Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Saying Goodbye and Trying Something New

As much as it pains me, I think it's time to admit to myself that the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas and Captain's Log isn't going to work out. Cue heaving sigh of sadness at the death of a brilliant and super fun idea.

It's complicated and I don't have the time or the energy (or, apparently, the creativity) to figure out how it works. But I'm sure that it would work if you put your mind to making it work. If you can make it work for you let me know. I will link to you like crazy and point other potential Not-A-Budget Treasure Map makers your way. Hell, I would probably even follow your instructions.

And yes, I did take pictures while I was making my Book and yes they will be posted. Why? Because it's pretty and I want to share it.

So for this paycheck I have decided to try something new. It still technically falls under the Not-A-Budget umbrella of money management techniques, but it's a little 110% more straight forward in how you use it (read: there is only a minimal amount of time involved in making it/making it work). I'm calling it my 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet.

{Painfully Clear} Instructions on how to Make Your Very Own 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet:

  1. Take a piece of paper and fold it into thirds. Or just draw three lines on it. However you choose to go about this step the goal is to end up with 3 Columns on your paper (DUH).
  2. At the top, write down the current amount of money in your bank account. (In the interest of full disclosure I'm going to tell you that I do not have $800 laying around doing nothing in my checking account. I wish I had that much Ahem. It's close.)
  3. At the top of each column write a heading, there are 3 headings total (again - DUH). You can put them in whichever order you want, I put mine in the order in the picture: Need, Want, and then Shouldn't.
  4. In each column you should list things that fall under that category.
    • In the Need column you should include anything that is a reoccurring payment, like rent and any charitable donations you make. Real Life Example: I sponsor a child through World Vision, so I have to plan for that donation every month.
    • In the Want column, write down everything that you like to spend money on but could live without if you really, really had too. Real Life Example: Booze and fast women.
    • In the Shouldn't column, write down the things that you spend your money on and then get home and think "What the hell was I thinking?" or the stuff you just know is a money suck for you. Real Life Example: I need to stop feeling like I have to bring home something from everywhere I visit other than pictures and memories. Not only am I wasting money but I'm also making clutter for myself when I get home. Totally lame.
  5. You might want to make yourself more than one.
    • I made a general one where I listed LOTS of Needs, Wants, and Shouldn'ts. When I got paid I sat down and made another 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet that was specific to the next 2 weeks of my life (like how I should come home with nothing but really awesome memories from this weekend at the lake with Armini and his family).
    • The great thing about having the general 3 Column Not-A-Budget Worksheet was that I could reference it to see what bills were going to be due so that I wasn't taken by surprise (I have a unique talent of forgetting to give people money).
  6. Use the worksheet to cross off bills or money that you owe people as you pay the bill/person you owe money too, write down how much something is going to cost you to see if you can work it into your spending that month. I've been using this system for this paycheck and all I have to say is so far so good.
    • Full disclosure time again: really I've only been using the worksheet for 2 days but somehow I have managed to spend no more than $22 in that time frame which is really good for me.
  7. OH! And don't forget to put saving on your sheet somewhere. Everyone needs an Emergency Fund. Think of it as paying yourself (which means that you can put it in the Need column).
So there. A newer, simpler, streamlined approach to not hemorrhaging money out of my bank account. I think next paycheck I will make mine on some pretty paper, or take the time to decorate it. Just because it's not a Book doesn't mean it can't be pretty.

Oh, and also, I found this post by the Communicatrix (Colleen Wainwright) about her struggles with money (nice to know I'm not alone in the world) and how, maybe - just maybe - the problem should be approached with compassion rather than an iron clad spend no money attitude.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Checking Up on Myself

One simply cannot set goals unless one also intends to keep track of the progress one makes (or is not making) towards achieving said goals. Right?

Right! So, I thought that I would, for your reading pleasure, take a minute and look at how this paycheck has practically vanished before my eyes, I mean ... was spent responsibly.

OK, so this might not be pretty, but no progress can be made unless I take the time to look at the system, identify the problems and then march on. And also, posting it for other people to read and shake their heads at helps too. It's motivation so that one day I can write a blog post about how I made a plan for myself and then stuck to it. And the day that happens will hopefully also be the day that I have $10,000 in a bank account somewhere. We all need to have a dream, people.

Alright, so, here it is. My Almost Mid-Week Goal Check Up #1:
  1. Think of a new word that means the same as "budget"
    • Check. It's my Not-A-Budget Treasure Map. I made it, it's pretty cool. I tried to use it last night. It was confusing and didn't work well. Modifications to the design are needed.
  2. Find a way to stop the money hemorrhage that is my bank account
    • Um ... this didn't happen. Better luck next time!
    • Part of this has to do with money that is sitting in my bank account waiting for a check to be cashed that I forgot was waiting for the check to be cashed, because I didn't have it written down before I sat down to start moving my money around to it's various savings accounts (related: the fail that was goal #4)
  3. Create consequences for overspending; implement them as needed
    • The consequences? I get to have a super lame time while everyone else frolics around with money sticking out of their ears because I seem to be the only person alive who can't stick to a freaking budget.
    • {stops, takes a breath} Ok - so maybe that was an over-reaction.
    • But seriously, if I have no money, the consequence is to spend nothing until my next paycheck (I may or may not have already had to do this).
  4. Determine savings goals; devise a realistic plan to achieve said goals
    • I have the savings goals. It's the realistic part that I'm having an issue with.
    • This is actually the part of the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map that was confusing and caused problems (related: the fail that was goal #2)
  5. Be crafty without destroying my financial house of cards
    • So far so good in this area.
    • Although there is a fabric store that's right next to the apartment and they are having a sale, and everyday I have to drive past the signs that say Fabric Sale in really big, bold, friendly letters that make the very fiber of my being vibrate with thoughts of the beautiful things that I would make with all the sale fabric that I would get (right now I have quilts on the brain. And freezer paper transfers. And quilts with freezer paper transfers on them. Oh the crafting!)
    • When I'm not being a crazy sale fabric coveting weirdo, I've been knitting my sweater and working on the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas and Captain's Log (although I think my progress is going to have to slow down a little until I figure out how the damn thing works. Because I know it does because I will make it so help me God. I just have to figure out how.)
So there you have it. The picture is pretty bleak right now. But I take comfort in cliche sayings like "It's always darkest before the dawn", "It can only get better from here", "Money can't buy you happiness" and "It could be a lot worse".

And it could be a lot worse, I only have one credit card that I use (care credit for all the vet's visits we've been going to lately. However, I have been working extra hard to not let this balance go crazy), I pay my bills on time, I have a plan to try and make things better, and I'm sure that sometime soon I will get this all figured out.

Friday, June 5, 2009

One Year? Really?

As of today, this little blog is officially "one whole twirl around the sun" old. One year. Wow.

To be 100% honest, I'm a little surprised that this hasn't faded into the background the way that 90% of the things I start do. And for a while there, it did look like it was going to fade. But then ... NO! ... There she is!

It's all very exciting, don't you think?

Also, if you are interested in reading my very first post ever, you can click right here. I don't know what it is about first posts, but I love to read them. I think it has something to do with the "awkward first letter syndrome" that is starting a blog. It's hard to jump in and just start doing it, you know? You feel obligated to write something about yourself, what you do in life, what you want to do with this little corner of the interwebs ...

Chances are, if I have ever read your blog, I have read your first post. And probably I sat there after wards and thought to myself, "Why couldn't my first post have been like that? Why do I fail at life SO HARD?" or something like that.

Wow. That was random and WAY off topic. Anyway. I would like to take a second and just say Thank You to all the lovely people who take the time to read this blog on a semi-regular basis (Hi Taryn and Lisa!). I'm not going to lie, when you guys comment on my posts I do a happy dance. And then I tell Armini all about you and how cool you are and where you live. Then we read your blogs together.

I would also like to take this time to ask you, what would you like to read more of here? Obviously, I am going to be spending more time on the Not-A-Budget Treasure Map idea (update on that nonsense: I think I finally figured out how to work it!). I know that the "ask me and I will tell all" posts seem to be going around the blog-o-sphere like the plague, but I really would like your input. Because I am not above bribing you for comments I value your opinions.

And just to be clear, these are topics you would like me to cover (or cover more than I already have?). Not so much a place to be all like "I would really like it if you could start budgeting and not be in debt anymore", because obviously I'm working on that (helloooo Not-A-Budget Treasure Map!).

And in the coming year, I promise to be awesome your BFF stop leaving the empty ice cream carton in the freezer to work on that "budget thing" and continuing to write stuff where I don't whine all the time.

Super Careo

PS - And also Ashley, even though she has posted like all of 5 times on this thing. I'm sure that she would be impressed with the fact that this blog has been live for a year. Also, just in case you were wondering, she really did end up moving to California (like, 6 days ago).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Onward and Upward: Tackling the Spring Goals

(Pssst! Don't have any idea what I'm talking about? I would read about it here and then read Step One in my Effort to rid myself of Teh Craziness here)

ALRIGHT! I've done it! I spent some time with myself and I think that I have taken care of Spring Goal #1 (to find a new word to replace the B----- word, since clearly it doesn't do it for me) and have laid the ground work for #2 AND #3 in one fell swoop.

I must say that I am more than a little pleased with myself. I hardly ever follow through with this sort of stuff. But the idea of making the money management thing fun is what motivated me. Who doesn't love fun? Lame people don't love fun. And I am not a lame person. Mostly.

Anyway. Moving on:

Firstly, I would like to say that if you are reading this, and are at all interested in what I read when I'm online (other than your blog, of course!) I think you would benefit greatly if you went over and checked out Havi Brooks (she's @havi on Twitter), her duck Selma and her blog The Fluent Self because honestly ... WOW.

She makes me want to have a duck. And also to be exactly like her. She is my internet hero. The end.

OK - so, the reason I told you that is to tell you this: thanks to Havi and her brilliant blog, I think she may have helped me overcome my money stuck. Or at least has gotten me onto a path that has significantly less stuck on it (Confused? Seriously, read her blog. Then you will get it). A few weeks ago she decided to stop thinking about her team as a team and start thinking about her team in a new way. Havi decided that she wanted to think about her team as a Pirate Crew on board her Pirate Ship.

As a direct result of reading this post (and all her other posts where she talks about it), I decided to think about my Not-A-Budget in a way that I haven't ever before. I didn't wonder about which notebook I was going to keep track of my expenses in, I didn't look online for spreadsheets that I thought looked cool, I didn't try to make my own, I didn't sit down and crunch numbers in order to figure out how much I can spend in what category of my life ... I didn't do anything except try to think of a fun new name for my Not-A-Budget.

This is turning rather ramble-y, and I apologize, I'm just really excited and I want to share everything with you.

So I thought and thought and I couldn't really think of anything that worked well. Nothing that I thought of made me go "Oh, oh, oh! Yes! That's great! And fun!". But today I thought of something that I think could work for me ... my Not-A-Budget Treasure Map.

Yes, maybe, I was influenced a little by Havi the Pirate Queen - even though I am not calling myself a pirate queen; I prefer to think of myself as more like that lucky person in the movie (that I have made up in my head) that finds the beat up old treasure map in the back pocket of her great, great, great grandfather's coat and is compelled to follow it on the off-chance that there really is something to be found. Life altering adventures (and possibly a steamy romance with the first mate of the ship?) will ensue. Kind of like City Slickers II, only with less 1980's and more water. And more steamy, maritime romance.

But the metaphor works great! When you read a treasure map, you have to go a certain number of paces in a certain direction in order to get to the big red X on the map that marks where the treasure is buried.

Well, for my Not-A-Budget Treasure Map, the big red X is a metaphor for what I want to achieve (a plane ticket to visit Armini in China, a new laptop, a super fancy camera, or tickets to DISNEYLAND), the number of paces I have to take are a metaphor for the days of the month and the directions are replaced with months. BRILLIANT (if I do say so myself).

This revelation has come about in the nick of time too because I am leaving to go to San Francisco in about two months to run a half marathon. And THEN Armini and I going to celebrate his last days in the good ol' U.S of A in Disneyland. All of which is going to cost me money and of which I have exactly none of at this moment in time. If there was ever a time that I needed a Not-A-Budget Treasure Map, now is the time.

And just to make it that much more fun, I have a blank book at home that I am going to turn into my Captain's Log/Book of Maps (it's going to be like an Atlas of Treasure Maps, and it is going to be awesome).

I have many grand ideas for it ... AND it is in line with my Spring Goal #5 (be crafty without destroying my financial house of cards) because I already have everything that I need to make this happen in my apartment right. this. second. It's enough to make me go "Arg! Ack! Rable Rable!" and many other manner of noises that show just how impressed I am with the fact that this idea came out of my head. By itself. Mostly.

When I get my Captain's Log/Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas made, I will post pictures. Because I know that you are drooling just thinking about how many levels of awesome it's going to be. I might even go so far as to write a post about how to make your very own Captain's Log/Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas so that you too can make all manner of joyful noises at how crafty you are.

What I do after the Captain's Log/Not-A-Budget Treasure Map Atlas is done remains to be seen.

I have the idea right now, not so much the process. But I'm ok with that! I am fine with getting pumped up about it ... hopefully the "Pumped Up-Ness" will help with the "Sticking To It" part that is pretty vital to the whole "It Works!" part, which is the whole point of doing this in the first place.

And as one final thing before I end this post (that is forever long ... geez. Thanks for reading this far!), I just want to throw out a big, old thank you to Havi the Pirate Queen for just being awesome. And for sharing your awesome with the internet.

It's really nice to read about grown-ups who struggle with the same things that I do (because, you know, technically I'm a grown-up too. I just don't feel like it 99.9% of the time) and that there are also grown-ups out there who are dealing with the problems they have in a creative and 100% different way than what I've been trying. Because it not only helps A TON, it also gives me a little peace and hope that maybe someday I will know what the heck is going on.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some Spring Goals

As a result of some work related drama, my life feels like it's a little bit out of control. I am in the death grip of Teh Craziness, and I now 100% ready to take the plunge to step up (you know, you've got to get up to get down!) and take control. Or, at least, try to take control (I'm sure you know how Teh Craziness hates to let anyone else drive once it gets behind the wheel; even if it is a really crappy driver). So I am going to be going around my life and tidying things up a bit. I thought that I might start with my money and move on from there.

So, without further ado ...

Spring Money Goals according to SuperCareo
Step One in her Effort to get rid of Teh Craziness
{sound of trumpets blaring and wild applause}

Ahem. Moving on:
  1. Think of a new word that means the same as "budget"
    • Because I can't stick to a B----- to save my life, I have decided that I need to create something totally new, different, and even possibly fun (I know what you're thinking, I'm sure it can be done somehow) to make myself STICK TO IT THIS TIME.
  2. Find a way to stop the money hemorrhage that is my bank account
    • This is, more or less, directly attached to task #1. However, the more I think about it, it's also directly linked to #3 ... and #4 ... and #5.
    • So ... I suppose that what I'm trying to say is that this will hopefully be a result of creating and following through with all of my other Spring Goals
  3. Create consequences for overspending; implement them as needed
    • Which makes me feel like a little kid. Almost to the point that this point is embarrassing to say, er, write so that others can read it.
    • But seriously, the overspending has. to. stop. NOW. And even if it means I'm going to be the DD for the next two months of my life because I overspent and have no money left over for booze, SO BE IT!
    • {note to self: in the Not-A-Budget, create a booze allowance}
  4. Determine savings goals; devise a realistic plan to achieve said goals
    • We all know that I have a tendency to go a little, tiny bit way overboard with my savings goals.
    • The overboard needs to stop. Realistic saving needs to start. Mama needs a ticket to China (maybe January?!), possibly a new laptop (my clunker is many, many moons old), and this.
  5. Be crafty without destroying my financial house of cards
    • This is fairly simple - make crafts with the stuff I already have. THEN make the other stuff once I have saved up a little and can afford it.
    • OH, and also this: when you go to the store to get supplies (yarn, fabric, or what have you) KNOW JUST EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOU NEED. There will be no more "oh, I'll just get X yards, I can put the left over in my stash" thinking. It's wasteful (not just because I'm buying more than I need, but also because {clearly} I'm not using what's already in the stash.)
Seeing this makes me excited to tackle my monetary short-comings and let them know who's boss. Because, obviously, I want to be The Master of my Money! (See how I did that? That is quality writing people. Stick around, it'll only get better from here!)

In honor of these goals, I am going to wipe the Pay-O-Save-O-Meter's clean, re-assign them, and take off. I will keep you posted.

Also, I would like to open the floor for anyone who has an idea for naming my Not-A-Budget.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New Directions ...

I have noticed, after going back through a number of my posts (mostly the new ones), that my posts are whiny. Really whiny (if you don't want to read whiny posts then I would suggest that you don't click on those links. However, if you would like to bitch about how whiny I have been lately, then click and comment to your heart's content).

And I know that this might sound surprising, but I didn't create Master of my Money with the intention of using it as a place where I could complain. I'm also going to guess that reading a blog where the author mainly bitches and moans about how she has to spend SO MUCH money ALL THE TIME has to get a little boring. Am I right? I mean, if I weren't the one writing the blog I probably wouldn't stick around either, and that's saying something because I think I am the most fantastic writer EVAR.

Plus, the complaining makes me sound all "holier than thou" and I do not think that I am better than you. In fact, I bet that you are like 10 times as awesome as me. Seriously. I bet that if we were friends, we would be BFFs and I would totally be that friend that did whatever you wanted because you are just that cool.

The whole reason that I thought up this blog was to write a sort of trial and error type guide to being financially savvy in your 20's. You know, learning how to make and stick to a budget (or discovering that you can't stick to one EVER and finding another way to not spend all your money on things you don't need like yarn or fabric or booze). Buying big things like a car (something I'm doing right now! Posts to come!), without going on and on and on about how my old car is SO! LAME! OMG!

So [readers, myself, internet] I hereby swear on a stack of ... hmm ... *rummages around in desk*; I hereby swear on this stack of multicolored post-it notes (it's the only thing I have close at hand) that I will stop whining and start writing posts that actually contribute something of value to the internet and to you.

Promise promise.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You've Got to Cut it, Cut It Good

And there you have it. The card that I have talked about more than once; the one that I was afraid to cut up. It's done. I did it. This morning at work (which is why the picture is crappy, I took it on my phone).

What finally pushed me over the edge? I was tired of my WILDLY fluctuating balance. I'm tired of having to hide it from myself and my inability to just say no to things that I want but can't afford. Plus, I accidentally picked the wrong checking account to pay my bill online which created a huge mess of bounced check fees, overdraft fees, and getting locked out of the "bill pay" section on the Citi Card website.

And, as an aside, if you bounce a check while trying to pay your account online, Citi won't let you make another payment online for up to 6 MONTHS after the fact (I found this out, finally, after 3 different calls to customer service). Thank the Lord that I talked to a lovely girl the last time I called got to explain the fact that it was a mistake on my part and she got my account reactivated.

But after the whole mess I took a step back, looked at the crazy balance that I now have on my card as a result of a car repair + the damage that I've done as a result of a freshly doubled credit limit and thought to myself "enough is enough". So I cut it up. And even though I'm a little sad that I won't have it around to charge groceries too on those months when I run out of money, I know that my E-Fund was set up for just those kinds of months and that I will be ok. And I'm fine with the fact that this piece of plastic is no longer weighing heavily on my mind.

I'm also pretty excited about the fact that I am no longer enabling myself. There will be no more impulse yarn/fabric/book/dog toys/gift purchases made unless I have the cash for it sitting around in my checking account.

Here's hoping that it stays empty.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Really? REALLY?

Around these parts, when it rains it POURS. I'm sure that you're sick to death of hearing me whine about all the super fun vet bills I've been paying for. So, instead of complaining about my dogs I have something new to complain about: my car!

I know that it's not really a new complaint, but last week it decided that it had started for the last time. Well - the last time until I took it to the shop to get it fixed.

According to my dad my car was a textbook case of "dead starter". Which in wallet-speak translates into "an easy $400 bill that you will have to pay. BWA HA HA!". OK, maybe not that last part, but that's sure what it sounded like to me in my head.

Good thing I have an E-Fund that is large enough to help me pay for this bill without incurring any more debt (except that I put it on my credit card for now - I'm going to get some points and make a massive payment from my next paycheck). If you don't have an E-Fund set up yet - DO IT NOW. I cannot tell you the happiness that it has created in my life. When I run out of food and money at the same time? My E-Fund is there for me, holding my hand, telling me that it's all going to be OK.

My BFF Hilda and I worked out a budget together the other day, and while I agreed to cut my car fund savings per month (it was a fairly unreasonable amount anyway) I put my foot down and told her that there was no way I was going to stop putting $200 a month into the general E-Fund and $100 a month into the Dog E-Fund. She was not only impressed that I had an E-Fund, she was also completely impressed that I had set up a fund just for the dogs. But, really, can you blame me? I don't know that I can handle another month like March (it was really expensive, dude!) without any help. Probably I would cry and be forced to move back home with my parents where I would probably cry some more.

But, back to my car. The $400 made my heart skip a beat, until I realized that with a new starter:
  1. My car will start up every time I decide that it should. Yay!
  2. I can put off buying a new car. Yay!
  3. This still might be something I can own:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Big Big Move

I'm in the process of packing up and moving (again). I'm relocating to California about a year and a half after I intended to, and money has become a real issue since I don't have a job officially lined up yet.

On the bright side, I have lined up a roommate. But the prospect of being unemployed is a daunting one. I'm the type of person who has grown accustomed to working three jobs at a time, and the economy in my current college town is dying. Not slow. Not yet dead. Actually dying. There are no jobs to be found anywhere, even at the fast food joints. Though college students do receive preferential treatment for employment, the places for menial work specialize in paying high school wages.

So, I am pretty much officially destitute. The good news is, I was hired for a summer internship where all my expenses (like food, room and board) are being covered. I'll be working as a Residential Assistant for a summer program specializing in gifted students, and so for one month of work I'll be receiving about $1,800. I do get the weekends off, during which time I plan to come back to Kansas City and work at my old job in the cosmetics emporium. They'll pay me $8.25 an hour, which isn't great, but I can work 16 to 24 hours a week and have a take home pay of about $115 or so. $460 isn't a lot, but every little bit helps.

I did call them and tell them I would be returning home for a few months and wanted to work. School ends May 6 and I'm not required to report to the job until June 1, so I'll have three and a half weeks to generate some serious income. My goal is to earn $1500 between now and when I actually leave for California.

I am also in the process of selling my car. After checking market values and making reasonable adjustments for the economic situation, I think I can get $2,000 for it. It's six years old, with 140,000 on it, which equals out to a little over 20,000 miles per year, and the car still works fabulously. It looks as though the tenants who took over my duplex in Lenexa will probably purchase it. I'll take the money with me to California and added together with my money from the internship and the cosmetics emporium, I'm hoping to have $5,000 stashed away.

It is a lot of money, especially by my standards, but there are a lot of expenses I'll having coming up. I'll need to make my budget around that figure and excluding any student loans or pell grants because I have no idea what I'm actually going to receive once I enroll in the college out there. And I do have a concern that $5,000 might not be enough. Automatically, $1,000 will have to go towards the deposit. My roommate is currently scouting out places and we're positive we've found the ideal place to meet our needs, but the rent itself is going to be about $650 a piece before utilities, and that's considerably cheaper than the place she had initially picked!

I also imagine it's going to cost about $300 to get my car re-registered. Traditionally, my dad has covered the licensing and registration for my car as my annual birthday gift, but I don't think I should stake on that continuing since I'll be several states away and it won't be the matter of convenience for him it was before. And if my consumption in Emporia is indicative of anything, I need to be prepared to spend about $200 for the utilities. Already I'm aware of $1,500 in pending charges, and moving is going to cost me about $550, which is still way cheaper than I thought initially. It will cost $140 (taxes included) to rent a U-Haul, $150 to buy the trailer to haul the U-Haul and I'm estimating $160 for gas. The remaining $200 or so should cover food and other miscellaneous expenses. Since my dad will likely be the person driving across the country with me, I'd like to be able to pay for his meals as well as my own, and if I have enough left over, pay for his return ticket to Kansas City although he has a free flight through Midwest. Just a kind of, "Thanks, Dad," if I can.

So, already I know a good $2,050 or so will be committed elsewhere. I'd also like to give myself a little breathing room because my student loans won't come in until August or September, and the rest of that money needs to support me until then. I need to plan on $1,500 in living expenses per month; this means for July and August I'll need $3,000 left over after the move, just to be on the safe side.

It feels good to have a plan, and go about executing it. Like I have some control.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A swing, and a miss.

First, the good news:
  • I did do my math right, and I did have a little more than $300 left in my bank account for the ski trip.
  • Fiddling with my W4 gave me almost $100 extra per check, which will totally cover the cost of my new insurance! You can't miss money that you never had.
Yup. That's it for the good news.

Now, the bad news:
  • Somehow I messed up when I went to make the payment for my CitiCard (or Citi messed it up?) and selected my checking account that had $15 in it rather than my main checking account, so I ended up overdrawing and somehow got charged twice for the overdraft fee. I am still working to resolve this.
  • Winter Park ended up costing me a lot more than $300. So I overspent my paycheck ... again (and the $300+ I got for babysitting last week has to go pay of my LOC account at my bank rather than into the car fund to earn interest - grr.)
I am taking this incident in stride for a number of reasons:
  1. I know that this doesn't mean that I will never be able to do this. I must be able to do this.
  2. Most of the overspending came from boozing, which was awesome and super fun, so I can't be too mad at myself because I feel like I got real value out of what I overspent on.
  3. The vet bills are all paid off (except one tiny one) which means that I will have all of my paychecks to start working with from here on out - WEE!
  4. I am really starting to put forth a significant effort to get my spending under control, or at least bring in a little extra cash so that I can create an allowance for myself so that I don't feel like I need to keep spending.
I know I messed up, and while I am frustrated by it, I know that this will pass and I will get everything back under control and then I can move forward. Onward and upward, right? It's odd to be so at peace with myself over this because I never really have been before.

Plus, after many thoughts and hours of hard pondering, I have decided to stop trying to create a budget for myself. Instead, I am going to map out savings goals, what I need to do to get to my savings goals and then work within those parameters. And, like I mentioned above, I am going to give myself a cash allowance from each paycheck to spend how I please (or save in a piggy bank, this money will not be going back into the system unless absolutely necessary) and I am going to have to leave my debit and credit cards at home so that when I run out of money, I'm out and won't have any way to get more to ruin the whole thing (which is one of my downfalls).

Living within my means ... here I come!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I've been a very bad girl.

Like I mentioned before, as a result of some very bad behavior, I have actually have managed to increase my credit card debt over the last few weeks. One day as I was buying stuff I realized what I was doing to myself (creating another bill that I am going to have to keep paying, interest that will accumulate, money that I can't save to put toward things that I need to live) and I stopped and thought about why I was was spending so much.

I got really bad about charging stuff when the first round of vet bills hit. I really didn't have any other way to pay for stuff. I have gotten very into being crafty (a hobby that requires a certain amount of money in order to have supplies to be crafty with), specifically I am big into knitting and one of my goals for 2009 is to scrapbook the whole year. A lot of things I bought are one time purchases, like a set of alphabet stamps or other stamps for scrapbooking purposes, or knitting needles that I need to make stuff. But a lot of what I bought are things that are not essential to living (or one time purchases either).

So what the heck was going through my head? How did I let myself fall so far off the wagon that I allowed myself to rack up close to $500 on my credit card?
  • Well, part of it is that Citi decided to double my credit limit. Which means that I can spend without fear of coming close to my credit limit, which means that I can spend without feeling quite so guilty about it.
  • Every purchase was under or around $30, which makes it much easier to tell yourself "I'll pay this back when I get paid next". The problem is that those $30 add up quickly.
  • I spend my nights at home alone while Armini is at work so I have a hard time telling myself no when it comes to spending money on my hobby purchases.
  • Having a paycheck that is consistently $300 more than what I used to get makes me feel like I have money to burn when I really don't. I need to learn how to live within my means again.
Lately my problem is that I have been spending more than I have been earning and Citi has been enabling me with a new and improved credit limit. But it's up to me to use this responsibly. I know this. And something that I need to start working on is telling myself "NO".

  • I DO NOT need a book on knitting (or sewing, or any of the Twilight books) when I can get it from the library.
  • I DO NOT need to buy new yarn for projects when I already have quite a bit of yarn that is sitting around waiting for a project that fits them.
  • I DO NOT need anymore scrapbook stuff until I start using the stuff that I already have (and I have a lot of stuff, I have been collecting all my supplies for a LONG time).
What I do need to do is ...
  • Start doing things that don't cost money! (like work out, or spend time with friends)
  • Make a budget (I seem to always be working on this) or think of a way for me to live within my means without a budget (since I can't ever seem to stick to the ones that I make for myself)
  • I need to learn how to pace my spending, paying down my debt, and my saving so that I have enough to go around and I'm not sitting at home every night during the week being bored and watching TV.
Easier said than done, I'm sure. But this last rash of falling off the wagon has opened my eyes to a few things about myself. Like the fact that when I don't have any money, I spend. Which is odd since when I have a lot of money I would much rather save it. This makes no sense to me, but it's what I do, so I will just have to learn to deal with and work around in the future.

What about you? What situations make you fall of the wagon? I can't be the only person who has this happen every now and then ... right?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Budgeting from afar

I am currently working for a family that I babysit for in Florida. It has been a wonderful break from spending money and has really let me sit down and take a good hard look at where my money has been going and what I need to do in order to be prepared the next time the universe decides to smack me in the face with more vet bills that you can shake a stick at.

Since I got paid yesterday, I have taken a few steps to make this happen:
  1. Opened up a second savings account at HSBC for a dog E-Fund and put $100 in it.
  2. I put $100 into my Car Fund, which I have been neglecting lately. And if I ever needed to be putting money into it, it's now.
  3. Made a small payment towards my credit card ($89.79).
And then I stopped. One of the problems that I have with spending all of my money in between paychecks is that I try to squirrel away all of my money into my savings accounts, or I end up making a huge payment on my credit card and then I have nothing in my bank account to use on groceries or gas or anything else that I might need/want to spend money on. So this time I took it easy. I accounted for the $224.62 that is going to be coming out of my account for the last vet bill payment, took another $200 for savings, and with the credit card payment I will have $300 left in my account.

At least, if I did my math right, that's how much I will have left in my account.

Something I have never thought about before, is the balance that I need to find between my spending and my savings. I never really thought that it would be something that I would need to work on.

My E-Fund is starting to really bounce back from it's huge depletion at the beginning of January when I used it to pay for all of my deposits for the apartment. Yesterday morning it made it all the way to $701. I am hoping to have it up to $1400 in the near future (that will cover me more or less for two months with no other income). The wonderful part of all of this is that my E-Fund is getting $212 a month automatically from my paycheck, so it grows without me having to lift a finger (which is the only way to save, as far as I am concerned).

The savings are really coming along. I am getting back into the mindset of saving money as being the most awesome thing ever. I have also been inspired by this blog of a Mom who has a budget of $800 for the year for everything (and she has two daughters and a dog or two). Which made me realize that if I could make myself live off of $800 for the year (not including rent) I could save about $20,000 which is almost a brand spankin' new Mini Cooper (!!). Makes you wonder if you could it, doesn't it?

What about you? Have you ever found yourself running out of money between paychecks because you were too quick to save it rather than leave it in a place where you can spend it when you need it? Is this a common problem?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Raining Dogs and Vet Bills

Boy, around here lately it seems like if it rains, it pours. For me, this means:
  1. A never ending line of vet bills that are no less than $100 each (one of which is up around $700)
  2. A car that has, officially and for real this time, entered the last stages of its life.
1. The never ending vet bills
You may have read my last post about how dogs are wonderful but can be a little pricey. Well, as Taryn said, "I think pain killers for animals is ok- it just depends on how long they have left to give, and other stuff like that."* and it made me realize that Bing has a lot left to give (he is only about five years old) and that if the pain killers make him act like a normal dog, then that's what he is going to get.

However, this past weekend while I was in Illinois with Armini and my brother** was watching the dogs, Tim got into Bing's meds and ate what was left in the bottle (around 20 days worth of pain medication). SO, to add to the fact that I have come to terms with the fact that I will be purchasing pain killers forever, and the $500 vet bill that still isn't completely paid off (but will be on the 13th!) ... I have Tim's vet bill from the E-Vet ($700)*** and the bill for HIS medications ($128) for his kidneys and his stomach (to make sure he doesn't get an ulcer) plus any bills that I will have to pay when he goes back to the vet in a week to get his kidney function tested.****

* That's right readers! Comment, and I will quote you, give you some link love and add you to my Google reader. (Taryn, I checked out your blog, it's awesome. I will be back)
** Who will forever now be known as That Punk Kid.
*** I don't have to pay for all of this bill though. Only 1/3rd (parents are taking care of a third and That Punk Kid is taking care of the rest), but I do have to pay for any treatments that he is going to need for follow up care, and heaven forbid, any long term treatments he could need.
**** Cue head explosion.

(PS - I haven't ever done the foot note thing before and I apologize for having so many. I got carried away. Please don't stop reading)

2. The car that has officially entered its final stretch

That's right people. The car = done-zo.

For the last month or so it has been a little dodgy on the whole 'starting every time you put the key in the ignition' thing. Sometimes the engine would catch and then die right away. Sometimes it would have to turn over a few times (or 20 or 30 times) before the engine would catch. It would start eventually though, so really I just tried to keep my eye on the prize and stick to my savings plan.

But this morning I had to get to the airport to catch a flight for a business trip (don't fear reader, Armini is taking care of Tim and Bing, not That Punk Kid) and the car would not start. I tried it like 6 times. I gave it some gas. The engine would turn over but not catch. So Armini and I took his truck (thank the Lord he has a car of his own that turns on consistently) and when I called my dad to let him know about the car trouble his response was "Maybe it's time to start looking for another car". My thoughts exactly.

3. The hitch in my giddy-up

I took $1,000 out of my car fund not too long ago to pay off a huge chunk of my credit card which means that I only have $300 in my car fund right now. I haven't been able to save more than $50 from my last few paychecks due to the vet bills that I have had to pay off. As a result of some really bad behavior, the chunk of credit card bill that I paid off is back again, mostly because I don't have any other way to pay for stuff (also, I was being very bad - which will get its own post because it needs to be examined).

So the long and the short of this is: I have some large bills to pay. I might have a car payment a lot sooner than I thought I would. I am not making enough money to take care of all of these things.

Also, I have my heart set on a car that is probably not one that I will be able to afford:

Behold, the Mini Cooper. Car of my dreams.

ACK. I plan on applying for a loan in the next few weeks, as well as developing a plan for some really aggressive savings plan/budget. At this point I am 99% sure that the plan will be something like this:
  • Pay bills.
  • Save the rest.
  • (have no life until I get the super cool car)
  • (continue to have no life until super cool car is paid off)
It is going to be awesome.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dogs are Lovely ... and Come with a Price Tag

Remember way back when I talked about the joys of pet ownership? Well, that hasn't changed much. In fact, I would go ahead and say that it has gotten WAY WORSE.

A few month ago, Bing started crying whenever you would touch his face. At first we thought that maybe he had a pinched nerve (there were some funky things going on with his eyes at the same time) and so he went on some pain killers and anti-inflammatory medication. The pain went away, and I could tell because his personality changed. He had been hiding under furniture, not playing with Tim or my parent's dogs, very clingy - which is not how he acted when he first came home from the humane society in December of 2007. The change to this quieter, more clingy personality was so gradual that I hadn't noticed (now I know what to look for and as soon as his personality changes, I start to look for the reason).

So this past week I decided that it was time to figure out what the heck is going on once and for all, for the sake of my dog. Two x-ray's later we have determined that he has pinched disk space (which sounds to me like the very beginnings of arthritis) in his neck. Which explains his neck pain. The vet also noticed that his eyes are very irritated looking (something that I have also noticed in the past few weeks), but he couldn't find any clear reason for why they are so red and goopey.

All in all, my dog is on some pain killers (which make him feel SO GOOD - he runs all over the apartment chancing Tim these days, something that he hasn't done in a long, long time) and we are using some eye drops from another vet visit for his eyes, which will warrant another visit as well.

My total vet bill for ONE VISIT which included: two heartworm tests (for Tim and Bing), a physical exam for Bing, a tear test for Bing, two x-rays of Bing's neck, a month's worth of pain killers for Bing and 6 months of HeartGuard for each dog came to almost $500.


Let that sink in for a moment. Now, scream with me! (I did choke a little on my spit when the lady handed me the bill)

Thank God the office let me split it into two payments for an extra $5, which honestly, is cheaper than an overdraft fee so I'll pay it. But with rent due from my last paycheck as well as the first $250 for the animal clinic, I will have about $10 left over in my account until my next check on the 15th, which will be missing the last $250 from it.

But despite the fact that I had to put my groceries for the next two weeks on my credit card (because I had NO FOOD - no joke), I am pretty proud of myself for budgeting around this fairly unexpected bump in the road. Plus, the follow up visit is free if you go back within two weeks of your first visit, so that's a money saver as well.

Armini thinks that I am totally loony for spending so much on a pooch. My mom told me that she would never pay for prescription pain killers for a dog forever.

If you knew that you could do something for your dog if you just knew what was wrong, would have paid $500 to find out what was wrong? Would you pay for the pain killers for your dog (or cat, or whatever) if you knew that they would live a much happier life?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Am Not Dead. Send Money.

Well readers, it's been a while since I've posted on here for a number of reasons.
  1. I finally got a feeling of being "master of my money" in real life, which made me feel like blogging about money was no longer something that I needed to do.
  2. I finally got that raise at work and was all like "I have soooo much money now I will never want for anything ever again!"
However, I have discovered that getting a raise does not mean that I will never want for anything else, ever again and that I am in no way shape or form "master of my money":
  1. My first paycheck (after my raise) (which was last week) was totally gone after a week (read: I have negative dollars in my checking account right now). That is a problem.
  2. I have finally figured out what is wrong with Bing and that he will probably need to be on pain killers for the rest of his little doggy life ... also I had to shell out close to $500 this morning for the vet visit + tests + x-rays + medication. Woo!
So, because of the pain of having to write the vet's office two checks this morning and pay them the extra $5 to hold the second one until my next payday, I have decided to get back on this pony and ride. Talking about the problems and trails of managing my money helps me to really do it in real life. Plus - I like to write about it. Yay!

I will update the spend-o-pay-o meters in the next few days. I have gotten rid of a lot of debt (yay!) and one of my New Year's resolutions was to be totally debt free in 2009 ... something that I can definitely blog about and I am already well on my way!

Sorry for the long absence peoples ... I promise not to stay away anymore! Also, I have no idea if Ashely-Michelle will ever post here again (she still live in Kansas BTW [because I know you were just dieing to know what happened with the move to California], she got a scholarship to a great school for a great program and she just couldn't say no. She's still going out there, just not until she graduates).

Keep reading friends ... Hopefully I will get around to reading other blogs soon!