Victory Garden Build

Homestead Hygge-lism

We have seeds started and plants growing but nowhere to put them.  This weekend was the time to remedy this.  After talking to our awesome landlord, we had the all clear to dig away.  We did a rough layout of how we wanted to plant our vegetables and decided on a small garden, roughly 3 ½’ x 7’ (1 x 2 meters).  

This was a perfect opportunity for a little homesteading practice, and a great time for some warm weather hygge moments.  Typically hygge is thought of as a warm drink with a comfortable blanket watching the cold wind blow outside.  Hygge is not just reserved for the colder months though.  A nice sunny, warm day with the whole family working together building a garden bed that will eventually produce vegetables that we will all enjoy and we all had a hand in growing is just such a moment.

Unfortunately, prior to our move we left most of our landscaping tools behind.  We did not expect to have a need for them on a rental property.  A quick bike ride with a backpack solved that dilemma, but for the rest of what we needed we were determined to re-purpose what we already had on hand.

My wife found a bed frame last fall that was being given away, we are transforming it into a bench, which I will be posting about, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.  Anyway, between the leftover wood from that and some worn out lumber from around what will one day be a water feature, yet another upcoming post, we were able to piece together a border for the entire garden bed.  It’s not the prettiest, but it is pretty awesome.

Charlie Approved.

While I got started clearing the grass layer off of our garden area, my wife and kids worked on saving as much of the top soil from the clumps of grass as they could.  We worked together through the morning, stopped for lunch and finished up in the early afternoon.  Proud of our accomplishment and all with a sense of ownership in what we were doing, left my wife and I optimistic about the proposition of running a homestead one day with our boys.

The next morning, after further garden layout planning, we determined that perhaps an extension to what we did the day before would be better than a separate garden bed for the additional plants that we planned.  After the practice from the day before, we accomplished this extension with no problem and in no time, utilizing some more of our reclaimed wood.

Raking, sifting, watering, this garden bed is ready and waiting for plants and seeds the next morning.

We determined the plant companions and the most efficient way to utilize the amount of sun and the shade that the plants would cast.  We pre-placed the plants in their pots next to the garden and started digging holes.  Everyone had their chance to plant a few veggies.

All told we were able to get strawberries, lettuce, spinach, peppers, tomatoes, peas, beans and cucumbers planted, watered and mulched.  All we will still need to add is lattice for the cucumbers and beans to climb as they grow.  

We had a few extra beans, spinach and a strawberry started without any room for them.  On the property is a neat little spiral garden feature that was used to grow herbs it seems, there are a couple rosemary plants still growing on the top section of it.  We planted our extra plants in the spiral.  The rosemary was conveniently used to aid in pest control of our new garden bed as well.  By cutting a handful of 8-9” stalks and peeling off the bottom couple inches of needles before sticking them into the ground you can regenerate complete rosemary bushes.

The Victory Garden is done, a little regular care and attention and we will be feasting off of its production in no time.  The whole family is all in on it, and excited to reap the rewards.  A wonderful, sustainable, hygge, Spring, weekend, family activity. 

Wish us luck! I will let you know how it turns out.

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Contemplating Homesteading

Should This Be The New Normal?

This may sound strange, but our family has actually kind of enjoyed these last couple months on lock down.  While people all over the world are going stir crazy, protesting and just plain acting foolish, we have been slowing down and enjoying our already simple hygge-lism life.

Now don’t get me wrong, we have had to cancel a couple vacation getaways, and that is a bummer.  We planned on thoroughly taking advantage of our time in Europe by seeing all the sights to be seen.  In the meantime, there is something to be said about experiencing life, at home, with family.

We have settled into a kind of quarantine routine of sorts.  I wake up a little later than I used to, since my commute is about 15 steps.  I brew a pot of french press coffee, water the plants both inside and out and then log into work.  I wake up the boys, they eat and then join me in the classroom/office for their schooling.  After bringing coffee up to my wife, I work and teach for the rest of the morning.  By lunchtime typically all of the schooling is done.  We all eat, check on the plants and work on house projects while I bounce back and forth between work and home tasks for a few hours in the afternoon.

The “Classroom”

In the evenings we sit and talk about the day, the past, the present and the future, it’s nice.  

We have solidified our meal plan, we are saving and investing more than we would have.  Minimizing our trips to grocery stores has made us more creative in our food processes.  We have had the time to really focus on what we want, we are being more conscious of our spending, reducing our wastefulness and paying attention to our environmental impact.  We have started our garden, looked further into the plants and trees that surround us for their possible benefits and have gotten even more self reliant and sustainable than we have ever been before.

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All of these things have turned our attention to homesteading.  Living sustainable and as much off grid as possible is something that we think could become a reality for us.  To be able to raise, grow and harness nearly everything that you need to feed and support our family would be a dream.  Only, it doesn’t have to be just a dream and we are in a unique and opportunistic situation to make it happen. 

Our current situation is financially beneficial and also beneficial in the aspect that we have a clearly defined timeline that we can schedule, save, research and plan too. By planning, saving and focusing on what we want now, we will be able to hit the ground running, as they say when the time comes, also as they say.  I also have a job that offers multiple location possibilities that I can take advantage of while we get a sustainable homestead established.

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Covid-19 is a horrible pandemic, and has been devastating worldwide.  Self-isolation on the other hand has had eye opening benefits for families and offered the chance for connections and realizations that were never even imagined before.  While everyone is pining for the chance to run back out and return back to the old normal.  We are looking at what could be the new normal for us, ready to stay in, be self sufficient and sustainable for the long term.

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Victory Garden Time

Spring has sprung and it is time to get those seeds in the ground.  Not unlike the tough times of the World Wars, victory garden seems the appropriate title for this year’s Spring planting.

This year’s victory gardens will serve the same purpose that they were originally coined to do, supplement our food supply and boost our morale.  With no reasonable end in sight to the social isolation and quarantines, food supplies have dropped and finding the freshest fruits, vegetables and herbs will become harder and harder to come by.  Nothing is fresher than something just plucked from your backyard garden.  On top of having the freshest and healthiest food possible, a victory garden will supply you with something productive to do during your many long days at home.

Caring for a plant from seed until it fruits also carries a sense of accomplishment and gratefulness, something that we are in dire need of at the moment.   

We are currently in a leased home, and have not requested permission to dig and till up half the lawn.  Instead we may pursue some raised garden beds.  Regardless, now is the time to get those seedlings planted and going.  We personally have started a couple small trays of lettuce, spinach, beans and peas, that are just now starting to sprout from seeds.   

We also potted some young tomato and strawberry plants that have a jump start on the season.  I look forward to watching these plants grow and produce food.  I look forward to eating what they produce even more!

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Bike Build Step #5

Wheels, Chain, Etc.

It has been a little while since I did a bike build update, and I have added quite a bit since the front forks were installed.  I wanted to wait until I had all of the remaining components but unfortunately, shipping delays have pushed my last two items out a little further.  So my beastly, single speed, hard tail commuter completion is close but no cigar, or no handlebar for that matter.

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When I left off, I had just finished installing the front forks, so picking up from there:


My old frame is designed for 26” wheels as is my new front fork, so I am sticking with that.  I ordered and received a Mango 26” Cruiser Bike Wheel Set. I am trying to go as minimal and simple as possible, a dream set up.  Little to no maintenance required, next to no failure points. After all, I am a hygge-list, minimal yet functional design and aesthetically pleasing.  So I opted for the rear wheel to have a coaster brake hub, yes you heard me right, a coaster brake, instant flash back to making skid marks down my parents driveway on my first ever BMX.

Installed on those coaster brake cruiser wheels are 26” x 2.125” tires with tubes.  The tread is suitable for road and gravel riding, the most common terrain that I will be riding either during my daily commute or out on family rides.

Installing the wheels sets is pretty self-explanatory, there are no disc or rim brakes to worry about, no cables, no levers, no problem.  I attached the front wheel to the fork securely. I attach the rear wheel, but just finger tighten the nuts so that I can adjust the positioning accordingly for when I install the chain.

Headset Stem, Shim & Spacers

If you recall, my frame has a 1” steerer tube, and the front forks that I installed were 1” and threaded. has top Bike parts at low prices!

I am converting this to a more common 1 ⅛” headset stem.  In order to do this I needed to add a 1” to 1 ⅛” adapter shim.  The threaded steerer tube is already secured in place so all I am looking to do here is add a spacer (1” diameter, the tube is 1” and the shim will bump into the spacer) and the shim to elevate the stem to the end of the steerer tube.  Once I have the desired height worked out, I slide the stem over the shim and tighten down the Allen screws, alternating between the two to keep a constant even pressure to prevent stripping them out. I aligned the stem as straight as I can for now, but will likely have to readjust once I get the handlebar attached.  I have links to the same or similar items that I used at the bottom of this article.

Saddle, Seat post & Clamp

The next and quickest installation is a new seat post, seat and clamp.  I love the look of streamlined, brown leather saddles. I was able to find a great synthetic saddle by Charge Bikes that fit the bill.  I also received my new 27.2 mm diameter seat post that is 350 mm long to allow for plenty of height adjustment options. The seat post clamp adds a little white highlighting to go along with my forks and headset as well, aesthetic bonus.

I attach the saddle to the seat post, install the seat post clamp and slide the seat post into a rough estimate of the height that I will want it at and tighten the clamp down.


Installing the chain is a big step that I have been looking forward to.  I picked up a ½” x ⅛’ KHE chain with 112 links. It is highlighted with white face plates to match the design that I am going for.

I was a little stressed about being able to get it sized just right to avoid having to install a chain tensioner.  Like I mentioned before, clean and simple, less parts and less points of failure. The drop outs on my frame (the slots that the rear wheel slides into) are not horizontal, but they are not vertical either, so I was optimistic that I could make it work.

After wrapping the chain around the chainrings, I used a small metal hook to hold it in place, you can also shape a paperclip to do the same thing.  I pulled tight and moved the rear wheel around the dropouts to get a perfect size. Marking my target chain link, I used a chain breaker tool from my bike multi-tool to shorten the chain to the proper link, reinstalled a master link, made sure the tension was perfect and tightened the rear wheel in place.

After a couple test spins on the cranks, checking the tension all of the way around the oval chainring I was satisfied.  Perfect fit!

**NOTE**  If you have a narrow / wide crank ring, be sure to align your chain properly to match the narrow then wide teeth to the narrow then wide openings in your chain.  If this is off the chain will stick and bind while you spin the crank. **

Alas, this is where I had to stop.  Upon receipt of my handlebar and headset cap I will install and complete my build.  Which will then be IMMEDIATELY followed by my first test ride, I can hardly wait!

Tools Used For This Step:

Adjustable Wrench

Tire Pump

Allen Wrench

Chain Breaker


Flat Head Screwdriver

Total Cost For This Step: $242.86 (222.77 Euro)

Mango 26” Coaster Wheelset with Tires and Tubes – $119.95 (110.03 Euro)

Truvativ 60mm, 1-⅛” Hussefelt Stem – $31.95 (29.31 Euro)

Jili Online Bicycle Stem Shim 1” to 1-⅛” Adapter – $3.99 (3.66 Euro)

1” Alloy Bike Headset Spacer Kit – $9.90 (9.08 Euro)

Charge Spoon Saddle – $29.48 (27.04 Euro)

CYSKY 27.2 mm Seat post – $17.88 (16.40 Euro)

Fouriers MTB Seat Post Clamp – $15.59 (14.30 Euro)

KHE Bicycle Chain – $14.12 (12.95 Euro)

**All parts are linked to the same or similar items on Amazon**

Bike Build Riding Total: $439.43 (403.07 Euro)

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Bicycle Commuting

The Trial Ride

My commute currently consists of walking down my stairs and into our guest room / makeshift classroom / office.  I am lucky enough to be able to work from home while the world is self isolating. My boys have their classroom set up next to me as I sit at my desk, between us is my bike build project; unfinished but oh so close to done.  An ever present reminder of what a joy it would be to be able to commute to work on my bike each day.

So while my bike is in various states of togetherness, I have been riding my wife’s bike around town to get my fix.  She has a 2020 Trek Marlin 29er so it’s not exactly a chore, and I don’t have any qualms about riding a purple bike either.  The frame is much too small for me, but since it’s just short term I’ll survive just fine.

This past weekend I decided to see just how much of a reality it would be to ride my bike to work once everything goes back to normal.  The roads were pretty much empty and a bike ride falls within all of the social distancing guidelines.

I have two options, a short ride to a train station and then a short ride from a train station to work.  Second option, strictly biking all the way there and back. I don’t want to get on a train at this point in time for obvious reasons.  So I decided to go for a long ride, scout a path and see how long a relaxed ride to work would actually take.

Built Bar

Google Maps does an excellent job finding bike accessible paths and it proposed two possible paths.  I decided to take one on the way there and the other one on the way back to judge which one was the better route.  

I tracked each route using an app called Strava:

This route was great, some paved paths, a little single track and dirt paths and a good mix of uphill and downhill sections.

On the way back I took the other suggested route, I must say that biking home immediately after biking out was not my best decision.  My energy levels were a little low for this ride, but I still accomplished it.

This path was also enjoyable, much flatter roads, another good mix of paved and dirt paths.  This one tracked more along the main roads though and did include a section along a busy road with no bike path.  So not quite as good as the first route, plus it was just about 2 kilometers longer.  

**Note** If I had taken this route first, the elapsed time would have definitely been a little bit quicker.

All in all, I found that this is a very real possibility.  Once everything goes back to normal I will test run the train option as well.  To save the impact of a daily commute in my diesel car, no matter how economical the mileage, is just too big to ignore.  I feel strongly that this is something that I need to explore further and try to incorporate.

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Inconspicuous Consumption

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”.

“Inconspicuous Consumption – The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have.” written by Tatiana Schlossberg, is an eye opening look at how our everyday habits affect the environment.

Stop!  Do not disregard this book as just another confusing climate change rant packed full of numbers, percentages and fuzzy math interspersed with ten dollar words that you’re not sure are actually words.  This is not that book.

This is an excellent book, written in a clear, easy to understand, relatable and sometimes even comedic way.  It is an enjoyable, in an apocalyptic way, eye opener that makes you think twice before continuing on your blissful way, blindly consuming your way through life.

Never before had I realized the true cost of streaming a show on Netflix, or the distance that products have traveled before landing on my doorstep.  Buying strawberries in the middle of December and buying roses for Valentine’s day all come with a climate cost attached to them. Tatiana Schlossberg does an excellent job tracking down these costs and the amount of impact associated with all of these items.  She translates them in a way that is easy to digest and even offers alternatives and ways to counteract them.

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How many of us really know the difference between Eco friendly and organic and naturally grown produce and livestock?  Sure organic looks good on a label and we have been told that we should buy organic, but should we really be? Our, we know what we want and we want it all the time and it should look exactly like it does in the healthy food magazines that we read, mentality has led to an incredible rise in food shipping and refrigeration, and therefore a larger carbon footprint.

Back-doors and loopholes in the ways that regulations have been written have caused exporting and importing goods and materials more beneficial in most cases then utilizing them at home.  Governments are playing the blame game by exporting their manufacturing climate impact to other countries and importing the finished products. Even the different types of shipping used to move products are broken down to the types of full used for each method and therefore have different levels of impact.

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Fast fashion has been talked about ad nauseam and for good reason.  It is a waste on such a large scale that it can not be ignored. It is also not the only problem, I am now aware of the amount of water it takes to make a pair of jeans, an American staple.  The exorbitant amount of water required to produce jeans, besides being ridiculous, is also typically outsourced to countries without the water resources to be able to support this production.  All in the name of saving a couple dollars to keep profits high and costs low because the consumer demands it.

A lot of what is going on is out of our control, but whose responsibility is it to ensure responsible Eco friendly products are being produced?  The consumer or the producer?

I completely and wholeheartedly recommend that everyone should pick up this book, and give it a read.  I was able to borrow an e-reader copy from the library myself.  

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Pizza Night

A Simple Meal With Endless Possibilities

I would like to share with you a quick, easy and cheap meal that has become a staple in our household.  Pizza night has become a dinner that we all look forward to, with an eight and six year old this isn’t something that can be stated very often.

Three simple ingredients is all it takes to make a meal, but the additional topping options are endless.  At its core, pizza is a vegetarian meal, and depending on the toppings that you choose it could stay that way, or become a meat lovers dream.

A hot pizza, and a movie makes this meal more of a party, and creates great, non-corona memories.

Ingredients per pizza

1 package – Betty Crocker Pizza Crust Mix

5 to 8 oz. – Canned Pizza Sauce

5 to 8 oz, – Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Additional toppings of your choice


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix the pizza crust mix in a medium bowl with ½ cup of Hot (not boiling) water, until it forms a solid dough ball.
  3. Cover the bowl with the dough and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Flour your prep station and hands; press the dough into a 12” circle.
  5. Spread sauce over the dough, followed by cheese and your desired toppings.
  6. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes, rotating halfway through.

The combined ingredients cost of each pizza, minus the endless topping combinations that you can add to this recipe is about $3 per pizza.  Two pizzas easily feed our family of four for less than $10 total. It’s hard to beat that!

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A Hygge-lism Quick Tip

One of the first steps when adopting a hygge / minimal lifestyle is purging the excess.  This excess is applicable to all facets of our lives, but the area that is typically assessed first is the physical possessions within the confines of our living areas. 

There is a helpful question to ask yourself when it boils down to whether or not something should be kept and is valued.

Would I buy it again at the same price?

Take a look around the room that you are currently in.  

Now picture that room completely empty.  

How many of the items that you currently own, would you buy all over again at the same price point that you paid initially to put back into that room?  You now have the unique advantage of having “test drove” everything that you own.

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You can utilize this process for each and every object that you own if need be.  I would not base your decision on what to purge and what to keep solely on this process, but it is a good way to really assess the value that you place on the items that you own.  If you can look at what you own and say that I would absolutely buy everyone of these items all over again, that is fantastic. If you say that you would not repurchase a single thing, that is fantastic as well.  What you are looking for is an honest assessment of what you deem valuable and useful.

Oftentimes, seeing an object for the first time in a store window will invoke false feelings of desire and need.  Impulse decisions more often than not lead to regret later, a buyer’s remorse of sorts. Even purchases that were not made on impulse, but were thoroughly researched and contemplated can disappoint after the fact.

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Cheap Vs. Luxery Vs. Quality

On the rare occasion when you are ready to bring some new items into your life, it is important to do it responsibly.  High quality, responsibly manufactured items are often more expensive than what you would find at a bargain store but are not to be confused with luxury items.



Stores like Wal-Mart do everything they can to acquire and sell the cheapest and most irresponsibly manufactured items possible in order to be able to sell items at a low price and still maintain a large profit.  The reason you can buy a pack of three t-shirts at these stores for less than five dollars, is because they are manufactured in countries with the lowest labor cost and that have the most lax labor laws. They are made of the cheapest possible materials and are designed to last only a few wash cycles before they begin to fall apart.  This planned obsolescence is causing you to return to purchase more items; increasing their profit; proliferating their poor manufacturing morals; increasing their foot traffic through their doors and exposing yourself to their marketing tactics. This in turn, adds to the amount of clothing waste as these items are so poorly made that they do not have a secondhand life.  This causes more material to be harvested with all of the equipment required to convert them from nature to material to shirt. Uses an enormous amount of energy and water to complete this conversion, often from developing countries where water and energy are an extremely limited commodity. Leading to increased climate change, and the eventual peril of the planet. All for the sake of saving a few dollars and not being inconvenienced by having to travel to more than one store.  But I digress, this is a soapbox for another day.


Luxury items are often expensive due to the brand name attached to the item.  They are more of a status symbol than a functional item with a high return on investment.  Luxury items sole purpose is to elevate one’s perceived status, regardless of the quality of the item.  These items are often tempting due to the marketing tactics of the brands and the draw of celebrity endorsement.  Endless barrages of social media ad placement and television commercials promoting these brands in combination with a high price tag transform these items into luxury items.  They are designed to separate the low and high income classes via a prominent brand name or symbolized association.

With all of that said, luxury items are often also quality items.  Luxury items can be bought, utilized and kept for long periods of time.  Most often though, the extra high price tag makes the return on investment hard to achieve.   


Quality items are gauged by their return on investment and durability.  You are paying for the reliability, responsibility and peace of mind that you receive when you purchase a quality item.  Quality items are made of quality materials and are assembled in such a way as to make them useful, reliable and long lasting.  The higher price tag that comes with quality items is due to the time put into the manufacturing an item in a responsible matter, with a lot of thought put into the design and the quality assurance that the item is well tested and known to be reliable for an extended period of time.

For example, a well made watch that will last you for innumerable years and keep perfect time is a quality item.  When the word Rolex is attached to the item and an additional zero is added to the price tag it becomes a luxury item.  In contrast, a cheap, irresponsibly manufactured watch that is designed to be replaced completely if the battery dies, has questionable time reliability and never works the same after it falls off a dresser one time will have one less zero on the price tag and will be on sale.

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With this said, luxury items are often but not always high quality items, and cheap items can on occasion be quality items.  A Rolex watch has been known to keep exceptional time and last for many years, even being passed down through generations. For the additional cost of the brand name Rolex though, being passed down through generations is what it takes to achieve the return on investment that was put into it.

You could purchase, say for instance, a Citizen brand eco drive watch and receive the same amount of quality and reliability for a fraction of the price.  Both are quality, responsibly made items that could be purchased one time and last a lifetime. Weighing the up front cost in this situation is the determining factor.

Fast fashion brands on the other hand do not correlate luxury and quality as well.  Brands such as Forever 21, H&M and Nike all sell what would be considered name brand, luxury, status symbol items.  They do so though, while manufacturing them in developing third world countries utilizing cheap labor and questionable labor practices and still charge a premium price.  They are able to do so and still claim the items are U.S. made because as little as 3 or 4 percent of their products are still made in the U.S., in this instance luxury does not equal quality.

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     The most reliable vehicles of the past decade…Toyota owns the top 3 spots; 4 Runner; Prius; Camry, in that order.  In no way would those three high quality vehicles be considered luxury vehicles. Lexus holds down the number 4 spot, and is the first luxury car to make the list.

Do Your Research

So how do you tell what is what?  Simple answer – research, research, research.  One luxury that we all have, and we all happily pay for  these days is the internet. Researching quality brands and the manufacturing processes of any and all brands of any object is at our fingertips.

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Financial Freedom Update #3

April – 3 Months

It’s that time again, a new month calls for a new update.  

Our investment accounts have been rolling for 3 months now, let’s see how they are doing.

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Betterment High Interest Savings – Initial Deposit $5,000.00.  Last month’s total: $5,014.84. Interest Gained $4.10.  In order to capitalize on the Coronavirus induced market downturn I moved $4,000.00 from this account into my General Investment Account.

Total Amount Invested: $1,000.00

Total Interest Earned to Date (Passive Income): $18.94

Running Total: $1,018.94

Betterment Investment Account – Initial Deposit $10,000.00. Surplus March deposit $10.39.  Additional investment made to capitalize on the market downturn $8,000.00 ($4000 from income tax return & $4000 from Betterment Savings Account).

Total Amount Invested: $18,010.39

 Last month’s total: $9,105.87. March’s Betterment Performance -$1,021.48.

Total Dividends Earned to Date (Passive Income): $45.15

Running Total: $16,094.78

My personal retirement savings now totals:


I will admit that investing more money into the market at this time is a little bit stressful. All over the news you are hearing about how the stocks are plunging due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has also detrimentally affected my Thrift Savings Retirement plan.  At the same time, when the markets are low it is time to invest, also with the stimulus plan passed the markets will no doubt rebound. Of course, with time, this crisis will pass, and when it does I look forward to reporting my fortuitous gains.


I will be focusing our additional monthly savings due to our budgeting into restoring our Betterment Savings Account back to its full strength, unless of course another advantageous investment period rears its head once again.  

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