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Budget Plan for Glamping

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Many of the recent comments have mentioned how I am not paying off debt at this point in my journey.  They are right.  With little steady income over the four months, not even enough to cover my my typical monthly obligations, not only am I not making regular debt payments, but I’m having to pay many bills late.  BUT all of that is about to change if I can just get through March and April, the tides are going to turn.

The financial windfall that having free housing for is going to be HUGE for us.  And debt payments (after I catch up with what I am behind on) will resume along with a savings plan.  So I am starting to think on that as you could see from my last post on my “plan” for living in a tinier space.

So for the first time in months…I am going to have a real budget and I’ve started putting some thought into it.  Here is my first draft with some notes below, would love some feedback and suggestions:

Glamping Budget (May - July, 2016)

CategoryMonthly
Budget
May
Actual
June
Actual
July
Actual
Total
Total$1596
Cell Phone$230
Car Gas$200
Entertainment$100
Food$800
Clothing$150
Savings
Debt Payments
Life Insurance$23
Storage$78
Auto/Renters Insurance$150

You will see that I am planning to take a note from Ashley and try to show my budget with the actual over these few short months.

You will also note that my total is missing a couple of numbers.  I am working on those as I figure my minimum obligations as well as set a reasonable goal for savings.

There are some changes to my categories and to my numbers, here is why:

  • Cell phone – up significantly.  I plan to add a bit more data to our current shared 3GB as we will be out a bit more and I will need it to work, I think.  I won’t add it until I’m prompted by going over and it’s something I can add or take away without any long term commitment, but my thought is that it will be higher.  (History Buff pays $30 of this every month for his smartphone plan.)
  • Car Gas – double the typical amount.  We are going from living within 3 miles of absolutely everything we do, to being 20 minutes away.  I will also be making at least 2 round trips every day into town based on the anticipated activity schedule (swim in the morning and gymnastics at night.)  So again anticipating a significant change due to the move.
  • Groceries – we have been living on a REALLY tight grocery budget for more than a year now, and frankly I just need a break from it, so I’m giving myself permission to flex a little bit.  This may change back, but for now…I’m going to myself some flexibility.   This will also incorporate any eating out.
  • Entertainment – new category for us.  While I am going to be working my butt off to revamp and relaunch my old business, I think this is going to be a very fun few months for us and want to plan for some fun money.  I think giving myself this permission and boundary will keep me from splurging or making rash decisions on fun activities.  We’ll see how it goes.
  • Clothing – new category for us. In the past, the little one’s dad paid for most all of their clothing and the older ones have been responsible for their own clothing for over a year now.  Unfortunately, as I write this, there is still no regular support from the little ones dad, and they will both need almost completely new wardrobes, they refuse to stop growing!  So I am anticipating and planning for that.  In addition, I have lost a good amount of weight, so will need a few new things as well.
  • Savings – need to save for a housing move, emergency fund, etc.  This will take precedence over debt payoff I think, but will see when I get a final plan together.
  • Debt – as soon as I catch up with payments I am behind, I will update this with the minimum payments needed each month.  Extra payments will have to be considered on a month to month basis as I work to add income.
  • Life Insurance – no change.
  • Auto/Renters Insurance – no change.  (History Buff pays for $72 of this for his car insurance.  I occasionally gift him by paying 1/2 for a month when I can.  I am so proud of him that words cannot express it.)

With no rent/mortgage, no utilities…I am so excited to see what could come over these months.  Have  I left anything out?


Ashley’s February 2016 Budget Update

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There’ve been some changes to the ol’ budget this past month. Check out what we spent and saved in February:

 

 

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2155
Electricity 283
Water 61
Natural gas 163
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 97
Car Insurance (now comes out of rainy day funds)
Trash 35
Preschool 1163
Gift-Giving 381
Personal Maintenance 8
Restaurants 175
Entertainment 147
Groceries 695
Gasoline 74
Household Goods 68
Clothing 36
Postage 15
Rainy Day Savings 3175 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 775 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 1261
Total Budgeted $12,056

 

Comments:

Down Payment Savings ($2155): Notice that I created a new account called “Down Payment Savings.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by summer time. We’re planning to start house-hunting around May, with hopes of closing by August (our current lease is up in August, though we can go month-to-month if needed). This savings goal will heavily impact the first half of our year’s budgets since we need to save heavily at the beginning of the year.

Electricity ($283): I posted previously about our outrageous electric bill (our gas bill was high, too). Fortunately, this has gone down. I’ve already gotten the bill for March and its over a hundred dollars than February’s bill. I discussed in my post possible reasons for the sky-high bill. I took active measures to correct those issues and it looks like it paid off big-time!

Car Insurance ($0):  After this month, I’ll be removing this line item from our budget. I wrote earlier about how I changed our insurance to be paid in full for 6-month chunks of time so we could save some big money. For this budget update I wanted to just remind readers of this budget change. Moving forward, I’ll be setting money aside monthly for car insurance as part of our “annual fees” rainy day savings (part of our Capital One 360 savings account).

Gift-Giving ($381): This number is really deceiving. It does include 3 birthdays and 1 house-warming gift (for a total of $181 spent on gifts), but the other $200 is actually a charitable donation I made so I could get Arizona’s tax credit. Every year since I’ve started blogging we’ve been making similar donations (this donation was for a school, but we also donate to a children’s nonprofit organization we support). The donations cover our state income tax liability and it’s great because we get to support these organizations we love. It’s a win-win. As a side-note, I’m very curious to see what our tax liability might be for 2015. Last year we ended up owing big time! This year I was better about making realistic sized estimated tax payments, plus my new full-time job takes taxes out of my check. So I’m hoping we’ll end up breaking even, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Personal Maintenance ($8): This is just for a box of hair dye. Operation cut/color-my-own-hair is still going strong. In full disclosure, though, I’m planning to get a professional cut/color prior to cruise 2016 (which will come from my cruise savings).

Entertainment ($147): Part of this ($65) was from renewing our family’s membership to the zoo. I struggled with that decision for a bit because we don’t go nearly as often as we used to now that I’m working full-time (we used to go nearly every week!). But I did the math and realized that we’d literally only have to go three times to make the cost worthwhile (without membership it would cost us $28 per visit). We still go about once per month, so I opted to go ahead and renew. The rest of the spending was from a date that hubs and I went on. As promised, hubs and I are planning to do about one date per month this year (in the past 2 years we rarely ever had date nights). So expect this category to be a bit higher this year in compared to previous years.

Groceries ($695):  I’ve consistently over-spent in this category every single month since I started working full-time. Our old grocery budget (before full-time job) was $500/month. When I started working I initially increased the budget to $600/month. I’ve struggled hard to try to make that cut-off, but to no avail. I attribute it to buying more prepared foods and not cooking fully from scratch as often. But, honestly, after 7 months now of battling this budget category I think it might be time to admit that I just can’t hit the $600-mark. I still don’t want to be spending as much as I did this month on groceries, but I may increase my budget to $650. It’s a simple time management issue. I’m working on it, but I’m not perfect. Sometimes I’ve gotta buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store for dinner, you know? That’s just how it goes.

Household Goods ($68): This includes laundry soap, toilet paper, and some new flower pots and soil. I should post a picture of my chive plant soon. It’s seriously out-of-control! The biggest I’ve ever seen!!!

Rainy Day Savings ($3175): I’d deposited $3175 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. My goal is to get to $5,000 for now (about 1 month of expenses). Eventually I’ll want to raise it up further, but that’s it for now.
  • Car Repairs fund: $400 (though I withdrew $195 for a new tire and will withdraw the other $200 soon to repair the weird car flap thing that broke on my car the week after I paid it off).
  • Birthdays: $50
  • Health: $425 (though I withdrew $74 for a doctor’s visit and prescription after my kids got pink eye. I was able to save money because I only paid for one doctor’s trip and one prescription, but it was enough for both kids. Our pediatrician is awesome this way because she’ll often look at both kids, even if I’m only there for one of the kids).
  • Annual Fees: $1000 (though I withdrew $918 to account for 6-months of car insurance)
  • Pet Expenses: $250
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50

Savings Goals ($775): $775 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $275
  • Cruise 2016: $500. I also withdrew $1276 from my cruise fund to make our final cruise payment and buy a couple cruise-related items (e.g., a snorkel set and beach stuff). I’ve got a post that talks more about how much money is still leftover and what I plan to do with it, planned to post later this week.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

Final Thoughts:

This was a really high-income month for us! We were able to save a TON of money! Between the house downpayment, the rainy day savings, and the savings goals we put basically $6,000 toward various savings (though, to be fair, a lot of the “rainy day savings” were immediately spent. Example: nearly a thousand for car insurance, another couple hundred for car repairs, etc.) Even with some of these larger expenses, I was very pleased with how well we did! As I’d mentioned in my debt update post, we’re right on track (ahead of schedule, really) with our debt payments in order to reach out $30,000 goal for the year of 2016. And in regard to the house downpayment fund, we’re right on track with that as well. We’ll need to keep putting about $2,000/month toward the down payment fund to reach $10,000 by June. It will be tight, but I believe it’s doable. Finally, I mentioned in this post how we had a bit of extra money. A lot of that ended up being routed toward rainy day savings funds. But we also put just over $300 into our “last month’s income” account inside of YNAB’s budget software. It’s just a tiny amount, but it’s the beginning. I can’t wait to build back up that buffer so that we’re always living on last month’s income. It was a fantastic feeling of peace to have that extra money (in addition to an EF). Can’t wait to get that feeling back! Little by little. It will happen. : )

How did you do with budgeting last month? Do you have any problem areas in your budget? How do you deal with them?


Saving Money on Car Insurance

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When I first started to blog here a couple years ago I saved a TON of money on car insurance by reducing our coverage to a more reasonable level (we were way over-insured at the time).

Since then I really haven’t given insurance much thought.

But after our trip to Texas over the Christmas vacation, I was left with a  few chips in my windshield. I went to a place to have the chips repaired and discovered that although my insurance covers repairs 100%, they do NOT cover full glass replacement. The person who was doing the repairs put a black light (or some kind of ultraviolet or something) on my car and showed me the truth….I thought I had 3 chips but I had about 15. ALL OVER the windshield. Plus I’ve had previous chips repaired, which are still visible. Basically, the windshield is a whole big mess.

At that time I also discovered that windshields are crazy-expensive! To replace it paying outright would be over a thousand dollar for my car make and model. What in the world!?

But the repair shop guy gave me a good tip. He said I needed to call and increase my insurance to cover full windshield replacement. “It will cost about 3 bucks a month,” he said. Plus, given the amount of driving we do (biannual cross-country trips:  every summer and winter), the odds of having future windshield chips are HIGH. The guy can continue repairing and repairing, but at some point the windshield really needs to be replaced.

This was back in early January and I just now got around to calling my insurance company to increase my insurance so it includes windshield replacement.

The repair guy was a little bit off (it’s more like $10/month, not $3/month), but the call actually ended up SAVING me money rather than costing me money!

The representative on the phone said we haven’t updated our personal information in several years. She asked where we worked and what we did and, lo and behold, entering in that information actually ended up saving us about $15/month. So now we were actually paying LESS even though I’d increased our coverage.

But wait, there’s more…

Initially I’d tried to add the windshield coverage online and couldn’t figure it out (which is why I ended up calling in and speaking to a representative). However, when I was online there was a little box that popped up saying I could save $160 if I paid in full rather than through monthly installments. I asked the representative what I was paying for an installment fee because I’d thought it was super low. She responded with “The installment fee is $1 per month.” So I was like, “Uhhhh, that’s $12 per year. So pre-paying saves 12 bucks. Why does it say online that I could save $160?!”

Turns out, not only do you save the installment fee, but they also give you one monthly payment FOR FREE (which is where the $160 came from – because that’s about one month worth of car insurance).

WHAT? Shut the front door! How have I not known about this all along?!?

They only pre-pay for 6 months at a time (not a full year), but I sure did throw down payment as quickly as I could grab my wallet! So this month we’ll have a pretty high insurance payment coming out of our budget, but this will end up saving us money in the long-run (and we’ll just have to increase our “semi-annual fees” monthly budget to account for this expense).

So as a lesson to all of you:  1) if you haven’t updated personal information in awhile, you might want to call and see if it can save you some money! and 2) find out if you can save serious money by pre-paying your insurance!  All along I’d just assumed the only savings was that measly $1/month installment fee. Who cares about that? But saving an entire month of car insurance is a bigger deal! I feel like it should be more heavily advertised! I’m not sure if all carriers have similar deals, but we’ve got Progressive so if they’re your insurance carrier, give them a call! (side note: they don’t know about the blog, this is not sponsored or anything, just giving a heads up to save some money!)

What’s the last big ticket item on which you were able to cash in some big savings?


Wash-A-Palooza

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Only a couple short days after publishing this post about our outrageous electricity bill, our family was stricken with an evil illness bug that has yet to fully eradicate our home!

First, Child 1 is ill (throw-up type of sickness).

Three days later, Child 2 is ill (throw-up type of sickness).

Two days later, hubs and I become ill (thankfully neither of us actually vomited, but just a general run-down, achy type of exhaustion).

One day later, now Child 1 has pink eye.

One day later, now Child 2 has pink eye.

Two days later, now I’m pretty sure allergy season is kicking in and my seasonal allergies are driving me crazy.
Sooo, yeah. Lots of illness. It’s been quite the struggle trying to balance child-care (obviously cannot attend preschool while vomiting and/or having pink-eye) and work.

And the other big implication is that I’ve been doing a LOT of laundry. Obviously my allergies cannot be passed by contact, but all of the other illnesses I mentioned CAN. And therefore, I’ve been on a house-cleaning rampage:  laundering every towel, pillow case, sheet, blanket, etc. that has come in contact with anyone who has been ill. It’s ridiculous. I think on a single day I managed to do nearly 10 loads of laundry (the majority of which were bedding or towels).

Aside from this little snafu, we’ve actually been doing pretty well trying to keep our electricity usage under control.

I’ve yet to turn on the A/C even a single time since writing about our electric bill. Even though here in Tucson we’re seeing highs already in the mid-80s, I’ve just been living with the warmth, opening doors and windows to let in the cool morning air, and spending time outdoors in the sunshine (where, magically, mid-80s feels glorious! How’s that work? Indoors a mid-80s temp feels sweltering but outside it feels like heaven!?)

I’m going to see how long I can last without turning on the A/C at all. We definitely warm up here much faster than the rest of the country (some of which, I realize, is still below freezing as I’m bragging about our gorgeous weather). So I’ll be happy if I can make it until mid-March. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, excuse me posts are a little less frequent. I have lots of topic ideas I need to actually sit down and write, but time is limited given all the catch-up I’m playing at work since I had to spend so much time in doctor’s offices and at home with sick kids last week. You can all relate, right?

In that regard, is this some type of cosmic come-back? I was bragging just the other day about how long it had been since anyone in the family had been sick. I made it the entire Fall semester without missing work a single day for my own or my children’s health issues. But this semester has been one set-back after another! Ugh! Here’s hoping it quickly passes (and that my allergies don’t flare up just as other illnesses subside. Sigh).

Happy Moan-day! Har har har!


First Children’s Activity!

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It’s been awhile since I’ve brought up the issue of paying for organized kid’s activities.

Our twins are now a little over 3.5 years old. They’ll turn 4 this June. And, to date, we have never enrolled them in a single organized children’s activity. We started our debt-reduction mission nearly 2 years ago (when they were only 18 months old) and, at the time, I didn’t feel like they were missing out on anything. I have several friends who’ve enrolled their kids in all kinds of activities even from infancy (e.g., MyGym, tot & me dance/gymnastics, swim, etc.). But at that young age, I preferred to save the money and really didn’t think we were missing out on anything.

Last April I mentioned that I was seriously considering enrolling the girls in swim lessons. At the time, however, they were attending the JCC for childcare. Over the summer the JCC did free swim lessons as part of their daily curriculum, so that satisfied me. However, looking back, the summer swim lessons weren’t the best. It was taught by certified lifeguards, but it included entire class groups of about 18 kids at a time, so a good deal of the time kids were just sitting on the steps waiting for their turn. There wasn’t a lot of actual instruction on a per-student basis. That was totally fine at the time (plus it was free!), but it means our kids still don’t know even the basics of water safety (e.g., how to grab the edge if they fall in, how to float, etc.).

Given our upcoming Cruise and all the time we’ll be spending around water, swim lessons were high on my radar at the beginning of the year of something I wanted to look into. At the end of January I did a lot of research and found a swim school nearby that’s reasonably priced and has great reviews.  I officially enrolled the girls 2 weeks ago and their first lesson was this past Saturday.

The girls LOVED it!

They’re in classes that are capped at 4 people (though their first class only had 3 kids) so there’s tons of individual attention. The instructor was very friendly and made the lesson so fun.

We have 12 lessons between now and our cruise sail date and, although I’m not expecting full swimmers by any means, I’m hopeful that will be enough time for them to learn basic life-saving measures so that I’ll feel a little more comfortable around so much water on our cruise.

The total cost for one lesson per week is $65/month (per child). This seemed to be a pretty competitive rate in our area. By comparison, I saw some rates that were literally double this amount.

But I do have a question for readers. Now that we’re opening this door (the door of children’s activities)….how do you account for it in your budget? I was going to include it as an “Entertainment” line item, but it almost seems like it warrants its own category. Thoughts?

Also….this just opened the door to a whole world of children’s activities. Soccer, Dance, Swim, Karate, Gymnastics, Oh my!  I can just envision them in little tutus or soccer cleats and my heart wants to burst!

I am determined, at this point, to keep our activities to a maximum of one at a time. I do NOT want to be running them to a different activity every night of the week! Plus our budget (and my time/sanity) wouldn’t allow it! But it’s already making me look forward to whatever activity comes next. They’re still young so there’s plenty of time, but it’s so much fun seeing the excitement in a child’s face as they’re exposed to something new. I could definitely see myself (if I weren’t on the debt-reduction mission) going ahead and enrolling them in multiple activities at a time.

Parents – any experience with swim classes? How does this rate compare to what you’ve paid in the past? What activities do you enroll your child(ren) in? How do you account for children’s activities in your budget?


Outrageous Electric Bill

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We just received what I believe is the largest electric bill I’ve ever received.

I was so sure that the price was an error that I called, waited on hold for a solid half hour, and spoke to a representative who confirmed, Yep. There’s no error, that’s just our bill.

Hubs and I had a little bit of a pow-wow. We can pay the bill, so it’s not an issue of not having the funds to cover it. But the ridiculous price tag meant we needed to have a Come to Jesus meeting to figure out what we’re doing and correct our ways.

For reference, our largest electric bill to date (occurring in a summer month) was $269.  The bill we just received was for $283. It’s a huge jump from last month’s ($199) bill. And it’s not even summer. What gives?

So, after putting our heads together, we decided we’re both a bit at fault.

Hubs has been on a laundry mission the past month. I swear, just about every minute that he’s home he’s got something in the washer and dryer. I’ve seen several half-loads and several items of clothing that weren’t even dirty somehow mysteriously ending up in the laundry pile (the latter being a big pet peeve of mine).

But I’m probably equally, or moreso, responsible. We’re in that weird in-between time of year in regard to temperature. During the night we run our heater (which is gas), but during the day I often flip on the A/C (electric). All the up and down/back and forth has meant that both our gas and electric bills are a bit higher than normal. So that’s got to be a big culprit.

I really think the electric has to come down to these two things. Otherwise, we’re pretty energy efficient – all light bulbs are energy efficient, the house we rent has newer appliances (with the exception of the washer/dryer, which are our own), we don’t leave lights on, the house is well insulated, etc. etc. etc.

So I’m making a more deliberate attempt to be energy-efficient this month. When I get home from work, instead of turning on the A/C I’ve been opening the windows. It’s still a bit warm for my preference (especially when I’m cooking!), but it’s not terrible. And a cold front just blew in this week so I really haven’t needed the A/C at all anyway.

Here’s hoping it makes a big difference in next month’s electric bill because we can’t be having these $300 bills! That’s straight nonsense for a home of our age and our size. No reason it should be that high!

What’s the largest utility bill you’ve received? My mom lives in Austin where water is set at a SUPER high rate to discourage over-watering, etc. She regularly complains about $500 water bills. And there’s only 2 people living in her home! Isn’t that nuts???


New Debt Thermometers

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After completing our last debt thermometer (for the car loan – yay!!!) I decided to make some new debt thermometers.

Only one thing…. I like to keep our old debt thermometers because they’re motivating to look at. I had pulled them off the fridge to take a picture of them and they had been sitting on our kitchen table….and the girls destroyed them. Thought they were playing arts and crafts and basically tore them apart.

So I remade the old ones, too. Heh. Not quite the same, but I really like having that visual motivation and seeing how far we’ve come!

So here are the (new) old ones:

IMG_1662

The Auto Loan (left), I was able to re-use the back-paper, but the thermometer part had to be made anew after the old one was torn to pieces. The Wells Fargo card (right), I was able to re-use the original thermometer, but I had to remake the back-paper anew when the old one was torn apart. So at least on each of them I was able to retain a bit of the original piece.

And here are my New Thermometers:

IMG_1663

On the left I’ve targeted two of my mid-sized Navient student loans.

On the right, I’ve targeted a savings goal (the $10,000 for a house down payment) and the Navient thermometer is actually a conglomeration of 3 separate, smaller sized Navient loans. Separately they seemed too small to warrant a debt thermometer, but combined they’re still a decent sized chunk of debt.

I’ll be starting with the thermometers on the right (yellow thermometers on green paper), but it’s kind of fun to have the next thermometers lined up and ready to go when it comes time to target them.

Having the visual reminder has been such a great thing for me! I used to be nervous or embarrassed about them. Whenever we’d have people over I’d take them off our fridge and hide them. But for about the past year, I’ve always kept them up. I almost want friends to ask about them (so far no one has). Finances tend to be such a personal matter but after feeling so much success on our debt reduction journey I have a hard time shutting up about it! Even if friends don’t actually ask about the thermometers, I hope that people do notice them. I hope that maybe it sparks an interest in someone else; that maybe they think about making one of their own. This debt reduction journey road of ours is a long one, but it’s been 100% worth it!

Time to fill up some debt (and savings) thermometers!!!