When Plans Change Good Things Can Happen

When it comes to our homesteading journey we are at a point now that we’ve learned two lessons. One, things cost more than we thought they would. And two, things take longer to do than expected. Those combined can really impact a yearly goals list. You’ll see what I mean later.
2016 started out with making our Homestead Goals while we were on vacation on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina (my daughter keeps asking to go back so it was a great vacation). Our goals seemed easily achievable. I mean, look at this list, do you see anything that may not be possible?

  • Conquer Paperwork/Filing (this is a dreaded task! It seems never ending!)
  • Clear clutter
  • Be more organized (Tired of misplacing things and paperwork!)
  • Build chicken coop and get chickens
  • Build a pole barn (The husband has been wanting one for more years than I can remember)
  • Build a lean-to on the garage to protect firewood for winter
  • Improve the vegetable garden watering system; rely less on sprinklers
  • Set-up water catchment
  • New flooring for the basement
    * Cut two years’ worth of wood

 

We were all fired up to get started on this list. That is, until two weeks into the year and we completely did a complete overhaul. Here’s the revised list:

  • Conquer Paperwork/Filing
  • Clear clutter
  • Be more organized
  • Improve the vegetable garden watering system; rely less on sprinklers
  • Cut two years’ worth of wood
  • REDUCE DEBT

 

You see that last one? Yeah, that was huge. Anything that required a large amount of money was eliminated. Honestly, this has always been a goal of ours but we were going about it all wrong and NEVER made any headway.
So why did we choose to focus on this? Besides the obvious of the wish to be debt-free we want the security of it which translates to less stress. So how to begin the process? It all starts with knowing what debt you have, how much money you bring in, and making a plan.

 

This plan is called a budget. And no, it’s not a bad word. I think many people think of it as such because they’re in denial and they don’t want to face facts. Plus, it’s not fun to live within your means (translation, you have to be patient and SAVE money for those fun things you want to do – like a vacation, or for those toys you want). One of the best things I ever did was begin to listen to The Dave Ramsey Show podcast. From there we were gifted a copy of The Total Money Makeover . It was a quick read packed full of easy steps to follow.

 

We’ve been committed to becoming debt-free and meet weekly to review the expenses/budget document and create a new budget the last week of every month for the following month. Throughout the month we make notation of those things to be included in the next month’s budget. This is the only way for us to be sure we’re budgeting appropriately every month. And yes, before you ask, there are times that unexpected things come up. There is a line item in the budget every month called Unexpected. Sometimes when that happens and the amount in the line item doesn’t cover what’s needed, we’ll then revisit the budget to see what’s remaining and revise what we can to try to stay on task.
It seems that the moment we decided to get serious about kicking out our debt good things started coming our way. Our tax refund was much more than anticipated, my husband got a promotion, and we were give a free pole bard and shed. The catch was that they had to be dismantled ourselves. Our plan was to use those to achieve a couple goals (pole barn & chicken coop). Well, remember when I said that things take longer than expected? Yeah, that was definitely the case. My husband worked hard at dismantling them. Incidentally, he needed a new tool to remove the metal sheeting on the pole barn. That was something we had to budget for in order to purchase. We’ve completely stopped using credit cards.

 
He also worked hard on cutting firewood. A friend of ours contacted us about picking up a tree that had to be cut down at his in-law’s place. Again, this was another one of those good things because it didn’t cost a thing except time and it helped increase our wood stock. And they gave us a hand loading and unloading it.

 
The dismantling of the barn and shed and transporting (had to borrow a trailer that could accommodate the metal sheeting) to our property took a good portion of the year. The base for the shed was put in (basically sand to level the area) and the building of the shed began. The shed before dismantling wasn’t in the best of shape but the bones were good. We did have to replace the sheeting and a few other parts (again, that was budgeted). Right now, the shed is built and painted and patiently waiting for the walls, shelving, and nest boxes to be built inside.
So, with all that was going on, how did we do with the goals we set out to accomplish?

CONQUER PAPERWORK/FILING

As previously stated this was a dreaded task. Once I started thinking about it I realized that this goal and the BE MORE ORGANIZED goal were tied together. My struggle with being organized was tied directly to paper clutter. So I went old school and created a tickle file.  From there I also created folders for tax receipts and documents, medical documents/bills, and other pertinent short-term folders. These were all put into a Sterilite portable file box. This is now my portable office.

 
I still utilize my online family organizer (Cozi) but this works in conjunction with it. I can place any document in the respective folder and be able to find it in a flash when needed. Something else that helps clear the paper clutter is to go thru the mail every day as it comes in instead of throwing it in a pile to be handled later. The sooner I can get paper clutter out of my home the better. No more multiple hotspot piles to go thru, no more lost or misplaced bills, etc. I have a specific day every week (Mondays) that I pay bills and do any desk work. Desk work includes making appointments, filling out forms, etc.

 
Did I conquer all my paperwork? Heck NO! I still have recipes and information sheets/articles to organize. It would help if I’d quit printing them out. That’s a whole other issue.

CLEAR CLUTTER

We definitely made progress here, however, it’s an ongoing thing. I don’t think this is ever done as needs, wants, likes, and dislikes change over time. The daughter definitely got rid of a lot of toys and we have some things that we want to put up for sale. Now to just take pictures and get them up on Craigslist.

IMPROVE VEGETABLE GARDEN WATERING SYSTEM

This deserves a big check mark as done! My husband did a great job of developing different zones using soaker hose. No more overhead sprinklers which translates to less water usage and healthier plants. In addition, everything was mulched which meant less watering as well.

CUT TWO YEARS WORTH OF WOOD

This was mostly achieved. Definitely gathered enough wood but didn’t get it all cut. Mainly due to the time it took to dismantle the pole barn.

REDUCE DEBT

Yes, we definitely made progress here. And it feels so good to have made strides to be debt-free.
Before I move on, I wonder what you consider to be debt. Do you consider a car lease debt? A mortgage? Definitely mortgage is a debt and the sooner it’s paid off the better. I want my house to be free and clear (with the exception of property taxes. We can’t do anything about that). I do consider a car lease to be debt for the sole reason that you pay monthly, when you turn it in you pay a turn in fee, and you get nothing to show for it. You’ve essentially signed a long-term note to rent a vehicle. You don’t truly own it. Unfortunately, that was something we hadn’t truly thought about until last year. That’s why we’ve been saving to purchase a new to us truck without getting a loan. It may not be the newest and prettiest model but until all other debt is gone there’s no reason to waste money to keep up with the Jones’.

I can hear you asking how much we actually reduced our debt by. Are you ready for it? I know I was shocked when I ran the numbers at the beginning of January. Just over $17,000! I don’t think we’ll be able to achieve the same numbers in 2017 (for the aforementioned reason that we need to purchase a truck) but I’m confident that we’ll still make some progress.
What’s in store for 2017?

2017 Goals

We plan to continue with a couple of the goals that we made progress on in 2016.

  1. Reduce Debt
  2. Conquer Paperwork/Filing (recipes/informational documents)
  3. Clear clutter
  4. Get Chickens!
  5. Purchase truck
  6. Build hoop house
  7. Purchase or make hoops to use row cover for season extension
  8. Try new things/skills: ie. Make & dry homemade pasta, Make soap, etc.
  9. Cut enough wood for 2 years
    10. Build lean-to
    Did I mention that we’ve decided not to put up the pole barn that hubby had dismantled? Where we were going to place it we’ve learned has poor drainage and in the spring is a soupy mushy mess. So, the materials will be used for other building projects like the lean-to. Just another way we’re saving money in the effort to eliminate our debt.
    I can tell you right now we’re on target to meeting our goals. The key when setting goals is to make them achievable and not over-reaching. I think we’ve accomplished that this year and I’m hopeful that in January 2018 I can say “We did it! We completed all our goals!”

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Michelle is a stay at home Mom to a wonderful daughter and wife to a terrific husband. She is also a homesteader, gardener, scrapbooker/cardmaker, crafter, 4-H leader for a crafting club and a shooting sports club, as well an active CERT member. Additionally, she’s also a freelance copy editor and virtual assistant at mdh-services.com.

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