This post contains referral and affiliate links.
It’s the end of December, and it honestly does not look much different than the picture you see here. It’s nearly 60 degrees out (in Ohio!) and my girls were able to indulge in water play on our deck.
I don’t have any work shifts or homework until after Christmas, so I am taking advantage of the lull to get some chores done and do some planning.
This time last year, I was still working full time and the kids were all in day care. We were getting ready to be hit by what was the first of 5 horrible stomach bugs between January and March, all three kids had chronic health issues, I was applying for graduate school, and my husband and I were both almost out of leave time.
I resigned from my job in April, only to end up staying on as a float pool nurse. We had a much less stressful summer, everyone is in better health, and I still get to work from home anywhere from 4-10 days per month.
Because we only pay for preschool and a part-time sitter, and I am home and have the time to pinch pennies, we are actually ahead of where we were last year. We had our first case of the sickies this week since leaving day care, a full 6 months without a single illness, and it only hit the toddler and lasted one day.
It started out as a rough year, but ended up being pretty great.
What did we accomplish in 2015?
- We paid cash for my graduate school tuition.
- We paid off my last student loan by March.
- We paid off our new van (the one we bought in January 2014) by May, literally a day after my last full time day. Yes, we bought it new and paid it off within 16 months. It helped that we had a truck and a car to sell to help with the down payment.
- Fully funded two Roth IRAs for both of us.
- Put our oldest in public school (he was in Montessori last year), signed him up for bus transportation, and moved our 4 year old to a 3 mornings per week pre-k program a mile from our house. This not only reduced educational expenses, but significantly reduced transportation costs.
- Started walking to preschool most nice days. I am down to buying gas only every 3-4 weeks, unless we travel to a different city.
- Negotiated for a lower home internet cost. I was paying $68/month and talked them down to $40. Of course, I now have to pay for a business line for my job, but it did save us $252 over 9 months.
- In general stuck to our budget of $100/week to feed 5 people.
- Kept our 6 month emergency fund.
- Cash-flowed a week of robotics camp for our son and art camp for our daughter.
- Cash-flowed Christmas gifts (plus birthdays for 2016). Yes, I am done buying gifts until next summer.
- Cut back on entertainment spending by opting out of the Renaissance Festival and using Groupons or gift cards for a few date nights. We try to have one date night per month. Our only vacation was to Grandma and Grandpa’s up north for a week.
- Bought three theater subscriptions plus special tickets to Beauty and the Beast by selling baby things.
- Were able to pay for the kids to participate in gymnastics, dance, robotics, and scouts. We cut out gymnastics starting this fall.
Looking ahead in 2016, we still have quite a few goals. I don’t know if we will be able to manage them all this year, but I think that even if we can’t meet them fully, we will at least be challenging ourselves creatively to try and meet them. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?
- Fully fund two Roth IRAs for 2016. As float pool, I can no longer participate in my work’s 401k, so this is very important to meet.
- Cash flow my graduate school tuition. This works out to $3500 every 3 months through January 2017.
- Keep our $100/week food budget.
- Find more ways to reduce gas consumption. I’ve been researching bikes and trying different ones at bike shops. I’m a tiny Hobbit person, at 5’2″, so I haven’t seen any bikes that fit well with a petite woman on craigslist. I would like to bike to preschool, the YMCA, and even the store. I already mapped the store route (2.5 miles), which has a bike lane. Not only would it save gas, but it would help my weight-loss goals.
- Improve my financial knowledge. I’m good at the small stuff, but the language of investments is still Greek to me. I’m planning on reading this book to begin with.
- Paying cash for a few house updates: toilet ($200), dishwasher ($600), painting half bath ($100), building a fence and play set ($6000), and replacing the HVAC ($2000).
- Rolling over my three old 401k accounts. I have decided where to roll them, I just have to get the ball rolling. This will hopefully be done within the next month or so.
- Continue to reduce our energy costs. We are doing well keeping our heat set at 70 during the day and 66 at night. We’ll work on keeping the air conditioner use to a minimum during the summer. I’d also like to explore indoor clothes drying. We can’t do outdoor drying thanks to allergies and asthma. The new HVAC system will hopefully help too.
- Pay for our 10th anniversary trip. We are going to a Star Trek convention in Chicago. My mother will babysit for free, but we will have to drive there, stay at a hotel, and pay convention fees. We are budgeting $1000. And yes, we are geeks :).
- I’d like to sell enough of our unneeded stuff to cover the cost of another Broadway Series subscription for 2016 ($146), plus three amusement park passes we’ll want to renew in November ($300). I think I should be able to do it.
- Increase my side gig income through blogging, freelance writing, and other gigs, like the few studies I do through 2020 Research (contains referral link). School work keeps me from doing more than I am right now, but I have an idea for another website and a few places to try for freelance work. I’m only shooting for about $1000 extra this year though.
- We aren’t sure we are going to do camp for the kids this year again, mostly because we are expecting summer to be very busy with medical appointments, visits to grandparents, homework for me, and activities my sister and I have planned for the kids. If we do it, it will be about $300.
- Pay extra on our mortgage- averaging about $500/month. This might be a stretch and will depend heavily upon how many work shifts I get and any side gig money I bring in.
- Work on eating out less. Everyone struggles with one thing more than others. My husband eats out at work every day, and we tend to eat out if the day gets busy. I want to increase my repertoire of quick freezer meals.