Friday, July 27, 2018

Winning, July 2018 Edition

I've got to be honest: I'm having a rough couple of weeks. 


Sometimes certain aspects of life can be so demoralizing, with no obvious or immediate solutions. That's where I'm at right now. I feel backed into a corner, stuck in an endless cycle, frustrated, and somewhat depressed. Also clueless. How do I make this situation better? I have no idea.

Sorry to vague-blog. At some point I'd like to be more transparent. But even without specifics, I bet you can relate. I bet you've been there, too, one way or another.

Regardless, I'm trying to take note of the things that are going well...

...which brings me to a new edition of WINNING, a semi-monthly series (semi-monthly because I have a bad habit of forgetting to write it) in which I give us a hearty pat on the back for the stuff that's going right, particularly from a financial standpoint. 

Why? Because it's important to acknowledge and own badass-edness, even when I don't feel like a badass in any way, shape, or form.

So here it is:

Winning, July 2018 Edition:


(1) We took a mini-vacation and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. You can read our full vacation summary here, but the gist of it is that we celebrated our credit card payoff with four days in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, where we gorged on ice cream and tacos and soaked in as much outdoor beauty as possible. Granted, we overshot our budget by about $300, but I can't be mad about it because the trip was nothing short of magical. We needed this getaway. We achieved a big goal, and we deserved the chance to celebrate.


(2) I opened up my own IRA! I finally rolled over the small amount of money I had in my retirement account from my previous job. Truth be told, I had no idea what I was doing, so I just threw the balance into a growth index fund that's received several good reviews. Murphy's Law being what it is, the market has of course dropped in the days since I opened my account - but what's important is that I now have another spot to sequester savings once we've paid off the student loans.

(3) I landed a bonus at work! And guess what: every penny of it is going straight into our savings account. After a month of discussion and debate, Fortysomething and I have decided that rather than going all-out on student loans, we're going to first use some of our "extra" cash to build up our emergency fund. I plan to share more about that decision in an upcoming post. The long and short of it is that we have at least 1.5 more years of debt repayment ahead of us. Over that kind of timeframe, all kinds of expensive shit can hit the fan, and I'll be damned if I have to pay for it with a credit card. We're not going there again, so we need more savings to help float us in an emergency.

(4) I signed up for an ultramarathon! A couple months back, I shared that a big goal of mine is to run a really long raceIt took awhile to find one that met all of my criteria: 50K or 50 miler, within driving distance, sometime in the fall, nothing too high in elevation or too hot. I finally selected a 50-mile race that will take place in Tucson in November. I've got my training plan in place (I used the free Santa Clarita Runners ultramarathon training schedule generator) and I'm already into Week 3. The price of entry was kind of steep ($115), but this is a bucket list item for me. It's worth the investment.

Needless to say, this will be an adventure!


What about you? What are some of your wins this month? Or alternatively, is there anything that you're struggling with right now that you're trying to work through?

Disease Called Debt

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Why This Personal Finance Blog Matters So Much To Me


Can I tell you something?


I really appreciate you. A year into this, and I'm still in awe that people stop by to read and even comment. Thank you. It's a big deal to me.

Here's a secret: I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was in Kindergarten, I wrote a little book about a butterfly and her friends. I penned it on notebook paper, scribbled in some illustrations, and stapled it together. It was thrilling to me. I kept it on my dresser and every now and then I'd pick it up and gaze at it in wonder. That act of creating and producing something from my own imagination felt so satisfying.

I wrote throughout grade school and college, both for myself and for my school newspapers. Later I enrolled in a post-graduate writing certificate program, which I promptly abandoned so that I could move to the mountains and become a newspaper reporter for a weekly paper with one reporter/photographer (...me). I did that until I got sick of being called in at 3 AM to take pictures of truck accidents on the highway.

As I got older, writing became more and more difficult. I'd show up, but usually the words wouldn't. I'd see my clumsy sentences on the page and feel so self-conscious, knowing that every other writer was so much better. Nothing was good enough and I felt terrible about it, so eventually, I just... stopped. Except for my dissertation and work projects, I quit writing altogether. For years.

In a search for just the right wording, the best turn of phrase, I forgot why I was writing in the first place.

This blog has brought me back from the brink of perfectionism. With this project, I've allowed myself to be a bumbling, oftentimes boring writer whose main goal is to just get her ideas out there in a consistent manner. And man, has it been liberating. Whether I'm updating our debt stats, talking about our summer vacation, or making an argument for wage transparency, I always feel good when I press the Publish button. And when I come back later to discover multiple typos that I somehow missed the first eight times I edited my work, I shrug it off and carry on. Perfection is no longer necessary.

I'm also learning, albeit haltingly, that I don't need to compare myself to others: you have your story, I have mine, and nobody can tell our own stories better than we can.

The $76K Project has become something truly meaningful to me. I'm somewhat reluctant to admit it, but this little passion project has become my baby.


I've been thinking more about where I want to go with this blog - whether I want to grow it and monetize it and move it to a better platform and learn SEO and try to turn it into Something Bigger - and I'm realizing that I'm just not there. Not yet. I mean, maybe I should be heading in that direction, and I certainly think about it because in theory I would love to transform my writing into a side hustle. But I don't feel motivated by pageviews and numbers right now. If that were my focus, I'd drive myself crazy. I'd probably quit.

Instead, I want to shape this blog into a place where people who can relate to our story want to be. I want it to feel like a familiar, cozy nook where you can stop by and we can sit down together, sip some (virtual) coffee, and talk about life and finances - both the challenges and the wins. I want it to be a bullshit-free zone where I can be transparent with you about our long and mistake-ridden financial journey, and you can be transparent with me. I want to be authentic and honest and reliable in my posting.

That's what motivates me, and that's what I'm working towards: connection with other people who, like me, are sick of hiding their past and want a better future.

Funny thing: when I sat down to write today, this is not the post I had in my head. But this is what emerged instead, because writing is weird and unpredictable like that. Like magic. I'd forgotten about that magic.

Again, thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thanks for coming back.

Friday, July 20, 2018

We Should Be Talking About Our Salaries. Here's Why.

Money talk is too taboo





As polite members of society, many of us were brought up to not talk about the following:
  • Sex
  • Mental health issues
  • Politics and religion 
  • Money - particularly what you owe and what you earn

My friends and I throw some of these taboos out the window without a second thought. I know their religious and political views. We're open with one another about our depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and the like. Sex? Sure, we'll delve into that juicy topic with glee, especially if we're sharing a bottle of wine. 

But money?

For the most part, we don't go there. 

Of all the taboo subjects, money is the one that often feels the most repellant somehow, and I'm just as guilty as anyone of avoiding the issue. I may spill all my debt secrets here on this blog, but in real life, I don't talk about it. And salary? I mean, sure, I'd share it if a friend or acquaintance asked. But the likelihood of anyone I know inquiring about my income is very, very slim because it's a subject most of us have been trained not to broach. 

I think we should be doing exactly that: talking money. Discussing our debts. Sharing our salaries. Here's why:


1. Because it helps - it really helps! - to know how others make the magic happen


If you write a headline like "How I Achieved Financial Independence in Five Years" or "How I Paid Off $100K in Student Loans in 18 Months," there's an excellent chance I'm going to head right on over to your post or article and devour it. I love a good financial independence or debt payoff story, partly because I want to feel inspired, and partly because I want to learn from you. I want to know what you did so that I can apply those same strategies to my own financial journey.

But here's my ask: when you're sharing your tales of success, tell me your salary, or at least a salary range. Otherwise, you're leaving out a crucial part of your story. 

It is disingenuous, for example, to attribute your financial independence to the eschewing of Starbucks lattes and avocado toast while failing to mention that you make a six-figure income. Someone making $200K a year and someone making $40K a year could be doing the exact same things in terms of cost-cutting measures and savings rate, but obviously the higher earner is going to achieve financial independence or debt freedom more quickly. It's helpful to know that you're not actually working with the same resources. It's helpful to have context. That doesn't mean that people with different incomes can't learn from one another.

So put it out there. Yes, talk about your frugality - absolutely. Talk about your cost-saving measures. Talk about your high savings rate. Talk about the sacrifices you made to get to where you are, because undoubtedly they played a big role in your success. But don't stop there. Talk about how much you earned while crushing your financial goals, because that matters. I would argue that - assuming you aren't a total spendthrift - it matters more than anything else when it comes to big, rapid financial achievements.


2. Because actual numbers = a common language


In the past few months I've seen several very successful personal finance bloggers describe their salaries in hazy terms such as "middle class salary" or "upper middle class income." But what do those descriptors actually mean? Out of curiosity, I asked my Twitter friends for their thoughts:


Lazy Man and Money did a nice job of summarizing the results in a follow-up post, but I'll just share a few of the comments I received to show that the perception of what constitutes a middle class income varies widely (note: I was expecting maybe four brief responses, not the deluge of thoughtful, nuanced answers that rolled in... Check out the whole Twitter thread for a plethora of ideas and perspectives):





As I was writing this post I ended up going down a rabbit hole of Pew Research Center analyses and articles by experts like Chief Mom Officer who are much better qualified to discuss the differences between social class and income level, and it all got rather dizzying and overwhelming for this blogger who doesn't often write research-heavy posts.

So I'll just summarize what I learned with this: terms like "middle class income" are meaningless, and they can be misleading. 

Case in point: in the past few months, I've read a couple of inspiring stories from individuals who have declared early financial independence after saving an impressive chunk of what they publicly described as a "middle class salary." Their stories sent a message of hope: If we can buckle down and make it work on our average income, so can you!

Later, it emerged that these folks had earned several hundreds of thousands of dollars per year - middle class by their own standards, perhaps, but judging by the backlash that has ensued, not by their audience's standards.

We can simplify and clarify our discussions of salary by ditching the social class-style descriptors and sharing cold, hard numbers, perhaps with some added context: "I make $100K a year and live in Toronto, where rents are sky high" or "I make $45K and live in New York City" or "I make $55K in rural Illinois and support a family of five." 

See? Simple. Numbers are just... numbers. They're unambiguous. They offer a common language that we can all understand.


3. Because maybe more transparency can help close the wage gap


More stats for you: In 2017, women earned just 82% of what their male colleagues brought home. In 2016, many minorities made less than 75% of what their white counterparts earned. As Pew points out, while the wage gap has narrowed over the last few decades, it's remained relatively constant for the past 15 years. That is unacceptable - and we should be talking about it.

Story time: 

A few years ago I landed a position as an assistant professor at a small college. The administration made their offer, and I countered, angling for a few thousand dollars more. The response I received was that the school lacked the wiggle room to go any higher - not a penny more - and besides, with such a low cost of living for that location, the initial offer should be sufficient. There was nothing they could do, they said.

I acquiesced because I was worried that the offer might be rescinded if I pushed too hard. But a few months later, I found myself in a somewhat awkward conversation with a male colleague (who started at the same level, at the same time, and received the exact same initial offer) who shared that when he countered, the school bumped up his salary.

My guess is that my former employer betted on me not finding out - because hey, who sits around and divulges salary? - so they weren't worried about treating us differently. I suspect this happens in a lot of companies and organizations, many of which expect their workers to keep their salaries to themselves.

It's worth pointing out that websites like Glassdoor and Payscale have made it easier for employees to research going rates in their industries and walk into negotiations armed with a clearer idea of what they should be asking for. But as far as I can tell, these salaries aren't broken down by demographics or time spent in the industry. 

It would be ideal if we could talk about salaries more candidly not only within our industries but also within our own organizations (if possible) so that gender, racial and ethnic wage inequalities are brought out into the open. Otherwise, companies can continue (intentionally or unintentionally) to perpetuate the wage gap.

(Note: I do realize that some organizations see the sharing of salary information as a fireable offense, and obviously we don't want to go there. But then how about sharing a salary range? Or sharing your total household income?)


4. Because we don't need to feel ashamed of what we earn


We don't talk about the things we're ashamed of: mental health problems. Sex. Money. We have no reason to be ashamed of any of those things, salary included. Your income does not reflect your worth as a human being. Your income. Does not. Reflect your worth. As a human being. So whether you make $25K a year (or less), or $300K a year (or more), you have no reason to feel chagrined. You don't have to be ashamed for earning less than someone else. And unless you're exploiting the people working for you, I also don't think you need to feel bad if you're a high earner.

I realize that saying, "Just talk about it!" is easier said than done, especially if you feel like you're opening yourself up to criticism or judgment from others. The thing about shame is that it thrives in silence and embarrassment. When it's brought into the light, it tends to wilt. It loses its power. The more that we as a society talk about money, the easier it becomes for all of us as individuals to talk about money, and the less shameful money talk becomes.


The $76K Project: Putting our income out there


Because I believe in transparency and walking the walk, I'm putting it out there: As a household, my family makes about $110K a year before taxes and benefits. We spend approximately 1/3 of our income on rent, 1/3 on fixed and variable monthly expenses (gas, groceries, energy bill, etc.), and 1/3 on debt. Currently, we are able to put $2K a month towards our remaining student loans. That is a significant chunk of cash, and that is the main reason we're able to pay off our debt quickly (well, quickly by my standards: about 2.5 years to go).

Are we frugal? In some ways. Do we make sacrifices? Yes, but we certainly haven't given up all creature comforts. Is it a challenging journey? Definitely, but it also feels completely sustainable. At the end of the day, it is our six-figure income more than our frugality that makes all of this possible.

These are all things I want readers of my blog to know, so that they have the whole story. If they can take some inspiration or lessons from our story, fantastic - that's one of the main reasons I'm devoted to this blog. It's also likely that some people don't find us relatable, and that's okay, too, because I can guarantee that there are other bloggers out there who they will connect with.


Your thoughts?


I typically don't wade into controversial topics on this blog, so writing this post makes me feel a little uneasy. I know not everyone wants to talk about their salary, and I worry about missing the mark. So give me your take: do you think we should be discussing this more? Less? Or... not at all?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sometimes You Gotta Get Away: Our Mini-Vacation to Colorado

I went into this summer knowing that even with our deep-seated commitment to our financial goals, we were eventually going to want to get out of town. See some new sights. Traverse some new trails. Try some new beer. Spend some money.

Sure enough, we started getting antsy for a break in mid-June. Obliterating our credit card debt gave us the perfect excuse to celebrate with a mini-vacation. We decided that for just one month, we'd pay the bare minimums on our student loans and use our remaining disposable July income for a much-anticipated getaway, one that would give us a breather from our debt repayment and the daily grind. 

The destination: the mountains of Colorado


We hemmed and hawed for weeks about our destination. Our requirements: it had to be beautiful and within a day's drive (flying was out of the question due to time and financial constraints), and it couldn't be too hot. We considered New Mexico and coastal California before settling on southwestern Colorado and the breathtaking, cloud-skimming peaks of the San Juan Mountains. Fortysomething and I spent time there while I was in college, and we've been wanting to go back for years. Our only concern was that the area was being ravaged by the 416 wildfire, which ultimately burned more than 54,000 acres. With rain in the forecast, we took a chance and decided to go anyway (our gamble paid off: by the time we got there, the fires were largely out thanks to the tireless efforts of fire crews).

The San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado

Five days of R&R


Day 1: After an uneventful six-hour road trip, we arrived in the laid-back creekside town of Durango and treated ourselves to a sushi dinner followed by homemade mulberry crumble ice cream (the sushi was okay; the ice cream was scrumptious: creamy vanilla ice cream streaked through with crunchy crumble topping and fat, fresh, tart berries). We moseyed along Main Street and peeked into shops before heading to the store to stock up on groceries and get gas. 

Durango Main Street. It was decked out with HERO signs for the firefighters.
Then we ventured up the highway to our rental, a vacation condo that we booked for three nights through VRBO. Tucked away into the mountainside, it offered a secluded retreat that was still central to everything we wanted to see and do. It featured two bedrooms, access to a swimming pool, amazing views, and a fully-equipped kitchen, allowing us to prepare some of our own meals instead of depending entirely on restaurant food.

Views near our rental
Day 2: We explored the old mining town of Silverton, where we had lunch at a sandwich shop (three sandwiches plus soda = $38...) and admired the Hardrock 100 ultramarathon rock (shown below in all its glory). Free things to do in Silverton are kind of limited, so we hopped back into the car, toodled around, and eventually found ourselves at Andrew's Lake, a gorgeous spot with hiking trails and fishing access. It would have been easy to spend an entire day there, but the troops got tired and cranky so we returned to the condo for a swim.

Silverton, CO: elevation 9,318 feet
Long-distance runners will understand the significance of this painted rock,
which graces Silverton's main street
Andrew's Lake was one of our favorite stops of the entire trip
Day 3: The Kiddo planned our schedule that morning and chose a diesel-powered train ride. In all honestly, this was really not my thing: the train was crowded with people who seemed to lack a basic understanding of personal space, and the whole setup was pretty kitschy. Plus, it was insanely expensive... like, Disney-level expensive (I said yes to the idea before fully evaluating the cost). But we did see some gorgeous whitewater rapids, and the Kiddo enjoyed himself immensely... so I'll call it a win. Afterwards, we drove back to Durango, visited the fish hatchery (it's free!), strolled along the bike path, had homemade tacos full of fresh local ingredients at Zia Taqueria, and enjoyed a few pints at Ska Brewing. (Did I mention that we absolutely love, love, love Durango?)

I'm comfortable dangling this close to the edge of a bridge.
I am not comfortable being this close to so many people.
View from the bike path in Durango
The SuperTaco at Zia Taqueria in Durango was perfection
Day 4: We checked out of the condo and drove north to Ouray, known as the "Switzerland of America" because it's surrounded on three sides by impressively steep mountains. Before we were married, Fortysomething and I spent several days here holed up in a hotel room during a snowstorm. It was very romantic. You can imagine, then, that my memories were of the rose-colored-glasses variety. What we found as we re-acquainted ourselves with our old haunt was a town that, while still charming, seems somewhat tired and worn despite its eyebrow-raising price tags. The vibe was just... off somehow. Whereas Durango felt cheerful and energetic, Ouray felt like it was in need of a nice long nap.

The Kiddo proudly took this shot of Ouray
We ditched the crowds of Ouray and went to the next town over for a picnic lunch in a tree-shaded park. Later, we enjoyed a taco dinner at the delectable Taco del Gnar. Important side note: I would happily eat tacos every day at every meal for the rest of my life.

We stayed at a Comfort Inn that night and... I kind of wish we hadn't. It was fine, but at $155 a night, it was just too expensive. On the plus side, it did come with a full breakfast.

Day 5: I got up early to run at the track in downtown Ouray, and then we packed up the car to leave. A highlight of the trip home was a foray through Monument Valley, which is particularly spectacular when the monsoon clouds start rolling in.

Monument Valley

Breaking down the budget (and what we'll do differently next time)


Last summer, one of my big financial wins was taking a cross-country trip on the cheap. This trip was... not as budget-friendly. In the interest of full disclosure, here's a complete tally of our trip expenses:

Accommodations: $744 
Gas: $53.60
Food (including groceries and restaurants): $396.69
Activities and souvenirs: $188.71
Cat boarding: $102
Total: $1485

We exceeded our trip budget by more than $300, but instead of beating myself up about it (why ruin a perfectly enjoyable vacay by lamenting the budget in retrospect?), I'm just going to consider what we'll do differently next time:

  • The condo rental was comfortable and cozy, and I'm glad we stayed there. In the future, though, we'll pay more attention to fees that get tacked onto the initial cost. For example, the condo was listed at a reasonable $129/night, but the total price was jacked up thanks to an automatic $100 cleaning fee and a $57 service fee.
  • When (not if!) we go back to the glorious San Juans, we'll probably bring our camping gear and camp for a couple of nights to save money. I can handle that. Plus, now we know where the good local camping spots are.
  • We'll try to avoid expensive one-night hotel stays during the tourist season.
  • While I certainly want the Kiddo to help plan our activities and excursions, I'll research costs in more detail before saying yes to what he wants to do.

Thankfully, although we went over budget, it didn't break the bank and we didn't accrue any credit card debt in the process. We had some financial flexibility on this trip, and it felt rather luxurious. I can't remember the last time I went on vacation and didn't low-key panic about what we were doing to our finances.

In short, I couldn't have asked for a better vacation. Sure, I wish it had been longer, but we packed a surprising amount of activity and relaxation and fun into just a few days. I have a feeling that this trip is going to be a meaningful one for my family, one all three of us will remember fondly and talk about for years. 

In that sense, it was worth every single penny.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Our July 2018 Budget and Credit Card Zero Celebration!

First: We did it! We paid off the credit cards!



I'm still in semi-disbelief, but the credit card balances are now ALL at zero. The big moment happened the day before Independence Day:


Actually, it almost *didn't* happen, because the bonus we'd been planning to use for the final payoff didn't show up when it was supposed to. I got impatient, dragged the money over from our emergency fund, and insisted that we eliminate the remaining $1500 anyway. Boom! (Bonus arrived today, so I replenished the e-fund.)

The fact that we managed to meet this milestone, and well before we ever expected to, feels shocking in an is-this-really-happening (or as my former therapist would have coached me, did-we-really-make-this-happen) sort of way. It hasn't sunk in yet. Credit cards have been my ball-and-chain financial reality for so long that the idea of existing without carrying a balance seems... outside the realm of my understanding. And yet here we are!

July budget: Paying the minimums while we go have fun


As we mentioned a couple of posts ago, we're taking the month of July off from intensive debt repayment to celebrate our credit card win. This means that we'll be paying nothing beyond the minimums on our two student loans.  The rest of our disposable income will be used for a mini-vacation to the mountains and some kitchen supplies. 

Vacay means contending with the following expenses:
  • The cat needs to be boarded (because our friends are all away or not interested in hauling themselves across town to feed our charming little beast)
  • We need vacay lodging (I rented a somewhat reasonably-priced place through VRBO)
  • We'll be going out to eat more (but we'll also be eating meals at home in the rental)
  • We'll be doing some fun and not-free activities
Repeating to myself: I will keep it in budget. I will keep it in budget. I will keep it in budget.

Anyway, here's the July plan in all its messy glory.

July 2018 Budget:

Recurring Fixed Expenses:
  • Rent: $2100
  • Student loans: $650 
  • Phone bill: $78
  • Internet: $65
  • Auto and renter's insurance: $73
  • Thousand Trails: $108
  • Netflix: $13
Recurring Variable Expenses: 
  • Utilities: $180 (darn air conditioner... but it's been necessary the last couple of weeks)
  • Groceries: $800 (don't say it... I already know)
  • Gas in car: $150 (higher this month since we'll be road tripping)
  • Very Expensive Feline: $170 (boarding + vet fees - I am probably overestimating this)
  • Miscellaneous: $390
One-Time Expenses:
  • Vacation + home supplies: $1100
Total budget for July 2018: $5,877
Disease Called Debt

Sunday, July 1, 2018

June Goals: Win Some, Lose Some

June didn't work out quite the way I'd planned. Oh well.


I'm starting to think that unless we're making financial goals - on the whole, we're pretty good at meeting those - I should stop making goals at all. Or perhaps a better approach would be to label things as goals AFTER I've achieved them, similar to the way in which I create to-do lists that consist mostly of tasks I've already completed so that I get the satisfaction of crossing them off.

I don't think I'm doing goals or lists correctly. Can anyone relate?


Here's how I did with my June goals:

(1) Dry June: You may recall that I decided to stop drinking for a month. It was a really good idea for multiple reasons, one being that May was boozy and my liver needed a break. Unfortunately, this effort was a total failure. Okay, not a total failure: I made it about two weeks without imbibing. Then Anthony Bourdain died. I'm not sure why his passing hit me so hard; I've always liked him and respected his work, but I've never been one to get obsessed with celebrities. Like when Prince died, I just did. not. understand. why some of my friends were so upset about the death of someone they'd never met. Now I get it.

Anyway, Anthony Bourdain's death seemed to warrant a toast consisting of several beers. Right after that, the shitty news really hit the fan: I was beside myself upon reading that kids were being separated from their parents at the Mexico/U.S. border. And then the end of June brought the revelation that a Supreme Court justice is leaving, possibly endangering Roe vs. Wade... I'd already been panicking about the state of the country, but this month really put that panic into overdrive. Cue that glass of wine with dinner.

In short, I didn't meet the goal. On the other hand, I did drink significantly less than I did in May, so... yay?

New approach: instead of cutting out the booze completely, I'm going to adopt the approach of only drinking on the weekend. That's a goal I can meet.

(2) Paying off Credit Card #3: We planned to pay off our last credit card by the end of June, thanks to a handful of bonuses, a side hustle, and a family gift. As of today, we have a balance of $1500, but we'll pay that off tomorrow when the last bonus hits our bank account. So we didn't meet the goal exactly on time, but... we're still meeting the goal. I'm calling this a win.

(3) Increase in running mileage: This was not a clear, set June goal. I made it up just now. Turns out that I was super consistent throughout all of June, hitting the trails five days a week and logging a total of nearly 150 miles. My highest-mileage week was 40 miles. I suspect the fact that this was a difficult month played a role here, too. Running helps me process and compartmentalize information, and I was in serious need of processing and compartmentalizing. Running helps calm my mind, and since my mind seems to be in a constant state of worry these days, I'm running more.

I also worked on my goal to be more involved in the running community. I volunteered with the Couch-to-5K group on most weeks, except last week when I had to get my kid to soccer practice. I'll be volunteering with this program again in the fall.

Goals for July (if I dare to make them)




My main goal for July is to just enjoy it. I think I can handle that. Next week we're heading out of town for a mini-vacation, and I can't wait. I need a change of scenery. We're taking our son to a place in the mountains where Fortysomething and I have some history and where I feel inspired. When we come home, we'll be outfitting our house with some much-needed kitchen gear. What we won't be doing this month is obsessing about our debt: we'll make the minimum payments on the student loans, but other than that, our disposable income will be used for fun stuff. 

That said, another July goal will be to develop a strategy for debt repayment moving forward. Do we put the student loans on the back burner and build our emergency fund? Do we blaze forward with the loans and leave our little emergency fund as is? Do we try to split the difference? We need some time to think it through.

Lastly, running goals: I'd like to ramp up my mileage a little more (mostly via longer long runs) and select an ultrarun for the fall. For some reason, I've been very hesitant to actually sign up for a race, but given that I'm doing all this training, I need to go for it.

What about you? How did you do with your June goals, and what are your goals for July (if you do goals)? 

Step Into My Time Machine: Highlights Of My 30s

I turned 40 last month, and in the weeks leading up to the big day, I couldn't help but reflect on the previous decade. Overall, my...