Hey Loyal Blog Friends!
Here it is- my monthly recap of my spending, saving, doing, and blogging.
I write these posts primarily for my subscribers. So if you’re reading this and you don’t get my blog posts in your emails, smash that subscribe button!Get Gov Worker’s top 4 tips for federal employees!
Table of Contents
- What we did in January
- What we spent in January
- What I read in January
- January Blog highlights (36 months)
What we did in January
I hate January.
It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s so hard to get out of the house to do anything.
I tweeted this past month that I didn’t need to live on Mars because I’m already painfully aware of what it’s like to have only a thin wall protecting you from a harsh unforgiving landscape and I know what’s like to spend 30 minutes putting protective gear on to go for a 5 minute walk on the outside.
Honestly, if you’ve never lived somewhere with a harsh winter climate, living on an alien planet is a good mental image.
How bad was it?
Because I’m fascinated with data, I looked back on the weather report for the past month.
We had 9 days where the high temperature crossed the 30 degree mark and 8 days where the temperature dropped below 0°F.
On the whole I’d consider that winning. 30°F is quite comfortable for doing outdoor activities with proper clothing.
I’m definitely looking forward to February where we gain more than an hour of daylight and the ratio of days above 30 to days below 0 will certainly be better than January.
A new hobby
One bright spot of the past month was that my teenage daughter taught me how to knit. We had quite an enjoyable month of sitting on the couch after her younger sisters went to bed and watching TV and knitting. (Big news, I am finally catching up with the 2020’s and watching Ted Lasso. I love it.)
While she has completed many projects, I only managed to complete a scarf and a washcloth. I am getting quite a bit faster though and probably by the time I write my February recap I will have knit enough washcloths to do the dishes for several years. (Let me know if you need one).
What we spent in January
Our spending is starting to get back on track. Healthcare was still our biggest expense. However, now that we’ve fully transitioned to insurance through Mrs. Gov’s work that should drop out of our top three expenses. (Unless we need to go to the doctor in February. #FingersCrossed.)
Our biggest expenses were health insurance and health care, property taxes, and groceries. Even with a paid-off home a big chunk of our spending still goes towards housing.
While there is not a lot you can do with these “fixed costs” we are able to save more than most families with our phone plans.
Our low cost phone plans
One way we save money on “essentials” 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.
Mrs. Gov was a little disappointed that we went over our grocery “goal” of $500 per month. (That’s $100 per person per month or $1.07 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.
I feel like an extra $20 on $500 is not a big deal (it’s about 4% over our goal).
And our $500 grocery budget is a legacy number. Our kids are getting bigger and we now have a teenager. Between inflation and calorie requirements, it’s no wonder that we now cross the $500 mark more times than we’re under it.
Our school went virtual at the start of the month because of Omicron induced staff shortages at the school. It was a gut punch.
To make things a little bit easier on everyone we bought some audiobooks for the 6-year old. She loves audiobooks and will sit and listen to them for hours at a time.
While we get most of our books through the library or online library, it was nice to be able to spend some cash to help entertain her during that time when so many things were closed and the weather was horrible.
Loyal readers will recognize our retired racing greyhound Kenny. He’s our pandemic pet (although I’ve wanted a greyhound for many years).
Right around the time this article about how pandemic pets are costing their owners an arm and a leg, Mrs. Gov decided that we should work with a dog trainer to correct some of Kenny’s behaviors.
Kenny is a good dog. He doesn’t tear up furniture or get super anxious. He has never bitten anyone and almost never barks. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a better pet.
However, while he is very affectionate with me, Mrs. Gov, and my parents, he has never fully warmed up to the kids.
When it comes to the kids, he has occasionally gotten stressed out and let out a loud warning bark and then backed away when they’ve tried to pet him.
(He also does not like to be petted by random strangers. Which I totally understand. I don’t like random strangers touching me either.)
The kids *love* Kenny. And it does seem a little sad that we have a family pet whom everybody loves but that only lets half the family touch him.
So we paid kind of a lot of money to have a dog trainer come and work with our family on getting Kenny more comfortable with the kids.
One thing I learned from working with the dog trainer (that now seems obvious) is that racing greyhounds have never seen kids in their lives and spent most of their lives having no socialization with humans. She helped the family better understand how Kenny might see our family and how to help him be more comfortable with children.
While there was not an overnight difference, I think we’re moving in the right direction. He now lets the teenager pet him occasionally. And she gave us lots of exercises to work on to get Kenny comfortable with the kids.
Gas & Auto- $59.23
Two fill-ups this past month. We drove the width of the state in a single weekend going to my in-laws to celebrate the holidays one day and then on a short getaway without the kids the next day. Otherwise the car sat in the garage for most of the month.
Progress towards financial independence
I think it’s been a few month since I’ve put a graphic on the website with our progress towards financial independence. It feels like we have been stuck in the 85-90% range for a very long time.
Part of the reason this gauge is stuck is because stocks pulled back a bit in January after having an amazing run in 2021. Perhaps this year the major stock indices will go down this year and we’ll actually move backwards in 2022.
Honestly, at this point we are not planning on changing our lives dramatically when we reach our FI milestone. My wife and I are both happy working part time and our jobs are stable and the kids are in school. I also look at our “FI” milestone as a work-optional/work less milestone and not a true early retirement end point.
Of course I’ll be happy when we reach it but it’s not a life-changing end point.
What I read in January
I read a little bit less in January than I did in December but enjoyed these four books.
Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite. I enjoyed all of the books except for Waiting for Normal. (I found that book heartbreaking.)
If I had to pick a favorite it would be Tweet, Cute which was a super fun, light read. The book had the classic hate-to-love romance plot common in the teen genre but had some fun plot constructs with an anonymous chat app. Honestly, I loved the characters a lot. Of course the book is completely unrealistic (what large corporation lets a teenager post to their social media account??) but the book was so much fun that I refuse to let that affect my enjoyment of the book.
The second Tristan Strong book was maybe even better than the first book. The book used African gods and African American stories to weave a new story that explains the trauma of the diaspora to a young audience. I have really enjoyed that series and am looking forward to reading the third book soon!
January Blog highlights (36 months)
I have now been blogging for 3 years!!
In my anniversary post, I wrote a lot about what has been going on with the blog recently and what I hope to accomplish in my 4th year of blogging.
I did not have any All-Star Money features but they did share my anniversary post. While I didn’t have any major blog wins, I did manage to write or update 14 blog posts this past month. That’s a lot!!
I made one YouTube video this month.
I have not felt inspired to make videos but know they are an important part of growing the blog. We will see what February brings.