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Archive for August, 2008

The Kid - Part Two

August 28th, 2008 at 12:42 am

After an earlier blog entry about my son and receiving some of the advice I got from fellow savers, I've made some steps over the summer to help train the kid in financial matters. He was destroying the budget this summer and it had to stop. I feel like I tried so hard to teach him financial foundations as he was growing up, but he wasn't interested before and now, at 19 years old, he still doesn't seem interested. And because I try to 'help' him financially by giving him money, I made the situation worse.

Anyway, I either failed at teaching or he failed at learning, but I made a few changes mid-July after some deep thought.

The things I decided that I'll continue to do are:
(1) Pay for college tuition until the $25,000 I saved over the past sixteen years (mostly savings bonds) runs out.
(2) Pay for the maintenance and insurance for his car.
(3) Pay for food at home. And shelter.
(4) Pay for his prepaid cell phone.
(5) Give him an allowance of $200 each month during the school year at college with the stipulation that he doesn't ask me for ANY additional money during the school year for personal expenses. The consequence of asking will be a slight decrease and a big lecture. (The lecture part being my motherly right and duty.)

This summer, here's what I decided NOT to do:
(1) Not pay for his gas. (I was doing that even though he was working a summer job. Don't ask me why.)
(2) Not pay for his fast food addiction. (I was doing that, too. Don't ask me why.)
(3) Not pay for his overdraft fees. (I was doing that, too. Don't ask me why.)
(4) Not pay for his speeding tickets. (I was doing that...well, you know the drill...) I'd already paid for 3 of his speeding tickets within the past year. He got a fourth ticket in July and will pay it with money from his summer job.
(5) Not buy his clothes or shoes.

He's a heavy spender and I'm a heavy saver. (We're both heavy-weights--ha ha!) All of our arguments are over money. To me, wasting money (like on overdraft fees) is a crime or a sin--it's that SERIOUS to me!! But he seems to think it's no big deal, that I make a lot of money compared to him, that I should spend a lot of money...on him.

These were small but serious changes for me as the mother of an only child. It's so intense! But already I can see the change in my cashflow. The kid has been angry with me for weeks because of these changes. But I was angry before. Now it's his turn.

School will begin for him next week. Eventually I want this money challenge with the kid to be win-win for both of us, but I think we have a ways to go...

Thanks to all for your previous encouragement. I'm taking baby steps, baby steps...

Happy Birthday to Me -- Bash on a Budget

August 20th, 2008 at 12:18 am

Ok, so it really wasn't a birthday bash. It was actually a BORING birthday according to my son. For my birthday last week (the 15th), I tried to ask my family not to buy anything for me, but instead that we just enjoy a leisurely breakfast together at a nearby restaurant and to allow me to enjoy the one thing I really wanted...time alone to write and read.

The kid (who likes to spend money) wanted to buy me something expensive (which he equates with 'valuable') for my birthday and was very disappointed when I had no request for anything in particular. He bought me supermarket flowers (which were wonderful and thoughtful and smelled great and the best gift he's ever given me) and a scented name-brand candle that also smelled good, but that I suspect he paid too much for in an effort to impress a mother who doesn't want or need to be impressed or in an effort to show me he really loves me. (I keep telling him that love has no price, but his materialism convinces him otherwise.) My spouse also bought me flowers and candy and a gift certificate for clothes shopping. And we did go out to eat breakfast.

It's nice to be loved and for my family to want to give me nice things, but my prize gift that day was leaving my family behind and getting a motel room alone. Because of my frugality and my primary intention to read and write through that day and night, I got a basic single room at a Super 8 Motel. Clean, simple, relatively safe neighborhood, relatively quiet, free coffee, toast and fruit in the morning, and the room had blackout curtains, a desk where I could write and a fairly comfortable couch to sit on for reading. It was one day/night and it was absolutely fabulous. I read. I wrote. Then I wrote. Then I read. Then I slept. Then I wrote some more.

At my age, the main thing I lack is the freedom to do what I want with my time. My days are filled with my full-time job, having to get things done pertaining to the house or having to get somewhere or get the kid or my step-grandchildren somewhere or support my spouse or volunteer at my church or something. I want to read and write more often and sometimes I just want to sit quietly without 3 TVs and a radio blaring in the house all at the same time. (This describes my house accurately on a daily basis, but add to that 3 young boys--the step-grandchildren--that my husband babysits and there's not much quiet time to be had.)

My son thought that my birthday was the most boring birthday a person could have, but I am still smiling about it. Happy Birthday to me...

Random Acts of Deposits

August 14th, 2008 at 12:24 am

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 8th, 2008 at 12:29 am

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?


August 7th, 2008 at 11:45 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.

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.