What We Save Each Month

I have not been looking forward to writing this post nor did I finish it in one sitting.  Money is such an awkward subject to discuss with strangers especially when it is about your personal finances, however, I think it is necessary here for us.  Our adventure of living in a fifth wheel has the specific purpose of us saving money in order to put a $100,000 down payment on a house, so I think it is important for you to see how we do that.

Let's start with our fixed bills while we lived in Indianapolis then look at our fixed bills living in the fifth wheel.

May 2016 - House

Rent: $1755
Electricity: $146.91
Gas: $115.99
Water: $28.95
Garbage: $38.97
Sewer: $45
Cable, Internet, Home phone/fax: $190.52
Student Loans: Natasha - $726.28  Cody - $161
State Farm: $220 (This includes insurance for our vehicles, golf cart, fifth wheel, renter's insurance and life insurance)
Truck Payment: $611
Health Insurance: $710
Tuition for Private School: $1000 ($12,000 yearly for 2 children broken into monthly payments)

Our cellphone bills are a business expense so that is not something we pay each month.  Also you can see that I did not include groceries, clothes, household items, beauty supplies, fuel, etc.

Total Fixed Bills in House: $5749.62

June 2016 - Fifth Wheel

Storage Unit: $269
Student Loans: Natasha - $726.28  Cody - $161
State Farm: $220 (This includes insurance for our vehicles, golf cart, fifth wheel, renter's insurance and life insurance)
Truck Payment: $611
Health Insurance: $845 (This amount changed because we moved to a new state and had to purchase different policies)

Total Fixed Bills in Fifth Wheel: $2782.28

What We Save Each Month: $2967.34

If we live in our fifth wheel for a year, which is about the time frame we are looking at, we will have saved $35,608.08 in fixed expenses alone and that doesn't even include the typical amount we are currently budgeting for each month to go into savings.

We are not looking to save the whole $100,000 while living in the fifth wheel, as we have already saved $60,000 before even living in the fifth wheel, however we do not only want to have $100,000 in savings and use it all on a house.  We would like to have more than that in savings so that when we use our down payment we still have emergency money in the bank.

As you can see from our numbers our expectation of putting $100,000 down on a house is very doable within the timeframe we have set.  As I have said before though, we do not know what curveballs life may throw our way so these are just our hopes and expectations if life goes according to plan and God continues to bless our finances the way He has been.

I felt the need to share the financial benefits of our journey because it is the whole reason for this adventure but it's an uncomfortable topic so I am done discussing it now. Whew....awkward finance post over!!

Gulf Shores, Alabama - Swimming with Dolphins

Written by Cody

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to wake up to an alarm…. Not really, but I knew today was a big day for the other half. She is very serious about her bucket list and one of the things on it is to swim with dolphins. Call me an ole farm boy, but I have never had the urge to get in the water with a giant sea mammal. I know they are no whale, but still huge compared to the foot long fish I have handled at best.
It was a pretty early rise to throw on our swim suits and some over cloths comb the fangs (brush teeth) and roll. Roll has become quite the popular saying with yours truly after being in Alabama for a few days. Roll tide roll!! It was a bit of a rainy morning, but there was nothing bringing the mood down when it came to playing with dolphins as the outcome. There was a long three hour drive. Not just a normal interstate set the cruise and roll, no this was stop and go right near the cost slow and go driving. The highlight of the drive was finding Flora-bama and stopping at McDonalds to grab a southern biscuit breakfast which we do not have in the Midwest.
Long drive, but we made it. Tosh has a great love of being early, not being a little early, but being two hours and 800 minutes early. I had a feeling this place was not huge and their highlight was their dolphins, but did not voice this to the other half. We got signed in and pointed to the right direction when the time came for our plunge with the giant fishes…. The swim with dolphins… one in the same I thought. The place we were attending this at was called Gulf World in Panama City FL. Should probably throw that out there in case any would like to attend this as well. We walked around for a bit checking out their great exotic bird collection and their small, but cool aquarium area. They had very interesting shows and different feedings or small sharks, tortoises, and seals. Let me tell you their dolphin exhibit was spot on. Before we swam they had a show in the dolphin tank. It was spectacular! We have seen a few at other larger aquariums and they got nothing on this place. The trainers got in with the dolphins and played for parts. It was very awesome.
A few after the show was over, it was our time to get in. The program said there could be up to 20 people in our group. This made me worried about time and being freaked out by large fish in front of people. On a side not, I would like to throw out there that I completely understand that dolphins like whales are mammals not fish. Fish takes much less time to type the large sea dwelling mammals. Any who, the group was about 16. It was split up into to two smaller groups with four dolphins used. Two males on one end with one trainer and an assistant also with a photo taker. The other side was two females with the same trainer and helpers. I was chosen as a volunteer to swim out to do the foot push. I am always down for being a guinea pig, but I swim like a kid who didn’t get in a pool for the first time until he was in middle school. I don’t call is swimming I call it surviving. The dolphins pushing be was crazy awesome. The power they have and they almost balanced be as they pushed. It was so cool!
We did our poses and did another fin grab pull thing, all insanely awesome, but the best was the hug. To feel the size and the weight of the dolphin was like nothing else. Another thing that I would like to mention was the trainers and their connection with their animals. 

Gulf Shores, Alabama - Our First Full Day of No Traveling

DAY THREE!! Told by Cody.

Woke up ready to run. The RV was perfectly level with everything outside hooked up running smoothly. I am sure that Natasha had mentioned it in the last post, but the Bay Breeze camp ground is gorgeous and the owners are just down right good people.

Once we got rolling and out the door. We made a stop in to the office to pay our bill, but ended up getting some great advise on local eateries and where the nearest fresh fish market is. We paid and off to do what my other half loves to do more than anything, SHOP!

Ten minutes up the road with one right turn is the main drag of Gulf Shores, AL. I am sure anyone who drives a full size large truck knows the struggle of parking in congested areas. I can honestly say that this area had no issues with parking. If you couldn’t get a spot in the lot of your destination there was a spot close.

There was one store that was all the rage on the net. Souvenir City has an awesome shark mouth you walk into when entering. It was very busy, but what do you expect in the summer in a touristy area. The place was hectic to navigate, but I thought the cashiers had it figured out. They would announce an open register and get you out of there ASAP. Good communication makes for a speedy stop. Next place we hit was just next door. The…… another souvenir spot. Typically, those type spots have the same stuff. These two had the same sort of stuff, but different at the same. The third stop was a surf shop. It had very cool shirts and hats, I bought one of each. Right now Tosh has me on a tank top kick, I picked up a couple of those as well. Got some goodies for the kids.

After the shopping spree came lunch. One of my personal favorite times of the day. We were going to hit a local spot call Steamers. It wasn’t gross and wasn’t fancy. It was absolutely my style. We ordered some oysters for appetizers then a seafood steamer plate built for two. Down in AL they know how to feed you. Built for two meant three would have been satisfied, but We, by that I mean I, pressed through. While stuffing my face I was reminded of a time I was in a nice restaurant with my dad when I lived in Cincinnati. He was not using the best manners and I became very frustrated. If my dad reads this I am sorry for getting mad. I felt so bad for Tosh. I was like a man who had not eaten in days. Peeling and stuffing my face.

We still had some shopping to do on the way back to the RV. The kind of camping that I am more comfortable with. Grocery store and fish market were all that was on the list. I do not remember the name of the grocery store, but it was just like Shnucks or a nice Kroger. The fish market me hit was exactly what you would expect from a home town type shop. It wasn’t quite like something out of Forest Gump, but the guys that ran it were nice and family like. Like we had known them for some time. Not only did that shop offer fresh seafood, but they also did boils with gumbo to go.

Back at the camper, we unloaded and organized the camper. While talking to the owners of the park a mention of a local’s beach was brought up. It was said to be just a couple miles down the road on the right. How hard could that be? Three U turns later and a log drive back into a wild life refuge that had three too many don’t feed the alligators signs, we found the beach. Just a 100 yard walk from the parking lot.

An hour on the beach was good for both of us. I love the sun and water, but not a huge fan of sand. Packed up and made the quick 6 minute drive back to the RV. There, it was clean up time and time for relaxation. Dinner was going to be one of those delicious sounding boils up around the corner. Took about thirty minutes to get made up. Gave me plenty of time to whip up some of my homemade French bread.

Sat down for dinner and once again it happened. I went embarrassingly going cave man style on some seafood. Both with full bellies and it getting late, the night was setting on the first full day in Gulf Shores, AL.

Hillsboro, Alabama to Gulf Shores, Alabama

Today was much better than yesterday but to be fair God blessed us yesterday too but overall today seemed to be much smoother.  We left Hillsboro a bit later than we had hoped because after I woke up in the middle of the night it took both Cody and me awhile to fall back asleep so we slept in longer than usual (we didn't set an alarm...ughhh).

Once we were on the road driving was a breeze however because we still work while on the road we had to stop at a truck stop to not only eat lunch and fuel up but get some much needed work done.  Unfortunately the internet there was not stellar and our cell service did not get decent signal so we couldn't hotspot Cody's phone, which is usually what we do. 

After getting back on the interstate it looked like we were making great time and would get to our destination well before 6pm (which is the latest the RV park accepts new customers).  During the drive a car came up next to us and when we rolled the window down the nice couple told us that our sewage line was coming out of the bumper....looks like we lost the cap for the sewage line holder thing on the bumper...oops!  We pulled over and took care of it.  Then back on the road still making great time and then our GPS alerts us that there has been an accident on the interstate and there is a 2 hour delay.  We did not have time for a 2 hour delay if we wanted to get to the RV park before 6pm so we started looking for alternate routes.  Now my iPhone is no help when it comes to that because the Maps app for iPhone is awful.  Using Cody's Android I found a route that seemed to be better but we were not sure if the route had any low clearances that would not accommodate our height, which is 13'6.  So we crossed our fingers and went that route.  Luckily we had no trouble with height although the roads were narrow.

We called the RV park and told them we were running a few minutes behind and did not think we would be there by 6pm and thankfully they were so flexible and told us a route that would be best to go and they waited well longer than they had to for us.  Thank you...thank you...thank you Bay Breeze RV.  When we pulled in they were very helpful and so nice.  I will be saying a prayer tonight for them for God to shower them in His blessings.

We got settled in and headed to the beach after sunset.  It was beautiful.  A nice breeze by the water while enjoying a cold beer after a long day of traveling with the man I love...life is good!!!

Homer, Ilinois to HIllsboro, Alabama

Our first day of our trip was an eventful day for sure.  It was the first day of our Gulf Shores trip.  We left the farm at around 9am with the expectation we would arrive at an RV site in Alabama at about 5pm.  God had other plans for us though.

Our first stop was a little after noon to grab lunch at a truck stop and to fill up the truck.  After doing both we walked outside to head back to the truck when Cody notice something dragging under the fifth wheel.  Upon further inspection he realized the bottom of the “extreme weather package” had come apart and the insulation under the RV was coming out.  Luckily Cody always brings a tool box when we travel so he was able to temporarily fix the problem.  After about a half hour of that we were back on the road.

At some point of our drive a truck came up next to us and was trying to get Cody’s attention.  Cody realized the guy was trying to tell him something about our bikes that we had on the bike rack on the back of the fifth wheel.  We pulled over on the interstate and Cody checked it out.  Somehow the hitch on the fifth wheel broke and the bike rack was not being held onto the back right so one of the bike wheels was dragging and it is bald now.  Cody took the bikes off the rack and put them in the RV and took the bike rack off the hitch and put it in the bed of the truck.  We were off again after another short delay.

As we were getting off the interstate to go to our destination Cody’s truck alerted him that he had only 30 miles to empty.  We were about 9 miles from our destination so we decided to head there and drop the RV off then go to the gas station.  Unfortunately, the truck decided to jump from 30 miles to 25 miles then to 20 miles until empty within the span of 2 miles.  We were worried we wouldn’t make it to the destination let alone back to the gas station.  When we pulled into our site for the night the truck said 8 miles until empty.  I as explaining to the lady at check in the situation and she as gracious enough to let us use a can of diesel she had.  What a sweet woman!  Shout out to Wheeler Lake KOA in Hillsboro, Alabama!!  By the time we got to the gas station the truck said 0 miles until empty.  That was scary but we made it.

We headed back to the site for the night to set up camp.  When I opened the door to the RV I noticed glass EVERYWHERE.  I started the process of opening the slides and that’s when I realized that one of the cupboards opened up during our trip.  It happened to be the cupboard that I put my Pyrex bakeware in and that is what fell out and broke everywhere.  Luckily replacing those will not be expensive.

At about 8pm we were finally set up and decided not to cook for the night and just eat some leftovers.  We finished a movie we had started watching the previous day and went to bed.  A few hours later I woke Cody up yelling in my sleep and he shook me awake.  Without getting into details about the dream let’s just say it was spiritual in nature and as I told Cody about it he said let’s pray about it.  He laid his hands on me and he prayed for me.  I just love that quality about him.  His go to in all situations is to pray.

Overall, it was a hectic day but God got us to our destination safely.  I look forward to the rest of our trip.

Preparing for Our First Summer Trip

In 2 days we leave for our first summer trip in the fifth wheel.  Cody and I are headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It is about an 11 hour drive.  We will drive about 7 hours the first day and stay in Tennessee overnight then head to Alabama the next day.  The trip will total 10 days.  I will write a post when we get back that documents the adventure. 

The part of the trip I am most excited about is when we go to Florida and swim with dolphins.  Swimming with dolphins is on my bucket list so I get to cross one more thing off of it.  Below is a picture of my bucket list.

I Love Illinois

LOVE living in Illinois! 

Check out how I made this wine glass by clicking here.

How I Turned My Dresser into a Makeup Vanity

Going from a 4,200 square foot home to a fifth wheel can be a bit of an adjustment.  One thing I liked about having a large home is having a large bathroom that had a vanity where I would get ready in the morning.  I'd do my makeup and my hair while sitting comfortably at the vanity.  Unfortunately, the fifth wheel does not have a vanity so I decided to utilize what we had to create a similar space.

First, I was lucky that our fifth wheel has a small dresser in the bedroom.  Below you can see what I had to work with, a small dresser directly under a window with a TV above it.  This photo has been brightened so you can really see the area before I did anything to it however the lighting in the bedroom was minimal, especially when the blinds were closed.

My first step was to add some lighting to the area.  I did not know exactly what or how I was going to do this so I just went to Menards to see what the options were.  I wanted to do this project myself without Cody's help even though I know he would have done it if I had asked.

At Menards I found simple track lighting that I could do myself and because the area has an available outlet I could just plug it in.

I bought a 2 foot track, 3 lights, and a live end that plugs into an outlet.

I put the live end on the end of the track and used a drill to screw the track into the base of the TV mounting area.

I used the drill to drill a hole big enough for the outlet to fit through to be plugged in behind the TV.

I ended up adding two tracks of lighting and then ordering a wireless light switch so that I can just push a light switch on the wall and the lights come on.

After I had all this amazing, much needed lighting I bought a mirror at Lowes that was the size I needed.  I kind of just slipped it under the valance and used my vanity tray to keep it from sliding down.

I turned the mirror around when taking the pictures because I didn't think anyone wanted to see a picture of me in the mirror taking a picture of the mirror.

The above picture is without the track lighting on and the below picture is with it on.

I bought a fold up chair from IKEA for less than $10 and I keep it folded up against the wall when I am not using my vanity however when I am using it there is just enough space to sit down and do my makeup in front of the vanity.