Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Back To Basics

Today is the last day of April, so I will be putting together a summary of our budget vs. actual spending this month. I have been using the new Pear Budget software - which I love! (not a paid endorsement - just my own opinion.) Pear Budget is now finished with the beta phase and will be charging $3 a month for their software. I love it so much that I think I am going to cough up the money.

I will also post our May budget.

Tomorrow is the first of May. My main goal for May is to get back to the basics. I plan to make a trip to the bank to withdraw the cash we will need to fund our envelopes. The envelope system has been a great help to us in sticking to the budget, so I want to be sure to start next month out on the right track.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Well, after spending the last 14 months focused solely on paying off debt, I feel like I am losing a little motivation. Not that I'm thinking of giving up or going on a spending spree, just that I find I'm not thinking about debt and becoming debt free 24 hours a day, like I was over the last 14 months.

I tend to be a little bit obsessive. Currently I feel like my obsession has moved from debt to jewelry. I have launched a new website for my jewelry business and it has been going pretty well. I have been earning a little money, which will help with the debt snowball. It's just that it feels a little weird that I'm now staying up late at night reading jewelry blogs instead of personal finance blogs. (Don't worry, I still check all my favorites regularly!)

Anyway, as I mentioned in a recent post, we won't be able to throw our usual $1,100 debt snowball at our debts this month because we will be buying a used riding lawn mower for $1,000 (our mower died). I feel a little sad about this. It is actually the first time since we started following this plan in Feb. 2007 that we won't be able to put the amount we have budgeted towards our debt. I know that it is inevitable that Murphy will visit, but it still makes me a little sad. Almost seems like a mark on a perfect record. Like when you have been following your diet perfectly and then you cheat. It sort of feels like we cheated.

The important thing is for us not to let this setback throw us off course.

And I need to make the time to focus on our finances!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sorry I haven't been posting very regularly. I have been busy launching my new jewelry website. If you're looking for any gifts be sure to check it out (Mother's Day is May 11th.)

Riding Lawn Mower - I did a little research on Craig'slist and found some used ones that looked pretty good. I had my husband look at them and he found one he thought looked really good. He went to look at it yesterday and decided to buy it. It will cost us $1,000, but it is a much better model than we could get new for $1,500, plus it comes with a lot of parts and attachments. So, I'm happy and my hubby's happy. I transferred $1,000 from our on line savings account so we will be able to pay for it with cash. I will put the $1,000 back into savings when my husband gets paid on the 5/1. What this means for our budget is that we will only be able to pay $200 towards our debt snowball instead of the $1,200 I had planned. At least we won't need to actually use up our emergency fund. I guess we just added another month before we will become debt free.

I should have an update on how we did actual vs. budget for April in a few days.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lawn Tractor Debate

Our ride on lawn mower has died. We have a very large yard and will definitely need to get another one. To hire someone would cost about $50 a week, so that definitely doesn't make sense. The question is: Do we buy a used one or a new one?

My husband wants to get a new one. I want to get a used one.

I can understand why my husband wants a new one. It would be a lot easier to just walk into Sears, pick out the one you want, order it, and have it delivered to the house. Another benefit would be that it would come with a warranty.

Buying a used one would be a lot more work. First we would need to look around to find used ride on mowers for sale, for example on Craig's list. Then call to see if it is still available, ask about the details, arrange a time to go look at it. Potentially we would have to look at several different ones to determine what would be best for our needs. Then you would need to negotiate price. Then if we manage to do all this and find one that would fit our needs for a price we find reasonable, we would need to find a way to get the mower to our house. This would involve either asking a favor of a friend with a truck or renting a Uhaul or something.

Obviously, the major difference between a new one and a used one is price. New ride on mowers start around $1,500. I have seen used ones starting around $300. That is a big difference and the major reason that I am lobbying for a used one.

Neither one of us drives a new car. Why do we need a new mower?

My husband is going to need a little more convincing. I'll let you know what happens . . .

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How I Do Our Grocery Shopping

(My computer is finally back and working now, so I should be back to posting daily again!)

I've been thinking about our grocery budget and how I seem to be slipping a little in this area, so I thought I would write a post to share with others and to remind myself of how to make the most of your grocery budget.

1. Plan Menus For The Week Using Calendasr (keeping it flexible enough to change)
First I get out my calendar and see what we have scheduled for the upcoming week. Using those plans as a guide, I plan a dinner menu for each night of the upcoming week. If we have a busy evening I will plan a less complicated meal that requires very little prep. I will also keep in mind some meals that may allow for leftovers that can be reheated the next night or used to make a slight variation of a meal the next night (like leftover chicken used for chicken soup, etc.).

2. Go Through The Local Grocery Store Sale Flyers
Next I go through each grocery flyer. I use a small notebook to write a small list of sales that I would consider for each store. I indicate the item and the price. I do this for each of 4 grocery stores and 3 pharmacy type stores. (This sounds tedious but really only takes about 10 minutes.)

3. Go Through Coupons
First I go through my stash of coupons tossing any that have expired and pulling any aside for items I will need to buy this week or for items that are on sale somewhere this week. Next I clip the coupons from the Sunday paper. I put aside any for items I will need to buy this week or for items that are on sale somewhere this week. When I find a coupon that matches up with a sale, I indicate the price after coupon on my grocery stores price list. The rest I save for a possible future grocery trip. This process takes about another 10 minutes.

4. Evaluate Sales/Coupons/Stores
Next, armed with all the informatio I need (what I need to buy, what is on sale, what I have a coupon for), I decide which store or stores I will be shopping at. (I usually pick the top 3.)

5. Go Shopping
I usually do my main grocery shopping on one day, and stop at two other stores just to pick up great sale items on another day.

I think I'll go get my calendar, grocery flyers, and coupons and get started now!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

No Computer . . .

Well, I still have no computer. We got a virus and had a crash a couple of weeks ago. A friend of ours is looking at it and trying to do a recovery for us. I guess it is going well and we might be able to save as much as 80% of our data - which is great - especially for the photos which are irreplaceable. But it is taking a long time. I miss blogging and reading blogs!

I am also falling behind in managing our finances. Things are a lot harder when I can't check our balance on line everyday and record our spending on Pear Budget everyday. And I miss listening to the Dave Ramsey show.

This has all made me realize how much financial support the computer affords me!

So, I will hopefully be back to blogging every day very soon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Had A Bad Day . . .

Okay, it's really been a bad week. My computer crashed (a virus I guess) and our lawn mower/tractor died. Talk about a Murphy visit!

Well, the good news is that I guess the computer will be okay and a friend was able to recover about 80% of our data. We will probably give the friend a $100 gift certificate for helping us out (it was a lot of work) - ouch!

The lawn mower/tractor is a quite a bit worse. I guess the motor is completely dead and a new one will cost about the same as a new mower/tractor. So, looks like we will probably be getting a new mower/tractor (one acre of lawn to mow) - this will probably set us back about $1,000 - double ouch!

Anyway, I will hopefully have my computer back by the end of the week and will be able to post more regularly again!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Daily Progress Report

My kids have three half days this week and I was lucky enough to get to babysit for these days in addition to one of my regular days. So, this should amount to $160. This is great but unfortunately I won't be able to use the money for snowflakes because we have had some unexpected expenses come up this month:

- My husband purchased tickets for a concert that he really wants to go to. This set us back $150, but we should get $75 from his friend who will be going to the concert with him.

- My husband decided to join another fantasy football league with my sister's boyfriend. This set us back $110 (but my husband assures me he will come in at least third place, if not higher, so we will win back between $300 - $800! lol!)

- A friend of ours has a son with autism and they have asked us to come to an Autism Benefit. We feel we should support them so we will be getting tickets for $70, plus costing us more for the cash bar and auction, etc.

Hopefully we can earn enough extra income this month to cover these unexpected expenses.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Estimated Date For Debt Freedom

I had a remote hope that we might be able to pay off all our debts by the end of 2008, but that's looking like a long shot right now.

The good news is that we will be getting a tax refund of $10,000. This will help with our debt payoff progress obviously. And my husband will be changing our tax withholding so that we won't be lending the government our money tax free again this year. This will put another $800 or so more in our monthly paycheck, which will also help with our debt payoff progress.

But, even with these two great developments, no matter how much I play with the numbers it looks like we will still owe about $9,000 at the end of the year.

I know that it will only take us a few months longer, but it is still disappointing.

But I guess you never know what could happen between now and then. I was able to earn an extra $1,000 a month during some months last year - so, you never know . . .

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I've Been Tagged - 7 Random Things

I've been tagged by Wendy at Debt Freedom Fighters to share 7 Random Things about myself. So, here goes . . .

1. I met my husband in high school. We dated for six years and got married when we were 23, and we'll celebrate our 17th anniversary this year.

2. I spent my Junior year of college in Paris. It was a great experience but I missed by boyfriend (now husband) a lot. He came to visit twice. And we wrote to each other every single day. (This was before e-mail!)

3. I was President of our local MOMS Club for two years and then was the State Coordinator for the International MOMS Club. I found this group to be a great support to me when I first quit my career to be a stay-at-home Mom (best decision I ever made!).

4. I am terribly out of shape now but used to be on the track team in high school. I would run 7 miles a day. (Seems like a long time ago!)

5. I enjoy learning foreign languages. I am fluent in French and Spanish. I have studied American Sign Language. I would love to learn more.

6. I love to play my Kenny G cd's at home and relax by the fire. (My husband usually enters the room and tells me "the doctor will see you now" with a laugh! He prefers classic rock.)

7. I love to watch Law and Order. I've probably seen every episode which is quite a feat given that it is on just about 24 hours a day!

I tag:
Sharon at Paid It Down And Moving Forward
Nine Circles at Nine Circles of Debt
Jackie at Our Debt Free Mission

Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog. Some random, some weird.
3. Tag up to 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

April 2008 Budget

AUTO-Excise Tax - $0
AUTO-Gas - $350
AUTO-Insurance - $138
AUTO-Maintenance - $25
CASH-Clothing - $300
CASH-Dining Out - $120
CASH-Gifts - $0
CASH-Grocery - $400
CASH-Kids Allowance - $50
CASH-Parties - $0
CASH-School Lunch - $36
CASH-Spending - $160
DEBT-Equity Loan - $200
DEBT-Visa - $1,889
HOME-Cable/Phone - $181
HOME-Electric - $162
HOME-Furnace - 0
HOME-Mortgage - $2,355
HOME-Oil - $350
HOME-Trash - $0
KIDS-Bball - $0
KIDS-Misc. - $100
KIDS-Piano - $0
KIDS-Preschool - $175
MISC. - $25
PERSONAL-Cell Phone - $0
PERSONAL-Contacts - $0
PERSONAL-Life Ins. - $0
PERSONAL-Newspap - $8
PERSONAL-Braces - $600
PERSONAL-BR Sports - $0
PERSONAL-Vacation - $0
TRANSFER-To Savings - $2,000
TOTAL = $9,644

1st Paycheck - $2,188
1st Commission - $3,126
15th Paycheck - $2,188
Church Pay - $100
Babysitting Pay - $160
Other - $0
Transfer from Savings - 2000
TOTAL - $9,762

Beginning Balance - $315
'+ Income - $9,762
Subtotal - $10,077
'- Expenses - $9,644
Subtotal - $433
Save For Next Month - $433
Ending Balance - $0

We Are Credit Card Debt Free!!!!!


I just paid off our last credit card!!! $1,889 to our Visa card and it is completely paid!

Only one debt left - our home equity loan ($27,000).

I can't wait to be debt free!!!!

March Spending Analysis

In summary, our expenses in March exceeded our income by $74.99.

Actual Income for March
category/planned income/actual income/difference
15th paycheck/2188.00/2188.00/0.00
1st commission/265.00/265.00/0.00
1st paycheck/2188.00/2188.00/0.00
babysitting pay/160.00/160.00/0.00
church paycheck/50.00/0.00/-50.00
Total Income/$10,411.00/$11,519.70/$1,108.70

Actual Expenses for March
AUTO-excise taxes /115.00/115.00/0.00
AUTO-gas /500.00/266.71/233.29
AUTO-insurance /138.00/138.00/0.00
AUTO-maintenance /0.00/0.00/0.00
CASH-clothing /50.00/0.00/50.00
CASH-dining out /0.00/132.53/− 132.53
CASH-gifts /100.00/89.39/10.61
CASH-groceries /300.00/333.66/− 33.66
CASH-kids allowance /0.00/0.00/0.00
CASH-parties /50.00/0.00/50.00
CASH-school lunch /50.00/0.00/50.00
CASH-spending /200.00/914.84/− 714.84
DEBT-HELOQ /1100.00/1372.51/− 272.51
HOME-cable /181.00/0.00/181.00
HOME-electric /187.00/162.45/24.55
HOME-maintenance /0.00/0.00/0.00
HOME-mortgage /2355.00/2328.77/26.23
HOME-oil /350.00/370.02/− 20.02
HOME-trash /65.00/65.00/0.00
MISC-other /90.00/310.80/− 220.80
PERS-BR sports /0.00/0.00/0.00
PERS-camp /0.00/0.00/0.00
PERS-cell phone /0.00/0.00/0.00
PERS-contacts /0.00/0.00/0.00
PERS-Kids misc. /0.00/16.00/− 16.00
PERS-Kids piano /0.00/264.00/− 264.00
PERS-Kids sports /0.00/0.00/0.00
PERS-life insurance /256.00/256.00/0.00
PERS-newspaper /8.00/0.00/8.00
PERS-preschool /175.00/350.00/− 175.00
PERS-prescriptions /0.00/9.01/− 9.01
PERSONAL-braces /100.00/100.00/0.00
SAV-future expenses /4000.00/4000.00/0.00
SAV-heating system /0.00/0.00/0.00
SAV-vacation /0.00/0.00/0.00
Total Monthly Expenses/$10,370.00/$11,594.69/− $1,224.69

Summary for March (Review)
actual income/$11,519.70
actual expenses /$11,594.69
remaining/− $74.99

Monthly Details: In summary, our expenses exceeded our income by $74.99.

Income: Our income was $1,108.70 greater than we had expected. This was primarily because we received a check for $460 from our Flexible Spending Account (health expenses reimbursed from pre tax money), we received two reimbursement checks from my husband's company for (work related expenses he had incurred) $112 and $44, and some income from some items I had sold on ebay.

Expenses: Our expenses were $1,224.69 greater than we had expected. Some reasons for this were - we paid $272.51 more than we had planned on our debts (yeay snowflakes!), we spent $220.80 more than we had planned in misc. (mostly jewelry supplies for my jewelry business which needs to be separated from our personal expenses, plus a $15 stupid tax for a check that bounced), $264 more than planned for the kids piano lessons (was budgeted for last month but not paid until this month), and $175 more than we had planned for preschool (also budgeted for last month but not paid until this month).