Year in Review-2023

Groceries- Budget $975   We have spent over $10,400 in 2023 which is an average of $866 a month.  My goal was $975 a month so YAY!  I did manage to stay under budget for 7 of 12 months!  I am planning to leave this amount unchanged for 2024 but will hopefully be able to incorporate the purchase of a whole or half side of beef.

Auto/ Gas. Goal -= $600 a month. We spent $5740 on gas. Which is an average of $478 a month.  We did manage to spend over $600 on gas in 3 of the last 12 months. I can explain this with the fact that we travelled each of those 3 months. I am going to reduce the budget to $500 a month to leave some wiggle room for traveling as well.

Blogging- 15 post per month. Yet again, I did not meet this goal. I was able to blog 15 times last January and 17 times last May.  I am going to leave this goal, as a form of accountability.  I do enjoy reviewing blogs but sometime blogging gets pushed to the back burner.

Exercise- I am struggling both with my health and how to improve it!  I am losing a small bit of weight.  I ended the year at 220.   Hopefully I will be under 190 by the end of 2024.

2023 brought lots of celebrations and also a fair bit of change.  I hope to make 2024 less stress, fun and need to enjoy some additional down time for sure!

Thursday Thoughts- Groceries!

  • Groceries has consistently been one of our biggest expenses. It is also one of the expenses that I monitor very closely using this blog!  I was able to find my groceries expenses all the way back to 2011 this morning!   Which we will discuss in depth in just a few minutes.
  • Last night, I decided that I would finish up my grocery shopping for the month.  Mom and I went into Aldi to grab some fresh veggies and other things in ended up spending $110, this was much more than I had anticipated. I had also decided to grab both Zach and Kendall and head to Costco. My grocery budget does include paper goods, cleaning products and most other things you can purchase at Costco.   We also needed to purchase some extra drinks to take with us to Florida.  My total at Costco for last night was $650.
  • I decided the last week of November, right after Christmas to try out Walmart grocery delivery. I will not be continuing mainly because I am too cheap for it. But I am also disappointed with the level of service and being able to get all the things I want.  I had an order for today which is around $70 and probably one final order before we leave if needed.
  • Wow that sounded expense and it is!  For the month of December, we will end up spending around $1600!  Ouch
  • My next step was to see what my average monthly spending was for 2023. We have spent over $10,400 in 2023 which is an average of $866 a month.  My goal was $975 a month so YAY!  I did manage to stay under budget for 7 of 12 months!   Totally unexpected that I managed to stay in budget this year, but this is a HUGE success! One that I plan to build on see below.
  • Lets’ review some numbers for fun:  in 2011 which included diapers for one kid we spent an average $821 per month.  which was the high amount spent prior to the this  year. Our lowest amount spent on groceries per month was $460 a month in 2013. A more shocking comparison is that in 2019 we averaged $506 a month. Rising to $550 in 2021 which is expected as we were stuck at home and rarely ate out. Finally the average for $2022 was $700  a month.
  • After taking all the in and mulling over the numbers. I am going to maintain the budget at $975 for 2024 especially with a teenage boy in the house and the planned purchase of a cow next summer.
  • Starting in January, I would like to start saving to purchase another whole cow in the summer. Ideally, I would put $500 a month in a saving account for six months to make this happen.   We have a ton of food in multiple locations, and I am really working on keeping it organized and to work through the food that is here before buying new things.  I also need to start to clean out the freezer of all the prepared meals that I made this summer.   I will definitely need the freezer space.  My plan is to start the year by participating in the pantry challenge for both January and February which should also jump start the saving fund.

2022 in Review

2022 was an interesting year. Matt started the year unemployed, and I ended the year with only one job. We have adjusted and continue to achieve the balance of enjoying life and making memories with debt management and saving. This year has been the most balanced so far. We can definitely do better but I am hoping for another nice balanced year.

Groceries– budget amount is $700 I was able to meet this goal 5/12 months. Inflation is hard and especially felt at the grocery store. We are currently averaging $975 a month. This is the largest amount ever, including the years I had 2 in diapers.  I am going to make a couple of changes for 2023. First, I am going to increase the grocery budget to $975. With 3 teenagers in the house, I need to be realistic about this goal. However, I am going to attempt to participate in the pantry challenge for the month of January and February.  I will only be purchasing items we are completely out of during these months.  I am going to estimate $100 for each month. But depending on Diet Coke sales this may vary.

Auto/ Gas. My goal is $400 a month. Again inflation and we did use the camper for 5 long trips this year including two trips to Florida.  The average was $619.85 a month. This is another category that I need to increase. I am setting the amount at $600 a month with a strong hope that gas stays at less than $3.  a gallon. I will re-adjust this in June if needed.

Cash Envelope system- Goal Met!  This is currently a way of life so I am actually not going to include it next year.

Blogging- 15 post per month.  I have consistently blogged 11 or more times a month 11 out of 12 months. I also exceed my goal in August with 17.  I am going to leave this goal for consistency.

Exercise days-   This continues to be a struggle but not really a strong priority.

No Spend Days-No idea! I am wondering if I should eliminate this as long as we are using cash?

2023 will bring change for sure but I am hopefully that we adjust to the change without a roller coaster ride!

Financial Planning- Year in Review

Today, I have spent about 3/4 of my time in my office, reviewing, reworking, rethinking and double checking all things in my financial plan.  Overall, this has been a good year for us financially and I want to make sure that we stay on a good course to keep things in a positive direction.

One thing that has significantly changed this year is our income. Matt started the year off on unemployment, actively seeking a position. This continued until mid-April with a period of six weeks where he had no income.   I worked between 10- 15 hours a week in Guam via Tiny Eye until the end of May. I was very surprised to learn that my contract was not renewed in June.  Although this has negative impacted our finances, I do not plan to seek a second job at this point. I have some things on the radar, but this would currently consist of less than 2 hours weekly. One of the things that I wanted to make sure of was that we would be able to continue our current lifestyle without building up debit if things stayed absolutely the same for an entire year.  Currently, we should be able to maintain both our current income and living status based on the numbers I have gotten today.

I was able to finalize a budget for 2023.  I did make some major changes in not only the way I am budgeting but also in the priorities that we have.  Although the way I am wording and paying our expenses in 2023 is different, we are still using a zero budget. Meaning that both Matt and my income is budgeted at 100% with no extra money.  We find ways to save more and make money in a variety of different ways. Part of my time was spent reviewing previous years and where we stand financially compared to even 2011.  We currently have 24 thousand dollars in debt besides our Tahoe and house.   This is in comparison to $16 thousand in December of 2015.   One important difference that should be noted with the current value of our house, we could in theory sell the house and be able to cover not only the remaining mortgage but also our current debt including the Tahoe.  Another comparison that I found is that our minimum credit card payment in 2017 was $989.69 compared to $822 today.  I am going to continue to work toward zero debit other than the mortgage, but I also want to celebrate the success that we are achieving while actively living and engaging in our lives.

Speaking of success, we have achieved a “baby” emergency fund of $1000.  The majority of this is in cash so that is a HUGE success.  The next steps that I am going to focus on under the Dave Ramsey plan is snowballing all debit.  I am seriously considering making zero credit card debit a goal for 2023!  I am not sure this is achievable with Lily starting college, but I do want to have less than $100 thousand in debit including our mortgage and Tahoe by 2024.  Currently we have around $170 thousand in total debit.

We averaged $972 a month in grocery spending this year. In comparison to the USDA “thrifty” plan which would equal $1400 a month. This is significant increase in spending when compared to $530 in 2021, $631 in 2020 and even $821 in 2011.  My mother continues to provide support in this area as she eats at least 3 days a week with us.  My goal is to increase grocery spending to $975 a month in 2023.

We have spent an average of $620 a month on gas this year. This does include 2 trips to Florida, two trips to Mrytle Beach and a trip to Asheville. My plan is to budget $600 a month for gas with anything extra being used to pay down debt or for the extra expenses like oil change that always seem to pop up.

One final thing that I am going to include but it is an after note and one that I just wanted to document somewhere is that we lost around $2500 this year.  This was not an intentional lost or one we could have predicted but it did happen and affected our bottom line!

A Look Back at 2021 and a Peek Ahead at 2022

I mentioned yesterday that I was struggling with deciding how to do goals for the year, today I am going to go ahead and put some goals out there, but I will leave it open that our financial goals will likely end up changed in June when I have a better idea of what type of job and salary Matt will be receiving.  A second change from yesterday is that I am only going to do one post with both how we did and new goals for 2022.  New goals will be in italics to make things easier for me to figure out in the future.

Groceries– budget amount is $650.   I achieved this 9 of 12 months!  I will add that we have been receiving gifts of food on a monthly basis from my Mother this year as she continues to eat with us 3 or more times a week.   I am excited that we have been able to adjust and actually decrease our overall spending on groceries. we spent an average of $530 a month this year. In reality, this is probably a very realistic goal for us to continue however, I want to make a plan for the first 6 months of the year and then move back to this budget amount in June.
For January, February, March and May- Budget amount is $200 a month or $50 a week.  I will also be using any overage in the budget to cover out eating out until Matt has a permanent job.
Eating Out budget will begin when Matt has a job and will be $100 a week or $400 a month but this will not apply during vacations or travel.

One additional explanation is that in April we have a trip planned to Disney.  We are taking the camper and will be bringing a good bit of extra food to save money on this trip so I will leave the budget at $650 to help cover those expenses for April.

Auto/ Gas / Insurance. My goal is $400 a month.  We met this goal 7/12 months.  This is definitely an area that I will wait until Matt has a permanent job.  I anticipate increasing this to at least $500 a month unless his job is in town or remote most of the time. 

Cash Envelope system-   Goal met 8/12 months.  I will not be keeping this goal but do plan on continuing to use this system. I am dropping the goal based on the fact it is really difficult to monitor.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month.  I only met this goal 4/12 months.  I will definitely keep this goal for next year!

Goal # 5- Fitness– Goal is to exercise of some type at least 10 days a month.  This is a goal that I struggle with each year. It appears that 4 out of 12 months I did achieve the goal for 6 or 7 days but none for 10.    I am debating just reporting how many days this was achieved each month without a goal. 

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal-  – Read or Listen to the entire Bible in a year.   GOAL MET!   I am actually going to try and do this again 2022 by using podcast.  I don’t think I will keep reporting on it but I hope to continue the practice!

Earnings Based on several major changes this year, this is just too difficult and time consuming!   We will of course continue to look for ways to make extra money, but apps are no longer worth the effort!  I will also plan to remove this from my goals.

No Spend Days– I love the concept of this! However, in reality it is very difficult to do!  The purpose is to not spend money outside of the budget and we are doing so much better in this area!   Instead of a goal this will be included along with exercise as a simple number to keep me accountable.

Exercise days-
No Spend Days- 

I will be posting again this weekend on our plans and other adventures for 2022!

December in Review

I have actually been spending some time already getting this post ready at least in my head. My plan/ goal is to share this post and a Year in Review post today and tomorrow and then a sort of plan blog post for Saturday or Sunday.  December has been a busy but fun filled month!  We all really enjoyed camping and seeing Biltmore! Christmas was drama free and I am ready for 2022 to be less sick and more fun!

Groceries– budget amount is $650.   $849.16 This is over for the month, but I am not too upset. I do have a plan for next year and it includes an overall reduction in grocery spending!

Auto/ Gas / Insurance. My goal is $400 a month. $401.00 MET!  The most exciting part of this is that it includes out trip to Asheville and towing the trailer!

Cash Envelope system-   We are definitely doing much better with this!  I am planning to keep this just for accountability.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month.  Goal Met! This is post number 14 and with plans for 2 more I should be good for the month.

Goal # 5- Fitness– Goal is to exercise of some type at least 10 days a month.  Nope Naa yea we need to rethink and start this one.

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal-  Read or Listen to the entire Bible in a year. Need to find something to get started on this.

Earnings– No extra earrings this month!

No Spend Days– Did not keep up with this as it just was too difficulty.  I am not sure what happened other than life!  I am planning to keep this goal but with some additional guidance for next year.

December was a fun month. I am super excited that we are ending the month and the year with ZERO credit card debit!  We also are half way to our first emergency goal of $1000.  I will go ahead and state that I am really unsure about making a budget right now due to Matt still being unemployed. Once he returns to work. I am sure things will change again and we will see more direct progress toward saving goals.

Recap of 2020/ Goals for 2021

I usually get this post completed in December and I usually look forward to reviewing and writing it.  Well like everything else in 2020, that did not happen. But I am going to take the time to recap the year and my goals and also include what we will be working toward for the next year.

Groceries– 2020 goal was $550 a month. I was able to achieve this goal four times this year, January, August, September and October. We have spent a total of $7578.12 on groceries or an average of $631.51 a month. After review and consideration I am going to increase the budget amount to $650. I will review that all household cleaning products and paper products are included in this amount. For January to kick start the year, I am going to complete a pantry challenge and plan to spend $100 or less for the month.

Auto/ Gas / Insurance: We did separate out our insurance and AAA membership from this budget. I transfer $99 a month to cover our car insurance and AAA membership. AAA is paid on a yearly basis and car insurance is every 6 months.  I am proud of myself for being more careful with keeping up with car expenses 2020.  We have had several unexpected expenses such as 2 replacement windshields in addition to a $500 deductible for repair of the passenger side of the van.  We are using our part of our stimulus money to cover the van deductible but both windshield replacements were included my records.  For 2020 we spent an average of $318 a month in auto expenses. My goal for 2021 will be $400 a month with any excess to be applied to debit.

Cash Envelope system- GOAL Met!   I do plan to keep using this system as I can see the benefit of it.  For the months of January-March an “extra” money will go toward our Disney trip in April to cover the food expenses.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is more of an accountability goal for me. I met it this year 5 of 12 months. I am not going to change this goal as I can do it when I have time and focus.

Goal # 5- FitnessGoal is to walk 3 times a week.  I struggle with this goal. But I know the accountability is important so  I am going to change the goal to Exercise of some type at least 10 days a month.  This should allow some flexibility and also encourage me just to move.

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week –Again this is truly an area that I struggle with.  I am going to try and listen to a podcast on my way to work each day. So I am going to change this goal to Read or Listen to the entire Bible in a year. 

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  Currently on #59 GOAL MET!

Earnings- This has decreased significantly over the past several years. In 2014 I could earn $200 a month on a regular basis. In 2020 we struggled to earn $50 a month. I leave this at the bottom just to help me remember every bit helps.

No Spend Days- I am going to add this section each month in order to see if I can get a good rhythm going to saving money by not entering the store!

Year in Review

I am actually really impressed with myself for writing this on New Year’s Eve. This is almost a week sooner than 2018. 2019 was a much less stressful year in all the areas of my life. As I was looking back on the goals I established it does not look like I made progress but overall I feel really positive as we head into the next year.

Financial- Our debit is not below 20,000 however both Matt and I have significantly increased our income this year. In fact, Matt received a raise today that we were not expecting until mid January. I plan to share our budget tomorrow along with the goals of the year. I feel comfortable financially which is the first time I have said this in our entire marriage. In fact it may be the first time in my entire lifetime.
We spent an average of $506.76 a month in groceries this year. This is over an $100 a month deduction from last year but $75 more a month than what I wanted to budget. The kids are all growing and eating real portions now. The budget for 2020 is $550 a month which includes the purchase of more meat as we don’t have any hamburger meat or steaks.
Gas is a huge expense for us. We currently are averaging $ 465 a month but this is only over the 7 months that I managed to keep track. The good news is that we only spent $284.49 in December.

Blogging- I have been averaging 10 post a month. I was able to hit the goal of 15 in the month of March and came close in June with 14. This month, this is post number 12.

Weight/ health- This is huge dud. I injured my knee in August. I stopped everything except working. This week I have managed to walk outside 2 days so I am going to establish the goal of 3 days a week for this year.

Bible study- As a family, we were successful in reading Luke during the month of December. I need to find an individual devotional book and start a good habit for the next year.