Saturday, December 31, 2016

Last Day of the Year ~ Saturday 12/31/16

I can't believe how fast 2016 went; No doubt it's a result of being older, seeing another child ready to leave the nest and feeling that time is escaping me, but it still amazes me that today is already December 31.

It was cold in Central Florida last night!  Marion County, just North of us, got some freeze warnings!  I'll bet Laura in Jacksonville did too.

When I went to bed, I brought up our old duvet cover that I had bought on clearance at Kohl's for a mere $10, several years ago, and I put the duvet in it since the outside of it gets cold and I wanted the kittens to be warm.  Anything for my kittens!  I was mildly worried about hot flashes for myself but I only had one quick one this morning.

Well, the kittens loooooooved the duvet cover!  Not only is it warm, but it also makes them walking on the duvet much quieter, thus resulting on less experimental pouncing.  A win-win, in my view.  Tabby Kitty went to sleep with Greg, as he always does, but Explorer and Princess settled themselves right away, one in the curve of my arm and the other by my feet; we didn't budge until 5:45 a.m. when I had to use the bathroom!  The kittens usually get up with me and have a snack (I keep food bowls and water ball out in the hall, along with a litter box, and Greg and I keep our doors open so the kitties can come and go) but today they stayed cozy and warm in bed. When I got back in it, Princess came to sleep on my neck, and then Tabby Kitty came in and wanted to bite my fingers to signal that he was ready to play but I told him "no!" so he settled himself near Explorer and partly on my arm and then I got HOT!  Woosh! Hot Flash!  I have to remove the PJ's, push away the duvet and let the cold room cool me off.  Then I thought, well, maybe I should get up, but everyone looked very comfortable so I recovered myself and Explorer crawled under the duvet and made himself comfy on my belly. Meanwhile, Princess had claimed my pillow and was cradling my head in her paws, so I was lying in a diagonal with my head almost hanging from the edge of the mattress so she would have the room she needed.  I tell you, they are so freaking spoiled!  But I had 3 purring and warm kittens surrounding me and it was as heavenly.

Finally, at 7:30 a.m., I felt guilty that the big cats were waiting for someone to wake up and feed them, and I knew it wasn't going to be Youngest Son (who seems to be content to let me feed them in the mornings when he's off) or Greg (who's been sleeping quite well the last few nights and he deserves it), so I got up and the kittens and I came downstairs.  I fed the older cats and made my coffee. This morning I remembered that I wanted to use my kitty cat mug that my daughter had given me so I've been using that and I love it.

Speaking of my daughter, she texted me from her dad's at 9:30 a.m. that she ate at Buffalo's Wild Wings last night and ended up being up most of the night with a really bad stomachache and nausea so she called in sick at work this morning and was going to try to sleep off the rest of the morning.  I suggested she stays at her dad's tonight instead of driving back here for the party she was supposed to attend, and she agreed. So she'll come back after her shift tomorrow afternoon.  I hope that she's OK.

It's 60F/15C in the living room this morning (we didn't turn on the heat) so I have a comforter on me.  The kittens came to cuddle and at one point I had all three on me, vying for the best spot.

Even New Kitty came to lie on the futon next to me and I covered her with a blanket so she would be warmer.

All those kittens on me meant that I had to push the laptop as far as I could down on my lap and type with my arms fulling extended while supporting sleeping and heavy kittens at the same time. What a workout!  I shall have nice strong muscled arms in no time!

Today is the last Double Microsoft Rewards Day, I believe, so I earned all the credits and reminded Greg to do the same when he woke up.  Oooh, last night, right before we went to bed, he started earning his credits and asked me to remind him of "my tricks" to earn them fast. Way to go, honey!  I kept on mentioning how much "Found Money" I had totalled up this year and how much we had spent in various categories for the whole year throughout the day, so I think that motivated him to try and be better about earning gift cards as well :)

I also played Swagbucks videos and reached my 1st Daily Goal by 11:00 a.m. and I'm stopping for the day.  Last night, I also ended up reaching my 1st Daily goal right before midnight so I was pleased with myself.

I defrosted some ground turkey for tonight. I've decided I'll make turkey tacos.  I had bought a turkey for Greg to cook for New Year's, but honestly, I can't face another huge amount of leftovers to eat so I told him I didn't want him to cook it just yet. Maybe in a few weeks... or Valentine's Day.

While catching up on Feedly, two things brought me joy this morning:

  1. This blogpost by Cat and Turtle entitled "Photographic Year in Review",  with amazing nature photos she took around Central Florida. She is such an amazing photographer. Truly gifted.  That post really made my day :)
  2. This article on NPR entitled "A Skeptic Fact-Checks Yoga's Health Claims And Goes With The Om" made me laugh outloud several times.  I can't even quote my favorite line because there are so many of them.
Oh, and today's Google Doodle too!  I couldn't take the excitement of the balloons jumping up and down in the net while anxiously watching the clock, waiting to be dropped!  It made me laugh.

Greg asked if we were going walking today but my foot hurts pretty badly so I'm all for resting. Plus I think I want to watch LOTR. Right now we're listening to the Brahms station Pandora and Greg is reading his library book. It's 11:30 a.m. and our son just got up.

Explorer is running away like crazy with a little orange mouse in his mouth, throwing it up in the air and batting at it until it goes under the TV stand and then I have to go retrieve it. He's very entertaining but I'm tired of having to get up all the time, so I blocked the opening with a towel that happened to be in the vicinity.  He seemed disappointed that "our" game is over :)

Yeah, those are VHS tapes that I can't seem to let go. One of them is of yoga (*snort, I never even watched it!).
I entered our walk into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned 60 BR points. I earn far more BR points for biking so I need to get back on the bike!

I re-read some electric pressure cooker instructions in one of the e-books that I had downloaded for free and printed a couple of recipes for black eyed pea dishes in the pressure cooker so I will attempt that tomorrow night.  I'll start soaking the beans tonight and defrost the sausage as well.

At 1:15 p.m. it's 62F in the living room and 71F outside so I opened the windows!  The kittens are all playing quite enthusiastically with one another, they've been at it for several hours so I think they'll take a nice long nap this afternoon.

I went to get "dressed" which only means that I traded my PJ bottoms for my walking pants because they're more comfy, believe it or not.  I started doing a little bit of chores:

  • Cleaned out the upstairs litter box (my responsibility)
  • Put away my reusable bags in my SUV
  • Reused water collected in the shower to water the poinsettias in front of the house and the parsley and cone flowers on the back berm.
  • Started a new 2017 Spare Change jar by reusing an empty mini container of Parmesan cheese.
  • Texted my BFF to ask when if she was available later in the week next week and if she wanted my DVD set of the 1st season of "3rd Rock from the Sun" since I just bought the entire series. If not, I'll donate it to a thrift store.
  • Texted Middle Son to ask if he was available for lunch late next week or next weekend and wish him a Happy New Year and ask him how his move went. I think he's at work right now, though.

Greg decided to go fishing. He asked if I wanted to come along but I didn't feel like it because I'm stressing over how much cleaning I have got to do!  I hate ended the year (or actually starting the New Year) with a super dirty house.  So I might do a little more straightening around here...

A short time after he left, I noticed a puddle of something in the driveway. I went to check... thick red liquid!  Damn it, the transmission AGAIN.  We just spent $422 on it 2 weeks ago and when I looked at our records, we had spent $500 fixing it for the same problem back in December 2014!  I called Greg to let him know and he wasn't happy to hear it but I guess that didn't deter him from going fishing anyway because he didn't come back.

I called my daughter to check if she was feeling better (she was) and confirmed that she is staying at her dad's tonight and not driving anywhere. I also asked her if she was going to be around on Tuesday morning because I'm thinking that I'll need to drive the family car to the vet's for New Kitty's appointment if Greg takes his truck in to the garage again and uses my SUV to go to work.

I went to the backyard and harvested 6 small tomatoes and some lettuce for dinner tonight. I put the lettuce in cold water so it wouldn't wilt.

While I was there, I decided to water the plants and refill the self-watering bins. Most of them have a lot of weeds in them and also are falling apart, but there is some lettuce, tomatoes, serrano peppers and kale growing so I might as well give them a chance. I watered the pineapples, the beans, the vincas and all the plants in pots.

One of my hose to faucet connectors broke but it turns out that I didn't need one. Phew! I've decided, however, that I'm going to spend the $75 Home Depot gift card that I keep in my wallet on 2 hose reel thingies on wheels. I used to have some years ago but we stopped using them for one reason or another, and Greg threw them away.  The hoses keep on getting tangled and it's getting on my last nerve.

I reused water collected at the faucet/hose connection (in an old bin) to refill 3 cat litter jugs that I will use to water the plants at another time.

I also refilled the bird bath and pulled some weeds.

I repotted the pink verbena that I just bought at Lowe's a few days ago into the large pots on the berm that used to contain the other verbena.  I also planted the daffodil bulbs, in the "planter" that I had created alongside the back of the house for the raspberry canes that didn't take off.

Daffodil failures:

  1. I didn't realize that I bought 2 different kind of daffodil until after I had already planted the bulbs!  One has yellow and red flowers, the others are only yellow. One kind needs part-sun (where I planted them) and the other needs full sun. Grrr!
  2. Both packages were supposed to contain 8 bulbs but one only contained 7.  I guess I need to count everything before leaving the store, nowadays!  I have no idea which was missing one.

My son went to the park. When he came back, he told me he had found a penny on the road and put it on my laptop. Yay!  I asked him if he wanted to keep it but he refused. I remarked that he won't get rich, thinking that way :)

I also cleaned out my old fanny pack, which I threw away. I found a dime in it, and then 8 cents on the breezeway counter. I added all this coinage to our 2016 Spare Change Jar.

I continued to declutter the top of our coffee table that's been pushed away in the exercise room since we've gotten the kittens and that has become my "catch-all" for my coupons, and a bunch of other crap.  I also somewhat cleared out the printer stand, although more work needs to done on that.

In the mail, I received a coupon for a free pouch of Meow Mix Brushing Bites cat treats.  I'll donate those to our neighbors since our cats don't eat treats (they get sick each time I give them any).

I laminated the new cheat sheet that tells us which credit card to use when starting tomorrow and gave one to Greg to put in his wallet. I put mine in my wallet.  We'll get 5% back in Rewards on gas purchases with Discover for the next quarter, woohoo.  I only used about 1/4 of a laminating sheet for that.

I shredded all the junk but sensitive (credit card offers, etc.) mail that had come in. 

I put the small bottle of French lavender antibacterial gel that Oldest Son's GF had given me for Christmas in my purse, and one of the car vent fresheners that my daughter had given me for Christmas in my car. It's gonna smell so nice now :) I had asked for that as a present because I see it as a frivolous purchase (says the woman who spent a ton of money on scented candles this year!).  Speaking of which, I unsubscribed from the Bath & Body Works emails :)

I cleaned out the litter box that's in the kitchen because it was stinky.

I soaked the black eyed peas and defrosted some smoked turkey sausage for tomorrow.

My house is still too dirty and messy but I feel better having done the little that I did today :)

Greg came home and didn't catch anything, but enjoyed his fishing time with his new frog lure.

Now it's almost 4:30 p.m. and I'm relaxing with a bottle of hard cider.  Two kittens are taking a nap near me, I'm not sure where the 3rd one is.

Middle Son texted me back and we're going to meet for lunch next Saturday. Yay!  I'll need to remember my resolutions: drink water and watch what I eat :)  This will also serve as his birthday lunch. He wants to come visit the kittens so we'll probably just have lunch in town.

Greg wanted to order a part to repair his leaf blower and checked out a site. He was about to order it and it would have cost over $30 with shipping.  I remarked on the price and asked him to hold off on ordering it until I checked my email for a discount code for Repair Clinic.  In the meantime, he checked that site, found out that the part was cheaper there and shipping was cheaper as well!  I couldn't find the email with the 10% off code that they had sent me a long time ago ("good for your next purchase") but I checked RetailMeNot and was able to save 5% by using a link on their site. Woohoo!  The part ended up costing us $21.85 and I charged it to his Amex card for 1% back in Rewards.  Woohoo, teamwork!

Brr, I'm cold again and I had to wrestle a blanket from underneath Explorer who had plopped himself on top of that blanket AND the comforter that I've been keeping on the couch too!  Now we're both warm and toasty. Our temps are supposed to be in the 40s again  tonight but our high tomorrow will be in the 80s and going up every day through Tuesday. Grrr. I'll have to turn the AC back on tomorrow afternoon.

For dinner, I cooked turkey tacos with ground turkey meat I had bought on 50% clearance, Ortega soft tacos bought at Dollar Tree with coupons, shredded cheese bought at Aldi well over a month ago and that hasn't spoiled yet (which is kind of suspect, if you ask me!), some light sour cream and the bottom of a jar of salsa.

I made a side salad from lettuce and tomatoes picked from the garden and cucumber slices cut from a shriveling cucumber that we'd better finish tomorrow. More salad!

In the failure department, I had to compost 2 very brown bananas and most of a can of black olives that I had saved in a plastic container but that went bad anyway :(

I reused the water that I had soaked the lettuce in to refill the pitcher used for watering the indoor seedlings and the rest of it went to water my rosemary pot outside.

At dinner, I asked the men to reminisce about their milestones for the year and neither could think of anything, which quite honestly, was a huge let-down.  And then my son made a snide remark and I started crying out of the blue.  Dinner was over and no one listed any milestones for me either, or any accomplishments.  Then I did the dishes and started thinking about how much I miss my Oldest Son and how I'm starting a new year on the odds with him and I'm getting sad all over again, damn it.

But at least I end the year having done the dishes.  So yay for me, I'm counting that as an accomplishment.  I washed a length of foil that I had used to cover some wedges of cheese, so I can reuse it. We still have so much "bad food" that I'm going to have to avoid eating starting tomorrow, it's going to be tough.  I've hidden the rest of the chocolates and hopefully will forget about them :)

 I might go to bed early and turn the pedestal fan on so I don't hear the neighbors exploding their fireworks.

Bonnie, one of my readers, challenged me to lose 5 lbs by January 31 and she will do the same (we're actually encouraging each other as we both need to lose the weight). It's a manageable goal, I think. Well, I hope.  Does anyone want to join us?

Overdrive emailed me to say they had renewed "The Passenger" by Lisa Lutz for me as I had requested them to, but since then, I've lost interest in the book. So I went to my Amazon account and returned it so someone else can read it.  The next book that I will start reading will be "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them". It's actually the screenplay, which is... odd, I suppose.  Greg suggested, jokingly, that we play act it as a family, which drew a deep sigh from our son who, for some reason, has an aversion to anything Harry Potter, even though he's never read any book in the series.  I thought it would have been fun :)

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year.

2016 Frugal and Financial Goals - Recap

For some background, here is the link to my 2015 Recap.  You might want to read the introduction because all of it still applies, up to the "Retirement" header.

To wit: I'm great at making plans, not so much at following through with them.  Well, you'd think I would have learned my lesson but I really didn't, which might be why I feel that I really haven't done much progress and in fact, that I have regressed in some area (*cough* diet! *cough*).

Now, here were my 2016 Goals.  I was very detailed and I intended to revisit the goals quarterly so as to assess progress.  Well, I dropped the ball on that. I guess it's better not to report on it so we can't face defeat, right?  Ugh.

But now it's time to face the music.  So...

  • Goal: keep it funded ✔ + $3,188.64 added in 2016
  • To Do:
    • Recalculate a bare bones budget to know how much we would need to live on if Greg lost his job and multiply it by 6 months - Didn't do
    • Put that amount in a liquid account that earns more than what it's earning in our savings account right now (Discover Savings?) but with no risk. Yeah, about that... didn't do.

2 - INVESTMENTS - completely neglected this category. Zero progress.
  • Goals: 
    • understand investing 
    • be a better investor  
    • increase our investments

3 - RETIREMENT - Partly successful
  • Goals: 
    • save the maximum allowable ✔ maxed out the 401(k). IRAs?
    • be savvier in our retirement funds' investments - no :(
  • To Do:
    • Current 401(k) :Contribute the maximum to Greg's Roth 401(k), which is $18,000 for this year again.  I have already set the contribution rate. Done.
    • Old 401(k): investigate rolling it over into an IRA because of performance issues and fees. Nope
    • IRAs: Contribute the maximum to our IRAs, which is $5,500 each for 2016, again. Not yet as of 12/26/16 but intend to.
      • Investigate whether we will qualify for Roth IRA contributions for 2015 and, if not, put that money back into our regular IRA accounts so we're not penalized by the IRS. We moved the money back to regular IRA's.
      • Regardless of the outcome, we need to complete the contribution to my IRA before April and before doing our taxes since we didn't fully fund it in 2015. Didn't do it.
      • As far as the 2016 contribution, wait until early 2016 to contribute once we know whether we qualified for Roth IRAs for 2016 or not. Haven't contributed yet as of 12/26/16. Greg is supposed to look into it this week. Neither of us really feels like dealing with all of this. Ugh.
    • Nathalie's old IRAs: need to investigate whether I should change the investments so I get a better performance. Didn't do.
    • Disney Pension: Investigate whether I should take the lump sum or not. Decided not to take the lump sum as we don't need it right now.

4 - TAXES - Didn't do much :(
  • Goals: 
    • minimize our tax burden
    • strategically manage our tax bill so we don't get a tax refund but also don't get a tax bill!
  • To Do:
    • Look up when the stock options will vest in 2016 and mark in in my Google calendar. I think I did that?  But then I didn't look up or recalculate anything so it didn't matter.
    • Adjust Greg's W-4 as needed when the stock options vest and if/when he gets his bonus/raise (zero allowances right now but maybe we should sent extra money?) No, didn't do.  Didn't recalculate, left the allowances at zero and didn't send any extra money.  Tax time is going to be so much fun.
    • Track Greg's paychecks in Excel every 2 weeks so as to understand what is going on with his income, etc. (complicated pay stubs!) - DONE!!! YAY!!!
    • Health FSA: continue to track our expenses to see if we would need to adjust our Health FSA contributions next year.  DONE!!! YAY!!!
    • Find an accountant to help us plan future fiscal strategy. See if they offer a free interview to gauge compatibility. Nope.
    • Research tax credit for new window installation (and also explore Duke Energy $400 rebate) - looked into those, didn't apply to us.

  • Goals: 
    • keep expenses low; only buy what we need. Hmm, we could do so much better!
    • pay cash for everything - yes no debt incurred. But we didn't pay cash, we charged as much as possible and paid off all our cards every month. Which is what I intended to do, I just worded it poorly.
    • put as much money as we can in savings/investments - we saved some but we could have done better.
  • To Do:
    • Large Expenses:
      • Mortgage: continue paying down our mortgage by sending $925 extra to our principal every month.  (I re-ran the calculations and we should pay it off in 50 months, so Feb/March 2020.) We actually increased our monthly extra payment to $960 in March.
      • Car Maintenance: 
        • replace the tires on my SUV and Greg's truck - done
        • take my SUV in for a full check-up before the summer - Didn't do.
        • take Greg's truck in for a full check-up before the summer - Didn't do.
        • keep track of the family car's mileage and take it for a check-up at 60K miles - kept track of the mileage, will need to do the 60K maintenance in early January 2017 as we are just now approaching 60K miles.
      • House Maintenance and Repairs:
        • Need to: tear down and rebuild the front porch (wait to see if Greg gets a bonus) - Didn't do.
        • Would like to: get the shower leak fixed in the downstairs bathroom (a more involved and costly repair/remodeling job than it sounds like) - Didn't do.
        • Would like to: replace the fridge with an Energy Saver model (need to research cost) Researched. Decided to wait until the current fridge dies as actually Energy Star won't save us all that much and a new fridge would be very expensive.
        • Would be nice to: get the electrician to install a permanent connection for the generator - Didn't do.
      • Travel:
        • Greg and our son to travel to Ohio to visit his parents - Did, several times.
        • Greg to visit his daughter and grandson in North Carolina - Did, several times
      • Graduation present for my oldest son - Done

  • Every Day Expenses:
    • Keep our everyday expenses low
      • Buy only what we need. Limit impulse or "but it was such a good deal!" purchases as much as possible.  I actually think I did OK for the most part.  
      • Buy used whenever possible. Keep on adding to my thrift store wish list. DONE! I got lots of things from thrift stores and keep an ongoing thrift store wishlist.
      • Update my credit card chart to see which ones have the most advantageous rewards - DONE. Created cheat sheets for Greg and myself to use every quarter.
      • Don't sacrifice quality for cost. Not sure that I did that, though. I'm cheap.
      • Track everything in Excel.  At the end of every month, assign any leftover money to a fund that needs to be replenished (car maintenance, house maintenance, etc.) - Did track everything in various spreadsheet. However, didn't assign any leftover money to anything in particular. Just left it in checking.
    • Regular car maintenance: take the vehicles in for their oil changes, etc. Mostly done, got oil changes, replaced bulbs and windshield wipers.
    • House maintenance:
      • Repaint the bathroom ceiling with mildew resistant paint - Didn't do.
      • Repaint the master bedroom - Didn't do.
      • Identify which electrical outlets should be replaced and schedule replacement with the Home Wire Protection provider - Didn't do.
    • Utilities:
      • Water: continue saving water by collecting rain water, fixing leaks, not irrigating, turning off faucets when not in actual use, only running full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher, reminding the kids to limit their time in the shower.  We spent $801 in 2015 (sewer and trash/recycling pick up included).  Try to spend less in 2016. Collected rain water and reused water collected in leaky shower, ran mostly full loads, etc. However, did nothing to fix the leaks :(  Spent $762.87 so we did spend less, though!
      • Electricity:
        • Start replacing the CFL bulbs in the most used rooms with LED bulbs (entry room, living room, kitchen, daughter's bedroom, front porch). Price them and then be on the lookout for sales. DONE, replaced most bulbs with LEDs.
        • Invest in more power strips with on/off switches and do the rounds at night to avoid leaving power vampires plugged in when unnecessary (like the Xbox 360 and its TV that are rarely used, or the TV in front of my exercise bike!) - Didn't do that.
        • Clean fridge's coils once a month - Did it a couple of times only, despite monthly reminders :(
        • Keep the AC turned off (or up) when the kids and Greg are gone (76 or 78F during the day) - I think I was pretty good with this!
        • See about scheduling maintenance for our AC units this year - Didn't do.
        • Use the crockpot and microwave a lot more - Yes!
        • Don't use the oven to bake just one thing - I tried, didn't always succeed.
        • Continue drying the clothes on the laundry racks - I did it the vast majority of the time.
    • Gas (for cars):
      • Ask Greg to work from home one day a week.  Didn't track it but he didn't work from home every week.
      • Try to reach 7 No Drive Days this year - Done, we got 11!
      • Continue batching errands. Avoid driving during the weekends. Batched my errands as much as possible but we did drive on the weekends as we went to walk on trails, went fishing, etc. We felt those were positive activities for us so were willing to forego No Drive Days.
      • Use the family car for errands as much as possible (much better mileage) - wasn't always possible since my daughter needed the car, but I did use it extensively this summer when she was away.
      • Investigate the bus schedule to go into Clermont (to walk on the trail or run errands that don't result in my shopping a lot!) Investigated but never rode it.
    • Food Expenses:  Goal: $5,200 maximum for ALL food expenses, i.e. groceries and eating out/ordering in (but not travel food expenses) - FAILED BECAUSE OF EATING OUT/ORDERING IN THAT WAS OUT OF CONTROL. But the grocery only budget did come under budget.
      • Stick to a $50/wk average grocery bill - Tried to but not too hard. I need to be better in 2017 as I definitely spent more than I really should have.
      • Plan meals with what we have on hand - I actually failed at that a lot this year.
      • Use up what we have in the freezer and pantry (i.e. rice noodles, hamburger helper, crockpot sauces...) - Hmm, nope.
      • Avoid food waste. Continue posting Food Waste Friday every week. Failed. Didn't post about Food Waste too often this year :(
      • Eating out:
        • School lunches once a week - Kids did great in the rest of the last school year. This school year, my son hasn't eaten at school even once and my daughter is buying her own food when she eats out, which is most days.
        • Daughter to pack a dinner or eat at home on college nights - Done
        • 1 dinner out a month challenge for the rest of us.  Oh that so didn't happen!
      • Continue redeeming my Swagbucks for grocery gift cards and credit card rewards for CVS gift cards or grocery gift cards whenever possible - DONE
    • Entertainment:
      • Do not renew Amazon Prime - We decided to renew it after all.
      • Reevaluate Netflix by starting to track our usage, again.  Remember that I bought a Kindle Fire to watch shows while I cook/do the dishes, though... - Didn't track the usage but we used it A LOT. However, I'm thinking that we won't keep it much longer because there's really nothing that interests us much anymore, especially most of their "Netflix Original" shows.
      • Look at shows available on DVD from our library - I borrowed quite a few seasons of TV shows from the library this year. 
      • Continue to use free codes offered by Redbox to watch newer movies (if any) - Only redeemed 1, I believe. There just wasn't anything we wanted to watch.
      • Continue watching over the air (OTA) TV - The various stations changed their line-up so we ended up watching less OTA TV and more shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant.
      • Research the 2016 NFL Sunday Ticket: could we get it through my middle son's college status? Greg decided he didn't want to watch the NFL this year.
      • Internet: call Brighthouse to investigate what other (cheaper?) options we have than the plan we currently have (currently paying about $53 a month) - Didn't do.
      • Replace our router (Christmas?) - We had to since ours crapped out!  Bought an expensive Google On router but it's been great.
      • Gaming: keep Gamefly membership - Yep. Greg loves it and uses it a lot.
    • Cell Phones:  I would like to reduce our cost (currently at about $165 per month for 4 lines!). Things to keep in mind:
      • Greg is off contract in May or June this year - AT&T dropped the cost of his line instantaneously when he went off contract, we didn't have to do anything. Yay!
      • Would it be cheaper to put the house line on Ooma or similar? (but then the AT&T plan might change and not for the best) - Kept our plan the same.
      • Need a plan that allows for international travel (Canada, France) and making calls to France from the USA, which Ting doesn't provide
    • Gardening: I would like to keep my cost at $200 or less for the whole year.  I may not garden for one of the seasons.  I actually spent about $250 on vegetable gardening and supplies. This does include $85 for a rainbarrel. This doesn't include any landscaping expenses (another $200!).  I certainly didn't recoup any of that money in harvests, though. This continues to be a big money waster for me, especially when we don't even eat what I grow.
    • Car Insurance: Call USAA  to review our policy and find efficiencies (paying $269 a month right now) - Didn't do.
    • Education:
      • Research college scholarship for daughter. Schedule meeting with foundation director, DD, and myself. - Done
      • Investigate Florida Prepaid options for our youngest son. Put the documents together and discuss with Greg (funds that he's already earned with his cat chores) - Done and started contributing back in April when open enrollment was in effect.
    • Pets: budget and schedule check-ups and food for 3 cats - Done. And then we got 3 more cats.  Budget is through the roof. Oh well :)

6 - HEALTH - TOTAL FAILURE after mid year success.
  • Goals: 
    • get healthier!
    • stay healthy!
  • To Do:
    • I need to lose weight. I have much to lose but I would like to lose 20 lbs by the summer, that would be a start. I will do this by a combination of diet and exercise.  Diet will be using MyFitnessPal to record my food intake and follow their caloric guidelines. Exercise will be walking on the South Lake Trail and using my recumbent bike at home, along with some exercise tapes that I have at home. I will start with that plan on Monday 1/11/16. - Didn't success. Repeatedly.
    • Schedule an appointment with my eye doctor this summer  DONE, got new bifocals.
    • Schedule GYN appointment in the fall - Didn't do.
    • Follow through with a mammogram this time - Didn't do.
    • Take daughter to a GYN at some point - Didn't do.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Lounging in My Jammies and A Walk at Lake Louisa State Park ~ Friday 12/30/16

I love her little judgmental face there! I think I'll keep on using that picture for new memes this year :)

This is going to be a very short post, because  I'm starting it at 8:30 p.m.!

What did I do all day?

  1. Worked on my 2016 Food & Beverages Expenses post
  2. Worked on my 2016: What We Spent On Everything Else post
  3. Went on a walk with Greg
  4. Took an hour bath
  5. Cooked dinner and did the dishes
I haven't even finished earning Microsoft Rewards yet and I have to catch up on emails, blogs, etc.

I did earn 40 SB in a search first thing this morning. Woo!  My 1st goal is 50 SB but it's 9:45 p.m. now and I have kittens sleeping on me so I don't know if I can earn more!

It was "cold" today in my neck of the woods!  It was 58F this afternoon.  I had to wear a jacket to go outside!

My morning was spent working on the Food & Beverages Expenses post.  Greg slept in. He felt much better this morning and his eyes weren't bloodshot and I don't think he took any allergy medication today at all. Yay!  He spent the rest of the morning reading his library book.  Our son slept until 11:30 a.m. or so. It was chilly in the living room and I had 2 kittens flanking me.

Tabby Kitty

My daughter left to go to her dad's early this morning.  She'll be back tomorrow afternoon.

We had leftovers for lunch. I made myself a delicious meatloaf sandwich!

In the afternoon. we went for a walk.  Greg headed to the General Van Fleet trail, and I wasn't too enthused because we seem to always go there and I want some more variety and to discover other trails and parks.  We drove the 15-20 minutes to the trailhead closer to SR 50 and when we got there, the parking lot was full. There were several couples walking and more people and kids getting ready with bikes and skates in the parking lot.  I said it was like walking at the Mall (I like it much better when we're the only ones there, or with only a few people on bikes) and that I didn't really want to walk there so he didn't even park!  He made a show of sighing very loudly and said "Well, WHERE do you want to go then?!" but you know what? He wasn't looking forward to walking with all those people either, it was all for show!

We thought for a minute and I suggested we go to Lake Louisa State Park, in Clermont.  We took the back roads to go to the back entrance.  The entry fee is $4 at that gate but we left $5 because Greg didn't have any change and I hadn't brought my purse.

We ended up walking part of the nature trail. We saw a few people at the beginning and Greg relished in telling them "Hello!!!" in a very loud voice just to annoy me because he knows that I think it's weird and annoying when everyone greets each other when they pass each other on the trail (you don't do that when you drive down the road or when you walk in a parking lot or at the mall or grocery store!). But after a short while we were gloriously alone and enjoyed our walk. We really didn't see anything exciting and I only took a few pictures.  

Because I expected to walk on a paved trail (General Van Fleet), I had worn my walking shoes instead of my new hiking boots. However, the Lake Louisa Hiking Trail is very sandy and in parts was muddy so I think the hiking boots would have been more appropriate. I think I might keep them in Greg's truck from now on, just in case.

It was easy to walk on this...

but not so much on that and there was a lot of "that"!

I thought I had seen a sign saying that this is "gator moss" but I can't find it online so I guess I misread the sign.

They did a lot of prescribed burns in the park but the vegetation is regrowing nice and green, already.

We saw nuthin'

I had to take this picture for Youngest Son. Once upon a time, this would have become a treasured pretend gun at my house!

It really was a gorgeous day to be out today.

Most of the flowers I see these days are yellow.

But here is a pink one. I can't look up its name because I have kittens nestled under the comforter that's on my belly right now (and it's making typing this very challenging!).

I spotted a lot of those unusual seeds but I knew not to touch them, for some reason. Back home, I looked them up and I'm glad I didn't because they're very toxic. (abrus precatorius). It's also extremely invasive and hard to get rid of.
We walked for about an hour and a half but didn't go very far because the trail was so sandy in places where it was a shared equestrian/hiking trail, that I had to slow down a lot.  So about 40 minutes before the finish line, we had been discussing tracking how far we walk, etc. and I remembered that I had the Runmeter app on my phone so I fired it up and started tracking us. At that time, we were still on a grassy trail so my pace was about a 22-min mile.

By the time we reached the truck, my pace had lessened to 1 hour and 8 minutes a mile!  ROFLMAO.  And my ass did hurt with all this walking in deep sand!

I only started up the app about halfway through our walk. I'll need to remember to
use it next time we go walking as we always guesstimate how far we've walked.
On the way home, we explored a road that I had always wanted to take, which was fun. So many houses in places we didn't even know where there!  

Back at home, I went to take an hour-long hot bubble bath. Aaaah! So enjoyable. Especially with some snacks and a bottle of hard cider!  I had planned on reading my library-ebook but I only was able to last 30 minutes. I shall not finish it as it ended up being more silly and irritating than interesting.  Then I read some blogs on my Kindle.  The whole time I was in the bath, there were kittens (Explorer, mostly) crying behind the door to be left in and scratching at the door.  Geez, Louise!  Eventually my son called out to let me know he was back from the park and I yelled back for him to come get the kittens so I did have 10 minutes of peace.  Greg had his headphones on the whole time so he was completely unaware!

Once changed into comfy jammies, I started to work on my "Other Expenses" post.  That was a lot of work as well and I'm not sure that I should have shared so much, but,there you have it. It sure helped me, in writing everything down as well as my thoughts, to put some kind of plan in place for next year.  

I cooked Coriander-Crusted Salmon and white rice for dinner. I didn't harvest lettuce from the garden, despite leaving myself an email reminder to do so, so no salad for us. We have leftovers of that too.

While it was cooking, I unloaded the dishwasher and then reloaded it and started it after the dinner dishes had been loaded.  Yay!

Greg informed me that Monday is also a day off for him, I had thought he was going back to work on Monday.  So we can still watch LOTR tomorrow, Sunday and Monday if we decide to do so.

However, this means that I'll probably start 2017 with a "Not So Domestic Monday". I have so much cleaning to do!

In desperation, I guess, Greg even did his own laundry today!  I was quite cross with him, although only because he didn't bother doing mine as well. Grrr.  LOL.

I've been listening to the Maroon 5 Pandora radio station today and I've really enjoyed it.

I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards credits and reminded Greg to earn his (he actually did earn them yesterday!).

I wanted to earn the last 10 SB I needed to hit my daily goal by playing Swagasaurus but it won't work for me on Chrome and it only worked for a couple of minutes on Edge although it wouldn't let me earn any SB.  Poop.

The season premiere of Sherlock is on PBS on Sunday night at 9 p.m. EST!  I guess my daughter and I will be watching it so any LOTR watching will have to be in the afternoon :)

2016: What We Spent on Everything Else

Deep breath... for someone as introverted as I am, this is a huge step... but I see Personal Finance (PF) bloggers do it all the time so I'm taking the plunge as well.   This includes all of our expenses other than food and beverage (although it does include the Travel F&B category that I also added to our 2016 Food and Beverage Expenses.)

I had to load the chart into several pieces so if you click on it to see it bigger, expect to only see a few chunks at a time.


Our expenses next year will be different:

Of course we hope that Greg will remain employed and that he'll get another big bonus so we can pay down our mortgage even faster than we had anticipated!  Right now we send $960 extra to the principal every month and I will continue to send this (it's automated so it's easier that way).  Our HOI policy increased (and I just realized that I didn't check to see if our property taxes did) so our escrow will be higher in 2017 and we have to make up a small deficit for the latter part of 2016 as well.

House Repairs:
That's a tough one. We need lots of expensive repairs (plumbing!) and cosmetic renovations (bathrooms and kitchen).  I think that if the end of the mortgage is in sight, I'd like to hold off on the costly stuff until the house is paid off.  Fixing the leak in our shower is going to require tearing down the bathroom and it's silly to do that unless we're renovating it, in my view, otherwise it'll need to be torn down anew when we renovate.  I would like Greg to either tear down the front porch or fix it. He wanted to tear it down this past summer and build some kind of a small front deck but then his dad took a turn for the worst so he didn't get to it. We haven't priced that at all.

Household Goods:
I want to reduce expenses in this area.  We really do not need a lot of things and I'm committed to checking thrift stores and not blindly buy something new unless I really can't find it used. I would like to get either a king size mattress for my bed or a better twin-size mattress.  I am putting a moratorium on buying scented candles until i use up the ones that I have right now, which is a lot.

Our cars all need maintenance checks since Greg and I skipped ours this year. I've actually skipped mine a long time. I get oil changes but I haven't taken it for its scheduled maintenance for a while. These days I only drive locally so I guess I take that as an excuse to not worry about it too much. But since it's been paid for, it'd been nice to be able to keep on driving it past 140K miles!  The family car just passed 60K miles so it's time for a check-up too.

I'm going to look into see if I can cancel collision on at least my SUV, possibly Greg's truck too and lowering my policy limits since I no longer drive groups of high schoolers to their events. My son isn't a big joiner or into team sports so I don't anticipate having to do that for him as I had done for my daughter.

Our son will hopefully get his driving permit next month, which means no need to have him on the insurance just yet.  However, my daughter continues to be and I only ask her to refund us $30 a month, slightly less than 1/3 of the cost of the policy.  I don't anticipate her buying the family car from us to go to college as for now she's planning on living at her dad's and that's just 5 minutes away. She can bike or get a motorized scooter.  My son will learn to drive and practice driving on the family car since it's a stick shift and I want him to know how to drive a manual transmission vehicle.  We will keep my daughter on our insurance policy. Her dad has several vehicles so I anticipate that she will be driving anyway, and he already has both our older sons on his policy, I believe.

I don't know if tolls will be any cheaper as my daughter will no longer be driving our car to go to her dad's, as infrequent as it is, however I plan on going to visit her when she's in college, just to take her to lunch and bring her back for a weekend here.

Beauty Expenses:
I've been toying with the idea of coloring my hair at home again (I stopped that several years ago) so there might be an increase in this category. I've already bought prepaid cards for Great Clips this year that should last us all of 2017 and I cut my own bangs.  I don't do mani/pedis/eyebrows/waxing or make-up and I don't anticipate that changing.

Clothing and Shoes:
We'll all need new sneakers/walking shoes this year and Greg needs new shoes for work as well. He's been wearing his hiking boots (!) because he says they're very comfy but if he needs to replace them, it'll be over $100 because he buys "the good ones".

I had bought him clothes in a smaller size when he lost a lot of weight. He's put weight back in but he plans on losing it again this year so he should be set for clothes. I gave him new flannel shirts at Christmas and he inherited lots of brand new clothes and undies from his dad.

I plan on losing weight but I have clothes in all sizes and I don't care if they're outdated so I think I'll be OK. I buy most of my clothes from thrift stores anyway. Not working outside of the home means that my usual attire and style is "frumpy housewife" i.e. shorts or capris and a T-shirt.

Our son had tons of clothes! I might need to get him new jeans if he grows a lot this year but I think he might have reached peak growth already. He only owns 2 pairs of shoes and he likes it that way.

My daughter will likely not need new clothes before she graduates high school. She seems to have an awful lot of clothes already. I just bought her a bunch of new socks, not sure how fixed she is with undies and bras, I'll have to ask.  She tends to get clothes from her dad's too.

Our premiums for medical will increase slightly in 2017, really not that much, thankfully. I lowered our Health FSA contribution from $600 in 2016 to $200 in 2017 because we have about $200 that are rolling over to 2017.  The only one of us taking prescription drugs is my son for his acne.  I do want to get trifocals in 2017, which are covered by our insurance and the co-payment will come from the Health FSA account.  Not sure what costs we will incur if/when I do decide to go to the GYN. I'm playing with the idea of finding a new provider and a woman this time. My current provider has been my GYN since Middle Son was born in 1996 but a couple of years ago he went from an independent provider to joining a large group that seems to have pushed him into suggesting more cosmetic than medical procedures and I resent that and the whole "all your records are online now and shared with everyone!". I know it's everywhere and I hate it and I stopped going to doctors when that happened.  Anyhoo, I'll be asking local woman for referrals.

Exercise Expenses:
Greg will continue to attend the gym across from his office and be charged for the membership at a corporate rate, deducted from his paycheck. He usually goes there every day at lunch time so it's money well spent. He enjoys it.

I have a recumbent bike at home and a real bike too now so my exercising expenses should be limited to replacing any exercise clothing if I lost a lot of weight and getting new walking shoes. I guess that would fall under this category and not "Clothing"?! I can't remember where I put those expenses this year.

We're all at the mercy of rate increases and what's going on in the world so it's hard to predict what will happen.  We now have mostly LED bulbs in the house but we do have some older appliances.  The worst culprit is the AC and this will be dependent on what happens with the weather this year!  My daughter won't be living here starting in August so we should be able to keep one half of the house warmer than we have so far.
As for water, I hope we'll get some rain so I can use the rain barrel to water the garden.  We continue to ask our son not to take such long showers but he has several things to do for his acne treatment that do take time.  Again, my daughter won't be living here so our expenses should decrease somewhat after August. The sewer fees are tied to the water usage.  Trash & Recycling pick/up won't change, unless they hit us with a rate increase, but we haven't gotten a notice.

Cell Phones:
This actually should go down since Greg just got a business phone and we will be cancelling his personal line hopefully next week.  With the international travel that is in my future (parents getting older), I won't switch to Ting since they don't cover international plans. So we'll stick with AT&T, I suppose.

School Supplies and School Events:
I expect this to be lower in 2017 as my daughter will have several scholarships to cover her fees.  My son is very good at reusing his and I have stocked up on a lot of things.  As far as school events, he's not in band or sports and is a freshman so there isn't any prom or anything.

Oh boy.  This will increase.  We've only had to buy kitten food for 3 months this year!  Pet medical care is expensive and we have the 2 older cats (and New Kitty too by default) on prescription food so I'd rather pay more in food and keep the cats/kittens as healthy as possible.  The medical expenses will be high again because we have to get all three kittens "fixed" at the end of January, at a cost of $700+, but I hope to get $150 back from the county in form of rebates. Then there are the regular annual appointments and hopefully everyone continues to be healthy.  Our cat litter expense will also increase since we now have more litter boxes and as the kittens continue to grow and eliminate more!  As for toys, I'll continue to get as many as I can from my favorite thrift store, although I think we're set for a while now!

Gardening and Landscaping Expenses:
I actually hope these will be lesser. I don't want to keep on spending so much on vegetable gardening for the little pay-off that we get. I do enjoy it as a hobby but I feel that I should be able to just buy a few seed packets and maybe some soil!  As for Landscaping, I'll continue to buy vinegar by the gallon to make the weedkiller for the patio, it works very well! I don't use pest control products.

We receive a letter several months ago announcing "big changes" now that Brighthouse (owned by Time Warner Cable) is part of Charter (ugh!) but haven't seen anything change yet. So we'll stay the course. I suppose they'll raise the price since they all seem to do that when they monopolize the market. Our area only has ONE cable internet provider so we're stuck with them.  If they implement caps, we'll be in trouble since we have 2 heavy online gamers and we all have streaming devices.

We don't have cable but we do have Netflix and Amazon Prime. Amazon provides us with other benefits than just the Prime videos so if we were to cancel anything, it would be Netflix.  This year I noticed that most of the shows that I tend to watch are the same old shows that I love: Frasier, That 70's Show, Third Rock from The Sun... so I started buying complete seasons of the shows I love on DVD.  Eventually, I'd like to drop Netflix, especially as they continue to put up "original" content that, for the most part, I think is crap.  Greg couldn't care less.  I'm going to check the current line-up of our over-the-air (OTA) channels to see if we can go back to watching those channels in the evening instead of Netflix or Amazon. We usually go to the movies once or twice a year but I anticipate not going at all this coming year. We prefer watching movies at home.

Books and Magazines:
Greg will buy the occasional e-book but this year he found an author that he likes who has published several "real" books that our library system carries so next time he wants to read something, I'll suggest that.  He borrows books from the Kindle Lender's Library all the time and also downloads free e-books.  This year I bought several Florida Nature-related reference books but I bought them used on Amazon, using Rewards to bring down the cost or to get them for free. I have a few more on my wishlist so I'll order them this year.  Otherwise, I borrow all my fiction books from the library.  So does our son.  Greg and I each receive one magazine each but we both have free subscriptions to them.

No concerts on my horizon this coming year so I guess this expense will go down.

This certainly should be much lower in 2017 since we won't be getting a new gaming PC anytime soon, hopefully. Having said that... the Xbox One Scorpio is supposed to come out in 2017 and Greg has already warned me that he's getting it.

Other Entertainment:
I plan on visiting quite a few new parks and museums in 2017. I want to go out more, on my own, during the week.  Greg and I have already spoken about getting a State Park Annual Pass but I have to calculate to see if it would actually be worth it. I also want to drag my son from his computer to go on field trips with me so that'll come out of that budget.

Life Insurance Policies:
Will increase slightly as we're getting older and the premiums are going up.

Well, this could be much lower if I keep to a stricter and leaner budget, or higher if I end up taking my daughter to France as a graduation present. I do want to lower the Christmas present budget and also be more mindful of how much we spend during the year.

I would like to increase this to $500. I am researching charities. I will also be contributing my time. I would like to get involved with the Friends of the Library at my local library and start driving a cancer patient to his/her chemo or radiation appointment via the American Cancer Society.  I had said I would start after the kittens were old enough to be left alone and the time has come. However, when I said that, I didn't anticipate going overseas this year.  I need to ask them how this would affect the patient they would assign me. I wouldn't want someone to be left in a lurch without a drive while I'm gone. So maybe start after I come back?

Kid Chores:  
We now have 6 cats so there are more cat chores to be performed. So I expect this will increase, actually.

Fees and Various Taxes and Office Supplies:
I expect this to be lower this year. Obviously I won't have to shell out another $150 for MS Office :)

Flood Insurance:
It's been going up every year that I've gotten it so I expect another increase this year, especially since there were so many flood insurance claims in 2016.

Travel Expenses:
This is the big unknown.  Greg will go visit his mom several times. He'd rather drive so he can visit his daughter on the way but it will all depend on his mom's health. He likes to take our son camping in the summer for a couple of weeks so I expect he'll do that again. As for me, there's that whole trip to France (not sure if it'll happen and if I'd put it under "gifts" or "travel) and I have no idea of what the budget should/will be.  My mom is also getting older (70 this year) so who knows if I might have to go because of health issues.  I don't do the credit card shuffle to get lots of travel miles so all costs will be out of pocket.  The airfare will probably be the same whether we go for a week or a month, but this time we'd be staying at a hotel the whole time, whereas we were staying with family last year.  We wouldn't rent a car, though, and that was a very big expense between the rental fee, the insurance, gas and tolls. But we'd probably get train tickets to go visit my mom. And then museums and attractions, spending money, yummy French food... So much unknown!

We're going to max out the Roth 401(k) again and hopefully also be able to contribute to our IRAs, something we still haven't done for 2016.
It's hard to say if we'll get a tax return or not.  In a perfect world, we wouldn't get a refund and not have to pay the IRS anything extra either. But with stock options maturing at different dates, it's hard (for me) to figure out in advance what our tax bill will be. And now with all the yahoos coming to power in 2017, who knows what will happen to tax rates.  If we do get a refund, it'll go to savings.
I will continue to send the amount corresponding to Greg's small 2016 raise to the "car replacement" savings account each pay period and if he gets another raise in June 2017, it will be added to that too.  Also the amount corresponding to FICA will go to that account once it stops being withheld from his paycheck.
Prepaid College Fund expenses will go up since this year's total only includes contributions that started in April.

Well, this was a long post to put together!

Our Main Goals for 2017:

  • Continue to pay off the mortgage aggressively. As several cost areas will increase, I won't bother trying to send every extra penny to the mortgage company. We'll stay the course, which is to pay off the house by the time our son graduates from high school in 2020, sooner if we're fortunate enough for Greg to get bonuses.
  • Try to reduce everyday expenses.
  • Max out retirement savings.
  • Maintain a healthy emergency fund.
  • Stay out of consumer debt.
Have you examined your 2016 spending and thought about strategies and goals for 2017?  Is there a debt that you're trying to pay off in 2017?

2016 Food & Beverage Expenses

This year I tracked every penny, including on how much we spent on food. It's one of the major expense areas in any budget, usually, and also the one where it's easier to cut back, in most cases.

So, one caveat when you look at my end of year numbers: I reported what our food cost us out of pocket after all rebates, coupons and use of gift cards. Please remember several things when you consider what we spent:

  • We don't live in a food desert and have access to transportation to go shopping at multiple stores.
  • I don't work outside of the home and dedicate my Wednesday mornings to going grocery shopping. For hours. I have the luxury to be able to cherry pick what I buy at each store.
  • We have an Aldi pretty close to home (15 minutes).
  • I use coupons, although the bulk of my shopping it done at Aldi, where they don't take coupons.  
  • I use rebate apps. 
  • I use gift cards to reduce my food costs, such as gift cards earned via our credit card reward programs, grocery store gift cards won in sweepstakes or instant win games, and gift cards earned via Swagbucks and Microsoft Rewards.
  • There are 4 of us at home: 3 adults (i.e 18+) and 1 teenage boy.
  • My daughter (the 18 year old) eats a lot of her lunches out but she pays for them herself. My totals don't include that. I did include the lunches that she charged (with my permission) to my credit card.
  • Greg likes to use cash and doesn't turn in receipts when he does. Although he's been much better at charging everything this year, I know for a fact that he's spent money on vending machines (soda). Those expenses aren't included, since I have no idea what they are, but I know it's not a lot since I'm aware of how much money he got from the ATM this year :)
  • The eating in/ordering out includes the money I put in the kids' lunch accounts at school.
  • I tracked the food expenses incurred while traveling (i.e. when Greg went to visit his parents and went camping with our son) because I wanted them to be part of our "travel" budget. However, I chose to include them in this report because I wanted to make sure I had an accurate picture of ALL our Food and Beverage expenses.
  • If I bought a gift card for a restaurant for us to use (not as a gift for someone else), it's included in "Eating In/Ordering Out" even though we might not have spent it yet. For instance, I have at least $90 of restaurant gift cards in my wallet right now.
  • I budgeted $100 per week, with the goal of trying to spend no more of $50 on groceries. My goal, which I spectacularly missed, was to only spend the difference between my budget and my groceries when eating out/ordering in.  Yeah, it didn't work out that way. Far from!

So, without further ado, here are my numbers:

Breakdown of the groceries only expenses:

  • I think I did great with the grocery shopping.  There were only 2 months when I was over budget and one of the months (May) was when I stocked up on proteins and spent a lot on produce.  The other was December when I bought way too much food for Christmas but that will sustain us into January.

  • I do want to reduce how much money we spend on "snacks".  Hopefully, in trying to be healthier this year, this number will go down.

  • I read that fewer and fewer people are eating cereal. Not us!  We eat tons of cereal, and yet our total spent on cereal is year is very low: $32.63.  This is because I redeem my Kellogg's Family Rewards points for $1.00/1 coupons, wait until the cereal is on sale at CVS, and paid for it with a gift card earned via one of our credit card reward programs. Most of the boxes that I have bought (and I'd love to tell you how many boxes that was but figuring it out is too much work so I'll skip it, but it was a lot) were consequently free to me. I did pay for cereal at Aldi and occasionally at other stores where I didn't use a gift card.  I also made Greg's Grape Nuts for a large part of the year, which is significantly cheaper than to buy it.  Lucky for me, the kids got him 6 boxes of the real stuff for Christmas :)

  • Most of the proteins that I bought this year were on clearance.  Lately, I haven't seen any meat marked down to 50% at Save A Lot (or anything else, for that matter) so I wonder if they changed their policy since they've been bought out by a new company. If so, my protein costs will increase a lot in 2017.

  • As I mentioned above, I, well WE, completely failed in reigning in eating out/ordering in expenses. Yes, there were too many instances of my feeling lazy and not wanting to cook (and no one stepped in to cook for me). Also too many instances of my not packing a lunch for him and he bought lunch from work because he was too lazy to pack himself a sandwich as well.  But also we treated ourselves an awful lot.  The blame isn't just his, but Greg's idea of celebrating or going on a date always includes eating out and I don't mean McDonald's.

  • All in all, though, we spent $8,173.64 on food and beverages for 4 people.  The USDA Thrifty Plan, as of September 2016, called for a family of our composition to spend $684.40 per month on Food and Beverages.  We spent $681.13 ($8,173.64 divided by 12). So I'm going to stop beating myself up right now, lol. We didn't go into debt and we managed to save 61% of our income this year. Other people spend money on make-up, clothes, cruises... we spend money on food.

Moving Forward:
  • We start 2017 with full freezers and a full pantry.  While I'd love to have a Grocery Challenge in January, it might be unrealistic.  So I will strive, at the very least, to use up as much as I can from what I already have.  Looking at my numbers at the beginning of 2016, it seems that it's what I did then too.

  • We should have a Bulk Nation, USA store opening in Clermont in early 2017 and also a Bravo supermarket (typically products catering to the hispanic community). I look forward to visiting them as well, to see if I can further reduce my expenses.

  • 2017 will see changes in our family: my daughter will be going away to college in the fall and so I'll only have to feed 2 adults and 1 teenage boy.  My budget will remain at $100 a week until then but will drop to $75 after that.  My goal will still be to not go over $50 a week.

  • To achieve this goal, I need to be serious in implementing or continuing or renewing my commitment to such tactics as:
    • Keeping my freezer and pantry inventory up-to-date and on Google Drive so I can access it from my phone when I'm shopping, if need be.
    • Stocking up on proteins when they're on sale but if I go over budget, I need to reduce the amount I spend the rest of the month.
    • Planning our meals in advance based on what I have on hand, NOT what's on sale that week.
    • Building in a "Cook's Night Off" 2 nights a month when we're ordering in.
    • I'm thinking that I will use whatever money is left over from the previous month's food budget as a guideline for eating out/ordering in expenses in any given month. I will share that number with Greg and the kids ahead of time so we can all be cognizant of it when one of us suggests eating out or ordering in and our choice of restaurants/items. It sounds obvious, but I didn't do that in 2016.
    • When eating out in 2017, I will be mindful of portion control and nutritional content since my goal is to lose a lot of weight this year, and I will drink water. It's cheaper and better for me, and I can get free sodas from RaceTrac if I want to.
    • I will strive to pack a lunch for Greg every day. If I know there aren't any leftovers, I will make myself make him a sandwich the night before since I hate making sandwiches first thing in the morning.
How did you do in 2016?  Do you have any idea of how much you spent on food this year?  Do you have any resolutions for 2017 when it comes to that part of your budget?