March 2014 Recap

Alternate titles: How March Kicked Our A$$e$, March Madness, Marching Through Hell, Our Sinking Fund is Sunk

I’m going to do this posting a little differently, because this month was… um, different.

March’s Big Expenses: 

  • $388.06 for car insurance. (This is for two cars, through GEICO, and we pay it twice a year.)

Luckily, we were almost ready for this charge – according to my fancy savings (also called “Sinking Funds”) spreadsheet, we had saved up $325 in that category. Being only two months (and change) in to the year, I’m not worried about the fact that we are “overdrawn” in that category, especially since the charge was under $400, and that means our second charge later in the year should be around the same, and I had budgeted $1,000.

(Note: I’m wondering what to do with any extra cash at the end of the year left over in these budget categories. Snowflake them to savings? Snowflake them to my Roth IRA? Snowflake them to a separate Emergency Fund? Probably the latter is smarter, but I’m feeling kind of crazy about our student loan debt. I really would love to pay off some of H’s higher-interest student loans (mine are at a much lower rate than his).)

  • $96.30 for Audi’s oil change & tune-up

We will need to replace back brake pads sometime in May, probably, but we’ve got a sinking fund to help cover those expenses! (Unfortunately, the sinking fund is not sitting pretty at the moment. More below.)

  •  $718 for food, gas, hotel, and related expenses for the conference H attended this month.

Part of this will be reimbursed, but unfortunately, there are still more expenses to come from this experience. We have a sinking fund account set up for this – the problem is, the budget is only $1,000. For the whole year. THE WHOLE YEAR. I apparently miscalculated or last year’s expenses were way less. We had not built up enough funds in that portion of the sinking fund, but I took out money from the other categories anyway.

  • $293.60 for Mary Kay purchases.

I’m a Mary Kay consultant, but I don’t actively sell. I have a few customers from back when I was really into it, and they order every once in a while. When they do, there are two ways to fulfill their orders – from my inventory (of which I have hardly any, because I’m not investing in the business anymore) or from Corporate. If I order it from Corporate, I either can do it the cheap way or the expensive way. I always prefer to do it the cheap way, of course, but that depends on whether I’ve placed a large order recently. If I haven’t, then I have to place the big order. This will never be cheaper than the above number, because there’s a minimum wholesale purchase number, plus tax and shipping get tacked on. I always purchase products for myself when I have to do this, so nothing goes to waste; however, it’s a huge expense about twice a year.

And what did I fail to plan for? I failed to create a part of the sinking fund for this. Why, you ask? I simply have no idea. Maybe I looked at the $450 that we could put away each month and decided it wasn’t as important as the other expenses we have. ARGH. So, here we are, with this unexpected expense that should have been expected.

I couldn’t turn down my customer (and I had some Mary Kay needs myself, and my mom also ordered to help fill out the required minimum order), so this is what happened. The customer will pay me, too, of course.

  • $330 for more of H’s business expenses.

This was just charged to us today. H says we can just use the $300 that was set aside for his Christmas/Birthday/Graduation gift, but I feel really sad about that prospect. Not sure what we’re going to do yet.

The Results:

If you saw my post a few days ago, you know that I was debating whether to pay down all of the credit cards with our sinking funds or not…. I really despise the idea of paying down last month’s debts with this month’s money, you know? That’s something we’ve been working really hard to get away from. So, yes, we decided to use our savings/sinking fund to pay down the rest of the debt. I went ahead and paid off the credit cards as soon as we got paid (a few days early, actually – Saturday instead of Monday, April 1st).

We’re hampered by an inability to do any more transfers from our savings account to our checking account to cover those costs, but we’ll have to make a transfer of $334.01 on April 1st to reimburse it.

The sinking fund will then be reduced to $189.23. And we won’t be able to put anything into our sinking fund this month from our regular income (because I subtracted the $450 from what we would need to transfer from the savings account to cover the CC debt). That hurts. A lot.

What also hurts slash is awesome: I got paid for my side hustle today, and it’s $1300! I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. That’s the good part. The hurting part: now it appears that much of that money may have to go towards paying for H’s $300 business expense and reimbursing the sinking fund.

I had big plans for that money! I was going to put most of it towards our car payment (which would lower it by 1/3!) and put the rest into savings and my Roth IRA. Now our car loan probably won’t be paid off in June, as we had been planning.

However, there’s some good news: H has a couple of side gigs coming up in April, and we can use that money to reimburse the sinking fund, though it won’t quite make up the normal $450 that we put in, and H will get some reimbursement money (whether it’s actually April or not when we get it remains to be seen).

Honestly, figuring all of this out made my head hurt. I love me some money talk, but this is kind of depressing.


Review of our 2014 Goals

Mintly Goal #1: Pay off our Citibank credit card 

Verdict: We’re keepin’ on keepin’ on (good ol’ Bob Dylan). We put another $500 towards that bill this month, as is our plan until it’s paid off (in June).

Mintly Goal #2: Pay off our car loan

Verdict: Well, it was only a baby step forwards; at least we didn’t go backwards.

Mintly Goal #3: Save for known expenses that don’t occur monthly (sinking fund)

Verdict: Yes… but the sinking fund has been drained anyway (hardy har har).

Mintly Goal #4: Snowflake any extra money to consumer debt

Verdict: Yes… $23.

Despite everything, I did manage to snowflake $23 to the car loan early this month, from a check from our Chase Freedom rewards. I’m pretty disappointed in this.

Mintly Goal #5: Track Goal Successes

Verdict: (…Dramatic sigh….) What successes? Pttthththhhhbbbbbbbb……..


Money Accomplishments this Month:

  • Got my first paycheck for my side hustle!
  • I went to the mall and returned some too-big shirts my mom sent H, and they gave me cash back! For realz! So, that was $30. We’re just holding on to that for some gifts I need to buy this week.
  • Finally got to the consignment store where they gave me $30 for my previous drop-off, and then I promptly spent almost all of that on a business/working lunch (that I’ll be writing off, come tax season again).
  • Took two tubs worth of clothes to the consignment place when I went to pick up my cash – hopefully some of it will be worth something….

Money Setbacks this Month: 

  • I didn’t budget enough for our utilities this month – we’re only charged for water every other month, and our budget is the average of what we pay throughout the year, divided by 12. Looks like I might need to adjust that? Not really high on my list of things to do at the moment, though!
  • Also, everything outlined above.

Life (as in, Non-Monetary) Accomplishments this Month:

  • I applied for a job and did a bunch of networking. I don’t think anything will happen, but it took about a week’s worth of work and was kind of intense.

What I’m Looking Forward to in April:

  • H will have some paying gigs.
  • Figuring out how to allocate that $1300 I just got paid! (Not as much fun as it was going to be, but still fun.)
  • Warmer weather?
  • My spring break is the entire first week of April – starting today! IT IS MUCH NEEDED.
  • The end of this crappy, crappy month.

Did everyone else have a crappy March, or was that just me?

– M.

Discouragements

The reason I’ve been missing in action: March has not been kind to us!

We’ve had expected expenses come up (but they’ve been more expensive than we were expecting) and a few unexpected expenses, as well. Some of the expenses I have been able to cover with our Savings / Sinking Debt fund (as they were planned and accounted for), but some of the expenses will have to sit on our credit card until we get paid so that I am sure I can cover the expenses from our checking account.

We’ll need to decide whether it’s worth it to transfer more money from our shares account (the sinking fund account, that is) to avoid credit card fees (and I just hate having a balance on any of our credit cards!) or if we should not touch the money in that account because it’s all earmarked for other things….

Any advice for us?

I will be glad to see the backside of this month!

– M.

My “Real” Financial Goals

(Warning: Kind of a rambly post.)Image

I was at my book club a couple of weeks ago, and someone said something that stuck out to me and gave me some perspective. Or at least made me step outside my PF blogger persona and really try to understand how people who aren’t worried about/obsessed with money think.

Our book discussion started to focus around the topic of “keeping up with the Joneses” and what can or should make a person happy. I mentioned that I read personal finance blogs, and described what some of the trends are surrounding PF blogs (retiring early by saving and investing rather than succumbing to lifestyle inflation), and I mentioned that some bloggers state specifically that despite all that they are doing to pay down debt, tithing is still a line item (such as 10% of their income) in their budgets. (This is all kind of rambly, but I do promise that it made sense at the time in the context of the discussion!)

One of the book club members said, “Wow, people actually get that specific about their finances?” or something similar. And I thought back to about 10 years ago and realized that I too was not that specific about my finances. But something changed over the years.

Now, I know a little bit about this woman, but I don’t presume to know much about her finances. I know that she was able to quit working full-time to stay home with her kids, so she must have figured out their finances enough to know that her husband’s job could support that change in lifestyle. I also know that she has a part-time gig that is directly related to one of her favorite hobbies, but I get the sense that it’s more for her to get out of the house than to support the family. Perhaps she hasn’t had to worry about living paycheck to paycheck – or maybe she has. In any case, budgeting down to percentages is not something that she feels is necessary. Huh. That’s what normal people are like.

Whenever I feel a little discouraged about our finances (seems like other people in the personal finance blogging world got started a lot sooner being smarter about debt and saving), I try to remind myself that at least I am working hard at being aware of our debt problems and thinking ahead to being comfortable in retirement. My friend probably has a more comfortable financial situation than I do (though you know about books and covers), but I’m still glad to know that I have enough of a budget and awareness of our finances that I know where our money is going. Not judging – pointing out the difference between the kind of people who read personal finance blogs and/or blog about the topic (or perhaps just obsess about money, the way I did before I started blogging), and people who don’t use a budget or track their finances.

Pondering all of that reminded me that while I may be behind, I’m not aiming for Early Retirement (which is a thing, as you probably know). If I had started earlier, perhaps…. but I have a pretty simple financial goal.

My goal isn’t to have more money than I know what to do with. (Let’s face it, I’m pretty sure I’d always know what I could do with any money I have.) Just because I blog about money doesn’t mean I’m crazy, right?

My goal is to simply not have to worry about money

  • To have enough in retirement that I don’t have to worry about living hand-to-mouth when I’m 90. 
  • To have enough in the bank so that – heaven forbid – if there’s an emergency, we don’t have to put everything on the credit cards. 
  • To have enough to help my daughter pay for college.
  • To not owe anyone any money.
  • To not have to choose between buying certain kinds of insurance and paying down debt/saving for an emergency fund (or to not have to choose in general).
  • To be able to give to charities – in both time and money.

To get to the point where we don’t have to worry about money, I think I need to be focused on our finances. Even if that is a little unusual out in the real world. 

I don’t think the above goals are crazy things to desire. I also think we can get there. It’s hard to imagine being able to pay off all of our student loans while also putting money away into retirement and saving money… but it’s also hard to imagine not having enough money or being a burden on our daughter when we’re too old to work or make money anymore. 

So, like my motto says… Keep going!

Thanks for reading!

– M.