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Random thoughts

September 21st, 2010 at 04:41 pm

This is going to be random because I have a lot of financial things running around in my mind lately.

We thought my daughter broke her wrist Sunday evening. It wasn't swollen but she had some soreness and a lump. Yesterday morning the lump was gone but she still had tenderness. My husband took the day off and spent a lot of time waiting for her primary care doctor to provide a referral to an orthopedic doctor. We were eventually told she had to be seen by her primary care doc first before a referral could be given. We have really good insurance but the red tape we have to go through sometimes is so frustrating. Long story short is that she doesn't have a broken bone and we only spent $20 on the copay.

I've pretty much decided that I will cancel our trip to Vegas. Another couple has decided to go as well, (there would have been 3 couples if we went) so I don't feel as guilty backing out now. I'm going to call the hotel and see if we can get the $70ish deposit on the hotel refunded. This is a load off my shoulders although my husband isn't thrilled.

We filed an extension on our income taxes in April. My husband has been working on them and it's looking like we are going to owe on the federal portion, something like $900 I think is what he told me. We cannot get it any lower. We are getting about $360 back on the state but that still means we have to come up with the differene on the federal and I imagine there will be penalities and interest because this was due in April. I've never been in this situation before (owing taxes after 4/15) since we've always filed on time in the past.

I don't know where this money will come from. My huband lowered the number of deductions on his paycheck because of us owing income taxes but that means we will have less to budget with.

I've been tinkering with our budget and I think I've got it to where it needs to be. I was paid yesterday and my husband last Friday and my intention was to transfer the cash that was there prior to being paid to savings for our property tax bill. I'm scared to do that out of fear of not having a cushion in our checking account and me grossly overlooking something in our budget.

I've been working on the budget every night for the past week and I think I've accounted for everything but I'm still nervous to transfer the money.

In our 18 years of being married my husband and I have never needed to have a budget because we always paid our bills and saved. But now that we are faced with tuition expenses for the kids we are finding ourselves in a position of having to watch every dollar we spend and it sucks.

We make good money and I feel as if we should be able to buy ourselves stuff once in a while without having to consult a budget first.

Once we pay the car off next July and the Mastercard (hopefully within the next 12 months) we will be in a better position but until then I hate this.

An update to last weekend's plans:
I cancelled our gym membership.

I've decided to stay with our current internet/cable provider. I negotiated new rates in August and there isn't any company that can do as well without us having to pay out of pocket up front for equipment.

I never got around to calling about homeowner's insurance but I will this week.

Trying this once again

September 15th, 2010 at 08:38 pm

Well I decided to come back. I wasn't even sure of this blog still existed. I'm finding a need to write my thoughts down regarding our finances since it's do or die.

We are a middle to upper middle class couple trying to survive living in expensive California with two kids in private schools and for the first time in my life, $7,000 in stupid credit debt.

I'm feeling stressed about upcoming expenses and blogging seems to be a good way for me to relieve some of that stress. Hopefully I'll stick with this. I've got a running blog too but it has been neglected of late due to just not having enough time to run and write entries in it.

I've struggled many times with finding a budget that worked for me. Somehow trying to allocate money to every conceivable category just didn't work for me. Too many unknowns with kids. Sports fee, birthdays, school related expenses etc etc and so I grew frustrated at my inability to budget and gave up.

Instead I logged all of our spending in Quicken, balanced our accounts and that was it.

Financially we were always ok but now that we are paying a lot of money in school tuition, I HAVE to find a system that works. There just isn't any more wiggle room unless I go to work full time and that isn't going to happen until my daughter is older.

I recently found a budget online and adapted it to what I think will work for me. It has sections for regular monthly bills, savings, discretionary spending and other expenses, those being the aforementioned sports, school, birthday etc expenses that come up throughout the month.

I've also allocated bills and savings to paychecks and basically what's left over, and there isn't much, is left for discretionary spending and other expenses.

I've set this up for September and hoping to start using the plan with our next pay period this week.

I've also started keeping notes about the other expenses that come up and will save them to my budget template so that each month all I have to do is copy the categories over and fill in the budget. Hopefully in a year I will have a rough idea about what to expect each month outside of our regular expenses.

In theory it works. Let's see how well I can keep up with it.

Emergency Binder

February 2nd, 2009 at 07:46 pm

This post isn't necessarily about saving money but it is financially related in that it will make your lives much easier in the event of a disaster or emergency.

I created what I call an Emergency Binder after Hurricane Katrina. I live in Earthquake country and so the possibility of a disaster is very real, only we won't have advance notice.

I copied ALL of my important papers and documents and put them in a red binder. I have copies of our homeowner's and auto policies, copies of our drivers licenses, passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, even baptismal certificates. I also have copies of our social security cards, copy of the deed to our house, pink slips, and even info on the dog's shots in the event we need to go to a shelter, I can prove that his shots are up to date.

I also have a sheet of info that lists every credit card we have, account numbers and customer service phone numbers. I also list bank account info, brokerage account info, insurance info (policy nos. and agent phone nos.), Doctor/Dentist info, medical numbers, Vet information, the dog's microchip info, etc etc.

Setting up my binder took a little bit of time but it is well worth. If I ever need it I will have it. I do need to make an additional copy and store it somewhere other than my house (probably my mom's) in the God forsaken event that our house burns down.

I update it periodically as we switch insurers or other information changes.

One last thing, I read this online when figuring out how to set-up an emergency supply kit. If you have pets, keep a recent picture of the pet with a family member so that you can prove that the pet is yours in the event that you and your pet are separated in a disaster. I have a picture of our dog with my 2 kids.

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.

Crazy week

August 22nd, 2008 at 07:37 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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. 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.

Back after a bit and an epiphany

August 8th, 2008 at 08:14 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find other ways to reduce expenses.

Develop a budget and adhere to it.

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

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

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

More to come...

Extra Paychecks This Year

February 12th, 2007 at 06:57 pm

I know it's only February, but I'm starting to think ahead to June when DH will get one of two 'extra' paychecks this year.

Our spending plan is based on 24 paychecks per year however DH receives 26 paychecks.

So what to do with this extra paycheck in June...

pay down the credit line
pay off the Visa
put it in our emerg fund
use part of it for Christmas gifts instead of saving every pay period towards them
vacation (instead of saving incrementally as above)

I want to do the best thing financially for us.

Paying off debt is of course important.

Freeing up some cash every pay period (by stopping the incremental holiday/vacation/or other incremental savings) would also relieve some of the financial pinch we feel after bills have been paid.

Our Lottery Windfall and Some Savings Thoughts

February 11th, 2007 at 11:32 pm

Well sort of a windfall.

I don't buy lottery tickets but have received them as gifts. After accumulating some winners for a while, we redeemed them today and brought home $21. DH wants to use it for the big powerball type lottery that the state of CA participates in, but I think we will just keep the money for our leisure, kinda like some funny money, and use for diet cokes, snacks, etc when we are out and about. Shh, don't tell DH that Smile

I was reading a column from the Wall Street Journal that our local paper publishes regarding finding little ways to save money.

The author talked about how everytime he wrote a check, he rounded up the amount to the nearest dollar and entered that number into his check register. I understand the concept but doesn't that make reconciling nearly impossible? He has a nice cushion in his account as he has been doing it for awhile, but the thought of reconciling that gives me a headache.

He also mentioned something that I do, on the occasion that we use our CC instead of debit card. He said every time you charge on your CC to move the money out of checking so that you have the cash available to pay the bill in full.

It's nice to have some of your own practices validated by someone else.

I'm supposed to be middle class but...

February 11th, 2007 at 03:20 am

I'm not feeling like it.

I've created a new spending plan, talked about it with DH, and so far we are adhering to it, but why does it feel like I have a ball and chain attached to me?

Our combined income is ~$100K but why, when my daughter asks if we can get donuts for breakfast tomorrow, do I worry about where in my budget I will put that expense... is it a dining out expense or a grocery expense?

It shouldn't even matter but it does to me.

Since I have started using this new spending plan spreadsheet I feel like I am a prisoner of our money. Maybe it's the newness of this spending plan as all others never seemed to work, in whatever form they took. This one is keeping us pretty honest but I guess I have to wait until the balances in my personal spending account builds up to a level where I can actually buy something for myself without feeling guilty.

We live a middle class lifestyle. We are not heavily in credit card debt ($600 CC bal) but we do have a mortgage, $3,000 balance on our equity credit line, car payment and tuition to pay for.

I intend to pay off the credit line and CC this June with DH's extra paycheck.

I save every pay period for Christmas/birthday gifts, sports registration fees, property taxes, car repair fund, vacation and more.

I feel like we are doing the right things, making better decisions about how we spend our money but it seems we can never break free of the ball and chain.