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No Spend Week

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Hi friends! I hope everyone’s weekends are going well!

Imagine my excitement (hint: sarcasm) when I logged into my email and got this lovely little notification.

(it reads: Account Alert: Balance Below $25)

Low balance!?

What the heck???

Apparently, I had a couple auto-payments go through that I’d forgotten about and/or at different amounts than I’d expected (e.g., Navient has raised my monthly payments < more fun phone calls have ensued; I’ll write about it soon).

I get paid on Friday – thank goodness! This is a 3-paycheck month, Wahoo!!!! – but I’m on operation SPEND ZERO DOLLARS until then.

I’ve decided to officially make this a No Spend Week, even though it wasn’t planned or expected. And even though we don’t have a ton of food on hand already. I do have some stuff from my mid-week produce trip last week. And we still have a fair amount of meat in our freezer. But I’m going to have to get creative to make it all work. It’s not going to be easy – not like I’d just freshly grocery shopped and have a fridge and pantry overflowing with food or anything.

My one caveat is that I have $13 in my wallet. I’m planning to spend it this week on milk and produce at some point, but I’m going to try to see how long we can last without it.

It’s funny because Jordan from Fun, Cheap, or Free (check her blog out here) has been doing a whole series of blog posts about what she’s called “Shelftember.” The idea is that for the month of September, she’s challenged readers to shop their own pantries instead of going to the grocery store. Her challenge is for people to only spend $25/week on groceries (with the expectation that the bulk of food will come from one’s own home – freezer, pantry, garden, etc.). I haven’t participated in the event thus far, but it’s kind of ironic that I’ve been seeing her videos and posts all month and now here we are doing an impromptu No Spend Week in which I’ll be forced into “shelf-cooking” (cooking foods straight from one’s pantry shelves).

Wish me luck! I’m going to try to check in daily (fingers crossed < don’t hold me to it if I miss a day) to give a little re-cap of what we’ve eaten and how we’ve gotten by! With any luck, we’ll make it to Friday (pay day) making do with the food we’ve got. I may have to get creative, but I think it can be done!

 

Wish me luck! Or better yet, join me! Want to do a little No Spend Week challenge??? Tons of fun!!! 😉


Always Check Your Receipts

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In my continual battle to lower our grocery bill, I’ve been making lots of lists:  lists of meal ideas, lists of sale foods, and standard grocery lists. I’ve set ourselves a strict budget and have been following it to a “T.”

I estimate food costs in advance (it’s written directly on our grocery list). Then when I go grocery shopping I make little tally marks so I can keep a running total of what our bill will be (to ensure we don’t go over the limit I’ve set).

Even with all this preparation, you have to have a watchful eye on how items are scanning!  We used to be a Velveeta Shells & Cheese family, but at $2.50/box, we’ve decided the cheaper Kraft variety (usually $1.29/box) is just as good. This week, all the macaroni and cheese was on sale for only $1 per box. I decided to stock up, getting 5 boxes in total. But when scanning my receipt after checking out, I realized that somehow only one box rang up for the correct price. No idea why/how it happened. But I was overcharged 29 cents per box.

The old me would likely have let it go. Not worth the hassle of going to customer service over about a buck and some change.

But the new me is focused. Determined. We’re counting every single cent over here. Even the pennies matter.

So I walked right on over to customer service (I hadn’t noticed until after I’d already paid and the transaction at the register was complete). It didn’t take more than 2 minutes for me to get a whopping $1.16 handed back in cold hard cash. I stuffed the dollar in my cash envelope (oh yeah, totally doing the cash envelope thing again! More on that to come.), and the change went into my wallet. Virtual high five to me for catching the mistake and following through with seeking the reimbursement I was owed.

So let this be a reminder to always be watchful of your purchases and how they’re ringing up! If you’re expecting to buy something on sale and it doesn’t ring up correctly, don’t be afraid to ask for a price check or to return to customer service for a reimbursement if needed. It wasn’t nearly as much of a “hassle” as I’d assumed it would be. No hassle at all, really!

If you notice an overcharge, do you go back for the refund? Have you ever just walked away (< I know I have before!!!)


Instant Pot Homemade Yogurt

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Remember when I made my own homemade yogurt in a crockpot and made the bold declaration, “I’m Never Going Back!”

Well, it turns out I lied. Because I’ve bought a great deal of yogurt in the 2 years since then.

Don’t get me wrong, the homemade yogurt was DELICIOUS and significantly cheaper than store-bought varieties.

But it also took forever and was kind of a pain to babysit all day in the crockpot. I did make several batches, but the habit didn’t stick.

This weekend, though, I tried the new-age version of crockpot yogurt. I introduce you to Instant Pot Yogurt!

My mom got me an Instant Pot this last Christmas and I honestly haven’t used it nearly as often as I’d thought I would. The whole idea of cooking using pressure is cool in theory (cook from frozen in 30 minutes!), but it still takes awhile to come up to pressure (and release pressure after cooking), and I haven’t fallen in love with it as some others have.

But even so, I’ve been looking for ways to save money on our grocery bill and thought I could likely use the Instant Pot to make some homemade yogurt. Faster than the crock-pot method, less counter space used, and still the same great end result product!

I followed this recipe and had great results. I’ve reposted the recipe below (with my comments and modifications):

Instant Pot Homemade Yogurt

Start with a cool cooking pot. Pour milk into instant pot and cover with lid (note: it’s not going to be cooked under pressure, so the lid can be removed at anytime but keeping it covered helps the milk warm up faster).

Press the yogurt button and adjust until the screen reads “boil.” Whisk the milk occasionally while the heat kicks up. You must get your yogurt to at least 180 degrees (I usually aim for a few degrees higher). It took me two complete boil cycles for mine to get hot enough.

When the boil cycle is done the pot will beep and you can check the temp. Once you hit the magic number of 180, get the cooking pot out of the instant pot and soak in an ice bath in the kitchen sink. Continue to whisk the milk occasionally so it cools evenly. You want it to cool to 95-100 degrees.

Once the milk cools to 95-100 degrees, remove a cup and mix it together with a yogurt “starter.” This can be from previous homemade yogurt or store bought. The best yogurt to use is plain with nothing added. Just live yogurt cultures and milk. I used a 2% plain yogurt variety from Chobani.

After the cup of milk and yogurt starter are thoroughly combined, pour all back into the instant pot and recover with a lid. At this point, you want to let the yogurt sit for about 10 hours. Less time (8ish hours) will result in a milder taste and longer time (12ish hours) will result in a tarter taste. I made my yogurt so it would rest overnight so it was right about 8 hours.

Push the yogurt button on the Instant Pot again until it displays 8:00 (8 hours). You can adjust the time, if desired.

After the pot beeps that the incubation period is complete, use a glass cover or plastic wrap to seal the pot and put it in the refrigerator to cool (about 6-8 hours).

At the point, the yogurt should be thick enough for a spoon to stick in it!

Scoop out to store (I store mine in glass Ball jars in the refrigerator).

Or scoop into a bowl, top with fruit and granola, and enjoy!

I also like to make smaller batches with fruit. I’ll muddle some strawberries, add some lemon juice and sugar, and blend into the yogurt. If I do that, I try to eat the yogurt the same day because I don’t have any preservatives in the fruit mixture (so don’t, for example, make a giant batch of strawberry yogurt to last a week because the strawberries will start to go bad!). The plain yogurt should store for at least 2 weeks as-is.

To get Greek-stye yogurt, just strain once or twice using a cheesecloth. Voila!

Makes a great breakfast, snack, or side! I’ve been sending some for a lunch side-dish for my kids by putting into the little portion-sized containers (like these for example) and including a spoon in the lunch box. They LOVE the homemade yogurt and gobble it up! It’s a win all around!

Does anyone else make their own homemade yogurt?

What’s your favorite instant pot recipe?


First Paycheck = FAIL!!!

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I received my first full paycheck at my new rate of pay. I was shocked that it was much lower than I had anticipated (even after using a couple online calculator programs to try to accurately predict take-home pay).  My expectation was that I’d earn somewhere between $5-6,000/month take-home.  The reason for the large range is that I have a LOT of money coming out in pre-tax deductions, including:  medical and dental insurance, Flex Spending Savings accounts for health and dependent care, and 7% retirement investment (required and matched by my employer). In total, I have 20% of my check removed pre-tax. Taxes remove another 20% of my paycheck. So when looking at my base weekly salary compared to my take-home pay, I’m only actually bringing home 60% of what I earn (to be fair, I’m saving money by being able to pay a portion of medical and childcare from our FSA with pre-tax dollars, but our FSA has caps that we exceed, so some of those expenses are still paid out of my take-home pay post-tax).

After all deductions, my first full paycheck was for a total of $2269. I get paid bi-weekly, so we’re talking about $4500/month for most months (except for the odd month with 3 pay periods). This was a huge shock, given that we’ve been quite accustomed to budgeting for literally double that income amount.

I’ve never shared exact income numbers before on the blog because it made my husband feel uncomfortable for his business earnings to be shared and analyzed. But now that he’s shut his doors down and it’s all me – I feel fine with sharing my personal income. Guess what, y’all….my salary is $95,423/year. That’s with my big raise. I was originally hired at $55,000 two years ago. I guess there’s some disconnect in my brain or something because I thought $95k sounded like “BIG MONEY.” When I got my raise I was overjoyed – I was expecting a huge, wild difference in my rate of take-home pay. Under $5,000/month was NOT what I was expecting. Call me spoiled or privileged of whatever else you want (and I own that I am some of those things – I’m lucky to have the job I do), but this was a huge shock.

So although it feels like “starting over” (although it’s not!!! We’re still down nearly $80k in debt over the last 3 years), it’s definitely a come-to-Jesus moment. Hubs and I have had to totally start over on our budget with fresh eyes. Thinking about how to continue making progress on our debt reduction journey while simply surviving (here, we thought we’d be “thriving” with this huge raise). Some tough realizations have been made:

  • Hubs must keep earning an income somehow. Hubs has run a successful flooring business for almost a decade, but recently quit to go back to school. Many people have commented that he should keep his business going for some side-income, but it just doesn’t work that way. Unless you’ve owned a business in the construction trade before, you probably don’t realize how expensive it is just to maintain the proper insurances, licenses, etc. Hubs is NOT the type to do business under the table without the appropriate certifications. It’s a big problem in his industry (and where we live, in particular), and he was not about to go that route. But to just keep his insurances and licenses up to date cost several thousand a year. When we looked at what he was bringing in part-time versus the costs to keep the company legal, it just wasn’t enough to make it worthwhile. And, maybe surprisingly, the flooring trade is not as flexible with a school schedule as we need. Hubs’ first semester back was this past Spring and he had many stressful calls from employees (or worse, home-owners) with issues that demanded immediate attention, while he was still stuck in class for many hours to come. All in all, this was a losing proposition for our family. So now we’re trying to think of more flexible and accommodating ways that hubs can earn some side-money while in school. So far brainstorming has included: driving for uber or lyft, doing some type of food delivery, and perhaps trying to become a personal trainer. Remember – hubs has been big into health and fitness the last couple years, so the latter is his preferred method, but it will also take the longest to get started and requires additional research first. Any other ideas?
  • Food consumption has to get under control. A friend recently posted on facebook to inquire about how much her friends’ families pay per month for groceries. The most common number I saw was $250/week. I have to say, for the past couple of years since I’ve been working 2 jobs, our food budget has been way over $1,000/month (including groceries + eating out). I mean, $1,000/month was a GOOD month. But remembering back to when I first started blogging, it hasn’t always been this way! In fact, my original grocery budget was only $400/month!!! And I stuck to it! To be fair, it was never easy. I would spend a TON of time researching sales, carefully planning meals around sale items and food we already had in our pantry or freezer. I would easily have to go to 2-3 stores per week to get the best priced items (Walmart does their ad matching, but our local Walmart doesn’t have great quality produce). I’d also make a ton of items from scratch. Everything from breads and homemade granola bars to fruit leather and yogurt – even baby wipes I made myself for cheaper than could be bought bulk at Costco. Between ad searching, meal planning, grocery shopping, food prepping, and scratch baking, I probably spent a good 10-15 hours/week on my efforts. It paid off big-time in terms of money saved, but I just simply lacked the time when I started working full time (plus kept my part-time job, on the side). When I accepted my big raise I had to sign a non-compete so I had to leave my part-time job. So even though I still work full-time, I have significantly more time in the early morning/evening/weekend hours to try to devote to some of my old grocery-saving ways. I don’t know that it’s reasonable to get back to only $400/month. But I think if I shoot for $550-600/month (again – that’s for all food: groceries + eating out), it would be a huge savings over our current spending. I’m going to give it an honest effort for the month of August and see how I do.
  • The budget, in general, needs to be slashed. It’s scary how easy it’s been for things to creep up over time. When I first started blogging all our gifts were in the $10-15/range. Recently our gift-giving has been closer to $25-35+/gift. Hubs and I have both rejoined a gym. It’s very important to hubs (and he spends legitimately a ton of time there), but maybe I’ll cancel my own membership to try to save some money since I’m perfectly happy to run outdoors for free as my preferred form of exercise. I also had a friend recently mention that some health insurance companies offer discounts for gym memberships? I need to call Blue Cross, Blue Shield to inquire about this. Spending across the board needs to come down.
  • Debt payments??? Probably the hardest thing to accept is that our debt payments are going to drastically decrease. We’d grown accustomed to throwing thousands a month toward debt! I’m talking many months where we were paying $2500-$3000/month toward debt!!! Obviously if I’m only bringing home $4,500, there’s no room for a $3,000 debt payment. It’s just not possible. So we have to adjust expectations, adjust our 2017 financial goals, and just keep plowing forward, making as much progress as possible with what we have to work with.

So, ultimately, we need to cut our expenses AND try to find a way to increase our income. There’s not much wiggle room for me (since I can’t pick up side work in my current industry), but I think we can try to find solutions to get hubs some part-time side gigs. My focus will be best spent on trying to reduce our food expenses, since that tends to be our #1 monthly expense (cumulatively speaking. And yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s true).

So there you go – I’ve laid it all out on the table. Next up will be formulating a solid budget plan and figuring out how to juggle our debt payments. Especially now that we owe $1,000/month to the IRS from our poor planning last year. Ugh! But baby steps here – if I think about everything at once I become overwhelmed so it’s one thing at a time. We now have a solid “income” figure so we know what we’ll be working with in terms of take-home pay. Now it’s time to figure out how to make our outflow match with our inflow and to find additional areas to cut back.

 

How much does your household spend per month on groceries (and how many people are in the household)? How do you save money on your food budget?


House Hunting….kinda

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Hi from sunny (and HOT) Madison, Wisconsin!!!

I’m here for my work conference and, unfortunately, brought the Tucson heat with me! Just last week the average temperatures were in the mid-80s. I arrived on Tuesday of this week and since I’ve been here it’s been in the high-90s/flirting with 100 degrees F plus muggy. Boo!!! Get it together, Madison! (I kid, I kid – it’s actually quite gorgeous aside from the heat + humidity).

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. The REAL point of this post is about HOUSE HUNTING!!! AHHHHHHHH!!!!!! The time has finally arrived. It’s FINALLY arrived!!!!

Hubs and I had originally planned to start house hunting in early summer but had to push back the start of house-hunting a bit to finish adding to our house down payment fund. As a reminder, we’re planning to put down 20% so we can avoid any mortgage insurance. To do so, we wanted to save up $10,000 during the first half of this year (one of our 2016 goals, now done – yay!!!); we’ll add to that all the money from my money market account (roughly another $10,000…a little more at this point); and, finally, my mom is gifting us a sum of money that I haven’t disclosed.

We decided to start by shopping mortgage lenders. We’ve hired a realtor and got her recommendation, plus called around to all the local credit unions to ask about mortgage current rates (though none of them keep the loans in-house, they can still offer better deals than most big banks). Note, we haven’t actually hired a lender yet or processed any paperwork. At this point, we’ve just begun the process of shopping different lenders. We’re not letting anyone run our credit, etc., until we’ve decided on a lender, so we’re just comparing generalities (by giving our credit, an estimated loan amount, etc.)

I’m pretty sure we’ve found who we’re going to go with, but I’m still waiting to get my contract for the 2016-2017 academic year so we won’t actually start the paperwork process until I have that in hand to prove my continued income, etc.

Once that occurs, the hunt is ON!!! We’ve already been zeroing in on a couple of neighborhoods/areas that we like and I’m dying to actually get in some houses and look around. Can’t wait!!!

In other news – remember how I mentioned having a friend who lives in Madison (it was one of the reasons I was excited about coming here for my conference)? Well, I totally called it because she had her baby literally in the early morning hours on the day I arrived in town. I’m glad many of you advised me to really make the trip more about WORK than about socialization. I’ve been here 2 full days and have yet to see her. I was going to swing by her house this evening after the conference, but she had just gotten home from the hospital, is nursing a 3rd degree tear (in addition to her infant, har har), and just didn’t feel very well. No hurt feelings – I 100% understand. I should be able to go by tomorrow after the conference. Even if it’s just dropping off dinner and a baby gift, I’ll at least be able to say hi and meet the new baby for a couple minutes. I’m sure other parents can relate to the overwhelming craze that surrounds the first couple of days home from the hospital with one’s first child!!! Just sucks that the timing of the conference worked out like it did because I would’ve loved to spend more time together and take advantage of my kids-free nights! ; )

That being said, I’ve been ultra productive while I’ve been here. In between conference sessions I’ve done tons of grading. In the evenings I’ve been making lessons for my Fall classes, updating syllabi and course calendars, and getting final grades up from my summer classes (ahem, and writing this blog post). I still feel way behind (I think that’s my new normal, which is uncomfortable for someone who is always totally on top of their work), but I’m still treading water and doing better than I have most of the summer so it’s all good.

And, why don’t I just continue (since this post is total stream-of-consciousness at this point anyway. Let’s just go on with it, lol)…. my girls’ first day of preschool was today!!!! It still breaks my heart a little that I wasn’t there, but it’s helped that hubs sent lots of fun pictures of the girls all ready to go and full of smiles in their new classroom. I’m not going to lie though, it hurt when I FaceTimed with them this evening and they asked, “Why didn’t you get us from school, Mom?!” (tear). I’ll be home Friday afternoon in time to pick them up, so that will have to suffice. The GREAT news about the girls starting back to school is that it means I can go back to working full-time (thank god, given that I have both a full-time AND a part-time job. Whew! How have I done it all summer with only part-time care?!). When I return I have exactly 1 week before the Fall semester starts and it is literally jam-packed just about every minute of every day with meetings, To Do’s, workshops, etc. It’s insanity! I’m so very thankful to get some solid dedicated work-time in both this week (at least in the evenings after the conference) and next week (while the kids are in school – YAY!)

Sorry it’s been a hot minute since my last post! I’ll try to be better about it but, you know, life.

What’s one good thing happening in your world right now? When do kids go back to school in your area? Any must-do thing in Madison before I leave? I don’t have much time but could maybe squeeze in a restaurant or something???


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!

 


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!


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