Friday, December 28, 2007

December Update

Christmas has come and gone and with it a modicum of indiscretions. I'm not so much worried about them at this time, as the goal for the moment was to simply survive through the end of the year without any major money mistakes. Although there are three days left of 2007, I feel confident in saying this has been accomplished.

My main issue right now is that our expenses are at an all-time high, while savings are at an all-time low. I'm going to be working on our budget for 2008 over the next couple of days and I'm hoping that I'll find a few categories that can be squeezed to the minimum levels to give us more discretionary funds for savings and fun things.

One big issue that I'm having with our budget currently is unaccounted-for expenses. When an expense comes up that hasn't been previously accounted for, we either try to shortchange other categories in an attempt to pull the money out of our already tight budget, or just pay the expense and hope for the best. Both practices end up knocking our budget on its ass, leaving us grasping at straws for the last few days of the month.

Two practices that I've been introduced to by reading other personal finance blogs have been budgeting every income dollar, and the emergency fund. These are those really smart ideas that you know you should be doing but aren't. I know both of these ideas are touchstones for PF guru, Dave Ramsey, who I haven't listened to yet. I guess I'll have to track down his broadcast and take a listen.

*PS - thanks to JW for leaving me a comment -- my 1st! I somehow didn't have email notification on, and with the holidays I didn't see it til today, so I wanted to let you know I wasn't ignoring you! Have a great New Year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Plugging the Leaks

This weekend I plugged a leak in our budget, literally. We had a toilet with a faulty flapper, so handle jiggling was necessary to get the flapper to close and let the tank fill back up. Eventually jiggling didn't work any more and removing the lid to tap the flapper down was required. Even then, the flapper didn't seal completely and there was a constant stream of water running down one side of the toilet bowl and the annoying sound of slightly running water constantly audible.

We'd been seeing our water bill creep up a little at a time, but told ourselves it was the watering of the garden or other things we were doing that was making it rise. A huge water bill came as a result of leaving the outside hose running for a day or two after forgetting to turn it off in the evening, and we suddenly became much more diligent about our water usage.

After plugging all the wasteful water habits except this annoying tiny (it seemed) fix, we expected the water bill to be down significantly - at least as low as it had been this time last year, when there was no garden watering being done. But while it was much lower than the forgotten hose month, it was still high for our average. So the hubster did a little sleuthing. No water was being used (except the leaking toilet) and he went to check the meter. It was spinning around out of control with the amount of water that was being used!

Needless to say, that fix was processed within the hour. After the new, improved, and functional flapper was in place, he checked the water meter again -- even with the dishwasher going, it was only moving at a trickle compared to before. YAY! Hopefully next month our water bill will be much, much lower and our checkbook will be much happier.

What tiny fixes have you been letting go because they seem too insignificant?

Friday, November 30, 2007

What I want

In 2008, my goals are going to be focused on building a solid financial foundation.

First of all, setting up a basic emergency fund for, well, emergencies. This is going to be the account we tap if the water heater blows up or the car needs a new whatchamacallit. $1000 ought to do it.

Second goal, I'd like us to pay off all our credit card debt. Right now we're sitting at around $9250 in debt, not counting our mortgage, and I want that number gone. I've signed up with the No Credit Needed network, a network of like minded individuals who have signed up to keep track of their progress. As soon as I can figure out how to get my progress chart over on the sidebar, I'll be tracking my progress on a monthly basis.

Third goal, one of us is in serious need of a new car. Both of ours are on their last legs, so to speak, but while hubster only drives to the bus depot and takes public transport to work, mine is the more serious need. And I'm not necessarily talking about new-new, either. New to me is fine. Probably a year or two old used vehicle would be great. I'm looking for reliability.

If we could end up 2008 with those 3 goals completed, I would be a happy, happy woman.

Now, how am I going to do it? I've been reading personal finance blogs for a few months now and I've picked up loads of tricks. In the coming months I'm going to be putting different parts of our budget under the microscope and finding ways to reduce expenses, increase income, and chisel away at the debt while also putting a little aside on a regular basis for a rainy day. I'll be updating with my progress as well as breaking my goals down into monthly and weekly mini-goals.

For December, the main push is to get through Christmas without adding any more to the credit card debt figure. Not that that's much of an issue. Most of our cards are maxed out. But we're not going to do any Christmas shopping on the cards unless we need to make an online purchase, and the money for that will be taken out of our Christmas budget, not the credit repayment budget.

Meanwhile, the Christmas season is getting filled with events and invitations. I'm trying to balance it out with fun, free activities for the family. The town's tree-lighting ceremony is this weekend, and we can take a thermos of hot chocolate to keep us warm. Then after, we can drive through the neighborhoods and see who has their lights up already.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beginning Goals

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was thinking about my goals for the coming year… Why not wait til January, you ask? Usually the Christmas season is so hectic, I don’t have a chance to think about it much, and when New Year’s rolls around, if I haven’t thought out my goal setting, I’ll typically blurt out a goal or two when I’m a drink or two into my celebrating and either change my mind or forget them entirely by morning.

Plus, over Thanksgiving I have three full days to mull over things after all familial obligations have already been fulfilled. Usually I fill the DVD player with mindless movies, and veg out on the couch with my notebook and pen and doodle goal ideas, gift lists to buy, and a myriad of other lists that I hope will improve my life to a certain degree before the next year.

This weekend, my primary focus was on money. My husband and I try to budget, try to save, yet we always seem to be living paycheck-to-paycheck. Worse than that, sometimes we’re living a bit beyond paycheck-to-paycheck. So we’re juggling money, uncomfortably trying to get through the last few days of the month with not enough money to do it.

And I’ve decided this is not going to happen again. We are going to plug the leaks in our budget, create an emergency fund, and start saving for the future. I’d like to begin saving in January for Christmas next year, so when next year comes around, we have our budgeted amount already set aside and ready to go, without trying to figure out where the money’s going to come from.

I’d also like to start thinking ahead in terms of food storage. While both of our jobs are fairly stable and I don’t see anything happening to them in the immediate future, the way prices are rising it’s probably a good idea to have a contingency plan in effect. That way, if our cash flow is lowered for any reason, we won’t have to worry about food. Plus, eating scratch-cooked foods at home is a lot more economical than eating out.

Mainly, I’d like to feel secure in the knowledge that we could get through a crisis without having to rely on outside help. It’s great to know that help is available if necessary, but standing on our own two feet is priority right now.

So here’s this blog, a record of my goals, hopefully my progress, and my trials and setbacks if necessary in reaching those goals. Feel free to follow along, to join me on my path, to give me encouragement if you can, and feedback when I need it. Thank you for being here!