Wednesday, March 3, 2021

February Reads

February was another strong reading month, although I did not read quite as much as January! Will went from being up at least 3 times a night to mostly 2 times, with the occasional 3, so I read a bit less and slept a bit more. Yay! But I still managed to read 12 books! 

Hits


The 5 books above were my favorite reads of the month. You can't go wrong with any of these 5. Everything I Never Told You was a re-read and I think I loved it even more the 2nd time around. The Push was a total page turner about a new mother who struggles to connect with her daughter and wonders if something is off. Code Name Helene was based on the true story of a woman who worked for the Resistance during WWII. I appreciated it even more when I learned how much was based on the life of the woman who inspired the book. I'm Still Here was a quick read about being racial injustice, particularly for women of color. The author is female - her parents named her Austin because they knew when she was older and applying to college/jobs, people would think she was a white male and might have a better shot at what she was applying for. What Could Be Saved was about an American family who moves to Bangkok for the husband's job and their son goes missing. When the book starts off, the sister of the missing boy receives an email saying that her brother has been found. It's been something like 30 years since he went missing, maybe more (my memory of the details is foggy). This was a total page turner for me! 

Pretty good

These books fall into the 'pretty good' category. 


Misses:

Interestingly, 2 of these 3 books - Hamnet and The Song of Achilles - are based on previously written works that I had not read. I think not having read either of the source works impacted my reading experience and I felt pretty meh about them. The same goes for The Jane Austen Society. I actually do not like Jane Austen at all - I just don't understand the hype. I've read 2 of her books and felt so meh about both of them. But I thought this book sounded cute but I'd only suggest reading it if you are a Jane Austen aficionado! 



Paul and Will's Reads:

I love this picture below of Paul cuddled up on the couch with a book my parents sent him for Valentine's Day! He loves books so much and it makes my heart so happy!


And here's Paul "reading" a book about animal tales to William. Such a sweet moment! Will was very captivated as he is quite interested in his big brother!


One discovery I made this month is that Paul has the book, "The Mitten" memorized! We received this Ukrainian book from a good friend at work and it's become one of Paul's favorite books. It shocked me when he took over the reading of it the other night and basically knew every word. These little minds can store so much information. He has memorized other books like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, but memorizing The Mitten is a step above that as there is dialogue - it's not just pictures/repetitive phrases like the other books he'd memorized! So that was a very cool discovery!

Did you read anything good this month? Do you remember memorizing books when you were little? My mom talks about how I had the book, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" memorized. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Paul is 3!

Paul turned 3 today (insert the cliche comment about how fast time flies)! Since his birthday fell on a Monday and he's at school, we decided to start the celebration on Sunday. I mean during COVID times, we need an extra dose of joy so figured a 2-day celebration was a good idea.

On Sunday morning, after Will's first nap of the day, Paul and I made his cookie cake together. Paul is very particular about desserts and does not like cake (or ice cream!) but he loves cookies so we made a giant cookie. He is a very good helper in the kitchen and it's a great way to incorporate some math as I talked about how 2 1/2 teaspoons make 1 teaspoon, etc!


He got his dino costume out while the cooking cake was baking. We have definitely gotten our money's worth for that costume!


That morning we FaceTimed with Phil's mom so she could see him open presents from her. She got her 2nd dose of the vaccination last Monday so wasn't quite fully protected enough to join the celebration. But we will see her next weekend and can't wait! 


The book was a hit, of course, but he loved these "number bot" that she got from Lakeshore Learning (local store that many teachers frequent) - the numbers all turn into robots. The set also came with plus, minus, divide and multiply signs so it's a toy we'll use for years as he learns math. 



After his nap, we FaceTimed with my parents. They are in AZ visiting my sister/meeting their newest grandchild so Paul also got to see his aunt, uncle and new cousin! He loved the gifts from my parents, which included this awesome dinosaur blanket. We'll probably use this on his bed when he converts from a crib to a big boy bed.



After dinner, we had his birthday cookie cake, which I had decorated with homemade buttercream frosting earlier in the day. I am glad I did not use much frosting as it turns out he doesn't like frosting either. I am not at all surprised as he is so picky! 


The cookie decorations are NOT GREAT. I am not good at things like this. Give me a spreadsheet or math problem over something that requires creativity! Ha! But it's the thought that counts and it tasted delicious. Paul only had about 2 bites, though. I don't know if he ate too much at dinner or was too thrown off by the shape of the dessert? Toddlers, man! But hopefully he'll eat more tonight!

Other highlights of the day included playing all the board games we own - a matching game, Hi Ho Cherry-0, My First Orchard (our favorite!) and The Hungry Caterpillar game. I am glad he's at the game playing stage as I also love playing games!

We ended the night with me doing bedtime. I had us read "On the Night You Were Born" as one of his 4 bedtime books. After he was in bed, Phil and I reminisced a bit about the night he was born. You can read all about his birth story here. It's more fun to reminisce about than it was to experience it. Ha! 

Next week I'll do a "Paul at 3" post! 

What is your birthday treat of choice? I'm also not a huge fan of cake, especially GF cake. I'd make this cookie cake again, though. My other favorite treat is French macarons!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Baby Will at 2.5 Months

With Paul, I did updates on a monthly basis but I am finding that Will is making that difficult since he does not like to be set down much during the day. He will tolerate being set down for short periods as you'll see from the likes section, but he will only sleep during the day when being held. I hoping this improves soon! He's still in that "4th trimester" phase so I'm going with the flow until he's a bit older. The other moms in my mom's group are going through the same thing with their babies so at least I'm not alone!

Here's what is going on his/our world these days!


Growth: We had his 2 month appointment last week. He weighed 11lb 4oz, which is 14th percentile and he’s 24” long, which is 96th percentile! The doctor was not surprised to see his weight percentile drop quite a bit from birth as she knows we have smaller kiddos since Paul was slower to gain weight. She was happy with his growth and developmental milestones. 

Likes: 

Being bounced. We spend so much time bouncing. Most days my FitBit thinks that I have been on the elliptical! It has gotten better in the last couple of weeks but we still spend a good amount of time bouncing when he is fussing. I easily get 10k steps/day, even when we don't leave the house. During the fussiest 6-8 week stretch I would get more than 20k in!

A particularly difficult day full of bouncing!

Burrowing into mom when napping. I don't know how this is comfortable for him but he loves to do this while napping. I promise he can breathe!


He likes to be read bright-colored books.


One place I can reliably set him down is the bouncer seat, especially if I bounce it with my foot. In this picture, Paul is giving him some love. He often wants to climb in on top of William - still working on teaching him not to smother his brother!


He likes to lay on this boppy lounger and smile/have cooing conversations with mom. It's so sweet!


He likes to lay on his activity mat and look at himself in the mirror. 



Dislikes: baths, although he doesn't scream through the whole thing like he previously did. He is starting to like dad more but he has a harder time getting him calmed down than I do. At least things are improving on that front, though! He also hates his car seat/being in the car. Paul was the same way! I know some people’s kids love the car but it seems like our kids don’t! 

Firsts:  He started to smile and coo a couple of weeks ago which is so fun! He also got his first round of vaccinations at his 2 month appointment on Friday.




Feeding: Breastfeeding continues to go well. I've started to pump after his morning feed so I can create a stash of pumped milk in the freezer. Occasionally I keep some in the fridge so Phil can give him a bottle, especially on days when I'm away at an appointment. I've heard of others whose kids refused to drink a bottle at daycare so I want to avoid that!

Sleeping: is so much better! Once he hit 2 months things really improved. He is up about twice a night usually and typically goes back to sleep easily. As I mentioned above, daytime sleep is a different story as he will not sleep laying in the swing or snoo. Hopefully this improves soon!

Mama: I was feeling ready to add in some real workouts but then my c-section pain returned a couple of weeks ago - I think from some of the vigorous bouncing I was doing. So I am working on some core exercises to see if that will help and am going to try to see a pelvic floor PT to have her assess my abs and see if ab separation is the culprit or what is going on. So for now I am sticking to walks, but the weather has made them impossible lately as it's been soooo cold lately - like highs around 0 or even colder. 

I'm halfway through my maternity leave which is crazy! It is going by pretty fast. It can be a little isolating since we don't see people indoors and outdoor walks with friends are out of the question until it warms up. But all in all, I am enjoying my leave. 

Pablo: I think the "honeymoon" phase of becoming a big brother is over and we've started to see some jealousy surface. I know this is totally normal, though, so we are both trying to spend one-on-one time with Pablo each weekend. He really loves his little brother but is still learning about 'gentle touch.' We've definitely seen some challenging behavior from Pablo but it's hard to separate whether that's related to becoming a big brother or just part of being almost 3! But all in all, he is handling the adjustment as well as can be expected!

Monday, February 8, 2021

On Turning 40

 On Saturday, I welcomed in a new decade! I vividly remember anticipating turning 30 and had a lot of big feelings about it - mostly anxiety about the fact that I wasn't married (or dating anyone) and hadn't started a family. Most of my college friends were married and had started families so I felt like the late bloomer and wondered when my biggest hopes and dreams for a companion and children would be granted. 

Luckily, my patience paid off and my prayers were answered during my 30s. I met Phil when I was 32 and we were married when I was 36 and had our babies when I was 37 and 39. I also found a job that I love when I was 34. Of course my 30s were not without their pain. I went through an unwanted relocation to Charlotte which was one of the hardest years of my life. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis months after moving to Charlotte. Phil and I both lost loved ones and dealt with a heartbreaking miscarriage in 2019. But all in all, I look back on my 30s with gratitude. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that your 30s are better than your 20s. It's not that life is any easier. Hard stuff continues to happen. But you are so much better-equipped to deal with those challenges because you know yourself better and have more perspective than you did at a younger age. 

Perhaps that is why turning 40 isn't filling me with anxiety. It helps that I have as many children as I wish to have and know that I won't ever have to be pregnant again! Hooray! And I have a wonderful partner by my side to help me weather whatever comes our way. It does boggle my mind that I'm 40, though. I remember my parents 40th birthday parties. There were black balloons and streamers and signs about being "over the hill." It's funny how turning 40 has changed since then. I haven't received any over the hill cards or comments and doubt I will. But with the longevity my generation will experience, God-willing, 40 is probably not the half-way point for me. And after all the heartache and loss our nation and world has experienced in the past year due to Covid, we should all feel nothing but gratitude to celebrate a birthday each year as the gift of aging is not guaranteed! 

For my 30th birthday, I went to Paris for a week - by myself - and had the most amazing vacation. This milestone birthday looked very different thanks to Covid and having a 2-month old. But it was still very special! Here is how I celebrated the day!

I came down on Saturday morning to my gift from Phil - a signed photograph of my "dad crush" - John Dickerson! I am a huge fan of him so Phil worked with his cousin's wife, who works at CBS News, to get a signed photo. He didn't have any headshots so an assistant took this photo especially for me! In the background are the beautiful flowers from my parents and a co-worker.


While Phil went grocery shopping and ran errands, we facetimed with my parents and then I played several games of Hi Ho Cherry-O and the Hungry Caterpillar game with Paul. I absolutely love playing games so am glad he's at the game-playing stage. I bounced Will in the bouncer while we played games and was glad he stayed content long enough to do this!


Will gave me lots of smiles throughout the day, too! He's a fun stage where he smiles and coos and is more interactive. 


Throughout the day, I receive 3 deliveries of macarons - one from my college friends, another from our realtor who is a good friend, and a box from my mom that she made! I have been enjoying them over the past several days and it turns out that Picky Paul is a big fan of the ones from Nana! 


I had a video chat with 3 girlfriends I met through Phil. I think our high was -1 so while it would have been great to see them in person, it was nice to catch up from our cozy homes. 

For dinner, we ordered Indian and I enjoyed some Prosecco after Paul was in bed while holding Will. I snapped a photo of him when we went to bed. I was definitely feeling very grateful to have a little baby to tuck into bed. Newborns are not without their challenges but I know how lucky we are to have 2 healthy little boys. 


I'm hopeful that by August when Phil turns 40, we'll be able to safely have a backyard gathering with friends, But despite not being able to do something "big" for this birthday, I had an amazing day and felt so loved as I received many phone calls, texts and facebook notes. 

I'm looking forward to the decade ahead and can't wait to see what it holds for my sweet family of 4!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

What We Read in January

My January reading was BANANAS. I read 16 books. That is NOT normal for me and would typically represent 3-4 months of reading. But most of my reading happened between the hours of 10pm and 6am. So I am hoping February features less reading and more sleep (are you listening, Will? Ha). Reading during middle of the night feeds makes them a bit more enjoyable, though! And I have no trouble going from reading on my phone to going back to sleep once I get Will settled - I'm grateful for that as I know it would be a problem for some who are more sensitive to blue light. I think I am just so exhausted, though, that blue light has nothing on that level of exhaustion!

Of my 16 books, these were my favorites:


The House in the Cerulean Sea has an element of magical realism, which I'm typically not a fan of - but I loved this book. It's a sweet story about an island of misfit orphans who have magical powers. Such a delightful and heart-warming read.

The Giver of Stars is based on the true story of the pack-horse librarian who served rural areas of Kentucky. I loved the characters so much and was so sad when the book was over.

All the Devils are Here is the latest installment in Louise Penny's inspector Gamache series. This might be my favorite of the series. It was so good. I missed the Three Pines (the town most books are set in) characters but I love that this book was set in Paris. 

Nothing to See Here surprised me. It got a lot of praise last year but I didn't think it was for me as the concept (a politicians kids spontaneously combust) seemed too weird/over-the-top. But when my best friend said it was one of her best reads of 2020, I had to check it out and am so glad I did. The writing is so great and the story grabs you from the start! 

I Am I Am I Am is about Maggie O'Farrell's essays on her 17 brushes with death. Dang this woman has 9 lives as she has been through some harrowing experiences. I especially was touched by her reflection on her miscarriage. 

This group of books were my next favorite ones - you can't go wrong with reading any of these!


And this set was the ones I liked next best. There are only 2 books on this list that really didn't work for me. 

60 Million Frenchman Can't Be Wrong was just a bit dry and read like a collection of facts. This is the "France book" I read with my friend Kyria for our 2-person France-themed book club. There was a lot of interesting information in this book. I read a lot of passages outloud to Phil (I read this book during the daytime hours because it was too dense/dry for night feeds). But it was not told in the most engaging way. 

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune was another miss for me. There was magical realism and it just didn't work for me and I had trouble feeling sympathy for the protagonist. She just felt selfish to me. 

Paul and Will's Reads:

I am working on reading more to Will but it tends to happen during the day when Paul is at school. Paul gets a little jealous if I read to Will. :( In the picture below, I'm reading "The Feelings Book" by Todd Parr. I love that author! Will also gets to hear a lot of books secondhand when we are reading to Paul so he's getting plenty of reading time, I think.

Paul continued to get more books from friends as big brother gifts. Books are really the best gift you can give a child! I don't have a picture of him reading his favorite books, though, but they are 2 books by Chris Van Dusen. This is a new author to me and we love his books! We received "If I Built a School" and "Circus Ship." Both are so good, but Circus Ship is particularly loved. I requested more books by this author from the library. They are super fun to read as they rhyme!


Paul also started to get the "High Five" Highlights magazine - my parents gifted this for Christmas. I got Highlights as a child and have such good memories of reading it! It's such a great magazine and nice to get some fun mail!

How was your month of reading? Did you read anything great that you would recommend?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Currently: January 2021

Happy Wednesday! The first month of the year is almost over. Yay! I don't like to wish time away but January can feel long and cold in the upper Midwest. We have lucked out and had really mild weather this January so we've gotten outside most days this month, but I'm never sad to see January come to an end! Here's what's going on in my life right now.

Reading: The Switch by Beth O'Leary. It's basically a book version of the movie The Holiday (one of my most favorite holiday movies!). In this book, a young woman switches places with her 79-year old recently divorced grandma. Her grandma lives in a rural area of England and the young woman lives in London. It's a romance so you know love will ensue! I continue to read at a crazy pace thanks to all of those middle-of-the-night feedings! I've already read 13 books! Crazy!

Loving: watching Will change and grow and seeing the sibling relationship develop between Will and Paul. Paul is still learning about gentle touch and not smothering your brother. Ha! Will is cooing and starting to give me some small smiles which is so fun!





Feeling: pretty good, all in all. I'm tired but that's newborn life for you. Will occasionally gives me 3+ hour stretches at night so that feels pretty darn amazing. I'm looking forward to adding some exercise back in next month but for now, walking feels great.

Thinking:
 about my return to work which is still 12 weeks away. I think/hope it will be a better experience than my experience with Paul. I really struggled with the return to work after having Paul so it helps to know that the tough stage is temporary and eventually I will struggle less. When I went back after having Paul, I questioned whether I was meant to be a working mother but around 10 months, I felt much better about working and now I can't imagine not being a working mom as I am just not cut out to be a stay at home mom and truly love my job. But I know I will likely have a tough stretch this spring/summer when I go back and will just have to push through it and strategically use vacation time, like I did with Paul.

Anticipating: the birth of my niece! My little sister is due on Valentine's Day and I can't wait to see pictures and hear about my sister's birth experience. It was awesome being pregnant with my sister as we could trade stories and complain to each other. I don't know when I will meet her little girl thanks to covid, but I'm hoping we can go visit them next spring. 

Struggling: with the inability to put Will down much during the day. He's a bit more of a needy baby than Paul was. I use the carrier quite a bit so that helps. I'm reminding myself this stage is temporary and he'll enjoy playing on the floor more and more as he gets older.

Grateful: for the mild weather we've had this month! There have been very few days when it's been too cold to go outside. I will go outside for a walk as long as the feels like temp isn't below 10-15F. I remind myself it may feel cold at first but I will quickly warm up, especially with a warm baby strapped to my body!

Working: on deleting duplicate photos on google photos. When you take pictures of kids, you end up taking sooo many to get a good one. I wasn't good about deleting duplicates in the moment so now I am going back, month by month, and deleting duplicates/screen shots/etc. I have done January 2014-2020 so far. My goal is to work on past months each month, so in February, I will tackle February 2014-2020. I also want to cull each month when it ends, so in February I will cull the photos from this January.

Listening: to podcasts, although not as many as I'd like. But I usually get through a couple on my 50 minute walks. I try to squeeze them in when I can and have used my new AirPod Pros which I treated myself to for my upcoming 40th birthday! I usually don't spend so much money on myself but I figured turning 40 was cause for a special treat. I LOVE them! I have teeny tiny ear canals, but the small bud adapter fits perfectly (they come with 3 sizes). If you listen to lots of podcasts while on the go, I highly recommend them! I got lucky and got them for $209 (regular price of $249) and we were able to use a Best Buy gift card so only paid about $35 out of pocket for them. 

Watching: so much tv! But since I have read a ton of books, I don't feel too guilty. Phil and I finished Homeland last week and now are watching The Queen's Gambit. It makes me wish I knew how to play chess! On my own, I'm burning through seasons of The Great British Baking Show which is so delightful and makes me want to bake alllll the things!

Wishing:
and hoping that my parents will be able to get a vaccine soon. They applied through the Minnesota lottery but this past week, 205k+ people signed up for 8k vaccinations. They will have a lottery each week so hopefully they get a spot soon. They also have contacted their physicians as my dad is high risk due to kidney disease and my mom is one of the primary caregivers for my 97yo grandmother (she lives in assisted living but my mom is one of 2 people who can go into her room when my grandma isn't quarantined. My grandma got her first dose earlier this month - yay!). I'm also wishing and hoping I get a vaccine this spring. My rheumatologist said she isn't sure if I will be prioritized over others in my age group but she tagged my medical record with immune compromised in case they query it to prioritize vaccinations.  

And that's a wrap! 

What's new in your world? Do you dislike January as much as I do? What are you reading, loving and grateful for?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Finance Friday: 2020 Spending

This is certainly the most time consuming post I write each year, but the most useful for me! It was more challenging to write it this year thanks to our clingy newborn! Baby carrier for the win! 

Here are a couple of disclosures before I dive into the numbers:

1. Housing makes up the largest spending category by far as we ended up paying off our mortgage in 2020. I recognize how incredibly lucky we are to be able to do this at our age. I've received questions about why we decided to do this versus investing the money. The primary reason is that we love living debt-free. Phil and I both work in the same incredibly volatile industry so we have no diversification of income. We both feel fairly safe at our jobs, but you never know what might happen. We take great comfort in knowing our monthly expenses are lower thanks to not having a mortgage. Additionally, we both find the equity and debt markets very over-valued - i.e. it's not the best time, historically, to put a large sum of money into the markets. We still max out our 401ks, put money in our boys' 529s, etc. But since the rate on our mortgage was so low (below 3%) we opted to put cash we had saved towards our mortgage instead of investing it in the market. This is one of those 'you do you' decisions and I am sure there are other CFA charterholders (a designation we both hold) that would make a different decision, but it was the right decision for us! Next year our home category should look much more reasonable! Similar to 2019, I took out the payments towards our mortgage - otherwise that piece of the spending pie would be so huge and everything else would look tiny. By taking it out, this pie is more representative of the typical spending decisions we make each year.

2. This chart does not include savings or contributions to things like 529s, 401ks, etc. 

3. This chart does not include payroll deductions for things like health/dental/vision insurance, taxes (I break out extra payments) or charitable contributions. I could easily add these items in but I haven't in the past. The charitable donation is in my control, but the insurance items aren't so I don't feel it's necessary to include them. I do pay the out-of-pocket maximum for insurance each year thanks to my pricy RA meds, but I use my HSA so I don't 'feel' the expense of those items so it doesn't feel like I need to add them to our spending pie.

4. This chart finally includes all of Phil's spending as he added his credit cards to my mint account mid-year. So next year I will be able to make comments about year-over-year spending. It won't be completely accurate since 2020 spending is missing Phil's credit cards during the first half of the year, but he spends so little that it will still be pretty accurate!

Here is how our 2020 spending broke out, with notes on notable categories below!


1. Taxes were once again the largest spending category by far. And this is what we pay IN ADDITION to what is automatically withdrawn from our paychecks! This is the reality of 2 well-compensated people who are married. The marriage penalty is REAL. We both claim 0 allowances and have to make extra tax payments at the end of the year to avoid a penalty for underpaying our taxes come tax season. We have just come to accept this. I really miss my huge refund checks from my single days. Even though I made a similar amount of money, I would always get a refund, even with claiming 1 allowance! That said, we recognize that we should have a higher tax burden than others so I am not complaining about the amount of taxes we pay. 

2. Home was our #2 spending category even without payments toward our mortgage. This category includes home improvement expenses, furniture, house cleaning, and home supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. This line item was higher than usual this year as Phil and his cousin built a new deck, we bought a new fridge, and had the interior walls painted last summer. Plus we bought some new furniture at the beginning of the year as we moved into this house in November so had some purchases to make. We bought end tables, stools, a tv stand, and bedside stands - mostly from Wayfair so they were inexpensive, but still costly!

3. Kids is our 3rd largest category, thanks to daycare! I also went to the trouble of categorizing our Target and Amazon purchases this year instead of having a line item for those stores. It turns out we buy a lot from those stores for our boys! This line item is going to get even bigger in 2021 with a 2nd child in daycare, but it's a worthwhile expense and part of having kids!

4. Groceries was the next largest line item. I didn't have a handle on our grocery spending last year since those purchases were on Phil's credit card (he does all of our grocery shopping - yay!). It's nice to see what we spend and I feel good about it. We tend to not eat out much and that was especially the case in 2020 thanks to Covid (we have only done take-out since late February - can't see us eating in a restaurant until 2022 most likely). Phil started going to Aldi this year and that has certainly resulted in savings! He goes there first and gets as much as he can and then goes to a big box grocery store for the rest. We look at the ads before meal planning so we can take sales into consideration when picking out meals. 

5. Dining out just slightly edged out auto and transport. This category was higher than I expected but over 20% of our dining spending was at coffee shops since I drank a large Starbucks latte every single day during the last 10 weeks of pregnancy which really adds up. This drove my frugal husband crazy but he learned not to say anything. I was in a lot of pain from RA flares and didn't have many treat options due to gestational diabetes so he accepted this as a temporary expense. I can count on one hand the number of Starbucks/Caribou purchase I've made since Will was born so this line item will be back to normal in 2021! We probably order food about 1-2 times/month so we really don't spend much on dining out. Phil buys his lunch on the 2-3 days he goes into the office each week but spends less than $8 so that expense is pretty low. I miss my weekly lunches out when I was working in the office, but will occasionally have him bring me home a salad from my fave place which ends up being $12!

6. Auto and Transport is mostly insurance premiums. We probably drove more in 2020 than years past because Phil drove into work when he went into the office. Pre-pandemic, we took the bus. It's hard to imagine resuming a bus commute for a long time, but maybe by 2022 he can go back to taking the bus. I doubt I will as I think I'll be working from home part of the week going forward (hopefully!). But even with driving in a few days each week, we still don't spend much on gas. This category will be higher in 2021 as we are looking to buy a small SUV like a Rav 4 or CRV now that we have 2 bulky car seats.They do fit in our Camry so we could keep our current car, but we'd also like to have an all-wheel drive car as we've gotten our Camry stuck multiple times when we've had heavy snowfalls. We will sell my Camry and keep Phil's Corolla. I think we will get quite a bit for our Camry as it's only 4 years old and has less than 25k miles on it. When Phil test drove a Rav 4 this month, the sales person was told him our car would be in high demand, especially with our low mileage!

7. Donations and Gifts were split 50/50. My donations used to be a higher percentage of spending but I now primarily contribute to charitable causes through my paycheck since it's easier/automatic!

Other things of note are that shopping and personal care were very low. I can count on one hand the number of times I wore make-up in 2020 and don't expect to wear it very often going forward. This has made my skin VERY happy! I struggle with acne, and had it really bad during Paul's pregnancy but didn't get a single blemish this time around! I did spend some money on maternity clothes, but most were purchased at a pregnancy consignment shop so I didn't spend all that much. I don't expect to buy much for clothes in 2021 either but in 2022, I told Phil I'd like to splurge a bit and hire a wardrobe consultant. A good friend did this and I got to come along on the shopping trip. I'm not great at putting outfits together so I would benefit from having an expert look at what I own, help me determine what to keep, and help put outfits together! I do a lot of zoom calls with clients and would like to look more presentable/polished! But I want to be back at a stable/normal body size so that needs to wait until I am done breastfeeding!

***

So there you have it! All in all, I feel good about our spending. There are always places that you can cut back, but in general I feel very good about how we spend our money. I know Phil would like us to spend less money because he is incredibly frugal!! But I think splurges like ordering coffees during a difficult pregnancy and hiring a house cleaner are worthwhile and brought me a lot of joy in 2020! We have our cleaners on hold for the first 2 months of Will's life to limit our exposure to others (they do wear masks but a team of 4-6 people come in to clean so we felt it was best to put them on hold). Can't wait to bring them back!

Do you do a deep dive/review of your spending on a regular basis? Besides this annual review, Phil and I sit down each quarter and review our account balances/discuss how we want to invest going forward.