This month, we finally crossed the $80,000 line and now have a total debt (including credit cards ($0), student loans, and a car loan) of $79,635. Aside from some Christmas spending, an unexpected dryer repair, and a Subway run on Christmas Eve, our spending generally stayed under control.
This past year has generally been good. We had, of course, the French drain episode and a few car repairs/maintenance fees, but overall, I am glad with how it went. The beginning of the year got off to a rough start, however, with medical bills totaling almost $3,000. We paid for all of that with HSA money, but what it meant is that we will continue to spend time replenishing that HSA.
I think the biggest encouragement of this year was the drop in our utilities. Our average bill is down over $50 a month, yielding an extra $600 a year. Part of this is due to lower rates on natural gas, which we use for water heating, cooking, and home heating. But the rest is due to lower usage in general. I also recently switched our internet to take advantage of a promotion that will save us around $12 a month - it doesn't sound like much, but $12 here, $12 there, and soon you have a decent savings that can amount to hundreds a year.
On the flip side, our biggest new challenge of the year will be managing a $122 hit to our budget in the form of higher health care premiums. Thanks to our lowered utilities and lower gas prices right now, it seems manageable, but it's frustrating knowing that almost $1500 a year that we used to have for something else now has to go toward this.
I am sure many of you are thinking about goals for the New Year. Aside from paying off debt (we'd like to get below $68,000 by the end of next year), I want to:
- spend more time tracking carefully what we are spending
- use what I have as much as possible when it comes to making things (particularly my fabric stash).
- get better (meaning more organized and consistent) in making staples from scratch, like baked goods, yogurt, buttermilk, and mozzarella cheese.
- build up a decent pantry for food emergencies
- I also have a long list of home building and organization projects I'd like to work on this year. I won't bore you with the details of those, but suffice it to say that if I stayed on track, I could make six quilts, six embroidery samplers, 250 sewing projects, and 75 home improvement/gardening projects, 60 home decor projects, read 12 classic books and 36 other books, and accomplish 3 weeks worth of deep home cleaning and organizing. Don't laugh! I did the math, and now it's just a question of executing it. But I will be happy if I achieve a much lower percentage of this.
- work out 3x a week and eat a healthier diet (I'd like to lose 10 additional lbs. as well, but I'm focusing on what I can do first vs. the results)
Focus of my blog
While I think it is important to continue to find ways to save money, I realize that there is more to life than just doing that. This is why I am setting goals for making things as learning new skills. This year, I hope to post more snippets of our daily life - what we are doing around the home to improve it on a budget and how I am trying to manage other resources outside of our money as well. Don't get me wrong - we care about our debt, but at the same time, I don't want debt-free living to become an idol that robs me of the joy I can have right now while we are working to pay it off.
For those of you who have continued to check back in on my sporadic updates, thank you for continuing to come back and read. I hope that this year I can make it worth your while by providing posts that encourage you and help those of you who are also facing a mountain of debt that you are not alone :).