Monday, March 30, 2009

Last working shift of March

Today was the last working shift I had for the month of March. It was a slow shift, earning me $65 which I used to fund my entertainment envelope for the month of April.

This completes the April budget. Everything is accounted for. All mandatory expenses are covered; all sinking funds and envelopes are funded. Now it is up to me to keep myself within budget. Since I have assigned every dollar earned in March to a category for April, there is no room for deviation.

Before, this would have scared me. Now, it doesn't. Perhaps it is because I budgeted specifically for expenses such as food, gasoline, entertainment, clothing, and gifts. Since I have money set aside for these expenses, I am not concerned about what happens if I need to go to the grocery or if I need to fill my tank up with gasoline or buy a birthday present. I know that I have funds available specifically for these purposes, which alleviates any fears I would have in having no room for deviation of the budget.

So, for the month of April I have two main goals. One, save every dime I earn in the month to apply as income for the month of May and keep myself at budget for all categories funded.

Since I have everything covered for the month of April and also have a checking account buffer and an Emergency fund, it should't be a problem in accomplishing goal one.

Goal two has been made a bit easier because of the cash funded system. All fixed expenses are covered via the checking account and all discretionary type expenses are covered via funded envelopes. Once I am out of money in an envelope, I am out. There is no more money to be had.

I am anxious to see how the month goes. I have a good feeling that it is going to be a very positive experience.

Grocery Funds

I went to the grocery store today for my "First of the month" shopping trip. Yes, I am a day early, but I am paying in cash via my funded envelopes and I don't think one day ahead of the month is really going to effect my grocery budget.

I spent $179 at the grocery and still have some items that I would like left to buy. The reason? The prices of those items at the grocery store was more than what I can purchase the items for at the Dollar General store and at Walmart. (Although I really dispise Walmart and really would rather not walking into the door of the place. But, if it is going to give me realized savings for things I will buy anyway, since the store is directly on my way to and from work, I will go into the store.)

Of course, the things that I want to buy are NOT necessary items. Like Coca Cola. It was priced at $1.59 at the grocery store on sale. I can buy the same item at the Dollar General for $1.25. Chips (Doritos; Potato) were $3.59 at the grocery and they are only $2.50 for the same size at Walmart.

Now, these types of items may be things that I look into cutting from my food budget in the months ahead, but realistically, I WANT Coca Cola and I love chips. Especially at lunchtime to go along with a sandwhich. So, as of right now, they are staying in the budget, as long as I purchase them at the lowest price I can.

I plan on spending about $20 on soda and chips. That should last me the entire month.

Which will leave me with $101 to replenish things such as milk, eggs, bread, and fresh fruit midway through the month. $101 should be more than enough for these things.


Yesterday was such a beautiful day outside that I got the "garden" bug.

Of course, I am on a budget. I do not have hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to spend upgrading my garden right now.

So, I decided to work with what I have, plus $30 worth of materials. (Supplement Garden Soil for the window boxes, Pansies for the window boxes and for the garden for a splash of color, Cedar mulch, a flowering tree bush thing, and a new garden shovel because mine went missing)
*The $30 was spent using a gift card that I received as a Christmas Gift.

I had a lot of Mums planted from way back in October of 2007 that are still going strong and two bushes that I planted in 2002. The problem was I didn't like the way the mums were planted and one of the two bushes died last summer.

So, I dug up everything that was planted in the garden and then went to town digging up weeds, turning the soil in the garden and putting new soil in the window boxes.

Then I planted pansies in the window boxes and put the boxes back up.

Then I took a break and went into my back yard to just look around.

While looking around in my backyard, I found a rock. I liked the rock. I have no idea how the rock got into my backyard, but there it was. I decided to place the rock in the front garden.

After determining placement of the rock, I replanted the mums, planted the flowering shrub and remaining pansies and replanted the one bush that was still alive.

Then I took another break and went into my garage, where I found eight solar panel garden lights and three garden Gnomes. I do know where these came from. The solar panel lights I purchased about 4 months ago - they were on sale for $3 a piece. The Gnomes I received as a Christmas present.

So, I took those items and placed them in the garden.

After that, I put the mulch down. Cedar mulch smells so delicious.

There are some other things I would like to do to the garden. Such as extending it out the full length of the house and removing the wooden board border and putting up a new, pretty border. But for right now, this will have to work for my "curb appeal".

At least until I find a way to put some money into the "garden" line item on the budget. Of course, the budget for April is already done, so the earliest I would even be looking at that would be for May.
Which actually gives me time to think about what I really want and gives me time to research prices. Instead of buying things out of impulse and emotion, I will instead buy after being informed and deciding exactly how much money I want to spend.
Budgets. They are changing the way I live my life.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tuition update

As of today, I have $1500 saved towards my $2000 tuition for this semester.

$1000 of that was saved this month alone.

Of course, work has been really, really good the last few months. And, since I am saving all earnings during the course of the month to use the following month, I have a precise look at my actual financial picture and see exactly where my money is going.

Also by planning this way, I am keeping myself from blowing money on things I don't even remember.

So, I am giving my budgeting system a gold star. YaY for the budgeting system!

I can't even expain how great it feels that I actually have saved so much for my tuition. The last two years I have saved a little bit but usually used credit cards to pay the majority of it. (Which is part of the reason why the Providian card is so high)

It also feels great to be plugging my spending leaks and to see exactly where my money is going and actually TELLING my money where it is going to go. I think I have just sold myself on budgets.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Conference Opportunity

As I have stated, I am currently a full-time student. My major is in Communications, specifically Radio/Television. April 16-17th I have an opportunity to attend a Broadcasting Conference with my University.

The problem is the conference is four hours away and there is no guarentee that I will be back in time in order to be at work on time. The day we are coming back is a Friday, basically a mandatory work night for me (I am a bartender).

I could tell my boss that I will be coming in about an hour late - but I would hate to not be back in time to be at work at the time I said I would be. I could take the night off, but Friday nights are a big money night and I would be losing potentially 300-400 dollars to take the night off for the conference.

There is no cost to attend the conference. Hotel, meals, fees and travel expenses are all paid by the University.

Attending the conference has a lot of benefits as well. Networking, for one. This is not a University/College conference - it is a National Broadcasting conference. It offers a unique opportunity to attend seminars with people who actually work in the industry - thus helping making a first impression of myself before sending out a resume. (I should be graduating next Spring, so I am not too far out from looking for employment.)

It is an opportunity I really do not want to pass up, but I also do not want to lose income.

I will talk to my boss this evening and see if we can work out a situation in which I can either work an extra shift to make up for the losses if I take the night off, or if she will be alright with my coming into work two hours later than usual. I am trying to have my cake and eat it too right now, but I am pretty sure I am going to have to choose either keeping the cake or eating it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

First month of using the envelope system

The month of April will be the first month that I am using the envelope system. My categories being funded are:

Daycare 200.00
Gasoline 80.00
Groceries 300.00
Tuition 500.00
Savings 40.00
Christmas 120.00 *UPDATED* I upped the funding for this category for the month of April due to Easter and my youngest daughter's birthday being in April. I have decided to change this envelope to include birthdays and other holidays, not just Christmas. Christmas savings are still $60.00 per month. The added $60 to the category is for Easter and her birthday.
Clothing 70.00

Savings and Christmas are really more of a sinking fund than an everyday expense, but I am funded the envelopes and then taking the envelopes to the bank where I hold my savings account for depositing. (Since I get paid in cash, it helps me to sort out where I am depositing which funds. I do not use the same bank for savings as I do for checking. There is a story behind this, which I may explain at a later date.)

The tuition envelope and the Day caren envelope are also just a storing place until I take the funds to the university and the daycare.

The rest of the envelopes are for everyday expenses. I am a bit nervous about using this system. Not because I think the system doesn't work - but because I am nervous that I may try to cheat the system. It is going to take a lot of self-discipline on my part to spend the money exactly the way it has been categorized and to keep myself within the monetary limitations I have placed on myself.

I have tracked my spending patterns for a while now, so I am pretty confident that I have given myself realistic amounts. I will have to be prudent, there is not much room for error, although I will admit I have given myself some wiggle room. It is a process that I may have to tweak for the next few months until I have it down, but we all have to start somewhere.

My goal is to come under budget for all of the everyday expense categories. Every cent I do not spend will be redirected to debt repayment at the end of the month. So, the less I spend, the more I can send towards debt! I can't think of a better motivator!

A self-imposed budget meeting

Techinically, I still have three more working shifts until I call the month of March closed and begin to save all earnings for April. However, instead of waiting until April 1st to comprise my April budget, I sat down today and starting working out all the kinks.

So here it goes:

Current Bank Balance: 1775.00
Child Support Deposit: 175.00
GI Bill Deposit: 1320.00
Cash on Hand: 1250.00

Total: 4520.00

Debits from Checking Account for the month of April:

Mortgage: 355.00
Electric: 60.00
Natural Gas: 67.00
Water: 71.57
Cable: 105.00 (includes internet, phone, and extended basic cable)
NMAC: 600.00
Insurance: 104.15 (Car insurance and life insurance)
Old Republic: 132.00
Chase: 60.00
Providian: 307.00
Discover: 120.00
Target: 20.00
Capital One: 100.00
Cell Phone: 80.00
*Mohawk: 133.00 - have already paid this amount and it has already cleared the bank and is reflected in the current bank balance, thus is not added to this total amount*
Total: 2181.72

Cash funded Envelopes:

Daycare: 200.00
Gasoline: 80.00
Groceries: 300.00
Tuition: 500.00
Savings: 40.00
Christmas: 60.00
Clothing: 70.00

Total: 1250.00

Total Expenses: 3431.72

Income minus Expenses= 1088.28

Before this month of earnings is actually closed, I have already earned enough to pay all the bills and fund the envelopes.

I have decided to use the money I earn these last three working shifts towards tuition rather than towards Mohawk. Currently, I have $1000 saved towards my tuition which is $2000 this semester. It is very unlikely that I will earn $1000 in three shifts, but since two of the shifts are a Friday and Saturday night, it is quite possible that I could potentially earn about $600-$700. If I do indeed make that much, I will dip into the buffer fund to cover the difference on tuition and replace the funds with earnings from April which will end up being deducted from available funds in May.

But that would get this semester's tuition completed and I will be able to enroll in summer and fall classes during regular enrollment instead of late enrollment due to a tuition hold.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Balance Update

Providian: 11,298
Discover: 4,773
Chase: 2,526
Capital 1: 1,793
HSBC: 0.00
Mohawk: 394
Target Visa: 0.00

Total: $20,784

Providian Balance has gone up, right after Chase took over my Providian (or WAMU) account. My interest rate has gone from 9% to 24% and my minimum payment (which was coming directly out of my checking account) was not even covering the interest. I have corrected this issue and am now paying $315 a month towards this debt so at least I am paying more than just interest.

Mohawk and Capital One are the next two debts on my kill list. As I said earlier, I was just going to pay $133 per month until July and have Mohawk paid off right at the time the 0% interest went away - but I am now thinking about just killing it during the month of April. It really all depends on how the last four shifts I work this month go. If they go really well, I will kill the debt in April. But I also have to save another $1000 for tuition which I have to have paid by the end of April, so I may have to redirect funds from snowballing into tuition payments. I have saved $1,000 towards tuition within the last two months as well as paid off HSBC ($1200), so I have made progress.


It has been too long since I have entered a post. I do apologize for this. Life has gotten very hectic between school, work, interning and being a single mother of two very energetic little girls. Still, that is no excuse when posting takes literally just minutes of my day and will help keep myself in line.

As far as debt goes, I have paid off my HSBC credit card 3 weeks ahead of my projected pay off date. I am quite excited about this!

I am projected to have Mohawk and Capital One paid off by July 2009. I am thinking about just killing Mohawk now, since the balance is under $400. (The only reason I haven't yet is because that line of credit is at 0%interest until August.) I was just going to pay $133 a month until July to have it paid off, but I am really thinking about just killing it.

I was lucky enough to be able to cash flow a major purchase last month; a new fridge. Mine went out and I just can't live without a fridge. The total cost for the appliance was $778. It is energy efficient, but most importantly, it is the size I need to be able to grocery shop once a month and freeze meals for when I am having hectic days.

I do have a fully funded dentist fund (well, it may not be as much as the work will cost... we will have to see. But I had a capped amount for that envelope and it is fully funded to $1,000) My appointment is April 20th. At that point I will at least get Xrays and a cleaning, which I should have more than enough for. IF I need any more work, I will get estimates from the Dentist to make sure that I add that amount within my budget.

I also have saved $1000 towards my tuition so far, which means I still have $1000 to go.

I have been successful in my endeavors of having a buffer fund in my checking account and with saving everything I earn in one month to use the following month. February was the first month where everything I earned I saved for March, and it has worked out well. This month I have saved everything for the month of April. I actually like this method a lot more than a week to week budgeting method. I know exactly how much I have to spend at the beginning of the month, and I can plan accordingly.

I do plan on updating more often. Hopefully this lapse was just a temporary thing!