Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for the month of December. I haven’t written one of these for a few months. However, I write these posts to reflect on my life right now and give you insights into our lives and our spending. There is really no reason not to write these posts. For a larger explanation of why I write these posts, check out March 2019’s post. Here is to starting a new chain of 12 monthly recaps in a row in 2020!
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What happened this December
December is always an intense month with holiday parties, school events, and family holidays. (Unfortunately the “events” keep rolling for us into January as our daughter’s birthday and our wedding anniversary are within the first eight days of January). Here are some highlights:
- I traveled for work over the first weekend in December. (And I was *this close* to meeting ShePicksUpPennies for the first time. I also hosted industrial clients at work for several days when I was in the office and burned through my final 60 hours of “use-or-lose” leave. I feel that I was never in the office this month.
- We attended 2 family Christmases on the weekends surrounding Christmas. We spent our Christmas Eve/Day together as a nuclear family of 5. We spent New Year’s Eve with my brother and sister in law and my nieces who were flying home on New Year’s Day.
- We rearranged our entire house. The two older girls moved into the same room. We moved our bedroom. We made our old bedroom into a “lounge”. It was like a super frugal HGTV makeover where we added 0 square feet to our 1,500 square foot house.
Money well spent- major expenditures in December 2019
I don’t want to just minimize the money we spend, but I’d also like to be frugal in how much we’re taking from the earth. Posting our utility usage helps me be accountable for that.
Once I fell off of the blogging cliff this past summer, I stopped tracking our car mileage. I’ll have to start up again with that in January. Sorry!! We don’t drive to work and mostly our car is used for out of town trips. We had several “day-trips” at the end of the month to have fun as a family while everyone was out on break. I’d estimate we probably drove 400 miles on those trips and perhaps 600 for the month.
Our December 2019 electricity and natural gas use were about the same as they were in December 2018. Our electricity use is pretty constant at about 20 kWh per day all year long. And we use about 0.112 therms per degree day. I dream of doing energy upgrades to the house to lower these numbers. I’d love to
- Replace our hot water heater with a heat pump water heater. (Even though my hot water heater hack saves us tons money, it still uses a lot of energy).
- Air seal our attic to increase our thermal comfort and lower our natural gas use.
- Increase our attic insulation to R-60.
I’ve tried to calculate the return on investment on doing these by working with my utility. Unfortunately we never really got anywhere. I think at some point I just need to do it and write a post about the actual ROI.
Once I started sharing our numbers publicly, I found out that we spend a lot less than most on groceries. In a typical month we keep our grocery budget under $1.25 per person per meal. December seems to be the month that we fall off the cliff. We spent $1.77 per person, per meal this month, and we were the closest we’ve come to the the USDA “thrifty” food budget plan of $882 per month for our size and age of family).
Let’s face it. December is a month long all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s no wonder everyone wants to lose weight in the New Year. Ever since we started tracking our expenses, December has always had the highest grocery bill. I have confidence that we’ll do better in January.
We spent $75 on restaurants this past month. Most of this was spent on buying a “party platter” of sub sandwiches when hosting my wife’s family on New Years Eve. So really- not bad!
I looked back on my previous posts and I devoted a lot of space to talking about dates. We haven’t gone on a “date” since August. My wife and I enjoy spending time with each other and without the kids. It’s just that dates weren’t working for us and they were stressful. We’d pay for someone to watch the kids but then we’d need to figure out how to spend 2-3 hours outside of the house. Typically that involved going to a restaurant, where the food was expensive and not as good as what we could have cooked at home. And then we’d come home and have to put the kids to bed. It was like any “good” from being away from the kids was erased by all of this extra tension. It didn’t seem worth the money and stress and hassle any more.
We still make our relationship a priority. It just looks different now. For instance, we’ll have “at home dates” where we put the kids to bed* early and then order take-out. And in December we had a very fantastic overnight date!! We went to one of the top destination spas in the US and had a great time! (Spa date doesn’t show up on the expense report for this month because we paid for it when we booked it in October).
We completely overhauled our house this past month for less than $50!
Now that GovTween** is staying up later, Mrs. GovWorker and I need a place to hang out and talk without a third wheel. We had looked into finishing our basement, but there are issues (probably worthy of a whole separate post).
I’ve written before about how we love our (old) home in a walkable neighborhood. However, it’s not the biggest home (~1,500 square feet). Just when I was resigned to lock myself in the bathroom with my spouse any time we needed to have a private conversation she came up with the greatest idea ever! She decided to convert one of our bedrooms into additional living space. In a little less than two weeks we:
- Moved GovTween and one of her sisters into the same room. We bought these bunk beds using credit card points. (So technically “no spend”) Also- despite what the Amazon comments say, the beds are high quality and we love them!
- Painted GovTween’s room (~$50 in paint). Moved all of our furniture into GovTween’s former room.
- Bought a 55″ TV! (I can hardly contain my joy at this). The TV cost approximately half of our previous TV (must be ~14 years old) and is better in ever respect. I used my Citi Double Cash card reward points to buy the TV (also technically “no spend”). I keep thinking “Now that’s a TV” every time I see it.
- Bought a new couch for the room that used to be our bedroom using money we got as a Christmas gift. (Maybe “no spend”?? I was contemplating logging the gift as income and the couch as expenses in my spreadsheet. But then I liked logging it this way better.
All of this room shuffling has I think made everyone in the family happier. For only $50 (and a shitload of credit card points), you too can completely remake your house!
Long term progress
Our numbers haven’t changed since last my last update (in June). We’re still saving about half of our income. And at our current spending rate, we’re about 29% of having enough savings to produce a passive income stream to cover our expenses. Since our two biggest expenses (daycare and our mortgage) will disappear in the next 5 years, I also like to visualize our “Future percent FI”. While it sometimes looks like we’re not making any progress, I know we are. And once our expenses decrease, our savings rate will skyrocket and our timeline will condense.
*Put the kids to bed early = put them in their room and tell them they can’t come out until the morning.
**GovTween= kid 1, who is 12. I’m still trying to come up with cool names for the other ones.