We Got Engaged!

So Bea and I went on our New Mexico trip and it was awesome as you can tell by the title. For a little back story I had been planning our engagement since September of last year. I proposed (pun intended) this trip with getting down on one knee in mind. I had the ring shipped to Bea’s parent’s house and was coordinating with them. The day before we left for New Mexico we had to drop our cats off at their house. Placed under the sink in the bathroom was the engagement ring, which I grabbed while “going to the bathroom” and stuffed it in an oversized sweater. The next day I panicked pretty much the entire time thinking that security at the airport would ruin my surprise and pull the ring out of my carry-on. Thankfully they didn’t. Bea and I and the ring arrived safely in Albuquerque. That first night we did virtually nothing. We were so exhausted that we took an extremely long nap, that turned into just sleeping for the night. We booked an airbnb for the trip which was cost-effective and such a nice little place.

The next day while Bea was in the shower I stuffed the ring inside of a Gameboy fanny pack (yes, I’m aware of how fashionable I am) and went to do some extra planning for how I was going to propose. For months I had the idea in my head that I would do it at this lavender farm…which turns out, they don’t allow the public onto the farm. I found this out 30 minutes before we were supposed to leave. Instead I developed a quick plan B and we headed out to Old Town. We walked around doing some shopping (Bea more-so than I, as I was busy scoping out a place to pop the question). Let me tell you, Old Town is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It is so beautiful and such a romantic place to visit. Below are some pictures (I didn’t get too many because I was nervous).

The ring is my fanny pack at this point.
A section of Old Town

I finally found the perfect spot. We walked down the pathway that’s shown above to this tiny section with a beautiful garden and fountain. We sat down by the fountain and I waited for the last couple stragglers to leave the area. Mind you, this is the day before our 2 year anniversary so I whisper in Bea’s ear that I have an anniversary gift to give her. She asks me what it is so I make a big gesture of standing up and unzipping my fanny pack. I pull out the little box, nervously figuring out which side it opens on, and I get down on one knee. Bea immediately starts crying, I’m in shock and forget that I have words to say so I feel like I’m kneeling there for a solid 5 minutes (it was probably more like 30 seconds) before I said anything. I asked her to marry me and she said yes! We hugged and cried before I put the ring on her finger and then spent 20 minutes just smiling and looking at each other.

Of course we had to take a picture to send to our families ❤
This is where I asked. There are seats right around the fountain in the center.

What a special way to start our vacation. We spent the rest of the day wandering around, had lunch at a fancy restaurant and ended our night with a ghost tour. The next day we went to Albuquerque pride and it was so nice to see the crowds that turned out in support and celebration. In our hometown pride is a bit smaller just because we live in a smaller city and it was interesting getting to experience a different kind of pride.

This was the moment we officially started to burn in the sun.

The following day we drove up to Santa Fe and wandered around the shops and the outdoor bazaar that was happening that weekend. This part of Santa Fe was just as beautiful as Old Town Albuquerque. We stopped for lunch and got burritos and drinks which was one of the best meals that we had on the trip.

Here’s one of the buildings in Santa Fe.

On our final full day in Albuquerque we went to the Zoo and Biopark. Bea and I are nature and animal lovers so this was one of our favorite days. The zoo was a great size and we spent a couple of hours walking around. The Biopark had an aquarium, botanical gardens, and a “bug-arium” so they had a lot to do.

The last day we had some lunch and headed off to the airport to go home. Overall, this trip exceeded my expectations and we had a great time just hanging out in a new city together. Anytime we would mention that we were going to Albuquerque for vacation we would get responses like “why are you going there??” Honestly, we both haven’t spent too much time in states where there’s consistently sunny weather and a desert climate. It was a new experience, also a bit of a culture shock seeing adobe houses for the first time and roadrunners (those things are actually real??), and we got to spend a whole week together. For our first vacation this was the perfect place to go and if you ask me, the perfect place to get engaged. I’ll make another post about how we budgeted the trip and if there’s any interest how I picked out and paid for the engagement ring! Thanks for reading!

-Dylan

We’re going on a trip!

So for about 9-10 months Bea and I have been thinking about and planning a trip to New Mexico. It started off as a conversation while on a hike through the woods. Bea has been there before and loved it, while I have never been and am excited to visit. We had talks of doing hiking there, visiting museums, and eating lots of great food. About 5 months ago Bea and I started to get serious about going and chose the date that we would leave. We’ve never been on a trip together and we’ve never had to make a travel plan of our own. It started as a vague concept and has now turned into an awesome itinerary lasting 6 days. This post wouldn’t be complete without our budget.

Bea and I are young 20-somethings with entry-level jobs. I work as an addictions counselor and Bea works in the same field on the administrative side. We don’t have a ton of extra money to work with so we had to be crafty with our plan. If you’re traveling anywhere a good rule of thumb is to consider when to buy plane tickets. I did weeks of research on this. What I can say is that buying and traveling on the weekends (Friday-Sunday) is most expensive. We’re choosing to leave on a Thursday and come back on a Tuesday, which seems to be the cheapest option. Secondly, think about the time of year you’re traveling to decide how much in advance to purchase tickets. I kept an eye on prices to Albuquerque for about 2 months and they really didn’t change. If you’re traveling around holidays or spring break, they will definitely change. It’s recommended to buy about six weeks in advance. Each plane ticket for us ended up being $415. We’re saving money by packing light and sharing a suitcase so we only have to check one bag. We also saved $50 on the ticket for a slightly longer layover; definitely worth the money.

Onto accommodations. We have chosen to stay in a smaller Airbnb which is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not picky about amenities. Our Airbnb is $38 a night compared to a motel which would be 1. Not as nice and 2. About $50 a night. I’m total I think everything costs $250 for accommodations.

As for transportation, we’re using the good old-fashioned bus. Albuquerque has a surprisingly efficient and low cost metro. It’s $6 for a three day pass. We will be using Uber here and there for places that aren’t on the bus line and we’ve budgeted about $80 for that. I also get a discount through my work on rental cars and we are going to rent a car for one day to drive up to Santa Fe which will be $27.

We’ve mapped out all of the “attractions” that we want to go to and have allotted about $150 towards that. Most of these include things like museums and the zoo.

As far as food we have only planned to eat at restaurants one time per day and have allotted about $140. For the rest of the meals we are going grocery shopping and making our own food to eat.

This isn’t a luxury trip by any means but we found a way to go where we want within our means! We’ll be posting pictures from our trip once we’re back!

-Dylan

Our Garden isn’t Doing Great

We said we would give an update on the garden so here it is. Our garden isn’t doing great which is kind of a bummer. We had so many seedlings ready to be planted and there was cold weather the week after we planted which has killed off many of our plants. The tomatoes, onions, some peppers, and garlic are still hanging on and doing okay. Bea and I have a plan to plant the leftover seeds into the ground once it gets consistently warmer. We think our biggest mistake was not acclimating them for long enough. Gardening is a learning process and we’re figuring things out as we go. Bea and I have hopes that we can revive what is left and start on some new seeds. I don’t have any updated pictures because quite honestly our garden doesn’t look much different than it did before. For now we will continue to water, pray for sun, and wait out the last few cold days of spring.

Please enjoy these cute pictures of our cats.

-Dylan

Piper, a little over 1 year

Bear, about 9 years

Impulse Buying

I started getting into the debt-free community a couple months ago. I knew absolutely nothing and like most others I had the mentality that debt is just going to be a part of my life. Inherently I’m an impulse buyer. Anything that is on sale or would serve even the tiniest purpose in my life I would buy. I go into stores and purposely try to find things to buy because my brain gets excitement from that. Growing up I learned to find things on sale and to stock up on items that are cheap even if they might not serve a purpose. Now that I have been doing research about budgeting and paying off debts I’ve noticed myself changing my habits and thoughts. Mind you, this is no easy task. I still have the inclination to overbuy/overspend and I still have the mentality that I should be stocking up on things that I don’t need. I’m working on pushing those thoughts out of my head when I go shopping.

When I first started budgeting I would feel disappointed by the restrictions on our shopping; I would think that if only we could spend more then I would be happier. I’m noticing now that I get that same excitement from saving our money and being mindful about our purchases. Having a reign on our money makes me feel a few things: 1. Less stressed about paying off bills because I know I will have enough money, 2. I feel hopeful because I know we can budget and save for things like vacations, and 3. Less guilt about spending money because I’m aware of where all my money is going to. Something that used to give me the most anxiety was opening up my banking app to see my account balance. I’ve gotten to the point where I check it a few times per week and I get excited on payday to allocate money to my bills/debts.

My debt payoff system and savings system is not perfect and not near where I want it to be yet, but everyday I’m working on it and figuring out how I want it to be. This change doesn’t have to be overnight (like I initially wanted it to be). We live in a consumer society where money and buying things are everything. It takes a lot of time and concentrated effort to train your brain not to think in that way. In my journey, changing my thoughts and behaviors came first. Now I’ll work on my plan and systems. If you have anything that works I’d love to hear your thoughts!

-Dylan

We Started Our Garden

Over the weekend we transplanted all of our seedlings that we’ve been growing the past few months into our garden area outside. Back in early March we gathered our soil, packets of seeds and containers and got to work setting up the start of our future garden. We planted seeds for kale, broccoli, three different kinds of peppers, onions, garlic, cucumbers, zucchini, three different kinds of tomatoes, lavender, basil, and rosemary. It’s been difficult caring for these plants due to the cold weather and our cats attacking them every chance they could get (there have been many instances of loud crashes and soil flying everywhere). Eventually we had to create a separate room for the plants to be in untouched. In anticipation of putting the plants outside we kept track of the predicted last frost date. The date kept getting pushed back so we decided to go for it on one of the few nice days we’ve had in May so far.

Last year we bought a 4×4 raised bed set from Aldi for about $40 and kept that in the ground for this year. The good thing about already having this is the work was cut down by about half this year. Last summer we had many different types of plants (peppers, cucumber, broccoli etc) but they were all overshadowed by our enormous tomato plants which took over the entire garden. This year we planted everything but the tomatoes in the raised bed and put the tomatoes in large pots. We definitely learned a lot from our first year of gardening together and created a well-fortified raised-bed due to the rabbits in our neighborhood going after our food.

This is Bea preparing our tomato plants. We bought dowels from Walmart to prop up the plants.
This is our raised-bed where we planted three kinds of peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini and kale.
The bigger pots and the plant in the ground are all different kinds of tomatoes. The smaller pots are the herbs: lavender, rosemary and basil.
We used dowels and bird netting to cover the raised-bed and protect the plants from bunnies and other critters.

The plants have now been outside for about three days and have been doing okay despite the cool weather these past few days. It has been raining so we haven’t had to water them since that first day. We will be posting update pictures/posts once there is some more progress in the garden. We hope to someday have a bigger yard and more means to create a large garden. Our eventual goal is to homestead and be able to cultivate most of our own vegetables, herbs, and fruit. This is only the second year that we’ve been gardening so there are still many kinks to figure out.

-Dylan

May Budgeting

This is the first time in my life that I actually sat down and came up with a physical budget. It makes a lot of sense that I’ve never been good at saving money. Like many others, I have a hard time curbing impulsive buying. I come from the mindset of “if something is on sale then buy it,” or “I might need this in the future so I should get it just in case.” This is exactly the kind of thinking that makes it difficult for people to save their money and pay off their debts. Back in the fall when I hadn’t started paying off any of my debt yet, I still felt as if I didn’t have extra money. This is because I was overspending on things that I didn’t need or appreciate. Now I have even less money to work with, due to starting to pay on student loans and medical bills but I’m managing to save.

One of the biggest changes Bea and I have been making is planning out meals for the week and sticking to a carefully constructed grocery list. We do our shopping on the weekends and before we go, we briefly inventory our cupboards and fridge. Based on this we devise a meal plan for the week. We only buy the things that we need to make those meals that we don’t already have. We also exclusively shop at Aldi for groceries and leave places like Walmart for toiletries or other miscellaneous things. We went from spending a combined $120 per week at Walmart to about $60-70 at Aldi. That’s a huge difference! Imagine what we could have spent that money on before! The point of this story is to determine where your spending is out of hand and focus on amending that first. You can live under your means, it’s just a matter of figuring out what you’re willing to cut out. This is my biggest recommendation if you want to save and/or pay off debt.

I started using cash envelopes for gas and groceries. What this means, is that every week I take exactly the money I’ve budgeted for both things out of the bank and put that cash into marked envelopes. I only use this cash for those expenses so that I can physically see where my money is going. This helps me to be more conscious about overspending. I’m working up to creating envelopes for “the cats,” “bowling,”(which we are now doing 2x a month) and “fun.” It’s always a good idea to budget for fun things, that way you don’t feel bad about spending that money and you reduce the risk of overspending.

Anyway, I had a really difficult time coming up with my May budget, which I’ve had to revise because of new payments. It’s difficult to keep track of everything that you owe and I don’t have a good system of planning out when everything is due as things tend to vary. So here is my budget after the most recent revision. I’ve also received some unexpected money so I’ve managed to pay off two medical debts! Yay!

Listing the budgeted amount versus the actual amount spent is important in knowing whether or not you need to adjust your budget or a good way of keeping track of extra money to put toward debts/saving. This is what I’ve been up to lately as far as budgeting and money stuff. Next month Bea and I are going on a trip so I’ll be writing about our budget for that and our process of paying things off!

-Dylan

Mizeria (Polish Cucumber Salad)

This creamy, tangy salad is simple to make and pairs well with virtually anything from the grill.

The summer season is quickly approaching and everywhere you look, preparations are being made for the warm weather. The hyacinths and daffodils are in full bloom and very soon many will begin cleaning up their garden plots to make way for this season’s crops. In many of those gardens you will find one of the simplest and most refreshing vegetables to grow; cucumbers! What a lovely summer treat, cucumbers are. With a growing season spanning anywhere from 60-80 days from planting, it’s quite possible to enjoy cucumbers all summer long! Now the question is, what do you do with them all? One of my absolute favorite recipes to make with cucumbers is a polish salad called ‘mizeria’ (literally translated to misery in Romanian…)

As the story goes, an Italian princess was married to a Polish prince around the 16th century. Upon moving to her new home in Poland she was distraught to find the climate and food very different from what she knew in Italy. Several chefs were brought over from Italy bringing vegetables from the home she so desperately missed. Mixing those vegetables with the local ingredients available to them, this delicious salad was born. When the Italian princess tasted this creation she was overcome with sadness as the dish only made her homesickness worse. Thus the salad was called ‘mizeria’ due to the misery it brought her to eat it.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 2 cucumbers (sliced)
  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

After washing your cucumbers, slice them into thin rounds. Don’t slice them too thinly as they’ll lose their crunch! Place the sliced cucumbers in a large bowl and pour the vinegar over top. Let them sit in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours to ensure they have ample time to soak, stirring occasionally (Remember, the longer you let them soak the more ‘vinegar-y’ they will be). Slice the red onion and add to the cucumbers to soak about halfway through. Drain the excess vinegar and mix in the salt, pepper, and dill. Stir in the sour cream and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat!

Sliced cucumbers soaking in vinegar.
Sliced red onion.
Drained cucumbers and onion with salt, pepper, and dill added.
Add sour cream and voila!

Some recommended pairings: grilled chicken, grilled corn, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and Italian sausage.