With less than two months to go until the new year, I’m taking some time to review and assess the blur that has been 2020. Brian and I began this year with focused minds and flexible schedules, ready to explore new (to us) home challenges, travel experiences, and different investment and saving goals. Well, 2020… I’m grateful that Brian and I roll with the punches more often than not.
I began reading about the virus and its effect on China in early January. After coming across an article about a tourist in Thailand who was thought to have contracted the virus, I then learned that China began locking down to prevent the spread. I knew right then and there that this was going to be something that would cripple the rest of the world…There is NO WAY that China would shut down its own economy unless facing a serious problem.
In February, I began talking about the virus with our friends. Soon after, I had to cancel my boss’ business trip overseas. While I was already in the ‘saving mindset’ in adjusting to a new mortgage, I kicked our savings into high gear understanding that the next year was going to be an interesting one (to say the least).
Brian and I were in the midst of settling into our new house and getting the townhouse prepped for the market. We opted to paint and repair the townhouse ourselves, which resulted in outsource savings and additional profit upon selling.
We survived off jook (or congee) for months until we switched to celery soup for a more low calorie option. The pandemic kept us indoors for the most part, so our travel and entertainment costs went way down. Sure, there were certainly moments we wished we could splurge on new purchases…but, ultimately, we thought long and hard about the things we truly needed versus what we wanted. The pandemic created a whole new world.
Work from Home
Our negotiated remote schedules officially began in January 2020. Brian and I were not strangers to the concept of working from home. Ultimately, we both saved in the following areas:
- Gas expenses
- Commute times
- $200 discount in car insurance
- Decreased car insurance premiums due to mileage reduction
We kept our annual trip down to Florida on our calendar. All other travel plans were taken off the table. We DID pre-pay our Band of Brothers Tour in full with the understanding that this will be re-scheduled for 2021 with no price increase. Here’s hoping it all works out! Limited traveling meant that we:
- Did not spend money on flights, hotels, or rentals of any kind
- Received a refund from our previously booked flights to Europe for our Band of Brothers Tour
Our food costs have been kept to a minimum. Despite the fact that we are home most of the time, our grocery budget has remained consistent. With an appreciation for inexpensive bulk meals, Brian and I have embraced jook, celery soup, and cauliflower rice bowls with occasional discounted treats.
- Buy 1, Get 1 Free purchases
- Discounted meats
- Bulk meals
Paying off the townhouse’s mortgage allowed us to receive most of our sale price, less the property taxes, realtor fees, and some closing costs. Because we paid off the mortgage early, we saved on $50,000 worth of interest payments and received 57% of gross profit from the sale of the house. The original plan was to take the proceeds and apply them to savings/investments, our new home, and my brokerage account. With the way 2020 was (is?) going, we made the decision to amend as necessary.
You might recall that I alluded to the possibility of having to replace our 31-year-old AC unit soon. In fact, it was one reason why we chose to only put 10% down on our mortgage so we would have extra cash on hand just in case! We were hoping that we could get away with one or two more years before replacing, but alas, this was not meant to be! Not only did we replace our broken unit in the basement (which ran the entire home), we decided to add a second unit to the attic as a zoned system for better comfort and efficiency. It cost a swell $14,000.
Thankfully, we planned for just-in-case situations and saved extra funds. Our townhouse sold about a month after we purchased the AC. We added to our savings, moved money into my brokerage account, and are holding off on putting more money into the house. To put down the other 10% into this house to remove PMI is no longer a reasonable move considering what might be in store for us in 2021. We will monitor our situation carefully and decide what’s best!
- Increased our savings
- Invested more into personal brokerage account
- Researching additional investment options
Our utilities is the one area we have not seen a whole lot of saving. Working from home means we are using more energy. This is not something that is foreign to us, however, as we accepted and understood this as a reality in the past.
The difference post-pandemic is that we are working much, much longer hours and not traveling as we intended. What we have been able to adjust is the temperature of the home. Using our (NEW!) AC, we scheduled temperature changes to optimal levels.
Other than that, we try to remain conscious of our energy levels. No need to leave lights turned on, water running, or run electronics when not in use!
Our Overall Journey
Saving has always been on the forefront of my mind. It comes naturally to me and perhaps that’s because of my minimalist nature. Why spend money on what I don’t really need? Sometimes it goes too far, sometimes it’s just the right amount…Sometimes it drives Brian a little crazy.
I am nervous about what’s to come for 2021; things are a little hectic around the world right now. As long as I can be at peace with what is in my control, maybe that’s all that matters.
With a heavy work load and no clear plans for the new year, we’re going to keep saving what we can. Despite the fact that I voluntarily donated hours for the first few months of the pandemic, Brian and I have been conscious of our income and able to continue to save.
Though we are no longer saving what we used to, we are currently setting aside 30% of our paycheck for savings and investments. I’m grateful we are making incomes and that we have our health. I’m not sure where the next investment will take us, but that’s where research will come into play.
Are our savings where I thought they’d be at this point? No. Am I grateful we still have our savings? Yes.
How has 2020 affected your savings?