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plaza and main st happy holidays 2020

Have a happy holidays 2020 to everyone out there. This has been a strange year for sure. Thankfully it is almost over and we can start focusing on making 2021 better by comparison.

What really matters

This year of social distancing and essentially staying home really helps highlight what really matters in your life. At least for us it did. It wasn’t just what you quickly realized you missed doing on a regular basis because you could not any longer (at least safely). It was all of the things you took notice of that you might’ve previously taken for granted. Like your health and your family.

It was easy to see just how important your health was in a year focused on a deadly pandemic sweeping the nation. I’m sure a lot of people realized just how important family is to them when visiting them in person became risky or limited. We may not have visited our family a lot on a regular year but being constantly reminded that you cannot (or shouldn’t) made a lot of us realize we should see them more than we do. It was hard to wish our family a Happy Holidays 2020 over zoom or from across a driveway.

2020 wins

This year was one entirely of deprivation though. It was also a time of growth for many of us forced to look into our own households for productivity and entertainment. I started writing this blog for one. I learned how to build a website for another though that is obviously related.

Like many people out there fortunate enough to remain employed during the pandemic, our savings rate has increased. We are spending less on average for splurges like dining out and weekend trips which won’t continue into the future hopefully but was nice while it lasted. We were also able to use that savings to finally pay down the last of our non-mortgage debt.

1% Better: Coffee Edition

Also, we seriously upped our coffee game. Now that we both mostly work from home and have more time to make our coffee in the morning we opted to level that up. Life is all about making things just 1% better, but it isn’t purely for your finances. First, we got a new cold brew coffee maker for when it is insufferably hot here in Florida (and it is delicious).

Second, we started getting our beans whole from a local coffee roaster. If you’ve only ever had the mass market pre-ground coffee found in your mega-mart, this makes a much larger difference than you’d realize. Once we started getting our beans whole we ended up getting a burr coffee grinder to make sure we weren’t ruining the investment. It is so much easier and generates a more consistent grind.

New Traditions?

Non financially, we learned some new baking skills and started some new traditions. We decided on a Christmas day dinner of appetizers and pizza for simplicity but might keep that one. It allowed us to open gifts on the porch with family to be more about spending time with loved ones and less time worried about preparing a elaborate meal.

Our weekends prior to the pandemic were filled with every conceivable thing to do around town. It was rare to have a free weekend where we weren’t already booked. During the pandemic our Sundays turned to making scones with the family. We would enjoy them with some jam or cream while leisurely sipping coffee and taking a virtual walk through beautiful European towns.

Planning ahead

I’m sure we aren’t alone in planning ahead for 2021 (and further). Day dreaming is probably a more accurate phrase though. The annual financial checklist of things to do isn’t even what I’m referring to here. Sure… max out your IRA , use up your MSA balance, and make sure your insurances are up to date. All of those things are very important of course.

I’m referring more to the fantasizing about what you’d do once the world settles back down into something closer to what we remember prior to the pandemic. A world were it is safe to visit family, go to a theme park, dine out, or travel. We’ve been making a mental list of places we want to visit, restaurants we want to eat at, and things to do in general for a post-pandemic life.

These aren’t even far-flung fantasy locations either. They are all places well within our reach locally that have perpetually been on the back-burner or the “eventually” pile. This year made us realize that we need to start budgeting for these experiences and doing them. You have to start living the life you want now.

Note: this is by no means a declaration of YOLO and wreckless spending. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is a slow transition to living the life you want after you hit financial independence now instead of later. Start planning for these places and experiences and budget to make them happen while still maintaining your path to FI.

Happy Holidays 2020

Stay safe out there. Please. In case you need a gentle reminder that dining out, seeing a movie, or visiting friends/family isn’t as risk-free as you might imagine please read my analysis from last week. I explain how the famous birthday paradox problem highlights the “real” risk of someone at the restaurant or grocery store has COVID. The probability is much higher than you probably realize.

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