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Ugh and catching up

November 4th, 2010 at 05:41 pm

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.

Baby steps

September 23rd, 2010 at 05:27 pm

Tuesday was a no spend day so yay for that.

Also on Tuesday I called Costco/Ameriprise to get a homeowner’s insurance quote in hopes of consolidating our auto and homeowners insurance. Unfortunately they weren’t able to provide a quote because we have a wood shake roof. Boo! And unfortunately we don’t have $10,000 for a new roof so for now I will have to have separate auto and homeowner’s policies.

Wednesday was “a spend very little and get a lot of stuff day”. 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.

I’d like to get to having more “no spend” days then “spend days” each week.

I’ve 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. It’s a little redundant but since Quicken’s budgeting feature is so crappy I have to do this in order to stay on top of cash flow.

Still haven’t transferred the cash out of checking yet although I’m getting more comfortable with doing it since I’m almost 100% sure that I’ve accounted for all expenses and have entered all receipts into Quicken.

January recap

February 1st, 2009 at 04:37 am

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 05:20 pm

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.

HELOC Interest Rate Lock a No-Go

January 28th, 2009 at 03:11 am

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 27th, 2009 at 05:30 am

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 26th, 2009 at 05:38 am

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.

Back at this AGAIN

January 24th, 2009 at 06:42 am

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.

A financial surprise for us!

August 25th, 2008 at 04:21 pm

Imagine my surprise when I opened my husband’s 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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.

Goals completed and in progress

August 15th, 2008 at 07:56 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 04:46 pm

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. I’ve 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 daughter’s shorts that no longer fit and I said “heck ya”. So no need to make a trip to Kohls.

I did have to spend some money yesterday. It was my mom’s 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 doesn’t 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 mom’s 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 “no”. 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 don’t like the fact that it isn’t forward looking (doesn’t count income until you actually realize it) and I can’t 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 “summer camps”. I was charged on my Mastercard for the camps. I transferred the money out of savings and into checking (categorizing it as “summer camps”) 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 couldn’t even think about what I was doing. The thing I don’t 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. I’m having to juggle finances right now because we overspent last month and now I’m 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.

My Financial Snapshot

February 17th, 2007 at 12:20 am

After reading some personal finance blogs this week I came across one where the user had ALL financial info in Quicken, not just checking and savings info.

Since I use Quicken, I decided to do the same.

I entered my IRA, DH's IRA and my 401k. I also entered our car loan, DH's truck (no loan on it), and our mortgage.

I have about $7,200 in cash sitting in my IRA that I need to invest in something. Not sure what at this point so I have some homework to do. We also need to sign DH up for his 401k at work. We have the paperwork, we've just never got around to actually completing it.

I'm glad I did this. It didn't take long and having everything listed together in one place will keep me on top of things.