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52 Week Savings Challenge and Angst

April 21st, 2015 at 03:43 pm

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 16 (saved to Week 21)

The Freedom card rounding hit for this week. It was a bit more than I expected, so I got to knock out another of the 'higher' numbers.

Snowflakes
Freedom Card Rounding - $40.89

Total Snowflakes: $40.89
Rounding (from reserve): $0.11

Beginning Balance: $629
Deposit: $41
Ending Balance: $670

Reserve: $0.36 - $0.11 = $0.25

This puts me at almost 48% of the Challenge, and we're just past 30% through the year.

-----------------------------

Meanwhile, I've been spending out of control! It's really mostly planned expenses, getting ready for two back-to-back vacations, but still, there's been a lot of money going out lately! Some of it I was able to put on my PayPal credit, which gives me six months of no interest, and the rest is on the Freedom card (which is paid off monthly) so at least I'll be getting 1% back on that. I may have to dip into my slush fund savings when the bill comes due, but I've never gone this far into the year without dipping into that fund in the past, so I'm not too upset about it!

Part of the problem is that the first trip is to Napa for S's work President's Club. While the trip itself is pretty much all expenses paid for both of us, it's "resort business casual" (whatever that means!) and "suit and tie required" dress, which is not the norm for either of us. S only has one nice suit, and he's worn it to the past several work events, so he wanted something new. He really wanted something tailored, since as a competitive cyclist he's hard to fit (big legs, small waist and hips, broad shoulders). He ended up getting a really good price, for what he got, but it was still twice what I probably would have spent!

Then we hit Kohl's for "resort business casual" wear for me, and a nice dress for the suit-and-tie event, since all I have are very dowdy skirts (it's a passive-aggressive thing since my boss won't let me wear slacks) and capris. Of course due to S's schedule we went when I didn't have any percent-off coupons. It was late and I wasn't in the mood to try anything on, so I did that at home, and of course the fancy dress I bought was just horrible once I put it on. I went by myself another night and got a couple other dresses, and a couple of replacements for some other things that didn't fit. Two days later, of course, was the "lowest prices of the season" sale, and $10 cash back for every $50 spent. Given the boatloads of money we'd just spent, I wasn't about to just let that go!

I did find an online-only coupon for 15% off (there as a big dry spell with Kohl's coupons for a while!), so I spent most of Friday morning re-buying everything we'd purchased and were keeping, plus a couple of other little things I'd forgotten earlier. When all was said and done, I ended up saving an *additional* $250 to what we'd originally spent, *plus* I got $90 in Kohl's cash. So I really made out on the savings, but I still spent quite a lot to get there! (I've returned some of the original purchases already, and the rest will go back once the online orders arrive.)

Hopefully, we should have very minimal spending the end of April/beginning of May. The work trip is basically all expenses paid, except souvenirs and if we want to do anything during the few hours of 'free time' we have. My pilgrimage is the next week and I've had the money set aside for that for a while now. Then we don't have much until the middle of the month, with our anniversary; I'm using the Freedom card rewards for the anniversary dinner, which is the bulk of that expense (the gifts are already paid for). I'll be out of town again at the end of the month, but it should be a low-cost trip. I'm going to try to get us focused on a frugal June, though!

--------------------------

Funny (non-financial) story. When our grandma died several years ago, my sister and I went down to visit with our grandpa, and stayed at their house (which my aunt and uncle had bought from them as a vacation home, when my grandparents moved into a senior/long-term care facility). We were looking through old photo albums and ran across a picture of my grandpa when he was in the Navy, and both said, "Oooh, dreamy!" (Which I guess is kind of weird to say about your grandpa, but whatever.)

We got together with my cousin a couple of weeks ago, after my aunt & uncle's funeral, before she want back down south. (She's now living in the house down there.) My sister mentioned that if she ran across the photo, we'd love a copy. She laughed and said, "I know exactly which picture you're talking about, I have it on my work desk!" When she got back home she sent my sister the picture and sure enough, it's the same one. Smile

What do you think? He was a dreamboat, wasn't he? Even for a grandpa! Wink

Muffinhead Moment and Lent

February 17th, 2015 at 09:48 pm

I mentioned the other day that I was changing our withholding and 401(k) contributions, and that it was going to be a big bite out of our monthly budget. I also mentioned that I got a raise and S will undoubtedly get a small one, too, which will help offset the changes. Still, I was looking at a decrease of about $525 per month and for the last couple of weeks it has been really kind of freaking me out.

Then all of a sudden yesterday the light bulb went on. I wasn't looking at the difference in income from our current situation to the new one -- I was looking at the difference of our income with the raises without making any other changes, compared to the income with the raises and changing the other things. The reality is that the raises really do offset quite a lot of the changes. We'll only be taking home $118 less per month, which is very manageable!

They installed the new wall heater yesterday. My only regret is that we didn't just do it a couple of months ago. It's a much bigger unit (well, it's distributed differently; the old one was mostly outside, this one is mostly inside) but still pretty unobtrusive, and it is whisper-quiet. Even on its best day, the old unit was loud enough to hear in the next room. This one you have to be practically standing next to it before you can hear it.

Today is Fat Tuesday -- also known as Paczki Day here. (I'm not actually a paczki fan, but I like to say "Happy Paczki Day". Wink ) Tomorrow Lent begins, and again this year, although we don't actually 'do' Lent in my religion, I've decided to give up something that will make a financial difference. Last year it was CVS, and half of those savings (based on the average from the previous two or three months) went to the 52-Week Mega Challenge.

This year I've decided to give up buying lunches, except of course during my regular grocery shopping. Which means I'll need to plan ahead a little bit better, since I often either run out for lunch, grab a can of soup at CVS, or stop by the store on the way to work and pick up something. I've wanted to work on this anyway, and have been doing a little better already, but Lent is a good solid jump start. It's a hard number to pin down, because some days I do bring lunch and some days I have a $1 can of soup, but even figuring an average of $7.50 per lunch three days a week, that's saving $90 a month -- almost the entire shortfall from above. I'm not drinking pop as much, either (as in, almost never but I refuse to completely eliminate the possibility), which probably saves at least $30 a month, and makes up the rest of the shortfall.

I am reserving the right to one lunch out during Lent, though, because I was too busy today to do a Fat Tuesday celebratory lunch!

Catching Up

February 14th, 2015 at 04:35 pm

I've started several 2014 wrap-up/2015 goals posts, and never get around to publishing them, because a) I start yammering on and b) it gets too depressing!

Some days I feel great about where I am -- I've paid off a lot of credit card debt and have a good start on an emergency fund -- but then I do my yearly budget projections and end up $10-15K in the hole by the end of the year. (I overestimate spending and underestimate income, but still....)

Then I did our taxes and we really need to change our withholding! We had claimed a high number of exemptions for a while, because with the rental we had a fairly decent loss to write off, but we don't get the full amount anymore and it's really affecting our bottom line. We owed around $2,800 last year; we have a small refund this year but only because we had a lot of stuff donated to charity, from his parents and my grandparents (finally cleaning out the basement, garage, and attic!). We won't have that next year, and without it we'd owe about $5,000 so it's time to make a change!

I'm also having us increase our retirement contributions; we're both putting in just the minimum to get the match right now. We aren't able to contribute directly to an IRA or Roth; a backdoor Roth won't work for S because has an existing IRA. I could do one -- I have a teeny tiny IRA and the tax on a conversion would be negligible -- but at this point, having it come directly out of my paycheck, and reducing my taxable income, is preferable. (Plus I actually think we'll be in a lower tax bracket when we retire, so tax-deferred is our better option at this point.)

Of course none of this helps our monthly bottom line any, but it's a necessary evil. We do have lots of areas where we can cut back, and I've already identified about $5,000 I won't be spending on a particular hobby this year. I also haven't included any side gigs I can pick up. Still, my focus has changed a bit for 2015, and rather than working quite so heavily on eliminating debt, I'm going to work more on not incurring additional debt.

I have a refinance to do mid-year, and potentially another one in the fourth quarter. The first will definitely ease up cash flow, and significantly lower our highest interest rate. (The second will probably end up being neutral overall.) I also have a small 0% balance transfer offer through August 2016. That combined with the refi will put my highest credit card interest rate at 3.99%, so I'm a little more comfortable about scaling back on repayments than I would be with the 24.99% I had a couple of years ago! (I will still pay some extra to the cards; paying just the minimums means I'm in debt until 2030! As of now this change will extend my payoff by one year.)

Unfortunately, we have decided that we really do have to replace the wall furnace that died on us back in November. We've been limping along with an electric space heater, but it doesn't do much on these sub-zero nights, and it's expensive to run! So that's $2,500 out of the EF -- the only good aspect being that at least I had the funds set aside!

My 2015 goal, then, will be to replace the $2,500 and get the EF back up to $5,000. Since I'm still finishing up the 52 Week Mega Challenge ($1,890) and doing the regular 52 Week Challenge ($1,378), I'll easily meet and exceed that goal. My original goal of $7,500 in the EF is a little ambitious now (given I still need to save up $3,700 for property taxes in September), but I think I'll stretch the EF goal to $6,000. That's only another $232 I need to come up with, which seems do-able.

(Actually my EF goal hasn't changed -- save up $2,500 this year -- it's just the final account balance that's changed because of the heater.)

Anyway, my other goal of paying off $17,500 in credit card debt is adjusted down to paying off $12,000. That includes a few 0% balance transfers that will come due this year. It doesn't include the one card I'll pay off with the refinance, since I'll still owe that money, just not on a credit card.

To end on a happier note, I did negotiate a 7% pay raise (which is a lot less than it sounds like!), which will help offset my increased 401(k) and withholding. S should get his standard 2% increase, which will help a bit, too.

November Look Back / December Look Ahead

December 6th, 2014 at 12:14 am

The look back/look ahead is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

November
I mentioned last month that we did a debt consolidation, so it's been nice to see all those zeroes on the cards we paid off with the new loan. Plus, since the new loan is in S's name only and most of the cards we paid off were either mine alone or joint, my credit score has skyrocketed -- up around 40 points, according to the score from Barclay. (Discover's update should show up later this month.) S's score hasn't taken too much of a hit, either, because he doesn't have a lot of debt other than the mortgage.

Meanwhile I'd set some money aside for some home repairs; we got the materials needed on a decent sale and ended up with 0% financing until January 2016. I shuffled the full amount over to my ING savings account, although we do have minimum payments to make so by the time the promotional rate expires, we'll only owe half the balance. I didn't think about that until after I did the transfer, but then I figured we can probably cash flow the payment amount anyway and if not, I've given myself permission to take that amount out of ING if I need it. Now I'm trying to decide if I should leave it at ING at 0.75% interest, or open an account at Synchrony for 1% interest. The difference in a year is really going to be minimal, but since ideally I'll only use half the money, the other half may stay in the account for a much longer time period. Just not sure it's worth the effort for a quarter of a percent on really a rather small amount. (Moving it from my regular bank was an easier decision, 0.1% at Chase vs 0.75% at ING.)

Anyway, I ended up paying $3,039 in total debt in November, $768 in interest and paid $141 extra to my avalanche. The avalanche amounts are going to be quite a bit smaller now with the new loan, but again it doesn't affect my final payoff date.

December
Gift giving this month, of course. I have the $500 I set aside from our Chase rewards to hopefully cover our costs. I also have a handful of membership renewals and trophy pledges due this month, but of course those are known and planned.

It does look like we're going to have to do something about the wall furnace in our Florida room -- it's on a separate system from the rest of the house, but the room is right next to the room we spend much of our time in so the cold seeps in if it's not heated. It started making a horrendous noise the other night. Turns out some part needs to be replaced; they had some doubt about whether they could find it but finally did a few states away. Cost to replace is about $1000; cost for a new furnace is about $2500. This is the third or fourth time we've had a major problem with this furnace since it was installed (which I think was in 2009) -- they completely replaced it once, but even the new one has had some big issues. I'm really not sure about spending another $1000 on it. I think we're going to have a couple of other companies come out and give some advice on what they recommend -- it may be that a wall furnace isn't even our best option at this point. Whatever we do, it seems we're looking at a minimum of $1000 and probably at least $1800 for anything other than repairing what's there. *sigh* Oh well -- that's what the emergency fund is for, right? (And I might use the reno money instead, pay it back every month to be sure I have what I need when it comes due, and keep the e-fund intact.)

Other than that, hopefully things will be on a more even keel this month. I'm just getting my new Excel worksheet set up for 2015 bill tracking, which is actually a bit therapeutic, especially since I can delete so many payments from last year (for the couple of cards we totally paid off and the others we consolidated).

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

October Look Back / November Look Ahead

November 3rd, 2014 at 04:52 pm

The look back/look ahead is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

October
October ended up being a big "financial" month, mostly because I spent the vast majority of the month looking at our finances and budget and debt and all that fun stuff. I don't keep to a "budget", per se. I know how much is going to come in each month (aside from snowflakes) and how much has to go out, and I keep up with that every few days (kind of like balancing a checkbook, but I do it in Excel). Most of our daily expenses go on the Freedom card, which we pay off before interest hits, and there's a lot of flex there. Our October Freedom spending was way out of control, though, about $2K more than usual. (Some of that was the $586 medical bill I ranted about a while back, and another $500 ended up being refunded, but still, we spent a lot more than I expected.)

So I got it into my head to go back through the last year and total up all of our transactions, in broad categories, and see just how were were doing in general. I had myself quite freaked out for a while, too, because any way I looked at it (last three months, last six months, last 12 months) it averaged out that we were spending $3,500 more per month than we brought in. (Which on the one hand wouldn't surprise me, sometimes, but I just couldn't imagine how that could be possible when we still had money leftover almost every paycheck. It's just not sustainable, right?) It was, of course, a bonehead error on my part; we've done some debt consolidation and 0% balance transfer checks over the last year, and I deleted the loan/check deposits from our income -- but I'd forgotten to delete the corresponding card payoffs from the expenses. Oops!

Once I fixed that things look a lot better, although still tighter than I would have thought. (I suspect that's because of the averaging, though; we had some big expenses at the beginning of the year, but some big paychecks to cover them.) There's a lot we can trim, though -- we spend an obscene amount on eating out, I found, and most of it is lunches. S is on the road a lot for work so there's not much to do there, but I almost never bring a lunch to work. That would probably save $100/month, easily, so that will be my focus for November. (We rarely have leftovers from dinner, but I may start tweaking recipes when it's possible so that we do. My biggest problem is I'm always running late in the mornings, so packing a lunch is usually not on the agenda. Leftovers I can pack up the night before and just grab and go.)

Debt-wise, I paid off $2,373 in debt in October, paid out $935 in interest, and put $230 extra to my current avalanche debt.

November
We ended up doing another debt consolidation, the loan closed on October 31 so this weekend I made all the payoff payments. (I told S to check out the account online after the loan principal hit, because our balance probably won't be that high again for at least a decade! Kind of scary, though, to see the balance drop by several thousands of dollars overnight, even though I was expecting it.) This doesn't really affect my payoff time, which is about two years out, but will save about $3,800 in interest. I also took the $500 refund we got and paid off one of my lower-interest cards. It was due to be paid off in February, so I really didn't save much in interest, but the monthly payment was $133 so now I have that much more to put toward the other debt.

We finally gave in and turned on the heat Saturday night. I usually struggle to make it to October 1 before I get too cold, but we had so many 70-degree days in October this year I just couldn't justify turning it on for the 2-3 50-degree days in between. (Plus we have very warm snuggly bedding, and if I'm sitting on the couch I have a triple-layer fleece blanket plus any number of warm and toasty critters on my lap.) We had snow on Halloween night, though, and driving home from dinner at my mom's on Saturday is was I think 29 degrees, so we figured it was time!

Not much else going on for November. My niece turns 5 at the end of the month; my sister has asked that some of her "presents" be money, since they are going to start her on a "budget" plan (allocating for spending, saving, giving, etc.). She's having a party for the first time this year (she started kindergarten so it's with the kids in her class); I'll be helping out with that and since I'm not really a big fan of kids, I'll consider that part of my present, too! Wink We don't spend a lot on birthdays so that will be an easy cash flow. Thanksgiving is at my sister's and we share expenses (my mom, sis, and us) so it's another easy cash flow. Then it's just gearing up for Christmas and year-end stuff, and starting all over again in 2015!

September Look Back / October Look Ahead

October 1st, 2014 at 08:02 pm

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

I can't believe it's October already! Where has the time gone?

September
Pretty quiet month, financially. The rental taxes were paid, and the normal bills, etc. I procrastinated calling about the landscaping; I may see about it this month but at this point it might be easier to just wait until spring.

We cleaned out the garden last weekend, so now I've got to figure out how to store or freeze what we harvested. (It's mostly onions and potatoes, which are fairly easy, a few carrots, and one big stalk of Brussels sprouts.)

Debt-wise, I paid off $2,456 in debt in August, paid out $853 in interest, and put $282 extra to my current avalanche debt.

October
I don't have much planned for October, either. S and I usually go to dinner and a movie on Halloween (we're not into kids), but he's going to be out of town this year. I may still go to the movies myself if there's something decent to see (beats sitting at home in the dark hiding from the trick-or-treaters Wink ), and since I have a gift card for the movies and I'll have popcorn for dinner, it won't cost anything and we'll save the $50 or so we would have spent at a restaurant.

S will also get a decent-sized commission payment at the end of October. He's been wanting some new gear for his hobby, so some of it may go toward that (or he might use some of his end-of-year bonus instead, depending on the timing; six of one, half-dozen of the other, really). I'll set aside our winter taxes, they're not due until February 2015 and it's the 'small' tax, which actually I can often cash flow, but I might as well just set it aside if I have it. The rest will probably go into a 'slush fund' for various things that no doubt will crop up around the house, the landscaping if I decide to do it now, etc.

August Look Back / September Look Ahead

September 7th, 2014 at 06:51 pm

Slightly behind on this, what else is new?

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

August
August is property tax month for our home, which means the bank account takes a pretty big hit. It's a known and planned-for expense, but it still twinges a little bit not to see that nice big savings balance!

The garden is limping along -- other people have said this year is even worse than last year for gardening (and last year they said it was the worst ever), so I guess we're not doing too badly. The tomatoes are finally starting to take off, and we're actually looking like we may have more than we can consume before they go bad -- something we didn't at all have to worry about last year! None of us is really interested in canning, so we're going to look into possible ways to freeze them.

I passed my second licensing exam at the end of the month, so I guess in about 30 days I'll be officially licensed. At some point that's supposed to translate to a financial benefit, but I'm not sure exactly when that will happen.

On the debt front, I paid off $2,532 in debt in August, paid out $777 in interest, and put $291 extra to my current avalanche debt.

September
Rental property taxes are due at the end of September; that's another bite out of the savings account, but only about half as much as our home taxes. There's really not much going else on for September, as far as I can foresee. I may spend a chunk more than planned on yard maintenance.

We have a 'landscape' area behind our fenced yard that has run wild the last several years; we cleared it out last year but of course it all came back again. At this point it's beyond what we could do in a weekend, so I'm going to get a few quotes to have it a) cleared out and b) weed-blocked and either mulched or (better) filled in with rock, and the one area that's visible to the neighborhood given some design other than 'big pine tree and whatever weeds grow around it'. (The big pine tree needs to come down, actually.) I doubt I'll be willing to pay for it all, but I might at least shell out to have it cleared. (I have some money leftover from the rental a/c that didn't end up needing replacement, and a plan to save back up for replacing it in 2015.) The backup plan is to let the bulk of it die off over the winter, and do the cleanup/fill in the spring.

Catching Up

August 1st, 2014 at 10:53 pm

The month of July really got away from me. I spent the first half studying for my licensing exam, and the second half recovering from the studying! I'm feeling a little bit back on my feet, finally.

July Look Back / August Look Ahead

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

July
July was a good month overall, our family garden is growing (slowly, but much better than last year), and I passed my exam (phew!) - on the first try.

I did end up having the faucet/knobs (controls? handles?) in my shower replaced, as well as many of the pipes, due to major leaking, to the tune of $850 (ouch!). There are some 'good' things about it, though; first, I found the access panel in the linen closet, which at first they didn't think was there, so it cost about $2,000 less than they originally anticipated. (They had quoted the job about a year ago, when we had them do a temporary fix to some minor leaking, knowing it would have to be replaced in the not-so-distant future.) Also, we've been setting aside money for general household updates (rental and personal), some of which are optional, so I was able to cash-flow the expense and will replace the funds over the next few months. Finally, without the leaking (it was leaking into the tub for a long time, until it finally started leaking out of the tub and into the basement) we'll be saving water -- how much remains to be seen, but I've definitely noticed a difference in both water pressure and how long the hot water lasts.

On the debt front, I paid off $2,548 in debt in July, paid out $760 in interest (nice to see that number drop below $800!), and put $160 extra to my current avalanche debt.

August
I have a second licensing exam at the end of this month, and if I pass that I'll be able to complete my license. It's not supposed to be as difficult as the exam I took in July (though still a challenge); the bonus there is that a few areas I studied for the July exam are topics that will be on the August exam.

It's S's birthday this month and while he claims he doesn't like birthdays, I was already instructed to get tickets to a play for that night. (His birthday is on a Saturday, conveniently.) There's a restaurant we've been wanting to try not too far from the theater, so we'll go there for dinner - expensive, but S got a good bonus this month so we'll use part of that.

Property taxes on our home are due at the end of the month -- that will be a big chunk out of the savings account balance, but of course the reason we have so much in the savings account is because we set it aside for the taxes. (Taxes on the rental are due at the end of September; another chunk out of savings, but half as much as the August bill. It's nice to actually have the money in the bank, though -- too many years we didn't plan ahead and had to borrow or use credit cards (or one year just not pay them for a few months until a big bonus came through).

Other than that, I don't see much going on in August. My niece starts kindergarten at the end of the month (or maybe the beginning of September, they recently changed the laws about the first day of school and I don't remember on which side of Labor Day it landed.) I picked up a cute little "Frozen" nail polish set with a tin to keep them in (she's all about both "Frozen" and nail polish these days) at the Five Below (it was $5). I'll probably tell my sister to give it to her if she's a good girl on the first day of school. (Or, on whatever day she gets a good report if the first day is a bust! She's usually pretty good, honestly, but it's a new school so who knows how that will affect her.)



52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 30 [started late, now on my week 24]

Obviously these cover several weeks, but I'm just lumping them all together rather than doing multiple updates. The refund was for some concert tickets S bought, he ended up getting a different package so they refunded the original. The gift card was for Barnes & Noble -- I got two books, "S" by J.J. Abrams, and then I spent $3.99 on a biography of Warren Buffett to get free shipping (which would otherwise have been $3.99). The refund for my physical therapy co-pay, that I paid and then the insurance ended up paying the whole thing, finally came through. I had $10.29 in "keep the change" rounding on the checking account. (Next month I might try it on the Freedom card activity -- we use that a heck of a lot more!) The dinner refund is money my mom gave me for her birthday dinner (I cooked for her); I had intended to pay the whole thing but my sister and I took her out for lunch twice during her birthday week, so she insisted on paying for the dinner. Interest is in the ING/Capital One account, which is where the 52-Week Challenge money goes.

Snowflakes
Pact: $2.18
Pact: $1.95
Refund: $52.00
Book Review: $15.01
Book Review: $25.00
Gift Card: $25.00
Rounding: $10.29
Pact: $1.40
Pact: $1.88
Insurance Refund: $203.00
Dinner Refund: $50.00
Interest: $1.06
Total Snowflakes: $388.76
Rounding (from reserve): $1.24

Beginning Balance: $1855
Deposit: $390
Ending Balance: $2245

Reserve: $2.85 - $1.24 = $1.61

This puts me within $500 of the "double challenge" (I finished the single challenge a while ago), and almost at 1/3 of the Mega challenge.

May Look Back / June Look Ahead

June 2nd, 2014 at 03:29 pm

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas. I was going to combine this with my 52-Week Mega Challenge update, since I figured they'd both be short, but apparently I had more to say in this one than I expected! Wink

May
Not a whole lot going on in May; it's a high-spend month for several reasons (my annual 'pilgrimage', our anniversary, and my birthday, plus getting ready for the family garden) but we plan for it and set aside money from my overtime (Feb - April).

Overall in May I paid off $2,292 in non-real estate loans, paid $770 in interest, and paid $158 extra to my 'avalanche' credit card. I wrote yet another letter to Social Security informing them of my mother-in-law's death (in August of 2012) and requesting that they stop depositing her monthly benefits into her checking account. (There's almost $30,000 in there now -- no wonder the system is going bankrupt!) I also informed them that this was our last attempt at remedying the situation -- they've been informed at least three times by three different people (including the funeral home), the bank was instructed to return the first two deposits and close the account back in October 2012, we've tried calling multiple times but can never get through (when we do get through, it's hold-hold-hold-hold and then they disconnect us). So, it's on them, and I'm not even going to worry about it any more. (We don't have any access to the bank account, it's in her name only, so there's not much else I can do regardless.)


June
We have another vacation planned this month, for S's family reunion (among other things). It's unusual for us both to go anywhere together that's not a day trip, because of the critters. We're dividing them up among friends so that no one has more than they can handle. (Once we get this debt paid off and a good EF built up, I'm going to start saving up to buy a big cargo van so we can just bring them all with us. Since we don't go too often it's not that big of a hardship to ask friends to babysit, but it's six trips getting them there and back and about 20 hours of driving total! It does save tremendously on boarding fees, though; we'd be looking at four figures, easily.)

We're staying with family for the duration of our trip and S has a company car so doesn't pay for gas (they take a set amount out of each check to cover personal use of the vehicle), so our actual vacation expenses should be minimal.

I am expecting some big snowflakes this month. Of course, one I've been expecting for a few months now (payment for a side gig), but I'm moving up the ladder now and should have a resolution soon. The other is $200 from a round of physical therapy I had last year; I paid a $20 per session co-pay, but then the insurance company ended up paying the entire bill. I heard back from them last week that they'll be processing the refund and I should see it in a few weeks.

On the down side, the tenants at the rental let me know about several areas that need repair at the house. (Honestly most of them are items that needed repair when we moved out 12 years ago.) They do most of the work on the house themselves -- they plan to buy it at some point (and I'm not pushing them, honestly, because a) they're like family and b) the longer they wait the better for me, because the mortgage will go down and the home's value will go up) -- but they're in a tight situation financially right now and can't afford to pay for the repairs and pay the rent. So they'll likely only pay a portion of the rent for the next several months, while they tackle these repairs, and I'll need to make up the difference since the rent is used to repay family loans. (It should only be a few hundred dollars each month, which I may be able to cash flow from S's bonuses, side gigs, etc., but if not I've asked them to find out about recharging the a/c one more year instead of replacing it, and then I can use some of the money I had set aside for the new a/c now, and start saving again to replace the a/c next June.)

We started on the family garden yesterday (late, we were waiting on the rototilling to get done) and hope to get the bulk of it finished up tonight, if the rain holds off. This is our second year at the community garden, and I'm really hoping it's better than last year was. We have a new plot, that's on a little bit higher ground (apparently our plot last year was in what used to be a riverbed), and the soil seems much better. To be fair, everyone at the garden said they had a bad year last year, we got quite a lot of rain and not many really sunny, hot days. This year they're predicting extreme heat, which I'm hoping also means lots of sun. I'm not sure what the rainfall prediction is, but water is free so it's just a matter of getting there as needed. (My sister lives a mile away and I drive by every day on my way home from work, so that's not a problem.)

I think that's (finally) it! More than I expected to write, but I guess I needed to get all of this out of my head. Smile

Kids and Money

May 27th, 2014 at 03:21 pm

LAL's blog entry reminded me (peripherally) of a conversation I had with my sister yesterday, and I figured I might