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Archive for July, 2018

42 cents under budget on food :)

July 30th, 2018 at 09:34 am

I've been trying to stay under $600 a month for food for a couple of months now. I failed in June. But as of today, after one last $21.11 trip to Aldi, July looks good.

I know $600 probably sounds like a lot to some people. However the Maptitude map linked below shows average household food expenditure in NJ is $8109, or $675 a month. And the National Standards the IRS puts out (for figuring out how much delinquent taxpayers can afford to pay) says $646 for two people per month. I'll link to that page, too. And it's a lot lower than we have been spending.

Quicken tells me we averaged $718 a month from July 2017 through June 2018. It was probably higher than that because I've missed recording a lot of things during chaotic periods. Right now it says I should have $785 in cash! It's more like $50, and I'm sure a lot of that unknown spending was on food.

I've been using an app called Daily Budget on my phone. It tells me every day how much I can spend without getting too far ahead of myself during the month. It's designed to budget everything, but I'm only using it for food spending right now. It's been a big help. I found it after reading about a similar app someone came up with to help Food Stamp users spread their spending out more evenly over the month.

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employe...

https://www.caliper.com/featured-maps/maptitude-state-food-e...

Stable vs. volatile household income

July 28th, 2018 at 05:32 pm

I just came across a definition of volatile vs. stable household income. Apparently if your income increases or decreases more than 25% year over a year, it's considered volatile.

I've known that our income has been all over the place since the partial lay-off at my old job in 2013, but I never really analyzed it.

No wonder I've felt uneasy, and unsure about how we can afford to live. I looked at our tax returns, and our adjusted gross income in 2017 was only about 55% of what it was in 2012. And in-between, it's gone down and up and down again. In two out of five years, the changes in income would qualify for "volatile."

I found a study where 92% of the people surveyed would prefer a more stable financial life over being a little richer. I guess I'm part of the 92%. I look forward to taking my Social Security at 62 even though the payout will be lower than it could be. The alternative is planning to use up savings and investments between now and my full retirement age, not knowing things like how the stock market will do and what emergencies might come up.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2017/03/incomevolati...

http://www.usfinancialdiaries.org/book

Take An Action: July 26

July 26th, 2018 at 12:31 pm

I've entered two contests this week.

Wawa had those slips again where you do a survey about your last visit, and at the end you can give your contact info to enter the survey.

Then when I was at Shoprite, I noticed a big cardboard box where they were collecting entries for some kind of BBQ sweepstakes. So I filled out one of the slips--why not? Years ago, I actually won a good-sized gift card from another supermarket sweepstakes like this. I don't think many people bother to enter, so there's a much greater chance of winning.

Take An Action: July 23

July 23rd, 2018 at 07:20 am

CB, I like your term "gap year." I'm in the middle of mine. I can't take Social Security until next year, and we're about out of liquid savings that we can withdraw without generating taxable income.

I played around in Quicken this weekend, trying out different scenarios through the end of this year. The state of our projected checking account balances made me very nervous.

After sleeping on it, I decided that the most sensible thing to do is change to monthly payments on our car and homeowners insurance. Otherwise, paying the big lump sums this fall would tap us out, and I'd end up not being able to pay our credit cards off in full each month anymore. The $1 a month service fee on the insurance is a lot less than credit card interest would be.

So, it's done. Once my Social Security kicks in, we can go back to the annual billing.

Another action I took this weekend was using up some dry milk in pancakes, to conserve fresh milk.

Take An Action: July 18

July 19th, 2018 at 10:46 am

One of the books that helped me before was the one by Jerrold Mundis about getting out of debt. I quoted it here before, back in 2005; here's the quote again:

"Fish lay thousands of eggs. Only a tiny percentage of these ever hatch--yet there are a lot of fish around. If I take ten actions and only three work, I've still made three gains I couldn't have if I'd simply sat around wishing something were different. It's taking action that counts."

Last night I read through all my old entries. It was a help to see the kinds of things I tried before to improve our situation. So I'm going to start recording the actions I'm taking this time around, for accountability and so I can go back and see it later on. Here are some things I've done over the past few days:

--Cancelled my gym membership
--Used a $5 coupon for school supplies at Staples, on two rolls of Scotch magic tape. They ended up totally free.
--Got my gas at BJ's Wholesale (cheapest near me)
--Used a $5 off $15 coupon at Big Lots on groceries. Some of the items I got were Triscuits on the clearance shelf, marked down to $1 a box.
--Ordered a pizza online to get an online-only deal.
--Downloaded some free digital magazine issues through the library
--At Walmart, took advantage of a deal on diet ginger ale. It was $1 per 2-liter bottle. Hang-tag coupons on the bottles were for $2 off when you bought 3. So each bottle cost 33 cents. Full price at Shoprite is $1.69.

Wow, I can still log in!

July 18th, 2018 at 01:02 pm

It looks like it's been almost five years since I posted here. I looked through the other blogs and it was nice to still see some names I recognize.

A lot has happened here. I'll go into details later on, but at this point my husband and I are basically retired, living on one Social Security check and one civil service pension check a month, plus a little investment income. I'm not old enough for Social Security quite yet.

I'm starting to get concerned about how much savings we're going through, so back I came to Saving Advice. Right now I'm concentrating on cutting our spending back, rather than trying to make more money. Although my mom's in Assisted Living now, taking care of her business and trying to get her house cleared out is a part-time (unpaid) job in itself.