The End Of An Awesome Holiday Break

I just went back to work a few days ago and man, I need a break after the holiday break!  It was pretty much non-stop and it was fantastic.  Here are some of the day by day highlights.

December 22

Technically break hadn’t started yet, but we kicked things off from a ‘fun’ standpoint.  My wife and I both love the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and got tickets to go on the giant movie screen.  We took the kids and made a whole night of it, going to dinner beforehand.  It was a great start.

December 23rd: The Official Start of Holiday Break

I had to work but there weren’t a whole lot of people here, and everybody started drifting out en masse around noon.  I stuck it out until just around 2pm.  We didn’t do a whole lot of fun stuff this day, mainly finishing up wrapping and getting things ready for Christmas Eve.

December 24th

Christmas Eve has always been one of our favorite times.  Growing up, it was always at my Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  Even after my Grandpa passed and my Grandma moved to an apartment, we still got together.  After she passed, we took on the torch, and we now meet family at Church and then come back to our house for dinner.  It’s still one of my favorite days, even though I’m long grown up. I hope it makes great memories for my children.

December 25th

Christmas morning is always great and I try to see it through the eyes of my kids.  We opened up presents and got ready.  The afternoon was spent at my cousin’s, and we made our way over to my in-laws for the celebration for that side of the family.  Christmas is a great day but it’s non-stop.

December 26th

Having spent the night at my in-laws, we had breakfast and then opened gifts together.  The kids love having back to back Christmas celebrations!  This was official day where you have to put some serious effort into figuring out what day of the week it is.

December 27th

We finally got a break from Christmas celebrations (but more to come), and instead started on some fun activities for the kids to keep them busy.  The library has a big Lego building event where kids get to spend an hour rummaging through bin upon bin, creating something that they then get to put out in the kids area for all to see.  They offer this program about once every six weeks, and it was fun for me to take them.

We also did an impromptu dinner out with my in-laws.  My father in-law has a car that he drives only during the summer months, and wanted to free up some space in his garage, and asked if he could park it in our extra space.  Since they were over anyway, we decided to go out for some great pizza!

December 28th

The fun continued as we spent a few hours at the Henry Ford, which is a local museum with lots of history.   They have lots of cars, old airplanes, steam engines, locomotives, and other stuff.  They even have the actual bus, which has been fully restored, in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.  It’s informative and fun at the same time.

December 29th

My son loves building Lego and has a whole table (a converted train table) in his room to do so.  It’s gotten a bit out of hand, so we spent a few hours cleaning up sets and re-organizing his collection. It was, of course, all done in preparation for building new Lego sets that he got for Christmas!  While he and I did that, my daughter and wife had a field trip at a local chocolate factory!

After all this, we did the third and final Christmas gift celebration, as we got together with my parents for dinner and a gift exchange.

December 30th

We had another really fun day.  My wife took my daughter to get together with some ‘old’ pre-school friends.  They had fun catching up.  Once they got back, we went to a nearby trampoline place where they converted a few storefronts into a giant trampoline where people come to….well, bounce!  We had scored tickets on Groupon a few weeks back with the sole intent of coming this week, and it was a blast.  Afterward, my wife surprised the kids (me, too) by stopping for frozen yogurt.  Yum!

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I rooted for our favorite college football team, the Michigan Wolverines.  Unfortunately, despite a furious comeback, they came up a point short this year.  Maybe next year!

December 31st

New Year’s Eve!  For us, 2016 was a pretty good year and we went out in style.  Where we’ve often gotten together with my sister-in-law, this year that didn’t work out, so we kept the kids and had some old fashioned family fun.

During the day, we went out bowling, which was great, and then went to see Moano, the new Disney movie.  Everybody enjoyed that.  We went to dinner at a new (to us) restaurant, where we had good food and excellent service.

At home we did a family game night, including Pie Face, which involved canned whipped cream.  I made a fantastic chocolate chip cookie cake, and the kids stayed up until midnight to ring in 2017!

January 1st

We had tired kids but they held up remarkably well.  My dad’s Birthday is on New Year’s, so we went out to brunch and then came back to our house for cake.  Later, the four of us went for a walk as it was a sunny day, which is rare during the Michigan winter.  We had a fun dinner with dips, pigs in a blanket, shrimp and some other goodies.

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I again rooted for our favorite football team, this time the Detroit Lions, but were disappointed once again as they fell to the Packers.  They still ended up making the playoffs, but it would have been nice to have seen them win their first division title in nearly 25 years.  Here’s hoping for a miracle in the playoffs!

January 2nd

It was a cold day but was, again, relatively sunny, so we decided to go to the zoo.  It was surprisingly busy and the kids made it about 2.5 hours, which I thought was great.  I had estimated two hours as their maximum tolerance, so they came out ahead!

On January 3rd, I sadly returned to work, signifying the official end to our holiday break.  The kids had two more days off, not returning to school until the 5th, but the family fun had by the four of us was officially over.

You know it’s been a great break when you wish you had a couple more days!

Readers, how was your holiday break?  Any big happenings?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

2017 Goals And Plans

We made it to another year.  We had a great year last year and are looking forward to another wonderful year.  Here are some 2017 goals and things that we have going on.  What are your plans for the year?

Money

Our goal for money is to keep on keeping on.  We want to save for retirement a bit more and maybe for some larger projects, but nothing right in front of us.  Building our net worth in a slow and steady fashion is the goal.

We had considered the idea of a refinance of our mortgage to free up some cash flow.  This might still happen, but we put it on hold since rates started going up literally days after that post!  That’s honestly my luck.  It might be something to look at, but we’ll see.  I know many say rates are still low but I just have a thing against refinancing at a higher rate than I’m currently paying.  This is even more true knowing it wasn’t the case just a few months ago.

Exercise

I want to continue to go to the gym but I have a few different goals this year.  Last year, pretty much all I did was run on the treadmill.  I want to reduce the number of times I run, but offset it with different activities.  I literally lift no weights or do any other type of conditioning.  I’d like to be more well rounded in my exercise approach.

Vacations and Fun

We have a few things planned for the year:

  • February: Our winter mini-getaway to a water park located a couple of hours away
    Image from MorgueFiles courtesy of Lash.

    .  The kids absolutely love this place and ask about it at least once a week.

  • April: We are heading to Florida for Spring Break.  We’re heading to the Tampa area.  We already have lodging all set up, and are finalizing our plans on getting down there.
  • Summer: We’ll be doing our traditional assortment of camping trips.  We’ve already booked Memorial Day and the 4th of July week trips.  We’ll have another  week long trip that we’ll book later, as well as filling up the rest of the summer with additional shorter trips.
  • Fall: We round out our camping season with a couple of colder weather trips.

Health

I never got around to a few of my checklist items to get done by the end of the year.  I really want to make sure to get checked up, as well as take care of some of the other items.  It’s obvious that my prescription has changed for my glasses, so taking care of that is something to do fairly early on.

On top of that, we’ll just pray that everybody else in our immediate and extended families stays healthy and accident free.

Church

We really don’t get to church very often.  By that I mean that we’ve turned into one of those cliche families that goes on Easter and Christmas.  Our kids really enjoyed Vacation Bible School, and I honestly feel that they need some of the lessons and principles from the teachings.  It wouldn’t hurt for me and my wife to go either!

Kids

We’re always excited to see our kids continue to grow and learn and mature.  They are finding their way with activities.  My son is in Cub Scouts and we’re having fun, so hopefully we continue with that.  He’s also getting into things like basketball, plus he still loves desigining and building.  My daughter continues to take dance lessons, and has started Brownies (Girl Scouts).  I’m sure by the end of the year they’ll both have more things on their laundry list!

We’re really looking forward to what the year ahead brings.  What do you think of our plans, and what do you have lined up for the year ahead?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

2016 In Review

Well, another year is almost in the books.  It’s pretty cool to look back and see how things went.  Here is our 2016 in review.  How was your 2016?

Money

From a money standpoint, things were okay.  I think we’re at that point where nothing big is going to happen too regularly. That’s good and bad.  On the good side it meant no major expenses or unexpected costs.  On the negative, it just means no big boosts or jumps like we used to have.  When I was younger, a 10-15% raise was common.  Now 2-3% is normal.  Also, back then, when I had smaller a smaller net worth, a bigger percentage gain could take place with just normal savings and gains.  Now, even when the dollar amount is much higher, the percentage gains are less.

Kind of boring and steady at the same time.  I guess I’ll take it. *lol*

Exercise

I had a goal to run as many times as I did in 2015.  I thought that would be a cinch, but as it turns out I just made it by the skin of my teeth, hitting the goal this week.  Last year I had a sore foot that kept me away for a couple of months, so I thought that I’d make up for it with a full year.  As it turns out, my wife and I both decided that when we’re camping, we wanted to enjoy the time with our families.  Therefore, we ended up doing less running which offset the time.

Still, it was good to be on track.

Camping

We had great weather and had a blast camping this year.  I already wrote a post on this, so I won’t go into too much further detail on this one.

Kids

The kids are both in elementary school now and doing very well academically.  It’s awesome to see them learn.  It’s also heartbreaking to watch them come home when they’ve had a falling out with friends, or didn’t do as well at something as they’d hoped.  While we want to see only good things for our kids, we realize that the ups and downs are a part of life.

Home

Not much big this year around the house.  We didn’t really do any big projects at all nor did we have any big repairs.  It’d be nice to do some updating, but there’s nothing that has to be done as a pressing need.

Pets

We lost our second cat early this year.  He always had issues with chronic constipation.  We were able to control it with occasional issues throughout his life, but he suddenly had issues that wouldn’t go away.  We got more and more aggressive with medication and remedies, but it wasn’t working.  It’s been lonely without him and it was a big adjustment going to a pet free environment for now.

Healthy

Knock on wood but the four of us are all healthy and have been so throughout the year.  Hopefully that continues.  My step-mom did have a big health scare earlier in the year with a pulmonary embolism, but she got some great care and is doing great!  That’s been a big blessing.

2016 In Review: Summary

We’ve been blessed with good health and happiness throughout the year.  We’ve had a lot of changes and we know that life will continue to bring them our way.  Staying together and working together is key, and we plan on doing so for what we hope is a great 2017.  Stay tuned for more details on what we have in store for next year.

Readers, how was 2016 to you and your family?  Please share in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Terrible Costco Coupons Equals No Costco Trips This Month

December, it seems, is the holy grail of food months. Buying food, groceries, etc.  What better month to count on than December, right? So, if that’s the case, it’s really amazing that Costco is trying to shoot themselves in the foot with a terrible coupon insert.  The Costco Coupons book that we eagerly look forward to was a total dud..

As a result, we haven’t gone to Costco. Those two things go hand in hand, as it turns out.

Our Costco Coupons Habits

We have been Costco members since before we got married.  That means it’s been over ten years now.  Wow, does time ever fly!

During that time, Costco has always sent out a monthly coupon book.  For three weeks out of every month, members can enjoy savings on a handful of items. It’s always been a good mix of general merchandise, electronics, and food.  Until this month.  This month, Costco pretty much eliminated the food category.

We have about 12-15 regular items that we’ll buy with the coupons when they go on sale.  Actually, it’s probably a few more than that, because there are usually some that only go on sale around the holidays.  We look forward to those.

Except none of them were in the book this year.  Not a single one!

In fact they only had three food coupons in total.

Comparison Shopping

We are lucky to be in an area where we have both Costco and Sam’s Club in pretty equal fashion.  Where there’s one, mb-money201308chances are there’s the other within a mile.

We’ve always been loyal to Costco, but we heard a while back that Sam’s Club started offering coupons to members.  This piqued our interest.  We also saw that Sam’s had some pretty good sign up deals from time to time.  There were deals where you could buy a discounted membership (for the first year), plus receive additional free items and coupons.

These deals seem to happen a few times a year, and it honestly might be time to consider if Costco does not return to offering desirable coupons on everyday items.

Is Costco Going Too High End?

One of the things that I’ve noticed, and this latest coupon fiasco seems to affirm, is that they’re going after higher end consumers.  I’ve had my suspicions even on the food side, as they’ve gone increasingly to higher priced organic options.   I’m not sure that they think they make enough money from people who go in and buy coffee, spaghetti sauce, and the like.

Their latest coupon book, which eschews all of those things, instead has TVs, computers, and other gadgets.  It’s all high priced.  Maybe they’re only interested in selling those items.

If so, fine, but we’ll be out.  It’s not that we’re claiming poverty.  It’s that we buy everyday items because of the value and the occasional big ticket items.  It seems like they want their shoppers to do the reverse.

Winter Will Tell The Tale

We have the Costco Visa card and we have a good chunk of rewards money lined up.  The way that their rewards works is that you get a payout once per year, and it happens to be in February.  If you cancel your membership (along which cancels your card) anytime in between, you forfeit your earnings.

That’s not going to happen.

However, if we get our payout in February, and things have not improved on the coupon side of things, that might be time to make a clean break.

As it so happens, Sam’s Club also has a rewards credit card that offers similar category discounts.  Line that up with a cheaper membership and better coupons, and it might not be long before we’re noting ourselves as former Costco members.

I hope that doesn’t happen, but the clock is ticking.

Readers, what do you think of Costco?  Have you noticed a gradual shift away from lower priced items in their targeted strategy?  How does that fit in with you?  Any Sam’s Club members out there that can give some insight on how things are on the other side of the fence?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.