August Spending: How Summer Ran Away From Me

The last two months flew by, and my lack of attention to detail around here (and in my budgeting app) are all too obvious. Historically I’ve tended to spend the most in July and August as these are the only two months I’m socially active every weekend. But wow, did I take this to a level I shouldn’t have this year! My spending is actually down from last year at this time, but still– I’m going to have to buckle down now that fall is rapidly making its presence known.

 

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 $1383: My electric bill has been on a budget plan of $109. I’m currently paying $75 due to credit from low winter usage. City utilities are average. Internet is fiberoptic.
  • Repayment to my Past Self $1610: Not as much extra toward debt this month. Budget will be a bit tight for a little while because of two months in a row of the following:
  • Groceries $421Not meal planning is REALLY starting to show. Some of this was for family meals instead of just me, but dang my food spending has gone up!
  • Pets $19: Dog food.
  • Bikes $0
  • Auto Maintenance $90: Replaced the right front strut. Thank you potholes 🙂 This was yet another frugal win via my kiddo sourcing a discounted part through his job and doing the installation himself!
  • Gasoline $59
  • My Spending $75: Yoga membership. This has been SO good for my back. So far with the number of classes I’m attending this has worked out to around $6/class, and I’m new enough post-injury that I really value the eyes on my form. 
  • Family/Friend Funtimes $110: Spending during a community bicycle event; dinner out with a new friend; paddleboarding rentals through my membership doubled w/Groupon; dinners with my kiddo in exchange for walking the dog during the day.
  • Kiddo: he’s paying his own bills now that he’s home for the summer! Yeah!
  • Everything Else:
    • $24 +1.00 cheater glasses for work – I now have a pair at home and a pair at work. Not necessary but much easier.
    • $33 prescription contacts through Hubble – they are a teeny bit big for my eyes but work just fine and cost close to $200 less per month than what I was prescribed!

 

The Overly Personal But Wow Does It Affect My Spending:

I have been in a social flux over the summer. Spending a little more than I’d like on outings, but more importantly spending more the days after I’m lonely. This year has been difficult on that end, with my son away and my two closest girlfriends having babies in the last year or so. I’ve realized just recently that I feel so adrift because I’ve lost that “daily blah blah” outlet. A jump in usage of personal social media correlates that, but it’s obviously not a suitable replacement for close friendships.

I also am conflicted with feelings for someone that initially pursued me in a dating sense but changed their mind before things got off the ground, and who lately has been making an effort to be friends in a buddy-telling-me-about-his-dates way (ugh). The normal Kat with a well-rounded satisfying emotional life would have no problem simply moving on from that friendship, since my feelings are not subsiding and I don’t care for that dynamic at all. But current wah wah I-want-to-go-do-all-the-outdoor-things-before-summer-ends Kat is drawn to the daily conversation and (free) activities we both enjoy.

How it’s affected my cashflow: I’ve noticed that I don’t go on spending sprees when I am emotionally preoccupied or down, but I DO let all my careful planning go right out the window while I spend the day drinking tea and reading fluff mystery novels or neuroscience books that keep my brain engaged and my heart quiet. This lack of preparation leads to increased spending during the workweek by stopping at the store every couple of days for dinner ingredients rather than sticking to a list.

I’m having a late cocktail with a new frugal friend tonight, so it will be easy to stick to one beverage and not order food. I initially hesitated to go out at all (rather than just meeting to bike on the weekend), but I think I need to start putting energy into ongoing friendships that don’t cause my heartrate to bound all over the place. For the sake of my net worth, of course 🙂

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June Spending: Post-Vacation Amnesia and a Cracked Tooth

walking path in Washington Park, Portland OR

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.

We’ll get right to it with self-analysis to follow 🙂

  • Fixed expenses $1245: My electric bill has been on an averaged budget plan of $109. We’re on a several-month streak of minimal or no charges! Cell phone bill was a little higher due to using data on vacation. City utilities are average. Internet is fiberoptic.
  • Repayment to my Past Self $1686: I set auto payments while I was gone, so it was easy peasy to keep up and not be tempted to “borrow” the extra to spend while on vacation!
  • Groceries $254 EEEEEGADS! This was for only 3 weeks! I can tell I didn’t take advantage of my extra day off after vacation to meal plan! There were a few cafeteria purchases as well, as I tried to readjust to my time zone and completely forgot my lunch a couple of days. 
  • Pets $344: Dog food, cat food, and the dog’s annual dental cleaning with antibiotics since he’s a very old guy 🙂 He kept all his remaining teeth this time, though!
  • Bikes $0
  • Auto Maintenance $234: The throttle sensor broke on our way home from vacation – just as we got back into the metro area, actually. Luckily for me, my frugal ninja college student knew that AutoZone lets you read the check engine light for free and prints out a report, and what do you know but we broke down literally right next to AutoZone! We managed to limp home at 20 mph, where my industrious kiddo then researched the part, purchased it, and installed it for me. $234 is for the part alone – I have a great shop that charges very fairly, but I’m assuming it would have been at least $500-600, more at the bigger shops around the city. The fact I already try to bicycle commute made it easy to avoid needing a rental car for the week my car was not in tip-top shape. A major win even though it was a surprise expense! And I had fun watching the install and learning how this doohickey is connected to my car’s computer.
  • Gasoline $28.19: One fill up, not including vacation.
  • My Spending $10 while on vacation
  • Family/Friend Funtimes $66: One ice cream shop stop (with a doggie cup of course) and a Groupon purchase for paddleboard rentals. SO MUCH FUN!
  • Kiddo: he’s paying his own bills now that he’s home for the summer! Yeah!
  • Everything Else:
    • $28 for drill bits and a chuck key (I have no idea where the chuck key went! The drill bit size I needed to repair a table was broken last summer); as well as a cheap roll of Caution tape to mark off the lawn where I’ve spread new grass seed and now fertilizer.
    • $33 prescription contacts through Hubble – they are a teeny bit big for my eyes but work just fine and cost close to $200 less per month than what I was prescribed!
    • $522 dentist – routine cleaning, x-rays, onlay (partial crown) of a tooth that was cracked
    • VACATION! $1645 for over 5000 miles, three people, one dog, 26 meals and a LOT of gasoline!! This is a HUGE decrease from my spending last year which was half the mileage, half the bodies, and straight camping.

Lessons: 

I am STILL annoyed that SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS of my vacation spending was for a hotel room! But I really think it’s bugging me more because I turned down a house stay option only because I hadn’t seen that friend in a few years and didn’t want to take advantage adding an extra guest and my dog at the last minute. Of course we picked up right where I left off and I’m so bummed I didn’t take the opportunity to spend more time with her!

PLANNING is the key for me, in EVERYTHING. From lunches to a cross-country road trip – the hours I spend preparing and pre-frugalizing my decisions always save me money and also save me from decision fatigue. I spent the first 40 years of my life winging it, so I still definitely have some work to do in this area, but the last nine months or so have put me on a good path. I wouldn’t say planning out my weeks are habit yet – in fact, it still feels very novel, but it’s getting easier and a tiny bit faster to do so. The week after returning home is proof that I need to keep working at this skill – my food spending was completely mindless on some days (I even bought coffee at work!) which was a bit eye-opening since it had previously felt very easy to avoid those little expenditures.

YouTube is an invaluable resource. We (ok, my son) fixed a car part that I’d never heard of and he’d not yet seen on a car built after 2000 (so the computer aspect and some of the hoses were a little more complicated). In the last six months I’ve used YouTube to learn how to rewire electrical outlets, repair small appliances, and have started using guided meditation videos daily.

Saying Yes to social opportunities is still important to me – purchasing vouchers for paddleboard rentals is already turning out to be a great decision. The three of us spent a gorgeous sunny afternoon on one of our many city lakes, and I can tell I’m hooked. Now just for more days off of work that aren’t raining 🙂

I’ve continued to walk around the city lakes with a dear friend regularly – costing us nothing but delightful time.

I’ve also joined my bike shop for a couple of overnight camping trips, which are loads of fun and incredibly frugal – my only expense has been my food; the shop pays for the campsite. I have more bicycling events coming up this month, that are also essentially free.

It finally feels like summer and I can tell it’s going to be a good one! What fun frugal activities do you have planned? 

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April Spending: A Month of Money and Magic

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.
tulips are blooming!

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. 

 

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February Spending and Looking Toward Spring

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.

 

The spending:

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 🙂

 

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January Spending and February Goals

The Uber Frugal January Challenge was a big success.  It was exactly the jump start I needed to solidify my thoughts and habits around money in the direction I’ve been working toward.

I made it the entire month without buying wine, which was surprisingly much harder than I expected. I don’t drink much at all in the summer, so realizing that wine in particular is such a psychological crutch in the depth of winter was quite an eye-opener. The ritual aspect of a drink at night was replaced by tea, but there is some physical component of wine itself (not just alcohol) that my body appreciates this time of year. I toyed with the idea of trying apple cider vinegar instead, but just held out and ignored the sensation.

On to the spending!

  • Fixed Expenses – I had a budget plan adjustment for my gas utility, which gave me a nice little bump to put toward debt.
  • Groceries –  !!!! Wow. I did better than I thought I’d be able to! This could be sustained for several months if I ate less variety than normal and stuck to the basics.
  • Pets – One bag of cat food and two containers of cat litter.
  • Gas –  I didn’t bike nearly as often as I thought I would.
  • My spending – $0! My eyebrows aren’t perfect, but my wallet is happy 🙂
  • Family/Friend Funtimes – One dinner out with my son and his friend, one brunch with friends.
  • Everything elseRoad trip to take my kiddo back to college, including lodging and gasoline during the trip.
  • Kiddo – His groceries, college-related costs, and spending money.

 

The thing I found the most challenging was not putting more toward debt when my overall spending was less than normal. I have lean paychecks this month and next, so need to make sure bigger expenses will be covered (car insurance, annual professional dues, veterinary care, etc). It was also hard toward the end of the month to spend at all, when I knew I was doing so well. I don’t think a challenge mentality would be healthy for me long term.

lazy Sunday in a ray of sunshine

Goals for Mostly Frugal February:

Continue meal planning like crazy — buying ONLY to a list makes a big difference, and buying ONLY during my weekly shop makes an even bigger difference! Not giving myself the option to “just stop for one thing” on the way home saves me money but also helps stop the impulse purchasing habit from resurfacing. I’ll continue to work my freezer down in February- there are still quite a few bags of strawberries from last summer that will make my winter nights much happier!

No spending on anything that is not groceries, toothpaste/floss, bar soap, cat/dog food/litter, or wine purchased mindfully and to the meal plan.

Walk or bike whenever I can. I’m not making as hardcore a goal as I did for January, to bike commute daily, because my lungs are apparently NOT a fan of the subfreezing very dry air. I haven’t been ill yet this season (knock on wood) and listening to my body is a big factor in that. I’ve started walking to the grocery store with my small hiking pack, and it’s been quite fun and helps the winter blahs. Much nicer than having to find a parking spot and deal with weekend traffic! I’m aiming to spend less on gasoline than I did last month.

Utilities – I’ll continue keeping the thermostat at 64, until I can determine how big a difference it makes in my overall usage.

Say Yes — February and March are usually months that I completely hibernate and miss the sun dreadfully, so it is easy for me to stay home and be a miser. I will spend minimally when possible to maintain relationships.

I’m again starting with a mindset of zero spending and working from there. 

 

We’ll see how my not-Uber-anymore frugal ways shake out, and reassess next month!

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December Reflections and a Gentle Reminder

Family portrait fail…. cat got bored, dog got curious, people were too busy laughing at the futility of getting dog and cat to sit nicely in proximity to each other 🙂

December was a month of spendy spending.

The majority of outflow was already budgeted for but a chunk of overtime on one paycheck led to a couple of impulse purchases that could’ve easily waited.  I’d increased my holiday food budget after going over plan at Thanksgiving, and went even further over plan in December.  Part of this was due to a last minute (as in Friday 12/23) request to have some of my son’s friends over for Christmas day and dinner that resulted in grocery/small gift shopping at 4pm Christmas Eve.  I wouldn’t trade that choice for anything, however, as I’m an introvert that rarely hosts and it was an absolute ball!  One of the biggest reasons I want to reach financial independence is to be able to choose time with my loved ones over my budget every time.  It was so much fun to cook for more than just me/kiddo, and my already-planned simple menu was vocally appreciated (just another reason I love spending time with this group of people!).

Alright, on to the numbers!  First up, bills:

My lower water usage in the winter is reflected in my bill.  Because I’d planned for December to be a larger-than-usual spending month in other areas, I was still able to pay more toward my debt than the minimums.  A pleasant surprise!

 

Now ‘fessing up to the grand ol’ internet what I chose to spend my hard-earned money on over the month:

I’ve included my 2016 monthly averages as a check for myself — 2016 was out of control for spending without paying attention in some months and July alone led to me researching frugal living ideas.  On one hand my misstep is a good thing because it led me to a whole online world of personal finance where before I’d been happily settled in the minimalist/simple living gardens of the internet.  On the other hand, my spending rate was by no means sustainable!

  • Groceries —  $284 was spent on December 23rd and 24th alone!  Eek!  Aldi was out of quite a few things on my list including a meat cut that ended up being quite pricy at the third store I went to after discovering many close by 4pm (hello katscratch!).  Aside from the main dishes, that were gobbled up within the day, snack foods have kept us going for the past week and provided New Years Eve snacks, so my ineptitude in planning for teen appetites on the small bites side worked to my advantage after all 🙂  Without surprise-hosting for both holidays I would’ve spent approximately $180 less by my list but it was so fun having people over that would’ve been on their own – I’m pretty sure we collectively saved money by eating together and definitely created more Christmas cheer and New Year’s optimism!
  • Pets — One bag of cat food.  Dog is still going strong on his giant Costco bag.  Last year’s average was affected by end-of-life expenses for one of our kitties.

    My trusty winter steed!
  • Bikes — Um, yeah, I spent quite a bit on winterizing my son’s mountain bike for my commute usage.  Studded tires, bar pogies made by my bike mechanic, full coverage fenders that had to be custom-fit, ski goggles with a clear lens, and platform pedals (my son is a clipless pedal rider; I am decidedly not after months of trying).  All of which I waited to purchase until I knew I’d get proper usage, and all of which were researched and will last years and years.  It’s actually been fun riding in icy and snowy conditions and the tires made all the difference on our group ride this month – a nice night with no wind but freezing rain that caused more than a few spills among the group (but not me!).
  • Auto maintenance — One pair of Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires for the front.  I was going back and forth about these but after being called in to work on a weekend and not getting there for over an hour due to slipping on side roads, I took the plunge.  These also will last years and years…. I held out last year but ended up renting a car with 4WD to drive to my kiddo’s college in January so the expense will be worthwhile.  My auto shop is amazingly honest and fair-priced, always giving different options including used parts, so I went with their recommended tire for my vehicle.
  • Gasoline — Three fill-ups.
  • My spending — Replacement of two items: a coffee grinder (I’ve been without for months but pre-ground coffee is starting to bother my stomach) and ski goggles.  The initial goggle purchase fell under my commuting budget but I LOST them loading my bike onto a bus rack and found a pair half off after Christmas.  I’m going to try riding with the stock (not clear) lenses.  I feel pretty dumb not even noticing mine went missing, but they made a world of difference in cold and wind where my glasses were fogging up like crazy.
  • Family/Friend Funtimes / Say Yes! — $29 for dinner out with the kiddo, $53 for a fatbike rental for kiddo on our group ride (these rides are SO MUCH FUN), and $76 for board games and puzzles at our favorite store.  The latter is already providing many returns 😉
  • Everything Else — gifts, including last minute items for holiday guests, cards, and pre-purchasing a particular gift for a friend’s birthday next summer.
  • Kiddo’s Expenses — includes all his food, transportation, and school expenses plus entertainment spending.  This month included a new pair of shoes.

 

I spent a lot of money this month.

You spent WHAT?!?! And no dog treats?!

If I wasn’t a diehard YNAB user that looked at last year, looked at my current hobbies and needs (namely cycling), and put money aside for the past four months, I would not have been able to make my spending work this month.  I wouldn’t have been able to easily absorb the impulse spending on guests and games, and I probably wouldn’t be starting the new year without adding to my debt.

It’s OK to be gentle with myself that I spent a lot of money, because my spending made my life better.

My hobby spending led directly to great conversations with new friends on our group bicycle ride as well as bonding with my kiddo both during the ride and  cycling in the snow on our way home.  Other than the disappointing spend on replacement goggles for cycling, every line item I reviewed was in line with my priorities to first and foremost Say Yes to time with those I love.  The goggles were in line with my priorities to not freeze my eyeballs or fog my lenses to the point I can’t see at stoplights, so I suppose that’s still a win 🙂

It’s OK to be gentle with myself for my missteps last month, because I learned a lot and loved even more.

A few months ago I would have looked at my spending and felt incredibly guilty, then probably even more anxious over how in the world I’d gotten so close to digging myself back into a hole.  But looking back at this month?  I feel grateful that I only had to experience the sensation of snowflakes in my eyeballs one night so far.  I feel exhilarated at the idea of continuing my monthly group bicycle rides, and inspired by the long-time cyclists that have taken my very-novice self in as one of their own.  I feel absolutely smitten with cycling in the dark and snowy icy roads when nobody is out, even though I’m only riding to the train station.  The early hours are magical and I get to experience them by feel and sound and smell, warm in my winter clothing and gear, where last year I was miserably still in my cold car, half asleep and resenting the hour.  I spent two holidays at home with people I care about, laughing and eating and telling stories, and not a hangover among us.  We ate some darn tasty food and played some delightfully fun games.  I am loving my life and am finally at a point that going over budget won’t destroy the rest of my finances.

It’s more than OK to love my life right now even though I work more than I want and spent more than I want.  I’m living a relatively easy life in a fabulous city with fabulous friends, recently turned strangers into regular cycling buddies, and have a loving family.

Looking back at my numbers over the course of the year, I made some huge blunders but learned a LOT and now have a concrete plan for the future.  What a great end to my year!

The best part is that my calendar tells me I get to try again next month!  It’ll be even better this time around because I’m getting crazy frugal with over 8000 other Frugalwoods’ followers, so the future is looking pretty great.

How was your December? Your year? Are you making drastic changes or fine-tuning financial choices for 2017?

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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.

november-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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