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Refining my budget system (long)

July 25th, 2006 at 07:01 pm

Here's the main thing I've been up to as far as reorganizing. What I've wanted for a long time is an easy way to make sure we're living within our means, and to see how much is available for extras.

What I've done is tweaked our direct deposits and automatic savings deposits so that no extra money is left in our main checking account beyond what's needed for monthly bills. When non-monthly bills come up, I transfer the money back in from savings.

The point of that is, when I see a nice balance in there I will know none of it can be touched because it all has to pay bills.

Here's the new way things are divvied up out of our main account (annual figures):

$3372 into Emergency Fund
$1040 into Health Savings Account
$6240 into House Account (property taxes, homeowner's insurance, quarterly water and sewer bills, and lawn mowing)
$600 into Occasional Expenses Account (AAA, safe deposit box, etc.)
$600 into Christmas/Gift/Routine Vet Visits Account
$204 into New Computer/Appliances Account
$2784 into New Car Account (starts after cc pmts are finished)

Then there's checking account #2, which gets $140 a week to cover groceries, gas, pet supplies and two Sunday newspaper subscriptions (being as I'm really getting them for the coupons).

I'll be able to see how much is available to spend on Everyday Expenses just by looking at the account balance. (No fiddling with Quicken reports.)

That leaves a total of $720 for discretionary spending per year out of our regular income:

$240 for personal expenses like haircuts, haircolor, makeup, moisturizer, etc.

$480 for clothes for the two of us.

Everything else, from coating the driveway, to plants, to dates with DH, has to come out of the kind of extra money a lot of you are using for the $20 challenge. Rebates, working the elections, bank bonuses, lower-than-expected utility bills, etc.

I'm corralling all the extra/discretionary money into checking account #3 at Netbank. Result, I can see exactly how much spending money is available just by looking at the balance.

A little background on how I came up with some figures.

Clothes - Dave Ramsey recommends spending 2-9% of your income on clothing. $480 is less than 1-1/2% of our take-home. Also, I found a government chart on income and expenditures that shows a household with our income spends about $1477 a year on apparel and clothing care services. $480 is is less than 1/3 of that. So while it might seem high to some of you, I'm feeling that it's perfectly reasonable for us.

Car savings - The $2784 is just about what we've been putting against the cc debt over the past year. Also, that same government chart shows that a household with our income spends $2797 on new vehicle aquisition per year. So this seems right in the ballpark.

You win some, you lose some

April 20th, 2006 at 09:47 am

I've been trying to neaten things up this morning, and thought I'd find out exactly when and where I can take those aluminum cans we've been crushing for 4 months.

I found out they're paying 25 cents a pound, which doesn't sound too bad except the cans are pretty light. I got on the scale with and without the bag of cans, and the cans appear to only weigh about 8 pounds. That's $2--meaning it will take over 2 years to recoup the cost of the can crusher!

Oh, well, there is the entertainment factor in crushing the cans... Wink

Ebay stores?

March 15th, 2006 at 11:16 am

The 10-cent listing fee for today spurred me on to list a few items on Ebay. With photos from the digital camera--Yes!

Not that I got my listings for 10 cents. I like it when other people offer Buy It Now, so I use it when I list something. Also, I've been through listing items for a very low starting bid, and having them go for that price. There's no way I'm going to let a rare book go for a penny, so I also set reserve prices.

It got me thinking--would it be more worthwhile to set up an Ebay store? They give you the first 30 days free, then it's $15.95 a month. My mom's interested in selling some stuff, too, so maybe it would be worthwhile. I like the idea of having it more like Amazon, where the items can just sit at my set price til the right buyer comes along. For some reason, I really dislike the whole auction thing, as a buyer or a seller.

I wonder whether they still charge the monthly fee if you're on vacation? What if you have to close your store completely, and then want to open one again in a year or so--will they let you back in? If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the info.

In addition to the shower curtain, music box, and two books on Ebay, I listed another book on Amazon and got a $20 rebate ready to go. Went to Aldi's yesterday. Basically, I've been working on stuff that will catch us up financially rather than going on to anything new that will cost money.

$20 Challenge

January 30th, 2006 at 07:19 am

DH put up the can crusher this weekend, so things are finally moving. I crushed a month's worth of cans we'd been saving--it was quite a workout! I can tell it's going to help my upper arm and shoulder strength. Wink The bin I have to keep the crushed cans in is about 1/2 full, so I guess I'll have to take them in every 2 months. It won't come to much money each time, but I don't want to get overrun with the things.

I have between $2 and $3 left of the $20 to use on Ebay listing fees, but I'm not quite ready. I need to play around with the digital camera and figure out how to put pictures in a listing. Also, I need to look into free photo hosting services again. I had one lined up (called Y44 or something), but I just got an email from them saying they're going out of business. I've sold on Ebay before, but not things that required photos, so this is why it's a new project for the challenge.

Last time I voted, I signed up to be a (paid) election board worker. They don't often open it to new people, so I jumped on it. But it's a slow process. This week I'm mailing back the card saying I'm still interested and am willing to go to training. Then there will be the training, and waiting for someone to drop out so I'll be called. But once you're in, you can make some decent money for a couple of days' work a year.

Another thing I need to do is change settings on my computer so Fatwallet's cash back feature will work. I found instructions on their site awhile back, but never got around to fixing things.