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Archive for January, 2015

New $400/week budget assessment

January 30th, 2015 at 06:36 am

Well, we're a month in to the new budget of $400/ week for groceries and all other expenses except monthly bills. I have to say I haven't exactly hit the target, but we've been managing to stick with it more or less. We're ending each week within $5 to $25 of the $400 mark.

At first, I was frustrated, but then I thought hey, this is still a huge improvement over our willy-nilly no budget no limit at all spending of the past year. I can already see how if we stick with it, we will be in great shape and will experience a financial turnaround within the next month or so.

So yeah. Sticking with it!

Also, I must be a weirdo because I get excited when it's the payday when we pay the mortgage. I log in a million times after I pay if waiting to see how much the balance has gone down. Do you guys do that or have I lost my mind???

Soon, we will have the house paid off!

34 cents left

January 16th, 2015 at 06:09 am

Well, it's the end of week two and by the hair on my chin we made it. We spent $399.66. Seriously. I posted on Tuesday and thought we were flush, but this was the week of everything breaking.

Why do I feel like now that I'm pinching pennies everything is breaking?? -This week, the headlight bulb on the car went out. Thankfully, I had a spare because I bought a two pack last time, so no $ out of pocket.
-Then, the wireless router broke. Granted we had it ten years. But still. Now? So that was $50.
-Hubby is killing the budget! Last week, he spent $20 on earbuds. Then he lost them. So this week, he spent $20 more on earbuds. If this keeps up, we'll have an $80 monthly bill for earbuds!


This was also an epically low budget week for groceries, mostly because we're eating up what we have, at about $136. I'm getting ready right now to do this week's menu.


Here is what we spent.

$4, reading ipad app for DS2
$15, Redbox gift card for friend
$35, Park seed order for garden
$22, kids and friend out to breakfast/playplace
$10.28, amazon (really $50, but used $40 gift card), to replace broken glass measuring cups and moisturizer
$5.50, butterfly habitat seed order.
$88, Microcenter: new router, new earbuds (hub)
$60 movie tavern
$8 work breakfast

Aldi
$86.96

Kroger
$48.54
$16.38 (gas fill up)

$399.66

NSD finally, everything breaking!

January 13th, 2015 at 06:48 am

Yesterday was a no spend day. Finally! I can't remember the last time I had one of those. I practically tap-danced at bedtime.

The new $400/week budget, groceries and eating at home are going well. We have $155 left until Friday. But, I fear trouble ahead. Hubby is going out to the movie tavern with a friend tonight (it's a theater with beer and dinner service), and that is no cheap date once the beer, food, and movie tickets are calculated, and I know hubs is going to want to pay the full tab for the two of them.

And, I have a breakfast meeting tomorrow for a community service project, so that will set me back. Plus, we will need to buy milk and fill-in groceries later this week.

I also realized I'm not imagining the never-ending to do list. Last week, the toilet broke, so I had to go buy a part and fix it. (luckily an easy fix).

This week a man flagged me down to tell me one of my car headlights was out. Gah! Luckily, the last time I changed one, I bought a two pack of bulbs, so I just happened to have one in the garage. No money spent. Phew.

But still! That is the thing about owning homes and cars. It's always something. Work work work to be done!

Simplifying

January 10th, 2015 at 07:30 am

I had a scare this morning. I went to log into one of the online savings accounts and it didn't have a record of us having an account. This is the account that holds our largest balance, north of $20k. So I freaked out.

Then I realized this WASNT the main online savings account, and we didn't have any money in this bank at all anymore. So yeah. That was my wake up call that maybe I have too many accounts, and I need to simplify. I had kept multiple credit cards, and online savings accounts so that I could shift money around for the highest interest rate or the best rewards. It's a great idea in theory. In practice, our lives are just too hectic and disorganized and simple is better.

So I consolidated our online savings accounts from three to two, and cancelled a credit card that started off with a great reward but no longer has one. The third online savings account had a balance of $722 that I had forgotten about. I closed it, and transferred that money to help me catch up on my 2014 IRA contribution shortfall.

Boy, was my heart racing when I thought I couldn't get to my cash!

$400 budget challenge, $9 over for the week!

January 9th, 2015 at 07:26 am

Today marks the end of the first week of our new weekly budget (400/ wk for everything except bills), and the beginning of week two.

We spent $409.19. Over, but not as bad as I thought. We had a lot of unexpected little things pop up, like a last-minute birthday party, the toilet breaking, and hubby losing his earbuds, but that's life, right?

I'm feeling pretty good about the coming week. In part, because the menu is planned and the groceries purchased through Tuesday. Groceries are our biggest expense, as expected.

Here is what we'll be eating: baked chicken legs, potato soup with ham, daddy burgers, fish w/ cauliflower, meatloaf)

I'm devising my plan to make my 2014 IRA contributions out of cash flow and not savings. Hopefully something will come to me soon.

Here is what we spent this past week.
$104 Aldi, groceries
$111.27 Kroger, groceries
Grocery total: $215.27

Misc
$22.81 Lowe's-- toilet repair kit and pantry moth traps
$47.88 fancy ground coffee at Starbucks
$14, lunch at Skyline (hubby)
$8, itunes, education apps for DS ipad
$58.38, Target, for cleaners, $20 birthday present for boy in DS's class, and $8 for two lego sets on clearance for next December's toy drive, New earbuds for hubby

$5.06 lunch Wendy's (hubby)
$5.36 boxing gym, (hubby forgot his hand wraps)
$6, money for son to buy tokens for friend's Chuck E Cheese dinner
$26.43, pizza for g-ma, with the tip

Total for all: $409.19

Math is hard

January 8th, 2015 at 06:22 am

As in, math is hard on you because when it comes to money it shows you the cold hard truth!

I got my statement and my IRA contribution totals for tax year 2014. I've put in $2685. On the surface, that doesn't seem bad, but then I realize I need to find a way to put away another $2815 before April 15.

My Jan and Feb freelance checks will total $1390, which means I still need to generate $1425. Sure, I could technically take it out of savings, but we've been dipping into reserves a lot. I'd like to minimize what I have to take out, if anything at all.

I'm hoping if we're really really good with the budget, I can fund it out of the bank account. I can also take on an extra $150 assignment in February and March, for another $300.

Why is it so hard to save once you have a mortgage and kids???? We were rolling in money before the kids came along! Wink

$400 budget almost blown!

January 7th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Well, I don't think I'm going to make it under my new weekly $400 budget. Boo!

We're at $382. 76 and we need to make it until Friday morning. I know I'm going over because Grandma is coming to babysit the kids tomorrow and we promised to treat her to her favorite pizza for dinner. That will cost us about $30 for all of us, which would put us at $412.76.

So close!

Some of this week's budget busters:
-DS1 school pal was allowed to invite one kid to family dinner at Chuck E Cheese for his b-day, and the pal picked him. The family is low income and we love them, so I wanted to get DS1's friend a nice gift. We spent $22 on a Minecraft Lego set and two of his favorite candy bars. I am also sending DS1 with $6 for tokens for Chuck E Cheese, to share with his pal.

-Hubby decided to take himself out to lunch and spent nearly $20 on that this week. He forgot about the budget. He also forgot his hand wraps at the boxing gym and had to pay $5.36 for another set before workout time.

-$15 at Lowe's for a new toilet tank flapper because ours decided to give out this weekend and the toilet was running. Oh, the joy of home ownership.

Without those and grandma's pizza we would have made it!
The silver linings:
-We do have two Lego toys (clearance for about $8 total) for the toy drive box, a jug of laundry detergent (sale, $2.50) and a container of dish soap for our box of donations for the homeless families foundation. I may be on a budget, but I don't believe in being stingy with charity.

-My friends gave me lottery tickets for Xmas and I won $36! I'm planning to put that in my piggy bank this week, since there is no extra in the budget.

-Next week might not be so bad, as we just refilled the groceries and that should last us through the weekend.

I'm sticking to the budget because I know it will be good in the long run, but it's frustrating not to make it the first week.

Here is what we've spent money on so far this week:

$68.13 Aldi, groceries
$63.88 Kroger, groceries
$22.81 Lowe's-- toilet repair kit and pantry moth traps
$47.88 fancy ground coffee at Starbucks
$20 Target, new earbuds (hubby)
$14, lunch at Skyline (hubby)

$47.39 Kroger, groceries (plus $3.50 donations for homeless family f.)
$35.87, Aldi groceries
$8, itunes, education apps for DS ipad
$38.38, Target, for cleaners, $20 birthday present for boy in DS's class, and $8 for two lego sets on clearance for next December's toy drive

$5.06 lunch Wendy's (hubby)
$5.36 boxing gym, (hubby forgot his hand wraps)
$6, money for son to buy tokens for friend's Chuck E Cheese dinner

Motivation-- for weight and money goals??

January 4th, 2015 at 06:40 am

A lot of you are in on a weight loss challenge. I'm not sure about the details, but I've done a lot of fitness challenges and lost 18 pounds in the last two years. I wanted to share some of my weight loss motivators.

For me, it was a question of really really wanting it. As in, wanting it more than I wanted to eat that piece of cake or that second portion of dinner. But more than that, I finally found a system that worked for me.

It can be overwhelming to say, oh, I need to lose 10 pounds, or 15 pounds. It seems like so much, and you can give up because it seems impossible.

Now, I break it down into 2 pound goals. Then every day I ask myself, when it comes time to eat or to make decisions about time and exercise: Will this help me lose 2 pounds?

i.e. will eating this snack late at night help me lose that 2 pounds? No? Then no, I don't do it. Will another 5 minutes on the exercise bike, or walking to pick DS1 up from school instead of driving help me lose that 2 pounds? Yes. Decision made.

It's a simple yes or no question, but it really does makes sticking to a plan much easier. I found that diet plans and rigid exercise schedules were too overwhelming with two kids under 5 and work. This made it much easier and simpler for me.

What are your tricks?

***

Onto the money goals. I'm trying to devise a new system to motivate me to stay on track financially.

This year, I've set an ideal budget for groceries and all expenses other than bills of $400 a week. If we stick to that spending amount, extra money will build up in the bank that could then be used for savings or other things. If we stick to that, we should easily be able to stash more money in savings and fully fund my IRA, and maybe have money to spare. Plain and simple, we'd be in very good shape financially.

Last year, I got into trouble by not tracking the daily drips of money leaving the account, and we repeatedly ended up with too-large credit card bills, not enough in the bank, covering expenses with freelance checks instead of funding my IRA, etc.

With two little kids and work, life overwhelmed me. I was just getting by. But now that we're at year end, having not much to show for a whole year makes me pretty sad. I know we can do better.

Anyway, I'm tinkering with a system to keep me accountable. It does involve a piggy bank!

I plan to use cash for most of the $400/ week expenses. My plan is to put whatever cash is leftover out of that $400 at the end of each week into my piggy bank.

At the end of the year, if I'm extra thrifty, I should have a pretty decent chunk of change. This is where the motivation comes in. First, I really want to have a big chunk of 'bonus' money in the piggy bank at the end of the year, and to get it, I'm going to have to challenge myself to be thrifty every single week and to stick to my budget even when I'm tempted to let it slide.

Second, I want to stay on track with the other goals, such as the mortgage pay off and funding my IRA out of cash flow and not savings.

So, at the end of the year, I'll crack open the piggy bank. If I haven't been good at budgeting and staying on top of things, I'll have to use that chunk of money to shore up my IRA.

If I have been good, I will either
A. Use it for Xmas
B. Put it toward the mortgage- as in an extra lump sum to pay down the balance.

And if I'm feeling really smug and have had a banner year, I'll splurge on one of the three things that are on the wish list for our house.

-A set of two leather Barcelona chairs.(we need living room chairs)
-An oval, marble-topped Saarinen tulip table (we have a round one, but it isn't big enough for holiday dinners or dinner guests)
-A gallia pom pom rug for the living room. We splurged a while back on the orange and red version of this same rug for our dining room, and it is far and away the most awesome rug we own.

Here are some pics!


Mortgage,thermostat wars, the garden, and pantry-clean out meal plan

January 3rd, 2015 at 06:40 am

A lot of random things have happened.

-The first mortgage payment of 2015 posted today, and we knocked $975 off the balance. We now owe $40,206.30. Inching toward mortgage free!

-Hubby is crabby because I have the thermostat turned down to 65 (from 69) and it's either put on a sweater or fire up the wood stove. While he was gone the other day, I turned it down to 60. I told him to ask "What would Jimmy Carter do?" and that shut him up!

The kids haven't noticed, maybe because they are running around. We used to have it low like that all the time, then we had the kids, and opted to keep the house a little warmer because there were babies in the house. I guess we got used to being all soft and warm and cozy. They aren't babies anymore, so down goes the thermostat!

-My youngest decided to Hulk Smash through all of his clothes during winter break. I cleared out all the clothes that didn't fit and he only had two pairs of pants left! I ordered him three more pairs of pants on clearance through OldNavy.com, but for some reason never received a confirmation email.

Well, I go back to the Web site and for whatever reason everything was still in the cart. Something went wrong and I never checked out. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Between then and now, they added another promo, so I got ANOTHER 20 percent off of the order, in addition to the clearance prices. Maybe it was my guardian 'cheap' angel doing me a solid on that one.

-Every year for Xmas I ask my family to forgo presents and buy me seeds and fruit trees instead. They drive me bonkers because they usually ignore me because seeds and trees aren't 'fun' and buying me random things I don't really need is more 'fun.'. Ugh. I digress.

This year, my mom gave me $100 cash to buy seeds and plants, namely because the company I buy through (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds) only does e-gift certificates, not cards and she didn't realize she could email it to herself them print it to give me as a gift.

Well, the cash turned out to be a big bonus, as my garden club just said if we order through them (for the same seed company!) , we get free shipping AND a 20 percent discount. Because I have cash, I can order through the club and save. So, mom just did me a favor and saved me 20 percent on the cost of seeds I was planning to order anyway. That is a bonus.

-I'm in full-blown cheap mode because money was tight last year and I didn't full fund my IRA out of my freelance checks. It just went to expenses. So, I'm trying to catch up on last year and this year with cash flow.

That means, time to eat down the pantry.

I cleaned and organized the pantry today, and I'm trying to design meals based on what we have. Using it up, so to speak. I'm going to try to keep grocery spending to a minimum this month. Home cooked, no full meals out (we will take the kids out for dessert and play date combos because I've declared I'm tired to cleaning up more just so kids can come over!)

So, this week's and early next's budget pantry meal plan:
-bean soup with ham, using leftover Xmas ham frozen in soup-size portions
-whole baked chicken and beets and home-canned applesauce
-chicken enchiladas from leftover chicken
-beef stew over mashed potatoes
-cheese-stuffed baked pasta shells
-lentil soup with jalapeno corn bread
-breakfast for dinner: frittata, bacon, pancakes or waffles with homemade blueberry syrup.

The first 529 plan contribution posted today too, so dear son one has $200 more socked away for college.

Here we go!

January 1st, 2015 at 04:42 pm

It's the start of another year, so here we go again! Our goals this year are pretty much the same as last year. Fully fund my IRA and Hubby's 401k, put aside at least $2400 a year for college for each of our two sons, pay as much off the mortgage as possible.

On the mortgage front, we'd like to at least pay off $13,681 from the balance by year's end. I just paid our first payment for 2015 this morning, so we'll see how close we are already when it posts tomorrow.

The first few months of the year, we are in recovery mode from large holiday and travel expenses. I'm planning to hunker down, pay off the credit cards before they accrue interest, and try to fully fund the IRA for 2014. I think I still have $2,000 left to put in for 2014.

Our major projects and expenses for the year (that we know of) include:
-painting the kids's room, and getting new curtains and rods
-redoing the flooring in the den. It's icky carpet now, but the original cork flooring might be under there. We won't know what condition it's in until we pull it all up

-Hopefully we'll be buying and installing a greenhouse for the garden so we can grow more fresh food year round.

We also have a lot of trips to take this year. I'm taking my mom to San Francisco because it's on her bucket list, and we have to go to Lake Tahoe for a wedding sometime during the summer.

Other than that, we're just hoping for a safe, healthy, productive year. and we wish the same for all of you!