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Christmas shopping & other stuff

November 16th, 2010 at 05:47 pm

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 Honestly, I haven't withdrawn the cash yet.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 09:36 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 12th, 2010 at 04:09 am

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 11th, 2010 at 03:44 am

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 09:15 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 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.

An unexpected gift

September 27th, 2010 at 07:43 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 05:27 pm

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 08:10 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 3rd, 2009 at 05:38 am

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

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.

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.