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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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 ]