Wednesday, January 5, 2011

End of the Season

Well, here it is, January 5, and Christmas is over. Well, technically Christmas is over tomorrow, on January 6, which is Epiphany and Robert's original due date, one year ago. Funny how much I was looking forward to that date, and how little happened that day. =) But as far as Christmas presents and parties and especially spending goes, the season has wrapped. I have avoided the After-Christmas clearance sales, and we already have Robert's birthday presents (not that the poor kid needs more toys!), so we're pretty much done. Thank God. It was a bit of a spendy Christmas.

Because of our frequent lengthy traveling and the mail service being slow, I've done a lot of shopping with my Amazon Visa card this season. It's been great for giving me points, and I like that, but it's not the sort of card you want to carry a balance on. I also find that when I'm using a credit card, I'm not always quite as thoughtful with my purchases. Knowing myself, I did my very best to curb my impulses and turned down some fun bargains,  but I still wound up buying quite a bit. It was hardest, I found, to resist buying things for Robert. When toys and baby stuff were on sale, that was my catnip. Maybe Kryptonite is more accurate. I don't know that I ever really understood before now how strong the impulse is to provide your child with every good thing. The biggest thing we bought him was this Bi-Plane Airplane Rocker for his birthday (shhh, don't tell, he hasn't gotten it yet!) I scored it for 55 dollars, shipped, which was awesome considering its current price of 120 dollars.

He also got a half-dozen other presents from us, Christmas and birthday, not to mention all the gifts he got from others. Now we need to get him a toybox, badly! But he's having tons of fun, and the new bigger-boy toys are letting him showcase his creativity, which is lots of fun. Today Mimi and Papoo's birthday present is his current favorite, the Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm. He was so envious of cousin Rachee's dollhouse at Christmas that we had to get him a playset of his own. Papoo wasn't wild about the idea of getting Robert a dollhouse, so we got him the farm instead, which is entirely satisfactory. Robert's favorite trick is putting the figures in the top of the silo, then watching them slide out the bottom. Big fun! He also likes the giant cardboard blocks from Aunt Allie, and the wooden alphabet blocks from Nana and Papa (mostly as a musical instrument right now.) We've held back a few of the toys to start giving him when he gets bored with the current offerings. He can only play with so many toys each day without getting overwhelmed, after all!

Besides the presents we bought for other people and for each other, I took advantage of Christmas sales to do some home refreshing as well. We've been married six and a half years now, and a lot of our basic home accessories were wedding presents. We have many generous friends who gave us wonderful wedding gifts, but some of the things we use every day have started to get worn out. So in addition to presents, I bought things like a new stainless steel silverware service for eight (knowing we are doomed to lose at least half the forks under mysterious circumstances), a new set of pots and pans, new towels and bath sheets, new Rubbermaid containers so I can toss away all the accumulated ones that have melted edges or have lost their lids, and another year's worth of bathroom and kitchen hand soap, antibacterial gel and wipes for keychain and diaper bag. All of the things I got were at least forty and sometimes as much as seventy percent off, and they're things that will be useful for a long time, so I feel pretty good about them. It's just that those purchases made for a big outlay of money all in one month!

Now that the season is over, my focus returns to financial care and savings. I should be able to finish paying down the Amazon card this month, and after that, it's back to chipping away at the old debt, and trying to scrape together enough to rebuild the emergency fund. Last year, our tax return funded the bulk of our emergency fund, and I hope that can happen again. It was a major source of peace for me this year to know that we had something to fall back on when the money ran low, and when it did, we didn't incur new credit card debt because of it. I did find it a little vexatious that if we didn't have any savings, we could've applied for food stamps, but the emergency fund is more important to me. This year M's summer work is looking more tenuous than in previous years, so my resolution is to get as much into the emergency fund as I possibly can, against the day. The financial planning gurus suggest that you should have enough money to live on for three months in your emergency fund, so that's my starting point. Lucky(ish) for us, we don't have a very big monthly budget, so that amount isn't really out of reach. It's a good resolution, anyway!

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