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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 Honestly, I haven't withdrawn the cash yet.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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

August wrap-up and looking ahead

September 2nd, 2008 at 10:45 am

Well letís see, this past weekend was extremely productive. We cleaned out my daughterís closet and removed a bookcase that was in there and a shelf that was intended for my desk but somehow landed in her closet when we moved in, rearranged my sonís room, cleaned out the garage, took a carload of stuff to Goodwill, and washed and vacuumed my car.

I received two gift cards to Trader Joeís. Someone gave them to my mom and she doesnít shop there so she gave them to me.

I opened an ING account for my daughter last Thursday and have been waiting for the small deposits they make to the linked account to post. I havenít opened my sonís account yet since he doesnít have the $250 opening balance required to get the $25 credit. I am debating on just crediting his allowance to bring him to $250 so he can get the $25. I also am going to have my daughter ďreferĒ him so that she gets $10 and then my son can ďreferĒ us so that he gets $10.

August was an interesting month budget-wise. We are getting used to having spending money as opposed to using our credit card. I donít think my husband has used his allowance yet. I have $30 left - we each started with $50. My plan is to replenish the money every time my husband gets paid which will be this Friday, but depending on how much we have left, I may revise the allowance number down. Our dining out category is over budget but is still less than other months so that is a good sign. I am cooking more at home - baby steps. I do need to work on not going to the grocery store more than two times per week. The ďlittleĒ shopping trips mid-week are whatís causing me to go over my grocery budget.

I do need to come up with a few hundred dollars to register my daughter for competitive soccer. This will impact our budget as I had not planned for this. I also need to do my September budget in Quicken; most of it is done, just need to input income and double-check the other entries. Our income will be less than normal since DH is now signed up for his 403b plan. I can check that off as completed. I completed all my August goals!

I sent my resume for a job last week. I hope they call - I need a new job badly. My current job just doesnít challenge me or keep me busy anymore. I am quite literally bored most of the time.

Iím adding some goals for September to the sidebar. As I think of more I will update.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A new spending plan

April 6th, 2007 at 10:10 am

Today my husband gets paid so it is the start of a new spending plan. Since the last spreadsheet didn't work out, I'm trying 2 new things: another spreadsheet and Quicken.

I think I may have figured out a way to roll unused budget amts over to the next month by creating a YTD budget report instead of a monthly budget report.

We shall see. Since DH's cholesterol and BP were a bit high, we will be curbing our dining out spending which will have a nice effect on our finances.

Budget spreadsheet is screwed up

March 21st, 2007 at 09:55 am

Well I managed to go over budget last week in several cateogries and as a result I can't balance my spreadsheet.

I was accumulating balances for monthly/periodic expenses. Since I went over budget in some categories, I dipped into this 'savings' and now I can't tie the totals back to my checking account. I've spent far to much time on this so I think I may just have to start over. Frustrating as I had worked so hard on saving towards these expenses and now since I dipped into this money I don't have a true pitcure of what I have saved for each line item. My spreadsheet tells me I have $X but my checking tells my I have $Y.

Let this be a lesson to me to either stop being so anal and trying to budget every $1 or I need to find yet another budgeting spreadhseet.

Budget update

March 8th, 2007 at 10:42 am

I fell off the budget wagon a bit. Not too bad but we went to dinner a few times too many last week. We charge everything to a mileage credit card. Since I've started using it I have been making weekly payments. Paying for these dinners will come from DH's paycheck when he gets paid tomorrow. I wish I had the money for something else but too late now.

Otherwise, things are going well. We actually have cash in the bank, albeit, it is earmarked for other things but our balance has not hovered near zero since I started using our new budgeting spreadsheet and really making an effort to not spend any money.

I'm liking this and really enjoying the fact that finances are not stressful anymore. I am planning ahead for expenses and thinking before buying. It really makes me appreciate the things I buy, especially when they are for me personally.

Budget misgivings

February 20th, 2007 at 03:23 pm

I was having serious reservations this past weekend about the practicalness (is that a word?) of my spending plan. Perhaps I was just bored silly and wanting to shop and spend some money. I didn't though but had some serious reservations about whether or not I was being too anal with the plan. I have pretty much every dollar spent on paper with some left over in the 'slush fund'.

Right now I am feeling like I want to buy something for myself but don't have enough of a balance in my account to do so. I already had to re-allocate some budgeted amts to allow for some unexpected expenses that came up. Being disciplined with my spending plan is really hard.

DH and I went cell phone shopping this past weekend. Much to my dismay there are no more free cell phones with a contract extension. I could get new phones if I went to another provider and signed up with them. Problem is, our monthly plan is so old and so cheap it isn't even offered anymore and no other carrier can compete. So I'm stuck with Cingular and will have to buy a phone.

I ate lunch at home prior to going cell phone shopping. DH got hungry and went and got a soda and snack. Fine. He has a little bit of money in his personal spending account, but if he keeps getting these little snacks here and there he will have no money to spend on other things, like stuff for our Cabo trip in June.

I hate to tell him he doesn't have any money left in "his account" when he is the primary breadwinner in our family.

We have the cash, it's just allocated to other accounts. I think this Friday I am going to withdraw cash for him and tell him to make it last until next payday.

Oh, and he spent the $21 dollars we won on lottery scratchers on more lotto tickets. UGH!!!

I did manage to save ~$200/annually by switching home and auto insurance carriers. Not only that, but I can pay my premiums with my MasterCard and accumulate miles.

So glad I did it as it helps monthly cashflow just a bit.