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Ashley’s July 2015 Budget Update

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Happy August! Despite the terrible heat Tucsonians experience in August, it’s one of my favorite months of the year. My husband and favorite (only) sister both have birthdays this month. My girls’ original due date was this month (I ended up having them 8 weeks early – at the end of June – but they were due in August). And we get the most incredible monsoons in August. I love the sound of an afternoon storm raging on outside the window while the girls nap and I busy myself with work, cleaning, or even a little afternoon reading. : )

Now that it’s a fresh month, let’s see how last month shaped up:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 209
Water 68
Natural gas 16
Sprint (2 lines) 115
Cable/Internet 103
Car Insurance 155
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1378
Gift-Giving 60
Restaurants 109
Entertainment 15
Groceries 537
Gasoline 70
Household Goods 39
Clothing 52
Parking 96
Postage 10
Savings 1209
Debt Payments 2125
Total 7850

 

Explanations:

Most of the budget is in-line with summer spending. Here’s a little commentary on specific categories of spending:

  • Preschool ($1378) went up this month because the girls started going full-time on July 13th.
  • Gift-giving ($60) accounts for $45 worth of gift cards for our preschool teachers for their last day of school ($15 gift card each), + a $15 charitable donation to a children’s nonprofit organization we like to support. This specific organization also qualifies as a tax credit (basically – instead of paying state taxes to Arizona, it’s like directing those taxes directly toward the organization we support). We like to donate $400 (the max allowed), so you’ll see additional donations in the future.
  • Gasoline ($70) is lower than normal (despite increased driving) because I’ve been taking advantage of Fry’s fuel rewards program. In my area Fry’s grocers give points (generally $1 spent = 1 point) that accumulate and can be used for cheaper gas (100 points = 10 cents off per gallon). This summer they’ve been doing double points ($1 = 2 points), and I’ve been racking up the points! My last fill-up I got 70 cents off per gallon!!!
  • Clothing ($52) accounts for a new pair of nice work pants and a work dress both from Banana Republic. Both were on mega-sale earlier in the month (marked down + an additional 50% off!). I needed a couple new work pieces, and these were a killer deal!
  • Parking ($96) is from all my daily parking + the prorated summer parking pass I bought for work.
  • Savings ($1209) is a bit deceptive. $484 went toward car repairs (so…I put it in our car savings account in Capital One 360, and then I withdrew it for some repairs we had to deal with earlier in the month). The rest of the savings were allocated as follows: $500-cruise 2016, $100-annual fees savings account; $100-Roth IRA savings; $25-girls’ college savings*.

*Note: One of my goals this year in respect to “the year of becoming adults” was to open up college savings for our girls. I haven’t actually opened up ESAs yet, but I’ve earmarked that $25 as the first contribution. I hope to set up the accounts this month and start depositing money more regularly (initially in very small quantities) as our debt continues to decrease.

I’m so excited for the coming months as I start to get paid at my new job! I already got one paycheck (albeit a smaller one given I started in the middle of a pay-period), so August will be my first month will full-time regular pay. We live on last month’s income, so it still won’t really impact our budget until September, but I’m already itching to make some really big debt payments! Can’t wait!!!

How did you do with your budget in the month of July?


My Thoughts About My Month Off

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I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to their week, even after the bad news we all got (Ashley’s Father). Ashley- if you’re reading this, my heart goes out to you and your family during this time.

Writing this post seems pretty trivial after this weekend, but now it’s nearing the end of my month off from paying off any debt, I want to provide everyone with my what my feelings have been during this time:

  • I felt like I had more money than ever before. Which was true- I’ve never been able to spend like I spent this month without incurring extra. And even with this fact in mind, the money is all gone, sorta- I put $500 into my savings.  But I can plainly see how people’s expenses can grow to meet their income, and it a lot of cases, exceed their income, without a good deal of oversight.
  • I felt good spending the money. It was awesome (and greatly needed) that I bought new clothes. It felt good to be able to spend “freely” in Disney. We’ve certainly enjoyed eating out and going for ice cream and the other activities we did that we normally wouldn’t have.
  • But I don’t want to make it a habit. I had a ton of money to spend, I spent it, it felt pretty good spending it, but I don’t want to make it a habit. In the short term- I have the goal of paying off debt while saving as much as I can for retirement. In the long term, I may be debt free, but I don’t want to live with a mountain of stuff only because I’ll have the money available. I think this may be obvious to a lot of you that I wouldn’t want to end up this way after spending so many years tackling this debt, but I want to reiterate it here for my own peace of mind after all the spending I did this month. It was a fun month but not the lifestyle I want to live.
  • And at the end I’m no happier than I was. At the end of this month, with all the money I spent, I didn’t leave this month any happier than it began. It may be because I still have a mountain of debt to payoff, or it may be because after all the “stuff” I bought, it couldn’t buy me happiness, just like the cliche saying. The Disney trip made me unbelievable happy and I’ll always have those memories- but it was over in an instant and we we’re back to everyday lives, albeit with some added post-Disney depression.
  • However, it did make me ready to go again for more payoff. I think this was the biggest outcome I got from the month off. TBH- I was feeling very mentally drained towards the end of June, which I think you could all tell, so this allowed me a little bit of R&R. But now, I’m READY to get back into it! Like an athlete that had to sit out a year due to injury, I’m going to hit the next half of my payoff with a full head of steam, (while still having that oh so important life/payoff balance :))

What are your thoughts concerning my month off? Have you done anything similar? Was it worth it or did you regret it? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have one more week of my month off (but I pay my mortgage this week, so it won’t feel like it), at which point I’ll be back with my weekly debt updates and my month ending reviews.

Have a great rest of your week!


New Phone Network

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Hi all! First, I just wanted to say thank you for all your kind comments about my Dad! I’ll let you know when I know more about what the future may look like in that regard. In the meantime, I’ve got a few more financially-oriented posts planned for today. I hope you all have a great Monday!

Similar to Hope’s recent post about saving money on her cell phone, we just made a change, too!

For years and years we had T-Mobile (loved their customer service), but as an Apple family, the iphone lured me away and we switched to Sprint 2 years ago (this was before T-Mobile picked up the iphone).

Well, our 2-year contract is up and although we aren’t dissatisfied with Sprint in any way, I’ve been looking to make a change in the name of saving a buck.

At first I thought about trying to go with one of the super cheap wireless networks (like Ting or Republic Wireless), but we wouldn’t get to keep our iphones, and given that we take long road-trips through remote areas at least twice a year (during which time cell service would be spotty), we decided not to make the switch at this time. It was tempting….but ultimately we decided its not for us at this time.

Then a couple weeks ago a T-Mobile rep called to try to win us back. They offered us new, upgraded phones, more data (which really matters for me because I’ve been having to really carefully ration my data with Sprint so I wouldn’t run out every month), AND free personal hotspots (which doesn’t matter for me as much, but hubs uses it with a tablet he takes to customer’s homes so he can do immediate estimates and have invoices signed on-site). All that, plus unlimited talk + text and the determining factor for both of us….it’s a little bit cheaper!

We weren’t able to save a hundred bucks a month or anything, but our regular Sprint bill has been $115/month. With taxes and fees and everything included, our new T-Mobile bill should cost us $100/month. It’s just a bonus that we’ll be returning to a provider that we’ve previously had good experiences with (seriously, they have fantastic customer service!)

We just received our new fancy-pants upgraded phones in the mail and I’m already obsessed! I have a little bit of blog money I haven’t touched, so I told hubs I’d splurge to buy us both new cases so we can (hopefully) avoid broken phones or shattered screens (I’ve shattered my iphone screen TWICE since I’ve been blogging here and the replacement screens are not cheap!)

It may only be a savings of $15/month, but that’s $180/year! Every little bit helps!

Have you saved money on your monthly bills recently? 


Parking Wars

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Anyone who has ever attended a large university knows that parking is typically pretty pricey. To give you a sampling of some of the universities I’m familiar with, the University of Texas parking is insane. My college roommate parked at a far-off satellite spot still about a mile from her classes and she paid $300 PER MONTH to park there! PER MONTH!!!!!!

For my Master’s degree I attended a smaller university so parking was pretty reasonable – $50/semester. My current university is a larger one and parking here is what I’d consider mid-range for large universities: $600 per academic year.

But even though $300/semester isn’t too bad (relatively speaking), they kill you on the daily parking rates! On my first day of the new job I jumped on the parking and transportation website and there was no information about summer parking permits. The only available info talked about academic year parking permits. So I assumed I’d have to pay the daily rate until the academic year officially begins in a month.

But the daily rates are crazy! I’d been paying $10/day – that’s $50/week just to park on campus. And, unfortunately, there really aren’t options for parking off campus. There are busses, but they don’t run out to where I live (I live in the suburbs, just outside Tucson city limits, whereas the university is located directly mid-town). And if you try to park in the neighborhoods you’ll get towed immediately. So unless I get a motorcycle (for which parking is much cheaper, but we don’t own a motorcycle and I can never see myself riding one), I’m stuck paying for parking.

On Thursday night I started thinking about parking. $50/week; 5 weeks – we’re talking $250 in parking costs until the academic year permit goes into effect! That’s insanity! Who can afford that!?

So Friday morning I called the parking and transportation office and – wouldn’t you know – they DO offer summer permit parking passes. The prorated rate for the remainder of summer costs exactly $56.

At this point I slap my own forehead in disgust of the amount of money I’ve spent on parking, knowing I could have saved myself by buying this permit that wasn’t advertised on the website!

So the moral of the story is ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask! Wish I would’ve asked on day #1 and saved myself $50! A very expensive lesson to learn. At least I’ve kept my parking receipts for tax purposes. Even though it’s a pain, every little bit helps. Moving forward I’ll be able to have parking expenses automatically withdrawn from my paycheck pre-tax so I won’t have to worry about keeping up with receipts, etc. Good stuff.

Do you remember how much you paid for parking when you were in college (also – what type of college: large, medium, small?)


Disney Trip and a Not Frugal Weekend

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Happy Tuesday!

Today marks 2 days until we leave for Florida. We have cemented our plans to be as frugal as possible for the drive down. We grabbed a large cooler from GF’s mom , which we are going to fill with pasta salad, fruit salad, sandwiches and drinks. GF has been couponing like crazy the past couple weeks to stock up on all kinds of snacks- chips, pretzels, granola bars, etc. It’s only a 16 hour day, but we may have enough to last a week if we needed to, lol, which will be great to restock our pantry once we’re home. Thanks to Den for commenting on a post a couple weeks ago, we’re going to make a big batch of chili for dinner tomorrow and freeze the remainder for when we get home so we won’t have to worry about lunch and dinner for a day or so.

And here’s the thing about once we get to Disney, I don’t want to be frugal. We may be doing what we can to save money on the way down and when we come back home, but I don’t want to be counting pennies once I’m there. I’m not saying I’ll be throwing my money away and going way over budget either, just that I want to enjoy my vacation- I didn’t take this month off for nothing. What do you guys think?

Our house is finally all clean (after a pretty hectic week and a half) and due to GF couponing skills, we have a really stock of cleaning products, so the only items we needed to buy to accomplish this task was carpet cleaner solution and more Swiffer cleaning solution, coming in at a total of about $20.

Last Wednesday was the first paycheck I’ve ever received (after college) where I didn’t either have a bill due for some type of debt, or felt an obligation to pay down some debt. And it felt awesome. After I accounted for paying our utilities, gas, side grocery money, and my nephew’s ESA fund contribution, it felt like I had more money that I knew what to do with. That feeling didn’t last long, as I knew I wanted to buy myself some new clothes, sunglasses and sneakers. I had this planned since I revealed that I was going to take a month off from debt payments in May. I’m very, very happy that I spent as much as I did (over $550) as 1) The newest summer clothes I own are over 3 years old 2) it felt good to spend money on myself. I may have went a little aboard, but I tend to take pretty good care of my clothing, sneakers and accessories so that they last awhile. And I know I’m no bargain shopper as the clothes I tend to gravitate to are never on sale. How do you budget and shop for clothing?

With vacation starting on Thursday and going for a week and some days, I won’t have a post next week. So I hope everyone has a great couple of weeks, and I will update everyone once I get back.


Month in Review- June 2015

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Hey Everyone! I hope you’re all having a great week.

It’s July 2nd, so that means it’s time for a month in review. June went by in a flash, didn’t it? The summer months always seem to fly by so fast.

Since I didn’t post on Tuesday, I want to share a couple of items that happened over the weekend:

  • The same couple that I went out with earlier in June, invited me and GF out again; this time for dinner AND a movie (BTW- Jurassic World is AMAZING). I happily said “Yes!” but it also broke my “fun” budget for the month, which I carried $50. It wasn’t a big deal since my buddy asked me earlier in the week and I was able to budget for the dinner and movie out of my paycheck vs. having to dip into my emergency fund. I’m just really excited that I don’t have to say “No” to everything anymore.
  • I didn’t have a debt update to share since my last paycheck of the month is delegated to paying my mortgage and some other smaller bills. If I didn’t have any plans during this week, I could normally set aside $70-80 for a debt payment. Since I went out to dinner instead, I made no debt payment this week.

As for June, there was a lot that happened, so to review:

  • Firstly, now that most of my smaller debts are paid off (with only one more to go below $10,000) I had an internal struggle (The Hard Wins) on how to deal with the the fact that the payoffs are going to be few and far between now.
  • The day after my “Hard Wins” post, I increased my 401k contribution from 4% to 10% (which I mentioned in the comments of that same post). Update: I think this was a wise decision. For one- I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my take home pay. It ended up being about a $60 difference, but it’s definitely not hurting my ability to pay my bills. Plus, it’s awesome to see my retirement account grow so much faster!
  • In the following post (Time Off), I decided to use the month of July as a vacation from paying off debt to both enjoy my vacation to Disney and clear my head so I can hit August refreshed and ready to go. Update: vacation is only 7 days away (yay!) and this Wednesday’s paycheck marks the first paycheck in a LONG time (if ever) where I didn’t have to make a debt payment. I’m using all the extra  money to buy myself some new clothes and to stock up on supplies (more on this on Tuesday)
  • I went out for dinner and drinks with a with an awesome couple, in which my “fun” fund came in really handy (here) and was most definitely worth it.
  • In this post (Birthday Party), I went to a good friend’s son’s 1st birthday party. Since I started an ESA account, I figured I give the gift of some cash for my buddy to start one of his own for his son.
  • In the same post, we began our planning for Disney. Since we are driving down, a lot of you had some great ideas our how to make our trip as fun and as frugal as we can. We’ve incorporated many of the ideas into our plan as we want to spend as little money as we have to on our drive down and then back up.
  • Lastly, we had a little Father’s Day celebration (Father’s Day) where GF did some amazing little things for me, as I am the father to our kids (lol, they’re dogs). We also started cementing our Disney plans and GF used her couponing skills to get us a whole bunch of goodies on the cheap.

As for my debt paydown, no big milestones met this month, but I still paid off $1,592.21. Down to a balance of $48,466.83. Not my best month, but not my worst, either.

Hope everyone has a great holiday!


Something’s Come Up

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I’ve written this post several times in my head but have had a difficult time putting it down on paper. First, because it’s a difficult subject to discuss. And second, because while I have tried to be as open and honest with y’all as much as possible in many regards (you all know more about my financial life than just about anyone in my real life except my husband!), I don’t think it’s fair for me to bare all the details about other people’s business.

And so with that being said, I’ll tell you now…something has come up.

A very close family member is experiencing pretty debilitating health issues, the full extent of which has yet to be determined. This was a semi-gradual thing, as I started noticing warning signs and symptoms over a year ago. But in the past few months things have reached the next level.

I don’t know what will happen next in terms of this person’s health (though I hope for the best, my fear is that the incident that brought this all to light is really only the beginning of a long road ahead). But I can tell you, in terms of my finances, that I’ll be incurring some additional expenses I hadn’t previously anticipated.

To be more specific, hubs and I have decided that we are going to be making a trip this summer that was previously unanticipated. In the big scheme of things, this won’t be too costly. We went on a trip this past summer and again over Christmas time. So from that perspective, it falls directly in line with last year’s spending habits. It’s just the fact that we hadn’t thought about or planned to take a trip this summer so its money that would otherwise have gone directly toward debt (not to mention the no-income month of May).

I will also say, with the limited medical information I have at this time (hopefully I’ll learn more soon), I think this could have future financial implications as well. I won’t dive into “what ifs” until more is known, but there is a possibility of future trips as well (not just the one this summer).

Our time is so fleeting here on Earth. Remember back when we had 4 new bloggers and we were doing a weekly Q&A series? One of the questions asked, “What is the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?”

We never did get around to answering that question as a group, but even at that time I absolutely knew my answer: Not living near family. THAT is my biggest sacrifice.

When I was in graduate school my #1 goal in life was to graduate and immediately move back by family. When we had kids (during my last year of grad school), that feeling only intensified. But things change in life. Husband’s business was growing and by the time I graduated in 2013 we really weren’t in a financial position to pick up and move. It just didn’t make sense to leave husband’s income and move to a place where he had none. What would we do? Move back in with parents? That wasn’t a desirable option for either of us. The much more reasonable and undoubtedly financially sound decision was to stay put. Husband keeps working his job, I keep working mine, and we keep chipping away at our debt.

But it was a tough pill to swallow.

During 2009-2010 (our early years in Arizona, before we had kids), my grandfather suffered from a series of health issues. He had 3 strokes – each worse than the one before. He had to have multiple surgeries. He ended up living on-and-off in different rehabilitation clinics so he could regain strength and motor ability following each of his health set-backs. Being so far away during that time crushed me. Not only did I hate not being there for my Grandpa, but I hated not being there for everyone else, too. You see, a major health issue like this affects the ENTIRE family, not just the afflicted individual. My poor mother was killing herself to try to be at my grandfather’s beck and call (mind you, the woman still works a full-time job, too). My sister had to run errands, buy groceries, cook food, and help with his meds. My brother went over to mow the grass, check the mail, and walk the dog. And on and on and on. You know who didn’t do anything? ME.

Granted, not for lack of caring. Of course I’d like to share in the burden and help my family! But the distance is extremely difficult. I’d call and chat and try to lift spirits a bit. We visited a couple times a year. But I was unable to help in any of the day-to-day duties that ended up piled on my other family members’ shoulders. That type of guilt is a difficult thing to overcome.

And so here we are again. A different situation, granted – different person, different health issues, different treatment and prognosis.

This type of storm would be so much easier to weather if we were debt free. Absolutely! It’s a big motivator to get out of debt.

But at the same time, it’s a big reminder that life does not wait until after the debt is gone. You can’t just push “pause” and hope everything remains the same for multiple years until the debt-monster has been eradicated.

So I will try to take a balanced approach. Nothing in my debt plan of action will change – I will continue on as usual (paying $500/month toward my balance transfer loan, as much as possible toward my car loan, and all else will be minimums), but I may end up traveling a bit more than anticipated, which means we may have a little less to put toward debt during those months than during others.

All we can do at this time is wait and see what happens. Visit more doctors. Gather more information. Come up with a health plan-of-action. And hope for the best.

What’s the hardest sacrifice you’ve made to get out of debt?


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