Tuesday, January 22

Why We Plan Obsessively

I'm a planner. I normally map out our days, weeks, years. I usually have gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc for everyone literally months ahead of time. I start mapping vacations a year before.
For a 20 day supply of Tristian's Growth Hormone.
Luckily this one counts towards the deductable.

That may seem overkill, but when you have more then a thousand dollars towards medical stuff each month you have to budget tightly.

Trevor has a pretty good job and the medical insurance is very good- although the new limit for the flex account is half our deductible and really going to bite into us. We've always done the full deductible in the previous years because that way it's automatically budgeted out of the paycheck and taken out pretax. And pretax is a lot less out of our budget then after tax. I rather suspect that is the government's intention (more taxes). It sucks that they pick to screw with those of us dealing with medical situations we have no control over rather then say, increasing the luxury tax on something recreational. I mean, it's not like we can say, "hey, we gotta cut our budget back... this hormone shot that is $1358.98 a pop has just gotta go... and that inhalor breaks down to like $5 a puff... that's outta here too...." Oh well, just have to remember to feel blessed that Trevor has a steady job with good insurance and we have access the medications we need.

This was for my Father. He's from the
Hannibal area and likes related
stuff. Those hurricane glasses say
Mark Twain Riverboat, Hannibal.
Anyways, this means our gift budget breaks down to like $8 a person (seriously). That's not us being stingy... that's just what we can afford- tops. I shop clearance, thrift, ect... I aim for a gift value of $20-30 a person... Sometimes it's significantly higher if we can find really good deals. I try very hard to get things people will really like. I hate how generic the holiday gift experience can be. So we put real effort and planning into what we get for people. Maybe it's partially me feeling guilty because I know I'm not spending very much on them, either way I try to aim for a 'wow this is great' reaction from each recipient.

Christmas gift basket that
includes an adorably framed
picture of the recipient.
If it's for someone I don't really know or have a connection to (aka, the kid that just moved into the neighborhood is having a birthday party and stopped by to invite the boys) I'll pull from our box of 'unassigned gifts' (a medium size storage tote) and aim for somewhere around $10-$15 value, most the stuff in that box was gotten for a dollar or two on extreme clearance. I usually have all but a handful (by that I literally mean at most five) Christmas gifts bought by July and I try to have birthday gifts by 6 months prior. We are blessed to have a lot of family and friends, so there's a lot of gifts to buy. It's bit me in the butt more then once when a last minute 'lets all go in together' gift is decided upon by others, but I can normally salvage it somehow, except in the case where expiration dates are involved... but it is what it is ;-)

2011 Last Vacation Day
I plan vacations starting the year before after the previous year's is over (you can see some of my thinking out loud on this coming vacation by clicking here). I feel very strongly about giving us and the boys these sort of family memories if at all possible. Our budget for vacations is normally around $500 and I do as many deals, promotions, groupons, coupons, etc and so forth as we can. We buy food to take with us for most our meals. We don't go far. Mostly stay in Missouri- Branson two years ago, St. Louis last year, Hannibal area this year.

At the St. Louis Zoo 2012
We have our traditions, every year we go to the St. Louis Zoo for the boys birthdays. We have an open ended invitation to all of our family and friends to join us. We do try to do small birthday parties for those who can come at home for each child on their birthday. But our real celebration of their birthdays is that day at the zoo, and we love spending it with the family and friends that are able to join us each year. Last year we incorporated the zoo trip into our vacation and were staying with my brother Mark all but one day that week (we didn't want to wear out our welcome and wanted to get to have the hotel experience one night at least- plus we did one that was a promotion to got us a bunch of free passes to Science Center stuff). So last year was a little cheaper cause less gas and whatnot.

We try to be pretty thrifty for a family of four getting one week of vacation away and one overnight day trip I think. I know we could have a little less budget stress if we just stayed home, but Trevor and I feel strongly that this family time and memories are worth the extra stress of budgeting it out. We feel very blessed that we have been in a position to make a yearly vacation possible for the last three years.

Anyways. Budgeting and planning are the only way we can stay on top of this. Our budget problems aren't from being young and irresponsible and running up thousands of dollar in credit card debt we're trying to pay off, ours are from medical stuff we have no control over (and trust me, we try to have as much control as we can lol). I get one hair cut with highlights a year, using a groupon or other promotion. It's normally a trade off of whether I do it for vacation pictures or holiday pictures. Trevor does his cuts at home (which is basically shaving since he's lost most his hair anyways... lol. Lucky for him he's a very handsome bald man). We buzz both the boys hair about once every other month. We never ever buy clothing new (except when something like when JCPenney did the $2 sale on women's clothes, making them cheaper then thrift) or for Trevor's white work shirts (which we've gotten very good at finding sales on). We get all our wine and other alcohol drinks from the discount clearance cart. A few years ago we were going to cut alcohol out all together to help with the budget (I wasn't drinking anyways because pregnant then ebf) but that's when Trevor decided to stop getting a monthly haircut and just buzz/shave it at home. He requested that money go towards getting a couple bottles of wine or whatever a month instead for special times. We budget for food very, very carefully. Which is really hard with food allergies. I'm hoping that couponing again will help with that.

I know my planning and thriftiness probably seems neurotic and silly looking in from the outside by many... and maybe it is- but I don't want to be any more in debt then we feel we have to be.

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