The Holiday Aftermath: A Mixed Financial Bag

Happy New Year!  It’s been two weeks since I last posted anything on this blog!  Wow!  Has it been that long already?

As usual around the holiday season, I take a break from blogging to spend time with my family.  It’s all about spending time with the wife and kids, and a whole lot less time spent thinking about money and finance!

On that front, I think the holidays were a success — The kids and I spent a lot of time together.  We built a bunch of Legos, ate a lot of good food, watched Christmas movies, put puzzles together, and played a ton of board games!

Lego time!
Lego time for the Tako boys!

Overall it was a successful holiday for family happiness… but financially I it was more of a toss-up, with both positive and negative financial moves happening this holiday.

Yes, I had some frugal wins this holiday, but also some pretty big financial blunders I’m not too happy about!  Read on to see how I managed to win the frugal holiday game, AND lose at the exactly the same time!


Holiday Positive: Homemade Board Games!

It’s been a tradition of our family’s for several years now to not give exorbitant gifts.  Usually we opt for items that are worth less than $50, and if at all possible we make a gift.

Last year I made picture frames for all of our family and friends.  It was a lot of work.  This year I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, but I still managed to make a couple of board games for the kids.

(It’s become something of a family tradition that I make board games for the kids)

The first was a game I made was for our oldest son, called MintWorks.  It’s a light and easy worker-placement game that involves using money in the form of “mints” and investing in the form of building buildings and various factories.  It’s a great little game I thought would be perfect for our 6 year old, and I was right — He loves the game!

There’s also plenty of strategy for adults too!

mint works

While this is also a commercial game that sells for $15, the game was kick-started and the home-printable files are still available online for those who know where to look.  My cost was minimal… a few pieces of paper and some time with scissors and glue!

The second game this year was a dexterity game called Push-It.  It’s very similar to popular games like Crokinole or Bocce Ball (only *MUCH* cheaper).  Don’t ask me why those other games are so damn expensive, but Push-It can be played on any tabletop.  I believe it’s considered a British “pub” game.

I made our copy from a few scrap pieces of wood lying around in our garage, and it saw lots of use this holiday!

push-it game

Overall my homemade board games were a huge frugal win for the holidays — We always get tons of use out of them, and the whole family enjoys spending time gaming together.  Best of all these games cost very little — Just a couple of dollars in materials!


Holiday Negative: New Phone Purchase

Long-time readers of this blog know that I’ve been phone-less since early October.  It was an experiment to see how long I could go without a phone.

Sadly, I was weak and caved in December.  I bought myself a smart phone as a Christmas present.  I managed to last two whole months without a smartphone.  It was fun trying to go without, but I certainly can’t chalk this one up in the frugal-win column.

Smart phones cost a lot of money!  Especially if you go the traditional route of buying a phone through a carrier and signing a service contract.  As you might expect, expensive contracts and expensive phones are not how I roll.

In the end, my will-power was lacking and the convenience of having a smartphone won the battle.  While most of the functions of a phone can be easily replaced with my laptop, I’ve been extremely spoiled by the convenience of having a phone.

After doing a little research, I decided to go with a unlocked phone not tied to any carrier.  I wanted a nice big screen for reading e-books, dual-sim for later use overseas, a sd-card slot, and plenty of RAM and storage space.  Oh, and a really BIG battery!

The phone that fit the bill was a Samsung A70 from Amazon, with a purchase price of $335.  After adding state sales tax, the Amazon total came to $353.74.

Samsung A70

Surprise! It looks just like every other smartphone on the market!  If you’re not familiar with Samsung’s A-series, it’s more of a mid-range phone line.  Not high-end like the flagships, but not low-end either.  The phone certainly isn’t as fast as the flagship phones from Apple or Samsung, but it’s plenty quick for my purposes.

As usual, I try to never pay full retail for expensive consumer goods — There’s always a way to find discounts!  In this case, I had $15 of Amazon gift cards earned using my two minute job, and then I signed up for the Discover It cash-back credit card (not an affiliate link) to get 5% cash-back on Amazon purchases in December, along with an additional 5% matched at the end of the first year with the card.

All told, with gift cards, and credit card rewards, I expect the final cost for the phone will be $318.36.

Yes, that’s not cheap!  It’s a expensive luxury item, and I consider it a frugal failure that I purchased one this December.


Holiday Positive: Frugal Car Repairs

On the bright side, I did work extra hard to try and save money fixing-up my old car before selling it.  As you might remember, I purchased a new-to-me car in mid-November.

Before I sell my old Honda, it needed a few repairs.  As you might expect from a 13 year old car, there was a little body damage that need repairing.  At one point during the car’s lifetime a garage door got closed on the back-end which left a bunch of scratches and body damage.

car scratches

Rather than taking it to a body shop and paying big $$ for fixes, I decided to DIY the repairs myself.  A little bit of Bondo spot putty, and some fancy high-grit sand paper and I had all the body damage all smoothed out.

car scatches

Next up came the painting and clear-coating.  While there are local paint stores that will match car paint colors, I went with a car paint supplier called Touch Up Express from Amazon because of the 10% Discover cash-back deal mentioned earlier.

After painting and clear coating, it was just a whole lot of wet-sanding with the aforementioned high-grit sandpaper, and then polishing the car to a glossy finish.  While it certainly was a lot of work, I managed to fix the body damage for around $60.

car scratches2

The result was not too shabby!  It’s certainly not a perfect paint job, but it looks a lot better than it did before!  I call that a frugal win!


Holiday Negative: Fancy Food Splurging

Families tend to splurge a little on food during the holidays, and ours was no exception.  We were hosting my parents for Christmas this year, and I certainly try to make sure my guests eat well.

My Dad requested a rib-eye roast for Christmas dinner, and I spent WAY too much buying one (despite the fact that it was on-sale).

rib roast

Sorry for the blurry phone pic.  Yep, the rib-eye roast was $75 for what amounted to a single meal.  Frugal fail!!

In the end though, the roast turned out beautifully.  As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I’m not really a big beef eater, but a fancy cut of beef once a year is probably OK.  Especially when it looks like this:

prime rib

Unfortunately all the fancy food spending didn’t stop there!  We also had a dungeness crab dinner one evening.  Crab can be extremely expensive if you buy at the wrong time of year, but we managed to find a reasonably priced deal for $5.99/lb.

fresh crab
Not the actual crab we ate, but it was the exactly same setup.

I’m a little scared to look my food budget total for December, but I can almost guarantee it’s NOT going to be a frugal month in the food department!


It Was A Mixed Bag Season

Yep, it was a total mixed bag this holiday.  On one hand we didn’t do any traveling, and merely spent time at home with family.  I hate fighting the crowded airports and highways during the Holiday Season.   It’s good to spend time with the kids too — after all, they’re really the best reason for Financial Independence! But the same time, staying at home meant fancy meals, hosting guests, and some extra splurging which probably destroyed our food budget for the month.

That, and my weakness for convenient technology destroyed my frugal will-power.  I was weak and spent money I shouldn’t have!  Argh!

It’s good to be back posting again though.  In my next post I’m going to break down all of our December numbers (including dividends) in one of my Expenses and Dividend Income posts.  It should be a good one – lots of dividends, plenty of food pictures, and tons of luxurious spending too!

Happy New Year all!


[Image Credit: Flickr1 ]

19 thoughts on “The Holiday Aftermath: A Mixed Financial Bag

  • January 4, 2020 at 3:06 AM

    Homemade board games, believe it or not I went through a phase as a kid where I did that. Very cool. And the phone is a bit pricey but still WAY better than $700 or even $1000 for an iPhone. It should last you a long time. My $99 LG is headed toward it’s 4th year of service now and still works flawlessly.

    Welcome back Tako and Happy New Year!

    • January 4, 2020 at 10:31 AM

      Thanks Dave! I certainly hope it lasts longer than the two years most people seem to average! 😉

  • January 4, 2020 at 4:13 AM

    We get free iPhones and iPads etc through my brother in laws company… wife got a new free iPhone 11… I am thinking of retiring from Beijing to maybe Vancouver …milder Canadian winter…joining your west coast rainy weather…rent to start …then maybe buy a townhouse … around 700 grand CAD or 500ish USD … not sure about that … but my wife likes the area better than Ontario … colder. we will give our daughter some gifts from Jeju Island in South Korea when we visit there for Winter break

    • January 4, 2020 at 10:32 AM

      Vancouver is a pretty nice town, but really expensive… even by West coast standards. I have heard nice things about Ontario though!

  • January 4, 2020 at 6:54 AM

    I was wondering how the no-phone challenge was going to work out! I think it’s tough to get by without one anymore for long periods of time, but 2 months is really impressive!

    The idea of homemade board games is great. Sure, you could just pick ’em up at the store and call it a day, but it’s a fun project to do that costs next to nothing. I had Faith working with me on a more basic one – a giant checkerboard. We used a big piece of yellow cardboard and she helped to figure out how to divide the lines up evenly and draw it out. Then she colored in two different patterns of squares. We’re using shiny Panamanian Balboa coins and quarters for the two teams. Fun stuff!

    Happy New Year!

    • January 4, 2020 at 10:34 AM

      Great idea using the coins as pieces! I’ll never understand why people will fork over $60-$80 for the latest board game when it’s just a few bits of cardboard and wood.

      Plus I get twice the fun when I spend the time crafting a game myself!

      Happy New Year!

  • January 4, 2020 at 7:48 AM

    I have a cheaper cell phone than Tako-san. No one can ever question my frugal credentials again! Congrats on the new phone and hope it serves you well for the next 8 years 🙂

    Nice work on the homemade games. You should download the One Night Ultimate Werewolf app (free) and make your own cards for the characters – it’s a great game, and my son made a set of “vacation” backup cards for us (we own the actual game ’cause we didn’t know, but it’s basically paying ~$12 for some printed cardboard).

    Good luck on a frugal January bounceback! Happy New Year!

    • January 4, 2020 at 10:35 AM

      I’m not sure one frugal win validates your frugal credentials for a lifetime Paul! You won a battle, but not the war! 😉

      I’ll definitely check out the One Night Ultimate Werewolf game you mentioned. Sounds cool!

      Happy New Year!

  • January 4, 2020 at 8:16 AM

    I wish i could fault you on the food thing, but damnit that looks good! As long as the food expenditures aren’t frequent, I don’t see a problem for extended food budgets when the family is together and everyone is having fun. The budget should accommodate for the family times when food budgets grow (thanksgiving, holidays etc). Sure it could be smaller, and perhaps the family could have enjoyed ramen, but if you have the capability to eat well and enjoy each other’s company, then why not do just that?

    • January 4, 2020 at 10:36 AM

      It’s true, a fancy meal now and then isn’t going to sink us. If we ate like that everyday it might, but we stick to pretty humble (but delicious) food most of the year!

      Thanks Stacy!

  • January 5, 2020 at 12:13 AM

    Happy New Year Mr Tako.

    The phone was expensive by your standards but I think you will get a few years of use out of it. It’s the modern day Swiss ay knife spring worth paying up for one that lasts.

    The sirloin costs made my jaw drop. That’s several weeks of our durian budget?


    Mike H

  • January 6, 2020 at 7:33 AM

    Happy New Year! Push It looks good. I’ll have to collect some bottle caps.
    Nice job with the car repair. That looks pretty professional, unlike my DIY repair.
    I think the fancy food is perfectly justified. You didn’t travel and saved money on that.
    We drove to CA and spent $150 on gas. The traffic was pretty good, though.

  • January 7, 2020 at 1:10 PM

    Happy New Year!

    My favorite board game growing up was Risk, countless hours were lost trying to conquer the world with my plastic army!

    The Samsung A series is a great line-up of phones, since Samsung incorporates high-end features at a lower price point than their flagship. It’s too bad more people don’t consider this range of phones because all the marketing efforts are focused on the top tier phones with top tier margins!

    DGX Capital

  • January 7, 2020 at 6:53 PM

    Hi Mr. Tako

    My wife has this exact same car in the exact same color. The only difference is it is a 2007 model. Did you have the “bad paint” recall several years back? Several panels on ours started pealing around 2015 and Honda still honored the re-call and re-painted all of them for free 8 years after the purchase. The reason I ask is the paint on yours looks really good!

    We also had several other recalls on that model and Honda paid for everyone one. She is at about 180,000 miles and planning on taking it to 300,000.

    Nice work on the fix!

    Let me know what you end up getting for it!


    • January 7, 2020 at 11:57 PM

      Hi Max — This is the original paint, and no recall work was done on the body. (Airbag had a recall like most Honda’s)

      I’ll let you know!

  • January 8, 2020 at 9:52 AM

    I was really intrigued by your two minute a day job with bing searches so I signed up and sadly realized they don’t offer Amazon gift cards anymore.

    Also very intrigued by your bondo fix. I’d say that’s pretty impressive for $60.

    • January 8, 2020 at 10:52 AM

      I believe you’re mistaken about the Amazon gift cards. I just created one yesterday…

      • January 8, 2020 at 11:16 AM

        It seems new accounts don’t have access to the same rewards as older accounts and different rewards are offered depending on your geographic area.

        • January 8, 2020 at 11:48 AM

          That seems like a reasonable explanation. Thanks for pointing it out Olivia!


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