations. We wanted to have this information on standby to help us to make better choices in the future.

We have slowly continued our decluttering. We went through Isabella’s and Octavia’s summer clothes as we packed them up. We only saved things for next year that would fit and were in good shape. We went through their winter clothing as we unpacked it. We also went through all of their year-round clothing like layering tanks and tees. We went through the rest of their room too. They got rid of another bag of toys and stuffed animals. We have been decluttering in layers. Each time we go back through we find a few more things to get rid of. I am considering doing another huge sweep of decluttering throughout our entire house.

So…I didn’t list a single thing for sale on Facebook. I meant to but never did. Maybe I’ll do better in November. I did get together a few boxes of stuff that I would like to sell, mostly DVDs and books. We plan to have a few yard sales before we leave. Anything of value that we don’t sell online will end up being put into a small storage room in our basement that we have set aside for this stuff. We will likely be adding clothing and toys to that room as we continue to declutter before leaving. I am still astounded at the thought of living out of suitcases in a couple years. Our family of five only having what we can take with us and a small storage bin for sentimental items is such a crazy thought.

I did start a list of ideas for Christmas/birthday gifts. I think I have figured out gifts for the girls. We have set our Christmas budget. It is much lower than what we normally spend. I’ll try to do a full post explaining all of it when it gets closer to Christmas. Michael and I decided to skip holiday & anniversary gifts for each other so we can apply more money towards paying off our credit cards. We know that paying off our debt sooner is more important than spending more on the holidays.

How did your October go? Did you meet any of your goals? Are you working on anything big or even little right now? Please share with us in the comments! Also, if you have any tips for selling stuff on Facebook, I would love to hear all about it!