Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015: A Year in Review

I was on the phone with my step-mom New Years Eve.  The conversation went something like this...
Me *talking about 2015, only half kidding*:  "I'm seriously considering burning the calendar in effigy.  You know, as a kind of closure.  This year has been terrible and I want to make sure it's over."

My step-mom:  "Now hold on.  Wouldn't it be more productive to reflect on the good that happened this year.  I know there was some.  Think about all the good that has happened with regards to the kids.  Your daughter has grown more independent and has caught up in school.  Your son has finally started to get means to communicate and is getting more of the right kind of help.  See, there are two good things right there.  Think about it."
You know, I'm darn lucky to have wise people, like my step-mom, in my life.  They really help to hammer home a better perspective on things.

So, after our conversation I sat down, pulled out a pad of paper and a pen (other people still use those right?) and made a list of at least one thing per month I was grateful for.  I won't break it down by month, but I'll share those twelve things as I review the year.  So, be prepared to be bored as I "thrill" you with the details of my year in review *cue dramatic music*!

2015 Financial Review:

The Pros: 
  • Phone bill was figured out and adjusted with a new plan, saving us at least 12.00 per month and we have better internet as a side benefit of doing so.
  • Food budget was adjusted down by 50.00 per week and was able to beat that budget numerous times throughout the year.
  • Paid off last "official" credit card (Care Credit, since it's specialty credit, I don't count as a credit card, but as  a health expense) saving us 157.00 a month.
  • Replaced most light bulbs with LED's, cutting energy consumption and saving us money.
  • Despite not making much money, by being frugal and me being stubborn to the point of stupidity, we were able to pay 12,000.00 off of our dental bills.
The Cons:
  • Despite paying 12,000.00 in dental bills off, we have another 11,000.00 to go, part of which has to be paid by April and the other part has to be paid off by December to avoid financial deep hurting (and this is coming from me here).
  • Between dental bills, electric heat with the really cold weather we had through November and December and our mortgage going up due to our home owners insurance increasing (due to adding so much credit after making so little the year before my husband's credit score that the insurance goes by, tanked) our monthly bills have increased by 600.00 per month (that hurts REALLY bad to even write it), 500.00 of which is permanent until dental bills get paid off.
  • Due to sporadic employment and pay our savings is gone and tax return for 2016 is still uncertain in amounts...anyway it's been a stressful year in the bill department.
Financial Goals for 2016 will come in another post, but yeah, that's the majority of 2015 in a nutshell.

So, now onto the good points of 2015!
1.  While we acquired a lot of debt for dental bills, my husband finally got his teeth fixed, which was 10 years overdue.  He's much happier being able to chew food without pain and actually smiles again where before he would hide his mouth because all of his teeth were broken and awful looking.  And he lost the lisp he'd acquired from his top teeth being broken and worn down so much.

Also, with the dental bills, we had to pay for braces for my daughter, but her cross bite is getting fixed so she can chew food properly, which has helped her stomach a bit as well as she's chewing her food more thoroughly.  Her cross bite is actually adjusting much better than they had thought it would, as well, so she might be out of braces quicker than they had scheduled.  And she's actually been really good about being responsible for taking care of her mouth and her braces, which has been nice to see.

2.  I am grateful I was able to get our phone bill adjusted and was able to get unlimited long distance.  It's been really nice to be able to pick up the phone to call my mom or my step-mom and not have a mental meter going in my head on how much the conversation would cost me.

3.  While we had nuisance sicknesses last year, there was, once my husband got his dental work taken care of, not a lot of need to go to the doctor's for things, which I am grateful for as I know a lot of others are not so lucky.

4.  I am grateful the garden did so well last year especially the tomato plants.  It was wonderful having so many tomatoes.

5.  While I had to use some creativity in figuring out how to pad out stores in some areas, I stepped up to the challenge and got it done.  Double benefit was that I found wildflower jelly is actually really tasty!  I also found that the more you have to do the more you find you can do.  The year tested my limitations, my creativity, sometimes my sanity, but I persevered.  And it changed me.  For the better, I think.

6.  I am grateful I started to mess around with embroidery more and came to find a real love of it once I threw out the patterns and started to "color outside the lines".

7.  I am grateful for finding so many great sales at the thrift stores last year as they really helped to save money in both our everyday lives (such as used clothing) and for special occasion things (making gifts, etc).

8.  I am grateful for the free dresser my husband fixed up for me.  It's nice having my clothing put away in wood, versus plastic Rubbermaid, again.

9.  I found a real soul deep love and gratitude for my mom and step-mom this year.  My step-mom's conversations and pinata boxes really brightened my life and my mom helping where she could and her conversations really helped to shore me up as well.

10.  I am grateful my children have changed in good ways this year.  My daughter continues to grow and mature and my son has made a lot of progress this year.  My daughter has come to realize that material things are not the most important thing in this world and that spending time with family can be just as fulfilling as a new toy or something, which I consider to be a big lesson to learn in today's materialistic society.

11.  I am grateful for friends who have helped us out by giving us hams (thanks, Davina) or giving us freebies they aren't using (thanks, Stephanie) or just offering to help (thanks Shannon, Megan and countless others).  Even when you are broke, just an offer of support from a friend can make you feel rich.

12.  While I lost my grandmother last year I am grateful that she is now on the other side reunited with her husband who she missed so very very much.

And as a bonus bit of gratitude I am very grateful that I started this blog.  It has allowed me to connect with so many great people.  Thank you for reading, everyone!
So, there you are folks.  My "2015 Year in Review".  I pray I didn't bore you too much, but I felt it necessary to put some positive feelings about it to start off the new year right :).

And by the way, I didn't burn the calendar.  I threw it away like a normal person.  With a much better attitude about the entire year.


  1. That was a huge dental bill and would throw a major kink is just about any budget- to of paid so much, I think you are amazing!
    I hope 2016 is an even better year for your family

    1. Thanks :). I'm hopeful for a good year at this point. Here's hoping!!!

  2. Holy Moly. You paid off $12,000 this year??? You are incredible. I like how you spun the events of this past year into positive experiences. Wishing all of us a great year ahead.

  3. You deserve many kudos for your perseverance and creativity in the face of staggering hardships. You are a light to others! Keep up the good work and press forward with steadfast faith in Jesus, a worker of miracles in the lives of his followers.

  4. Wow, Erika! Good for you! I needed to see this today - our year was hard too (more in terms of emotional "stuff" rather than financial but still...).
    Would you consider doing a post on where you "found" the money to pay off the dental bills you have? We have approximately the same amount in medical bills to pay off due to my chronic shingles and I'm feeling really discouraged about it. I know you made so many of your Christmas gifts and you've made other cuts but I guess I keep looking at our budget and thinking we're just stuck! I'd love more information on how you moved things around and thought outside the box, so to speak. Thanks so much!

    And I love the photo of the veggies at the top - it made me want to start planning my summer garden!

    1. That would be an awful long post as I did a lot of small things that just added up. Honestly I was surprised when I pulled out the paperwork and added it all up. When you are in the day to day trenches just trudging along and just seeing the final goal you NEED to make no matter what, it's amazing how much the little things will add up.

      I will really try hard to make that list for you though. If I can help someone else get some bills paid off, I'm more than happy to do it!

  5. I'm clapping for you! You are inspiring. And you're right...when you have no other option, it's amazing what you can accomplish that you never thought possible.

  6. I found your blog recently and I really enjoy reading your posts. I enjoyed reading your positives for 2015. I hope that 2016 runs more smoothly for you

  7. Erika,
    I'm so glad you have such a supportive family. Looking for the good things has helped me so much during many hard times during my life. I hope 2016 is better for you. I'm glad the dental work helped your husband so much. I'm sure his quality of life is so much better now. In the end, I know you both will be glad you spent the money so that he could eat without pain.

  8. I'm very impressed with how you buckled down and paid off that much debt in 1 year's time! You should be very proud of yourselves!

  9. What a great and positive review of your year! You should be very proud of yourself for all you accomplished!

  10. Bravo, Erika!!! Just think, that list doesn't even include all the new skills you've learned and developed over the last year. So glad you could find the positive in such a stressful lows of life. As always, wishing you and your family the best for a wonderful 2016!

  11. Wow! As I've said before, you continue to inspire : )
    Here's to a better 2016!

  12. I expect gratitude will take you far in 2016. Congratulations on all your accomplishments!