So far this year we have spent a lot on home repairs and maintenance, a new car and gifts to family. We also have gone out to eat more, seen quite a few movies and some plays, traveled to visit family, and generally tried to up our fun quotient. We planned almost all of this spending and were able to do these things without incurring any debt and could keep on living like this next year. However, I would like 2012 to be a year of having more - more savings and more fun. To do that I need to do some budget planning.
I've decided to start my financial review and next year's planning early. If I spend October thinking about this then I can put a more thoughtful plan in place for 2012. I'll report back over the next few weeks the ideas and challenges I come up with for achieving these goals.
Here are the spending and fun areas I want to think through for my 2012 plan.
Cars - No more car replacements in sight. We have one 6 year old car and one 6 month old car; both are compacts. So the focus is on operating costs and maintenance.
Entertainment - We love going to the theater, movies, art exhibits, concerts and out to eat. Can we do it for less? How much do we want to spend? How often do we want to experience these things? What memberships in museums/organizations will we buy? Would buying some season tickets be a good idea? Are there different kinds of activities we would like to try?
Food - The goals is to indulge without spending as much while also continuing to prioritize healthy choices.
Giving - We don't expect to make large financial gifts to family this coming year, but what financial donations do we really want to make in 2012 and to what organizations? Can we volunteer more or participate in more events that raise money and thereby have more fun while giving? What kinds of gifts do we want to give loved ones and for what cost?
Healthcare - Evaluate our health spending including insurance increases, prescriptions, over the counter medications, and exercise programs. Decide on amount to go into health savings account for 2012.
Home - What are the ongoing costs involved in operating, insuring, and maintaining our home and property? Can they be reduced? Are there necessary or priority home improvement projects to budget for? This year we had to replace two rotting sliding doors and the trim around them which was a planned expense. The surprise spending was that we had to remove a neighbor's large tree and part of one of our trees from our yard after their tree fell into our yard, damaged the shed roof and broke one of our trees on the way down.
Non-food shopping - Applies to clothing, haircuts, household supplies, toiletries, pet expenses, furnishings, etc. What purchases are necessary and do they make us happy? Would spending less or buying less result in same happiness?
Travel - Plan travel for year both for family visits and vacations. Look for ways to link vacations or work travel to family visits if it will reduce costs. This will be a challenge as we travel to visit family 8 times a year, we have to board the dog, and I just used up my available frequent flyer miles to get one more trip to see my 90 year old Mom this year. Perhaps by mid 2012 we will have enough miles for at least one more ticket. We already have decided to take a vacation within a 6 hour drive of our home by signing up for our first Road Scholar program (previously Elderhostel) in Florida.
My goal is to save more for retirement and unexpected home and health expenses while enjoying our lives more right now. A balancing act for everyone!