Money well spent December 2020

by Government Worker FI | Last Updated: January 13, 2021

Here’s our “money well spent” spending recap for December 2020.

I write these posts to reflect on my life right now. Hopefully it gives you a view into what my life is like.

For a larger explanation of why I write these posts, check out March 2019’s post.

Image of Madison streets after a snowfall
The snow finally showed up.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking on an affiliate link I get a small percentage of the purchase price at no additional cost to you. I have a paid relationship with CountAbout, please see my CountAbout disclaimer.

What we did in December

2020 was a memorable year. Let’s hope that 2021 has a few less challenges.

For all of the chaos that happened in 2020, December was a pretty good month. Everyone was able to stay healthy. The youngest was still able to attend preschool. The older two kids are doing fantastic with online school. And Mrs. Gov and I continue to move forward through work. (Even if work feels a little bit different).

I had to present to our Agency’s virtual leadership forum about being a leader during COVID. It was hard. I broke down crying several times when working on my presentation.

I know I’m lucky- I’ve been able to keep my job and everyone is healthy. But we’ve struggled so much to make everything “okay” when things are not okay. On top of that, I’ve spent so much effort trying to make things “okay” for my kids and my employees. I’m tired. It’s hard.

Here’s hoping 2021 is a more normal year.

bike path in madison after a snowfall
Snow is pretty for about 24 hours. Then it’s kind of gross.

Where our money went in November

As you may know, we track all of our expenses and net worth in CountAbout. It’s a great tool for tracking expenses and developing budgets. One of the best features about CountAbout is that you can attach receipts. It makes organizing paperwork for tax time a breeze. If you’re interested you can sign up through this link for a 15 day free trial.

Money Well Spent December 2020- all of our important numbers for saving and spending

Spending is always a little bit higher in December because of Christmas presents. Mrs. Gov and I put away some money each pay period and withdraw it in December to help smooth this out.

As a frugal blogger, sometimes I feel like a better blogger when I have ridiculously low numbers.

But that’s dumb.

I don’t really care any more. I’m documenting my spending/saving journey for myself and for my readers. And if we can spend on things we care about, like health, family, and being generous with people we love and reach financial independence, then that’s important too.

Don’t get me wrong- I love my frugal blogger friends that crush it and live on $15,000 a year. We can all take our own path in this world, and that’s what makes life so beautiful.

Groceries $866.22

We spent $866 on groceries this past month. This close to the USDA “thrifty” food budget plan of $882 per month for our family. (The USDA thrifty plan is used to determine the food stamp allowance for our size and age of family).

We have gotten our groceries delivered since the start of the pandemic. It’s hard to be frugal with grocery delivery. It seems like 5% of your order doesn’t come and 5% is substituted with something else.

Because I have food allergies, the 5% substitutions are a killer- I frequently can’t eat them.

In a typical year, we have months where we “eat the pantry”. In other words, we’d buy as few groceries as possible and eat through our food on hand.

That didn’t work so well in 2020. Once we were out of oil didn’t deliver it.

I freaked out and threw a giant tantrum.

We try to order groceries only every 7-10 days to reduce costs on the delivery fee… How were we going to survive with no oil for more than a week? (For the record I threw a tantrum another time because we ran out of chips.)

In retrospect, I overreacted.

Since my tantrums, we like to make sure we have plenty of food in our pantry at all times and try to order back-up goods. All of this is to say that while we used to have one of the lowest grocery costs of finance bloggers, we’re slipping.

But I also don’t care.

We have plenty of money. Food is important. We’re not wasting food. And most of our extra grocery spending involves stocking up for a potential shortfall rather than buying more expensive alternatives or completely changing our eating habits.

Who knows what 2021 will look like. But I’m not going to get too excited if we have ridiculously low grocery bills or ridiculously high ones.

Kids $0

Are kids expensive? This seems to be a big point of contention in the FIRE community.

We spent $0 on kids this past month. So they must be cheap. Right???

But they’re not. The opportunity cost of daycare will cost us almost $2 million dollars over the course of our lifetime. And this $0 doesn’t include the Christmas gifts we bought them or the food they ate.

Child Opening Christmas Presents
Although we spent “nothing” on kids this month, our gift budget is higher than it would be if we didn’t have kids.

Gas & Auto $22.30

Hell yeah! One tank of gas again this month. And we drove less than 50 miles.

In some ways I find this a little depressing. It means that we had no place to go. While I’m generally an optimistic person, having nowhere to go and nothing to do is starting to get to me every now and then.

Blog Highlights

I have been so excited about the blog lately. I feel like I’m starting to develop my own system for finding topics for content that will rank on Google and then writing killer posts on them.

December had some killer SEO’d posts for federal employees covering:

That last post got shared on several federal employee groups on Facebook and had tons of traffic this month. I also wrote a really solid SEO’d post on how much greyhounds cost that I think has a good chance of ranking highly on Google.

greyhound in pajamas
Kenny was the proud recipient of new pajamas from some leftover fleece we had around the house. Another “free” thing on this month’s budget.

Organic traffic

Nothing makes me happier than looking at my organic traffic each month.

I think of every organic session as a federal employee who wanted help and I helped them.

I started this blog to help federal employees. I struggled for a while trying to “figure out” blogging and find my voice. But I feel like I’ve finally learned what to do.

I love doing keyword research. I use Keysearch to do all of my keyword research. Keysearch is functionally similar to Ahrefs (the gold standard for keyword research) but costs less than 1/5th of the price of Ahrefs.

If you’re interested in growing your organic traffic, you can try Keysearch for 20% off by clicking this link and entering the code KSDISC.

Features

This month I had 2 features on other websites/podcats.

I wrote a guest post for Financial Impulse about the pros and cons of working for the federal government.

I also appeared on the FedUpward podcast to talk about federal employee lunch break rules.

My goal for 2021 is to do at least one guest post or podcast each month. I have several outstanding invitations to guest post and a loose invitation to appear on a podcast. We’ll have to see what I can do.

Traffic

I had my best month ever on the blog! I set new records in pageviews, sessions, and users.

I am keeping my traffic numbers a secret until my 2nd blog anniversary. But things are going in the right direction and I’m happy with the progress I made.

I never would have gotten here if I hadn’t made some investments into the blog and paid for some courses.

When I started blogging I was convinced that everything there was to know about blogging was freely available somewhere and I just needed to find it.

I guess that might be true, technically. But there is also a lot of bad information out. And how can you find the information if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Taking the Launch Your Side Hustle course and joining Online Impact (with access to all of Pete McPherson’s courses) my blog traffic (and blogging confidence) has exploded. These courses were worth every penny!

Investments

I joined Online Impact this past month. “OI” is Pete McPherson’s blogging group. You get access to all of Pete’s courses as well as access to a private Slack channel with other bloggers (and Pete of course). I launched this blog following Pete’s “How to start a blog” article on DYEB. His courses are fun, and I really am getting a lot of the community. It’s been a good investment.

Between OI and Daniella’s Launch Your Side Hustle Course I have learned a ton this year, and my blog has improved a lot.

In addition to these courses, I am a regular user of Keysearch. Keysearch is how I do all of my keyword research to find ideas for blog posts that I can actually rank for in Google. It works very similarly to the popular Ahrefs SEO tool. But unlike Ahrefs which costs hundreds of dollars a month, Keysearch is less than $20. I couldn’t imagine not having this tool now.

Favorite Purchases

The best thing that happened to me in December was that “Santa” delivered a Nintendo Switch to our house.

It’s been *so nice* to just lose myself in video games for a few minutes here and there.

I know there are more productive things I could be doing with my time. However, I think we all need times to completely unwind.

I work, I parent, I blog, I exercise… I think I deserve a few minutes to unwind doing something fun.

Long term progress

I took a month off from cFIREsim and went back to the dial gauges. Again- we’re still roughly saving about 50% of our income, and we’re about 1/3 of the way to FI.

pie charts showing our progress towards financial indepedence.

However, this is somewhat misleading because we’ve been focused on putting extra money towards our mortgage and we just crossed a major milestone.

The “Future %FI” gauge is where we will be in our FI journey after the youngest starts school and we pay off our mortgage. We’re 9 months away from having her start school. And we’re also getting close to paying off our mortgage.

Image of a Tweet that says "Exciting financial news of the day- Our mortgage principal on 1/1/2021 is less than the amount of principal we paid in 2020!

I don’t think we will pay off our mortgage by September, but it could potentially happen in 2021 or surely in 2022. Once that happens, we’ll have a major jump to being more than 50% FI.

Furthermore, we’ll be able to put all of that money we’re currently spending on daycare and our mortgage into investments. So while it doesn’t look like we’re making progress towards financial independence, we’re well on our way.

What I mean to say is that the path to FI is not linear (for us at least). It’s more like slowly heating a ball of solder. You’re adding heat to it and more heat and nothing happens. And then at some moment it completely liquifies. We’re saving and saving and saving and soon our last few money concerns will just melt way.

What were your financial wins from the past month? Leave a comment!