Why And How We Create A Christmas Budget

It’s that time of year, and shopping is already underway in earnest.

I’m sure that many of you have gotten started with your shopping, and many will also be waiting until the last minute.  I generally fall somewhere in between that spectrum.

I thought I’d take a little time to explain how we set and track our Christmas budget, and I’d love to see how it compares to yours.

History As Our Guide

We have one big spreadsheet that I’ve used for years to track various aspects of our personal finance, from a spending ledger to budgets for big items to investment gains and losses, and yes, a Christmas budget.

This is great because I can track prior years spending and set that as a starting point for this years budget.

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Why I Didn’t Report My Lost Credit Card

Have you ever had a lost credit card?  What about if it wasn’t lost but more so just misplaced?  What do you do?

Our Night Out

Several weeks ago, we went to the last of our country concerts for the year, as we went to see Luke Bryan in downtown Detroit.  It was a great show and we had a great time.  After we were done, we went to a couple of nearby bars to finish off the celebration.  We capped things off with an Uber ride home.

All in all, it was a great night, and I thought that was the end of it.

But, it wasn’t.

The next day, we were running some errands and the first stop we had to make was to get gas.

We use our Costco American Express card to get gas, as it provides 3% cash back.

I went to get it out of my wallet, and realized that it wasn’t there.

Yikes.

Read moreWhy I Didn’t Report My Lost Credit Card

Stay Healthy For Less Money

If you believe the commercials and magazine covers, you might think that it is impossible to get in shape without paying for an expensive gym membership, money-munching diet plans and loads of pricey equipment. However, not only is it possible to save money on getting healthy, you can usually find everything you need free (or at no additional cost to what you are already spending).

Unused gym memberships: Save money by cancelling rarely used memberships and try some of the below tips for getting healthy without the blowing the budget.

Skip organic: If you have a sink, you can wash your fruits and veggies before you cook or eat them. While organic can be healthier, if you are on a shoestring budget, the benefits are not worth the extra expense. If you must go organic pick your battles, choose one thing (like meats), and just take a little extra time washing everything else off.

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Is The Quality of CFL Bulbs On The Decline?

I know many people don’t like them, but I’ve always been a supporter of CFL bulbs.  Some of the early bulbs were a bit hard to handle.  Plus,they developed a reputation early on about taking a long time to light.  Even though these have improved, many people don’t like them.  However, recent observations have made me wonder if the quality of CFL bulbs has declined.

Long Lasting Bulbs Was A Selling Point

I was really impressed with was how long they seemed to last.  It was a major selling point for CFL bulbs.The average bulb was advertised to last, on average, for around 7 years.  This would vary based on usage, and it was noted that if you frequently turn your lights on and off, the expectation would be reduced.  This made sense.

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When Taking Twice As Long To Do Something Is Just Fine

We are in a neighborhood with a lot of mature trees.  As such, we have a lot of leaves come fall.  Raking and jumping in leaves is definitely on our agenda.  I try to mow the leaves to mulch them back into the yard, but there’s always a couple of weeks where they fall too fast and furious.  In these cases, the amount of leaves is just too much.

Leaf Cleanup

Usually, there’s two weekends per year that we have to clean up the leaves.  Other neighbors let everything fall and then deal with one massive cleanup, where other neighbors are out every couple of days.  Two clean ups is the number we’ve settled on and that works just great for us.

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Do You Speak Up About High Prices?

I had a situation pop up recently where I found that a price was way higher than it should have been.  I  thought it would be a good time to reflect on high prices.

Our Gutters

Our gutters in the back of the house are clogged with leaves.  I never had them cleaned out last year, and there’s one in particular that, when the runoff overflows because the hole to the downspout is plugged with leaves, will ice up the entire 20′ down the side of the house.  It happened last winter, and I figured with the damage done, I’d address it this fall.

There’s a guy that does our window cleaning that also will clean gutters, and I know that he has the right ladders and skills for the job.  We ended up calling him, but I always like to look at alternatives.

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Is Our Mortgage Payoff Too Aggressive?

Four years ago, we made the decision to refinance our mortgage.  We hit the time when rates were about the lowest they’ve ever been, and decided to get into a 15-year mortgage.  This would increase our payments but lower our total interest.  It would also move forward our mortgage payoff date.

From a financial perspective, the move has been a big win so far.

The Benefits Of Our 15 Year Mortgage

  • Low rate – We got a 3.375% rate, if memory serves, so we are paying very little in interest and more toward principle.
  • Modestly higher payments – Our payments went up a bit from our previous 30-year mortgage
  • Getting in line my payoff date objective – I’ve always said that in an ideal situation, the mortgage would be paid off before our kids started college.  This timing would actually have the payoff occur during senior year of high school for our oldest.  I’d be 52 which is a pretty good target age to be mortgage free, all things considered!

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No Rise In Health Care Premiums Next Year

Next year will see a first for me.  My out of pocket health care premiums will not rise next year!  Well, technically, we’ve had a couple of years where they went down, but it was because we chose a plan that had less coverage.  But never before have we kept coverage the same and had costs not rise.

So this is great news.

How did it happen?

Well, I work for a health system herein Detroit.  The insurance company we use is affiliated with our health system, and the plan that we have is somewhat restrictive in that we can only go to doctors that work for the health system.  You can get plans where you can choose outside doctors as your in-network doctors, but they’re a lot more expensive.

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7 Work Habits That My Co-Workers Might Consider Peculiar

I really like where I work, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been working here for over nine years now. I’ve definitely settled in.  There are a number of work habits that I’ve developed that work for me.  However, I wonder how many of these my co-workers might consider peculiar.

It also crossed my mind that if they do, I really don’t care 🙂

I make my own coffee in my own coffee maker.

There are several commercial grade machines around the office, as well as some Keurig brewers, but I don’t use any of these.  I actually brought my own coffee machine, one that I had sitting in the basement at home, and brew my own coffee every day.  Why all the trouble if there are machines everywhere?  Well, it’s because the machines that they have here don’t work too mb-2015-11-coffeewell for the routine I’ve established.  See, I don’t use Keurig cups as I find them wasteful and too expensive for everyday use, but the ‘free’ coffee that they provide is coffee in only the most technical sense.  Long story short, it’s awful.  I bring in my own coffee, keep it in the freezer, and brew my own pot every day.

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