November Reflections and December Goals

My goal for November was to increase debt repayment to $1300.  This includes student loans, partial car loan, medical bills, and consumer debt but not my mortgage.  This number also is half my biweekly take-home income.  My current plan has me debt free in less than 3 years and it will be amazing to free up 50% of my take-home pay for retirement funds!

Here are my November expenditures via YNAB screenshot:

First up, bills.


Electric and Gas are on monthly budget plans; Internet is fiberoptic; Cell Phones are for two smartphones including data.  My Auto Insurance was up for renewal so I shopped around and saved 55% compared to my previous plan!  I paid six months in full and saved even more.  Amazon Prime was an impulse purchase last year but the kiddo has used it frequently for school-related items.  More recently I’ve used it a lot for Prime Reading and a bit for video and music.  We collectively decided this is a worthwhile expense for our family.

Next up, spends.

Debt Payment:  Met my goal.  It helps me judge my past spending choices less to think of these payments as a savings rate, hence the subtitle.

Groceries:  Three months in to the college year, kiddo and I have dialed in our individual grocery spending while we’re in different states.  This month showed me that when we’re both home and both hosting for a holiday we haven’t quite found that sweet spot yet.  I’m pleased we were close.

Pets:  One bag of cat food.  This is the first time I’ve bought the large size (compared to 1/3 the amount for $13-15), so hopefully it doesn’t get too stale for his palate.  The pup was switched to Costco’s grain free food last month, and I’m hoping the same for his food – he’s not even halfway through the bag yet.

Bicycle:  This year has been a spendy year for bicycles in my household.  I hadn’t ridden in years so am slowly acquiring gear needed for long tours, camping, and winter riding.  I’ve taken time to research each purchase and also made sure I truly love riding enough to warrant the cash outflow.  This purchase was at my local shop to replace a headlight that went missing — a must now that my commute is dark on both ends of the day.

Auto:  Thanksgiving break was the week of car drama in our household!  First a tire valve snapped when adding air to a low tire.  $30 at my neighborhood shop.  Then a rear strut mount broke, leading kiddo to buy an $18 heavy duty bond as a temporary fix to get home.  The shop replaced both rear struts and shocks for $395.  My vehicle is a 2008 Mazda 5 purchased last year (replacing a 2000 Mazda) that has overall been an excellent value, giving me the high gas mileage of my former car with the cargo space of a much larger vehicle.

My Personal Spends:  Took kiddo and his friend to dinner for $46.  They are seriously some funny, thoughtful young people and it was an absolute joy.  Bought snow pants and a very old made-in-England shetland wool vest for biking at a thrift store, $12.  Bought nordic skiing gloves split in between the fore- and middle fingers, a clearance reflective backpack cover, and REI brand wool glove liners for $14 at REI after a gift card balance.

Kiddo Expenses:  He has no “allowance” or limit; rather, we have regular conversations about what his needs and wants are and what expenses are his priorities.  Back to car drama!  Kiddo has done nearly all of the work on his car himself.  His only request for Christmas was winter tires for $293 which we kept logged as his expense instead of a gift so we have an idea about his real costs throughout the year.  He ran into trouble getting one of the wheels off, then once that was resolved (after a couple minor tool purchases) he ran into trouble with the clutch.  He used items around the house to diagnose the problem and after yet another trip to the auto store fixed it.  He also purchased some video games online (deeply on sale), a few clothing items, and a few snack purchases while out with his friends.  Oh, and he bought a Christmas tree!  Our first non-potted tree in years, and it smells fantastic.

Note the kitty who also has been “enjoying” the tree. He may or may not be the reason there are no hanging ornaments 😉

I didn’t contribute to “Savings” as I am really wanting to obliterate all my debt categories as soon as possible.  I use this for vacation spending primarily.

I’m happy with this month and stuck to my plans when it came to non-essential purchases.


Looking forward, now that we’re in December and it’s fully winter:

I will spend quite a bit to winterize my bicycle and continue building my gear stash.  In the past I’ve left my house only for work and going out to music venues with alcohol to keep me from freezing during the concert.  I am often cold and have slowly accepted that yes, I do need to invest in clothing and gear that will keep me warm if I want to remain active outdoors in subzero temperatures.

My frugal rules for spending will continue: No coffee out, cook all my meals including for work, no entertainment spending.  The standing exceptions are one food outing with kiddo and his friends.  I’m considering making an exception for a newer neighborhood music venue that has a really great ethic and is important to people I care about.

I will likely buy something small for Christmas even though we’ve already purchased kiddo’s gift.

Looking back at last year, and car expenses aside, I’ve spent 60% less than what I previously thought was “normal” and a “tight budget”, so I’m doing well in terms of having changed my mindset and habits!


What about you?  Do you plan to spend extra for the holiday season or for winter in general?

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