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Where in the world have I been?

May 20th, 2010 at 04:50 pm

Nowhere. Just somewhat stressed, trying to adjust to changes in my job and at home. The kid is doing ok--much better in fact--meds are working and the psychologists are very positive after they talk with him each time. He didn't do so well this last semester at school, when it comes to grades, but he gave it his best shot by attempting to go to class.
Appreciate everyone's kind comments on my previous post back in March.

Anyway, my energy is a little drained. I may be dealing with a little depression, but I'm not willing to go down for the count, so I keep getting up to go to work, I keep exercising, I keep praying, I keep making some attempt to do something worthwhile and energizing. The kid has been very talkative as of late, so we've had some really interesting talks about "What's life all about?"

I've fallen a little behind in my budget and record keeping, but intend to do some work this month. The insurance did kick in for the hospital bill that was originally $7,000--my portion is $750 (yay me!). The other good news is that I was expecting an $800 tax refund but recieved a $1400 tax refund. (yay me!) I didn't include a credit and IRS re-calculated it for me. I feel like I should send them a thank you card. Who knew?

I'm glad I was able to muster the interest and energy to check out Saving Advice blogs and update my sidebar a little. I feel better already. I've fallen behind, but feel energized now to re-focus. I have a very long (loooooooong) list of things to do, and very little motivation. But we'll see. Happy saving!!

Status Dec 08 to Dec 09

January 28th, 2010 at 03:05 pm

Been busy this month...

From my old side bar:
As of Dec 08 --
Mortgage: $58,741 remaining.
No credit card debt (Hallelujah!!)
Retirement: 21,500 IRA (trad'l)
Retirement: 74,470 401K
Wealth acct (Money Mkt): $7,931
Freedom acct: $3,097
Cushion in chkg acct: $250
Christmas acct: $44
House repair acct: $954
Grandkids acct: $372
The Kid (future gift/out-on-his own acct): $583
Car account: $655

From my records, as of Dec 09 (new sidebar) --
Mortgage: $56,127
No credit card debt
Retirement: 34,037 IRA (trad'l)
Retirement: 84,972 401K
Wealth acct (Money Mkt): $13,325
Freedom acct: $2,898
Christmas acct: $410
House repair acct: $125
Grandkids act: $402
The Kid (future gift/out-on-his own/car acct): $923

Checking In

January 28th, 2010 at 03:03 pm

I thought the whole month of January would pass by without being able to post an entry!! Busy month!!

I've been working on the end-of-year finance reports for my church PLUS a lot of extra hours at my regular job. Too busy for words...

Started the year 2010 with a whimper. My final dental bill is $625, which I'll pay next week. Plus the kid needed another root canal. What is it with OUR TEETH??? New dental insurance pays 50% (old dental insurance paid 20%)...still the bill for him is $600, which includes the crown.

Anyhoo...
Made some progress in 2009, but praying to consistently move forward. Trying not to focus on the time it takes to get where I want to get (it feels reaaalllly slowwwwwww). I love this time of year, because even if I MIGHT be discouraged about my progress, I'm reminded to just keep pushing forward. And be patient.

Same goals this year as last year--for the most part. I will not be discouraged. I've updated my sidebar and posted another post comparing my Dec 08 to my Dec 09 status. Cut down a few goals in an effort to focus. I really want to increase my retirement contribution, but in an effort to get my wealth account and house repair account up to the amounts I want, I'll delay the increase to retirement until I get a comfortable amount in these accounts. Failed appliances (and the resulting appliance purchases) last year cleaned out the house repair account. Time to get more realistic about that.

Are we ready? Forward march!

Budget Woes

November 17th, 2009 at 04:50 pm

My budget has been wacky.

Culprit number 1 is the house. We've replaced a refrigerator, a washing machine, repaired the furnace ($390) and we continued a pest control contract (which I'd planned on ending). I neglected to include that quarterly contract cost of $120 in the budget so all that has been throwing me off.

Culprit number 2 is the kid. How big is that child's stomach?? (Pest control doesn't cover him.)

Culprit number 3 is the dental work. I believe I'm in the wrong profession -- how rich would I be if I were a dentist! My dentist currently holds about 20% of my humble current wealth account balance (total dental expenses this year about $3,000 for services rendered. Last year about the same). I feel like I need to marry him. He's not that cute, but I'd be $6,000 richer...

Anyhoo...
This is not to say I'm not grateful for having the money to take care of all these things, because I'm definitely grateful. There was a time when it was a lot harder than this...

But I'm pressing toward doing better and better every year. That's my focus.

I really need to look at my house-care account. I have a separate savings account for household appliances, household repairs and furniture. I stopped the deposits once the balance got up to $1000, thinking that we'd buy a new kitchen table and chairs and get our shower fixed. Needless to say the old kitchen table is still rocking (literally). And the shower still has a 'flow' problem. Within the past few months we've used over $900 on the appliances and repairs mentioned above and now have only $100 in this extra account. Again I'm grateful, but I definitely need to re-focus.

My freedom account has taken a few hits, too, most of which were planned for and expected (but not all), and we still have some leeway. But I'm going to have it take a couple of aspirins and call me in the morning with a new plan.

To add to all that: My brother is currently having his roof replaced on his house and it's costing him about $8,000! Yikes. I admire him that he's able to pay cash. We're almost in the market for a new roof ourselves and I definitely don't want to go in debt for it or use my hard-earned wealth account. So I need a more aggressive plan. You see, this is how it starts...my focus in every direction...

Grocery and Household Spending Thru Sep 2009

October 8th, 2009 at 04:46 pm

I tallied up the grocery receipts (all stacked up in a shoebox since my last calculation in May.)

2009 Planned spending for Groceries and
Household Supplies/Toiletries: $3,600

Spending through Sep 30, 2009: $3,119.62

Yikes. Looks like we're going to be over budget by the end of the year. Averaging $345 per month so far. (The plan was to average out at $300 a month.)

Bummer!

My estimate for planned spending was either a little low considering the kid is at home and not away at college or I got WAY too excited in the grocery aisles when I thought everything was ok.

We have a rotating dinner menu (6 weeks of meal ideas taped inside our cabinet door), but I notice I tend to over-buy breakfast, lunch and snack items for all three of us to get through the week. Something to work on.

I'll still challenge myself to see how LITTLE I can go over-budget by the end of the year. I can't give up trying.

Money Talks

September 28th, 2009 at 05:06 pm

I've been lazy and unmotivated about the budget and tracking lately.

It could be the time of year. Or the fact that I've had a lot of money go out (new refrigerator, dental work, the insurance was due, the kid's laptop was repaired). Or the fact that there are now 2 people at home who are not on the same financial page as I am (the kid and the spouse) and that appears to drain me, even though I'm trying not to let it. (I got accustomed to the kid being away at college.)

Also, without a computer at home I haven't been regularly reading Savingadvice to keep myself motivated. I'm reading a lot of entries today in an attempt to get inspired and motivated.

I also feel like groceries have gotten out of control, but haven't tracked the amounts I've spent in the past few weeks. I'm hoping it's just my imagination.

The kid has asked me to buy him a gym membership for Christmas (a year's contract). I'm considering it, but I hate contracts. And a year contract is expensive by my tastes. But the kid will be happy with this one gift (I think) and he can use it all year and I won't do any further Christmas shopping for him, which will simplify things for me. (Except I might still buy him socks and underwear... what's Christmas without new socks and underwear?!) We'll see...

My new pay with my new job has stabilized and I have about $35 each paycheck that I want to add to savings goals. I haven't done anything about that yet either, but I need to work on that (on payday!) so that amount doesn't get absorbed into other expenses. I was going to add it to retirement, but think I'll split it between retirement and my Freedom Account. (I sound like I have a million dollars coming to me...I'm always trying to divide a dime!)

Just feeling sluggish about all things financial, but still grateful to read everyone's blogs for inspiration. Maybe if I balance the checkbook tonight, I'll find some motivation and discipline...

Mid -Year Review of Sidebar Status

July 13th, 2009 at 04:53 pm

I wanted to compare current status with my "As of Dec 08--) status:

Mortgage: $56,741 remaining
No credit card debt still (yay!)
Retirement: 27,000 IRA (trad'l)
Retirement: 73,453 401K
Wealth acct (Money Mkt): $10,798
Freedom acct: $6,012
Cushion in checking acct: $1,050 (fluctuates a lot)
Christmas acct: $1,001
House repair acct: $921
Grandkids acct: $380
The Kid (future gift/out-on his own acct): $1,372 (he may use part of this to purchase a car)
Car account: $655

Groceries and Household Spending Thru May 09

June 16th, 2009 at 05:16 pm

2009 Planned spending for Groceries and
Household Supplies/Toiletries: $3,600

Spending through May 09: $1,675.84

Percentage spent: 46.55% of total Grocery/Household budget

(Confessions: (1) Trying to continue to use coupons, but I've been unorganized lately. (2) Still stockpiling sale items, but I'm worried that it's throwing my budget out of whack, that I might be overdoing it. (3) The kid is eating a lot over the summer. I'm buying more namebrand foods so the storebrands don't get wasted. (4) I'm trying to remain diligent about tracking my spending, though I think I might have missed/misplaced a couple of receipts--no more than $10 or $20, I hope!)

Overtime, Budget Tweaks and Focus

May 28th, 2009 at 04:04 pm

I've been working overtime at work a few hours a week for over a month and I feel tired but prosperous. Extra money has me smiling a lot.

I've been tweaking the budget. I like budget tweaking. The grocery budget is quite a bit higher with the kid at home, but I stockpiled cereals on sale (12 boxes at the moment) and frozen pizzas and sausage links on sale so that helped. Utility bills will also be higher, but because we were under the $200 a month budget for the last 6 months, we have a cushion in our account for the higher utility costs.

In the meantime, however, I'm feeling prosperous. I want to DO things, like go out to eat (we don't go out to eat often) or do other extra things I don't usually do. I haven't done anything rash, but this is what extra money does to me.

Then I start comparing my life to the "I'm Debt Free" stories on Dave Ramsey. Whenever I hear an "I'm Debt Free" shout and story on his show, I always wonder if I can do the same with my savings that these people have done with their debt. "Gazelle intensity" Dave Ramsey calls it, meaning extreme focus. I'm thinking, if people who have $21,000 in credit card debt can pay off the debt in one year or in 18 months or whatever their story is and they're making the same kind of salary I'm making (say $58,000 annual), why can't I SAVE that same amount that they paid toward their debt?

I think the problem in the past has been lack of goals and a wavering commitment (like the wavering I'm considering right now) to the few goals I had and not facing reality. (As in the reality that "something unexpected ALWAYS comes up and a financial cushion is needed for these things." I wasn't facing the truth of that until the past year or two.)

I started out great in 2009. I'll continue to blog about my $20 + challenge to my wealth account, how my focus is on that account and getting it up and past a certain level. I think I'm 'intent' on this goal and that I've done well thus far, but I feel myself wavering. And my spouse and son are not EVER on the same financial wavelength, so it would be easy for me to let things slide before I get back on the horse again. But I don't want to let things slide.

I'm tweaking the budget with my prosperous outlook and my new intentional intensity. I want to be able to save all my overtime money and every other stray dollar that comes my way. I'm mostly trying to convince myself to stay focused (FOCUS!). I think it's working. I'll keep you posted.

New and 'Re-Newed' Clothes - Shopping With Mom

April 20th, 2009 at 05:00 pm

My parents were visiting during last week and my mother and I had some mother/daughter time by going shopping. I have a 'clothing' envelope that I'd been adding $30 a month to for the past several months and had a budget envelope of roughly $300 and some change. (I don't shop for clothes that often.)

My mother is a frugal queen. But she calls my father cheap. I intuitively know the difference, but couldn't explain it. It just makes me laugh. I have my money management skills from both of them. My brother is actually the only spendthrift in our family, but he, too, has saved and invested his income wisely.

Anyway, my mother and I had lunch (buy one get one free, of course), went shopping at one 'regular' department store (briefly), but the majority of our time was spent at a thrift store.

At the department store, I spent about $70 for one thing (I needed a new basic suit (jacket and pants) for work, that I can mix and match with my current wardrobe--this was an investment for me--and my mother bought nothing. One purchase at the department store.

At the thrift store, however, my mother spent about $39 and bought 2 skirts, a clothes hamper, a dress, a peach-colored skirt suit, a knit top, two work-pants for my dad, a straw totebag, a black purse, and 5 sewing patterns. I spent $70 dollars and bought 4 knit tops, 2 long sleeve blouses, 3 purses, 3 belts, two work-pants for my stepson, two tank tops for gym workouts, one pantsuit (which will mix and match with my department store pant suit) and one basic black skirt suit (which was the big ticket item on the "better clothing" rack, costing $19.) Needless to say, we had a much better time at the thrift store. What a bonding good time!!

My parents have gone back home, but there's a sale at the thrift store this week--50% of all clothing to celebrate Earth Week. I still have $160 left in the envelope, but think I'll only take $20... Maybe a few more 'new' shirts to go with my 'new' suits... Life is good...

Grocery and Household Spending thru Feb

March 3rd, 2009 at 03:49 pm

My original spending/saving plan has several numbers (and high hopes) for items I haven't yet tracked. But I'm tracking my groceries and household spending fairly well. I realized I need to increase my yearly projected spending in this area for 2009 from $3,200 this year to $3,600. This is more realistic when I look at last year. I'll still shoot for spending less...

To make it easier, I have two cash envelopes, one for Groceries and one for Household, but because I buy a lot of household stuff at the grocery store and a lot of grocery stuff at CVS, Walgreens and the dollar stores, I've combined the tracking of the expenditures into one big category and list what I spend at each store per pay period, then total it.

2009 Planned spending for Groceries and
Household Supplies/Toiletries: $3,600

Spending through Feb 09: $624.01

Percentage spent: 17% of total Grocery/Household budget

Spending Plan 2009

January 26th, 2009 at 05:32 pm

I've decided to track my spending per paycheck and pay period, rather then do it by month. I've set up a spreadsheet that will show what I plan to spend and save from each paycheck, what I actually do from each paycheck, the difference between the two and the cumulative total of spending and extra saving for the year through the current pay period. Seems a little intense, but I think it'll be more accurate. I also plan to do a percentage of planned amount spent through the year so I can see my progress.

I want to keep track of extra savings on the spreadsheet as well as keep track of automatic savings and savings balances on another sheet. (lot of spreadsheets!! I think I might keep handwritten notebook paper records on some things...it's portable and I might stay more motivated)

Spending/Saving Plan for the Year 2009:

Total 401K saving projected (from gross pay): $3,250
Projected Net Spending Income $38,500
Planned IRA savings: $1,200
Planned Freedom Acct savings: $2,600
Planned Christmas Acct savings: $1,000
Planned wealth account savings: $8,000 (!)
Planned Tithes/Offering: $6,000
Planned Mortgage payments: $9,792 + extra $1,000 toward principle
Planned spending for Utilities: $3,600 (doesn't include cable)
Planned spending for Groceries and Household Supplies/Toiletries: $3,200
Planned money to the kid: $1,000 spending, $3,500 college (from 2009 income).

I'll continue to keep a cushion in my checking account, which I do by keeping two account totals (grand total and budget total used for bills...requires a lot of math, but I do love math and am up to the challenge). Grand total includes 'float' (which I think is what Tightwad Kitty called it in her budget plan--thanks!!). (Example: I set aside $140 in the budget for the electric bill but if the bill is actually $100, the difference of $40 is transferred out of the budget balance and remains in the checkbook cushion/grand total to cover when the bill is actually OVER the $140. So far so good.)

Tentative Plan 2009

December 29th, 2008 at 04:02 pm

I still have a lot of finance work to do for my church's finance board, so my focus is mostly on that right now. But it still excites me to read about everyone's goals for the new year, so I keep sneaking a few moments to check in with the blogs and stay motivated for my own goals.

Flew home to visit with my parents and my brother and neice and nephew over the Christmas week. We had a great time sitting around and eating and it got me thinking about how important family is. I'm 8 hours away and I'm beginning to think about moving closer... Went without my spouse, just me and the kid, and was somewhat disappointed to return home to the spouse. I'm hanging in there with my marriage, but the good conversation with my 'family of origin' made me sad and disappointed about the lack of partnership in finances and other things with my spouse. I've given up on trying to make the marriage better and am just trying to be content and make the best of the situation (he is, after all, a nice guy...and he cooks!!) Maybe the new year will have us in a better place...

Anyway, tentative budget ideas for 2009...I've been inspired by so many blogs. This year instead of doing a monthly budget and spending track by month, I think I'll do a paycheck budget PER paycheck and PER pay period. Then using that, I'll do a yearly tracking of year-to-date expenses against a yearly budget and percentage spent of yearly budget instead of trying to fit it into calendar months. Think it was Sheila's Personal Finance Blog that gave me that idea (thanks Sheila!).

Think (hope) this will give me a clearer picture of my spending and saving. Even though monthly budgets is what I've always done, I find lately that it's been difficult to reconcile some of my numbers at the end of the year. I get paid every 2 weeks and somehow it throws off my budget numbers when I have to stretch the paycheck at the end of one month into the first week of the next month. Anyway, I think this will work better for me this year.

More ideas to come...

How Many Ways Can I Divide A Dime?

November 13th, 2008 at 04:45 pm

Already, like others out there, I'm looking at new financial goals for the new year. I love this fresh start stuff. It always gives me energy. I've tried to involve my spouse in my excitement and my review, but as usual, he lacks interest. I really just want to throw the book at him, but as the good wife, I just smile!

I've been reviewing my (our?) savings over 2008 and realize that I am still all over the place. I mean I've done fairly well, but I had more of a savings PLAN in place for the past year, rather then savings GOALS.

I believe I have 8 payroll savings allotments and 2 bank withdrawals for savings accounts (including retirement accounts). The plan was to consistently save as much money as possible.

In addition to the automatic deposits, I used lots of coupons, shopped at Good Will, stocked up on grocery sale items, took my lunch to work, and avoided shopping and going out to eat as much as possible.

Then, nearly every time I got extra money, say, over $100 or $200, I played with it in my head and on paper, dividing the deposit amount across at least 3 accounts, sometimes more. (My tax refund last year was split between every account I have PLUS I kept an amount for spending.)

It's worked for me...sort of. I mean, I have a good running start on most everything I wanted to fund. So I guess that was my plan AND my goal. But I'm like a juggler with too many balls in the air. Here I am at the end of the year, and I can't scratch anything off the list.

I shouldn't feel disappointed, but in a small way I do. I'm going to look at things with a new eye and narrow my focus...

OCTOBER REVIEW

November 4th, 2008 at 04:38 pm

Received 3 paychecks this month instead of the usual two. Also received $82 in overtime.

Regular household expenses: $3,261
Spending from Freedom Account and cushion:
Paid $475 Home warranty
Paid $410 Car repair
Paid $103 AAA membership
Paid $141 Plumbing repair (leak)
Total spent: $4,164

Notes:
1. Spent $282 on groceries, about $80 over the budget. $200 a month seems to be more and more unreasonable now that I'm at the end of the year, so I think for 2009, I'll do a budget amount by quarter or a semi-annual budget amount and track that instead of a by month figure, since I do a lot of stocking up when things are on sale.
2. Withdrew $550 from Christmas account. Will split with spouse and add to this with paycheck amounts, but don't plan to spend a lot this year.

Total Regular savings (from gross pay): Freedom account, $270. Education account, $300. Christmas $0 (withdrew nearly all). House repair account, $75. Creative ventures, $30. 401K, $339.

Total Regular Savings (from net pay):
Wealth account, $100. Extra mortgage payment account, $80. IRA, $100. the kid's moving-out-on-his-own account $10.
Car account: $100

Extra savings: Wealth account, $100, Cushion in checking account, $150 added.

Too many savings goals. Goal for November is to narrow my focus in my savings goals...at least a little. Also to review 2007 and 2008 total household spending to begin planning household budget for year 2009.

SEPTEMBER REVIEW

October 16th, 2008 at 03:49 pm

Had high goals of saving on utilities and groceries this month since my son would be away at school rather than home every weekend. However, we didn't do as well as I'd hoped.

Total household expenses: $3,103 plus $639 for regular car insurance premium, so that's $3,742 total. (Transferred $650 from Freedom account to pay for car insurance and extra.)

Utilities were about $60 cheaper than prior month, but still higher than I wanted. Groceries were over the budgeted cash envelope amount of $200 (I borrowed from other envelopes to stock up on sale items--I bought 6 boxes of Cheerios!--and to buy snacks for the kid at college.) I've been at or below $200 a month four months this year for grocery purchases (includes some household items, but I budget additional $40 to $60 a month for household items). Still working on this...
Gas was also over the budget amount due to extra travel to my son's college.

Added regular savings allotments to all accounts, plus extra $64 not used (a gift check for shopping).

Refuse to look at the balance in my IRA. I know it isn't pretty. But my regular savings accounts are still building up. I'll have to comfort myself with the familiar routine of regular savings allotments and 2% interest.

Progress in September - Musings

September 9th, 2008 at 03:26 pm

I'm reading everything I can and watching a lot of Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, the Big Idea, etc., to get additional ideas to save more money now that the kid is back in school. I'm saving fairly well each month, but feel like I should be doing more, saving more.

Budget: I've reviewed my spending plan for the millionth time this year, constantly trying to cut expenses and force savings. We hope to be able to cut down on utilities and groceries this month.

Current savings: I already have automatic savings allotments in place. I already save all my change and use the change for various savings goals (the kid, the grandkids savings accounts, Christmas shopping). The new thing I've started (after reading a blog or article in savingadvice.com about 'the cost of saving change') is to save as many of my one-dollar bills as possible and not spend them, then deposit them into various savings accounts as well. I deposited $8.00 in my emergency fund this week. Yay me.

Interest rate: My 6 month CD (principal $2500) matures in November and I'm searching for another CD that may pay more interest. I also plan to add enough to make the principle $3000.

Education fund: My son's education fund will be near $0 after this school year, much to my dismay. I'd hoped he would have made better decisions to use the money more wisely, but at the same time, I'm glad he's attending school and that I was able to help.

Retirement savings: I'm trying not to look at my IRA and 401K balances, praying that they heal themselves from the losses over the past year. I'm still contributing the same amounts.

Mortgage: I have a new plan to pay extra on the mortgage--I plan to save about $80 each month (which was the monthly payment of the second mortgage which we paid off earlier this year) into my money market account. I'll track those deposits and withdraw that accumulated amount at the end of each year to send in to the mortgage company as an extra principle payment. It won't be a lot this year, but it's better than nothing and I hope to shave a few years (and interest) off the loan by doing this consistently.

Emergency fund: I have too many money goals at the same time. That's why I feel like I'm not making a lot of progress. My emergency fund is a combination of my checking account cushion, the savings account cushion connected to this checking account (which I'm also using as my 'freedom account' to pay for large expenses that creep up on me) and a money market account. Totals are $500 in checking and $1500 cushion in the savings account. There's approx $8,000 in the money market acct, part of it the 6-month CD I was talking about. My goal for emergency funds is $18,000 so I have a ways to go. (Gee whiz!) PLUS I want to save for our next car purchase. I feel like I should focus more on this, but we'll see. Too many money goals... I feel like I'm a hyperactive saver...I'm all over the place...

AUGUST REVIEW

September 3rd, 2008 at 03:32 pm

Made $473 extra in overtime during the month of August. Received gift of $100 (for birthday).

Total household expenses from household account: $3,646 (Ouch! Expensive month for us!)

Extra bills paid from the freedom account and savings cushion:
Paid $412 balance on Visa card (for airline tickets to visit my parents in July)
Paid $265 for second half of son's dental work.
Paid $194 for new eyeglasses.
Paid $536 for son's car insurance--a new policy after removing him from our policy (used $200 from savings, $336 from household account-overtime money)

(I'd hoped to save all the overtime money, which is why I was motivated to work it. However, it got sucked up into real life, which included the insurance and an exterminator/pest control contract visit at $111. Bummer!)

SAVINGS:
Total regular savings (automatic deposits from net pay): $100 to wealth account, $80 to extra mortgage payment account, $100 to IRA, $10 to son's no-touch-move-out-on-his-own(!)account.

Total regular savings (automatic allotments from gross pay): $180 to freedom savings account, $226 to 401K, $24 to Christmas ccount, $50 to furniture account, $20 to Creative Ventures account, $260 to education account.

Extra savings: $14.50 to Christmas account, $100 to wealth account.

Freedom account is a little bare and I still have another insurance payment ($630)in September.

GOAL for September:
The kid has returned to school so we're on a crash savings diet in utilities and food in an effort to save even more. Goal is to add extra to rebuild freedom account cushion and also add an extra $100 to the Christmas account while maintaining all other savings goals. Hmmm....

Random Acts of Deposits

August 13th, 2008 at 04:24 pm

My IRA is in a global stock mutual fund and has lost approximately $8,000 in the past year or so. I'm still contributing an automatic deposit of $100 a month. The positive side is that I'm buying a lot of shares at a very low price. The negative side is that it doesn't feel good to lose that much money at my age.

I've decided to ride it out for a while longer until I can make a decision of some sort.

In the meantime, I'm maintaining all my automatic savings deposits. I have a lot of different savings goals (about 10 or 12--I've lost count) and savings accounts (about 10). It doesn't seem like I'm getting anywhere when I look at each account individually. Many of my automatic deposits are small, but they're steady. And overall, I'm doing better than I thought.

In addition to the automatic savings, I've recently found it EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to add 'random acts of deposits' to each account as I see fit. No real system--I just gather loose change and dollar bills that are found or left over from the previous week's budget and deposit that into the account I feel needs it. The bank teller looks at you funny when you deposit $3.35. But I stand strong, smile, and say, "yes ma'am, that's three dollars and thirty-five cents". My spouse and my child were mortified when I told them I do this every week or so. "That's ridiculous," the kid says. (The kid is the one who spends all of his money.)

These random acts of deposits will not make up for an $8,000 loss in my IRA, but I'm hoping my IRA will heal itself. These deposits help me remember my 'intention' and help me to save 'on purpose'. It makes me feel like I'm doing the best I can in spite of what's going on around me.

Christmas Is Coming

August 7th, 2008 at 04:29 pm

Christmas shopping used to destroy my budget. And my Christmas spirit. Year after year it just wasn't pretty. I needed a plan!

Several years ago, a library book called Getting What You Want With The Money You Already Have (by Carol Keeffe) encouraged me to save for specific goals like Christmas, even if I save small amounts. It turns out that small amounts added to small amounts equals much more than $0 added to $0. Who knew?

This year I'm funding the Christmas account with an automatic savings deposit of $12 out of every paycheck. Wow, you say.

From October of the previous year to October of the current year (which is when I make the BIG withdrawal) is the timeframe for building up the Christmas account. The minimum amount will be approximately $264 with just the automatic deposits.

However, the rest of the plan is this: Add to that some tax refund money. (This only works if I get a tax refund. One year I owed taxes. What a painful year that was. We had Christmas Light rather than Christmas Deluxe that year. We were fine.)

Add to that some random acts of deposits. Every two weeks before I get paid, I collect some of my dollar bills and loose change and deposit that into the Christmas fund, too.

Right now, there is approximately $455 in the account. I hope to have $600. I usually split this with the spouse (who does the primary shopping for the grandkids, my step-daughter's children). This helps ease the confusion and ease the budget. It also helps me limit my spending. Before having a plan I was horrified to find that after the dust settled I sometimes spent over $1,000 on Christmas gifts for my only child and a few other family members and friends. That was out of control and commercialism at it's best. I don't even remember what I bought and neither do they.

Anyway, Christmas is coming. If you celebrate it, do you have a plan for gift giving? A budget? Will you do something different this year? Next year?

JULY REVIEW

August 7th, 2008 at 03:45 pm

Made $160 extra in overtime during the month of July.

Total household expenses paid from household account in July: $2,446
(Note 1: A week-long visit to my parents home out of state meant no gas or grocery expense for household--very little expense at my parents house, they live in a rural area. Tickets to fly were $400 for two. Will pay off credit card with savings next month.)
(Note 2: Cut the funding for the kid's gas tank in mid-July--until school begins--lowered gas budget by approx $80)

Extra bills paid from the freedom account and savings: $242 for car repairs, $264 for dental work for the kid.

SAVINGS:
Regular savings (automatic savings deposits from net pay): $100 to wealth account, $100 to IRA, $10 to the kid's savings account (the kid's move-out account)

Regular savings (automatic allotments from gross pay): $180 to freedom account, $226 to 401K, $24 to Christmas account, $50 to house repair account, $20 to creative ventures account and $280 to the kid's education fund.

Extra savings: $100 to car payment account, $65 to checkbook cushion, $80 to extra mortgage payment account, $100 from overtime to savings just because.

Budget Me Silly

July 31st, 2008 at 04:30 pm

I love budgets. I love reading about budgets. I love re-working budgets. I love reading about other people's real-life budgets.
Because of the way I get paid, it took several years, if not decades to manage the income. I made the mistake (often) of thinking I had more momey that I actually had, because of the date my paycheck hit the bank. Sometimes payday fell on the first and third week of the month and sometimes it fell on the second and forth week of the month. Same amount of money, but I just couldn't get a rhythm to pay those first of the month bills plus save plus be prepared for unexpected expenses all at the same time.

I've pulled ideas from many (many!) money books. After years in 'research and development', I currently have the most decent plan I've had. For years, the problem has been this: On paper I can work magic. But the actual greenbacks...not so much.

Now I start with gross pay and account for all deductions and automatic savings allotments from my net pay. This helps me see how much I pay in taxes, health insurance, etc. Then I have 'fixed' categories that I write checks for (giving, mortgage, utilities, insurance and medical expenses). Then I have 'flexible' categories that I use cash for (groceries, household supplies, entertainment, clothes and the kid. Clothes and entertainmenet don't always get fully funded.) I use my debit card for gas and occasional planned expenses.
(The 'freedom account' that I mentioned in a previous entry helps with the unexpected or non-monthly expenses.)

My mind works 'monthly', but I get paid biweekly. I've just begun to do what I guess I'd call a paycheck assignment sheet every payday. I plan and deduct what bills I pay with each current paycheck and project expenses for the next paycheck. We pay the majority of our bills the first half of the month. The second half of the month I can focus on saving. With each paycheck I 'assign each dollar a destination.' (Dave Ramsey) This has helped out quite a bit in avoiding overdrafts and forgotten expenses and my waiting for the magic to happen and the monthly budget to work itself out. Who knew?

Still needs improvement and work. Trying to add 'cushion savings' as one of my fixed expenses right off the top. And also since I'm not currently paying a car payment, I'd love to eek out a monthly car payment equivalent to $300 (!!) payable to my savings for a future car purchase, but I've looked EVERYWHERE for that extra $300 and have yet to find it. And with the kid in college, I keep adjusting the numbers. With life in general, I'll be adjusting the numbers...I guess, forever? But that's fine with me.

Me, Inc.

July 30th, 2008 at 04:44 pm

Before discovering this website and the many other websites out there for encouragement in saving, I pretty much had to encourage myself and motivate myself to save money while living with a spouse and teenage child that are bored by all things financial. I read lots of books and I'm a little nerdy, so those two things helped.

Within the last year I started a new thing to stay on track...I held a household finance meeting / conference every 2 weeks, usually when I got paid. But at least once a month. (So far I've been the only one to show up at this regular finance meeting.) At this meeting I would:
1. Review my paycheck stub.
2. Review our budget and budget each paycheck to the dollar (or 'assign each dollar a destination' - Dave Ramsey)
3. Pay all current bills due and project new expenses.
4. Update checkbook balance, transferring any amounts we were under-budget into savings.
5. Gather all loose change from my purse, the washing machine, the car, the couch, pockets, and under my son's bed to fund coin jars.
6. Check balances in budgeted cash envelopes and use some of the remaining cash (if any) for savings.
7. Review bank accounts and balances. (Balance checkbook once a month).
8. Clip coupons and review sales papers.
9. Go to the bank for payday withdrawals to fund cash envelopes.
10. Determine my financial net worth. (I usually do step 10 every other month or so.)
11. Give a rundown to my spouse until he falls asleep.

Meeting adjourned.

Save the Cash #2

July 30th, 2008 at 04:14 pm

In addition to the last entry about my savings plan, there's more...

(I LOVE savingadvice.com--somewhere to go to be accountable and to share and be encouraged with our goals!)

Anyway, the actual accounts I have for saving and building wealth are my money market account which has almost $6,000 and my two retirement accounts (traditional IRA and 401K.) My money market account I call my wealth account, but I used to call it my emergency fund. Then I called it the account to start my early retirement on. (It ain't looking good. Only $494,000 to go before I reach that half a million I was dreamed about.) Then I used the account to 'borrow' money from myself to put a down payment on the house, put a down payment on one of the cars we own and to purchase the other two cars with cash. (Not all at the same time, of course. What do I look like--Warren Buffet?)
The account high has been $17,500. The low has been $2,500. The idea was to pay the equivalent of a car payment to the account, which I was able to do some years ago ($300 a month), but I've only been able to deposit $100 a month for the past several years without going into the account to get it back out (smile). Of course, I deposit extra money there too, like tax refunds, etc.
Currently I just call it a wealth account because it has kept me/my family out of a lot of debt. I also use this as the 'parking place' for my auto and home insurance deductibles. Even though it's not looking good for early retirement at 50, I will keep building for both the next car purchase and some increased financial independence.

I do wish I'd done more several years ago. There was a time when I made less money, but was able to save a higher percentage of my income--and I didn't do it. Trying to make up for lost time is impossible. But, currently, it is what it is... I use this blog to stay encouraged.

Save the Cash, Man!

July 21st, 2008 at 04:38 pm

I want to write this to publicly acknowledge my savings plan.

In addition to the "Freedom Account" and its sub-accounts which I mentioned in a previous entry, I have a household bill paying account. This is our joint checking account. (I try to keep a savings cushion within the checking account balance after a memorable run--and re-run--of bounced checks due to unexpected expenses.) I also have separate savings accounts for: household repairs, Christmas shopping, Creative Ventures (for writing supplies, community classes and travel), the kid's education account, the kid's 'getting out on his own' acount (the kid's got to go), and an account for my step-grandchildren to hopefully one day help them with college. (They're 9, 4 and 2 right now and I've been saving pennies and nickels. Not adding up very quickly, but it's something.) I have allotments or automatic payroll deposits to most of these accounts. All of these accounts are planned spending accounts...I try to build them up to a certain level in order to spend it.

My parents tell me this is a ridiculous number of savings accounts. My spouse stopped listening after the second account. (I have a list in case anything happens to me.) I don't even bother telling my friends, because no one gets it. Several years ago, I would have thought it was crazy to do this, but it actually works for me. I hear I can do this easily on-line nowadays, but I got the idea a few years ago from How To Get What You Want With The Money You Already Have by Carol Keeffe. It helps me stay organized. I have separate goal amounts in separate accounts that are easy to see and even though they build up VERY slowly, they do build up. It also helps that some monies are only available by driving to the bank and making a withdrawal. This is where I'm constantly "dividing the dime" -- I'm always trying to divvy up money to go to different saving goals EVEN TO THE LAST DIME. (smile)

Ten Books That Helped My Finances

July 8th, 2008 at 03:58 pm

1. Your Money Or Your Life - Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
2. How to Get What You Want With the Money You Already Have - Carol Keeffe
3. True Prosperity, Your Guide to a Cash-Based Lifestyle - K.C. Knouse
4. The Complete Cheapskate - Mary Hart
5. The Everything Budget Book - Tere Drenth
6. Yes You Can... Achieve Financial Independence - James E Stowers
7. Financial Peace - Dave Ramsey
8. Crashproof Your Life - Thomas A. Schweich
9. The 10% Solution - Marc Allen
10. The Average Family's Guide to Financial Freedom - Bill and Mary Toohey

(and numbers 11 and 12 are: Debt Free Living by Larry Burkett and How to Make A Hell Of A Profit and Still Get To Heaven by Dr John De Martini. Yeah, I went over 10 items. I'll take the penalty...)

Family Matters -- How the Cash Flows

July 3rd, 2008 at 03:20 pm

As mentioned, neither my husband nor my son share in my excitement about saving. They do not have the VISION!

My husband is on disability and does not work (he has mild cerebral palsy). He may baby-sit on occasion (his daughter's 3 boys, his niece's children--lot of family!) for dinner out or a gift card. His income is approximately $9,000 a year. He deposits (by allotment) $500 in our joint account each month for bills, leaving him approximately $250 each month. Out of that $250, he pays for basic cable. (I watch cable, but can and would rather live without it. He would just as soon dive in front of a moving bus before giving up cable.) He also pays for his prepaid cell phone and gas for his car and has a $15 monthly allotment to his personal savings account.

I work full time. I have approxiamtely $455 per paycheck or $900 per month going to various savings and retirement accounts by automatic withdrawals or allotments. I deposit the rest of my net income into our joint account for household bills (about $2500). I withdraw 'allowance' for me and cash for budget items such as groceries, entertainment, household supplies, clothes, and 'the kid'. (about $400 per month, but I split it between paychecks) I write checks or have automatic debits for the rest of our regular household bills which run between $2500 and $2700 a month. We have no debt except our mortgage. I don't have a cell phone, I use dial-up internet at home, I take my lunch to work, I'm trying to carpool to save gas, and I'd love to get rid of cable.

"The kid", my son, makes little to no money, but spends and costs quite a bit. Because he plays basketball for school and they traveled, he didn't work during the school year. He's currently working this summer and I'm helping him with gas (!) and his car repairs for the used Nissan that I bought him for college after he graduated high school. I'm requiring that he budgets for school clothes and shoes, that he keep a cushion of $200 for next year's college spending money and that he begin a Christmas fund (ESPECIALLY if he plans to keep his current girlfriend). In addition, he's to manage his spending money this summer. I even offered to match his savings by 50% by Jul 30. So far...it ain't looking good.

We bank at a credit union. I've managed to build up various savings accounts and retirement accounts over the past several years and I get SO excited when things are going well and SO discouraged when I can't seem to make headway. My husband has $23.52 in his personal savings account. This is the account that he has allotted $15 to every month for the past 4 years. (I'll let you do the math.) For 'the kid', I've alloted or transferred $50 out of every paycheck to his account (the one that came with the debit card for college) for the past 10 months plus extra transfers for books, gas and other college expenses. The kid has .02 (yes, that 2 cents) in his checking account. In his savings he has the minimum balance he can have - $5. He's been working for 4 weeks now, though I'm concerned that he's missed a few days...

Obviously, it's too much to ask for my family to be excited or interested or aligned with any particular money goals, it's too much to ask for some cooperation, some common goal, some teamwork or team spirit within my household. It took me a long time to let this go (and as you may surmise, I'm still a little bitter--oops! maybe I haven't let it go!). But yes, I handle all the paperwork, yes, I handle all the bills, yes, I manage the household finances and yes, I have a lot of one-sided conversations about savings goals and money management. So let me add that I'm SO SO glad I found you folks out there. I need you guys. I need to stay focused and motivated and not let all my hard work be in vain.

New goal: I'm having trouble helping my son deal with the consequences of NOT saving and NOT managing his money, so I want my focus for a little while to be on his 'life-training'. Several of his consequences cost ME money and affect my savings goals. (For instance, he got a speeding ticket he couldn't pay for...yikes! I paid and now we have insurance concerns...)
One thing I've officially decided: I will not purchase any more school clothes or shoes for him and will let him be responsible for those items for the rest of his life. (He has plenty of clothes already, or he can use his own money, or he can go naked or barefoot--his choice.)
Anyone have any other ideas? How do you get your kids to cooperate or help out and be responsible with money? Especially when they're 19 years old and know everything? Am I asking too much or too little? Am I doing too much? Too little? Am I being too selfish about my saving goals?

FINANCIAL STANDING

July 2nd, 2008 at 04:16 pm

I discovered savingadvice.com a few weeks ago and LOVE it. Love reading everyone's blogs. I have been on the road to financial freedom for several years but have encountered several roadblocks. Heavy sigh...

Current financial standing: Income from civil service job, $55,000 a year and spouse's disability $9,000 a year. Wealth account, $5,900; IRA, $44K / 401K, $77K. Emergency fund: $1,500. Current checking and spend-able savings accounts total to around $5,500. Education funds for my son (a combination of savings bonds and savings accumulated over the past 15 years): $25,000 with bond maturities. (We've spent about $9,100 of that for his freshman year.)

The reason I wanted to start a blog is that NO ONE at my house is excited about saving money. NO ONE cares about my early retirment. NO ONE wants to hear about simplifying our lives except me. I live with my second husband and my son, who at 19 just finished his freshman year at college and is home for the summer. (Actually, he was about an hour away. He was home almost every weekend.) Both my husband and my son are spenders. My husband is thrifty and cheap and a spender all at the same time PLUS he's a rescuer (big family)--he rarely has money left at the end of the month. My son, on the other hand, has a champagne taste on a Koolaid budget, despite my efforts in financial training and despite my no-frills lifestyle. Both of them get a glazed look in their eyes when I talk about money and money goals. Me, I get excited over tuna being 50 cents a can.

My first dream was to be a millionaire. Now I mostly want financial freedom -- freedom to work when and where I want to work, freedom to pay for living expenses (and repairs to the house) without worry, freedom to spend my days the way I want to spend my days, freedom to give more generously to the causes that are on my mind and heart. How much will that take?


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