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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up to do, as we've used up a lot of stockpile items, and a lot had to be throw away because it got spoiled or was way out of date.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.

Progress!

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.)