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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).


Oh Happy Day!

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It’s such a happy day for me today, friends!

After many months of slowly chipping away at larger debts (last one paid off was in April 2015, but whose counting?) am able to finally announce that I’ve paid one (albeit small one) off in full!

TODAY, I am cleared of Navient loan 1-06.

The first time I ever broke apart my Navient loans for you was back in March 2015. At that time, loan 1-06 was sitting at $860.80.  For months now (really the whole time I’ve been blogging), I’ve only been paying minimums to this account which has only paid the interest (no reduction in principal). I paid a little extra on my unsubsidized federal student loan (which is not even listed in my Pandora’s Box spreadsheet – that spreadsheet only accounts for my Department of Education loans).

But then I’ve been having some SERIOUS drama with Navient. (mini-update:  there is no update. I was contacted by the mediation specialist who gathered some information and said it would likely be a full month before I hear back again. My loan that was transferred from ACS is still incorrectly classified as an unsubsidized loan and continues to accumulate interest when, due to my IBR status, the interest should be forgiven).

ANYWHO…..all the drama and frustration with Navient just makes me want them out of my life that much sooner! So I decided to also start chipping away at loan 1-06, as its my smallest loan (even though it is also a subsidized loan; I felt the small balance made it a good candidate to knock out quickly). So over the past few months I’ve put an extra $100 here and there toward it. Nothing huge. But then this month I logged into my account and saw the balance due was less than $500. And I just decided – I need this. Let’s go for it!

I talked to hubs (this required re-allocating some of our money a little bit differently than what we’d originally planned), and he was on board so I made the call and paid off the loan in full.

Logging in today I am THRILLED to see that big “No Payment Due” next to loan 1-06.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 7.07.25 AM

I cannot wait until they all read that way!

Just as a reminder, I’m seriously on a mission now to pay off our car. It’s our last remaining consumer debt and my goal had been to have it paid in full by December. In this previous post I admitted defeat on that goal and settled for having it paid as early in 2016 as possible. Well, friends, I take that back again. It’s going to be tough. TOUGH! And we’re planning to travel in December, which makes it twice as tough (since hubs isn’t salaried he only gets paid when he works, plus we’ll be incurring travel costs, etc.). But I’m on a mission. It’s like back when I first started blogging and I was hell-bent on paying off my credit cards. I managed to pay off over $10,000 in credit card debt in three months! I still can’t believe that was me! It’s not like we were rolling in dough and had nothing better to do with it. That came about from a lot of hard work, careful budgeting, sacrifice, extra hours, etc. etc. etc. I’m on the same mission now. We have about $10,000 left on the car. 3 months worth of debt payments between now and the end of the year. Is it likely? Probably not. Is it possible? Maybe. Just maybe. I plan to give it a hell of a shot. I’ll let you know. ; )


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