Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2016 Christmas Budget/Spending Autopsy

Ok, so calling this an Autopsy is not very festive or cheerful.
So call it "The Post Where I Talk About What I Was Going to Spend for Christmas and What I Actually Spent for Christmas".
Whatever works for you.....

I budgeted $1600 for Christmas spending in 2016.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas.
Last year I budgeted $1800.00 and we spent $1583.94.
So I based this year's Xmas budget on what we spent last year(plus a few dollars to round up to $1600).

I have been tracking our Christmas spending since 2010--
2010.........$1000 planned/$881.64 spent
2011.........$1300 planned/$851.32 spent
2012.........$1000 planned/$1020.48 spent
2013.........$1650 planned/$2164.77 spent
2014.........$1900 planned/$1742.87 spent
2015.........$1800 planned/$1583.94 spent

How do I arrive at a budget for Christmas?  Nowadays I look at what we spent the previous years(because I have a full accounting for the last 6 years or so on the blog)and see where we did well and where we did "not-so-well" with budgeting and add in any unusual things we plan to do and after some papers are balled up and thrown away and there is one sheet left with lots of writing on it(as well as writing scratched out on it), we have a plan and a budget. lolz

No, really.....I look at possible spending categories and what I think we will use.
I generally use c/c points to get gift cards for free(to either give as presents or use to buy the presents to give)plus I buy a bit here and there during the year when a deal presents itself and those items are cash flowed from our regular monthly income.  I have been known to reserve blogging revenue, rolled coins and/or cash rebates from grocery purchases during the year to pay for Christmas expenses.
I generally don't set money aside each month throughout the year(like a Christmas club account or actual money in an envelope earmarked for Christmas spending)since we had a large cushion of cash in our checking and savings accounts and I can just pull from those sources when I need money to spend on Christmas stuff.

But if you don't have extra cash lying around it is a good idea to take funds during the year and earmark them for the Holidays.
There are many ways to save ahead for Christmas.....make regular deposits to a dedicated account or a Christmas club at a bank, use a one-time windfall like a bonus or a tax refund, etc........so use whatever works for your situation.

The only unacceptable plan is to GO INTO DEBT for Christmas!
Better to not spend on Christmas than to endure the grief/angst/anguish/stress by going into debt buying crap at Christmas you can't afford and having to pay off the bills incurred sometime in 2017, or 2018 or beyond.

So we went into the Holidays with $1600.00 budgeted to spend.

Here is where the funds were allocated.......

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $35.00
Gifts for immediate family(includes any cash gifts)  $800.00
Gifts for extended family & friends  $50.00
Electricity for lights   $15.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie   $100.00
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)   $500.00
Charity  $100.00

And here is where the money actually went.....

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $28.27
Gifts for immediate family  $542.45
Gifts for extended family & friends  $56.00
Electricity for lights  $7.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $60.00
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $0.00
Charity  $100.00
TOTAL SPENT...$793.72

Here are the Spending Details....

$28.27  *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----
We sent out 32 cards and mailed 1 small gift to a friend and 1 package to my eldest son.  Stamps cost $14.85 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.  
We had planned to see eldest and his fiancee at Xmas time so when we didn't travel at the Holidays I had to mail gifts to them.  The heavy stuff I didn't send and will hand deliver later in the year.
I did send 1 person who isn't family a small gift this year.  The actually gifts I either paid for from my food budget and/or I already had here so no costs associated with those gifts given, just the postage.

$542.45  *Gifts for family----Under by $257.55
Last year I spent $699.77 on gifts for family so I spent $157.32 less this year on the family's gifts.  Family included 8 people--Hubs, 3 kids and their 2 SOs, my brother and sister in-law.

Here is how I kept the cost of gifts a bit lower than it could have been this year--
* I cashed in points on my credit card and/or hotel program card for free gift cards to give or use to buy items to give. (I wasn't very successful at this strategy as in year's past but I still saved some by using it.)
* I bought items I was going to buy anyway and sent for premiums(free items). IE-$10 Best Buy gift card offer for buying 20 apples sauce packs. These type items cost me the price of a stamp to mail away for the offer.
* I used some Coke Rewards points to get a free $10 Amazon gift code to give.(Coke points were free to me off of bottles someone else paid for.)
*  Many items were bought at Kohl's online during Black Friday week and the weeks following.  I used $100 in gift cards I already had and paid for last year for some of these purchases, 3 items purchased gave me $36 in cash rebates(which brought the cost of those items to $7.99 each)plus I earned $60 in Kohl's cash on one order which I applied to a subsequent order.
*  I shopped sales, both in store and online.  I keep an eye out throughout the year for deals.
* Lots of stocking stuffers were items gotten at Rite-Aid over the course of the year for no money too.  I also bought 4 fragrance gift sets on sale at the Holidays at R-A, with coupons and cash rebates then I sold 2 of them which covered my OOP on all of them so I have/had 2 gifts to give at no cost to me.
More stocking stuffers were gotten at the grocery store for free after coupons and others gotten as giveaways/freebies from companies.

$56.00  *Gifts for extended family---Over $50 Budgeted Amount by $6.00
We spent a bit more on the nephew's gift this year since I gave him a Rite-Aid procured gift card(so I got Plenti points but paid full price for the card)instead of using some credit card points to get a gift card for free.

$7.00  *Electricity for Lights----Under budget by $8.00
Same stuff hung outside the house.
We used the smaller tree this year and put it up a bit later.
After Hubs' accident the outside lights didn't get plugged in much if at all since that is Hubs' "thing" and he couldn't.
 It's really not a category that I can nail down the cost beyond an approximation so I figure we used about half what we usually do on lights.

$60.00  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----Under budget by $40.00
With Hubs not walking yet I got take-out food and we didn't go to a movie.  Amount spend included a nice tip. 8-)

$100.00  *Charity----Even
Another donation to the local food bank but not in groceries/toiletries like I do sporadically throughout the year, but rather a nice sized check. 8-)

$0.00  *Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze, cash incidentals)----Under budget by $500.00
With the accident, we stayed put for the Holidays.

All totaled, this year I budgeted $1600 and we spent $793.72, so $806.28 under budget overall. Even when you take out the $500 for travel(which leaves us a $900 Christmas budget)we still stayed significantly under for the Holidays.

Thoughts for 2017--
I think I'll keep our budget at $1600 for next Christmas.  I am comfortable with this amount and am able to stay within it.  For our income and our needs, I think this is just the right amount to splash out on Christmas celebrating.

If you kept track of your spending for Christmas, how did you do?
Did you spend more. less or right about what you planned on spending?
Did you have any money epiphanies when you look back at the Holiday plan?
Do you see anything you'll change about your spending for Christmas 2017?

Leave a comment and let us know how you did and what you learned about yourself & money this year!


Monday, January 16, 2017

This Week on the Dining Table

The "Christmas Cookies" Edition--

Aren't these cute cookies?  These are some that Kim sent me last month.  They are a gingerbread type, at least that's what they tasted like.  I love the way she decorated them, very Scandinavian looking.  The red thing is a red hot cinnamon candy.  I think they could have had more of those for my taste 'cuz Sluggy is a red hot sort of gal.  ;-)

Moving on......

Onward to the meal planning!

Here's what was planned last week--

1. Sunday--Marinated Flank Steak, Green Beans, Au Gratin Taters
2. Monday--BBQ boneless Pork Ribs, Red Beans & Rice
3. Tuesday--Chicken Marsala, Sugar Snap Peas, Mashed Potatoes *
4. Wednesday--Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
5. Thursday--Beef Stew
6. Friday--Clam Chowder, Spinach Salad
7. Saturday--Enchiladas, Refried Beans

And this is what actually happened--

1. Sunday--Marinated Flank Steak, Green Beans, Au Gratin Taters
2. Monday--BBQ boneless Pork Ribs, Spinach Salad
3. Tuesday--Nachos Casserole(Daughter cooked this w/leftover taco meat)
4. Wednesday--Chicken Marsala, Mashed Potatoes*
5. Thursday--Fried Shrimp, Cole Slaw, French Fries
6. Friday--Fend for Yourself or Leftovers
7. Saturday--Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches w/Tom/Lett/Onion

7 meals cooked at home, 1 of them nights of leftovers or Fend For Yourself, and 0 night of Take-Out/Eating-Out.
The stew and chowder didn't happen and the leftover taco filling became nachos instead of enchiladas but pretty much I stuff to the plan.

As for the grocery spending.....2 trips to Weis and 2 trips to the Shursave market bought the food spending last week to $187.76(counting $25 of splurge steaks for my birthday meal in as Hubs still can't go out)and brought my January food spending Total to $285.40 for the month.(7 transactions at Rite-Aid as well but nothing spent out of pocket there.)
There is $214.60 left in the January food budget with 15 days left.

My savings percentages last week was 43.07%.  Not great but still good.

Leftovers going into this week.......Marsala sauce w/mushrooms, mashed taters, bbq boneless pork ribs, small amount of flank steak.

Here is this week's "food plan"....
* Denotes "complicated" meals
1. Sunday--Meatloaf, Spinach Salad, Parmesan Noodles
2. Monday--Chicken Parm, Caesar Salad, Rigatoni on side
3. Tuesday--Country Fried Steak w/Gravy, Baked Potatoes, Asparagus *
4. Wednesday--Shrimp Scampi w/Linguine *
5. Thursday--Leftovers
6. Friday--?
7. Saturday--Fend for Yourself

This week will see 7 new meals cooked, 0 nights of Take-Out/Eating-Out and 2 nights of Leftovers.

What I need to buy for this menu? Russet Potatoes  I don't foresee stocking up on much of anything this week either.

What is getting fixed and served at your house this week?

Was last week's plan successful, did you go off plan or did you not even plan what was going to be eaten last week?

Any great deals on food at your stores this week?


Sunday, January 15, 2017

2016 Goals.....How They Turned Out

Let's see how I did with my 2016 Goals.


*  Save $40K of our income this year.  I did it last year so I am going to try to get to this amount in 2016.  Unless Hubs ups and retires during the year or we get hit with some other financial catastrophe this should be feasible.....a stretch and not easy but possible.  I just have to resist spending on "wants".  Easier said than done, right?  ;-)

After the Daughter and BF moved back in here every day bills went up so I had to back down my Savings Challenge Goal to $38K.  And even that looked like it might not happen but we managed to pull it off. 
Go us! 8-)

*  Attempt to sell some stuff we need to get rid of.  There are some items we need to let go off that are like new or in very good shape that could bring in a few dollars so I need to get back into selling mode.  This could bring in potentially enough to fund a few months of groceries and I will earmark anything sold for that.

The selling sort of happened and sort of didn't happen.  In the Spring I made $93 on the local yard sale F/B site selling some of the toiletry stash.  I also sold a fragrance set right before Xmas but all the other Xmas time selling I planned to do didn't happen after Hubs' accident.

*  Take care of all the paperwork/bills/financial stuff in a timely manner this year.
Track spending monthly so we can adjust/correct any overspending/bad decisions asap and not come out the other end of 2016 with financial messes to clean up.

I did well with keeping up with the paperwork/bills/financial stuff in 2016.  The only sore spot there was not filing paperwork the last half of the year.


*  Continue with my exercise program, add to it, and do it every month.  It's a well ingrained habit, in that, even on days when I don't feel so well I still get on that bike and pedal way.  I need to add other components to this.  Maybe I'll see about paying a trainer to push me if it's not too expensive?  Because left to my own devices I will slack off if not held accountable to someone. 8-(

While I did a lot better with other health issues in 2016 the bike habit fell away the last half of the year.  Mostly because the bike my Daughter brought home(which meant getting rid of the bike I was use to)isn't a good fit to me.  Even though, I have been moving more and walking but I do miss the biking.

*  Do more Gardening than in 2015.   I think we will dig up where the pool use to be and use that as gardening space this year.  It's already cleared and it's in the middle of the backyard so gets sun most of the day making it perfect if we can fence it off from the rabbits.  More produce grown=more produce eaten=better health.

More gardening didn't happen.  The pool area wasn't utilized and I did about the same amount of gardening as in 2015.

*  Do some canning.  Other than making some peach jam last year I didn't do any other canning.  I had no tomato crop so I couldn't make my relish(thankfully I still had enough so we won't run out before I can make some this coming Fall)or can any tomatoes.  I have plenty of jars so I just need to get the produce and do this....no excuses.

I canned my relish in the Fall/late Summer.  I also went and picked my own produce too so extra points for that. lolz

*  Lose 20 pounds.   While I am exercising on a regular basis since last March and we are eating better/less and feeling better overall I still need to drop some weight.  I have various health issues that keep me from doing more and medications that keep me from losing but I need to do something to make this happen. sigh.  Perhaps at my next dr. check-up I'l pick his brain on what I can try that is alluding me.

A change in my mix of medications, keeping up walking/some biking and more moving, plus working on smaller portions at meals and I have dropped 20 lbs. from last January.  The bulk of the reduction in weight has come since August after medication changes, I hit 20 lbs. off in November and I have kept it off up until now.
The hard work will be to keep it up over the Winter and not get lazy and go back to bad habits so I can keep seeing that scale needle get lower.


*  Paint 12 Items in my Ceramic Stash.  After ignoring the basement for so many years I am facing up to all the unfinished product down there now.  If I don't get anything else done this year I NEED TO PAINT this stuff!!!  And after I do I get to have to problem of doing something with all this newly painted stuff.  Unless I can talk 12 friends into coming to see me this year and then I will have presents for all of them to take home. ;-)

The Ceramic Stash is still there, unpainted.  I got so far as to clean out my paints and brushes and bring up 2 items to paint.....and then they sat for 6 months in the kitchen.  A total fail.

*  Sew and COMPLETE 6 Projects.  I completed 8 sewing projects on my plate last year.  I still have a couple "already started" ones and I will start some new projects to get my 6 done.

Other than some hemming projects for Hubs I sewed nothing.  I really need to do some more repair work on clothing items of mine so that's on the front burner.

*  Complete 1 crochet project.   I have the yarn and the hook I just need to sit down and do this.  Last year with the cataract surgery and all the eye problems this wasn't even feasible so it's back on the list for this year.

Totally didn't happen.
I suck. ;-)


*  Go on at least 2 trips for pleasure.   I am feeling like more of a homebody at the beginning of this year so I am not feeling that travel bug as much so I am thinking of ramping back the travel plans for 2016.  Only time will tell if I keep to this smaller amount of travel.   Perhaps no Family Reunion Trip this year and there will be no trips to find a kid an apartment and then back to move them.....so that's 3 less trips to make in 2016.   Maybe no trip to LA this year or we will fly out?  We have talked about going back to Maine this year as we haven't been in quite a few years and I really love Maine.  Perhaps I can stop in MA on the way and visit some family?
And then of course there is the invite to come see Kim in ID.  If Hubs retires unexpectedly this year we'll have the time to do that trip.  8-)

2016 saw a long trip to Louisiana again(but it wasn't much of a pleasure trip besides stopping for 2 side trips to see blogger friends), a vacation to Maine(with a stop in MA to see family)and a trip to the Family Reunion in Virginia.  Daughter and I also made a trip to VA in the Summer to see my eldest son and my brother and his wife.


*  Have 2 House Repair/Improvement Projects completed. 
There is still the bathroom redo/repair on our plate that we put money aside to complete this last year but never got around to doing it.  Plus we need to figure out which other Project we can tackle in 2016.  I am thinking window glass replacement as we have at least 5 glass seals that have broken.  Plus we need new window screens for most of our windows.  Not things we can do ourselves but things we can put money toward and get ticked off the repair list.  We just need to wait and see how much Hub's bonus will be this year to see how much we have to work with to pay for the 2nd project.

The master bath got a total redo in 2016 and used most of what we had saved/put aside for that.  The only other home improvement checked off the list was a ceiling fan/light replacement in the kitchen.  Just couldn't pull the trigger on any more projects for the year.

*  Get rid of 6 boxes of possessions plus some larger items that need disposing of.  I still have some "stuff" to get rid of in the house, even after sending 11 loads to Salvation Army last year.   I need to figure out how to dispose of most of my ceramic molds from when I had a ceramic business.  And I need to help Hubs go through the shed this Spring/Summer too.  I don't usually go in there but I took a peak back in the Fall and I can easily see many items we don't need to hang onto like old pool stuff and bicycles from when the kids were smaller.  I am sure there are many more things we can pitch or recycle in there too.

We did a total clean/clear out of the shed.  We also got rid of some furniture in the Spring when the Daughter and BF came here to live to make space for them.  Not much got taken to Sallie's this year otherwise.  I had plans for a few loads in December but Hubs accident put a kybosh on that.


*  I will try to blog 6 days a week as this is pretty much how much I do now.  I have my regular weekly and/or monthly posts--Monday's Weekly Meal plans/results, End of month Savings Challenge.  Food Spending/Budget, and Monthly Goal Update posts.  

I kept to a sort of blogging schedule.  I did 348 posts in 2016 which means 17 posts shy of 1 per day on average so I am calling this goal complete.

Ok, now I can put 2016 into the books.
Time to figure out where to go from here in 2017.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Last of the Rite-Aid Porn This Week

Since I had to go right by Rite-Aid this morning when I went out to Ollie's(Good Stuff Cheap!)to use a $20 gift card and a 10% off my order coupon they mailed me, I went ahead and got some things there on my son's card......

12 boxes of GM cereals@ $2 each
2 jugs of Gain detergent@ $4.94 each
2 boxes of Chloraseptic cough drops@ $5.29(BOGOF)
2 bottles of Visine allery@ $4.55 each

SubTotal was $48.27 before coupons.
Coupons came to $18.00.

$30.27+.35¢ tax=$30.62

I used $30.62 in Plenti points to pay and earned $23.00 in new Plenti points($20 when you spend $50-I had $1.94 tracking toward that before this transaction, $1.50 when you buy Chloraseptic drops x 2).
I also earned $2.50 in cash rebates at SavingStar and Checkout51($1 SS, $1.50 CK51)for buying assorted GM cereals-Lucky Charms x 1, Cocoa Puffs x 2, Any 2 cereals).

So in the end, I "spent down" $5.12 in Plenti points for all this.

College Boy wanted junky cereal to take back to school so 6 boxes will be going with him next weekend.  The Visine and the detergent will also go with CB back to school if we can fit all that along with his other crap into my car. lolz

In all likelihood I won't be frequenting Rite-Aid next week as there isn't much of anything I want on sale then.