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Viewing the 'Budgeting & Goals' Category

2016 Spending & 2017 Vacation Plans

January 1st, 2017 at 06:45 am

In the end, it looks like we spent within $90 of what we spent in 2015, for total household spending. I mentioned in my last post that we are VERY consistent.

{Edited to add: Um... The kids owe me like $60 for Christmas gifts that they bought. MH was settling up with them yesterday. Once I settle up with them, I think our spending will be within $30 of the prior year. That is just CRAZY!}

Here are top 5 expenses and bottom 5 expenses for last 2 years:


NOTE: Edited to Top 6, to capture big expenses. All other expenses were $2,000 or below.

I highlighted the vacation spending because we aren't big vacation spenders and these are very one-off type expenses. Our annual budget is only $2,000 for vacation, and is more in the realm of what I foresee spending the next several years.

On the mortgage, we made an extra payment (or two?) versus last year. We should be under the $7,000 mark on mortgage interest in the future. This is one of those expenses that is snowballing downward very rapidly.

Auto expenses include repairs/maintenance, insurance, registration, fuel. (We pay cash for cars; no car payments). You might presume that our auto expenses were down because we now have a newer vehicle. But our repair spending in 2016 was $0 on our 2005 minivan. In contrast, the 2013 vehicle needed a new battery and new tires. (We replaced the crappy/cheap stock tires, and the battery died prematurely).

{I do have details on the autos, and I also track expenses per vehicle. For 2016: $1944 fuel, $1800 insurance, $278 registration, $803 repairs/maintenance}.

Medical expenses are insane, but our insurance has covered almost seven figures in medical procedures for my husband (before age 40). So, at least I know we get our money's worth, and it's very important for us to have high quality insurance. I am sure given different circumstances we would have just gone "cheap". It's been our biggest expense for several years, so is nothing new. It's been our biggest challenge with *one income* living, but we live so far below our means that we have been able to deal with it. But I know it's so glaring that I should address.

**I have not included income taxes because is not a big expense for us.**

The interesting thing about our lowest expenses is that it tends to be our more luxury spending. I am sure I have said it a million times before, but will say it again. We don't do without. We just are careful and rein in costs, and shop around. & prioritize what is the most important. So most of our "luxury" type spending ends up towards the bottom.

The only reason we paid any childcare in 2015 is that our carpools were flakey and they'd forget to pick up our kids (and their own kids too). *sigh* Our attitude for 2016 was to just take care of it ourselves. I am sure this is reflected in additional driving (A LOT), but gas has generally been cheaper this year.

Haircuts went up substantially because MM(13) is suddenly interested in a short hairstyle.

Vet care - we learned that our vet is cheap when it comes to shots.

I did notice that our telephone expenses (not listed) more than doubled. It was one of the more noticeable changes, since everything else was so consistent. We just didn't get as many Ting referrals (discounts) in 2016. So we paid $300 for landline + cell phone service for 2015. We paid closer to $700 in 2016. This included adding cell service for DL(11) the last couple of months. Both years we just paid for my parents during the last 6 months of the year. We are going to add MM(13) to cell plan this summer. So, should be an additional $144 per year, for the long run, with the two new lines. (It's only $6/month to add a line to Ting). I don't expect the kids will use much data/texting. They've had smart phones for years, so they are used to seeking out free wifi. I think we will probably just cover this bill for my parents. We used to split 50/50, but now it's going to be more 66/33. & we seem to use more data which is why we just tell my parents not to reimburse us for the second half of the year. Maybe I should just ask them to cover their $144 per year for the additional lines. As long as their usage remains low, we will just cover the rest. I think this sounds like a good compromise, since I don't know that we need to be subsidizing my parents' phone bills. But maybe $144 is a good compromise where we don't have to try to divide the bill as it gets more complicated. That's just their obvious "share" of the bill. You pay per line and then it's a flat amount for all the data, text and minutes that you use for that month (as a group). Even the first line is just $6/month.

I expect our total expenses to be about the same for the next couple of years. We have some home maintenance ($$$$) to tend to. Starting to talk braces for both kids. So stuff like that will probably replace our recent vacation spending. These are things we also want to take care of while our income is high and before our kids start college.

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While discussing vacation spending, I want to jot down some notes on that.

2017 Vacation Plans:

I really want to do a National Park vacation. It will have to be without the kids. Aiming for fall. I am thinking more frugal road trip. I don't even know if we'd spend $500 on something like this. So it's like my "Dream vacation" for the moment, but is nothing that is a big financial drain. Grand Canyon is at the top of the list.

MH has plans to go to Florida for his Grandpa's 90th birthday. It's in the fall; the kids and I won't be able to go. So it just works out. (I do not want to go, so it really works out!) That will be with his family, so I expect our only expense will be airfare, which should not be much.

My dad was making plans to river raft down the grand canyon with my son. He told me on Thanksgiving that he would cover the costs and would expect us to pay for airfare. I think that's fine and reasonable. (Though our vacation spending has been insane, I have just been trying to go with the flow, not knowing how this trip would shake out. Time like this, with Grandparents, is just too priceless). As our parents get more financially comfortable, they invite us on trips less often that they expect *us* to pay for. (They also give us more cash, which we set aside for these type things. Is why I often say that "the Grandparents are paying for it," whether they realize or not). Since it was domestic, I just went with it. In the end the trip sounds quite expensive (more than I would have thought), but I believe that my dad will follow through on paying for it. Anyway, we weren't sure if it might be too late to reserve for summer and I mentioned that MM(13) will get out of school the following year on May 31st. No more of this crazy "short summer" stuff, for him. So my dad told me yesterday that the more he thought about it the more appealing it sounded June 1 versus mid-July. It would be just so crazy hot in July. I think it's probably best all around to push that off. MM has his big school DC trip this spring. So this will space out his big trips a bit. Heck, maybe I will try to tag along if they wait another year. I just couldn't even think about it with my broken foot. That gives me time to save up too. (If this seems feasible, I suppose that MH and I would consider visiting Yellowstone instead, in 2017. We will start making decisions this summer).

November Savings

November 30th, 2016 at 05:56 am

Received $39 bank interest for the month of November.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card. But... Paid annual $95 fee. I will subtract $95 from snowflakes/investments.

Redeemed $64 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$17 Savings from Target Red Card
--$40 Focus Group (survey)

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 500 to Investments

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$200 Tahoe Weekend
-$200 Monterey Weekend
-$185 Auto Expenses
-$200 Medical
-$325 Life Insurance
-$5,400 Property Taxes

& with that, we have drained short-term savings for the year. Still choosing to pay ahead property taxes, paying just once per year for simplicity.

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Our fiscal year should be over. I paid all of the December bills already. Mostly expecting any expenses this month to affect our 2017 bottom line. Anything that comes up in December will most likely be charged and paid off in 2017.

I will update sidebar through December since I will fund December savings tomorrow with 12/1 paycheck. It's just the investments that I do at the end of the month and it looks like I will need to top off a bit. Oh, and I don't plan to pay extra $3k to mortgage until the end of December. Just making sure no surprises come up before I part with that money.

October Savings

October 30th, 2016 at 08:39 am

Received $43 bank interest for the month of October.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $62 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $7 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$8 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash (mid-term savings)
+$ 900 to IRAs

Savings (From dh's paycheck):
+$ 500 to Investments

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$860 Auto maintenance/insurance/registration
-$280 Medical Bills
-$255 Hotel Deposit (40th Birthday)
-$185 Donations (just random stuff that came up)
- $50 School Expenses

In addition, I pulled $350 from mid-term savings to cover some tree trimming and shrub removal.

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Our fiscal year is just about over. I paid all of the November bills already. Mostly expecting any expenses this month to affect our 2016 bottom line, but anything that comes up in December will most likely be charged and paid off in 2017.

This month was pretty boring on the financial front. As planned, we funded our VR splurge with MH's income. (I've already paid off October charges, so it's paid for). The other 50% went into his 401k.

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That reminds me, I also sold the knee scooter. We had paid for it with focus group cash that MH had received the day before we bought the scooter. Since we had paid $150 for it, we just listed it for $150. it sold easily at that price. Net cost was $0 to use it.

I decided to just use that cash for MM's gymnastics, since they only take cash. This should cover him for the rest of the year (particularly with all of the holidays). I also used some of the cash for a school fundraiser. I will account for gymnastics somehow when I do the 2017 budget. But for this year I was able just to wing it.

September Savings

September 30th, 2016 at 09:18 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of September.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $41 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $6 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$6 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-220 school expenses
-188 Medical Expenses
-110 Large Purchase**
-90 Dentist
-40 Took kids/friends to fancy pool

**MM was going to reimburse us partially for a shared electronic purchase. I think we just forgot in the chaos. I'll check with MH on this.

Edit to add: MM reimbursed us $55 for large purchase

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July Flashback:

In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

August Flashback:

No movement on this. I can't imagine readying for contractors in my current state. Though we have lost MH's free summer time to deal with this, work is really slow for me this time of year and I can handle it. I need to at least start getting some quotes in September.

September Update:

No progress on this front because life is chaos right now. I don't see how/when until things settle down a bit.

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MH is back at work. He got a nice raise but is working less hours. It almost evens out, though making a little bit less.

For this month I am just putting his paychecks (3 weeks) towards replenishing our checkbook for vacation expenditures & gymnastic spending.

Next month he will put his 401k back to 50%. He's pre-ordered a VR system, which will take all of his income in October. November income will pay for the hotel on my birthday. I guess that except for the 50% 401k thing, we are just splurging his income most the rest of the year. (We have cash for these things, but we are also working on saving up for some big expenditures, so it will be nice to just cash flow our big splurges).

Until I typed this out, I thought we had maybe gotten used to the extra cash flow and were over-spending a bit. In the end, I was $750 short in the checkbook, after MH being off work for 3 months, which is easily explained by $250 vacation overage plus about $500 of gymnastic spending. Now I just feel silly. We have enough float in the checkbook so I was just kind of muddling through in the interim. I had forgotten that I hadn't otherwise planned for the gymnastic expenses.

I was expecting that MH's income would cover the kids' extra-curriculars. In the past we've covered with other windfalls or they just haven't been significant expenses. I can't say they were a big financial priority. But now we are in a better place to afford this type stuff. I think a lot of it will be moot given the kids' school changes for this year and next. So any bigger expenses will probably be rather temporary. For the next calendar year I can plan ahead better.

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Overall, I'd say that this month was chaotic. Probably too much stress spending.

More fun spending is planned for October. MH and I are going to Tahoe this weekend, and next week we are taking the kids to Monterey. (Instead of the usual big October break that we usually take advantage off, the kids have only one day off together. {Which is why we moved our DC trip up to June}. Though technically MM is skipping his math class so that we can go to Monterey during the week).

August Savings

August 30th, 2016 at 08:42 am

Received $41 bank interest for the month of August.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $50 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $43 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $4 cash back on Visa/dining card.

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$10 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-900 Auto Insurance and Maintenance
-300 Staycation Spending
-165 70th Birthday Party
-100 Kids' Birthdays

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Other Snowflakes:

--I did earn $250 in gift cards but have yet to be able to redeem them.

--Dh earned $150 cash from a focus group. We invested in a used knee scooter/walker and I am hoping we can sell it next week. When we sell it we will probably buy a used violin for Drama Llama. I don't expect that to cost an entire $150. It seems more sensible to buy used than to rent.

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Kind of a boring month financially. I have some medical bills that will charge next month. Most the expenses above were for July spending. August has been more of a "stuck on the couch" month for me, and busyness with back to school.

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July Flashback:

In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

August Update:

No movement on this. I can't imagine readying for contractors in my current state. Though we have lost MH's free summer time to deal with this, work is really slow for me this time of year and I can handle it. I need to at least start getting some quotes in September.

This week we are taking the kids to the Doctor (well visits/shots), putting new tires on the newer car (replacing low quality stock tires before rainy season) and I got a referral for tree trimming and dead shrub removal. I am pulling a list of contractors to call but I don't know if we will get to that this week. As long as we are steadily ticking things off the list, it can wait a bit longer. Physically, I might be up to dealing with readying the house this weekend.

P.S. Also labeled this post in the *one income* category since dh had no income during June/July/August. His income is more in the "snowflake" range anyway. (If he had a larger income I don't know that I'd differentiate on or off months, but I am definitely feeling the difference without the extra breathing room). I am not even entirely sure he has a job still, so I guess that is some of it.

July Savings

July 30th, 2016 at 06:24 am

Received $39 bank interest for the month of June.

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash

Nothing was pulled out of Savings in July.

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July was kind of a crazy spendy month, but that will be funded with August income. We spent $1,500 on auto insurance, auto maintenance, auto repairs, birthdays (3), and our trip to San Francisco. I will deduct all this from short-term savings next month.

I decided to apply snowflakes to bills this month. That was my instinct last month but I stuck to the investments. This month am going to take a break since the budget needs a breather.

Snowflakes to Bills:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $75 cash back on Citi card.

Redeemed $12 cash back on Visa/dining card.

--$20 Savings from Target Red Card

I also received a random $50 settlement claim check.

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I did round up the mortgage payment by $9 since that got us down to the next $xxx,999. I could care less about round numbers and would rather see a lower number in the thousandth place!

I just tend to round up when I make a large extra payment (one or twice per year). I guess I felt I should snowflake something this month.

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In August we really need to get moving on some home improvements. I know I am procrastinating because I don't wanna. *sigh*

P.S. Also labeled in the *one income* category since dh had no income during June or July. His income is more in the "snowflake" range anyway. (If he had a larger income I don't know that I'd differentiate on or off months, but definitely feeling the difference without the extra breathing room).

June Savings

July 2nd, 2016 at 05:29 am

Received $40 bank interest for the month of June.

Snowflakes to Investments:

Redeemed $25 credit card rewards (cash back) from our gas/grocery card.

Redeemed $182 cash back on Citi card. (Lots of travel expenses this month)

Redeemed $20 cash back on Visa/dining card. (More travel expenses)

Other snowflakes to investments:
--$6 Savings from Target Red Card

Savings (From my paycheck):

+$ 200 to investments
+$ 300 to cash
+$ 900 to IRAs

Short-Term Savings (for non-monthly expenses within the year):

+$1,300 to cash
-$2,000 Airfare (Entire vacation budget)
- 725 Dentist (3)
- 20 Vet (shots)

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More spending than saving this month. Pulled the following amounts from long-term savings:

-$1,300 MRI
-$2,700 8th Grade Trip
-$3,000 Family DC Trip

It probably won't get much better. In July we will work on some big home improvements.

I suppose for this month it should be called "June Spending".