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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Soccer is expensive!

September 3rd, 2008 at 02:04 pm

Ordered my daughter's soccer uniform and backpack to the tune of $110! ICK. Who knew that competitive soccer uniforms were so much more expensive than house uniforms.

Haven't found out yet what the fees will exactly be but I have an idea.

I also need to write checks this week for hot lunch at school.

It's only the third day of the month and already it is turning out to be an expensive one.

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!

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!