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Archive for February, 2015

Winter gear costs

February 24th, 2015 at 10:51 am

Neither DH and I are really big winter sport enthusiasts. We both used to have some ski gear, but after packing and moving it over and over again without ever using it, I finally got rid of it during one of our recent moves. (We have moved a LOT over the years.) Our winter clothing is more geared towards walking around a city in winter -- jackets, scarves, hats, non-athletic gloves.

Fast forward to now...we are still not winter sport enthusiasts, but we have a three-year-old who LOVES to go sledding and play in the snow. He gets snow pants and boots every year because of this, but we've just been using double layers of sweatpants and running shoes over plastic bags for ourselves.

We finally decided to upgrade. So we went to REI last weekend to take advantage of the end of their big sale. DH got some ski pants at 30% of the original price (they are bright green Smile ) and some boots, and we both got good quality hats and gloves that are actually waterproof. I will probably eventually buy ski pants and boots as well, but with a three-month old in the house, DH has been the primary snow playmate this year.

It was not inexpensive, but I feel like any snow gear we buy now will last us for years and years.

Do you have a payday routine?

February 19th, 2015 at 07:09 pm

I'm curious how other people manage their paychecks on payday. I have a routine which seems simple and straightforward to me, but other people might find overly complicated.

DH and I get paid on the same day, twice a month. Retirement contributions are already taken out of our checks pre-tax, so we never "see" that money. With the money that is direct deposited into our checking account I do the following:

(1) Transfer a set amount into our online checking account with is designated for fixed expenses. All regularly occurring bills get paid out of this account, such as the mortgage, utilities, memberships, insurance, childcare, etc. The amount that gets transferred is roughly 1/24 of what we spent on all these things in the previous year.

(2) Transfer a set amount into an educational account for the kids.

(3) Transfer set amounts into separate "short-term" savings accounts for car repairs, vacation, charitable donations, home repair/improvements, and health care. I pull from these accounts whenever we spend money on one of these things, but they all get something added each payday.

(4) Pay off the current balances on the credit cards (DH's, mine, Target), which contain all of our variable spending.

(5) If there's anything left over, it gets swept to one of our savings goals.

I have it set up so I can do this all in 15 minutes from my smartphone while laying in bed on payday morning.

Anyone else care to share their payday routine?

Very cold

February 18th, 2015 at 05:49 pm

It is bitterly cold outside right now, and it's just supposed to get colder. I am so grateful right now for shelter and heat and the ability to pay my gas and electric bills.

I just went online and made a donation to our local fuel fund. Nobody should have to worry about paying their heating bill when it's this cold outside.

Stay warm, everyone!

A few things

February 17th, 2015 at 06:54 pm

(1) I forgot to mention yesterday that I broke my phone. Frown I kneeled on it in the middle of the night while climbing into bed and I guess the pressure ruined the screen. It would have been a pricy fix. Luckily, we still had DH's old phone (same type as mine) from when he upgraded for Christmas. After a quick stop at the mall store, they switched the sim cards and now I have an identical working phone again.

(2) Cashed out $28.56 in Chase rewards. The home improvement fund is now up to $2827.87. I hope to start spending some of it here pretty soon. First up are some plumbing repairs/upgrades we've been waiting on.

(3) We did end up having a snow day today, so we didn't have childcare. DH needed to be into work today for an event, including a work dinner out. I had more flexibility in my schedule, so I have been home with the boys all day. I am exhausted, but both boys are asleep and DH is bringing me dessert from his dinner. Since they are going to a fancy place, I expect it'll be pretty good! Smile

(4) Now I'm going to update our variable spending in my Money program to see how it's going so far this month. Fingers crossed! I feel like we're spending less than last month, but my feelings aren't a reliable barometer for the amount of money spent!

Did anyone else have a snow day today?

Updates

February 16th, 2015 at 11:47 am

Friday was payday. Added $200 to the education investments and $254.54 to the home improvement fund. Also paid all if the credit cards down to $0. I like to start fresh after payday!

For Valentine's Day we had a low-key celebration without gifts. We had spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread and salad, followed by brownie sundaes for dessert. DS1 was very excited about the sundaes, since we don't usually have dessert. We talked about how Valentine's Day is a day where we tell people we love them, and then all during dinner DS1 would say, "I love you, Mom!" or "I love you, Dad!" and we would say "I love you!" back. It was super cute. Also, we used up a can of tomatoes, some pasta, and a can of olives from the pantry. So that's good, too. Smile

We've got our meal plan for the week. Meals are pretty simple, so we should be able to keep to it. We kept to it last week and only had the one take-out night (pizza) as planned. We did order Indian food for delivery for lunch yesterday. Since we didn't have breakfast out with friends like usual, I think it's okay. It was delicious, but DS2 had some tummy troubles last night, so I think no more Indian food until I'm done breastfeeding. Bummer!

It's been bitterly cold here lately, and we're supposed to get some snow tonight. Hopefully tomorrow won't be a snow day -- too much to do! Can't wait until spring. Smile

This week's progress; thoughts about next week

February 12th, 2015 at 06:03 pm

We had another $25 reimbursement from DH's work, so I sent that to the home improvement fund. Sidebar updated. Smile

We don't have childcare tomorrow, so I will stay home with the boys. That means today was the end of my work week. (Although I will still be doing some work in the evenings.) How did I do with my goals?

I did take brownies and tea bags to work, so didn't buy any there. (I did buy hot water for the tea bags for 25 cents. I should probably cut that out, too.) I didn't take my lunch at all, but I did score free lunch on Wednesday for a work-related event. And it was delicious!

So not a perfect week, but not terrible. I'll try again next week. DH has already requested that I make a double batch of brownies this time so he can have some, too. Smile

We have stuck to our meal plan for dinners this week, too, and haven't eaten out at all. Since tomorrow is Friday, it's our scheduled night for pizza or takeout. And I might need it after a day with the boys. Smile

For next week's meal plan, I'm going to try to use up some of the things from the newly reorganized pantry shelves. Like use a bunch of the garbanzo beans to make chickpea patties. Maybe make a casserole with the egg noodles (don't even remember buying those, we rarely eat them!) I'll have to look more closely at what we have and see what I can put together. Might be fun!

If I'm stumped, I might post some ingredients here on my blog and see if you guys can give me recipes. Smile

Surprise check

February 10th, 2015 at 07:06 pm

I received a check in the mail for $25.04 from a settlement for a class-action suit against Sprint. I had no idea this was even happening? Can you be signed up for one of those automatically? Did anyone else get one?

Anyway, I will send it to the home repair/improvement fund. Sidebar updated!

I've also been on a decluttering/organizing kick lately. (Inspired by Creditcardfree's organizing blog, no doubt!) I am trying to do one task a night. Tonight I went through all of the paperwork/mail that had accumulated since the last time I'd done it. We pay all of our regular bills online, and I glance at each piece of mail as it comes in to be sure I'm not missing anything important, but I don't really deal with it until I have a bigger block of time. This time I made decisions about a lot of things, rather then sticking them in a pending pile to deal with later.

Dealing with all the paper led to cleaning out my coupon envelope and purging expired coupons. Which led to cleaning out my purse. Now all of my coupons are neatly sorted in my purse. Maybe I will remember to and be able to use them more often!

Progress!

February 9th, 2015 at 07:04 pm

Making progress on a lot of fronts.

(1) DS1 is starting to figure out potty training. We're not there yet, but definite progress. Staying in all weekend by the toilet was a huge step forward.

(2) I'm ready to implement my food at work plan. Brownies are cooling. (The ones DH and I didn't immediately eat, anyway Smile ) Tea bags are packed. At least my afternoon snack is covered!

(3) Meals are planned and groceries bought for the week.

(4) I cleaned and rearranged all my pantry shelves tonight, moving things around so I can actually see what we have. DH was very impressed, and then said, "Boy, we need to find a way to use up all of those garbanzo beans." Yeah, because when you can't see what you have you just buy more rather than looking for it. As a bonus, the new arrangement put our pots and pans in a much more convenient place. An all around win!

Feeling like it's a good start to the week. I'm tired, but I feel more in control. And I like feeling more in control.

No spend day!

February 7th, 2015 at 06:01 pm

No spending today. We didn't even leave the house, since we were tied to the potty for DS1. Not a lot of progress yet, but we are trying. Actually, DS2 and I did leave to go for a lovely walk (it was a balmy 45 degrees!), but no money was spent.

Tomorrow we will need to get groceries, so there will definitely be spending involved. But we will put together our meal plan in the morning, and we do pretty well keeping to our list at the grocery store. So at least it will be planned spending.

Toddler toilet troubles and February goals

February 6th, 2015 at 09:41 am

I know we're already a week into February, but I wanted to look at January spending before making goals. So these goals are really for the last three weeks of the month.

Indirectly related to February goals, we are working on potty-training DS1 (he's three). He is definitely interested in wearing underwear but not so interested in using the toilet. But we are working on it. However, he is VERY interested in flushing things down the toilet right now. He showed absolutely no interest before, so we haven't done anything to child-proof the toilets. But now I think we will have to lock the toilet bowls or something. This morning he tried to flush his brother's baby monitor. Thankfully it was too big to fit down!

On to my February goals:

(1) Potty train DS1. Cautiously optimistic we can meet this goal. Would love to lower our diaper costs!

(2) Stick to a dinner meal plan, allowing for one night of take-out/pizza a week. From tracking our variable spending last month, eating out seemed to be a big expense that we should be able to address. As suggested by many of you, we are going to try to stick to pretty simple food for dinner. Sandwiches, fruit, and veggies, for example. The bonus is that this is the food our toddler prefers to eat anyway, so fewer dinnertime battles!

(3) Spend less on food at work. I'm not going to try to cut all my lunch/coffee spending, but I can definitely do better. For starters, I am going to make brownies this weekend and freeze them in individual servings. I'll also take my own teabags to work. That will save me my daily $3.50 afternoon snack each day. (Yes, I have a tea and a brownie every day at work. We're averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night right now, and this gets me through the afternoon. Not a good long-term solution, but right now it is about survival.) I'll also try to pack lunch a couple of days each week.

I'll continue to track all our variable spending and report back at the end of the month.

Any good potty-training tips out there? Or suggestions for curing DS1 of his flushing obsession?

AMT

February 5th, 2015 at 09:08 am

I finished entering our information into TurboTax last night. (We are still waiting on a couple of donation receipts, so I'm not ready to file yet.) This year we are getting hit with the Alternative Minimum Tax for the first time. To the tune of $6063!

I know it is because of the extra income we received from DH's royalty checks. Thank goodness I thought this might happen, so I had them withhold extra from these payments. In fact, we're still going to get a refund this year. Between federal and state about $3500.

I am grateful for the extra income, and I don't have any problem paying taxes on it. What I don't like about the AMT is that they package it as an "extra" tax that you have to pay on top of your "regular" tax. By labeling it as extra, I can't help but think of what I *could* have done with that "extra" 6K.

Fund additions

February 4th, 2015 at 10:09 am

We got a check in the mail yesterday from my mom. She stayed with me and the boys while DH was away on business last week. She wanted to buy DS1 some new toys (she didn't see him at Christmas) and treat us all to dinner after DH came back but while she was still here. I put the toys on my RedCard and DH picked up and payed for dinner. I wasn't going to remind her, since she does so much for us by helping while DH is gone. But since she sent the check I promised I would cash it. So I'm sending $100 to the home improvement fund.

I'm also taking the extra $260 that's been sitting in our checking account since Christmas and sending it to the Opportunity fund. It was part of a Christmas gift from my parents, but we weren't really sure what to spend it on. And I don't like how it messes up our account balance (I like to keep my checking account at a nice round number; any excess annoys me; yes, I'm weird.) So now it's moved on!

Sidebar amounts are updated.

January recap: good news and bad news

February 3rd, 2015 at 11:37 am

The good news -- I met my mini goals for January. I kept to a list at Target, and I stayed away from Amazon Deals. The bad news -- see for yourself! Here's our variable spending for January. We *way* overspent what I had roughly budgeted. It's not pretty at all. But one of my goals was to track this and post it on here to hold myself accountable. So that's what I'm doing.

Let me premise this by saying that I would like to keep this variable spending under $2600 a month. If I can do that, then I have about $900 extra a month that is undesignated. We didn't have to borrow to cover this overspending. But, if I don't spend it then I can use it to cash-flow things like medical expenses, or send it to my different savings goals. This month, we basically used almost all of this "extra" on variable spending.

I guess this means there is a lot of room for improvement! It also means that maybe my $2600 isn't realistic for us right now? But I can definitely try to do better.

Here are the spending details. In a later post I will focus on my plan of attack for February.

Automobile $62.84
-- Gasoline $43.84
-- Parking $19

This is by far the least we've spent on gas lately because of the low prices. We filled up each car once.

Cash $40

DH withdrew this. Maybe lunches at work? We rarely use cash for anything.

Clothing $167.36

Underwear for our potty-training DS1. And for his dad Smile New pants for DS1, since his are all getting holes in the knees. And holes in the knees are COLD in winter. Two sleep sacks for DS2 in the next size up. He is growing like a weed.

Food $1680.81
-- Groceries $1051.10
-- Dining out $629.71

I usually budget $1000 for groceries, so we weren't too bad there. DH and I often buy lunch at work, and we plan to get take-out/delivery once a week for dinner. We also usually meet friends with kids for breakfast once on the weekend. We try to keep dining out to $400 a month. We went way over. Being tired with poor meal planning is to blame. Even with food in the fridge, we have been turning to take-out when we're tired. Not an excuse, but an explanation.

Gifts $13.72

Books for a baby shower gift.

Household $393.15

A new dual stroller to make it easier to wrangle both boys at the same time. Supplies to set up a pumping station for me in my office, since I'm not going near the community fridge for that. A bottle warmer (probably not a need.) Rest is household supplies like laundry detergent, dish soap, batteries, ice melt, etc.

Leisure $74.11

TV episodes of our favorite shows, movie rentals, a few Candy Crush in-app purchases while up with DS2 in the middle of the night. DH's subscription to Google Play Music.

Miscellaneous $110.58

Not really sure what this all us. Some of it is from a Target trip where I lost the receipt and so couldn't categorize the expenditures.

Personal care $807.06

Ok, this is huge! To be fair, $400 of it was for a new breast pump when I discovered the motor on my old one had gone kaput. A large chunk of the rest of it is diapers. I did stock up when Target was having a spend $100 get a $20 gift card offer. It also includes some toiletries. But probably mostly diapers. Boy do we need to get DS1 potty trained!

Total $3349.63

So, yes, we spent a lot of money this month. When I look at any one category, I don't feel like it's too unreasonable, but when I see the total I definitely do! If you're curious, here's what my rough budget looks like for these categories:

Automobile $130
-- Gas $100
-- Parking/tolls $30
Cash $20
Clothing $150
Food $1450
-- Alcohol $50
-- Groceries $1000
-- Dining out $400
Gifts $100
Household $300
Leisure $100
Miscellaneous $100
Personal Care $250
Total $2600

I'm open to thoughts and suggestions, although I'm slightly terrified to hear them. Please be nice. Please don't rant at me for spending $1000 on groceries. Although I'm not happy to be spending almost $3400 a month in these categories, I am comfortable with spending $2600 a month and still being able to meet our other financial goals.

Quick payday update

February 3rd, 2015 at 10:10 am

Friday was payday. I set another $200 to the education fund. I also sent another $200 to the home improvement fund. Since it's also the end of the month, all of our Capital One 360 accounts had their interest hit. This added a whopping $.98 for the home improvement fund, a minuscule $.50 to the opportunity fund (hey, it still counts!), and a respectable $18.66 to the emergency fund. I've updated the sidebar totals to reflect this.

Later today I will finish tallying our expenses for January and post all of the dirty details here. Not really looking forward to it Frown