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Ashley’s March 2016 Budget Update

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Hey guys! Only a week behind with March’s budget update. Trust me, one week behind isn’t too bad for me right now. heh. Work is a bit in overdrive, but I love it. I’m gearing up, getting ready to be out of town for a solid 8 day cruise and working like a crazy person to try to get everything set just right to run on auto-pilot (fingers crossed) while I’m gone.

Here’s how the month of March went for me:

 

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 176
Water 61
Natural gas 105
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 97
Trash 35
Preschool 1085
Gift-Giving 189
Restaurants 157
Entertainment 102
Kids Activities 142
Groceries 573
Gasoline 108
Household Goods 144
Clothing 157
Rainy Day Savings 1580 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 800 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 2134
Total Budgeted $10,934

 

Comments:

Down Payment Savings ($2000): This is right on track.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by summer time. I’ve had a couple questions about the house-hunting journey. We have NOT started “hunting” yet (though we’ve been doing searches on Zillow just-for-fun and grabbing flyers from homes that are for sale just for comparison). With everything going on, we decided to wait until after the cruise to start hiring people (e.g., realtor, mortgage lender). Our goal is to move late summer or possibly early fall. Our current lease is up at the end of August but our landlord will let us go month-to-month at our current rate (no increase) if we haven’t closed yet by that time. The ideal situation would be to close in late August so there’s just a little overlap of about a week or so. But I know these things can be so unpredictable and we’re lucky to have flexibility with our current landlord. We do NOT, however, want to move much earlier than August (since we’d then be paying double rent/mortgage). So we are not actively on the house-hunt yet. 

Electricity ($176): Remember our outrageous electric bill from February? Fortunately, we only got caught by surprise that one month. Since then, the A/C and heater have both been turned OFF. There have been some hot days (and some cold nights), but it’s been within a range that we as a family could deal with (nothing too extreme). It’s been in the mid-90*s a couple times this week already, so we’ll see how long we can go without any A/C. I already got the bill for April and it’s UNDER $100!!! I’m loving the lower electric bills right now but, like I said…we’ll see how long this lasts (Tucson’s summers are brutal!) The A/C will have to go on at some point.

Gift-Giving ($189): Similar to last month, almost all of this was a charitable donation I made so we could max out Arizona’s tax credit. $25 was for a wedding gift, which was the only non-donation portion of the gift-giving.

Entertainment ($102): A few bucks of this was for music on itunes. The rest was from a date night. 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.

Kids’ Activities ($142): This was a high-spending month for kids’ activities. The bulk of this was from our weekly swim lessons (April is the last month for our lessons; we may re-start once it’s summer time, but the initial point of the swim was to get the kids comfortable around water before our cruise. They’ve been making great strides with safety and although they aren’t fully able to swim, of course, they have learned all kinds of life-saving measures if they were to fall in. Safety was my main concern). $40 of this was from horseback riding lessons and farm time that we did while the girls were on Spring Break. The person who does it is a friend-of-a-friend. She is the Benson Butterfield Rodeo Queen. She lives on a nearby farm and lets kids come out and experience “farm time” (basically feeding and petting/playing with all the animals) for $15/hour and horseback riding lessons for $20/hour. I split the lesson so each child had 30 minutes of instruction and tipped an extra $5 just because she was extremely accommodating. Still kind of spendy for us, but it was a ton of fun and was a great way to spend a couple hours during Spring Break week.

Groceries ($573):  After months and months of struggling to keep this number below $600, we finally pulled it off this month. I think it helped that I had increased flexibility over Spring Break (so I was at the house, able to do more food prep, etc.). I’ve also been making a really conscious effort to prep foods on Sunday for the week to come. I’ve gone so far as to portion out daily portions of fruits and snacks; I’ve pre-cooked chicken breasts for lunches; I’ve pre-washed, peeled and chopped up carrots into sticks for snacks; I’ve pre-made breakfasts (e.g., like making a big batch of pancakes that can be refrigerated/frozen and re-heated in a toaster), etc. etc. etc.  It’s tedious and time consuming and not always the way I want to spend my Sunday afternoons (I typically do everything while the girls nap), but it’s made my life MUCH easier during the week when I do my prep versus when I don’t.

Household Goods ($144): This category is pretty high this month because I spent $100 on stuff for my office. I bought a 5 x 7 rug, a big wall clock, and a painting (all from Big Lots).  I started this job last July, but it just now looks like I’ve actually moved into my office space. It’s really nice, especially since I spend a lot of time there.

Clothing ($157): This is a bit higher than normal for us. A good chunk of it was new shoes for the girls. Kids feet just grow so fast, I tell ya! But we’ve gone the cheap shoe route and they tend to fall apart, so we opt for slightly nicer tennis shoes. This also includes a couple of new work shirts from me from Wish (see my review here) and new summer PJs for the girls since they’ve gotten hot and sweaty a couple of times at night in their long-sleeved jammies (still using no A/C, remember?) ; )

Rainy Day Savings ($1580): I deposited $1580 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000 (goal is to get to $5,000).
  • Birthdays: $200. 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 category so we don’t get caught by surprise in June.
  • Travel/Christmas $50. We like to save at least $50/month in this category, as finances allow (sometimes we skip it if needed).
  • Annual Fees: $280 deposited (though I withdrew $484 for a vehicle emissions inspection and registration for 2 years. That leaves us with $150 still in the account currently)
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. This is a standard auto-payment that we do every month. $25/month per child isn’t a lot, but it’s better than nothing and that’s what we’re comfortable doing right now while we’re still financially focused on getting out of debt (and buying a house!!!)

Savings Goals ($800): $800 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $300 deposited. Another note about this is listed below.
  • Cruise 2016: $500. I also withdrew $35 from my cruise fund to buy some new clothes for the trip.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

Final Thoughts:

We ended up putting more toward debt this month than we’d originally thought we would because the balance transfer really needed to be paid off before April (and we did manage to make that happen). It all worked out, though, because we still hit our goal of $2,000 toward the house down payment fund, and we still started hitting several of our other savings goals. We’ll continue to beef up our emergency fund, specifically, in addition to our other “rainy day savings” funds in the months to come.

Related to savings, I didn’t report the “withdrawal” above because it technically occurred in early April, but I took $1500 out of the “savings for 2015 Roth IRA” and put it into our Roth account (last year was the first year we opened a Roth, with a meager $1300 contribution). Our contribution this year wasn’t great either, but it’s better than nothing and 10% of my paycheck is auto-deducted and invested into a 401(k), so this is actually a little deceiving because we certainly saved more than just $1500 this year.

So there you have it. The big goal remains the same: Save up money for a downpayment for a house, beef up our emergency fund, and continue knocking those student loans in the face. It’s more like little jabs right now while we’re saving so much. But soon it will be full-blown punches! I’m coming for you, student loans! Mwhahaha (<evil debt-paying laugh).


Year Of Becoming An Adult: Final Status

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Back in October 2014 I wrote about wanting to use 2015 to really “become adults.” To me, this meant taking care of some much needed issues that were in addition to my 2015 financial goals. I wrote a few posts throughout the year with updates (January update, March update, September update, October update), so this will be my final update of the series.

  1. Wills. Wills were actually drawn up at the beginning of 2015, but it took us awhile to actually get them notarized. This task was completed by mid-year. Final status = Complete
  2. Life Insurance For Hubs. We had intended to start working on this mid-year, but didn’t actually get around to applying until October. In November hubs completed all the bloodwork and in early December he was asked to supply some additional information (all stemming back to his mysterious illness at the end of 2013 where our medical bills are from). He finished everything on his end but we’re still waiting to hear back from the company. When I first applied for health insurance it took about 3 months to all be processed so I’m thinking this is normal (and not something directly related to his mystery illness). If he doesn’t hear back sometime in the next couple weeks we’ll check back with them but I’ve got my fingers crossed everything is in order and our next interaction will be mailing off a check to actually finish the process. Final status = Well underway, but waiting to hear back from insurance company
  3. Open Retirement Accounts. We opened up a Roth IRA in April 2015 and a 401(a) through my work in July 2015. I fund 10% of my pay to the 401, and we’ve saved a little extra here and there for the Roth (but a truly minimal amount…something I’d like to increase in 2016). Final status = Complete
  4. Open College Savings For The Kids. We opened up one 529 for each child in October 2015 and we’ve been funding them with $25/month each ($50/month total). Not a lot, but every little bit helps! Final status = Complete

Overall, not too shabby. I wish we’d started the life insurance stuff a bit earlier in the year so it was all wrapped up and done by now, but at least it’s well underway and if it doesn’t work out it will be because we were denied (not due to our own lack of trying). But hubs’ health has been great and, especially with his weight loss, I’m really hoping everything goes through smoothly and he’s able to be insured. It will certainly give me great peace of mind.

How have you done on your financial (or other) goals in 2015? Do you have any new goals or resolutions set for 2016? I’d love to hear them!

 


Year of Becoming an Adult: March Update

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This year hubs and I vowed as one of our New Year’s Resolutions to do a lot of things that would move us closer (in our own minds) to becoming full-fledged “adults” (said in quotations since we’re 31 and 32, respectively, so obviously already legally adults for a long time now).

If you need a refresher, I talked about our 2015 resolutions/goals here, and I gave an update on how we did in the month of January here.

You may be wondering why there’s no February update?

Heh. No progress to report.

Yeah.

But I’m here today because I DO have some progress to report for this month. Wahoo!

Remember that in January I added hubs to my accounts, but I still hadn’t yet been added to his accounts (due to time constraints). We got our power of attorney forms notarized, but not our wills.

Well, here’s our March update:

  • I’ve now officially been added to hubs’ accounts. He’s on mine; I’m on his. Done.
  • We still do not have our wills notarized. We’re planning to do it this month, but its proven incredibly challenging (we need two witnesses, so we’ve had a tough time with trying to find a time that works for multiple people to come with us to the notary).
  • And my personal favorite update for the month:  We finally have a Roth IRA!!!

This has been a big deal to me because I’ve really wanted to start a retirement account. We’ve only been saving $100/month and finally opened a Vanguard account (which has a $1,000 minimum) with a whopping $1,050. I wish it were more (and I’d originally hoped to be able to throw more money toward it this month), but it is what it is. Given our immense debt, this is probably for the best.

One thing that’s kind of a bummer – we didn’t have enough money to open an account for each of us (hubs and I), so we only opened a single account in my name. Hubs is listed as beneficiary if I die (with our kids as the secondary beneficiaries if we both died), but I would have liked if we’d each had our own account. Aside from the obvious (divorce), is there any real reason for or against opening one versus multiple accounts? Just curious, as I’m totally inexperienced in the retirement savings arena.

Other fun “year of becoming an adult” things coming up on our agenda include:

  • Getting wills notarized! This is first and foremost, at the top of our To Do list!
  • Filing taxes in April (boo! hiss!). We do not have a return (in fact, I’m fearful we’ll owe a bit), so this is NOT a fun thing for us.
  • Re-start the process of trying to get hubs health insurance (last time we tried didn’t work out because it was too soon after hubs experienced a medical mystery illness….the same illness that set us back $9,000). We’re hoping that since it’s been a full year now since his mystery illness that he’ll be able to score some life insurance. Planning to start this process in May.
  • Open 529s for our toddlers, probably in June. Their birthday is in June and I was thinking that instead of spending money on presents and a party that it’d be nice to set some money aside for their future college educations. However, this is still a bit of a pipe dream, as I haven’t researched it yet so I have no details at this time (e.g., is there a minimum to open a 529? what are the rules/regulations/policies/whatever?) So we’ll see.

I think those are the really big things, but if there’s anything that jumps out to you as something a “real adult” should really be doing, then let me know! I’m happy to add things to our list! : )

 


The Year of Becoming an Adult

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Hubs and I have been talking a lot about different life things lately.

This year has been a big turning point for our family. We’ve really committed to the decision to get rid of our debt and we’ve made huge improvements in this area (yes, we still have an enormous amount of student loan/medical debt, but we’ve eradicated all credit card debt and drastically slashed our license fee debt, while also lowering our interest rate and making big progress on our car loan debt).

And as the end of 2014 draws near, we’ve been discussing big goals for next year. After some  discussions, we have decided to declare 2015 The Year of Becoming Adults!!!

Now, this may sound strange. Yes, husband is 32 and I will be turning 31 soon (my birthday is on New Years Eve!), so if you look at age you would certainly think of us as “adults.”

But you guys know all our dirty little secrets. You know we’re not full-fledged adults yet….at least not from a financial perspective.

In 2015 we’re hoping to change that!

Right now (and through March 2015 – one full year of blogging), I am going to stay steadfast in putting every extra dollar toward debt. I’ve talked before about how at that time I might reassess things and move at a bit slower pace. We have decided that with at least some of our “extra” money (currently put toward debt), we are going to make some big strides toward becoming more adult.

  1. First, we’re going to make a will. This is not going to be fun and I am not looking forward to it. Part of the reason we decided to make 2015 the year-of-adulthood is because I don’t want to deal with this type of paperwork as the holidays approach (maybe not an adult way to handle the situation but, hey, I’m working on it).
  2. Second, husband will get life insurance (hopefully!). I have my life insurance all in place, but we have had a LOT of struggles with getting him insured. After some talking, we’ve decided to put it on hold right now. Hubs’ medical mystery illness (discussed here) occurred at the end of 2013 so we want to get past the 1-year mark, hoping that this will make a difference and improve our chances of getting him covered. We’re also probably going to go with a different company than the one we’ve been dealing with, but we’re still looking into options.
  3. Third, we’re going to open retirement accounts. You may recall that after we paid off our last credit card I created a new savings category called “savings for Roth IRA.” So I already semi-started this by at least setting money aside on a monthly basis. In 2015 we’ll actually open an account and get this all started on an official basis.
  4. Finally, we’re going to open college savings accounts for our girls. We haven’t talked exact numbers yet (regarding #3 and #4), but at least some money will be set aside monthly (probably in a 529) as a college fund for each of our children (we have 2).

I know this all flies in the face of a Dave Ramsey-eque model of debt eradication.

For any who are unfamiliar, Dave suggests having only a $1,000 emergency fund while working on eradicating debt. He also advocates stopping contributions to retirement and kids’ college accounts while in debt reduction-mode.

Honestly, though, the idea of not doing these things (i.e., saving for retirement especially, and putting at least some money aside for college) scares me. We just came up with our grand 2015 vision and haven’t talked numbers yet. Plus, its difficult to talk numbers when our income is so variable and I’m on the job market and could potentially have a big change in income in the coming year. This is something we’ll have to sit down and discuss at length in the coming months.

But numbers aside, I just wanted to let you guys know about our plans. I know these thoughts and ideas are going to ruffle some feathers because the goal of this blog is debt-eradication and switching gears from full steam ahead to a lower gear of debt-reduction is not necessarily a popular decision.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do come March 2015 in terms of blogging. I love the support and advice I get from you all and if readers are interested in me continuing at that point (with the knowledge that debt reduction would be done at a slower pace) then I may continue to write and contribute. But I don’t want to upset readers and/or cheapen the mission of this site in any way by taking sole focus off of debt-reduction.

We’re not at that point today so it’s not as if any big decisions need to be made right now. I just feel like I want to be honest and open with you all, as you have been so supportive of me on this journey. I want you to know where it and I, as a person, are headed.

Do you have any big goals or resolutions for 2015? What financial goals are you currently striving toward?