Category Archives: Budget

Planned 2017 Budget

Here is the planned budget (expenses) for 2017.

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A couple of key points:

          The T-Mobile bill is for 5 people. I pay for my parents’ and my brother’s cellphone bill. My brother reimburses me $32 every month to pay for his portion of the bill and his Iphone. I’m definitely giving him a great deal since he is in college. So really, the bill is $144 ($36 per person). I miss not paying for cellphones (we used to have work cellphones). While I’ve looked at other options, T-Mobile’s plan is the best because we all have Iphones. My parents find Iphones easy to use and we prefer Iphones. T-Mobile’s free international calling and roaming is a huge plus. My mom spends time in Mexico and she can now be reached whenever and she can also communicate freely. Plus she calls Mexico a lot when she is in the US.

           Food is budgeted for $515. We usually go over on this category. Actually, every single month. I should probably give up and raise it to $600. That’s a more realistic number to shoot for every month. Will review next month…

          I don’t have travel or health &medical budgeted for in the budget. It’s zero now. We have a savings account where we put travel money every month, so when we spend money for travel, the money comes out of that savings account. This fund came in useful when I had to fly for my grandmother’s funeral in early January. I had to book an international flight same day. It was very expensive, but I’m glad I went. Health & medical will usually include prescriptions, medical appointments. We usually average $700 with contacts, glasses, dentists, prescritions, etc. It’s hard to budget on a monthly basis though. Expenses come at different times of the year.

          Did you notice there is no gym membership? I use my work gym (win!). I’ve actually never paid for a gym membership. My husband hasn’t signed up for one. I’m hoping when he lands he has access to a gym for free. A girl can dream.

          Shopping is for any shopping that’s not related to groceries. Clothes, video games, etc.

          Auto Insurance – We own 2007 Honda Civic and a 2008 Mitsibushi Lancer. The cost is split up and sent to a separate savings account since the payment is semiannual. This is for full coverage. Need to review in 6 months whether it would save us more money to drop full coverage and switch to liability only. Our deductible is already at $1,000.

          I try to make sure out actual spending stays within our budget. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Monthly budget is set at $2,426. Let’s say we come in usually around $2,500. I think that’s pretty good. We could cut food, but it’s really hard. We like food. I think an easy win would be to relook at our insurance premium when it renews in 6 months. 

Balancing Wants

It’s great reading posts form personal finance bloggers who are almost at financial independence or are already there in life. It’s so inspiring and motivating. BUT….then I remember my husband and I are only 25. We are just starting out in our careers and really life. Being in your mid 20s means you can’t always do everything at once. It’s all about slow and steady.

Despite all the frustrations in day to day life, I am extremely grateful for where I’m at in life. I’m with an amazing partner. We are happy and healthy. Heck, what can I say, I’m a dreamer!

I’m the planner in our relationship. I scheme, crunch the numbers, plan, and somehow make it happen. It’s a constant battle balancing goals, needs, and wants. There’s the short term (next five years) and there’s the long term (10 years from now), and super long term (20 years +). The dream is for us to be financially independent; so we’re establishing short term habits that will help us in the long term. There’s a reason I established automatic saving buckets. Yet I have a lot of wants for our house, and sometimes I wish I could do it all at once. So here are all MY wants.

– Finish Kitchen – Kitchen backsplash, extra recessed lighting, and new paint color.

– Master bathroom Renovation – Lately I really, really want a to redo our master bathroom. I imagine myself demoing the outdated vanity, gross shower tiles, and redoing it all. I know it’s not going to happen this year. But it doesn’t make me want it any less.

– Start/Finish out our backyard patio – I really wanted to make it happen this year, but we ran out of time during the spring. It was really rainy which limited our work outside, and we started working/ripping out the flower beds, which is a lot more work that anticipated. Texas summers are hot, so you can’t do much without melting. I did install a drip irrigation system around the house to help maintain the foundation. The backyard patio is probably going to be a project for next year. Over the winter, I will plan it all out the design with my mother-in-law. And figure out the budget. It’s all about the budget with me!!!

– New couch -We want a new couch. We got our couch when we first got married. It’s an awesome couch, but we love watching movies together, relaxing, and cuddling. And the couch does not make it comfortable. I’m saving up all our credit card rewards towards the couch purchase. I even created a savings fund bucket for our new couch. It’s going to happen in the next year. It might be next summer, but it’s going to happen because I have wanted a new couch since forever.

It’s a slow progress because we save up for all our purchases and projects and then, move forward with them. Maybe this post should be called postponing all my wants until next year and beyond!!!

The truth is we don’t need all my wants, that’s why they are wants. Our house is in livable condition, but it would be so awesome to have it more finished. Of course, this is all with balancing daily expenses, and life. So save, save, and save.

Well I’m getting sleepy so logging off now. Have a great weekend!

Automatic Saving Buckets

Life can get hectic and I can get lazy. I have noticed lately it has been harder to save money every month. We have had a lot of expenses come up this year. Sometimes it’s for items that eventually will happen like car maintenance, others are just spending extra money on food during the month, or buying contacts for hubby. Every month I try to stay within our allocated budget but our variable expenses like food or just another item always pop up. I have tried not to freak out too much because I know we still live very frugally, but the numbers always surprise me at the end of the month.

So, earlier this month I implemented a different strategy – automatic saving buckets. We have a Capital One 360 account which allows us to open new accounts and name them appropriately. I started doing this for our home and auto insurance and automatically deducting it from our checking account. This worked great because when it came time to pay our bi-annual bill, the money was already allocated for in the account, and I just had to transfer it over. It still hurts paying for insurance but I guess for now it’s a necessary evil.

Here’s our saving buckets so far:

– Emergency Fund – This is where we keep our emergency fund. I don’t have automatic deductions yet for this one since it’s 100% fully funded. 

– Home Auto Insurance – $312 gets automatically deducted from our checking account and transferred to this savings account. It is as if we were paying the insurance company monthly, but since we are on a bi-annual plan, the money gets transferred until the bill is due.

– Vacation Fund – So I have a small amount of money getting transferred to the vacation fund. My hopes are this fund will grow so much little by little, one day we will be able to go to Europe. Hopefully before we are 30!

– Brokerage/Property Fund – At the end of this month a small amount of money will get transferred to this account. Originally, my thoughts were this fund will be for buying funds in our after tax brokerage account. But we have been talking about potentially saving up to buy property (land) somewhere down the road. 

– IRAs – Money to fund our IRAs on a yearly basis will be transferred to this account on a monthly basis, making sure we have enough money to fund them. 

I have also been thinking about adding another fund for Christmas and one for home improvements. I have so many projects that I want to do around the house, but they require some money of course. So far, the cost has just been floated on a monthly basis on the credit card, but it would be nice to know there’s some money already allocated separately for home improvements.

I really like having the automatic deductions. This way I don’t have to worry about making sure we save money, it automatically gets transferred. Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 1.43.16 AM

 

Cut the Chord

I was sitting down for lunch last week with a group of coworkers and industry professionals. The age range was wide, ranging from one millennial to a couple of Baby Boomers.  We started talking about cell phone plans, supporting kids after college, and then figuring out ways to cut bills.

As a personal finance blogger and a frugal shopper, I’ve tried to find ways to cut costs. One of the ways I’ve cut costs is by looking at forms of entertainment.  So I started sharing with my coworkers, hoping my ideas would insight conversation that would eventually lead to more ideas.

  1. Cut Cable – In our household, we haven’t had cable in a couple of years. I remember when my hubby and I moved together, cable was on the must list to have. We would end up watching endless hours of TV just because it was there. HGTV and Food Network became two of my favorite channels. But the cost of cable was outrageous, especially considering we were broke students. I finally convinced my hubby to cut the chord. Savings are about $80.  We had the smallest package. My coworkers at the lunch table told me they spend $300 a month on cable. Guess HBO, Showtime, NFL package, Starz, sure add up.
  2. Hulu and Netflix – Instead of spending money on cable, I only pay $16 a month on Hulu and Netflix and I can cancel at any time without having to talk to anyone over the phone. I can watch Hulu and Netflix, anytime, anywhere.
  3. Buy an HD Antenna – If you really want the local channels, for example, to catch the sports events, consider getting an HD antenna. We got a $25 HD antenna at Wal-Mart and now 11 local channels.
  4. Get a Chromecast – If you don’t have a smart TV, get a Chromecast. As long as your TV has an HDMI port, and you have a smart device, you’re set. No need to upgrade your TV.
  5. Skip the Movies – Last time we wanted to go to the movies, we checked out movie ticket prices. $11.50 per person for adult matinee. Can you believe it! For two people, it would be $23, not to mention any snacks you pick up on the way. Instead watch movies at home with new releases from Tesco and make your own popcorn.
  6. Exercise at the park – We are so lucky to live in the US. We have so many parks that are free. When I went to visit family in Monterrey, Mexico, we went to what I considered the only “green” area in the city. It took an hour to get there in traffic and you had to pay an entrance fee. Here the park is less than a five-minute walk from my house. It’s so awesome.  One of the reasons I love the neighborhood.

There are so many ways to get entertainment at affordable rates. When I introduced all these ideas, everyone at the table said they couldn’t get rid of their cable. So many devices were too much of a hassle. All they wanted to do is sit on their couch and grab their remote at the end of the day. Well, I rather pocket the savings.

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Progress on Decreasing Our Expenses

My Discover credit statement closed last week and we accomplished what we haven’t been able to accomplish in months: we decreased our spending. My goal to keep our spending to $1500 on our card was not met completely. We went over by $75, but $75 is way better than $500! Next month’s goal is to maintain this consistency. This past month was a very challenging month. I really had to watch our spending in the food category and delayed some other expenses till the end of the month. Keeping our spending low is hard work. I have to consistently watch what we spend our money on and make sure we are not overspending. It means logging in to mint every day and consciously thinking about our purchases on a daily basis.

This next month is going to be challenging. We have a couple of house expenses coming up. We have to have our warranty people come and perform service. Our garbage disposal is broken, our dishwasher is connected to the garbage disposal and won’t turn on, and our A/C needs service. I’m, also, updating the kitchen and will probably spend another $150 to finish buying the materials we need. Being a homeowner is not cheap! There are only five more paychecks left in the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, which means I have to start buying Christmas presents for the family! So much to do!

I hope the end of the year festivities does not trump our budget, but it may be this way. The fight to keep our spending in check will continue though.

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Buying Contacts & Paint like A Pro

It’s Thursday and it’s been a pretty exhausting week at work. I remember thinking when I was in school about how much I would enjoy working because of the different challenges. Well, I guess I got what I wanted? I’m constantly getting pulled in 20 directions at once. It’s different.

When shopping for big purchases, I’m always on the lookout for deals. We price compare most options. I even look at Discover’s merchant list to see if I can get an additional percentage on my cashback rewards. Shopping around means I spend less upfront. Just imagine me singing “more money in my pocket, more money in my pocket.”

This week we made two purchases outside of our “regular food, utilities, and gas categories.” First, I decided, a bit on a whim, to paint the master bedroom and kitchen for months. It took me eight months to decide on a color. I took advantage of Lowe’s Labor Day Sale on their paint. You get a $10 mail in rebate when you purchase one gallon of select paint brands. This is a 30% discount at least; depending on the paint you choose. So there I went to buy three gallons of Valspar paint. I, also, went to the U.S. Postal office to pick up the “mover’s package.” Inside the mover’s package is a 10% off Lowe’s coupon. Hurray!!! Unfortunately, Lowe’s is no longer in Discover’s merchant network, so I could not get the 5% cashback if I ordered it online. Here are some words of advice when painting: prep takes more work than you think, having a paint party with your friends reduces the stress of painting, and popcorn ceilings soak up a lot of paint!

Buying contacts is expensive. I have a learned a lot since purchasing the first contacts for my husband. Today, I logged into 1-800-Contacts to buy contacts for my husband. 1-800-Contacts is having a back to school sale. Use their coupon code, 20OFF175, to get 20% off your order. If you have a Discover card, just login to your online account and click the 1-800-Contacts link offer. It’s 10% cashback! In addition, 1-800-Contacts has a $100 mail-in-rebate with certain brands. The brand he is using, Acuvue, qualifies for the $100 mail-in-rebate. In conclusion, use your Discover for 10% cashback, take advantage of the back to school sale by saving 20%, and send in your $100 mail-in-rebate. By now, you should be getting the contacts at 50% of the original cost. I will, also, be asking for a reimbursement from my Vision Care Plan. I think its $100. Although I don’t count that as additional discounts, since we pay for Vision insurance.

If you are planning to buying contacts or paint, there are some great deals out there. Take advantage of them.

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Controlling the Budget- Castle Edition

I mentioned in my previous post I’m scrutinizing all our expenses and even opportunities to maximize any returns. I was a bit lazy the past few months since we moved into our new house. Once we bought a house and had no immediate savings goal where we would get something tangible, we were a bit NOT motivated to continue saving at the previous aggressive rate. Sure, I set goals to max out retirement accounts and start a brokerage account, and we kept saving a long. But we started spending a bit more here and there.

EXCEPT A BIT MORE HERE AND THERE REALLY STARTS ADDING UP!!!

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I would try to rein in the wheels, but then we would see shiny things like food. It’s embarrassing how much money we have spent food in the past six months, well in general forever! Food is always our week point. We may not necessarily go out to bars, but we do love take out.

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DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO REIN IN FOOD SPENDING???

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We would just postpone the budget talk. I would hope every month our Discover credit card bill would be lower than the next. Since we had other house expenses on top of the crazy food spending, we would go over budget. Sigh. What’s the point of a budget if you break every single time?

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We’re buckling down and going in a budget again. Check it out below:

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Our biggest challenge is keeping our food and gas bill in check. We have a weekly allotment of $62 for gas. This amounts to about two tanks of gas, one for each of us. Doable. The food is the challenge. We are basically cutting $500 off our budget. This is hard! $150 a week on all food is a challenge. Considering we go on a grocery run and spend $80 bucks on food that is easily gone in 3-4 days, and probably eat out a couple times ($20 each time for the both of us).

Now, I will have to more creative. I will have to look at ads and we will have to make meal plans. It’s going to be challenging.

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6 Steps to Establish A Post College Budget

As part of contribution to H&R Block Talk, I discussed the 6 steps to establish a post college budget.

Congratulations on receiving your diploma and landing a job offer! This is a very exciting time in your life.

As you start figuring out your next steps, it’s extremely important to set a budget. How do you establish your budget? Here are a few things I learned after I graduated from school and landed my big, adult job.

To read more, read 6 Steps to Establish A Post College Budget

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Mayhem Is Coming – Why Emergency Funds Are Useful

When it rains, it pours…

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I feel like my life has sort of been a sitcom where everything breaks around me.

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First, my husband got a traffic citation for changing lanes when there was a solid line. In his defense, the lane he was on, turned into a right turn only lane without any warning. He turned on his blinker to get over, which the car behind him let him do, and then a cop stopped him because apparently that’s illegal.

Then, the snowacopolypse in Dallas came. On my way to work I slid into a curb. Damage, none. Although we have to get my tires realigned just in case.

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One week ago, I got a traffic citation because I started to turn left on a green yield sign when I should not have. I stopped as soon as I realized my subconscious had interpreted it as a left arrow. It was really dark and foggy, and apparently the car in front of me was a cop who then gave me first traffic citation ever. Then, on Wednesday morning I hit the accelerator too hard when I was coming out of the garage and took out my right side mirror. This stuff doesn’t happen to normal people right?

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So, our budget has been hit my traffic citations, replacing passenger mirrors on car, and some other small things that broke at the house. This month it was hard to protect our income from unexpected expenses.

It got me thinking. I’m grateful we have an emergency fund, car insurance, and house insurance. But what if we didn’t?

It would really suck. I do carry disability and life insurance through work, and we could survive on one paycheck, but many people don’t have these benefits and it could be devastating for them.

Which is why it’s important to establish an EMERGENCY FUND.

Now why doesn’t it rain money instead? That would be a lot more fun.

 

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