MMM days

by Louise

The holiday shopping season means bulging shopping bags, boxes piled up outside front doors, purchases galore. In spite of the retail cheer, I thought I’d bring up MMM (The Grinch?). Have you regretted any purchases? Have you racked up too many bills? Spent on things or experiences that were not worth the price tag?

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69 thoughts on “MMM days

  1. I spent a little more this year than I expected, but nothing that is a break the budget/bank kind of purchase. I am really pushing for updated flooring and a couch for downstairs. This is a true uphill battle.

  2. Bought myself a new sectional couch and I love it. Wish I would have bought it earlier. I think I spent less this year. The credit card bill is less than last year. Although that may be because we made a donation via check versus credit card last year.

    If not planned already, anyone want a year end thread for last minute tax tips or other things we should be doing in the last few days of 2016? I paid property taxes early because I believe we will have more income this year than next. Any one who works in tax planning or government have thoughts on likely outcome for two earner families with change in administration? I normally make a bunch of year end donations but this year targeted two organizations and just made larger commitments to those. Suggestions for 2017 planning?

  3. I need to spend some money in my health savings account before year end. I’ll spend some on contacts; any other suggestions?

  4. I stuck to my Christmas budget but my budget was probably too high. I grabbed a last minute gift for my son (a zoomer monkey that was $80) that he probably didn’t need when all was said and done. DH and I got each other very small gifts because we just renovated our kitchen/family room. We both agreed we should probably have a no spend January and I will probably hold off on new furniture for a while.

  5. I need to spend some money in my health savings account before year end. I’ll spend some on contacts; any other suggestions?

    If it’s really an HSA, you don’t have to spend it. If it’s a Flexible Spending account, as I suspect, then you might look into prescription sunglasses. I swim a lot and one year I got prescription swim goggles (that was back before I had LASIK).

  6. Overall we spent more on gifts this year, both for immediate family and extended family, but it was one of those years where we felt like we nailed it for everyone. No junk or resorting to desperate gift cards. Everyone was really thrilled with their gifts. So it felt like money well spent.

    I have been talking to our accountant this week. If I go ahead and prepay state taxes that we would owe Jan. 15, and get the check out this week, we can deduct that amount from our federal taxes and will save us quite a bit. So if your family does quarterly taxes, you should check on that.

  7. Lark, I’m sorry to be dumb, but aren’t you just moving the tax deduction from one year into another?

  8. RMS, you’re right, it’s a FSA, not a HSA. Use or lose beyond a certain carryover amount allowed.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

  9. RMS, while I don’t know Lark’s exact situation, some people will alternate years of itemizing and taking the standard deduction, and thus will shift as much deductible expense as possible to the years in which they itemize.

    Another reason for maximizing deductible expenses for a given year is having extra income that year that makes the deductions more valuable that year.

  10. Or if you think tax rates might go down, making a deduction this year more valuable than next

  11. Yes to all of that. We had more income this year than usual due to a one-time distribution, so the deduction this year is more valuable than it would likely be next year. Also I do think tax rates will be cut, so want to take advantage of it this year.

  12. IIRC, one caveat on shifting deductions to a year with higher income is that at when your income reaches a certain level, there are limitations on deductions, so it is possible that your deductions might be worth more in a year with lower income.

    Caveat on the caveat: I ran into that a while back. I’m not sure it’s still the case.

  13. @ Finn – this is why we use an accountant, so he can email me and tell me do it or don’t do it :)

  14. @Finn – we always buy sunscreen and band aids with small amounts of leftover FSA money. You may not need band aids as much as us since your kids are older. I am also clumsy and tend to need them for myself here & there. I’m not allowed to carry over a penny, so I often end up at Walgreens on 12/31 buying something as to not give up a penny.

    I bought contacts too, but there is always a small amount left that doesn’t break down nicely into contact boxes.

    We don’t really spend a ton on Xmas gifts, and we definitely spent less this year than last. Last year was the big-ticket year with the game system which has been very much loved & used. We don’t exchange with each other, and DS didn’t get any large-ticket items this year – just baseball cards, some gift cards for games/music/PS4 things, a couple of books that he requested, a World Series highlight video, and a couple of board games. We don’t usually go that “big” on the holidays, but we do buy things for ourselves and for DS throughout the year. I like it better that way – small treats throughout the year.

    We did go out to a nice holiday date dinner at a hot new place though, and we both agreed that it was a colossal waste of money. The hipster pretension was just taken SOOO far beyond my limits, and with nothing to show for it in the food/drinks. There was a reel-to-reel machine for the music, “vintage” spirits (which tasted just like regular spirits to my taste but were 3 times as expensive), lots of “infusions” that didn’t really taste like anything special, and a non-sensical menu where it was impossible to tell how much food was actually going to come out for any item. We are going for a do over this week at our normal holiday dinner place.

    I mean really. Reel to reel is back?? WHY??!!

  15. 2016 taxes and maybe 2017 are going to be a headache! I am trying to get my parents’ estates settled so that 2016 is the last year for taxes for them. I had to up my persistence (and b*$chiness) the past few months to get this far. However, I am still waiting on others to process paperwork and on a letter needed to submit a final claim to the VA. I wish I even had the bandwidth to think about being strategic about it. And, it just irks me that I have to nag people I pay to do the things they are paid for.

    On a going forward note, I have started filing paperwork of ours better and have started copies of files the DDs will need as they go forward to applying and attending college. Things like SSN, birth certificate, shot records, passports, and when the time comes tax returns. I went off to college without some of that stuff and it was a PITA to collect it when I needed it with my parents out of the country. Since I’m wading through lots of stuff, its a good time to organize it as well.

    Two house on our street sold in the past 12 months, both for more than our house was appraised for and ours has had more improvements than either of those two. Expecting a significantly higher property tax bill this next year.

  16. I wish we had money left in our FSA. The three of us had so much on major dental work that we could have used triple the amount in in our FSA in 2016. Dental for the three of us was far and away our largest expense last year, and the $1500 that Delta insurance provides for basic work was very little help.

    The big waste of money is anything associated with the bat mitzvah reception. This party after the religious service is like buying a really nice car and driving it off a cliff after four hours. I am happy that DD will have the religious service, and that she is learning a lot in Hebrew school. I just wish she wasn’t the big party type.

    The best use of money in 2016 was the money I spent to travel, or celebrate milestone birthdays with friends. SO many of my college, and elementary school friends were celebrating the same milestone bday in different ways all year. I made the effort to get to a few college and elementary school celebrations. I really enjoyed seeing my friends, and it was worth the money to catch up with my friends.

  17. AMT always made the state tax deduction acceleration an alternate year strategy for us. I am glad the only (first world) tax problem I have now is managing the MAGI to keep the medicare premiums low, and frankly for two people who no longer do any productive paid work, the first cut off is very generous.

    I do believe that individual income tax rates will go down, possibly effective 2017, but certainly for 2018, but I doubt that there are many posters here for whom the tax changes will lead to a significant change in financial behavior. The middle class, including the lower tier of the bicoastal UMC who like to consider themselves middle class, may see some small benefits in income tax, but I’d bet money that the FICA threshhold or rate will be raised on that tier. The lowest tier and the upper classes will reap the benefits. Corporate tax reform may be astonishingly broad.

  18. I spent much more than usual on my DH, because he had some electronics he wanted. One of them was an iPad Pro, but he hasn’t opened it yet because he is not sure it does anything special enough to warrant the price. I’d be happy if he wanted to return it. We did not travel to see family this year, so that more than made up for the higher spending.

    My kids just got small gifts and cash, so not a particularly fun gift-giving Christmas. I am also hoping to have a no-spending January. We also had a lot of dental expenses. I have split them over 2016 and 2017 to be able to use the FSA for more of them. So lots of fun ahead for me next week.

    I am taking my DH’s truck to Carmax for a quote this week, as we still have 5 cars plus a motorcycle for 4 drivers. I spent all day purging stuff, cleaning out paperwork and cabinets and putting together another loaf of stuff to donate. I really want to get rid of the things we don’t use, and am trying to force the family to get with my program.

  19. We probably spent more than we should have on youngest DS, but he’s the only one who wanted “toys” (new game station and speakers). For the others we didn’t really have a budget, but didn’t break it. DW definitely spent more on me than I on her, but a lot of what I got was new clothes to freshen my wardrobe vs anything really “fun”.

  20. We are still in the zone of numerous small purchases where “You win some, you lose some.” The “Olaf” Bop Bag is really popular but not very durable, so I’ll buy another one or two if available at Ross for the twins’ birthday later this week. Love for Pokemon endures and Twin2 spent a surprisingly long period of time attempting to draw Pokemon with his “How to Draw Pokemon” book from Scholastic. Replacement Perler beads, Lego Minecraft, Wii games and clothes summarize the rest. Sadly, I probably bought my last packages of “boy character” underwear this year (Pokemon)- DS1 expressed a preference for “regular white underwear. Big gift was a Lego Robotics set which will be used with DH over the next few years. Hopefully the school continues with Lego Robotics.

    Mr WCE got underwear, T-shirts, work shirts, new toothbrush heads, CD and a deep cycle battery charger, as befits the breadwinner of the family and primary funder of the festivities. I got a replacement grocery list white board, replacement cutting boards, a couple books I wanted, pajamas and new dishcloths.

  21. Well, if we are reciting everything we got, over the last half year, I got new floors, walls, trim and doors, new vacuum, new dining table, iPad Pro, kindle fire kids, new water filter, numerous toys, numerous kid clothes, new car seats, and DH did his big shopping at Nordstrom. For myself, I bought a lot of remorse and guilt. Cannot even return to hts. Dining table since I already sold the old one. I cancelled the Europe trip or any vacation for the next two years at least. I am also counting on the Camry lasting for a few more years.

  22. “if available at Ross ”

    When DD was about 3 or 4, I took her to Ross, whose sign she read as iZoss. I can never look at their logo without remembering that.

  23. We did really well on Christmas presents this year – nobody got anything excessive, and Santa only brought one gift each plus stockings. This is because the other expenses this year are in the high five figures. :-0 Once we finish paying for the garage on the timber property, I want to save everything for a year at least so I feel better about things.

  24. For some reason a few relatives this year suddenly decided that the holidays were about “experiences not things”. This comes after years of extravagant gift giving that was accompanied by insinuations and comments about how gifts were true expressions of love. Meanwhile, my DH and I have never exchanged gifts, not because we are particularly virtuous but because we just prefer to buy for ourselves the things we want and because we dislike clutter. We always felt a little judged by these relatives, and now they’ve been converted.

    One of these relatives took a Florida vacation instead of doing their traditional celebration at home. In their Christmas card they made a point of saying they were forgoing gifts this year, as if to justify their spending on the trip. One of them posted on FB about how their Christmas this year came without “gift tags, boxes or bags”. On top of that, she had another post about how we should all unplug during this holy holiday – “May your Facebook face closure … May your snapchat be silent, and your insta delayed …”. Yeah, she posted on FB about staying off FB. Lol.

  25. Not for me, but since electively not working is a big form of “spending,” I was thinking about my Dad’s somewhat-sudden and earlier-than-planned recent retirement. He and I sat together at the kids’ table for Christmas dinner while the other adults were in the dining room, and he was relating his mixed feelings about the whole thing. It seems he’s been surprised by the guilt of not working — “typical Catholic guilt” is how he attributed it — and feeling like he’s somehow not fulfilling an obligation as a provider. Then when he keeps busy with chores and work at home, he has the admittedly ridiculous concerns that something is taking longer that it should, or that it otherwise would.

    But he said that there are also times out in the yard when the early-morning sun first starts shining through the trees and it’s so pleasant and peaceful (and this is not the kind of thing my dad typically talks about), and he has no desire to be back in an office all day, leaving when it’s still dark, and returning home after dark. He said it’s also surprising to actually confirm that the savings and investments they have really are enough.

  26. checking in, hope everyone is having a great Holiday season!

    I posted my favorite books yesterday

  27. I think I stayed mostly within budget – so that’s a plus. Spent too much on DH, so I’ll save one or two things for Father’s day. DS was spoiled rotten by our families. I keep looking at his toys and wondering where in world they will all live.

    I don’t regret the travel we did this year, but it was certainly more than our budget should have allowed. I’m not terribly upset because we aren’t going anywhere next year, unless we get lucky with something. I think next year we’ll be focusing on our house and trying to manage the clutter with 2 kids. I know we are planning another built-in, so that will be an expense to think about. But the extra storage will be worth it. Plus we have to manage daycare and newborn expenses.

  28. we did not get to do any fun travel this year besides some local excursions. 2 trips to Mayo clinic for DH and he may be going back early in ’17

    rare small fiber neuropathy, very painful in his feet

  29. 6 months in and still with in-laws. 2016 has been painful indeed, looking at apartments on friday

  30. God, Milo, not only am I pathetically living with the in-laws, we haven’t replaced the car yet.

    DH is SAHD so he has been borrowing his mom’s car as needed during the day for doctor appointments. It’s like we’re teenagers. embarrassing. we need to pick one soon. wanted to get through Christmas first. She actually offered it since she has another old back up car. (the garage is full of stuff, the driveway situation is ridiculous with all of these cars)!

  31. It’s no big deal. It’s an appliance, and if there’s a surplus where you’re currently residing, go with that. And you’re a CPA, not a teenager. You just happen to have found a good, temporary deal on housing expenses. Enjoy it.

  32. I think we’re going to end up in an apartment for now because I’m not sure if I want to stay in this area

  33. would anyone join a “secret” totebag facebook group if I created one? some things I’d share on here, but I’ve already posted my identity. you’d have to be out too of course.

  34. Wine, I know it is easy for me to say from a distance, but try not to feel ashamed. As long as you get along with them, it can be so much easier in some ways to stay with family for an extended period.

    You’re getting your life together and trying to figure stuff out. I definitely took some sideway steps when I was younger and you’re lucky that you have family that can help. You’re going through a lot of stuff, and hopefully it will sort itself out soon.

  35. Wine – seriously give yourself a break. If you’re not sure you want to stay in the area then you are doing the right thing by living with your in-laws.

    All of our travel in 2016 aside from our annual spring break trip to Amelia Island, FL was visiting family but we’re perfectly content with that right now. We went to Pittsburgh in February on the coldest weekend ever and went to Rhode Island/Cape Cod during the month of July. Planning on a trip to Savannah with my oldest and her girl scout troop in January, visiting my sister in NY in February (due with her first baby in two weeks), Amelia Island in April, Cape/Rhode Island in June/July (with maybe a stop in D.C. on the way up because DS is really interested) and our friends want us to take an adult trip to Napa but not sure if I could get anyone to watch my children. Planning on a girls weekend with my college girlfriends on the Cape this summer when I’m there. Maybe Disney in September – my son will be 6 this summer and he likes to remind us that he’s never been and we took his older sister when she was 3.

    Biggest surprise hits of Christmas – Buddha boards and a plasma bike that they are all fighting over. I felt like I really nailed the kids gifts this year. I belonged to this FB group that was constantly posting deals on Amazon and other places so I felt like I did really well for the money I spent. DH and I exchanged cook books (I got the new Ina Garten cook book).

  36. has anyone mentioned Carrie Fisher’s death?

    it really surprised me, even though I had heard about her heart attack the other day

    she was younger than my parents :(

  37. Wine, ditto to what everyone else said, you’re dealing with a lot. I hope they can figure something out for your DH’s medical issues. And I’d be in for a private FB group – I’m already “out” to a few people here.

    We spent way too much on travel this year. Besides Iceland, we had trips to NJ and Florida for family events, I took DS to Phoenix for spring training for his graduation trip, and the kids went to DC on a school trip. We also bought the new car we weren’t planning on, and the new couch (which was delivered Monday and is awesome). Next year, we are planning on a road trip to South Dakota as our only big trip. DW is taking DD to Vancouver for her graduation trip, and DD is going on a school trip to Costa Rica. My dad wants us to visit him in Arizona, but he pays when we do that :).

  38. Carrie Fisher’s death is certainly a big loss, but the fact that anyone expected anything different surprised me. Medical professionals have done a quite poor job of educating people about the survivability of 15 minutes of CPR by bystanders on a plane. I would venture to guess airborne CPR has never been survived in the history of flying.

  39. I see this is from a couple days ago, don’t know if anyone is following now, but it made me laugh because I am sitting next to a huge pile of clothing to return. I ordered several things that I could wear for a family photo, depending on what went well with what everyone else was wearing, and as we were preparing for the trek north, it was cold and snowy up here, so I thought my son might play in the snow with cousins, and therefore require a change of clothes. We bought/brought a pair of pants for every day for him. I’m returning four pairs, along with some shirts and a sweater. From hohoho to oh! Oh! Oh!

  40. Wine, you’ve had great forehead ace and patience living with your inlaws. I’m sure an apartment will feel like a relief. When my DS was very little and I was in a temp position, I was happy to get a lower level apartment with walkout directly onto the playground. I hope you find a place with good access for your DS to run and play outside, maybe even a branch from which to hang a swing & trapeze, if there is no playground. I’m sorry to hear your husband’s pain continues.

  41. Wine – send me a friend request too… If you need to find me (you should be able to), send me an email.

  42. I would join a secret group as well. Rhode knows my real name – Rhode can you add me to the group?

  43. Wine — I’d join the FB grouop.

    You’re in a difficult situation, particularly with your DH’s health issue. Keep the faith. I find those types of uncertainties — where to live, health, how long, etc. — very hard to manage. We moved in with my in-laws for a few months at one time, and although they are so nice I was so eager to move out. And this was before kids, so it was much easier.

  44. Wine – You’ve been going through a ton! Give yourself a break. Where are you thinking of moving?

  45. Wine, I’d also be interested in the FB group. I sent you an email with my FB name.

    And I agree with others – you seem to be making the right decisions for your current situation. It’s temporary, and when your plans are more clear, you can move on. In the meantime, less financial pressure is a great thing.

  46. Would the FB group be replacing this site? Or would there be two separate conversations going on? I’m wondering about the implications on our group’s cohesiveness of creating essentially a second, separate Totebag site

  47. Wine, no need to feel down on yourself. You’re being a totebagger, practical and delaying gratification.

    And I’m guessing that your in-laws feel good about being able to help you out.

  48. I’m not on FB, but this is the second time I’ve had reason to reconsider. The first was when DS opened an account.

  49. WCE, it’s the Lego robotics at you got for your kids the “Mindstorm” set? DH has been itching to get these for ds1 since he (ds1) was in kindergarten. I finally relented and this was ds1’s big gift this year. He built a car over the last day or so, but now we have to figure the programming part out.

  50. Yes, we got one of the EV3 “educational” sets because it fits with what DS1 is doing with the Lego robotics team at school, and what the twins may do if the school continues with the team and at least one of them is on it.

    Mr WCE is the assistant coach for DS1’s team, so he had already considered what to buy. There are also commercial Mindstorms sets, which come with better instructions and slightly different characteristics.

  51. I just added some Christmas gifts to our Citibank Price Rewind benefit (searches for a lower price for ~60 or 90 days after a purchase and refunds the difference if found) since we use my Citibank card for most household purchases. For the only Price Rewind I attempted before (a Wii game), we received an $11 statement credit and I didn’t have to submit a receipt or anything. I will definitely use my Citibank card for appliance purchases and submit a Price Rewind in the event of an “urgent” appliance purchase.

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