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Transitioning from High Cost of Living to…Middleish

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We’re broke. The budget is TIGHT and it’s going to be that way for at least a couple more weeks until we recoup the money we invested in the remodel to sell our house. I’m moving money around in budget categories and it’s becoming terribly obvious how high the cost of living is in San Diego.

Let’s start with the Utilities. We have one utility company in San Diego. Not a lick of competition. Texas? There are seemingly endless companies willing to sell you power who are willing to find you the best deal possible based on how you consume it. My electric bill this month? $52. And my Texas house is 50% larger with more lights. In San Diego, I counted my blessings if it was under $150 but it was generally over $250, sometimes well over $300. The current bill is $82 for my house in San Diego with nothing plugged in and no one living there. Unfortunately I have to leave the power on until the new owners take possession but I’m still coming out $18 under budget. That’s not even talking about internet (50% less) or water (25% less). We still don’t have cable TV and, even though it’s way cheaper here, we have no plans to get it.

Groceries. I’m consistently $100 – $200 under my average San Diego spend. This is very noticeable in pork prices (heads up Cali…pork is going to be completely unaffordable come March. Stock up now). The crazy part is, because of my recent health crisis, I’ve had to drastically modify my diet to whole foods which are expensive yet, I’m still able to stay under budget.

Gas. Yeah. It’s pretty much half price in Texas. These days, I get very upset if I have to pay over $3 in Texas. In San Diego, as long as it was under $5, I was happy. To make matters even better, I live less than a mile from work. When the weather behaves, I walk. I’ve gone from 26 miles/day driving to less than 2 miles/day. This money I’m letting build in the budget line item. My repairs budget (which is the same budget line as my gas money) got beat up a bit last year so it could use some growth. I love that I don’t have to make any changes to my budget and I’m coming out way ahead in this category.

Vehicle registration. I’ve mentioned this one before. My registration was several hundred dollars in California. It’s $92 in Texas. I’ve been able to cut this budget line item by 60%.

The list goes on and on but I wish someone had told me that moving out of San Diego would be so much more than less expensive housing. The difference financially is HUGE. The future is bright.

The other part I want you to take from this, if you are considering moving to a new area with a higher cost of living, remember it’s so much more than more expensive housing. You will get hit on so many levels. Be prepared.

How Do You Decide on a Christmas Budget?

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Budgets are something that we discuss often. And many would say I don’t have a budget, but rather monitor my money with the spending spreadsheet where I forecast out a year. I would say I do have a budget, but we are not going to get into that.

For Christmas, I make a detailed budget and stick to it. It usually starts with me figuring out a total dollar amount and then dividing it up to save throughout the year. I start with the ”fixed” or non-negotiables like stocking stuffers and food and fit in everything else.

Hope's Christmas Tree

I did hold true to my desire to decorate for Christmas early. Our Christmas Tree and the bulk of our decorations went up the week before Halloween when all the kids were here to celebrate the twins’ birthday. I love it! And get to enjoy it every day while I work.

Our Christmas budget has changed a lot over the years as our family has grown, jobs and income have changed and the kids have gotten older. But it’s currently about $2,000 per year. This covers good, holiday activities and all gifts.

In addition, our traditions have changed. While we are still very big on presents, I think we’ve all become alot more thoughtful in our gift giving. I know I work very hard every year to find a “wow” gift for each child and then also fulfill some needs and a want or two. Experiences have become my favorite gift to give as well.

I Love Tradition

Our roller coaster life has really hindered creating many traditions that stick. Stockings remain. Some type of game on Christmas Eve. And we do tend to have “junk food” day on Christmas with our family meal the night before. While almost all of my Christmas traditions cost little to no extra money, I am of the opinion that I would like to create some sort of experiential tradition now that the kids are older. But I have no idea what that would be.

Santa

I know everyone has a different feeling about this topic. I personally love Santa. I love how excited kids get when talking about him and for many years we had Santa gifts as well as gifts from each other. But after the twins joined our family, the financial burden was too much for me.

I wrote them all a “good-bye” note from Santa one year. They still talk about how devastating that was. (Terrible mom idea by the way.) I’m not sure what the kids will decide to do when they have kids. Of course, I will support whatever they decide, but I like the idea of one or two Santa gifts only. Not only does this put a limit on things it also sets a reasonable expectation for what Santa can do. This is what worked for me when Gymnast and Princess were younger.

I wrote a couple of months ago about my desire to use my Christmas budget a bit differently this year. I’ve not completely given up that idea. But I also haven’t come up or settled on any brilliant ideas on what they would look like.

Some people spend $0.00 on gifts and that is 100% fine. Though Christmas will always be Christmas even without the gifts, there is a big part of me who gets genuine joy with the exchange of a gift.

How do you decide how your budget will get broken down? What are your non-negotiables?