Exploring the Hiawatha Trail

I just celebrated one year with my wonderful guy! We don’t usually get time off together because of our opposite work schedules. However, I just started as the Staff Manager at a restaurant here in town and they are closed for some holidays. As luck would have it, we both had Labor Day off from our jobs. We both knew we wanted to do something outdoors so we figured what better way than to bike the Hiawatha Trail, located just 90 miles from where we live. Neither of us had biked the trail before and were very excited after learning more about it online.

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After an early morning drive (and some much-needed coffee on the way), we were ready to head out! The trail begins in Montana near Lookout Pass but you quickly enter Idaho while biking through the first tunnel. The “Route of the Hiawatha” was a train route of the Milwaukee Railroad that looped through the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho and Montana. Though the original trail was much longer, the current biking trail is 15 miles long. We parked at the East Portal and then rode to the Pearson trailhead, where there’s a shuttle that will take you back up. Well, it takes you about 1.5 miles away from the lot.You just have to bike back through the first tunnel.

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The very first section of the trail is this 1.66-mile long tunnel. It’s super dark so be prepared with lights!

The temperature was in the high 40’s to low 50’s when we started out for the day. The first tunnel is definitely the coldest part. I was freezing! (I was also slightly underprepared as I don’t know too much about proper cycling attire.) I recommend some thin gloves for that part of your journey. Other than that, I had on a light jacket with a hoodie and a couple layers underneath. We were super lucky we didn’t get rained on during our ride. It ended up being a beautiful sunshine-filled day!

 

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Amazing views everywhere you look

The trail consists of not only 10 train tunnels, but 7 trestles as well. Trestles are the structures that look like bridges in the pictures and are supported by huge metal beams. We stopped on one of them to get a feel for how high up we were.img_20160905_095814314_hdr.jpg

 

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Standing atop one of the trestles. It’s quite a ways up!

 

 

 

 

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img_20160905_095817015_hdr.jpgIf you’re visiting the area during the warmer months, I urge you to put this trail on your to-do list! They charge you to use the trail, as well as to take the shuttle back. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could ride there and back, eliminating the charge for the shuttle. I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time, just to make it a little quicker when you pick them up. Finally, bikes, helmets, and lights are available for rent should you need them. Find more information about the trail here —-> Hiawatha Trail

Hoping you all get to enjoy a little bit more summer!

 

Designing Your Debt Free Plan

Happy Friday friends!! Continuing forward with Financially Free Friday for my first post of September. Diving into budgeting and I know you are all sorts of excited!

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Photo Credit: sathishisaac via Compfight cc

As of last time, we had established what it means to take responsibility for your debt. Once that’s done, it’s time to get to the fun stuff! (Well, as much fun as you can have when getting out of debt/making a budget.) Now, we need to start setting a budget, plan some savings goals, and find ways to “make your money work for you.” (To quote the one and only, Dave Ramsey.)

When I first started designing a budget with my financial guru/advisor, Saraa, she was pulling from many different money management ideas and making them fit for what I needed. For instance, there were parts taken from Dave Ramsey, pieces taken from books she may have read, and even ideas that she/we came up with. Though a challenging, often frustrating task, the end result of having a set plan makes it all worth it. These were some of the steps we took in getting there. (Also, as of now, I’m choosing not to use exact numbers from my personal budget. However, that could change down the road.)

1. Gather supplies, documents, numbers, etc. – We went the old-school route with sharpies and construction paper. I was a server at the time so I often had lots of cash in envelopes that I was using as my savings system. She picked up a nifty contraption for organizing my tips. The dollar store has a plethora of items you can use! You may need to get creative here and there.

2. Dig up those digits – I mean everything. Every student loan, car loan, credit card, checking and savings account balances. Go through your bank statements for the past 2 – 3 months and total up what you spent your money on. Or, you may already track that through an app such as Mint. I assure you, it will blow your mind. I couldn’t believe the money I was wasting on bars, restaurants, and even shopping on occasion. (I’m not a huge shopper but I am a wino/foodie so that was where a lot of my money ended up going.) I remember thinking, “I could have been putting all of that towards debt or savings goals but I wasted it on that??” It’s a real eye-opener and while your initial reaction may be to hide under your table due to feelings of regret or shame, do not resort to that. That’s why you’re doing this right? To have a say in where your money goes! So, no judgement during this step.

3. Start building your plan – You have the numbers. Get it all down on paper so you have something to go off of. Mine is broken into 3 parts:

  • Monthly bills/budget – This is a list of all my bills, amounts due, and their due dates. Sounds really simple right? Because it is. But, it will come in handy when you start budgeting each month and gives you an idea of what you need to have in your checking account. On the other side of this list is the total I need each month to pay my bills, along with what I set aside for living expenses.
  • Total debt – This is just a simple list of my beginning balances for each account/lender I owe money to. It’s good to look at while you’re making progress so you can see how far you’ve come!
  • Savings goals – This is the fun part! I think this is soooo important. Especially, if you’re like me and like saving up for trips/experiences/rewards, whatever it may be. Having a substantial amount of debt can be mentally draining and while some people want to hone in on that and buckle down for “X” amount of years to pay it off, I am the opposite. Yes, I want to attack my debt with everything I can, but I also need to do things for me in the meantime, even if I’m only saving up a little bit. Some examples might be travel experiences (near or far), a new tattoo, or hobbies such as yoga classes. Also, it is not such a crazy idea to “reward” yourself after paying off one of your debts.
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The wall of financial goals, personal goals, and inspirational tidbits to keep me sane in the process

4. Watch your money work – You’re going to struggle with this at first. You might overspend or budget incorrectly. This part is about finding what works for you and that takes some time, patience, and self-love. You need to give yourself at least 3 months to adjust to your new lifestyle. But, don’t give up! This is when it’s super important to have an “accountability partner.” Your partner can be a friend, family member, basically anybody you trust that will check on your progress and make sure you’re sticking to your financial goals. (This is also the person you call crying when you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and/or downright depressed about this momentous task in front of you.) You may not notice a change right away, but once you start rolling and making progress, you won’t want to quit.

The biggest takeaway I’ve had in the three months that I’ve been on a budget and working towards getting out of debt is how my relationship with money has changed. I view it so differently than I did even four months ago and for that, I will be forever grateful. I now find happiness in moments with people I love, rather than in material objects or experiences I don’t wish to pursue. I make wiser financial decisions since I have a set budget each month and have found my creativity increased in all aspects of life.

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Photo Credit: alexandraemdesigns via Compfight cc

The formula for debt in my situation looks a little something like this:

Stubborn/independent personality + Youthful wishing + Lack of financial guidance = Owing too much

But, what if I rewrote it to look something like this?

Owing too much + Wanting to change my situation + Creating a plan to make it happen = A renewed outlook on life and finances

Now, it’s your turn. I urge you. No, in fact, I dare you. Get out there and rewrite.