Last weekend I participated in an organized bicycle event where I rode a total of 150 miles by the time I was home. It was a self-supported event with no entry fee so didn’t have the costs associated with rides that offer catered stops, mechanical support, and route markers. I used printed route cue sheets to avoid purchasing a bike computer or GPS and it was great fun – and yep, I totally went off course in the wrong direction more than once, ha!
The whole experience was fantastic! Just over a year ago I couldn’t fathom riding 10 miles, so it felt pretty good to have accomplished a stretch goal. The weather was perfect, the route was beautiful, and I recovered much quicker than I expected. Over-preparedness on the hydration and food fronts definitely paid off.
I have the distance bug now. But I haven’t signed up for other rides in the season, because there are some downsides. I spent fairly minimally throughout the ride at food stops and brought a lot of my own supplies, but it still added up to more than I would spend in a routine weekend. Just the sheer amount of calories compared to a normal day added up fast. It’s also a big time commitment- at least one full day of riding, sometimes more, and I already struggle with feeling like I don’t have enough time to enjoy the summer days.
As a sporting event on its own, it’s extremely frugal – but I think my goals are better served by sitting this season out.
The rest of the week was fairly uneventful – took my lunches to work, spent a lovely day with a friend at her house, went on a group bicycle ride and afterward ordered one side of fries. I was debating during the entire ride whether I should stay for the social end. This is another area that is starting to feel less goal-servicing than it did over the winter. I tend to stay up too late and often spend too much money. The flip side is that this is a great group of people that has welcomed me very warmly and I can’t quite tell if it’s just social nerves wanting me to pull back; if so, I just need to work through those impulses. And squash the impulses to buy a beer 🙂
I was going to make dandelion jam today but looked out the window to see my neighbor had mowed my entire yard :/ So a little cleaning and cooking and an evening with a library book seems to be on the docket instead.
As noted in my previous post, I decided partway through April to loosen my frugality in favor of social interactions. For me this journey is not just about paying off all my debt, or achieving financial independence, or retiring (a tiny bit) early, although those are things I plan on doing. It’s about creating a joyful, more simple life for myself and those I love, and having the means and security to do so. The financial aspect, then, is about continually checking in with myself to ensure that my spending is in alignment with my priorities. And last month, in spite of spending a lot more cash than I’d originally planned, my choices served my current life goals perfectly.
I Said Yes to events that pushed me outside my comfort zone, and ended the month with a wonderful group of new friends, lots of time spent with my kiddo and his friends, and a whole lot of miles on my bicycle.
Here’s the breakdown:
I use YNAB for budgeting and tracking my spending. I average annual expenditures monthly, so occasional bills such as car insurance have money put aside all year. Thus, in months where I have smaller income I still have enough set aside to cover my expenses.
Fixed expenses: My electric bill has been on an averaged budget plan of $109. Turning the thermostat down (and not having a TV since it’s at college with the kiddo) has made enough of a difference that I have a large credit on my account. No bill this month! Cell phone bill was higher due to my son purchasing a new phone and therefore a new plan. City utilities have been a bit lower but will start climbing during watering-the-garden season. Internet went up $5 in March, but is still a steal for fiber optic service. In spite of my relaxed spending, I was still able to pay extra toward my debt.
Groceries $296: I was pleased this stayed under $300 since I wasn’t meal planning the last half of the month, and my son was home for two weeks total.
Pets $20: One bag of cat food.
Bikes $117: A rear rack and pannier bag for commuting – this was a purchase I’d been considering for quite some time, and I’ve ridden to work every non-call day since.
Gasoline $33!!: I only drove on call shifts – the bicycle miles paid off 🙂
My spending $107:Broke my zero streak.But I’m ok with that! I purchased a needed clothing item, had a coffee out just before a date (I took Saying Yes literally this month), and bought two records in a momentary lapse of attention. I detailed the latter in my previous post, but it turned out to be a great learning experience that I feel really good about.
Family/Friend Fun $169: One dinner out with kiddo, a donation to World Bicycle Relief for 30 Days of Biking, five appetizers and/or drinks after group bicycle rides, and splitting the cost of two of a handful of awesomely frugal dates 🙂 Considering I used to spend this much monthly on brunch and cafeteria food, this number makes me happy. Especially when considering all the wonderful company!
Everything Else $41: $13 birthday gift and $28 at Home Depot for velcro ties and trash bags.
Kiddo $475: All his groceries, spending money, and school-related/transportation expenses. This month also included his new phone purchase as well as a case and screen protector.
My gamble of letting things go for the month of April paid off in ways I never would have dreamed. I learned that I have a much healthier relationship with money than I did a year ago, and I’m in a great place emotionally to be able to recognize little missteps as just that and then move forward without hesitation. I ate terribly compared to my normal diet, I drank a lot more alcohol, my daily blood pressure monitoring surprisingly was normal, my enthusiasm for bicycles is at an all-time high, my sleep suffered and so did my health for a bit, and I’ve never felt such gratitude for being alive to experience these things.
Just a week into April it became very clear that my social calendar was much fuller than anticipated – and much fuller than I am used to, as an introvert who’s become quite fond of staying home and not spending any money.
I decided the first weekend, after the 30 Days of Biking Kickoff Ride, that I was still fully committed to Saying Yes to opportunities for connecting with people. This would mean allowing spending for things like a pizza meal out with my kiddo, one of his favorite visiting-home traditions, as well as giving myself some flexibility in food and drink spending during social outings.
I also picked up a lot of extra call shifts during April, including two full weekends, and although we take off-premise call and don’t always work overnight or during the weekends, there often is disruption to my normal evening routine and sleep schedule when I have a string of call days. This is precisely what happened, and I found myself catching the respiratory bug that’s been prevalent in this area (when I haven’t been ill in several years). On top of fighting illness, I ended up working a difficult overnight case the third week that threw my entire routine out the window for several days until I caught up on sleep.
A year ago, these variables would certainly have led to a month of abandoned financial goals and cash flying out of my pockets willy-nilly, beers flowing and pizzas consumed at a remarkable rate, take-out to make up for not sleeping and being ill, “treating” myself (which is never a treat!) here and there throughout the month to make up for the lack of preparedness.
In terms of my overall routines, it’s quite clear that I didn’t make time for writing here, which correlates to less “making time” for other previously-established habits such as tracking spending, prepping all my meals for the week, and rising early to savor a cup of coffee.
So how far off the rails did my finance train end up?
With one exception, I stayed within the amounts I’d loosely budgeted for the month, and these amounts were still lower than I was spending a year ago. I am no longer surprised how fast a $10 tab here and there throughout the week add up – and boy do they add up fast! – and I was able to keep track of the running total, instead of giving up and ignoring the numbers for a few weeks like I’ve done in the past.
My glaring incident of mindless spending occurred on Record Store Day. My son, his girlfriend and I joined our bike shop for a bicycle tour of different record stores around the cities. They all had events such as food trucks or live music, and for most of the day we spent nothing, having brought our own snacks and drinks. One record store, however, was my old stomping grounds and where I used to spend a very large chunk of monthly disposable funds. Without even thinking about it, I purchased two records! I had a vague sense of, “This event is so great for promoting small businesses,” and -poof- there went $40!
The big takeaway for me, however, isn’t that I spent a large amount (considering my previous six months) on something absolutely not needed, but that I was able to acknowledge that it happened and move right on. I didn’t experience the shock-and-guilt feelings that I would have a year ago, and experienced often for a few years before that.
I’m also very pleased that I’ve seemed to kick the “treat” mentality completely out of my life — there were almost NO emotions attached to my spending for the month! Reviewing my calendar and matching up the outflow is very interesting from a habit and data collection standpoint, but that’s it. I cannot remember a single time in my adult life where I’ve been able to look at spending without judging myself in some tiny way. This is huge!
Overall, the lessons I learned from a month of spending with abandonment are worth more to me and my understanding of my own journey than the dollar amount I could have saved. I feel I’m in a much healthier space because of it. I’m actually in a better position to move forward financially, because of the insights I discovered, but also socially and emotionally – I gained friendships and have made a couple of special connections with people that I would have avoided in the name of “Sticking to the Plan” prior to April. Taking chances is sometimes worth far more than the risk 🙂
And it’s finally Spring! I’m looking forward to fresh salads and a lot more time in the sunshine riding my bike and playing with my pup 🙂
A little smattering of spending-related choices, listed briefly, to keep my mind on the right path.
Saturday April 8 🙂
Bicycle ride along the river in spring sunshine. Meal planning in my head during the ride.
Sunday April 9 🙂
Meal prep for the week! Free museum entry; bicycle riding. Yep, there’s definitely a theme to the free entertainment and exercise this month! After all that boss frugality, split a $ pizza with a friend. Ha.
Monday April 10 🙂
Bicycle commute to and from work; packed my meals.
Tuesday April 11 :]
Bicycle ride and bike rack purchase – have sat on this spend for months, as it’s absolutely NOT necessary. It is already making a tremendous difference in the ability to pack all my supplies for the day, which will lead to more bicycle commuting and less driving.
Wednesday April 12 🙂
Packed my work meals.
Thursday April 13 🙂
Weekly group bicycle ride. Ate a packed meal beforehand. Spent $6 on a beverage. Passed on the free beer. My wallet and my body were happy.
Friday April 14 🙂
Worked late but still managed to eat packed food!
Lots of wins – I’m getting better at maintaining meal prep even during busy social weeks; I spent only the cash I’d allotted for my weekly Thursday outing; and I kept a stash of snacks at work for late nights to prevent vending machine temptation. The pizza was DIVINE.
Kiddo will be in town for a week, which is typically where my food spending goes sideways.
A little smattering of spending-related choices, listed briefly, to keep my mind on the right path.
Oh my! April is 30 Days of Biking and the unusual-for-me busyness has eclipsed other aspects of life. The month is flying by!
Saturday April 1 🙂
Kickoff ride for 30 Days of Biking. Great fun!! Two free beers at the end of the ride, and I’d eaten a lot beforehand, so it worked out great for my wallet. Ended up spending most of the day with new friends from the monthly rides, and ended up eating on the way home – spent $7 not in the plan, but wow was that food excellent. I need to start strategizing ways to minimize spending but be flexible in social outings.
Sunday April 2 🙂
Bike ride with the kids to a coffee shop. We’d pre-planned for this and my son offered to pay, but I kept it to my Family Fun rule. Total for all three of us was $12 so not bad at all compared to our usual dinner-when-kiddo-comes-home nights.
Monday April 3 🙂
Somehow amidst all the festivities I managed to make my lunches! Big win.
Tuesday April 4 🙂
I slept a good portion of this day. It felt amazing. And it was free!
Wednesday April 5 🙂
Workday with lunch packed.
Thursday April 6 🙂
Biked to work and packed breakfast, lunch and dinner. Bicycle ride afterward with one free beer. I think next week I’ll bring tea – my body isn’t too happy with this frequent beer consumption.
Friday April 7 🙂
Workday and (free) plans afterward. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in the bike bag again.
Another strong week – with all the social events coming up this month, however, I’ll need to make some decisions about where to spend my “building relationships” cash lest I slip back into $5 here and there every day. My meal routine has saved me so much stress and money, but I anticipate some hiccups this month without the full weekends of solitude I’ve become used to.
A little smattering of spending-related choices, listed briefly, to keep my mind on the right path.
Bicycle ride with new bicycle friends. One beer and one plate of french fries plus tip. Money well spent, given the exercise, the camaraderie, the beer giving me the ability to talk to strangers, and the amazing seasoning salt on the fries! This is currently a monthly delight but will be weekly in April and I’m looking forward to every week!
I knew I was going to be working late, so packed extra food. Hurrah!
Kiddo’s birthday, on which I slept in, reflected on being a mama, texted the birthchild off and on, lazed about reading books, wrote notes, and managed to give myself a second-degree burn across a large portion of my hand in the process of starting dinner. Oops.
The fact my dog cannot drive to the drugstore definitely saved me some unnecessary spending.
Very little sleep overnight and not finishing dinner preparations resulted in buying food in the cafeteria. I’ll be a little bummed to have to record that in my monthly spending, but I was hungry and not able to use my hand. SO WORTH IT.
Seriously. Try eating a banana with just one hand. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Ok with teeth it’s not too bad. Now try putting on socks. Now tying work-only shoes that are required. I cheated and wore my coworker’s Crocs when I got to that point!
Stopped at the grocery on the way home to replace ruined Tuesday-night food. Didn’t buy a single splurge item even though the bandage on Lefty was trying to convince me ice cream and chips are integral to the healing process.
Didn’t stop to buy wine on the way home, even though Lefty again was insistent, and the grey skies were also pinging the wine-and-a-book center of my brain.
A pretty good week all around, considering a year ago my injury would’ve given me all sorts of excuses and rationalization for spending. My frugal-fu is getting stronger 🙂
Don’t get me wrong; I drink alcohol. My body and my taste buds really, really enjoy whiskey and even better a bit of scotch. But in my quest to pay off all my non-mortgage debt then save like a frugal fiend, I’ve discovered spending habits that weren’t so obvious at first.
Holidays used to be a great excuse to get a foofoo latte, or eat out with friends, or generally just let mindfulness go out the window when it came to spending (or eating!).
This year I realized that with my kiddo away for school (so past the green eggs and pancakes stage), and with me being not one whiff of Irish, there is no real reason for me to celebrate a holiday that for me has mostly been an excuse to eat, drink booze and laugh with friends.
I know if I go out tonight I’ll end up drinking a beverage that I don’t really need, eating an appetizer that won’t taste as great as I remember from a couple years ago, and staying up later than my body likes. But more importantly, I’ll be spending money that does nothing to serve my goal of financial independence, and in light of the blatant booziness of this holiday in my city, does nothing to further my goal of Saying Yes to deepening my relationships.
My overall goal for winning at my finances is really to simplify my life – it’s simple to stay home and avoid the manic city crowds. It’s simple to acknowledge that my body has aged enough to appreciate good sleep. It’s simple to be cheered by social media photos of friends out for the night while I’m curled up with the dog and a good book.
I do secretly wish I hadn’t decided to not restock my whiskey collection, but the subtle longing and subsequent denial will be good for me 🙂
Over the years I’ve read various accounts of people who have made remarkable progress, either in savings goals or debt payment, by tracking spending and cutting hundreds (or thousands) of dollars from the monthly budget.
What if your spending is lean already? Either by choice, or by circumstance, some of us don’t have $150 cable and phone bills, or biweekly dinners out, or a clothes shopping habit– all line items that are often the first to go. In my case it’s been a little of both. I haven’t necessarily felt desire for a new-off-the-lot car or cable tv or purses; those things just aren’t part of my lifestyle. My income vs. expenses, however, has also ensured there’s not a big discretionary spending number to tempt me.
So how in the world do I go about trimming where there is no fat? And how do I decide how far I can go? If it were only up to me and the goal is to save as much as possible, I’d be selling everything including my house and car and moving into a small apartment blocks away from my workplace. I’ve thought about that last bit a LOT over the past year, especially since our current housing market made my neighborhood very profitable for sellers.
I’m not the only person who calls this place home, though, and I’ve gone without a car before and found it miserable and defeating rather than liberating. My body does not appreciate wind chill! Those two things are currently not part of the plan.
For me the answer has been to regularly reevaluate my spending categories in relationship to my values.
How often do you review your finances? If you don’t, start! Start by tracking every single penny you spend – most of us are pretty darn surprised by the amount we don’t notice sneaking out of our bank accounts.
If you normally review your finances biweekly when you get paid, for example, schedule time to really sit down and look at your spending. Two years ago my only debt was student loans and a mortgage, and I thought I was doing pretty good in the budgeting department. At that time Netflix wasn’t needed in the summer when I wanted to play outside so I’d suspend my account, but heck yes it was “necessary in the winter” when hot chocolate and blankets were calling my name. Our phones were prepaid and had been about $35 each per month for a few years. This seemed like a great deal compared to my iPhone using coworkers and friends. I bought food at the farmer’s market and co-ops, and it was budgeted so I didn’t pay much attention to the overall number. We ate simply at home, and went out to eat 4-5 times a year, so it didn’t occur to me I could make an impactful change to that budget line.
In the past year, however, I’ve come to detest every penny of debt I owe and am committed to paying it off as soon as possible, then keep right on socking that money away for financial independence and retirement. The first couple of times I looked at my spending, I couldn’t see a single thing to cut.
I spent a lot of my dog-walking time last fall thinking about what my ideal life looks like, and how my ideal spending would match those values. If you had unlimited financial resources right now, what would your day to day life look like? If you can’t envision a life different from now (I’ve been there!), take a look at the Frugalwoods’ Uber Frugal Month Challenge – stripping your finances to only the bare essentials will reveal your true needs versus wants.
The next time I sat down to study my spending through the eyes of my Future Self, there suddenly were line items that positively jumped out at me.
Changes I made that weekend in October, that seemed impossible in September:
I cancelled Netflix – I realized that mindlessly watching videos is not part of my ideal day, and any rare insomnia-induced tv watching could easily be filled by free streaming services. $10.77/month * 12 months = $129.24 annual savings
I reduced my kiddo’s phone plan since he now had consistent wifi access – my plan was previously changed, bringing our total to under $40/month for two smartphones. 2015 phone plan $74/month – new phone plan $35/month average = $39 savings/month * 12 months = $468 annual savings
I switched auto insurance and paid six months in full for $349 – my previous monthly charge was $132, so 20 minutes of internet research netted me a 56% price reduction! $132/month – $58/month = $74 savings/month * 12 months = $888 annual savings
I started shopping at Aldi as my “first” stop, then supplemented at the co-op. By the end of the month, Aldi was first, followed by a local grocery store. I was never a good price-watcher, so it has taken the last five months to have a good understanding of where my dollars are best spent (and it’s still a work in progress). Average spent Oct-Nov 2016 $480 – average spent Oct-Nov $320 = $160 savings * 12 months = $1920 annual savings (and this was before I became a strict meal planner and Uber-Frugaled my grocery bill!).
I decided I was no longer going to eat out just to eat away from home. Social gatherings are ok, but luckily for my budget these are maybe once a month and tend to be coffee or happy hour. Figure 5 * $40 tab = $200 estimated annual savings.
I decided I was no longer going to purchase coffee for consumption outside my home. Assume 3 coffees/month ranging from $2-$6 = $150 estimated annual savings.
Just these quick, done-in-a-day changes will add up to $3755.24 of savings this year alone!
Four months later and I don’t miss Netflix (my coworkers and I have easily found other things to talk about!), I can’t believe I didn’t check car insurance rates at least every six months, and the last time I went to the co-op I was shocked at the price of tea. It doesn’t even cross my mind to go to the cafeteria at work because I’ve already prepared my meals for the week. Coffee was the hardest habit to break emotionally, but being prepared and bringing a thermos has prevented backsliding. My new normal is already normal.
The key to ongoing savings is to evaluate categories regularly.
A few years ago I had a back injury (muscle). I wasn’t allowed to do any weightlifting that put compressive force on my spine – which for me meant the only heavy lift I was doing was bench press. It took about a year for me to cancel my gym membership. If I was in the practice of sitting down with myself and my Future Self, looking at what we valued at that moment and in the future, I would have easily seen that powerlifting was not part of my life at the moment and could have cut that expense much earlier.
At the time I cut the gym membership primarily because I wasn’t using the gym as often, but I also was conscious of saving that money. I’d been vaguely kicking around the idea of socking away loads of money into savings. But instead, I took that “savings” and transferred that spending to another category: I started going to the salon more frequently, and had a stylist who loved to play with color and short cuts, necessitating even more frequent salon visits. Again, if I routinely examined my budget categories I would have realized that my “money saving” gym membership cancellation inadvertently led to even more spending!
Moving forward I think I’m in a really good place to be able to assess my finances against my true values. The last few years were all about deciding what those values are – I’m glad I took the time to experiment with being a girly salon girl but looking back the upkeep was a drag, and I wear a hat for work anyway. Win for my low-maintenance tomboy self, win for my wallet! Now….what else can I cut starting in April….
The header photo sums up my feelings about this time of year….grey and more grey and cold that just lingers.
February spending was quite a jump after my Uber Frugal awesomeness in January. As usual for me, the bulk of discretionary spending was on gatherings with friends and family, with which I’m more than ok.
After some loose price comparing for a couple of months between Costco, Aldi, and my neighborhood store, I think I need to limit Costco purchases to dog food, white vinegar for cleaning, and medications. There’s not enough of a savings to justify driving otherwise, at least for now.
I use YNAB for budgeting and tracking my spending. I average annual expenditures monthly, so occasional bills such as car insurance have money put aside all year. Thus, in months like this where I have smaller income I still have enough set aside to cover my expenses.
Fixed expenses: My electric bill was tiny – it’s normally on an averaged budget plan of $109. Cell phone data usage was down a bit – if we’re not traveling, we should be able to keep this under $30/month for 2 smartphones.
Groceries $259: The end of this month once again saw hungry post-teenagers for the week. I love that my son’s school has more weeklong breaks than most universities, but it doesn’t make for uber cheap food spending as the two meals that would carry me through the week last, oh, two meals 🙂
Pets $31: One bag of dog food.
Bikes $1: One postcard to enter a gravel race in May…. I haven’t decided yet whether it’s a terrible idea so haven’t spent the postage….
Gasoline $47: Down from last month! I’m on call a lot in March, though, so this might tick back up.
My spending $0: Still at zero for the year! My amazon cart is full of wishful not-needs but my wallet is pleased.
Family/Friend Fun $115: Three tickets to a fundraiser/party/concert for 30 Days of Biking at our bike shop. One dinner out at my son’s girlfriend’s workplace which has become our first-night-home tradition. This dinner was $10 less than usual because I skipped the wine.
Everything Else $405: $80 annual professional dues, $40 professional CE workshop, $27 tax preparation/filing, $121 outlet boxes and switches to replace two circuit’s worth after a short inside one of the boxes (!), $30 spring seed order, $107 medical copay and prescription.
Kiddo $207: All his groceries, spending money, and school-related/transportation expenses.
Overall I think February went well. Even though I know that my spending to income ratio in February and March are usually a little off because of smaller paychecks at the start of the year, historically I am WAY over budget in February and March – likely due to spending in an attempt to counter the apathy and fatigue of late winter. Having a frugal mindset has helped immensely this year, as is my drive to walk more places rather than drive – even in cold wind, the sunshine and air on my face makes me feel so much better at the end of the day.
I’m pretty impressed with my amateur electrical work. I had an electrical engineer available via phone if needed (my dad), but reading via Amazon’s preview of a Black and Decker electrical wiring book gave me enough information to do the relatively simple task of changing outlets. It proved quite addictive and I ended up doing two circuits and fixed a heat lamp in the bathroom.
I think I’ll have to meal plan more strictly once my son is home for the summer – as it is now I tend to treat his weeks home as holidays, and am probably spending more than necessary because we decide on meals as we go. They’re still inexpensive, but sticking to a plan has made such a dramatic difference when it’s just me I’m sure it would also show a positive budget effect when I’m cooking for son+friends regularly.
I am SO looking forward to starting seeds! It’s time for tomato starts and I plan to get them going this weekend. I need the scent of greenery and the bright light of the grow light 🙂
I did great during Uber Frugal January, and even though I’ve eased up a bit this month I’m still on the frugal wagon.
During the end of January I started feeling a little too competitive with myself regarding my spending. I really, really did not want to have to buy more food, for example. This ultimately wasn’t going in a healthy direction.
I am still tracking my spending every week when I check my budget – but the part of UFJ that worked the best, tracking daily, seems to have made a bigger difference in my mental attitude toward spending than I would have anticipated.
In the last week I’ve found myself putting numerous things in my Amazon cart:
headphones (I’ve had none for quite some time, so clearly have gotten by without)
a cookbook (hi there internet, fancy meeting you here)
a metal coffee filter for my AeroPress (I realized I can reuse the paper filters a few times, and have a stash of regular filters I can cut down)
an electric kettle (even though my gas stove works just fine and is close in efficiency)
programmable keypads with deadbolts (um I should probably not admit I’ve broken into my house twice in the last month after forgetting my keys)
a FoodSaver and jar sealers (but then also a manual pump to use instead of the electric FoodSaver, and keeping in mind harvest season is months away!)
and bamboo mason jar lids (uh, what?).
Of all those things I wanted at the moment, the headphones were the only thing I could remember. So, REALLY IMPORTANT, those other potential purchases, weren’t they?!
So today, a reminder:
I will not spend any money on anything that is not a necessity: food, toothpaste, bar soap, floss.
I will drive as little as possible: yuck. It’s winter again. Let’s try that one again:
I will drive as little as possible but will show myself grace for being sick of the cold and dark and wanting to sleep that extra hour by driving to work.
I will accept social invitations because it’s cold and dark and community building can be as frugal as I want it to be.
I will savor the bit of light in the evenings on my way home — and have been truly awe-inspired by the gorgeous sunsets and fat winter moon hanging in the sky as the sun dips in a fiery ocean of clouds.