By: Revanche

2015: Our year in review

January 15, 2016

HNY

2015 highlights

SPENDING

The good: I took an extended (for Americans) maternity leave with only partial salary. I needed every minute of that time to recover from LB’s delivery, so I’m grateful that we fought to make that happen.

We hosted family and friends throughout the year, traffic to our wee abode was easily four-fold higher thanks to the draw of a fresh-made baby. This wasn’t cheap between feeding them and housing them but we managed to stay within budget.

We even traveled and enjoyed some of it despite the massive increase in gear and logistics. Lowering expectations made a big difference.

The bad: Dad’s costs went up in the second half of the year because he lost a significant income source but he chose not to tell me. I only knew because I spotted that some utilities weren’t being paid on time. Rather than get into a fight with him over it, I paid the bills, grumbled to myself, and went on with my day.

We had to buy a LOT of diapers. I thought an average of 11 diapers for a newborn was outrageous until we met our newborn. Which doubly makes me want to beat people over the head when I hear them classify diapers as “non-essential”.

I wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible but it turns out “possible” ended much sooner than anticipated. Formula is NOT cheap.

SAVING

The good: We maxed out PiC’s 401(k) contributions.

My 2015 IRA contributions were automated, as are my 2016 contributions.

We saved 25% in cash, aside from retirement funds, the whole year and made a huge mortgage prepayment.

The rental is currently taking care of itself where expenses are concerned. Rent pays for the mortgage, the HOA fees, the minor repairs and the property management, with a little left over to pay for any future major repairs.

The bad: I secretly wanted to increase our savings rate to 30% or 40% but that was a flight of fancy.

The I don’t know yet: We keep looking at other properties and speculating if we may be better off moving into a slightly bigger place. No matter what we attempt to buy, though, because I refuse to take out a jumbo loan, we’d need at least $600,000 in hand, minimum, for a down payment. We have a healthy net worth but it’s based on a good balance between all our holdings (cash, bonds, stocks, retirement funds, mortgaged property). We aren’t going to sink all of that into a single property.

BEST OF

Look around, look around at how lucky we are!

  • We have what seems to be the healthiest baby. Though ze is a carrier monkey and I’m not pleased by that, we are so incredibly grateful for hir health and happiness. And that ze’s stopped yelling at us all the time.
  • Marriage is work, but it remains work worth doing. I know it isn’t for some people and there’s no shame in that, I am well aware that we are ever so lucky in each other and am grateful I found a person I actually enjoy enough to see days, weeks and months on end without wanting to run away to a silence-bound commune. (This is my reaction to spending lengthy periods of time in the same space with most people. Except friends because friends aren’t people, they’re friends.) This wasn’t something I ever saw in the cards for myself but on the whole, it was a pleasant surprise.
  • Which leads me to: friendship is work too, and it’s equally worth the effort. As the anti-social introvert most of the time, even I invest time and energy into the relationships with people who are kindred spirits, to borrow a phrase from Anne of Green Gables. We are amazingly lucky in our friends, and that the internet exists for me to make friends through! My track record of making friends in person in a new place is a solid zero for one. More specifically: We had long meaningful visits from dear friends we haven’t seen in ages, this year, come to visit us, meet LB and dote on hir. It was such a wonderful gift.
  • I did a podcast with Jessica Moorhouse

WORST OF

  • My relationship with Dad continues to have ups and downs, and there was a huge dip with this year’s lack of income. Not because of the money itself but because he continues to hide critical information from me. We had a very frank conversation about how that absolutely must stop. It was stressing me out so much that you’ve never seen LB’s room so tidy and picked up. I can only hope he keeps his word.
  • Out of that conversation came the realization that if I want anything to be done about my Sibling and the living situation, I will have to force it to happen.

GETTING THINGS DONE

Plan for 2015

  1. Keep saving 25% (minimum) of both our incomes as long term savings; this leaves 75% for all expenses, ours, LB’s, dog’s, my family’s, etc.
    – We did this.
  2. Cashflow LB’s expenses via the savings we already put aside and continuing to take that out of our cash designated for regular expenses. Basically this means cutting back on our regular expenses to allow for LB’s.
    – Sort of. I got greedy. I banked all the budgeted childcare money for LB and cashflowed the daycare money out of our regular expenses instead of pulling out of the savings meant for childcare. Things got a little tight but uh, I managed. (I have a problem. I know.)
  3. Streamline our money management. We got on Mint this year which is starting to work ok. Though their habit of duplicating transactions is nutty-making.  I’m now testing a joint email account for our bills and household accounts so that we both have access to incoming bills and other financial information – very important.
    – Yes/no. We streamlined a lot of the management through Mint but it’s still an imperfect system. The main goal, though, was to not feel like I didn’t have control over our finances and between Mint and our joint account, we’re closer than ever to a working joint system.
  4. Get on that estate planning.
    – Nearly done! We have a lot of the paperwork done, we just have to make some final decisions on key people.

Plan for 2016

  1. Save 25% of our income. If we stay on track with regular income and barring any catastrophes, we should come within shouting distance of a Major Milestone Net Worth Number in 2016.
  2. Finish the last steps of our estate planning.
  3. Decide on LB’s college savings vehicle and set up a savings plan for hir.

SOME 2015 NUMBERS

  • Our NW increased by 23%.
  • LB’s savings hit $49,000 this year.
  • My retirement portfolio to date has managed an 8.8% rate of return over 9 years: $73,000 in contributions and $26,000 in gains.
  • 2nd household annual expenses ran closer to $20,000 this year than usual. (That sounds like it shouldn’t be much but we’ll pay near that amount again for childcare, or more, this coming year, on top of all our usual HCOLA expenses.)
  • In 13 months (Nov 2014-Dec 2015) we made $2071 in side money.

:: What were your bests/worsts? How’d you do this year with life/saving/spending?

13 Responses to “2015: Our year in review”

  1. Cassie says:

    I have a hard time seeing diapers as being non-essential. I know some people who tried practicing EC, and they certainly went through fewer diapers, but you still needed to have a few on hand. What if you wanted to leave the house or otherwise go out?

    I’m pretty content with how we did last year. We didn’t set any set in stone financial goals as a family, but we made some good progress as far as I’m concerned. Not only was our wedding and honeymoon paid for in cash, we also managed to wipe out my husband’s credit card and truck payment shortly thereafter (and haven’t looked back!). There were also a few large ticket items paid for in cash, namely an air conditioner and replacement washer and dryer. I made the maximum lump sum payment on our mortgage, and we’ve increased our net worth (with little help from the markets :s). All in all, a fairly decent year.
    Cassie recently posted…2016 BudgetMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I’ve heard of EC but I’m just at a loss at how you’d do that with a newborn / infant consistently if you needed to get out and about. Regardless, it’s not an option for everyone and I think those people who want to call them non-essential has never had to clean up a poosplosion.

      That sounds like a really solid year financially! Way to go!

  2. *blinks* LB’s savings is pretty impressive. O_O;

    • Revanche says:

      Ze had a lot of help. From me. There were some cash gifts (congrats on being born!) and then all the cash I banked from not paying for childcare went into hir savings instead of into a temporary holding cell to be spent on childcare this year. Oh and to do that, I took care of hir for months. So y’know. It adds up.

  3. Savvy says:

    My mom hides information from me too. My usual response is to get angry when I find usually after the situation is totally out of control. I have tried to convey she needs to let me know bad information immediately so I can help her make better decisions and ward off bigger problems. I understand she doesn’t want to tell me certain things because she knows I will get angry. She also hates being a burden to me, so last year I did try to be more patient. Her health continues to deteriorate so it is also easier to not get angry when she I see her suffering and just trying to do her best.

    My sibling still are not always helpful especially the one who doesn’t work. I’ve resigned to the fact she’s never going to step it up and stopped including her as a potential resource.

    Love your grateful attitude and how much you managed to save despite your lower income. We had a major unexpected expense when my SIL asked to be bought out of our partnership. This resulted in losing liquidity and taking out a new loan. We also had to dip into our emergency fund to buy a new vehicle. I couldn’t take the constant mechanical problems with my old car any longer. Now my husband is thinking he is going to need his knee surgery sooner than he thought – another expense we were hoping to put off longer. Sigh.
    Savvy recently posted…A “Savvy” New YearMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I commend you for having more patience with your mom, I’m afraid that’s something I still struggle with, particularly when it is a far messier mess than it might have been if he’d been honest. It’s also hard to maintain patience for the unhelpful sibling(s). 😛

      I think I read about the impact of the partnership buyout, what a pain 🙁 And the new car pain, we feel that too! Is the knee surgery not covered by insurance?

  4. Diapers? Nonessential? Hmmm… How does that work? Oh, I see: you put kid in a little swing with a hole in the seat and suspend hir over the toilet. Very convenient!

    Awesome personal finance achievements!
    Funny about Money recently posted…Obnoxious Facebook…My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Always. Just always. No, I can see how you can use fewer diapers and all but it’s a bit of a luxury to be able to do that, IMO.

      Thanks and Happy New Year!

  5. You don’t have to do it consistently! And you can start at any time (doesn’t have to be newborn). A really good time to try it is after the baby wakes up since most babies will pee at that point. It is magical, especially when they start being able to associate the cue with peeing so they pee on command. Double especially when you get their poos in the potty instead of in the diaper, omg not having to wipe of poo-covered bottoms is so wonderful.

    Diapers still are essential, but EC really did cut down our use of them, especially since it led to dramatically early potty training compared to the full-time diapered-average. We have a couple of posts on part-time EC and potty training. If you want to read up on it, The Diaper Free Baby is a great how-to resource. (Diaper Free Before Three is good if you want the science behind it and/or are really organized.)
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Where Chacha’s donation went and why you should donate tooMy Profile

    • oops, that was supposed to be a reply about how-to EC
      nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Where Chacha’s donation went and why you should donate tooMy Profile

      • Revanche says:

        🙂 I’m pretty sure I’d only ever read about y’all doing it and it sounds awesome if you can swing it. We may try doing it at home on occasion. I just know that it’s also not an option for everyone and so it irks me that people would call it nonessential in the same way that menstrual products are called nonessential.

        • 100% EC isn’t an option for everyone (daycares aren’t usually able to accommodate), but part-time is much easier. Especially if you’re not actively trying to catch every pee, just the easy predictable ones.

          Anecdotally, dads usually get really into it.

          You don’t have to try it, but it does make life a lot easier and potty training a lot more fun. There’s something wonderful about having a kid out of diapers at home when they’re old enough to walk and out of diapers at daycare before age 2. I’m not trying to pressure you (well, maybe a little), but I wish we’d started it earlier with DC1 because I had a lot of misconceptions about it and I’m glad we started earlier with DC2. If we ever have a DC3 (which we aren’t planning on), we’ll start at birth.
          nicoleandmaggie recently posted…Where Chacha’s donation went and why you should donate tooMy Profile

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