Money Well Spent- December 2021

By Sam •  Updated: 01/07/22 

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Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.

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What we did in December

I am writing this post at the beginning of January (the 7th to be exact). And December already feels like it was a million years ago. (Thanks Omicron). We are slogging through a week of virtual school and disrupted schedules.

If I am being honest, it feels fake to talk about the great December we had when everything sucks so bad right now.

But December was a pretty great month. I ended up with a pile of use-or-lose leave (as I always do, no matter how hard I try to burn it all when the weather is nice in September and October).

My leave allowed me to let my creative juices run wild and wrote so many blog posts I love and am proud of. I also spoiled Kenny the greyhound by lots of long hikes in a Nature preserve. We were lucky that the month of December was relatively mild with highs near 30°F (0°C) most days.

9 Springs E-way in December
Luckily the snow held off until almost New Year’s.

And luckily, the snow didn’t come until around New Year’s Eve.

(We are currently paying off our weather debts. I think we’ve had in a windchill advisory with sub 0°F temperatures every day this week).

Family

We were able to get together with my parents, one of my sisters, and her family for Christmas this year. It sure beat opening presents over FaceTime with my parents last year. Honestly, it was one of the nicest holiday celebrations we have had in years. Perhaps not getting together for a while made us appreciate the gathering more.

We tried to be as active as possible during kids’ winter break. While outdoor activities were limited by the very real threat of frostbite, we traveled to some nearby cities and checked out their children’s museums. (They are free or greatly reduced in price with our local museum’s membership).

children playing at childrens museum
Even the teenager played along when we took her sisters to a children’s museum.

If anyone has some great ideas for indoor activities in wintertime, please send me a message. We are always looking for various ways to defeat cabin fever.

Community garden update

The community garden is frozen. It has snow and weeds.

What we spent in December

Our December spending was nearly identical to November’s spending. In fact, I had to do a double-take to make sure I uploaded the correct graph.

Healthcare was again our biggest expense. The biggest reason for this is that I now work part time, so my FEHB costs a lot more. Starting in January, we are switching over to Mrs. Gov’s health insurance. Actually, this change will save us a ton of money. Her health insurance is both better and cheaper than my FEHB options. (However, I had stayed with FEHB at first since I originally wanted to carry my FEHB into retirement).

christmas lights at zoo lights
We spent some of our entertainment budget on a light display.

Other than health insurance, we spent more money on gifts than usual (hello Christmas) and vacations. (We took the kids to the indoor waterpark at the beginning of the month as a reward for getting vaccinated and suffering through so many closures these past 2 years.)

Our low cost phone plans

Buried way down in the “expenses” category is our cheap cell phone plans. For the past decade, I have shopped around and tried (nearly) every low-cost cell phone plan in the US.

I am now on my favorite phone plan yet.

I now paying $25 per month for unlimited data on the Verizon network with Visible.

For many years I cycled through plans on crappy networks (T-Mobile… try T-Maybe) with a lot of data, or with a little bit of data on a better network.

I’ve been with Visible now for a while and can’t be happier. It feels like such a luxury to be able to stream Spotify while driving in the car.

If you want to cut your cell phone bill, you can sign up with my Visible link and get your first month for only $5.

Groceries- $511.71

For the fourth straight month we spent only $500 on groceries for our family of 5.

That works out to $1.11 per person per meal.

Saving money on groceries is one of our major jams. I’ve detailed what our grocery shopping hauls look like (and cost) and spelled out our general framework for eating gluten free on a tight budget.

We have settled back into our frugal grocery groove after some pandemic disruptions. It feels great.

Kids- $3.40

Honestly, I have no idea what this is. I looked it in CountAbout and it was an Amazon transaction.

Anyway, no real kid expenses this past month. But of course, we went to the waterpark and museums this past month that we wouldn’t have gone to if we didn’t have kids. Those expenses showed up in our vacation, entertainment, and extra gasoline.

All of that is to say personal finance accounting is personal. If you read articles about the cost of having children, it’s important that you understand how the author did his own accounting. (And it’s especially important you understand how they account for daycare).

Pets- $161.48

It’s another month where our pets cost us more than our kids. Expenses included dog food and updating Kenny’s dog license for the city and some more dog food.

Kenny the greyhound covered up in blankets
I now cover Kenny up before bed time.

Gas & Auto- $95.01

We drove quite a bit more than a normal month. And that’s okay! We walk to work and only use our car for larger trips. Our higher than average gas spending meant that we got to enjoy lots of trips around the area.

Progress towards financial independence

We are still inching closer to our financial independence number. (I talked a little bit about our financial independence/early retirement milestones in an article I published in December).

I think will reach our “crossover point” where our assets could produce a passive income greater than our average expenses sometime in 2022. Of course, we won’t actually quit then. But I am exciting about reaching that big milestone.

Gray ice gray sky and bare trees
December is a gray month.

What I read in December

I read a lot of books in December. Mostly YA fiction. I enjoy that nothing too bad happens to any of the characters.

Being a teenager is fun and filled with optimism. Teen fiction is almost always filled with this energy. And it’s fun to re-imagine my teenage years through the rose colored glasses of fiction.

This month I read

If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Tristan Strong. It was such an amazing retelling of African American folk tales, West African gods, and the African diaspora of the slave trade in an exciting and kid friendly story.

I originally started reading it because my middle daughter kept talking about it. And I couldn’t put it down myself.

Favorite purchase

After hearing my friend at KeebNews talk about how great mechanical keyboards were, I finally ordered one for myself.

I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to choose between brown switches and blue switches. (Apparently the blue ones make a louder “click” noise when you type. I ultimately ordered the brown switches after talking with the maker of KeebNews on Slack.

(And if I don’t like the brown switches, I can always order blue switches and replace some or all of the keys with different switches).

I’m still waiting for my keyboard to arrive. BUT, as someone who types all day every day, I’m really excited to treat my fingers to something wonderful.

December Blog highlights (35 months)

December accomplishments

I had a huge month of blogging. I wrote or updated 10 posts this past month. It was clearly one of the most prolific months that I ever had blogging.

While I was not featured on All-Star Money in December, I was featured in a Physician On Fire Sunday Best roundup.

(If you’re not subscribed to All-Star Money you should definitely check it out! You get the three best personal finance articles on the whole internet delivered to your inbox daily.)

December 2021 also saw

It felt good to see all of the hard work I’ve put into the blog pay-off with some major wins.

Blog goals

Despite having a monster month, I am still super focused on reaching my next big traffic milestone (at which point my advertiser will pay me more money per ad shown). I really want to reach the goal by April.

(Fingers crossed)

YouTube

In addition to the 10 blog posts, I was able to create 1 YouTube video.

I am committed to YouTube and believe that producing more YouTube content is super important for growing my brand.

However, it is impossible for me to record content while the kids are home. (They’ve been home for 3 weeks straight and counting).

Hopefully schools will open back up soon and I can start producing more video content.

That was my month! You can tell me about your month in my Facebook Group.

Sam

Sam i.e. "Gov Worker" started working for the government at age 18 and loved it so much that he never left. He started GovernmentWorkerFI in 2019 to help fellow federal employees understand their benefits, take control of their finances, and live their best lives.