2017 Year in Review

The years just seem to be flying by. 2017 went by pretty quick. I have no complaints because I know how lucky I am. I'm in pretty good health. There are people who like to hang out with me, though I'm never really sure why. And while I'm not crazy wealthy, I can afford to do what I want and still give to causes I think are important. So, life is still definitely good. Let's look at the details of how I hoped by year would go with how it actually went.

My big idea for the year was to not eat any sugar. I started the year out pretty good and did ok for about four months. However, by the end of April, it was basically over. I tried to get back on the wagon, but by September, I had pretty much given up. And that's ok. It was an epic fail, but I'm ok with failing. In my attempt, I did discover a few interesting things to eat and learned a bit more about myself. So, as long as I'm learning from failure, I'm happy to keep failing.

My DIY projects went fine, though I should have done more of them. I made a bunch of beer flights for my brother's brewpub and those were fun. This past week, I finally started learning how to do finger joints in wood, which is cool. When I didn't have a specific project in mind, I did just glue up some boards together so that I'd have them available if needed. And I set up my cousin's sewing machine for a special project that I'm working on. I'll be working on that later today as well. I really enjoy making stuff, so I need to just do it more. I've cut back on a lot of the youtube videos I watch and now I just need to start doing more of my own projects. I did buy a welder and set it up in my garage. I tried welding once and it didn't go so well. I need to put some regular practice time in on it and I think I'd get better at it. Though the thermometer in my garage shows it's 20 degrees F in there, so this will probably wait until spring.

I didn't read that much over the year, but as the weather got colder, I did stay inside and read a few more books. That's good. I tended to stick with non-fiction because that's what I like. And a few books were about gardening, which is quickly becoming a new obsession. So much so that I even took some cuttings of my Mom's gardenia plant to see if I can get them growing here. Not sure if it will work, but it doesn't cost much to give it a try.

Let's see I also was going to work on my book. That didn't happen. Though I did sign up for a class about learning how to write a book and sell it. As of right now, I basically wasted that money. I wanted to tune my tools. Didn't do that, but I know I am getting more comfortable with them. Watch my language...I haven't really kept track, but my guess is I'm still swearing up a storm and there's really no reason I should be.

This year I did get a free drill press from Mick. And I bought myself a new bike that I'm really liking. Financially, I did pretty good. I didn't save as much as last year, because I did have two pretty big purchases. As mentioned, I took the class on writing/publishing a book which cost around $1800. And I also bought myself this new laptop that I'm working on. That was a little more than $2000. The laptop was a good investment because my old one was over five years old. And I use this laptop on a daily basis, both at work and at home. My savings for this year was around 36%. Last year I did better at 46%, but that's ok.

One thing that I think I've finally fully embraced is to "trust the process". You can set goals, but it's the day-to-day habits that will get you there. I had refinanced my house four years ago and I just checked that I'm right on schedule to have it all paid off in four more years. I told myself that I would pay a consistent extra amount each month and I've been doing that. So my process is working. I'm not financially independent yet, but I'm getting there. I joined the park fitness center a little over a month ago and I'm trying to get myself in the habit of going 2-3 times per week to lift weights. I think if I just follow this process, my strength and flexibility will improve. And if I'm lucky, perhaps I'll lose a little weight in the process. On that note, today I weigh about two pounds more than I did at the start of the year. That's nothing to beat myself up about.

One interesting thing this year was I had a small bout of depression in the fall. For part of October and November, I just didn't feel like myself. It was very odd. However, I could tell what was happening and I just kept telling myself that it would pass eventually, which it did. It took a bit longer than I thought to break out of it, but that's ok. I joined the gym soon after that because I think staying active is a very good way to combat depression. And especially in winter, I tend to be a hermit, so I want to keep myself going out.

Another new thing I decided to to this year was to try volunteering again. There's a literacy center about four blocks away and I signed up as a tutor. I'm helping an older Mexican woman learn english. I don't know that I'll be able to help her much, but I'm going to give it a try. I had to volunteer for four months, so we'll see if this works out.

I did do some travel this year. I flew down to Arizona to hang out with my friend Ellen which was fun. And Mom and I drove to Florida to spend a week with Mary and Mickey at their place there. If I count the trip to LA in November 2016, my last three trips have been south. They were all fun, but I reinforced the idea in my mind that I'm a city girl. My favorite places were when I was in bigger cities. I might like to go back to Savannah because Mom and I spent one night there on the drive back from Florida. It seemed like a neat town.

I still ride my bike a lot, but I didn't ride very much this year. My total for the year was 1082 miles vs. 1720 miles last year. I will note that this year, I didn't turn on my cyclemeter app for every little ride to the grocery store or library. And I'm very good about riding to places in my neighborhood. But I should have biked to work more. I'll try to improve that next year. As for driving, I think the odometer was around 44,800 miles. (John and Ted have the car right now, so there will be a few more miles put on it.) But roughly, that means that I drove around 10,400 miles for the year, which is almost exactly what I drove last year. Since I didn't take any major driving trips, I think the bulk of those miles were from driving to work. So I can get that down next year for sure.

I didn't work on the house at all. And I'm not planning on doing any work until John and Ted move their stuff out. I did find out this year that I have lead in my water. The city replaced the water main in the street and were looking for people who would let them check the water before the change and then after. I signed up and that's when I found out I have lead. After a bunch of testing, it was determined that the lead is only a problem when it sits in the lead water line coming into my house for a long time (like overnight or after I'm at work). The quick solution is to run it for 10-15 minutes and then fill up a bunch of gallons of water to keep in the frig. The longer term solution is to replace the lead line to my house. I've heard this could cost around $12k. So my next immediate house plan is to save up that money so that I can get that line replaced. If I'm lucky, I'll have the money to do that next summer.

I think that's about it for the year. 2017 was an ok year. Pretty quiet in fact. No major issues. I'll think about it for today and tomorrow will post some things that I'd like to do in 2018. Since that's the year I'll turn 50, I feel like I should try to do something special.

Year is Half Over

That was quick. 2017 is already halfway over. Thought I'd take a minute to see how the year is progressing so far.

I started the year off great with my no sugar habit. But then I went on vacation at the end of April and sort of fell off the wagon for May and June. My intention was to start July better, but that hasn't happened. The good thing though is that I am getting better about not totally overindulging when I have a little bit of sugar. I just put the black face on the calendar and try to get back to eating right. And my new mantra is "I'll try again tomorrow". No use beating myself up over it.

My DIY projects have been going pretty well. I've made a number of things. Beer flight paddles for my brother's brew pub. They're working really well and he just asked me for 7-10 more. So I'll have to get on that. I made some small planters for my mom out of old boards in the basement. And I made a huge planter for my mom out of some old doors I found. I've gotten the welder all set up, though I haven't actually used it yet. Though that's more of a problem of finding space in my garage. For safety, I only want to weld outside or in the garage...not in the house.

I had emptied the back of my upstairs to start gutting it. That hasn't happened. In fact, I moved a twin bed up there because my brother and his husband moved all their stuff to my house because they're going to Shanghai for the year. And since I hurt my back about 10 days ago, I've been sleeping on this twin bed because it's harder than my own bed. So while I have great intentions for working on the house, nothing has been done.

The garden is looking pretty good. And I bought a ton of herbs. A new goal that I have is to try to learn how to cook well. I think I might need to use the herbs. Someday, I'd like to invite people over to my house for a dinner party and be able to cook for them. Shoot, I'd even like to be able to cook myself some decent meals. I have absolutely no confidence in my cooking skills at this time.

So far this year I have already bought myself a new bike. That was an excellent purchase and I like it a lot. Granted, I also got hit by a car for the first time ever. Fortunately, both me and my bike were fine, so I can keep riding. So I now fully understand the whole "you have to get back on the horse that threw you" mentality. I won't say that it didn't affect me, as I do tend to tense up when there are more cars around. But I do still ride. I also got a drill press. And it didn't cost me anything. Mickey gave it to me. I haven't yet used it because it didn't come with a key and I couldn't find mine. But I'm sure I'll use it soon.

So far the year is going well. My sister is getting married in two weeks, so I'm very happy for her. My brother and his husband are embarking on an adventure in Shanghai, so I'm happy for them. I still like my job and can take care of myself, so I'm happy for me.

2016 Year in Review

2016 was a year of extremes for me. It didn't start off great with the passing of my Aunt Lu, who was one of my favorite people. However, it also included my brother's wedding which was the nicest wedding I've ever attended. Like most years it had good and bad parts.

I very much believe that you can't change things you don't measure. So I tend to track a lot of what I do throughout the year. Let's see how well I did this year.

Calendar - I had intended to track four things on it, biking, working out, eating healthy and driving. I can tell you now, that was a ridiculous idea. Tracking healthy eating was dropped first because it was just too much of a pain to do. And working out was dropped soon after that. Tracking bike and driving were the only two I did because they took about one second each. Calendar tracking works best when it's a simple yes/no answer and that you don't have to think too long about this answer. Healthy eating was dropped because I had to think about each meal and if I ate ok at each. Working out was dropped because I would consider whether or not my bike ride was an actual workout. That was just too much thinking for me. The bike and car were easy. Did I bike or did I drive? Yes or no and mark the calendar. So that's all I ended up tracking. I've also learned that I should really only track a single thing. I'll take that into account next year.

Bike and Car - Looking at my Cyclemeter stats, I found that I biked 1,720 miles last year. That's good, but quite a bit less than I did in 2015 (2,252 miles). Here's the breakdown, month-by-month:

Bike Drive
January 18 days 14 days
February 6 days 22 days
March 17 days 18 days
April (thank you 30 Days of Biking) 30 days 14 days
May 25 days 16 days
June 23 days 14 days
July 14 days 14 days
August 22 days 14 days
September 17 days 18 days
October 12 days 20 days
November 7 days 25 days
December 4 days 25 days

I did ok during the summer months, but was a giant wuss when the weather got a little unpleasant. I really have no excuse for that. Clearly, I haven't taken "Frostbike" to heart and celebrated winter. I need to dig out my winter riding clothes and try to make up for that in January.

I just checked the odometer on my car and it reads 44,416 miles. At the end of last year, my odometer was 33,788 miles, so I drove 10,628 miles for the year. I'm actually quite pleased with that. That seems reasonable to me. If I biked a bit more to work, I think I could get that down under 10,000 miles for the year.

Overall, I'm happy with my biking and driving amounts. I don't think I do too much unnecessary driving (though I am being lazy about going to work in the cold) and I do usually grab my bike for short trips to the grocery store or library. I think that tracking this information over the past couple of years has changed my behavior and I don't think I need to monitor it so much now. I'll still use Cyclemeter on my phone to track my longer rides so I get an overall mileage count for the year, but I'm not going to worry about short trips or how many days I drive. Now that I have a target for my car mileage, I should be ok.

Health - I went to the doctor last January because my knee was really sore. My doc sent me to therapy for about eight weeks. That was great and it helped a lot. My knee is much better though not great yet. After I quit going to therapy, I got very lazy about doing all the stretching exercises. I need to come up with a way to make myself accountable without having a therapist to see. It would also definitely help my knee if I lost some weight. I have been weighing myself every morning as soon as I get up since 2011. I know many people say you shouldn't do this, but I think it's a good idea, as long as you don't judge yourself on the number. My weight does fluctuate a lot and while some of it depends on what I've eaten, it can also move based on how late I ate dinner the previous night. Looking at my weight from January 1st until today, I see I've lost 4 lbs over the year. That's going in the right direction, but it should be better. Below is a graph of my weight over the year. Earlier this month, I actually hit my low of the year. Interestingly, I quit eating sugar around the end of October and kept it up until Thanksgiving. I think that's reflected in the downward slope of the line during that time. Anyway, I'm happy with the overall result, but I know I can do much better.

Build Up Savings - Here's my one great success over the year. I use a program called Banktivity for my checking account and they have a summary page that compares your current savings rate with your previous year. This was great and very motivational. Here's how it looks today.

I'm quite pleased with that. I'm also pleased because I don't think that I was a freeloader in any way. I think I was generous with my family members and made all my usual donations to charity. I just didn't do much frivolous spending. My largest category of expense this year was cash, which is probably something I should be tracking better. But the second one was my property taxes, which sounds about right to me.

In December 2014, I opened an account with Betterment to try to save $10,000 as an emergency fund. I'm happy to note that as of Tuesday when my transfer goes in, I'll have reached my goal. Yay! I'm much more prepared now if I need another emergency roof. đŸ˜‰

Travel - I think I did pretty well this year. I went to Nashville with friends for the Tour de Nash in May. I went to Vancouver and Washington state for my brother's wedding in July. Took a quick trip to Pittsburgh for Pedal PGH in August. I visited some cousins in LA with my Mom and brother in November. And took a quick trip to Toronto to visit a friend in December. Aside from LA and Toronto, I biked around all those places, so I also met my goal of exploring by bike. (Though I didn't get to Montréal which bums me out a little.)

Failures
House - I didn't do much work on the house, except finish up the trim in my kitchen. I actually laughed out loud when I saw that my intention was to have a room upstairs done. Not only did I not do anything up there, I actually moved my bedroom up there, using it as is.
Welding - Nothing. Priced some welders, but didn't do anything.
Map game - Didn't even think about it.
Volunteering - I went to Working Bikes for a couple of months, but then stopped. It was fun, but I didn't like that I always drove there. I gave them a donation yesterday because I do think they're a great organization.
Book - I've thought about this a lot and even sort of started doing an outline. But it's so little that I don't think it should count.
Get out of the house more - I'm pretty much still a homebody.

That's it. I'm writing this early in the morning on the 31st, so I could possibly still go for a bike ride today or drive my car. A good friend just got out of the hospital, so I may go and see him. If that's the case, I'll have to update this post a little. But for the most part, I think this is a pretty good summary of my year. I'm happy to say that I can still say "Life is good". Here's to 2017 being even better!

Things I’ve Learned About Myself This Year

Since I usually wrap my year up on the 31st and make my plans for the coming year on the 1st, I've been thinking about this past year. Know Thyself is a common saying, so I think I should take a somewhat critical look at me. So what have I discovered about myself this year?

1. Sugar has an effect on me and not in a good way. I know there's a lot of anecdotal evidence around about sugar and I usually don't give much credence to that. And all I'm really adding is more anecdotal evidence, so I don't expect anyone else to take this as complete truth. However, I have definitely noticed some good things when I worked to avoid sugar for about a month and a half and I noticed some bad things when I started eating it again around Christmas. I basically decided to avoid it because I heard that it causes inflammation in joints. My knee, which was giving me a lot of grief about a year ago, is better, but every so often seemed to swell up for no real reason. So after quitting sugar for a short time, when I went back, I actually felt my knee throbbing when I hadn't done anything. I know, just an anecdote. After about a month without sugar, I went to the dentist and all was ok. In fact, my dentist said my gums looked better than they had in a long time and asked if I started doing something new. I didn't even think about the lack of sugar. And then in preparation of Christmas, I ate a bunch of things that had sugar. On Christmas Eve and for the next couple of days, I had a tooth that was killing me. After I quit sugar again, it felt better. Then to see if I wasn't imagining it, I ate a big piece of candy and sure enough, the tooth started to hurt again. Not as bad as the first time, but I also didn't eat as much sugar. So, yes, I realize that these could all be coincidences, but I don't think so.

2. My arms are seriously weak. I can't really do a decent pushup and even pushups on an incline are pretty difficult. I think that a really good workout for me is just doing pushups (what I can), squats, lunges and planks. Basically, exercises that just use my body weight.

3. I am having a really hard time sitting around watching tv shows. I don't know why, but it's rare that a show holds my interest. The only times I watch shows on tv are when I'm exhausted. And then, if I do watch a bunch of tv shows, I just feel gross for being such a slug. Interestingly though, I still do enjoy watching sports on tv. Go figure.

4. I have a tendency to do things by myself. Not necessarily because I want to do them by myself, but because I assume that no one else wants to do them. I've been told by a number of people quite close to me that I'm not fun. Guessing because I've enjoyed doing things like installing a sink in a bathroom, building things with wood or riding my bike. Based on reactions I've had from people when I mention this, I know that these are not necessarily popular activities. Related to this is the fact that in a group, you usually have to compromise. I've always taken that to be that we're going to do whatever the loudest person in the group wants and that was usually not me. (Five siblings, go figure.) So in order to do what I enjoy, I just usually do things by myself.

5. I love my basement. It's unfinished and a mess, but sometimes to relax I just go down there and breathe in the basement air. I find it incredibly calming, though I have no idea why.

6. I am not an animal person, never have been. I've recently looked at all of my friends growing up and just realized that they ALL had pets. Clearly, there is something wrong with me. (Either for not liking pets or for always hanging out with pet-lovers.)

That's basically it for now. Tomorrow I'll look at my plans for this year and see how things turned out.

Been A While

My summer has been pretty crazy with a big work conference that is finally over. My life is now my own again. Yay! I've been very behind in doing my monthly checking, but that's ok. The good news is that I don't have to go back to work for over a week. So I'm trying to do a bunch of projects around the house.

First up, I've never posted my video I made of the bookshelf that I made for a friend of mine's birthday. It's below.

That was a lot of fun to do and I want to do more woodworking. One thing though is that I broke my planer. It no longer will plane the really skinny pieces of lathe that I want to glue together. The thinnest I can plane a board is around 1". I think this is because the belt broke and when I fixed it, I must have broken something else. I ended up buying a new planer. It's a less expensive one, which is fine. I'm really just using it to clean up old, dirty wood. I have yet to set it up, so that will probably be one of my projects this week.

It's harvest time in my garden. I've already gotten boatloads of tomatoes. I've given a bunch to my brother and just took a bag full to my Mom today. So I need to research how to make tomato sauce that I can freeze because there's no way I could eat all of these before they go bad. Since the garden worked so well this year, I'll probably make another little area next year. Think I'd like to try to grow lettuce and spinach.

If I'm going to make xmas gifts for people this year, I need to start. And while I like the idea of making bookshelves for people, I don't want to give people a big piece of furniture. That seems a bit much. Anyway, I'm back to working with paper again. I've found some great youtube videos of how to make different types of books and bindings. That looks like fun, so I'll see if I can come up with something cool.

Though, I would still like to make some stuff out of wood because I finally got my brand. I did have a little bit of time to do something fun last month and I designed a brand for myself. I then sent it to Shapeways to get made in stainless steel. It just arrived the other day. I'm quite happy with it.

brand

Now I need to put a handle on it so I can heat it up and put my brand on things. I bought a threaded rod and a tap and die set today. Hopefully, I can drill a hole and put threads in it. Another project for this week. But once that's done, I should be able to brand just about anything.

May Check-In

May was a good month. I biked on 25 days and drove on 16. Four of the driving days included a trip to Nashville, which was fun. I did the Tour de Nash, which was my introduction to NashVegas Nashville. Also had my longest ride, when I did 40 miles on Bike the Drive, including the ride to the drive. I biked 312 miles for the month, which made it a very good month. As for driving, my odometer reads 37599, which means I drove my car for 621 miles in the month. But I took my Mom's car to Nashville, so I have to add the 1068 miles for that trip. So my total in the car was 1689. That's quite a lot, but it was worth it for the trip.

Finances were ok. I did spend a bit more on some things. I bought a little handheld router that I like a lot, but didn't really need. I also happened to crack three teeth, which led to a dentist bill of over $1000. Hopefully, I'll get some of that back from insurance, but I know it won't be much. And I replaced a laptop in a program at work that was stolen on my watch. I'll be trying to keep the spending down in June because my big vacation is in July and I'll definitely be spending some money there.

Made my first attempt at some curtains for my bedroom. I'd call them a failure because they really don't fit the window and they don't look like what I was trying to make. However, this was my first real project with my new (to me) sewing machine. And it worked really well for me. So I'm happy about that. I also have a better idea of how to make them, so I'll try again with a different material.

For the first time ever, I've planted a garden in my backyard. I should say I dug up some sod in my backyard and Ted planted a garden. But I built the box for the raised bed. And I built the chicken wire fence around it. So it was a team effort. Hopefully, I'll get some tomatoes and peppers later this year.

April in Review

Since the weather today is very rainy, I know I'm not going anywhere. Figured I'd take a look at April.

Odometer reading: 36978, which means I drove 256 miles for the month. According to my calendar, the car came out of the garage 14 days. I'm quite pleased with that. April is also 30 Days of Biking and I successfully rode every day in April. I remember doing one long ride of around 23 miles, but for the most part my rides were just going to work, which is six miles each way. My total for the month was 281 miles, bringing my total for the year to 607 miles. That's all really good.

Financially speaking, I did really well. I had the weird opportunity to have my house used for a tv show. It ended up not happening, but since I signed a contract I was paid. So that was a nice extra chunk of money. I've already saved it to help cover the cost of any hotels I get this summer and to build back up my emergency fund.

Health-wise, things are ok. The knee feels pretty good and I'm pretty sure that all the biking is helping. I've slacked off a bit on the stretching since I'm no longer going to therapy and I need to get back into that. But I've been doing tons of woodworking and other projects where I'm standing and moving around a lot, so I know it's much, much better. I should have gone to therapy months ago, but better late than never. I think next month will be when I start jogging again. The weather should (hopefully) be a little warmer and I can ease my way into it. Though, I want to continue to bike a lot because it just makes me happy.

I've started reading a book (Cinder) with Abby on FaceTime and it's pretty good. I've been reading more overall, which is making me happy. My basement is a mess of wood, but I'm pleased because I'm making progress on some different projects. I've been watching tons of youtube videos of woodworking channels and have lots of ideas. Now I just need to start trying things to improve my skills. I'm also getting very good at completely disconnecting from work. When I close up my laptop to leave, I've been turning off my mail program and not turning it back on until I return the next day. This causes me to have a little anxiety on Sunday nights when I don't know what kind of mess I'll be walking into on Monday. But aside from that, it's good. I want to start thinking of my life outside of work and all the other things that I want to do.

I recently read a great blog post from Derek Sivers about possible futures. I love the idea of doing research on ideas that come into your head and keeping them on my computer. I may never do anything with them, but since they're something I think about it's good to write them down. Think I'm going to start doing that.

January Check-In

Normally, I only review my entire year to see how I did, but I thought I'd maybe check in at the end of each month. I may not do this again until the end of the year, but I had some time so let's take a look at how the year is going so far.

We've had a very, very mild winter this year (so far) and I think I've taken good advantage of it. This month, I've biked 139 miles which is a total that I'm pleased with. Sure there were a few days where I drove to work that I could have biked, but that's ok. Thanks to my smiley face calendar, I know that I've biked 19 days out of the month. I've driven my car on 14 days of the month. (Total mileage driven 34283-33788 = 495 miles.) On most days, I usually only use one or the other, but there were four days where I took out my bike and drove my car on the same day. Anyway, transportation-wise, I'm happy with how the month went.

I did finally get in to see a doctor about my knee and the good news is that she doesn't think I tore anything. She sent me to a physical therapist that I finally got to see last week. Her diagnosis is that my glutes are pretty weak. My friend Shadla now says that I have arse-thritis, which is pretty funny. Anyway, I have exercises to strengthen my glutes and to try to stretch my quads, which is something else she said I should do. I've only been doing them for a few days and haven't really noticed any difference, but I think it's far too early to make a judgement. Aside from the exercises, I'm avoiding squatting per my therapist and trying to take things easy on the knee.

My workouts have been pretty non-existent as all my focus is working on my knee. So that's one part of my month that hasn't gone as well as I'd have liked. Though I'm trying not to give myself too hard of a time about it. The other part of my month that I thought was going well was healthy eating. I really haven't eaten any candy until the birthday party yesterday when I had a handful of M&Ms. I had been pretty good about strictly eating three meals or if I did eat something between meals of skipping dinner. But since my weight has only gone down two pounds, it's not working as well as I had hoped. Since I'm not working out much, I need to be even more diligent about what I eat. I'll have to focus on that for February.

Those were the big things. For the rest of my resolutions, I think I'm doing fine. I didn't spend too much money on dumb things. Since gas is so cheap, I've spent less than $50 on the car this month. I did sign up for three bike rides (Tour de Troit, Tour de Lou and Bike The Drive), so entertainment was one of my bigger expenditures. I paid my property taxes, which is nice to get out of the way, as that's my largest bill around this time of year. I also decided to pay another extra $200 on my mortgage each month as a gift to my future self. If I keep on track, the place should be paid off in about five years. We'll see if I have the upstairs done by then. My guess is no, since I have yet to start on it. However, I did take a woodworking class yesterday which was pretty good. It was all about the different types of joints you can make. I think this will come in handy later.

2015 Year in Review

I'm trying to come up with a one-word summary for 2015 and am having some problems. All that pops into my mind is ok, which is sort of a lousy word to sum up a year. Perhaps acceptable would be better? Anyway, there's no need to dwell on a one-word summary. Let me look at things in a bit more detail.

  • House - Personally, I didn't do any work at all. There are still a few little things to do after finishing the kitchen last year and I didn't even think about doing them. The big (and expensive) news about the house was the new roof that I had put on in September. I knew I needed a new roof for a while. It became a much bigger deal over the summer when lots of leaks showed up. That was a ~$15k bill that I wasn't expecting, which was a bit of a hit to my finances.
  • Travel - Spent nine days in NYC with my bike, which was great. My friend Ellen came out for a visit over the summer and we took a road trip to Toronto, which was a lot of fun. And hit Detroit with Shadla and Garin for the Tour de Troit, which was cool. Didn't travel as much as in 2014, but that's ok. I probably spent as much as I did in 2014 though, as NYC was pretty expensive.
  • Work - I think this was the biggest drag on my year. I made a gigantic error at work that still makes me angry with myself when I think about it. I'm trying to forgive and forget, but it's one of those things that was just so stupid and preventable. Oh well. No one is perfect.
  • Health - I'm not entirely pleased with myself either here. I did bike a ton (more on that later), but I wasn't good about what I ate and I've screwed up my knee. Both of these were things that I had intended to improve on, but didn't.
  • Biking - This was my one bright spot of the year. In fact, I would say that 2015 was the year that I went from a person who just liked to ride her bike to one of those crazy people who think that the world would be exceptional if everyone biked more and drove less. After riding for a while, I decided that I wanted to ride at least 2,000 miles for the year. I hit that at the end of October and then decided to not look at my biking total until now. So my total for the year is (drumroll please)... 2252 miles!
    IMG_4513

Those are the general highlights off the top of my head. Let's take a look now at the resolutions that I made at the start of the year to see how I did.

  • Dining room table - Nope, didn't do it. Used Janet's plastic tables for parties again. The good news is that I gave them back to her, so I have to do something for next year.
  • Welding - Thought about it and even picked out the welder I'm going to buy. But I didn't want to spend the money.
  • Back porch - Nope, it's still a mess
  • Being active - Pretty much all I did was bike, which wasn't bad, but I should have done more varied things.
  • Health - Failed, already covered above.
  • Travel - Ok
  • Build stuff - I didn't make anything as cool as the press, but I did make myself a nice new big workbench. I also made some xmas gifts out of old wood for the cousins. I had to repair my planer a few times, so that was sort of fun. I also bought a table saw which I used quite a bit, though I'm still nervous when I use it.
  • Make a dent in the mortgage - I stuck to the plan and paid an extra $300/month. Think I'm still on schedule to pay it off in seven years, though I wish it were about half of that.
  • Hang out more with my friends - I always have room for improvement with this. Though if I didn't always see them physically, I am getting better about staying in touch.
  • Volunteer - Failed. I tried going to Open Books, but didn't enjoy it and was too lazy to try someplace else.
  • Drive less - SUCCESS! - This was without question my greatest success of the year. I will now take down my calendar and count. Here are my totals:
    Month Number of Days Drove Number of Days Didn't Use Car
    January 21 10
    February 16 12
    March 21 10
    April 13 17
    May 8 23
    June 18 12
    July 19 12
    August 16 15
    September 12 18
    October 14 17
    November 17 13
    December 19 12
    Total 194 171

    I am very pleased with this result. I don't think that I was a jerk about this, in that I did drive if it would help someone out or to do something for fun. I just tried to be conscious of when I took the car out and thought first if I could accomplish the trip by bike. And I have to say, using the calendar helped. Marking a smiley face always made me happy. I may have to start using a calendar for other habits I want to form.

    My calendar for May, my best month.
    IMG_4514

I guess the last thing to touch on would be finances. The aforementioned new roof and trip to NYC took a really big chunk of money. Though, the good news is that I can definitely say that biking more helped out with my finances. On auto-related expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.), I paid $4,462.97 in 2014. I know the price of gas was less in 2015 (but not that much less). On all those same things, in 2015, I only paid $2,743.37. So I like to think that I basically paid for my entire trip to NYC by biking more throughout the year.

Overall, not including my mortgage payments, my overall expenses for the year were $44928.81. If I also take out the home improvements, which is basically just the cost of the new roof (since that shouldn't be yearly expense), my expenses for the year were $26182.46. I've been in the $25-30k range for the past few years, so that looks good to me. I'm sure I could cut back on a few more things to reduce it more, but since I don't have to, I'm not going to worry about it.

Guess that's it for 2015. Not great, not bad...an acceptable year. Tomorrow, I'll lay out what I want to do in 2016.

A Closer Look at Finances

As part of my year in review and upcoming year plans, I like to take a hard look at my finances and see how things are going. This year, instead of just looking at the past year, I've decided to take a look at the past decade...really the past eight years or so. Why? Because that's when I started doing all my finances on my computer and they're all in my banking software. And, of late, I've discovered the Mr. Money Mustache blog that does a really good job of talking about the way I've been trying to live my life.

Taking all of my expenses for the year (ok, this doesn't include healthcare costs, as those come right out of my check) and subtracting my mortgage payments, here's how much I've needed to live on for the past eight years.

Year Expenses without Mortgage Expenses without Home Improvements
2006 14758.62 11145.04
2007 23417.55 17282.21
2008 24437.47 14411.74
2009 22245.53 12488.99
2010 24938.70 21930.70
2011 55785.85 23539.54
2012 36500.09 30189.24
2013 29928.15 27711.05
2014 36057.79 25966.04

A couple of things to note. The end of November 2005 is when I bought the house that I'm currently living in. It was built in 1888 and I knew it needed a lot of work going in. The biggest year for the house expense-wise was 2011. That was when I hired a contractor to do a lot of the work that I could not really do myself. That is also an expense that will never be repeated. And this past year, was all of my own spending on my kitchen. By doing it myself, including a fun drywalling day, my entire kitchen remodel cost $10,000. To me, that was an excellent investment in my house. Also, my expenses in these years includes some extra payments to my mortgage. It was too much of a pain to take these all out, so the expenses might even be a little less (maybe ~$1000-$1500) than shown there.

The real reason that I wanted to do this exercise though was to find out approximately what my yearly expenses are. The point of the Mr. Money Mustache blog is basically to show that you can retire much earlier than you think by investing wisely and controlling your expenses. For most of my life I've been a saver, but I wish I would have known the ideas in the blog when I was younger. It would have set it better in my mind why I'm actually saving all this money.

Anyway, the good news is that my expenses are somewhat consistent and really not that bad. A big part of the expenses for 2013 and part of 2014 was my new car. (And a big chunk of 2012 was taking care of an old car.) Since I'm hoping this car will last me for a very long time, those expenses should go down a bit. So I guess I could say that in retirement, I'd need $20,000 per year to live as I am now. I could probably get that down a bit by making some cuts to my everyday expenses. But I'm already doing pretty well in not wasting money. I'd probably shoot for more like $30-40K per year in retirement just to have a good factor of safety. But overall, I think I'm in a pretty good position.

My next objective will be to figure out how to get that $30-40k per year without a full-time job. Fortunately, I have a good job that I love. But having this money set up means that I could retire any time and pretty much be set. While I don't anticipate that happening, I do like the peace of mind that it gives me.