Happy New Year! The year might be over, but we still need to wrap up December 2016 with our monthly roundup. We discuss our Jividen Christmas, trying out Hulu and Sling, and how we’re kicking off our new year.
December is always a busy month, especially as you reach the last week. Jon likes to call it, “the week-long celebration of Jon’s birthday,” since his big day is the 27th. So, yes, we packed the week between Christmas and New Years with lots of indulgences…and I’m ready to move on to healthier and more productive things in 2017.
Can a blog have a holiday hangover?
I wrote a bunch of stuff about Christmas, maybe too much stuff. Then I got overwhelmed with Christmas and skipped our weekly email update. Now?
I’m feeling a little Blah about the blog after feeling awesome last month. Is this an existential blog crisis? Am I connecting? Am I helping anyone other than myself with this thing? And is that enough of a reason to keep going?
December didn’t seem very blog-centric, and I suppose that’s normal. We got a bunch of spammy-seeming hits that make our numbers look way better than normal. Fortunately, my Jetpack analytics filter them out, so I feel I can say with confidence that blog traffic dropped significantly from November but was still our second best month ever. Dollar Store Holiday Purchases that Won’t Make You Feel Scroogish continued tracking well this month and our 2016 Cord-Cutter’s Guide to Family-Friendly Streaming Holiday Movies and TV Episodes performed decently.
I may regret spending so much time on Christmas-oriented posts, though. I doubt they’ll get many views for the next few months.
As far as our social media numbers go, Pinterest saw the main growth. It’s been my main focus the last couple of months, and it pays off pretty well on a click per follower basis. I’m not quite to 1500 Twitter followers, but I should hit it in January. We gained a couple of likes on Facebook and email subscribers, but both have been slow to build.
I can’t answer my questions yet, so I’ll keep plugging along. I’m taking an HTML/CSS course right now. I want to be able to improve the performance a bit. I’m playing with some ideas for changing up our look. I’m not sure what changes 2017 will bring for JohnJaneDoe.com. I think it will bring some and I hope they are for the better.
Christmas with the Jividens
I struggled to find the Christmas spirit, particularly in the week or so leading up to Christmas day. I seemed to find holiday joy in little moments this year, In retrospect, that’s probably a more realistic expectation than a month of celebration. But as I cooked holiday treats, went to church, and watched Little Bit open her presents, I was able to feel the feels I sought.
I didn’t quite cook all the things I planned…the snickerdoodles never got made, and I made molasses cookies instead of gingerbread. Jon made something like 4 gallons of eggnog, which made things festive if caloric. (His eggnog is considerably lighter than the stuff you buy at the grocery store, but it’s still eggnog.) Little Bit made some ornaments this year and helped with the cookies. We attended the Nutcracker, Christmas Eve services and a bunch of movies. (Sing was fun but forgettable, Moana is one of Disney’s best and not a princess, and Rogue One is the only Star Wars prequel that anyone needs to see.)
As usual, Christmas itself was a blur. We drove to my dad’s house and then back to Jon’s parents. After 3 present-opening sessions, I was happy to spend Boxing Day sipping coffee, knitting and playing with all of Little Bit’s presents…and my own.
In which I find my Inner Child
This year, Santa brought me a BB gun.
Generally, I don’t get too excited about my Christmas presents. I’m an adult, and I tend to buy the things I really want and want things less than I used to want them. But a BB gun is different. I asked for one every single year when I was a kid. I never got one. (My parents must have thought I’d shoot my eye out.) And I didn’t realize it, but even 40-odd years later I still really wanted one.
So when I found one under the tree this year, I was so excited that I woke up Jon and Little Bit at 6:30 Christmas morning.
Needless to say, since then I’ve shot the heck out of some empty beer cans and old pie plates.
Cord cutter Update
Earlier this year, I wrote a guide for choosing between Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Ultimately, we decided not to keep Hulu past our free trial. During the holidays, we did another free Hulu trial (I used it to come up with my list of holiday streaming content). Again, we didn’t watch it enough to pay for a subscription. We just didn’t think there was enough exclusive family friendly content.
That changes this month.
While Netflix will be getting all of the new Disney titles, a bunch of older ones will be going to Hulu. Many of these are ones that have cycled off Netflix, like The Nightmare before Christmas and Mulan.
We’re pretty committed to keeping our TV costs down, but this new deal makes Hulu a lot more attractive to families with young children.
For the moment, though, we’re trying something different. We got an antenna a while ago, and are finally dropping our basic $15 a month cable. And we’re adding a new service. Since Sling had a “get a Roku device when you sign up” deal in December, we’re giving it a try for now. (After all, Sling is $20 a month, the Roku device is $30.) That gives Jon his ESPN and CNN back, Little Bit her Disney Channel, and me BBC America and Food Network. We’ll give it a couple of months (probably through college basketball season) and then reevaluate whether we think Sling will be a permanent service like Prime or something we try for just a bit like Hulu.
Just after I sold the Reynolds American in my tax-deferred accounts, I found out that RAI rejected the initial takeover option from British American Tobacco. I still have some RAI in a taxable account, and the merger’s not off the table. It’s possible RAI just wants BAT to make a better offer. But I may have sold too early, and that has taught me I need to monitor the business news more closely.
Kicking Off Our New Year
Now that the holidays are past, we realized we’d gotten a little spend-happy. So yesterday we kicked off a month-long no-spend challenge.
We’ve done this before, and it was terrific for resetting some bad habits…extra grocery trips per week, impulse spending, instant entertainment gratification, not using stuff in our pantry and freezer. And we’ve noticed we’ve been sliding back into bad habits over the last two months. So when Amanda over at Centsibly Rich said she was kicking off a No-Spend January, we decided to play along.
Our January No-Spend Rules:
- Grocery spending is limited to $10 of produce a week and dairy (milk, half and half, cheese, vanilla yogurt). Maybe TP if necessary. No snacks, no sweets (not like that should be a problem right now), no new meat, etc.
- We’ll limit other shopping to stuff to work on the rentals and the two birthday presents we have on tap for this month. Little Bit will still get her allowance to spend as and when she wants, but Jon and I are limiting purchases.
- Entertainment spending is limited to things our current commitments…Little Bit has a Girl Scout event scheduled for next week. Our Amazon Prime membership comes due in January (and we save enough that renewal is a no-brainer.) No movies, no meals out, and no other events that cost extra, though. (Library and park visits are fine and even encouraged.)
- Bills, gas purchases, church donation, etc get paid per usual.
When we went on our last no-spend month, we used Ruth Soukup’s Living Well and Spending Zero Challenge, and I may pull out some of those old emails this time. But mainly, I just want to get back to more frugal habits, and January seems like a great time to do that.
New Year, New Habits
As I said in our New Year’s resolution guide, I wanted to try a different approach with resolutions this year. This year, I will be setting weekly to-do lists instead of monthly goals or yearly resolutions.
I’m hoping that gets me much further along the road to setting new habits. I think by giving myself a blank slate each week, I can focus on one or two things to get me closer to each goal. So each week, I’ll do a new list, and report on the highs and lows on my State of the Blog reports.
I’ve set four big goals for the year: to live healthier, increase financial health, improve the blog, and do good things. So with that said, here’s my to-do list for January 2-8.
- Exercise moderately at least 4 times.
- Delay sweets til the weekend.
Increase Financial Health
- Kick off No-Spend Challenge.
- Write 2 articles.
- Write newsletter.
- Progress though HTML portion of HTML/CSS class.
Do Good Things
- Figure out volunteer availability in relation to office commitments.
Wrapping Up December 2016
So that’s our December 2016. Existential blog crisis, birthday and holiday celebrations, and some extra TV options. It wasn’t a bad month or a bad year, but I’m ready to move on to 2017 with new goals and a reset on our spending habits.
How did December go for you? What changes are you looking to make in the new year?
*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich. *