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2015 Financial Planning & Goals


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:







Annual Expenses $100/mo $100/mo 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.
Car Maintenance $100/mo $200/mo 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.
Dental/Vision/Health $125/mo $125+ ??? 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.
Christmas/Travel $25/mo $25/mo 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 $25/mo $25/mo 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.
Dog Expenses $10/mo $500/year 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.
Girls’ Birthday $10/mo $10/mo Staying the same
2014 Roth IRA $100/mo $100/mo Staying the same
TOTAL $495/mo  



(+ 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?

2013 Spending Plan WORK IN PROGRESS


I’ve taken some time and put together a partial 2013 spending plan.  I say partial b/c I am currently not sure what my 2013 take home pay is actually going to work out to be because I made a lot of changes to help me with taxes, I now have my health insurance taken out, the reversing of the payroll tax “discount,” etc.  I was using the fact that I will not know my exact take home pay beginning in January 2013 as an excuse for not setting up a budget for my “spending money.”  I caught myself using that excuse so here I am to just get started.

By way of information for new readers, I’m in a good place with knowing my regular monthly bills and laid out those constants in a post about a month ago but it is those little here and there spending items that kept getting me and that I did not have a plan for.  I just had weekly spending money that had to cover things that came up.  That isn’t a great way to manage your money I have learned and so I’m trying to lay out something super specific.  My readers have challenged me to do so and while I’m thankful, I’m also a little cranky.  🙂  I don’t like getting this specific which is exactly why I must do it.

I’ve decided to go with the cash in envelopes system to start on these items. The “use my spending money” method is far too lenient.  I cannot keep track of what I am spending in that manner.  So, from each paycheck I will set aside cash in envelopes for these items:

Kid incidental spending (from this will come field trip fees, school pictures, fundraising contributions, teacher gifts, birthday gifts for parties they attend):  $20.  Looking back at this year’s spending it appears that January and February will be light on the spending for kid incidentals so I should be able to set aside $80-$100 as a good start on this fund.  (After re-reading the list you will see below I can already see that this category is too broad.  I’ll re-work it but am leaving it here as the learning tool it might be for a reader).

Clothing budget for me:  $25 per paycheck.  I received clothing as gifts (or gift cards that I can use toward clothing) so I am good on clothes and shoes for at least 3, probably 6, months.

Beauty Budget:  $25 per paycheck.  Since beginning the blog I have dramatically reduced my spending at the hair salon.  I mean DRAMATICALLY.  This fund will be for my now twice a year visits for a good cut and color as well as the cheap in between hair coloring I do at home.  I now use grocery store shampoo (but wash my hair much less frequently than I used to) and since that adds up to $15.00 about every six weeks (for the shampoo, conditioner and hair mousse), I incorporate that into my grocery budget.  This fund will also cover my twice a year make up purchases as well although I’m pretty low maintenance on the make up front.

Car Maintenance:  I’m setting aside $20 per paycheck to save up for somewhat major maintenance should it arise–oh and tires and brakes.  The vehicle I am driving has oil changes for life covered as well as the basic maintenance check.  This fund will be for the bigger stuff but I a pray that b/c my mileage use is SO low that this fund will not be needed much.

Okay I know this isn’t an all-inclusive list and I have distance to go on thinking about what items I need a separate line in the budget for, so I remembered a long time ago I had saved a list from a website that I now cannot recall the name of (apologies!) and somehow I dug it up.  I share it with you below as food for thought for myself AND anyone out there who may need help like I do in capturing where the money goes! I am going to use this list by starting to delete those that don’t apply.  I sometimes feel like I am standing in mud and cannot move when I try to think about these budget items.

  • Airline fares (and the luggage fees).
  • Alcohol (you may include this in dining out, but I would separate this from your grocery budget if you buy for take-home).
  • Alimony paid in or out.
  • Allowances (his, hers, kids …).
  • Appliances.
  • Baby formula or breastfeeding supplies.
  • Bank fees (such as when you order checks, use an out-of-network ATM, have debit card access fees, or pay a check-cashing fee).
  • Batteries.
  • Birthday gifts.
  • Bus fares.
  • Cable or satellite TV.
  • Car insurance.
  • Car payment and / or car purchase fund.
  • Car registration fees (including the driver license renewal fees).
  • Car repair and maintenance.
  • Cash assistance.
  • Child support paid in or out.
  • Christmas gifts.
  • Cleaning services.
  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Clothing.
  • Coffee shop.
  • College fund.
  • Computer and office supplies.
  • Condo or neighborhood association fees.
  • Coupons and rebates.
  • Credit card payments.
  • Day care and babysitter fees.
  • Dental insurance.
  • Diapers.
  • Dinners out.
  • Donations to church, non-profit or charity.
  • Dry cleaning.
  • Electric bill.
  • Emergency fund.
  • Fast food.
  • Fitness center or gym membership.
  • Fuel for the car.
  • Furniture purchases or repair.
  • Garden supplies.
  • Greeting cards.
  • Groceries.
  • Grocery assistance (such as you receiving food stamps or buying groceries for a family member.)
  • Haircuts, manicures, spa treatments.
  • Health insurance.
  • Hobbies.
  • Holiday candy and flowers (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween …).
  • Home maintenance and repair.
  • Income taxes paid or refund received.
  • Income tax preparation fees.
  • Internet service.
  • Investments.
  • Landline phone.
  • Laundry service (as in coin-operated machines or drop-off laundry service).
  • Lawn care.
  • Legal expenses.
  • Life insurance.
  • Medical co-pay and deductible expenses.
  • Medical insurance payments.
  • Mortgage – primary.
  • Mortgage – secondary or home line of credit.
  • Movie tickets or DVD purchases.
  • Museum, park and zoo passes.
  • Natural gas, propane or heating oil bill.
  • Newspapers, books and magazine subscriptions.
  • Nuisance (aka annoying expenses). Yes, I did see that category on a budget list once!
  • Over-the-counter medications.
  • Parking passes and parking fees.
  • Payroll – regular.
  • Payroll – overtime.
  • Payroll – bonus or holiday pay.
  • Payroll – severance pay.
  • Personal care products.
  • Pet expenses.
  • Photo printing.
  • Postage.
  • Property taxes.
  • Property insurance.
  • Rent.
  • Retirement fund.
  • Satellite radio.
  • School lunches.
  • Sewer bill or septic tank maintenance.
  • Shoes.
  • Snacks.
  • Sports, club and activity fees and equipment (I should be able to save some money on equipment from Goalie Monkey).
  • Sports event tickets.
  • Student loan payments.
  • Taxi fares.
  • Textbooks.
  • Theater or concert tickets.
  • Tobacco.
  • Toiletries.
  • Trash and recycling bill.
  • Tuition and class fees.
  • Turnpike and bridge tolls.
  • Uniforms for work, school, scouts, or sports teams.
  • Union dues.
  • Unemployment benefits.
  • Vacations.
  • Vision insurance.
  • Water bill.
  • Wireless phone (including texting and data plans).
  • Wedding plans.
  • Work lunches.
  • Yearbook photos.