Staying warm in the winter

There are plenty of people out there that are a whole lot more extreme that I am.  They don’t turn on their heat or the keep their heat lower than 55°F or who knows what else.  I’m realistic here: I have a forever impaired immune system, am prone to pneumonia, and my Old Man works outside.  There is a reasonable limit to cold for us.  With that being said, I try to maintain an indoor temperature between 64 and 65°F while we are inside.  There are absolutely days I need it to be warmer than that too.

I have a fancy Nest thermostat that my brother bought me for Christmas a few years ago.  I can log on any time to adjust the temperature or see if the furnace is running or if my cat is freezing (he sleeps under a blanket all day, he’s not cold).  So if my house is typically set to 64°F their “eco” features adjusts it down in the winter when I’m not home.  My current eco setting is 61°F because my cat will protest otherwise, and it goes down to 62°F during the night (if you’ve been through menopause you may understand hot flashes pop up a lot at night so I put it down to this temperature  after my very first one and we’ve left it ever since).  We recently bought a brand new puffy comforter and I am using some fleece pajamas my mother-in-law purchased me for Christmas last year (despite the hot flashes…) so I am toasty at night.

I have been considering bumping the thermostat down another degree at night because that’s when it’s typically the coldest here in the frigid arctic (okay, not the arctic but with all of this arctic air and polar vortex stuff, it could be).  The big debate for me is if it’s worth it to lower the thermostat more and perhaps purchase a thick thermal blanket for night as well as the comforter.   It will certainly keep us warmer, but what will the payoff be?  That isn’t the simplest calculation for me to do (and it involves crunching a lot of numbers) so I’ll pass on doing it for now.

Now that you have my cold house background, you may be wondering how we stay warm in the winter in 64°F.  For starters, we wear socks or slippers all the time at home.  I have solid floors on top of an insulated crawl, but they still can get chilly when the outside temp is 0°F or single digits, at least.  Warm feet warm your soul.  We also have a lot of blankets – none of which we’ve ever purchased.  People love gifting blankets in cold winters and we love blankets.  I also have several quilts that I don’t even use very often (but they were handmade and I know I will value them more sometime in the future).  We use blankets just about any time we are sitting down, even when eating dinner.  There is something nice about blankets.

We also use robes.  My Old Man bought me a new robe two winters ago and I just adore it and wear it eight months out of the year.  It’s warm and cozy and soft and allows me to do things around the house with a blanket.

We wear layers all the time.  I mean, really, all the time.  At any given time I am probably wearing a camisole, a shirt, and a hoodie.  My Old Man wears thermals for work and comes home and keeps them on too.

Our bodies are used to it!  We are built for the cold and have been acclimatized to still enjoy any temperature above freezing.  When it gets below freezing I have other thoughts but we still manage.

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2017: The Goal Edition

Are you ready for some goals!?  I love goals so much.  Let’s see what I’ve projected, estimated, and maybe just hoped!

Spending Goal Stretch Goal Comments
Electricity $550 $525 The goal should be a tiny push, but nothing crazy.  Now that stretch goal, I don’t know if that will come to fruition!
Natural Gas $500 $450 I don’t know what winters will be like and I have been trending lower in this category every year.  Whether or not this will be a stretch is yet to be known
Auto Insurance $1,300 $1,150 My policy renews in January so I’ll be looking at deductibles, coverage, and also combining policies with hubby.  Also checking out other providers.
Cable/Internet $1,700 $1,500 Go ahead and yell at me here, it’s a vice and when you spend as much time sick as I do, it’s occasionally appreciated.  Nonetheless, something has to give here or I’ll pay more for cable and internet than heating and cooling my house!
Cell Phone 510 510 No changes here and everything is good!  Family plan with my parents (still)
Gasoline $500 $400 I will not be travelling by car for work so I won’t be experiencing over $1,000 in expense checks in 2017, and I also won’t be experiencing my above average gasoline spending that comes with it.  I’ve never spent less than $500 on gas.  Hubby has this expense separately still.
Groceries $2,600 $2,400 I love to torture myself here.  $200 budget all year for all household supplies.  I am…optimistic.
Restaurants $750 $600 Maybe when I’m done with school we’ll actually have more time to cook at home.  But my Old Man will always love eating out.
Garbage $224 $224 I will look around, but it seems like no one here is interested in coming to pick up my trash half as often for half the money.
Water $280 $270 Rates are increasing so this relies on my decreasing my usage.
Sewer $268 $268 The rate increase has gone into effect already.  It’s fixed so…let’s just keep working with the township to keep the rates as low as we can, right?  I have no influence over this.
Life Insurance $201 $201 That’s right, I’ve got it.  And I will swear by it.
Car Repair $200 $200 I will need new brakes.  I could probably factor in that my Old Man will need new tires too.  Luckily, I get a sweet deal.  This is one of the few things we keep separate.
Remodeling $1,000 $100 I have doubts whether this is achievable because things always come up, but everything that should come up should be relatively inexpensive (unless my 15 year old washer or dryer go…or my 12 year old stove, or my 17 year old fridge…just let me stop talking now).  Fun fact: after I wrote this and prior to publishing, the exact same day I wrote it actually, I came home to find the condensate pump for my hot water heater died a mere two days after its two year warranty expired.
Tuition & Books $4,500 $4,450 There isn’t a whole lot of flexibility here.  This will be my out of pocket costs for my final year of school (forever!)
Medical $2,600 $500 The most I will pay with my max out of pocket aside from my HSA.  The stretch goal is a bit more realistic with what I expect to pay over and above my HSA.
Clothes $100 $0 Unless I need a pair of work shoes, aside from the steel toe work will pay for, I am good.
Gifts $500 $250 I am not one to cheap out on gifts.  I know we have two weddings, two bridal showers, and we have a new Christmas scheme were we only spend $125 each and then we give out gift cards with my credit card points.
Misc $200 $100 Other things that come up

This really should boil down the majority of my expenses for the year.  That means I’m looking at $18,437 for my spending goal and my stretch goals go all the way down to $14,073!  Of course I’m sure something will come up, it seems things always do, right?  And this doesn’t include my mortgage spending (or escrow costs), but that’s a pretty good number.  Of course I’m not taking into account any honeymoon spending that we talked about doing, but that’s because we have no plan currently.

What about savings goals (because if you have spending, you have to have savings too, right?)  I will include my Old Man’s tax advantaged savings in here, but not his general savings.  He mostly saves up just to contribute to an IRA anyway.

Saving Goal Stretch Goal Comments
My 401k $18,000 $18,000 I can’t just add more to this, it’s a government limit.  Not including my match.
My HSA $3,400 $3,400 Including my company match.  Again, government limit.
My IRA $5,500 $5,500 I don’t know what type of IRA I’ll do for the 2016 tax year yet, I’ll have to run the numbers, but likely a tIRA.
His SIMPLE IRA $1,300 $1,560 Crappy plan with crappy actively managed fees, but have to make sure we get that full match (not included)
His IRA $5,500 $5,500 I don’t know what type of IRA he’ll do for the 2016 tax year yet, I’ll have to run the numbers, but likely a rIRA
Taxable Investments $4,800 $6,000 It would be so nice to meet the stretch goal but if I look at math, I cannot do this and contribute that much to the garage fund below.
Garage Fund $4,000 $6,000 This is a temporary fund for a garage build coming up in the next few years.  We’ve already saved for this, but I want it somewhere that won’t get touched.

We’re looking at saving $35,100 toward long term investments (retirement!).  I’d say that we’re pretty tapped out on savings and I don’t see us getting any more savings out of anything.  No, this isn’t as much as I’d like to save, because I’d still like to hit that $50,000 mark (and seriously, where is the rest of our money going?  There isn’t much left over.)

Assuming I don’t make it around to combining all of our assets and net worth, I will set my target net worth increase at $50,000 again.  I’ll say what I thought in 2016: this should be doable.  It won’t be easy, but it could happen if I really work at it and get a raise or a promotion or some side income (I’m looking at you, cash flowing rental properties, since I won’t be purchase a new property until…well maybe 2018.)

I also want to receive at minimum of $1,000 in dividends across all of my investment accounts.  Why?  I don’t know, it’s just something I want to do.  It’s a feel good thing.  I’m not a dividend investor, I’m straight index funds, but it does feel nice when your investments produce some money.  Those are the goals I’ll track here at least.  I always have other goals with various other numbers that I don’t really feel comfortable sharing.

Just for kicks, 2017 will be the year of questioning.  I’ll questing things I want and I’ll question things I “need” and I’ll push myself to use my laundry drying rack even if it does take another five minutes and I’m already tired.  And I’ll question the status quo and what I can do differently to make my life simpler and more sustainable.

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December: End of year savings!

It’s the end of the year!  Let’s check in and see how I did for December and the year end.

December:
Groceries: -$146.43
Eating out: -$35.45
Gas: -$18.00
Natural gas: $3.45
Electric:  $11.77
Remodel loan: $237.50

To recap the month of December: We ate and we ate a lot (clearly).

My monthly savings is $52.84.

For the Year (Goal is targeted reduction from last year)

Groceries
Goal: $300
Actual: -$100.67

Eating Out
Goal:$100
Actual: -$18.97

Gas
Goal: $50
Actual:  -$136.01

Natural gas
Goal: $45
Actual: $173.01.

Electric
Goal: $38
Actual: $35.45.

Remodel loan: $2,137
Actual: $2,137.

Let me say that I’ve nearly halved my natural gas usage since I decided to encapsulate my crawl space and get a tankless water heater (that was more space necessity).  Now the extra $450 a year in savings isn’t that much when you consider how much I spent, but I still swear by the encapsulation at least, and the tankless water heater if you have space limitations.

I overspent this year on both gas and groceries.  I’ve explained before that I did a lot of traveling for work this year via car and that’s a huge reason for my higher gas usage.  But, with that also came $1,012 of expense checks which is more than I spent on gas.  So I guess I win because I made money on gas this year?  Does it work that way?  I don’t know.

Groceries were hit and miss for me all hear, in part because I didn’t have a heavy focus on them.  I didn’t price shop and sale shop as much as I wanted.  I also did a lot of stocking up.  And maybe since I’m not too far off from last year’s totals I’m just not really able to go a whole lot lower.  There is a point where your expenses bottom out and you cannot cut anymore.  Nonetheless, I’ll try some more next year.

Net worth increase: $45,283 (It wasn’t my goal, but it is still definitely a win)

Total savings since September 2015: $5,185.07.

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2016: Year in Review

It’s time for a post about things largely non-financial!  This post will provide a little extra insight to the life of me and my Old Man.  It also serves as a cute little recap of our days in 2016.

January: The start of a fresh, new year.  Unfortunately for us, we were still dealing with last year.  But in January I finished all of my chemo treatments.

February: I had a scan that showed all of my primary cancer gone.  Yay!  I took advantage of my free time and decided to get my taxes done early with my CPA and I fully funded an traditional IRA up to the amount that was tax deductible for the first time in my life!  Yay!  I also helped my Old Man and his parents fill out their tax forms to save us all a few bucks.  Yay!

March: I started down the journey of radiation just to make sure we really did get all of my primary cancer.  We also decided to treat my secondary cancer (because why not have two at once) in hopes it would go away and not require surgery.  I also went back to work which meant back to making money!  Yay!

April: I got my bonus paid from the previous year and did something crazy: I set my 401k contribution to 65% to make up for the three months during the year I lost.  I also realized that maybe I wasn’t quite ready to go back to work because I was so tired all the time.  I think we also picked our wedding date this month, I’m not sure.  I also bought my used wedding dress this month!

May: I went back to school!  After a two semester hiatus delaying that will eventually delay my graduation, I pushed myself and went back to school.

June: Got my wedding invites in the mail from VistaPrint!  Did a lot of school work and a lot of work on my house.

July: Had a garage sale, started addressing and stamping my wedding invites.  We also worked on the house.

August: We worked on the house.  I finished up my summer semester of graduate school with a 3.9 GPA.  We started getting RSVPs back!

September: Somehow got talked into having a bridal shower.  Went to a friend’s wedding.  Started a new semester of school in a topic I was passionate about!

October: We got married!  Woot!  We went on a mini-moon to a casino northward and enjoyed a relaxing few days.  I was invited to attend a prestigious women’s conference hosted by my work for future leaders and present all about cars to women in another event days later.  I also came down with what would later be the first symptoms of my pneumonia.  We also finished the house this month!

November: Full fledged pneumonia.  So much pneumonia.

December: The end of pneumonia!  Cookie baking season!  Decorating the house and trying to be in a good mood.  Finally picked out charities for monthly planned giving!  I did a dry run of my taxes to determine whether or not to clean out the house for itemized deductions (donations!).  We also all froze during the polar vortex that then turned into numerous above freezing days.

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Money & Marriage

One of the most important things about marriage is being on the same page financially.  You have to share the same financial goals or you will definitely have some major problems.  I am lucky in that my Old Man and I have shared one very important trait from the start: we’re both kind of cheap.  Cheap, thrifty, frugal, tight.  Call it whatever you will, I don’t care.  We’ve definitely got it.  We have no problem spending money on certain things that are really worth it to us, but we won’t spend money on just anything.

When I told my Old Man about my dream to retire by 45, he was pretty ecstatic.  His parents will likely have to work into their 70s to cover all of their bills and he never wants that to happen to him.  That’s part of the reason he is a saver and he isn’t saving for a boat or a car or a second house, he’s saving for retirement.  He doesn’t necessarily want to put as much into his retirement account as I want him to, but it’s a process.  He knows that in order to achieve our retirement dream, we need to save those dollars.

We’re fortunate that our savings are going to allow us to do some pretty incredible things while we’re young.  For starters, in about two years, my Old Man will be able to go down to working part time and will be able to start up his own little business doing something crafty that he has wanted to for awhile.  He’ll also manage our rental properties.  Once we have kids, hopefully in not too many years, he’ll also be a stay at home parent.  This is a huge priority for us and will take some careful planning and frugal muscles.  Hopefully we’ll have those muscles fully developed by that point as well as a few sources of income.

Being on the same page means we’re not getting into debt, we’re driving our cars into the ground, and we’re making conscious decisions about our finances that move us toward early retirement.  We couldn’t do this without each other.  We both have a lot of DIY skills, we both get our hands dirty, we both save large sums of money for our income, and we both dream of getting out of the rat race.  Hopefully our skills will bring in a little extra money in the (near) future.

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How we Paid off $8,000+ in Medical Bills in 1 Year

Medical bills are a hot topic everywhere today.  One year ago, when I made my first appointment at the doctor for my lumpy neck and tea colored urine, I had little idea of what I was getting into.  It quickly spiraled out of control and in a little less than two months I was starting chemo and had already tallied thousands of dollars in medical bills.  The reality is that getting sick is expensive and the sicker you get, the more expensive it is, and the less likely you are to work.

When I started this blog I wasn’t working.  I was on disability.  I spent my days sleeping and being exhausted walking 15 steps to the bathroom.  I wasn’t working, but I was receiving 2/3 of my pay thanks to an excellent disability policy at work.  Let me tell you, that 2/3 of my pay was wonderful (even though we would have gotten by if we didn’t get that money).  It really helped make things not so tight.  But there wasn’t a moment where things didn’t feel tight either.  When the bills starting coming in and the totals were getting higher faster than I could make payments I did feel overwhelmed.  The good thing about medical bills is, they hospital is just happy if you pay on them so if it takes you a little while longer, that’s okay.

I make a decent income, and I will never dispute that.  However, I’m not in six figure territory either.  My first priority every month was the mortgage, of course, then the lights and natural gas.  Then it was on to medical bills.  I decided I wanted to be debt free by the time I had my wedding and figured that I needed to put a good chunk of money toward that every month.  We cut out a lot of more frivolous things like eating out at expensive restaurants, buying things that weren’t on sale, and holding off on purchases that weren’t really necessary.  I also started selling some of the things I really didn’t need or want for a little extra cash (it hasn’t amounted to a whole lot, but it has amounted to something, and every little bit helps).

I used to add extra principal to my mortgage, which not everyone has the luxury of doing, but I cut that out to make sure I could dump all of my extra cash into medical bills.  I vowed to use the heat less and the air conditioning as little as I could (of course the weather was dreadfully hot and that made it difficult).  I wasn’t going to buy any new clothes that didn’t pertain to my wedding (shoes, dress, undergarments, and that’s about it).  I was going to watch the number of loads of laundry and how long I was using the dryer and keep the lights off whenever was possible.  As for driving, the plan was to minimize my trips and only travel to places on the way to or from work (I will have more on how this worked out in a future post).

All of this helped me to pay off the medical bills in exactly one year.  I will make my last payment September 15, right around the time my first bills started coming in last year.  You know how I really did it though?  Dedication.  I couldn’t afford other things because I was dedicated to getting rid of these bills.  I also dipped into my emergency fund for about two thousand dollars during disability.

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Next Quarter Preview

It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted anything.  I had to take an unexpected hiatus due to summer classes, more work, and working on the continuation of my house remodel.  The last few months have been a blur. Oh, that’s right, I’m also planning a wedding.  I get married in  just over a month and have been juggling all of these things.  I’m not really sure that I have been doing that great of a job.

I start classes again in a few weeks and I am going to try to get into a more regular posting schedule.  We’ll see how that works.  Here’s a preview of the topics I plan to write about throughout the rest of the year:

  • Planning a wedding on a budget
  • How we paid off $8,000+ in medical bills in one year
  • Our Plan for 2017
  • Small (not tiny) house living: how we make >1200 sqft feel like a mansion
  • When you should start looking for a new job
  • Frugal things for a bridal registry
  • The emotional benefits of minimizing clutter
  • How we plan to increase our income in 2017
  • The spendthrift things we still spend money on (because nobody is perfect)
  • How we manage our expensive hobbies

Hopefully you all will enjoy!

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