February budget recap

Thursday, March 19th, 2009
I'm a bit late on updating on the money front, but better late than never. The February budget went great. I also like to use the term "spending plan" as it doesn't sound as daunting or punative. We are telling our money what to do instead of wondering where it went! To recap:
  • $755 extra income through contract work and Craigslist sales
  • Emergency fund is up to $18,800. March goal: $20,000 total
  • Paid 3 mos. worth of car payments in one month
  • Shopped for car insurance. New payment $82.53 instead of $203.66/mo. AND we get better coverage.
  • Transferred home owners insurance. Similar payment but get extra $18,000 home business equipment coverage!
  • Spent $445 less than budgeted. Added extra $$ to emergency fund and car payoff to get close to 0 by month's end.
I've been modifying my tracking spreadsheet month by month for refinement. I know we will never have a perfect budget, but with weekly maintenance and tracking, we get pretty close. If you'd like to see my sample spreadsheet, download it now. This spreadsheet has both a running total budget and a weekly allocated spending plan in one. You will need some Excel skills if you'd like to add new rows and keep the auto-calculations running, but its a really simplistic template overall. Advice is per Dave Ramsey which has you prepare the budget before the month begins and spend every dollar on paper until you reach 0. I use this in tandem with MS Money, which I can download my bank statements to. MS Money tracks spending categories for me to fill into the spreadsheet each week.

Resolution progress

Monday, February 16th, 2009

As is fairly standard, week 6 of the New Year is either the death of most New Year resolutions. Well, that or a major slowdown. I had a bit of a slowdown, but I'm acknowledging it and getting back in control.

Mostly what has slowed down is the house cleaning. I've been slipping out of my good routines. I don't have very many, but the few I was doing consistently kept the house up pretty well. These included:

  • Making the bed in the morning
  • Filing/shredding mail same day
  • Emptying and filling the dishwasher at least once a day (usually while waiting for something to cook in the kitchen)
  • Putting things away when travelling from room to room
  • Putting toiletries away in the bathroom instead of cluttering up the sink
  • Picking up clothes at the end of the day

Tonight, I'm getting the house under control tonight and then I can focus!

My decluttering has slowed down as well. Luckily most of the big problems areas have been decluttered and I need to refocus on the small collections of stuff I have. I need to start working again on the following:

Writable VHS tapes
Over the years, I've taped a variety of things. Much of which was never watched. Its actually fun to go back and watch some of these tapes, or just fast forward through. I hear FreeGeek recycles tapes, so I hope to drop off whatever tapes I don't want at the end of this.

Burned DVDs and CDs
Compile and put in one binder. I have these all over the place and in a number of binders, cases, etc.

Frames
I have a bazillion empty frames at the moment. I need to select photos or art for each. This usually requires compiling them on the computer and getting them printed. Then matte, mount and hang. Frames that don't match our decor should be donated or sold on Craigslist.

Generic Art
This relates to above. I would rather feature custom art or photographs on our walls vs. the mass-produced Target-esque art I have a lot of now.

Craigslist
I still have a good number of salable items. I've donated lots of things that just weren't worth the time to manage on Craiglist, but some of the bigger ticket items have been selling off at a decent rate. I sold $185 worth of stuff last month. This month $35 so far, but have about another $100 pending e-mail replies today.

On a positive note, for the past few weeks my fitness routine has been good especially going well. I’ve been working out 5-6 times a week for at least 45 minutes. This is big. I'm starting to feel weird again when I skip a day. I want to save up to buy P90X which looks fun. I accidentally saw the infomercial for it. It looks good for someone already in OK shape but wants a little more challenge. Maybe Jeremy would do it with me as well. I'd have to buy a pull-up bar thingy, though. I don't think I've been able to do one pull-up ever in my life. So we'll see!

Our budget is going well too. We have 3 months of emergency funds now saved up! I would normally pay my car off first, but in this economy, I wanted a security blanket first. We can start accelerating the car payments next month. Yay!

January budget wrap-up

Monday, February 2nd, 2009
Month one of budgeting is complete using Dave Ramsey's budget method where we spent all our anticipated income on paper before the month began. We were actually pretty close our first month out and had a $97 surplus, not including the $3K we socked away into our emergency fund. We also paid off all our credit cards from Christmas purchases and took them out of our wallet. We are debit/cash only and loving it! Watch the documentary "Maxed Out" and you won't want to support creditors any more. We didn't estimate correctly in our food categories. We needed to flip flop the categories as we spent more in groceries than I initally budgeted. However, we equally spent less in eating out. This is a good thing overall as the main food cost was within limits. I think we can refine this further if I can use all our groceries before things go bad. Meal planning and preparation will be a work in progress. We also sold a number of items on Craigslist, returned unused items to stores, cashed in rebates, and received a large weatherization incentive from the Energy Trust of Oregon related to insulating our home during phase I of our remodel. We made an extra $1600 in unanticipated income in January after all is said and done. If we are on track, even without selling anymore stuff, we will be able to save at least twice as much next month thanks to no credit card bills. I'm happy to be able to tell our money how to work for us now! If we continue to sell junk (I haven't sold anything I really cared to keep yet) and get some more freelance work, we will be able to pay my car off soon and have a sizable emergency fund to cover at least 6 months of expenses. I will likely sell my Mazda 5 after we pay off the note, but I'm thinking of keeping it while we are still remodeling because it is large enough for hauling drywall, etc. It was purchased new so we already have to absorb most of that original depreciation (hello stupid tax DOH us!), so keeping it for a few extra months won't see much as far as dropping in value. Once remodeling phase II is done (hopefully by the fall), I should be able to sell it and maybe buy a used small hybrid of some sort with cash! Yay!

A Richer Life with Less Stuff

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Yay for money I wasn't paying attention to! $40 in Discover rewards, $50 in change to cash out at Coinstar, and about $100 in store returns I'll be making this weekend, random $9 refund check, $15 in bank account interest. There is money around when I look hard enough.

Hopefully I can do about 8 hours of work this weekend to make up for some vacation time off and make some extra cash designing business cards and letterhead for my tile contractor.

Last night I finished reading "It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff" by Clean Sweep's Peter Walsh. Great book to help me keep up my momentum!

I am totally amazed at the amount of progress I've had with Flylady in the past 5 or 6 months without even REALIZING it. Our master bedroom is completely decluttered including the closets and drawers. I even filled up an extra bag worth of purges I did yesterday.

I finished unpacking our master bathroom with storage room to spare! I donated a box full of unused personal care products and threw out a lot of expired items.

There are empty cupboards in the kitchen and there will be more space as I plan to sell of any antique glass I don't really "love." Less to store until our living room and dining room are done.

I've been trying to keep to a specific system. Once the house is clean, THEN I can sort and declutter one area or bin a day, only sotring through what I can in an hour or two. I still need to go through about 15 storage bins stashed around the house, mostly items that haven't been unpacked since March 2007. I've went through 5 this past week. We now have a big stack of empty bins that I'll probably unload on Craigslist or something.

Looking forward to 2009

Sunday, December 28th, 2008
I'm working on getting back on a more normal schedule now that most of remodeling phase I is complete. I'm happy to say that besides a few paint touch-ups, kitchen and bath window restoration, and the back door (waiting til good weather for this), we are essentially done! Before we dig into the work necessary to start phase II (most of the original floor of the house: living room, dining room, hall and 2 small bedrooms), I'm working on Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover plan to make sure we have a substantial savings and emergency fund before we start spending on the house again. It will likely take us the next 2 months to build up the remainder of the 6-month emergency fund that I've been working on. I have about 2/3 saved so far. Our only debt is on my car, which I'd like to sell and buy one outright with cash in 2009 as well. The other goal is to buy only with my debit card. It's too easy to use CC and I know I would save more even though I pay those cards off every month. I'd also like to get a permanent position at PGE once the current project I'm leading comes closer to completion. Hopefully for a similar salary to what I make now. I'd also like to do a European vacation in 2009, but its the last priority in the current economy because I will only do this if we don't have to crack into savings or CC to go. I'd rather have the remodel done than take a fancy vacation as well. :) I also need to focus more on the Flylady system to keep the house clean and get back on the 6-day a week workout routine, instead of about 4 which it's hovering around now. Here's to a great year!