As the sun sets on 2013 it’s time to look back on the year and reflect on the lessons learned.
This was our first full year as homeowners and we had a huge learning curve ahead of us. The year brought some surprises as they usually do but nothing that we could not handle. Looking back I can see when some things started to become clear and were we had some lessons learned.
Lessons Learned in Personal Finance
Our first lesson learned was that we really needed to restructure our budget and track our spending. We started 2013 trying to pay off some debt from our home renovations from 2012. We had transferred 18k to two 0% interest credit cards so that was under control but we were still incurring debt on another credit card due to some finishing touches we did on the house. Our cash was running out faster than we could make it.
Another thing that affected our finances was the lack of overtime income. We were counting on that extra income to payoff the 18K but unfortunately overtime was cut extensively at work so our strategy had to change. Lesson learned, you can’t always count on that overtime money. I wrote about how we trimmed our budget to pay down debt. Basically, we cut back on eating out, our bi-weekly allowance, clothing, concerts and vacations. This resulted in $4k in savings. Due to this and some emergency savings we had we were able to pay off $9k in credit card debt in 2013. The biggest lesson learned this year in our personal finance was to track our spending and make adjustments wherever possible.
Lessons Learned in Homeownership
Unfortunately, we had a few surprises in the home front that ate into our savings. First, our water heater died back in May and ended up costing us $800 to replace and install. Then, just a couple of weeks later our central air unit stopped working and we had to rush to purchase 2 window units costing us just under $600. Six months later we had to deal with the manufacturer’s warranty on our water heater through GE because the unit had rusted. It was not a pleasant experience but in the end we did get a new unit from them.
We made a few other purchases concerning our home such as a de-humidifier and outdoor flood lights but they were not as expensive. Actually, they ended up being excellent purchases so I’ll have to write a future post of those items. We also learned how to control our home heating and adjust our programmable thermostat to our needs. By the way, I recently received our gas and electric bill with a $77 monthly savings compared to the same time last year! We’re hoping the savings continue throughout the winter season.
We also learned that it takes a lot of work to maintain a well-kept home. There are always projects to complete around the house for every season in addition to cleaning and organizing. Many off these things can be easily brushed off but in the end it will cost you more so we do the best we can to avoid this. Our biggest lesson learned in homeownership was to take pride in our home by preserving our investment.
Lessons to be Learned in 2014
In 2014 we’re looking forward to finding new ways to save and cut back on our expenses. We have two areas in which we think we can do this.
1) Groceries – For the past six months our grocery bill has averaged $600/month. We would like to bring this down to $450/month.
2) Cell Phones – Our current monthly cost for two smart phones is $193. I know this is craaazyyy! But, we have been under contract with Verizon for the past two years! But now our contracts are up and after over ten years with Verizon it’s time took look for cheaper alternatives.
Overall, our biggest lesson learned in 2013 was that we could live just as well by spending less.
Happy New Year Everyone!
What are some of your lessons learned in 2013? Also, I would love some tips on reducing our grocery and cell phone bills.