Closing The (Budget) Books On 2020

We are at that time of year where I implore my husband to defer any spending until January 1 so that I can close out our 2020 budget worksheet and send him our final numbers for analysis. His super power is managing our investments and ensuring funds arrive in the checking account when needed, while mine is managing our budget. It's a good partnership.

We started off 2020 with a six week cruise around S. America, departing from Santiago, Chile in late January, and ending in Fort Lauderdale in early March. The world changed completely during our cruise, so our disembarkation on March 7 was surreal to say the least. As we flew home, we really had no clue as to what would unfold the remainder of 2020, and it was actually probably a good thing in hindsight. The adjustment, as I documented here, was hard.

From a budgeting standpoint, our monthly spend dropped to new lows in March, April and May, as we entered a hard Stay At Home directive here in California pretty much immediately upon our return home. With no real comprehension as to how COVID was spreading, our only spending was to pay our insurance and utility bills, plus shop for groceries. Beginning in June, however, with the rolling back of California's Stay At Home orders, our budget spend began to increase month over month, returning to pretty close to normal by October. Interesting to me, however, is that where the spending occurred did change as a result of COVID, and I am guessing these shifts will hold true through most of 2021 as well.

What Changed:

Charitable  We increased this line by about 20% as a result of our ongoing involvement in a local food pantry. Food insecurity is real here in America, sadly, and COVID has brought new transparency to just how many are affected. As a result, we added two local food banks to the list of charities we were already making regular donations too.

Entertainment  This line dropped precipitously, by approximately 66%, as everything shut down, and a multitude of pre-paid subscriptions and events we had tickets for were cancelled. Everything from our Pacific Symphony pops concert subscription, to our summer tradition of attending Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters, to our wine society monthly events. Instead, we ended up joining two local wineries over the summer, simply to have a place to go and sit outside, and in the case of one winery, listen to live music and enjoy half price outdoor dining. We also picked up a Zoom subscription at $14.99 monthly, which we continue to utilize on a frequent basis. 

Home Items  This covers everything from placemats to mattresses here in the house, and we ended the year up 20% over prior year. Feather nesting replaced traveling as the year went on it appears. Over the course of the year we updated our family room with new art and a refreshed fireplace, purchased new rugs and pillows for many of our living areas, updated table lamps in our bedroom and living room, and updated many of our display accessories.

Our refreshed family room continues to make me happy.

Personal Care  Due to COVID concerns, I stopped coloring my hair, plus we stretched our hair appointments out an additional two weeks. As a result, this line item dropped by 33% in spite of spending considerably more on another personal care budget item . . . i.e., the hoarding of toilet paper. 😄

Restaurants  This line dropped about 33% over the year. Gone were frequent social get togethers at new-to-us restaurants or treasured favorites, but there was a significant increase in the frequency with which we did takeout. Prior to the pandemic we rarely ordered takeout for dinner, but post pandemic we do so about once a week to both support our local restaurants and to break up the monotony of weekly cooking for me. We've also increased significantly the number of times we pick up a lunch to share as getting out of the house on a daily basis has become a priority in 2020, and we have come to sincerely enjoy a shared meal while hiking, bicycling, kayaking, or simply chilling at one of our local beaches. 

Travel  We started the year off with a bang due to our 6 week cruise, however, cancelled due to COVID was a combined pleasure/volunteer trip with Sierra Club to Mammoth Cave National Park, Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, and a 30 day trip to hike 225 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain to celebrate my husband's 65th birthday. (This one still makes me sad as while we can, and will, reschedule the hike once the pandemic subsides, we can't recreate my husband's milestone birthday, which would have been marked as the day we completed the hike and arrived in Santiago.). Instead,we managed one trip to the east coast in late October to see our youngest daughter and granddaughters, and we took an RV trip in early October to enjoy California's beautiful Central coastline. Otherwise, nothing save putting down about $700 to reserve RV sites for next summer's trip up into the Pacific NW. Total reduction for the year was therefore about 30%.

Our trip around S. America, including Patagonia here, was a dream come true for my husband,
and hopefully NOT the last cruise we are ever able to take!

What Did Not Change:

Clothing  To my surprise, I continued to clothes shop this year in spite of having very few occasions to dress up. But what I did, and which I plan to keep doing, was I shifted away from big (and oftentimes crowded) retail department stores, and shifted instead to small boutiques. So I purchased fewer items overall, but those I did purchase were individually more expensive. Notable purchases this year that continue to make me happy are two well made felt hats, one in baby blue and one in camel, two pair of cozy Ugg boots, and a wonderful pair of Hunter rain boots in black. I also picked up my husband's clothing game by purchasing him a slew of slimmer fitting pants (he looks great in clothes at a slim 6 feet!), some well made sweaters, and very cool looking moto black leather-ish jacket). Even if we aren't going anywhere but to the beach for a picnic dinner, I love seeing him dressed up.

Gifts  While gifts to friends for birthday, anniversary, and wedding celebrations was down, we made up for it by lavishing gifts on our family this year, my granddaughters in particular, likely to make up for not being able to see them as often in person. A few things I much enjoyed gifting were locally made Rainbow sandals to my youngest daughter when she was here this past summer, a new pair of Sketchers ultra soft tennies for both daughters this Christmas, and a frothy pink dress and matching tiara for my oldest granddaughter just prior to taking her to her first high tea this summer.

Groceries  This continues to be the same $100 a week that it has been since we retired in 2011. I attribute our being able to enjoy lovely meals at home without increasing our budget to an Aldi's opening up near enough to us to manage a swing through every two weeks or so. I would guest-imate the savings of shopping at Aldi's to be a conservative $20 a week, or $1040 a year, enough to not have to increase our grocery budget yet again in 2020. Plus, we rarely buy any pork or beef save bacon and Italian sausage, which I use as meal 'seasoning', and chicken is now less expensive than when I retired. Salmon is purchased only when on sale, and since we are fairly modest eaters, a single 8 oz salmon filet will serve the two of us. Additionally, many of our weekly meals are vegetarian, which tend to cost very little due to our local Sprouts produce markets. And of course, cooking from scratch means there are almost always leftovers, oftentimes for days. 

Last night's meal was this absolutely delicious and easy Butternut Squash Posole from Sunset Magazine.
Total cost for this recipe, which I halved but which still made enough for two meals, was about $1.00 per serving. 

Hobbies  We picked up golf during the pandemic, plus I purchased a guitar, so that ensured this line item got spent as normal.

How about you? How did COVID impact your 2020 budgeting?

Closing The (Budget) Books On 2020