State of the Blog: March 2016

Now that March 2016 is over and done, we’re ready for our monthly roundup of stories we need to update and what’s going on in the Jividen household.

The Blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about the blog and how it fits in to our lives and the personal finance blogosphere.

Jon and I are having fun writing. I find the blog a good way of connecting with other money-conscious people. It helps to have support, to know others who think about saving money and living below their means and eliminating debt. We know that sometimes we can help and sometimes we get help by sharing our journey.

Jon and I are also learning about each other’s ideas. Writing is bringing us into some new areas of discussion about money that we haven’t touched on in our previous 9 years of marriage.

It’s also a good way of holding myself accountable, working out and clarifying my own ideas so that I can share them. Sometimes knowing that I have to write something inspires me to try something new that I otherwise wouldn’t have tried. Sometimes it inspires me to learn useful information, or think about something in a new way.

After realizing that we haven’t written an investment post since October (the strange history and allure of the Tontine) I’m strongly considering changing the name of our blog to just the John & Jane Doe Guide to Money. We were writing a lot about investing at first, but our focus has drifted into other areas. Jon likes writing about ways to save money with DIY ideas. My writing is more focused on changing our money habits and raising a money-savvy kid.

That said, I am working on an investment piece about proxy statements. I have a long history of ignoring them, but Jon is trying to get me to actually vote my shares on a regular basis. So I’ll be exploring the best approach for all of us little shareholders to take.

I’m planning a few other changes as well.The first change we’ve already taken we are official Amazon affiliates. You may be seeing more affiliate links around the place as we expand our attempts to monetize the site. I also intend to revamp our About Us and Resources page.

The Kiddo

Little Bit’s obsession with the CleverKeet lasted until our trip to Build-a-Bear. I don’t think she’s touched Disco in a week, but the two Honey Girls have pride of place each evening in her bed.

She’s also decided that the best use of her time is riding her bike. She has had the bike since her birthday last June, but it sat unused under the carport for 9 months. Now the bicycle is the focus of any afternoon with decent weather, and the weather has been very good lately. I love the fact that my daughter wants to be outside and active, and the fact that she went so long before using her bike makes me feel confident that she’ll pick up Disco again.

We did finally tell her about the $25 Walmart gift card that my uncle had given her for Christmas last week. Jon and I had been talking about getting a decent-sized backyard pool for this summer, since we dropped our YMCA membership. Jon found one that he thought would work well at Walmart for $100. (which was $75 cheaper than on Amazon and $100 cheaper than at Big Lots).

I decided to use the $25 I had accumulated on Ibotta (referral code!) to pick up a Walmart gift card that we could use toward the pool. Jon and I discussed whether we should use Little Bit’s card too, as she will be the primary user of any backyard pool. So we told her about the card and let her make the decision of whether she would contribute to the pool.

I’d love to tell you she said yes, she wanted to contribute to family fun. She didn’t. Part of me wishes she’d contribute to a family resource she’d clearly use and enjoy, and part of me is proud that she’s set her own goals for her money and wants to use this “found money” to pursue them.

My daughter did lose another tooth on the day before Easter, and once again she lost the darn tooth. Unlike last time, she didn’t pull it, it just fell out and it took her a few minutes to realize that she had lost it.

This time there were no tears. She knew what to do. After she had written her note to the Tooth Fairy, she did find the tooth on the couch and carefully placed the baggie with the tooth under her pillow. She was not about to misplace the tooth this time. So she got a visit from the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy the same night, although missing both top front teeth makes eating Peeps a little more difficult.

The Spending

March was not the best month for spending, with higher than the new average grocery bills and entertainment bills. Thinking back on the grocery bills, there were a couple of issues driving up the amount. First, I got out some cash a couple of times at the store, and those amounts got folded in. Since I track cash spending too, I had to go back and take out $70 of “grocery spending” that wasn’t.

Getting cash back at the grocery store when you use your debt card is convenient, but does make it more difficult to accurately track what you are doing. I need to come up with a different approach either to my spreadsheet or my withdrawal patterns.

Secondly, while in most months we stick to Food Lion, I also had trips to Trader Joe’s, World Market, and Kroger this month.

The World Market trip was pretty minor, as we had one of their very good coupons: Spend $30 and get $10 off. So we bought 3 giant bags of coffee and each of us got to pick out a treat.

Highlight of the trip: While he was wandering around with his basketful of coffee, someone pointed Jon out to his wife and said, “Now there’s a guy with a substance abuse problem.”

After the discount, we had only spent $28 and we have enough coffee to last us for the second quarter of 2016.

At Kroger, I ran into the problem I always do when I shop at a different store than normal: I see new things that I can’t get at my regular store, and so I buy. We ended up with whole wheat lasagna noodles (do you know how many stores we had tried to find them in?), salted caramel truffle ice cream, pretty little eggplants, and a few other things that we probably could have lived without. In and of itself, it wasn’t that bad of a trip, but combined with $90 at Trader Joe’s, it was a rough grocery month.

Entertainment was also higher than it’s been in several months, with Little Bit’s theater class tuition, book fair, year book, Easter treats, and Build-a-Bear trip all falling due within a short time. That meant no eating out and no extras for the grownups in the house. Thank goodness the public library and Freebooksy are keeping me well stocked in no-cost reading materials.

On the positive side, Jon’s low flow restrictors and mild weather mean our electricity bill was easily over 20% lower than last year. I also sadly gave up my satellite radio subscription, as it was up for its yearly renewal.  It was much harder for me to say goodbye to Sirius XM than it was to having 400 TV channels, maybe because unlike TV I could always find a show I enjoyed. I loved having an 80’s alt music channel, Jon enjoyed the Jazz options, and our daughter adored a channel of nothing but KidzBop, but we decided that it was a luxury we could do without. Between our large collection of CDs, broadcast radio, Amazon Prime music downloads and Pandora, we aren’t hurting for listening options.

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Please feel free to comment or contact us anytime, to let us know if you have topics you’d like us to cover, thoughts on our blog, or just to say hi. Thanks for coming by!

6 Responses to “State of the Blog: March 2016”
    • Emily Jividen 04/04/2016
    • Emily Jividen 04/05/2016
    • Emily Jividen 04/05/2016

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