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Envelope Budgeting-Round 2

February 21st, 2008 at 01:32 am

I just finished using cash envelopes for two weeks, as I mentioned previously. This experiment was really helpful for me. I was much more aware of what I was spending and really thought about things before I let go of the money. I did have a few missteps. I forgot to bring cash with me once, so I resorted to the debit card. I did pull cash out of the envelope in the same amount, though, so that I could keep track of all money spent. I also went to a happy hour after work for a coworker, and used the debit card then as well, because I had no cash.

It was hard for me to remember that I would need to bring cash with me. I am so used to using the debit card for every purchase. I'm sure once I get more used to this, I won't have that problem.

I came in significantly under budget and still had $176 left in the envelopes at the end. I'm using that surplus in this next budget period, meaning I didn't have to pull out as much cash from my account today. Eventually, I'm hoping I can apply the surplus to my savings instead.

So, I'm ready for round 2 starting today.

My Experiment: Envelope Budgeting

February 7th, 2008 at 12:27 am

It has been a while since I have posted here. I'm trying to put in some extra work while things are busy at both jobs so I can pay off that furniture before my zero rate runs out in May. I've already saved $1000 and need about $500 more.

I have been setting budget limits for myself, but using my debit card instead of cash. I'm finding it much too easy to pull out that card and swipe for stuff I really haven't budgeted for. So, starting today, I'm trying envelope budgeting with cash. I went to the bank after work and pulled out $350 in various denominations. Now I just need to divvy that into my envelopes.

It sounds stupid, but I'm really excited to see how this works for me. I'm hoping this will make me think about things before I buy them. And I hope that at the end of this 2 weeks, I'll have a surplus in the envelopes.

What I Learned While Christmas Shopping

December 23rd, 2007 at 12:16 am

So, Christmas shopping has been a real eye-opener for me this year. First, I'm shocked at how foreign the whole idea of spending hours shopping has become. I am completely out of the habit, and yet that was something I used to do quite regularly.

This season has also taught me why I stopped making shopping trips in the first place: the impulse buy. I bought many gifts for myself. True, some were things I needed and were incredibly good buys, like $30 Reebok shoes. But other buys were pure impulses, like a winter hat and ear headband, and slippers. Yes, they were cheap. In fact, I think combined they totaled $15. But I don't NEED them. I have slippers. I have a hat and headband. So, I took both the hat and the slippers back to the store today. And I had to force the woman at JCPenneys to give me a refund on my credit card instead of a store merchandise card. But I'm now $15 richer. And just slightly irritated at how easy it is to fall back into old spending habits.

How I'm Saving for Home Improvements

November 16th, 2007 at 01:36 am

Since I moved into my new house last May (my first time as a homeowner), I've been torn between wanting to save money and wanting to upgrade my house. I have been postponing the little upgrades that are purely cosmetic and unnecessary, like new bathroom fixtures and a new kitchen faucet. I just can't justify taking money from savings for things that aren't an emergency and don't NEED to be fixed.

I decided earlier this month to set up a new ING subaccount for home improvements. I also set up a bi-weekly $20 auto deposit. This seemed like painless way to save for those improvements. Once I have a decent balance built up, I can have more freedom to pull money from this account, and not feel like I am raiding my regular savings account.

Eating from my Pantry

November 5th, 2007 at 12:57 am

My goal this month is to eat strictly from my pantry. I've got a lot of food sitting around that I should eat up. I'm really bad about stocking up when I see bargains, and then not eating those things. So, I'm clearing some things out this month.

Tonight, I made a great rice and bean casserole with one of the two open boxes of brown instant rice I have. I was surprised this turned out so tasty, as I wasn't working from a recipe. I just cooked the brown rice and mixed that with canned red beans, canned tomatoes, and some frozen corn. I also threw in a little bit of shredded mozzarella cheese I had left over. Spiced it with a sample of Old Bay seasoning I got from work and baked it for about 35 minutes.

I'll probably be eating this for most of the week since it was a huge batch. Next time I make this, I'll use less rice (2 servings instead of 4).

Time Flies

October 17th, 2007 at 01:47 am

I can't believe my last entry was Sept 30th. This month has gotten away from me. I find it rather ironic that almost a month has passed, and I am still trying to replace my back door. I was going to get Lowes to install it, but their service has been slow and frankly, it has been a long time since I have been treated so rudely by a company. As a result, they won't be getting my money. I had a handyman come by last night, and I am awaiting his estimate. I also asked him to estimate the cost of repairing some of my vinyl siding. This house was a rental before I bought it, and the renter's obviously weren't very careful with a string trimmer. I guess when it is not your place, you really don't give a hoot what kind of damage you do.

October has been expensive for me. My first two week budget was over on a few categories. But I knew this month would be tough. I traveled to KC, so my fuel costs were doubled. Plus, I had to buy birthday gifts. I did make some good decisions on the gifts-instead of getting gift cards, I bought some smaller items that really were quite nice and $10 cheaper than a gift card.

Even with these expenses, I have been able to put some extra money in savings. And, I'm trying to pay $100 more on my car payment this month. It really is sickening to get those statements each month and see how much you pay in interest.

I have also made a change in my work schedule. I got the chance to work on Saturday mornings at my part-time job. This is only until the end of the year, but it is a good opportunity to get a little more money each week without a significant time investment. Since I'm doing Saturdays, that means I can give up my Thursday evening shift, which was getting a bit stressful for me anyway. I will miss having Saturday completely free, but it is only temporary.


September 30th, 2007 at 07:22 pm

I'm trying to get my budget planned for October. My income should be slightly higher due to working overtime and due to October being a 3 paycheck month. Also, my electric/water bill was $40 lower than last month since the weather is cooling off. As a result, I'm going to up my saving deposit this month from $150 to $200. I'm also going to try paying $50 more on my car payment at the end of the month.

I will have some extra expenses this month, the main one being a trip home next weekend for my sister and brother-in-law's birthday party. So, that means 2 gifts this month, plus extra gas costs. I have tried to budget extra toward gas this month to account for this. I also need to take my cat in for his annual exam and shots. I have budgeted $90 for this.

On the home improvement front, I decided to go ahead and buy a new back door now instead of waiting. I have a contractor coming out to measure on Tuesday, and hopefully it won't take much longer to get the door installed after that. I'm paying for this out of my savings. My next major decision is whether to go ahead and get the tree next to my house cut down or wait until I save more money. I thought about waiting, but my friends have advised me to get it cut down before winter, when ice could weigh the branches down and they could damage the roof of the house.

Losing My Mojo

September 26th, 2007 at 01:30 am

I feel a bit like I'm losing my financial mojo. I've stopped tracking everything I spend. I'm still using my budget, but I went over on household expenses due to needing to get a new door. I want to pay everything off now, and I get frustrated when I realize how long it will take to even feel like I'm making progress. It is discouraging to see so much of my debt payments going towards interest.

Despite this, October should be a good month. This paycheck will have 10 hours of overtime on it. Plus, my tiny raise went into effect in September, and it looks I'll have an additional $25 each paycheck. And I think October is a 3 paycheck month. Oh how I love those months, since that last check has fewer deductions.

More Part Time Work

September 26th, 2007 at 01:19 am

I have the opportunity to take on some additional work for a few months. I've been asked to work Saturday mornings from mid-October to January. This is a good opportunity, and I think I'll say yes. I just hate giving up every Saturday morning. However, these meetings are usually pretty busy, and it is an excellent chance to make more money. If I say yes, that means I'd be working Tuesday night, Thursday night, and Saturday, AM. 4 meetings a week. That's a lot with a full time job. But the allure of extra money is so enticing. But what good is the extra money if you wipe yourself out earning it? Such a tough decision.

Made $72 extra today

September 19th, 2007 at 01:56 am

I finally got around to calling XM and cancelling my account. My new car isn't equipped with XM, and with car payments now, I don't have the money to have it installed. So, I called up today and stopped the service. Since I paid for a year in advance in April, I should get a credit to my credit card for around $70. I missed XM at first, but honestly, I've found some new local stations that aren't too bad. And on road trips I have the CD player.

Now, I just need to do the same sort of thing with my cable--either cancel the digital cable/DVR, or try Dish or DirecTV.

Crazy Week

September 15th, 2007 at 11:49 pm

But I'll be earning some extra money as a result. I worked about 7 hours of overtime this week at my full time job. And I worked Tuesday night, Thursday night and this morning at my part time job. I'm enjoying having today to slow down and get caught up on things.

Another 2 week budget just ended for me, and I managed to stay within budget. I still need to work on groceries though. Even though I am withing budget, I still think I could cut back even more if I just stick to my list. The hardest part of budgeting for me is dealing with my variable income. The money I get from my part time job varies depending on how many meetings I work and how product sales and attendance are. So, as I plan, I never know how much to budget for that until I actually get paid. For example, I got paid yesterday, and made about half of what I did the last paycheck. So I guess now I'll really need to be strict on that budget.

Fall is in the air, and it is time to tackle some of those home improvement chores I have been postponing. The back door to my garage needs a better seal. I thought I'd just need to put a door sweep on it, but once I started looking, I noticed that the threshold is rotting away, which is why the gap is so big. Unfortunately, this goes beyond my home improvement skills, so I might need to call a handyman. I'm tempted to replace the whole door because some of the wood on the frame looks as though it is rotting too. But when I looked at the prices of doors and installation at Lowes, I thought twice. Hopefully I can get it livable and save for a new door next spring. I have so many plans for the house, but it is hard to do them while sticking with the budget.

Money Related Regrets

September 6th, 2007 at 02:14 am

Earlier this week, I read this post on Blunt Money:

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This got me thinking about my own money-related regrets, and I thought I'd share them here.

1. I rented for over 15 years. I don't even want to think how much that rent totals up too, but I just did. I was at my last apartment 11 years with a rent around $400 a month: $52,800. Still, if I had purchased a house sooner, I wouldn't have been able to afford anything like where I am now. So maybe waiting had its advantages.

2. I ignored my finances while I was in my 20s and 30s. Now I'm 40ish and time seems to be going much faster now.

3. I bought a cash value life insurance policy. This was my first investment decision, and I think it probably wasn't the best decision.

4. I love electronic gadgets like MP3 players, TiVo, and other such things. And sometimes those "must have" purchases sit around unused after a few months. A perfect example is my PDA. I just had to have it, and now it seems too big to even bother carrying around.

The rest are car related.

5. When my previous car was paid off, I didn't apply my payment to savings. I just kept the extra money in my checking account and enjoyed having the extra money for splurges. I eventually did start saving, but I wasted a few years before doing so. Big mistake.

These last two regrets are ones I am living with now.

6. Taking out a car loan again. I should have driven my Sunfire into the ground, but I wanted something newer and safer. Now I'm adjusting to having a payment again and worried I may have over-extended myself.

7. I bought a vehicle with poor gas mileage because I wanted something to haul things in. This has forced me to start combining trips and has virtually put an end to quick jaunts to the store. So in that respect, perhaps it is good that I am conserving more.

I'm sure I could come up with more regrets given time! Do you have any?

August Recap and September Goals

September 4th, 2007 at 02:59 am

August was my first month drastically reducing my spending, and my monthly report in MS Money shows progress:

-Reduced Fuel costs 25% (No road trips this month and 3 "no gas" days)

-Cat food expenses decreased 50% (I have been buying from when they have 20% off offers. I can get 2 cases for about $10 more than the cost of 1 case at Petco.)

-Household expenses decreased 86%. This was obviously my big money drain the last few months.

-I had 14 "no spend days" in August

September Goals:
-5 "no gas" days
-Continue tracking every cent spent
-$150 or more to ING
-Look into cost of Dish or DirecTV in order to reduce that $86 cable bill

Thanks for Nothing

September 3rd, 2007 at 01:51 am

I never posted about this, but back at the beginning of August, I received notice of my raise this year: 3%. Can you see why I didn't mention it? Anyway, I found out yesterday that starting in January, we can expect a 5% increase in the cost of our health insurance. Great. So much for that raise. With that 5% on top of the increased cost of parking, I'll probably make less this year than last, even with that raise.

I sometimes feel like I'll never get ahead.

A $7.54 Confession

September 1st, 2007 at 01:02 am

I broke the budget today. It was such a beautiful day. I went and bought a 6 pack of Mikes Hard Lemonade and sat outside for an hour reading a book and enjoying a drink. I love to sit outside and read, and this was the first opportunity I've had to do this in my new house. It was so nice to be in my own place. So, that splurge put me slightly over budget. But the booze was on clearance!

I took yesterday and today off from work. I spent most of today cleaning my vinyl siding. It was filthy. I still have the back of the house and one more side to do. That was hard work, but the house looks so much nicer now.

I also got estimates from tree trimming companies. I have a large cedar tree growing right next to my house that I need to do something about. I was originally thinking of just trimming it back, but now I'm leaning towards removing the tree entirely. I just think it will always be a problem, so I might as well bite the bullet and remove it now. It does provide a bit of privacy, though, so I'll hate to lose that.

I got estimates from 3 companies. One was very professional, but also very expensive: $675. YIKES. One company gave me a good price, but he didn't seem very professional. The third company that came out today is probably who I'll have do the work. His price was $355, and he was very professional and knowledgeable. So, anyway, I hate to spend the money on this, but I also don't want to have any damage done to the house or to the roof.

Too Much Month at the End of the Money

August 29th, 2007 at 01:52 am

That's what this month is like. I won't get paid by my full time job until Sept. 5. I will get a check from my part time job on Friday, but I'm expecting that to be less than $100. And, of course, the mortgage payment is due on the 31st. That doesn't leave much left over for things like groceries. And, of course, this is a long holiday weekend. I could transfer a little money from my savings to tide me over if needed, but I'm trying not to do that.

I got my electric bill yesterday. Most expensive yet at $142. I was expecting it to be bad with the heat wave. Can't wait for things to cool off.


August 25th, 2007 at 10:53 pm

I found this article in my local newspaper and thought it was a very interesting read:

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Of course, I figured the rate of foreclosures was up, but I didn't realize by how much. And this is a town with a fairly stable employment pool, so there haven't been big layoffs or anything of that nature feeding this.

I also found it interesting that the representative from the banking association points to sub-prime lenders as the problem, not reputable commercial banks, and yet 20 out of the 35 foreclosures in July in my county were by traditional banks.

I can't believe people can live with such filth. I guess when you realize you're losing your house, you just don't give a hoot anymore.

Check from Home Warranty

August 25th, 2007 at 07:37 pm

I picked up the mail today and found a check from the home warranty for the AC repair. I was surprised it came so quickly, since I just faxed the repair receipt to the company on Monday. So, kudos to them. I thought I'd have to keep hounding them to get anything back. The check was for $653 and the total cost of the repair was $928, so the cost to me was under $300. I'm very glad about that.

I opened an ING Orange account earlier this week with about $150. I have my emergency fund in a money market mutual fund with American Funds, but I thought I'd try ING for extra savings. Since my Furniture Row debt is at no payments, no interest until June 08, I thought I'd make payments to ING instead of Furniture Row, and then pay that debt off in May. Or sooner, with any luck saving.

One other observation-I've got to get better at buying only from my list at the grocery store. I stayed well within my budget today, but I still bought more "what the heck" items than I should have.