Monday, January 31, 2011

Get More Out of Your Consumables

I know...my husband thinks I am crazy sometimes. I am too practical for my own good sometimes, so frugality has not always been about the money or about the "best use of our resources" but just because it made sense. Why in the world wouldn't I try to get the most out of what I have already bought?

Here are how I make a few consumable items stretch:
  1. Soap: We have never thrown away a bar of soap. When it gets to small to use, we stick it to the next bar and use it up. Sometimes it take a few tries of wetting both bars and pressing them together, but why would I throw away a perfectly good piece of soap just because it is not the right shape for bathing myself?
  2. Liquids in Bottles: These always get store upside down once they are no longer squeeze friendly. Even my liquid foundation, which is in a pump bottle, gets stored upside down when there is too little for the pump to grab. Now I just open the top and apply with my fingers from what has oozed down to the "bottom" of my upside down bottle. Think shampoo, laundry detergent, bubble bath, ketchup, etc.
  3. Toothpaste: Of course this is obvious to most people, but I go back over and over and over the tube after I have gotten some out to move it to the end where I will need it next. I know some people who will even cut it open to use the last of it. Sure I can get free toothpaste with coupons, but why wouldn't I make that tube last as long as possible?
  4. Using Recommended Amounts: Did you know that even with the longest hair that you typically do not need to use more than a quarter-size amount of shampoo. Super suds is not an indication of clean...it's an indication of too much shampoo. And toothpaste? The size of a pea will get you clean and is what is recommended by the ADA. By reducing the amount I use to this amount, I can really stretch the amount in the container!
  5. Flat soda: This is one that Chip cannot stomach. Frankly, I don't LIKE the taste of flat soda, but it seems silly to pour it out once it has reached that point. So I drink it. We avoid this by seldom buying soda these days.
  6. Clothes: Yep...we don't wash every single item after we've worn it. Yes...socks and underwear get washed by the daily use (except the warm fuzzy house socks I like to put on when I get home on cold evenings and take off before bed). Unless the clothes got noticeably dirty or soiled, I will often hang them back up and wear them again. It saves on laundry detergent, water to do more laundry, the life of the clothes, and electricity to do more loads of laundry. Think here my work parts or church clothes. Or pjs.
  7. Towels: We wash towels once a week. My mother would hate this, as we grew up washing towels after each use. But I just don't see the point. If they are hung up to dry, they do not seem to need washing (eg - do not get smelly) until about one week out. So that's when I wash them. We save serious water, electricity, and detergent by not washing towels daily.
And that is just a short list of ways we get the most out of our household items.

What could you add to this list? I'd love to hear more ideas!

Photo credit: emospada

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gaining Control - The Fourth Step to Owning Your Money - Make the Cut

So, living the way you've been living obviously hasn't been working too well for you if you are wrapped up in reading this series. It's okay. It happens to most of us. Some of us just get in deeper than others before we realize it.

Now that you have a hold of your emotions, a realistic view of your finances, and have brainstormed some ways to increase your household income, we have to talk about what might be the hardest part for most of us.

Budget cuts.

The word makes us all cringe whether it is said in a household or in a corporate setting. No one wants to hear that spending on something has to stop or be greatly reduced. But if it hasn't worked out well up to this point, it will not miraculously start working well now. It's time to cut ties with some superfluous spending and decide what you can really live with(out).

Here are some common themes:

  • Do NOT touch your credit card again. Not until you have convinced yourself that you truly do not need it for purchases. You might need to hide it from yourself to make this happen. You might have to put it in a block of ice. You might need to shred it. Whatever you need to do, make sure you STOP using it. You cannot pay off debt as long as you are adding to it.
  • Stop eating out. Yep. Cook at home.
  • No more movie theater. Seriously...that place is expensive. Hop to RedBox for $1 (or free with a code) and pop your own popcorn. Plus you can hit "pause" when someone has to potty. =)
  • Install energy saving devices like timers on thermostats, CFL light bulbs, low flow shower heads, in line hot water heater, etc.
  • No more concerts/theater/sporting events/etc. Pretty much cut out premium entertainment. I know...sounds hard to some of you, but you will be able to go again...just after you have a firm grasp on your finances.
  • Trim you internet/cable/satellite/phone package. Shop around. You are likely to find a better deal than you are paying. Be willing to threaten to leave your current company for another with lower rates and be willing to follow through with that threat.
  • Shop with coupons. Shop sales. There are THOUSANDS of blogs and website to help you with this (this used to be one of them)...start searching. If you want referrals, email me and I will send you some! There is no reason to ever pay for toothpaste again (you can always get it for free via sales and coupons if you know how/where to look).
  • Stop shopping at the mall. Seriously...you don't need all of that stuff. Shop in your own closet. Swap clothes with a friend. Visit a consignment or thrift store.
  • Learn how to be a homebody. Your home is not that bad of a place. If it is, do something to make that untrue so you can enjoy time at home with your family. This cuts out the cost of entertainment and the cost of a sitter for the kids.
  • Learn to say "no." To people, to new activities, to children. It's not a forever solution, but you need to say "no" a lot when getting out of debt.
  • Drop your data plan from your mobile service. Seriously...you likely have a computer at home and at work. You don't need one with you at Walmart. Useless for anything other than entertainment.
  • Drop the gym membership. You can work out at home and run around the neighborhood.
  • Carpool. Or public transportation. Or bicycle. Whatever you can do where you live to cut down on the cost of getting to/from places will help your budget.
  • Eat leftovers or make over your food for another meal. Manage your current food supply better. No throwing food away.
  • Kill any subscriptions that offer no value (memberships, magazines, newspaper, book clubs, etc). You can always just buy the Sunday paper for the coupons. =)
  • Step away from shopping sites. The more you see them, the more tempted you will be.
  • Adjust your thermostat to be more extreme. Use more blankets now. Use more fans in the warmer months.
  • Cancel the lawn service.
  • Shop around for insurance. Make sure you are getting the best rate.

I know some of these (or all) may feel uncomfortable at first. If you want to make a big impact and you are excited, go for as many of these (and others!) that you can pull off. If you are a big more dependent on these things, pick a few and go for it. In one month pick 2-3 more.

Regardless of how quickly you make big changes know that three things will happen:

  • You will get bored of it. Seriously...it's not nearly as much fun getting out of debt as it was getting into it. But stick it out and you will experience freedom like you've never known when you are finished.
  • You will then learn that you do not need everything you once thought you did. Seriously...now that I'm content in our saving ways, I can't imagine paying full price for groceries and toiletries even once we have money to spend. Amazing.
  • Once you see the debt numbers decreasing, you will start looking for MORE ways to cut costs to knock it out quicker. I promise, it will become a fun challenge to be victorious over this stranglehold.
YOU CAN DO IT!

Photo credit: linusb4

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gaining Control - The Third Step to Owning Your Money - Increasing Your Income

So now you've faced the harsh reality of what your finances look like. If you have a hole to work out of, like we did (and still do truthfully), it might look hopeless. But it truly is not.

If your income comes up short in covering your expenses you have three options:
  • Increase your income.
  • Lower your expenses.
  • Do both!
One of the first two might seem more difficult than the other to you. The third might seem nearly impossible. However, I'm hopefully going to help you see how doing both is truly possible and is certain the best way to eliminating your debt as quickly as you can.

There are a few ways you can increase your income and you have to decide what is going to work best for you and your situation. Remember that the more work you put into it, the better the results will be.

  1. Get a job! Another one, that is. A lot of people will tell you that "in this economy" that would be tough. The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to get what are more career oriented and full time gigs. Those part time ones, they can come pretty easily right now. One of the biggest success stories I can share with you that used this option is Jeff from Deliver Away Debt. He got a part time job delivering pizzas in the evening to pay off his debt. The tips were the key here. And it worked! You can do it too. Or maybe you could start a candy vending company. It worked for this guy!
  2. Side hustle. Find something you can do to earn money on the side on your own. Maybe it is extreme baby sitting or house cleaning. Maybe you can knit adorable items and really market them locally and via etsy. Maybe you can make cakes for kids' birthday parties. You could house sit, walk dogs, do lawn care (spring is just around the corner), teach music lessons, or run errands for neighbors for cash. You could also build websites if you have an eye for graphic design or if you are a musician you can play at weddings, parties, funerals, or other gatherings. Maybe you could do organization consulting on the side. Change the oil for a neighbor's car or detail it. Shovel snow all over the neighborhood. The list here could be endless--get creative!
  3. Direct Sales. Be very cautious with this one. You want something with low start up costs because you trying to get OUT of debt, not get into more! Some people are very good at this. Others not so much. I did this at one time in my life for "fun money" for the family and did a decent job. But it just isn't in the cards for us right now. It takes time and usually involves weekends and evenings so you'll have to break away from family time to do this one. And if you do this one, make sure it is something you are passionate about or you'll never be any good.
  4. Online money. This comes in a number of forms. You might get paid in cash for doing surveys (Opinion Outpost [affiliate link] is my favorite that pays in cash) or answering funny and ridiculous questions (ChaCha doesn't pay huge, but it is fun - if you're interested tell them mrsnespy@hotmail.com sent you!). You might get paid in Amazon gift cards (I like Lightspeed surveys for this one). You might get paid in products (like the items we review for giveaways). You might get affiliate payments for ads on your blog (this is not as easy as it sounds unless you have an established readership). Find something that works for your schedule and makes the time you spend worth the income you get.
  5. Rent out a room. If you've got room in your home, a finished area over your garage, a MIL suite, or something that would work as a rental, use it for income!

And I'm sure there are others. But the point is, find something that you can do that will pay you. Something that fits into your lifestyle. Not something that you want to do for the rest of your life, but something you can do until this monster is off your back.

Do you have any other suggestions for side money that you want to share?

Photo credit: LeoSynapse

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gaining Control - The Second Step to Owning Your Money - The Budget

Now you have some idea of your actual spending, so let's work on putting it all down on paper.

I am a nerd, so I like to use Excel so it can do the math for me and I can eliminate the human error factor. But there is power in writing it down with a pen and paper. It makes it a bit more real. So if you like using spreadsheets to track your spending, write it on paper first. Seriously, that sounds weird, but it really does make a difference.

Make a column of your CURRENT income. I'm talking your monthly net income...what you bring home each month.

Make a column of your CURRENT bills.

Total them up.

If your income is higher than your bills, you are already in better shape than some, but you can still make adjustments to make the debt disappear faster.

If your expenses are higher than your bills, you know you have to make some cuts ASAP. We'll go through the cuts soon.

Now, prioritize your spending. For instance, tithing is at the top of our list. The same may be true for you or it may not (I will not go into why I think it should be here, but know that I do). Next should be your mortgage, your electricity/gas/water, groceries, gasoline, and so on. Credit card debt, no matter how high, should never be paid before the mortgage, the utilities, the car payments, food or gas. The reasoning? Sure you can hurt your credit by delaying payments, but you could lose your home, utilities and car by not paying the others. And those are important to the livelihood of your family, so these must be paid.

If you have any extra now, apply it to the credit card* that is at the top of your payment list while paying the minimums on the others. If you don't have enough, you certainly need more income AND big cuts. If you have just enough to make payments, you need to make cuts and possibly get more income. Don't believe me? Use this calculation to see what just making the minimum payments will do to what you owe and how long it will take you to pay it off. In fact, go do that calculation even if you do believe me. It's a great exercise and motivator! I do not want to be a slave to my debt that badly, do you?!

*Any extra you have should first be put into a baby emergency fund NOW to keep you from using your credit card on unexpected expenses (they WILL happen). Most people do $1000 or $1500. It sounds like a lot if you don't have it, but I promise, put off debt a couple of months to make this happen so you will not fall prey to using those credit cards as an emergency fund! Once this is fully funded, then commence the debt repayment. I promise, you'll be glad you did.

So...

Now you have a plan. Know two things:
  1. It is not set in stone. After 1 or 2 months, you may find that you didn't budget enough in some areas or budgeted too much in others. Even after more than a year, we still adjust our budget frequently to work with current circumstances. You'll finally get a basic model that will work for you. In fact, go over and read this post from five cent nickel called Budgeting Mistakes That Everyone Has Made.
  2. You will fail. Seriously...we all go over budget some times. We (almost) all encounter some months when there is more month than money. If you reach this point from legitimate spending needs, dip into the emergency fund to fund it, replenish the emergency fund ASAP and then adjust your budget to plan for other incidents similar to that one. If it is just from poor spending, don't beat yourself up over it, but learn how not to let it happen again!

You're on the road now. It might be a bumpy one, but the destination is so worth it! And you will learn so much about yourself along the way!

Photo credit: lusi

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Keeping Your Child Safe with My Precious Kid

Safety is a huge part of your life once you embark on the journey of parenthood. Things you never thought about before now wake you up in the night in a cold sweat (I haven't heard the baby make a noise, is he/she breathing?! Did I remember to close that bedroom window?!).

My Precious Kid is out to help you make your home and general parenting life a bit easier with a variety of products that they offer on their website. Here are just a few of the ones that we already have and use:

A camouflage id bracelet for Patrick. It gives us peace of mind knowing that he is wearing it and he can look cool and "masculine" at the same time.

These have been an absolute lifesaver for daycare and church needs. We don't have to worry with ink rubbing off of a piece of tape or the sticky residue that tape leaves behind. He bottles and cups have always been labeled and they are dishwasher safe!

This is a lifesaver if you have one interested in playing in the toilet. This model is a one-handed quick use item so when you really have to go you aren't wasting time trying to open your own toilet!

Okay, so this isn't a safety item, but it has brought much comfort and joy to our house, as each of our kids has their own.


So there you have it. My Precious Kid offers a variety of products to protect you from your own house and the outside world in ways that never occurred to you before having a child. Go check them out.

And stick around here, as you will be seeing them again soon!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gaining Control - The First Step to Owning Your Money - The Full Assessment

So last week we talked about the difference if your perceived spending and your actual spending. Now that you are (most likely) sufficiently freaked out about your money, what are you do to in order to get control over it?

Here are the first steps to owning your money rather than being its slave.

  1. Write Down Your Income. From the preliminary exercise, copy this down. This will be the most "feel good" part of this exercise. I promise, it will get better after you have done the dirty work though.
  2. Write Down Your Debts. This one is painful. Write down the total balance, the percent interest, and the monthly payment. For each. and. every. debt. Cars, personal loans, student loans, credit cards, medical debts, debt for the last set of furniture you bought. All of them. It's okay to cry. I did. I was angry and feeling hopeless. But I got over it and decided to do something about it. And I am. And now, so are you.
  3. Decide What the Attack with Be. Some people snowball (like us), paying off the smallest loans first. Others pay those off that have the highest interest (the most mathematically logical path). Others still pay off those that are the most emotionally taxing. You can read about all of the advantages and disadvantages to these methods at my blog friend Man Vs Debt's post. Any of them will work as long as they work for you. Study them and see what you want to do.
  4. Write Down All of Your Monthly Expenses. All of them including the monthly payments from all of your debts listed in step 2. Reference what you did in the preliminary exercise to make sure you have them all. Don't forget your monthly giving if you do that.
  5. Add Them Up. Add up your monthly expenses. Compare them to your income. You very well might find that your expenses outweigh your income. That means that you have some work to do, but you are heading in the right direction.
  6. Eliminate the Extras. Remember, the goal here is to get out from under the weight of that debt and you will have to do work to do it. But you will soon find out that you do not really need all of those extras and the joy of paying off the debt far outweigh the peace you gain with a single manicure that will soon need to be retouched. So cross out all of the extras that you are going to decide to do without until your debt is under control. This may be easy. It will get harder later, as we will pare it down more.
  7. Recalculating. Re-add the expenses and see where you are. When you are down to the bare minimum, circle your final total.
  8. Decisions...

So, you're exhausted I know. Mentally and emotionally drained. It's common and everyone who has walked this path has felt exactly like you do right now. But it is time to really make some tough decisions.

What are you going to do with the info you now have in your hands? You can ignore it and pretend it will go away, just like you were doing beforehand. But I promise, it will not go away. You can fret and cry about it, but that really won't solve anything (although a good cry might be what you need right now to relieve that stress).

If you decide to proceed, I will give you some options of increasing your "income" column and decreasing your "expenses" column to make it easier and more rewarding to pay off your debt. To get you motivated though, we're going to go on to what will hopefully be a happier subject...increasing your income.

Photo credit: Vixs

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Check Your Credit Report - Equifax

Back in September I reminded you that you are entitled to a free annual credit report check from each of the major credit reporting agencies from AnnualCreditReport.com (the only one that is actually free).

I've decided that I'm going to keep a check on my credit report all year round by running one report every 4 months, allowing me to keep an eye on it but never paying for the service.

In September I ran my Experian report and everything looked great. In fact, I found two open accounts that were just sitting there waiting for someone to abuse them, so I closed them. Nothing major. All else looked good.

So it is time for another. This time I chose Equifax.

So how did it go?

Well I found one open account that needed to be closed. It was an installment account opened in 2005 and paid off in 2006. It didn't show it as "closed" so I called Citibank. They did not have record of any open accounts with them either, so I "disputed" it with Equifax so it will soon show up as a closed account as well.

The only other strange this is that my Chase card did not show up on the report. It's a good thing since that would really increase my debt to credit ratio, but I find it peculiar. My only guess is that it did not show up because it is under a different name (my first name is not "Kaye" and I used my first name as such before I was married--when I got this card--but they wouldn't change the name on the card to "Kaye" after I stopped using the other name). Who knows. It did show up on my Experian last time though, so I'm not too worried about it.

All in all, everything looked good. In 4 months I'll do it again with TransUnion and let you know how it went.

Go run your Equifax report now and tell me how everything looked to you!

Gaining Control - What Do You Really Know About Your Own Spending?

You may or may not think you should be on a budget, but truly, we all should. Whether we just make ends meet with a minimum wage job or make over a six-figure income, we should all be in charge of where our money is going.

Here is a little exercise I want to challenge you with. Both you and your spouse do this. You can consult on what the topics are, but each of you should estimate this on your own to compare later.
  1. Just off the top of your head--Write down your household income sources and expected income from these. This should be the easiest step for most of us. But some of us live on a fluctuating income that is based on a privately owned business or on a sales commission. Do your best based on your history and a realistic expectation of the market you are working in.
  2. Again off the top of your head--Write down your monthly bills. Not just the big ones. All of the ones you can think of. Cell phone, insurance, childcare, the works.
  3. Last one off the top of your head--Write down your monthly miscellaneous expenses. Not bills per se, but things you do each month. Groceries, manicures, gasoline, coffee shops, etc.
Now, sit down, WITH YOUR SPOUSE, and go through the checkbook (or the online banking site) and see what the real story is.
  1. Write down your household income sources and what can realistically be expected income from these. Look at the banking info. Write this next to your estimate.
  2. Write down your ACTUAL monthly bills. No guessing. No rounding. Look at what the bills really are costing you and write down each next to your estimate.
  3. Write down your monthly miscellaneous ACTUAL spending. This is probably the one that will shock you most. Whether it is how much you actually eat out or how many times you actually stopped at a convenience store for a soda. Maybe you didn't realize how much gasoline your car actually burned.
How did you do? Did you or your spouse come closer?

Taking a look at your actual spending as opposed to what you perceive you are spending is a huge part of cleaning up your financial life. Next we will take a look at how to control your money without being controlling.

Let me know how you did!

Photo credit: jeinny

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gaining Control - It's An Emotional Ride

I'm about to start a series called Gaining Control. It's about financial freedom. We're on that road. I would love if you could join us if you haven't already completed the trip successfully. If you have completed the trip, I would love for you to hang around and encourage the rest of us. We need it.

I just wanted to warn you before I started though...

Money is an emotional topic. It is emotional on many levels for all people. Some people are very defensive. Some are very greedy. Some are very giving. Some are in love with their money. But somehow, money brings out many, many emotions.

If you go through this exercise, whether you go through it alone or with a spouse...it will be difficult. You might cry. You might get angry. You might feel cheated. You might feel disallusioned. You might feel betrayed. You might feel lonely.

Remember--what has been spent is gone. There is no going back now. There is just starting over. And if you have someone by your side starting over with you, you already have support--even if you feel they helped you get into that mess. Remember when you married them though...you probably promised the "richer or poorer" bit. This will likely be the poorer. And you promised to stick it out, so I fully expect you to.

So don't throw blame. It doesn't matter anymore. What matters now is what will be done about it to move forward.

So go ahead and cry. But then wipe those tears away, pick yourself up, and let's get rolling. Every journey begins with one step, right?



Photo credit: wagg66

Monday, January 17, 2011

What We Will One Day Do With Our Money

This post was included in the Carnival of Money Stories # 89 - Average Incomes Around The Globe - January 24, 2011 Edition hosted by My Personal Finance Journey. Go check it out. There are a lot of great posts over there!

It should go without saying, but it often doesn't, so I will go ahead and say it...

Debt holds us in slavery.

I am so sick of not being able to what we want to with our money because in the past we have spent money we didn't have on things that were mostly unimportant. Those things important enough to borrow money for would have been long ago paid off if that was all we used credit for in the past.

And now we are paying the price of our stupidity.

The good news is we figured out how to stop and we have a plan on how to get out of this miserable existence of indebtedness.

The most frustrating part of this whole climb out of this abyss is seeing something that I would really love to use our money for and not being able to because it currently belongs to someone else and not us.

I don't mean a nice new pair of shoes or a delectable dinner out with my husband, although both of those things would be nice.

I mean seeing others in need and not being able to help more than we currently can. I am at a period of my life when I have felt more generous towards others than I ever have and yet I have no money to contribute towards the needs which I would like to support. It's beyond frustrating.

Here is a list of things I hope we can do once this burden of debt is lifted:

Strictly Financial
  • Create a real emergency fund of 6 months of expenses. This will be our first goal just to ensure our financial security.
  • Up our retirement contributions to approximately 15% of our income. We currently have IRAs and Roth IRAs that haven't seen a contribution in a while, and I have a 401k that could use a boost.
  • Start some type of education fund for our kids. I know. It's awful to some people that we haven't done this yet, but I think we need to get financially healthy before we throw money somewhere else.
  • Send much larger payments to pay off our mortgage. I can't wait until we're paying more than the minimum on this!
  • Start an allowance system for our kids. Seriously, Patrick is a great kid. And he helps out around the house a whole lot with no reward. I want to continue to encourage that. But I also would love for him to get to buy some of the things that he wants so much when we're shopping (we do not currently buy things "just because" so he has to hold out for his birthday or a holiday).

Generosity

  • Sponsor two children in need. I hope to pick one with each of our children's birthday just so they can have something in common with them. I want to really make a change in someone's life. A change that costs so little to us, but is currently unaffordable because we have to send money to banks.
  • Be able to make larger monetary gifts as needs arise. I want to be able to donate $3000 toward building a house in Guatemala through an initiative our church is currently working toward. I want to be able to donate school supplies to local schools for children who cannot afford them (we do this some, but I want to really grow this giving), etc. I want to be able to really fund a big project that will make a difference to a family or a community.
  • Keep up to $100 in McDonalds gift cards on me to give to the panhandlers I frequently see at our exit. I don't know their story. I do not know what decisions or circumstances got them to the point they are at now. And frankly, it is not my job to judge. But I would like to offer a hungry man food.
  • Take gift bags to the homeless. Savannah is a city full of history, beauty, charm, and yes...homeless people. I would love to put together 10 or 15 gift bags containing things like a bottle of water, a ham sandwich, some gloves, baby wipes, or something similar and hand them out at places where you can always find people loitering. Just because.

There are plenty of others, but these things pierce my heart. These things drive me to become debt free. I have a spirit of giving flowing through me that is quite new to me and I hope to one day be able to unleash it.

What would you do with no bills?

Photo credit: TangoPango

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Financial Plans for 2011

I'm not going to call these my resolutions. Why? I'm notoriously horrible at keeping New Year's resolutions. And I want these to stick. So I'm psyching myself out by not calling them what they essentially are.

Here is what I want to see happen with our money in 2011.
  • Pay down an additional $25,000 in debt. We paid down just under $19,000 last year and that was with some serious boo boos along the way (and yes...we really had that much). I really want to make it happen this year and be so much closer to being completely out of debt by the end of 2011. This will obviously be our main focus for the year.
  • Maintain our $1500 starter emergency fund. This is similar to Dave Ramsey's suggestion of $1000, which was where we started, but we added $500 to it because we were given a gift of $500 when Abigail was born. I do not feel right spending "her" money but don't want a wad of cash around the house either. So I put it here.
  • Continue tithing 10% each paycheck. This is something that we have been really good at and really bad at through various seasons of our lives. I want it to really stick even through the tough times.
  • Gift an additional $200/month toward our Relentless campaign. Our church is moving mountains right now. And after discussion, Chip and I pledged to donate $200/month for two years plus an upfront gift of $200 (for a total of $5000) to our church's current capital campaign. We are basically saying that if God doesn't provide that we aren't obligated. But He will, so we will.
  • Side hustle $3000 this year. I know. It really isn't much. But we're starting small and I don't want to totally overdo it. I'll talk more about these thoughts at a later time.

But this is what I've been thinking about. What do you think?

What about you? Do you have a plan for your finances for 2011? You should.

Photo credit: financemetrics

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Our Financial Status - Update #15 - December 2010

Well, here we are again. Looking into our financials.

December had some highs and lows. Let's look at them now:

INCOME:
We actually were fine on this during December. Although Chip is without income right now (grrrr to previous employer) it was a three paycheck month for me, so that made up some of the difference.

UNDER BUDGET:
Auto Insurance: Hooray! We were $10 under budget here. This is a result of changing our payment method. Instead of sending them a check each month, we now have it automatically withdrawn from our checking account each month, saving us $5 a month. This was the first month and we obviously got credit for having "overpaid" previous months during this insurance cycle. A small savings, but it works.
Car Service/Parts: $30 under budget. Although Chip changed my oil before our Christmas road trip to visit my mom, he already had the supplies on hand, so nothing spent here. We're $60 under for the rolling budget, so that helps when other repairs rear their ugly heads.
Electricity/Water: $58 under for the month. January's power bill cleared on Dec 31st, so that will roll out in January. Still waiting for the high summer months bills to hopefully roll out during a hopefully milder (now) winter so that all pans out for on budget for the annual budget.
Hair: $25 under for the month. $73 under rolling budget. This will clear itself up soon because EVERYONE in our house needs a haircut right now (except Abigail who is still trying to establish a good base). =)
Childcare: $375 for the month. This is a combination of factors. First of all, we didn't have to pay for the last week of daycare this month because this facility was closed for the holidays. Secondly, we've pulled Patrick out of the "after school care" program as long as Chip is unemployed to save some money there.


ON BUDGET:
Television: Nothing new here. Actually two payments cleared in one month, so this will level out to "on budget" once January rolls by without a payment.
Term Life Insurance: As usual.
Alarm Monitoring: No surprise.
Home Services: Just as planned.
Home Supplies: Actually on budget this time. Don't know how that happened, but I'll take it!
Baby Supplies: On budget for the month. $167 under the rolling budget. This is one I really should clear the excess "rolling" amount now since the only "baby supplies" I'm buying is diapers and this giant amount really isn't needed.


OVER BUDGET:
Gad/Fuel: $62 over budget. Not really surprising for a month where we traveled for the holidays. It's several hundred miles round trip to my mom's so this always happens when we visit her.
Mobile Phone: $167 over budget. I promise this one has a good explanation. $95 of that was January's bill that paid out on Dec 31st, so that will pan itself out when the budget rolls over in January without a payment for that month. The other $72 was a phone that Chip got me for Christmas that is free after rebate. So once he sends in the rebate, this category will be on budget. =)
Eating Out (Fast Food/Restaurants): $40 over budget. $64 of this was eating out with a family of 4 while traveling to/from Christmas at my mom's. So we did okay otherwise. Not really a victory, but not one I feel TOO bad about considering our past obsession with eating out.
Groceries: $134 over budget. Not too proud of this one though. This was mainly a lot of little trips to the store due to lack of poor planning from a homemaking point of view. I think I'm going to be much better at this during January.
Doctor: $50 over budget. We planned for Abigail's check up for December. We did not count on Abigail having the flu and Patrick having strep at the same time requiring two extra co-pays. Sigh... Luckily this should pan out soon since we don't go back for another well-child visit until June. Let's just see if we can stay healthy the rest of the winter!
Pharmacy: $121 over budget. See above "Doctor" category and take into consideration two doses of amoxicillan (why didn't we remember that this is one of the FREE prescriptions at Publix) and one of Tamiflu. Also, some Benedryl when we had to take Patrick to the ER while visiting my mom because of the rash he got from his Amoxicillan. Sigh....
Mortgage/Timeshare: $1323 over budget. Yeah, I'm still upset about this situation, but it is what it is.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

The highs I mentioned:

  • An extra paycheck in the month for me.
  • Chip will be getting paid soon (more on that in another post)!!!!!
  • Christmas was paid for IN CASH for the second year in a row!
  • I sold some of the homemade candy that I was asking you guys about its sellability.
  • Stocked away an additional few hundred dollars into the emergency fund since we're currently living under tight conditions.

The lows I mentioned:

  • Stupid timeshare maintenance fees that I had to put on a credit card.
  • Chip doesn't qualify for unemployment so we're still being extra careful.
  • We had to spend that extra paycheck on living and the holidays instead of paying off debt like I'd like to.
  • Had to pull out that extra few hundred dollars mentioned above out of savings and into the checking account to cover basics. At least it was there, right?
  • Could only send the minimums to the credit card companies. Boo, hiss.
  • Had to spend $367 on dental work for Patrick.

Debt Paid off Since November 2010: -1319.75 (stupid timeshare!)
Debt Paid off Since October 14, 2009: $18,167.39
Change in Networth since November 2010: $34.17
Change in Networth from October 14, 2009: + $35024.35


How are you doing? How did you do during the Christmas holidays (with food, family, and presents)?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WFMW - No Diet Sodas When Dieting

This week's What Works for Me theme is What DOESN'T work for me. And since this is the beginning of a new year when many people are making resolutions and at least half of those (yes a statistic I just made up) are weight loss, I thought I would share a weight loss tip.


I will start off immediately by saying this: I need to lose weight. It's no secret. Not to you or to me. However, I have successfully lost a lot of weight in the past. My failure is not in the losing, but in the keeping it off. So I will not try to give you a tip on keeping weight off. You're on your own there. But I can give you a hint on how to lose weight.

Water.

I know--you've heard it all before. And then you downed a diet soda because hey--it has zero calories too and it tastes much better (matter of opinion, I say).

I will tell you though, while I was (successfully) dieting, my weight loss was always slowed by diet sodas. They introduce lots of chemicals into your body and for me...made me retain water, thus preventing (or at least slowing) weight loss.

Water doesn't do this. In fact, it helps immensely to pass right through you and take some of that bad stuff with it. Hooray for a cleaner body!

So today's What DOESN'T Work for Me is Diet Sodas when dieting. They just don't do a good job. So suck it up and go with water. I promise you'll be glad you did!

Go visit We Are THAT Family and check out what doesn't work for other people!

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