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Paying myself back rather than the cc

March 16th, 2009 at 08:56 am

I've gotten back into that vicious cycle that Carol Keeffe describes so well in her book*--one month you charge some groceries and toothpaste, the next month when you pay the bill it leaves you short to buy the new month's groceries, and you end up using the credit card again and again each month.

When things were really wild over the past few months, I'd just shop when I could. I didn't always have cash with me, and didn't always know for sure how much was in our checking accounts. I didn't want to overdraw an account, so I used the credit card to be safe. If I was using the credit card, I couldn't go to Aldi, and I didn't have time to shop the sales and use coupons, either. I didn't always take time to record what I spent. Often I had to charge things that were really for my mother, which confused things even more. (She doesn't have a credit card of her own.)

Result--a balance I've been paying off each month, but sometimes painfully so.

This weekend I "borrowed" $140 from our bills account to cover a big food shopping trip. I've got a lot of catching up to do, as we've used up a lot of stockpile items, and a lot had to be throw away because it got spoiled or was way out of date. I'll probably have to "borrow" some more next week. So far this month I've already spent $284 on groceries and we're only half through.

But at least I can pay myself back at my leisure with no interest adding up. And it's enabling me to take advantage of some really good sales and coupons, like a series of $5 off $40 coupons at one of our stores.

* "How to get what you want in life with the money you already have"

Getting sloppy, sliding back

May 31st, 2007 at 07:10 am

Yikes, it didn't take long.

I stopped doing my 4-week reports here after February. Thought I didn't need them anymore, and was tired of the tedious work involved.

I stopped recording what I was spending out of Cash, figured I'd just chalk it all up to Everyday Expenses.

Life's been getting busier, and I started using the Discover card when I wasn't sure exactly how much was in checking. Rather than stopping to check, I charged things rather than risk having a debit purchase turned down. (Also I was lured by the cash-back rewards.)

Gas prices have gone up, and I haven't revised the rest of my budget to make up for it.

I've been buying special foods for myself to help with The Diet--but honestly, many of them have been luxury items I could do without and still eat healthily.

So, now I've got $135 on Discover from overspending on groceries that I can't just pay off. It's either pay it off over the next 3 weeks, or just don't eat this week! I know it's a tiny balance, but it's a Red Flag, for sure.

When will I ever learn?

8-week report, or, Why I Hate Carrying Cash

February 11th, 2007 at 09:43 am

For my "13th month", the 4 weeks ending January 13, I went over budget on Everyday Expenses by about $50. It came to $595.42.

For the first full 4 week period in 2007, ending February 10, I went over by about $36. I thought I was going to come in under budget, and even things out. But it didn't happen, and here's the main reason why.

My mother paid me back for something in cash, rather than by check. I didn't get to the bank with it right away, and started to spend it rather than using my debit cards. I did remember to record some things, and may have more receipts somewhere. But the fact is, right now I have no idea where $63.95 went, and no way to reconstruct it. If the purchases had been with a debit or credit card, they'd turn up on my statement and I'd know.

Since I have a category "cash unaccounted for" in my Everyday Expenses reports, it now all gets counted against Everyday Expenses no matter what it was for. Gosh darn, but I hate using cash!

On the plus side, our savings is starting to grow. I'll be keeping updated totals under Author Info at the top right of the blog.

4-week report

December 31st, 2006 at 12:15 pm

Boring, I know, but reporting here keeps me honest! For four weeks ending 12/16:

Everyday Expenses are staying pretty stable, despite the craziness of the holidays. It came to $554.76, only about $10 over where I like it to be. And, of course it was due to an organizational problem, sigh... I was watching the budget as I shopped through the month, but I'd forgotten to record a trip to Pathmark in Quicken so it looked like I'd spent less than I had. Oh well, not a disaster.

I had the credit card completely paid off, then I paid for the gym membership with the Discover card on 12/16. But it's paid for now, plus I have a weird $1 credit balance because of a mysterious trial offer refund. Smile

Savings for emergencies stood at $458 in the Emergency Fund, and $570 in the Health Savings Account.

I'm going to keep reporting every 4 weeks, even though the debt is paid off now--I can use it to track savings goals.

4-week report; thankful we're $5000 better off than last year

November 24th, 2006 at 05:58 am

Thanksgiving was easy, as DH and I just went out to a restaurant with my mother. We both were in the mood to declutter and reorganize, so that's how we spent most of the day. I'm starting to do my annual paper clean-out early, and it feels good.

So I've caught up with my 4-week check-in for "November" which actually ended on November 18.

CC debt down to $449. It's due to be paid off on December 16. Before the end of the year and before my 50th birthday. Smile

Cash-like assets (not IRAs and such) up to $5150. $505 in the official EF, $490 in the HSA, plus the balances on gift certificates and in the ING and Netbank accounts. "Quick" net worth $4701.

My Everyday Expenses came in under budget at $529. For the past 4 months, I've been tracking coupon use, too. It's been averaging over $40 a month. This past month it was $52.83.

At the same point last year, our "quick" net worth was MINUS $504. And we'd spent $653 on Everyday Expenses in the equivalent 4-week period.


4-Week Report

October 21st, 2006 at 04:56 pm

Yay! Under budget this month. Which is a good thing, since I forgot to enter some spending in Quicken last month and the September total was more than I'd thought. $606 for Everyday Expenses in September, and $496 for October, averages out to $551, not much higher than my target of $545 a month. And we have two weeks of dinner in the fridge and freezer already, to start the new "month."

The HSBC balance transfer card is down to $799. Under $1000 for the first time. Smile There is $320 on the Citi card because I just ordered this month's discounted gift cards. Still and all, the total is $494 less than last month. Progress!

I think I've finally developed the habits of a lifestyle we can afford--and I'm finding myself very content. Last night I had a great time playing the free version of Bookworm online, and having a bowl of nearly-free Malt-O-Meal "sugar crisp" for my evening snack. I guess as things change, you still have to tweak, but I think my major, rather stressful lifestyle reworking is complete. (Ironic, now that my pay is going up!)

4-week report, ending Sept. 23

October 2nd, 2006 at 06:09 am

Everyday Expenses came to $575, a little high but not terrible. Mostly because I had a bunch of cat food coupons to use up before they expired, so I bought ahead. It certainly wasn't from gas prices--only spent $80. Yay!

But overall, I did some SERIOUS spending this past month.

HSBC $1099, down by $50. But overall cc debt (purchases not yet billed or due) up to $1613. I purposely bought as much on the Citi card as possible to get one last rewards check from them. You have to have $50 in rewards to request a check, and I had to work to make it.

Emergency Fund $110, down $570.

But I have no regrets.

We spent $345 on car repairs and maintenance. Worth it for peace of mind.

We spent $250 on the lights for the back of the house.

I spent $78 on misc. household stuff such as curtains, a throw rug, miniblinds and a hose.

I paid less on the credit cards to reserve cash for the plumbing work we had done in September but weren't billed for yet. (It came to $515, which we'll be paying this week.)

It's gotten to the point where the undone repairs and maintenance are weighing heavier on me than the weight of unpaid debt. The main debt is at 0% through March, and the Citi charges are still in the grace period. I'd rather have two fully functioning bathrooms than have these paid off early for no reason.

So, a satisfying month even though the numbers say otherwise.

4-Week Report

September 2nd, 2006 at 11:34 am

I'm reporting a week late. This is actually for the 4 weeks ending August 26.

Everyday expenses came to $547, after coupons and including sales tax. Just about the same as last month.

As noted before, part of that total was $100.92 in gas, a record high.

Food expenses, including groceries and take-out, totalled $364. That's $91 a week. The latest chart from USDA showing the Low Cost plan for two people our age allows $89.80. That's one step up from the food-stamp-level Thrifty Plan. So I feel like I did pretty well; I just wish I could stay at around $85 a week and also not use so much gas.

Emergency Fund at $680, up $115 from the previous month.

CC Debt at $1256, down $738 from the previous month. $1149 is the HSBC 0% balance, the rest current purchases not yet billed.

Gas over $100 for first time this month

August 23rd, 2006 at 08:15 pm

My 4-week "August" period ends this Saturday, and I've been peeking at how I've done. To be exact, gas came to $100.92, my highest month ever. That's not including $10 worth that I used attending the wedding reception, and the $10 DH and I used on a drive in the country to visit a used bookstore. I've put that in the Family Stuff and Dates categories.

It's not like gas prices are the highest they've ever been. I've just been driving a lot, mostly shopping. Moneywise, grocery spending came out well this month, but I also paid in gas, stress and time. I always thought I'd keep "cherry picking" bargains until it wasn't worthwhile anymore. I think that time has come.

I've been re-reading some old housekeeping and organizing books where they talk about having ONE errand day, ONE paperwork day, or spending no more than 20 minutes a week on your financial affairs.

Simplifying. Staying home and being happy in my little box, as someone wrote about recently. That is sounding heavenly right now. So my theme for September (starting Aug. 27) is K.I.S.S.

4-Week Report

July 28th, 2006 at 08:09 am

My July ends tomorrow, but I know I don't need to shop before Sunday, so here it is:

Everyday Expenses were under control this month. They totalled $547, but actually a bit less because of the way I started tracking sales tax. The $547 includes tax paid on purchases like a birthday gift and cell phone service, that really aren't part of the EE category. I'll have to tweak my system.

I didn't work terribly hard at it, yet it's lower than a few months back when I was really trying and ran way over. All I can think is, it's been so hot that we haven't wanted to eat heavy dinners.

Liquid net worth increased to $3033, a gain of $41.

Emergency Fund went back up to $515, an increase of $258, but still not as high as it was before June's car repairs.

Credit card debt totals $1994, a decrease of $255. $1749 left on the 0% HSBC card, and the rest current expenses not yet billed.

Four-week report

July 2nd, 2006 at 07:31 am

"June" ended on July 1 for me.

Everyday Expenses came to $591, even after I applied an upcoming rebate against last month's spending ($25 gc if you spend $300 at Pathmark by July 6), and recategorized some vacation food spending as recreation. My general target is less than $545.

I've been running over this way the past three months, and I've been kicking myself about not being a better shopper. But now that I look more closely, I can see it's partly because of gas.

January-March totalled $204 for gas. April-June totals $288. That's an average of $28 more per month.

I don't know if it's just gas prices or if I'm driving more. Time to start using the trip meter again, and try to stay under 150 miles a week.

Our liquid net worth went up to $2992, an increase of $983, largely because of a $600 wedding anniversary gift from my mother.

Emergency Fund decreased from $681 to $257 due to two car repairs during the month.

Credit Card Debt decreased from $2805 to $2249. The HSBC account IS down under $2000 now, but there are outstanding balances on other cards because of end-of-the month expenses that haven't yet shown up on a bill. (Car registration, yearly internet fee, etc.)

4-week report, a bit late

June 8th, 2006 at 06:10 am

For me, May ended on June 3.

CC balance down to $2808 from $2972, a reduction of $164.

Emergency fund balance down to $681 from $716, a reduction of $35. (No good reason except I had to move money into checking because of a cash flow problem--bills being due just before paychecks coming in. Will be moving money back in as soon as the election pay comes in.)

Net improvement $129.

Everyday Expenses came to $594, well over where I want to be. I feel good about stocking up on some good deals, but I still wish I could have stayed on budget overall. So far this month, doling myself out $15 a day, I do seem to be spending more slowly. Hopefully, I'll end up with better results by the end of the new 4-week period.

Doesn't sound like much progress, but when I look at our overall "current" net worth, it jumped up by $1180 this month! There's way more sitting in checking accounts, gift cards, ING goal accounts and the HSA. So I guess it was a pretty good month after all.

It's my blog anniversary!

May 26th, 2006 at 07:28 am

Can't believe it's been a whole year! I have to say, I am feeling much less stressed this year than last, and being here has a lot to do with it.

When I look back in Quicken, things aren't dramatically better than they were last year. But they're going in the right direction, I'm still learning a lot, and I feel much more in control of our finances.

Here's a comparison, year to year for our liquid net worth (just checking, savings, gift cards and cc debt).

May 26, 2005 - Assets $3665, cc debt $3756, net MINUS $91

May 25, 2006 - Assetts $4625, cc debt $2948, net PLUS $1677.

Total improvement over the year, $1768, or about $147 a month. Pretty sad, really. But an improvement, and I'll take it.

Haven't come up with any specific goals yet, but I'm psyched to tweak things a bit more and do even better in the coming year.

Four-week report, a bit early

May 4th, 2006 at 07:54 am

I'm caught up on record-keeping and bill-paying. And the only groceries I intend to get before Sunday will be covered by the Pathmark coupons I just got. So I'm ready to report 2 days early.

Credit card debt now $2972, down $565 from last month. (I can't remember when it's been below $3000!)

Emergency savings now $716, up $205 from last month.

Everyday Expenses, $586. Higher than I'd like it to be, but I just don't feel like I overspent. I bought extra of several things because it meant savings in the long run. Also, with trying to watch my weight, I bought some diet stuff that will last a long time. For example, bacon bits are considered "free" calories but not cheap money-wise. I also spent almost $4 for a big box of diet fudgsicles, but they will last me for weeks.

And obviously, if our cc debt is down and our savings is up, we could definitely afford the overage this month. So I'm not going to worry about it.

4-week report

April 8th, 2006 at 03:44 pm

Total cc debt as of 4/8 - $3537, ($3906 on 3/11), down by $369

Emergency fund as of 4/8 - $511, ($441 on 3/11), up by $70

We aren't quite caught up to where we were as of February 11, but we're moving in the right direction again.

Everyday expenses 4 weeks ending 4/8, $506, which is fine. Anything around $545 or under, I feel pretty good about.

I think it was a very good month, especially considering--

It was quarterly utilities month, about $190 for water and two sewer bills (one municipal and one county)
It was time to put money on the Virgin Mobile phones, about $111
It was our nephew's birthday, which required a gift, $20
I did quite a bit of discretionary spending on clothes, about $115
Joined TOPS, $24
Bought that beer! $18

I did charge quite a bit of this for convenience and the rewards, but paid it off right away. It helped that I worked some extra hours, and we didn't have to pay an electric bill this month.

Today's money-generating task was calling Discover card, and trying to cancel. I really was ready to cancel, as there isn't much reason for me to keep it. But I figured if they made me an offer I couldn't refuse, I'd keep it awhile longer. Wink They did--a $20 rebate when I make a purchase within 30 days. Smile

Car inspection, and gift cards

April 4th, 2006 at 06:51 am

These are my little money tasks for the day.

I haven't posted about this before, but I'm doing something different with the the PNC account I opened awhile back. I found out I could split the direct deposit of my paycheck, so I now have $140 a week going into the PNC account. That's just enough to cover the Everyday Expenses budget, the newspaper subscription and Netflix.

My current Everyday Expenses cycle is over on April 8, and there isn't much left in the budget. But there IS money left in the PNC account, because part of the spending was from Petsmart gift cards. So I'm using part of the extra cash to buy more discounted gift cards, which will help even more cash build up in the account. Kind of a snowball effect.

It's car inspection month for me, and I think I'll get it done this morning. I'm anxious to do the Netbank checking account offer for $75, but they want you to keep a $500 balance for at least a month. Before I tie up that money, I want to know how much I might have to spend to get the car up to snuff.

Have been overspending, no two ways about it

March 14th, 2006 at 07:04 am

Everyday Expenses for the four weeks ending 3/11 came to $693. Frown My goal was $522, and I feel like it's a good month when it's in the $540's. So I overspent here about $150. I actually spent less than budgeted in every area except groceries--less on gas, take-out, pet food, everything.

Like I mentioned before, I didn't make one Aldi trip this month. I guess 50 cents to $1 less on each item really adds up. Also, we've been making use of our stockpile for several months, and it finally got to the point where we had to restock--on fairly expensive things like an $8 double-pack of Jif. And being sick didn't help because I didn't have the energy to bother shopping sales, using coupons, etc.

In addition, we didn't make much progress in the Net Worth area. (Only counting cc debt and emergency savings, not IRAs and such.) Last month, total cc debt was $3724. As of March 11 it was $3906, an increase of $182. The emergency savings account is down to $442 from $611 last month, a decrease of $169. There was one true emergency during the month, a dryer repair of $80.

$182 cc debt + $169 savings loss = $351 decrease in liquid net worth

I looked reasons, and I found $273 of discretionary spending on things like getting my hair colored (when I felt too rotten to manage it at home), buying make-up, books, clothes, the deluxe/state version of TaxAct, yet another new coupon organizer, a cabinet for over our dryer, etc. $273 discretionary + $150 overage on groceries = $423 on extras, that didn't absolutely need to be spent. $423 - $351 net worth decrease = $72, the amount I actually could have spent on extras without overextending myself.

Most of it was stuff I would have spent money on eventually, and I really can't muster up much guilt about any of it. The problem seems to be, I'm losing patience with waiting for things til we can afford them.

Darn, I was feeling so proud of myself for having more financial control lately, when I really haven't!

Easing back in

March 6th, 2006 at 07:28 am

DMom's computer is set up and at her house. I'm finally feeling back to normal after being sick. The snow is gone. And I'm finally starting to feel caught up with paperwork and household stuff. So it's time to come back.

I knew I was going to be over budget for this 4-week Everyday Expenses cycle, but I just ran a report this morning that showed me how bad it is. So far I'm well over $600 with nearly a week to go. By the time I get gas one more time and go to Petsmart, it could reach $700.

I know it was because I was short on time, what with extra projects, being sick, and dealing with the snow. But things like this happen all the time, and I can't be running over budget every time they do. So I looked things over to see if I could figure it out.

The main thing I noticed was, if I get to Aldi's once or twice in a month, I'm within my budget. If I don't get there, and especially if I'm going to Stop and Shop instead, I'm way over budget. So the key seems to be MAKE TIME FOR ALDI's, no matter what else is going on in my life. And try to stay out of Stop and Shop.

4 weeks ending 2/11/06

February 13th, 2006 at 07:20 am

Thanks for your good wishes. Just stopping in for a quick report on my 4-week budget cycle. Gotta keep honest. Smile

A little hard to figure the debt figure this time because of the charges for my mother's computer equipment, what she already reimbursed me and what will be coming back in rebates. I'm reporting on what's actually my debt.

Everyday Expenses (groceries, take-out, pet supplies and gas) - $545. Higher than planned, and would have been even more if I hadn't taken off shopping trips on Feb. 10 and 11. I knew snow was coming, so I went marketing ahead of when I would have. Not great, but $1 less than last month and better than the $600+ and $700+ months I had some other months.

CC debt down to $3724 from $3824, for an improvement of $100. Emergency savings up to $611 from $272, for an improvement of $339.

Four-week report

January 15th, 2006 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for the encouraging comments, guys, it helps. Some days I just reach my limit, and I guess Friday was that kind of day...

OK, raise or not, insurance problem or not, the 4 weeks ending yesterday did not go badly at all.

Once again, my grocery spending was $287, same as the last time. I'm hoping this means I've gotten into some sort of groove, with knowing how much food we really need and how much I should try to stock up and do rebates.

Overall Everyday Expenses totaled $502. For comparison, here's how it's been going over past 4-week periods:


So, it was the second best since I started keeping track.

Credit card debt went from $4016 to $3829, down $187
Emergency savings went from $166 to $272, up $106

I'm pretty satisfied with that, considering I paid two yearly vet visits in cash, bought quite a few household items, got through Christmas, and had a car repair.

I wanted to track how many "deals" I did. There were 11:
0% cc deal with HSBC
$25 Mazda test drive
Filtrete rebate
Credit Protector rebate
5 regular grocery rebates
Emailed Campbell Soup with a complaint (due to receive coupons, but haven't arrived yet)
Emailed Birds Eye with a compliment (received 5 coupons)

Still reading up a storm, and not exercising much. Frown

DH and I are getting ready to go out for a steak dinner. I have a $10 coupon for my birthday, and we haven't been out alone since well before the holidays. It's still nice getting out with DMom, but it's just not the same as a date. Wink

Goals for next four weeks

December 21st, 2005 at 07:08 am

Besides spending a few hours yesterday obsessing about what will happen at the end of the 0% periods on our credit cards, mostly what I've been thinking about on the money front is what my next set of goals should be. Here it is 4 days in, and I still haven't decided.

--For sure, I'll aim to keep our grocery expenses to a minimum, and try again to say within the USDA's Thrifty Plan.

--For sure, I'll try to exercise 8x. And to try and leave enough time for that, I'm going to reduce my reading goal to 6 books over the 4 week period. 1-1/2 books a week is still more than I was doing for a long while.

--I thought I'd say I wanted to do one deal a week, whether it be a bank offer, a rebate or whatever. Then I thought back and realized I'm probably doing more than that now. Just this week, I mailed off two rebates already and am ready to do some bank deals.

I guess what I really want is to try and pace myself on doing them. I want and need to do quite a few, but at a steady pace. I don't want to get overwhelmed. Sometimes I do a flurry of them, which ends up taking more time than it should in one particular week. And following up on them... Maybe what I need to do is LIMIT myself to no more than x number, to force myself to concentrate on the most profitable ones. Maybe what I'll do this 4-week period is just track what I'm doing, to get a baseline figure.

So far:
1--Mailed Mazda test drive form (for $25 Supercertificate)
2--Mailed in Clairol Root Touch-Up rebate ($4.99)

I also want to try and cut down on so many separate shopping trips, but again, I don't know off the top of my head how many is too many. Maybe I can make a count of separate stops, looking back in Quicken.

Happy Winter Solstice to all--what a relief to know the days will start to get longer now. I've had enough of winter, and it's only starting!

Four week check-in

December 17th, 2005 at 04:23 pm

It's the end of a 4-week "month" for me, and time to report back on some totals.

My goal on credit card debt was to get down to $2124 on the Discover card and $1505 on the Sony card, for a total of $3629. The actual totals came out to be $2349 on the Discover and $1667 on the Sony for a total of $4016--a reduction of a whopping (not) $68 from four weeks ago. The main reason, working through our cash flow into the spring, and seeing how paychecks and bills were going to fall. If I'd paid more on the cards now, it would leave me short later, forcing me to use them again. So, goal not met, but a little progress.

I wanted to try and stay within $230 for groceries, to see if we could eat at Food Stamp level. Nope, didn't make it, but it only came to $287. That's the 2nd lowest 4-week total since I've been keeping track. It's also the 2nd lowest period for my whole "everyday expenses" budget, which covers take-out, gas and pet supplies. So again, partial success.

I had a goal to read 2 books a week, for a total of 8. Well, I've finished 7, and am started on the 8th, which I can probably finish tonight if my eyes hold out.

My other goal was to do aerobic exercise 2x a week, for a total of 8 times. Complete and utter failure! I didn't exercise once. Am starting to feel creaky, and my jeans are getting tight. I've got to do better this next month!

Goals for next four weeks (thru Dec. 17)

November 20th, 2005 at 05:15 am

My debt reduction goals are to get the Discover down to $2124 and the Sony down to $1505. The Citi gets paid off each month anyway, so what the balance happens to be on a certain date doesn't have much meaning.

I want to read 2 books a week, for a total of 8.

I want to do aerobic exercise at least 2x a week, for a total of 8x.

I'd like to try and keep the Groceries part of my Everday Expenses down to $230, based on the USDA Thrifty Plan. Not to say we won't spend money on take-out, but I'd like to see if I can keep the food Must Haves to that basic level. I don't really expect to succeed--but it's a goal to shoot for.

Speaking of food costs, there's a cookbook I'd like to get hold of again--my public library had a copy years ago, but weeded it. Frown It's called Good Recipes for Hard Times, by Louise Newton. I've searched online, and there are only a few copies available, ranging from about $35 to nearly $100. (I know price on used books is largely based on rarity, but gee--if the book is geared toward people having hard times, how much are they going to be able to pay for it?) She has shopping lists and menus designed to keep you fed for *less* than the cheapest USDA food plan. There are some interesting blog entries about the book here: http://mungooftheshire.blogspot.com/2005_06_01_mungooftheshire_archive.html and here: http://mungooftheshire.blogspot.com/2005/06/grocery-bills-redux.html

I guess another goal in the back of my mind is to get my hands on that book. I wonder if any booksellers who have it would take another valuable old book or two in trade...

4 Week Status Report

November 19th, 2005 at 03:46 pm

It's the end of another 4-week "month" that I've divided the year into. Debt is as follows:

Firestone - 0 - yay!
Citi - 450
Sony - 1530
Discover - 2499 - finally under 50% utilization

Total debt as of 11/19, $4479. This is up $269 from 4 weeks ago, but still less than it was when I started keeping this tally back on 9/15. The main causes were the $450 car repair, $185 vet bill, and $330 in discounted gift cards I stocked up on before I knew I wouldn't have to cancel my membership.

I don't feel great about the way things worked out, but I don't feel terrible either. I *was* able to pay the 2nd vet bill for follow-up blood work with a check. And, having a higher balance because of buying the gift cards is outweighed by the rebate and having them on hand as an asset. With less going into goal savings accounts, and being able to free up some cash by using gift cards, I should be able to put quite a bit more against the cards in the next 4 weeks.

In other news, the $25 gas gift card from PNC came in the mail today, and the 10,000 reward points finally showed up in my Visa Extras account. I was getting a little worried! That is enough points for another $25 gift card right away. Also a $5 coupon from a Petsmart offer came today, and a $2 check for doing a survey. Went to an all-you-can-eat oyster supper tonight, Mom's treat. And a ton of request books just came in for me at the library. Am feeling kind of rich today, despite the debt. Wink

Debt tally update

October 22nd, 2005 at 07:24 am

I last added up our cc debt on September 15. That day it was $4527. As of today, it's $4210, for a net reduction of $317 in about 5 weeks. I don't think that's too bad, especially since I had to charge that additional $500 car repair bill. On the negative side, I can't remember the last time I had to actually pay interest--but this month I ended up paying $6 to Citi because I didn't have quite enough to pay it off completely by the due date. Here are the details, to keep me honest--

Firestone - $427 (0% runs out in December, want to pay off asap)
Citi - $20 (paid off balance with an extra payment, this is new gas purchase)
Discover - $2874 (0% til next spring)
Sony - $889 (0% for another 11 months)

What I'm trying to do is kind of let the Sony balance build up and start paying down extra on Discover. Assuming I won't be able to pay off the Discover by the end of their 0% period, I'll want to do a balance transfer to the Sony card--but they charge a 3% BT fee. So the lower the balance is at that point, the lower the fee.

OTOH, I don't want to miss out on the cash back from Citi. So I'm using it where they offer the 5% back (grocery stores, gas and drugstores) and using the Sony everywhere else.

I'll try to report back on this in another 4 weeks. It helps to add the figures up once in a while, and see the big picture.

I'll be so glad when it's paid off and I don't have to do all this juggling.

Yikes! September numbers

September 30th, 2005 at 04:21 am

Yesterday I caught up on recording my spending, and was finally able to run my September Everyday Expenses report in Quicken. (My September ran through September 24.) It was painful to see--I was $281 over what I'd planned.

OK, maybe the gas and food expenses for our day trip to the shore shouldn't be in there. Subtract $50. Maybe the money I spent on haircolor for the P&G rebate shouldn't be counted under groceries. Subtract $10. And maybe subtract the amount of money I'll be getting back on all the rebates I did, $68. That still leaves me $158 over budget. Not good.

Looking back, I know exactly why it happened. It's the same old reason--responding to marketing ploys that appeal to my bargain-hunter side.

I won that $100 in groceries, which sounds great. But I usually spend no more than $25 a week at that store because that's all the good deals I can usually find. I was forced to use the money in no more than two trips--they don't use plastic gift cards that get swiped, they'd have to rewrite a gift certificate each time you used a little. So I ended up buying things we didn't need yet, and things that weren't that great a deal, just to get the money spent. So I spent more than I normally would have.

Same problem with Stop and Shop. I had these $5 off $50 coupons--too good to pass up, right? But what if you have to stretch to find things that add up to that $50. I know I spent more there than I really needed to.

Rebates. If I ever mention doing rebates again, please somebody reach through the computer screen and give me a virtual whack on the head. It's just not worth the effort, compared to something like staying home and opening a bank account to get a bonus. Plus it makes me spend money on things I don't need yet, or things that aren't a great price, just to complete the rebate.

Entertainment Book coupons. They run out November 1, so I've been trying to get use out of them. But it's made me spent more money on take-out that I normally would have.

I'm revising my next two months' budgets to be $140 lower, to make up for the $280. It shouldn't be too bad considering what all we already have on hand.

An August goal met

August 27th, 2005 at 02:23 pm

Geez, two posts in a day. But this is what I really meant to post about, to begin with.

For the first time since I started recording everything in Quicken again, I was pretty much within my monthly (4-week) budget for Everyday Expenses (groceries, take-out, pet food and gas). Here's what that means in dollars--May was $653, June was $687, July was $676, and August was down to $505, only $1.60 over where I wanted to be. And the month's ending comfortably. There's gas in the car, a fair stockpile of groceries and I was able to pick up some cheesesteaks for an easy dinner tonight.

I'm not even sure exactly how I managed it. Wink Here are my theories--

I'm kind of learning to budget for gas first, then seeing how much I have left to spend on the other things each week. If it means bologna instead of turkey breast, or more cooking and less take-out one week, that's what happens.

I'm reining in my bargain-hunting compulsion a bit, because it actually tends to make me overspend. I'm trying to buy no more than 2 items at a time when I see a good deal, unless the sale specifices something like "must buy 4."

I finally got around to trying two new stores, the Pepperidge Farm outlet and a produce stand. Both had some great deals. For example, I got a 3-lb bag of green peppers for $1.50, which is often what I have to pay for one pound elsewhere. I'm also watching where I buy milk, since we use about 10 gallons a month and the price can really vary from store to store. I haven't bought seltzer water or diet soda all month, and DH has agreed to one family pack box of TastyKakes a week, instead of two boxes.

I think we're eating less meat, and cheaper meat. (I tried some frozen steaks from Aldi, with so-so results.) DH won't eat beans, but he doesn't mind eggs for dinner once in a while. Also BLT's as long as we have something with them like soup, french fries or corn on the cob.

The $6 pizzas I can get on Tuesdays are a big help with the take-out budget.

I am trying to drive a bit less to save on gas. But right now, it's still worthwhile to drive around for bargains, even with gas prices the way they are. I'll keep doing it until it doesn't make financial sense anymore.

Week 1 - Over Budget

August 6th, 2005 at 02:20 pm

I put together a budget report on Quicken for 4-week period that's still based on the calendar month amounts I have budgeted there. It spit out that one week's worth of spending should be $125.29. I spent $145.56, or $20.27 more than I was supposed to.

There are a lot of little things I could have done differently, but mainly it's because I gave in to the lure of a bargain at Walgreen's. I only went to pick up the padded envelopes they had on sale, because I needed some before selling more on Amazon. But while there, I saw 2-packs of the specially marked Cheerios that have the rebate codes on them for free future boxes. They even had $1 coupons on them for Progresso soup! I bought 2 2-packs for $12. Also, I noticed they had a $3 rebate on razor blades I like so I bought a package for $10. They are things I'll need, but I don't need yet. And they were good deals, but not GREAT. Wish I could learn to resist this kind of temptation better!

My year now has 13 months

August 6th, 2005 at 05:24 am

Hi, back again. I've taken some time off from thinking about money (and other things) so much. I've read lots of books, watched lots of videos, got to a park by a river, and planted some flowers. Our budget situation is still in limbo, but I'm not so tied up in knots about it now. Keeping busy to keep my mind occupied seems to be working, just like you might try to keep busy while waiting for news about a job or medical test results. I just wish I could remember that and start in sooner each time a situation like this comes up, before my mood starts to slip. Thanks for your kind comments last week.

Now about my 13 month year. I'm tired of situations like last weekend. It was the end of July, and I had enough grocery money left in the budget to pick up a few things like bread and milk. I would have succeeded in making it through the end of July on budget, but to keep strictly to it I'd have to wait til August 1, a Monday, to do a normal weekly shopping. But that would have been darned inconvenient because of my work schedule on Mondays.

It felt like a lose-lose situation. If I did a week's worth of shopping on Saturday, I'd have done something wrong because I went over budget for July. But if I didn't, I'd have done something wrong because I messed up my schedule and menus for the coming week.

I'm tired of trying to stretch the same amount of money during 31-day months as 28-day months. I'm tired of having to refigure my gas money because I have to buy it 5 times instead of 4. I'm tired of having to figure out if it's a month I need to go to Petsmart 3 times instead of 2. Then there's our take-out budget. We get pizzas on Tuesdays because they're only $6 that day. What if there are 5 Tuesdays in a month? It's driving me bonkers!

So from now on, I'm going to figure my Everyday Expenses budget for a 4-week "month" no matter what the calendar says. It will always start on a Sunday and end on a Saturday. So my "August" is running from July 31 to August 27. 52 weeks in a year, divided into 4-week segments--and Voila! there are 13 "months." That way I'll be able to do my main shopping on the same day each week, and have the same amount to spend each and every week and "month." I really want more predictability and routine in my financial life, and I think this will help.

June Report / July Plan

July 1st, 2005 at 05:54 am

No more ranting, back to work. Wink

What didn't work in June - the BudgetMap system
It was cumbersome to use, so instead of recording my spending more often than before, I didn't record it at all for days on end.

What I'm trying in July - Keeping a little spiral notebook and a pen in my purse and car
The important thing is to jot everything down right away, every time. I can always move it into Quicken or a spreadsheet later on. I'll also be trying to sell my leftover BudgetMap materials online this month.

What didn't work in June - The food budget
I can't seem to get below $600 a month for groceries, pet food, and take-out. But I'm supposed to be keeping it to $557 to make our budget work. What I've been doing is watching store ads, collecting coupons, and making 2 or 3 market trips a week trying to get the best deals. But maybe looking at all those ads is just making me buy things I wouldn't have otherwise. And it also uses gas. (I was over budget on that, too.)

What I'm trying In July - A radical experiment
I'm not going to look at the food ads. I'm going to make shopping lists based on what we need and want, rather than what the stores are pushing. I'll go to an extra store to get something I can't find elsewhere, but not to save 35 cents on a sale item. I'm really curious to see whether I end up spending more, or less.