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Archive for December, 2019

My 2019 Breakdown of Income and Expenses

December 27th, 2019 at 07:37 pm

It's that time of year when Patient Saver likes to analyze her total spending for the year, which of course couldn't be possible without her careful expense tracking all year long!

The big picture: My total spending for the year was $39,530. Of my 30 or so expense categories, expenses increased from last year in 12 categories, including my top 3 biggest expenses, unfortunately. Expenses stayed about even with last year in another 6 categories, and expenses actually decreased in 9 categories.

Here are my ranked expenses, from greatest to least, along with a little commentary thrown in.

Property taxes: $6,738. My #1 biggest expense, representing 17% of my total expenses. Not much I can do about this until I turn age 65, when I can take advantage of a pretty generous town senior tax credit and a less generous state tax credit for seniors with more stringent criteria I may or may not meet.

Food: A whopping $4,982, or 22% MORE than I spent last year. Much of this increase is due to my decision to buy a half-share at the organic farm, which cost me $585 for the season. I won't do that again, but will continue to shop there more selectively.

This category vexes me more than any other; try as I have in the past, I have yet to contain my costs, and in some ways, I don't try to since I believe that eating healthy, organic produce is conducive to good health. For much of the year, I would hit Aldi's first for the basics and then supplement as needed by going elsewhere for things Aldi's didn't have. This obviously didn't have much impact.

Health insurance: I'm on the healthcare exchange and premiums cost me $4,330 this year. I feel grateful to have seen just a 5% increase from last year. (I treat out of pocket copays and other medical bills separately below.)

Greenhouse window, $3,000: I budget for up to $10,000 in home improvement expenses each year, or vacations. In other words, I have $10K I can spend on either category, or both, up to a max of $10k. I didn't vacation this year so I spent about $8,250 on various home improvements.

I wanted the greenhouse window to brighten up a dark corner at the end of a short hallway, a place where I could bathe some of my cacti and succulents in more winter sunlight. They seem to like it, although I have noticed the temperature in that corner is now 5 degrees cooler than the rest of the house. The window juts out from the side of the house and while there is insulation underneath and around it, I guess it's not enough. I may consider calling the builder back in spring to see if he can beef it up somehow.

Another home improvement, beefing up and essentially redoing my attic insulation, was my #5 expense this year, at $2,674. I'm glad I did it. I think it's more airtight up there. It's hard to say for sure since how much I spend on heating oil has more to do with oil prices than insulation.

I know that the blown-in cellulose seals things up better than fiberglass batts, which is what I had, plus they used a lot of sealers and added insulating foam sheets on all the knee-wall doors and the main door.

Next on my list was the cost of taking down a massive locust tree and a somewhat smaller, but dead, ash tree, another victim of ash borer. The takedown of these 2 trees cost $2,576.

My #7 expense comes under the general "Household" expenses, my only real catch-all for certain expenses I can't put elsewhere. This came to $1,668.

My #8 expense was my cat, at $1,442, and this was up 71% from last year, due to some dental work he needed.

My #9 expense was "Lawn & garden," at $1,261, which was actually 18% lower than last year because I tried to do a few mowings myself early in the spring and toward the end of the season, to save money. As it is, I only have the mower guy come every other week.

I mostly dislike mowing in the heat and humidity of July and August. It sure is nice to have someone else do it, but it really is a big expense, so I will try again to do some mowings myself (while I still can).

My #10 expense was car upkeep ($981), up 68% from last year due to the need for front brakes (the 1st time needed for my 2013 Honda) and some other stuff. This is another of those categories it would be hard to lower unless I wanted to unwisely ignore needed maintenance. I go to the dealer, but the private places around here are just as expensive, honestly.

Electricity: $960,up 5% from last year.

Gasoline for car: $881, down 14% from last year, not because I'm driving any less but due to lower gas prices.

Heating oil/furnace cleaning: $809, down 35% from last year for the same reason as gas for my car was down: Texan crude prices were just down generally.

Maintenance: $764, down 41% from last year. This includes general repairs, the servicing of my furnace humidifier, AC and stuff like that.

Homeowners insurance: $699, which was about the same last year.

State of CT: I owed them $658 last year and i guess I'm under-withholding on my pay. I need to adjust this on a W-4.

Car insurance: $655, which was up 10% from last year. I take advantage of every conceivable discount available and still it goes up each year, which is hugely irritating to me as I've never filed any kind of claim for home or auto in 25 years.

Internet/phone: $633, down 30% from last year, mainly because my dear cousin gifted me an iPhone and included the monthly service as part of the gift. I still maintain a landline, but the cost ($45) is nominal as it's Magic Jack. I hate AT&T, which hiked the cost of my Internet service after I dropped landline service with them, so now I pay them $10 more a month for the Internet. If I could switch Internet service for a lower price, I would.

Out of pocket medical/dental: $589, down 66% from last year, mainly because I had a less-than-ideal plan and made a concerted effort to avoid going to the doctor, although I did see my neurologist and ophthalmologist along with my dentist, who is kind of pricey since I have no dental insurance.

Entertainment: $527, which is about what I spent last year. In this category I include things like my Hulu subscription, my Ancestry subscription in the past, the occasional movie out and so on.

Coworker's car scratch: $500. I hugely regret scratching my coworker's car, especially since this guy is an absolute car nut and treats his Audi better than anything else in his world. I scratched the black paint on it backing out of a dark parking lot when he was unexpectedly parked behind me. I knew I couldn't file a claim with my car insurance because I long ago hiked my deductible to $5k to save money on the premiums. So I had to pay it out of pocket.

The rest of my categories are, in descending order, gifts, dining out, clothing, car taxes/registration/license fees, my umbrella policy, water, borough taxes, sewage, dump sticker and haircuts.

So total expenses came to $39,530. My total NET income came to $35,158, so I had a smallish shortfall of $4,300. Put another way, I was able to pay 89% of my expenses in 2019 with my little part-time job.

My income came primarily from my part-time copy editing job, but for the 2nd year in a row, dad gave each of his 4 children a very nice $5,000 Christmas check. I made another $850 in Facebook sales selling stuff I don't need, I earned another $600 from some random freelance work, $426 from credit card rewards, and that's about it.

What's missing from this list is housing expenses. As you may know, I paid off my mortgage early, in 2012.

Until next year!

Christmas happenings

December 26th, 2019 at 11:00 pm

I hope everyone had a nice holiday. I did, but truth be told, I always look forward to the start of a new year and new beginnings.

I was invited to join my friend's Christmas dinner with her family, which I did. There were about 10 adults. I enjoyed it, but after coffee and dessert and just before they were going to start opening presents, I chose to leave; the gift giving is such a family-oriented thing and I didn't want to get in the way of that.

Today we walked friend's dog off-leash in the wood and meadow, which he always relishes. He is a timid dog, but comes alive when he's off the leash, running.

Tomorrow, my cousin will arrive from PA and will stay through Sunday mid-day.

I had a couple of really nice conversations with another cousin in NJ. I saw her for Thanksgiving. It's nice to build ties with family over time.

These are my friend's Christmas cookies:

Today's thoughts

December 19th, 2019 at 01:33 pm

For an entire year, I've been using and enjoying the set of ceramic knives my cousin got me for Christmas last year. They're sharp as heck and I use them nearly every day. Each time I do, I hear my mother's voice inside my head: "I don't like the way you're holding that knife."

Well, the other morning I was deveining large kale leaves to make a salad. I was nearly done when I cut the middle finger of my right hand rather deeply.


Because I take fish oil pills (which thin the blood), it just wouldn't stop bleeding. Until finally, it did.

So I won't be shaking any hands tonight at our office Christmas dinner. Our boss takes us out to a very nice restaurant in SoNo. Since the dinner is on my day off, I decided to just drive down to the office and join the others on a shuttle van that will take them to and from the restaurant, which is probably about 20 minutes from the office. It will save me the trouble of navigating my way there in a sort of unfamiliar city in the dark, plus dealing with the parking.

By this month's end, I will have attended 5 different holiday parties! One of them my own. First was a Fillipino party my friend invited me to with her husband. She is Chinese but grew up in the Phillipines.

Last weekend I went to my neighbors' party, which was lots of fun. This is the neighbor-husband whose children's book I edited a year ago. Things are taking off and there is talk about creating a deck of cards for each character in his book (I would write the copy for the cards), along with toys. (My neighbor is a former toy designer so he knows the business.) He has an agent who was just in China, and an investor who is ready to roll. My neighbor wants me to work for him a few days a week and he told me to name my price and don't sell myself short.

I need to learn more. I'd consider quitting my current job and working for my neighbor, but I need to find out out long-term a thing this could be; if it only lasts a year, or doesn't pan out, then I would be out of work sooner than I'd like to be. I might consider doing it while keeping my current job, but I value my free time and don't really want to work 5 days a week.

I just finished writing the promo copy that will appear on Kindle/Amazon page for the book. Will be meeting him this morning so will talk more.

I'll be spending Christmas with another friend/neighbor. I've been tasked with bringing crudites and dip. Her sister is bringing someone from work along, so I feel better knowing I am not the only "stray" they've picked up. Smile

Then, 2 days after Xmas, I'm hosting my cousin who will be up for the weekend from PA. I've been meal-planning for his visit but it's hard to do since my dad, who will join us, doesn't drive, and my cousin, who is older, doesn't like to drive once he's up here. It's hard to plan a meal if you have to run out to pick people up, so I may ask cousin to do it just once so I can focus on the meal.

My holiday gift shopping is mostly done.

Work has been very light for the last month or so. This is good and bad. Bad, obviously, because it's less income, but good in that it may open up an opportunity to do another Roth IRA conversion without raising my income that much.