The Smart Fi Ranch: Week 1

The Smart Fi Ranch is a new series I am creating to fill a self-perceived gap in this blog. Nearly 18 months ago when I started blogging about my journey to financial independence, I started with the usual finance blog topics,  don’t buy new cars, start a budget and why you need an IRA. Despite the whole premise of this blog being “our financial journey” I did not think to create a series of posts that would follow our family’s chronological path to Financial Freedom.

The Smart Fi Ranch

The Smart Fi Ranch will be a series about our progress towards financial freedom and all of the ugly speed bumps along the way. No journey is perfect, cars break down, home repairs abound, and unexpected expenses detract us from our progress.

This will be the story of a middle-class family trying to find the balance between checking all the right financial boxes,  saving an above average amount of income and living a life well lived.

Schools Out

My two boys, age 10 and 13, had their last day of school this past week. The first thing that came to my mind was, woohoo! No more making school lunches. The second jubilatory thought came when my mind realized, I don’t have to get up early (the morning after working until midnight), to get the boys ready for school.

It is funny how our brain looks forward to events as they easily become bored with the current situation. Although I am currently over the moon about not having to perform parent tasks associated with making sure my kids are in their chairs when the first school bell rings.  But, it is only a matter of time and I will be longing for those September days when they are back in school and I have a quiet house to myself. Ahhh!

Smart FI Ranch
Pin to your Pinterest for reading later

There is soo much space for activities

One of my favorite scenes from the hilarious movie, Stepbrothers, is when Dale (John C. Riley) and Brennan(Will Farell) turn their beds into bunk beds so they can make extra space to do activities.  Well, this is how I feel about summers. There is so much time to do activities, yet I still have to work a full-time job. Insert crying noises here.

Despite working full time as a nurse, I am fortunate to have multiple days off in a row because of my 12-hour work schedule. Almost all of our summer activities are planned around my days off from work.

This summer though, I have an approved vacation request to take off a full pay period off of work. This will give me an uninterrupted stretch of 20 days off.  That is right, 20 days off with nothing to do except enjoy the Pacific Northwest summer sun. You might call this a short sabbatical or a “summatical”. Whatever you call it, this will be my longest vacation since graduating college. This might give me a little taste of what financial independence would feel like.

To take advantage of this extended summer vacation, we have booked a camping trip to our favorite Cascade Mountain town of Leavenworth. This will be the second summer trip up to this small mountain town. Leavenworth acts as a basecamp for hiking, whitewater rafting, and swimming. We had so much fun last year we booked this summers trip immediately after returning home last year.

This is our frugal summer “staycation.” While we don’t plan to count every penny on this vacation, its cost will pale in comparison to any flyaway destination.

Steps and Exercise

Summer in the Pacific Northwest starts with June gloom and then becomes the most glorious string of beautiful weather in the lower 48. There is nowhere I would rather be for the months of July, August, and September.

The Northwest has a well-earned reputation for rainy weather, so it is fair to say I have become accustomed to running in our frequent liquid sunshine. Our summers, however, do not have a precipitation problem. The months after solstice are easily my favorite months for a run and I find myself far more active during these long days.

A sweaty mess after a 6-mile run

In 2018 I racked up 5,250,000 steps. Not to be outdone, I am in desperate need to set a step goal for 2019. Last year, Angela, from the blog Tread Lightly Retire Early and I had a healthy competition to see if we could get to the 5 million mark. We both surpassed our 2018 goal but have yet to formally establish a 2019 goal until NOW! Here is my throwdown. I have a sneaky suspicion this may not be much of a challenge for Angela. She stays very active.

5.5 million steps for 2019

Why track my steps?

  • First, as a nurse, in my day job, I see many patients who are not able to run or even walk.  I am almost certain they would give anything to have two healthy legs that many adults take for granted. I plan to honor my healthy legs and honor those that that don’t by being active.
  • Second, this whole blog is about financial freedom, frugality, and avoiding that YOLO lifestyle. But if you reach financial freedom by eating cheap junk food and by cutting out fitness, you have won the battle but lost the war.

Dead Grass and the Garden

My wife and I are currently in the midst of a disagreement, bordering on an all-out argument, over whether to turn on our sprinklers. The unusually warm late May and early June has done a number on our green urban grass. What was once emerald green, lush soft grass is now a pale beige and pokey, as my wife calls it.

If left to my own devices, I would leave the sprinklers off to conserve water, while saving time and money on mowing and water bills. I suspect as the summer rolls on, I will turn on the sprinklers to revive the lawn. I see my future self mowing the grass more often.

What are your thoughts? Leave the sprinklers off or turn them on?


I seem to find less and less time every year to plant a garden, but chalk up 2019 as one more year where we have plants in the ground.

This year we have zucchini, tomatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, lettuce, and kale. These few plants are easy to grow and provide a good return on investment.

Currently, we are enjoying fresh blueberries, raspberries, and a few strawberries and blackberries. This eases the burden of waiting for the rest of the other vegetables to grow. While I love any garden fresh produce, my favorite treat from our yard are the blueberries and raspberries.


If you have children, you know the official start to summer is the last day of school. We have crossed that threshold and there is no turning back. I am excited about our summer and to share our frugal adventures along the way. Use the form above to sign up for email delivery of all new Smart Fi Ranch blog posts throughout the summer.

There it is The Smart Fi Ranch: Week 1. What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *