I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. For myself? I traveled, I barely missed a killer tornado in Texas, and I experienced 80 degrees on Christmas day. I celebrated three separate Christmases if you will, and never got out of my Jammie's on Christmas day. As for the new year....... well folks, I have just returned from my second, yes, second viewing of the new Star Wars movie. Let me just say, go see this movie!! And soon, before spoilers abound everywhere!!
While I'll share more about Christmas, craftiness, cookies and my new toys later, it's time now for me to join all the other bloggers (retirement and otherwise) looking to their budget in the new year. Earlier in the year, I shared what I wanted my priorities to be for this year, both in terms of money and energy. Today, I downloaded my last year spending totals (not done in a couple months due to computer issues), to both compare my spending and to make adjustments for the future. Lets just says that there were a few categories in which I surprised myself. Surprise aside, I'm now looking to the new year, with some adjusted priories, and spending categories that will change, and some that will remain the same.
As some may remember, my budgeting system differs from others and may seem counter-intuitive to many. Mainly, I don't do the annual division of categories. I budget for basic monthly expenses (rent, cable, groceries, fabric), and have a large "sinking fund" (thank you Dave Ramsey for that phrase), from which I draw to use on irregular and unexpected expenses such as gifts, oil changes and more. This works for me because I live beneath my means, and make a list of upcoming monthly expenses. It's my way of making a zero balance budget.
In general, my spending priorities in the New Year include home and family, travel, church and outreach, health, and personal improvement (for lack of a better category for an item that includes challenging myself, learning new things and expanding my experiences). I've discussed my general cost of living expenses previously (as the article on the sidebar shows how my cost of living changed in Colorado). Rather than a specific breakdown, this is a quick rundown of how those priorities will affect my spending. Once I have my budget finalized, I'll share the specifics with the interested in a separate post.
Home and Family. In theory, family probably deserves its own category. However, most of my family expenses are related to home and travel, so I have left them as one. The first adjustment in this area is to add a home improvement category. Yes, I'm a renter who needs a home improvement category. Odd, I know. My living situation is slightly unique, and as such I am allowed to improve and decorate at will, and if my landlord considers it a property improvement, he discounts it at a later date. We want to add a rolling shade or cover of some kind for our patio, and to cover the pergola for year around use with a heater. Also in this category is a slightly larger grocery budget to allow for Downtown Dinners, or grocery deli food, on the theory that family togetherness and relaxation is more important than cooking-especially when one family member works, one goes to school and works and the third sometimes wonders how she ever had time to work. I already have a household budget in place, which allows for the comfort and feeding of the inside of my home, and perhaps for a part time cleaning person. The final, non monetary part of this category is some long term decision making. One of the many reasons I rented was that I was unwilling to commit to Denver long term. Is this where I want to stay? Is this where I belong? Stay tuned.
Health. While I'll be blogging more about this in the future, I have degenerative disease in my right leg. The best way to explain it is as if you had the aching from shin splints pretty badly-only I have not run in years. In addition to PT, I'll need to move my primary exercise into the silver sneakers classroom (in a chair) and walk in the water. In order to avail myself of these options, as well as the occasional massage, I've created a health category in my line item budget, separate from doctors and insurance and medications. Just as you need to put on your mask before you help others, I need to be healthy and pain free in order to volunteer, go to classes, travel or help family members. I also need to look ahead to Medicare this year, and may need to adjust that health care/insurance budget as needed (I plan to keep my current federal health care and use original medicare rather than an advantage plan).
Church and Outreach. It's no secret that volunteering is a large portion of my retirement in terms of time and effort. I also feel that it is important to be able to give and contribute from a financial standpoint-whether it is providing all the craft materials myself for my programs for homeless women, getting necessities for the refugees, or giving in other ways. In terms of my budget this means a church category and a "giving outreach" category, specifically to be used for others in need. Since my personal priorities right now are homeless women and refugees from Syria and other countries, this is where my money will go.
Personal improvement. This is a broad category on so many levels. For me it means taking Ollie and other lifelong learning classes to challenge myself, creating and working with art, and so much more. It probably includes what some might consider "entertainment", that is, going to museums, concerts, and historical sites, as well as things like the happy hour that happens after a Wednesday class or the brunch that is part of bible study. While this is not a large category in terms of monetary spending, it certainly deserves it's own category. Two actually, as after some thought, this is the first year that I will actually have a "hobbies/art supplies/fabric" category in it's own right.
Travel. This one will be a major increase. For my first year and a half in Colorado, I satisfied myself with learning the immediate area and with long weekend type trips to places like the badlands and Santa Fe, as well as visiting family. I'm now ready to jump onto the travel wagon in earnest, planning three separate trips in the new year, at least one train trip, one road trip, and one "destination" vacation (albeit by road tripping to and fro). There will be a separate travel category that will be untouchable, as well as a fine tuning of my auto budget as my primary form of travel tends to be the car.
And there you have it. The quick down and dirty as to my financial priorities for the coming year, in a brief nutshell.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other categories in my budget, a few of which will be adjusted. After all, what goes up must come down. I spent a frightening amount on clothing last year, but that leaves me with the ability to get fill in pieces that I love with a couple necessities (like boots) added in. I've cut down on my kindle reading budget, trying to use digital copies at the library and accessing free books when possible. With a few exceptions, I rely on rewards, gift cards and early morning movie showings. Most of my entertainment is local and cheap, with an expensive option a season thrown in (like going to see the Who, coming in March. Or are they still the Who? It's an ongoing debate in my family right now!) I've eliminated restaurants except for once a month. In other words, I've made many small adjustments in order to meet my priorities for the year.
There is still fine tuning to be done, changes to be made, and math adjustments to make. But there you have it, my financial projections and priority for the future. What do you think? Have you changed your priorities, financial or otherwise, for the coming year?