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Saturday, December 30

My Frugal Miser - How I Fared on my 2017 Goals

For 2017 I set three goals to accomplish:  simplify my life, reduce debt to $150,000, and spend less on vacations and entertainment than in prior years.  Today we will take a look at how I did.
  • Simplify
My primary concern this time last year was with the complexity of my finances.  Surprisingly, I found that switching to manual updates in Quicken has made a huge difference.  Seems ironic, doesn't it?  Because I manually record all my bank, credit card and investment transactions, I feel I have a better grip on where I spend money and how I am doing financially.  I also tend to concentrate my spending to one or two credit cards because it is easier to reconcile transactions.  

I'm still using Quicken to manage my money, but I'm also thinking about "starting over" with a new version and not transferring data.  A fresh start would allow me to clean out all the junk in the old database.  

I also wanted to be more loyal to fewer companies.  If I only stay at a couple of hotel brands I could earn better status and more points.  I've been doing this with my credit card accounts for several months.  We also concentrated our hotel stays to two major brands in 2017.

The other major area I am always working on is reducing my material possessions.  We've done a great job of this.  We eliminated a table and chairs, several odds and ends stored in the carport, and culled a lot of things from the house.  This will continue.
  • Debt:  Reduce outstanding debt to less than $150,000.
At the end of 2016 I owed $221,000 to various creditors.  I am closing out 2017 with about $163,000 in debt, a $58,000 reduction from one year ago.  In 2016 I only reduced outstanding debt by $40,000, so I made good progress.  But, I failed to bring it down to $150,000.  The main reason for this is because I spent nearly $20,000 on home renovations, including gutting both bathrooms.
  • Spending:  Spend less on vacations and entertainment.
We love to travel, but can we be smarter with our travel budget?  Here's how our vacation and entertainment spending has been for the last four years:

2014:  $9,664
2015:  $11,207
2016:  $16,822
2017:  $7,256

Mission Accomplished!  This wasn't by chance, and we don't feel like we sacrificed this year.  In 2017, we spent nearly two weeks in Iceland, Amsterdam and London.  I relied on AirBnB and loyalty points to keep our expenses down.  We spent a week in Belize, but used airline points for the flights and stayed in an inexpensive AirBnB.  We visited Las Vegas three times and took two cruises, but instead of gambling the whole time, we did inexpensive excursions and side trips.  When I did gamble, Lady Luck was with me, as I had a net win for the year.

Overall, I'm really happy with the progress I made in 2017 on each of my three goals.  Even better, the quality of life has improved even as we cut back on some spending.

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