2016 has been a year when we decimated parts of our budget. As someone who has lived with a strict budget since my first years in college (was that really 49 years ago?), I am a firm believer in knowing what I spend and staying within the lines.
Last year was when my share of my parents' estate started to find its way to into my accounts. By early this year I was feeling quite flush. With even more money to come over the next 4 years before the estate is closed down for good, additional cash flow was on the horizon.
Betty and I have always lived well beneath our means. One of the reasons we were able to retire 15 years ago was the habit of carrying no debt beyond a mortgage, and saving 20-25% of our income each year. We have played it close to the vest; there have been plenty of splurges for vacations with the kids, but we never ignored the income/outgo realities. Well, this year not so much.
Call it pent up demand, a realization that if not now, then when, or just never having the resources so readily available, but our budget for vacations and trips went out the window...way out the window.
Let's review: renting a house for the whole family 3 blocks from the beach in San Diego for a week around the 4th of July, taking a 7 day Alaskan Cruise, putting 5,000 miles on the RV during a 7 week long trip as far east as North Carolina, RVing in Show Low, spending a few nights in a hotel in Flagstaff and flying to Disneyland for a weekend at The Magic Kingdom with the family. As you might guess, the financial cost was high, about 300% of what had been set aside on January 1st, not including repairs to the RV.
After the big party come the consequences. The spilled drinks must be cleaned up, the trash disposed of, the scratched furniture fixed, and that hole in the entry hall repaired. If the big party involves expensive travel and experience-gathering, the consequences are every bit as real.
For the last two weeks I have been pouring over the 2017 budget. Betty and I agree that during the coming year we will be much more restrained. We are cutting back on categories as diverse as furnishings and backyard improvements, kitchen cabinet refinishing, our clothing expenditures, and an office redesign for me. The 13 year old second car will continue to occupy one side of the garage rather than being replaced.
Direct TV may go away, especially if they raise the rates again. Much like cable, we watch 10-20 of the 200+ channels available, making the cost per choice rather pricey. Our telephone bill has surpassed our water bill each month. It may be time to find another carrier.
Vacations are still part of the budget, but as a much smaller line item. Long weekend RV trips within 6 hours of our home are in our future for the new year. Two month-long jaunts, cruises, or beach house rentals are right out.
Looking ahead, 2018 may be a year when we add back some more elaborate adventures. Betty would like to go back to Europe. I would love a cruise around the South Pacific. We may have one more long RV trip in us (and the RV). By showing serious restraint in the new year, our investments will have had time to grow and support a more expansive 2018.
I am reminded of the verses in the Bible and the song by the Byrds: To everything there is a season, Turn, Turn, Turn. 2016 has been a season of big memories and big dreams. 2017 will turn smaller and closer to home. It will be a season of regrouping, but still a season of our life that is satisfying and fulfilling.