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Ashley’s June Budget + 2016 Goals Update

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As a reminder, we have 3 concrete financial goals that we’re working on in 2016:

  • Save $10,000 for a down payment
  • Save $5,000 for an emergency fund
  • Put $30,000 toward debt.

Even amidst some obstacles that have caused us to have to withdraw money from our EF (for expenses related to the death of our beloved dog and a plane ticket home for my Nana’s funeral), we’ve still managed to make some progress for each of our savings goals.

In total we have now saved up: $6,000 for a house down payment, and $2,100 in our emergency fund.  In May we weren’t able to contribute to any savings at all, but in June we were able to save a good chunk and July should be good in this regard (and for debt payments), too.

Originally, we were hoping to start house-hunting in mid-summer but we decided to push our timeframe back just a tad so we can save up more money. We’re now hoping to have both of these savings goals met by August or September, and plan to start the house-hunting process in early September. I’m itching hard on this!

What about the $30,000 debt goal?

After last month’s $3500 debt payment, we’re almost exactly half-way to our overall 2016 goal of paying $30,000 toward debt! In full transparency, it’s going to be tough to hit our goal since we’re still working on stocking our savings accounts, too (we’d hoped to be done with the savings goals by mid-year). Even so, we’re currently on track and making good progress. For reference, here’s the table I made of goal debt-payments compared to actual payments for 2016:

Month 2016 GOALS 2016
January Goal: $3500 $4013
February Goal: $1000 $1261
March Goal:  $1000 $2134
April Goal:  $2000 $1521
May Goal: $2000 $1325
June Goal:  $4000 $3500
July Goal: $4000
August Goal: $2500
September Goal: $2500
October Goal: $2500
November Goal: $2500
December Goal: $2500
Total Goal: $30,000 Actual: $15770.00

 

Currently, we’ve paid $15,770 toward debt out of the total $30,000 we have planned (though it’d be great to beat our goal, too!) Right on track!

And here’s how our household budget looked for June 2016:

 

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 128
Water 65
Natural gas 36
Cell Phones (2 lines) 105
Cable/Internet 100
Trash 35
Preschool (babysitting) 880
Gift-Giving 9
Restaurants 334
Kids Activities 136
Groceries 505
Gasoline 159
Household Goods 41
Clothing 74
Work Expenses 105
Rainy Day Savings 2023 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 500
Debt Payments 3500

 

Comments:

Electricity: Our electric bill from June was moderate, but I already received the July bill and it’s shooting sky-high. This is to be expected given that the temperatures are in the one-teens (as in 115 degrees!!!) and the girls have a babysitter at home all summer so we need to keep the A/C running since kids are at the house all day.

Restaurants + Groceries: I feel like you can’t consider one without knowledge of the other. Our overall food spending this month wasn’t too terrible when you consider that these figures include some of the food for the girls’ birthday party, along with the food we had to buy on our multiple trips this month (remember, I went to Austin for a funeral the first week of June + the whole family went to Utah the third week of June. Particularly during the Utah trip, we had to eat out basically the entire time since we were clearing out my Dad’s house and didn’t have the ability to cook).

Babysitting: The only perk about our travels is that we had less childcare. During the regular preschool year we have to pay a set price regardless of whether we travel or not (for instance, we still had to pay the full week of childcare when we were on cruise 2016). But with a babysitter, we don’t have to pay if we aren’t utilizing her services. So our childcare costs were pretty low in June.

Kids’ Activities ($136): I had cancelled swim lessons for about a month while we were busy traveling, but I started back up again in late June. I think I’ll carry it through the duration of summer and in early September I’ll probably cancel again and start them in a new activity. For new readers, swim lessons is the only paid activity we’ve ever done with the girls. But now that they’re 4 years old, I really want to let them start trying some new activities. We have lots in our area to choose from:  dance, soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, music lessons, etc. etc. etc. I’m committed to only having them in a single activity at a time (at least for the time being). They’ve made great progress in swim lessons so far and I’m really proud of how far they’ve come. But I also can’t wait to get to watch them in little tutus or soccer cleats or whatever the “uniform” is for the next activity we decide to do!

Clothing: This includes a mix of clothes for all 4 of us. I got a new cardigan for work, hubs got some new basketball shorts, and I got some darling outfits for the girls from my favorite app, Wish (side note: I’m still loving how cheap and easy it is to order through Wish, but I’ve seriously reduced the frequency of use. I can see how people could get addicted and overspend on crap).

Work Expenses:  This month I had several work-related expenses:  a new ink cartridge for our home printer, reordering checks and address labels, and $30 worth of gift cards for people who helped participate in a huge project I’m working on (that amounts to 3- $10 gift cards). Even though I had to pay for it personally (the department said “no”), I feel like it was warranted because these people have invested a HUGE amount of time into a project I’m spearheading.

Rainy Day Savings: I’d deposited $2023 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. The goal is to get to $5,000 and we currently have $2100 (note, this is down from my last budget update because we had to use emergency funds to cover my $$$ last-minute flight to Texas for my Nana’s funeral; we also had to withdraw some money for end-of-life expenses for our dog, who died last month. We withdrew money for an ultrasound, lab tests, and his final cremation and disposal. http://www.bloggingawaydebt.com/2015/12/2016-tentative-financial-goals/
  • Car Repairs: $50. I also withdrew $10 to wash it. Our overall account balance is at $113, but I know we need to add more because my breaks have been squeaky and there are a couple routine maintenance issues we need to get done soon. Why are car repairs always so $$$???
  • Birthdays: $523. I also withdrew the full $523 for kid birthday expenses. I lumped some expenses here that would otherwise have gone into different budget categories, but I included them here due to their nature. For instance, both of our moms came to town for the birthday, but we only have one guest bed. So this number includes money for a new air mattress. It also includes all of the food costs associated with the party AND a dinner out when we treated our moms to Italian food while they were in town. In addition to that, this covers the bounce house, a pop-up tent we got to shade the yard, and all kinds of party odds-and-ends (decorations, goody bag treats, piñata & candy, etc.). I’d guesstimated our party costs to be about $600, so I wasn’t too terribly far off.
  • Travel/Christmas: $100. The full account balance for this category is at $150. It always helps when Christmas time rolls around to have some of our travel and gift expenses subsidized a bit!
  • Health/Dental/Vision: $0. Generally, this gets auto-deducted from my paychecks so we can pay for healthcare out of pre-tax money (it sits in a flexible spending account earmarked for health-care related expenses.) However, I pre-pay healthcare expenses in the spring semester to cover the summer (this is normal at my university), so I didn’t add anything to the account this month since its summer time. Instead, I get a higher paycheck since this money isn’t withdrawn. : ) I did have to make a deduction this month, though. I deducted $25 from our FSA to pay for a prescription. Current account balance sits right at $2300.
  • Annual Fees: $300. Deducted $68 for vehicle registration. The total current balance is $482. I like to have it around $500ish, so we’re almost fully funded here.
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. We save $25/each (x 2 girls) for college that’s automatically transferred monthly to designated 529 accounts.

Savings Goals ($500): This is all money that was saved for our 2016 Roth IRA. As a reminder, I have 10% of my paycheck auto-deposited into pre-tax retirement accounts, but I also like to put a little bit of post-tax money into a Roth each year. It’s never a big priority (especially since I’m already saving 10% of my income), but every little bit helps.

 

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

 

Overall, June was a good month! Here’s hoping July is just as fruitful!

 


Happy Independence Day!!!

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Happy 4th of July to all our U.S. readers and friends!

I wrote up a full budget update, but since my normal blogging day (Monday) happened to fall on a national holiday, I decided to push it back so it’s scheduled to go live tomorrow morning. Check back for that content post.

In the meantime, I want to wish all our American friends a happy 3 day weekend that is hopefully full of the 3 F’s:  family, friends, & food! : ) Have a safe and happy holiday!

For non-U.S. friends, have a great Monday! I’ll be back tomorrow morning with our budget update from the month of June!


Rain Cloud

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I feel like Eeyore, with the tiny rain cloud following me around. It’s not that I have a negative outlook on life (I like to think I’m a pretty positive person),  but I can’t shake these sad life “happenings” that seem like they’re going to persist…at least for the foreseeable future.

Let me back up. Guess where I am!!!

Hint – I’m not at home or work. I’m not even in the state of Arizona. I’m back in Texas. Flew in (on a $700 last-minute flight, no less) for a funeral. My maternal grandmother unexpectedly passed away. I should say “unexpected” in quotations because although we weren’t anticipating it, she has been in a nursing home for 4 years, is 84 years old and in only mediocre health, so these things don’t come entirely by surprise.

Her death comes right on the heels of Rocky’s death and the sting is real. Guess what else – Chris’ grandfather was just placed on hospice. So he may be making a last minute trip back to Texas for a funeral soon, too.

For a number of reasons, we decided we would each go back solo to attend our respective grandparents’ funeral. In addition to the funeral trips, we’re also planning a trip back up to Utah. For newer readers, my Dad used to live in Utah and still owns property there. When he was diagnosed with his incurable disease, we moved him to an assisted living facility in Texas closer to family. But his Draper home sits unoccupied. The goal is to go up, completely empty the thing out, and get it placed with a property management company that can take over its management and care. Originally we were going to sell the home, but when we actually looked at numbers we realized he didn’t have as much equity as we’d thought. After accounting for closing costs, etc., the house would probably just about break even or net a tiny amount of profits. I’ll outright say that I really wanted to get rid of this property simply for my own sanity – I don’t want to keep dealing with it!!! But I was outvoted amongst the siblings and I respect the group decision to keep it and hope to build up some equity as we get some renters in there paying all the bills and upkeep (plus extra for profits). It feels like a scary risk to me (what if the roof needs repair? the foundation cracks? some other huge $$$ disaster occurs?) but, again, not my decision.

So that’s what’s up on the old summer 2016 docket:  three deaths, two funerals, and a trip to Utah. Oh, and my brother is going through a horrific divorce, the likes of which I’ve only ever seen before in movies (I mean, it’s D.R.A.M.A.). So there’s that.

I don’t know why this little rain cloud won’t leave our family alone, but I’m totally over it. I’m really trying to refocus my priorities on work and family and to keep a positive outlook on life, making the best of even bad situations. On that note, I’m excited to see a couple cousins who will be flying into town today (my grandma’s funeral is tomorrow). We’re going to have a swim and pancake party tonight at my brother’s house and I can’t wait! Wish my kiddos were here (they’d love it!), but given all the circumstances I don’t regret the decision to fly back to Texas solo. I’m happy to spend time surrounded by extended family, love, support, and fun stories of our sweet Nana.

Financials…

I can’t just end this post without getting to the meat of the matter. Which is to say that I’ve taken another $700 from our emergency fund in order to cover the costs of this unexpected last-minute trip. I owe you lots of posts soon (May budget update; May debt update) to fully update you on our whole money situation. The Cliff’s Notes version is that our May debt updates were small, we had NO savings in May, and we ended up having to raid our EF to help cover the end-of-life expenses for our beloved dog. BUT (looking at the positive) – NO NEW DEBT and I was still able to make a little dent in our current debts, too. I have to call that a win with all things considered!

Let’s not dwell on the negatives. Tell me something POSITIVE about your summer:  some fun plans, exciting activities, new debt milestones or debt payoffs, etc. etc.  I’ll tell one of mine:  We took our girls up to Sabino Canyon last weekend and had SO MUCH FUN! We rode a little tram thing, hiked around, and “swam” (waded) in some bodies of water that result from the snow melting up on the mountain. Being the desert, we don’t have a lot of water in Tucson so it was a real treat to get to play in a natural body of water (not a swimming pool), and it was the girls’ first ever “hike” (a very light hike). I love making these types of memories with the kiddos!


50/50

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Back in December 2015 we hit a big milestone. We had officially paid $50,000 toward debt!!!

What a huge thing! Just thinking about paying $50,000 toward debt in two years (a rate of $25,000/year – nearly half our annual income when we first started blogging!) is mind-blowing.

And just last month we hit another big milestone. One that I have mixed feelings about.

We have now decreased our debt by $50,000.

Say what?

When we hit the first $50,000 milestone, that was money that we’d paid toward debt. But, obviously, most of our debts have interest attached to them. So just because we paid $50,000 toward debt didn’t mean we’d actually decreased our debt by that amount because a good chunk of our money was going toward interest on the debt.

It took another FOUR MONTHS to finally decrease our debt by the same $50,000 that we’d celebrated back in December.

Nutso.

It makes me sick to look at the size of our student loan debt and realize how much we’ve paid that has only gone toward interest. Nothing toward any principal reduction at all. And to see the calculations that say “if you pay the minimum payment, by X time you’ll have paid X amount.” You all know what I’m talking about. Credit card statements have the same statement on them. So you’re looking at your current debt number, but then you see that if you only pay the minimum that in the end you’ll end up paying MUCH more than the original debt amount. After all the interest is included, it can be close to paying 2X! Two times as much as the initial debt!

Ick!

I had a couple people comment on nearing the $50,000 debt reduction mark and ask whether I was excited.

Yes, of course I am! That’s a huge reduction in debt!

But I have mixed feelings. It’s also a little kick to the gut. Knowing we’d paid $50,000 back in December, but our debt numbers didn’t actually reflect a $50,000 decrease until 4 months later. Four long, grueling months of making major debt payments. All of which was consumed by interest. Boo!

It’s a valuable lesson, though. The debtor is a slave to the lender. Another reason to never, ever go into debt again (*ahem* except for a mortgage).

When you think about debt payoff, do you tend to think in terms of dollars toward it (including paying interest), or in actual amount of debt reduction? I report both in my monthly debt updates, but I tend to think more in terms of dollars spent toward debt (including interest). It sucks that there’s such a lag behind dollars spent & dollars in debt reduction.


April Budget Update

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Yikes! With how overdue this budget update is, I did consider just skipping it entirely. I forgot to post December’s budget and it was my first time to ever miss a month! I don’t want it to start becoming a pattern. So, instead of pushing it off any longer, here’s the extremely overdue budget:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 88
Water 55
Natural gas 60
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 100
Trash 35
Preschool 1075
Restaurants 249
Entertainment 1
Kids Activities 82
Groceries 582
Gasoline 99
Household Goods 9
Clothing 75
Toddler Stuff 5
Work Expenses 50
Rainy Day Savings 2142 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 424 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 1521
Total Budgeted $9,941

 

Comments:

Down Payment Savings ($2000): This is right on track.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by mid-summer. That being said, I already know we won’t have the full $2,000 for this month (May). Initially, we were hoping to start house-hunting this month but we thought better and have pushed it back a bit. We are really hoping to have a closing in August/September, so we didn’t want to see something and fall in love too early when we really aren’t ready to be making offers and negotiating yet. Womp, womp! It’ll be here soon, though, and I’m still doing Zillow searches just-for-fun. 

Electricity ($88): Our electric bill has never been lower! But we’ve already been flirting with triple-digit temperatures and our A/C is back in the ON position! I already received the bill for May and, although it hasn’t jumped way high yet, it’s certainly higher than April’s bill.

Restaurants ($249) + Groceries ($582): I feel like you can’t consider one without knowledge of the other. Our grocery bill was pretty low this month (remember in months’ past where I was nearing the $700-mark for groceries!?), but the grocery bill is low because (1) we were on the cruise for one week of the months, and (2) our eating out budget was HUGE! Remember my post about blowing the restaurant/eating out budget early in the month? We aim to have this expense around $200 or less for our family of four. We blew this budget category early in the month and, honestly, the only reason it didn’t surpass $300+ is because we were gone the last full week of the month (longer, really, since hubs and the girls drove they added an extra week to their trip). All expenses while traveling were filed away in the “cruise” category, so they weren’t accounted for here.

Entertainment ($1): 99 cent song on iTunes.

Kids’ Activities ($82): This was our last month paying for the girls’ swim lessons. It was prorated since we only went for half the month. That being said, the girls did INCREDIBLE on our cruise! We spent a TON of time in the water (both in the pools on the ship and in the ocean at our docking places). I was so impressed with how their skills have improved and they seemed like little fishes splashing around in the water. It really made me want to re-start their swimming lessons so they can keep learning and improving. I’m waiting until the semester is over at school because the end-of-year time is crazy and our Saturday-midday swim class was far from ideal. When we start back again I’ll be looking for a weekday afternoon class time.

Household Goods ($9): I don’t remember if I mentioned it already, but I’ve deemed this year the year of buying holiday decorations on clearance to save for next year. In December/January I bought a bunch of Christmas decorations and in April I bought some Easter decorations. I go literally the day after the holiday, first thing in the morning, so I can try to find the best stock for cheapest. I know there can be great finds at garage sales, too, but those are so hit-and-miss that I’ve mostly relied on buying store stuff on clearance after the holiday has passed. The plan is to do this all year for all of the holidays. I’m pretty excited to finally start accumulating some holiday stuff here and there. We’ve always been very minimalistic when it comes to holiday decorations since we have typically moved every year (our current rental house is the longest we’ve ever stayed in a single place!!) I look forward to decorating for holidays with the girls as they grow!

Rainy Day Savings ($2142): I’d deposited $2142 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. The goal is to get to $5,000 and we currently have $3063.
  • Birthdays: $400. The girls’ birthday is on the horizon in June. To date, we’ve never had an actual birthday party for them, but we want to this year for the first time. It will still be simple (at our house, not another venue), but we’re going to start throwing a couple hundred a month toward this savings so we don’t get caught by surprise in June. This month I’ve over-saved because I’m anticipating that May will be a lower month.
  • Car Repairs: $50. I also withdrew $182 to finally fix the car part that broke 2 weeks after I paid it off. This leaves $73 still in the car repair account. I’ll need to pad it pretty heavily in the next couple of months, as we know we’ve got some routine maintenance stuff coming up on our vehicles and it feels like every time we go to the shop its at least a thousand dollars! Cringe! At least we have time to anticipate and save for it instead of being caught by surprise.
  • Health/Dental/Vision: $542. This gets auto-deducted from my paychecks so we can pay for healthcare out of pre-tax money. It’s sitting in a flexible spending account earmarked for health-care related expenses.
  • Annual Fees: $100. Need to slowly start building this back up. The total current balance is $250 but we have a few annual (or semi-annual) fees coming up within the next couple months (e.g., Costco membership and county pet registration are two that come immediately to mind).
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. We save $25/each (x 2 girls) for college that’s automatically transferred monthly to designated 529 accounts.

Savings Goals ($424): $424 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $424. I also cleared out this savings in its entirety prior to filing taxes so I could make a contribution crediting tax year 2015.
  • No other savings this month, but I wanted to report that I also withdrew all of the cruise money from its account (and have subsequently closed the Capital One 360 savings account). At the end of the trip, we were left with an extra $800 over and above what we’d spent. I ended up re-categorizing this money as income for May. That way it’s put in with our normal income rather than being viewed as a separate pot of money. This will be particularly helpful because I don’t get paid from my part-time job this month.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

 

Final Thoughts:

We put a little less toward debt this month than I’d hoped (I’d originally planned to put $2,000 toward debt). Instead, we put a bit more toward savings, particularly in some categories where we know upcoming spending is imminent (e.g., birthdays, annual fees). In May, I’ll kind of trade-off. Our savings will probably be a little lower and our debt payments will be a little higher. One big thing to note:  I don’t get paid in the months of May or August from my part-time job. Instead, my summer pay is split into two lump sums arriving in June and July. I’m trying to anticipate the lower income months and to spread the pay out when we have the higher income months. Also, I haven’t commented on our tax return yet. We had a return of $540 that hit my bank account just in the last week or so. Like our unspent cruise savings, I’ve simply categorized this as “Income for May” in our YNAB budget. Again – May will be a bit lower income month (given that I don’t get my part-time pay), so I’m hoping this will help pad our income a bit so we can keep up with the hefty debt payments that are planned this month.

Have a great month, all!


Teacher Appreciation

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Last week was Teacher Appreciation Day, but our school actually did a Teacher Appreciation Week back in early April! I’d meant to write a post about it at that time, but it escaped me until now.

I pride myself on giving pretty decent little teacher appreciation gifts without spending a bunch of money (see a previous teacher gift here, and a classroom gift idea here). This year was no exception. Since we did a full teacher appreciation week (not a single day), I spread things out a bit across the week. It helps that our school posted online a list of our teacher’s favorite things, and that they had a suggested calendar of things you could do to help celebrate the teachers. So here’s how our week looked:

  • Monday –  We brought our teachers’ favorite foods (we have 2 teachers):  one said her favorite snacks were cashews and the other said bananas. To make it work, we brought bulk cashews and dehydrated banana chips (both bought in bulk bins at Sprouts). I had the mini mason jars already at home and made a quick note and tied a ribbon around the neck from stuff we had on-hand. Maybe a $3-4 total cost (I can’t recall at this time, but couldn’t be more than that).

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  • Tuesday – I volunteered to come help during lunch time while the teachers had a special luncheon.  Free for me, plus I got to each lunch with my girls! Wins all around!

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  • Wednesday – nothing special
  • Thursday – I brought a homemade dessert (this recipe for churro cheesecake that’s incredible) because the teachers were having a dessert party in the afternoon. PRO Tip: I always buy stuff that we frequently use at Costco when it goes on sale, even if we don’t necessarily need it at the moment. Doing so meant I had all the ingredients on hand for this dessert because it’s made with mostly staples. The only “odd ball” thing, for us, would’ve been the crescent roll dough but I’d recently bought a Costco pack of it so we had plenty for this dessert.

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  • Friday – I wrapped up the week with $10 gift cards (per teacher) to Target along with a nice note of appreciation using thank you cards we already own.

A gift or act of service nearly every day of the week (for two teachers) for a total of under $25. You can’t beat that!

What do you normally do for Teacher Appreciation Day?

How many gifts do you typically give your kids’ teacher and/or class in a year? At the beginning of the year we did a class gift, we did a teacher holiday gift around Christmas time, and now a teacher appreciation gift. Do you do an end-of-year gift, too??? Any other gift-giving occasions I’ve missed (we don’t know the teachers birthdays, for example).


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