February 2020: the one where everything happens

Literally, everything happened in February.

Remember that time we just moved a few months ago?

The first weekend of the month saw my partner and I visiting my parents. The reason we were there? To look at potential rental properties in my hometown (and to meet our realtor face-to-face. Fun fact: she’s sold two houses for my parents and helped them buy two of the three houses they’ve lived in since moving to my hometown, so yeah, she came highly recommended!).

While there, for shits and giggles, we went to an open house in the neighborhood behind my parents’ house because it looked like a nice place, even if it was too expensive for a rental. It was even nicer in person than it was in the photos, which were gorgeous.

Life comes at you fast. My partner and I spent the entire five hour drive back up to DC (my throat was sore by the end of the evening) talking about moving to my hometown (as well as still looking for rental properties). Because we liked that house we saw. We really liked it. To the point that my partner sent out emails for me while I was driving reaching out to the mortgage lenders our realtor recommended so that, for funsies, we could see what I would get pre-approved for on my own (so we could use my cash for that house as our primary residence and my partner’s for a rental property). We spent the Super Bowl filling out each lender’s pre-approval form, and one of them got back to me on Monday morning. We submitted an offer for that house Monday evening.

They didn’t accept our offer, but the search has continued. We’ve also offered on another house there since then (and moved away from the rental property search for the time being), which also wasn’t accepted. So there’s that.

Mid-month sunshine

Mid-month my partner and I took a very long weekend to fly out to Arizona. While there we saw a bunch of cacti, got in some hikes, visited a new national park (boom, a 2020 goal done!), saw some sunrises and sunsets, didn’t get a lot of sleep (we suck at relaxing on vacation!), wore short sleeves while everyone else was walking around in sweatshirts because omg 60 degrees is so chilly for them!!, played board games with Done By Forty, and went hiking with Bethany and Charles from His and Her FI.

Nothing else really of note happened on the trip.

Oh wait…

Rock acquisition

My sneaky partner (who was being SO WEIRD that morning and on the hike up) decided to surprise me at the top of the highest mountain in the western section of Saguaro National Park. Yes, we’ve both known we’d get engaged eventually, but did I expect it at all on the hike/on the trip/in the immediate future? Absolutely not.

So illegally I left the park with a rock that I didn’t have when I entered, oops!

I’ll be quite up front here: no, my ring is not a diamond because I’ve never wanted one. It’s a moissanite, which is lab-grown so way better for the environment and ridiculously cheaper than a diamond, AND my partner (hey, saying partner means I don’t now need to make the switch from “boyfriend” to “fiancé” FIANCÉ IS SUCH A WEIRD WORD TO SAY) bought it during a pre-Valentines’ Day sale so he got it for even less money. And yes we are frugal weirdos here so buying an engagement ring on sale is a pretty dang sexy move to make. Just think of all the money we saved that can now be used for a potential downpayment or haha to sit on in the event of a global economic meltdown!

Plus moissanite’s more sparkly than a diamond and who isn’t on board with that?? 🤷‍♀️

Not an engagement trip

“Oh, you went on a nice vacation somewhere, of course you were going to get engaged/I knew it was going to happen!” is something multiple people have told me. Not so fast, y’all. First off, when we booked the trip a few months ago it was primarily a trip for us to check out Arizona to see if we liked it enough to move there. Remember we were thinking about doing so last year but decided to maybe cohabitate first in our current location before adding in the stress of a cross-country move on top of that! Circumstances have changed since we booked it—in that we are now primarily thinking about moving to my hometown—but we still wanted to go check out the area.

And secondly, winter fucking sucks and escaping it was also a point of the trip. Just because I’m now engaged does NOT mean I won’t ever take a vacation to a nice warm, sunny locale during the worst season of the year. Right up until I become a snowbird and then I no longer have to deal with winter!

Plus we’ve got the Southwest companion pass now so for the rest of this year and next we fly for half the price! Why wouldn’t we go on vacation?

Cacti are pretty rad

The other, more usual stuff

February also saw a lot of hiking.


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Hike 3/52 was in Rock Creek to see an old favorite (hi, Boulder Bridge!) and check out a new spot that’s been on my list for years: the location of some marble stones that were taken off the Capitol during a renovation about 50 years ago and eventually dumped unceremoniously in a pile in the park to sit. It was strangely creepy and despite the fact that there were a few other hikers around, I felt the need to talk quietly (probably also because the feeling of forbiddenness was heightened by the fact that I’m a rule-follower at heart and we DID walk right past a “no entrance” sign to get some photos 😬 #diditforthegram?). Score one for completed DC bucket list items!

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Capitol stone ruins

Sadly we only got two hikes in while in Arizona. We were hoping to add in a few other hikes to our 7 mile one and call those mini-hikes another hike in themselves, but we only added about two more miles (both other trails we went on were very short!), so we didn’t feel like that was enough extra to count as a separate hike (and we were too hungry and tired and gross to search out another short hike). We’re stalled out at five hikes for the year of our 52 because the weather has been cold here, and when it hasn’t been we’ve been busy.


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Hike 5/52 was one for the books. We woke up before sunrise on my birthday so we could get out to Saguaro National Park (a new national park means I can cross off one of my 2020 goals!) early and complete our 7 mile hike up the highest mountain in the west portion of the park before it got too hot and sunny for our pale east coast skin to bear. (Winter suuuuuucks. Which was one of the reasons for visiting Arizona in February. Sunshine is GREAT ☀️) . Walking through a forest of giant saguaro was surreal and utterly gorgeous. We also got to see the very first bits of the spring wildflower bloom 🌼🌵 . Once we had climbed 3.5 miles up to the top, we had the peak to ourselves for a bit. Which is how I ended up leaving the park with a rock I didn’t have when I entered Saguaro!!!! 💍

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I was supposed to be busy with chorus all next weekend but we’ve cancelled our concert due to COVID-19 concerns. With a free weekend (I wasn’t on the schedule for work thanks to concert things), we should be able to get in a fair amount of hiking to help catch up on our deficit.

State of the side hustle

As quickly as my Rover gigs came, they’ve now gone. I was unavailable for lunch break dog walking for a week thanks to vacation and since getting back to town I haven’t been contacted by the people I was walking for for two months.

The loss of income sucks (although that’s less money I’ll have to pay self-employment taxes on!), but it’s also kind of a relief. Work has transitioned into a much more stressful situation lately and I was running myself a bit ragged trying to fit dog walking in between meetings (a 15 minute walk doesn’t seem far until you’re half-running back to the office trying to both make it back in time for a meeting and also not get too sweaty and gross!).

I guess you could say I’m doubling down on my full-time job as my new side hustle. Specifically because as work has been getting stressful, I’ve been working longer days. And since I’m an hourly employee (THANK GOD), that means I’ve been getting paid overtime.

Not time and a half overtime: we work a 35 hour week and time and a half overtime doesn’t kick in until 40 hours (although last week, for the first time ever, I did clock in over 40 hours and will have an amazing paycheck to show for it). But extra time over 35 hours is still a bigger paycheck for me, especially since for our purposes any hours over 35 don’t accrue benefits, which means they don’t get retirement contributions taken out (aka 41% of my gross pay). I’ll pay more in taxes per hour for hours 35-40 since there are no pre-tax deductions taken, but that still equates to more take-home pay per hour.

I’ve been getting in the vicinity of an extra $50 per week of extra pay so even though February wasn’t an extra paycheck month, my income is still higher than normal.

The numbers

Rent $700.00
Internet and utilities $51.80
Groceries $196.08 Slightly better than January, but clearly we’re trending upward from my previous baseline of $150
Restaurants/bars $80.72
Gas $27.38 Driving down to NC means I need to actually buy gas
Transportation $6.68 It’s a long story that I tweeted about, but it involves a missing package that happened to contain the smaller size of my engagement ring and a Lyft from the post office to work
Barre membership $104.94
Misc dues/subscriptions $35.05 Patreon, etc.
Misc household goods $176.15
Personal care $35.00
Vacation $251.58 Most of this was our rental car (sorry, rental minivan because they were out of cars 😑) and gas, as well as food
Charitable giving $75.00
Blog spending $13.16 Domain name renewal
Taxes $12.95 I had to pay to file my DC taxes since myfreetaxes.com changed things up and I couldn’t file for free with them thanks to the 1099 I had for the first few months of the year before I became a W-2 employee at my second job
Wedding $6.55 A new spending category! This was for a used wedding planning book from Thriftbooks that I didn’t feel like buying new. Sadly this number will only increase when we start planning in earnest
Total spending: $1,773.04
Paychecks and other income $1944.58 Not an extra paycheck month, but I’ve had extra in my paycheck
Retirement contributions $1905.40 (which you can tell because my retirement contributions don’t outweigh my paycheck, even though I didn’t lower my percentage)
Side hustle income (second job) $682.07 Lots of work in January, for which I got paid in February
Other side hustle income (Rover) $228.00 This is on the downswing
Cash back $39.32
Total income: $4,799.37
Total: $3,026.33
Savings rate: 63%

Not too shabby!

Tune in next time for what should be a way less eventful month, especially since wedding planning is A LOT.

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