I know it has been a while since I posted an update, but a couple of my posts got eaten by being auto logged out and I was pretty frustrated. Decided not to redo them right away.
February has been a great month for us! We paid off $999.57 worth of debt and managed to save $1000 for our baby e-fund as well as almost $500 toward future known expenses (i.e. property taxes, water bill, kids activities, etc). We managed all that and had money left in our account at the end of the pay cycle! We didn't use overdraft protection AT ALL! We stayed within our grocery budget and our eating out budget and managed to squeeze out $150 extra to pay toward the credit cards. And tomorrow we will be paying off the second of our 4 credit cards!
I can't wait to see what March is going to bring, however, I have a feeling that a bunch of our potential extra savings will be going toward putting gas in our vehicles since the gas prices jumped up $0.35/gallon this weened. Ouch! It already took about $100 to fill my truck at $3.09 a gallon. Thank goodness I only have to fill it about once a month!
Switching topics for a minute, I came across a suggestion of making your own laundry detergent to save a bunch of money. This sounds like genius but maybe a little too good to be true. Does anyone here do this? Do you use the powder or liquid version? Do you see good results with this? With a family of 4 including one toddler, this could be a SIGNIFICANT place for savings for us, to the tune of $25 per month or more! Nervous about jumping in with both feet though. We use a "scent free" version do to skin sensitivity and wonder if the homemade stuff will cause a possible reaction. Thoughts?
Viewing the 'Budgeting' Category
I know it has been a while since I posted an update, but a couple of my posts got eaten by being auto logged out and I was pretty frustrated. Decided not to redo them right away.
Those of you who bothered to be bothered by my posts last week know that I was struggling with grocery shopping on a budget. Well, I accomplished that goal and was thrilled by it, but in looking at what I have in the fridge/freezer/pantry I have decided to try to make it through the rest of the month with out ANY more shopping. (There is one very small exception of having to get more milk. There are 5 kids around here who guzzle the stuff!) This is a personal goal as I am the one who does ALL the shopping, cooking and cleaning up, so I am really going to have to fight against the urge to "grab something" when I am tired of all of the above. This weekend saw $400 go out of our account to replenish our supplies and plan for the next 2 weeks between Woodman's, Sam's Club, Costco and Target. Whew!
If I can make it 2 more weeks without shopping (or eating out) we will be roughly $250 ahead of our budget between Food:dining out and Food:groceries categories, allowing us to be $250 closer to our buffer. Or maybe use it to pay $250 more to our credit cards. I can't decide which! My heart says leaving it in the account will get us that much closer to a lot less stress no longer living paycheck to paycheck (YNAB) but my head says "think of the interest payment we would save, BE GAZELLE!" (DR). Don't know which to listen to right now, but I am going to have to make it to the end of the month without do any more shopping before I can answer that question.
We only have one more credit card payment to make this month and it will be leaving our account on Friday. For the first time ever, I find myself looking FORWARD to getting the credit card statements because I can't wait to update my snowball spreadsheets, clear them in YNAB and re-total my debt progress. First statement should hit tomorrow followed by another on Friday, but I am actually stalking the accounts online looking for info instead of hiding from the mailman. Man, is that a change in behavior!
Yesterday I posted about how I was nervous about being blindsided by the cost at the register. The suggestions I got were wonderful (THANK YOU!) and I went around the store writing the approximate prices next to the items on my list, then added them all up when I was done. If I picked anything extra up I put it on the list with a price. That sure kept me from putting too much in the cart! At the end, my total was $130 and everything rang up at $127! Pretty darn close and I felt great about knowing that I stuck to the budget but got everything I needed. Huge sigh of relief there! And it was so easy that I think I am going to start doing the same thing at Target and Costco too! That way I can put things back easily if I see I am going over.
Also, while I was at Target I signed up for there Red Card that saves you 5% every time you shop. But NOT the credit card.....they offer the exact same thing in a DEBIT card! All you need is a drivers license and a voided check to get started and they hook it right to your checking account with a pin number. Took less than 5 minutes to get started and saved my $4 last night. I hate coupons so this is a great way to save that I don't even have to think about.
Headed to Costco and Sam's sometime today to finish the great stock up, but then I don't think I need to do any shopping for at least 2 weeks, with the exception of bread and milk thanks to menu planning and shopping with a list. Whew!
Tonight is date night with the hubby. We have a little childcare co-op going with 2 other couples where we rotate which couple watches all 5 kids on Friday night and the other 2 couples get to have a date. So for every time you watch 5 kids, you get two Friday night dates. Have been doing it since November and it makes going out on a date actually affordable since we don't have to spend $50 on a sitter. Plus, DH and I are getting a chance to reconnect and that has been wonderful and definitely necessary.
We made it to payday! No overdrafts, no borrowing from savings, no getting caught off guard by check clearing unexpectedly. A HUGE sigh of relief! The balance in our checking account last night was $4.07, but we made it. I know many of you may think I am celebrating a silly thing, but I feel like running down the street shouting about it. We had gotten into a cycle of going backwards further and further with every month and now we are actually going the other way! WOOOOOOHOOOOOO!
Ok. I'm better now. The much anticipated YNAB update came out this morning so I spent about an hour moving things around in my budget/register to work right. They added a couple of great features so I no longer need to worry about "tricking" it into doing things the way I want with the credit cards. Allows me a chance to have everything back in one place so I can think about retiring my old spreadsheets. Who am I kidding....I LOVE my spreadsheets and they aren't going anywhere!
Did my menu planning for the week and made out my grocery and Target lists for tonight. I really hate grocery shopping, but am extra anxious this week because I know I have to stick to a budget for the month and don't want to spend too much this trip. I know it sounds silly, but this is the first time I have ever grocery shopped with an actual budget amount. I have always just shopped then adjusted the "budget" to reflect what I spent. I am determined to not do that this time. I don't want to be surprised by the amount when I get to the check out but don't know how to do that other than using a calculator, but I am afraid that it will get cleared out and I will have to start over half way through. Anyone have any hints?
Well, Thursday is payday and we are down to $70 in the bank, but I am determined to make it there without having to "borrow" money from savings. We are low on milk and out of juice, but we have bread and peanut butter so we can eat. Usually by this time each month we are close to being this low on funds but have already "borrowed", actually stolen, from savings and that money was gone already. This time we are low on funds but I know we can make it!
In other news, DH is going out of town tomorrow for a trip to Providence, RI so he will have to take a credit card with him. We don't want to ever use them again, but he has to pay for hotel/travel and then get reimbursed for it. Hopefully he can get paid back quickly so we don't have to pay interest charges on it.
Also, for the first time EVER, we had a budget meeting this morning. DH's head was spinning quite a bit by the time we were done, but he seemed to be on board. Apparently YNAB, 3 spread sheets and 2 websites were too much information for one sitting. But we talked about his concerns and he seems to be completely on board for the first time since I met him. This has me flying on cloud 9 and believing for the first time that we can actually get out of debt!
With all the snow yesterday and school canceled, I had an extra kid here all day which earned me $30 unexpectedly. Will be adding that to the buffer fund next week when I get paid.
Also, since DH was snowed in with us, we took the time to give both him and my son their haircuts. Used to spend $40 a month taking them to get hair cuts at the local Sports Clips and now I am getting pretty good at cutting their hair at home with a clippers. Before we started this budget last month though, I looked at it as a chore instead of a savings. Yesterday, I finally saw it as money in my pocket for the first time. Yeah!
The mortgage was paid last week, which means we have very little money to last us until the next paycheck on the 10th. Just over $200 for a family of 4. We are getting good at making it through these rough patches, but that was usually by "borrowing" from savings to bridge to next pay period and then never getting that money paid back to savings. That landed us in mega trouble last month and I am determined to make it to the 10th without needing to transfer anything into the account. It can be done and we WILL do it! Then next check we don't start out in a hole and can begin to build a buffer to get us out of this situation entirely. Can't wait!
Today was the first payday that we had while on our new budget. You are probably thinking this is no big deal, but this is the first time that the end of month/beginning of month pay period has not made me panic. Let me explain. Traditionally, the paycheck that comes at the end of the month or near the beginning of the next month goes to pay the mortgage, due on the 1st of the month. DH gets paid every 2 weeks, so this means that we only have the portion of the check NOT dedicated to the mortgage left to live on, so we go into "crisis mode", only spending money on things that are ABSOLUTELY necessary. The funny thing is, after doing this every month for over 2 years we are getting pretty good at it. We have managed to make it 2 weeks on less than $200 for a family of 4! However, now that I am using YNAB and giving every dollar a job before it is spent, I know exactly how much we have to make it through until the next payday and what it will need to be spent ON. Luckily, very few of our bills are due during this time period, so we just need to pay for food, gas and other items needed to live our lives. I also know exactly where the NEXT paycheck is going and that is a wonderful feeling as well.
I feel a sense of peace for the first time in a very long time. And I hope DH never gives me that mean look he tends to send my direction when I had to tell him to only put $10 worth of gas in the truck again.
That's right....we took the credit cards out of each of our wallets....even had a little ceremony as we tucked them into the safe. Until doing our budget and "giving every dollar a job" we used these cards as our safety net. Just a couple weeks ago I had to put a bunch of household necessities from Target onto the credit card because our balance on the debit card was too low and was denied. I felt awful! Not anymore!
From now on we are only getting rid of debt, not making more. Period.
Wow! I did not realize it had been 3 years since my last post. I am sure no one will remember me, but I am going to update you anyway. So much has happened in the last 3 years that I don't quite know where to begin. Three years ago we were well on our way to being out of debt. We had a road map to freedom and then the worst happened. In April of 2008 I lost my job. Needless to say, I was completely blindsided by it. I was told on a Friday afternoon that I was being transferred to a new team and the following Friday I was told my job didn't exist anymore. That same week I found out we were pregnant with our second child, which was wonderful news but the timing was hard. The emotional fallout has been intense and I am still not back to being "fully employed". Working in a male dominated field that is closely linked to the housing market made it impossible for me to find a job while pregnant. There were very few jobs to go around and no one wanted to hire some one who would be taking leave shortly after being hired. We survived on unemployment for a while and once that ran out I decided to start watching my friends children to bring in extra money. I am still doing this, but find it extremely soul-sucking. While I enjoy being a mom, I do not enjoy being a stay-at-home-mom.
We did/do have an emergency fund, but we never touched it. Seems counter-intuitive, but we didn't think this was bad enough of an emergency. What would happen if we were already strapped and had a medical emergency? Or my DH lost his job too? THESE seemed like the worst case scenario once we were in what we once thought was our worst case. We were doing OK, but looking back on things we were using credit cards to plug the gaps in our budget which just made the gaps in our budget bigger. We are back up to $23,000 in credit card debt and unfortunately had to take on a $22,000 vehicle loan this summer. Grand total of $45,000 in debt makes me want to cry and scream because we were so close to getting off the debt roller coaster just a couple years ago.
As of this week we are back on track. We are plugging away at the debt and embracing the Dave Ramsey "baby steps". We are using YNAB to keep us on track and both my husband and I are on the same page for the first time in a very long time. We are ready to take this debt done NOW! Each little step we take feels like we have reached an enormous milestone, just by getting our debt moving in the right direction.
It has been a LOOOOOOOONG time since I felt like posting on here, but I am going to try and be a little more frequent. I have fallen off the debt bandwagon a wee bit but am in the process of getting back on. Don't get me wrong, we never quit paying down debt like we have planned, we just haven't been as diligent about not charging the debt back up. I updated the amount of debt paid off on the left if you want to take a look.
Looks like my fiscal year end bonus will be given out 8/11 but that will go to pay down the credit card debt that we charged back up in the past few months. This bonus was never figured into the debt paydown plan as it was intended to be used as part of the YNAB buffer....guess that is going to be delayed a while longer.
Our biggest problem right now seems to be getting a handle on cash flow. We have enough to meet all of our commitments, just not WHEN we need to meet them. I have dreams of developing a full month's buffer needed for YNAB, but that just isn't happening. I find myself dipping into and then replenishing our savings several times during the month. How do I get away from that? It is very nerve wracking and drives me crazy.
On the personal front, I have broken my Mt Dew free streak. I had gone almost 1.5 years without a Mt Dew, but one day I decided I could have just one. Well, several weeks later, I am having at least one per day and hiding the fact from my DH. Shameful and unhealthy addictive behavior, but at this point I don't care.
More about my other failures later....
Man, it has been forever since I had a chance to post. Last week was just INSANELY busy at work. I had very little time to even think straight, much less fill you in on anything. Then, the weekend was gorgeous so we spent most of it cleaning, working outside and spending time as a family.
Today I am suffering from the weekend spending hangover. Spent WAY too much money and I feel like I lost all my control. The worst part....I am the one who spent all the money. There were trips to Target, grocery store and the craft store that together totaled over $200. My available flexible cash for 2 weeks was $50. See the problem? I am going to have to take another loan from the savings account to cover the expenses. Makes me want to cry. I am going to look at my purchases tonight and make the decision on whether any of it can be returned. The groceries were something that we needed, but most of the craft store purchases were wants, not needs. All of the stuff from Target was household stuff that we needed, but we could have probably gone without for a while.
Well, last weekend my OAMC session went fabulously. We put together 17 meals EACH so that should take us most of the way through the month without having to grocery shop, besides bread, milk and eggs. We spent about 6.5 hours between the shopping and the assembly, which is pretty good for that many meals, I think. Last time I did it alone it took me almost twice that.
We have been eating a lot of PB&J for lunches and have managed to only eat out a handful of times in April. I am going to try to do a better analysis tonight when I import all the final April numbers into YNAB.
I scheduled a big transfer from our credit union to ING this morning. This will affectively move our entire freedom/EF account to the higher interest bearing ING account. If it is just going to sit there until we need it, might as well be earing a better interest rate that 0.75%. I will still be keeping track of it via the old spreadsheet method, but now it is just in a different place. Here is the best news though....I have paid back all of the money that we had borrowed from the freedom account in the form of overdraft protection. We were over $800 short, and I have managed to pay it back in about 3 months. However, we are still $1500 short in the long term savings account, but now I will shift my attention to paying that account back.
That is the long and the short of it. We are still hanging in there, but just barely. The debt is going down, but our daily expenses are not. Have to get them under control or we are doomed to repeat how we got here.
This week has been a whirlwind. I can't believe it is already the end of Monday because it feels like I have been running non-stop. Work has been crazy and will only get crazier in the coming weeks. The weather is finally getting nicer so now I have stuff that I need to do outside in the yard and garden. One more thing that I don't have time to do.
Money wise things have been up and down. I did open an ING savings account yesterday. I will be transferring all the "short term" money that we have been saving. You know, those Freedom Account things. Did an initial transfer of $300 and will be sending about $900 more in a few days.
However, when doing my forecasting for the new week or so, I noticed we are going to be short on cash in a hurry. Even if we don't spend ANY unplanned money, we are going to be $100 in the hole come next pay day. Yikes! Oh, how I wish we already had a buffer in place! That would make this a whole lot easier. I have no idea how people can put together a buffer equal to one months expenses in just a couple of months. Oh wait...those people probably don't have to pay $900 per month in daycare expenses. So far I have not been able to put one penny into the buffer. But I have been able to pay back a lot of the money we owe ourselves due to overdraft transfers. I have paid back $700 in 2 months, which means we are only down $1500. Could be a LONG time before we are operating at full capacity again.
I have made a decision about our cell phones, now I just have to get DH to agree. We can pay the same price that we are paying now and get 300 more minutes by dropping from the national plan to the local plan. The local plan includes 45 minutes of roaming for the times when Scott is out of the calling area on business or something. With the extra minutes we should be able to keep from going over as often as we have the last few months. We have spent over $150 in EXTRA minutes. At 0.49 per minute, it really adds up fast.
The car payment processed through this afternoon, which means we have paid off $157 more on the debt. We have now paid off a total of $1442.30 since March 1st to our outstanding consumer debt. I am happy with this progress, but the total is still scary. We are currently paying $861 per month just to pay off debt. I can think of a thousand things I would rather do with that money.
Forgot to mention that I put our federal tax payment ($1499) in the mail on Saturday. We got $1155 back from the state, so we only had to kick in an extra $344. Tried to carve it our of the monthly budget but ended up having to take it out of the EF instead. Oh well, at least it didn't have to go onto the credit card.
We are going to have to sit down with my parents (when they get back from vacation) to do some advance tax planning for next year. Scott got a BIG raise that is going to hurt our tax position. We increased his withholding which really took a chunk out of our monthly available income but I don't know what we are going to do if we need to pay a bunch in next year. Don't want to pay estimates if I can avoid them.
DH's payday was today and every penny of it has been given a job. And every penny of my paycheck tomorrow has also been given a job. Unfortunately, most of it is going out the door right away. However, for the first time in a while, we are not spending MORE than we are earning. That is the important part. Even though that is a common sense thing, we haven't been doing that in a while which can be evidenced by the debt balance on the left.
I updated the total debt balance to reflect the money that left our account today to pay down the Slumberland and MTU CC. Pretty good payoff for only 6 weeks! Also going out tomorrow is the payment for the Jeep loan, but I won't know the principal paid on that for about 10 days. They only take paper checks and I can't check my balances online; definitely in the dark ages.
Not shown there is the money that I sent to payoff the Wells Fargo card Scott used for traveling a couple weeks ago. Now that card is locked up and won't ever be used again. It will sit dormant or we will cancel it. Haven't quite decided which yet.
My parents arrived in town last night and Caleb has been having a blast playing with them. Everyone went to bed early so I was able to get a ton of stuff done. I re-updated our budget to reflect the latest income and outgo, cleaned up the kitchen, sorted a bunch of papers and avoided shoveling snow. I also listed more than 30 books on half.com. Nothing has sold and I really don't expect much of it to go quickly, but I will have to wait and see.
I am actually considering having a rummage sale this spring to get rid of some of the crap we have been collecting. Usually I just send everything to Goodwill because I don't want the hassle, but I might be able to make a little bit of money that can help fill up our YNAB buffer account. Can't get rid of all the dang baby stuff yet, but when we can that will be the mother lode.
Tomorrow DH gets paid and I get paid on Friday. I have already scheduled several payments that will go out from my credit union's bill pay system. One of the payments will pay off the small amount we have the credit card we did the balance transfer from and the other will pay off the dreaded Wells Fargo card for hopefully the final time.
Also being paid out on Friday are the monthly payments for the Slumberland account and the Jeep loan. SLOOOOOOOWLY seeing progress at the rate of 2.4% per month. At least it isn't going the other way!
But here is the BEST news....I have not had to use overdraft coverage from our savings account for more than a month. I was using OD protection every few weeks and ended up in a BIG hole where I owe $1500 to our savings account. But I haven't added to that amount so I think that in and of itself is progress.
Maybe I will talk my way out of this bad mood yet....