Christmas in a BIG family

Get excited for a post from GIRL NINJA!!!!!!….

santa christmas

It’s the most, wonderful time, of the year (except for the summertime).  I LOVE Christmas.   The smells, the music, the decorations, the lights, the joy, the greatest gift of all time…I just love it all.  I get it from my mom.  She is obsessed- I’m not kidding.  Our whole house was transformed top to bottom with everything Christmas during the month of December when I was growing up.  Along with that, we have traditions upon traditions that are celebrated.  One of them….spoiler alert…is that we would open gifts on Christmas Eve.

Almost all of them.

This really gets to Ninja.  He doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand it, and doesn’t care for it. But, he loves me, and he follows our tradition for the sake of tradition.

Now that we’re all grown up, things have started to change.  Within the last 3 years, 3 out of the 4 of us girls (yes, I grew up with 3 sisters, no brothers) have gotten married, and my oldest sister recently had a baby.

The more the merrier, right?

WELL…that is until we make our Christmas shopping list. Now before some of you commenters get all Scrugey on me, we love to give gifts in our family, especially these types of giftsThere is more joy in the giving, than in the receiving for our family. This is especially true now that we are all older, and a little less selfish.

That said, a big family, a big GROWING family, means a big BIG GROWING list of gifts to purchase each year.  It can become quite overwhelming.  All in all, there are 10 people in my immediate family.  Then, we have Ninja’s side of the family (another four),  close friends, and volunteer gifts for those that work in my classroom.


Unfortunately, that’s not really practical. I’ve talked with my sisters and instead of getting each of them gifts this year, we are drawing names and will only be assigned one person.  It’s new, it’s different, it’s not tradition…but if it goes well enough, it might be!

Instead of buying 10 gifts, I’ll buy one gift, and Ninja will buy one gift. We have a larger budget for our gift recipient, which will really broaden my gift giving horizons. So fun!  Not to mention, I think Ninja will be happier as this new plan saves everyone money and there is no more insane hunt for that perfect gift for each of our family members.

How do you (would you) handle Christmas in a big family?  Are we the only family that still gives gifts pretty religiously?How do you tame your Xmas budget?

Keeping up with the Joneses like a boss.

My next paycheck will be a bit larger than the last.  I’ll be getting a slight raise, about $2,500 more per year. While I’m stoked to be getting any raise at all, let’s be real, it’s not a life changing amount. In fact, it only works out to about a $75 net gain each paycheck. Or as I look at it, a free lift ticket each pay period 😉

Since Girl Ninja and I are fortunate to have our income exceed all of our wants, we decided to do the boring/responsible thing and further increase our retirement contributions. Instead of throwing 10% of my gross income in to my 401K each month, we increased that sucker by another 3%, to 13%. My employer matches 5%, so in total 18% of my gross pay will be going in to my 401K plan each paycheck. Is that hot or what?

That's hot

So I get a $2,500 raise, and before I even have a chance to see it in my paycheck, we decide to throw all of it towards retirement. If that’s not keeping up with the Joneses, I don’t know what is!!!!

Since I’m a self-proclaimed PF nerd, I thought I’d run a quick calculation…

If we keep throwing that $2,500 in to our 401K plan for the next 40 years, do you want to know how much extra we’d have come retirement? This example assumes a 6% rate of return.


There was really no decision to make. Get $75 extra in each paycheck and blow it on things we don’t need, or have an extra $417,000 waiting for us when we’re old?

Lifestyle inflation is cool and all, but if we are already content with what we have, what else is there to inflate besides our savings account, retirement funds, and our charitable contributions? I’m not going to go run out and buy another TV or laptop just for the heck of it.

Last time you came in to a little extra money, what did you do with it? If you had to inflate your lifestyle in one aspect how would you do it? (We would probably pay for a bi-weekly cleaning service)

The most boring post I write all year.

Regardless of what some may say, I don’t think budgets are sexy at all. In fact, I can’t think of anything less sexy than a bunch of numbers and an excel spreadsheet. This is why I only open up my spreadshet once a year. Now that 2012 is a thing of the past, it’s time to make some predictions on what could come in 2013. Here’s a screenshot of my budget, followed by some explanations 😉

If you want to view the spreadsheet at normal resolution just give it a little click.

Before Tax Income:

Does anyone know why we include Gross Income in our budgets? It’s kind of pointless really. It just reminds me how much of my income I don’t get to keep. I haven’t included Girl Ninja’s gross in this section for a very important reason; I’m lazy.

You’ll notice below my gross income, I have a “Side Hustle” section. This pretty much accounts for my blogging income (and now hopefully MANteresting income). In 2011 I made $13,000 a year from this blog. In 2012, I scraped by with $4,000. I’ve decided to scale back even further and only estimate bringing home $3,000 this year. Hopefully it will be significantly higher, but only time will tell.


We’ve finally added Girl Ninja’s retirement accounts to the spreadsheet. It only took being married for 2.5 years for me to get around to it. Haha. Oh well gotta start sometime, right? For as long as we don’t own a house, I plan to contribute at least 10% of my gross pay to my 401k (which gets matched at 5%). If/when we purchase, I may scale back a tad to free up some cash flow. With our savings account quickly approaching $100,000 we might as well use our discretionary income to up our retirement contributions. I’m sure my 70-year-old-self will be happy I did.


Pretty self-explanatory. I include a 15% “random” category at the bottom of the expenses section as it seems most months have unexpected or non-budgeted things come up (household stuff, a weekend trip, birthday parties, etc). Instead of making random guesses how much we spend on cleaning products, clothes, etc each month; we just try to keep all those miscellaneous expenses less than 15% of our net income. We also tithe/donate to charity consistently, but didn’t think it was necessary/appropriate to put those numbers in the spreadsheet.

Left Over:

This is the most important part of the budget, as it really gives us a look in to our financial future. As long as we are spending less than we make, everything is gravy. Fortunately, it looks like we’ll have about $2,400 left after we pay all the bills. I have a few three paycheck months as well, so all said and done we could be adding about $32,000 to our savings account. I’m keeping my fingers crossed all goes according to plan 🙂


In the top right of the spreadsheet you will see a section for my annual financial goals. In 2013 I’m hoping our overall Net Worth will increase to about $217,000. This would be a $54,339 increase from our current position. I gotta say, it would be pretty awesome to shatter the $200k threshold this year. What’s crazy about all this is that I don’t really feel like Girl Ninja and I are frugal. I mean we both traveled so much last year we are MVP flyers (booya for free first class upgrades!). We dropped $20k cash on a new-t0-us car. And I funded a new business venture from our personal savings. For as long as the Big Man upstairs continues to grant us a generous income, we’ll do our best to be responsible (and generous) with it. That’s really our only goal after all.

Do you budget like me? Anything I do with mine that you think is weird? What’s your preferred budgeting tool (Mint, Quicken, Excel, Paper/pencil)?

Obviously if we buy a house, all of these numbers are pretty much worthless since we have no clue what our future mortgage will be, how much we will put down (thus decreasing our cash reserves), etc. When we find the right house for us, I’ll make sure to do some revising.

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Where is my money!

I’ve been a very naughty ninja lately. I’m breaking one of my most important PF rules: Manage your money. For the first time, in a long freaking time, I don’t have a handle on my financial situation. It’s a very odd/disturbing/uncomfortable feeling….but kind of freeing too. I just need to set aside a few hours to check my bank accounts, do a little Mint reconciling, and spend some time with my TI-83. Then I should be back to normal.

Typically, I’m totally obsessed with knowing where my money is going, and when it is going there. This means if I have $5,000 in my checking account and $2,000 in charges on my credit card bill, I would immediately transfer $2,000 to my online savings account so that money can start earning a higher yield than my checking account.  This would leave $3,000 in my checking. I’d eventually send $2,000 to my credit card, to pay that bill in full when it came due, which leaves me with my reserve $1,000 for emergencies.

But I’ve been a bad boy, and haven’t initiated any bank transfers lately. I know I have a redonkulous balance on my credit card (travel, travel, and more travel) and an even more redonkulous sum of money in my checking account (approaching $10,000 I think). I know that my checking exceeds my credit card statement, but I don’t know by how much.

Right now, I’m the perfect example of WHAT NOT TO DO when it comes to managing your money. Tomorrow, I’m buckling down and figuring all this mess out so I can ease the financial anxiety I’ve been feeling these last couple weeks.

Am I going to PF hell for letting my finances get away from me? Do even you BUDGET NAZIS get a little lazy sometimes? How do you keep your money moving, even when you don’t have the time to sit down and tell it where to go? What software/method do you use? Slap some sense in to me will ya?!

I know many of you will suggest establishing automatic payments, but auto payments are not my thing…they freak me out.

My favorite nail yesterday (be warned vegetarians):

Are you compensating for something?

So Girl Ninja and I had a family meeting last night. We do this every so often so we can catch each other up on life happenings, this time in regards to our finances. We sat down in front of the computer, looked over our budgets, and logged in to Mint.

Turns out, we’ve been on a bit of a spending spree as of late. What’s done is done. We can’t really go back and un-spend, so we’ve decided to try something new next month. Goodbye spending spree. Hello spending fast.

This is going to be new territory for me. In fact, I even wrote a post once called “No spend challenges are for wussies” a year and a half ago. My how the times have changed. The only way we can mitigate our recent spending binge is by being more judicious in our spending decisions next month.

This doesn’t mean we wont eat out at all, nor will stop driving our cars to save a little more dough. Instead, if we eat out with friends one night, we’ll do a cereal dinner the following. We’ll drive the SUV a little less (mpg’s in those things suck…haha). I’ll work some overtime. We’ll entertain ourselves by going to parks, throwing the frisbee, and working out together.

It’s all about the checks and balances my friend, and hopefully with these corrections, we’ll be sitting pretty come this time next month. We’ve identified a concern and are actively working towards a solution. If that’s not considered sexy I don’t know what is!

New Year, New Budget

Shoe Budget

Budgets are cool and all, but I’m not a huge fan of ’em. Most of you probably budget weekly or monthly. In the Ninja household we are budget rebels and only tweak the thing once a year. Apparently it’s time to do just that. 2012 Ninja budget meet my readers, readers meet my budget….

Click to Make Larger

Like I said before, I’m not a big fan of budgeting and therefore my spreadsheet might seem a little confusing. Let’s see if I can help you make some sense of it…

Gross Income:

Does anyone know why we include Gross Income in our budgets? It’s kind of pointless really. It just reminds me how much of my income I don’t get to keep. I haven’t included Girl Ninja’s gross in this section for a very important reason; I’m lazy.

Below my gross income, I have a section called “Side Hustle”. This pretty much accounts for my blogging income, now that I don’t do much housesitting or tutoring. I like to keep it conservative here by estimating only $500/month in side hustle income. I’ve already made $2,000 this month from PDITF, so I’m hoping I can blow that projection out of the water (Can someone remind me why I get paid for writing this silly blog?).


I use to contribute 5% of my gross income to my 401K, but I decided to step things up a bit by kicking it up to 8% for 2012. With the 5% match my employer provides, I’ll have 13% of my gross income going to my 401K plan this year. I’ve also been lucky enough to max out my Roth IRA every year since I graduated college in 2007. Ultimately we want to have about 15-ish% of our gross income going towards retirement. Girl Ninja also has a 401K plan, but she’s asleep so I can’t ask her how much she contributes. This is why I left it off.


Pretty self-explanatory. I include a 10% “random” category at the bottom of the expenses as it seems like most months have unexpected or non-budgeted things come up (household stuff, a weekend trip, birthday parties, etc). Instead of making random guesses how much we spend on cleaning products, clothes, etc we just try to keep all those miscellaneous expenses less than 10% of our net income. We also tithe/donate to charity every month, but I have removed that section from our expenses as we consider that a private matter.

Left Over:

This is the most important part of the budget, as it really gives us a look in to our financial future. According to the spreadsheet, we have the potential to add about $36,000 to our savings account this year. I don’t know how realistic this number actually is, seeing that the $36K estimate doesn’t account for our charitable gifts, but I’m hoping some extra blog income will help offset the loss.


In the top right of the spreadsheet you will see a section for my annual financial goals. We have always reached our goals — often earlier than planned — so this year I really decided to shoot for the moon. We are gonna work our butts off to try and reach $100,000 in savings by years end, but as you can tell from our “left over” section, we aren’t suppose to be able to. Maybe I can convince Girl Ninja to start selling drugs? Know anyone that needs some Tylenol PM or Vicks VapoRub?

Do you budget every week, month, or year? Does your budget dictate every dollar you spend like the envelope system would, or is it more of an estimate for what the future might hold? What’s your preferred budgeting tool (Mint, Quicken, Excel, Paper/pencil)? Do you add any additional sections to your budget (like Goals, Payoff dates, etc) that I should consider adding?

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I thought Christmas was in the winter?

Is it just me, or does it seem like Christmas is being shoved down our throats sooner than normal? Don’t get me wrong. I freakin’ love me some Christmas time. The music, the awesome movies, and the overall joyful spirit of most people make it my favorite holiday. But Christmas spirit is for Christmas time, and according to my calendar we still got plenty of time before Santa Clause’s fat butt makes its way down my non-existent chimney (so sad the Ninja abode doesn’t have a fireplace).

Costco started putting their Christmas products out back in mid-October. OCTOBER! That’s insanity. I mean come on, we had two MAJOR holidays to get through, Halloween and Thanksgiving. I think Costco is lame for jumping the gun on the Christmas spirit. I’m a much bigger fan of the way Nordstrom has handled the holiday season. Check it…

Although I don’t like celebrating Xmas before Thanksgiving, it’s important to be mindful of the expenses associated with the season. To the best of my knowledge, Girl Ninja and I have spent exactly $0.00 on Christmas gifts thus far. There are five in my family and six in Girl Ninja’s. That makes eleven total people we will be buying gifts for (counting ourselves). Since it takes a good chunk of time to shop for eleven different people, we sat down last weekend to discuss our Christmas budget.

Last year we spent around $1,000 (don’t remember exactly how much) and felt pretty good about it. We were able to get some solid gifts for the ones we love without losing sight of what the day is really about. Since the budget last year seemed pretty reasonable we decided to keep it the same this go around.

As Girl Ninja and I talked about what our limit was for each other we thought about making it a set dollar amount (like $200 each), but instead decided on a new strategy. After we buy our nine family members gifts, we will split the left-over money between the two of us. If we spend $600 on our family, that leaves $200 for each of us to spend on each other. If we spend $800 on them, we have $100 for each of us. Definitely keeps things interesting.

I have no idea how good of an idea this actually is, but you know what they say ” ‘Tis the season…to totally experiment with a new way of budgeting.” Yeah, that’s exactly what they say. Right?

How much is the Christmas shopping budget in your household? Do you set a specific limit for each family member (like siblings $50, parents $100 etc)? Anyone else notice stores started pushing Christmas way early this year? WHY!?