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Good news, bad news

August 19th, 2013 at 08:50 pm

Good news:
The leftover summer camp cash we had saved was closer to $800 and not $750 like I thought.

Bad news: The hubs' PTO cashout was only about $1,500 after taxes. Makes me sick how much we pay in income taxes Frown

Really good news: I just made a $2,283.87 credit card payment!

To do's and some thinking

August 19th, 2013 at 01:35 pm

Got some things done today that I kept putting off and it sure feels good to cross them off my list.

Tonight I make the big credit card payment that I talked about in my last post. The hubs forgot to email me his paystub Friday so I didn't know the exact dollar amount of his PTO cashout. In reviewing our savings, I think I found an extra $749 that we didn't spend for summer camps for my daughter. I need to confirm this and if correct, this cash will be going toward the Mastercard too.

I've been thinking about using the debit card for groceries and gas and cash for everything else. Problem is, I don't know how much cash I should withdraw every pay period. I need to review what "everything else" typically consists of and then make a decision.

I reviewed my August financial goals today and I haven't done so hot with them. I really need to commit to meal planning and grocery shopping on the weekends. Our weekends typically are so busy that I tend to put grocery shopping off. That is no bueno.

I did however buy my husband salads to take for lunch instead of him going out every day, so that is one good thing I guess.

Trying this again...

August 16th, 2013 at 02:00 pm

...feeling the need to get my thoughts out of my head, so they are going here.

Credit card is almost maxed out and trying to get it paid off. Never in my life have I been in debt like this except for a mortgage and a now paid off car loan. It sucks.

Found out today that a portion of the hubs' PTO was cashed out and we received an extra $2,850 in his paycheck today. As much as I'd like to go away and relax, this money is going straight to the MasterCard. Evil piece of crap that it is.

Update to car repair

November 16th, 2010 at 06:49 pm

Well it turns out I didn't need brakes on my car after all. Frustrating that I had to pay for labor for them to discover this but I don't blame them since the dealership told me I needed brakes and I took my car to another repair shop to do the work since they were $110 cheaper than the dealership.

I spent $228, $143 of which was for them to diagnose the check engine light that has been going off.

All in all, I have about another years worth of brakes and spent less than I had planned so I guess that is good news. Plus they vacuumed my car. Very nice surprise as it needed it badly - thanks to dirty soccer cleats.

So the balance of our tax refund that was to pay for repairs today will go to the MasterCard payoff.

Christmas shopping & other stuff

November 16th, 2010 at 09:47 am

I was not able to get what I wanted at CVS yesterday. Twice I have gone and both times they were out of the item. Apparently they will have another shipment on Wednesday so I'll stop by on my way to work.

I went Christmas shopping last night. I had a Gap Groupon I needed to use by 11/19. I was able to get my son 3 long sleeve tops and I am now done shopping for him except for a new cell phone. The display on his broke so he has been using one of our old phones. I know that I can get him a new phone for $20 or so. I scored a lot of good deals with his gifts so I am under budget for him.

I also got some things for my daughter. She's almost 11 and girls clothes are so much more expensive than boys clothes. I had a 40% off coupon but even with that I still ended up spending $90. Her birthday is in January so I also need to be on the lookout for gifts for that as well.

I know that I will be able to get some really good deals on Black Friday on some of the other things she wants so I think I should be able to stay on budget.

I never know what to get my mom and came across a really good deal I read about on a frugal blog. It's a free 8x10 picture on canvas from the Canvas People. All I need to do is pay about $15 in shipping. That comes in under the budget I had set for my mom and she would love a picture of my kids. Going to look through my digital pics tonight and see if there is a good one to upload.

Someone asked on my last post about how my cash budgeting was going. Honestly, I haven't withdrawn the cash yet. I was at the ATM yesterday to deposit checks and I didn't withdraw the money. Since I've already spent just a little from each budget category (household and personal care) I need to look at my budget spreadsheet to see what the balances are and then withdraw that amount.

Lastly, I took my car in this morning to get new brakes, replacement of the air filter and for them to see why the check engine light has been going off. I hope it's nothing major (the car only has 36,000 miles on it). I've got about $500 cash for car repairs and I'm hoping I only need to use no more than $400. Fingers crossed.

So far so good

November 15th, 2010 at 01:36 pm

This week has started out well so far.

Sunday we had only our planned spending and it turned out to not be as much as I expected.

Today I went to Target to return something, had the refund credited back to my debit card and walked out of the store without buying anything.

I do have a few groceries to pick up for dinner this week, I have a $5 off coupon that I want to use at CVS for something that is on sale and I think I will do some Christmas shopping this week, but other than that I don't anticipate much, if any, spending out of our discretionary budget.

I did email two of my girlfriends whom I normally exchange Christmas gifts with and asked if we could simply do a cookie/goodie exchange. They both agreed so now my list of people that I need to buy for has become smaller.

I'm also not exchanging gifts with one of my sisters and her daughter. She is hurting financially and is on the brink of having to move in with our mom to avoid losing her townhouse so it was easier to just say no gifts this year. It's just as well anyway because I always feel I need to buy something out of obligation, even though she never needs anything, and then the gift gets returned because she either doesn't like it or it doesn't fit.

I'm getting tired of buying Christmas gifts beause I feel like that's what I'm supposed to do. Since we are now on a tighter budget it's become easier for me to speak up. We've also agreed to not buy gifts for my sister and brother in laws as well.

I'm trying to keep our Christmas budget at $400 this year. Normally it is MUCH more than that but I'm trying to use the cash I have saved so far which would normally be more but since I failed to save for a while I trying to work with what I have.

I think I can knock out a lot of gifts on Black Friday and save quite a bit of money.

Starting fresh

November 11th, 2010 at 08:09 pm

Tomorrow my husband is paid, I am paid on Monday, and that means the start of another budget cycle (I budget by pay period).

As I mentioned in my last post, I think I'm going to go ahead and withdraw cash for a few of my discretionary budget catgories and record the entire withdrawal in my budget. As my one commenter on that post suggested, I like the idea of having the cash and when it's gone it's gone so no chance of overspending and if there's any cash left over I can keep it for the next budget cycle. Also, I only have to record one entry for each of the categories.

It's worth a try at least and I think a step in the right direction to going to all cash.

I have the day off tomorrow and plan on grocery shopping for next week's meals. I meal planned today and feel good about next week.

There will be some spending this weekend:

New lenses for my glasses, possibly new frames (insurance will pay for most).

My husband and I always have a Friday date night and we go out for Mexican food. Something to look forward to after working all week.

I have a $10 Kohls coupon that I want to use for a pair of pants for my son. He cannot wear denim to school so he needs some pants for the cold weather.

We do have another out of town soccer game this weekend and I anticipate that we will buy lunch.

Refund check and a question

November 10th, 2010 at 07:44 pm

We recceived our state income tax refund check today. It will be used to put new brakes on my car. Glad I can pay cash for that.

In reviewing our budget I'm thinking about using cash for certain discretionary categories instead of using my debit card. I'm just trying to figure out the logistics of that and how to enter in my budget spreadsheet. For example, if a withdraw $25 for personal care items but only spend $15 of it, how would I record that in my budget? The $25 withdrawal or the actual $15 spent?

No Spend Challenge = FAIL

November 10th, 2010 at 01:15 pm

As soon as I hit the publish button last Friday I knew I was biting off more than I can chew. And sure enough by Saturday morning, I knew this challenge would not be a success.

My 14 year old son had been asking to get a haircut for the past few weeks and on Saturday morning he asked again. I paid for the cut with cash I had from being reimbursed for something so the money didn't necessarily come from budgeted money.

But, we went to In-n-Out ($23.16) on the way home from my daughter's soccer game, I ordered a new cover ($6.94) for my iphone since the one I have is broken and we had dinner out Monday night ($53.90).

We are a few dollars over budget because we went over in gas, groceries, and personal care. My daughter had 2 games this past weekend that were out of town so that took it's toll on my gas budget and I bought stuff at the grocery store that I had coupons for but didn't necessarily need for this week. I also got a bag a frozen chicken breasts at Costco to the tune of $19.99 and even though we will have them for a while it still puts a dent in my budget. At $1.99/pound, I can't get this price anywhere else.

Our personal care budget is over because I did some CVSing and spent more than I should have. I do like to buy things we use with coupons when they are sale even though we might not necessarily need them immediately. I figure I would rather pay as little as possible for stuff we use instead of waiting until I need it and paying full price, however this can sometimes put a dent in our budget as it did this pay period.

So, I will need to take a look at our budget for the upcoming pay period (I budget by pay period) and make adjustments as needed, taking into account travel for soccer and basketball games. I'll also need to make extra efforts to spend as little as I can on groceries.

My no spend week challenge

November 5th, 2010 at 09:26 pm

I menu planned and grocery shopped today for next weeks dinners. I have a few more groceries to buy but other than that and some gas for my car, my hope and challenge is to not spend any money for the next week.

Bills are paid and the fridge is almost full so this should be a pretty doable goal, although with 2 school aged kids I never know what expenses will arise. Also, I admit that this will be a challenge but I'm determined to do it because not only is it a step towards spending less but also to getting the MasterCard paid off.

Ugh and catching up

November 4th, 2010 at 10:41 am

October was pretty crappy in terms of spending and tracking our money. I kept procrastinating about entering stuff into Quicken and therefore, out of sight out of mind.

The good news is that we got our taxes done, bad news is that we had to pay on the federal portion. I am awaiting a few hundred dollars refund from the state and I think it will go to savings. I really want to build up our emergency fund as I'm worried that with money being so tight something will happen and we will have to rely on our credit card to pay for it.

Good news is that I'm now up to speed with Quicken and my budget spreadsheet. I don't like having to enter things twice but for now it works and is worth the extra effort.

I've been tweaking my budget spreadsheet and think I've got it to where I need it to be (formulas, how info is displayed etc). I'm hoping that by the beginning of the year I will have worked out all the kinks and can start a new workbook for 2011. I'm doing a biweekly budget and assigning bills to each pay period and I'm liking how its been working so far.

Good news is that I paid off two credit cards. Our flat screen tv is paid off (we did the zero interest thing) and a small amount from JCPenney. I'm now snowballing those payments to our MasterCard.

I've gone mostly to all cash (debit card) except for my weak spot of dining out. This continues to be our biggest budget buster. Lack of planning on my part is mostly to blame. MUST DO BETTER.

The focus now is on paying off the MasterCard. I need to project payments so I can estimate how soon I can pay it off. I did make a fairly large payment last night with the cash reserves in our checking. I never transferred the reserves out of our account as I was too afraid I may have missed something major in my budget and actually need the cash, so I've decided to make smaller payments with this money until the reserves are gone and I'm confident I didn't overlook something.

I've been thinking about some financial goals for 2011 and hope to nail them down soon. One of these goals will be to record my thoughts here on a more regular basis because doing that keeps my financial goals at the forefront.


September 28th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

So I posted yesterday about our unexpected financial gift from my inlaws and how I wasn't sure what to do with it.

I recently wrote down our upcoming irregular expenses for the next few months that have not been budgeted for and priortized them.

Income taxes was number 1, property taxes was number 2 and brakes for my car was number 3. There are more but not worth mentioning for this post.

Since we are getting a state tax refund but probably won't have it in time that the federal taxes are due I will "borrow" this money from the gift money and pay it back once we receive the state refund.

After that the money will go towards replacing the brakes on my car and any money left over will go to either our emergency fund or to the MasterCard.

Glad to have that worked out.

An unexpected gift

September 27th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Well just when I was stressing over finances we seem to have been blessed. We were given an unexpected financial gift from my inlaws over the weekend that will help alleviate some of my stress. I'm blesssed to have such great inlaws, not just for this gift but they are great people and I really like them.

I sent an email to Safeway in my anger with them over a shopping trip last week. They responded with canned responses. All the more reason to not shop there anymore.

Spending over the weekend was more than I had planned. Lots of driving to soccer games and I was exhausted last night so we went out to dinner. Still though, we've been really good with not spending money so I'm trying to not feel too bad about our spending over the weekend. And I think I will come in under budget for a few categories so that will offset the money spent.


September 23rd, 2010 at 07:02 pm

I'm so mad right now. I went to Safeway to pick up a few sale items and some fruit to go with dinner. I got a mini watermelon because the sign said they were on sale 2/$3.00.

Cereal was also on sale for $1.99. I had a $1.50/3 boxes Catalina coupon in addition to a $1.50/2 boxes manufacturer coupon.

While I am checking out I hand the coupons to the cashier and he tells me the register won't accept two coupons for the same items even though one was a Catalina and the other was a manufacturer coupon. Maybe they are the same??? Fine. Whatever.

Too make matters worse, when I got home that I saw that I was charged $3.99 for the watermelon.

I normally watch the prices of what I am buying but I was all flustered about the coupon problem and talking to the cashier that I didn't catch the overcharge.

This happens to me ALL the time at Safeway.

After dinner I had to go to Walgreens and since it's next door to Safeway I went in to check the sign for the mini watermelons to see if maybe I mis-read it. Well the sign wasn't there anymore. I asked the guy working in the produce dept how much they were and he mumbled something about the sign being wrong. He checks the price and tells me they are $3.99. I told him that earlier the sign said they were 2/$3 and he grumbled something about it being wrong and walked away.

I am fed up with Safeway. I swear they do this on purpose. In the grand scheme of things it's not a lot of money but part of it is the principle of it and part of it is I would never pay $4 for a mini watermelon. So yeah, it is about MY money.

Safeway, you've officially pissed me off and even though I'm a shareholder I'm not shopping there anymore.


Baby steps

September 23rd, 2010 at 10:27 am

Tuesday was a no spend day so yay for that.

Also on Tuesday I called Costco/Ameriprise to get a homeownerís insurance quote in hopes of consolidating our auto and homeowners insurance. Unfortunately they werenít able to provide a quote because we have a wood shake roof. Boo! And unfortunately we donít have $10,000 for a new roof so for now I will have to have separate auto and homeownerís policies.

Wednesday was ďa spend very little and get a lot of stuff dayĒ. I bought almost $22 worth of stuff at CVS and between coupons and Extra Care Bucks I paid about $6 out of pocket. I started CVSing this month and am finally getting the hang of it.

Iíd like to get to having more ďno spendĒ days then ďspend daysĒ each week.

Iíve been trying to form the habit of entering receipts into Quicken as we spend money and not waiting until my weekly appointment with myself to do that on Saturday nights. I also have been entering them into my Excel budget spreadsheet. Itís a little redundant but since Quickenís budgeting feature is so crappy I have to do this in order to stay on top of cash flow.

Still havenít transferred the cash out of checking yet although Iím getting more comfortable with doing it since Iím almost 100% sure that Iíve accounted for all expenses and have entered all receipts into Quicken.

Random thoughts

September 21st, 2010 at 09:41 am

This is going to be random because I have a lot of financial things running around in my mind lately.

We thought my daughter broke her wrist Sunday evening. It wasn't swollen but she had some soreness and a lump. Yesterday morning the lump was gone but she still had tenderness. My husband took the day off and spent a lot of time waiting for her primary care doctor to provide a referral to an orthopedic doctor. We were eventually told she had to be seen by her primary care doc first before a referral could be given. We have really good insurance but the red tape we have to go through sometimes is so frustrating. Long story short is that she doesn't have a broken bone and we only spent $20 on the copay.

I've pretty much decided that I will cancel our trip to Vegas. Another couple has decided to go as well, (there would have been 3 couples if we went) so I don't feel as guilty backing out now. I'm going to call the hotel and see if we can get the $70ish deposit on the hotel refunded. This is a load off my shoulders although my husband isn't thrilled.

We filed an extension on our income taxes in April. My husband has been working on them and it's looking like we are going to owe on the federal portion, something like $900 I think is what he told me. We cannot get it any lower. We are getting about $360 back on the state but that still means we have to come up with the differene on the federal and I imagine there will be penalities and interest because this was due in April. I've never been in this situation before (owing taxes after 4/15) since we've always filed on time in the past.

I don't know where this money will come from. My huband lowered the number of deductions on his paycheck because of us owing income taxes but that means we will have less to budget with.

I've been tinkering with our budget and I think I've got it to where it needs to be. I was paid yesterday and my husband last Friday and my intention was to transfer the cash that was there prior to being paid to savings for our property tax bill. I'm scared to do that out of fear of not having a cushion in our checking account and me grossly overlooking something in our budget.

I've been working on the budget every night for the past week and I think I've accounted for everything but I'm still nervous to transfer the money.

In our 18 years of being married my husband and I have never needed to have a budget because we always paid our bills and saved. But now that we are faced with tuition expenses for the kids we are finding ourselves in a position of having to watch every dollar we spend and it sucks.

We make good money and I feel as if we should be able to buy ourselves stuff once in a while without having to consult a budget first.

Once we pay the car off next July and the Mastercard (hopefully within the next 12 months) we will be in a better position but until then I hate this.

An update to last weekend's plans:
I cancelled our gym membership.

I've decided to stay with our current internet/cable provider. I negotiated new rates in August and there isn't any company that can do as well without us having to pay out of pocket up front for equipment.

I never got around to calling about homeowner's insurance but I will this week.

Weekend finance plans

September 17th, 2010 at 01:10 pm

Iíve been working on a budget spreadsheet in Excel that I found on a personal finance blog. Actually it was a snapshot this womanís budget and I liked the format of it so much that I copied it. Itís arranged in a way that makes sense to me and hopefully itíll work, unlike the many budgets Iíve tried in the past. For the rest of the year, Iíve assigned our bills to paychecks, allocated money for our various savings categories and some discretionary spending (such as groceries, gas and household expenses) and there is hardly anything left. Iím not liking what I am seeing.

I think that after we are paid today and Monday, I will transfer to savings the remaining cash in our checking account that was there prior to us being paid. That money will go towards our property taxes and then regular savings transfers every pay period will give us the money we need in December when the first payment is due.

Iím afraid to transfer this money though because then I wonít have a cushion in our checking account. I need to review the numbers repeatedly this weekend to make sure I havenít missed anything.

If Iíve calculated and anticipated our expenses correctly, we should have a pretty decent surplus in October and November, thanks to those months being our extra paycheck months. Since I budget our savings off of 24 paychecks, our normal savings transfer will not happen for these two paychecks, leaving us with a surplus that will be applied to our MasterCard. I think I can pay almost 50% of the card balance with this money.

On tap for today and this weekend:
* Cancel gym membership - annual savings of $696
* Call around for new internet/cable providers
* Get homeownerís insurance estimate from Costco/Ameriprise
* More tweaking/reviewing of the budget. Husband is paid today (Friday) and I am paid on Monday so I want to transfer the surplus after my paycheck is deposited.
* Hopefully this will be a weekend of no spending except for groceries and gas.

Expenses and then some

September 16th, 2010 at 10:16 am

So I've been compiling a list of anticipated expenses that we will have in the next few months:

Property Taxes
First payment is due in early December. I normally save incrementally for this with each paycheck but when the savings transfers aren't made, that's kind of not a good thing. I have some money saved but the balance is not what it should be.

Income Taxes
We filed an extension this year because I waited too long to find an accountant to file for us. As it stands now we are owing on the federal portion and getting a state refund but not enough to offset the federal. We are working on trying to get the federal lower.

Brakes on my car
$410 to have them done at the dealership. Iím going to call around and get quotes from mechanics elsewhere.

Again, I normally save incrementally for this but the transfers to savings werenít always made.

My son is going to try out for the baseball team at school. I have no idea what this will cost us if he makes it. I need to call the school and ask.

We planned a trip to Vegas with friends. Airfare was free due to our Mastercard rewards. Hotel was pretty inexpensive. I just need to set aside cash for meals and a show. In hindsight I wish we hadnít agreed to go but nothing I can do about it now.

My son already has braces and my daughter has retainers. We were just told that she will need braces too Frown I plan on asking at their next appointment how much they will cost so we can update my husband's flexible spending account during open enrollment in November.

Glasses for me:
I got a new prescription and need new lenses only. I think I might try ordering through an online site like Glassesusa.com. I can get new frames and lenses for much less than I would pay for lenses alone at Lens Crafters.

So a lot of expenses, outside of our regular ones, and not a whole lot of extra cash leaves me wondering how we will pay for all of this.

October happens to be an extra paycheck month. I think I might use some of that money for our property taxes.

Trying this once again

September 15th, 2010 at 01:38 pm

Well I decided to come back. I wasn't even sure of this blog still existed. I'm finding a need to write my thoughts down regarding our finances since it's do or die.

We are a middle to upper middle class couple trying to survive living in expensive California with two kids in private schools and for the first time in my life, $7,000 in stupid credit debt.

I'm feeling stressed about upcoming expenses and blogging seems to be a good way for me to relieve some of that stress. Hopefully I'll stick with this. I've got a running blog too but it has been neglected of late due to just not having enough time to run and write entries in it.

I've struggled many times with finding a budget that worked for me. Somehow trying to allocate money to every conceivable category just didn't work for me. Too many unknowns with kids. Sports fee, birthdays, school related expenses etc etc and so I grew frustrated at my inability to budget and gave up.

Instead I logged all of our spending in Quicken, balanced our accounts and that was it.

Financially we were always ok but now that we are paying a lot of money in school tuition, I HAVE to find a system that works. There just isn't any more wiggle room unless I go to work full time and that isn't going to happen until my daughter is older.

I recently found a budget online and adapted it to what I think will work for me. It has sections for regular monthly bills, savings, discretionary spending and other expenses, those being the aforementioned sports, school, birthday etc expenses that come up throughout the month.

I've also allocated bills and savings to paychecks and basically what's left over, and there isn't much, is left for discretionary spending and other expenses.

I've set this up for September and hoping to start using the plan with our next pay period this week.

I've also started keeping notes about the other expenses that come up and will save them to my budget template so that each month all I have to do is copy the categories over and fill in the budget. Hopefully in a year I will have a rough idea about what to expect each month outside of our regular expenses.

In theory it works. Let's see how well I can keep up with it.

February Budget Surplus

February 2nd, 2009 at 09:38 pm

So after finalizing my January numbers it turns out that we actually spent $314 more than we took in (I originally thought this number was ~$240 but forgot to enter a receipt for my son's baseball cleats and a few other things).

My February budget surplus as it stands now is $993, so if I subtract out my January overage, my surplus is actually $681; that means we have $681 to spend on non-mandatory expenses. Assuming I budgeted correctly, and I believe I did, the only variable will be my husband's paycheck which will be lower because he is now contributing to his 403b plan. I've estimated his lower paycheck in my budget but I won't know for sure what the exact dollar amount will be until he gets paid on Friday.

I hope that we do well so I can put whatever surplus is left at the end of the month into our emergency fund.

Emergency Binder

February 2nd, 2009 at 11:46 am

This post isn't necessarily about saving money but it is financially related in that it will make your lives much easier in the event of a disaster or emergency.

I created what I call an Emergency Binder after Hurricane Katrina. I live in Earthquake country and so the possibility of a disaster is very real, only we won't have advance notice.

I copied ALL of my important papers and documents and put them in a red binder. I have copies of our homeowner's and auto policies, copies of our drivers licenses, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, even baptismal certificates. I also have copies of our social security cards, copy of the deed to our house, pink slips, and even info on the dog's shots in the event we need to go to a shelter, I can prove that his shots are up to date.

I also have a sheet of info that lists every credit card we have, account numbers and customer service phone numbers. I also list bank account info, brokerage account info, insurance info (policy nos. and agent phone nos.), Doctor/Dentist info, medical numbers, Vet information, the dog's microchip info, etc etc.

Setting up my binder took a little bit of time but it is well worth. If I ever need it I will have it. I do need to make an additional copy and store it somewhere other than my house (probably my mom's) in the God forsaken event that our house burns down.

I update it periodically as we switch insurers or other information changes.

One last thing, I read this online when figuring out how to set-up an emergency supply kit. If you have pets, keep a recent picture of the pet with a family member so that you can prove that the pet is yours in the event that you and your pet are separated in a disaster. I have a picture of our dog with my 2 kids.

January recap

January 31st, 2009 at 08:37 pm

I updated Quicken and see that I ended the month about $240 in the red. While that's not great and am pleased when I break it down. The overage is in part due to one-time and unexpected expenses and due to the fact that I really didn't monitor my spending until about the beginning of the 3rd week of January. We still spent TOO MUCH on meals out but then again that will change next month. I've already shopped for next week's meals and aside from a few things I forgot to put on my list, I don't expect that I will need anything else. I am determined to not go to the store just because we are out of snacky type items. I'm telling the kids to make their snacks last because they won't be replenished until next Saturday.

I did set-up my and my husband's paychecks in Quicken so that I can monitor my husband's 403b contributions and make sure his W-2 is correct next January. And mine for that matter.

We bought Turbo Tax last night and will work on doing our taxes soon. Hopefully I will be able to get my husband to start them tomorrow before all the festivities of the Superbowl.

All in all I am pleased with the way this month has ended. Even though I didn't start monitoring our spendning until mid-January, I'm sure that had I started on January 1, we would have ended with a surplus.

I'm feeling good about February.

Oops, the boss made a mistake!

January 30th, 2009 at 09:20 am

I received an email at work from the boss that states that 2007 W-2s need to be amended because the box for gross income included 401k contributions when it should not have. I was not employed here in 2007 so I don't need to worry about it but it got me thinking that I should probably change the way in which I track my and my husband's income in Quicken. As it stands now, I enter the net amount but I think I will set it up so that I enter gross amounts and then show deductions for taxes, 401k etc. That way I will know at year end if there are any discrepancies between the info that I have and our W-2s, and since we've only had 2 paychecks each so far this year it will be easy to go back and correct the ones that have already been entered.

I work at a small firm where the boss does the payroll. I've suggested that he get a payroll service but he ignored my suggestion. Maybe now, he will reconsider.

Spending and the Escaping Dog

January 29th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

This week is looking to end on a good note. I have cooked dinner every night this week and haven't spent much money. What I have spent has been on necessities and nothing else. Some of you might not think the cooking thing is a big deal but for me it is since dining out is our biggest budget buster. I am excited about the money we have saved by eating at home. I've already got next week's meals planned and will grocery shop this weekend.

On a different spending note, I think we are going to need to buy an electric fence to keep our dog from digging and escaping the yard. We've tried putting things where he digs but he is somehow able to move them out of the way. He is using his snout to do this and has rubbed the top of his nose raw. He has been chewing away at the fence posts and boards and I can envision a new fence/gate or vet bills to remove slivers in his mouth or stomach in the near future Frown I've been looking online at different electric fences and am a little overwhelemed at the variety and options. Do any of you have an electric fence? If so can you tell me what you like/dislike about it.

We are waiting for my husband's W-2 so we can get our taxes done. We will probably use Turbo Tax again this year. I had hoped to use TaxAct because the federal is free and state is only $13.95 compared to the approx $60 cost of Turbo Tax, but I read that TaxAct is for people who kinda know what they are doing. We will stick with Turbo Tax. 'Nuff said. I don't anticipate a state refund as we always seem to have to pay, besides CA is giving IOU's now. We generally get a federal refund so our plan is to do the taxes and if we are getting a refund, file those first and depending on how much state taxes are, use the fed refund to pay the state. Oh joy!

HELOC Interest Rate Lock a No-Go

January 27th, 2009 at 07:11 pm

I went back to my bank today to inquire about locking in our HELOC interest rate. Turns out I cannot lock in our current interest rate, which is Prime Rate (3.25%). I would have to lock in their fixed rate which would be 9%. Needless to say, I will not be locking in a rate. I will pay the car off using the HELOC and make our normal payments, plus additional in order to have it paid off by early 2010.

I've been working on my Feb budget but Quicken will not let me view it because it is still January Frown That's one of the few things I dislike about Quicken's budgeting features.

I bought charcoal today for tonight's dinner because my husband said we did not have enough; turns out we did so I spent $10 that I didn't need to. I have now spent $82 more than we took in this month. Catch is I didn't start monitoring our spending until 2 weeks into January so all in all I feel pretty good. Next month WILL be better. We will really need to watch our spending in February in order to account for our overspending this month.

Random Thoughts

January 26th, 2009 at 09:30 pm

Well I went to the bank today to deposit my paycheck and was going to ask about locking in a rate on our HELOC but the lady I needed to speak with was helping another customer and I couldn't wait any longer as I needed to pick up the kids at school. I did leave my phone number so hopefully she will call tomorrow.

No interest rate reduction by the Fed today. I thought they were meeting but I guess I was wrong. But with the news of ALL the job losses today, I would think another rate reduction is coming. We shall see.

I was giddy today because I had to buy my son some toothpaste and I used a .75 coupon on Colgate that was already on sale and got a $2 Register Reward at Walgreens. I plan on using it to buy a box of valentines and candy for my daughter. I have never been a coupon person but since I am trying to save all I can I was excited for this little savings lol. CVS will be coming to my city soon and I am looking forward to their reward program.

I started this whole budget process (again) about two weeks ago and have been faithfully updating Quicken as I spend money. If I don't spend any more money through the end of this month we will have spent $55 more than we took in. That's pathetic but the good news is that I know EXACTLY what the culprit is and I am working on fixing it. It has to do with going out to dinner too much Frown

Yes, I'm embarassed to admit that we spend more on dining out than we do on groceries but that is no more. I've got a plan in place and I feel good about it. February will allow me to implement this plan and see the results over an entire four weeks instead of just two. I'm excited to actually do this and to see my budget report at month-end.

I am also working on finding ways to cut other expenses. Little things like using Tupperware instead of Ziploc bags, making sure lights are turned out etc. I've always been of the mindset, "well its only a few dollars" but now that I am looking at what we earn in a different light, I feel like "hey I worked hard to earn that dollar and I want to spend it wisely". I've also decided to do the bulk of my grocery shopping on the weekends and only make mid-week trips to the store for fresh produce and milk. We ran out of cream cheese today and my son was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to have a bagel tomorrow morning but he will just have to have cereal or something else. Cream cheese can wait until Saturday or Sunday.

January has turned out to be a productive month financially for us. I got our budget in place, I signed up my husband for his 403b plan, I've got a plan in place to pay off our car more than one year early, I reduced our auto insurance premiums, we've stuck to our cash allowance so far, and I'm look for more ways to reduce expenses.

I hope that this success continues into February and beyond.

Car Loan Payoff Quandry

January 26th, 2009 at 09:30 am

I am in a quandary right now. One of my goals is to pay our car loan off by summer of 2010, which would be 1 year early. I called Capital One today to make a principal payment and was told that they no longer accept payments toward the principal -- huh? I was told that I had to pay more than our normal monthly payment and the difference would be put towards the principal. Problem is, the payment is automatically deducted from our checking account so there isn't any way I could pay the monthly payment amount and the extra payment together. I was told I could either call Capital One and make a payment over the phone which would cost met $15 every time I did that or mail in a payment. I'm not paying $15 every month in order to pay my car off early and I'm not comfortable mailing in the payment and when I tried last week to make a payment online it would not allow me to pay less than our normal monthly payment. Frustrating! So, I think I will pay the loan off with our HELOC. The interest rate on our HELOC is tied to the prime rate, which currently stands at 3.25%. I think the fed may be cutting interest rates again, possibly today, and if they do prime rate will likely be 3%. I'm going to my bank today to inquire about locking in the rate. Our car loan is at 6% interest, HELOC interest is tax deductible and the car loan interest is not. My quandary is that if I do this we will have an $11,000 second mortgage. I am not worried about job security for my husband or myself, so our ability to make the payments is not an issue, just the thought of having a 2nd mortgage is a little scary. I think I pretty much have my mind made up about paying the loan off with the HELOC, and DH is ok with it too, I'm just nervous.

Budget Tweaking & Goal Completed!

January 25th, 2009 at 09:38 pm

I finished my grocery shopping for the week today. I did forgot to get charcoal so I will have to get that tomorrow, but overall, I hope to not spend any more money on groceries this month. I don't believe I will need anything else expect possibly milk. I am at $374 in my $400/mo grocery budget as of today. Hmm, would you consider charcoal a grocery item??? Probably is. Shoot, that puts me closer to $400.

I FINALLY signed my husband up for his 403b plan at work. OMG, it was soooo easy, who knew?!?! I originally filled out the paper work but then went online to check a fund code and saw that you could enroll there. After about 5 minutes, it was complete. He still needs to complete a beneficiary form but the process is complete and beginning with the next paycheck (hopefully) he will now be contributing 10% of his salary. His employer will match 50% up to 6% so I'm looking forward to seeing the balance grow. For the time being, the money will be put in a money market account until the market stabilizes. I'm going to look into opening a Roth IRA for him next.

I think I figured out a way to monitor my budget surplus. I am going to estimate our paychecks and enter them into Quicken, (post dated of course) so they will appear in my budget report. That way I have the numbers for the month and can then deduct expenses and spending and see what is left (budget surplus) throughout the month. I already enter my bills post dated so I thought why not enter our pay that way too and adjust as needed when we are actually paid. In theory it sounds good but we shall see how it works in reality.

Baby Steps

January 24th, 2009 at 09:45 pm

Today I made some more progress on my budget. I have to work on it in increments as I get overwhelemed by all that I want to do with it. I think of things periodically throughout the day that I want to do but when I actually sit down to do them I can't remember one of them lol.

I went to Costco and got some groceries. I spent $136 on mostly groceries, some of it was personal care items and snacks and water for my son's youth group, but all in all, I have dinner planned for next week. I just need to get a few produce items tomorrow and then I will be good to go. I really need to learn how to shop the sales. I bought steaks and a spiral ham at Costco. The steaks will provide enough for 2 dinners as will the ham but still, those 2 items alone cost almost $40. I figure its still cheaper than going out, but on the other hand it is still more than I want to spend for dinner at home.

I suppose an outlay of money is required in order to get my freezer stocked. I will watch the ads to and try to plan meals around whatever is on sale. Still, can I do this AND keep my grocery budget at $400 or less per month?

I read a blog the other day where the women fed her family dinner on $5 a day. How crazy is that? I live in California and I don't think that is even remotely possible. Maybe it is and I just don't know how to do it.

Back at this AGAIN

January 23rd, 2009 at 10:42 pm

So I fell off the personal finance bandwagon for a bit. I've since caught up with my Quicken entries and have also established some goals for the year. I'm trying to not be too ambitious so I don't set myself up for failure.

I am still struggling with a budget. For now, I am budgeting mandatory expenses and what is left over is for discretionary spending. Not the greatest system but I cannot budget for every single line item because inevitably some unplanned, unexpected expense comes up and then I have to juggle budgeted money from one category to another. I find that having "left over" money, after mandatory expenses, is easier to manage as long as I update Quicken as we spend money and monitor my "left over" balance. I don't know how great this system will work since I just implemented it this month so we shall see.

I've automated most of my bills so that all I need to do is schedule the payments in online bill pay at my bank's website. When I open Quicken my scheduled transactions greet me and I enter those that have been paid, online or via snail mail. It's a rather simple process once I got it set-up in Quicken. I started a new Quicken file this year and so I had to start from scratch. That wasn't fun but I'm glad I did it as I think things will be cleaner now.

I have been searching for ways to cut expenses and just this evening saved $86 on our 6-month car insurance premiums. I'm excited about that and will transfer that savings to our emergency fund.

Tomorrow I hope to FINALLY sign my husband up for his 403(b) plan at work. I'm also anticipating a cost of living increase that his employer has given annually; hopefully this year that will continue. If it does, I plan on saving the difference to our emergency fund. I believe the percentage increase is either 3% or 5%, can't remember at the moment.

I have lots swirling in my mind right now and blogging about it helps clear my mind. More to come later.

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