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?