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Ashley’s Bloated Budget

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I have to be honest. I’m totally nervous about this post.

When I first started blogging here back in early 2014, I experienced a lot of backlash. It’s tough to put your entire financial world out there on the internet for a bunch of strangers. And tougher, still, to take in the comments and criticism of very personal financial decisions.

But then the tides changed once I started experiencing some success.

Within 3 months of beginning to blog, I paid off over $10,000 in credit card debt. In total, I paid off just over $25,000 of debt in 2014, just over $26,000 of debt in 2015, and over $30,000 of debt in 2016!!!

Once I was winning with money, the criticisms mostly melted away. I felt more support and encouragement. Not as much judgement or negativity.

Then the summer of 2017 occurred. Poor spending decisions have been made. Income has been reduced. Outflow has increased. I’ve been struggling with some personal mental health issues which have prevented me from spending as much time and attention with our family budget as I should have. Things have just spiraled.

There’s no one single “thing.” It’s more like an avalanche of smaller stuff. Death by a thousand cuts. And all the sudden I look up and realize that our minimum monthly debt payments are so out-of-hand that I don’t know what to do. We’re nickel and diming ourselves to death. To the point that we have no money for food. We have to rely on credit to buy our groceries.

I tried to start over from scratch. I’ve been using YNAB, but I haven’t been able to make the money work for several months now. Our expenses exceed our income, no matter what I do or how I try to shuffle things around, there’s just not enough. So I opened a simple Excel spreadsheet. I wrote my monthly take-home pay at the top and started listing expenses in order of importance. Here’s what I got:

We’re down to $1264 to spend on all of our monthly needs in terms of food and clothing, savings, and/or additional debt payments.  It doesn’t feel like enough….especially since the debt figure ($1098) does NOT include any student loan payments, given that they’re in deferment currently.

On my post about increasing student loan payments, many people tried to give me encouragement that we COULD put $1,000/month toward student loans. That it was totally possible.

Well…..not with only $1264 at the end of the month. Not when we don’t have enough money to buy food or gasoline for our cars. Not when there’s zero wiggle-room because we literally don’t have a single penny in any emergency fund. Not when Christmas is coming up and we have no way to buy gifts for friends or families. Not when our property taxes are coming due!

Can we decrease our fixed bills? The “utilities” line item ($650) includes water, electric, HOA, cable, internet and phone. We can try little things to save on energy, but we’re in a contract with the cable/internet company and same with our phones. HOA is also “set.” So not a lot of wiggle room there.

We do have some debt payments that have lower balances – once we knock them out we can reduce the monthly minimum. But we can’t just be paying minimum payments – we have got to be paying as much over minimum as possible in order to make any headway.

I’m preparing a full debt update so you can see a larger financial picture (give me a couple days to get it posted). But it seems pretty clear to me – we have to find ways to increase our income. $4880/month is not enough for us to achieve our financial goals.

My sister recently added me to a Dave Ramsey Facebook group. It’s been a huge motivational boost to see so many stories of sacrifice and determination. So many debt-free success stories, pictures of fully paid homes, etc. I know we will get there. Our path hasn’t been linear and I think that’s okay. Sometimes “life happens.” Sometimes you have to take a step back and focus on yourself or your family. But we don’t want to live in a state of debt like this forever. The only way out is to put our heads down and plow forward. And that’s just what we intend to do.

As always, I welcome and appreciate your constructive criticism. I’m back to square one here. Googling sample budget plans and just trying to figure out how to survive without taking on additional debt. I’m a little nervous and scared of the path ahead. Our first 2 years of debt-reduction were totally bare-bones. I remember the days well. That was back when I was working part-time from home so it was easier to cook from scratch, meticulously research and shop sales, etc. We’re in a totally different situation now.

It wasn’t easy then. It won’t be easy now. But nothing worth having ever is, now is it?

Give me all your tips! Link to web resources, give me book recommendations. Even just a word of encouragement is appreciated. Thank you all, especially those of you who have been around and seen my story evolve over the past nearly 4 years! It’s been quite a journey and we’re only half-way through it!

 


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?


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