February 2015 Budget Check-In

Here it is, WAY past the half-way mark in February, but I did want to go ahead and do a little check-in.

Note: We use Mint.com to track our finances.

feb2015checkin

February 2015 Check In

 

The Woohoo! Category includes:

  • Not over-budget in any category yet!
  • Our slush fund looks very good, considering my mini-vacation to Virginia earlier this week. I hardly paid for a thing, other than gas and two (inexpensive) souvenirs.
  • I only needed to fill up twice on the trip to VA, so we’re even a bit under on gas so far.
  • I’ve been able to snowflake a bit of money to our Student Loan Debt Eradication fund. (I’ll give the specifics in the month’s end recap.)
  • We have two more checks to deposit – my mom sent me a birthday check (woohoo! it will go to our fancy schmancy Valentines/Birthday dinner tonight!) and H brought in a little bit of money from his side hustle.

In the Whoops! Category:

  • I had to budget for the $1500+ Airbnb payment for our upcoming France trip in July. We charged the trip on our credit card, and are waiting for reimbursements (which we asked for by the end of February). One person told me he’ll need more time (I told him he could get it to us by the end of March), one person hasn’t responded at all, and another told me the check was in the mail. We shall see….
  • We’re dangerously close to our food budget this month (no surprise there), and that’s with the extra $60 my mom sent to us for an evening out!
  • I’ve already mentioned how I’m disappointed over our 2014 taxes this year, but it’s pretty clear that it worked out in our favor overall (giving me the cash to pay down our debt quickly when I needed it, and we didn’t end up owing). However, we are not going to make an extra Student Loan payment this month, because we want it to be at least $1000 before we make the extra payment, and we’re just shy of that number. Now I want to wait until next month so I can submit the extra payment right after our minimum payment goes through so most of the additional payment will go to the principal, not interest.

Notes:

– The $120 that hasn’t been taken out for kids’ activities is L’s piano lessons – her teacher doesn’t cash the check at the beginning of the month when we write the check, and somehow this always drives me a bit crazy. I like to see things clear as soon as possible!

– The bills area looks pretty low, but that’s only because our electricity bill and water bill seem to come in pretty late in the month. Our AT&T bill was just processed (I think) so that’s probably a bit more even now. (Not that you probably care. Ha ha!) Anyway….

– I’m hopeful that we’ll have a nice chunk of money left over (over all) in our checking account before we get paid on the 28th, and that can all be moved into the Student Loan Debt Eradication Fund so we can make a huge payment in March. Our net income in February won’t be something to write home about due to the $1500 that went out to Airbnb, but some of that will be coming back to us (let’s hope sooner rather than later…).

Question: has anyone had experience with Airbnb overseas? Anyone have any recommendations for traveling to France? We’re considering flying into Paris and taking a train to the town where we’re staying for the conference, and I’m a little concerned about how easy it will be for two Americans who only took French in high school…. Suggestions welcome! And for everyone: how is your monthly budget faring? Do you check in at least twice a month to see how you’re doing?

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There’s 1 for You, 19 for Me

With thanks to the Beatles….

Well, our 2014 Tax Return is nowhere near as lovely as our 2013 Tax Return was! Sadness.

This year we’re going to get back:

  • $82 (Federal)
  • $12 (State)

Now, don’t start in on me about how if you break even that’s good because if you get a refund, you’ve given the Taxman an interest-free loan. I know myself, and I know that I do best when I get a good chunk o’ cash back and it makes me feel GOOD! </rant>

Why did this happen?

It looks like I made a mistake on my exemptions when I started working my side hustle back in February 2014. I claimed too many, it seems. I did that job for about 6 months and I brought in a really good amount of extra income each month (which was entirely funneled to Debt Eradication). Then, when I got the full-time gig and changed jobs (giving up the part-time side hustle), I claimed “0” exemptions. I had high hopes that it would pay off by forcing us to live on even less each month and then generate a nice bonus as a refund. Unfortunately, we barely broke even. We’re luck we didn’t end up owing!

Our Net 2014 Tax Refund: $22.02

So here we are, getting $94 back – and then we also used Turbotax to file, so that’s costing us $71.98!

That comes to a grand total of $22.02.

Ohhhhh, boy! It’s going to be so difficult to figure out what we can do with that refund! So much cash!

Hmmm… we could:

  • Buy a fast-food dinner out for the three of us (ewww)
  • Go to a really cheap matinee somewhere (well, one or two of us could – not sure about all three of us)
  • Get a nice bottle of wine (actually, that kind of sounds appealing)
  • Let it disappear into the abyss of our checking account and forget about it (sad, sad, sad)

Well, of course what we’ll actually do is snowflake it directly to our Student Loan Debt Eradication fund (housed in our savings account) to be added to the steadily growing pile of dollars that we’ll use to make a large lump-sum payment sometime in the near future.

Because I strive to be a positive person, I did find some things to be grateful for about not receiving a large refund:

  • Although I did the exemptions wrong for my part-time gig, we used ALL of that income directly for Debt Eradication. We were able to pay off our car loan much faster because I had the job, and the extra exemptions I claimed probably helped us pay it off even faster. I can be grateful for that.
  • We didn’t end up owing taxes!

Just one more note: I don’t actually hate that my taxes go to fund the things I value in our country. I don’t even mind giving the government an interest-free loan – I tell myself that it’s for the Greater Good. (Anyone else seen Hot Fuzz?)

Has anyone else been horribly disappointed by their tax refund this year? Please tell us a tax horror story to make us all feel better…. (Misery loves company, right?!)

Mintly Budget Preview: February 2015

If you’d like more details regarding our monthly budget, please see my first 2015 Budget Post.

Welcome to the Mintly Budget Preview for February 2015!

Some info:

  • We use a zero-sum budget.
  • We get paid a little more than what I budget for – but I use that extra either to pay down unexpected expenses from the month before or I can snowflake it to Debt Eradication. If either of those happens, I’ll let you know!

Note: This image is a screenshot from the Budget tab of my account on Mint.com.

February 2015 Budget Preview

February 2015 Budget Preview

 

Budget Breakdown:

Travel: Hotel: H and I are going to France for a conference in July! This charge is for the Airbnb reservation I made – however, it will be reimbursed partially by the others who are sharing the apartment with us! We should (hopefully) receive the reimbursements by the end of the month, totaling to $948.60 (that’s only $316.20 per person for 7 nights in France!). The best part? I put it on the Chase Sapphire card, meaning that by the middle of the month, we should have even more reward points on the card to put towards our airplane tickets. I’m still trying to determine whether it’s worth it to risk waiting until the middle of the month or if I should go ahead and order the tickets now, though – I read that 150 days before you plan to fly is a good time to get tickets at a lower cost. However, I haven’t noticed much of a change in the ticket prices recently, so I have my doubts. I’m at least hoping they don’t go up drastically within the next 30 days….

Another note: I transferred money out of our Travel Fund to cover the cost of the Airbnb transaction, and when we get reimbursed, I will move that money back into the fund.

Transfer: Sinking Funds: This is where we save money each month for known upcoming expenses. I have a spreadsheet with different line items to keep track of how much money each category has in it.

Food & Dining: We have already bought my father-in-law some groceries when we went to visit this past weekend. I don’t mind spending money on family, though. It means it will be a little tight, but we did a good job of our first February grocery run – $68.79! We have already spent money on food out for the trip to my father-in-law’s (and back) and we also went out to dinner with more of his family when we were there. So, we’ve already spent $130.03 of our $600 budget for the month…. Just have to keep a close eye on it. I think I’m getting somewhere on meal planning, so that’s a plus!

Student Loan: This amount is our minimum payment for four separate student loans. (Debt Eradication funds are separate from these automatic payments.)

Bills & Utilities: Cell phone bill, Water, Electric, and Internet are included in this category.

Gas & Fuel: $250 is a bit high, but I’m taking a trip to VA to see a friend! I get free lodging, but I expect to spend money on gas (as well as food). Since last month was $250 almost on the nose, I’m keeping it at $250 (last month, we drove all day from my parents’ house to our house, so I’m hoping it is kind of equivalent).

Slush Fund: This is probably going to be a problem this month. There are already things we’ve purchased when we took L to a show and the circus last weekend! Ugh. H is going to be getting a haircut this month, and we’re also planning a dinner out for my birthday / Valentine’s Day (and I’m not sure which budget line item we’ll end up having to use – I’d like to use it all from the food budget, but I think I know myself too well to assume we’ll have money left over in that budget). We’ll see how it shakes out. I am also considering using the money in the Gift category of our sinking fund.

Kids Activities: This is L’s ballet lessons ($60) and piano lessons ($30/lesson). Piano lessons are variable, and this month L will have 4 lessons.

Babysitter & Daycare: L’s After-School Care cost + $40 for a babysitter for our Valentine’s Day / Birthday dinner out! (Don’t worry, we don’t actually go out on Valentine’s Day – the Frugalwoods have already outlined how terrible a deal it is to go out on 2/14!)

Home Services: This is our trash collection.  It’s a separate line item because it’s not variable, like some of our other utilities. I was going to move it over into the other utilities line, but I’m going to keep it here. Mostly because I’m lazy, but somewhat because it’s not variable.

Entertainment: $9 for Netflix.

Fee: $1 for the credit union.

Pharmacy: All doctor’s bills, pharmacy, etc. come out of our health category in our sinking fund (that’s why that transaction doesn’t appear in the actual budget above).

Goal: Citibank (Balance 2): This is the $450 we spend each month to pay down our Citibank card, where we moved a good chunk of our student loans. It will be paid off in June 2015.

February extra funds: The money over $5000 from our paychecks went directly to paying down credit card debt that we didn’t get reimbursed from H’s business items return. I hope that March’s extra money will actually go to Debt Eradication!

February Debt Eradication: We’ll see how it looks – I’ve done our taxes, and we’re somehow only getting back a little over $100 this year. (Cue the sad trombones.) I suspect it’s because when I was working part-time as my side hustle (for the institution where I’m now working full-time), I claimed too many exemptions. When I started working full-time, I claimed 0 exemptions, which is why I was really hopeful we’d be getting a good chunk back. Unfortunately, it looks like it just barely evened out. We’re lucky we don’t owe!


February budgetWell, with my budgeted line item of the Travel: Hotel cost, this doesn’t look good. However, when we get reimbursed from H’s colleagues, we should be ahead of the game… a little bit, at least.


Have you noticed that I keep talking about reimbursements? Are you already thinking to yourself, “Gee, Ms. Mintly, have you ever stopped to realize that reimbursements are not very much fun? Have you considered doing business in some other way?” Because *I* am thinking those things….