Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Acolyte answers some questions

I've had a bit of a hard time this week thinking of what to write about. Luckily for me Yabusame left me a comment with some questions that I think would make a nice post. It's good timing, too; I've been meaning to review some of my previous endeavors to become more Mustachian, and this is as good an excuse as any.

1. How's the cycling to work going? Are you doing it EVERY day now?

Honestly it could be better, but I'm optimistic. Like I mentioned it's been a bad month for biking due to a bunch of mostly complainypants excuses. I definitely feel my awesomeness (and my legs) atrophying over time due to my lack of biking.

But there's good news! Actually I'd say there's quite a bit of good news. First, I'm convinced that biking isn't one of those fads I go through once and then drop forever. Most of my self-improvement projects fall into that category after they lapse for a month. I found myself in the car last week, when I couldn't have biked to work without remaining sweaty and gross all day, and an interaction with another driver got me really angry (the guy was a jerk, fyi). Road rage, you know? And as I was stopped at the next red light I reflected upon my situation. I never felt that stressed biking. The emotions I feel driving to work are mostly boredom, mild fear (of having some jerk slam into me with his car), and occasionally intense anger. But when I bike to work I feel focused, calm, centered, occasionally fearful (of having some jerk slam into me with his car), and accomplished. Oh, and sometimes when I'm coasting down a hill I feel like I'm flying. That's pretty awesome.

Second bit of good news: the showers at work are fixed! And now there are two showers instead of one. Actually there were always two showers but one was broken, so I'm glad building management has done something to make my life better.

The third bit of good news is that I biked to work on Monday. I didn't bike yesterday or today on account of needing my car to drive to meetings in a different building. I consider that a valid work-related excuse. But I'm free and clear to bike the rest of the week and I'm looking forward to it.

And as another minor victory, I (mostly) completed my push-up challenge last week. I did 20 push-ups in the morning and 20 push-ups in the evening every week day, except when I took a recovery break on Wednesday morning. Sticking to my plan was pretty hard! I mean, the first day was easy, but by Tuesday evening my arms felt torn apart. This puts me closer to my goal of being able to do 40 consecutive push-ups by the year's end.

I think that's the end of the story on how my biking has been going, for now at least. I'm planning on completing at least one more full work-week of bike commuting before the weather gets cold (and hopefully more than one), and I think it's feasible to bike three days a week at the least going forward.

2. How is the grocery and restaurant budget working for you and the GF?

That's actually a really good question. To be honest I'm not sure off the top of my head. Luckily I don't keep important things like that in my head, so wait a second while I go check Mint.

Ooo, this just in, it looks like Mint has improved their Trends functionality. So that's awesome.

I forget the last time I did a budget update, but it feels like a long time ago. So here are restaurant numbers since March:
March - $192
April - $88
May - $480
June - $294

We only went out twice in March, both expensive, and one of which was buying for six as part of a bar crawl we organized with friends on St. Patrick's Day. I totally agree with No More Harvard Debt that spending money on social events is way more effective at generating happiness than buying things.

April we went out twice as well. Once was to Melting Pot. That trip is showing up as less expensive because part of it was paid with a discount gift card I bought off Plastic Jungle. It's still money spent, though, so part of this low number is as a result of an accounting gimmick.

May looks a little crazy. We spent a week vacationing with my girlfriend's family so that meant more eating at restaurants.  One time was a fancy little night out between us that cost $130. Worth it, but only in small doses. So I'm not too worried.

June was a bit high but I think it's acceptable. We went out five times, which is around the number of dinners out I'd like to target per month. One of them, though, was a very fancy five-course wine-pairing dinner we went to with six of our friends. Again, those are the kinds of dinners I enjoy doing but only infrequently, or else I can't appreciate my food over the sheer guilt I'm feeling.

All in all, these numbers look reasonable. That up-tick in June is something to keep my eye on, though another concern is forgetting to plan dinners out. I think that one dinner out a week is a healthy way to break up the monotony of life as a wage slave — as long as it's not costing too much.

Next up, grocery numbers since March:
March - $10
April - $289
May - $509
June - $511

Ten dollars in March? A single trip to Trader Joe's? That can't be right. I must not have categorized my March purchases correctly. You've been warned: take all these numbers with a grain of salt.

April was pretty good, well within budget.

May looks high, and it is, but again that's because of our vacation. One day we cooked dinner for everyone (it was a huge house with like 12 adults), so that trip to Harris Teeter cost $225. Note that we didn't have to pay for vacation amenities, but there is no such thing as a free vacation.

June though? I don't know what happened in June. $511 is way too much. Maybe I've been slipping. In any case, I'm going to spend more time planning our meals for the week, because I know that keeps our food costs down. Today, for instance, I made fajitas from one of those do-it-yourself kits (this one actually, though why is the picture so small?). I enjoyed the food, my girlfriend enjoyed not cooking, and in the future I can learn how to mix my own fajita seasoning to take the kit out of the equation. It's things like this that are going to keep our grocery budget down.

3. Any no-spend months yet?

Really good question. Not yet! The thought has been stuck in my brain for a few weeks, though, and I think next month is the month. I have road trips planned on most weekends in August, but that's a challenge I'm willing to tackle head-on. Having the goal of spending money on as few days as possible in a month keeps me focused, and focus is a precious commodity.

4. Are you still making small overpayments on the mortgage?

Totally! I've sent in an extra $200 every month since we refinanced in June. It's practically automatic. I love locking away that extra money so it can keep paying dividends far into the future.

Well, that about wraps things up for now. Thanks again, Yabusame, for prompting me with those questions. It's nice to have someone keeping me honest.

Housekeeping note: I've added Brave New Life to my blog feed. I started reading BNL last December and I really like what he's doing. For some reason I thought he stopped blogging, but I must have gotten caught up and forgot to put his blog on my reader. I was pleasantly surprised to see a link to some of his new content. I encourage anyone not already familiar with Brave New Like to take a peek over there and see what you think.


  1. Hi Acolyte,

    Thanks for answering my questions so fully.

    I did write a longer reply but it sounded a bit wussypants, stating things like 'but its only 3 miles, man' and the like but I'm going to let MMM do the face punching ;-)

    Keep up the good work, and keep posting!