Do you get into March Madness?

I do!

I’ve submitted a bracket for at least the last 10 years. I’ve played in a bunch of different pools with different rules and I have a habit of doing pretty well. I’ve never won a pool, but finishing in the top 3 is not uncommon and I also seem to have an excellent ability to land in 4th place (JUST out of the money).

This year, because I was feeling responsible… Ok, Ok, because my husband was feeling responsible, we didn’t enter a pool that had money involved. When the brackets were released, he suggested that we hold off this year. Any money I’ve ever won has never been significant and it just felt right to keep the money we have instead of risking it.

What a good decision! This is the worst I’ve EVER done. I am in absolutely dead last in my free family pool and there is no hope of improvement.

With no money on the line and my bracket totally busted, I think I’ve had more fun. It’s been a great year for Cinderella stories! I’ve been rooting for the underdogs. Duke losing in the first round?? That’s Crazy! Dayton’s impressive run? Go Flyers!  (Confession: I had to look up what their mascot was.)

I’m excited to see how it all finishes.

Best money I’ve saved in a long time.

How is your bracket doing? Is there a Non-US equivalent to the craziness of March Madness?


A trip to the Apostle Island Ice Caves!

This winter has been brutal. I’m typically not one to get bogged down by the weather, but these last few months have really gotten to me. Cold like this isn’t that unusual where I live, but the fact that it got cold and stayed cold is quite an anomaly.  I can tolerate -20F to -30F (-29C to -34C) for a few days so long as it is followed by a random sunny or above 0F (-17C) day. I’ve been deprived of my winter “bright spots” this year!

To battle the cold, my husband and I decided to do what any person sick of the subzero temperatures would do…

Plan a 6-mile hike on a frozen lake! IMG_8033

With all the press lately about the Apostle Island Ice Caves, we  knew we had to make the trip. We ended up getting really lucky with the weather while we were there. The wind was low and it was the warmest weekend the ice caves were open all winter. Warm still meant below 32F (0C), but with the sun shining, we had no complaints.


Planning a trip in the middle of debt repayment wasn’t the best idea I’ve had in a while, but I was determined to do it on a budget. Our spending is broken down below.

– Accommodation: $118. We stayed two nights at an AirBnb. This was our first AirBnb experience and we were pleasantly surprised! It was a little weird getting used to the idea of staying in a stranger’s home, and our families have given us some curious looks when we tell them where we stayed, but we are up to do it again! At that price, its hard to say no!

-Gas: $70. It took a tank and a half of gas in my fuel efficient car. We probably could have saved a little gas by driving less, but our stupid stupid GPS got us horribly lost in the backwoods of Northern Wisconsin. (When we realized how horribly astray our GPS had taken us, we pulled over on the “shoulder” of the road to figure out where we were. Take note: the “shoulder” of the road may not be stable ground! There was maybe 6 inches of actual road, but the rest was a 3 foot deep ditch that was filled with snow! Thank you to the kind souls that towed my teeny car back out onto the road!). We also drove an extra 50 miles to visit Bayfield, Wisconsin.

-Food: $51. This includes dinner on the drive up, stops for cold caffeine both mornings (I know I know, plan ahead), 2 hot dogs waiting in line for the shuttle to the caves, and dinner on Saturday night.

-Shuttle: $8. Round trip shuttle to the caves, saving an additional 6 miles of walking. Money well spent!

Total: $247

Not bad for a quick weekend away. It was a nice getaway from life back home. Because Lake Superior doesn’t freeze over like it did this year very often, it was also fun to know that we saw something that may not come around again for a while.



Have you done anything fun to cope with this winter? 

Pre-Easter Challenge

As some of you may have noticed, yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In the grand scheme of things, I can’t say that this day is all that important to me. If my desk calendar hadn’t informed me, it probably would have just passed me by. So while I don’t adhere to the traditional observance of Lent, I do believe there is a solid principle behind it.– “Giving Up Luxury”

How am I going to apply this? What am I going to give up?

Well, going through my budget last month, I confirmed my suspicions that I have a budget leak. This leak struck me 6 times last month, twice more than I planned for and 6 times more than I needed.  It is a temptation I face everyday and one I’d love to be more diligent about because it is SO EASY  to submit to it. 

I have a weakness.

Confession: I Love Chipotle. 

You know, the Mexican Grill that serves up burrito-y goodness and food glory wrapped in foil. My love for Chipotle reached an unhealthy level a few years ago, and it keeps rising.

I’ve been pretty good about limiting my indulgences since I started my new job, but there is a Chipotle in my building for goodness sake! How am I supposed to resist!? The funny part is that I can resist the one where I work. I’ve only been to that one twice and I was thoroughly disappointed both times. The service was poor, the portions were small (how is that even possible for Chipotle??) and the employees were rude.  I don’t like to support businesses like that so I’ve been boycotting ever since my second trip confirmed my first rude experience.

The problem is that there is another Chipotle a short 10 minute walk from my desk. This Chipotle is wonderful and I’ve never been disappointed in the 3 years I’ve been giving them my money. How can I turn down their delicious food and smiling faces? It’s just a $6.92 investment for a happy tummy. I consider that an excellent investment. (To make matters worse, there is another Chipotle about a 15 minute walk away from me. I’m surrounded!)

Great….now I want Chipotle. 

 6 trips to Chipotle at $6.92 each cost me $41.52 this month. Even if I was able to drop it down to once a week, that would still be $27.68/month. That’s a lot of money to be spending on the satisfaction of rice and beans (and the other magic they put in there). 

So for Lent this year, I’m giving up Chipotle. I’m also giving up eating out for lunch during the work week. Monday through Friday, I will be brown bagging it to work. (My lunch box is actually an adorable purple paisley pattern, but purple paisley-ing it to work just doesn’t have the same ring to it!)

If I can skip Chipotle over the next 40 days, I will save approximately $62.28 in lunches and I can proudly put that towards my loans. 

A $62 loan payment never sounded so difficult to earn, but I’m up for the challenge!

What about you? Do you have any budget leaks you are trying to plug?