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Archive for August, 2008

Bump in the road

August 27th, 2008 at 10:51 am

I made our first extra principal payment yesterday on our car loan. Felt good to do it and Iíll be glad to pay it off one year early.

Hit a snafu of sorts today. My daughter has been invited to play on a competitive soccer team. She currently plays house but subbed on 2 different competitive teams recently due to a shortage of players. One of the teams has asked her to join them. Problem is we would have to come up with $370 in order to register her. We are saving for competitive fees for next year and I am not sure where this $370 will come from. I will need to look at our budget tonight. Iím not sure why the fees are so low because if we had registered her earlier this year the fees would have been double.

I am over my grocery budget for the month but that is partly due to groceries I bought at Costco. Other than that, things are going well.

Just saved $42/mo

August 26th, 2008 at 02:12 pm

I finally called my cable/internet company and asked what they could do to keep me as their customer. The customer service rep punched a bunch of keys on her keyboard and was able to save me $42/month for the next year. Thats 1/3 of what I was paying before. Not bad for 10 minutes on the phone. The rates are only good for one year so next August I will have to switch providers or call back and get another special.

I can check off that goal as completed. Woo hoo!

August goals

August 26th, 2008 at 09:10 am

I am making progress on my August goals. Iíve been procrastinating about calling to find out about switching cable and internet. I received a promotional flyer in the mail yesterday and figured now was as good a time as any to make the call. It is so confusing trying to figure out what is the best plan for your needs. Ultimately I decided to not go with AT&T and will call my current provider and let them know about all the offers I am receiving to switch and ask what they can do to retain me as their customer. I know they have ďcustomer retentionĒ departments so hopefully they can give me a good deal.

I made 3 deposits to my emergency fund yesterday. One was a refund from an overpayment to a credit card, another was money my girlfriend owed me for baseball tickets I purchased for her and the other was a check but I canít remember for what. All in all, I deposited about $60.

I also decided to withdraw cash for my husband and me to use as our spending money. I ran a Quicken report and found that my husband has spent $36 since the beginning of August on lunches, coffee, etc. Each of us gets $50. I was thinking $50 per pay period but based on his spending, $50 might be enough for the entire month. We will see how that goes since this is the first time we have ever had an ďallowanceĒ.

I am leaning towards opening ING accounts for the kids simply because of the interest. I need to get their cash and deposit to my checking so I can link it to their ING accounts.

My goal is to have all of my goals completed by this weekend so I don't have to carry them over to September.

A financial surprise for us!

August 25th, 2008 at 09:21 am

Imagine my surprise when I opened my husbandís paycheck last Friday and it was more than double the normal amount! I asked my husband about it and it turns out that he was paid for his PTO (paid time off). Once their PTO reaches a certain level, his employer pays it out to bring it back down to a certain hours level. Well this money couldnít have come at a more opportune time. While I would have liked to save all of it, I used some of it to get caught up with our overspending from last month. We charge almost everything on our MasterCard and ALWAYS pay it off every month, sometimes to the detriment of not saving for other things. Well now that we have this money, I can use some of it to pay our MasterCard bill and then what is left at the end of the month will get transferred to savings. I have already saved our normal amounts, but this transfer will be over and above what we normally save.

I have resumed making internal transfers in Quicken every time we charge something on the credit card. I transfer money from our checking account to a dummy credit card payment account so that when the bill comes due I know that I have the money available to pay the card off and not have to sacrifice our savings transfers. Doin this also allows me to see how much cash we have so that we are spending within our means and not over it.

Some of the checks I wrote last week for school related expenses were sent back home as there was a miscommunication and we really didnít have to pay them. I will need to pay the expenses eventually but for the time being not now.

Our dinner last Friday was picked up by my mom (yay!) but we did get a pizza Saturday night and got Mexican last night to the tune of about $21. We ran a 5k yesterday and then went to the Giants baseball game and everyone was tired by the time we got home. I didnít do so hot last week with cooking and am over budget in our dining out category but the good news is that we have spent MUCH less on dinners out than we spent in prior months. I look at that as progress.

Dinners are planned this week and I have already shopped for them. I am under budget for groceries this month but coming close to meeting the number. I am really going to try to not exceed it this month.

Crazy week

August 22nd, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Well itís been a crazy week of sorts. The kids went back to school on Wednesday and today was their first full day. Its hard to get back into my school routine of waking up earlier, prepping lunches the night before, making sure uniforms are washed yadda yadda.

Financially, the fun begins. Iíve already written 4 checks for school related things and I know that I will be writing more in the weeks to come.

Iím a little annoyed with myself for not doing better with cooking at home this week. We went out on Tuesday. I figured that would be our dinner out for the week instead of tomorrow night. Well, we had to be at school last night at 6:00 and I just didnít feel like making what I had planned so we went to Panda Express. Tonight we are going out again because my niece is leaving for college tomorrow and this is her good-bye dinner. Let this be a lesson to me to not cave in during the week because there are always unexpected dinner events that arise. Iím hoping my mom will pick up the tab for tonightís dinner Smile

I have next weekís meals planned and will grocery shop tomorrow instead of Sunday as on Sunday I am running in a 5k. Not prepared for it but going to run it anyway. I get to run across home plate at AT&T Park though so that will be fun.

I havenít made much progress with my goals this week. Been avoiding calling around for new cable and internet service because I just dread having to talk to customer service reps and then making arrangements to have the switch made that might require me to be home while a technician does the installation. Still have next week to do that, or maybe tomorrow.

Weekend Wrap-up

August 18th, 2008 at 11:08 am

Iíve been trying real hard to not spend money on non-necessities but apparently my husband didnít get the memo. Itís partly my fault because I wasnít real clear about the plan. He is the main breadwinner so I feel a little weird telling him to not spend the money HE earns. He generally is good about money but he has a habit of late of going out to lunch instead of coming home or bringing it to work. Anyways, he went to Subway this weekend and got sandwiches for himself and the kids. I havenít entered the receipt in Quicken yet but it was probably around $15. I later told him that I was trying to not spend money on things we donít need or else we wonít have enough to pay down our car loan. He got the message as he made his lunch on Sunday.

One of my goals, although it isnít posted in the sidebar, is to make and eat more meals at home and Iíve been doing well on this so far. As Iíve mentioned before, dining out is by far our biggest budget buster. Iíve resolved to plan meals ahead of time and grocery shop on the weekends. I have this weeks meals planned and went grocery shopping yesterday. I even bought and prepped some of the goodies that Subway puts on their sandwiches so that my husband can make them at home. Iíve prepped as much as I could last night so meal preparation during the week will be more streamlined. I spent $52 at the grocery store and another $80 at Costco but that was to stock up on some groceries and household things.

I decided to revise my allowance plan for my son. Going to give him $1 for every year of age he is and pay that weekly. The catch is he will have to save half of his allowance. I think he will be pleased with that as he will come out $4 ahead of what I told him I would previously pay him. I figure that is a fair and equitable way to pay him as my daughter is asking to get paid an allowance too. This way they each will get a ďraiseĒ every year.

We pay our credit card bill in full each month. Since we overspent last month and since I have recently paid for those charges, I am finding myself short this month for my savings. Even if I save for just the bare minimum (i.e. half the mortgage, property taxes, emergency fund and half the car payment) I am left with about $110 in our checking. I will need gas this week and a tank costs me in the range of $75-$80! DH does get paid Friday so I may hang on to the money in our checking until Thursday and then transfer to savings. DHís paycheck is direct deposited so by midnight it will hit our account. Hopefully then I can also pay the $200 extra on our car payment. I expect to see better results next month as a result of our reduced spending.

I am getting a $21 refund from an overpayment on my Macyís account. I also have another $20 check refund coming to me for a birthday gift I received by didnít want. I plan on putting that towards our extra car payment or into our emergency fund. Iíll probably wait and see how things fare next month.

This saving money thing is almost becomming a game for me and I am liking it!

Goals completed and in progress

August 15th, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I spent a few hours last night trying to reconcile a savings report to my savings account. Sometimes I HATE Quicken. The report said I had saved more money than I actually have in my savings account. I finally figured it out but what a waste of time. I'm seriously considering moving that money to ING so I can have an account for each savings category.

I did call my stockbroker yesterday where my IRA is held and inquired about converting my traditional IRA to a ROTH IRA. Turns out I would owe tons of money in taxes so needless to say, I won't be converting. I can mark that goal as completed.

I also am in the process of signing up my husband for his 401k, or rather a 403b. We have the paperwork, need to get it notarized (another unanticipated expense) and send it off. His net pay will be reduced by several hundred dollars so I will need to make adjustments to our budget.

I looked online at for deals to bundle my phone/cable/internet services but geez, they are so confusing. No wonder why I've been procrastinating about changing carriers.

This and that

August 14th, 2008 at 09:46 am

Heard on the radio today that consumer prices are up 5.6% over the past year. Ya think? Everything is getting more expensive and wages are not keeping up. Iíve been looking for a new job for about the past year with no success. That means that we are now looking for ways to cut expenses on things that continue to cost more all the while making wages that are not keeping pace with inflation.

On a different note, I did manage to save a bit of money on uniform shorts for my daughter. My girlfriend asked me if I wanted some of her daughterís shorts that no longer fit and I said ďheck yaĒ. So no need to make a trip to Kohls.

I did have to spend some money yesterday. It was my momís birthday and she is THE hardest person to shop for. She has everything and never seems to use/wear what we give her, so I got her a CD from Best Buy. I also re-gifted a Starbucks gift card that was given to my husband. He doesnít care for Starbucks and my mom loves it, so it was a win-win situation all around. The bummer part was that we went to dinner and our bill with tax and tip was somewhere in the $40 range and for pizza nonetheless. A large combo pizza was almost $26!!! It was my momís birthday so what could I do. I guess that will have to count for our dining out meal of the week. While we were at Best Buy getting the CD for my mom, the kids wanted some candy and I told them ďnoĒ. Its purchases like that the snow ball and at the end of the month you find that you spent a bunch of money on little purchases here and there. I was proud of myself.

I was working in Quicken last night reviewing my August budget and not liking it one bit, the format that is. I donít like the fact that it isnít forward looking (doesnít count income until you actually realize it) and I canít figure out how to stop double counting in some categories. For instance, we save every pay period for summer camps/childcare. The savings gets categorized in Quicken as ďsummer campsĒ. I was charged on my Mastercard for the camps. I transferred the money out of savings and into checking (categorizing it as ďsummer campsĒ) so I could pay my Mastercard. Now my August budget shows a positive balance in the summer camps category when it really is a wash. So even though I am tracking every single outflow I donít really have much faith in the budget report that Quicken is giving me. I think maybe I need to create a dummy category for when I transfer savings to checking so I donít put it in the same category that I took it out of??? I need to clear my head and think about that.

I tried working in an Excel spreadsheet that I previously created but I was too overwhelmed and couldnít even think about what I was doing. The thing I donít like about using an Excel spreadsheet is that I have to enter things twice, once in Quicken and then again in Excel. This is supposed to be as simple an effort as possible. Double entries are not simple.

So what else? My son is starting fall baseball and will likely need new cleats; hopefully we can find a used pair at a local sports store. Iím having to juggle finances right now because we overspent last month and now Iím short for my savings transfer as well as our extra car payments. Need to wait until I get paid tomorrow to pay my mortgage and then I can make the transfer to savings. Once we get through this next billing cycle for our Mastercard things should be good as we are cutting back on spending.

No spend days???

August 12th, 2008 at 08:45 pm

So I've been really trying not to spend money, except for essentials. Since I am the Chief of Finances in this household, I talked to my husband last week about paying our car off 1 year early and he agreed that it should be doable by reducing our spending. He ate lunch at home Monday and today and I've cooked dinner both nights. Going out to dinner is by far our biggest non-essential expense. But, I've been to the store 3 times in the past 2 days. Went to Costco last night for some groceries, Trader Joes for some more groceries and then today I went back to Trader Joes to exchange something (bought the wrong kind of pine nuts) and then again tonight for milk. Mind you, I bought food that we needed, but just spending the money is bugging me. I guess I need to plan better. One thing I am trying to do is NOT shop with the kids because I always end up buying them something (soda, candy, cereal etc.) and leaving them home with my husband saves me money!

Allowance for the kids

August 11th, 2008 at 10:48 pm

So my son (12 years old) wants an Xbox. He already has a Wii that was given to him by my inlaws. I told him I was not buying him an Xbox so we agreed that he would have to save his money to buy it. He has a few chores he does around the house but I've never paid him for them. We've now agreed that if he does his chores everyday, he will get a monthly allowance totalling $20 per month. So essentially I guess I am buying the Xbox, but I figure this is a good way to teach him how the adults have to do things, i.e. go to work, get paid and save for the things they need or want, versus instant gratification.

I created an Excel spreasheet so he can log when he does his chores and what he can do to earn "bonus points". Not sure how much I will pay him for these bonus points however. I also created an account for him in Quicken, showing his opening balance (the cash he already had) and eventually his deposits.

I plan on taking him to the bank so he can open a savings account. I'm going to link it to my checking account so that I can pay him his allowance by transferring it to his account from mine, since I never carry cash.

So, for those of you that give your kids allowances, how much do you give them?

I waver between paying him an allowance and feeling like I shouldn't pay him for doing things that are already expected of him. I figure as he get older and is wanting more expensive things, now would be a good time to start him on an allowance so he can learn about the value of the dollar. Should have done this a long time ago.

How do you budget?

August 9th, 2008 at 04:22 pm

After many unsuccessful attempts at trying to find a budget format (Quicken and Excel) that worked for me, I've resorted to just using Quicken's budget. I don't like it really but at least I don't have to make double entries. I enter things once and I can see where and how my money was spent.

I have many budget categories. I like detail and figure if I am going to have a budget I may as well see exactly where my money is going. But where do you put things like home maintenance? Would that be a HOME expense with my mortgage and property taxes or just a regular HOUSEHOLD expense? Trivial I know, but not knowing how to classify certain expenses has in part been why I haven't been successful with budgets in the past.

Another thing I am doing that probably isn't the proper way to budget is I only budget for necessary expenses. What's left is in a pot for non-necessities. I am careful to not splurge on things simply because there is "money in the pot"; I enjoy finding bargins and don't overspend on things I know I can get cheaper.

Zero-based budgeting never worked for me simply because there was always something that I hadn't anticipated that would mess things up. So for now I am going to use my "money in the pot" method and see how it works.

I'd love to hear how you are budgeting.

Back after a bit and an epiphany

August 8th, 2008 at 01:14 pm

Alright, so I've been away for over a year. Last time I posted I was having trouble creating a budget that worked for me so I gave up and just kept track of spending and balances using Quicken. Fast forward a year later and I am still plugging away at Quicken but now things have changed.

A little background information. I am married and have two school aged kids in private school My son is two years away from private high school and tuition is not cheap. I have worked part time since my son was in 2nd grade and my daughter in preschool. It was always my plan to work full time when my son was in 7th grade (starting in a few weeks) to prepare for high school tuition.

Well I have actually been looking for a job for about two years but really seriously for the past year. Had a couple of possibilities recently but ultimately they went with someone else, and needless to say, I am getting discouraged and a bit of a complex that maybe something is wrong with ME.

Well today I ran the numbers on estimated tuition for high school and middle school for the fall of 2010 when my son starts high school and my daughter will be in 5th grade. As it turns out, I may not need to work full time. YIPPEE! If we can get our car paid off one year early (in 2010) we can apply what we were paying towards the car loan to tuition and we will only need to come up with an additional ~$200. That is totally doable. We need to cut back on other expenses in order for this to work and I already have a plan for that:

I recently switched auto insurance carriers and that saved me $484/year!

Going to switch internet and cable providers to take advantage of reduced monthly expenses.

Determine how much extra to pay towards car payment to get it paid of by June 2010.

Find other ways to reduce expenses.

Develop a budget and adhere to it.

Still look for another job (been wanting one for a long time) but still a part time one and one that pays more than what I am earning now (not going to be easy).

I think part of my problem in the past with budgeting was that even though I wanted to have a budget I didn't really need one per se. We didn't/don't have CC debt and money wasn't an issue. We had enough to cover expenses and saved a little (but not enough). Now that I have a clear goal in the near future, I think sticking to the budget will be easier.

I need to not make it such a complicated thing and it definitely has to be in Quicken. I don't want to have to make double entries.

More to come...