Happy New Year! December 2015 has ended, and it’s time for our monthly roundup of updates to the blog and to our blog posts. We took some time off to enjoy the holidays, so there aren’t quite so many posts to update.
Our goal of setting and sticking to a Christmas budget did well. When all was counted, we came in spending about 30% less than we budgeted, which was easily about half of what we spent last year! For the most part, I don’t think spending a lot less left us feeling like we’d left something out of Christmas, and I finished much earlier.
Little Bit took a $10 gift card from Harris Teeter to school today so that she could donate the contents of her Giveaway Jar to the school’s BackPack Buddies program, which was the PTA president’s preference for the donation. Thanks to all of you who commented on the article for encouraging us to keep going with this new tradition! We may put a little more structure on where she gives her money next year, but we’ll keep plugging along with saving for the gift each week.
Our daughter also goes back to school tomorrow after spending 6 of the last 8 weeks on vacation due to track outs and Christmas vacation. We didn’t do all of the things we wanted to, (the weather was rotten much of the last two months) but did manage to keep her reasonably occupied while staying home. She got to enjoy Christmas activities, trips to the library, trips to the trampoline place, and time with friends. She also got to enjoy several unexpected performances: a friend gave us tickets to see Cinderella, her grandparents gave us tickets to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for my birthday, and Jon donated blood over the course of the year to get free tickets to the Nutcracker. For a kid who loves to perform, seeing 2 plays and a ballet was a big treat.
I checked out our budget sheet, and we managed to stay under $500 in groceries this month (not including some food costs for presents that got put under the Christmas budget instead). After creeping up to $800 last month, I was happy to see the spending go back down as we paid more attention to what we were buying. We’ve also started using Ibotta. It’s really easy since I just linked up our store loyalty cards. Now I’m getting cash back on standard buys like milk and eggs. Who knew? Thanks to Penny at She Picks up Pennies for getting me started with her review of Ibotta.
We needed that grocery savings. We switched our phone service from Verizon to Cricket, which reduces our monthly bill from $157.93 to $70, but we had two cell phone bills and the expense of new phones this month. So far, I’m happy enough with Cricket’s service and the new phones are fine. Once we get over the transition cost, we’ll be grateful for cutting our cost by more than half.
Jon and I each wrote articles about our goals for 2016. So far, having a Fitbit is making me more aware that I need to move more. I did not hit my goal of a 5000 step average last week. I was on track and then did nothing New Year’s Day. Not good. However, I know I made a conscious effort to move more and increased what I was doing, including taking at least short neighborhood walks most days. We have work to do on our other goals too, including running our year end numbers for our balance sheet.
In December, I did a post on personal finance messages in Discworld and updated an older post on my favorite lessons from geeky tv/movies/books as part of #pfmessages on The Yachtless. If you haven’t checked out #pfmessages, Sarah did a wrap up post where you can see the various messages 12 bloggers found in a wide range of pop culture: songs, TV, movies, books, even Christmas carols.
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