The Swan Life: December 2016

The Swan Life

Hello and welcome to the last recap for 2016! This is Lucy reporting out and stealing the spotlight from JW for my monthly round-up post. True, I may not be the voice of this blog, but do know I am always here behind the scenes… editing posts, reading comments, you name it. I started these recaps a couple of months ago. Check out the past posts here (September, October, November). December was an interesting month, but a great one! Let’s dive in…


First and foremost December was a 3 paycheck month for both of us. You have to love those months! That’s two months in a row we’ve had above normal take home pay (in November I received my quarterly bonus). This is great to help pad the checking account (temporarily, until money is moved around of course) and to help stash some cash in our IRAs come January. I’ve also been crunching the numbers to see how my Q4 bonus will come out and it’s looking good (to be paid in February)!

Speaking of quarters… one quarterly cost we have that we paid this month was our HOA (home owner association) fee. We pay $137 per quarter which is no chump change. We realized this and knew what the fee was prior to purchasing our house of course. When we think about all the services it covers we remind ourselves that it’s well worth it. We take full advantage of the pool in the summer (our son has become a fish!), visit the community playground almost every weekend, play tennis occasionally and even enjoyed meeting Santa at the club house in early December.

Speaking of Santa… our son was not a fan. He watched other kids sit on Santa’s lap just fine, but then he watched his little buddy take a turn and a complete freak out ensued. Let’s just say that wasn’t helping his confidence. When it was our son’s turn he would only stand about an arm’s length away from the guy in red. We decided to enlist the buddy system and tried the two boys at the same time. In the end we got a funny (and still cute) picture of both of them holding hands, an arm’s length away. Let me just point out how low key and stress-free meeting Santa is at our own private club house. We didn’t have to fight crowds or stand in lines at the mall. And the pics are free! Although not totally free (we consider this event included in our HOA), still so reasonable!

Flights, Flights and More (Gold) Flights

December was a month of travel for me. I had been kind of dreading this month for a while knowing that I was going to be on a plane basically every week. I may travel often for work, but I’m no road warrior. First up was a work trip to the west coast. It was a longer trip than I normally take for work (4 days) which meant JW had more to cover at home on top of his own work. Thank goodness for the tag team effort and good timing because I had just put in my time with our son when JW was putting in extra hours at work (check out his thoughts on work/life balance). The following week sent me overnight for just one night and that’s more like it. Finally we flew “home” for the holidays.

JW already reviewed our basic plans for holiday travel so I won’t go into detail there. What I am excited to say was our flight for Christmas put me over the threshold and I finally achieved Gold Status with American Airlines! Ha! I probably shouldn’t be as excited as I am, but I can’t deny it. In my mind here are the true benefits of this status: priority boarding (good when you have a roller bag that I want to make sure and get in the overhead space), free checked bag (so-so benefit since JW and I both have mastered the packing light mentality… we almost never check bags) and auto-requested upgrades on all flights under 500 miles (which I’ll probably never get because I know there’s always a long list of upgrade requests on the board at the gate). Let me also point out that I get this status for one year… but it falls right at the time I will be cutting back on travel big time. My Dr. told me no more traveling after February 5th, then I’ll have a baby and won’t be traveling much at all. Nonetheless, I’m putting this one in the “ways to save money” category.

Parent Win!

I shared my complete parent fail when I sent my son to school with no shoes back in September. Now let me share a win I had when it came to lost clothing at daycare. I noticed one day shortly before Thanksgiving that my son was missing a nice zip up hoodie jacket. I asked JW about it, checked his cubby, asked his teacher, but no one knew where it was. I escalated it and spoke with the Director of the daycare. I continued to get the same response from her, “We’re looking for it.” Then I noticed that he was missing another jacket! How could two jackets simply disappear??

After a couple of weeks and continuing to check in on the progress I asked her what the next step was and changed to a slightly more aggressive demeanor. I’m not a fan of confrontation, but when it comes to a situation like this I needed to buck up. This time her response was different… still no sign of the jacket, but she valued our business so much that they were willing to replace the jackets. Seeing that both were given to our son as gifts I could not provide a location to purchase again. Instead I asked the Director if we could remove the total amount (which I estimated at about $100) from his bi-weekly tuition. She agreed! Although we’re now missing two nice zip up jackets and will soon need to be on the lookout for a new one, we saved $100 on our daycare bill. Better than being out the money and jackets, I’ll chalk that up to a parent win!


How did your end of 2016 shape up? Did you travel for the holidays like us or stay put and host family/friends? Anyone else out there get as giddy as me to achieve Gold Status?










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  1. Nice wrap up for the end of the year, Lucy. One of the things I love most about this FI blogging community is the little insights into the real lives of other bloggers. It’s a bit intimidating when you first start sharing some of the intimate details of your day to day life online but it’s the difference between a more formal, informational website and being part of a community. Best wishes to you and the Green Swan family and here’s to a prosperous 2017.

    1. We would agree with you completely! When JW started the blog is was more formal posts relating only to FI, but we’ve since decided including some personal touches makes it more personal and enjoyable to read (I hope others agree!) We still try to revolve around our every day ways we’re saving or how we think about purchases, etc. Thank you! -Lucy

  2. Very cool getting a credit for the lost jackets, I’ve never thought about doing that. My kid has had clothes and jackets disappear to the daycare monster after all.

    Our youngest also is afraid of santa, the 5 year old climbs right up though. They’ll grow out of it eventually.

    The three paycheck phenomenon is odd to me. I’ve always been paid on set days of the month not every few weeks. I’d imagine it’d be pretty cool to have more paycheck though. Wishing you the best in 2017.

    1. Yea we’re so happy to get some sort of credit for the lost jackets… however we also know that probably won’t happen again. We’re going to probably be a bit smarter with which jackets (or clothing items) we send him with in the future. Oh well, you live and you learn. Happy 2017! -Lucy

  3. Hahaha, well it sounds like December was a good month, especially with those parenting wins. 🙂 That does suck that you have an HOA; those fees are sort of high. But I guess that’s just the cost of housing in some areas. We were willing to pay an HOA fee, but luckily we moved into a decent neighborhood that didn’t require one. Heck yeah!

    2016 was a banner year for the Picky Pinchers. We bought our Picky Palace back in September and we celebrated one year of marriage in May. 🙂 We’ve only been on our FI journey for less than a year, so we have lots of work and learning to do. But I’m so excited to see where 2017 takes us!

    Congrats on that Gold status, too! Hopefully you can get a few extra perks. 🙂 We didn’t really travel that much this holiday season, thank goodness. We did drive five hours to visit my dad and sister for Thanksgiving, but it was still way cheaper than flying. For Christmas we hosted at our house. That did mean more expenses for food and whatnot, but again, it was still cheaper than traveling!

    1. Great to avoid the HOA fee! I’m curious though, do you feel like other homeowners in your neighborhood still care for their house, yard, etc. as if they had a fee? We always went back and forth between whether it was necessary at first. We tried talking ourselves into it by realizing that it forced homeowners to keep their exterior looking nice, which helps us all with the home value. Just curious if you’ve ever seen anything different.

      Wow 2016 was a great year for your family! Congratulations on it all and keep moving forward on the FI journey. I look forward to hosting family at our house in the future for the holidays. -Lucy

  4. Hey Lucy! Had to laugh at your “Gold Status” excitement. My goal was exactly opposite. Too much travel (work/life imbalance!) has resulted in “DIAMOND” status on Delta. Also a member of the Million Mile Club!

    My goal last year was to NOT achieve Diamond! I’m happy to have ONLY achieved Platinum (one level down!). Hoping I can drop down to Gold in 2017!!

    Happy New Year – good luck with the new baby!!

    1. Wow, Diamond status?! Impressive, but you’re right, maybe too much travel. I think your goal of dropping to gold sounds like a good balance. Cheers to 2017 and less flying! -Lucy

  5. Thanks for sharing, Lucy! Congrats on the Gold status! Sounds like your travel will be winding down for a few months. Looking forward to reading about the arrival of the new baby!

    Here’s to a fantastic 2017! Happy New Year!

    1. Thanks Amanda! I was just thinking I should give more of an update on the baby. All is going well and 2017 is going to be a great year! -Lucy

  6. Awesome on the jackets. We were pretty lucky that Little Bit went to such a small preschool (12 kids) it wasn’t a problem. We never lost clothes for more than a day, and made sure to always send the extras she grabbed by mistake back clean. I treasure the one picture we got with Santa when our daughter was 3, but we haven’t tried since.

    1. That’s great! I’m definitely going to keep a closer eye on the clothes moving forward. I too would always make sure to wash and return any clothes he happened to bring home that weren’t his. Haha I look forward to seeing if our son understands Santa more next year. We’ll see if he actually sits on his lap 🙂 -Lucy

  7. We did travel for the holidays but no achieving status here! We did love using our Southwest Companion pass though! You have a very exciting year coming up! Adding another child to your family will keep you busier than ever (been there and done that!) It is a wonderful blessing too! Here’s to a healthy and prosperous New Year!

    1. Sounds like you had a fun trip over the holidays! Now I think I need to start thinking baby… instead of toddler. Washing up some of the receiving blankets today actually! Hard to believe how small they are at birth, our son seems to be so big! Happy 2017! -Lucy

  8. Ah, the 3 paycheck month. Even though the money is the same throughout the year, it still feels like a nice bonus twice a year! And I do not miss my traveling days! I used to travel pretty much all through the fall. And a lot of it was drivable so I didn’t get to rack up mileage as I was driving across middle America. I did have some nice places I got to fly to and earned some nice reward points. That’s the one thing I miss about traveling for work, but I’ll take staying put with fewer reward points any day!

    1. Yup, you’re right that the money is the same throughout the year, but it’s always nice to get those 3 paycheck months. Yea I enjoy a bit of travel (not as much as making status) because I go to some fun places, but do enjoy staying home too. It’s all about balance, right? -Lucy

  9. Congrats on the achievements in 2016. Airline frequent flier miles seem to be the hardest to earn higher levels, I am glad I no longer have platinum status to two hotel chains at once, but, it is nice having “free” points to burn at vacation time. We applied for a hotel credit card to use the sign-up bonus this previous summer.

    We don’t have HOA fees, but, it sounds like you do have a nice neighborhood. The summer fees pay for themselves compared to having your own pool.

    1. Wow you must have traveled a lot to achieve platinum on two hotel chains. Working for a large hotel chain myself I can get some nice discounts, but nothing like platinum status! HOA fees are easier to swallow after having our son and using the pool religiously in the summer! -Lucy

  10. 3 paycheck months are the best! We have one coming the same month the baby is due and it will definetely help out.

    The jacket situation sounds like me with gloves, I average losing at least one pair per year! But I am glad you were assertive with them, its a great skill to have.

    Will be following along in 2017!

    1. Great timing! Best of luck to you and your family this year. Sounds like we’ll both be enjoying some additions. You should put a tracking device on your gloves. Ha! -Lucy

  11. Three paycheck months are the BEST!!! We were lucky to also get a three paycheck month which definitely helps 🙂

    We were lucky that we got to stay home for the holidays and didn’t have to go anywhere. My son also doesn’t travel well so it’s a huge blessing that we get to stay close to family.

    I hope 2017 shapes up to be an even better year for you and your family!!!

    1. Funny how such a small thing (3 paycheck months) can make us so happy! 🙂 Glad you could stay home and celebrate with family this holiday season. Cheers to 2017! -Lucy

  12. December was a good month for the FS household. I deliberately took a step back from most things blog-related, which was really hard, but the time for R and R was much needed. We also spent some time (and money!) finishing our basement over the past 8 weeks. I’m looking forward to getting back into the flow with the blogging community this month.

    1. Glad you had a good December! I hope your 2016 was good as well as moving in 2017. I’m sure the blogging world will enjoy having you back! -Lucy

  13. Poor little guy with Santa! 🙁 At least he’ll look back at that picture down the line and laugh… and then hopefully his buddies will make fun of him like us guys like to do to each other!

    Nice job on the jacket situation… that seems pretty shady, but it looks like you handled it well!

    Have a great 2017!!

    — Jim

    1. Haha yea I think luckily he wasn’t traumatized by Santa. He still loves reading books or pointing out lawn displays. I think he’ll be good to go visiting the big guy next year. Right? I feel bad automatically assuming someone walked away with two nice jackets, but I can’t help it. Oh well. Cheers to 2017! -Lucy

  14. It sounds like a great conclusion to 2016 for you! Isn’t it wonderful to move up to gold in an airline mileage program. While it requires a lot of time away from home to get the miles, it eliminates a lot of the headaches and worries with checking in and boarding. I’m dealing with the loss of airline status in early retirement. I was platinum for many years and now barely mak silver. (and silver is worthless!)

    1. Yea, I just wish I would have the opportunity to enjoy the headaches and worries gold status allows me… I’ll hardly be traveling in 2017 (at least the first half of the year due to our second child). But oh well 🙂 Now platinum I never expect to achieve, although I would always be secretly envious of all the people boarding the plane when they call for platinum elite members. That will never be me! -Lucy

  15. Our oldest was the same way with Santa his first year or so – arms length and wary. Now they both hop right on his lap, although our oldest said, “I don’t think that was the real Santa.” We asked why and he said, “He asked my name, but the real Santa knows my name.” Pretty quick, that one.

    Our HOA fees are due this month too, we pay once yearly, but like you, I think they’re worth it for the amenities, although we are starting to push back on reducing them now that our neighborhood has gotten so big. They do parties with bounce houses and fun stuff about 4-5 times a year “for free”, we use the playgrounds a lot, and we live at the pool especially since it’s open from May-October.

    Nice win with the daycare. We’ve never fully lost jackets like that, just missing for a day or so until a parent returns them, and we’ve ended up with “extra” jackets in our bags before, and just brought them back. It’s weird they were just gone. Good for you for getting credit at least, and good luck replacing them!

    1. Haha your kid is smart! We’ll look to you to share your insight on how to break the news to them once it’s time to share the Santa secret. Wow your neighborhood throws some great parties! Sounds similar to us in that it’s really more beneficial when you have kids. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t partake and therefore wouldn’t feel like you’re getting as much out of the HOA. -Lucy

  16. Oh, I hate travelling, especially flying commercial unless it is on a business class. When working for a large corporation, I was also somewhat spoiled due to my ex-employer having a private jet for employees to shuttle between various sites, but still had to take commercial often to fly to customer sites.

    The best part of leaving my job and retiring early is that I don’t have to fly commercial anymore unless it is for vacation or fun. I can’t wait for flying Uber service or an affordable private jet service (e.g. like Netjet), that would be pretty awesome. NetJet is quite expensive at the moment.

    1. Oh my I would love traveling on a private jet! That would definitely spoil me, I’d also hate traveling commercial after that! A flying Uber service that’s affordable will be amazing. -Lucy

  17. We stayed in most of the holidays – but our son also got an ear infection in the process :-(.

    On the bright side he was a great sport and we gave him an extra present as a result and taking all his medicine without complaining.

    By the way, I just recently traded in my airline miles with Capital One for account credit instead because I don’t forsee using the miles on any flights anytime soon. Do you think that’s wise?

    1. Oh no! How old is your son? Ours got bad ear infections when he was younger so I know how that goes. Bummer!

      I’m not sure the transfer ratio, but I think it’s usually at a big discount. You may be better with a cash back card instead of a miles card now.

      Thanks for the comment!

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