Warning: This post is a bit of a doozy! Reminds me of when I first started blogging and would basically write a novel for each post! But everything is related so instead of breaking it up into separate smaller-sized posts you’ve got one monster post to contend with. Maybe make yourself a cup of coffee and settle in with a little snack. This is gonna take awhile!
One of the things I did over my winter blogging break was to analyze my 2014 spending and do some planning for 2015 budgeting and savings needs. I’m trying to shake up my budget categories a bit for 2015. For one, I want to do away with my “miscellaneous” budget all together. I want everything categorized. This will make it infinitely easier in future months/years to look back and easily see exactly where my money has gone (as opposed to this year…where I had to look at each month’s spending individually and start to categorize things on my own).
Basically, I wanted to see where this “miscellaneous” money was going and see if I could plan and budget for it. In addition to my normal budget categories (see latest budget here), here are some new categories I’ve come up with:
- Gift-giving. I’ve greatly reduced the amount I’ve been spending on gifts since starting to blog here at BAD, but it’s not down to zero! This needs its own category.
- House maintenance. Looking at the past year, this is mostly gardening-related stuff (some tools, plants, mulch), but it also includes things like light bulbs and cleaning supplies. There’s nothing too major cost-wise, but still enough random miscellaneous expenses to justify its own category.
- Phone/Computer Items and Repairs. I broke my phone twice this year. I now have a serious heavy-duty case on it, but should the unthinkable happen again (fingers crossed), I decided to make this it’s own budgeted category. In addition to phone repairs, this year I had to buy a new charger for my computer and an external hard drive to back up my work, so expenses like that fall into this category as well.
- Holiday expenses. Non gift-giving holiday related expenses. Things like Halloween costumes, 4th of July sparklers, and holiday decorations. This was also a relatively small category of spending.
- Clothing purchases. I’ve actually successfully avoided the clothing-shopping bug this holiday season. I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big shopper in general, but I usually have one or two big shopping splurges a year where I’ll spend over $100+. This year I’ve done really well with making do with what I have and only filling in with absolute necessities (like when I had to buy a new pair of pants when my old ones had already been mended twice and were falling apart). Again – a small category in terms of money spent.
- Work-Related. This was primarily for parking-related expenses when I would drive to campus for meetings. I haven’t been going to campus as regularly in recent months so some of these expenses have fallen away, but this also includes anything specifically work-related (e.g., licensing for special data analytic software, printer paper, ink cartridges, etc.)
- One-Time Expenses. This was a tiny, tiny category but there were still a couple random things that came up that don’t fall within any other category. I’m calling them one-time expenses.
Please note, I will certainly NOT be spending money in each of these categories every month! For instance, I only spent money on work-related purchases 6 months out of this past year; only spent money on holiday expenses 3 months out of the past year, etc. But these will be categories that may pop up from time to time along with my regular budget categories, depending on what that month demands. Instead of having such a rigid, set number of budget categories, my new 2015 budget will be more fluid depending on that specific month’s needs. I think this will be a much better system overall.
What Else is Changing?
I did a careful analysis of all my monthly savings categories. It’s obvious that we were not budgeting enough toward dental and car maintenance, for instance. By tallying up our actual expenses for the full year, I was able to get a better picture of our real needs in these areas. Let me address each one individually:
||This is a perfect amount. It covers annual life insurance premium, car registrations, and Costco membership. It actually also left us a little bit extra leftover, but I’m not reducing the monthly amount saved because we’ll be adding life insurance for hubs soon, too.
||My calculations actually amounted to only $166/month needed for vehicle repairs, but I’m rounding up to $200/month because I know we will be needing to replace husband’s work truck at some point (probably this year), so I want to save a little extra. This will amount to $2400 saved for the year. Note that when we come up with an exact time frame to buy a new (new-to-us) work truck, this figure may need to be bumped up for a few months.
||Our actual costs here would amount to needing $3651 for the year (just over $300/month). BUT, we’re going to purchase a dental discount plan in January and will see how much it will save us. Husband is going to go get a full exam and see exactly how much dental work he is quoted. I think we’ve covered the “big” stuff at this point (fingers crossed) and, in the meantime we’ll continue saving $125/month, but will adjust this number depending on his dental appointment with an in-network dentist.
||Of course, this doesn’t fully cover our travel and/or Christmas-related expenses, but it was never intended to fully cover those costs. It does what it needs to do, which is to off-set some of the costs incurred. Any extra money needed will come from that month’s budget.
|3-6 Months Expenses
||Ugh! Still owe you guys a post about the emergency fund. Right now, though, the amount being contributed will remain the same on a monthly basis.
||Previously, I was only saving for potential vet expenses. I’m changing this category to cover food costs for the full year (about $50 every other month), plus the pet registration required by our county, and a couple hundred dollar buffer for potential vet expenses. I’ll likely fully fund this savings in January and just draw from it all year long.
||Staying the same
|2014 Roth IRA
||Staying the same
|(+ one-time $500 expense from the dog expenses category)
This brings me to…
My 2015 Financial Goals
In 2014 I paid monthly debt payments that equaled $25,091!!! This is actually a conservative number because it only includes the planned debt payments. Remember that before I was living on last month’s income I would often make debt payments bi-monthly: once was the planned debt payment (which this figure represents), and then I’d make a second payment at the end of the month with any extra “surplus” money from the month. (Side note for new readers: I did this because we have a variable income so I made conservative debt payments initially, then when I figured out exactly how much income we had for the month, I’d put any money leftover toward debt. Now that I live on last month’s income I know exactly how much money we have at the beginning of the month and, thus, have eliminated the need for any extra payments because I do a zero-based budget so there is no money leftover at the end of the month).
So my goal for 2015 is to pay at least $30,000 toward debt payments.
Whoa. That’s a big, huge number. $30,000 is a full annual salary for many people! To say we’ll put that much toward debt is certainly a lofty goal. But you have to shoot for the moon, right? ; )
What debts do I plan to eradicate from our lives with that $30,000???
Well, some of the money will be going toward minimum payments for all of our debts and interest, of course. But with extra debt money I plan to eliminate the license fees, car loan, and highest interest unsubsidized student loan. Then our only debts remaining will be medical bills and additional student loans. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll still have a ton of debt (I have almost $100,000 in student loans, alone), but it will feel so good to knock out some of these smaller debts in their entirety! So, so good, indeed.
How Will I Do This?
I’m a firm believer that all goals require careful and strategic planning. If you just pull a goal out of the air its really more of a hope or a dream. Goals, in my opinion, require more careful calculation than that.
So it might surprise you that my answer to this question (How Will I Do It?) is….”Who Knows!?” ; )
This year could potentially be full of many big changes. If I land a job here in Tucson then my salary will double and we won’t have any moving costs. Win! If I land a job elsewhere then my salary will more than double, but we lose husband’s salary and incur moving expenses. If I don’t land a job then I keep making what I’m currently making, try to find additional work, and husband focuses on building his business. Oh yeah, and I’d love to start saving for a house down payment at some point (once we know where we’ll be)! There are so many unknowns!
What I do know is that I want to keep working as hard as I can on reducing our debt. BUT, that being said, I do still plan to let up a little steam (just a teeny, tiny bit) in March 2015. Remember this whole post about finding balance??? It still stands. I don’t think I’ll give up the blogging (I love it and you guys too much), but don’t be surprised if you see a “date night” pop up in the budget every other month or so. That’s a big expense that we’ve done without for the majority of this past year (honestly, for the majority of the last 2.5 years since we had kids!!!). But I also think it’s important to nurture our relationship and while our kids have been infants/toddlers our marriage has taken a bit of a back seat. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no trouble in paradise or anything like that!!! But I think it’s time to make dating my husband and nurturing our relationship more of a priority in our lives. And even if we do so cheaply, it still costs money.
I’ve got one more curve-ball….
I’ve spoken before about retirement savings and how we’d like to start funding a Roth IRA. Although our contributions for 2014 are pretty measly, I’ve been talking more to hubs about it and we’ve come to an agreement about the matter. Once the highest interest student loan and license fees are paid in full, I want to bump up our Roth IRA contributions. Ideally, I’d like to work toward having fully funded Roths for both hubs and myself. We haven’t committed to an exact number yet at this point, so it may be that we double our current savings (go up to $200/month) or triple them (up to $300/month), or we could even aim to have fully funded Roths (about $458/month x 2, for each of us). We’re not there yet so I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be with saving that much while our existing debt is still incurring so much interest. It’s something we’ll think about more moving forward (and feel free to weigh in on the topic). But just let it be known – once these two fees are paid in full (license fees and highest interest unsubsidized student loan), our Roth contributions will be increased…while still trying to hit the $30,000 mark for debt payments this year.
So cross your fingers for us or wish us luck (or call us crazy).
No matter what 2015 holds in store, I feel like it will be a very good year!
What are your financial plans for 2015? Any big budget changes? Any lofty financial goals? What do you think of our goals and plans?