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2017 Year In Review

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Happy New Year!

Sorry for the “radio silence” over here. We went back to Texas for a week-long visit over New Years and then immediately dove into work upon returning, so things have been chaotic. I’d intended to write up a Year In Review post before the turn of the new year, but better late than never, right?

I’ve now been blogging for nearly 4 years now (I started in March 2014). I cannot even believe it. A lot of life has occurred since that time! For previous years in review, see here:

(Apparently I didn’t do one for 2014??)

2015 year in review

2016 year in review

Here’s a peak at what 2017 looked like for us:

Hubs’ work and school

This year, hubs’ business was ramping down and he started back to school full time (earning straight A’s for two consecutive semesters! Boom!)

Financial

We set some pretty lofty financial goals (which we didn’t hit, for the first year since starting to blog here). Even though we had lots of setbacks and downright financial failures, the whole year wasn’t a bust. We did eliminate the last of our medical bills, closing the door on a scary chapter of our lives related to the medical debt (read here about hubs’ mystery illness of 2013). I also got a huge raise at my full-time job, though it required me to sign a non-compete so I also left my part-time job. The end result is that I actually make slightly less per year (due to loss of part-time income), though I’m happy with the trade-off because I was killing myself working 65+ hour/weeks for 2 years and knew I couldn’t continue forever that way. I make a little less, but I have a much happier, healthier, and more balanced life. Worth it, if you ask me.

Set-Backs

We’ve had a fair share of financial set-backs (and simple over-spending) this year. For one, we grossly underestimated our taxes and got hit hard in April. We also had some car issues: the power-steering went out at one point, we had a tire blowout on the highway, and had to replace other tires later, and we had to replace all our brake pads and rotors. General over-spending occurred, too, explained in some of the posts linked in “Life Happenings”, below.

Kids’ Crafts

The kids were up to their usual crafting shenanigans. I blogged about crafts we made for Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving.

Life Happenings

A major bummer is that we actually increased our credit card debt this year. By quite a bit, actually. I waxed poetic about my thoughts of increasing debt and facing the harsh reality here. To give some context to what’s been happening in “life” as our debt has increased, I had a virtual coffee date and told a tale of two sisters, where I did some over-sharing. 🙂 I also talked about my general outlook on the process of getting out of debt. After all, I’m 3.5-years deep at this point!

Overcoming Debt

In the past couple months, I’ve really gotten intentional about trying to make some hard changes in an effort to get things under control and eradicate our debt. I talked about making our own yogurt (instant pot edition), saving money by checking receipts, using the cash envelope system, cooking from scratch, doing bulk cooking, taking advantage of free museum day and free family races, and utilizing no spend week challenges as a way to tame our spending.

 

We’ve got a long way to go, there’s no doubt. But with the change of the calendar, I feel a fresh sense of renewal. Rebirth. Start-over. All that good stuff. I’ll be back soon with some tangible goals and action-steps for our financial plans in 2018 and beyond!


A Frugal, Laid Back Holiday Season

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I apologize for my absence for most of the month of December. Between the flu, a head cold and a lot of stress, I just couldn’t do anything but get through the days. Despite all that, we had a wonderfully relaxed holiday season, a truly frugal Christmas.  In fact, Princess made a point to ask “why does everyone say the holidays are so stressful?” We then talked about choices and priorities and differences between different families.

Knowing that my income situation is set to change dramatically in the next month, we were very frugal with our holidays. And it was perfect!

Decorations

Over the last couple of years as we became true minimalist, we purged almost all our holiday decorations. But being back in a home, we definitely wanted to decorate a bit.  Here’s how we did it.

  • Bought a live tree from a Boy Scout troop a young cousin is in – $55 (they delivered for free)
  • Bought 2 LED light strings for the tree – $14
  • Used the few ornaments we kept to decorate the tree
  • Put out Princess collection of Snow Babies (I started this when she was born, but haven’t added to it in a few years.)
  • Covered table and deep freezer (which serves as counter space) with Dollar Tree table cloths
  • My grandmother gave us a Poinsetta

It was very simple and perfect for us!  Princess did all the decorating, and put it all away.  We have exactly one storage bin for Christmas stuff.

The Gifts

There were no extravagant gifts, and most gifts were practical. I gave each of the kids at home a set of flannel sheets because it’s winter and our house is old, figured it would help them keep warmer at night.

Sea Cadet received a Hammock base, he purchased a Hammock at camp this past summer and has no where to hang it at home.  It’s his favorite thing. I bought him a heavy duty base from Amazon.  He was surprised and is so excited. Cost $57

Princess received a custom made sweatshirt, that I ordered from a friend who customizes all sorts of things.  I LOVE supporting small businesses. It’s a bit more than I would typically pay but it’s perfect for her and I got to support my friend. Cost $37

Gymnast received paints and canvas. He’s been painting up a storm so the gift was perfect for him.

The kids all used their own money to purchase presents for each other and they did a great job picking out things the other would like. In previous years, that has been questionable. They also did a great job budgeting for presents, especially Sea Cadet as he has lots of temptation to spend his money.

The Food

We aren’t big on traditional holiday food. One, most of use don’t like it. Two, we cook alot and eat together most days. Therefore, we don’t really do a big meal.  But this year, we decided to have my grandmother over for Christmas Eve and have a real meal.  The kids voted on fried pork chops, corn, green bean casserole and cookies for dessert. We then gave her the presents we purchase for her.

Christmas Day was junk food day. And the kids made it perfect for me, they served me all day. (It’s also my birthday.)

All in all, we had a really great Christmas together.  Very low key, very relaxed. It really couldn’t have been better, except maybe if History Buff had been able to join us. My present to him was the offer of a round trip travel to visit us this spring. He and I have talked about him coming for a week in April.  We will see.

Sea Cadet traveled up to Virginia via train (he purchased his own round trip ticket) Christmas night and spent a week with History Buff along with his biological sister and brother and birth mom.  He also worked a few days at the camp he works at during the summer.  He’s really glad he went.